Putting on the Ritz….

You don’t know what you don’t know.

You don’t miss what you never had.

But once you know you can never not know.

So it was for me.

Tom and I celebrated our anniversary at the Ritz. I had never been before. I adjusted quite easily to living in the lap of opulence, my every want catered to. It was quite addicting.

Yet old habits do die hard. The first day I tried to clear my dishes at the included-in-the-price-of-the-room Club Lounge that offered elegantly displayed delectable light fare all day ending with dessert and cordials in the evening. I discretely determined self clean-up was not protocol when I couldn’t find the Panera-like silverware and dish bins. The cloth napkins and glassware also informed me I would not need to decipher a multi labeled recycle bin, unsure of where to dump the paper, plastics and compostables.

So, I graciously rose from my seat, thanked the server and strolled out of the keyed door acting as if I had done this since birth. Once out in the dimly lit, peacock feather ensconced hallway, I grabbed Toms arm like an excited child insisting we did that again. What an elegant treat. And it was free…in a way.

Because of the two weddings, two weeks apart, Tom and I decided to postpone our anniversary celebration until we could put our hearts into it.

Supporting that decision was a gift from Lincoln — the car maker. We recently bought a Lincoln MKZ Hybrid and because we had to wait 8 weeks for delivery, Lincoln gifted us with an overnight stay at the Ritz and $350 for expenses. Not bad, huh?

So we drove our new car to Boston, a city I have flown into on my way to Cape Cod, but IMG_1083never spent time exploring. We walked Boston Commons, today resplendent with a magical carousel of sea horses, roosters, and rabbits, but where public executions once were held, women were convicted of consorting with the devil and expunged and Matoonas, an Algonquian, was tied to a tree and shot. We found the intersection of Joy Street and Beacon Street where Oliver Wendall Holmes proposed to Amelia Lee Jackson by asking her if she would take the long path with him. He went on to say, “If you take the long path with me now, I shall interpret it that we are to part no more.” She accepted, saying, “I will walk the long path with you.” Tom and I reenacted this conversation as we walked their path. We explored the harbor, got ice cream cones and sat to watch young, virile, boy/men practice their skateboarding stunts on the concrete pier.

When we returned to our room, on the 12th floor over looking the city, we were surprised by a bottle of champagne chilling in ice, two fluted glasses and a plate of dark and white chocolate covered strawberries. Next to strawberries was hand addressed note, written in the expert penmanship of a 2nd grade teacher, wishing us a happy anniversary.

I was enchanted.

And disturbed.

I don’t know how much the room cost but the room allowance on the Lincoln voucher was for $750.00.  One night here could feed a small village.

I wanted to a find monument in the commons apologizing to the women and Native American that died due to ignorance and hatred instead memorials to war heroes. I wanted to challenge all of us at the Ritz for spending this kind of money on an overnight stay. I loved the opulence and felt its seduction. I felt concern for the young children, drinking the orange and thyme infused water in the lobby, that they would think this normal fare. And perhaps it is for them, but, I wondered, what happens if they cannot support themselves in this manner when they reach the age of self reliance. Will they resent the Red Roof Inn they take their families to on their vacations?

You can take the girl out of middle class, but you can’t take the middle class out of the girl. And, sometime I just think too much.

I gave space to my contradictions, knowing more about myself as a result and then let it all go, enjoying the hell out of our brief stay. Grateful for the gift and the tale to tell.

 
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I will ask, I will, I will, I will…

A couple of months ago I went with my friend Babs to hear Linda Babcock, the Carnegie Melon author of Ask For It.

Ask For It is about how women can use the power of negotiation to get what they really want. It explains that we don’t get raises, promotions, or parley good employment packages because we don’t ask. Men do. The book provides story after story of women not asking and therefore not receiving.

I read most of the book and practiced some of the exercises strengthening this asking muscle in myself. As a result, I negotiated a higher rate of reimbursement with an insurance company, Tom and I bargained $2700 off our new car, and I sold some items on Craig’s list getting my asking price.

I was proud of myself and my new skill. I had asked and It had paid off. But it hadn’t come naturally.

Two weeks ago I went shopping with my future daughter-in-law for my mother-of-the-groom dress. Now you must know, there is an etiquette, generations old, to consider in the selection of this one dress. I will save the details for another post.

Today I want to tell you a different story.

While Lauren and I were shopping for my dress, I spotted an adorable, white sequined dress, that reminded me of her–she loves sparkle. I didn’t show it to her since we were on a mission involving me and I didn’t want to derail the process. As we walked to the next store we talked about the rehearsal dinner. She mentioned she wanted to wear white and she wanted it to be sparkly. We immediately turned around and retraced our steps to the store we had just left. I knew this was her dress.

She tried it on and it was one of those OMG moments. She looked beautiful, sexy, and very happy in this sweet, little (very little) dress. She turned to look at herself from every angle in the full length mirror, her smile getting bigger and broader. It was her dress. We both knew it.

Then she looked at the price tag. Her face fell. $320.00.

“I can’t spend that much on a dress just for the rehearsal dinner.”

I became one of those dangerous women to shop with. “You could also wear it on your honeymoon and on New Year’s Eve, you could even wear it out on the town. It will never go out of style.” I worked to convince her.

Her smile returned slightly, but I could tell she wasn’t sold. I admired her sense of fiscal responsibility, but I really wanted her to have this dress. I offered to give her $100.00 toward it. She said no, she couldn’t do that.

She continued to argue the pros and cons of spending too much on something she really wanted. I knew this place in myself and did not envy her. As she took off the dress it seemed she had reached her decision.

Then, from my seat in the dressing room, I watched her drape her dream dress over her arm and walk up to the sales girl that had been helping her. “I really love this dress, it is my dress, but I can’t pay $320.00 for a dress right now. Is there anyway I can have a discount?” she asked.

I sat in awe. There was no sale rack or discount sign in the window, this was clearly a this-season dress and Lauren still thought to, was comfortable enough to, ask for a price reduction. My mouth hung open. Wow.

The young women cheerfully explained that if it was Lauren’s birthday month she could have 20% off. Lauren shook her head slowly, “My birthday is in July,” she confessed. The sales girl looked at me, “December,” I reluctantly admitted.  “My fiancee’s birthday is in March,” Lauren offered, hope laced through every word. I confirmed this, saying it was true, I knew because he’s my son. I guess I thought a mom in the mix might help…I really wanted to help her get this dress.

“Okay, have him come in before the end of the month and we can give you 20% off the dress.”

It was March 31st.

My mind was racing. There had to be a way. Finally, I suggested we call him and he could send a picture of his drivers license with proof of his March birth — the perks of modern technology. The now weary looking sales girl said she would need to ask her manager.

She came back with a bounce in her step. The manager had approved the discount without evidence of someone in our family tree having a March birthday.

Lauren paid for and walked out of the store with her dress. All because she asked.

And she didn’t even read the book.

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Birth Announcement

I think I may have mentioned a while ago that I am rebranding Off the Couch. Did I or did I just dream it? Sometimes my dream world and my awake world get mixed up. Like last night I dreamt Tom asked me to leave my nightie on to have coffee on the deck in the morning. So this morning I did, it’s private enough, but I realized as I sat there feeling slightly exposed, Tom hadn’t really asked me, I had dreamt it..but I digress.

 

So, yes, I have renamed and rebranded this blog. As a result, I feel like I am dumping an old friend. I know this about myself, I tend to attach to inanimate objects. I personify my cars by talking to them, thanking them for their steadfast loyalty, for never letting me down, for getting me places safely, for spending so much quality time with me, that I feel disloyal, ungrateful and abandoning when I trade them in for a newer model. I ask their forgiveness. They always grant it.

 

I love Off the Couch Blog. I love the very clever, double entendre name. I love Duke, boldly sitting on the couch like he has every right to be there. I smile every time I look at him. I loved writing for Off the Couch this past year and a half. But, it seems, many blog writing therapists are equally as shrewd and Off the Couch is used in many different combinations making it an excessively used name. (Not so clever after all.)

 

Ergo…rebranding was necessary.

 

So, I am announcing the birth of being Boswell. And what a birth process it has been. Seven months, almost full term, of time, money, and angst to push this baby out. This past month I have been waking at 3:30 each morning, the witching hour, begging who ever is in charge of these matters to get it the f@#k out of me. (I demanded the same from my obstetrician during the birthing of both of my kids. A girl can only take so much.)

 

The due date? Well, as so often happens, the timing is serendipitously perfect, despite all of my kicking and screaming, panting and blowing.

 

Being Boswell will go live this Thursday, December 6th at 12:15 pm. My birth day and time, 55 years ago.

 

I am so excited and relieved. I feel 30 pounds lighter.

 

So keep your computers on and your eyes peeled…a baby is coming!!!!!

It’s Not Polite to Stare

Yesterday as I drove down a residential city street, a man in a white pick up truck pulled out of his parking place headed in my direction. I noticed that instead of looking out of his windshield, as is suggested and preferable, he was intently peering out of his passenger side window at something on the sidewalk. As a result of his wayward stare his oversized truck was headed down the middle of the street-straight toward me.

 

“What are you looking at?” I yelled as I looked to the sidewalk. The answer. A sweet young girl walking down the sidewalk in her summer skirt and t-shirt. “Really?” I impotently yelled through closed windows, “You are old enough to be her dad-first of all, you are going run into me or another parked car-second of all, and have a little respect-third of all.” (Is there a third of all?)

 

This morning on my way to work while I waited at a stop light, another man in a pick up truck-what is it with men and pick ups-had his head stuck out of his window to ogle a girl walking past. When he couldn’t twist his neck any further he used his rear view mirror to lock on. I began yelling again, this time hoping to catch his eye letting him know I saw him being a lech.

I get the attraction. I look at men and women too. I am attracted for many reasons. I think they are beautiful. I like their outfit. I don’t like their outfit. I like their dog. There are many reasons to look at one another.  But when guys are looking only at boobs and butts, as if the woman is on the side walk is there for their pleasure, it is time to teach them some manners. I wanted to slap their faces.

 

When my daughter, Jena, turned 21 we took her out to celebrate. My son’s fiance was singing at a local club so it was a perfect celebration. As we sipped our drinks, Jena her first legal one, I perused the room. My eyes caught a 50-60 something year old man, slight build, polyester suit, talking with many different women. I noticed when the woman turned her back his eyes went straight to her rear end. When she turned back toward him it was her boobs he zeroed in on. I felt a hot flash coming on.

 

Then, to my surprise, he was next to me and walked right up to Jena. He stood way too close to her and said, “Don’t you look sparkly tonight.”

 

I couldn’t help myself. My body moved into action before my brain was even consulted. I put my body between Jena and this lounge lizard. After his gaze left my breasts to meet my eyes, I squared off with him, “I am her mother. You need to back off!”

 

“Oh mama bear. I was just telling her she is sparkly,” he said, his reptilian tongue striking the air between us. “Back off,” I growled, puffing myself up to stand a good bit taller than him.

 

He walked away.

 

The kids were amazed, both that I intimidated him to leave and that what he did bothered me. Perhaps you have to be in your 50’s and menopausal (make my day) to be intolerant of one more man’s bad manners. Maybe you have to be a mom of a young woman to feel the fury that moved my body between them. Regardless, Jena gave me a hug and thanked me. She got it..it’s impolite to stare. I had her back.

 

 

The story doesn’t end here…this creep circled back. He wound his way around the bar to where we stood. He stopped in front of my husband. “You have one uptight wife,” he pronounced.

 

Tom held his gaze, man to slime ball and like waving a fly away from your food said “Go away.”

 

He did.

What Are You Made Of?

Remember the story of the 3 little pigs?

 

The first little pig built his house with straw and the wolf blew it down. The second little pig built his house with sticks and the wolf had his way with that house too. The third little pig built his house with brick and for all his huffing and puffing the wolf couldn’t blow the house down.

 

Sitting with a client the other day this fairy tale popped into my head. I have come to trust these little “pop ins”…they usually offer some wisdom I would never have come up with on my own.

 

We were talking about her sense of her self. How comfortable she is being her? How strongly she can advocate for herself? How well acquainted she is with herself ?Basically, how strongly can she stand (with herself) in the face of high wind?

 

That is when “the pigs” popped in.

 

When I consider of my own sense of my self using this metaphor of being a house-a structure that holds me-ideally it(I) would be well built. I know for myself, my friends and the women I work with, this is not always the case. Our houses (sense of self, hearts, confidence) are all too often and too easily blown to bits, straw and twigs flying in all directions.

 

 I have been watching episodes of the Big C on NetFlixs. It is a story of a woman, Cathy, who has cancer. In the episode we watched last night Cathy was hired as the high school swim coach, despite the principals concerns she couldn’t do the job because of her cancer. As the new coach, Cathy took charge. She changed practice warm ups, team strategies and confronted an arrogant, undermining swim team dad. As I watched her stand up to him, I felt her belief in herself as a coach. I was impressed. I noticed I sat straighter on the couch. She was made of brick.

 

As the episode continued, and the plot thickened, Cathy and her husband got crabs because their son slept with a prostitute in their bed (too gross to think about on sooo many levels). Thanks to facebook, and the sons now x girlfriend, the word got out. This was all the arrogant dad needed to have Cathy fired as the swim coach.

 

The scene unfolds as Cathy walked into the pool area; clip board in hand, whistle around her neck, only to see the principal, the dad with all the other parents and her team waiting for her. Cathy is told by the principal she is being fired for putting the girls at risk of getting crabs. I could feel myself cave in for her. I imagined myself as her and could see myself slink out of the gym, find my way home and crawl under the covers. I could feel my shame for her. I was made of straw.

 

Cathy, brick house that she is, doesn’t collapse into her shame, instead she confronts them on the improbability of their accusation and threatens them with a law suit if they try to fire the “woman with cancer.” She ends her self absolution by saying she is taking her team, whoever is still on it, for a run. With that she turns, clip board close to her chest, whistle swinging and out she walks out of the gym. Last scene-she is running on alone on the track. One by one the girls on her team fall in behind her.

 

Now I know this is a well scripted TV series, but I was moved…right out from under my emotional hiding place…announcing to myself and the space between myself and the TV, “I want to be like her when I grow up!”

 

To not move into shame when someone huffs and puffs at me. 

 

To feel my house made of bricks and to stand my ground.

 

To laugh I the face of the big bad wolf…and then take a run.

 

Oh yeah, I don’t run. I’ll take a brisk walk instead. Anyone want to fall in along side of me?

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Queen of England

Today I got a massage and facial. As I relaxed; steam opening my pores, Audra’s fairy fingers making gentle circles around my eyes; I began to count my blessings. When I left the house this morning our housekeeper was pulling into the driveway. Last night I ordered a great pair of shoes from the Travel Smith catalogue. Tomorrow I have an acupuncture appointment. Next week I have a manicure and pedicure scheduled. I am the luckiest woman alive!

 

Then it hit. My gratitude turned to shame, “Who do I think I am? Really? Who? The Queen of England? I don’t dare tell anyone about all this.” I felt terrible, indulgent, spoiled, after all, there are children starving in Africa. Continue reading

It’s Just Not Right…

I grew up with my mom telling me to, “Watch your mouth!”  She hated when I said I hated something, when I sang at the dinner table, or told her I couldn’t see my mouth so I couldn’t possibly watch it. She even washed my mouth out with soap once. I don’t remember what I said, but the next day I got tonsillitis and my grandmother blamed my mother for giving it to me. I was vindicated.

 

I did, for the most part, try to please my mom. I watched what I said and did. I became so good at it that I developed TMJ before it was called TMJ. My parents thought it was normal that I had to hit the side of my face to get my jaw to open in the morning to eat my Special K cereal.

 

I don’t imagine this was so unusual for those of us raised in the late 50’s-60’s. We were managed to be polite extensions of our parents. It was our job to make them look better than they felt about themselves. Especially us girls.

 

It’s a hard habit to break, this watching your mouth. “What if I offend somebody?” I would worry. My mom told me the reason a boy I liked didn’t call me again is because I told him a story using the word “poop.” She said, “No boy would want to date a girl with a mouth like that.” Fuck.

 

It seems the older I get the less I watch my mouth and the more I speak my mind. I am a lot less tolerant of what I see and experience. I am “mouthier” these days because some things need to be said. I started a list… Continue reading

Smarty Pants

My sister-friend Heidi and I were checking in with each other this morning. “How is your New Year so far?” we took turns asking, two days into 2012.

 

“I’m failing miserably,” I confessed. “I wrote my 10 self centered resolutions in It’s All About Me last week. Since then, unfortunately, I have been more efficient than ever. I am caring about everything to the point of mild paranoia and I am talking to fill all silences. It’s like when I say I am going on a diet and then I eat more than I usually do.” Continue reading

BUTT

I have been mad at my body lately. Maybe most of my life. I was too tall as a girl in the 60’s-so I slouched. My mom would instruct me to, “Stand up straight” then she’d exclaim, “You’re soooo tall.” Relatives would ask her what she fed me.

 

My mom was 5’2. I was 5’10” in middle school. After 20 years of marriage at age 42 I put on a pair of high heels. My husband said, “Oh, now I know why you don’t wear heels, you are really tall.” I didn’t put another pair on until we separated several years later.

 

I was also called “fatty Patti” by my brother and neighborhood kids. My mom countered with, “NO YOU ARE NOT!”, then refused my request for a piece of her freshly baked chocolate cake she. (My friends now call me Patricia, it doesn’t rhythm with fatty.) Continue reading