Monthly Archives: August 2008

#s105-116: How Not To Vacation Old, Part See Ya Later

This is my last post until after Labor Day because I’m going on vacation. Well, I’m not going on vacation. In the second of eight straight years of paying college tuition, I can’t afford a vacation.

But HNTAO is going on vacation. By itself. On a cruise. Except it’s pretending it’s going to Vegas.

When it comes back in September, hopefully not ten pounds heavier and in need of detox, we’ll have some extremely exciting news for you. No, I can’t tell you now. Plus, lots of fresh and vital ways not to act old.

Meanwhile, here are some tips to get you through the rest of your summer vacation. If you think you’re going to miss your quasi-daily HNTAO over the next few weeks, you can always read them one at a time, or come back every day to read all the ways ntao you haven’t gotten to yet:

1. Do not stay at one of those inns that smell like air freshener and offer an assortment of herbal teas and have little signs posted everywhere that say things like, Thank you for removing your makeup before putting your head on the pillow!

2. If you stay at a chain motel instead of one of those inns, don’t say you have a nice room. They’re all nice. And all not-nice.

3. Don’t rent a house and car exactly like the house and car you have at home.

4. Don’t spend more time putting on sunscreen than you spend in the sun.

5. Forget shopping. You already brought too much stuff in your giant suitcase.

6. Don’t be the first one in the restaurant at breakfast. Not to mention dinner.

7. No guided tours. In fact, no tourism. You’re a traveler. No, you’re practically a native! If you see a tourist or a tour, act appropriately scornful.

8. Although you want to feel and act like a native, don’t go anywhere you’ve been before. Not vacationing old is all about novelty and adventure.

9. Don’t be afraid to go somewhere you’ve never been before. They will definitely have bathrooms there plus some kind of food that doesn’t upset your stomach.

10. Don’t overworry about the weather. Vacation like the young do. If it rains, have sex. If it’s too cold to go to the beach, have sex. Even if it’s nice outside, have sex.

11. If you’re traveling alone and end up having sex with a stranger, don’t imagine that you’re ever going to see him or her again. But don’t feel guilty about it either. If you’re traveling with your spouse and end up having sex with a stranger, you should of course feel guilty. But way not to act old, dude or dudette! You and John Edwards should totally get together.

12. When you’re back home, don’t claim that now you need another vacation. That’s not just old, it’s obnoxious!


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#104: Look Up To Philippe and Patti

Need role models for how not to act old? Two great ones whose biopics are playing in theatres right now: highwire artist Philippe Petit and rocker Patti Smith.

If you want to feel inspired and energized by an individual’s undiminished drive and excitement about life, gallop don’t stroll to see Man on Wire, the story of Philippe Petit’s walk on a highwire strung between the two towers of the World Trade Center.

The drama of the walk itself, nearly 35 years ago, is amazingly vivid even though you know from the outset that a) it’s successful and b) Petit survives. But what’s really galvanizing, in both the historic footage and the contemporary interviews, is Petit’s energy and focus, along with that of his partners in daring. By the end of the film, I was crying, my 25-year-old daughter was crying, and all the retirees in the theatre with us for the Friday matinee were crying too.

I haven’t yet seen Dream of Life, the documentary about Patti Smith, but one of my favorite songs for car dancing is her rendition of Bob Dylan’s Changing of the Guards. Here’s a not-very-good video, but the version on her great CD Twelve is infinitely more rousing.


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#103: Don’t Act All Shocked That Madonna’s Turning 50

All around me, old people (sorry, sweetie) are marvelling that Madonna is turning 50. Can you believe it?, they say. Madonna, 50. It doesn’t seem possible.

Oh yes it does. (Cue old-people-style reminiscence): When I first heard of Madonna, I was a fashion editor at Glamour. This was in the eighties. Yes, youngsters, that long-ago time that you seem now to think was so cute, with your shoulder pads and your big hair and ironically-worn neon-striped leg warmers. MTV was new and hot back then — in fact, my fellow Glamourite Judy McGrath, who now runs the place, had recently defected there as a junior copywriter — just like Madonna. Just like me.

Anyway, somebody sent over a video of Madonna. I had a television and a VCR, both as large as steamer trunks, wheeled into the cubicle I shared with Kim Bonnell. I cued up the video. And there was this….popsy….dressed in tattered lingerie with mascara smeared around her eyes writhing on the floor and feeling herself up.

I was shocked, shocked I tell you, nearly as shocked as I am now thinking back to how innocent, how different everything was in that pre-Britney, pre-Paris era of straight-laced feministinity.

What I’m really saying: It was a long time ago. Madonna’s been famous for a quarter century now. Like many women, I love her and hate her, I admire her and I’m horrified by her. Check out Madonna’s website and groove, sistah, to that tune: “Why wait for someone else to do what you can do right now?”

If you couldn’t believe she was turning 50 on August 16th before now, if the picture here didn’t convince you, you have to admit that’s a lyric that could only have been written by a 50-year-old woman.


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#102: Only One Pair of Glasses At A Time, Please

This tip comes from my pal Amy Edelman, author of Manless in Montclair, a wonderful memoir novel about a widow in the suburbs in search of a new husband. Amy’s advice: Don’t wear more than one pair of glasses at a time.

The young among you may say, Duh! But I sense you over-45s out there nodding sheepishly. You’ve done it, haven’t you? There you were sitting by the pool, reading the paper, needing to see, but blinded by the glare. And so you slipped on your reading glasses. And then you slipped on your sunglasses over them.

Maybe you thought nobody would notice. But Amy did. And she ran and told me. And now you’re busted. The solution? These ultra-mega-cool reading sunglasses, or these “sunglass bifocals.” Except note to copywriter: Rethink the word bifocals.


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#101: Don’t Fear The F Word

I vividly remember the first time I encountered the f word. I was six, newly proficient on a two-wheeler, taking an independent spin around the block when there it was, chalked right on the asphalt. I had never heard or seen this word before, but it must mean something important, I thought, to be written there in such big letters.

So I rode home and asked my father, who was sitting on our front steps, what “fuck” meant. And the next thing I knew, my father walloped me across the face.

Dad didn’t hit: That’s part of the reason his slap still stings nearly half a century later. In fact, Dad rarely even got mad. And my parents, New Yorkers who’d grown up in rough neighborhoods, freely used “bad words” — shit, goddamn, bitch, and bastard — all the time.

But fuck was different, even apart from that slap in the face. It wasn’t spoken, it wasn’t written, you didn’t hear it on TV or in the lyrics of songs. It wasn’t used as a curse, not even by adults who had been drinking when they didn’t think the kids were listening, and it wasn’t used to describe the sexual act either.

In fact, the f word was for decades literally outlawed in both the U.S. and Britain, and was omitted from standard dictionaries and encyclopedias. A typically wonderful history of the word can be found in The Online Etymological Dictionary, and Wikipedia and Youtube also include educational information on the use and misuse of the f word over time.

But when did everyone from the mom next door to the guy you’re doing a business deal with start saying “fucking” and “I’m fucked” and “fucked-up” as routinely as people once said “darn” or “screw”? When did teenage kids and their parents start saying it to each other without so much as a blink, never mind a slap?

Maybe around the time Tony Soprano appeared on HBO or Four Weddings and a Funeral hit the movie theatres or Notorious B.I.G. started singing on the radio. Yes, I’m blaming the media, not for creating the trend, but for letting us all know it was okay to use that particular word now and again. And again.

Does that mean that, in the interest of not acting old, you should use the f word more liberally? I find it quite expressive, myself. Though I can never say it without flinching, just a little bit.

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#s94-100: How Not To Vacation Old, Part 2

Okay, in the last installment, we got you carefully and finally out of the house. Whee! But you still have to make it to your vacation destination without acting old. Let’s go:

1. If you’re flying, do not get to the airport three and a half hours ahead of time. Yes, it takes a while to get through security these days: maybe 17 minutes. Then you’ve still got a whole three hours and 22 minutes to kill, and there are only so many Auntie Anne’s pretzels a person can eat.

2. Do not dress up for the flight. Assuming you’re neither the pilot nor a flight attendant, there is no need to wear a tie, skirt, hat with a shiny visor, shoes more formal than flipflops, or a bra. If you feel sloppy, you can always add epaulets with gold stars to your pajamas.

3. Don’t make friends with the person sitting next to you. Unless it’s ScarJo.

4. If you’re driving, no maps. Definitely no AAA Trip-tiks. GPS and Mapquest should get you there.

5. Do not complain, each and every time you fill up, about how expensive gas has gotten, as if you’re surprised that the price didn’t drop to $1 a gallon in the time it took you to drive 200 miles.

6. No scenic routes. Scenic routes, with their cows and their small towns, their speed traps and their no-passing zones, are old — and they’re often not even that scenic anymore.

7. If you get lost and have to pull into a gas station to ask for directions, don’t keep nodding as if you totally understand and then turn the wrong way right out of the parking lot. Not that you’ve ever done that, honey.

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#93: Stop Covering Up Your Underwear!

Confused about whether you’re old or not? Here’s a little quiz to help you find out.

If someone says it’s “snowing down south,” they’re trying to tell you:

a) A shipment of cocaine has just arrived on the south side of town.

b) Alabama is having some hella freaky weather.

c) Your slip is showing.

If you answered a, you obviously are living too wild a life to be spending any time sitting around reading this blog. If you answered b, you’re a moron. And if you answered c, yes, dearie, I’m afraid you’re old. Score double points if you own a slip, and TRIPLE points if you actually wear one.

My point, and I do have one: Underwear has entered a new era. These days, if it is worn at all, underwear is not necessarily worn UNDER anything. In fact, if you want to get all young about it, you should actually TRY to leave your bra straps hanging out from the armholes of your shirt, to let your pants ride down below your boxers, to make your slip totally show beneath your skirt.

We probably have Madonna to blame for making underwear the new outerwear. I actually remember how scandalous her bustiers-as-blouses and brazen black bra straps seemed back in the 80s. That was before little celeb sisters Paris and Britney scandalized us further by wearing no underwear at all.

Please, let’s not go there. For now, at the height of summer, it’s enough to stop worrying about your bra peeking out of your tank top and your boxers popping out of your shorts. And if someone tells you it’s snowing down south, just say thank you.

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#s84-92: How Not To Vacation Old, Part 1

For the age-challenged, the most difficult part of going on vacation can be getting ready. We’re nervous about leaving home, is the thing. We don’t like being away from all our routines, all our stuff. And then, we worry about what’s going to happen to the place when we’re gone. Here, how not to act old, pre-vacation-departure:

1. Do not book your flights, arrange your accommodations, and plan your itinerary so far ahead of time that when the date gets near, you can no longer remember what airline you’re flying on, what time you’re leaving, or even exactly where you’re going.

2. Resist the temptation to panic-pack your entire life: six pair of shoes, clothing for every weather possibility from heatwave to gale force blizzard, plus your special coffee and the pillow that keeps your spouse from snoring.

3. No luggage too heavy for you to actually lift.

4. And no luggage that matches. Unless it’s Vuitton.

5. And no fanny packs. Even, make that especially, Vuitton.

6. If you ignore my advice about packing light, at least don’t bring everything from your backup sneakers to three purple sweaters and then forget your life-saving medication.

7. Don’t leave everything from your keys to your plumber’s phone number to your life insurance policy with your neighbor, “just in case.”

8. Speaking of “just in case,” you don’t need to do everything from washing the last sock in your eternal laundry pile to paying all your bills before you leave. You are coming back. If you can ever actually get out of the house in the first place.

9. Don’t travel an entire three miles from home only to have to turn around because you think you might have left on the iron. (Why do you have an iron?) Or because you think you might not have locked the door. Or because you have to go to the bathroom.

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#83: Don’t Be The Ricky

In many couples, of whatever age, one person’s the Lucy and the other person is the Ricky. One person is the Homer, and the other person is the Marge. One person is Han Solo, and the other person is Princess Leia. One person acts young, in other words: wacky, fun-loving, charmingly irresponsible. And the other person gets stuck with acting old.

(For those of you born after 1980, think Gaby and Carlos. Or Paula and Simon. Or all the contestants on Project Runway and Tim Gunn.)

How do you become the Ricky in your relationship? Here’s how it starts: You want to take care of your Lucy. S/he makes you feel so important, so intelligent, so capable. And then, as time goes on, someone’s got to pay the bills. Organize the taxes. Discipline the children. Excuse me a sec: WOULD YOU PUT AWAY THAT ICE CREAM BEFORE THERE ARE ANTS ALL OVER THE COUNTER?

Phew, where was I? Oh right: The next thing you know, you’re the Ricky. You’re yelling and screaming and cursing and threatening. You’re managing the money and blowing your top when the credit card is overlimit and the cell phone minutes are through the roof.

Meanwhile, your Lucy, your Homer, your Han is wandering around in a daze, buying yellow shoes and auditioning for Broadway shows and befriending Wookies. So tell me, who do you want to be, the screaming check-writer or the starry-eyed golden-footed Wookie-lover?

I rest my heavy case.


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