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28 posts from September 2006

September 30, 2006

Honey

Honey

By Rebecca the Bookseller, who loves go to the local joints

'Round these parts, everybody's somebody's honey.  All you have to do is go into a restaurant or bar or store that's been around for more than 20 years, and you can be somebody's honey too.

The local Wait Staff (or servers, or whatever you want to call the people who bring you food and drink) is particulary fond of the "Yeah, I know your face and you leave a good tip but let's not kid ourselves that I really know everyone's name I've been doing this longer than you've been alive" Honey.  So we call everyone honey back.  The other night, there was a new Waiter at a local Italian place, and we started with the Honeys right from the jump.  "Oh boy"  he grinned, "here we go with the Honey."  Being the PC-saturated generation that we are, we asked whether it bothered him.  Of course not, he assured us.  But really, what was he going to say?

Waitress The veterans on both sides of the ordering process don't even think twice.  In fact, if you go into certain stores and do not get a: "What'll it be, hon'?"  you'd wonder if you'd offended someone.  One woman who has been behind the cheese counter at an Italian Deli in our Wholesale district calls everybody Doll.  If you're having a bad day, she bumps it up to Doll Face and gives you some smoked Mozz to make you feel better.  "What can I getcha, Doll?" booms across the store all day long, delivered in that rough voice that's a dead giveaway of a long-term smoker.  Plus, you know they've got the homemade wine under that counter, because when they get it out on Christmas Eve or Football Game Days, it's never a new bottle.

One more reason I love this town.

Now, you have a good one, hun!

September 29, 2006

Manscaping

Manscaping

By Margie, once again in charge on a Friday while half the Tarts go to Bouchercon and the other half are at the salon or somewhere

Today's topic is Manscaping.  If you're not familiar with the term, it's a reference to a male's Selleck decision to modify his natural, uh, state, particularly when it comes to his hair.  Some men are perfect and shouldn't change a thing.  I think body hair in the right place can be totally hot.  But I'm not a man, so whatever.

I kind of got in trouble in the Kegel blog when I talked about certain body parts, so I'm going to try to describe it as if my three-year-old niece was sitting here.

Once there were two friends named Dick and Jane.  Dick and Jane, like all people, have hair all over their bodies.  But Dick and Jane have more than others.  Dick and Jane don't like a bunch of hair where they think no hair should be.  Dick and Jane have very very good friends named Pat and Chris, and Pat and Chris don't like hair in those places either.  It can be yuck.  Jane has it easy.  She can go to the Salon and have electrolysis.  Or she can get a wax.  A wax is where Jane's stylist Trixie spreads hot wax on Jane then pulls it off with a strip of cotton, taking Jane's unwanted hair with it.  The first time Trixie did this to Jane, Jane kicked her in the face.  It was an accident and Jane was very, very sorry.  We should never kick.  Now Jane takes a special kind of medicine before she goes and everyone is much happier, and Trixie's nose healed up real nice.

Dick's salon does not have wax.  Dick's salon has magazines with big pictures of girls and boys who are not his friends.  So Jane took Dick to her Salon to meet Trixie.  Trixie told Dick not to worry.  Many other Mans_back Dicks come to see Trixie to have a wax, but they use the back door so no one will see them.  Dick and Trixie talked about Manscaping.  They decided where the wax would go.  Dick wanted the wax to take off the hair in lots of places, like his back.  Some places were big and some were small.  Some were the same places as Jane had her wax. Trixie had to go in the back room and get more wax. Trixie is very brave and nothing makes her throw up.  Aunt Margie could never do what Trixie does without taking special medicine.  No one should ever play with wax at home.  It will hurt and someone will have to go to the doctor.  Doctors sometimes laugh at people when they come in with wax in places and can't get it off.

So, Dick said he was a man and he could handle the wax without any special medicine.  Dick was wrong.  Dick changed his mind after the first strip.  So Trixie did two perms and some highlights while everyone waited for Dick to get very sleepy.  Some medicine can make you sleepy, especially if, like Dick, you take four when you're only supposed to take one.  You should never take medicine unless your parents give it to you.  And you should never, ever, take any medicine you find in Aunt Margie's purse.

After all the waxing was over, Dick was so happy, he had to call his friend Pat.  Pat was very, very excited.  Pat came to pick up Dick, because Dick was too sleepy to drive.  Dick and Pat spent some time in the Wax Room before they left the salon.  They were not very quiet.  It sounded like they might be playing an outside game, but they weren't.  When we play games inside, we should use our inside voices.  The end.

So that is manscaping - it's like landscaping, only the male body is the yard, and the fur is the gNice_legs_1rass.  For what it's worth, I don't usually care.  I mean, if you're Sasquatch, go for it.  But I prefer men, and I don't want to rub up against a leg or anything else that is smoother than my own.  Plus, like everything else, you can take it too far.  It's like plastic surgery - a nip here or a tuck there might be okay, but if you go overboard, you end up looking like a cross between a marionette and one of those patrons in the Star Wars Cantina.  If you do, neither Dick nor Jane will want to be your special friend.

What's your preference? And don't worry, my niece is gone, you can use real words now.

September 28, 2006

Class Reunion

by Nancy

Last week here at the offices of The Lipstick Chronicles, I admitted to my fellow Book Tarts that I needed to lose 20 pounds in 5 days so I could attend my high school class reunion in the rural Pennsylvania town where I grew up. The Tarts were very supportive. (Harley: "Lose 20 pounds? Easy!  Just cut off your head.  I do it all the time!") I managed to lose 5, then gained back 2 when I started to worry about the moment I'd have to walk solo into the party since the person I had planned to accompany to the reunion died this summer. My friend Mary Kate, as you may recall, suffered a fatal stroke after some surgery in July. We'd been friends since 4th grade. Her death made it seem important that I attend the reunion.

With Mary Kate unavailable, I considered telephoning a former boyfriend to ask if he'd be my date for the evening. (My husband, though the kindest man alive, doesn't attend his own high school reunions, let alone mine.) But I decided if Jeff's old girlfriend called with such a request, I'd be peeved, so I didn't.

(Boyfriend's Lovely Wife laughed upon hearing I considered phoning her husband: "Damn! If you had called, I wouldn't have to be here!")

On Saturday evening, I drove the Silver Bullet very slowly because I didn't want to be the first to arrive. The old country club (not one of those spiffy places with valet parking, but a rustic building made of knotty pine and lacking air conditioning) still wore decorations from a wedding reception a year earlier--twinkling lights wrapped in white gauze and dusty plastic ivy.  By the door, my mother's name is on the club champions' plaque--first flight, 1962. Jeez, that was a long time ago!

When I walked in, I made the horrifying discovery that some fiend had decided NOT TO ISSUE NAME TAGS. Which--if you know me, you know my eyesight is appalling bad--spelled doom. Naturally, the first person I encountered asked brightly, "Do you remember me?"  With a big smile, I replied, "Of course I do!"  But I still haven't a clue who she was.

Another classmate immediately said, "Nancy, you look great!" but his remark was aimed directly at my breasts, so I'm not sure he was addressing me, exactly. It's good to know the Wonderbra is still an excellent investment, though.  Finally, a very sweet man came over and gave me a kiss, which made it easy to recognize him since I'd fantasized about that kiss all during 10th grade. He guided me over to meet his wife, and the ice was broken. I circulated, recognized about half my classmates and found some people to sit with.  For dinner, we were served more carbohydrates than I'd eaten in a week, so maybe that's why I felt dizzy during the 6th playing of Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple. It has become our class anthem. Marijuana came late to the outlying provinces, but it made a big impression once it got there. Maybe my dizziness was simply another form of reminiscing?

A classmate who's a small town radio announcer conducted an auction of school memorabilia to raise funds for the next reunion.  Our class president--who was arrested for DUI after leaving the last reunion and had to be bailed out of jail by amused classmates at 3am--telephoned this year from China where he was on business. Someone held a cell phone to the microphone so we could hear his regret at not being with us.

Anyway, it was a fun flashback.

But also bittersweet. So-and-so couldn't come because her breast cancer recurred. Somebody else gets around in a wheelchair after a motorcycle accident. The kid who sat behind me in class for years (I was Aikman, he was Barnett) drove his car into a pond, and nobody found him for three days. And Mary Kate's gone, of course. The message was obvious: Not everybody's going to have a happy ending.

But Todd was there--the kid who wore white bucks on the first day of kindergarten and later played King Arthur in the high school production of Camelot. He's the one I vividly remember crying in a corner on that first day of school.

Shirley was there, too--the girl who heard me jogging up behind her during a gym class when we were supposed to try running a mile as fast as we could.  She was the acknowledged best, the fastest, but glanced over her shoulder and was so surprised to see me steadily gaining on her that she sent me a look that should have stopped me in my tracks and took off running really fast to win the unspoken competition. I should have congratulated her at the time, but didn't.

Randy now flies corporate jets for private clients. He adores his job. "We're lucky," he said to me. "I think we're the only ones who love our work."

Gary has a chubby-cheeked grandchild who looks exactly like he did a lot of years ago. I regret saying some rude stuff to Gary back in 8th grade when he was just as cute, but I couldn't see it then.

Dan, the husband of a classmate and the landscaper my father hired a month before his death to look after the lawn and garden of my parents' home, is just back from a combat tour in Iraq. His wife is proud to tell that Dan is a Reserves officer who lost none of the young men in his command.  He volunteered because he knew he had the expertise to keep other soldiers safe. I debated about skipping the part where I tritely say we're lucky to have guys like him, but I decided it isn't trite.  We're really lucky to have Dan.

On my way home after the party, of course, I got to thinking. What does it all mean? As a group of people, my classmates and I are kind of like victims of a catastrophe who survived drifting in the same lifeboat during our formative years. There was no such thing as "parenting" in the days we came of age. Consequently, we learned by making mistakes and coping with the aftermath. We were at our very worst together. We made fools of ourselves, were mean and selfish, said stupid things and risked each other's lives. (There's nothing much to do in rural America, sometimes, except ride around in cars drinking cheap liquor or smoking dope.) During the Cold War, we learned to hold our biggest textbooks over our heads as we crouched beneath our desks, nobody daring to imagine aloud what it would be like when The Bomb was actually dropped on our school.  Later, we watched those gory Driver's Ed movies and taunted each other into not throwing up during the severed-head-rolling-down-the-highway scene. We sweated through the SAT in 100 degree heat in a school cafeteria with windows that didn't open--during a year when Vietnam was going full bore and so was the draft.  For some, those SAT scores meant the difference between a student deferment and death in the jungle.

I took off my panties for the first time for a guy in my class--although I wised up and didn't fall for his ploy again the next year in first grade.

Maybe because we grew up together in circumstances so different from today's standard childhood, we've come to understand each other in ways that make our relationships very rich--different from my college friends. We share more than a cradle.  In some cases, we share genetic bonds, but certainly something even more basic. Emotional bedrock? We know where we've come from together. It makes our relationship somehow visceral.

And along the way, we seem to have forgiven each other our shortcomings, our cruelties and stupidity. That's the miraculous part--the forgiveness. Isn't it strange--that surprising human inclination to forgive, forget, and turn out loving each other?

What's weird, too?  By nature of my own family's tradition, no matter how far I travel from those people, I will be buried with them.

Mysterious ways, huh?

September 27, 2006

Searching To Improve Airport Security

Searching to improve airport security

By Elaine Viets

I’ve been felt up by fifty strange females since May.

I didn’t enjoy it, either.

I have a hip replacement. It sets off the airport detectors. When the alarm goes off, a burly woman who looks like Sister Mary Mildred in a security uniform lumbers out and pats me down. Sister Mary has her hands on my bra, around my waist, up and down my legs and backside.

I’m already convinced the plane is going to blow up. Now I’m facing Sister Mary Mildred, the woman who said I was going to hell. Maybe I’m already there. It doesn’t have to be like this. I know I’ll be searched every time I fly, and I’m on the road a lot. I’d much prefer to have a handsome young man run his hands all over my body. Who knows? I might even like flying again.

That’s why I have the following proposal to revolutionize air travel: We passengers get to pick the person who pats us down. When airport security calls out, "Female search" we can state our preference. After all, some people like burly females. I happen to prefer burly men. I’d ask for a male searcher. The men in uniform would line up, and I’d select one for a search. A young hunk, perhaps, if I was traveling for frivolous reasons. Or an older, serious gentleman for business flights.

It wouldn’t be personal. I understand it would be over quickly and I’d never see him again. That would be part of his charm. I know these security employees are underpaid, so if they did a really good job, I’d tip them well. Of course, I’d want a thorough search. Also, I want to make it clear that this feel-good plan is equal opportunity. Male travelers would be able to ask for the search person of their choice.

Think of it. Under my plan, people would happily line up at the security checkpoints. They would beg to be searched. They would leave smiling. The strain of travel would be lessened. Some people might buy tickets just for the security search. Money would flood into the ailing airline industry and the economy would fly.

Some people might be concerned that travelers would make crude remarks and unseemly gestures. That’s unlikely. Remember, an offended security person could "find" something on your person or in your luggage, and the next thing you know, you’d be wearing handcuffs, and not for fun. These people have power, and that gives the situation an interesting twist.

Some of you will be shocked by this proposal. Some will say security doesn’t enjoy pat downs on elderly people in wheelchairs, or metal-studded gimps like me.

That’s certainly true. However, some security employees are managing to find workplace satisfaction even now.

Consider Mike, a hunky ex-Marine with a lot of metal in one leg. He says the last guy who patted him down at the airport was obviously gay and very nervous. He kept announcing every move, "Now I’m going to touch your shoulders." (They were very large and hard.)

"Now I’m going to pat you along the waist." (That was very narrow.)

When he finished, Mike said, "Would you like a cigarette?"

September 26, 2006

Bad Boys vs. Decent Fellows

By Sarah

Being a professional writer provides lots of excuses for unconventional behavior, like checking out men almost twenty years younger. Not that I'm a perv or anything. Just that, had I been more active in high school, I might be old enough to be John Krasinski's mother. And, trust me, John's a hunk. A new kind of hunk for a new kind of woman. Too bad I'm forty three, is all I have to say.

(Listen, I could have written about the horrifying advent of skinny jeans that, like shoulder pads and Dorothy Hamel hair, will be the subject of ridicule in a decade. Just be glad I'm sticking to hunks, who are, oh yes, always in style.)

John plays the leading romantic hero, for lack of a better word, on The Office, my new most Krasinski favorite show. His character, Jim, is an under-challenged paper salesman in Scranton (God bless these writers) who works in a horrible office in an even more horrible Scranton office park. The writing is superb. The humor top notch and the show won an Emmy.

To me, what's most surprising about The Office is the popularity of its star-crossed lovers - Jim and Pam, the frustrated receptionist. There's also Roy, Pam's boyfriend who works in the warehouse, and a twist - a twist that all of us who write romance should sit up and take notice.

There is no bad boy. There is no Rhett to tempt Scarlett from Ashley. (And let me just say this Rhett about Ashley - blech). There is no Ranger to wrest Stephanie from Morelli. (I stopped reading at Four to Score, so tell me if I'm off base here.) No Paris to threaten Romeo and his Juliet.

Instead there's Roy, a poor schlub with a DUI in his background who's trying to win back Pam, and Jim, a somewhat spineless (no letters, please) guy who's really nice and sometimes fun. This resonates with me. I know guys like this. I dated guys like this. Jim is real and that's what makes the writing on this show compelling. I swear, I have a crush. I love decent fellows.

Personally, I've never been attracted to bad boys. Not ever. A guy on a motorcycle who just ripped off a convenience store and was bent on breaking the land speed record down Highway 66 was a guy IMarlon  hoped didn't have my home number. Men who throw fists, who keep cigarettes behind their ears and are misunderstood, need to grow up. Give me a guy who takes out the trash any day.

I don't mean a tight ass. I mean, a man who can crack a smart joke and shrug off the boss but who never shows up late for work. A guy who keeps his focus on the larger picture, who refrains from chewing out the waitress, a man who pays his bills, doesn't overspend, and who appreciates a fine woman because she, too, is decent. (Also, being really tall with a great smile doesn't hurt either.)

Here's my theory why this new generation of women is attracted to Jim the paper salesman and, I suspect, other characters like him. (Aside from the indisputable fact that John's cute.) Young women don't need a bad boy to feel alive. They're being bad themselves (Girls Gone Wild) and the guys they know are bad, too (Boys Gone Wild). Enough already with the bad. What's attractive is what they don't have- a man like Jim. They crave restraint, politeness, decorum, love (not lust), and most of all, decency. Plus, a bit of subtle subversion.

And let me add something, too. Part of the fun for women who love decent men is discovering that underneath that upstanding exterior is a hot hunk with slow hands and other neat stuff that can make the world spin on its axis.

I should know because that's the guy I married -  Oooolala. Charlie_hunk_001_1

Sarah

September 25, 2006

Sex at Work

By Michele Martinez

I recently mentioned to a friend in publishing that I was planning to go to Bouchercon, and she told me this story.  When she was a naive little thing just starting out in the biz, she was thrilled to be asked to represent her big publishing house at BEA.  BEA is one of the most prestigious events in the industry, and this was her chance to shine.  So she gathered her courage and marched in to ask her notoriously intimidating female boss how best to prepare for such an important assignment.  The boss pondered for a moment, then uttered these words of wisdom: 

"Buy new underwear." 

My friend's story suggests that the book biz is just as rife with office romance and scandal as any other field, including my previous chosen profession, the law.  The law?, you ask skeptically.  That province of dry old statute books and arcane judicial opinions?  But I wasn't just a lawyer; I was in law enforcement.  When you mix prosecutors and federal agents and danger and stress and guns, you end up with some interesting situations and plenty of salacious gossip.

To give you an idea of the overheated atmosphere, the most popular drinking game in the U.S. Attorney's Office when I was there was called "Who Would You Rather Do?"  Sometimes the game was played for laughs, as in "Who would you rather do -- Judge X (vile!) or Judge Y (ick!)?"  But sometimes it was played in all seriousness, with real-life consequences.  At least one attractive female prosecutor ended up marrying the male prosecutor whose name topped her "do" list.  He'd heard about it; he was flattered; she was on his list, too, and the rest is history.

Now, this post is really about writing (at least, if you've read this far), and here's how.  A vocal minority of readers out there think that crime novels should be about crime alone, that there's no place in them for romance, and certainly no place for explicit sex scenes.  I thought about those readers recently when I wrote a pivotal scene in the next Melanie Vargas book, Cover-Up (coming March 2007).  In the middle of a dangerous and difficult murder investigation, Melanie and her heartthrob, FBI Agent Dan O'Reilly, do it in the office.  On her desk, to be exact.  This happens at a moment when Melanie's career is on the line, and even though it's a stupid and risky thing to do, it's also very human.  I believe in that scene, but I know I'll also get complaints about it.  When I do, I'll take comfort in the great sex and office romance scenes in crime fiction.  (To me, the best legal thriller ever written is still the one that started the whole craze -- Presumed Innocent  by Scott Turow

and that book is about nothing so much as an office affair with deadly consequences.)

So, a couple of questions to go with your coffee on this Monday morning. (1) Do you like sex in crime novels?  (2)  If so, what's your favorite sex scene in crime fiction? 

And the next time you're sitting in a bar at a convention at a loss for words or bored with the chit chat, you have my permission to pull out that old U.S. Attorney's Office standard and ask your companion, "Who would you rather do?"

   

September 24, 2006

Am I Annoying

By Sarah

Are you annoying? Do you know someone who is? Sure, we do. But just to be positive, why not stop by Am I Annoying.com. - our link of the week. Find out who are the Top Ten People Who Might Be Annoying and take the Am I Annoying Quiz. (Do you sneak through the 10 and under line at the grocery store with 15 items? If so, you might be annoying.)

Of course, we here at the Lipstick Chronicles keep our own list of who might be annoying. But, Margie keeps it under lock and key, right next to the petty cash. (Uh, we still have petty cash, right Margie?) As always, the women of The Lipstick Chronicles show the utmost discretion.

Welcome, Fall!

Sarah

September 23, 2006

Rebecca Drake's Debut Guest Blog

It's Called Imagination

by guest blogger Rebecca Drake                   Cover Image

"Where do you get your ideas?"

Most of the time, I politely sidestep this chestnut, explaining that it isn't ideas that are hard, but corralling them into an orderly plot. Of course, the truth is that writers don't have to search for ideas, we just think a certain way. It should be a recognized medical condition, something for which we could claim a tax deduction or receive disability.

Case in point: When we met 20 years ago I was so attracted to my future husband that I figured something had to be wrong. I waited for him to announce that he was gay or that he was entering the priesthood or possibly both. Fast forward to the stage where we had keys to each other's places.  He lived on the top-floor of a three-story walk-up in New Jersey. Clearly a bachelor's pad, complete with a neon Iron City beer sign in the kitchen. Every room was completely furnished except for the large, wide room you saw as soon as you entered the apartment. It was just a smooth expanse of bare, hardwoord floors with curtains at the windows.

I asked him why, but he just shrugged. Once I saw a half-burned pillar candle sitting on the floor and he explained that there'd been a power outage the night before.

So, one afternon I was happily ridding his closet of disco-era souvenirs to donate to a clothing drive, when I suddenly found a long, hooded, shiny black robe.

In a flash, I knew it all. He wasn't a gay priest, he was a follower of Satan! It all made sense now--the empty room, the candle. This was where he carried out his rituals. He was probably slaughtering chickens on the weekends. My God, he was trying to lure me in to his cabal!

I knew that I would have to confront him, but not over the phone. I paced until he came home, then I took his hand, looked deep into his eyes and said, "I know."

He smiled.  "Know what?"

"I know the truth."

"Um, you're going to have to give me a hint here," he said. "I have no idea what you're talking about."

"I found it in your closet."

"You found the truth in my closet?" He laughed as he said it.  Funny man. He wouldn't be laughing for long.

I led him slowly over to the closet. Then I opened the door and whipped out the robe.

I'm not sure what I was expecting, maybe swooning with shock as he saw his secret life exposed.  What I wasn't expecting was boredom.

"Yeah. So? Do you think I should give that away?"

"I know you're a Satanist."

"A what?"

"Sa-ta-nist. Follower of Satan. You can stop lying."

This time he did swoon, but it turned out he was laughing. Very hard. "I'm not a Satanist," he said, wiping tears from his eyes, "but I'm beginning to wonder what planet you're from."

Ha, ha. "How do you explain this?" I shook the robe and he started laughing again.

"It's a Halloween costume!"

In the end he had to pull out photos of the costume party to prove it.

Today he likes to tell people that despite 20 years of established trust I could be convinced he was a serial killer in less than five minutes. I say, don't leave the knives out unless you want me to think something funny's going on.

The Lipstick Chronicles is pleased to introduce you to Rebecca Drake, whose debut thriller, DON'T BE AFRAID was published by Pinnacle in September and is available in stores now.

Check out Rebecca's contribution to the blog Working Stiffs.

September 22, 2006

Man Law

Man Law
By Rebecca the Bookseller

01adco1901 For those of you who don't watch much TV (particularly those of you who do not watch sports), there is a series of beer commercials based on the concept of Man Law.  The Men of the Square Table (Burt Reynolds, Jerome 'the Bus' Bettis, Oscar De La Hoya, Ty the Rodeo Champ, WWE wrestler Triple H, a Motocross guy with a tattoo show on cable, an astronaut, that guy who cut his own arm off, you get the picture) debate and determine, for purposes of creating a written record, the unspoken laws of Men.

Man_law_3 For example, when posed with the question: "If a friend gets you a beer from the bar, is it acceptable for the friend to stick his finger in the opening to bring back several beers to the table at once?"  Answer by consensus:  "No. You Poke It, You Own It."  Sage advice all the way around, really.

Some Man Laws are universal: Shotgun is shotgun.  The call is determinative.  Never leave your Wingman.  The Wingman Rule has been challenged through the ages with everything from "But I'm bleeding from my eyes" to "But Chuck Norris is waiting for me at home."  No dice.

In an effort to gain a better understanding of this unwritten code of conduct, I sought the wisdom of several men from varying backgrounds and geographic locations.  Now, as a public service to you, our TLC readers, and as a tip of the hat to our male readers (you know who you are, and if you don't, seek counsel), here are some Man Laws - from our panel and from the Square Table.  We invite you to add to our list.

  • Man Law on Refrigerators:  The garage refrigerator is for beer only.  It's not about the space; it's about drawing a line.  A Man from NC adds: in the event that an attractive female party guest is wearing a thong, all beer shall be promptly moved to the bottom shelf of the fridge. Our Man in Vermont wonders why this is an issue.  His Man Law:  The main fridge is for beer only.  Everything else goes in the garage.  An interesting approach, and one that I'm sure makes him a very attractive catch for most women.
  • Man Law on Food:  Regardless of weather, the grill is always the cooking appliance of first choice.  A Man from the midwest contributes: further, salmon is a fish, and not a color.  And a Navy Man serving overseas reminds us that No Man shall use a utensil of any kind to eat ribs.
  • Man Law on Hair Care: No man shall use more than one hair product, if at all.  A Man in L.A. - arguably the hair capital of the world - adds: moreover, the maximum amount of time allowed for a man to style his hair shall be no more than one minute times the number of inches of the mane.  No exceptions.
  • Man Law on Dating Your Best Friend's Girl, Who Just Dumped Him:  "Your best friend is dumped by his girlfriend. How long before you can ask her out?" Under normal circumstances, such woman is Off Limits.  Forever.  Exception: if she is drop-dead gorgeous, the time limitation shall be no less than six months.  A Man from New England contributed the following proviso: just bedding the chick, who is probably vulnerable and ready to get drunk anyway, does not count as a date as long as you don't call her afterwards, and no one else finds out.
  • Man Law on Homophobes Using Beards:  Henceforth, any homophobic gay man who uses a woman as a beard shall be known as a McGreever.  Usage:  "Leave it to that McGreever to waltz out of here with the only hot girl in the joint."
  • Man Law on Bachelor Parties: A Law Man from Texas summarized the rules: No cameras.  No recording devices of any kind.  Any man who makes a phone call to any female - other than a certified professional - during a bachelor party may be beaten senseless with no repercussions.
  • Man Law on Commando Attire:  The only acceptable length of shorts and bathing suits is at least two inches below any possible line of manparts exposure.  This is the codification of the rule more commonly known as keeping the mouse in the house.
Okay, it's your turn.  Let's here 'em.

September 21, 2006

Next Generation

by Nancy

Kim and Patty were just here. Who are Kim and Patty, you ask? They are angels. With scrub buckets, bottles of Lysol and firm opinions about Murphy's Oil Soap, not to mention the Steelers and men in general. I could not write books without them. Each time Kim and Patty leave, I am overcome with a joyous sense that all's right with the world.  And then I can work.

Yes, Kim and Patty clean my house. Every two weeks, they turn up and cheerfully whisk through all the rooms to make them smell nice and look tidy. They even fold the end of the toilet paper into a neat triangle. While I check my morning e-mail, they carry on a running conversation between floors, shouting and laughing and pretty much entertaining me for the---are you ready for this?--mere one and a half hours it takes them to clean our humble abode. They're like those Disney fairies that flutter around waving their magic wands and singing, except Kim has a smoker's voice and Patty is usually laughing too hard to even whistle while she works.

If forced to take care of the house myself, I would do it pretty much constantly because I like a cobweb/dog hair/clutter-free space. My desk is a masterpiece of Creative Chaos, but the rest of the house must be just shy of immaculate or I can't think straight. Cleaning all the time, however, means I get very little writing done. Ergo: Having housekeepers makes it possible for me to work because they eliminate a major procrastination technique. In fact, I believe I am at least three times more productive than I was in the days when I ran the Dyson around the clock to keep the Dalmatian detritus at bay. I think I could argue that the money I pay Kim and Patty should, in fact, be tax deductible because they make my working environment productive. But since they prefer to fly under the IRS radar---and believe me, I am not going to jeopardize their freedom/availability to work for me--I don't claim the deduction.

If there's a downside to having housekeepers, it's this:

My daughters grew up thinking everyone has a Kim or Patty who disinfects the kitchen counter before bacteria can get a real foothold.

Mind you, I am from the generation in which even the youngest children helped Mom clean. Monday was laundry day. (Oh, the ironing! My mother even ironed sheets.) Tuesday mornings we dusted, swept and did windows. Wednesday mornings we scrubbed floors. Thursday mornings we polished bathrooms.  Fridays were for errands while the cleaning lady did the whole house all over again. Okay, so my mother was--and still is--a clean fanatic. I am a piker compared to her.  When she comes to visit, she'll sometimes suggest an afternoon of polishing my silver in the same tone of voice other people might suggest a fun-filled trip to an amusement park.

But my children grew up in a household where Mummy barricaded her office door and hung rude signs on the knob to warn wayward tots from knocking unless the firemen had already been telephoned. They came of age thinking nobody scrubbed their own toilets--least of all the lady of the house who spent her time cursing a computer monitor.

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Am I a bad mother for allowing my daughters to grow up not knowing that clambering on your hands and knees with an Amway brush and a gallon of Mr. Clean is still the only way to get a floor to shine? After all, cleanliness is a virtue. And self-discipline is a cornerstone of personal growth and happiness.  I think I've failed them.

But, wait! Perhaps my girls have learned more from this life experience than I first thought.

Last weekend, my husband and daughters and I flew to California for a wedding.  (Miracle: We're still speaking despite spending at least 15 hours together in a rented Ford Taurus.) While we traveled, they occasionally telephoned to check in with their significant others. One afternoon, Cassie caught her husband while he was actually making guacamole for himself. He watches Bobby Flay and Mario Batali--and then cooks the recipes in his own kitchen! Grilling, smoking, whipping up his own marinades--no problem.  He thinks it's fun! It's astonishing. (My husband has trouble locating the phone number of the pizza delivery guy, so let's not bother discussing his nonexistent food preparation skills. And when my mother returned from three days of treatment for Female Trouble in the hospital, my father had neatly deposited three half empty cups of instant coffee in the sink for her to wash. He ate all of his meals at a restaurant or with neighbors. Needless to say, he had not made the bed either.)  So Cassie's husband is something of a phenom.

But Sarah's boyfriend--grab your smelling salts, ladies--when she called him he was actually cleaning her apartment for her.  Even the refrigerator.

What's with the new generation? What happened when I wasn't looking? Suddenly my children are interested in organic food (this after 18 years of cajoling them to eat green vegetables only if they were soaked in Velveeta cheese sauce) which they combine in intricate recipes while I'm still using a jar of Ragu at least once a week. Cassie belongs to an organic farm co-op that delivers a box of fresh, assorted veggies every Wednesday--and she can do amazing things with even the most exotic!  Good lord, they even organized a wine-tasting club!

Maybe I'm not such a bad mother after all. Maybe my generation is a throwback to the "toss that kid into the lake, and he'll learn to swim fast enough, gawddammit!" school of thought. And who could have guessed it actually worked? Benign neglect, it seems, is a viable parental strategy.  Benjamin Spock was wrong.  Leave your kids alone, and they will probably figure a way to out-smart their parents.

Uh, wait a minute . . .