I’m so Vain
These posts are all about myself… not to be vain.
These posts are all about myself… not to be vain.
It goes without saying – it was imperative that I go on several preliminary shopping trips in THE METRO last week, to procure a few smart outfits to wear on my actual shopping trip to New York City. I wasn’t going to just show up at the Fashion-Mecca-Of-The-Free-World representing Fly-OverCountry, looking frumpy…
One afternoon, laden down with purchases, I beat the hastiest path available through the mall, to my car, which necessitated cutting straight through the Ladies Lingerie Department in a well known department store. Due to my finely honed shopping-intellect, it did not escape my attention that they were indeed selling lingerie to ladies there.
Now, I’m no stranger to lingerie. In fact, I used to own some in the 80s. I actually may still own some. I haven’t really dug that deep into the back of my pajama drawer…
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People always say that when you go back to your high school reunion, you’ll find that the kids who were “all that,” have plummeted in a downward spiral – unable to maintain their superior elevated status throughout adulthood.
So, naturally, I spent the lion-share of my 20s worried about my high school’s Homecoming Queen, Kay-Kay.
I’m just kind’ve sweet that way.
Imagine my relief when I arrived at my 10 year reunion to find her looking fabulous. She had not gained the weight, as promised. Her long blonde tresses were as thick and lustrous as ever. She had married an architect, had 2 kids, and was literally living in Florida.
Florida? Who lives in Florida? Florida is for rich people and also older folks, who’ve earned the right to live there. And Disney Princesses, I guess – which is probably how Kay-Kay landed there.
But, she couldn’t possibly be happy and there’s no way, after that fairy-tale high school existence, that she’s got what it takes to be a good mother.
Honestly, I really feel bad for these people who never experienced despair and disappointment in childhood. I don’t know how they even get through life, much less parenting.
Fortunately, I never had to worry about any of that. My teen years imbued me with character and resilience. The kind that formally prepares you for Real Life. Life as a mother in the other 49 states.
When I was 13, I tried out for cheerleader. I started practicing months in advance. I learned the routine backwards and forwards. I perfected my herkies in the yard every day until it got dark. Then I came in and stretched into my splits every night, limbering up while I watched tv, inching a little closer to the ground with each passing week. I wrote the book on work ethic and advance preparation.
The day of the tryouts finally arrived. Back then there was no such thing as Helicopter Parenting, so my mom seemed only vaguely aware that it was the most important, transforming day of my life thus far; a day that would haunt me well into my 50s. She wished me “good luck!” 1970s-style and off I went…
To not make it.
Remember, it was 1976; back before anyone realized that they needed a Redhead to round out the squad.
The Vice-Principal called out the names of the 8 girls who made it over the loud speaker in 4th hour. Later that day, Mrs, Dickerson, the Home-Ec teacher/Cheer Sponsor, called me into her classroom to reassure me that I had “the most spirit she’d ever seen,” and confide that I made “Alternate.” She smiled indulgently when I requested the administration might consider including that tidbit of information in the next morning’s PA announcements. I wasn’t kidding.
It was challenging to weave the fact that I was unofficially the “The Alternate Cheerleader” casually into conversations with my peers. In case your wondering, “The Alternate” doesn’t get to wear the uniform on game days or appear in the yearbook photo. She just sits with the other girls at lunch hoping a friend will die in a sentimental “Brian’s Song” kind’ve way, so she can step into her pleated skirt.
No one died. As you can tell from reading this, the whole ordeal just served to build my outstanding and impeccable character, as I sat around the lunch table everyday eyeing a suspicious mole on Diane or wondering if Sherry had a lingering cough.
Alas, my life as a cheerleader was postponed until after high school, when I became a wife and mother. I’ve cheered now for 33 years. Until I am hoarse. I have exhorted, encouraged and sung my team’s praises until I’m blue in the face. It’s been so great. In the breathy words of Cinderella, it’s been “more than I could’ve ever hoped for…”
Nonetheless, I think I might attend my next high school reunion. Just to see if Kay-Kay’s architect has gone a little paunchy and balding, if she can still wriggle into that polyester skirt, but most importantly – if her kids turned out okay.
I’m just kind’ve sweet that way.
*Warning: May not be suitable for all readers due to violent content!
Throughout my entire adult life I’ve remained baffled and a bit envious of other families and their affinity for pets. So many of my friends and family members enjoy mutually satisfying relationships with various members of the domesticated animal kingdom. I suppose I owe my children a heartfelt apology that I have never fully or successfully enriched their young lives by integrating animals into our household. I blame this unfortunate legacy entirely on The Gerbil Incident of 1974…
At some point in the early 70s, Gerbils became enormously popular as pets in the United States. Kids and their parents couldn’t flock to pet stores fast enough to complete their image of ideal domestic tranquility with a cage full of these unique kangaroo-style rats. We were no different. The only problem is that I have never been able to extricate myself from the Tragic Pet Curse I was apparently born under.
A day or two after I discovered not one, but both of my gerbils, Napoleon and Josephine, rock hard with rigor-mortis, my mother took me to get a replacement which I promptly named Mr. Lincoln. Don’t ask me why I was so enamored with naming my gerbils after famous people in history, I just was – that’s all. I proceeded to beg my mom for permission to take Mr. Lincoln to school the next day for Show and Tell. She didn’t fancy the idea on several levels – Permission Denied.
The convenient thing about having a mom that worked outside the home was that a kid enjoyed a fair amount of latitude with respect to total 100% adherence and obedience. Getting my way in this situation was as easy as waiting until Doris pulled out of the driveway for work, hooking the handle of Mr. Lincoln’s cage to the handlebars of my bicycle and taking off for school. I was pedaling away in earnest, heading due west on Rainforest Drive, when the bottom tray of the cage slid out. As Mr. Lincoln hit the asphalt, his horizons were instantaneously broadened amidst a shower of cedar shavings. So shocked was he by his unexpected and unanticipated freedom, that he began to scurry about in alarm. I ditched my bike on the curb and went after him.
For those of you who have never attempted to manually capture a distraught rodent on a peaceful neighborhood street, I can tell you the task is fraught with difficulty. Every time I thought I had him within reach, he would hop out of my grasp. I knew I had to be smarter and quicker than he was. The next time I got within range of him, I anticipated his response and lunged forward just as he cleverly attempted to side-step me. In a bizarre twist of fate, the trauma of which has never been replicated before or since in my existence, my shoe slipped out from under me, coming down on him and crushing his tiny whiskered skull. I only thought he was upset before. Now he was in full-fledged panic mode; hopping about, spurting blood like an actor in a B horror film. I don’t recall if he screamed, but I certainly did, as blood spattered like modern art all over my white uniform shirt. I can still remember his beady little eyes locking into mine as if to say, “How did it come to this? I trusted you.”
Needless to say, this catastrophe has haunted me throughout my life. On the one hand, it translated into a positive behavioral investment ushering me obediently through the turbulent teen years. When Doris told me I couldn’t drink alcohol or smoke pot, I said, “Yes Mam” and never once considered crossing her. But, unfortunately I’ve never been even remotely successful at owning pets. Alas, it’s truly the only thing that’s stood in the way of me being the perfect mother.
I also get pretty sketched-out by Modern Art.
As one might imagine, the topic of “aging gracefully” and general overall “lucidity” has been on the table ever since our two mothers spent a few days with us attending graduation festivities last week. Right before we took my husband’s mom to the airport to catch her flight back to New Orleans, we stopped for a light lunch, which was really just an excuse for a few more minutes of soaking up her wisdom, chatting about life and stuff. That’s when Mimi tossed out this precious gem…
“Well, all I can say is…Y’all will know when I am LOSING IT. Y’all will be able to tell if I ever even walk outside or, God forbid, go anywhere without my makeup on.”
I met my mother-in-law when I was 17, and even back then, as a know-nothing young girl, I pegged her as the true blue, dyed-in-the-wool Southern Belle that she is. One look and you can tell she has some really high standards with respect to appearances, but still, her comment gave me considerable pause. (The fork in mid-air, I-even-stopped-eating-for-a-second kind of pause.) I looked at my hubby in mock concern…
“That may be fine for gauging Mimi’s mental state, but I run all over town without an ounce of makeup on now, so we can’t be relying on that as an indication of when I start LOSING IT.”
“That’s the God’s Honest,” he readily agreed. “Or if you start ramming our cars into one another on our driveway, no one will be worried. We will just know that’s the kind of thing you’ve always done.”
(Touche! I’m sure I deserved that!)
Foolishly caught up in the moment, I couldn’t resist adding, “If I’m an old lady that turns on the faucet and then forgets to turn it off and floods the entire Senior Center, you won’t be panic-stricken, like ‘Oh My God, she is completely losing it!’ You’ll be all calm like, “That’s just her way!”
“And, if you completely fall off the face of the Earth and don’t answer anyone’s phone calls or return their texts, no one will think a thing of it!” Mimi offered, in that sort’ve sympathetic ‘Bless Your Heart’ style only a truly Southern mother-in-law can pull off with charm and ease.
Undaunted, my husband continued, “Or even if I found your car keys in the freezer or fact-checked your embellished statistics and stories, I wouldn’t blink twice!”
“Or if you threw away actual money!”
I get it. I get it. I get it.
He’s just all bent out of shape because one of the first payments I’ve ever received for “published writing” came in the mail the other day and he brought it straight to me, bubbling over with the joy and relief of a man who just realized he might be in a “dual-income relationship” for the first time in 33 years of marriage. I was standing in my closet at the time he ceremonially handed the check to me. We haven’t laid eyes on that check since the initial 2 minute celebration, but I’m sure it’s in my closet somewhere. Besides, it still counts as “getting paid to write” regardless of whether or not you get around to cashing the check.
But that’s all completely beside the point – I’ve got bigger fish to fry here. With no distinct or discernible signs of my own mental impoverishment, my loved ones will be completely clueless. If I start to unravel, how will they be alerted to the utter gravity of my condition in order to render aid? I’ve got to pull my act together somewhat.
I’m turning over the proverbial new leaf. I plan to tone it down and rein it in a bit from here on out. I’ll start by tearing a page out of Mimi’s book and splash a little more make-up on consistently every day, for that dewy-fresh “I’ve totally got my crap together” look!
“Age-defying makeup” just took on a whole new meaning for me…
Bless My heart, Y’all.
I’m one of those people who favors that expression, “long-story, short.” I don’t know why I say it so much. Probably just to throw people off. But, honestly, if I prefaced a story with, “short-story long” or “long-story, even-longer” you know you’d come up with some clever excuse to get away from me…
Sunday was my first time to speak publicly, with a real live microphone. Okay, I guess that’s not true either. I wrested the mic from my husband during the traditional Father-of-The-Bride speech at our daughter’s wedding in October. But, I’m not sure that really counts as, “public speaking,” because we were serving Beef Tenderloin, Smoked Salmon and plying our guests with free booze, so the least everyone could do was nod appreciatively and feign interest in my remarks. Thus, I’m counting Sunday as my first official “gig” because the audience wasn’t bribed and most actually paid for their tickets.
I loved my 6 minutes and 45 seconds on stage! So exhilarating!
Don’t get me wrong. Everyone who knows me, knows I typically talk for way longer than that. I can barely ask for directions to the potty from a total stranger in less than 10 minutes. In fact, I think several of my friends only attended the event to see if I could rein it in at the podium and confine a rant to less than 7 minutes. My family has never experienced that level of brevity from me before, so they thought it was the best $20 they ever spent. (More lies…I actually bought their tickets.)
When I first heard about, “Listen To Your Mother” an international movement, founded by blogger Ann Imig, designed to “Give Motherhood a Voice,” while raising money for charitable organizations, I knew I had found my ultimate calling. I was born for this. A little about LTYM here:
The first step was to submit an essay. Easy-peasy. I blew the dust off a “Doris Blog.” And why not? People are wild for stories about my mother, Doris. Her sassy, southern, filter-free mothering style has them weeping with laughter over their smart phones, lap tops and computer screens. The woman has always had a way with me; the essays practically write themselves. It almost felt like cheating.
After my submission was accepted, I was invited to come down and audition. AUDITION! Not wanting to jinx myself, I didn’t tell anyone except my husband, until the night before, when I casually let it slip to my friend, over the telephone…
“Well, I better hang up now, it’s getting late, I have an early audition in the morning..”
She responded, “Okay, talk to you later!” (Completely unimpressed, as if she hobnobs with Hollywood-types on a daily basis…)
On the way to the audition early the next morning, I had a panic attack and told My Driver, “Pull over, let me out, I can’t do this!”
Fortunately, My Driver was my husband, Jimmy, who said, “Why the Hell can’t you do this? Talking is your thing. It might be even be your best thing!”
I explained to him that talking off-the-cuff at cocktail parties and interrupting other women at Book Group is not the same as “Public Speaking,” where you are actually SUPPOSED TO BE TALKING and people might be looking at me with expectations. I hate expectations. I will cave under the pressure.
But then I didn’t…
I guess those Catholic School nuns were right about me all along. I’m just a Talker. I stumbled across this realization the other day: In 29 years of parenting, I’ve never “grounded” a child. I just lecture them into submission. I’ve had children literally shove their car keys in my hands and plead with me to confiscate their cell phones, merely to extricate themselves from one of my lengthy sermons, but I never let up. I just continue to verbally illustrate my point about the error of their ways, until they vow never to stray again.
So, suffice it to say, I survived the audition process, was cast in the show, rehearsed with my fellow cast mates for a few months, and then actually managed to deliver a monologue about my mother in just under 7 minutes this past Sunday.
What an incredible experience. And, hopefully we even raised a little money for our charity – Positive Tomorrows, an inner-city school for homeless children. An amazing organization. You can read more about them here :
One of my oft-touted sentiments about motherhood is that EVERYONE can talk about this topic. Mainly, because everyone either is one, has one or knows one.
Long story short – You really should come talk about your mom next year…
During a brief lull in their plans last weekend, one of my friends’ high school daughters suggested that they go see “50 Shades of Grey.” My friend was naturally aghast and said, “You’re not going to see that FILTH and we’re certainly not going to go see it together!” She later confessed to me that she really wanted to see it herself, but wouldn’t dream of going alone. So deeply troubled was I by the obvious decline in her morality, that I offered to go with her. Fortunately, I was able to persuade a few more friends to sacrifice an afternoon in this selfless endeavor to research and provide commentary on such a sophomoric and debased sample of American culture. We reasoned that we couldn’t really criticize a movie we haven’t seen; besides, it would be good for the blog to provide the occasional movie review….
My singular request was that we attend INCOGNITO, as I was scandalized by the sheer thought of a Catholic Christian Mother-of 5 being seen in public at this movie, even if it was in the name of R&D. We met on a weekday while the kids were in school. Per my usual timetable, I was the last to arrive. The theatre was dark and my friends were barely recognizable in their clever disguises, still I was somewhat perturbed when they spotted me first and yelled out in unison, “Leslie Blanchard! We are sitting up here!” (No matter, according to Gracie, who later commented, “Really Mom? you were ‘concealing your identity’ in a grey leopard blazer, hat and the sunglasses and gold hoops you wear every day? YOU screamed “Leslie Blanchard!” louder than they did….”)
For those of you unfamiliar with the story line, here is the premise: A beautiful young girl is dispatched to interview a wealthy young billionaire for her college newspaper. Her character is developed as an “innocent” in every way imaginable. Through a series of poorly written and unlikely encounters, they both manage to fall for each other. This is where it gets weird… In addition to being a Billionaire, who owns a corporation, a jet, a fleet of flashy cars and a penthouse in downtown Seattle, it is quickly revealed during their first date, that he has “some rather unconventional fringe tastes about how love can and should be expressed.” I’m not talking about “Love Hurts” in the emotional sense like the beloved Nazareth ballad; I’m talking about some very serious physical ouches! There were some scenes in that movie that were as hard to watch as some of the scenes we watched recently in “12 Years A Slave.” WORSE actually, as it implied that any sane “everyday-nice-girl” would ever willingly agree to be physically tortured in the name of love, without some other very compelling enticements.
This sparked quite a bit of controversial discussion among my women friends about this entire concept. Several ladies theorized that this girl acquiesced because the man was such a “hottie.” I thoroughly disagree. He was so much more than a hottie, he was a billionaire. Bear in mind, the first week they were dating, he flew her from place to place in his private helicopter and gifted her with a brand “spanking” new BMW.
To illustrate my point, I propose an alternate movie scenario: Let’s say the male lead was a driver for UPS. We’ve all seen those guys… They are almost always great looking. When I see UPS drivers, I find myself wondering if that company has a handsomeness scale they use when they hire drivers. So follow me here…The exact same actress meets the exact same actor, only in this version, he is wearing brown Bermuda shorts and is delivering a package to her. As she signs his clipboard, they strike up a conversation, are instantly attracted to one another and go on a date. He picks her up later that evening in his Honda Civic (that he drives himself – strike the limo, strike the uniformed chauffeur). In the course of their first date, he too reveals that he has “some rather unconventional fringe tastes regarding how love can and should be expressed.” This isn’t where the movie gets weird, this is where the movie gets over… as in the female lead runs-not-walks right out of the picture. You know good and darn well that every woman in the audience of my hypothetical movie is now screaming, “Get out of there immediately! This dude is a freak!”
All I’m suggesting, is that when you replace the Jaguar with a Honda and subtract out the penthouse, the plot line gets considerably less intriguing.
There’s no need to thank me for providing this community service for my blog following. I’m glad I could save you all the price of a ticket and the calories in the Milk Duds… And the next time you pull up at a red light beside a UPS truck and ask yourself “What can Brown do for you?” Just motor on your way, Sister Christian!
As an Army Brat, who grew up all over the world, it was nearly impossible to have set traditions, in my childhood. As such, it’s possible that I might have been a wee bit over-zealous establishing traditions when I had my own family..singing all the same carols, baking the same scones, making the same fudge and watching the same Christmas movie year after year….AND, of course….writing the Blanchard Family Christmas Letter.
So, I guess I have only myself to blame for the reaction I got, when I hinted that I was considering not writing THE LETTER this year. I’ve been writing a blog, which I pointed out, renders the Christmas Letter somewhat redundant. Right then and there, all the Whos down in Whoville dropped their hands, stopped their Who-singing and looked at me in astonished bewilderment, it was as though my heart had shrunk 3 sizes that day!
It became abundantly clear that, the Sacred Christmas Letter, is guaranteed protection under the Freedom of Information Act. Due to its status as a “Family Tradition,” it Must be written! Blog be damned!
MERRY CHRISTMAS FAMILY AND FRIENDS,
Emilie, 28, has had a great year! So good, in fact, that she has scarcely been mentioned in my blog, as the thrust of my writing focuses on embarrassing mishaps. There’s simply not an abundance of blog-fodder surrounding the life of an overworked and overwhelmed fledgling Attorney. No matter! Emilie is not particularly enamored of the blog, anyway. Shortly after I started writing it, and was fishing for “feedback,” (translation: accolades) she informed me, “Mom, I’m sure all your friends, who didn’t grow up hearing your shtick day-in, day-out, think your blog is funny!!” Shortly after making this comment, she was walking through a downtown parking garage, reading the blog on her phone and was almost run over by a car! Thank goodness, I was in Edmond that day and have a solid alibi.
Mollie, 25, is studying Law at Fordham University in Manhatten. We miss her terribly and her absence has left a void in our blog – I mean, our lives. Now, there is a girl that could be depended upon to provide consistent creative writing material!! Whatever adorable little mishaps she is involved in on a daily basis up there, are being kept from us, with the exception of the 911 phone call we got from her beleaguered boyfriend, Jace, when she was LOST IN NEW YORK CITY!!! The fact that I posted a blog about that the next day, isn’t helping to keep me “in the loop” on the goings-on in the Big Apple…They’re both busy this week with their Law School Exams and then, flying home for Christmas!!
Gracie, 19, left for The University of Arkansas in August. All Summer long, as we battled over custody of jewelry, make-up and clothes, it was clear, we were just masking our pain; both of us dreading the day she would leave…On the morning she departed, one of her BFFs came over to help us pack up her car; then they stood in the driveway and hugged and cried for quite some time. Finally, Gracie, looked at us the two of us, and said, in her bravest singsong voice, “Well – I guess this is IT!!” As I closed in for the emotionally dramatic Mother/Daughter Goodbye Scene, she pressed her phone in my hand, wrapped her arms around her girlfriend, and said, “Can you snap one last picture of me and Jensen before I go?” That kind of sums up motherhood for me…anticlimactic.
James, 17, had shoulder surgery the day before Thanksgiving. It was an extremely difficult decision whether or not to have him undergo this procedure. Upon consulting with 3 different surgeons, we finally agreed to go through with it. A few hours after the operation, we were filled with second thoughts and renewed angst, as we saw our typically healthy, happy-go-lucky son debilitated by pain and discomfort. We anxiously drove him home from the hospital, each silently wondering if we had made the right decision or if we had possibly just ruined our young boy forever.
Suddenly, we heard him mumble something from the backseat…
Jimmy- “What’s he saying back there?”
Leslie- “It sounds like he’s saying ‘What-a-burger'”
And, then he said ANOTHER word…and his thumbs began to twitch…
Leslie- “He just said, ‘phone’! He wants his phone! He wants to text!”
And, we smiled at each other in relief, because we knew…Our Boy was going to be okay.
That was a couple of weeks ago and we are delighted to report that, while we don’t know if he will recover enough to play football his Senior year, he is back to texting at his pre-surgery capacity and seemingly has a bright future ahead.
At 14, Tommy is still surprisingly loving, considerate and respectful. As cynical battle-scarred veterans of 4 previous teenagers, we remain on threat level “high-alert status,” ever-vigilant as we watch for the inevitable warning signs of a changing temperament. He has been extremely helpful these last few weeks, picking up James’ slack. We did notice, after a couple of days, that James’ incapacitation didn’t actually add too much to Tom’s workload…underscoring the fact that he has been correct all along in his assertions that, “James doesn’t do anything around here!” Nonetheless, by Day 3 of our Post-Surgical Thanksgiving “Hunker-Down”, Tommy said, “I don’t care WHAT I do today, or WHO I do it with, I’m putting on some real pants with a zipper and leaving this house!”
Speaking of hunkering down, Jimmy and I will celebrate 30 years of marriage if he hangs in through next week! He continues to remind me that “all he does” is work, fix the things we break, and finance/indulge my writing and tennis obsessions….
There’s really not much I can say to dispute that, except sing:
“If I bake scones and blog all night long…It’s a Family Tradition!”
Wishing you and yours the merriest Christmas and a blessed 2015!
Jimmy, Leslie, Emilie, Mollie, Gracie, James and Tommy