Monday, March 31, 2008


You CAN Do It Yourself!

I just finished reading an advance copy of "Were You Raised By Wolves?" by Christie Mellor, friend and author of "The Three Martini Playdate". This book is for twenty-somethings and I suggest it for any young person in your life who makes you smack your forehead on a regular basis. It covers the basics they should really be conversant in now that they are adults such as how to make a bed, how to throw a cocktail party, and how to hold an intelligent conversation.

Inspired by this, I've decided to come up with my own collection of things a woman should be able to do by the time she is forty. Yes, you have "guys" (husbands, handymen, contractors) who do this stuff for you but wouldn't you feel good if you knew you didn't need "guys" to do this? And wouldn't you feel empowered to know you (and by extension your daughters) don't need a man to take care of basic household/life stuff?

Because I'm too lazy to write an entire book on the topic, I will just list them out here.

Feel free to let me know what I forgot on this list at

THINGS A WOMAN SHOULD KNOW HOW TO DO BY THE TIME SHE IS 40 (A man should too, but the world thinks men already know all this even if they don't)

1. Wallpaper and paint a room: Painting is easy if you put enough tape over the stuff you don't want painted. Wallpapering is trickier and best tried with an experienced friend or parent the first time. Call me, I'll come help you. You do not need to pay someone to do these things, especially in the kids' rooms. Pay the pros to paint the dining room cranberry red. You can do everything else.

2. Install a light fixture: Remember to flip the switch in the fuse box before attempting this--don't know how to do that? Well you should. After that it's as simple as attaching red to red and black to black.

3. Tie a tie: on you or your spouse/son.

4. Change the furnace filter: more than once a year, please.

5. Drive a stick-shift: otherwise you'll pay double when you rent a car in Europe.

6. Mow the lawn: geez, what kind of princess are you?

7. Use crank thingy under the garbage disposal: saves you a ton in repair bills.

8. Fix a jammed washing machine: enter the error code into google and you'll find step-by-step directions.

9. Check your oil/air in tires: so simple I'm not going into it

10. Use a drill/be able to hang pictures or shelves: If you wait for hubby to do this you would never have anything on your walls. Go ahead, it's just a hole in the wall, you can fill it later when you re-paint the room.

11. Plan an entire vacation for four in Europe: Includes rental cars and train passes. Yes your hubby likes to do this but what will you do when he's gone some day? Presumably you will still want to travel and the pool boy is no good at this stuff.

12. Do your own taxes and financial planning: see above


1. Drywalling: Okay, I don't know how to do this but my neighbor Sue does. Though, as she'll say modestly, "I'm not great at taping."

2. Dig a stump out: This involves finding the taproot and goes a lot easier if Sue helps you.

3. Install a faucet/sink/vanity: I did this once and decided it's definitely worth paying the plumber to do. What would take him or her an hour or so took me a whole day. Still, I get a little thrill when I look at it.

4. Move any piece of furniture in your house by yourself with the help of a beach towel: I have found I can no longer move mattresses by myself up and down stairs. I'm slowing down I guess. But you can still move other furniture around by putting it on the towel then pulling the towel.

Monday, March 17, 2008


Amy Winehouse and Lassie--both wearing too much eyeliner.

Today's topic is "Is it appropriate for a 7th-grader to wear eyeliner?" This topic was thrust upon me by my own 7th-grader who insists that "all the other girls are wearing it." HA! I accept that sentence for the challenge it is. I set out to find out if this were indeed true. I emailed all my friends in the neighborhood who have 7th grade girls.

Of course, what I found out was that not all of them do. But a lot more of them do than I expected. Especially because I consider eyeliner to be a very advanced form of makeup--one I still have not mastered and is usually worn by girls who have names like Britney and Lilo and hookers. Unlike mascara or lip gloss which can enhance what's already there, eyeliner is just not natural (unless of course you are a raccoon).

I have concluded that I am just not ready to allow her to wear it but that I will probably allow it sooner than I would have been comfortable with (her wedding day?).

But in soliciting opinions on this topic one of the moms I respect the most in the neighborhood had the best response of all. So here it is--wisdom from Jennifer K., wise mom in my town and one of those voices of reason we should all listen to more often:

"I am genuinely frightened by the idea that [eyeliner could make a young girl look better]. I believe that this is the same logic that is used between young girls as they try to "help" one another "improve themselves". It scares me that any middle schooler should ever feel that there is something they should do to "look better", short of brushing their teeth on a regular basis and changing their underwear (both which seem to be almost too much to ask of my sixth grade boy).

I know I am in the minority here and to be quite honest about it the issue for me is not the eyeliner or any of the make-up, it is the message that wonderful young women are forced to process, internalize and respond to on a daily basis about their appearance. There is so much pressure to be the perfect student, the perfect daughter, the best athlete, the most wonderful performer that to have them feel that they don't measure up physically and should work on finding ways to "look better" seems to me to be just too much.

While I always want Maggie to choose clothing that is flattering, not inappropriate or completely out of the norm (sometimes this a huge challenge) but beyond that a focus on her appearance or anyone else's worries me. Again, not having much to offer in the pretty gene pool maybe I just don't understand the value of being pretty . As an overweight, often frumpy, gray haired middle aged Mom I don't ever want my kid to use pretty or making the effort to look better to determine anything about herself or others. I certainly understand not wanting to be seen in the drop off line at school in the mornings when I have my wet hair, baseball cap, sunglasses, jammies, no-bra and morning breath but if you see me I hope after a smile and cheery good morning you don't notice or care and are no longer frightened by my appearance. If I was worried about "looking better" my kids would be tardy all the time.

Yah, I know I am old and this acceptance is part of aging but I think that my Mom gave me a great gift as a kid never suggesting I needed to improve my appearance (except for those really tight Gloria Vanderbilt jeans she insisted I stop wearing) and I am trying to give that (although I have no way of knowing if I am getting there or not) to my daughters. I hope that to help my girls "look better" I get them to understand that a bright smile, warm greeting and caring demeanor go a lot further than make-up or hair color. I guess it is my naivete about things here "on the northshore" and apologize for ranting but I am genuinely scared about this and truly believe that all of these girls are lovely, I wish they knew it, believed it and could help one another believe it

I can honestly say that I probably won't notice if Grace is wearing make-up or not because all I see when I look at her is the kind empathetic person that I got to know at the plays. She is going to make a great adult that I will be proud to know, with or without eyeliner.

By the way, if Atticus decides to start wearing eyeliner........I will NOTICE!!!!!!"

Fair enough Jennifer. And thanks for telling it like it is, as always.