Ever notice how all the hair products these days are going natural? I thought, “I can do that.” Here are my results:
I washed my hair in okra, and that was one slick hairdo.
I washed my hair in corn, and it was so starchy that it stood straight above my ears.
I washed my hair in carrots, and now I can see better.
I washed my hair with the beautiful lavender flower of the thistle and now it’s all prickly.
I washed my hair with rose petals and now the bees are trying to pollinate me.
I washed my hair with apple juice and it kept the doctor away.
I washed my hair in jalapenos and it was one hot style.
I washed my hair in big bertha pepper, but it didn’t ring my bell.
I washed my hair in oatmeal, and it lowered my cholesterol by 8 points.
I washed my hair with cucumbers and I looked like a wart hog.
I washed my hair with lemons and it puckered.
I washed my hair in zucchini and I couldn’t give it away.
I washed my hair in green beans and it was stringy.
In case you want to try any of these, you have the results from my personal test grounds.
— Kay Gibson describes herself as a wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother — and writer. She has written pieces for numerous publications, including Bird Watcher’s Digest, Guidepost for Kids and Humpty Dumpty. She writes a weekly humor column for two newspapers.
He strides into the gym like the king of beasts — bold, muscular, lion’s mane of thick, silver hair and big, strong hands. He is the fearsome Titan, the dominant male, and all the other men suddenly look like mewing cubs. The sight of him makes me melt on the treadmill. Sweat starts seeping through in dark spots on my already damp tank top. I see him survey his surroundings with a dismissive glance. He looks like a man who has everything under control. He looks like a man who has everything he needs. He looks like a man who gets everything he wants. And, I don’t even know his name.
I daydream about those large hands kneading my neck, my back and … fade to black. I imagine holding them and looking up while slow dancing because, being a tall woman, size does matter. He takes the masterly lead with no instruction from me, but we move to the rhythm of balanced beats and equal footing. I wonder what it would be like to stare into those sky-lit eyes and have them stare back into mine. He is blessed with sculpted cheekbones and a strong jawline. They’re included every night in my prayers. I cry like a silly school girl, frustrated tears, cursing fate’s loathsome folly. That old rascal lust has found me again after all these years, and I am lost in confusion. Why now, when I’ve finally accepted my aloneness; when menopause is standing at the front door, ready to send my Aunt Rose and Cousin Cramp packing?
I’m comfortable with myself and no longer feel obligated to touch up my hair and makeup. I can spent a Friday night and Saturday morning in pajama pants with Cat curled at my feet. I can eat a banana, write a little poetry, switch on the old movie channel and watch Bogart and Bacall deal with the dicey game of love, all under the protective cover of quilts. I don’t want cupid’s tender trap and foolish romantic fiction.
What’s a grown-up girl to do? The Titan never makes a move. He never gives me the eye. He never even leans his well-built body towards my treadmill-trekking tush. I try my hardest to look like a leaping gazelle or at the very least, a darting doe. But no amount of running in place is going to make the sexual connection with this almighty man.
Our relationship evolves in my own fevered brain. I feel all the same yearning and burning desire as if we were actually together. I feel all the same crazy, mixed-up emotions I did when I was 17 and in lust with my first boyfriend. Only now I’m middle-aged and been around the track a few times. I feel vulnerable and frightened by these alien impulses.
I’d settle for one night of carnal knowledge with the Gym God. This mere mortal would cast a magical sex spell over him. He’d swiftly sweep me off my size nine feet and onto his mountain of heavenly delight. Heart strings stay intact and feelings of love stay in the closet. Our tryst is playful, uncomplicated because I no longer want to own or be owned.
It’s a funny thing. I thought I had put my mojo on hold a long time ago. In fact, mojo mold was spreading rapidly. Good riddance, I was done with wanting anything from a man. But while treading, I’m salivating up a storm, and filming all sorts of hot takes in my own personal porno flick. It’s only a movie, a fantasy. I crash, head first, down to Earth. I’ve never learned the intricate art of flirting. And, I’m not as liberated as I should be. The ’70s taught women how to get out of the kitchen but not how to ask for what they need in the bedroom. I’m not one of the new feline class of cats that assertively hunts to satisfy their hunger. These predatory goddesses are made to conquer and topple timid males. I’m shy, short on feminine wiles and oddly off balance in my New Balance shoes.
My fear and fancy are mixed together in a big bowl of mush. I suppose I’ll never know the feel of him next to me — what’s it’s like to have his arm draped across my bare body. I’ll never know the salty scent of the man before he jumps into the shower. (He emerges with hair carelessly tousled, just a hint of aftershave and wrapped in a fresh white towel.) I’ll never know the ache of smoldering passion as he spots me in a crowded room, nodding recognition, then taking my hand and whispering, “You look incredible tonight.”
But what if he did ask? What if he approached me and said, “You and yes?” Would I remember how to respond? It’s been 20 years of marriage and martyrdom, and I still feel like I’m hanging on the cross waiting for my divorce lawyer to pry the nails out.
The no-risk consolation prize is that this man will always be perfectly mine. He will never stray or disappoint. He will never grow tired of me and ask for a newer model. He will never say the wrong thing or give me a bum birthday present. He will hold me in those massive arms and tell me I’m beautiful and funny and smart and that I should never, ever change because I’m just exactly what the gods ordered.
The king is close. I feel his divine warmth as he passes. Pheromones are at a fever pitch, and I nearly slip off the treadmill. Is that a smile on his lips? Is he appraising my doe-like darts and dodges? But no, he has sought out the young blonde lounging on the chest press machine. Taut body, no laugh lines, perfect tendrils spilling down her back, and she is what all the men want. He says, “Hey, honey. How’s my girl?” I bite my tongue, taken aback by this corny line, so unworthy of the God of Mount Elliptical. She says, “Hey dad. Thanks for coming to get me.”
And, I’m off again, sprinting at the sound of a long shot. Daydreams, it seems, have definite advantages. No gain but no pain either, and a girl can always hope. Hope is a powerful aphrodisiac. Especially on those nights when King Titan is fantasy fodder and Prince Rabbit is just a hair’s breadth away, ready and waiting in the nearby nightstand.
— Wendy Schmidt
Wendy Schmidt, a native of Wisconsin, has written short stories and poetry for the last 10 years. Her pieces have been published in Strange, Weird and Wonderful, Daily Flash 2012, Three Line Poetry, Tainted Tea, Fear and Trembling,Verse Wisconsin, One Million Stories and Twisted Dreams, Taste Like Pennies Anthology and Haunted Object Anthology.
Award-winning poet, novelist and author of the famed How To Do It Frugally series of books for writers Carolyn Howard-Johnson and award-winning playwright and actor Lance Johnson have been married far longer than the average couple and are still doing things together — in this case, joining with Amazon’s Kindle Select program to give away e-copies of their books, starting Jan. 13.
Ta-da! Two books for your Kindle (or your computer if you don’t have a Kindle) with only a couple clicks. Writers will benefit from The Great First Impression Book Proposal, while international friends might appreciate What Foreigners Need to Know About America From A to Z: How to Understand Crazy American Culture People, Government, Business, Language and More.
You can also send the books free to others for a thoughtful — and fast — gift. Send Lance’s book to an international student, an immigrant — or anyone who cut more high school civics (or English!) classes than they should have. Send Carolyn’s book to fellow writers. Every nonfiction author and even most fiction writers can use it as it is becoming common for publishers to ask for proposals from writers of genre fiction.
“It’s thoughtfulness with the click of a mouse,” she said.
Lance Johnson is an actor with national commercials, plays and movies to his credit. He also has visited more than 90 countries and taught English and American culture abroad. His book has been endorsed by ambassadors to the U.S. and ambassadors from the U.S. to other countries.
Carolyn Howard-Johnson‘s How To Do It Frugally series for writers has won multiple awards. She has studied writing at universities in the Czech Republic, Russia and UK, UCLA and USC. And she has been an instructor for the world-renowned UCLA Extension Writers’ Program for nearly a decade. She served on the EBWW faculty in 2006 and 2008.
Have any writers on your holiday list?
The University of Dayton’s Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop is offering a “You Can Write!” coffee mug and an Erma T-shirt exclusively through the University of Dayton Bookstore.
All proceeds benefit the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop endowment fund. The popular workshop draws more than 350 writers from around the nation to campus every other spring.
The late humorist Erma Bombeck, who graduated from the University of Dayton in 1949, gave the world many witty, memorable lines. Some of her most inspirational words are featured on the back of a new T-shirt: “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’”
The coffee cup features three words of encouragement from a University of Dayton English professor that Bombeck said changed her life: You Can Write!
Over the years, the workshop has attracted as speakers such household names as Dave Barry, Phil Donahue, Art Buchwald, Nancy Cartwright, Don Novello, Garrison Keillor and Gail Collins, but the personal involvement of Erma Bombeck’s family makes the event at her alma mater memorable and sets it apart from the myriad other writers’ workshops offered across the country.
The next workshop is slated for April 10-12, 2014.
Most people think I’m normal. I’m not. Usually, I’m in overdrive on the nervous wreck meter, such as when I recently held a book signing at a bookshop.
I’m reliving the panic in my dreams. This has resulted in a severe sleep disorder … for my husband.
“Bob,” I screamed, as I pounded on his head last night while he was asleep. “I’m having a nightmare.” Our startled dog jumped on the bed and tore the quilt to death.
The cats joined the terror party by leaping onto Bob’s face and yowling at higher notes than Mariah Carey could reach if she smashed her thumb with a sledge hammer. “Sweetheart,” I whispered. “Are you awake?”
“Saralee, I’m begging you. Please don’t tell me another nightmare.”
“I was at my signing when a woman came over dressed like a zombie. She hissed, ‘You’re a rotten writer. Everybody hates your book. And you put on 30 pounds.’ Bob! It wasn’t a costume. It was my mother!”
“Oh no!” He covered his ears.
Most of us have anxiety. Maybe it’s a dread of dentist appointments, airplanes, spiders or social situations. Oh, there are a billion examples. Although I was a psychotherapist for 22 years, I’ve learned more about anxiety from my own shtick.
Struggling to cover up nervousness actually makes it worse. How do we tame it? By not trying to hide it or stop it. Saying, “I’m so nervous that my hands are shaking,” or, “My neck is beet red,” or commenting on whatever our outward signs of anxiety are, will take away its power.
If there are people who think less of me for being scared, that’s their shortcoming.
My sister-in-law was at my signing. She lives far away from me and never reads my columns, so she won’t see this. When she does her superior know-it-all thing, I respond like the mature wise woman I’m known to be: I make faces behind her back.
Two seconds before entering the bookstore, she said, “Are you nervous?”
The sabotage began. “What’s wrong with you? You shouldn’t be nervous.”
“Well, I’m excited too.”
“You should be.”
I stomped my feet. “I just said I am!”
Bob gave me a knowing look that meant, “You’re never going to win. Give it up.” Naturally he was right.
While signing books, my hands trembled. While connecting with readers whose words touched my heart deeply, my head shook. While thanking so many wonderful souls for coming to meet me, well, I stuttered through tears.
Did it matter that I was nervous? Of course not.
Three things mattered:
1. The fact that I had a wondrous time in spite of being scared.
2. The beautiful words I heard from readers along with the overwhelming love I received.
3. And that my sister-in-law saw every single bit of it.
— Saralee Perel
Saralee Perel is an award-winning nationally syndicated columnist and the author of Cracked Nuts & Sentimental Journeys: Stories From a Life Out of Balance. She welcomes e-mails at email@example.com.
It’s 11 a.m. — do you know where your morning has gone?
Mine, I realize with pangs of shock and embarrassment, has been frizzled away on Planet Facebook. This virtual neighborhood where you and your 50 or 500 or 1,000 or so “friends” let it all hang out: political declarations, pithy aphorisms, gut-wrenching messages about imploding marriages, cute things your little kids have said, and, increasingly, photos.
These days, Facebook is clogged with photos that “friends” expect you to view, comment on, “like,” and even “share.” This is especially true if the albums are of animals, particularly animals in cute pajamas or wearing jaunty berets. Don’t believe me? There is a plush toy (that’s the politically correct term for “stuffed animal”) named Boo the Pomeranian who is listed as a “public figure” on Facebook. His page has more than 350,000 “likes,” which may explain why Boo snagged an appearance on “Good Morning, America.” Mere humans like me who use Facebook as a marketing tool stand almost no chance of building our brand when competing with the “likes” of Boo the Pomeranian. (Note to God: If you bring me back for another incarnation as a writer, can you please let me return as a cute plush toy?)
Everyone knows that Facebook is a dangerous force field, hungrily vacuuming up otherwise productive time, yet the force is powerful, and explains why I am late on two assignments, have three days’ laundry piled up, the fridge is empty, and several bills are perilously close to accruing late fees.
This morning, for example, I felt compelled to view six new photo albums, including one of a cousin’s newly adopted puppy named Gus. This cousin was sure to ask me if I had seen Gus in his photogenic glory, so I posted the requisite “Aw, how cute!” comment to be safe. And how could I not comment on photos of my friend’s new son, posted just hours after his birth? What kind of ogre is too busy to type in “Congratulations!?” After that, I was this close to logging out when my favorite cookbook author posted the best recipe for raisin challah ever, along with photos showing easy braiding techniques.
I swore to myself that after “liking” the challah, I would really, no-kidding-this-time-really get to work. But the unfolding drama, surprises and needs of my “friends” kept me riveted to the screen. There was Charlie, riding an elephant in Thailand! Then I saw that a colleague was getting a divorce, and was collecting “likes” about her posts about her rotten soon-to-be ex-husband. I learned that a neighbor had scared off a would-be burglar, and another friend was mounting a campaign to shame the overpriced hotel in Hawaii where she was staying due to its slovenly housekeeping. In the perverse form of social support that is essential to Facebook, I “liked” the photos she uploaded of a grimy bathtub, cobwebby closet and stained carpet. After all, what are Facebook friends for?
An invitation to share my organ donor status — nobody’s business, not even on Facebook — jolted me into the reality that I really had real-life obligations. So why don’t I just stop the kvetching and dump Facebook? Because love it or hate it (and often, loving it and hating it at the same time), the ruthless reality is that writers and others trying to build their businesses need this maddening social utility, whose rules and features are changed every 15 minutes by the 20-somethings wearing jeans and hoodies who rule its kingdom.
Besides, I am guilty — if guilt is the right word — of wanting people to “like” and comment on my columns as soon as they are published. What? Only eight “likes” for this story in the first half-hour? Have I lost my mojo? I consider sending an email blast to trusted friends, encouraging them to stop their own productive work and “like,” share, comment on, or “tag” me in the post as a show of support. But I hold back, knowing it’s slightly obnoxious to do so. Displaying admirable self-restraint, I do not summon the troops until the next day, still dissatisfied with the number of “shares” and “likes” my work has received.
In this virtual community, one hand that’s glued to the keyboard washes the other, so I feel obligated to share the outrage over the grimy conditions of my friend’s overpriced hotel, help another friend win her iPad, commiserate with the lovelorn and gush over everyone’s new photos are, even if they are of a puppy named Gus.
Later in the afternoon, caving in to the temptation of seeing who may have “liked” my latest article, I log back on to Facebook. The first thing on my timeline is a picture that poses the question, “Are you on a journey to purpose this afternoon…?” I consider the question, “like” the post but do not comment, and log off for the day.
(Reposted by permission of author Gina Barreca. This humorous essay first ran in the Hartford Courant on Nov. 29.)
Forget the Mayan calendar: Brad Pitt’s commercial for Chanel No. 5 is a sign of the impending apocalypse. Have you seen it? Pitt looks like Gen. George Custer right before his last stand.
Reportedly paid around $7 million to gaze into the camera and intone “every journey ends,” “plans disappear” and “wherever I go, there you are,” Pitt says the kind of things my father used to yell at us kids when we were annoying him on a long car ride.
My dad, of course, didn’t sound like Hamlet saying these things and Pitt does, so that’s part of the difference.
The other difference was that my dad, who would have been driving a ’67 Buick Skylark with a faulty muffler, had take-home pay of about 78 bucks a week. So when Pitt says “My luck, my fate,” he makes it sound very different from the way my father would have said it.
Pitt speaks so bewitchingly, however, you sort of don’t realize that what he’s saying the rest of the time is nuts. “The world turns and we turn with it,” Pitt declares. Well, Brad, until the end of the world was placed on this year’s calendar, we really didn’t have much of a choice, did we?
What’s the catch-line for Pitt’s Chanel campaign? “Inevitable.”
Yeah, right. Brad Pitt is a lot of things to a lot of women, but one thing he is not is “inevitable.”
Bunions, menopause and an increased need for periodontal care are inevitable; Brad Pitt is not.
Pitt’s shilling for Chanel as its first-ever male celebrity, therefore, shows that the apocalypse is heading our way. But the fact that he earned a fee in the high seven-figures without even needing to part his hair is only one indication that the world is drawing to a close even faster than a Kathie Lee Gifford Broadway show.
(That a musical written by Kathie Lee Gifford celebrating the life of a discredited evangelical preacher made it to Broadway could, in and of itself, be a heavy End Times indicator.)
Look, between the Mayan calendar’s prediction that life on earth will stop mid-afternoon on Dec. 21, Maya MacGuiness’ prediction that Americans will step off the fiscal cliff on Jan. 1 and My Little Pony’s declaration that “Princess Cadance can’t wait to marry prince Shining Armor,” after which “When you press her button, she’ll talk and her amazing wings will move and light up!” you know December 2012 is going to be a whole apocaly-lotta laughs.
Yes, My Little Pony’s magic unicorn horn has, by some, seemed to point increasingly to universal destruction.
I’m not cynical by nature, but the combination of these untoward events are enough to make even an unusually sanguine person such as me start watching “Doomsday Preppers” instead of watching QVC, HGTV or “Project Runway.”
After all, if it’s the end of the world, will I really care if my trousers are wondrously slimming, if my window treatments offer sufficient morning light or if tar as a fashion accouterment is the new bleached leather?
If the meteor hits, if dollars as we know them are entirely debased and we are all using socks instead of stocks for currency, and if Princess Cadance reigns over international politics once Shining Armor installs her as part of his “puppet” regime, will I care about whether my sister-in-law’s gravy is less lumpy than mine? Or whether her thighs are, for that matter?
No, I won’t. I’ll have new priorities, like trying to build shelter out of empty CD cases (I knew they’d come in handy), learning to forage for food (“forage” being a Brooklyn word for “steal”) and making fine wine from transmission fluid (it’s all about the horsepower).
Sure, if I’m going to survive the apocalypse, I’ll need to get used to some changes. Like Princess Cadance, I will be probably be all “shiny” as well as “glowy” given the pernicious effect of fallout. If the end of the world happens, I just hope I’m holding a martini made with Chanel No. 5 and just a hint of Valvoline.
But please, Lord: Before the world ends, if it must, can you make sure that comedian Gilbert Gottfried does a parody of Pitt’s commercial?
— Gina Barreca
Gina Barreca, one of the keynote speakers for the 2012 EBWW, is an English professor at the University of Connecticut and a feminist scholar who has written eight books.