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Reel Mama: October 2011

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Fright night in the fitting room

I recently had an embarrassing moment shopping for a Halloween costume.  I’m looking for something that won’t terrify my daughter, and so I’ve decided to go with a storybook theme.  I visited a costume rental shop, and I’m now going to make a choice between a few prospects that have seen better days after serving in hundreds of high school and college musical productions.
The first costume I’m considering may be my favorite.  It was originally used for Cinderella’s wicked step-sister in said theatrical production of Cinderella.  My fashion-conscious two-year-old gave a “thumbs down” to it, but I love it because it’s hot pink and I’d get to wear a hat with an enormous ostrich feather.  Then there’s Glenda the Good Witch of the North, but the enormous hoop skirt seems impractical for my child’s upcoming birthday party, especially because I’ll want to take a whack at the piñata.  
Finally, there is Alice in Wonderland.  A traditional Alice costume for adults is very difficult to come by.  It seems that marketers believe grown women look better as naughty Alice, in spike heels and fishnets and a low-cut pinafore (yes, it’s possible to transform Alice’s white apron into an outfit more appropriate for a night of partying on Jersey Shore).  Luckily the costume shop’s Alice is more wholesome than oatmeal for breakfast.
The problem is, on me these costumes are all backless, meaning I can’t zip them up.  And I refuse to wear a corset.  Not when I’ll be eating all my daughter’s Halloween candy that poses a choking hazard for kids under 3.  That’s a lot of candy.  Maybe I should just go as a ghost with a sheet over my head, Charlie Brown style.
Not to worry, said the shop’s seamstress after a somewhat humiliating Scarlett O’Hara moment of attempting to will my body to fit into these dresses.  She’ll be able to let them out all the way in the waist on both sides.
All this made me think back to not so long ago when I could wear those size zero Daisy Duke short shorts.
Maybe it’s time to forget Halloween costumes for a moment and go to mall clothing boutique Chico’s for a little ego boost.  “Are you familiar with our sizing system?” the Chico's sales lady asked cooly the first time I entered the store not so long ago.  Admitting that I wasn’t, she looked me over and informed me that I would probably wear a size zero, according to their system.  Nice system!  Chico’s also has double and even triple zero as sizes for the more petite physiques.  Talk about a piece of marketing genius.  The largest size they carry is a 4.5 according to their system, which is the equivalent of a size 22.

Imagine, all I have to do is step from my car into the mall, and suddenly I’m a size zero again.  I can eat whatever I want. That momentary lapse of reason at the Cinnabon, or even with the leftover Halloween candy, is wiped away as soon as I walk into Chico’s.  No Scarlett O’Hara waist-cinching required.

But a true size zero needs to be relabeled.  I propose a letter rather than a number system: “R” for “ridiculous,” “Y” for “You’ve got to be kidding me,” and “N” for “No way in hell.”
And so tomorrow I will go back to the costume rental company with my head held high.  Let the letting out begin.  Let it out all the way, baby.  I’m not full-figured.  I’m voluptuous, and this year I'll be all tricked out for Trick or Treating.  

Happy Halloween, everybody!

Friday, October 21, 2011

“I’m not a woman anymore—I’m a mom!” (Or, goodbye Daisy Dukes, hello Mom Jeans)

Today I found my size zero floral Daisy Dukes, those short shorts made famous by actress Catherine Bach on the Dukes of Hazard.  When did I ever fit into those? 

In a way I’m proud of myself, because I can admit that I’ll never wear them again.   They don’t fit me, and the floral pattern begs the question, what was I thinking?!  The floral pattern isn’t busy enough to distract from the fact that I’m a mother in a new body, in all its post-pregnancy glory. 
What is the alternative?  Look no further than “Mom Jeans,” made famous by the brilliant Saturday Night Live skit, which, in a parody of the easy-fit jeans favored by moms the world over, advertises high-waisted blue jeans with an elastic waist and a “nine-inch zipper and casual front pleats.”  They are “cut generously to fit a mom’s body.”  They are light blue or navy and tapered at the ankle.  

The skit, for better or worse, is dead-on.  We moms frankly need a roomier fit after giving birth.  I for one don’t want to be the one caught unzipping her jeans under the table after overindulging at the Cheesecake Factory.  Mom Jeans solve this problem too. Mom Jeans have gotten a bad rap, perhaps unfairly so.  What today’s harried moms prize over all else when it comes to fashion is comfort, and Mom Jeans understand this.  
Unfortunately, the downside to the Mom Jeans is that they are utterly lacking in style.  The skit’s conclusion is that wearing Mom Jeans robs women of all femininity. According to the skit, the jeans make the statement that by wearing them “I’m not a woman anymore, I’m a mom!”  The skit overstates the case because Mom Jeans aren’t THAT bad.  Nevertheless, the message of the skit contains a kernel of truth.  The subtext is that as moms we let ourselves go.  When it comes to what we wear, we settle because, like a reliable economy car, we just need something that will get us from here to there.  Style just has to take a back seat.
Unfortunately on me, I find that Mom Jeans are as unflattering as the Daisy Dukes.  While effectively corseting the muffin top, the jeans accentuate the saddle bags.  The jeans unfortunately make my posterior look huge because they laterally compress what god gave me, practically turning me into a walking billboard for what can happen to one’s body after giving birth.  “Don’t let this happen to you,” my billboard might read.  Yes, I’m desperate for comfort, but at what price?
And so, Daisy Dukes, I bid you farewell.  I can’t seem to remember a time when I could wear a size zero.  These days there’s more of me to love, but I don’t want to show that “more” to the world.  You leave absolutely nothing to the imagination.
And, Mom Jeans, it may be time to bid you adieu as well.  I’ll miss you most of all.  With your generous cut and relaxed fit, you are the sweat pants of jeans, and for that you’ll take your place in the pantheon of truly comfortable mom clothing: the mu mu, the housecoat, and the bathrobe.  And, just for the record, I never felt like less than a woman for wearing you.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A crime of fashion

Everyone talks about the dressing down of America.  How now every day is casual Friday.  How flip flops are becoming ubiquitous in the finest eateries, and not just in California.  I might argue that today’s moms aren’t helping the situation.  Could I be referring to myself?  Guilty as charged!
Not that I would wear flip flops to any establishment serving anything French (McDonald’s and fries being the exception).  Nevertheless, since I became a mom, my fashion sense seems to have gone the way of the dodo bird, and I didn’t even know it until last week.
I was carded by a somewhat flirtatious cashier/bag boy.  “You’re just doing your job!” I told him, my ego inflating pleasantly. “I thought that you were my age, but then I saw your shoes,” he said.  What was the matter with my shoes? I had to ask, ego deflating unpleasantly.  “No offense, but they’re ugly as hell and totally out of style.  A young person wouldn’t be caught dead in those.”  
Talk about a backhanded compliment.
Yes, “comfortably broken in” would be an understatement for these shoes.  I got them a year ago, half price (yes!), at Lady Footlocker, and it hadn’t even crossed my mind that they needed replacing until that moment.
It's time to look at the mom in the mirror.  An extreme mommy makeover may be in order.  I have to ask: When did every day become a bad hair day? When did my uniform become sweat pants and flip flops, or worse, throwback tennis shoes that were probably worn by cave people back in the day (at least according to the checkout boy).  
How is it that I can find hours to shop for that perfect pair of fairy wings for my daughter, but shopping for myself isn’t even on my radar?  When I was pregnant I was something of a fashion icon at the company where I worked.  If I may say so, my ability to accessorize was unparalleled.  But, somewhere along the way, I lost that ability, along with my car keys (they’ve got to be here somewhere!) and “me” time. 
So if you see a line-up of recent arrests by the Fashion Police, you’ll know me by the bad hair and the sweats.  And the tennis shoes, of course.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Fortune Cookie

On a recent visit to a Japanese restaurant that happens to hand out fortune cookies, I was waiting for my takeout with my daughter Leilani, almost two.  She was having a bad day, and so, hoping to reverse my fortune and improve her mood, I requested a batch of fortune cookies for her to munch on while waiting.  Unfortunately the cookies failed to work their magic.  She hurled the first cookie to the floor, along with the fortune inside. I picked up the fortune, unable to let pass a glimpse into my future.  It read, “People in your life will be more cooperative than usual.”

This came as a shock to me, given that Leilani at this moment was stretched out on the bench we were sitting on, face-down, back arched, having a meltdown that was seemingly uncooperative.  Perhaps the fortune was right, and this tantrum was just an illusion.  Everyone in the restaurant wasn’t really staring at my exasperated face.  The sushi chef wasn’t really making funny faces and doing the robot dance in an attempt to cheer Leilani up. 

I decided to open up the next fortune cookie.  A good old standby: “Your present plans are going to succeed.”  I love this fortune.  I must have gotten it a hundred times over the years.  I hope it’s right.  My present plans are to encourage the people in my life, namely a certain two-year-old, to be more cooperative than usual. 

I decided to open the last fortune cookie: “When one door closes, another will open.”  Sure enough, there was the restaurant owner with our bag of takeout food, holding the door open and bidding us farewell.  She couldn’t get us out of there quickly enough. 

As we headed off into the sunset, I decided to take the glass-half-full approach and look at life as one big fortune cookie.  Inside those golden walls of crunchy deliciousness, life is great now and getting better all the time.  Not a bad way to see the world.  The next time I need to reboot from the chaos in my life, I’ll be reaching for that wisdom to be found at the bottom of a takeout box.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The American Dream: It’s more than just the economy

Popular wisdom has it that the United States is officially a nation in decline But when did this happen?  
I feel that the rug has been jerked out from under me, that I woke up to some nightmare where the United States was taking its final curtain call.  
I grew up with stories about the Great Depression of the 1930s from my grandfather.  The primary difference between that economic crisis and this one was our hope as a nation for getting out of it. I was always struck in my grandfather’s stories by the camaraderie he described, the spirit of loving your neighbor, how folks would go out of their way to lift each other up and give each other what little they had.  As bleak as things were, in a time when so many people lost everything, our grandparents and great grandparents never stopped believing that things would get better.
But this time around, I feel that it’s different.  I feel like the nation isn’t just in a depression; we are clinically depressed.  There’s a palpable sense that this crisis is here to stay, and a bleak future lies ahead.  
I realize there is a whole host of reasons why we are where we are, but what alarms me is that we seem to have lost something fundamental to the American identity: our optimism.
I don’t want to seem naive.  I know we’re in trouble.  People are hurting right now due to the economy.  I count myself in that number, and yet every day, I’m living and breathing the American Dream.  Because the American Dream is more than just upward mobility.  The American Dream is the freedom to say what needs to be said.  It’s the freedom to practice my beliefs, or not, without persecution.  Freedom to marry whom I want, have as many children as I want, or not.  Freedom to criticize the government without being dragged off to jail, or worse.  We enjoy a free press.   There is no other nation on earth where you can change careers as many times as you like at any age, where you can go back to school and finish a degree later in life, or try out many careers until you find your calling.  We are a nation that gives second chances, and third and forth and beyond.  So why can’t we give our country another chance now?
Whenever I hear another 24-hour talking head shouting over the airwaves that we are a nation in decline and that it’s over for our country, I feel it’s a profound disservice to those who laid down their lives to give us the incredible gift of freedom we enjoy.  What about their sacrifice?  Let’s not squander it.  We’re obsessed with the Fed’s every move, searching for anything at all that will give us the slightest indication of our economic future, but it seems we’ve abandoned our core values.  What happened to the real American dream?  What happened to “United We Stand,” and lifting each other up?   
It seems we’ve lost love of country.  No system of government is perfect, but let’s take a look at what we have.  As a mother, I would gladly lay down my life to continue giving my daughter the freedoms that I treasure every day, if it were necessary. 
I don't think it will come to that.  I for one do believe things are going to get better.
I hope that we and our children will walk in freedom always, and never forget to cherish what we’ve got. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

"Mr. Mom" Revisited (Film Review)

Recently I decided to take a walk down memory lane and revisit Mr. Mom, written by all-time eighties-fave, writer-director John Hughes, and directed by Stan Dragoti.  It’s fascinating to see how things have changed in the almost thirty years since the 1983 movie was released, and also what hasn’t.  
One of the things that resonates most about the film is that it takes place during the last great recession our country experienced in the early 1980s, which brings about the need for the gender role reversal indicated by the film’s title.  Michael Keaton’s character Jack works as an engineer in a Detroit car factory.  He loses his job because people aren’t buying American cars.  They’re buying Toyotas.  His wife Caroline (the incomparable Teri Garr) up until then has stayed home taking care of their three kids.  
The news of Jack’s job loss is not earth shattering for the family.  Resourceful and optimistic, Caroline announces that she too will look for a job.  After all, she’s got a college degree and experience in advertising.  Jack and Caroline make a bet, 100 to 1, that Caroline won’t find a job first.  Cut to the next scene: Caroline is getting dressed for work in a very spiffy high-collared polyester blend suit, and she’s leaving Jack, who’s never even done laundry before, with the kids. 
No surprise, Jack has a ginormous learning curve when it comes to running the household.  He microwaves the socks to dry them and reheats his son’s grilled cheese sandwich with an iron while remaining glued to the soaps.
It would be fascinating to remake the film today, with a few obvious differences.  Jack’s hilarious obsession with soaps, all now canceled, would be replaced with I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant. When Caroline’s boss makes a pass at her, she would sue the crap out of him rather than cutting his steak out of habit like the great mom she is.  If the film were remade, the dad would have to be a workaholic, say a corporate lawyer, in order to be that clueless about what goes on in the home. 
The greatest shift is that household chores and parenting are much more equitably divided these days between moms and dads.  Maybe the film Mr. Mom can take a little credit for making it cool for dads to help around the house and take on a greater share of the child rearing back when it was still a little taboo to do that.  Today more moms are working than ever and often are the main breadwinners.  It’s not that shocking today for Dad not only to do the dishes, but to actually stay home during different periods of his child’s growing-up years, and not because he is unemployed or laid off, but by choice.  
John Hughes brilliantly redefines manliness in the course of the film.  Jack at first feels that his masculinity is threatened by his sudden status as a stay-at-home-dad.  When Caroline’s boss (the perfectly cast Martin Mull) comes by in a limousine to pick her up for a business trip, Jack enters with a running chain saw.  Talk about overcompensating.  He offers the boss a beer, then a scotch, at 7am, and shouts as the boss leaves with his wife, “If you call and I’m not here, I’ll be at the gym or at the gun club!”  By the end of the film, such posturing is no longer necessary.  Jack proves his manliness by being a great dad, taking responsibility for his family, and mastering the skills necessary to make the household run smoothly.  
[SPOILER ALERT--but since most of us have probably seen this movie, I don’t think it’s going to hurt anything...]
In a fairy tale ending Jack’s boss (the absolutely phenomenal Jeffrey Tambor) comes begging on bended knee for him to take his old job back.  With the gut-wrenching changes that American car companies have undergone, such a thing probably wouldn’t happen now.  But the ending also shows remarkable foresight for women in the workplace and work-life balance.  In the end Caroline’s boss agrees to let her reduce her schedule to three days per week, allowing her to spend more time with her family, whom she sorely missed with so much overtime.  I would have guessed that Caroline would have returned to staying home full-time, and it would have been a more predictable ending for the time.  But Caroline discovers that she loves work, and Hughes enables that character, and moms in the audience, to validate that part of themselves without the guilt.
This fun film is well worth a revisit.  So dust off that old VCR and get that musty old VHS copy out of storage. Or, if this sounds like I’m speaking Greek to you, just set your DVR to “record.”