Archive for March, 2009

The Secrets of Cat Ladies, Revealed

March 30, 2009
  • Note:  I do not intend to minimize or make light of animal cruelty or animal hoarding.  Google is replete with sources for a serious discussion of those topics.  This is not one of those sources.

Every now and again, a story like this shows up in the news — a crazy cat lady is found in a house overrun by cats, the owner’s love of felines somehow rendering her insensible to fleas and the odor of cat urine and feces.  Until I became a cat owner, I never understood how anyone could become so attached to cats.  In many ways, I still don’t.  I don’t like my cat.  My recent NYC Moms Blog post about my cat dislike apparently was pretty unpopular with cat lovers — unlike every other piece I’ve posted on the site, it has no comments.

There are any number of theories behind what makes cat ladies become cat ladies — including that old standby, the messed-up childhood.  I have another theory.  It’s not backed by scientific or anecdotal evidence.  It’s something cat owners don’t talk about openly.  But I think it’s pretty obvious.

It’s the purring.

A soft, warm furry cat, purring and vibrating on your lap, is a singular, nearly tantric, sensation.  Unquestionably, it feels good.

Some people will violently disagree that there is anything sexual about it.  It may not be bestial, but a live purring cat, seated on your lap in just the right way, is like a living Magic Wand.  It may not quite do the trick, but it certainly can make you feel all warm and tingly.

If you’re a lonely cat lady who has grown dependent on that nice feeling a purring kitty provides, you get another cat.  And another.  Soon, your house is overrun with cats, but at least you have increased the likelihood that one of those kitties will jump on your lap and purr just when you feel the need for purring. 

The problem with a cat, as opposed to other forms of vibrating love, is unreliability.  You can’t force a cat onto your lap.  You can’t ensure that it will always sit just the right way or stay as long as you’d like.  You can’t plug in a cat, or give it fresh new batteries. 

And then there’s the biggest personal turn-off — the shedding.  No matter what warm fuzzy feelings you might get out of having your cat on your lap, if you wind up with a lap full of cat hair, it wasn’t worth it.  There are easier ways to feel warm and fuzzy without having to care for a four-legged feline.

One solution to the cat lady phenomenon — in addition to intense psychotherapy — may be Eve’s Garden.  They have a wide variety of objects that purr.  A toy from Eve’s Garden don’t require food or water, it doesn’t shed, and you never have to change the litter. 

Best of all, you can make your kitty purr whenever you want.


Make Me Laugh

March 28, 2009

A post on the blog White Hot Truth  made me start thinking about my own positively soul-sustaining must-haves — especially in my relationships with others, whether they’re friends, possible partners, or anything in between.  Number one for me is humor.  I love to laugh and to make other people laugh.  I sometimes think I have the soul of a 12-year-old boy, because I am a big fan of double entendres, and I can find sexual innuendo in almost anything.  Or maybe that means I was British in a past life. 

Throughout my life, my best friends have all been people who “got” my sense of humor.  My best relationships have also been with men who laughed at my jokes.  I have always been attracted to men I found funny, but I never used to demand that they find me funny in return.  I used to think it was enough for them to have a sense of humor, whether or not they thought I had one.  During my marriage, I discovered how wrong I was. 

My ex-husband remains one of the funniest men I’ve ever met.  (His late brother Charles was even funnier.)  His dry wit drew me in from the first moment we met.  I used to work overtime to try to make him laugh in return, with varying degrees of success.   At times, I’m sure I tried way too hard.  One of the most hurtful things he ever said to me was, “You have no sense of humor at all.”  It was hardly the cruelest thing he ever said to me, but it cut me deep.  I stopped trying to make him laugh.  And when I lost interest in that, I lost interest, period.  I recognize now that not only do I need for my partner to be funny, I need him to think I’m funny, too.

I think the value of humor in business is severely underrated.  In some of the most productive business meetings I’ve ever run, or participated in, humor was used to get the participants to relax.  Once relaxed, they were more willing to contribute their ideas and agree on action plans.  The same is true for negotiations.  Although most contract negotiations are tense and stressful, I’ve been most successful when one or both parties used humor to relieve some of that tension, which enabled us to discuss our differences in a principled manner and work hard to find a common basis for agreement.

Humor isn’t the only thing I need, but I can’t be happy or satisfied without it.

Clouds and Panties

March 21, 2009

Blue Sky with clouds

When I was eight or nine, I developed a fascination with our World Book Encyclopedias.  I thought all the knowledge in the world was contained in those 28 volumes, and I intended to read each one.  I knew if I did that, I’d be the smartest person in the world.


The encyclopedias were kept on the bookshelf of the attic that had been converted into one huge bedroom for my three brothers.  For some reason, the “upstairs” was off-limits, unless you went with one specific purpose in mind and left once you’d accomplished that purpose.  This was not an edict issued by my brothers, it was an understood rule of the house, which meant that my mother had deemed it necessary. 


At eight, I paid my brothers no attention.  They were all several years older than me and all in high school.  Greg, the youngest of the three, was sixteen, an age that seemed unfathomable to me then.  I was simply the little pest, and the secrets of “upstairs” didn’t fascinate me at all.  I wanted those encyclopedias.


I don’t remember if Caroletta coaxed me into it or if it was the other way around, but my older sister and I started going upstairs (after Mama said it was okay) and bringing down one volume at a time.  We agreed that the A volume was too big; we’d save it for later.  The Ci-Cz volume was a good starting place – it was thin and, we decided, easy to finish.  We skimmed through it, looking for interesting topics, and Caroletta stopped on the section entitled “Clouds.”


Pre-Teen Drama

March 21, 2009

This is a re-post of one of my favorites.  My daughter is now 13 and is still not allowed to wear makeup other than a little sheer lip gloss.  Hasn’t stopped her from trying, though.

I discovered my daughter’s MAC makeup purchase completely by accident, the way moms have been busting their children for generations.  In this case, it’s because at eleven, my daughter hasn’t learned the necessary skill of covering one’s tracks.  She dropped the receipt from her MAC store purchase on the floor of my bathroom. I almost threw away the receipt without looking at it, assuming it had fallen out of a bag I was now using as a trash liner. But something — call it mom’s intuition — made me look at it before I tossed it.

“A., Cammie” had purchased an eyelash curler (?) and black liquid eyeliner, for a grand total of $36.  I squinted at the receipt.  This had to be wrong.  Maybe our babysitter had told Cami to use her name, since our babysitter’s English is not very good.  But I knew that couldn’t be the case, because the babysitter was very good about keeping track of receipts.  Whenever I left money for her to buy milk or cat food or fruit or whatever, she always left the receipt, the exact change, and any necessary explanatory notes, in her neat handwriting but sometimes incomprehensible Spanglish. (more…)

A Delicate Balance

March 21, 2009

This is another favorite.  It’s a long story, but worth the ride.

Last Wednesday, I learned that having a babysitter whose primary language is Spanish can be a severe handicap when one of your kids is in the ER.

I was at a diversity conference dinner, catching up with former law firm colleagues and law school alumni, when I felt my cell phone vibrating in my purse. It was my babysitter, so I excused myself, slightly annoyed.  I was expecting her to simply be seeking my assistance with some minor bit of kid drama, like Randy refusing to do his homework, or Cami doing any number of things.

“Please, can you come to hospital, because Randy, he fall in the house.” (more…)

Things I Learned in 2008

March 21, 2009

One of my Facebook friends wrote a note in 2008 called “Things I Learned By Age 35.”  Since I’ve already passed 35 on the highway of life, I can’t duplicate that topic — plus, to be truthful, I hadn’t learned much by age 35.  I was a late bloomer in the common sense department.  But as 2009 begins, I’ve reflected upon some of the lessons I learned — intentionally or otherwise — in 2008.  In no particular order:

1.  How to let go of friendships.  I think breaking up with a friend is harder, much harder, than breaking up with a lover, boyfriend or husband.  When my marriage ended, the hardest part was actually getting out of it legally.  The easy part was the morning I called my friend Kim and said, “By noon today, I need to have found a divorce lawyer.  And I need your help.” 

In 2008, I was forced to let go of — or loosen the reigns on —  a couple of friendships that I’d depended on for well over 10 years.  In both cases, the relationships had passed their “sell by” date but I was still hanging on.  These weren’t just any ordinary friends.  These were two of the closest friends I had in the world.  Yet, for different reasons, I had to step back and let go.  I miss these women more than any man I’ve ever been with, but I’ve let go. It doesn’t feel good, but it feels right, and that’s what counts. (more…)

Lands’ End of My Love Life

March 21, 2009

I have an addiction.  I don’t think my addiction qualifies me for A&E’s “Intervention,” but it may be bad enough to earn me a spot on TLC’s “What Not to Wear.”

I am addicted to fleece.

As I type this note, I am wearing my favorite around-the-house-in-the-wintertime outfit: a red Tommy Hilfiger fleece sweatshirt circa whenever Tommy was still hot on the streets, a pair of Lands’ End fleece sweatpants, and a pair of Lands’ End wool socks. It is as cozy as a pair of adult footie pajamas, but not nearly as cute. The sweatshirt is completely frayed at the cuffs. The pants are baggy and make me look at least fifteen pounds’ heavier. The less said about the socks, the better.

I am describing this outfit because I have actually been known to step outside my front door wearing it, and not just to put out the garbage. Using the “drugstore emergency” excuse – which could be running out of anything from feminine products to cat food to laundry detergent to Altoids – I have ventured out to my neighborhood CVS in this outfit. In very cold weather, it would be topped by my equally ugly blue Lands’ End parka. (The parka is a separate topic of discussion for another note. It’s warm. We’ll let it go at that.) So if you’re ever in the CVS at 125th St. and Lenox Ave., and you see someone who looks vaguely familiar from Facebook wandering around in head-to-toe fleece, just say “ahhh” and keep on going. Don’t say hi. Don’t say, “Oh, that must be the outfit you talked about in your note.” Pretend you don’t know me. Keep. On. Going. (more…)

The Sweetest Potato Pie

March 16, 2009

My mother makes the best sweet potato pies in the world.

This is not my opinion.  It is a statement of fact.  I have never tasted a sweet potato pie better than hers.  Believe me, I’ve tried.  I have spent years tasting other people’s pies, hoping to find one I liked better than my mother’s.  I haven’t found one yet.  If this were blind maternal loyalty, I could laugh it off.  Trust me, it is not.  I would love to prove, if not to her, than to myself, that some people are better at it than she is.  It hasn’t happened yet.

You may think your mother’s, or your grandmother’s, or the recipe that has been passed down in your family for generations, or the pie at your favorite soul food restaurant, is better.  Unfortunately, you are wrong.  My mother’s pie is the best.  Call it pie prejudice, if you will.

I wish I were wrong. 

My mother is the type of old-fashioned cook who uses her eyes and her hands and her taste buds as her only measuring tools.  She has never attempted to write down any of her recipes.  I feel pretty confident that she won’t.  She is now 78 years old, but age isn’t the reason.  She won’t, because I don’t think she’s willing to risk competition in the one area that remains her forte: baking.  My mother is arrogant and egotistical, wrapped in the innocent disguise of a sweet old Christian lady.  Her swagger deserves its own rap metaphor.  She knows what she is good at, and she won’t hesitate to tell you.  She has this uncanny ability to remain completely unselfconscious while describing the paroxysms of joy someone experienced after eating something she cooked.  There is not a bit of bragging.  She is simply stating fact – unarguable, unassailable fact.  (more…)

The Look

March 9, 2009

Last week, as I was walking to my office, I passed a woman on the street. She reminded me of myself – black woman, about my age, dressed for a professional, office-type job. As we passed each other, we exchanged smiles, and then she gave me The Look.

No, not the “who is this bitch?” look. That’s the look I used to get in my twenties and early thirties (and still get on occasion) – the look that inspired that song by Klymaxx, “The Men All Pause.” Klymaxx didn’t say it, but when you look good enough to make the men all pause, the women all pause, too, but they want to fill your heart with daggers and empty it of blood.

This Look is a new look, a different look. It’s a look of camaraderie, of kinship, of fellowship, of acknowledgement that you’re a worthy member of a certain club. I’m not sure what the “club” is. Sometimes, it seems to be the “women of a certain age” club. Other times, it seems to be the “women doing the damn thing” club. Whatever club it is that I’ve joined, our members know each other. And it’s not just a black thing. I’ve exchanged The Look with women of all races. The Look is a look of support, of friendship, of “you go girl” and “we’ve got your back.” And it is wonderful. (more…)


March 8, 2009

I’ve been promising for months to start a blog.  I finally did it.

The true character of this blog is yet to be determined.  It will primarily be a place for me to write and to post my writing.  On occasion, I may rant about things that annoy me.  So please come back often.  Comment on the posts you like, and the ones you don’t like.  And thank you for stopping by.