“Ma’am” is fine if you can’t think of anything else

Not “Dude.” Do not call me “Dude.”

Laverne says, “I don’t care what you call me. Just don’t call me late to dinner.”

It’s Sunday morning and Mr T and I are listening, as we do every Sunday, to the vintage American Top 40 with Casey Kasem.

Alas, it’s a show from the ’80s, which cannot be as good as a show from the ’70s, and we are being forced to listen to Kenny Rogers’ not-best work, that is, “Lady.”

There are many reasons not to like the song, not the least of which is I know how great Rogers can be, but part of it is just because he is calling this woman, “Lady” and not her name.

I hate that crap.

A former boyfriend would call me “Dollface.” I think he, who was wonderful in almost every other way, thought he was kind of edgy and hip and cool, but I hated it.

I think I told him not to call me that, but maybe I didn’t? Maybe this was long enough ago that I was scared to say what I wanted because what if what I wanted wasn’t what a man wanted and then what would happen?

Screw you, patriarchy. I’m not playing that game anymore.

I had another boyfriend – who was also lovely lovely lovely – who wrote a song for me called “Dama.” He would also call me that.

Again, did I voice my displeasure? I don’t remember. What I do remember is I did not like it.

Why? Why do I hate this so much? Is it just because I think the nicknames themselves are stupid? Mr T will call me “Sweetie,” but I also call him “Sweetie.” I don’t mind that name, but I think “Dollface” and “Dama” are stupid.

Maybe it’s because it’s part of a larger pattern – and this is why I am going toward revolution – of men thinking they get to decide every damn thing in the world, regardless of what women want? That they even get to name everything?

YES I KNOW #NOTALLMEN. I know that. I am married to a wonderful man who is sweet and thoughtful and gentle and kind.

But even Mr T doesn’t know about all the things. I read him a story similar to this one:

A woman’s worst nightmare? That’s pretty easy. Novelist Margaret Atwood writes that when she asked a male friend why men feel threatened by women, he answered, “They are afraid women will laugh at them.” When she asked a group of women why they feel threatened by men, they said, “We’re afraid of being killed.”

I explained that all women think about where we park after dark, whether we go for a walk after dark, what neighborhoods we feel safe in, where we sit on public transit.

He was surprised. These things had never occurred to him and it hadn’t occurred to him that women think about these things.

So yeah – men don’t even know and they think they get to name things and – where was I? I think I am getting off track here.

My point – and I did have one, I am sure – is that I want to decide what I am called. Don’t call me “Dollface.” Don’t call me “Dama.” Don’t call me “Lady.” I decide. Not you.





Contemplating our mortality

Or, at least, trying to get Mr T to Throw Things Away so I don’t have to deal with his crap when he’s gone

This photo represents Life and Death. You see the light, but then the shadow looms and you know Death is coming. Enjoy the beauty while you can.

Me: Tish’s husband died. He was not doing well when she was here.

Mr T: That’s sad.

Me: She told me – and she wrote in her post as well – that he spent his lucid moments making sure everything was in order.

Mr T: Are you trying to tell me something?

Me: That it’s nice when people don’t leave a mess after they’re dead. It’s considerate.

Mr T: But – if I leave a mess for you to clean up, I’ll be dead and you’re the only one who would know.

Me: I would tell everyone.

Mr T: What? You would?

Me: You’re worried about your legacy? Do you really want your legacy to be, “That guy who left everything for his wife to deal with even though he could have gotten his affairs in order?”

Mr T: No. And I don’t want to be like my parents, who left me a huge mess.

Me: You don’t want it to take me years to close the estate because I can’t find things like the car title? And I don’t know if there is a safe deposit box or not because I find some notes referring to a safe deposit box but then no other information and I have to call all the banks where you have accounts to ask? And because I have to shred your sex diary so your nieces and nephews don’t find it? You don’t want that?

Mr T: Nope.

Me: At least you haven’t disinherited me in your will but still made me executor.

Mr T: So it could be a lot worse.


Seriously I am starting a revolution

And it all starts with pockets

What do you see? I see pockets. Plenty of pockets. On men’s clothes.

Mr T and I walked to the farmers market this morning. He was kind of surprised when I disappeared for a second between the olive oil store and the French bistro. Yes, our neighborhood has gotten a bit chi-chi since we moved here. Not complaining, though.

It wasn’t the jazz trio that was driving me away, although that would have been enough (YES! I WILL SAY IT OUT LOUD! I HATE JAZZ!).

It was a bathroom.

Mr T: Where were you?

Me: The bathroom!

Mr T: There’s a bathroom there?

Me: Yes.

Mr T: Do you know where all the bathrooms are?

Me: Yes. Duh.

Mr T: Is that a woman thing?

Me: Yes.

On our way into the library, where he has to re-arrange the tomatoes from the market to find my phone and library card, which are at the bottom of the bag, he teases me, “Why don’t you just put them in your pocket?”

Me, merrily: Hahahahahaha!

I spy a woman wearing painter’s pants.

Me: You have pockets!

Woman: Yes!

Me: Those are great!

Mr T: See? She has pockets.

Me: Be quiet, patriarchy.

Woman: And look! It has a hook for a hammer!

Me: Which is cool!

Woman: They are functional!

Mr T: See? You could have those pants and then you would have pockets!

Me: Hush, Patriarchy.

Woman: Many women, however, would not want a hook like this.

Me: I would. What if I wanted to carry a hammer? I would be able to!

Woman: You know what, though? These are men’s pants.


Women: They were $25. If they designed them for women, they would cost $89.

Me: As well they should. Our bodies are different, after all, and it’s more expensive to design for them.


The daily grind, which isn’t a grind and not just because the coffee at the office is awful

But still, I am doing it pretty much for the health insurance

My original career goals – surgery and designing artificial body parts. I think the surgery part would not have lasted long for someone who passes out with blood. Wait. Wouldn’t that make a great TV show?

I don’t talk about work here and that’s by design – I work because I like to sleep indoors, not as a hobby, but I think I can talk about the gestalt of where I am.

I have been at my current job for over five years.

Before that, I was at a place where – hmmm. How to put this?

The CEO was a tyrannical jerk who screamed at his subordinates in public.

He did not like to be contradicted.

He was cutting, sarcastic, and mean.

I started looking for a new job two days after I started at OldJob and left eight months later.

Nobody wept, I don’t think, the day the board fired him.

(Not for being a jerk, I don’t think, although that should have been enough. I think it’s because he spent tens of thousands of dollars – maybe more, to renovate the Milwaukee office, which was then shut down a few months later.)

But he was not the daily problem.

The daily problem was some of the people I worked with.

In their defense, when you have a jerk CEO, you do have a culture of fear and you don’t know whom you can trust and you never know what’s going to happen.

But I did not find my co-workers to be particularly motivated to do good work. I was also not impressed with the work ethic or the attitude – although yeah, with leadership like that, it’s easy to understand why people aren’t excited. They’re not exactly part of something great.

And I was working with relatively low-skilled labor.

So when I started working in the R&D group of an engineering company, it was a big change.

A few months in, one of the engineers asked me how I was liking it.

Me: I’m the stupidest person in R&D!



Engineer, very carefully: You seem bright enough to me.

Me: Hahahahaha!


Me: Hi work friend from many jobs ago!

Work friend: Hello. How do you like your new job.

Me [story about engineer politely trying to counter my assertion of being the stupidest person in the group]

WF: Hahahahaha! He does not realize you do not have any self-esteem issues!

Me: No I do not!

WF: He didn’t understand that what you were really saying was you are so happy you don’t have to work with stupid people anymore!

Me: YES!



When your doctor is a yute

And he’s fun to talk to, but I feel guilty wasting his time

orange shoes 1
Part of my long-term health plan involves Fabulous Shoes. With Fabulous Shoes like these, a person is motivated to engage with The World. It’s a reason to take a shower, to leave the house, to stay fit. Shoes are the key.

So I had to have a physical, even though there is nothing wrong with me except I am cheap and I am willing to go to the doctor and even be poked if it means I save a couple hundred dollars.

So now we know my price.

Being poked, dreading having blood taken, risking passing out – all for a couple hundred dollars.

Related story: I interviewed Byron Reese, a futurist, for work. We talked about the Industrial Revolution and the digital revolution and what it All Means and he asked me how much money someone would have to pay me for me never to use the internet again and I said you will take my smart phone out of my cold, dead hands.

So I guess I have a high price and a low price. Or something.

Anyhow. My doctor from before retired. My vet retired. My hairdresser is about to retire, which is the hardest one of all.

So this new doc is in his mid-30s and I really like him but I feel like I am just wasting his time because I am not sick and I do not need to be at the doctor.

Although our conversation two years ago, when he first became my doctor, was useful:

Doc: Why are you still taking birth control pills? You are 53.

Me: Because I stopped taking them last spring and I got really bad acne.

Doc: You are a migraineur. The pill at your age plus migraines puts you at risk for stroke. Stop. Right. Now.

Me: But my skin…

Doc: You. Could. Die.

Me: OK.

So that one was worth it.

But now, this is what it sounds like when you are a Woman of A Certain Age Who Has Nothing Wrong With Her:

Doc: How are things?

Me: Well, I am still not menopausing. I mean, I had a bunch of hot flashes, which are not pleasant, but then they stopped, but then I got a period again, so now I am worried that I will get more hot flashes and they don’t even make me warm in the winter, they just make me miserable.

Doc: Yeah, that could happen as your body adjusts to the changes.


Doc: Yes. That happens.

Me: And everything hurts all the time. My muscles are always sore.

Doc: Oh?

Me: Yes. I exercise! I’m reasonably fit! But when I wake up, everything is sore.

Doc: Yes, that happens.


Doc: What do you mean?

Me: Here. Feel my biceps. Feel them. I’m strong! I have been working out with weights for years! But MY ARMS! THEY ARE FLABBY!

Doc: Yes, that happens.

Me: And I hate coming for stupid physicals and tests when I am perfectly healthy.

Doc: Sometimes we do find things. But you’ll be glad to know that as you get older, we do fewer screenings.

Me: ??

Doc: Less time to live.

Me: Oh yeah. Makes sense.

And then we talked about Spain, where he spent a semester in college.

And I left and got my stupid blood draw, but only after Planning The Revolution with the fabulous receptionist, T, who is going to be in charge of reforming health care once we take over.

I didn’t pass out and that’s enough to make me proud

Plus I probably messed up Blue Cross’ (pah I spit on them) database, which is just gravy

arm 2

Don’t laugh, but I pass out when I have blood taken.

Even a tiny drop, for blood typing, because I guess I don’t know my own blood type?

It all started when I stupidly gave blood for the first time. I was in college and the signs advised that it was a good idea to eat first but, as one does, I thought, “Well, those signs certainly don’t apply to me! I am stronger than mere mortals!”

It was the blood-giving equivalent of, “Hey! Hold my beer!” and it ended about as well as you might imagine, which was with me passed out and my head swirling and with psychedelic visions, purple and bizarre, in my mind so now I never have to take LSD because I think I know and then I came to, and, even as the words were coming out of my mouth, I knew they were a cliché, but I said them anyhow because apparently, that is the Human Condition: “Where am I? What happened?”

And then, they made me finish giving blood, even though I could feel it pulsing in the tube against my arm and I felt like I was going to pass out again and ever since then, I have had A Thing about blood being removed from my body, although really, isn’t that the proper biological response to blood leaving the body? Shock? Panic? It’s not a good thing to happen! It’s BAD! It’s a BAD SIGN!

I have since passed out many a time after bloodletting and even, indeed, merely being punctured. The time that Ilene, Leigh, and I went to get my belly button pierced did not end well. Not only did I pass out 15 minutes later on the drive home – that’s why I now take a doctor on all piercing excursions and why I was so happy to have Dr Ilene there, but Leigh passed out in sympathy (I have the best friends in the world), which would not have been so bad except she was the one driving.

Leigh: I think I’m getting television!

Me, bossy and pedantic to the end and totally missing the point: Tunnel vision. You’re getting tunnel vision.


Leigh: No, I think I can make it to Texan’s house.


(She stopped. We all survived. I removed the belly button ring with a needle-nosed pliers seven months later because it just wouldn’t heal and it wasn’t making me thin.)

So yeah, I pass out.

But my stupid insurance company – I will name names – it’s Blue Cross of Michigan and they are the worst insurance company in the world – makes you pay higher premiums unless you get a physical and that physical includes a blood draw.

Mr T keeps all kinds of crap and he found an old box that has his employee benefits package from 1988 in it. At first, I just wanted to criticize him for keeping old crap like that, but then I looked at his health insurance and I wanted to cry as I remembered the days when employers actually offered good benefits to their employees. Mr T didn’t have to pay any of the premium and he had a $100 deductible with an 80/20 plan, $2,500 max.

Lord have mercy I miss that part of 1988. And my skin. And my hair. And my arms, which had not yet turned flabby, even though my biceps and triceps are strong.

So to get the Good Premium, I have to have a physical and get a blood draw, so it’s always the Worst Day of the Year (yes, I know this is a very First World Problem) as I dread dread dread the Poking of the Elbow and the Removal of the Blood which is not what Nature intended.

And they say it’s supposed to be a fasting draw – that I’m not supposed to eat or drink.

Screw. That.

If you are going to take my blood and I am going to pass out or, at the least, be in dread for days, I am not going to do any of that on an empty stomach.

So I eat.

That’s right.

I eat. I eat before the draw AND I LIE ABOUT IT.

Screw you, Blue Cross of Michigan, and your evil tricks of saying a visit to a specialist whose office happens to be in a hospital counts as a hospital visit, with a $500 deductible, instead of as a specialist in-network visit for a $45 co-pay.

Screw you.

I eat.

And I didn’t pass out. So I am proud.

When does gray hair make sense?

I am not Christine Legard or Ann Richards or Barbara Bush so – can gray help me? Or does it hurt the likes of middle-management me with a new VP who is only 42 years old?

Is that gray? Or silver? Or just brown? Whatever it is, there is a color in that palette that will show against whatever I might be wearing.

I told you guys about the book I read about going gray, right? Going gray : what I learned about beauty, sex, work, motherhood, authenticity, and everything else that really matters, by Anne Kreamer?

One of the things I like is she doesn’t capitalize every word of the title. That bugs me. I don’t know why. I am on a mission at work to stop Capitalizing Everything. I don’t even know why people do it. Maybe it’s because the parent company is Germany?

Or because it’s an engineering company? Mr T and I went to a presentation at the Milwaukee School of Engineering where Thomas Fehring talked about his new book, The Magnificent Machines of Milwaukee and the engineers who created them, (also not in capitals!). He mentioned that one business owner was able to recruit engineers who were inventing cool stuff by telling them they could name their products, which is something we are trying to get away from where I work because I love engineers and their great minds and what they do but their product names are not On Brand.

Where was I?

Oh. Going gray. I guess if I could patent something every year or so, it wouldn’t matter what I looked like. And I can assure you that my career has not been built on my looks. Not at all. Unless you count that I think that I look trustworthy and non-threatening? Maybe looks matter that way. I don’t have the shifty eyes my grandfather was always warning me about.

In her book, Kreamer talks about whether gray hair helps or hurts women professionally. She posited that perhaps gray would give women in politics credibility, but – nope. Gray is OK for men, but not for women.

It’s not OK for women or for men in tech.

It’s probably OK for men in the corporate world, although it seems that my company has been overtaken by yutes – it used to be that you needed to have a good 30 years behind you to be a VP at my company, but new owners and new CEO have a bunch of 30- and 40-something VPs, which is something I have never experienced before. On verra.

So gray hair might be OK for men in the corporate world. But it is not OK for women.

I am not sure what it is like at my company, as there are almost no senior women. I mean, there are a few women who are older, but they are not in executive positions. I think there are about 17 women in my local office. There is one woman on the board and two new women VPs from the new CEO. There were no women VPs before that.

So I don’t even know if it matters at my company. That is, I don’t think gray hair is the limiting factor here.

Which makes me wonder why I am bothering to color my hair. It’s not like I would ever be a VP even if I didn’t have gray hair. Why am I wasting my money?

I mean, besides being vain.

PS There is one profession where gray hair is valued for sure. My uncle just retired as a commercial airline pilot. He started going gray in his 30s, but it didn’t bother him. “When people get on the plane, they like to see a pilot with gray hair,” he said.

Flashes and not the good kind

You would think this would mean the acne would be gone but you would be wrong


Making Strudel

When I start to feel cranky about my life, I think about my lovely grandmother, who, despite being very smart and having an avid curiosity about Life and Art, who wanted to study art in Paris, had to leave school after eighth grade to work to help her family.

She worked on the farm in the summer and in the winter, was a maid in Milwaukee and Chicago, where, on her days off, she would walk rather than spend a nickel on the bus so she could treat herself to a candy bar.

I think about my great-great-grandmother, who lost her seven children to diphtheria in five days. All of her children died in less than a week of a disease nobody has to get today because THANK YOU VACCINES THANK YOU SCIENCE.

Other ancestors – I am looking at the amazing book my mom wrote about them:

  • GGGrandmother Maria Anna widowed at 31 with two little children
  • Some level of GG Anna widowed at 48, yet moved her children from Prussia to the US
  • Great-aunt Echo widowed at 38 with eight children
  • Great-aunt Madge widowed at 21 with two little girls – she watched her husband’s plane crash into the ground and burst into flame
  • My father’s mother, widowed AT MY AGE

I think of that to remind myself NOT TO BE A WHINER. That every single one of my ancestors would look at my cushy, easy, electrified, automated, very comfortable life and say, “REALLY? THIS IS WHAT YOU ARE COMPLAINING ABOUT? WOULD YOU LIKE TO TALK ABOUT REAL HARDSHIP?”

And yet.

And yet.

I think if I could have all of my ancestor women together over coffee and strudel or perhaps Bailey’s and flourless chocolate cake and we started talking, I think we would find common ground over hot flashes.

Who invented this system and why? What did women ever do to be punished like this? And I say this as someone who has had only mild hot flashes compared to my friends. Is there any biological purpose to hot flashes other than reminding us that hahahahaha you are now middle aged and high heels hurt and everything hurts after you exercise, even when you exercise daily?

*googles “what is biological purpose of hot flashes”*

*shockingly nobody really knows*

*thank God we have viagra at least we have our research priorities straight*

What is the point of suddenly being cooked alive from the inside? I used to smile at the jokes about women having hot flashes.

I am so sorry, My Sisters. I am so sorry to have discounted and mocked your discomfort. I was wrong. I didn’t understand, but you know what? That doesn’t even matter. I should have believed that you understand your own experience.

For a few months earlier this year, I had to ask my co-workers if it had suddenly gotten hot in the office or if I was having a hot flash.

In almost every case, it was that it had suddenly gotten too hot in the office. (I work in an office that used to be a factory. It’s not one of those cool factory to office conversions – it’s a cheap one where nobody wanted to spend the money on adjusting the HVAC properly or on installing windows or ceilings high enough that I can’t touch them or decent lighting.)

But then in May, I realized I didn’t have to ask. The sensation of getting hot from the inside out is very different from the sensation of getting hot from the outside in. I mean, it’s unmistakable and it’s unfixable. If it’s too hot on the outside, you can remove clothing! You can use a fan! You can open a window! You can open the freezer and stick your face in it! You can hold a can of cold diet Coke against your neck!

Note these are things I almost never have to do because I live in Wisconsin, where the concept, “Too hot” does not exist. It’s next to “chili without macaroni” and “Frito Pie,” which everyone here thinks is called a “walking taco.” I don’t even know where “walking taco” came from. Every right-thinking person knows it’s a Frito Pie. Honestly.


I started getting hot from the inside out and yep, there is no mistaking it.

You feel as if you are being cooked. You start to feel sympathy for those poor live lobsters dropped into boiling water. So THIS is what their last minutes are like.

No matter how many layers you remove – and in some cases, I was constrained because I was at work and around other people and although we have a very casual dress code, I bet they would frown on nudity, you cannot get cool enough. I would be awakened in the middle of the night, too hot to sleep. I would throw off the covers and tear off my nightgown. And I was still too hot.

This went on through May and June and slowed down in July. I think it’s over. I’m not sure. Does it come back? I feel like I am in one of those weird random reinforcement experiments where they discover the best way to get the rats to do what they want is not to reward them every single time they press the lever but only to reward them at random intervals. The rats know they have to press the lever but they don’t know how many times or what will happen. I don’t even have a lever to press – I just know that something bad is going to happen to me at random intervals and I don’t even know how to control it.

Does this end?




Smoking hot and I am not talking about my body

I totally plan to start smoking when I am 70

Practicing with my sister and our friends when I was a kid. This was in Spain, which is maybe a little more progressive in these matters. I joke. These were candy cigarettes.

The only reason I don’t smoke now is because I am vain.

And cheap.

Vain and cheap.

Health? Not so much. Social censure? Eh.

You get used to not being one of the cool kids when you change schools every couple of years as a kid, when you aren’t asked to any high-school dances (except the ROTC ball by that guy in your chemistry class and Mike N., I am sorry I was not kinder to you and of course when I said I wasn’t really into military stuff – that was a total lie. My father was in the air force. We lived on an air force base. It was kind of my life), when you are the weird violin-playing, double-knit polyester elastic-waisted pants wearing, bike-riding to school (sorry I don’t know how to make that parallel), ugly-glasses wearing chubby smart 7th grader in a school that wasn’t on a military base and consisted of students who had known each other since kindergarten.

Where was I?

Oh right. The reasons I don’t smoke. I know it is very Not Done, but I am telling you, People Are Doing It. People you might not think are smokers? They smoke. Oh yes they do. I know them. I know them at work and I know them socially and you think they are not smokers but when they feel safe and know I will not criticize them for smoking, they live their truth.

And yeah. It doesn’t make financial sense to buy a product, set it on fire, and inhale the smoke as it burns. It’s not good for the lungs. It’s stinky.

But – when done properly, it seems to be divine.

I love the way fresh cigarette smoke smells outdoors. I will stop while I am out running if I catch a whiff of cigarette smoke. I will stop and inhale deeply because it smells good.

I want to smoke.

I do not want to destroy my health. So I don’t do it now.

And, even more than not wanting to destroy my health, I do not want to destroy my skin.

You know those awful mouth wrinkles heavy smokers get? Where it looks like their faces have been tanned? Not sitting in the sun tanned, but skin processed with chemicals to turn it into leather? That kind of tanning?

That is the main reason I do not smoke.

Because I do not want those wrinkles. I do not want that nasty, dry, dead skin.

But once I am 70? Maybe 80 – we’ll see how it goes – I will already have wrinkles.

And it won’t matter. Smoking a ciggie or two a day won’t matter. It won’t make my skin bad.

And I might also start heroin and gambling and hanging out with people who are Bad Influences. Because I intend to have fun.

My grandma Sylvia, who, like my other grandmother, lived to 97. Sylvia and my uncle Hank, who just died at 89, would sneak out behind her assisted living place a few times a week for a ciggie. Yes. She smoked yet she lived until 97 and she was on her own, relatively healthy, until she was 95. I am lucky with my genes.


What on earth is wrong with QUIET?

Would everyone and everything in my life please shut up?


You know what I want? Not world peace. Not an end to hunger. Not – whatever else that is Big and Important.

I want a microwave that does not beep.

I want appliances that do not beep.

More specifically, I want a microwave that does not been at 6:44 a.m. on a Sunday when my houseguest, who, until now, has been sleeping quietly in the upstairs guestroom, whence I cannot hear a single thing, warms something.

I want a microwave that does not beep at 6:44 a.m. on a Sunday when my houseguest warms something even though I. Was. Still. Asleep.

And now I am not. I am no longer asleep.

And not only am I no longer asleep, neither are the cats, who know what the microwave sound means – a human is at the microwave.

And if a human is at the microwave, a human is available to feed them.


They want to eat now.

They are Siamese and they are loud (well, one of them is loud, but she is loud enough for two or for a thousand) and they want to eat now.


This is why I hate beeping appliances.

I hate appliance beeps and I hate appliance lights and I hate everything about them except the function they perform.

This? This is when a beeper would be useful. This is when I need to be alerted.

I don’t need my dryer to remind me every 17 seconds that HEY HEY HEY STUFF IS DRY! Because you know why?

Because if the dryer beeps every 17 seconds once the load is complete, that means I cannot throw clothes in the dryer before I go to bed and sleep. It means I have to hear the beeping, which penetrates wood and space and time to reach my trying to sleep ears.

I don’t need a beeping microwave. I am not multitasking that much that I have to be reminded that two minutes and 45 seconds ago, I put a cup of coffee in the microwave and NOW IT’S READY IT’S READY IT’S READY.

I don’t need the lights on everything. I spend 15 minutes every first night in a hotel finding and covering all the stupid appliance lights. There’s a light on the TV, even though the TV is off. There are unwanted night lights in the bathroom. There’s a light on my computer cord. There’s a light on the coffee machine.


Would everything please just shut the heck up?