It’s Saturday. I just started a load of clothes and took a hot shower, and had to sit down for a minute before I dried my hair. I’m going to make myself a good breakfast because I’m 13 pounds lighter than I was a month ago, and I haven’t been trying.
I thought I’d take a moment–a very long moment with many, many words–and describe how I got to such a state.
Five weeks ago, my husband and I had colds. Bad colds. In fact, we had three week colds, the ones that drag on and on, and had us sleeping in separate rooms so we didn’t wake each other up with our strangling coughing fits (which we did anyway). It was one of those colds with the cough that is so harsh, I started to feel like I was going to cough an internal part of my body right out of my body. The kind where my stomach muscles and ribs start to ache from the exertion of coughing.
Even worse than the coughing was the nose blowing. My nasal congestion (like my nose) is extraordinary. In fact it can be spectacular (again, like my nose). I have very large nostrils and very small sinus passages. This combination means I blow my nose every thirty seconds when I have a bad cold.
I was constantly coughing but mentally functional. I signed in and worked from home every day, and was thanked by my manager for not coming in and exposing anyone else to my crud. I would have sickened my team, not only with my germs, but with the sound of going through eight or ten large boxes of tissues in three weeks.
Then, miraculously, I felt better. I had an entire week of feeling better. Wearing real clothes, going to a play, working a full day in the office (where I moved into the small office, if you were wondering). I like my new small office so much, I thought, I will be in here at least twice a week now! Because I felt so good!
We were all looking forward to this past Saturday morning, when we would gather to celebrate a pair of birthdays: my grandson turning four, and my granddaughter turning one. Various aunties, uncles, grandparents and cousins were gathering for brunch and cake and presents.
And it was everything I could have hoped. I wondered if I would ever share birthdays with my NYC grandkids, but now they are my Portland grandkids, and I was there for my granddaughter’s very first birthday! Baby S was a little overwhelmed by having so many people she knew in one place, but she consoled herself by making a beeline for my arms. Whenever she felt overwhelmed, she came right back to my arms. There was cake and presents and games and paleontology kits for the three older kids. A terrific time was had by all.
I mean, it just tore through us. And of course it did, because there were five small children there who go to daycare, and everyone knows a daycare child is a germ vector, an adorable zone of contagion.
So on Monday, after a round of texts to establish that yes, we were all either sick or expecting to be very soon, I worked from home. That evening, I entered a fugue state of high fever and running sinuses so intense that on Tuesday, I actually took a sick day. I called in. And that was a good thing, because I couldn’t get out of bed. I had spent the night somewhere else, somewhere strange, a land of fever dreams and body aches, rolling around trying to get comfortable, getting up for a few wrenching and violent sessions over the toilet, unsure of where I was and maybe who I was.
I eventually got myself up, took my heart pill, and made a cup of coffee, which I consumed with a view to taking a coffee nap. Here’s an explanation of what that is and why you should try to take one when you’re exhausted: Coffee Napping.
After I woke up from said coffee nap, I felt well enough to collapse on the sofa in front of HGTV. There, for approximately 14 hours, I stared at reruns of Fixer to Fabulous. This show features Dave and Jenny Marrs, who fix up homes for people in the Bentonville, Arkansas area. So, lots of Wal-Mart and Tyson money. The home price is usually in the 600K-700K range, and the Marrs often have budgets of 200K to work with. They do very nice things within that budget.
You can learn a lot while staring at the same people for hours on end in a semi-conscious state. Things like, Dave Marrs is faster with a tape measure than any other person on TV. The instant Jenny has an idea, he magically has a tape measure extended up walls and into corners and across windows, just instantaneously. He also has an enormous barn that is actually his workshop, where he has every tool, saw, press, torch, clamp that exists. You name it, he has it and will use it to cut or fabricate or conjoin any given material in any given way to make any sort of thing.
I thought these people were Christians, but no, Dave Marrs is a Wizard.
One thing I enjoyed through my haze of fever and illness is how much the Marrs seem to like each other. Sure, they love each other, whatever, but they also like each other. If you’ve ever tried to be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t like you, you understand how nice it is when your partner does. The Marrs are respectful but playful, and there is laughter and collaboration.
This seems to inspire the same from the clients they work with. There is no bickering or contentiousness among these Southern couples with money. In fact, a man might say, “It’s important to my wife that…” or the woman might say, “My husband has always loved…” and go on to describe a feature they’d like to see in the remodel to make the spouse happy. This seems sincere. It’s nice break from the manufactured marital conflicts of “House Hunters” and “Love it or List It.”
This show is also a good place to go to understand some particular Southern values. Like, homes will be fancier, as in a little fussier. And if a family is racially mixed, that will have happened through adoption. There will be expensive plantation shutters indoors a lot of the time that should never be removed (I agree). And all women will be very well presented, and often blonde. Very blonde. Sometimes platinum blonde. And almost always barrel rolled.
I understood this a little better when the Marrs did a home for Jenny’s hairdresser, who is a blonde of the platinum and barrel rolled variety. When they showed a photo of this pretty woman and her daughter, the daughter was similarly coiffed. Then Jenny talked about how her own blonde, barrel-rolled hair, as well as the hair of all her friends and family was at stake, so could they please get this remodel done right. I saw how one woman’s aesthetic could influence my impression of an entire town.
Such deep thoughts, that day on the couch.
Gosh, I saw a lot of commercials, collapsed on the couch with my late mother’s comforter piled on top of me, comforting me.
There were mattress commercials, which ranged from the bespoke and cloud-like to the supremely technological. I’m obsessed with my own sleep and comfort. The simple act of lying down for a night’s sleep is so fraught, and has been since my forties, that I watch these commercials eagerly, hoping to see the magic bed that will cure all my sleep ills. I have no idea what would work, but I would try anything at this point.
Speaking of high tech applied to simple things, I also saw technological water commercials. I’m put off by these. I watch them with puzzlement because water is not a fraught topic for me—we drink water from the tap. We are on the Bull Run water system, and it’s as good as it gets.
Sleep and water, so basic, and yet, so complex.
I am made intensely uncomfortable by two advertisers on HGTV. One is LL Flooring. They do the commercials where people writhe around on their LVP floors. I thought the first of these commercials I saw was stupid, and weird, and made me think about how dirty you’d get if you writhed around on my own floor. I expected these commercials to go away, bad idea, call the agency, next. But LL Flooring unveiled these are part of a rebrand, so I think they doubled down. The floor writhing continues, and now it’s all I think of when it comes to LL Flooring, instead of “I wonder why they changed their name from LUMBER LIQUIDATORS?”
I’m also really uncomfortable with Home Goods ads. People sliding down streets and dancing with lamps. It’s all strange and uncanny and I actually like going to Home Goods, but these commercials unsettle me.
Predominantly I saw commercials for prescription medicines with names like Kelvida and Sylvestri and Contrisa and Bellatrix. I have no idea what the drugs actually do. I just watched a lot of normal looking people doing pleasant activities at a slightly reduced pace while the sun was shining. Over these lovely images, a disembodied voice listed possible side effects, like suffocation via swelling airways, pulmonary blood clots, heart attacks, severe edema, colitis, kidney failure, strokes, paralysis, and other symptoms that were severe enough to make me wonder, if those are the side effects, what the heck are these drugs treating, and isn’t this worse than the original condition?
I also saw many commercials for pet products. I was worried that pet commercials would make me want to have another pet, especially in my weakened state. I always loved how my little dogs would tuck themselves around me when I was sick, so seriously and carefully, like it was part of a canine plan to nurse me back to health.
But I had a revelation about the function of these ads. They are not there to make us want pets. They are there to inspire severe anxiety in people who already have pets.
Is my cat eating right? Is my dog happy with his food? Will my cat get fleas? Will my dog get heartworm? Will my cat find her litter box sufficiently pleasing enough to use it? Will my dog be lonely and destroy the house while I’m at work? And so on.
It turns out I had nothing to fear from the HGTV pet products commercials. Nothing about those commercials made me want a pet. They just stressed me out.
All the cruise lines have ads on HGTV. All of them. From the Viking river cruises I’d love to take but can’t afford, to the Carnival cruises I am too old and fussy to endure, to the Holland cruises I am still too young to take, to the Princess cruises that use the song from the old Love Boat show so I will never take a Princess cruise, to the Norwegian cruises I happily will take because we have rewards there! I watched them all.
I considered my options. One of those commercials had the best reason to take a cruise I’ve ever heard. “Unpack once!” Ah, you’re playing my song. I smiled as the happy silver haired couples had the onboard times of their lives—looking at glaciers in Alaska, watching shows, and then best of all, she’s coming down a stairway wearing a wrap dress and carrying her special little evening purse! What a great combo, the wrap dress and little purse! Do I need to pack one of those? I think I will!
I thought a lot about what I might pack for our next cruise while sitting on the couch in my spotty purple bathrobe and fuzzy slippers, shivering under my mother’s comforter.
I decided, while breathing through my mouth and blowing my nose, that some of those same silver fox cruise couples were on ads for ReBath. This is a cheap way for older people who know their bathrooms are dated to get them updated without a lot of money or fuss.
Dated bathrooms are now a form of social leprosy, one from which I suffer myself. After the fire, when the house was rebuilt in 2006, I didn’t realize I was supposed to choose luxury finishes for the rooms where we take showers, brush our teeth, and use the toilet. I mean, I was never expecting a spa-like experience in the crowded little bathroom off the main bedroom in my house. I just wanted a shower, so I went cheap and common and serviceable.
As a result, the rooms were rebuilt in a dated way. My bathrooms look like 1996, but I cannot bring myself to care deeply. So be warned that if you step into my half-bath, you should be ready to travel back into the nineties. Think of it as a time hop. (and by the way, I’m thinking of all the bathrooms I’ve used in all my friends’ homes over the decades, and most of them were dated. Some drastically. And I never cared. I was happy for toilet paper, a functional soap dispenser, and clean hand towels. We’ve been fed a bill of goods by HGTV. It’s just a BATHROOM.)
I resisted the allure of ReBath, but I was just about ready to sign up for Balance of Nature vitamins by the end of the day. Which shows you how far gone I was. Because I honestly couldn’t relate to a single spokesperson for those vitamins. Not the doctor with the sculpted hair, not the recovering stroke victim who seems to be manipulated by her caretaker and/or her small dog, not the the wrestling coach doing handstand pushups, and especially not the 51-year-old doctor who announces her age to the camera with a smug expression of “Can you believe it?!?!?!” because she doesn’t think she looks 51 (she does), but she’s so deluded about that, so incredibly pleased with her self-perception that I just want to pat her and say something like, “Honey! You look 35!” (she doesn’t).
I watched so many commercials, staring blankly at the screen while ads for exterminators and hardware stores and paint brands and other HGTV shows attempted to penetrate the fog of my illness. The only show that got through was Renovation 911. This is a new one, and I have to avert my eyes from this commercial because it shows homes that have been gutted by fire, hit by cars, struck by lightning, and flooded. If you’ve ever had the experience of seeing your home after a fire, the trauma doesn’t go away. Ever.
But then I would have to peek, because the sisters who host this show have hair that seems to sympathetically echo the state of the devastated buildings they enter. It’s up and down and sideways and twisted. It’s tornado hair. Jenny Marrs’ hairdresser has never been anywhere near these women, and it shows. I could not look away.
One of my daughters went to the doctor and had a swab, because she is new to her job and needed a doctor’s note to be gone for three days. The test confirmed that we all had Influenza A, whatever that might be. The disease was truly awful for me on one day, but I’ve been able to work from home the other days. I have stayed productive and away from the TV for the rest of the week.
Evenings, my fever kept spiking, so I spent them reading Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson. A wonderful book to read when you’re feverish, I mean it’s a perfect read for a fever, like a combo of “The Gilded Age” and “Peaky Blinders,” with seamy nightclubs, secret liaisons, double crossings, shocking setbacks and big reveals. 10/10.
My nose is almost clear, I slept last night, I have no fever. The disease is ebbing from the family. Some have completely recovered. Some of us are getting there. The party continues.
And you know what? The birthday party was so fun. We gathered, and drank coffee and ate brunch, we watched the kids play, there was cake and candles and two rounds of singing, one happy birthday song for each birthday child. Presents and games and cousins having fun together. And the memory of this flu will fade, but I will always remember those kids in the front yard, intently working on their paleontology kits (“I got a TOOF!”), and the babies in the grass, and the sun shining on everyone’s faces.
It plays in my head like a prescription medicine advertisement, one with a voice over that said, “This birthday party may cause high fever, vomiting, nasal congestion, and a lingering cough. Consult your doctor for more information.”
In this case, the side effects were definitely worth it.
I haven’t seen one of my dear friends for over six years. I’m not sure of all the reasons, but none of them have a thing to do with how much we value each other.
She lives in Tacoma. I met her when she started dating a friend of mine. She enchanted me. Yes, she was intelligent and beautiful but there was something else about her. Something deep and dark, a resonance that is difficult to put into words without sounding a little ridiculous. She had a calm, low speaking voice, the kind that has rivers running in it. Even her laugh was gorgeous.
When I first stepped into her subterranean living space, it was full of treasures. Ornate screens hung with jewelry, candles in sconces, bead-trimmed satin pillows. The walls were hung with framed prints of fantasy and pre-Raphaelite art.
They were all mermaids.
I was a senior in high school in Yakima, Washington, in what passed for an advanced Spanish class. We were playing a game called “Loteria,” like Bingo played with picture cards. My teacher would display the card and enunciate the name of whatever it showed. El Diablito. La Dama. El Borracho. La Sirena.
I looked up, my interest piqued. I had always loved a mermaid.
Ah, the mermaid. She was singing, as mermaids were once thought to do, luring sex-starved sailors to their deaths with her breasts, her siren song. Odysseus lashed himself to the mast to resist the songs that lured his sailors to their deaths, navigating between Scylla and Charybdis.
Those songs were sung by mermaids.
Growing up, I had a children’s edition of The Little Mermaid illustrated with photographs of posed dolls. To my young eyes, the dolls were beautiful, as were the props around them, especially the sea-witch’s undersea lair. The coral, the cauldron…the photos were wonderful enough, but the book also featured a lenticular panel on the cover. It gave a 3D quality to a photo of the mermaid herself, swimming underwater.
The photo pages alternated with text pages, some of which had line drawings in black and white. One of those showed the mermaid right after she’d traded her voice for a pair of legs, lying on the beach unconscious, her hair flowing down around her naked body so discreetly.
As a child I was fascinated by this drawing. I remember so clearly taking my colored pencils and with a few adjustments, moving her hair to reveal a little of her derriere, giving her blonde hair, peach skin. I promise, it was tastefully done.
After I started writing about mermaids, I went on a hunt for my old book, the one with the posed dolls. I saved all my childhood books so it had to be around here somewhere. It took some looking but I found it. I turned to the page with that drawing I’d changed and found it untouched. Had I simply longed to change the drawing so much that I thought I had?
Memory is a strange thing. As mutable and misleading as a mermaid. And this isn’t the first time a mermaid led me astray in my memory. It happened with a present I gave to my mother, who was notoriously hard to please with gifts. If the gift was wrong somehow, it disappeared, or sometimes she just handed it back.
This isn’t as bad as it seems, not to me, because I get it. When someone gives me a “wrong” gift, I feel like they don’t know me. I don’t feel seen. So with Mom, I never took it personally, but a correct gift felt like a triumph.
One birthday, I gave Mom this Danish plate with a line drawing of the Little Mermaid statue. “Oh!” she exclaimed with tears of delight. “I’ve always loved her, sitting in the bay, her eyes out to sea.” She hung it on a wall, so touched.
That plate was a hunch, a six dollar Goodwill gamble. It’s a beauty, but it’s a collector’s plate, and not the kind of item my mother gravitated towards at all.
I wondered why my mother loved it so much. I wondered what she saw when she looked at that statue. I wondered how this particular mermaid made my mother feel seen.
In my memory of the plate, the girl has legs. So I thought she was in her human form, looking out at the ocean, missing her sisters and her life in the underwater kingdom. She’d traded away her tail and gills along with her voice. She was stranded on land.
But I have the plate now, and photos of the statue like the one above make it clear that I was wrong. Look at her lower half. She does have legs and feet, but she also has fins of some kind. And she’s bare-breasted, so she’s definitely in her mermaid form. This means she’s watching the waves, pining for her prince.
Mermaids are supposed to be dangerous, but once they’re lovesick, they’re only dangerous to themselves.
Sometimes, mermaids are less woman and more fish. They are scaly creatures of the deep. I’m okay with that. Last year, I read a scathing book by Lydia Millet called Mermaids in Paradise. Imagine you were on your honeymoon at an inclusive resort taking some silly snorkeling excursion and you saw mermaids. Real ones. Imagine what might go on. The collision of greed and conservationism. The danger and collusion. This is a strange and hilarious book, a book like no other.
But there are mermaids. And they are real. And they are creatures.
I found Something About a Mermaid in a thrift store back in the 1990s. It was published in 1978. My oldest daughter has our copy, treasured and worn and hopefully to be read to my children’s children.
Like many books from the seventies, the book tries to teach a lesson about harsh life events a child might encounter. This was new in the seventies, writing books about bullying or divorce or other painful realities. Historically, books for children were didactic, but more instructive. Like, eat wisely and be obedient and clean, versus, how to deal with the fact that your parents don’t love each other anymore.
It’s difficult to strike the balance between fanciful and didactic, but this book does it. This little mermaid is wild. What a sweet, otter-like face she has. She doesn’t talk, or sing love songs. Her song is one of yearning to be set free. She is a creature. A wild thing. This book asks children to accept that wild things should be left wild.
It’s absolutely heartbreaking.
I moved to Yakima, Washington with my boyfriend in the fall of 1975. We stayed at the Motel 6 until we could find an apartment. There was a pool and he had nothing to swim in. “Let’s go to a thrift store!” I suggested. Despite his rough hippie exterior, he’d never been to one—he came from a prosperous family—but he was game.
We went to the Salvation Army thrift store on Main to hunt for a pair of jeans he could cut off. I scanned the shelves, as I always did, and saw a rough little clay statue of a mermaid. She lay on her stomach in the waves, faceless and crude, a student effort at best.
It is hard to believe that once, representations of mermaids were so rare that I paid a quarter for my little clay mermaid, just to own one. What’s even more difficult to believe? I still have her. Especially since mermaids are common, now. They are used as a motif in children’s rooms. They adorn shower curtains and word art.
The decor mermaid is sweet and cartoonish. She has no teeth, her breasts are modestly obscured by clam shells. She holds no threat. Once, on a cruise, I saw a grown woman wearing a t-shirt, claiming to be a mermaid.
I know my mermaids. And you, madam, are no mermaid.
I’d read my childhood version of the tale to my oldest daughter many times before I took her to see Disney’s “Little Mermaid” with its charming and goofy Ariel. I sat in that darkened theater and I was terrified. I knew how it ended for the Little Mermaid. Voiceless, endangered, flinging herself at the groom’s feet, begging him to understand that she saved him, and now he must choose her or she will die. Her sisters arrive with a sword and a choice.
This didn’t happen in the movie. The happy ending was a surprise. Wrong, mind you. But a relief. Speaking of Disney movies, I didn’t like the mermaids in “On Stranger Tides.” They were underwater vampires. I do love a vampire, but this mermaid seems to take the masculine fear of seductive women and make it justified. I suppose that started back with Odysseus, didn’t it.
It shouldn’t surprise me that female creatures born of male sexual longing have the capacity for destruction. I didn’t see that capacity for destruction in “Splash.” That sweet, hapless mermaid had no teeth. “Splash” set The Little Mermaid fairy tale on its ear. They could never be happy on land, so he leaves it behind and becomes her companion under the sea, completely dependent on her.
We had to wait for a merman in “The Shape of Water,” to show us how powerful and dangerous a mer-creature born of romantic longing could be. Maybe because women know men are dangerous, whereas men only fear that women are dangerous. Del Toro’s creature was far from toothless. He was a god, after all.
I forgave him for eating the cat.
Most children today know the Disney version of the Little Mermaid. They are unaware of the old version with the sword and the choice. I wonder if my daughters remember the original at all. I still wonder about the sword. Shouldn’t we tell our daughters about the sword? I’m still asking myself that, though my daughters are grown. They have already fallen on it.
One of my first published poems is called “Ariel.” It was published by Goblin Fruit, a fantastical and defunct online magazine. Here it is:
I settled for so little, for so long,
rotting muslin instead of a wedding dress,
wet pebbles he bestowed like pearls.
He kept me as a pet, and I let him,
my hair gone seaweed round my shoulders,
my voice bartered away, leaving me
with half-mad shrieks, porcine grunts and
clumsy gestures that amused him
until I performed my frantic pantomime
at the feet of his new bride,
flopping and heaving as if I still possessed
that column of scaly muscle I traded
for the legs I’d hoped to part for him.
Certainly it mattered that he was killing me?
While my secret gills closed in pink-edged grief,
the priest cried demon and the horrified court stood by,
wheezing with scandal, faces puffed and popping
like those furtive, skimming creatures
on the darkest floors of my father’s house.
My three sisters came to save me, and
they wore the shorn heads of disgraced daughters.
They handed me a sword. The story says
I had a choice, to cleave him as I was cleft,
to find within his sundered trunk
my own salvation.
I ran myself through instead,
but not for love.
Today, in honor of everyone’s favorite romantic holiday, I bring you everyone’s symbol of love and romance…GUNS.
Where did these come from? I really have to wonder about the level of frustration in the lives of designers of vintage valentines. Were they so tired of doing commercial illustration that their Valentines took this macabre turn?
I wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day. Here are further thoughts on the subject:
Flowers at Work on Valentine’s Day
The other evening, my husband and I were putting away groceries. When we do this, there’s always a small stack of HABA items (Health And Beauty A- what does the second A stand for, grocers of the world? Anyway…) I trotted off to our bathroom to settle in these items: a deodorant, my husband’s shampoo, eye makeup remover towelettes, a new blush.
Except for the blush, none of these items were going to be used any time soon. They went into the plastic bucket under the sink that holds the extras. I came out, pleased with myself. “We have at least two of everything,” I said in a calm and happy voice. He looked a bit puzzled. “Extras,” I said. “We have extras of everything under the bathroom sink.”
You have to have extras, in order to have enough.
I was introduced to the concept of extras in my teen years. In my own home, we only ever had just enough, and sometimes not even that. There was usually more month than money in our household of six people. That seemed normal to me. But when I was fourteen, I had a boyfriend. I spent enough time at his house to get a closer look at how it was in someone else’s home. And it was so different there.
They had extras.
For one thing, they had a pantry. A full pantry. There was enough food in there to last his family of six for at least three months, maybe more. I was familiar with some of the contents, like commercially canned fruit, fruit cocktail, corn, peas, beans and the like. We bought those, too, but just enough for the week, and rarely fruit unless Mom was making her fruit salad for a special occasion. This pantry held at least twenty cans of fruit.
I was shocked to see how much canned protein was in there; Spam, yes we ate that too, and tuna, yes, we always had tuna, it was the one fish my mom would eat. But there were clams, oysters, and many cans of something I’d always been curious about called “Underwood Deviled Ham.” Do you remember those little paper-wrapped cans? We’d never tried this luxurious looking little delicacy.
There was also a can that held an entire cooked chicken. It couldn’t have been a very large chicken, but just the same, this can (about the size of a big chili can) purported to have a whole chicken in there. I was intrigued and repelled in equal measure.
The shelves held an array of soups, and not just the cooking soups stockpiled by Midwesterners (Campbell’s Cream of Whatever, I’m looking at you). There were all the lunch soups in there, and varieties of crackers we never had at our house. Saltines, sure, but Club crackers and oyster crackers and breadsticks and Rye Crisps, whatever those were.
There were olives and martini onions, pimientos and pickles. I’m sure there was canned chili, which my family liked but never ate, and Chef Boyardee. There was never any of that at our house. I remember opening, heating, tasting, and dumping some Spaghettios into their turquoise-colored kitchen sink.
Elegant fixings and luxury items aside, there was a distinct bomb-shelter quality to this stockpile of supplies. There was such a bounty that when a group of us decided to take a weekend car trip to Lewiston, Idaho for the drag races, the boyfriend offered up the pantry contents to his less fortunate friends. They came over and loaded up bags of canned goods to eat for the weekend. If you’re wondering how he managed this, his parents were out of town. When they returned, they probably chalked up the dent in the stockpile to their teenage son’s appetite.
I wanted to interrogate this pantry, to understand the why of it, and more importantly, the how of it. How did a family of six accumulate that much food?
I’m sure they ate a lot. They had to, because there were four boys in that family, four tawny-skinned boys with wiry hair, and all of them were muscular and skinny and in constant motion with skiing and paper routes and hiking and just being flappy and fidgety because they were all a little autistic.
How was it that they hadn’t eaten up all this food? At my house we were a rather torpid and lumpen bunch by comparison, and we’d have cleaned that pantry out in a month.
Except for the Chef Boyardee.
I think toiletries were even more of an issue in my house than food. You name it, if it was in the bathroom, we ran out of it. We ran out of toothpaste on the regular. Hello, baking soda. And my mother was brand specific. We used Colgate toothpaste so if we ran out, we had to wait until we could afford the damn stuff. We even ran out of toilet paper and had to call in its more expensive stand-ins.
At the boyfriend’s house, which had three full bathrooms and one half bath, the cabinet under each bathroom sink was completely stuffed with a jumble of every soap, toothpaste, deodorant, and shampoo under the sun. Boxes and cans and bottles, all in a jumble, willy nilly.
There was barely any room for the multiple packages of TP. You’d look under there and find Mitchum and Arrid and Dial Roll-on and Right Guard spray, and Head and Shoulders and Prell and Breck and Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific, and Ivory and Dove and Irish Spring and Palmolive and Lifebuoy and Dial, and Colgate and Crest and Close Up and Pepsodent and Gleem and freaking Pearl Drops.
It blew my mind.
Whenever he visited his parent, the boyfriend would assemble a bag of this and bring it back to our apartment. I used it all, but objected to the Mitchum. It really did smell too manly. I decided roll-on deodorants were best, especially Dry Idea, and became a Close Up believer. All of these were brands I first found under the in-laws’ bathroom sinks.
I was with this boyfriend for six years, all told, including a year and a half of marriage. My future mother-in-law and I were never what you’d call close, but we did rech enough of a détente that I could ask her about her shopping habits when it came to toiletries. Leaving out the part where her son took home bags full of them, I just sort of, you know, perkily inquired as to how she came to have so many different brands on hand.
She smiled proudly. “When I shop, I always pick up a few of whatever’s on sale, whether we need it or not,” she told me.
That was it. She just walked down the aisle and threw a few of whatever was on sale into her grocery cart. Every week. All year long. And it didn’t bankrupt them.
Again, mind blown.
All of this is to say, I am now in a similar position. I am no longer eking it out from paycheck to paycheck, but even when I was, my kids always had soap and toothpaste and shampoos of choice and whatever else they needed to be fresh and groomed. The pantry was full enough to make it through a lean month. Maybe two.
Today, there are only two people living in this house, but the pantry is still decently stocked. My husband does a pantry patrol to make sure the foodstuffs he requires, like Fritos, are at acceptable levels. He monitors the jars of spaghetti sauce very carefully. I don’t make spaghetti sauce-based things very often, but rest assured, I always have six jars in there, waiting to be called into marinara action.
We could live out of the pantry for a while, but probably not for a year, as I have no whole canned chickens. Not even one. Pantry protein is restricted to canned tuna. I pay close attention to food expiration dates. If I don’t, my microbiologist best friend will shame me (she’s only done that once, when I had the entire contents of the overstocked pantry spread out on the counters while battling ants, but once was enough). I’ll keep something a month after it expires, but not a year. A pantry is both a comfort and a responsibility.
I hate food waste, so every few months, I go on a tear and refuse to buy food until we’ve “eaten through” the pantry and freezer. It’s all very fine to feel stocked up and safe, but it is not my intention to curate a food museum. I don’t need to stockpile. If there’s a nuclear war I hope to go in the first strike, so I’m not prepping for that. But I want to have…enough.
Toiletries are where I can go a little overboard. I know which things I like and need, and I’ll buy them in almost any brand with a few exceptions. Under my three bathroom sinks, you won’t find mountains of extra stuff, but you will find at least two of everything I use on the daily. Maybe more, if I find a good deal or get paranoid, which I am right now about mint-flavored antacids. I can’t have too many bottles of mint-flavored antacids. For the last year or more, they’ve been hard to find, and I don’t think I am the problem. One lady in Oregon can’t create a shortage, can she?
Likewise with Cetaphil face wash. Did you know there was a Cetaphil face was shortage in 2020? Well, I knew, and now there are probably too many bottles of that under one or the other sink. But I’ll use them. Eventually. I will use it all up.
There is always enough. There are always extras.
No, I’m not talking about the weather here in Oregon, though I could. I’m talking about an Instagram Reel I watched today, in which a successful realtor talked about “avoiding décor mistakes in your new build.” Like, avoid counters with lots of “movement” in the stone. Choose a classic floor tile, not a fun one. And guess what’s over in flips and new construction? That’s right. Gray decor has had its day.
Apologies in advance to anyone reading this who has a gray kitchen, gray floors, or a preponderance of gray décor. I myself cop to having gray furniture in my TV room, but it’s set against wood bookshelves and red walls (not red red, I am way too boring for that–think of Campbell’s Tomato Soup but made with milk like moms did so long ago). I added some red pillows and throws to punch it up a little more, because, seriously, gray has been an object of mild derision in my house since November of 2016.
What happened in November of 2016? Well, certainly you haven’t forgotten that night in November when a chasm opened underneath America, a chasm over which we still balance, thanks to the polarization of our country.
It happened because after election night, I stared at MSNBC, hollow eyed and grim, for about a week, waiting for someone to DO something, waiting for what had apparently happened to go away, or be challenged, or…something. But nothing happened, aside from an eventual and orderly transfer of power. Remember those?
So I started watching HGTV. Because it was easy. Distracting. Occasionally hilarious, though that was inadvertent. It was like eating toast when your stomach is upset. Toast may or may not be any less offensive to the system than any other food, but it smells good and there’s butter, and sometimes that’s enough.
HGTV was the warm buttered toast my soul needed, when I’d had enough of outrage for the day. Outrage was earned, and constant, and exhausting, so my husband and I watched it.
All. The. Time.
And we were not alone. I think a bunch of famous people did that, too, based on the new crop of celebrity-themed shows that have popped up on the network. Quite a few of us collapsed in front of HGTV in 2016, and we all have our favorite shows. Those of us who are celebrities can have shows, too, like Lil John and Melissa McCarthy.
These Johnny-come-lately celebrities do not host my favorite HGTV shows. I like them old school, and that means…
Before Ben & Erin, and aside from the Gaineses, the First Couple of HGTV was/were the mighty El-Moussas, Tarek and Christina. He was dorky and innocent, and she was blonde and prone to rolling her eyes and smirking at her husband. This lasted until the inevitable divorce, after which Tarek remodeled himself into a hunk so he could catch a younger realtor, and Christina completely checked out.
Despite her contempt for him and his almost total lack of a personality, I found them so easy to watch. They would find a cheap house in a passable neighborhood somewhere in the hive of freeways that is the LA area. Sometimes they would luck into an expensive house in an expensive neighborhood, where they would be almost guaranteed to lose money.
Wherever the property was located, they would tour the house while Christina said “Ew” a lot. Tarek would underestimate the cost of flipping with or without a contractor present, then pretend to “call the seller” (who I assume was a producer standing just off-camera) to dicker over the price.
Then they would gut the house and make everything gray.
Christina, whose voice is heavy on the vocal fry and SoCal Valleyspeak, would always be going on about being “obsessed.” She was almost always obsessed with something gray. “I’m obsessed with this backsplash.” “Buyers will be obsessed with this bathroom.” “I’m obsessed with these floors.” Christina seems to have some caps in her orthodontic history, so “obsessed” seemed really sibilant and over-applied because do people really get obsessed with a backsplash?
Especially when all the backsplashes were gray.
They were. Really. The backsplashes were gray, or gray marble, or those cement-look “let’s-have-a-fiesta” patterns in black, gray, and charcoal. The counters were generally white quartz with big swirls of gray running through them, but sometimes they were gray. The floors were done up in that taupe-gray, or just plain gray fake wood laminate.
Sometimes they went absolutely wild, and used gray ceramic floor tiles.
With all this gray, each home had the warmth and personality of a TJMaxx restroom.
Once the interior had been created in this cold, boring palette, they would go outside and paint three colors of gray on the siding. Christina sometimes slapped up a really strange color like puce, so she could roll her eyes and smirk at Tarek while he protested. Then fun time would be over, and they would agree on one that Christina called, “a nice warm gray.”
Is there a nice warm gray? I mean, really? Isn’t gray by nature a cool, dull, nearly invisible color? Like, have you ever just not seen a gray car on the freeway, because it’s the same color as the road? My brother actually sold a gray car after he got rear-ended twice by people who didn’t see him.
And the sheer ocular boredom of it. I have a soft beige bedroom because I want it soothing and restful. I guess gray could be that way, too. But a gray bedroom would veer from serenity to despair very quickly. Like, why am I in a cave?
But for ten years, gray décor has led the way. Especially in flipped homes, which are remodeled to be as basic as possible, so that no one can object to anything at all about the décor. They are engineered to be devoid of personality, which is apparently causing some trouble with resale, now. Can you imagine the stagers coming into these homes? “Quick! Splash some teal around here! Unearth some daffodil! For god’s sake, liberate the tangerine!” It must be a color emergency, every single time.
Let’s see what the experts have to say about it.
From HGTV.com: Go Under-board
“… the days of monochromatic gray interiors appear to be dwindling,” says interior designer Marie Flanigan. “Although we’re seeing less full-on gray spaces, people continue to be drawn to the thoughtful use of the hue.” The lesson here? A little goes a long way.
From the Washington Post, where “Democracy Dies in Darkness, but we still talk about decorating trends” : After years of being the ‘it’ neutral, gray may be on its way out
There are a lot of things people are sick of these days: bad news, limited gatherings, Zoom calls, incessant cleaning and disinfecting, and, judging from the comments I see on social media, the color gray. Whether it’s a pale shade or a deep charcoal, gray seems to have overstayed its welcome.
From Apartmenttherapy.com: Why Real Estate Agents Hate Gray Living Rooms
As is the nature of trends, it seems gray has been overdone to the extreme, with homeowners outfitting their abodes in the neutral hue from floor to ceiling—accessories and furniture included.
So sure, if you read these articles, which date from 2020 to today, you’d think gray was over. You’d think. But for every article I found condemning gray for the empty choice it is, I found another going on about timeless neutrals and versatile basics.
These articles extol colors like Agreeable Gray, Repose Gray, Light French Gray, and Mindful Gray, from Sherwin Williams (they also have Amazing Gray and Dorian Gray, which are clever, clever, clever).
Benjamin Moore has Edgecomb Gray, Silver Satin, Gray Owl, Gray Cloud, and Revere Pewter.
Do any of these names give you any actual information about which shade of gray they might be? And does it matter?
Let’s give gray the color names it deserves. Like…
Cracked Patio Gray.
Dryer Lint Gray.
Wheel Rim Gray.
Basement Floor Gray.
So, to answer my own question, I think gray might be over. I think gray should be over.
But since so many houses are gray now, I’ll believe it when I see it.
My husband and I went to see the 1962 version of “Cape Fear” last night at the Joy Cinema in our little suburb. I insisted we go, because I’d confused this “Robert Mitchum is a killer on a river” movie with “The Night of the Hunter,” another “Robert Mitchum is a killer on a river movie” that I saw at the Crystal Theater in Missoula, Montana in 1978. Perhaps my confusion is understandable after a gap of time like that, except I saw the Scorsese “Cape Fear” in the nineties and I should have known better.
This movie is dark and suspenseful and definitely worth seeing. Mitchum leans in as a baddie who is bad. Why is he bad? Because he’s BAD, I tell you. He’s a bad man who does bad things for one reason and one reason only; because he’s BAD. (Side note: I wrote two villains like this into Love & Mayhem at the Francie June Memorial Trailer Park, and though I forgive my one-dimensional characters at that point in my writing journey, and in this over-the-top book, I still giggle when I talk about BAD villains with my friend Shannon.)
Mitchum is horrifying, brutal, hypnotizing, magnetic as Cady. He’s also overtly sexualized. They strip search him at one point, and there he is with a man’s body, tan and hairy, broad-shouldered and holding in his stomach. I watched Jimmy Stewart change his pajamas in “Rear Window” not that long ago, and he looked nothing like this. It’s interesting to consider a time when an actor didn’t hire a personal trainer and work out six hours a day for six months before he took off his shirt on camera, as is expected today.
While Cady stalks the lawyer’s family in the city, the trappings of urban life keep him slightly at bay. He’s unavoidable and somewhat containable in town. He’s also vile, sexy, fearless. His implacable menace is terrifying. Did they not have stalking laws and restraining orders in 1962? I believe they did not, and this is what it looked like.
As bad as Cady is in town, once he gets to Cape Fear, Cady is in his element. There’s a moment when he takes off his shirt and crawls through the undergrowth to the riverbank, where he extends his upper body out over the water and waits, watches, smiles. That moment before he drops soundlessly into the water is one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever seen. He’s an alligator on his way to get his prey and roll it in the water until it drowns. I wish he could have played Gator Rollins. He is something.
But the 1962 version of Cape Fear contains another performance that surpasses Mitchum’s. And it surpasses this performance with some of the worst acting I have ever watched in my life. We are talking astonishing, vigorous, howlingly awful acting.
No, I’m not talking about Lori Martin, who looks so teensy and pert next to Peck, like a gymnast. She’s just fine as one of the frightened women who run around being terrorized (Polly Bergen is the other). And yes, Gregory Peck does his usual wooden portrayal of an upright man in this movie. He’s best when he stays in his lane as a morally rigid and very correct character. He does that here. I leave it to you to decide if he was really as good as he’s supposed to have been, because I find him reassuring and handsome and not much more. But his acting is not the bad acting in question.
No, I’m talking about Barrie Chase as Diane Taylor. Diane Taylor is an aimless young woman who lets Cady pick her up (in a bar that looks really fun by the way). She takes him back to her place and sleeps with him. I think. I mean, I am just not sure of the sequence of events because she is so incredibly, profoundly, confusingly bad in this role.
She has four scenes, and she’s fantastically awful in three of them. In the first, she’s flirting with Cady from across a crowded bar. Sometimes she looks like she’s giving him the come hither, and sometimes she looks like she knows him and is terrified, and sometimes she looks sneeringly disinterested. None of her expressions make any sense at all, especially considering the action that follows.
Because in the next scene, she’s in a car with him, all cuddled up, and languidly talking about the comfort a girl feels when she realizes she’s gone as low as she can possibly go by picking up someone like Cady. I thought this scene was fine. But in the next scene, we see Cady coming into her room (shirtless, of course), and she’s sprawled in her tossed bed in some really sexy black lingerie.
Clearly they have had sex, yes? Or wait, are they just about to have sex, have they not had the sex yet? But he looks at her, and she looks at him, and some strange thing is going on, another inexplicable interaction. She looks as confused as I feel.
He’s clearly up to no good, flexing his fists, malevolent, ready to pounce. But her? What is all that expression about, all that screwing up of her face? Is she scared? Is she hopeful? What’s going on? Is she just tired? Because she’s lying there in what appears to be a post-coital haze. Or is she drunk and waiting? Does she realize it’s going to be terrible and violent at that point? Or has it already been terrible and this is more? Is she surprised, is she scared, what is she trying to tell us with this array of unreadable and bizarre expressions?
She recoils, the doors close and noises of a violent nature begin. We are left to our imaginations as to what horrors are happening, which is, I think, one of the goals of this movie: to eroticize women’s fears, incarnating them in smoldering, terrifying, unstoppable Cady. Mitchum carries that load like a pro.
But we are not done with Barrie Chase as Dianne Taylor, not yet. There is one last scene where Telly Savalas and Martin Balsam (a private detective and police chief, respectively) come to her room. Savalas’s character has been tailing Cady, and follows him to this young woman’s rooming house, but doesn’t go up there until after Cady has had time to have sex with/maybe not have sex with/ subsequently (or maybe not subsequently) brutalize a young woman/escape out a fire escape, I guess. She’s huddled by the bed, and the scene that follows is a masterwork of terrible acting. I mean, you really need to see it to appreciate the reveal of her injuries, the head tossing, the stalking about, the phone call, the dramatic packing, the strange tones of voice and again, the utterly inexplicable facial expressions.
I wished we were watching this at home instead of in a theater so I could have laughed out loud. But sitting in a darkened theater with other patrons restrains me, which keeps me focused on the movie, rather than letting me hit pause so I can ask if that actor was in something else, or get a drink of water, or bother my husband to the point where the thread of suspense is broken.
As we left the theater, I was talking about Mitchum. But all this morning, I’ve been thinking about Barrie. So there it is. It’s wonderful to see movies again, and perhaps next, we will see one filmed in the last couple of years.
Shout out to the Joy Cinema!
I watched “Call Me By Your Name” recently. This is one of those movies I kept putting off because I had to rent it. I think kind of forgot about it after I read the book in preparation for seeing the movie, because there was this pandemic thing going on that made me seek out lighter fare, like, for instance, “The Good Place” (we won’t speak of “Tiger King”).
But for reasons I don’t like knowing about, Armie Hammer has been in the news lately. And that made me remember that I’d never seen the movie. I wanted to watch it before my perception of Armie Hammer’s performance could be clouded by any more creepy stuff about him–and I just know that more creepy stuff is going to come out about him. Don’t you feel it lurking in the wings, waiting to settle over his pretty face like a big, murky cloud of privilege and perversion? Or is that just me?
Anyway, I decided it was time to watch “Call Me By Your Name.” I had to rent it for $3.99, which was fine, because I’m cheap, but I’m not THAT cheap. The movie, like the book, is thoughtful, beautiful, and wrenching. It required patience to read the book. It requires patience to watch the movie. I feel that my patience was repaid, but your experience may vary. It’s a sad and romantic movie, and hey, speaking of romance, it’s almost Valentine’s Day.
So in honor of Armie Hammer, here are some vintage creepy Valentines with overt references to acts of cannibalism.
I have omitted the racially offensive cannibalism valentines. YOU’RE WELCOME.
Hoping your Valentine’s Day includes romance, hearts and flowers, and absolutely no cauldrons.
I’m sure we will all look back at 2020 with varying degrees of horror, dismay, grief. I’m lucky enough not to have lost anyone—yet. I’m also lucky enough to have lived through COVID-19, which my husband had in January and I had in February, before either of us understood what it was. And no, if you’re going to ask, neither of us has been able to take an antibody test, and from what I hear that’s probably just fine. I’d like it confirmed that we’ve had it, but no one knows how much protection those antibodies confer, or for how long. So we’re working from home for…the duration?
I have mysterious lung damage, and my husband has borderline anemia. We both had seriously compromised senses of taste and smell, but his seems to have returned. Mine goes in and out. I have never been so grateful to taste as when mine started to come back. And to smell petrichor, and my grandson’s hair? I am never taking such small daily miracles for granted again.
Please understand that I am writing to complain about this from the lap of white privilege. Like I said, I am able to work from home. So is my husband. We socialize with our friends over Zoom, or occasional front porch shouting matches with friends who stand in our driveway. Our small in-person pod includes my youngest daughter’s family, who also had the strange flu we all had in January and February. Everyone recovered from it. Everyone involved has health insurance, which also means we all have jobs. My other two daughters are healthy, and one is employed, and one isn’t, so she needs to move back home for a while. How long? No one knows. But we will work it out.
My daily quarantine environment is a long dining room table. I sit at one end and my husband sits at the other. I look out on a huge yard that’s ringed by trees, which are full of birds each morning. One ignored corner of the yard is now home to some small dark grey rabbits that hop fetchingly across the yard now and then, to my utter delight. The butterflies are thick this year, mostly some big yellow variety, swooping and dipping through their short, graceful lives. And a huge planter of flowering purple sage has drawn many honeybees, and a few hummingbirds to sip at its blooms. So, bunnies, butterflies, honeybees and hummingbirds.
Except, I am suffering. This feels like the year that wasn’t. We were sick in January and February, and then my youngest daughter had emergency surgery, and I was over at her house four or five hours a day after work to help while she mended, and then we went into quarantine. Everything closed in a way that I have never experienced in my lifetime. A complete lack of federal leadership left the entire country reeling and scrambling, with no unified, coordinated plan for containing this awful disease, which has turned out to be so much worse than a flu. The economic consequences are disastrous on every level. And that idiot keeps flapping his jaws in long, self-serving improvisational attempts to cover his own dementia. And now it’s nearly the end of June. Where did this year go? When will we have our lives back?
Still, we are okay, I tell myself. We are alive, we have jobs, and should those fail, we have savings. Lots of savings. My daughter’s career kind of evaporated out from under her, but it will return. And she has a place to come to, and she has savings.
I was texting with my aunt the other evening. This can be kind of an adventure, because my intelligent and artistic aunt has always been an oblique communicator. For as long as we have been directly communicating, I’ve had the feeling that my aunt is extremely uncomfortable with direct questions, even about inane, mundane topics, so I don’t even ask them anymore. It’s frustrating, and there have been gaps in our communication.
But my uncle died ten weeks ago, and she’s in assisted living, and of course I worry about her survival in exactly the kind of petri dish for contagion we all need to avoid. But this is where she lives now, and she assures me that every precaution is being taken. And she asked me, “What’s the best thing that you can think of about being sequestered? (I’m workin’ on positive thinkin’, here)”
So here is what I told her. One, My husband and I are relative newlyweds, but we spend 24/7 together in equanimity. We share this “office,” and meet up for lunch in the “break room,” which is the kitchen counter. All day, we listen to jazz or classical music on the radio. We do small, kind things for each other, and share the chores, and make each other laugh. I appear to have married the right person. So that’s the first thing, and it’s a big thing.
Two, my dogs are old. I mean, they are such a pair of old ladies. They were fully mature when I got them almost seven years ago, and I think they are maybe 13 and 16 years old, now. One of them is just fine, but the littler one is having a lot of problems. She’s completely deaf and has a serious seizure disorder. But she limps along, fierce and mostly happy, and we are both grateful to be spending these months with her, because I’m not sure how many months she has left.
And of course, the third thing is, I have two more books almost ready to publish of my own, and a new Orcas Island mystery in the works with Shannon. All this time in the house has to be good for something, right?
Right now, it’s 7:39 AM on a Saturday. The air is cool and my coffee is hot. I’m at the dining table, working on my own words, rather than work words. My husband is happily sleeping in, as he does on weekends, giving me this precious time alone. My French doors and windows are thrown open to my tree-hung yard. This morning is full of birdsong, all the sweet chirps and peeps, and the caws. The crows are having their usual arguments. I smell cool air and freshly cut grass. My ancient dogs have gotten tired of waiting for their breakfast and have gone back to sleep. It’s all so beautiful, I think I can be forgiven for forgetting about the state of the world for an hour, just to revel in this gorgeousness.
Be well, friends. Be well.
…to ask him if he’s sending me flowers at work this Valentine’s Day. Why? Because the pleasures of displaying my big beautiful bouquet in my office are not matched by the idea of carrying it home on my lap in the car. He sometimes includes lilies in my arrangements, and I’m so sick this week, and so I see myself riding home with my congested nose inhaling lily pollen and I just want to die.
But my husband plans ahead. Flowers-at-the-office may already be in the works. I will just wait and see, and be sweet about whatever happens.
I started getting flowers at work after my divorce and reentry into dating in about 2004. It meant a lot to get flowers at work, regardless of whether it was a couple of dyed carnations in a budget vase, or two dozen long stemmed red roses. I seemed to attract a lot of flowers in those days. In fact, a friend said to her husband, “Why don’t you ever send me flowers at work, like Karen gets?” He said, “Maybe you’d better find out what Karen does, to get all those flowers. Then we’ll see.” And he winked at her.
I laughed for about five minutes when she told me this. And then I said I’d write a book about it. “How To Get Flowers At Work, by Karen Berry.” Maybe, I said, maybe it would be a really short book.
The reality is, getting flowers at work meant quite a bit to me, especially on Valentine’s Day. I’d made the mistake of getting married on Valentine’s Day, which I have written about before. Valentine’s Day carried so much emotional baggage that I was in danger of having to pay overage fees. So when the flowers started to arrive on Valentine’s Day itself, I found it healing. I had proof. See? I was cared for.
I would be summoned to Reception and there it would be, proof that some man, somewhere, thought I was worthy enough to deserve flowers. I’d prance back to my office, carrying my arrangement, and set it somewhere visible enough that passers by would say, “Oooooh, those are pretty, who are those from?” and the entire world would see that, yes, even though my husband had left me for someone else, leaving me broken, toxic and full of grief, I was once again in the land of the beloved.
I’m not saying this was the most emotionally healthy attitude in the world. It seems petty to me in retrospect, petty and pathetic. I’m embarrassed for myself. But it’s where I was at the time. And I understand how important it can be to display that public statement of value and regard. To be honest? It meant everything to me at the time.
As years passed, I got used to flowers on Valentine’s Day. I even got a little picky. One suitor sent my flowers the week before Valentine’s Day, so the flowers were all dead by the time the day itself arrived. You can read about the ensuing debacle in my book, Shopping at the Used Man Store. I’m pretty sure this one wasn’t my fault, but he might see things differently.
Another gentleman suitor sent me an arrangement of pink roses from…Costco. The roses came with these stickpin things you were supposed to insert into the buds, with little plastic faux diamonds. This was too much for me. I didn’t want pink roses with fake diamonds in them, so I left them off. But when I sent a photo to the gentleman in question, I could tell he was puzzled. He’d ordered something with bling.
So the next year, when I received the same exact arrangement from him, again from Costco, I inserted the stickpins into the roses and sent him a photo. He was so pleased to see them there, sparkling away, COSTCO ROSES WITH PLASTIC BLING.
My husband doesn’t just send flowers on Valentine’s Day. He sweeps in the door now and then with a bunch of roses — usually red, but sometimes not — and he trims off the bottoms and puts them in a vase (I have a lot of vases because of all these years of getting flowers) and gives them to me with his crooked smile and hopeful blue eyes. And I just melt. I don’t need the flowers to arrive publicly anymore. I don’t need it affirmed that I am loved.
But if you’re reading this because you’re not sure whether or not to send her flowers at the office?
Do it. Because nothing is more fun than getting flowers at the office.