Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Can We Make Up Something Else?

I was shocked to see how pretty Snooki actually is.
When I think about what I’ve told my kids about cosmetics over the years, I feel I’ve sent some pretty mixed messages.

On the one hand, I know women and girls, as young as 13, who will not go out in public without wearing make-up.

That’s sick.

I think there are disturbing similarities between a society in which women feel they have to cover their faces in make-up – and uncover their bodies – and ones in which women feel they have to hide their faces and bodies.

On the other hand, when my son has a whopping zit on his face, I feel sorry that he feels he can’t wear a bit of concealer, that he’ll get teased for it.

On the third hand, many of the girls at their school don’t know how to use make-up. Are they applying it with a trowel? They end up, like Snooki, looking worse for their trouble.
So, I showed my daughter how to use make-up. (Rule #1: Less is more.)

Here’s what I’ve hit upon: The saying around our house is that the only thing other people have a right to expect from you, appearance-wise, is that you’ve showered and your clothes are clean. Whatever you do after that, should be because you want to.
But, then again, there are caveats. Certain events, like a wedding, have dress codes, so yes, son, there are times when you have to wear a tie. And some studies, like this one, have shown that the more heavily made up a woman is, the more competent people think she is. So, if you’re female in a situation where you need to look polished, like a job interview, some make-up may be in order.

I just don’t want my kids to hate their own faces. That’s too sad.

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Smoke-Alarm Sagas

Perhaps someday my smoke alarms will alert me to real danger.

But changing the batteries, man!

Our alarms warn us when their back-up batteries are low by beeping and declaring, in a female British accent, “Low battery!” Invariably, they do this in the middle of the night. And they go off only at oddly spaced intervals, just to make it difficult to figure out which one it is.

The first time the one in our bedroom did this – at 2 am – my husband insisted that we had to change the battery right then. (I was all for heading down to the living room to sleep.)

And that’s when we discovered we didn’t have a tall-enough ladder.

My husband, though, was not to be dissuaded.

So, there we were, him teetering on the very top of the ladder we did have (you know, where the label warns you not to stand), stretching to reach the alarm, me fluttering anxiously beneath. I couldn’t catch him if he fell, I figured, but I could use my body to break his fall, and should concentrate on not letting his pumpkin head hit the floor. Best thinking I could do, at 2 am. (Well, my idea to sleep on the couch was better.)

Oh, and when you plug the alarm back into the ceiling, it automatically sets all of them off. “Fire! Fire! Carbon monoxide!” yell British ladies throughout the house. “Whoop! Whoop!” Lucky it didn’t startle him off the ladder. It did scare the kids awake.

Recently, I changed all the batteries. (Yay, me.)

I was taking down the (now tall-enough) ladder when “Beep. ‘Low battery.’”  Scurried back up, redid that one. Climbed down.

“Beep. ‘Low battery.’”

Back up, put in a different battery. Waited. Nothing. Climbed down.

“Beep. “Low battery.’”

Oh, come on!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Fearing Fear Itself

Some people say you should do something that frightens you every day.

Since I just went on a long car trip involving my husband driving out of Houston on its freeways (12 lanes of cars weaving in and out at 70 mph) and then my daughter, a newly minted driver, taking over, I’d say I racked up enough fear time for a month.

Fear is a terrible feeling. I say this as a phobic person, well acquainted with feeling terrified. (If you couldn’t tell, I have a phobia about driving.)

I think of fear as physical symptoms (palms springing sweat, muscles so tense they begin to ache) tailor-made by million years of evolution to drive you to the most desperate actions. Consider: people suffering from panic attacks – feeling all the symptoms of fear – are convinced they are dying.

Some people love going to horror movies and on roller coasters. Is it because it feels so good once the movie or the ride is over? That’s the only thing I can figure.

One of the most insidious things about alcoholism or other types of substance abuse is the afflicted person is driven to do the very thing that hurts them. In a way, phobias are the same: if you are terrified of something, you will do pretty much anything to avoid it. 

And that is my conundrum. If I call a therapist to work on my fear of highways, that therapist will have me drive on a highway. That's the standard treatment for a phobia: making you repeatedly face your fear.

And I really, really don’t want to do that.

So, I don’t call.

But fear grows and spreads.  (I didn’t used to become nervous when other people drove.)

So, I’ve got to call.


Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Advantages of Being Beautiful

The other night, my daughter and I took our dog Lola with us to the frozen yogurt place in our

In the 20 minutes we were there, no fewer than 15 people gathered around Lola, to exclaim over her, to pet her, to take pictures, to ask how much “a dog like that” costs.

She loves all this.

And it’s not uncommon. Sometimes, when I am walking her, people will roll down their windows and yell, “Hey, Lola!” as they drive by. I don’t know these people. How does Lola? I am beginning to wonder if she goes out without me sometimes.

Lola is not an exotic dog. She’s a standard poodle.

But she is exceptionally beautiful. I can’t put my finger on exactly why. She is very well proportioned. She is bursting with health and vitality. At seven, she bounces around like a puppy. And her personality may be part of it. Lola is an extrovert, super interactive, with a very expressive face, which, when she gets someone to pay attention to her, generally expresses sheer delight. I really do believe Lola has charisma.

All of this comes naturally to Lola – and she benefits greatly from it. She is showered with love and attention, even from complete strangers.

There’s a lot of information out there about the very real advantages of being physically attractive, such as this Huffington Post infographic. And it builds on itself: from birth, attractive children are given more positive attention, including higher grades, so as adults, they are confident, which only adds to their attractiveness. And then there’s “the halo effect”: people tend to assume that attractive people are nicer, more honest and upstanding (even though they are not) and smarter (there’ssome evidence that, on average, they may be).

But it’s just happy luck, at least for the person or dog so blessed. Just ask Lola.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

In Case You Didn't Believe Me ...

... about my family playing The Pooping Dog Game.

Here is the birthday card I received today from my mother, the inventor of the game:

From Share a Laugh, American Greetings

Inside, my mother wrote "Gotcha!"

Nice one, Mom.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Dog Poop

© Diana Thomson
Someday, archeologists are going to excavate our landfills and find millions of little plastic bags,
each one containing a single dog shit. (Also, millions of disposable diapers, each containing a single baby shit.)

What are they going to think?

If they surmise that we were fascinated by shit, they wouldn’t be entirely wrong, at least about some of us.

Three generations of my family play a game that could be called “Make the other person look at the pooping dog.” You are out somewhere with a companion. You see a dog shitting. You figure out a way to fool your companion into looking at the pooping dog. (“What kind of flower is that?” you might ask, pointing.) The goal is to get the other person to look in a way they can’t deny: they stopped and turned around, for instance.

My mother is the reigning champ at this game. One memorable day, she cried, “Look! A mother deer with two fawns!” My sister and I ran to the window … only to see our dog taking a dump in the yard.

This game is not easy. It takes a dog only seconds to shit; you’ve got to act fast. (And it is much less easy once people have learned that you are a weirdo who will do something like this.)

But we are not alone. Here, from a professional photographer, are “Dramatic Portraits of Dogs Pooping.” And here’s where you can order your 2014 “pooping dog” calendar. And this news story is about a researcher who recorded thousands of dog shits, to show that dogs – when they are fussing around with where to place their shits – may be trying to line them up with the magnetic forces of the earth. (Thanks, Yoram and Melissa.)