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Monthly Archives: March 2013

Share the Joy

supreme.courtSo today, the Supreme Court heard arguments about the constitutionality of California’s ban on gay marriage. I have never understood why this is such an issue for opponents of gay marriage since really, how does it affect anyone other than the people getting married? I mean, I am a straight person and I am married, but if I were still single, it’s not like I would worry that that gay guys would take all the straight guys out of the marriage market. In other words, it wouldn’t affect me at all. And I guess, according to recent polls, more and more Americans are coming to the same conclusion.

But what really made me crazy today was reading what Charles Cooper had to say about the definition and purpose of marriage – according to him, it’s procreation. Really? Just having babies and we’re done? Justice Kagan responded humorously about how that would affect older couples getting married, since the assumption would be that they would not be procreating past the age of 55. Cooper’s response was it would not be constitutional to ban older people from marrying. OK then.

And, of course, there are the couples who marry and choose not to have children. What about them? Would they still be allowed to marry in this insanely narrow definition of the institution of marriage? Would you have to fill out a form with questions about your procreative plans before being handed a marriage certificate?

infant.imageBut ultimately, the thing that is a very personal, hot-button issue for me is, what about those of us who are unable to produce biological children? If you carry this argument to its logical conclusion, after a certain number of years and fruitless procedures, should our marriage be dissolved? I was unable to conceive. So, at what point do you tell me that I should not have been allowed to marry? That my marriage isn’t really a marriage? That there should have been some kind of test given to me at the time of our engagement to see what my level of fertility was. And, if I didn’t pass, I’d have to return the ring, and hang my head in barren shame. Fortunately, we don’t live in Mr. Cooper’s world, and my husband and I were able to adopt our beautiful children. The same as many other couples. Does this make any of us any less a family?

image.wedding.ringsBasically, I feel that a person who loves another person should be allowed to marry that person. And then one day realize they married a slob. Or a control freak. And then wake up and suppress a scream the first time they see that person without makeup. And deal with their snoring all night. And fight over money and the kids and in-laws. After all, why should heterosexual couples keep all that joy just for ourselves?

 

 

 

 

Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved

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FOLLOW THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD

Sometimes, you get a sign from above that can’t be ignored. Of course, you need to understand it’s a sign. You might have to get whacked over the head if you’re not one who easily recognizes subtleties. But at some point, once the massive headache has subsided, you realize that you have strayed off-course and somehow need to find your way back to the path that will take you to the magical land of Oz.

Let’s start with how I’ve gone astray. I blame it mostly on the luck of the draw. In the past 12 years, I’ve had two surgeries that basically changed my genetic make-up from a person with a healthy weight and healthy lifestyle, to a shrieking, angry person who does battle with the scale and the mirror each day, trying to figure out what the heck happened to my once-decent body.

These body mutations now include high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high weight numbers. And the doctors keep telling me it’s normal aging. Uh, no, I beg to differ. I exercise, never eat anything even slightly enjoyable, largely thanks to the fact that I can no longer tolerate gluten – no bread, no pasta, no cookies, no cake, essentially leaving me two options: cardboard and birdseed.

image.scaleAnd now, the dirty admission. In spite of what all the experts suggest, I am fanatical about weighing myself each morning. On two scales. First, on the newer, digital scale. Once I am suitably mortified by that scale’s horrific news, I lurch over to my old, non-digital scale, hoping for a different result. Which pretty much never ever happens. The keening and wailing begin as I digest the reality that these numbers are not going to change for the better. But I can’t help myself. Because every once in awhile, the number actually goes down. Like when I have the stomach flu. Or food poisoning. That lasts for days and days on end.

Anyway, then came this morning. First, I weighed myself on the digital. The number had jumped by 3 pounds from 3 days ago. Of course it did. For absolutely no reason. This is the punishment I get for even hoping it might have gone down since all I ate yesterday was an orange, some lettuce and, as I said, birdseed. Then, I went onto my old, non-digital scale. I heard it groan. Then I heard a thud. When I looked down, it had died. Seriously. It just couldn’t take it anymore. And so, it’s gone.

I know scales aren’t supposed to die. It has to be a sign. I need to try once again to change my ways. To find my way back to the decent, much healthier body I had 12 years ago. But, how to make this slamming on my head stop, and how to find my way back to the Yellow Brick Road, and – oops, not Oz. Not exactly. Why didn’t I realize it before? All I need to do is look at the man behind the curtain on TV. The man who has all the answers. Just find me a pair of ruby slippers, and I’ll skip down the Yellow Brick Road as fast as I can! Straight to Dr. Oz!

Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved

ABRACADABRA – Re-post

Remember Etch A Sketch, the popular sketching toy where you could turn the dials and draw anything you wanted and then just shake the thing to make it magically disappear? And that cardboard pad with the plastic sheet on top where you could draw with a stick, then lift the plastic sheet, and once again, make it all vanish? My guess is that these toys came from the mind of a frustrated mother who had one too many “masterpieces” taped to her refrigerator (in the days before kitchen magnets).

The strangest thing has started happening to me recently. I, too, have started to disappear. Actually, I have started becoming invisible. It is a disconcerting phenomenon, to say the least. Perhaps you have been finding yourself becoming invisible, too. I don’t mean the kind of invisible like Harry Potter and his invisibility cloak. I mean the kind that seems to occur anywhere you turn once you have passed a certain birthday involving a 4 and a 9. One day you’re here, the next day, well, who really cares?

It starts with our faces. One day you wake up and notice that your lips seem to have blended seamlessly into your face. No longer do they have that dewy youthful rosy glow to them. Now they are just pasty, pale spacers for our teeth. And what about our eyelashes? Remember eyelashes? Long, dark, sensual eyelashes that made our eyes seem alluring and captivating? Well, where did they suddenly disappear to? Once you pass that birthday with the 4 and 9 in it you suddenly need a highlighter delineating exactly where the eyes and the lips on your face used to be.

It’s bad enough that we find ourselves becoming invisible. But when it comes to the media, where have all the 49+ women gone? Don’t ask the advertising agencies. Take a look at the commercials for cars, clothing, restaurants – you’ve got the idea. Everything has to do with sex. We try to discourage our teens from having sex, but when you look at the barely clad nymphs staring poutily back at you in magazine and TV ads, what do you want to bet that most of them aren’t a day over 21? Exactly what kind of message are we sending to our kids? We want you to abstain, you are too young for this, but look at these clothes you can wear just like the rock stars and actresses who bare everything and then proclaim their virginity. Yeah, right.

And let’s talk about TV shows. Once a woman is creeping up near the range of the decade beginning with a 5, she has lost her luster. She is banished to the role of wise/sarcastic/pitiful (take your choice here) friend/mother/desperate single person. Her hip/trendy children/neighbors/co-workers are cast as young and exciting and yes, sexy. She might as well be wearing a paper bag over her head. For the most part, make-up companies have discarded beautiful, mature actresses to replace them with 20-something barely-out-of-school stars in ads for make-up for older women! And the logic to that is….?

We are pegged into little categorical boxes by our age. Once we pass 35, we enter a whole new box. And if we pass 49, we are shipped off into geriatric land where we no longer have any hope of being seen as a human being at all. While most women in their 40’s, 50’s and beyond are active, youthful and often feeling the best about themselves that they have ever felt in their lives, outside forces are conspiring to tear down that wall of self-esteem in order to make them feel that they must do everything they can to look young again or they are of no use to the rest of society. They are commanded to buy make-up, moisturizers, vitamins, join a fitness club, do botox, spend every dime they have in order to try to re-capture the pre-pubescent angst of their youth. Ponce de Leon never did find the fountain of youth here in America, so instead we look for it in a jar or a pill. Having discussed this very subject with many of my wise and mature female friends, I could not find one of them who would trade the wisdom and experience of their years to return to the cliques, insecurities and pressures of their teenage years. So why are we being made to feel like we should? Who exactly is running the show here?

I find it liberating to go grocery shopping wearing a T-shirt and sweat pants and not feel that I have to fling myself behind the endcap display to hide from someone I know. I am now able to give a speech in front of a large group and not have my heart do a ratatatat in dire fear that I might somehow embarrass myself and be banished from the rest of humanity for life. I enjoy not feeling compelled to update my wardrobe every five minutes so that I won’t be the broken-hearted recipient of looks of disdain and pity from my peers.

Women, unite! Stand up for yourselves. We are beautiful, vibrant, and yes, sexy. I’ll be right out there to join you as soon as I can get my mascara and lipstick on, OK?

Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved.

WATCH OUT FOR FALLING SHOES (RE-POST)

I believe people can be divided into two groups. I’m sure you have your own ideas of which two groups we all fit into. But it’s become clear to me lately that there is a conspicuous difference in the way people think. It all comes down to how you answer the following question: When something good happens to you, what is your first thought?

OK, those of you in Group #1 think something like, “How great! Life is good and I’m happy.” As you might have guessed, I am not in Group #1. Those of you who stand by my side in Group #2 already know that your thought process goes something like this: Oh no, something good just happened, when is the *@#% going to hit the fan? We are only too familiar with the principle that for every good thing that happens to us, the universe can only remain in balance by showering at least double or triple that amount of bad things back upon us. Only then can we relax. I’m not saying that we will be met with actual disasters. Usually, the balance comes in the form of annoying and frustrating events that sap away at any joy that might have come our way.

Recently, I had several good things happen to me. I rejoiced momentarily. I shared the good news with friends and family. And then I waited. Retribution was swift and unyielding. First, came in the form of our annual trek up North, thankfully scheduled before the most recent restrictions on liquids and gels carried onto planes, as my family usually travels with enough water and Propel to create our own swimming pool. Anyway, we were leaving mid-afternoon and arrived at the airport about an hour and a half before our flight. We waited patiently for our time to board. As it became obvious that we were not going to board the plane on time, people started looking around, waiting for an announcement which finally came in the form of an announcement that the plane wouldn’t be leaving on time due to a “ground situation” on the other end, but we would receive an update in half an hour. We all looked at each other, wondering if anyone understood airlinespeak. When the customer service agent noticed a horde of confused passengers approaching, she quickly translated that there were thunderstorms at our destination and we’d have to wait to take off. Each half hour, we received the news that we would get another update in another half hour. After two hours, we were assured that the plane was waiting for us right outside the gate, and that we should please remain where we were as we would definitely be taking off soon. As this sounded reasonable, everyone obediently complied. Three hours after we were due to take off came the following announcement: Ladies and gentlemen, your flight has been cancelled. Please go downstairs to find a ticket agent and re-book your flight.

Everyone was immobilized for a second, then the race to find someone who could help us began. It turned out that there were no more flights that day to our destination so I re-booked for the wee hours of the morning. The next morning, as we blearily approached security, the woman looked at our tickets and informed us that we were tagged for extra security. We wondered why. We were informed that it was because we had just booked the flight. But, we protested, our flight was cancelled last night and the airline re-booked us on this flight. No matter, we were informed. We’d have to go through the super duper screening. Now, I’d rather the airlines be safe than sorry. Honestly. But having our fellow passengers stare curiously at us as we were patted down in front of everyone and to have every inch of our carry-on luggage searched was just a tad embarrassing. And we continued receiving curious stares by everyone in our general vicinity while we once again waited to board our plane.

Once at our destination, I won’t even go into what happened on Day #3, but take my word for it, the debt to good news continued getting repaid.

Several weeks later, we took a quick trip to the beach before school started. It is normally about a 4 ½ hour drive to the beach. It took us close to 7 hours, thanks to the geniuses who decided there doesn’t need to be an actual highway once you approach the beach, but instead, travelers are required to sit at every traffic light at every corner for a 20 mile stretch which adds 2 hours to their trip, so that by the time they do arrive at the beach, they won’t even care what their accommodations look like or how far they end up from the water.

On our second night there, we decided to run up our charge card even further and go to one of the big extravaganzas that also include a dinner. Since I don’t eat meat, I asked for the vegetarian meal, a request, I’m sure, they don’t get too often. But my dinner tasted fine, we all had a great time, and headed back to the hotel. Within two hours, I was so sick, that I basically had to get mopped off of the bathroom floor. Yes, I had food poisoning. For hours. The next day, my son was stung by a jellyfish.

We are home once again. Maybe I should just stop traveling. But I don’t think that’s it. As a member of Group #2, I know why all of these things happened. But I feel as if I’ve paid my debt for the good news I received earlier this summer. Actually, I think I’ve overpaid the debt. So maybe the next time I have something good happen, I won’t have to worry quite as much about the other shoe falling. Right.

Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved

WHERE HAVE ALL THE GRAY HAIRS GONE? (re-post)

(This is a reprint of a column I wrote several years ago, but it is just as relevant today as when I first wrote it and for my first post, I wanted to put this out there again – please let me know your thoughts)

Do you remember the days when people actually looked their age? When we think back to our grandparents, memories include family dinners, rounded figures and…gray hair. Gasp! Yes, women of a certain age actually had gray or even white hair. Sometimes blue hair as well. But back then, seeing a woman in her sixties with dark hair was as rare as, well, seeing a 60-year-old woman today with gray hair.

Where did all the gray-haired ladies go? They went the way of record players, black and white TV and using baby oil as suntan lotion. Think about it. When was the last time you saw a woman who had gray hair? Men have it so much easier. As they age, they become more distinguished. When their hair starts turning gray, they become silver foxes. When our hair grays, we become invisible.

Look at the TV and movie landscapes. Actresses past the age of 30 are terrified of disappearing off the map completely or being relegated to doting mother or catty mother-in-law roles. They firm up, tone up, slim down, spray on tans and secretly meet with their plastic surgeons in the hope that no one will be able to discover their true age. Think of the actresses in their sixties and seventies with jet-black hair or peroxide blond hair that you have recently seen in the media. Now, try to come up with one actress of the same generation who you have seen with gray hair. Several months ago, one of the morning talk shows had a short discussion on this subject and the name of the late Jessica Tandy came up as an example of a lovely actress who was unafraid to show her true age. She was a beautiful and talented lady, and also, it seems, the last of her kind.

The baby boomers and subsequent generations are fixated on youth. It’s as if we can fool ourselves and everyone else into believing that we are eternally young. Hence, we refuse to age, both physically and emotionally. Look on the shelves of any bookstore and, along with half the shelves bulging with diet books, you will find multitudes of books on the subject of staying younger, looking younger and feeling younger. There is nothing inherently wrong in wanting to be healthy and strong for as long as possible. But, let’s face reality. Once you’ve hit your forties, you can no longer be considered young (unless you are running for president). For a harsh dose of reality, hang out with real teenagers and see what they think of your feeble attempts to pass as ‘with it.’ (I just dated myself with that expression, didn’t I?)

Why do we punish women for daring to get old? Once we are past child-bearing age, our societal worth plummets along with our own self-esteem. We try to convince ourselves that we are happy this way; that we no longer have to worry about being perfect or stylish or beautiful. I get humorous emails almost daily from various friends reminding me of how lucky we are to be the age we are now because we are liberated and free to let it all just hang out. That we can speak our minds without the fear of repercussions. But if no one is paying attention to us, who is actually listening when we spout off?

I admit that I am caught up in the grip of the youth obsession as much as anyone else. I panic when gray hairs reappear in the salon-created hair color of my youth. I groan when I am shopping at the department store and realize that in order to retain any shred of dignity, I cannot even think of trying on the styles that I find cute and stylish as they are only suited for my teenage daughter. I cringe every time I look in the mirror and wonder whose face is staring back at me, as it most certainly clashes with my own much-younger perception of myself.

We are a society where image is king. When it is discovered that the emperor has no clothes, the spin doctors frantically go to work to convince us that wearing no clothes is the newest thing. Unfortunately, the newest thing gets old very quickly. Unless they manage to hide the gray.

 

Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved

HONOR (re-post from September 10, 2011)

rememberWill you leave this world a better place? That is a question we should ask ourselves on a daily basis. But particularly today, on the 10-year anniversary of the day that shattered the world that was. Yes, our world has changed drastically since that awful day and we can never go back to where we were on September 10th of 2001. But the question is, have we actually changed?

Do we work to make this world better than we found it? Or do we consistently give in to petty differences, envy, frustration and avarice? It’s a pretty scary world these days on many fronts. We have been off-balance since 9/11, never on a steady footing. And the economy has made it impossible for anyone to feel secure about anything these days. But when you listen to the survivors of that terrible day, those who wonder why they were chosen to live when so many died, to a person they say that they are looking for their purpose in life, the reason they are still here. And they know that part of that purpose is to make this world a better place.

So, how do we do that? Certainly not by the travesty we have seen in our Congress with nonsensical infighting and name-calling, better suited for an elementary-school playground than among leaders bestowed with the privilege of representing the people of our great nation. They need to set the example for us, to show us how to rise above our differences and realize that we all have the same goals, even if we have different ideas of how to achieve them. How do we teach our children these life lessons, if all they see are adults choosing infantile behavior over the mature examples of compromise and civility?

As individuals, we need to cherish each day we are given, since no one is guaranteed tomorrow. We need to look at each day as a gift, which it is, and try to do what we can to, at the very least, not add to the burdens of our fellow travelers, and if possible, ease those burdens the best we can. To bring a smile to someone sorely in need of cheer. To give a hug to someone who feels alone in the world. To forgive not only others, but also forgive ourselves our failings and strive to do our best.

We live in a wonderful country, filled with amazing people and we need to remember that. The events of 9/11 should be a reason to reflect and honor both those who died, and those who survived. We must never forget. And by living lives of honor and compassion, we will ensure that we will make our world a better place than we found it, not only for us, but for generations to come. Let’s roll.

 

Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved

MOVING ON (re-post from September 20, 2011)

I am one of the lucky ones. My parents still live in the house that I grew up in. These days, I know that’s a fairly unusual thing. People tend to move from place to place, city to city, state to state. I have certainly done that multiple times. But I’ve always had that safety net, knowing that my childhood home was still there for me to visit anytime I wanted to. I’ve watched friends’ parents move, relatives move on – and sadly, pass on – from homes where I spent a great deal of my childhood, with the circle of familiar places growing smaller all the time. And, while both the interior and exterior of our home has changed over the years, the touchstone has not only been the physical house, but the home and neighborhood that evoke so many memories. Every time I come home to visit, I walk through the familiar streets, the memories of childhood friends encircling me at every turn. I walk several blocks to the shopping center which has also evolved over the years, yet is still so comfortable and familiar. My children grew up visiting this house at least once a year, making their own memories,adding to the stories that make up the fabric of our family.

And now, my parents are moving on. They are moving to a place that will provide them a wonderful new life, filled with new friends and activities and security that my sister and I are grateful for. As members of the sandwich generation, we are thrilled that our parents will no longer have to battle the elements during every harsh winter, worrying that they will be snowed in or worse, that they will attempt to shovel their way out of the house during the frequent snowstorms that are a given throughout New York winters. It gives us great relief to know that they will be even more active, with access to movies, theater, numerous activities, exercise classes and more, making life more pleasurable than before. And, to be honest, with neither of us living nearby, it is really a mindsaver to know that they will now be in a place that offers all kinds of assistance, should they ever need it.

So, I find myself with mixed feelings about this saying goodbye, because I know that most likely, I won’t ever go back home again. Once my parents are settled in their new home, there won’t be any reason to go to the old neighborhood when we come to visit. Because everyone else I knew there has moved on. Although I was there twice this summer, I didn’t realize that the house would sell as quickly as it did (a very good thing, but in this market, extremely surprising!). As with so many things in life, I thought I would have time to adjust, to say my goodbyes.

I am so happy for my parents and the new life that awaits them. And I am exceedingly grateful that this move is a happy move, precipitated by them wanting to be part of all the things that are offered in what will soon be their new home. But it is the closing of a very long chapter in our lives, and I am aware it’s time to turn the page. To start a new book, with new chapters and new memories ahead – and I know how lucky I am to have the chance to be part of the ever-changing story of my family.

Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved