Tag Archives: life

I’m baaaack. Anyone care for a drink?


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Hmmm. It looks like Elizabeth Williams Bushey could use a little, tiny drink.

Hmmm. It looks like Elizabeth Williams Bushey could use a little, tiny drink.

I’m BACK!

It’s really not the alcohol so much, really, as the cute little bottles it comes in.

No, really. I swear.

The alcohol I drank a LOT of came in a bottle of Gordon’s gin. And the part that sucked was when the tonic ran out. The part that only sort of sucked was that I had no limes – just the little slush of lemon juice I had left over.

It was okay, though. One finds hidden resources when one is desperate – and one finds, too, that a little lemon juice goes a long way – and one finds that one does not need lemon juice, or lime juice, after a few gin and tonics, after all.

Especially now that Peter is home.

Which sort of explains my absence from these pages.

We’ve renovated the backyard, which, if you’re a regular reader, up until now was pretty much Dog Turd City. Nice for Tucker Dog – not so much, though, an area that the girls and I were so much eager to go frolicking in ourselves.

Dog Turd Pudding jokes aside.

Peter came home, horrified – not only that I’d glued myself to the computer screen, but that the backyard was an overgrown, dog turdy mess.

Regulation dartboard. Watch the wires; your dart will fly right off.

Regulation dartboard. Watch the wires; your dart will fly right off.

In about a week, he’d installed a pool, built a slate patio, hung a dartboard, strung those little white twinkly lights all over the place (you know, the kind you see when it isn’t Christmas in restaurants?) and I was able to show off my artistic skills by printing up “end of school pool party” invitations for my oldest’s middle school friends.

He even took the props from my kids’ concert shows and decorated the yard and fence with them.

It went from looking like all that was missing was a car on cinderblocks to a virtual paradise.

I was stunned.

Hence, the alcohol.

Hence, the “blog? What blog? Real life has suddenly become WAY more interesting.”

And boy, can I throw a dart now. Even my youngest can. (We found a crate for her to stand on.)

Anybody wanna try me?

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Little Patience with Loser from Liverpool.


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Liverpool Football Club logoFirst of all, this is what started the fight. PLEASE tell me you find this funny.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4s2O9zTdjTg

My daughters and I sure do. This is Peter, falling into the snow.

If you knew how graceful Peter actually is – and how this pratfall is actually intentional, you’d laugh even harder.

NOW:

My daughter has a YouTube account. She is twelve years old. She has a digital camera that shoots 10-minute YouTube vids. What’s the harm? After all, she found the Charlie the Unicorn videos for me on YouTube, and that alone was worth letting her have the account.

So this jerk comments on the video:

Stephen Gerrard in a Superman uniform“it was kinda gay but yet i couldn’t turn away from the screen…i watched it like 5 times…i don’t know why!?!?”

HER: he fell on his face, that’s funny and how is that gay?

HIM: you don’t understand because your american!!!!

HER: and u r…?

HIM: english!
i wud lyk it if u didnt reply cus evry time i clik on dis page i hear ur laf!
it goes thru me!
ewe!

ME (enraged mother – unbeknownst to HIM – and, incidentally, someone who has BEEN to England, and who has ABSOLUTELY nothing against England OR against FOOTBALL):
I thought the UK was into that slapstick kind of humor. After all, aren’t you lot the ones who keep Rowan Atkinson making movies? (shudder.)

I could go on with more UK “humor” – which sometimes IS quite funny – but I’d’ve thought this one would go over quite big, really.

I mean, how many “Arse:nal” jokes are out there, polluting the world, anyway?”

(But sorry, you’ll never hear me shout “Manchester United.” I’m Arsenal, all the way.)

HIM: Uk humor as you call it is better than being american and laughing at the word pudding thank you very much!

So go get a life!

I messaged him back, explaining I was the girl’s mother, that Liverpool wasn’t far, didn’t he get tired of sounding like the Beatles, (I think I also said something about Lennon being a poser – yes, I definitely think I said that – because, well, it’s totally true), and that the Beatles statues festooning the city weren’t too heavy for me to pick up and throw at anyone hassling my kid.

He wrote back something unimaginative and misspelled – kind of getting hysterical about me insulting Liverpool – he’s a Liverpool Football fanatic – I can picture him, lonely, twitchy and high-strung, downing Guinness after Guinness, wishing desperately that some girl (or boy) would please, please, come talk to him, or that he could manage to say something appropriate just this once, instead of the stupid angry shit that always seems to come out of his mouth, poor sod.

So I gently tried to explain that I didn’t insult his beloved hometown – what I DID insult were (1) The Beatles, which of course are long overdue for some bitch-slapping, and (2) his own insults, and I even gave him some friendly suggestions (wasn’t that nice of me?)

“F’r’instance, here are just two examples of what you might have said:

“Is that your laugh, or were you suddenly attacked from behind?”

“Good Lord, I thought Beatles music was the worst sound on earth until I heard that laugh in your vid.” (Yeh, yeh, I know you lot have statues and all that worshippy bit in Liverpool. I still think Lennon was a poser, and McCartney was a pop-machine.)”

He wasn’t very grateful, though, for my Cyrano-style response.

So I finally lost patience and blocked him as a user.

After all, trading insults can be a lot of fun – if someone has even the smallest amount of intelligence, or wit. But just receiving “nyah, nyah, stupid! American!” gets old fast.

I went to his page. All the comments – all 378 of them – were from like, one or two people. I started to feel really sorry for the poor, sensitive wretch. Nobody really likes him, it seems, not even his other loser friends.

So it was just a sad little contact. Even my own kid outwitted him, really. Which is probably what peeved him in the first place.

Loser from Liverpool. I’m sure it’s a nice little place, although the Beatles were sure delighted to shake the dust of that place from their sandals as quickly as they could. You didn’t see any of them racing home to build their mansions there, did you?

“Ah, home again, Ringo.”

Didn’t think so.

Maybe all the statues made them feel weird.

I know at least one weirdo there. Well, I feel as if I know him. Ick. Or, as he would write: “ewe.”

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I’m no valedictorian, but…


Add to Technorati Favoritesgraduate celebratingI practically fell asleep at both my high school and college graduations, not to mention the endless graduations I was forced to attend during my stint as a PR/web diva while employed at a local community college.

Why these institutions relentlessly opt for the most boring speakers, year after year, spouting the same, clichéd advice, I will never in my life figure out.

Do speakers honestly think they’ve hit on something original and fun when they approach the podium with Dr. Suess’ “Oh, the Places You’ll Go?” For the love of all that’s holy – the book itself isn’t even that good. It just has Suess’s name on it, so the speaker thinks it’s got an automatic seal of “Aren’t I fun? Won’t this be the best speech EVER?”

Do speakers at roasting-hot graduations, facing crowds of hungover, soaking-wet individuals who are impatient to get back to drinking again, diplomas in hand, think that anyone – even the proud, ignorant parents – think anyone is really listening to a word they say? Especially if they say anything past three minutes or so?

Why these institutions  relentlessly opt for the  most boring speakers, year after year, spouting  the same, clichéd advice, I will never in my life figure out.I think they do. I think there’s something about a microphone that dangerously brings out the absolute worst in all of us. Get someone behind a mike – someone who most people see a few yards ahead, casually turn on their heels, hoping to avoid a “Hey, howya doing? Have you heard the latest about ME?” – and some people go simply MAD with the attention.

Now, they think to themselves, I get to say all the things that have been gathering in my heart for years. And I have all the time, under this blistering sun, to say it to a captive audience, clad in long, dark, hot, heat-gathering robes. And hats. Don’t forget hats. Which also keep the heat in.

I was once at a graduation where one professor with an axe to grind went on for over a half an hour, listing everything he thought was wrong with the world. Administrators wandered helplessly in the background, along with security, wondering if, in fact, they were going to need an actual vaudeville hook to remove him from the dais.

Not that anyone is ever likely to invite me to give a graduation speech, but here’s the one I’d give, in the event I were asked:

Very cool, folks. You graduated. Time for the touchdown dance. Guess what? Now that you will never be attending another mixer, no one will ever ask you again what your major is. No one will ever care. They only care that you graduated. Which you did. So yay, you. A lot of people don’t.

Now that you have, though, here’s what happens next.

You will not remember any of your Spanish, French, or whatever language you took. The quadratic equation? You actually WON’T ever need it; you were right – the unit prices in ShopRite are printed right there on the shelves when you’re trying to figure out which is cheaper, the big jar of peanut butter or the two little jars. That’s daily math for you. I liked math in college, but I’ve never needed the advanced calculus I took to live my life, and I’ve had more different jobs than Stevie Nicks has costume changes at a concert.

You will barely remember, in fact, much of what you learned. I recommend at some point in the future, actually, that you pick up a book called An Incomplete Education by Judy Jones and William Wilson.

Not to imply that you haven’t received a perfectly good and thorough education here at this fine institution – I’m just warning you. Real life – as in work, rent, bills, someday kids – has a way of driving from your ballooning brain things like philosophy, history, literary criticism, and all the things that have seemed so very important in the past few years.

This book? It’s a fabulous, one or two paragraph reference to catch you up at cocktail party time, so you don’t end up sounding like a picket-fence polishing, lawn-mowing, brain-dead, “I-gave-up” suburbanite.

I don’t know.You will hear, over and over, people asking you: what will you do now? I hereby give you permission to say: I don’t know. If you DO know, that’s awesome. Go for it. If you are all set for the next step – like medical or law school, and you put in a few years and hate it – I give you permission to quit and try something else. One of the happiest guys I know was a successful lawyer for years, then quit in his forties to become a broke high school English teacher.

You don’t have to know what you want to do with the rest of your life NOW. Try a bunch of things. It’s allowed. Don’t let anyone pressure you into the family business, or into one of the official professions. If you majored in finance, but your dream job is rodeo clown, go for it. The only person who actually lives your life is you.

The only opinion that really matters is yours.

You have an education now. That’s awesome. Now you’re off to the business off getting yourself some wisdom and judgment. That comes with experience. You can have a happy life if you follow your own path. Do whatever makes you happy, and the money will follow, trust me. You may have a few lean years, but if you stick it out, everything will be cool.

Believe in yourself, even if nobody else does. My aunt used to say if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. And being happy is a lot better life than being miserable. Seems obvious, but it’s amazing how many people are so bent on pleasing other people that they forget that – for instance, pleasing the people who just paid for their education.

Still – the people that paid for their education aren’t going to be living that life of yours, are they?

So get out there. Keep your ears open. Your mouth shut. Don’t think you’re done. This is just the beginning of your education. What you really learned in college is how to learn. So get out into the world and start really learning. And don’t ever stop; that’s when you get old.

Now? The fun part starts. Now? It’s just pass/fail. The trick? There is no fail until you give up. So just don’t ever give up, especially on yourself.

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Why is Britney Spears still famous?


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Britney SpearsWhy do I even know who Britney Spears IS?

I mean – I don’t listen to her music. (Shudder.)

I don’t care about her problems.

I don’t care that she shaved her head. If anything, I like her better that way.

She’s not a friend of mine.

Why do I know about her? Why is she even still famous?

Paris Hilton.

Why is SHE famous?

My 12-year-old told me yesterday: “Paris Hilton is so stupid, she tried to mow the lawn in pumps.”

Britney Spears, baldNow, that IS pretty stupid. So, what is Paris famous for? Stupidity? Because I have a fairly long list of people I’ve run into that I could funnel into the fame machine, with much funnier stories than just mowing the lawn in Manola Blahniks.

Like the time I went down to Chelsea for an interview with a printing company – and the boss, interviewing me, said with a swagger, “So what do YOU know about printing?”

I looked down at his nine fingers, and then held up my own intact ten, and replied: “More than you do.”

Now, which of us was stupider? You be the judge. Me? I was happy not to get the job.

Ashlee Simpson. It just bothers me the way she spells her name.

Ashley Tisdale? It just bothers me the way her acting style is basically a constant state of this-side-of-hysteria. I can just see her now, arguing angrily with her director. “What, that’s not funny? Fuck off. I’m hilarious, and blonde, besides.”

Brenda Song is good. She at least has got to be very smart. No one can portray stupidity as well as she does on “The Suite Life” without being extremely intelligent.

Ashton Kutcher is the same – he played a character so extremely simple on “That 70s Show” you’d wonder if brushing his teeth was a Herculean task, so you just KNEW he had to be a brilliant guy to pull it off. Now, I just dig him because he digs Demi Moore, who’s getting to be a “certain age,” and I think that’s cool, the same way I think Tim Robbins is cool for digging Susan Sarandon, who is just cool all over.

Now, Gwen Stefani? I like her. She’s turning herself into a real hegemony of a business monopoly. How many things is she selling now? Clothes, paper products, toys, excavation machines… she’s like, the Martha Stewart Omnimedia of the teeny-bopper set. Gotta admire that in a babe.

But the main thing?

Why do I even know or care at all about these people? They’re not my friends, I don’t have them over to my house for dinner or anything, and they certainly don’t give a flying fart about me.

It’s weird, this fame thing.

Now: I do performances all over the place, I write, and I’m middle-of-the-road well-known, so I get a tiny taste of what it’s like to have people come up to you who know you – but you don’t know them.

It’s weird, this fame thing.

Being a generally private person – when I’m on stage, I’m doing a show, and I’m all yours, but heck – if you’re not paying me, I’m not your entertainer, you know – I kind of get why famous people get irritated with strangers throwing themselves at them.

And I kind of get why my daughter gets frustrated with me for not caring about the famous.

I don’t know them. I like some of their work, don’t care about others.

Otherwise – I pretty much leave them alone – and remain mystified at the colossal success of the PR machines that make me aware of some people whose music, art or (questionable) talent I haven’t even heard. 

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Let’s Judge a Few Books by Their Covers.


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The Encyclopedia IdioticaDo you love the mall? Are you entranced by the pink glitteriness of LibbyLu? Are you lured by the dark emo moodiness of Hot Topic?

Or do you find yourself oddly nauseous after about a half an hour of that weirdly strong buttered pretzel smell that somehow manages to float its way from Macy’s at one end to Sears on the other?

Like me, do you find yourself gazing in the windows of Wet Seal and Express, wondering when you were thrown into that time machine and got sent to the seventies?

I was in Borders Books, one of the few stores in the Galleria Mall where I live that I can actually tolerate, a dangerous store, since I am prone to spend virtually all of whatever is in my pocket.

The reason I was there? I am raising two voracious readers, both of them girls who just LOVE the mall, and one of them, while waking me up for school – okay, yes, SHE woke ME up for school, what’s it TO you – stepped on and crushed my eyeglasses.

Having no vision insurance, I needed to go to the Get ’Em Quick & Cheap Eyeglasses R Us Store, which is not all that bad, and they know me there, besides. Don’t you LOVE places That Know You There? Don’t you LOVE Special Treatment?

Not that I am in the least bit deserving of any sort of Special Treatment, but like my dog, I galumph through the world, expecting everyone to like me. (And if they’re cute, they can pet me.) I talk to absolute strangers as if I’ve known them my whole life – sometimes as if we’re already having a conversation, for example, today:

Me, to strange (as in unknown – for all I know, she could be very nice) older woman, admiring my dog, who is with me at said Galleria: He’s great, isn’t he? And he’s quiet, too – except for the other night.

(I should add that we were headed opposite ways in the mall, as well, so my speaking up has forced the poor woman to stop.)

Her: Well, you know, someone could have been poking around your house, then.

Me: That’s EXACTLY what I thought. My kids were complaining they got woken up, but when a quiet dog barks, I say: let him bark, and lock the doors, don’t you?

Her (with a you-said-it-sister grin): I couldn’t agree more.

That was all. Nice little exchange.

Either way: we end up at Borders Books, Charybdis whirlpool of money-sucking peril – so I sent the kids to the kids section with the usual admonition: ONE BOOK EACH, which they know is total B.S., since the quieter and more invisible they are for as long as possible, the more likely it is mama will gather more and more books of her own – and mama can’t very well buy five books for herself and limit them to one, now can she?

Outsmarted them this time.

Pretty Little PincushionsI got sidetracked when I saw a book by this title: Pretty Little Pincushions. Who, I wondered, buys this book? Who, I wondered, needs more than one – maybe two – pincushions.

Now: I sew – a lot, and I sew well. My pincushions are neither little nor pretty. Purely functional, and if I were to put in the time on a sewing project, it surely would not be wasted on a pincushion.

Then I saw this one: Pretty Little Potholders. Yikes. I just bought new potholders, Pretty Little Potholdersafter the last ones I had finally went rancid, at one of the stores I actually like – the Dollar Store. Those, at least, are guaranteed – relatively – to keep my hands from burning.

What an awful lot of effort on frivolity. Plus the expense of the book.

Then I decided to grab my moleskine, tie the dog’s leash to my waist, and collect some more titles that I thought – purposely without opening the book – seemed absolutely silly to me.

You've Got MaleIn the romance section: You’ve Got Male, by Elizabeth Bevarly. This was annoying not only for the title, but also by the stupid way she spells her last name on what I hope is a pseudonym.

Texas Loving, by Leigh Greenwood. Also in romance. In fact, I personally wouldn’t read anything in romance, but then again, I get to have Peter.

The Truth About Chuck Norris: 400 Facts About the World’s Greatest Human, by Ian Spector. Even if it is a humor book, that’s not funny.

Then there was one that sort of seemed funny – just the title – but not worth buying. The Mystery of Sausage: And Other Ridiculous Blueprints. Paul Osborne, a magician, wrote this, whose other claim to fame is that his ancestors invented the Ferris Wheel. Okay.

The Mystery of SausageOne book I wished I’d had the money for was The Encyclopedia Idiotica. That one grabbed my attention. If any reader wants to send me that one, I’ll be very grateful.

Later, at dinner, I pointed out how ridiculous the pincushion book seemed to me.

My oldest brought up what I thought was an excellent point.

“It might not be ridiculous to everybody.” she said. “Old ladies might love it. Maybe they collect them. Maybe they even trade them. You know, like old lady baseball cards.”

So – every book has some use.

In the bookstore itself, I saw a man perusing the Sausage book. “What about that book made you interested in it?” I asked.

He smiled, sheepishly. “I’m just interested in a lot of weird stuff,” he said. “I have a lot of weird books.”

I pointed out another to him. “Did you see The Physics of Superheroes?”

He reached for it excitedly.

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Blue hair. Big deal.


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Anita Renfroe makes every mother feel normal, and for that, I am absurdly grateful. Her Mom Song, featuring lyrics she’s written, set to the William Tell Overture, is racing around the world via the Internet and YouTube now, with over a million viewers and counting.

When my nine-year-old brought a box of blue hair dye to me in Rite-Aid, I took it from her, looked skeptically at the box, and handed it back to her.

“Put this right back where you found it, darling,” I said. Reaching for the box next to it, I explained: “Your hair is much too dark for this to work. You need to bleach your hair out first. Otherwise the blue won’t show.”

I consider myself a – mostly – typical mother. But later, strolling down 82nd St., she attracted attention. One little girl pointed, and stage whispered, “Mama, that girl has blue hair.

I began to wonder. Who pays attention to anything in New York City?

Blue hair. Big deal. My older daughter, at eleven, sports a rather unnatural shade of red. I’ve been letting them create their own personas since they were old enough to want their own looks.

My nine-year-old still can’t quite match her clothes reliably. Any blue in her closet: print, plaid, Pucci – combines with any other. It’s truly dazzling, but delightful.

It works: she’s always had to beat back the admirers. Not one kid in her class razzed her for the blue do, either.

As Mother’s Day approaches, it occurs to me: there’s no autopilot, but like pregnancy, despite attempts at control, this is a natural process, ongoing before we hopped into the generational stream, continuing long after we jump out.

Take pregnancy: you certainly can’t ignore it. Eat right, keep in shape (wait, hang on, that’s kind of funny), lay off alcohol and caffeine, sleep when you can (until the last furlough when sleep is impossible, because of the torpedo trying to fight its way out), and obsess over your stack of gestational books. (“What To Expect When You’re Carting Around 25 Pounds of A Kicking Stranger.”)

Still, pregnancy marches on; nature takes its course. The laissez-faire pregnant people seem to do just as well as the uptight ones do. Honestly, babies are lucky we’re not in charge of the whole complicated mess.

Same with mothering. We’re sort of wired for it. Anita Renfroe is a writer and comedian – certainly not your average mom – and yet her lyrics resonate with every living mother on the planet, typical or not.

My kids’ dad looked at me last night when I said: “I’m a typical mom,” as though I’d said: “I’m an anteater,” with an indulgent look over the top of his eyeglasses.

“Um,” he started, flailing for tact, “ya think? No.”

Having sworn a vow to avoid “Because I say so,” I have gone to near-ridiculous lengths to explain things to my kids, and to allow them freedom of choice whenever possible. Don’t want the cough medicine? Okay, cough all night. Don’t want the Tylenol? Unless your fever’s out of control, okay – suffer.

But when one of them had pneumonia, and needed antibiotics, I accessed the Internet, a medical encyclopedia and a small sketchbook to show her exactly how the lungs, the alveoli and the bronchioles were filling up with fluid and she would drown in her own mucus if she didn’t cave in and swallow the tasty bubble gum liquid.

Still, I say – more frequently than I care to admit, but hey, if Anita Renfroe can do it, then so can I: “Because I said so, that’s why.”

I have also said: “If Alexis/Rachel/Sierra jumped off the Empire State Building, would you?”

Of course, the response was: “Was she bungee-jumping? Then maybe.”

I have said: “Pick up this pigsty.”

“Don’t give me that face.”

“Who do you think you’re talking to?”

“I said no.”

“Do you know how lucky you are?”

“No one appreciates a darn thing I do around here.”

“Try cleaning toilets, then get back to me about how tough you have it.”

“Of course I’m not your friend. I’m your mother. That’s better.”

“No, you can’t call me Elizabeth.”

I have had that shuddering experience of hearing my own mother’s words come out of my mouth; words I never thought I’d say.

Once, my friend saw me beating potatoes with an electric beater. “No masher?” she said. I showed her my bent masher; she laughed, and exited the kitchen, wine glass in hand.

My mother came into the kitchen next. “Beaters?” she asked, innocently. My entire body stiffened.

“What’s wrong with beaters?” I asked defensively.

Years later, my older daughter, having just learned to scramble eggs, was at the stove.

“You know, you might have better luck with a different spatula,” I suggested.

“What’s wrong with this spatula?” she asked, defensively.

I flashed back to my own mother, and thought of all the words flowing in the generational stream, of the power a mother has over a daughter. Those words we have wired into us, that we pass onto our daughters and sons have enormous power – to hurt, to heal; to encourage or to dismay.

“You know what?” I backpedaled. “Actually, you’re doing great. They smell good – would you mind making some for me?”

She brightened up. “Sure,” she said, with the same excitement you save for a question like, “Want to go to Great Adventure?”

Best breakfast I ever ate. Full of love, life, and the history of a hundred thousand mothers and children.

Thanks, Anita Renfroe, for telling us that story in less than three minutes.

View this delightful video:

The Mom Song.

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Smoke the Guilt Away.


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Elizabeth Williams Bushey self-portrait, smoking with I exited the store today, after some retail therapy, new blue jeans in a bag, and to my delight, saw another smoker just outside.

Thus, I expressed said delight, as I am wont to do. “Ah!” said, I with said delight. “Another smoker!”

The woman – one of those terrific women “of a certain age” whom I admire: you know the kind – they keep in shape, get their hair cut cool, still wear lipstick. On their lips. With lip liner, so it doesn’t bleed into all the cracks they’ve earned. Neat-looking lady.

Except for the part where she nearly jumped out of her skin like we all used to do in the girls’ room when Sister Josephine walked into the nicotine haze. I wanted to go: Calm down, ma’am, I’m not wearing a habit, or carrying a ruler.

“Oh my gosh – I thought – oh, how silly, I felt just like I was getting caught smoking.”

“You were,” I said, lighting one up myself. “Only I’m thrilled. Smoke up. The French smoke, they eat more fat than any other country in the world, and they drink wine every day. They’re thin and they live a long, happy life. Vive le France.”

She felt guilty, however. Guilty that she was enjoying a smoke. Guilty that since she’d stopped smoking in the house, she’d gained a few pounds.

“You look great,” I said. She did.

“Oh,” she waved at me. Have I mentioned? Every woman thinks she’s fat? They’re even willing to smoke themselves to death to be thin.

“Well, there’s always portion control,” I suggested.

“I do that,” she nodded enthusiastically.

For those who have not yet caught on to portion control, here’s the deal. What you get when you sit down to Ruby Tuesday’s, TGIFriday’s, Choose-Your-Own-Weekday EatFest is NOT a human-sized portion. One plate that your server hands you is a skosh or two more like the size of what ordinary-sized people feed a family of about four or so.

On massive plates.

And YOU eat it ALL. With appetizers first. Breaded, fried appetizers. Maybe even some bread and butter, and some iceberg-lettuce salad – or even salad bar, which is a hilarious choice, really, considering that most of the buckets are slop-ful of loose mayonnaise with beans floating in it, or cheese.

Then you ease yourself uncomfortably away from the booth, wondering why you seemed to fit better when you got there (did the coats expand, or the bags get more full?) Stomachs straining, wallets far emptier – especially if you indulged in fake micro-brew beers or wine – you head home after another night of consuming enough calories to sustain a small African village for a week.

Which you didn’t know, because it was all on one plate, after all. And after all, Mom always told you to clean your plate, because of the starving African children.

Which you didn’t know – and still don’t – how cleaning your plate could possibly help them out, but became deeply ingrained in your soul, creating a ferocious guilty monster inside you every time you see half-eaten food on your plate.

You know, forevermore, have my permission to leave it there, and not even take it home, even if you have a dog. (He shouldn’t be eating people food anyway – especially stuff that salty.)

But anyway, back to my new friend, who was feeling terribly guilty, and whose name happened to be Bernice.

Poor guilty Bernice was simply unable to enjoy her poor cigarette: she couldn’t even hold it comfortably, unlike myself, who was standing loose-limbed next to her, loving the warm spring air, my bag of $10 Calvin Klein jeans (TJ Maxx really IS a steal), and taking in long, unhealthy, but stress-relieving drags.

I turned again to Bernice, who was fluttering around, trying to figure out where she was going to put the butt. (Me? I field-strip them, pack the butt in the box and throw them away when I find an appropriate spot. When anyone’s looking, that is. I admit, sometimes the world is my ashtray.)

“Bernice, don’t feel guilty. Guilt is a waste.”

“Oh, but I do,” she said.

“Guilt makes people feel badly about themselves. People who feel badly about themselves aren’t motivated to do better in the future.”

“Oh, but I feel very guilty today. I’m here shopping, and my husband is at chemo.”

Uh… she had me there. Good luck with the death treatment, honey. I’m going shoe-shopping. But, still…

“Bernice, you can’t feel guilty. Seriously.”

She stopped dead in her tracks. I could feel it, palpable in the air: the challenge. What could I possible volley back to that one?

“Bernice, you’ve flown on airplanes, right?”
“Dozens of times.”

“What does the flight attendant tell you to do?”

Don’t you just HATE when people make you GUESS? I didn’t leave her hanging very long.

“Put the orange oxygen mask on THE GROWNUP first. THEN put the little mask on the child. Why? Because otherwise you’ll pass out and die, and then where will the child be? Dead, too. You have to take care of yourself, first, or you’ll be no good to anyone else.”

“I TOLD him that this morning. I made him his breakfast. All he had to do was ZAP it, but he wants me to do everything for him!” Bernice said it in the same voice you use when you say: “I know! How COME the Professor never gets it on with Ginger or MaryAnn? He’s single; he’s not gross. What is there, saltpeter on Gilligan’s Island or something?”

“I told him,” Bernice went on, “that I’m training him to be an invalid – that’s what I said, I told him: I’m training you to be an invalid.”

I took a rare break from my usual ha-ha self (yes, I can even make cancer funny) and spoke softly. “Bernice, when I was still living with my parents, my favorite uncle came to live with us. He had terminal colon cancer, so I’m no stranger to living with and caring with cancer patients. Trust me: you need to keep that oxygen mask on yourself – and he needs to take care of himself, too. It’ll keep him strong, and might even help him recover.”

We used to call ourselves The Amateur Nursing Association; people came to our house to die. You were wondering, maybe, where I acquired this black sense of humor of mine?

“Have fun shopping, Bernice. Don’t feel guilty.” I smiled at her.

“I will,” she said, much more enthusiastic and relaxed than she was before.

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I’ll bet you think this song is about you. Don’t you? Don’t you?


Add to Technorati FavoritesElizabeth Williams Bushey self-portraitIn the days when dinosaurs ruled the earth – scratch that – in the days before time began, before anything in the universe ever happened, before Star One blinked into existence in the Heavens and the galaxies coalesced into being, before Big Bang, Creation, or Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-Theory of How Life Began…

That is, before my kids began Life – because, of course, nothing happened before the Movie Of Their Lives, Starring Them, with Us as Extras and Cameo Players began rolling in the Great Projection Room of the Universe – just as schoolteachers live in the classrooms and have ABSOLUTELY NO BUSINESS in 7-11, EVER, and doctors do not have FIRST NAMES so PLEASE stop calling Dr. Lynch “Patty,” MOM.

Back in THOSE days… I once knew a gentleman “of a certain age” who was, shall we say, rather confident in his appearance. So confident in his appearance was he that he made regular trips to the beauty parlor – oops, I mean, salon – more often than I have in my life, probably, and to his credit, he was fairly on target.

He was a looker, particularly for his age. He definitely didn’t look Elizabeth Williams Bushey self-portraithis age, that’s for sure, so when his sixtieth – count ’em, sixtieth – high school reunion came around, it was all he could talk about.

All… he… could… talk… about.

“Do you think they’ll think I look all right? I look all right, don’t I? For a guy my age?”

Glassy-eyed, I came to, sipped my house white and nodded as brightly as I could. At last, I could take no more, and finally said quietly: “I bet you think this song is about you. Don’t you? Don’t you?”
Elizabeth Williams Bushey self-portrait
He looked at me, puzzled for a minute, then gave me the pouty face, but he did have a sense of humor, and gave it a rest.

Happy ending, though: he WAS the coolest, thinnest, hippest guy there – with the thickest natural head of hair. So he earned it. The song really WAS about him.

So I thought of him today, when I had to drive forty highway minutes and accidentally left the makeup mirror down on my sunvisor, and kept catching a view of myself.

Dang, I thought to myself. “Who’s that pretty girl in that mirror there?”

“Who could that attractive girl be?”

Humming the tune from West Side Story, since I didn’t know the words, I broke out when I got to the part: “And I pity… any girl… who isn’t me… today…” ad-libbing: “Because she didn’t get the great results on her split ends with Citri-Shine that I did…”

So today, the song was all about me. Which, of course, no one at all noticed. Which, of course, was fine, because my philosophy is always that the only person who needs to be really pleased with you is YOU.

Taking THAT one step further, I did realize how very ridiculous I was, being so very pleased with myself and all, so I decided I would, for a change, make fun of my OWN vanity on a global Elizabeth Williams Bushey self-portraitscale, since I poke fun of everyone else, and I would take a picture of myself, looking at myself, in the car sunvisor – which turned out to be extraordinarily difficult.

So I came inside and took some more pictures of myself inside, which was even MORE vain of me, so I’m posting them, too, so you can all have a good laugh at me.

Still: you have to admit: it’s a fairly good hair day, despite the frumpy sweater.

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Speaking of naked…


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Very fat woman in undiesSpeaking of naked, aren’t you glad she isn’t?

Actually, aren’t you glad neither of these women are?

I keep explaining to my daughters that extremes – either way – are, well, downright icky.

Who wants to cuddle up to a pile of bones, held together somewhat loosely by thinly-stretched skin? Who wants to kiss an ashen, skeletal face that’s about ten minutes away from cadaverhood?

Not me. Even if I liked the ladies.

On the other hand, the thought of being smothered doesn’t appeal to me greatly, either.
Neither does the thought of finding those panties – or Very thin woman in red dressthat bra – in my laundry, either.

I can, however, imagine repurposing that bra as an awning on an outdoor gazebo in the backyard. Couple of wind chimes – you’re in business.

That, however, triggers a rather nasty image in my fetid imagination of those bulbous girls swinging freely, with their usual support instead shading several square yards of my property.

Think it hurts when they do? Flop around, I mean. Yikes.

Ordinarily, the excruciatingly perfect etiquette my Scarsdale, NY grandmother drilled into my head forbids me from commenting on anyone’s personal appearance, outside of “You look wonderful, darling.” That’s it, by the way. That’s all that’s allowed.

Even should someone show up to your wedding with an overturned flowerpot on their head, peat moss streaming down their face, one bare foot, a potato sack dress and accessorizing the ensemble with a tightly clenched pitchfork, all you are allowed to say – if you’re looking to be strictly polite is: “You look wonderful.”

Of course, one can say vastly more than that with tone of voice, one raised eyebrow, and a very slow inspection from head to toe as one tells the pitchfork bearer how wonderful they look. If you’re my Scarsdale grandmother. That’s the whole trick.

Etiquette, Grandma always reminded me, is to keep YOU from being embarrassed. It can work wonders, she advised, when wielded properly as a weapon.

But, like Ninja warriors, it takes years of training and practice to learn how to humiliate others with grace and aplomb. It helps a lot if you have a natural mean streak, or a talent for quick hurtfulness under pressure.

Take the famous Dorothy Parker, known for many things, but probably best of all for her ability to humiliate on cue. A young starlet tried to embarrass Parker at a Hollywood premiere when they nearly collided at the entrance. “Oh, Miss Parker,” chirped the starlet, heading, as young starlets do, boldly into territory she had no business being, “please do go in – after all, as they say: ‘age before beauty.’”

“Thank you, I will,” said Parker, tossing back over her shoulder, “after all, as they say: ‘pearls before swine.’”

Gotcha. Grandma was a dedicated sensei, but I never quite had the mean streak necessary to pull off snobbery. I ended up WAY too egalitarian, in the end.
Being a starving artist, too, makes it tough. When you’re paying for coffee in rolled-up pennies, insulting people is usually the last thing on your mind.

However, I digress.

The reason I feel at liberty to make any sort of comment on these women’s appearance at all is that they not only deliberately POSED for these pictures, but allowed them to be posted on the Internet, where I found them – to my everlasting shame, I don’t remember where, and so cannot give appropriate credit – and can thus bring them to your attention.

I myself am about a size 4, maybe a 6 on my fat days. I am lucky enough to be a sort of tiny person – annoyingly, so little that complete strangers find it okay to actually lift me in the air, as I may have mentioned earlier.

Still, in my own life, I have struggled with both weight gain – after a bout of postpartum depression with my first daughter, I must have, in my haze, thought that PopTarts were the answer – and also with anorexia. Real, honest-to-goodness, let’s see if we can survive on Altoids and cigarettes anorexia. So I have, in my past, resembled the skeleton in the red dress.

Looking back at a couple of pictures, I see now why so many people that I thought were annoying at the time were actually alarmed when they tried to casually suggest I perhaps indulge in a sandwich or three.

I didn’t used to think there was such a thing as too thin.

We all know there’s such a thing as too fat – and yeah, we’re all pretty mean-spirited about it. It’s the one thing nobody minds being right up-front about, either: if someone’s fat, we’re grossed-out.

Even fat guys don’t want fat girlfriends. (The nerve, really, because who really wants a fat boyfriend, even if he is rich? Okay, well how rich? Nice car rich, nice house rich, or nice portfolio rich?)

But the other day, driving along Main Street (yes, it really was Main Street, if you can believe the perfection of coincidence) I saw this enormously (excuse the pun) happy couple waddling (sorry, HAD to use that verb) along, holding hands. They were both extremely huge, but they were obviously extremely into each other, and I was missing Peter, who won’t be home until June, and I thought to myself: how terribly sweet that these two people found each other – and while many people wouldn’t find them all that attractive, perhaps, they probably see each other as the most beautiful people in the world.

And maybe they’ll have a lifetime of happiness – until their enlarged hearts give out and they drop dead at around forty.

In each other’s big arms.

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Embarrassment? I’m Bulletproof.


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Elizabeth Williams Bushey in concertI’m a grownup. That means I can eat frosting right out of the can if I want to. (Yes, I said the CAN. Is there anyone who still makes homemade frosting? Okay, then, you probably aren’t a parent with a job. And if you ARE a parent with a job, and you still make homemade frosting, and get everything else done you’re supposed to do, then you must be my very nice, but gobmackingly perfect sister. Please forward a package of your frosting in one of your gazillion extra organizing tubs.)

I have a vehicle. I can drive to the mall anytime I please. I’ve got a cell phone, too, complete with a butterfly charm from the Icing at the Galleria. How cool am I? I have a Fender Stratocaster electric guitar, and I rock with it. I even perform onstage. With a real wireless headset mike. (Testing. 1, 2, 3…) I am SOOOO AWESOME.

Oh, wait, I forgot – I’m the Dork of the Universe.

I’m someone’s mom.

Please do NOT TALK TO MY FRIENDS, MOM.

Please do NOT KISS ME, MOM.

Please DO NOT EMBARRASS ME, MOM.

Now: I, my own self, am nearly impossible to embarrass, being a rather outspoken, outgoing sort. (Anyone who sings in public doesn’t exactly have a low embarrassment threshold.) But one does have to remember what it’s like to NOT be a grownup.

We were in McDonald’s, happily enjoying our happy meals.

“Mom!” Urgency crept into my daughters’ voices – an alarm so deep I wondered for a moment if an armed gunman had entered the establishment.

I bent my head, the better to hear their agonized whispers.

“Ourfriendfromschooljustwalkedin. PLEASE DON’T EMBARRASS US.”

Okay. I don’t mind being considered a dork by my kids, even though in reality, I’m fairly cool. They’re supposed to think I’m a dork. I’m the one teaching them right from wrong, sending them to bed, etc. If they DID think I was cool, I’d be messing up.

But there I was, sitting quietly in McDonalds – a restaurant I don’t even like all that much – minding my business, not doing any of the things they generally hate, like talking to their teachers, or their friends’ parents, or performing.

I’ll admit my baser instincts got the better of me. C’mon, we all – a little bit – hate it that our kids don’t know how cool we really are, don’t we? Don’t we all wish, deep down in our black hearts, that our kids could have seen just how awesome we really are?

“You would have WANTED to be my friend when I was your age!”

Isn’t that sometimes what you want to shout? “You would have thought I was cool THEN!”

So, more than a little peeved about accusations before actions, I stood up.

“You mean, embarrass you by doing something like… dancing to no music at all?”

I began to dance. Slowly, deliberately… embarrassingly.

“Ohmygosh, ohmygosh, Mom, pleasepleaseplease sit down, I’m begging you!”

“Something like this? Is THIS what you’re afraid I might do? Or maybe…”

“MOM!”

I sat down with a smirk. “Eat your dinner. She didn’t see.” She didn’t. Naturally I was watching. I DO take care not to embarrass them. Whenever possible.

I do recall that feeling when you’re a kid. Grownups realize everyone else in the universe is so wrapped up in themselves that they’re not paying anywhere NEAR the amount of attention you once thought they were. But kids are still the center of their own universes – the heroes of their own movies, and everyone else is a cameo player.

Extreme self-consciousness is so vivid, so much a part of your life, that any hair out of place, any fold in the cloth of your shirt, any label that’s not up-to-the-minute current makes you feel like a pariah.

You know you’re a real grownup when you realize the “pariahs” – the ones who dance to their own music – are who make the world so very, very interesting.

Kids love McDonald’s because it’s predictable; it’s always exactly the same chicken nuggets, precisely four, precisely cookie-cuttered into the same eerie, unnatural shape.

We grow when we peek beyond the predictable, to investigate: who that is dancing around the corner?

Look: no, really. Look.

(photo credit: © 2006 Tom Bushey)

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