Baby Blue

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Breaking Bad Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After spending a week  mourning the end of the television series Breaking Bad, it occurs to me that I have trouble distinguishing between fiction and reality.   What is it about great television that does this to people?   After a few seasons, the characters seem more real than the people in your own life.   And a helluva lot more entertaining.

“Baby Blue” a 1971 song by Badfinger, is a love ballad that makes me weepy under normal circumstances.  Now it will always be linked to the final scene in Breaking Bad, when meth master Walter White takes his last look at the lab equipment he designed to create his special blue methamphetamine.   “Guess I got what I deserved,” the lyrics say, as the camera pans over a dying Walter White, fittingly ending his life in the arms of chemical science, his first and real love.  I keep replaying that scene and that song over and over in my mind, the way you keep touching your tongue to a sore tooth.

Most viewers knew where Walt’s hubris was headed several seasons back.   By the time the finale wrapped, they were almost blasé.  I thought I was, too – I was really prepared for anything to happen – and then they played that damn song.  Wahhhhhhh!   (A poignant aside is that the Badfinger member who wrote that song, Peter Ham, hung himself a few years after he wrote it.)  We watched Walter White go from nerdy science teacher who could barely make a decision, to a drug lord who acted so fast and ruthlessly that it didn’t even look like he had made a decision.

You watch villains become heroes and vice versa, and you discover you love them, or you love to hate them, and their crimes become secondary to their humanity.  I worry about the survivors.  Several times this week, I kept worrying whether Skylar and Walt Jr. would be okay.  I had to remind myself,  “Hello!  It’s a story!”

I am not alone in this.  The end of Breaking Bad left an apocalyptic trail of fan emo-drama in its wake.  “Baby Blue” has been downloaded kazillions of times from iTunes this week.  Just look at the reviews and comment threads.   People are posturing, like,  ‘yeah I knew this was gonna happen two seasons back,’ or they’re violently disagreeing and threatening to kill each other with ricin cigarettes.  Drama gives us a convenient way to invest our feelings in situations and characters that aren’t really ours, without having to risk the emotional expenditure in real life.   My husband threw the only temper tantrum I’ve ever seen him throw, after he thought he messed up the recording of the finale.  (Praise be, the recording was intact, and our household was saved.)

One viewer in a commentary thread said she felt like she’d given birth, just emotionally wrecked after viewing the finale.  That’s catharsis, the sense viewers get from having their emotions worked over.  They watch tragically flawed heroes pursue their ambitions into the ground, sacrificing loved ones in the process – and then they die, and we clap and sob.  We experience a vicarious cleansing because we rode the character’s emotional roller coaster for five acts or five seasons.

Last time I felt this way was when another great television series, The Wire, ended.  The Wire was filmed in Baltimore, a town I started to love when I lived in Maryland.  I returned to Florida a few years before the series started, but somehow the reality of the brief time I spent in Baltimore is completely confused with stuff I saw on The Wire.  The actual tame things I did — going to bookstores and concerts and restaurants and bars and the Enoch Pratt Library  — had nothing to do with crime  drama or drug dealing.   Tell that to my mind, though, and I’m not even a crazy old bat on her deathbed yet.  Go ahead, ask me for a Baltimore memory:  “Well, we were hanging out after the concert, going to Café Hon, and Jimmy McNulty was there, blah blah blah.  Oh, and when I got out of my interview at Enoch Pratt, I went to the parking garage and who do you think was there?  Stringer Bell!”

Yes, I’ve got a real life, last time I checked.  You’d think my real problems this week, a broken hip (my mom-in-law) and an abnormal mammogram (me) would keep me occupied.  Breaking Bad and Baby Blue made me cry.  Somehow this was way easier than crying about the fear and anxiety in my own life right now.   It made me really cognizant of the fine line between what I want to avoid and what I want to feel.

During the final scene between Walter White and his wife, Skylar, he finally admits that he made his meth fortune not for his family’s financial security, as he always claimed, but for himself.   “I did it for me.  I was good at it.  And  —  it made me feel alive.”  That’s why anybody does anything, if they’re lucky enough to find it.  For the rest of us, we make do with television until we discover what makes us feel alive.





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Great expectations . . . they’re a bitch!

For some dumbass reason unbeknownst to anyone but myself, I decided  to wean myself off antidepressants.  This is the first time in my life I’ve felt stable — whatever that is — with the right partner, some dubious maturity, and the house of my dreams.  I’m living that cliche of being  “in a good place.”  Soooooo —  after a month of withdrawal nausea and brain zaps and lots of saltines and ginger ale, I flushed the chemicals from my system and was curious to see who I might be, chemical free.    Well, here’s who I am:  a bitch.  Not just any bitch.  A bitch with great expectations.

Let me back up and define bitch.    I don’t mean somebody who jumps in people’s faces  saying unkind and rude things.  I might occasionally think those things, but I don’t say them because there’s too much meanness in the world already.  Mostly, I’m talking about somebody who says mean, rude, or judgmental things to herself.    So a bitch with great expectations is highly critical of others, but mostly of herself.  Oh, and to describe more bitch symptoms,  just so you know I qualify:  I am teary, easily irritated, impatient, insecure,  defensive, and snarky.   All the things I thought I’d outgrown — they were just masked by medication, every last one of them.


 (Photo credit: snowlepard)




So I’m caught in a limbo between wanting to bitch-slap other people and bitch-slapping myself.

In an earlier blog post, I referred to myself as  “a nice person,” which drew the guffaws of several of my nearest and dearest.  “Mimi Hall,” said one of my BFFs, “you are a lot of things, but nice is not one of them.”

Stung by this, I asked my husband, “Honey, Girlfriend X says I’m not a nice person.  Do you think I’m a nice person?”  And bless his diplomatic heart, he said, “Well, I think you’re fundamentally a nice person.” Ha Ha Ha. And ouch.

So I placed all this at my therapist’s feet like a cat dropping a rat at the doorstep.   “You are highly critical,” he said,  “but I find it hilarious, and you generally turn your critical eye on yourself as much as other people.”  And I guess that’s the heart of it.  I’m just highly-super-hypo-reactive, or affected by what other people do.  Not always a good life skill for somebody who’s 48 years old and just wants to get through the day without conflict.  I should be too mature to feel this way.

This is why I needed a barrier of medication between myself and the public when I was working.  In my mind, it was all drama, and anything potentially could crawl under my thin skin.  “Oh, please, please help my son find something to read!” a parent would beg.  So I invest thought and energy making suggestions, pulling books from the shelves, hoping the parent and/or kid would love the books as much as I did, only to later find those books left behind somewhere on the shelf, in the wrong place, not checked out.  I took it personally.  When someone scratched the paint on my car in the parking lot, I took it as a personal insult. “Who  the fuck did this?  Who did this?!”  The grandma who “tutored”  her grandson every afternoon by  loudly berating his homework mistakes was assaulting the mental health of the kid, but also insulting the dignity of everyone overhearing her troll tirades.  “That’s a decade of therapy for this kid, granny- bitch!” was what I wanted to say. I was exhausted at the end of each and every day.  Gee, all I wanted was for everything to be perfect.

Recently, I signed up for a cognitive program to handle anxiety and depression without medication.  One of the assignments the program gives you is to retrain your negative thoughts by listing them in a notebook.  My first thought was, “This notebook is way too thin to hold all my negative thoughts.”  That was negative thought number 1.  Eventually, you learn to restate those negatives in a more positive voice.  Like,  “I am a loser who wasted my entire day on Pinterest,” becomes something more like, “I collected so many inspiring images today.  Tomorrow I’ll use them in my work.”

I always figured low self-esteem was my biggest demon.  Turns out, it is unrealistic expectations.   Unrealistic expectations make us want everything to be fair.  We assume that since we try to treat people with respect and kindness, that others will always treat us that way, too.  Does this happen?  Well, what do you fucking think, Opie?

We  — that means me and all the other perfectionists I’m dragging into this —  want to do everything perfectly and are petrified of failure.  We are devastated by even constructive criticism because, chances are, we are our own worst critics.  We’ve already beaten ourselves up more than any other person could ever do.   And don’t you DARE say anything bad about us, because we’ve already said it in our own minds, thank you very much.  Is this sick or what?

According to my program, we’re supposed to lower our expectations of ourselves and others.  Gain more by expecting less. Be more effective by being less affected.   We’re also supposed to forgive ourselves for situations that we see as “failures.”   Yeah, okay.  I see all this and I think it’s very helpful.   But sometimes I don’t want to let people off the hook.  That wicked grandma shouldn’t be taking her own perfectionism out on her grandson.  Sometimes,  I don’t want to let myself off the hook, ditch the pain and guilt, and trot off to the ice cream parlor.

I’m just not gonna forgive myself for everything, saying, “Well, I didn’t make the best choice at the time, but I did what I could with what I had.”  For instance, several years ago,  I didn’t attend the wedding of a very good friend.  My only excuses for not going were selfish and shabby:  that I didn’t want to travel up north in the middle of winter;  that I didn’t want to be trapped in a hotel with a bunch of people I didn’t know — or any group of people for that matter — for a weekend;  that I was so exhausted by my job and crappy personal life that I simply lacked the emotional energy to pull myself together, get on a plane, and be there for my friend.  None of those are good enough reasons in my mind.  As far as I’m concerned, I don’t deserve to be forgiven.  Did my friend get happily married and have a good time without me?  Of course.  (So yeah, I know, the wedding didn’t depend on me being there, so don’t even call me a narcissist because I already think I’m a narcissist, okay, so you don’t get to call me that, so there! )

Was I a good friend to her?   No.


Is there any redemptive value in accepting that the mistakes we made were just that, mistakes?  I guess we try to learn from them so we don’t act like such a dumbasses in the future?

Oh, and the guilt?  In case you are wondering — no, I am not Catholic.


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Susie Q

1172224688_thumbnailMy dad and I were driving one night after taking my babysitter home. The car was a royal blue Plymouth Roadrunner with white vinyl upholstery.  Creedence Clearwater Revival’s version of “Susie Q” played on our 8-track tape deck.  At age four or five, I just assumed this song was about my babysitter Susie.  I figured the whole world knew about this beautiful, smart high school girl.  Her cheerful “okey dokey” made everything right in my world.

Dad let Susie behind the wheel of the Roadrunner for driving practice.  “Wow, Mr. Hall, are you sure?  My mom doesn’t even let me drive over the bridge.”   She tossed her hair over her shoulder, a gesture I would strive to emulate with my own stringy tangles that I never brushed because my hair was so fine that brushing was excruciating.

Susie was blond, long-legged, beachy, funny, and got very giggly about Joe Namath.  Her poker straight golden mane of hair was on the cutting edge of chic in the early 1970’s, like Cher and Peggy Lipton and Susan Dey.   She stepped right out of what I dimly perceived of the Age of Aquarius, the colorscape of Peter Max murals that permeated décor and advertising.  She was very different than my petite brunette mother who was a Jackie Kennedy clone, her dark bob carefully teased and sprayed into a helmet every Friday at the beauty parlor.

Susie represented a seismic shift in style, but more importantly, a seismic shift in attention.  My parents were extremely sociable and generally out all weekend.  I was an attention sponge, and I curled up, dry and whiny around the edges, if I didn’t get enough.  I don’t write this to discredit my mother.   She did important things like teach me to read and take me to my first library.  I got every book or toy horse I ever begged for.  But she tended to set things in motion,  then step back.   I had to have a major meltdown before she would really stop to bolster my ego.

If you’re lucky, you are blessed with a caretaker who is generous enough to give what birth parents sometimes cannot.  Like Aibileen tells little Mae Mobley in The Help,  “You is smart.  You is kind. You is important.”  They convince us that we deserve that level of love.   The trick is staying convinced when these people are no longer in your life.

Susie was really my first friend. She never made me feel like she had somewhere better to be.  We played a Black Beauty board game by the hour, read Artie the Smartie over and over, ate Beanie Weenie TV dinners, went to the beach, walked in the orange grove and down by the river.  I started writing and illustrating a comic strip featuring the Pink Panther, Susie, and me.

“Look at this, Mom,” she told her own mother, Marilyn.   “She’s writing and illustrating her own book!  She is so smart.”

“Hmm,” said Marilyn, echoing my own mother’s blasé attitude. My mom thought of course I would be able to read, write, and tell stories by the time I was in kindergarten.  It was kind of expected.

Susie bragged about me.   This was something my mother made a point of never doing, ever, because she hated listening to other people who boasted about their kids.  Later, after I was a children’s librarian for a decade, I saw what good parents act like.  They are almost insufferable because they talk about their kids nonstop.  But their children glow with a quiet self-confidence.

When my brother came along, he naturally took his share of Mom’s love and attention.  And to be fair, my brother was a troubled, difficult spirit who needed extra tending.  My mother had her work cut out handling his darker energy.  But my brother didn’t win Susie over, and that was important.

One day, Susie, my brother, and I walked on the beach.  His diaper got wet and dirty, and he marched along naked, pointing his tiny tinkler at cars and squirting them. Susie and I laughed and laughed, complicit in allowing this undignified spectacle. We both knew my mother would have stopped it pdq.

When we got home, I overheard Susie’s mother, Marilyn, say, “ You let him walk home that way?  You don’t pay as much attention to him as you do her.”

“I like Mimi better.  She’s more interesting.”   That is all I wanted my mother to say.  Of course, she never could or would.

While I needed attention, Susie needed something else. She needed to bust out of our small town.  As I drove around with Susie and her girlfriends in Marilyn’s old Plymouth, the restlessness was palpable.

“God, Mom is driving me crazy!”  said Susie, backing out of the driveway, friend in the front, me in the back. The girls’ purses bulged with bright wallets, gum, and hairbrushes to groom those long manes.  Their big girl stuff announced that they were adults ready to join the world and get the hell out of Dodge.   If it didn’t happen today, it was going to happen one day soon.  Driving around town was just orbiting until they achieved escape velocity.

I went to Susie’s high school graduation.  My parents must have been busy that weekend because I spent the night at her house.  In her bedroom, she and a couple of friends got ready to go party.  I put my pajamas on, watching her squeal as she unrolled a huge poster of Joe Namath.  When Susie left for the evening, I knew it was the beginning of goodbye. Marilyn checked on me as I drifted off to sleep.

Susie left the beachside periwinkle that she shared with her mother, went to college, met a nice guy from up north and moved to Manhattan.  She learned her way around that urban island with the same sunniness that illuminated my young world.  She went on to have a brave and interesting life, and is mother to a beautiful, accomplished daughter.

“You were my practice,” Susie told me years later.  I just didn’t know it was practice.  I never really got that kind of concentrated attention again.  Without knowing it, I’ve subjected every single good friend and partner over the years to the Susie-test.   Do they like me enough so that I feel safe basking in their light?

A few years after she left for college, Susie brought her boyfriend to Florida and married him.  My dad performed the ceremony in his office.  Apparently I was there, but I don’t remember a thing.   Nothing.  Not what I wore, what I said, not what Susie or her husband looked like.   Recently, I saw a photograph of this day, and I realized I completely blocked this event from my memory.  My face looks wan and defeated, as close to gray as a five or six- year-old’s can get. I looked like a kid who just lost her best friend.

The notion that I had any special abilities or deserved to be loved that much faded gradually.  I started to discredit my own memories, and any notion that I had been a special kid made me roll my eyes with the same disdain that I reserved for people who checked The Velveteen Rabbit out of the library.

One day at work, I got an email from my long-lost friend and babysitter.  She reminded me of what a bright and beautiful kid I’d been.  I went in my office and cried because I thought I’d imagined the whole thing.

The happy coda to all this is that Susie is as funny, bright, and loving as I remembered her.  My first friend is still my friend, and her wonderful partner Nancy is now my friend, too.   Susie became a spiritual counselor and minister, and she performed our wedding ceremony when I married by husband in 2011.

So, people, not only love your damn kids, but also tell them you love them.  Tell them all the time.  Tell them in front of other people.  Make everyone suffer through it.   Who else is going to boast about your kids?  Most families don’t have a super-babysitter to do it.  Even if you secretly think your kid’s coloring page is average, tell her it’s wonderful.   A kid with average talent who is comfortable enough to make art is the one who becomes an artist: not the kid with loads of talent who is too self-critical and scared to paint anything at all.

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Food Hoarding 101

courtesy suburbman.tumblr.comHere’s full disclosure:  I am not an enthusiastic cook.  I come by it honestly.  When my brother and I used to ask my mom “What’s for dinner?” her response was, “How the hell should I know?” She taught dance classes and ran a dance company so her energies went elsewhere.  Usually,  Dad brought home pizza, subs, or fish boxes from a seafood carryout.   Some days we’d come home and our combined cook/cleaning lady/babysitter, Lucy, would be standing over the stove with a Winston Salem hanging off her lip, about to drop ash into a pot of collard greens.  Extra flavor. (I’m not kidding — those greens were good.)   When Lucy wasn’t around, my brother and I devised all kinds of crappy snacks like butter and sugar sandwiches, and we invented a toxic kiddy cocktail we called “TeaGaySu,” which was Nestea powder, Gatorade,  and copious amounts of sugar guzzled from a huge pitcher.   It caused us to run around the house and yard, beating each other up until exhausted,  then we faded into sugar comas until one of us revived and mixed a fresh pitcher of TeaGaySu.  Anyway, we entertained and fed ourselves.

So I never realized how a segment of the population is still wired into hunter and gatherer mode, except that instead of tracking sabertooth tigers and growing corn, people go to Publix and Piggly Wiggly.  There’s a neurosis at the other end of the pendulum, and its voice is the cry of  “Did you get enough to eat?”  “Don’t spoil your appetite!” and “What time do you want to eat?”  “How are you going to cook that?”   “Is that going to be enough?”  Basically, it’s just having all kinds of food at all times,  and talking about food all the time, and it is fucking exhausting.

My mother-in-law, Gloria, has taught me some new survival skills, like:

1.  Hours  — sometimes days — before going shopping, you must prepare a grocery list.   If you already have an item in the cupboard, you’d better buy two more ( in case future generations roaming the earth after a nuclear disaster are hungry).  That way, at least you’ll have it.

2.  There are some items on a grocery list, like Caesar salad lettuce kits,  that are purchased solely so they can rot in the vegetable drawer.   They are not intended for actual consumption. In fact, if you make the mistake of preparing and eating one of these kits,  an alarm is sounded that Caesar salad supplies are depleted and you must go out and buy another one immediately.  That way, at least you’ll have it.

3.  The discovery of a new restaurant is cause for anxiety, speculation, and advance reconnaissance.  You need to pull the menu up online, study it, select what you’re going to have at least three days ahead of time, and every person in the household must announce their choice.  You may make another selection once you arrive at the restaurant, but that’s highly irregular.

4.  The most important part of dining out is securing leftovers in a styrofoam box and then a bag (to prevent spillage).  One you get these leftovers home, you can put them in your refrigerator and talk about eating them later.  Most likely, they’ll go bad, because all the styrofoam boxes look alike and you can never remember what’s in them.  At some point, the boxes go into the garbage and this is extremely upsetting because NOW there’s an empty refrigerator and it must be replenished ASAP.

5.  House guests ratchet the food drama up to an almost unbearable degree.  Especially “special needs” guests, like vegetarians or teenagers.  A guessing game ensues about what these people want to eat, what time will they arrive, what time they want to eat, where they want to eat their meals.  It inevitably results in a bunch of food that never gets eaten.  A few weeks ago, a perfectly good meatball sub sat forlorn all weekend simply because it couldn’t compete with the five pizzas, tacos,  Burger King, 10 bags of Doritos, cookies, ice cream, and other goodies bought to feed our teenage son JR and his friend.    Well, at least we had it.  Just in case somebody wanted it.

6.  Any trip to the grocery store is so exhausting that nobody wants to cook.  At these times, it is best to supplement the $500 worth of food you’ve just bought by getting fast food or ordering delivery food.  This way, everyone will get enough to eat, and as for the food that’s already there — well, it’s already there, just in case you want it.

A few days ago, a girlfriend came to visit.  We were lolling around talking, and she said her mom is very similar.  Every time she goes to Atlanta to see her mom, she is cross-questioned.  “What do you want to eat while you’re here? I have to go shopping!  Last time you were here you didn’t eat all the yogurt I bought.”

“Mom,  please don’t worry about it,” she says, knowing she’ll be ignored.

So we’re talking about all this, and Gloria hollers down the stairs,  “Mimi, I’m going to fix Sloppy Joes tonight!  I think there’s some frozen hamburger in the freezer, but we may need to get some more next time we go to Publix.”   This is still morning time.

“Okay, great,” I said, rolling my eyes ungratefully.  Soon after, my friend and I went out to lunch, and yes, we did invite Gloria.  She didn’t want to go, but she DID want to know where we were going and what we were going to eat.

Over lunch — which my friend and I completely acknowledged as another “women having lunch”  food ritual — we decided that almost ALL  human interactions center around food.  Many people, especially women, love to control their situations by feeding others, shopping for food,  sharing recipes, and even minimizing their own food intake as they watch others eat.   Gloria, always an attractive, Twiggy-thin, woman, has always nibbled sparingly, while everyone around her chows down.   She can starve herself, but at least nobody else is going to bed hungry.   This is also common eating disorder behavior — if you watch others eat while denying yourself, you are strong.

To be fair, belatedly, I love to eat.  I just resent the overwhelming effort it requires.  My dad represents the happier side of food obsession.  After my brother and I were grown and  it became crystal clear that my mom was never going to love cooking, he started doing all the grocery shopping and all the suppertime prep.  Nowadays, he is a virtuoso cook who shops daily for specific meals, treasures his recipe books, and works in the kitchen with an orchestra conductor’s finesse.  He sets out his ingredients with as much pleasure as I choose clothes from my closet every day.  Simply, it’s his passion, although my stepmom will attest he’s very messy.   My stepmother Bobbi, who is also a gifted cook,  sets an exquisite table with her many fun dishes and glasses.  Meals are beautiful,  delicious,  relaxed,  and I always think, ‘Okay, this is how to do it.’

Then I come home to:  styrofoam plates,  food that has to be packed away and stored fifteen minutes after eating, endless grocery lists of food that we never eat.  I avoid the kitchen at all costs.  My poor, ponytailed  husband is a really good sport.  He went upstairs tonight to prepare spaghetti and meatballs for everyone.  As I was typing this, I heard,  “Where’s your hairnet?!”  “What kind of meatballs are those?”  “How many are in the package?”  “Will that be enough for JR?”  “Why didn’t you eat that key lime pie?”  “That’s it, we’re never buying any more pie!”  “We might be out of spaghetti sauce.”  (Trust me, we must have 30 jars.)  “There’s no room for you to put leftovers in the fridge!”   “What kind of pan are you using?”  “We never used to fix spaghetti like that!”

Jesus Christ, just give me some vodka and TeaGaySu.





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Sports Cars and Sex

Get OFF the hood of my car, bitch!

Why is sports car sexiness the exclusive purview of men?  I’m so sick of it.  I just finished reading an article about a motorsport event at Goodwood, England, and for about the 500th time I’ve seen the love of beautiful cars compared to the love of beautiful women.  Where does that leave us women who love beautiful cars?  Admiring ourselves?  Shit out of luck, that’s where.

I love sports cars, muscle cars, old trucks, even some monster trucks, and for my Pinterest board called CarLust, I am constantly searching for great images.   (And men, don’t kid yourselves that Pinterest is for pussies.  There are plenty of guys who have car boards.) The problem is this:  half the glossy, colorful images I’d like to put on my board are ruined by some artificially enhanced young woman, thong jammed up her ass, getting fingerprints and boob smears all over a beautiful paintjob.

I understand this pleases and excites men.  They like to combine their visual pleasures in one package.  Why objectify just one thing when you can objectify two at the same time? Car culture is a male-dominated world.

How about photos of gorgeous cars with gorgeous men? Try Googling  “hot men + cars,” “male models + cars,” and what do you get?  Not much.  I tried Pinterest and found one board named “Fast Cars and Hot Men.”  There were lots of images of good looking men, and a few nice cars, but not the two together.  It’s just an equation that doesn’t exist.  Racy cars equals racy women.  Period.

Sports cars are sexy.  They are exciting.   Yeah, I know the visceral schwing! of motorsports.  Even without a penis, I know that.  I like to drive cars, shift their gears, rub them down with wax.  Gasoline?  Slightly cracking leather?  Hubba hubba!   I’ve been lucky enough to own a few cars that left me limp (or should I say rigid?) with desire.  I’ve stared at them in my garage, feeling like a 15-year-old boy who wakes up and finds supermodel Gisele Bundchen in his bed.

So, okay, what am I even asking for?  What would be equality here?  A picture of a young male hunk dry humping a Maserati?  That would look sweet, but, you know, that’s not what I really want to see, because frankly, I’d rather see a picture of the hunk with all his clothes on, looking cute, kind, and somewhat accessible, driving his car like a real human being.

I don’t want fan-based equality at motorsports events, either. What the guys have, calibrated to please women? Do women really want to see the hottest boys from the local modeling agency strutting around in G-strings offering us power drink samples while we line up to have our pictures taken with them?  Would our boyfriends and husbands laughingly indulge us as we gaped at the pecs and packages of these young gods?  Probably some women would like it.  Sure, there’s always the male-revue-loving sister who joyfully hollers and shoves $50 bills down some dude’s nut holder.  But for many women, the cars and the racing competition would be sufficient without the beefcake parade.

Lots of women love cars.  Some of us love them so much that we gamely tolerate the visual clutter of unrealistically gorgeous women that apparently adds value to automotive forums and events.

(I won’t even digress into the unhealthy body image this shit promotes: to young women who think they should look that way; to older women too old to, well, look that way anymore; to young men and geezers who now expect that level of hotness in their companions; and frankly, to the young models themselves, many of whom are probably starving to fit into those size 0 shorts while they spent $4,000 on a boob job instead of a semester at college, just so they could land this weekend gig at the racetrack.)  Okay, sorry, that constituted a digression.

Back to Pinterest.  Women and cars share a rich pictorial history. I’ve collected a whole bunch of images of retro chicks posing with cars, like the great Linda Vaughn as Miss Hurst Shifter, and just cute girls out for a day of mischief with their cars.

Linda Vaughn astride a giant Hurst shifter

Linda Vaughn astride a giant Hurst shifter


I’m not sure if I can pinpoint where the appeal deteriorates, but auto pinups from the past few decades make women look like sluts.  For example, let’s just take my favorite car, the Porsche, which is unfortunately plagued with a host of clichés about male virility or lack thereof.

Here are some images.  The first three come from reader thread on Pelican Parts, an online automotive parts supplier.  This first image is a trifecta for me – great vintage attire, Porsche 356, nice black and white composition – an instant pin.tumblr_lzh6gpZmU91r6nlevo1_4001329566717

Here are some cute girls having fun with their Porsche, probably at the beach.  They have some fast food on the roof.  One of them appears to be in her underwear.  It’s fun, sexy, probably something I would’ve done at their age. Pin it.tumblr_lz1e2kP4DT1rp4qemo1_5001329567040

Here is a young woman fueling her Porsche.  She appears to have lost her underpants.  But, being a Porsche lover, I understand how this might happen.  You are overcome with excitement about driving your car and simply forget to put all your clothes on before you go to the filling station.   It’s kind of piggish but kind of funny, like some dirty old German men talked her into doing it for money, so I pin it to a board that I share with a couple of my girlfriends who understand exactly why I think this is funny.


Now this next young woman, well, she just appears to be having an uncomfortable seizure on the hood of a Porsche 996.   This is where, as a woman, I say, “Gross!”  Or, if I’m a man, I say, “Fuck Yeah!”


(image courtesy

Okay, I might pin it to one of my boards, but just to ridicule it. We’ve gone from beautiful car=beautiful women to beautiful car=writhing slut.

Women are, for better or worse, more complicated than men in terms of sexual desire and visual stimulation.  Men see women as the sum of their body parts. Women weave tangled webs of fantasy around our objects of desire.

Let’s test drive this idea.  I look at a picture of vintage Porsche 964.  I don’t think it could be improved by a nearly naked man lying down on it.  In fact, I would be quite concerned about him denting the hood. I imagine taking the car out for a country drive.  Just the sound of that air cooled engine is amazing.   The downshift around corners.  Then I start thinking about the exterior color.

I might even want to put Nordic hunk Alexander Skarsgard in the passenger seat.  Or even in the driver’s seat, if I really like him.  Then, I know! We could stop and have a romantic picnic with champagne and strawberries.  There would be lots of romantic talking and kissing and maybe eventually sex.  Or if you want to have a kinkier 50 Shades of Gray date, maybe we fetch some blindfolds and rope from the backseat and we tie each other up.   But at no time do I want to look up from rummaging in the picnic basket for champagne or extra handcuffs and see poor Alex arranged like a piece of meat, his manhood throbbing next to the Porsche hood emblem.  (Unless he was posing in an ironic way to mock his sex symbol status, of course.)

See how this goes?   This is a whole silly fantasy, not just a bunch of body parts on a poster. I give up.  Men and women are too different.

Here’s an actual photo of the actual Mr. Skarsgard with his actual Porsche, and actually, this is cuter to me than a glossy beefcake shot.  At least, that’s my story until they start making calendars.  In the meantime, this one’s going on my CarLust board.



I love the cars. I respect the cars. And I respect you, too, sir, far too much to let you make an idiot of yourself by asking you to stick your ass out just a little bit more, please, as you hover over my rear spoiler.  Snap!  Great shot, babe!


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Getting Passed By a Schoolbus

A few days ago I had arthroscopic knee surgery.   This has been a big lesson in slow-the-fuck-down.  Too much jumping around in Zumba and too many years of jogging, I think.  Everything went well and I’m mending in bed, wallowing in a sea of fashion magazines, pug hair, pistachio shells, books, and my own body odor because I am not allowed to bathe and get my knee dressings wet.   Sammy the pug is really happy.  Uninterrupted mommy-time where I do nothing but sit in bed with him, from sunrise to sunset, is his dream come true.

So, yesterday, I went to get my bandages removed at the orthopedic surgeon’s office.  I asked my mother-in-law Gloria to drive me because I can’t drive my own clutch, manual transmission cars, and I wasn’t sure what sort of shape I’d be in when I left their office.   Gloria has her own issues with driving these days.  She popped a Xanax and we cruised at 40 mph the whole 45-minute trip.  At one point, we got passed by a school bus. Pretty much a life metaphor right now.

Oh my gawwwwd, when the nurse removed the bandages and wiped my itchy skin with alcohol, it felt soooo good.  I wanted to scream, “Don’t stop, don’t stop!”  This must be what my dogs feel when I’m scratching their butts and they’re clicking their teeth in ecstasy, what Hannibel Lecter feels as his jaw shudders at the prospect of eating his friend’s liver with fava beans and chianti.  Then my surgeon came in and said my knee had been a “complicated scene” when he saw it in surgery, because while the meniscus was in pretty good shape and he scraped troublesome stuff away, I had a couple of tears that required tacks.  Both he and his nurse emphasized that I cannot dislodge these tacks, which means no impact for the next 2-3 weeks.  Here I’d been really proud of myself for gimping into their office with nothing more than a cane for support and very little discomfort. Now they say I am better off using crutches or a walker so I don’t overstress the knee.  I still cannot get the site wet.  “How am I supposed to take a bath or shower?”  I asked.  “Well, you can arts-and-crafts it any way you want,” said my doctor.  “Just don’t get it wet and don’t do anything stupid like go in a hot tub.”   I gave the walking stick back to Gloria and told her that I might need her crutches and walker, after all.

This is a truism of surgery, I guess.  Your doctor makes it sound minor and asserts how you will be back up to 100% in no time.  The reality is that you operate at about 25% for a really long time, and it takes a huge toll on your family life, work, fitness, household routine, and self-image.

My life has gone from me being an ADD-fueled monkey, jumping (and often screaming at the other monkeys in the house)  from one floor to another, switching tasks and activities at the slightest change of my mental channel, to a kind of wounded, silent tortoise, cramming as many purposeful tasks into slow, deliberate movements to exert as little effort and impact on my knee as possible.  At some point, I just peeled off my clothes because I was sick of feeling sweaty and grubby.  My husband liked that at first.  Now I am stumbling around naked, with a walker, like some kind of elder-porn.   This cannot be attractive, but he is wise enough not to say anything.

I’m feeling guilty about my complete exclusion from the household honey-do roster.  Nobody hollers at me or asks me to do anything.  Husband has to do EVERYTHING  like feeding the dogs, shoveling their poop off the beach, giving them supplements and eye drops,  feeding us humans, loading the dishwasher, doing laundry, collecting the trash and dirty dishes from all three floors.  This morning after he cleaned up some dog barf, I just didn’t have the heart to remind him that Wednesday is recycling day and that he needed to take all the household bins to the curb before he left for work.

So here’s all the good stuff about being stuck in bed for days on end.  I’m getting all kinds of shit done, like:

1.  Lots and lots and lots and LOTS of reading.  September issues of Vogue and Elle, essays on how we’ve fucked up in the Middle East, the works of Albert Murray, a new-to-me Swedish mystery writer named Ake Edwardson, the brilliantly fun memoirs of Grace Coddington, and a true-dat tale of working in the public library called World’s Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne and a story of his uneasy coexistence with Tourette’s Syndrome.   I’m reading through the blog archives of Stuff White People Like , which turns nearly every word, gesture, and thought of my existence into a hysterical cliche.  In fact, I wish this blog hadn’t ended in 2010 because it’s been sort of liberating to feel that every breath I take, every move I make, has been somehow pre-ordained by the all-knowing hyperaware Christian Lander.



2.  Starting a Pinterest board about Andre Leon Talley.  Now,  you KNOW this was something that everyone wanted to see.

3.  Finally watching the last season of The Wire on dvd and episodes of Lewis on Netflix.  (See above-mentioned Stuff White People Like  post about how white people love The Wire.)

4.  Actually replying to some emails from friends, instead of thinking that I’ll do it later when I can compose my thoughts and then never responding.


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Europa, Europa

ImageThis was the car, yellow plus some black stripes down the back, that launched a hundred stares and whispers among the Edgewater Elementary Bobcats when my dad dropped me off at school every morning.  I was in second grade in 1972, and at that age everyone wants to think their parent is cool.  This was almost too cool. It was embarrassing.  Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, in our tiny Florida coastal town had a car like this.  Most people were still driving family Buick and Ford leftovers from the 1960’s.  They clunked.  This car had a tiny, quick Renault 16 engine the size of a sewing machine.  In the utter slackjawed silence that followed in its abnormal wake, people had plenty of time to hear its exotic whine. 

Dad already was susceptible to the lure of fun cars, and he hit the red line with this one.  He’d already owned a Jaguar XK150 , a convertible Datsun,  a TR3,  a couple of Plymouth Road Runners.  He doesn’t remember what car he was driving when he saw the Lotus at an exotic used car dealer in Melbourne, but he promptly traded in whatever it was.  The price of the car then was around $3,600 before trade.  (I know — sweet Jesus!)

To say he had fun in the car was an understatement. The only time he was overtaken was by a Dino Ferrari.  One fine day, cruising down a dirt road at about 100 mph, he flipped the Lotus into the Florida undergrowth.  He emerged unscathed and walked  to a friend’s house to call a tow truck.  The truck operator thought Dad was crazy because the Lotus was so tiny that the palmetto scrub completely concealed it.  “Damn, there is a car in there,” he finally said, and pulled it out.  The fiberglass body was pretty much okay, but now there was sand lodged in the already-temperamental little engine. Nobody could sooth or tune the poor thing properly in our neck of the woods, so Dad eventually traded it on another fun British mess, a Jensen Healey.  

Some years ago, I had a fun chance to ride around the Sebring track and all through the pit and vendor area in a newer Lotus with my friend Randy Pobst.  It took me back to the days of just me and my Dad riding around in the nimble little Europa. “Like driving in a bathtub,” Dad says.

The little British Lotus was marketed to the US in 1969 with a 1,565 cc Renault engine.  In 1971, a 105 hp Ford engine was offered, making this latter SE model the more desirable.  Today, a Europa from the 1970s, restored, rebuilt, and in decent shape,  generally costs anywhere from $14,000 to $25,000

Anybody got one I can drive?   (interior photo courtesy of Hagerty Classic Car Price Guide)Image

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