Haircut and Heartache

Say what you need to while you can.

I hadn’t had a haircut since April.  An entire summer of really bad hair days (can you say “humidity?”) and an upcoming job interview (Tuesday) put me back in the hair chair.

I showed my hairstylist a picture of Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

“That’s a lot like what we usually do.” she said.

What a difference waiting six month makes. Those scissors were inspired. And the blow-dry styling was exceptional.  So of course I bought the expensive new hair product she used,  even though I shouldn’t have spent the money and I’m sure I won’t be able to achieve the same effect.

The haircut pulled me out of a slump. Not just my little writer’s “everything I do sucks” tantrum the other day,  but a real slump caused by the shocking news that a friend I had known since kindergarten had died. He was fine Friday, and gone on Sunday, leaving a grieving husband and hundreds of stunned, saddened friends.

That hit me like a ton of bricks. Not only because I don’t want to believe that my peers and I have reached that stage in life where we look to the obituaries before we read the headlines, but because this particular friend was the kind you could take right back up with even if you hadn’t seen each other in decades. He was vital, loyal, funny, energetic and always responsive, although he was 2,000 miles away.

I messaged him when I reluctantly got back on Facebook in August, just to give him a heads’ up that my new friend request was legit. His response was:

♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️

I took his being there on the other end of Facebook for granted.  But now he’s not.

The last time I saw him in person was at our 40th high school reunion. (God, just typing  “40th reunion” makes me feel ancient). Of all the attendees, he was the last I would have thought would check out early.

We met on the first day of kindergarten. Best I recall, he was wearing dress shorts and Buster Browns. He was always well-dressed. Unwrinkled.  There was something different about him and it didn’t matter at all to the guileless, totally accepting 5-year olds that we were. Through the years we sang in school choruses together.  He had a wonderful bass voice. He performed in talent shows I directed and brought the house down with a brave, fey twist on the song “Convoy” – in high school, in the ’70s. He won everyone over and everyone loved him.  At the reunion I told him that his performance was the bravest thing I’d ever seen a friend do. I’m sure he brushed that off,  saying it was just for fun, but I hope he took in my true admiration.

The evening of the day I found out he was gone,  I had to go to chorus rehearsal, still feeling blue, stunned and pissed off (“how could this have happened? He was healthy, strong, vibrant!”) I turned west, and suddenly my windshield was filled with a breathtaking sunset.  Pink, peach, purple, and just enough cloud in front to make it possible to enjoy without being blinded by the setting sun.  It was a glorious reminder of my friend’s personality and his effect on everyone he knew.  It was a reminder to me of how far I have to grow (still, at my age) to even approach being the kind of person he was.

I found out later that he had been very ill last year, and medication for that illness had weakened his heart. He went to take a nap last weekend and didn’t wake up.  I hadn’t known he’d been ill, which, if I was any kind of good friend,  I should have. I feel rotten about that.  Another smack upside the head about how superficial my friendship can be. I don’t like that about myself and I’ve been trying to change that since my husband died. But here, I failed.

The pink in the sunset was the same color as the scarf my friend wore around his neck for his “Convoy” parody.  The rest of the colors were as vibrant as he was. Heaven got brighter when he arrived.

I think he would have liked the haircut, and my joke about how it made me look like a short, fat, senior Fleabag, and how people would think I’m an (old) pervy Englishwoman, and I didn’t know whether I should be worried or turned on. He would pick “turned on.”

At church the sermon today was about being present, in the now, and and letting go of anxiety, anger and frustration. It was about not letting routine and business interfere with living each day. This is the only this day you get.

Missing an old friend, right now, I remain,

Your composing-lists-of-people-who-should-receive-notes-of-gratitude-and-phone-calls-and-emails-and-texts-before-now-becomes-then,

Ridiculouswoman

Scents Memory

Fragrance, femininity, faith and fairy godmothers….

The other day,  I unconsciously picked up a bottle of perfume and did my “spray, stay, walk away” routine (learned from Carson Kressley, original Queer Eye episode).  I hadn’t used that perfume for a long time. It was the same kind as the last bottle of scent Mike bought me for Christmas.

He’d buy perfume, often with matching bath stuff and lotion, at Christmas.  I’m not sure I ever made it clear to Mike that I got the message in his choices – “Joy,” or “Mon Tresor.”  That last Christmas, he didn’t have the energy to find something on his own, so he just asked me what I wanted: “Modern Muse, please. Estee Lauder counter, I think.”  I found that scent in one of those samples that fall out of catalogs, that you peel open and sniff. I loved the scent, and I especially loved its name. I hope Mike took it as a message that I still wanted him to have a muse, that I still loved his poetic soul, and that I hoped he’d write poetry again, before he died.

His last journal was lyrical prose, about having cancer, and about rediscovering our love for one another, when cancer made everything else irrelevant. He also wrote about his embrace of suffering through his unconventional faith and his trust in the path he was on.

The perfume I used the other day is the same kind but not the same bottle. I used that up in the first year of widowhood, when I oscillated from screaming, sobbing grief one day to timid hope about a new kind of life the next.

I worked in warehouses during and after Mike’s illness. I’ve been wearing jeans almost daily ever since. Jeans express my physical strength and my determination to take on projects that involve some combination of power tools, dirt, ladders, chainsaws, paint and work boots.  The perfume is for when I wear empire waisted, v-necked, pajama-soft, print knit dresses that, I admit, show too much cleavage.  I own three of them and wear them any day it is warm enough, when I’m done getting sweaty with my workout or my redecorating or dirty with my gardening and yard work. As fall and winter progress, the dresses yield to deep-v-necked, soft wool sweaters.

The dresses and the sweaters say I’m not ready to let go of  womanliness. I’m not ready to become a crone. I’m not ready to dry up and grey out. I need to feel gorgeous and touchable. More than touchable.  I’m unwilling to accept that I’ll never be regarded that way again.

My Dad told me about a weird house in his home town. Legend was that it had been owned by an old lady who kept adding on to it, believing that as long as she did, she would never die. He may have said that kids in town believed the house was haunted. It made a good ghost story; the house was near a school.

Between the euphoria of being nearly done with redecorating and the panic that I’m still unemployed and running out of money, I wonder if I’m turning into that lady – the crazy old lady with the never-ending projects, trying to ward off aging and death.

Angelic Daughter’s Halloween costume arrived yesterday, and she looks adorable in it.  I can’t tell you what it is because she wants to keep it a surprise. But she keeps asking me what I want to be for Halloween. It’s never been worth dressing up to answer the door here. We get very few trick-or-treaters in our neighborhood, unless Halloween falls on a sunny Saturday. I usually just throw on a drugstore witch hat and light the jack-o-lanterns. It’s typically all over before 7:30.

Looking online for this year’s costume, among the princesses and movie characters, we saw a Fairy Godmother costume. I hadn’t seen one before.  I thought, “I could use a Fairy Godmother.  Bibbiddy-bobbidy-boo, a book deal, a job and a handsome prince for you!”

Maybe my semi-insane determination to finish decorating this house, even it bankrupts me, is about belief in magic, as a metaphor for faith. As a reason to hope.

Wednesday was a perfect bright-blue fall day. Feeling down about job prospects and writing, I impulsively took Angelic Daughter on a surprise outing to a local pumpkin farm that, until last year, I hadn’t known existed, even though it is less than 10 miles away.

Sitting in the haywagon waiting for the ride to start, I checked my phone, and found an email saying “impressed…would like to schedule you for a phone interview.”  For a writing job. With health insurance.

Do you believe in magic?

Waiting to hear back about an interview time, I remain,

Your faithful, fragrant,

Ridiculouswoman

Image by czarownica from Pixabay

Too Old and Too Expensive

The door closed. So where’s that open window?

“… at this time we are moving forward with other candidates that more closely fit our needs.”

This email came ten minutes after I finished screaming at reprimanding Angelic Daughter for WRITING ON MY NEWLY PAINTED WALL and then removing every privilege, excursion and cherished food I could think of from her foreseeable future, replacing them with cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming and REPAINTING SAID WALL.

Well, karma’s a bitch, ain’t it?

The bullshit factor just rubs it in, because this is what they say when their lawyers have instructed them never to tell you the truth, to wit,  “you’re too old and too expensive.”

This was the second time in as many months this has happened to me – the callback interview went really well: I really thought I had this one in the bag. And just as I was thinking it would be another week or so before I heard, WHAMMO, the buzzer sounds.

Thank you for playing, NEXT!

The clock has also run out on me with the two agents I pitched at the Midwestern Writer’s Agent Fest – one who requested the full manuscript of my book right there at the pitch, the other who said she’d look at my query.

Pocket vetos, both.

So on a day when I screwed up badly as a Mom and feel horrible about it, I was rejected from a job I thought I had for sure, my confidence in my writing has sunk to a new low.

I know the problem with the book – in a very crowded market, a memoir has to be about something greater than the mere experience of the writer – they want grand social themes – Hillbilly Elegy, or Educated – from “marginalized voices.”

I’m a straight, suburban white woman. About as non-marginalized as it gets.

Except for one thing:

My age.

If there is one universally marginalized group of people on this planet, it is older women.

So much for “yippee! I’m sixty and invisible!”

That has quickly become, “Oh shit, I’m sixty and unemployable.”

And unpublishable too,  apparently.

They see my book as a “me-moir.”  It has to have more universality or social impact than is readily apparent. It can’t just be both heartwrenching and funny.  It has to connect to some broader social theme.

Really? Well, how about this:

There are nearly 12 million widows in the US.

And (pulled directly from the Family Caregiver Alliance website):

  • Approximately 43.5 million caregivers have provided unpaid care to an adult or child in the last 12 months. [National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. (2015). Caregiving in the U.S.]
  • Upwards of 75% of all caregivers are female, and may spend as much as 50% more time providing care than males. [Institute on Aging. (2016). Read How IOA Views Aging in America.]
  • Older caregivers are more likely to care for a spouse or partner. The average age of spousal caregivers is 62.3. [National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. (2015). Caregiving in the U.S.]

And the American Cancer Society predicts:

1,762,450 new cancer cases and 606,880 cancer deaths in 2019.

I want to believe that my story could help caregivers feel less invisible, and less alone. Caregiving can be terrifying, exhausting, fulfilling and heartbreaking.

It can drive you crazy. It did me, and made me do ridiculous things, to avoid facing the certainty of my husband’s premature death at just 54.

I don’t feel crazy anymore, just defeated. If I couldn’t land this job, a job for which I simply cannot believe another candidate could have been better qualified, then I give up.

And today I feel like giving up on my writing, too.

It’s going to be 95 tomorrow, 98 on Friday, and no air conditioning. We’ve been through it before, but sitting immobile in a damp bathing suit, periodically hosing oneself down, isn’t conducive to sparkling query letter writing.

And what if, even with my spot-on experience, I was rejected from the job because I blew the interview? How could that be? The interviewer said I was first on her list to contact, and started the interview by just asking me if I had questions. Kept me there meeting volunteers for half an hour longer than I planned.

Did I ask too  many questions? Give too much information? Was it because I explained my need for a little time to find a caregiver for Angelic Daughter?

If it was that, then, I wouldn’t want to work for you anyway.  Feh.

After my previous rejection, my sweet brother sent me this:

“Everytime I thought I was being REJECTED from something good, I was actually being REDIRECTED to something better.” – Steve Maraboli

I’ll hang on to that, and try to believe it, while I clean the bathroom and vacuum the floors.

But Angelic Daughter is going to repaint that wall.

Trying to find my redirection, I remain,

Your disappointed, self-doubting, wanting to find a way to keep trying,

Ridiculouswoman

The Big Six Oh – S**T! or, “Ah, F**K It”

The invisibility of being an older woman has its perks.

Sixty came and smacked me upside the head (and the hips and the knees). How the hell did this happen? There must be some misunderstanding.

I’m not done redecorating! I still have the metal tile that looks like a chess board as a gesture to Mike’s memory to cover the nasty old linoleum on the counter of the built-in bookcase that is going to become the coolest sideboard ever when I’m done with it!

I have two bathrooms and a front hall of wallpaper to steam off, and I still have to paint or re-wallpaper whatever turns out to be under there!

My brown hair has so little gray that it couldn’t even get away with being described as “sugar and cinnamon” much less “salt and pepper!”

I’m working out with dumbbells five days a week, doing mat pilates one day a week and yard work whichever day is left that is sunny.  Saturday I was up at six, and until 9:30 weeded the entire vegetable garden, planted some more beans, pulled out the peas that were done,  and raked the creeping charlie and hacked the weeds out of  the overgrown chicken coop so I can now actually see the squash and pumpkins I planted there.  I sweat every day!

But (oh thanks a lot, sixty)  if I so much as eat dinner, I mean a small, healthy dinner, I gain weight. Intermittent fasting can’t be intermittent for me if I ever want to…want …

Want what?

Good question.

I want a job again, a good one.

I want a man again, a kind one.

And I want to stop thinking that changing my personality or my body is the only way to get those things.

I woke up on my sixtieth birthday feeling fantastic, as if a switch had flipped or a weight had been lifted off me. I felt unburdened. Free.

It was my “Ah, F**K it moment.

Through blogging I’ve come across several women of a certain age who described themselves as feeling invisible.

I say, BRING IT!

If I’m invisible, I can wear anything and go anywhere I want! F**k it!

(Just don’t expect me to be inaudible. Singing comes with the package).

I gotta get to be me!

I will not go gently into the cardigan sweater years (although I am increasingly sensitive to cold, I prefer a form-fitting, henley-neck sweatshirt I call my “sexy sweatshirt”).

I’m no little old lady in tennis shoes (I wear Keds Champions – still the most comfortable shoes I have ever or will ever own. I’m not getting paid to say that, seriously. But if you’re listening, Keds, I’ll happily be the not-grey, not-very wrinkly, plump lady with wings (inside sleeves) shakin’ it the way women my age are not supposed to, anymore, in your next ad – and get paid for it).

I will sing, dance, sweat, laugh, overdress in the evening and wear paint-spattered pants to the grocery store the next day. I will openly appreciate male pulchritude with a smile that doesn’t entirely acknowledge the impossibility of being appreciated in return – but hey, I’m invisible! So it doesn’t matter anyway (and more often these days, I oggle appreciate on the sly from behind sunglasses a/k/a/ crows-feet prevention device.)

“I wanna live, not merely survive.”

So there, sixty.

Off to eat my damn dinner, I remain,

Your singing, sweating, gardening, dumbbell-weilding, Keds wearing, man-oggling-because-I’m-invisible-and-ah-f**k it,

Ridiculouswoman

Survivor

I’m still here.

(This is an edited version of a previously published post. Why edited? Panic. Anyway, it still makes my point, although it is shorter now; but shorter is better in a blog post, don’t you think?)

“Survived by his wife.”

This was the punchline of a famous routine by a great comedian, Alan King.

Incidentally, King was “survived by his wife.”

King fails to note the male habit of marrying younger women, and addresses every woman he approaches as “dear,” a term I now employ solely to demean and diminutize (safely from inside my car) drivers who have done something stupid, or failed to do something required: “Oh, nice move, dear! Ever heard of a blinker? You know, that little stick on the side of your steering wheel that pushes down to flash “blinkablinkablinka” for left and up for right? But it’s not your fault, right? Because you were raised blonde? DEAR?

But I digress – the routine is still really funny and worth watching, start to finish. There’s even a quick blonde joke. HA! Dear.

Anyway, so what’s with the boots again? And what does the Alan King routine have to do with anything?

I have accepted employment at yet another place where boots are appropriate; nay, even necessary.

It is temporary and part-time, which means no benefits. After taxes, I might almost bring home barely enough to pay for health insurance.

A finger in the dam of the rapidly draining reservoir, no more.

I got dinged on the only two interviews I’ve been granted in the last six months. And, despite a long, and I believe impressive, resume, no one else, including several recruiters who (apparently accidentally?) have viewed my profile on LinkedIn, has contacted me.

Ageism, anyone? Ya think?

But a funny thing happens on the way to rejection: when I have to reiterate my entire 34 year work history, even though the job poster already has it in my uploaded resume, I realize:

I have survived several of my former employers, both human and corporate.

Bankruptcy or merger has taken a few of those corporate “persons” (don’t get me started).

Human former supervisors were taken by the usual things – age and disease.

One of the applications I had been trying to complete required me to reiterate all 34 years of jobs, as well as all the education that preceded them, which no doubt causes the HR bots to drop me like a hot potato when they see that I hold a law degree  (AUGH! Run for the hills!) and that I left law practice after just three years, because…hmm, let’s see – how shall I put this? Because I realized law practice was a soul-crushing, closed system of enrichment for white males willing to have their souls crushed in exchange for (a lot of) money?  Or maybe, because I preferred solving problems to perpetuating them?

Or, maybe just because I hated conflict.

Plus, I hadn’t considered that law is a really bad career choice for a person with OCD, especially when she doesn’t yet realize that she probably has OCD. (“I’m not obsessive! I’m DETAIL ORIENTED!!!”)

This new job will keep me on my feet for a few hours several days a week, require me to work outside, and will put me in proximity to Men Who Know How To Do Stuff (yeah, yeah, women too, but I’m on the “I like men” team, remember? Is that OKAY? Is that ALLOWED? Call me cis (honestly I’m having a hard time keeping up with the lingo for all this – help, Steve Goodman!), straight and naive, but I like men. I believe nice ones exist. Some. Somewhere.)

I’ll have to curb my Betty White oggling tendencies. But still.

I’ll have to get up at 4 a.m.

I could apply for that Bar Bingo host job – three times the money for half the hours. I’m sure they’ll hire a woman as funny, engaging…and old…as me. HA! But my roots and my boobs are my own, dammit!

Meanwhile, somewhere, there must a full-time job and a nice man for me. With benefits.  Both. HA!

Until then, I remain,

Your underemployed again but surviving,

Ridiculouswoman

Retreat – or, Duck and Cover

Hiding in the house won’t get me a job. Neither will my resume, apparently.

In elementary school, we had “disaster drills.” We were instructed to get under our desks and cover our heads.

This was supposed to protect us from apocalyptic horrors.

For mere tornadoes, we were marched into an inner hallway in the building, to sit on the floor facing the wall, with our arms over our heads and our heads on our knees.

We sat through a few really vicious storms that way, and survived.

I’m suddenly undergoing a burst of “nesting” – rearranging furniture, buying furniture I can’t afford, planning to paint again, trying to finally finish this house, so that we might actually have people over, to use those holiday-themed guest towels.

The result so far has been some really pleasant together time for my daughter and me, with a cozy fire and no TV (moved to the basement, in a nice finished room, but it will take time to get used to that; I bought myself cheap TV and set it up in what I am calling my “boudoir.” I have always wanted a “boudoir,” and I’m almost done with it. Just need some decent drapes and a chaise to recline –  fetchingly  – on.)

Wait – who am I kidding about guests? And who the hell is ever going to see me reclining fetchingly? We don’t have guests. Neither one of us really wants them, unless they are related to us, and even then, we take them one, or two maximum, at a time.

As for anyone else in my “boudoir,” well, dream on.

So much for “New Year’s Revolutions” . I was going to open up my Facebook page to “friends of friends” and change my LinkedIn page to describe what I want to be.

HA. Today I posted that I’m quitting Facebook. The politics have started again. I can’t take it. It brings out the worst in me – the opposite of what I’m trying to be.

Duck and cover. Sound the retreat.

Hide in the rearranged, redecorated, slightly nicer cocoon.

I need an actual, real job, that pays a living wage and provides health insurance.

I’m not going to get one this way.

But my job search is laughable. It has become painfully obvious that even in an allegedly tight labor market, no one is impressed by my very lengthy resume, pockmarked with caregiving gaps and peppered with short-term failures between too-long stays at high-stress, high paying jobs. Or maybe it’s just bad old (OLD – HA) age discrimination.

“I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Dont tell! they’d advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!”

-Emily Dickinson (according to Wikipedia, that’s the closest transcription of what she actually wrote – when it was first published, the editor changed “advertise” to “banish us” and “June” to ‘”day.” WTF?)

“Put yourself out there, something will come along.”

HA. Frog, meet bog.

“The Soul selects her own Society –
Then – shuts the Door –
On her divine Majority –
Obtrude no more

Unmoved – she notes the Chariots – pausing –
At her low Gate –
Unmoved – an Emperor be kneeling
Upon her Mat –

I’ve known her – from an ample nation –
Choose One –
Then – close the Valves of her attention –
Like Stone”

– Emily again – and editors again screwed around with her punctuation and word choices – many versions say, “To her divine Majority present no more” but I’m sure “On her…Obtrude” is right because it’s just more – Emily-ish. (Dashes, HA.) The few analyses I found claim it is about limiting socializing to just a few companions, but to me it is about choosing one’s own company over socializing with anyone at all.  The One chosen was the self. Buzz off world, leave me alone. Quit bugging me. Get off my lawn. She likes her own society. Valves of attention closed. Like a kid with their fingers in their ears, yelling, “I’m not listening.” Nothing will change her mind. Stone. Unmoved and unmovable.

I’m no Emily Dickinson and I don’t want to be as unmovable as stone, but periodic retreat is a thing with me. Maybe it’s the OCD, maybe it’s grief, or fear – of running out of money, of not being a good enough parent, of nothing good ever happening again. Of boring you with boring me. Of aging and seeing my mother’s face in the mirror. Of a small, meaningless life, heading for a big birthday in June, sans even the admiring bog.

Maybe it’s this endless sloppy winter and spring nowhere in sight.

Maybe I’m just “tired of being strong.” (Connie Nielsen in Gladiator)

Is there any value in retreat?

Cocoons become chrysalides from which beauties emerge.

Let’s hope so. We’ll see.

Until then I remain,

Your confused, withdrawing, backpeddling, solitary, guestless and unfetching,

Ridiculouswoman

God Help Me, I’m Making Grandma Noises

Not ready to fade…but I’ll take the senior discounts!

Grammie had a distinctive way of clearing her throat.

“Eh-ehehehehehehhh-eh-eh-eh-eh.”

As if she was trying to clear phlegm discreetly.

But there wasn’t really any way to be discreet about it.

That sound drove me nuts, and she did it a lot.

I was sure I would never, ever make that sound.

You know where this is going.

I caught myself doing it the other day, while looking in the mirror at my Mother’s face looking back at me.

I had been so determined not to turn into my Mother, or my Grammie.

And I have been unkind to them both in my writing and my mind, remembering only the annoying stuff (Grandma) and the painful stuff (Mom, a lot of it.)

Yeah, so, Karma’s a bitch, right?

Since Christmas, my daughter and I have been sitting together in the evening for our “music time,” listening to something soothing, and chatting, or just sitting together, until she decides she wants “quiet time,” and turns off the stereo, so we can just sit in companionable silence together.

That’s when I notice I have begun to resemble a slightly more colorful Whistler’s Mother – rocking in my 5-generation rocking chair, the one that started with Great-great Grandma, then Great Grandma, and then came to Grammie, then Mom, then me.

Wearing a flannel nightie, a shaker cardigan,  (not getting paid for those links, just wanted to give you an image of what I’m talking about) a wide plaid shawl on top of the sweater, around my shoulders, and a hat.

God, help me – I don’t want to be a docile, rocking-chair, throat-clearing granny, or a  crotchety Mom, fussing over my daughter’s hair or clothing choices. Not yet, anyway.

I have no intention of going gently into “seniorland.” (Oh, but I’ll take the discounts, thank you very much!) I will reveal my age only so others may marvel at it – “impossible! You don’t look a day over (insert highly unlikely much younger comparison here.)”

This year is a big one for me – when a certain date rolls around, my life as any kind of woman (as opposed to bent, chin-hairy crone) hits the “sell by” date.  I am scheduled to dry up, turn grey, and stop expecting much, especially not love, from life. I am expected to fade uncomplainingly into invisibility, and generally get out of the way.

Hell with that.

You may find me improperly dressed for a woman of my age, singing too loudly at inopportune moments, using foul language when inspired to do so, and generally making a spectacle of myself.

Because if you ask me, as Margo was asked, “is it over, or is it just beginning?” I’d reply:

Enjoy the ride, bumps and all!

(Now if I can just clear my throat….)

Going shopping for a dress like that, I remain,

Your non-smoking, sans diamonds but rockin’ the Bette-Davis attitude,

Ridiculouswoman