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Jul. 30 2010 — 2:06 pm | 57 views | 0 recommendations | 1 comment

Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened

Graduation hugs

It's all pomp because of the circumstance. Image via Wikipedia

It feels like the last day of high school around here, or more accurately, like the high school is closing down and kicking all us kids out.

As you no doubt know by now, Forbes acquired True/Slant and is shuttering the site. As they turn off the lights, everyone is getting one last chance to say goodbye. Some of us are moving on to bigger and better things (Ivy Leaguers), others are taking some time off before heading back into the fray (Gap Year types) and a lot of us don’t yet know what we’re going to do (Sorry, Mom, I’m Not Leaving Yet). As for me, I’ve made my own yearbook of sorts and collected all my content over here while I figure out my next move. For those of you who are link-averse, it’s http://thesuburbanista.wordpress.com/

It’s sad to say goodbye to all the (virtual) new friends I made and I will miss hearing from them every day. My fellow bloggers never failed to inform, inspire and engage me. I wish we could have all stayed 2gether 4ever but alas, it was not to be.

It was a great time while it lasted and a fantastic learning opportunity. As a long-time news reporter, blogging was new to me and something I wasn’t quite comfortable with at first, as it required a complete reversal of all I had known. It had been drilled into my head from Day One of journalism school to remain neutral, don’t take sides, keep your opinion out of it and just report the facts. Over the years, I’ve done that pretty well, I think, dispassionately reporting on skinheads and murderers, creationists and global warming deniers, religious extremists, vaccine opponents and many more people, always putting aside my own feelings in service of the story.

As a blogger, though, I was supposed to share my thoughts, the more controversial the better (translation: more page views). I don’t think I ever fully accomplished that, mostly because I still work as a news reporter for a variety of publications and either have covered or could be called on at any moment to report on a topic that I might have blogged about. I never wanted a source to look up an old post, unlikely as that might be, and accuse me of not being impartial or coming into the reporting with an agenda.

I was never the most popular blogger here, so I didn’t get to sit at the cool kids table, nor was I the least popular, so I didn’t have to sit at the losers table either. I may have been somewhere in the middle, which happens to be where I’ve always liked it.

So goodbye for now and stay as cool as you are. Let’s stay in touch, even as we all move on to our next chapters. Last one out the door is a rotten egg!

Jun. 29 2010 — 1:26 pm | 70 views | 0 recommendations | 3 comments

Saying thank you the write way

Thank You Card, Yellow Flower

Image by KiltBear via Flickr

Dear Reader,

Thank you very much for reading this missive. I appreciate that you are taking the time to visit my site.

I wasn’t quite sure of the best method for expressing my thanks to you, considering the fact that in the past few months I myself have received some thank-you notes and each came in different formats. I so far haven’t received any thanks via email or text message, but the gift-giving season isn’t yet over so it’s still possible.

Among the expressions of gratitude I have gotten are a postcard with check boxes, each indicating a reaction to the gift; a card in which a teen’s parent wrote the note and addressed the envelope; letters written by tweens and teens but the envelope addressed by a parent or affixed with a printed address sticker; and a hand-written note from a 19-year-old bride.

Nothing remarkable about that last one, but so far it’s my favorite because of the vast improvement it showed over the wedding invitation, which was a black-and-white copy of one of those print-at-home invites, the original of which appeared to have a colored border and a cloth bow. It was kind of the couple to “request the honor of your presents,” and they should be applauded for getting correct the names of four out of the five people in my family to whom it was addressed (the fifth person’s name wasn’t spelled wrong; the actual name was wrong). Granted, the bride and groom hardly know us and those homophones can by tricky, but they made up for it with their response to my meager check. This time they got all our names right and even told us what they planned to do with the cash (put it toward baby items!).

Another plus: the note was readable, one quality my daughters have so far failed to master. Both girls have many commendable qualities but writing legibly is not one of them. Perhaps their handwriting is so appalling because in this digital age, they almost never have to write longhand. But that doesn’t explain why my 13-year-old refused to follow the general outline I gave her for a stack of thank yous, though the etiquette experts at the Emily Post Institute say at that age, you’re supposed to let them express themselves as they wish. Apparently, then, the notes inadvertently turned out to be the right thing, even if I found them horrifying.

I did insist that she redo the ones that weren’t just sloppy, but also incorrect. All she had to do was look at the address list I gave her and you know, write down the same names, but Cary became Carrie and Sean turned into Shawn, among other mistakes. And apparently it was too much to ask of her to close the cards with a “Love,” “Sincerely,” “Regards,” or other similar expression. She just put a dash and then her name. Ugg.

On the positive side, at least my girls write thank-you notes themselves and address their own envelopes. The experience requires a ton of effort, is a lot of work, and painful at times. The kids have a rough time of at as well. Ba-da-bump. I like to think that someday they will appreciate that I force gently guide them to complete this most basic task, but they don’t need to send me a thank-you note or anything. If they let me say, “I told you so,” that will be enough.

In the meantime, I most sincerely thank you for dropping by. I plan to use your stop here to increase monthly page views and unique visitors, and for that, I am truly grateful.

Very truly yours,


Jun. 27 2010 — 3:08 pm | 190 views | 0 recommendations | 5 comments

Finally: hip jeans that promise to fit our hips

A prototype of jeans designed for the Baby Boomer set from Henry-Lee and Co.

I don’t know why it took so long to get to this point, but it looks like jeans makers are finally starting to recognize that women in their 40s and older like to wear premium denim, too, but we don’t want our choices to consist of jeans so skinny and tight that they cause nerve damage on one end to the dreaded mom jeans on the other.

As the youngest boomer turns 46 this year, demand for hip jeans with a bit more give is on the rise. With roughly 76 million baby boomers accounting for half of consumer spending, denim-makers are waking up to the fact that there is money to be made in women’s jeans that fit middle-age hips and thighs while still looking cool.

via Baby Boomer denim: Chicago firm enters jeans scene

Was it really so difficult to devise something in-between, a style that isn’t so low-cut and snug that wearers risk an obscenity citation nor so high, bulky and pleated that anyone unfortunate enough to don them is a shoo-in for “What Not to Wear?” If you’ve ever had to devote an entire day to jeans shopping, then you know the answer is yes. Apparently we have California to blame for this state of affairs. As the birthplace of jeans, the state’s culture continues to influence design and even today, “the business is still steeped in the land of face lifts and celebrities,” according to the Chicago Tribune. “No shopper wants to buy fat jeans.”

Leave it up to the sensible Midwest to find a solution. Chicago-based Henry-Lee and Co. in August is coming out with a line of jeans called Henry & Bell, priced at about $145.  Available in jeggings, straight jeans and boot cut, “the fabric is made with four-way stretch XFIT Lycra, a cross-weave that claims to hold its shape better than other stretch denim,” the Tribune says.

This sounds a lot more promising than the jeans in the marketplace now, and though it’s more than I’d like to spend, I might be willing to do so if they fit just right. A couple of years ago I needed a new pair and decided to try as many different brands at as many different price points as my sanity would allow. My shopping trip started on a sour note when a saleswoman approached me as I was perusing a pair of 7 for All Mankind jeans and told me to not even bother trying them on, as they weren’t made for people who looked like me. I didn’t know whether to be offended or thankful. Gap’s Long & Lean made me look neither, I couldn’t find a Levi’s style that worked and the story was the same with a slew of jeans in the $150-$200 range. I ended up getting lucky with Lucky Brand and a pair from iT.

But a girl can’t live on old jeans alone, so I’m looking forward to these jeans for my “middle-age hips and thighs,” even though that description once again both offends me and sparks a sense of gratitude. I hope they work because since mom jeans are a definite no, my other choice might involve a trip to a nerve damage specialist.

Jun. 24 2010 — 11:56 am | 79 views | 0 recommendations | 3 comments

Albert off the market but are other princes out there?

Prince Albert and fiance Charlene Wittstock

With the news that one of the world’s most eligible bachelors, Prince Albert of Monaco, is finally engaged to be married at the age of 52 comes hope for other never-marrieds who know that that their chances for getting hitched continue to decline the older they get.

Of course it’s possible to be fulfilled and unwed and marriage isn’t for everyone, but for people who do want to walk down the aisle (setting aside the issue of gay marriage for now), the trend has been that if it doesn’t happen in your 20s, it becomes less and less likely — though not nearly as dire as Newsweek’s now recanted prediction that women over 40 have a better chance of being killed by a terrorist than getting a band around their finger. It’s true that most Americans have tied the knot by the time they reach age 40, and though it’s difficult to get numbers on the probability of marriage at certain ages, it looks like the estimate is about a 40 percent chance for single women over age 40.

Which comes as a relief to a few friends of mine who never thought they would still be single in their 40s and 50s. Smart, educated, attractive women (I also know a few unmarried men, one of whom is 58 and a Jewish doctor no less — oy, how has he been able to escape the clutches of Jewish mothers everywhere?), they want to find a spouse but for various reasons, still haven’t found The One. But if the Prince is finally ready to settle down, maybe it means another prince is out there, albeit without his own country.

“If it happened for him, it could happen for me,” says Toni, a gorgeous 47-year-old Realtor who didn’t want to be tied down a few years ago but now wants a husband. “I don’t need to run around and be wild anymore,” she says, much as she imagines Albert feels. “Maybe he just grew up.”

My funny and lively friend Cathi, 45, doesn’t take any particular lessons from Albert’s engagement, pointing out the double standard that exists that says it’s much more okay for a man to be 52 and just getting married than a woman (Albert’s bride-to-be is 32). She thought she would be married by the time she was in her early 20s. It didn’t happen and while she wouldn’t mind being married now, isn’t actively searching for Mr. Right. She lives a full and happy life and can’t believe that some people think that “unmarried” connotes some sort of deficiency.

For my beautiful and sweet pal Kara, 46, the reality of singledom really hit home when she was at her most vulnerable point, just after having surgery and realizing there’s no one to bring you flowers, and worse, no one at home to help change your bandages. “When there’s no one waiting for you, you feel very much alone,” she says. “It’s very much the, ‘I’m alone with my cats,’ thing.”

Other unattached friends just are bewildered by their single status, as there’s no obvious reason why someone wouldn’t want to marry them. Their only “downside,” they say, is their “advanced” age. A younger guy tends to want to date someone his own age or younger. And men their own age and older tend to want to date…someone younger.

As true — and unfair — as that is, at least one friend has found a way to use her age to her advantage. Toni has tried online dating before but has now signed up with CougarLife, a dating website for older women looking for younger men. She’s young enough to still have hope that her glass slipper is out there, but old enough to realize that sometimes, you have to take the first step in getting the magic to happen.

Jun. 18 2010 — 10:49 am | 200 views | 0 recommendations | 16 comments

Ms. Smith-Jones-Adams-Johnson, I presume?

Cutest Baby

Welcome to the world, Baby* Smith-Jones-Johnson-Adams! Image by Hammer51012 via Flickr

A friend — let’s call her Allison Smith — just had a baby and she and her husband Bill Jones (another pseudonym) decided to name their tot Baby* Smith-Jones.

Allison never changed her name to her husband’s when she got married for the same reason other friends mentioned: they were already established in their careers and well known by their birth names. While this move is still relatively rare, it has the support of at least one group, the Lucy Stone League, which says that abandoning your original name is a form of sex discrimination. I suppose it is, and it also isn’t, in that most kids here are given the last name of their father, not their mother. Wouldn’t keeping the name passed on to you by your pops also be another example of how you were once considered his property until you could be passed along to become your husband’s property?

Still, for assorted reasons, most U.S. women (90 to 95 percent) do chose to adopt their husband’s surname when they say, “I Do.” That’s in line with the huge majority of Americans (70 percent) who believe women should take their husband’s name at marriage. I do think it makes things a bit easier if everyone has the same name, particularly when the kids come along.

My pal Penny, who got hitched in her 30s, says she decided to use a hyphenated last name because her original name, “was part of who I was, and I did not feel like becoming a new person at that stage in my life.” Her decision was not met with universal acceptance. “An old boyfriend once said to me regarding my hyphenated name, ‘Oh, didn’t you respect your husband enough to take his name?,’” she told me. “His outdated, sexist remark reminded me why he was my ‘former’ boyfriend, but also I think some people do have this old-fashioned way of thinking that a women should take her husband’s name.”

Which brings me back to Baby* Smith-Jones. What happens when she falls in love and decides to marry Bob Adams-Johnson? Will she give up her last name(s) to take on his? Will he give up his and change it to hers? Maybe they could split the difference and become Mr. and Mrs. Smith-Adams. Or is it possible they might decide to hyphenate their hyphenated names and become the truly unfortunately named Mr. and Mrs. Smith-Jones-Adams-Johnson?

Ooops. I’m sorry. That was sexist of me. I meant to say Mr. and MS. Smith-Jones-Adams-Johnson.

*Not the kid’s real first name.

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    About Me

    I've spent years chasing cops, public officials, celebrities and the latest trends, reporting for such publications as Newsweek, People, the Chicago Tribune and the Daily Herald, based in suburban Chicago. I live close enough to one of the world's greatest cities to have witnessed Michael Jordan play, Oprah smack down a drunken mom and Charlie Trotter whip up a feast, but far enough away to mostly avoid major traffic jams, random gunfire and drive-by meth sales on my jaunts to Target, Starbucks and Ann Taylor Loft. As a suburbanite, yes, I have a minivan. Yes, I wear sweater sets. Yes, I know my way around a shopping mall. I still love you skyscraper-gazing, boutique-shopping, public transportation-taking city dwellers, but if you'll excuse me now, I have to go check on my nice green lawn.

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