Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My Body Revolted from Randi Sherman, author of Paula Takes a Risk, Available March 2012

My Body Revolted

The other morning while taking a shower I felt something very strange on the back of my legs.  I had never noticed it before.  It wasn’t the cellulite.  I had grown used to that.  It was something different.  I quickly got out of the shower to look in the mirror and investigate. In order to get a good look, I stood on my toes with my back to the mirror and twisted my upper body to see the reflection. What could it be? I wondered.  At first I didn’t see anything unusual.  I reached down to determine exactly where the strange growth was.  When I had identified the area, I looked again. I was horrified when I realized that the large growth was my butt.  How did this happen?

Without warning, the combination of fatty foods, sugar and gravity has taken its toll on my body.  My body was rebelling.  It was revolting.  My rear end had silently crept downward and taken up residence on the back of my thighs.  I was a victim of ass-creep.

Sure, I had noticed that my clothing had become a little snug.  The excess weight around my hips and stomach filled my pants to cause the uncomfortable short-crotch syndrome and the binding waistband fold-over.  But I attributed it all to the bloating that is related to PMS.  Over time, I had managed to convince myself that I was pre-menstrual for twenty-three days each month.

I sat down at the kitchen table and while eating a blueberry muffin with butter and jam, I decided that I had to do something about this new development on the back of my thighs.  I finally had to admit that I was out of shape and had gained weight. I figured, I’ll just start on an exercise program and watch what I’m eating.  Easier said than done.

The first plan of action was to remove all junk food from my house.  As I was removing all of the cookies and pretzels from the pantry and the ice cream, fudge sauce, and frozen pizzas from the freezer, I thought about how wasteful I was being.  In my mind, I could hear my mother’s voice, “What about all of the children who are starving all over the world?”  I felt guilty.  So I decided to do my part.  I sat down and made a feast of it all.  It was reminiscent of the Last Supper.  A religious experience.  No waste.  I felt better.

Next, I had to locate my gym membership card, buy new exercise togs and figure out the best time to go to and work out.   I had been a member of the gym for two years and had managed to get there only twice.  The first time was the day that I had signed the membership contract.  The second time was the day after that.  The monthly membership dues were automatically withdrawn from my checking account.  By my calculations, each of my visits to the gym cost approximately three hundred dollars.  The one time I called to cancel my membership, I was completely intimidated by the gym manager who ended up convincing me to keep my membership and take advantage of the state-of-the-art equipment.  Although I assured him that I would get into an exercise rĂ©gime, I thought seriously about closing my checking account and changing banks in lieu of justifying my laziness.  But I was too lazy to go to the bank.

Finally, I knew that I wasn’t going to get in shape overnight, so I had to have an interim plan. I’d have to go shopping.  I’d have to buy some shirts that were long enough to cover my rear end.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The New Minority from Randi Sherman, author of Paula Takes a Risk, Available March 2012

The New Minority

Sixty years ago, if a woman in her late thirties and forties was unmarried, she was labeled a spinster, a maiden aunt or an old maid.  Stereotypically, she was perpetually high-strung and cranky.  She was doughty, sad looking and prematurely gray.  Her white patent leather handbag was always tightly clutched, with both hands, against her chest.  She wore sensible shoes on her feet and her hair in a bun or a hairnet.  She owned ten cats that she referred to as her children. She spent her Saturday afternoons rolling ace bandages at the Red Cross or had tea with the widows in the neighborhood.  If she did in fact have a job, she was a schoolteacher or librarian. She was an old age companion to her aging parents and the reliable babysitter for her nieces and nephews. Besides, what else could she possibly have to do with her weekends? 

Twenty years ago an unmarried woman was labeled as selfish, buried in her career or on the fast track.  She wore dark, severe, androgynous looking business suits with pressed cotton blouses and creatively tied scarves.  She attended power lunches.  Saturdays and Sundays were spent doing the work she had brought home from the office.  Weekend evenings were spent with either a dull, equally ambitious man or at the discotheque where she would meet up with various one-night stands, who she would cast aside because any personal involvement would hinder her career path and goals.  The popular belief was that she was just confused. Her priorities were screwed up.  But there was hope for her.  She would eventually “snap out of it” and settle down into marriage as soon as the right man appeared in her life.  

For the first time in history, there is a considerable population of unmarried women who have, in one way or another, managed to remain single throughout their twenties and thirties and beyond.  Consciously or subconsciously, they have broken “the pattern.” 

“The pattern” is the official, unwritten, and outdated, rule of female progression in society.  The elements of this pattern include attending school, perhaps starting a career, landing a husband, bearing children and moving into a ranch style house that is located within twenty miles of her parents.

Similar to many other minorities, the people outside of it, do not understand the rituals or life style. Face it, the unknown makes people feel uncomfortable. The minority is considered questionable and often criticized.  So, based of what the pattern-ers have come to believe, along with their lack of personal experience, members of the minority are labeled unconventional and irreverent and thus: unhappy or social failures. 

            With our shoulders squared, we, the minority, attempt to defend our choices and lifestyles.  The pattern-ers may appear to be listening and trying to understand us, but our efforts are dismissed.  They have already labeled us in an effort to justify to themselves, the minorities situation.

“She has buried herself in her career.  Her priorities are screwed-up”

“She must be a difficult person.  She’s hard to get along with.”

“She’s selfish.  All she thinks about is having fun.”

“She’s too picky.  Who does she think she is?  She needs to lower her standards.”

“She bitter from past relationships.”

“She must be gay.”

We, the members of the minority, are not different from anyone else.  We work and support ourselves, pay our bills and attend social events.  We require air, water, respect and love. We dread holiday season family get-togethers where, without subtlety, we are interrogated about why we don’t just settle down and get married like normal people.

“Why do you choose to live this way?” 

“What is wrong with you?”

“What am I supposed to tell people?”

I am in my late thirties, unmarried and yes, a functional member of society.  I am a proud member of this new minority.  There is not any great mystery about why I’m single. No federal or anti-social crimes have been committed.  Call it timing.  Call it circumstance. I simply have not met anyone who I want to marry or who wants to marry me.  I just haven’t run across anyone who deserves the punishment. Besides, I’ve been busy.

Years from now, the members of this minority will no longer be unique.  Those of us who endured the sarcastic comments, prejudices, and criticisms will be considered trailblazers.  During future holiday celebrations, sitting by the fire, we will gather our nieces, nephews and our own late-in-life children who will sit mesmerized as we tell our stories of single life in the late twentieth century and recount our early struggles as the pioneers of the new minority.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Virtual Cocktail Party from Randi Sherman, author of Paula Takes a Risk, Available March 2012

Virtual Cocktail Party


I enjoy getting together with my friends, have cocktails and dinner, and spending time catching up on the latest gossip. But quite often by the end of a workweek, I’m just not up to the effort it takes to get myself to the restaurant to meet with them.

What am I going to wear? Where are we going to meet?  How much is it going to cost? What if I drink too much?  How would I get home? What about the friends who live in another city or across the country?  I’d like to get together with them.  But it’s not practical to jump on an airplane and fly out of town to have dinner.  Out of necessity and the desire to maintain friendships, I have come up with an alternative method of socializing. It’s called the Virtual Cocktail Party. 

A Virtual Cocktail Party is an alternative to a face to face meeting with those friends that you would love to chat with.  It’s far less expensive and much more relaxing.

Plan your Virtual Cocktail Party.  During the week, inquire about a friend’s weekend plans.  Ask if she would like to have dinner or cocktails on Friday.  Instead of determining which restaurant to meet at, plan to meet on the phone.  Arrange a time. Determine who will be initiating the call.  Make a reservation.  If by chance you are unable to make it to the Virtual Cocktail Party, no one will be left sitting alone in the bar, cursing you for standing her up.

Although, at most restaurants and bars it is frowned upon when a customer dares to show up in a bathrobe and fuzzy slippers, it’s perfectly acceptable at the Virtual Cocktail Party.  No effort has to be made determining what to wear, which clothes are clean and pressed, or which outfit is the most slenderizing. Wear any old thing you happen to have hanging over the back of a chair. You could fish something out of the hamper or off of the floor.  Feel free to mix seasons.  Wear a silk blouse with sweat pants. No make-up is required. You could even wear a facial mud- pack and a hair net.  Naked is acceptable too.  The idea is to be comfortable.  Rest assured that no one is going to see you.

No waiting.  Seat yourself.  You don’t need to hover around the bar or to be friendly to the hostess in the hope of being seated before breakfast.  No effort is wasted flagging down a waiter.

If part of the restaurant experience for you and your friends includes people watching and providing color commentary about the patrons and fashions around you, there isn’t any reason why you can’t participate in this activity at the Virtual Cocktail Party.  Just turn on the television (same channel).  The home shopping network or an infomercial will provide the perfect background activity and plenty of material on which to “dish.” To accomplish the audio-effect of the restaurant-buzz, keep the volume low.  Feel free to point and talk as loudly as you wish.  There is no worry about being overheard or receiving nasty looks from the people at the next table.

Eat whatever you would like.  Eat as much as you want.  No one is there to judge you or give you a you’re-such-a-pig look if you eat an entire pizza.  Consume a frozen Sara Lee cake. Don’t bother using a fork or removing it from the tin.  Manners are optional at the Virtual Cocktail Party.  Put your feet on the furniture.  Drop food on the floor.  Talk with your mouth full.  Go ahead, lick your fingers, and drink from the carton or the bottle.  If you don’t have a napkin handy, use your sleeve or a dishrag.

The call waiting feature on your telephone or an unexpected doorbell could be treated as if someone has stepped up to your table and interrupted your conversation.  If you have to use the bathroom, simply excuse yourself, put your friend on hold or go together.

You will never have to drive home from a Virtual Cocktail Party.  No time is spent searching your car in the parking lot.  Think of the money you’ll save on parking lot fees and bridge tolls.  Think of the aggravation that is avoided.  No jail time, no attorney’s fees, no DUIs. Have a cocktail or two, or three.  Drink as much as you’d like.  You don’t have to drive home.  You’re already there.  When your cocktail party is over, hang up the phone, turn out the lights and go to bed.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Saturday, I was Invisible -from the Author of Paula Takes a Risk, Available March 2012

Saturday, I was Invisible

One Saturday night, not too long ago, a group of coworkers and I went to a trendy club in a trendy neighborhood for some trendy drinks and dancing.  When we arrived at a club, the group dispersed and I was left alone.  I found an empty barstool and sat down.  A few minutes later, a man approached me, smiled and asked me, “Is that barstool taken?”  I looked to my left and to my right.  Both stools were being used.  I looked up to answer him and noticed he was pointing at the stool that I was sitting on.

That’s odd.  I was confused.  “I’m sitting here.”

“Oh.” he said and walked away.

I attempted to get the attention of the bartender.  “Excuse me,” didn’t work.  Waving my hand didn’t work.  Waving a twenty-dollar bill didn’t work.  But when a woman who had tattoos on her neck and glitter in her hair leaned across the bar, grabbed the bartender by the arm and shoved her tongue down is throat, I figured, Well, at least he is within shouting range.  I tapped her on the shoulder and thanked her.  She looked past me like I wasn’t there.

As people passed by, they knocked, pushed and shoved me.  When a huge bald man in a mesh shirt jabbed me in the kidneys with his elbow, I was convinced that I had stumbled upon the tryouts for the World Wrestling Federation. 

After being completely ignored for about a half an hour, I figured it out.  I realized that for all intent and purpose, I was invisible.  So, why not take advantage of my invisible status?  I watched the action around me and realized that everyone was working very hard to gain the attention of others.  I observed overt flirting, solicitous giggling, and animated conversation.

 Since I was invisible, I decided that I had the perfect opportunity to try an experiment.  I spent the rest of the evening trying to get the attention of the visible people by using the techniques that I have always found annoying and distasteful. 

I started a conversation with a man who clearly did not want to talk to me.  He was trying very hard to get away from me.  All he wanted to do was order drinks from the bartender and going back to his girlfriend.

“Hi.” I started.

He ignored me.

“I said, hi.” I waved my hand in front of his face.

“What?”  He seemed annoyed.  “Oh, hi.”

I pressed on.  “What’s your name?” 

He didn’t answer.

“You look like a Bob.” I pushed, “Is it alright if I call you Bob?”

“What? … Whatever.” He leaned over the bar and flagged down the bartender.

“Bob, do you like it here, at this club?  It’s my first time here.”

“Bob?” He didn’t answer.

“Bob … Bob.”  Then in a sing-songy voice, “Bobby, are you ignoring me?” I waved my hand in front of his face again.

“What?” He grabbed my waving hand. “Leave me alone!”

His drinks arrived and he paid the bartender.

I pushed one more time, “Is that for me?” I reached for one of the glasses.

“Hey!” He pushed my hand away.  “Leave that alone! Leave me alone.”  He looked at me like I was crazy and walked away.

Strike one.  Whose next?  I looked around the bar.

There was a group of four very chic looking women, who all looked to be about twenty-five years old.  They were standing in a little circle.  I walked over.  At first, when they sensed that I was there, they just tightened their circle.

“Hi. Have you girls met anyone yet?” 


I tapped one of them on the shoulder.  She brushed off her shoulder, squinted at me and made a “Thsk” sound.

I walked around the circle and stood behind another one of the girls. “Hi.”

She ignored me.  She and her friends rolled their eyes at one another.

Then I broke through, “Boy, you sure look pretty.”

Bing!  She turned, “What?”

“I said that you’re pretty.”

Her friends giggled.

“I’m not into that. So if you don’t mind I’m having a conversation with my friends-”

“I don’t mind.” I smiled wide and continued to stand there.

They closed their circle so tight that they were practically wearing each other’s clothes.

Strike two.  Next victim.

I walked up to a woman who obviously was trying to catch the eye of a man.  She saw me coming toward her and she turned to stone.  She was clearly annoyed by my presence and completely ignored my existence.  She looked past me and over my head.  So I decided to say whatever came to my mind, speak gibberish and use animated hand gestures.  I was curious about how long she would stand there until she would either breakdown and speak to me or just walk away.

“Hi.” I said.  I proudly held my arms out and told her, “ I’m one hundred and thirty years old and I weigh twenty-three pounds.”

She ignored me.

I offered, “I like green eggs and ham.”  I couldn’t help chuckling to myself.


I gestured toward the bathroom and said, using a serious voice, “flippita-yippity-yakka-pippy-pa-poo.”

She shifted her weight from one foot to another and exhaled through her nose.  Still, she continued to ignore me.  She was a pro.

Just as I was about launch into my rendition of the Barney Song, she smiled at a man who was about ten feet away.  She pushed me aside and walked away.

Strike three.

I went back to the bar and looked around.  I noticed that most of the women who were getting attention were very body-aware.  They were rubbing their hands up and down their arms and body and through their hair.  Okay, I thought.  I could do that. I pulled off my sweater, revealing my T-shirt. I continued.  I stretched my neck and let out a little sigh. Then, I rubbed my hands up my torso and lightly cupped my breasts.  That got the attention from the man next to me.  I coyly looked at him.

He looked at my hands, then at my face, “Hi there.”

“Hi, yourself.” I exhaled heavily.

“Do you need any help with that?” he offered as he motioned, with his eyes, toward my chest.

“No thanks” I smiled,  “I’ve got ‘em.”

Just then, the group of people who I arrived at the club with, walked up.  One of them said, “We’re ready to leave?  By the way, we’ve been watching you. You certainly are popular.”

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

An Invitation for Dinner from The Grumblings of a chronically single woman by Randi M Sherman Author of Paula Takes A Risk due out March 2012

An Invitation for Dinner

Many people assume that just because I live alone and appear to be healthy and well fed, I must know how to cook for myself.  At best, my talent for cooking is embarrassing, if not dangerous.  Every time I have attempted to prepare a meal or an oven related snack, it has ended up being a disaster.  The smoke alarm is a common sound emanating my home. 

At first, I thought that the smoke detectors in my house were overly sensitive, and reacted from the slightest signs of exhaust from the kitchen.  But after I had moved my residence two or three times and each of the smoke alarms were still set off every time I approached a heating mechanism, I realized that the problem must be my cooking techniques.  For a while I refused to give up my attempts at cooking. I figured that if I cooked really fast, I would not give the smoke alarm enough time to detect that I was in the kitchen.  But that didn’t work.  I began using the smoke alarm as a cooking timer.  I would begin preparing some food, and when the alarm sounded, I knew that it was time to flip it over and continue cooking for an additional five minutes.  Fearing for my life and the buildings adjacent to mine, friends and neighbors began pleading with me to give up my attempts at learning how to cook.  I conceded.

I have learned that there are three things that every unmarried non-cook should have in order to avoid starvation: a microwave oven, a car, and friends who cook.

The microwave oven is the only appliance in my kitchen that doesn’t have to be dusted.  This kitchen-wonder can save a person from starvation in less than eight minutes.  Its response is faster than that of a 911 emergency call.  I have found that the only skills I need, in relation to the using my microwave, are the abilities to peel back a corner or pierce the plastic film with a fork.  Pop the container into the microwave oven, set the timer, press start and then Voila! Dinner is served.

            Occasionally my body revolts against all of the salt and preservatives that are contained in freezer burned, re-heatable, eight-minute entrees.  I’m pretty sure that, by now, I have developed a shelf life of my own.  When the puffiness and bloating from Propyl Gallate and Modified Food Starch start taking a toll on my body, that’s the time when I turn to my car for assistance.

Either, I leaf through the take-out menus on my desk and place a call for food delivery or simply climb into the driver’s seat of my car, start the ignition, point the car in the direction of a fast food restaurant and drive on through.  It’s always important to order a salad for roughage, and for good measure.  Dressing on the side. I realize that this may not be the healthiest way to eat, but at least it’s hot and it does not require clean up.

            Truly, the best gift an unmarried non-cook can receive is not a cookbook but an invitation for dinner.  After months of eating out, driving through, ordering in and microwaving restaurant leftovers, a friend’s invitation for a home cooked meal is a welcome one.

            A well timed telephone call or surprise drop in visit can elicit a sincere dinner invitation where some, if not all, of the basic food groups will be served.  The meal is served on normal dishes with actual silverware.  Not microwaveable, throw-away cookware and plastic eating utensils.  No greasy paper bags and crumpled napkins. Oh, the thrill.  Don’t misunderstand me, this is not a manipulation of my friends’ good nature and hospitality.  They are all aware of my culinary handicap.  Besides, they’re genuinely concerned for my health.

I thank the heavens for friends, their generosity and their cooking skills.  Friends’ who cook usually fall into one of two categories. They are either married and are preparing dinner for their families anyhow and would enjoy some outside stimulation from a dinner guest.  Or, they are single, enjoy cooking, and welcome a dinner companion.

To ensure a second or third invitation, I, as the dinner guest, display proper manners and gratitude. I offer to clear the table and help with the dishes.  I try to monitor the hostess’ level of exhaustion, in an effort to leave before I overstay my welcome. To show my appreciation I keep a supply of wine, (along with decorative gift bags, gift tags, and a felt tip pen) in the trunk of my car to be offered as hostess gifts.  And, I’m nice to their cats.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Movies a la Carte - from Grumblings.... by Randi M Sherman, author of Paula Takes a Risk, Available March 2012

Movies a la Carte

At the last minute, one Friday evening, I decided to go see a movie.  I knew that I wouldn’t be giving them much notice, but I called a few friends to invite them to join me.  When I telephoned, the friends who were at home had already made plans for the evening.  I looked at the clock.  It was getting late.  If I wanted to get to the theater in time for the coming attractions I had to abandon the idea of a movie companion.  So, I grabbed by coat and left for the theater.  No big deal, I thought.  I’m just going to be sitting in a dark room, watching a film, quietly.  It wasn’t as if I was going to the theater to have a heart-to-heart conversation with a long lost friend.  I was going to see a movie, plain and simple.  I could do that alone.

I had a slight tinge of insecurity while I waited in line to buy a ticket.  I was surrounded by handholding couples and groups of teenagers who all looked at me, standing alone, as if I had just been crowned Miss Social Pariah, 1999.

The pitying looks continued as I stood in line at the snack bar.  I had convinced myself that people were whispering behind their hands and looking at me out of the corners of their eyes.  “She her.  Over there. ” They motioned with a head-nod.  “She’s alone. Tsk-tsk.  What a loser.”  When I made it to the snack counter I considered ordering two popcorns and two drinks, just to throw them off.

I know it was paranoia but I felt as if all eyes were on me when I entered the theater.  All I wanted to do was sit down and blend in.  Within thirty-seconds, I had become completely self-conscious.  When I found a row that had a few empty seats, I quickly shuffled in to sit down.  In an effort to make it look as if I was saving a seat for my date while he was in the bathroom or at the snack bar, I put my coat over seat next to me.  To keep up the illusion, every few minutes, I would turn around and look back at the door.

I tried to kill time until the movie started.  I rummaged through my purse, rearranged my wallet, ate most of my popcorn, read the movie theater brochure that I had picked up in the lobby, and played the riddle game that was being displayed on the screen.  I looked at my watch.  I checked the door again.  Then I noticed the child who was standing on the seat directly in front of me.  He was turned around and facing me.  He was just standing there looking at me.

His look turned into a stare.  An unending-unblinking-see-right-through-to-the-soul stare.  It began to make me uncomfortable.  What did he see?  I looked down.  I looked up.  I looked at my nails.  I looked at the door again.  I tried to ignore it as long as possible.  Finally, I stared back.  I scared him. His eyes welled up with tears.  He whispered something in his mommy’s ear.  She shifted her position to get a glimpse of me.  Uh-oh, here it comes. I was certain that she was going to turn around, wag her finger, and give me a piece of her mind.  But instead, in a voice intended to be loud enough for me to hear, she started to explain what was wrong with the mean lady behind him.

“Ignore that lady.  She’s alone.  She probably has no friends who want to be with her and must be very unhappy.  Leave her alone.” 

I shrank.  Is that how I’m perceived?  After a minute or two of self-examination, I realized that I was reevaluating my entire existence because the parents of a four-year-old boy hadn’t taught him that staring is impolite. 

As the lights started to dim, I could sense the pity from the people who were seated around me.  I had to think fast.  To save face, I looked back at the door one more time and said loud enough for others to hear, “I wonder where he could be.  He’ll never find me in the dark.”  After my subtle announcement I gathered together my snacks, my purse, and my jacket and walked up the aisle toward the door to make it look like I was going to find him.  I walked through the swinging doors, crossed to the other side and came back into the theater through the other set of doors.  Shrouded by the darkness, I walked slowly down the aisle, found a single seat and sat down. 

The woman who was seated next to me leaned over and said, “I’ve been waiting to see this movie.  It’s supposed to be good.”

“Me too.”  I agreed, “I …”

Suddenly, we heard, “Shush!” from the man behind us.  “If you wanted you socialize, you should have stayed home.  Now be quiet and watch the movie.”

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Debriefing - from Grumblings of a Chronically Single Woman, by Randi M Sherman, author of Paula Takes a Risk, Available March 2012

The Debriefing 

On Saturday night, I had gone out on a first-date. Foolishly, I had mentioned my plans to a few of my friends.  So when the telephone rang Sunday morning, I knew that I was about to endure a debriefing.  I picked up the phone and said, “Hello.”

“So?” said the voice on the other end.

I recognized the voice and knew exactly what “so” meant.  It was my friend Margaret and she was calling to inquire about my date.  Margaret had been married for over ten years and lived vicariously through the activity reports of her unmarried friends’ social lives.  Although many of my reports are mundane, Margaret allows her imagination to run wild.  Her interpretation of my activities is far more exciting than anyone’s life could possibly be, without ending up in jail or on a real-life-caught-on-tape television show.

I decided to make her work for the information, “So, what?” I asked.

She seemed agitated, “You know why I’m calling.  How was your date last night?”

“I’m fine, thanks for asking.” I laughed. I paused. “My date?  It was fine.”

“Fine?  What do you mean by fine? I want details.  Where did you go?  What did you wear?  Did he kiss you?”  She stopped herself.  “Oh …” she whispered, “is he there now?”

“No, he’s not here.” Geeze.

She tried again, “So?”

What can you say about a first date?  We had dinner and conversation. It’s always difficult to determine what a person is really like during a first date.  For the most part, everyone is on his best behavior and uses his party-manners. The conversation consists of questions and answers about siblings and hobbies.  Sure, there are slight exaggerations about one’s importance at work and his popularity with his friends.  But as a rule, first dates are pretty much benign. 

“There really isn’t much to report.”  I said.  “He seemed very nice.  We went to an Italian restaurant and had nice conversation.”

“Nice?  What does nice mean?”

“Nice means nice,” I explained.  “If you’re asking if he pulled out a knife and stabbed me then dumped me in a deserted parking lot, no he didn’t do that.  That would be considered not nice.”

“What did you talk about?”  She tried a different angle.

“Oh nothing really.  Just the normal-first-date-stuff, hobbies, interests.  You know, just stuff.”

“Sounds boring.” She sounded disappointed.

“I wouldn’t say boring.  I’d say,” I thought for a moment, “uneventful.”

“Well, did he kiss you?” she asked hoping to for something, anything, to hang on to.

“Mar-gar-et,” I was slightly annoyed by the question.  It fell into the none-of-your-business category, but I answered anyway.  “Sure, yes, he kissed me.” Why did I tell her that? Here it comes … the follow up question.

“Was it a good kiss?”  She came alive.

“I’m sorry, Margaret,” I was about to disappoint her. “It was just a peck on the cheek.”

“Oh.” The wind went out of her sails.  “Do you think you’ll see him again?”

“I don’t know.  If he calls and asks me out again, I would probably go.”

She was completely disappointed and annoyed with me.  “Well, don’t do me any favors.”

What?   Margaret seemed to interpret the report of the uneventful date as a personal affront, a slap in her face.  She didn’t even know this guy.  I was confused.  “Please, don’t be upset.”  I found myself consoling her.  “It’s okay, Margaret, really.  These things happen. There will be other dates.  More exciting dates.”

“Really?  Do you think so?”  She started to feel better.  “If you say so.”

“I promise.” I assured her. 

I think she’ll recover.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Reading Between the Lines - from Randi M Sherman, the author of Paula Takes a Risk, Available March 2012

Reading Between the Lines 

Every Sunday morning, I look through the personal advertisements in the newspapers.  Like many other women, I am looking for an honest ad - a diamond in the rough.  Unfortunately, there is a lack of accuracy running rampant among the personal pages.  Sure, it’s easy to find blurbs about humorous, professionals with many hobbies and interests. No one ever describes himself as unattractive, flabby, unimaginative, boring, bitter, penniless, unromantic, living with his mother, lazy, insincere, humorless, or as a pain in the ass.  It’s perfectly understandable that each advertiser wants to present himself in the best light, as the most desireable, new and improved product available.  Act now!  But the fact remains, if a woman responds to the ad, a face to face meeting could take place and the truth would be revealed.  Whatever happened to truth in advertising?

When it comes to the personal description, how do we know what is fact, what is fiction and what is simply a weak grasp on reality?  For the most part, it is not the intention of the advertiser to mislead the reader.  He just uses creative words and snappy phrases to describe his attributes and interests and to entice the shopper enough so she will respond to the ad.

So, how does the reader decipher the verbiage used in a personal advertisement?  Does she just have to blindly move forward and take her chances?  No, not anymore. I have developed a cross-referencing matrix that can be used to interpret the language of the personal ads.  This tool has been designed to help the reader to read between the lines of the personal ad and translate the mystical language to uncover the true message.

When he says:
He means:
Let’s meet for coffee, long walks on the beach, camping, good conversation, quiet evenings at home
“ I do not have any money.”

Cuddly, Teddy Bear
“I’m morbidly obese and have hair on my back.”
Very Handsome
“My mother says I’m good looking.”
Family minded
“I have custody of the children.”
 “I don’t have a job and I live with my mother.”
“I’m under five foot five inches tall. “
Dry sense of humor
“I’m obnoxious.  I rub people the wrong way and I don’t care. I’m the only person, on earth, one who thinks that I’m funny.”
Harvard Grad in 1979
“I have not accomplished anything since 1979.”
Ivy League grad
“I’m smarter than you are.”
Young, active, energetic
“I’m 110 years old but I use hair-dye, wear a gold chain and have a prescription for Viagra.”
Spiritual, Devout Catholic, Buddist, Mormon or Religious Jew
“Be prepared to hear about it.”
No smoking, no drinking
“No fun.”
Loves Broadway shows
“I have homosexual tendencies.”
“I cry easily.  I will attach myself to you like a leach.  When you break up with me, I will make you feel guilty.”
Enjoys science and technology
“Be prepared to watch Star Trek tapes.”
Seeking Jewish woman, tall, thin, Sharon Stone look alike
“I’m completely unrealistic.”

Seeking life partner 
“I need a wife.  My laundry has taken over my apartment.”
Seeking open minded companion
“I’ve been to jail.”
Seeking female 21-65
“Please, anyone!  Answer this ad.”
Seeking non-professional
“I’m insecure and scare easily.”
Seeking kindhearted woman
“My first wife cleaned me out.”

Friday, December 9, 2011

You’re not going to wear that, are you? by Randi M Sherman, the author of Paula Takes a Risk, Available March 2012

You’re not going to wear that, are you? 

Before attending a class reunion, a small group of college friends convened at my house for hors d’oeuvres and a chance to catch up.  Over the years, we had all lost contact with one another.  Patty arrived first, followed by Joan and Marci.  As each woman entered the living room, we all gave her air kisses, light-non-wrinkling hugs and the once-over.  We mentally calculated if she had aged badly, gained weight, or if she had had her nose, eyes, thighs, or boobs reconstructed. Though uncomfortable, we all acted as if we were genuinely happy to see one another.

What do you say to someone who you have neither seen nor thought much about in the past fifteen years?  We settled for benign conversation about families and careers.  Pictures of children were passed around.  Then some of the girls showed pictures of their husbands taken in the early 1980’s when they had hair and muscle tone.  At first, all life updates were bright and optimistic.  But, as more and more wine was consumed, everyone grew relaxed the truth came out.  It’s interesting to note how virtual strangers will discuss the most intimate details of their lives when they are under the influence of Chardonnay and know that they won’t have to see each other for another fifteen years. Eventually, we heard about husbands’ infidelity or impotence or their money problems. 

Marci rolled her eyes, “Joe was laid off … again.”

“My husband Gregory and I haven’t had sex in two years.  He feels pretty guilty about it.” Joan took another sip of wine.  “Frankly, he wasn’t that good to begin with. But, at least, now I get jewelry.”

“That’s nothing”  Patty piped up.  “You may have heard I divorced Harvey.  One day, I came home early from work and caught him wearing my lingerie.” She continued, “I got the kids and he got custody of Victoria Secret.”

Everyone was laughing and seemed to be enjoying themselves. The doorbell rang and I when I opened the door to Janet and Teresa, the mood suddenly grew dark. As they walked in, Janet looked at my dress and said, “Are we early?  It looks like you didn’t have a chance to change into a nice dress for the party.”  With that said, everyone knew that there was going to be trouble. 

Janet had always been the ultimate snob.  She had the talent of reducing anyone to tears with just one scathing comment.  Janet had grown up as the only child of older, wealthy parents.  She had lived a very privileged life and was never shy about to rubbing her wealth and status in the face of anyone whom she had come into contact with. Everyone who knew her was afraid of Janet and never dared to say no to her.  During our college days, Janet’s parents had always provided her with a lot of money and had urged her to travel through Europe during school breaks.  After knowing Janet for a while, it’s obvious why her parents encouraged her to go away.

 We all knew that Janet’s nastiness stemmed from her own insecurities, but we still feared her commentary.  Janet could have taken the sport of hurling verbal barbs to the Olympics if only there had been a venue for it.  Although it had not been discussed, everyone at the party was hopeful the she had grown out of it.

Teresa had always been Janet’s side-kick, her flunky, her puppet.  Janet’s insecurities were only out done by Teresa’s fear of her.  Teresa’s function in their relationship had always been to agree with and enable Janet’s behavior.

We all reverted to our youth related awkwardness, and waited silently for Janet to unleash her unsolicited opinions on us.  Although she had matured and was no longer outright nasty, she didn’t let us down.  As the years had progressed, she had learned to shroud their insults with empty compliments.

“Marci,” Janet said, while looking her up and down. “I see that you haven’t lost your personal flare for style.”  She added, “I would have never thought to wear those colors together.  You’re very brave.”

Teresa smirked and added, “You’re very daring.”

Marci looked wounded as she glanced down at her outfit.

It was Patty’s turn next.  “Even after having all of those children, you’re still brave enough to tuck in your blouse.  You go girl.”

“Go, girl,” Teresa repeated and looked to Janet for approval.

Patty moved her hands in front of her stomach as she glared at Teresa and asked Janet what the hell her problem was.

 She avoided answering Patty’s question and turned her back on us.  For a moment, we were hopeful that Janet had realized how nasty she was being and would apologize.  Patty, Marci, Joan and I glanced at each other and smiled.  While looking in the mirror that hung over the fireplace, Janet glanced at the reflection of Joan.  “I wish I could be like you,” she said and turned to face her.  “I have this problem.  Unlike you Joan I am continually changing my hairstyle to fit the trends.  You have managed to stick with that same hairstyle for what … fifteen years?”

Joan was speechless.

Always the hostess, I remembered that it is impolite to offend a guest in my home, so instead of telling Janet to shut up, I suggested that we sit down, relax and have some cheese.

Janet turned toward me. “So, you’re still single. It must be nice to have the luxury of being selfish.  I mean, is it that you never wanted to get married or that you never had the opportunity?”

Bitch! I though.  I changed the subject, “Who wants more wine?” 

Marci waved her hand and said shyly, “My husband doesn’t like for me to drink.”

Janet looked at Marci in disbelief.   “Is he here?” she said sarcastically. Laughter erupted from the other wives.  Marci looked down, embarrassed.

Turning her attention back to me, Janet said, “Did you ever think that you would get to be this old and still be single?  What do they call someone like you?”  She paused, “a spinster?”

“Frankly, I have a great life and to answer your question, no, I don’t think about it.”

“Pity,” she sighed and looked out of the corner of her eye at Teresa.

Pity?  What the hell is that supposed to mean?  I wanted to lunge across the coffee table and smack her so hard that she would resemble a Picasso painting, but, I remembered one of the rules of entertaining: It is poor form to pummel a guest in your home.

Instead, I took at deep breath and looked at my watch, “I suppose we should get going to the reunion.”  We all gathered our purses and stepped out onto the porch.  It had started to rain.

“You go ahead,” Janet said as she pointed across the street.  “I’ll take Teresa in my new Jaguar.”

“Fine,” I said and the rest of us got into my car.

As I pulled my car out of the driveway, I noticed that Janet was fiddling with the door handle of her car.  She had locked her keys inside.  Janet and Teresa turned and tried to get my attention by waving at me.

I looked at Janet who was holding her handbag over her head to keep the rain from ruining her trendy hair-do. “Pity,” I said and drove away.