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Do I really look that old?

Ginger TruittLast week, on the occasion of my eldest child’s 21st birthday, I spent most of the day trying to garner compliments.

Perhaps “compliment” is the wrong word. It was really reassurance that I needed.  I didn’t care who said it, I just wanted to hear those magical words, “My goodness, young lady! You do not look anywhere near old enough to have a 21-year-old daughter!”

Truth be known, I was pathetically desperate.  I carefully stopped the gas pump at $19.79. When the cashier handed me the change, I laughed, “That’s really funny!  Twenty-one cents.  My daughter turns 21 today!”

“Uh-huh,” he muttered as he looked past me to the next person in line. If he had had taken two seconds to make eye contact, he would have been shocked to see such a young woman claiming to have a 21-year-old child. Someone really needs to work on their customer service skills.

Next stop was the grocery store. I was picking up the usual — bread, milk, double chocolate fudge brownie ice cream — when inspiration hit.  I stocked the cart with six boxes of wine, two cases of beer and a gallon of Sangria. Nothing says youth like liquor in boxes and jugs.

There are occasions when I get carded even though the sign says, “Any customer clearly under the age of 40 must present an I.D.”

I always appreciate the rare clerk who can’t tell for sure if I’ve reached 40. They will never be hired as carnival age-guessers, but they would do well in any business that requires ego boosting. I should ask them to guess my weight, too.

But on this all-important date, the clerk rang up my cartful of boxed liquor without batting an eye. As she handed me the receipt, I gave her a second chance, “I guess I could have had my daughter pick this up for me. She turns 21 today!”

“Uh-huh,” she chirped, snapping her gum and turning to the next customer.

Glancing at my to-do list, I cringed.

An hour later, I signed in at the front desk.  Required fields were Name, Date and Procedure. I sat in the waiting area, grumbling to myself about the poor magazine selection. Golf Digest, Architectural Digest, Travel and Leisure; who reads this stuff? I wanted something lighthearted to take my mind off of the impending discomfort.  I said to the old man sitting next to me, “I should have brought my 21-year-old daughter’s fashion magazines.”

He responded while turning the page of his AARP mag, “Uh-huh.”

Suddenly, I became aware of some commotion at the desk.  Two receptionists and a nurse glanced furtively in my direction while whispering over the sign-in sheet.

Finally, one approached me.

“Are you Mrs. Truitt?”

“Yes.”

“What procedure are you here for?”

“A mammogram.”

“The problem is, we don’t do mammograms here.”

“But I’m certain I’ve been here before.”

“Yes, ma’am, you were here two years ago for a scan of the soft tissues in your neck.”

“Oh. So, where would I have scheduled my mammogram?”

“I’m sorry, I really couldn’t say.”

“This is so embarrassing!  I guess I’m just really distracted because my daughter is turning 21 today.”

“I understand,” she reassured, “the same thing happened to my mom once.  She said it’s just part of getting old.”

— Ginger Truitt

Ginger Truitt’s award-winning column has appeared weekly in Midwest newspapers since 2001. She has also been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul, church newsletters, her high school newspaper and, most notably, the Barry Manilow fan club magazine. Follow her on Twitter (@GingerTruitt) or check out www.gingertruitt.com. For the past two years, her columns have won awards in the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ annual competition.

Notes under the door

Anne BardsleyOne of my favorite things when my kids were younger was finding notes under our bedroom door. They were usually folded and taped shut. They were addressed to either Mom or Dad and only that person should read them.

That was because they were usually complaining about the other one. I’d get my coffee and prop myself up to enjoy the latest correspondence.

One such note from my daughter told me I needed to get my own brain and stop listening to dad. He was so unfair for sending her to her room for calling him a “d*** weed.” She meant it as a joke. He has no sense of humor.

She ended the note with, “DO NOT show this to Dad.”

When we’d go out of town, sweet notes would appear. “I’ll really miss you, but I want you to have a good time. Please don’t forget me.” (A picture was enclosed for each of us.)

Another note to “Dad Only” suggested that he be in charge of allowance. “Mom wants us to do chores and you just give us money, so let’s just get allowance from you. Mom can do the chores. It will be much easier. This can be our secret. DO NOT show this to Mom.”

The notes continued to flow as each child grew. Often there were apologies. “Mom, I’m sorry I was rude, but you ask too many questions. I am old enough to stay out until midnight with my friends. I shouldn’t have to call you. Am I still grounded? I said I was sorry.”

More notes followed. “Dad is so mean. Everybody skips school. It’s part of growing up. I should not have to miss the dance this weekend just for that. I love you so much, Mom. Please talk some sense into Dad. DO NOT show this note to Dad.”

“Dad, I didn’t mean to sneak out last night to meet Joey. Before I knew it, the patio door opened and I was locked outside. He just came over to help me get back in. Then we were laying on the sofa to get some body heat. We were just getting warmed up when Mom thought we were making out and sent him home. So not fair! Please tell her I would never make out while you guys were sleeping. DO NOT show this note to Mom.”

“Mom, there is a boy sleeping on the sofa. His name is Matt. He had a fight with his mom and needed a place to sleep. He’s really nice, and it’s only five degrees outside so I told him he could sleep on our couch. Don’t wake him up. He had a really bad night. Tell Dad, too.”

“Dad, I’m sorry I called you a butt wad. You are a really good dad. Sometimes you just act like one. I probably should have said you were being a jerk. I will remember that next fight. DO NOT tell Mom about this.”

“It’s not easy living in this house. I have homework, sports and chores. If you wonder why I’m grumpy, this is why. Life is too hectic for me. Please write an excuse note saying I have measles. Then I can stay home from school for a week. Tell them it’s really bad and I am very contagious. Then I can get happy again. ASK DAD to sign it, too. I love you.”

“I wish you never married Dad. Why didn’t you marry a fun husband? I am so tired of cleaning my room to his standards. I don’t care about the Army way. I am not in the Army. He’s not in the Army. Tell him to get over it! It’s my life and I can have a messy room if I want to.

P.S. I think I have a mouse in my room. Can you ask Dad to catch it, please?”

Now that they’re all grown, I really miss those little notes.

I don’t know if I should tell them that.

— Anne Bardsley

Anne Bardsley, of St. Petersburg, Fla., is the author of How I Earned My Wrinkles, a collection of humorous and sentimental stories about marriage, motherhood and menopause. She lives in a menopausal world with a husband who gives her wrinkles. When people ask her age, she sometimes tells them her bra size. “36-C,” she says, “was a wonderful age.”

The city bus

Sarah HoneySometimes in life you find yourself in the most random situations. These random adventures always find me or I find them, some for the good, some for the bad and some for the funny. It’s not an everyday experience or is it?

Traveling to an unknown city or place is hard enough, let alone navigating public transportation. Well, I’m always up for an adventure. However, it’s usually a bit more planned.

I was in San Jose, Calif., for the Blogher conference, and people recommended that I go to Santana Row. It’s a great outdoor shopping area full of restaurants and cafés.  Hello, shopping!  I was on it!  I had time while I was waiting for my friend’s flight to come in. I figured I would scope it out, shop and find a place for us to have a delicious lunch.

I showered, got dressed and left the room. I had read on the Fairmont Hotel’s web page that Santana Row was about three miles from the hotel and a shuttle was available. I asked the concierge how to get to Santana Row, and he told me to walk to the end of the block for the bus. I didn’t think much of it since there were four hotels at the end of the block. I guess I thought it would be a shuttle bus for all the hotels in that area.

I waited for the shuttle bus to come, and I got on. The driver said, “$2 please” in broken English.  I said, “Do you have change for a 10?”  He said, “No, do you want to buy a $10 pass?”  I said, “No,” and he responded, “Just get on.”  Since I’m a fabulous listener, I did just that! I turned the corner and walked farther onto the bus. There was no turning back, or getting off.

Oh, boy!  This was in no way a “shuttle bus” for the hotels.  It was the city bus.  The CITY BUS!

All the seats were filled with passengers of all shapes, sizes, ages, and I stood out to them as a stranger. It was obvious I didn’t belong, and I had no clue where I was going.

As I looked around, waving my $10 bill and asking if anyone had change so I can pay for my bus fare, no one spoke up.  They just looked at me as if I was some kind of cute and adorable alien from a different planet.

I thought, “Wow, these San Jose people are so rude. No one has change? Seriously?” So, I asked again, “Seriously no one has change for a $10?” I mean I wasn’t asking for anyone’s first born!  I was asking for change for my $10 bill. Finally, after my third time asking the fellow passengers, an older women spoke up and said, “That’s gonna be hard to find change for, sweetie!”

I slowly looked around the city bus, looking carefully and not too long at anyone. No one understood me in my quest to find change for my $10 bill.  They weren’t being rude; they couldn’t understand me. I was an alien to them. They were just people trying to survive in this world. Just like I was trying to survive on the CITY BUS!

The bus drove down the street, stopping to pick up and drop off passengers. The bus was completely full with only standing room left. I was lucky enough to find a seat next to a homeless woman with all her bags and a shopping bag full of toilet paper rolls. Bless her heart. Each time we stopped to pick up passengers, I asked the newest passengers like a broken record as they walked by me for change for my $10 bill. No one had change.

Finally, a gentleman with dirty clothes and hands, some facial scrub, and broken English handed me the $2 bus fare.  A total stranger who couldn’t speak English placed the $2 fare in my hand. I was shocked that a perfect stranger would give me money.  I said, “Thank you so much sir, but I can’t take your money.” He didn’t understand me and kept trying to get me to take it, but I couldn’t. I could tell he worked hard for his money. I was shocked by his kindness to help a total stranger who didn’t need his money. I didn’t ask again for change for my $10 bill. I figured I would just buy the $10 pass and leave it with the driver in case someone else didn’t have the $2 fare.

And, just then, the mom, dad and a toddler girl sitting across from me reached in their wallets and gave me the change I needed.

Kindness!  I was amazed that strangers would go out of their way for others. At the next stop a gentleman in a wheelchair and his caregiver got on the bus. Four people had to get out of their seats so the gentleman could board. No one complained or said a word.  They just got up and moved. One of the uprooted passengers was an elderly woman with a cane who was traveling with an elderly man. I got up and gave the woman my seat. She smiled, thanked me, touched my hand and said, “Don’t get old, dear. It sucks.”

And the next few stops went just like that.  Kind of like musical chairs. People got on and people got off — and the kindness for others was amazing. I had no clue I was getting on the “City Bus,” but I’m glad I did. Kindness still exists in the world, sometimes in most random places. But if you keep your eyes and heart open, you’ll find it.

And that makes me happy!

— Sarah Honey

Sarah Honey is a writer, blogger, adventurer and “queen bee,” who writes the popular lifestyle blog, Thank You Honey: Adventures in Mommyhood.

Foul fowl

Rosie SorensonApparently, it’s not enough that I make a contribution to the economy, say, by buying a rubber chicken from Amazon. No. After my purchase they have to go and badger me into writing a review.  Of a rubber chicken!

The subject line in the emails from Amazon read: “Did Rubber Chicken Meet Your Expectations?” Seriously?

Please tell me, in what intelligently designed universe is this not crazy?

Just how many expectations can one have of a rubber chicken? I mean, you can’t eat it; it can’t spring to life to do the funky chicken dance; it can’t lay eggs. It just lies around in its rubber chicken-ness, doing absolutely nothing to contribute to the relationship. That’s pretty much all you can expect of a rubber chicken — not unlike some men I dated back in the day.

But was Amazon going to stop harassing me because I didn’t log onto its website and record my opinion of their funny floppy fowl? No-siree-bob. Just like that boyfriend you once had who wanted to be with you 24/7 so he could suck the brains right out your head, they were not going to give up. This is, after all, We-Rule-the-World Amazon.

Now, I have no intention of telling Amazon, but I will tell you — 50,000 of my closest friends — why I shopped online for a rubber chicken.  Many years ago, before I met my sweetheart Steve, I engaged in what could only be called binge dating.  When someone seemed a possible “keeper,” my friend Jill would organize a “rubber chicken” dinner, a coming-out party, if you will, for my new man to meet several of our friends. It was really more of an excuse for them to audition him. I blush to admit that none of the men prior to Steve received a follow-up invitation; none made the cut. Years later I found out that when my date-du-jour and I would leave the party, eyeballs would begin rolling around in my friends’ heads as if aliens had overtaken them. What was she thinking?

Anyway, after my friends met Steve, Jill said, “Looks like I can finally hang up my rubber chicken!” No more eye rolling.

When our 15th anniversary was upon us, I realized I had been remiss in repaying Jill for all her steadfast support. Thus, the rubber chicken.

After the fourth beseeching email from Amazon, I relented. I logged onto the site and wrote: “I bought this as a gag gift. It’s pretty funny.” Satisfied that I had captured the essence of my chicken purchase, I clicked “Publish.” Done. But, no! Mr. Amazon flashed a message scolding me because I hadn’t “used enough words.” OK — now I’m really cheesed off.  First, they demand I write a review — then they censor me? Don’t they know with whom they are dealing? If a woman is screwy enough to buy a rubber chicken, what else might she do?

Whaddya say we gather a million of our closest friends, don our chicken suits and lay some eggs at Amazon headquarters?

Cluck, cluck, cluck.

— Rosie Sorenson

Rosie Sorenson is the award-winning author of They Had Me at Meow: Tails of Love from the Homeless Cats of Buster HollowHer work has appeared in the Los Angeles TimesChicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and others. In 2007, she won an honorable mention in the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition.

Help! Straight man trapped in gay personality!

Steve EskewContrary to local folklore, I harbor no homosexual desires. However, almost all of my male friends (and about half of my male relatives) are gay. Due to the fact that I’m, shall we say, definitely into my feminine side, some gay men simply assume that I, too, am a member of their royal family; others, who have a keen sense of gaydar, know immediately that I’m pathetically straight.

Subscribing to the belief that the only difference between a straight man and a gay guy is a six-pack of beer, the gay men who think I’m “a member” have come to accept what some refer to as my “illusion of solid heterosexual desires.” At least, they stopped making passes. It must be tough on ‘em. I’m so damn devilishly handsome.

I attribute my sexual ambiguity to the fact that no male role models existed when I was a child. Raised in an exclusively female household, I grew up terrified of men. Now, I’m afraid of women, but I digress. And yes, I’m in therapy. Permanently.

During my preschool years, Mom, who had wanted a girl she planned to name Stevie Sue, thought I looked cute in lipstick and Grandma loved painting my nails bright red. Forget G.I. Joe, I was too busy stumbling around in high heels. No dollies please. That would be girly-like. Stevie Sue eventually participated in piano recitals and became a talented tap dancer.

By the time I started school, though far from macho, I had lost interest in lipstick and high heels. However, hanging out with my female classmates felt more comfortable than roughhousing with boys. None of the boys liked me in particular, but they never bullied me. Perhaps they feared that I’d hit them with my purse. Just kidding. Or am I? Truth be told, most of my male classmates indeed seemed a bit nervous in my company. The girls adored  me. I was a misfit and I loved it. Still am. Still do.

I always hated family powwows during holidays because all the males were expected to plant themselves in front of the television, cheering on a football team. During such times, when I was a teenager, I began hanging out in the kitchen with the women. No one objected; I guess they figured boys will be girls. Actually, I was a unique closet case. Believe me, no one suspected that a raging hetero lurked in their midst.

Although I definitely feel comfortable with women most of all, I generally prefer the company of gay men over straight men. I like chick flicks better than war movies. In addition to my hatred of sports, unlike many of the other straight men,  I abhor discussions involving motor mechanics and women as sex objects.

I do exhibit some wannabe masculine moments: I keep the flame in my personality turned down low. I’ve never swished into a room. I need no tape to keep my wrists straight. I neither crochet, embroidery nor knit. I hate cooking and despise cleaning. I’ve never worn a dress  and I’ve never been bi-curious. On the other hand, I love Barbra, Bette, Liza and Cher. I’ve always considered them very sexy. Even as senior citizens.

And, for the record, I’ve confined all dating (and marriages) to women. For pretty much the  same reasons that many straight men have rejected my company, most women have embraced it. I understand women’s issues and I can speak girl-talk fluently. In addition, some women have considered me a real sex siren. Or maybe they just respected a guy who’s never been afraid to be himself.

I’ll always be theatrical. For example, I enjoy using accents. Recently at a dinner party, I started speaking with an English accent and soon all the guest followed suit and we all began babbling “in English” and continued throughout the entire evening. We had a ball. All of the other males were gay. I know of no other straight men who would engage in such conduct.

They don’t know what they’re missing.

— Steve Eskew

Retired businessman Steve Eskew received master’s degrees in dramatic arts and communication studies from the University of Nebraska at Omaha after he turned 50. After one of his professors asked him to write a theater column, he began a career as a journalist at The Daily Nonpareil in Council Bluffs, Iowa. This led to hundreds of publications in a number of newspapers, most of which appear on his website, eskewtotherescue.com.

Dear Robin Williams

Barreca-Gina(This piece first appeared in Psychology Today on Aug. 12, 2014. Reposted by permission of Gina Barreca.)

What I would like to write is this:

“Dear Robin Williams:

Are you kidding me?

At first I thought this was some kind of Reichenbach Falls moment straight out of Sherlock Holmes, where you fully believe your beloved character dies but learn he was never dead, only in hiding. Then I thought maybe it was like something out of Mark Twain, where the story of your death was highly exaggerated. Yet I kept hearing the story on the car radio: it was as inescapable as a smashup on the highway and as impossible to ignore. I heard it until it became as real as the passing of someone I knew. It took on the icy, heedless and nasty finality of a real death and the loss felt personal.”

But I figured he’s getting a lot of mail and messages right now, so I’ll just write about him instead of writing to him.

Even better, I’ll offer the words of somebody who actually worked with him.

I never met Robin Williams, but I have a friend — a brilliant stand-up comic and terrific writer — who did. Judy Carter is author of The Comedy Bible (Simon & Schuster) and The Message of You (St. Martin’s Press); this what she says:

“When he came to LA in the ’70s, all of us comics had our acts — material that we’d meticulously worked on. Sure, every now and then we would try out new material, but we’d never seen anyone like Robin. He would start with a piece about Shakespeare and then, distracted by someone in the audience, would zoom off in a new direction, bouncing off the lightning of ideas in his brain, firing and never misfiring. At the time I was doing a magic act; the stage was pre-set before I began. Robin went on before I did, picking up my props and improvising with then. My magic act was ruined, but Robin taught me to let go and flow with the moment. I’ve always been grateful to him for that.” (Read more of Judy’s memories here.)

Judy’s gratitude is what I’m holding onto right now, because it’s what I feel in abundance even as I feel confused, upset and baffled by Williams’ apparent suicide.

Like all truly great humorists, Robin Williams held a mirror up to our lives and showed us the distorted, funhouse version of reality — which we often recognized as, in its essence, more true and valid than any other vision. He would focus on the details but end up making sweeping philosophical statements; comedy and humor are, as Emerson and others have noted, a serious business.

Creators of comedy and humor remind us that there’s more to life than the simple process of living.

I won’t send any letters, but — like many others — I send Mr. Williams my wishes for a bon voyage. I send my applause, my cheers and my gratitude for the sheer extravagance of his extraordinary talent.

— Gina Barreca

Gina Barreca is an English professor at the University of Connecticut and a feminist scholar who has written eight books. She regularly writes columns for the Hartford Courant, The Huffington Post, The Chronicle of Higher Education and Psychology Today. In 2012, she served as a keynoter at the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop and returned to be part of the faculty in 2014. Learn more about Gina here.

Vacation fantasy vs. reality

Carisa MillerEvery year, our family takes vacation in a two-week lump sum at the end of summer. And every year, I build up a fantasy that it will be a combination of ultimate relaxation and effortless productivity. The end all, be all, of events.

Behold, vacation! Where everything I have ever wanted happens simultaneously. Outdoor adventure, travel, family fun, marital bonding, home improvement, self enhancement and world peace. By the time vacation arrives, I’ve mostly forgotten I am naught but a daydreaming dope with two small children.

Vacation Fantasy: The family would frolic into the wilderness to enjoy the peaceful beauty of nature.
Vacation Reality: We ran ourselves ragged wrangling a maniacal toddler while being blasted by the obnoxious, outrageously loud music of the jerks in the next campsite.

Vacation Fantasy: My husband and I would spend eternity alone together, sharing our dreams and bodies.       Vacation Reality: The children fell asleep in the car on the way to our cabin and we sat sweating on the front porch playing Scrabble over a beer while they slept in the running, air-conditioned car.

Vacation Fantasy: We would all get away to enjoy the rented luxury of a tastefully furnished cabin.
Vacation Reality: The proprietors’ tasteful furnishings consisted of low-lying shelves adorned with baby-magnet breakables and cinnamon oil drenched pine cones, hidden like Easter eggs I had to use my gag reflex to locate.

Vacation Fantasy: Our easy-going offspring would effortlessly adapt to foreign lodgings.
Vacation Reality: We became the proud parents of an 18-month-old pinball, who hurled herself with increasing force at everything in her path the later it got and who wouldn’t sleep unless I went to bed with her so she could steamroll me all night.

Vacation Fantasy: Back at home, fresh mulch would spread itself over the entire garden.
Vacation Reality: I had eight yards of mushroom compost delivered to the driveway where it will likely occupy the needed parking space until Christmas.

Vacation Fantasy: The back side of the house would get painted. (The front side was painted in the spring…of last year.)
Vacation Reality: It got hosed down.

Vacation Fantasy: By merely blinking, brilliantly composed essays would amass in surplus.
Vacation Reality: I exhausted myself to beat two writing deadlines, then left 72 tabs open on my computer for a week, in exchange for peeing in the woods.

Vacation Fantasy: I would run on the beach, practice yoga alongside the river and meditate in the forest.
Vacation Reality: I broke my record for most days in a row without a shower and exercised zero times.

I must be an idiot, because I was sincerely surprised when the real vacation didn’t come close to my fantasy. At this point in mothering I should know my best chance at having a truly relaxing and productive experience is on random solo trips to the grocery store or dentist.

That won’t stop me from fantasizing about a painless vacation. It’s like opting for the epidural. With it, I am prepared to face the ring of campfire.

— Carisa Miller

Carisa Miller is a sarcasm-wielding, cherub-lugging, cheese-devouring, nut-job writer. Writing what she describes as human interest humor, she meaningfully fills her essays with one-liners and, on occasion, intentionally fills them with meaning. She has been featured on such sites as In The Powder Room, Scary Mommy , Honest Mom and Blogher, is a contributing author to The Herstories Project anthology and is the director and co-producer of Listen To Your Mother: Portland. A collection of her jokes, links to published work and blogs are all gathered at CarisaMiller.com and can be found scattered across social media forums.

Head trip

Camille DeFer ThompsonI loved Tammy, but it was time to move on.

“She’s working at Tribez now,” Joanne said of our mutual hairdresser, at our memoir meeting. “In Blackhawk.”

“Blackhawk?” I whined. “Way out there?”

My friend rolled her eyes. “It’s not that far. And besides, you only see her once a month.”

Tammy and I shared a long history. Over the years, she guided me through the dark days of awkward outgrowth from a short, layered cut to a sleek chin-length bob. A decade later, despite her valiant, but failed efforts to dissuade me from my foolish notion to restore my hair to its natural color, she didn’t judge when I begged her to transform the hideous flat, gray-streaked taupe to a youthful faux flaxen. I even recommended her to friends in search of a new ’do.

Nevertheless, I could see no reason to follow my mane maven to her new locale. According to Google Maps, it was over twice the distance from my “current location” than to her old salon, a tank-emptying 6.2 miles and estimated 13 minute drive. Plus, Blackhawk was so upscale I got a nosebleed whenever I drove through the tony neighborhoods. From previous trips there for classic car shows and concerts, I recalled pricey boutiques and posh eateries with European names surrounding a manufactured pool, seeded with families of chic water fowl. I had no intention of subjecting myself on a regular basis to the shameless spectacle of bloated opulence.

Though I valued Tammy’s expertise and gentle, supportive nature, I had no doubt my simple cut and golden highlights could be duplicated by any hairdresser worth her flat iron at any local chop shop.

But with the wedding of a friend’s daughter coming up in a few weeks, I couldn’t risk trusting my next trim and dye job to a new stylist. Experience taught me that it takes a few visits to achieve just the right look. Images of an unfortunate ’70s brassy shag and an ’80s perm gone wrong flooded my mind.

I decided to suck it up and visit Tammy’s fancy new shop for one final cut and color before abandoning her to find a salon closer to home. At the appointed hour, I loaded the car with bottled water and energy bars, set my GPS and started the arduous expedition. My journey took me over once-lush rolling hills, trampled by luxury, gated subdivisions, golf courses and shopping centers.

I settled into the chair at Tammy’s new station for the first — and only — time. An hour and a half later, I admired my sleek, polished look in the mirror. Tammy swiped my MasterCard through the little cube perched atop her smart phone.

“Thanks. Looks great,” I said. “See you next…uh…have a nice day.” I averted my eyes and slinked towards the door.

Back out on the plaza, the smell of gourmet pizza wafted in my direction. What the heck, I thought. I’ll spring for a slice, then make my final getaway.

Juggling my purse, a can of cola and the cheesy pie piece, I found an empty bench beside the cement pond, shaded by a cluster of well-placed trees. I nibbled my lunch, entertained by a mother mallard leading four —  five — no, six fluffy ducklings, bobbing up and down across the rippling water.

As I sat enjoying the afternoon sun, a funny thing happened. The shops took on a new appeal. I wandered into a bookstore and browsed the shelves. In a nearby boutique, a trendy bangle bracelet caught my eye.

On the way back to my car, I stopped at Tribez and scheduled an appointment for next month. Why not? It’s not that far.

— Camille DeFer Thompson

Camille DeFer Thompson is a freelance writer and blogger. Her short fiction and non-fiction appear in a number of anthologies, including Not Your Mother’s Book…on Home Improvement. Her feature articles can be found online and in print. Camille lives in Northern California. Visit her humor blog at www.camilledeferthompson.com.

Reflections of Erma