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Go Ahead, Ask Me Anything
Nov 16th, 2010 by Christina

Several of you have complained that I haven’t blogged in a while and you’re right, you’re right. I’m sorry! (How’s this for a lame excuse: I’ve been busy.) But I’m thrilled that any of you actually notice and care. That is hugely gratifying and encouraging, so don’t go anywhere. I actually have a lot of post ideas brewing and very soon I expect to unleash a torrent of fascinating, fully-formed posts.

In the meantime, how about helping me get my writerly juices flowing? Ask me something Living in Splitsville-related and I’ll put together a fun little blogger/reader Q&A.

Go ahead, ask!

Oh, and here’s a cartoon from this week’s New Yorker that seems appropriate. Enjoy.

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Sometimes a picture speaks…
Sep 5th, 2010 by Christina

… a thousand words or so. God bless America, no?

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Officially on the Road to Old, Part 2
Aug 11th, 2010 by Christina

Since my last post on this topic, I’ve accumulated more proof that getting older and becoming curmudgeonly/peculiar are inextricably linked (but maybe the self-awareness is somewhat mitigating?) The latest evidence:

  • I’m inclined to brag about my cholesterol levels. I had to stop myself from sharing the blood-test results from my latest physical with everyone in my office. Part of this I chalk up to the fact that I write about chronic medical conditions for a living and have become acutely aware of how precarious it all is. I didn’t make a formal announcement, but I’m considering putting up a sign in my cubicle: HDL: 87  LDL: 82  Triglycerides: 53.
  • It’s time for trendiness and I to part ways. The first thing to go is the royal-blue toenail polish (with a daisy decal on the big toe) that I misguidedly chose for my last pedicure. Funky colors work on my teenage daughter, but do not flatter my ropey size 9 1/2,  46-year-old feet. Next time I’ll stick with a nice neutral tone and no designs.
  • I’m aghast at the sexualization of absolutely everything. My daughter came home with a shopping bag from Abercrombie & Fitch, which features a toned male torso. My first thought was: “I say, young man! Put on a shirt for goodness sake.” Yesterday I was at Sephora (clearly a nickname for Sodom and Gomorrah). Among the store’s many demonic offerings is a line of makeup called The Orgasm Collection. I really thought I was hallucinating when I saw this. While the O word has been splashed across the cover of women’s magazines for years, I can’t believe it’s now an acceptable moniker for shades of lip gloss and nail polish. (What happened to “Revlon Red” and “Wine with Everything?” Weren’t those racy enough?). And to think that in my day, it was mortifying to bring a box of Stayfree mini-pads to the cashier!
  • I know I’m right and that the world IS going to hell in a hand basket (see photo).
  • I had a dream that I was shaving my face.

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Officially on the Road to Old
Apr 9th, 2010 by Christina

Lately, I’ve become increasingly aware that I am not young anymore. It’s not just the obvious, cliche stuff like the chronic back pain, the chronic need for reading glasses, the chronic need for the word chronic, and the conviction that plastic surgery isn’t all that crazy. It’s other, subtler things that catch me off guard and force me to acknowledge my advancing age.

Such as:

I now shop at Lord & Taylor. For years, I’ve teased my mother, who has been loyal to L&T since the days of well-made pencil skirts and Kelly Girls. Now I happen to work a few blocks away from the grand old department store. After a frustrating experience on Zappos.com last week, I decided to take a twirl through L&T’s shoe department. Well, no sooner did I enter the second floor “shoe salon” when a pleasant young woman asked me if she could help me. And then, by god, she helped me! She was totally there for me, graciously bringing every shoe I asked for in two sizes, just in case the shoe in question ran small or large. I just can’t get over it. I ended up buying a pair of flats and a pair of sparkly sandals. Soon I plan to return to the store for foundation garments.

Sometimes I stare at my cell phone in pure wonderment—at how tiny it is–so small and shiny and lozenge-like that I could swallow it without much effort. Why, when I was a child, you had to hold a clunky barbell of a receiver in order to chat on the phone. And it was attached by a curly cord to an even clunkier base unit (did that have a name?) You couldn’t even leave the room, let alone wander into a cafe and obliviously order a tall Sumatran blend while blabbing. In those days, too, the phones rang–with a real, mechanical ring, not one of 500 freaking ADD-inducing ringtones. In fact, there was no such thing as a ringtone. Don’t even get me started on my iPod Shuffle; When I was a girl, the Sony Walkman was beyond cool and sleek.

I’m attracted to men in their 50s. When R and I first separated, a friend of mine tried to sell me on her belief that 51-year-old men were the sexiest of all. I tried to be polite about it, but I was secretly thinking Ew. Gross. Can you say “grandpa?” But I have totally come around on that one. Among the men who manage to emerge from their 40s without having gone to seed, there are quite a few who are–to use a juvenile term–hot. (George Clooney, anyone? Ed Harris? Liam Neeson?  Jeff Bridges, despite the beard?)  Men in their 20s, 30s and even early 40s look weird, babyish and unformed to me now. What’s with the unlined faces, the lack of gray hair and all that? I obviously have no future as a cougar. I like my men slightly craggy and weathered.

I’ve said the following to my kids: “Can you see in that light?” “You’re not leaving the house wearing that.” and “One day you’ll appreciate me.”

When the Land’s End swim suit catalogue arrives, I keep it, rather than chuck it immediately into recycling. What’s worse, I flip right to the bathing suits with skirts. This year, I’m hoping to find one with OLD LADY printed across the butt.

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Heart of Glass
Feb 8th, 2010 by Christina

On Saturday night, I went to a Valentine’s day dance at my 3rd grader’s school. It was 1980′s-themed, so I spent the afternoon helping my girls outfit themselves in leggings and big shirts with belts.

The school was brilliant enough to provide a little pub in an adjoining room, so that the parents could buy cheap wine and beer in support of the PTA. Every now and then, we wandered into the gym to watch our kids dancing under ghastly flourescent lights to songs by such 80′s phenoms as The Violent Femmes, Billy Idol and Blondie. Our songs.

The combo 80’s/Valentine’s day theme had me waxing nostalgic in a big way. That was the decade when I first experienced the joys and miseries of romantic love, real and imagined. (For a while, I was sure I would DIE if Matt Dillon did not step out of the movie Little Darlings and instantly become my boyfriend.)

I also wrote a lot of bad, angst-ridden poetry during that decade, as I recently discovered while sorting through boxes of stuff. Allow me to share some excerpts (and please try to cut me some slack. I have never shown anyone these fine works, not even those for whom they were written):
*    *    *
Our love is like a dried-out Flair pen
No longer works, it tries.
It dies. It tries.
My optimism brews beneath a haze of lies.

*    *    *
This is not the first time.
This is nothing but self-slaughter. This is nothing but used crime.
Latent vacancies destroy the pillow
So blatant is the urgency

*    *     *
Beneath the crisp white smile of your work shirts
It’s your heart I want to taste
Even if it’s just one big bruise
Or beating red and salty
Like a healthy animal

*    *    *    *

I happen to think the last one has some merit, but, um, a dried-out Flair pen? I can LOL at that now–but back then, it was not a laughing matter.

The 80′s ended with me meeting R, who caused me no angst whatsoever until well into the millennium. By the time I felt angsty about him, I had two kids and zero inclination to write poetry (though I did hit send on a few emails from hell itself).

Now, at the beginning of the 2010′s, I’m feeling too old for angSt. Or maybe just too wise to worry about Flair pens, dried-out or otherwise. Or maybe I’m kidding myself.

Hey, whatever happened to Matt Dillon, anyway?

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My Edina Monsoon Moment
Dec 14th, 2009 by Christina

3935630524_344ce56561

I experienced one of my most rewarding moments as a parent last night. My 13-year old-daughter and I watched the first three episodes of the zany British TV show Absolutely Fabulous, which had us ROTFL together.

I hadn’t seen AbFab since it originally aired way back at the turn of the century. (Remember, when we had to sit in front of the TV at a specific time each week or we’d miss it?)

Back then, I related to the super-sensible, righteous teen daughter Saffy, who is forever trying to scold her loopy middle-aged mum, Edina Monsoon, into behaving just a little bit like a responsible grown-up. (In one episode, Edina tells Saffy, “We don’t use the word sensible in this house, sweetie!”)

To my unwrinkled under-30 eyes, Patsy and Edina looked old. Weathered. Clinging to the last vestiges of youth. But last night, watching AbFab–which, it being 2009, we’d Netflixed as if that’s a real verb–I realized to my horror that they look surprisingly young. In fact, they are younger than I am now. It was one of those chilling where-has-the-time-gone moments, like when it hits you that all sorts of professional adults are not automatically older than you anymore just because they are your dentist or the President of the United States.

And it’s my sensible, eye-rolling daughter who is the Saffy now. Which makes me…which makes me…0h, please, no…the Edina!

OK, I am not nearly as whacked-out as Edina (right??) But I can relate to her, which is scary enough. We’re both in our 40s, both divorced, both single mothers of too-responsible daughters. Edina leads a life of debauchery; I don’t, but my daughter is convinced that I do when she’s not around to keep me in line. Edina has tantrums in front of her child and does not model appropriate behavior. I try to model appropriate behavior, yet this new single-mother gig has at times pushed me thisclose to having a tantrum in front of my kids.

See? I told you!

Hold on, though. Maybe there’s still hope. I don’t own anything by Christian LaCroix and I refuse to get so thick around the middle that my daughter will quote Saffy and say: “Mum, it doesn’t matter to me that you haven’t seen your navel in 25 years or that you can wear your stomach as a kilt. Just as long as you’re happy.”

Have any AbFab memories to share? Any Edina moments to fess up to?

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What is a “Good-Enough” Marriage?
Dec 7th, 2009 by Christina

3495309417_a115020f57 Once again, the blogosphere threw me a bone. Just when I was feeling low on inspiration, Sunday’s New York Times Magazine landed with a thump at my front door and begged for my attention. So, thank you, Elizabeth Weil, for writing Married (Happily) With Issues (and, btw, feel free to introduce me to your editor because I’ve always wanted to write for the Magazine; actually, I got close once, but then…oh, never mind.)

The article chronicles Weil’s foray into marital therapy with her husband–only they engage in it before they’re on the verge of divorce. According to Weil, by the time most couples enter therapy, they have been unhappy for six years, making the endeavor futile. So kudos to her for trying to nip that shit in the bud (and sorry for cursing, but it felt necessary). Seriously, I’d estimate that 90 percent of couples I know who have gone to marriage therapy have ultimately ended up in Splitsville anyway.

Weil’s marriage follows the standard script: Boy and girl fall in love during their clueless, carefree 20s, get married, skip around and play house for a while until the game turns serious. Then they have babies and lose sleep and spend the next few years singing the Alphabet Song and groggily emptying the Diaper Genie until–surprise–one day they emerge from the fog and notice that the romance has mysteriously departed from their relationship.

Which is not to say that the kids are to blame, because of course we all love our kids and they add immeasurably to our lives and we can’t imagine a world without them (there’s also that pesky biological drive to perpetuate the species).

Ultimately, Weil concludes that maybe the “good-enough” marriage is, well, good enough. She asks what, exactly, a better marriage would look like: “More happiness? Intimacy? Stability? Laughter? Fewer fights? A smoother partnership? More intriguing conversation? More excellent sex? Our goal and how to reach it were strangely unclear.”

Now I’ll confess that my goal in writing this blog post and how to reach it are also strangely unclear. I’ve been mulling this what-is-a-happy-marriage stuff over and have not come up with satisfactory answers. I do, however, have a few new questions inspired by Weil’s piece:

  • Do couples who remain childless by choice experience anything like the classic benign-neglect scenario that afflicts the married-with-children?
  • Do people without children (or those with grown kids) feel pressure to stay married if they’re not happy? Or is it primarily the notion of keeping a family with kids together that fuels a couple’s obligation to remain married?
  • Does simply not believing in divorce mean you don’t get to indulge the I-need-to-be-happy-get-me-outta-here thoughts and therefore focus on finding thrills in other areas of your life?
  • How do couples who get together later in life–say, after their first marriage with kids dissolves–fare overall? What are the variables that they have to contend with?

OK–your turn. What are your questions and/or answers on this subject? My inquiring mind must know.

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The Post in Which I am Thankful
Nov 30th, 2009 by Christina

It’s not always easy to come up with ideas for blog posts, so when a holiday like Thanksgiving 2602363529_aa2be7a127rolls around, it’s like a freebie from the blogosphere, a no-brainer. You simply write a post about being thankful, even if everyone else is doing the same thing, and even if the holiday was four days ago.

So, while this blog has chronicled the assorted forms of emotional and financial devastation for which I am decidedly not thankful, I am also genuinely grateful for many things in my life.

Here we go:

  • I’m thankful that I get to be the mom of two whip-smart, sensitive and stunning girls, and that the three of us are somehow finding our way. So what if the man of the house is now our pet betta fish, Bobby, who can’t even open a jar?
  • I’m thankful for an ex who participates in a true 50-50 custody arrangement, something not all women in my position enjoy.
  • I’m thankful for the Red Hook Ikea, which opened just when I needed the uplifting feeling that only decorating-on-a-Swedish-shoestring can bring.
  • I’m crazy thankful for my devoted, supportive, smart, funny, loving and loyal bunch of friends–and some pretty cool family members as well.
  • I’m thankful that, apparently, I am not too jaded to try this love thing again, and that such a creature as S exists.
  • I’m thankful for the kick-ass sandwich I made with Thanksgiving leftovers that my ex-in-laws sent home with my kids.
  • I’m thankful that, no matter what my future brings, I will never again have to live through the months spanning Fall 2007 through Summer 2009, A.D.

Oh, and one more thing: I’m very thankful that I got over my blog-aversion, read WordPress for Dummies, and created this blog, which I enjoy working on more than almost anything else I do all week. Mostly, I am thankful to you for reading it.

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It’s a Guy Thing
Nov 23rd, 2009 by Christina

Here is a sentence I never thought I would write: I am in New Jersey sitting on the couch with my 225665357_d73cb83b14boyfriend, who is watching football.

The two words that leap out at me are boyfriend and football. (I was going to make a crack about New Jersey, but that’s so cliche at this point, plus it’s really not that funny. It’s just a place where people live–some of my favorite people, in fact, so I say let them live in peace.)

And I know I’ve already mentioned S-the-boyfriend, so maybe that’s old news. But I still find it kind of a bug-out that a) omg, I have a boyfriend; how did that happen?, and b) I can say it openly, especially given that, technically, I still have a husband.  I have a husband and a boyfriend! Look at how far we’ve come that I can say that on a public forum without fearing that I’m going to be burned at the stake or forced to parade around with a scarlet A on my chest. To add to the excitement, my husband has a girlfriend, whose husband has a girlfriend, etc. We are all so out-of-the-box evolved, aren’t we? Why, it’s just a matter of time before we’re all vacationing together on cruise ships for the amicably divorced.

But I digress–because what’s most remarkable here is the football thing. I know: Guy who watches football describes 97 percent of men in this country–yet I have never had a boyfriend who was into football. Nev. Er. I’ve had boyfriends who wore eye make-up and/or trendy hats, and I had a husband who watched the Superbowl–but he’s of the breed who is in it for the commercials and the snacks.

Not only is S into watching football in the can’t-miss way that some of us watch, oh, Mad Men, but, because he has a Y chromosome, he actually understands what’s going on. He insists that no, it’s not just a bunch of over-sized brutes running into each other and knocking each other down until they become brain-damaged. He talks about it as if it’s a chess game, using words like strategizing and premise and intelligent. Yet, try as I might, I cannot see anything but a bunch of big lugs randomly bumping into each other–and from an informal poll, it seems most women are equally perplexed by the appeal of this sport. Are there women who really get football? If you’re out there, please reveal yourselves. (And, btw, I don’t want to hear about how you like soccer, baseball, basketball or tennis. I’m only interested if you’re a woman who actively enjoys watching football and can explain why.)

Usually this is the point at which I reach a pithy, often touching conclusion, but I don’t have one for this post.  All I can say is that I don’t get football, but I do like sitting on a couch in New Jersey with a certain guy who does.

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Mad Men’s Marital Problems
Nov 9th, 2009 by Christina
Being Mrs. Don Draper could turn anyone into a Mad Woman.

Being Mrs. Don Draper could turn anyone into a Mad Woman.

I’ve been toying with writing a Mad Men-inspired post for weeks, and now that the season finale has occurred (leaving so many of us questioning if life is worth living until the show resumes next summer), it’s time to get down to it. The show is so chock-full of marital woes that it would be irresponsible for me not to weigh in.

(Oh–here’s the part where I warn you that I will be revealing plot details–aka, “spoilers.” If that matters to you, stop reading, go back to whatever it was you were doing, and come back when you’re caught up.)

Cripes, could there be a more miserable portrayal of matrimony than the unions depicted on Mad Men? I mean, the writers won’t even pretend that there was such a thing as a happy, fulfilling marriage in the early 1960s. It’s just one smoky, alcohol-soaked, sexist nightmare after the next. Let’s have a look:

  • Joan and Greg. Supremely hot, always-aquiver, yet also smart-as-a-whip Joan weds moody, dull, self-centered Greg Harris just because he’s a doctor. Does this guy have any redeeming qualities, anything at all that makes him worthy of her? He rapes her, he’s needy and childish, and still she’s loving and supportive, sweet and sexy, and puts dinner on the table. How could you not think “yes!!” when she casually smashed a vase against her hubby’s head? He survived that, but now he’s joined the army and will most likely be shipped off to ‘Nam pretty soon. Oh well.
  • Roger and Jane. Roger is a snake, but he’s grown on me this season. He’s shown some vulnerability, what with the woman who resurfaced from his past, his enduring affection for Joanie, and his public praise of ex-wife Mona at their daughter’s wedding. He’s already done with tipsy trophy-wife Jane, that’s clear–but she’s even ickier than he is and I find myself not caring about her at all. Mona is obviously twice the woman Jane is and Roger knows it. But Jane is younger and prettier, so at least he has his priorities straight.
  • Pete and Trudi. Will cheerful, lovable Trudi, silly lampshade hats and all, come to her senses and realize that her husband is a slimy weasel? I doubt it. She’s a loyal wife, oblivious to the fact that Pete fooled around with the neighbor’s au pair and knocked-up Peggy in the first season. He showed a touch of broken-down sweetness in the finale, though, so just maybe there’s hope for them.
  • Peggy and Nobody. She’s the smart, ambitious career girl–too savvy for most guys her age and a threat to most men. She’s left to a life hooking up in hotel rooms with creepy guys named Duck–unless, maybe, she can hang in there until the 1970s.
  • Sal and Kitty. Poor Kitty doesn’t understand why her little negligees have no effect on her husband. Will someone please just tell her that it’s because he’s gay?
  • Don and Betty. Oh, what is there left to say about these two central characters, whose extreme physical beauty refuses to shield them from extreme mental misery? It was high time Betty got fed up with Don’s philandering ways and newly-discovered phony identity. Personally, I think boarding a plane to Reno with Henry Francis for six weeks was a big mistake (and wtf made her take baby Gene with them? There’s no way she’s breastfeeding).I think they’re doomed, but those were different times and she didn’t have many choices. She couldn’t, for example, start a blog about making over her life post-Don. In fact, she couldn’t even say the word blog, because it didn’t yet exist. What a concept.

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