September 29, 2006

Bar Mitzvah Cheer

Planning a Bar Mitzvah gala can be stressful under any circumstances, but I am determined to remain serene. There are a number of personalities involved in this, any of which could cause me a nervous breakdown or at least an Excedrin headache. These include:

My mother, who is coming almost directly from China, jet-lagged and presumably in the same clothes she wore to climb the Great Wall.

My former in-laws, whose idea of punctuality differs from mine by about 40-90 minutes.

My former husband, who has been known to have second thoughts about venue, menu, dress minutes before an event begins.

My boys. Let's just say that their behavior is consistently unpredictable or predictably inconsistent.

None of this is going to get me down. Unlike my wedding, for which I felt responsible for all eventualities large and small (except divorce), this event is in God's hands now, so to speak. Not that I am not trying to smooth the way. I am. I have given the boys this speech a few times now. "You are Bar Mitzvah age now. That means you take responsibility for you own actions. If you misbehave or act silly in front of your invited guests, that is your own choice."

I also set some ground rules. The boys are not to be on the pulpit together. Each is to be accompanied individually by an adult at all times. They are not to sit together in the congregation. I have scoped out the location of exits in case I need to employ a “time-out.”

If all else fails, I can quietly contemplate the stained glass windows during the service. At the party, I plan to have a great time.

September 24, 2006


Dear YLJF,
I am a senior citizen with a closet full of "dressy dresses" which I have worn over the past four decades to weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, cotillions, dinner-dances and other occasions. My grandson is getting married and my son and daughter-in-law are urging me to buy a new dress for this event! Do I have to?
___________________________________ Closets are Full

Dear CAF,
It's true that you are unlikely to live another 40 years, as to get adequate wear out of this new purchase, so I see your point. Since your dress collection spans the decades, why not stroll around the mall to see what stores have at the moment and pull out a similar-looking dress from your collection? Most of the wedding guests probably were not born when you wore it the first time.

September 20, 2006

Cryptic VIII

H: Can Jeff live with me?
L: What do you mean?
H: He'll have one room and I'll have another. Can he live with me?
L: When you are grownups? When you are adults and live on your own, you can make your own arrangements.
H: See, Jeff. I told you. It's not against the law.


Dear YLJF:

I'm a guy whose hair is thinning, so I've decided to wear it real long. I don't comb it over the top; that's a comb-over--not for me. I gather it on top, stir it into a pile, and hairspray it (Consort for Men) in place. Lately, my wife has been saying it's time for an actual haircut. I think my system works and saves the price of a barber. But I'll go with whatever you say.

_____________________________ When Hair Is Right It's Right

WHIRIR: I admire your ingenuity! Fashionably-speaking, if you are deficient in one area, compensate in another. However, all that gathering, stirring, piling and spraying sounds very time-consuming. And your wife's opinion merits consideration. How about a wearing a ponytail tied with a colorful scrunchy, or an attractive baseball cap?

September 18, 2006

Cryptic VII

L: Wow. Look, a street fair. That looks fun.
H: There's a hula hoop.
L: A hula hoop? Are there kids' activities that you can see?
H: No, there's just a hula hoop lying on the sidewalk.
L: Really? The thing you put around your waist and have go around you?
H: No . . . from Hawaii, you put it around your neck.

September 16, 2006

Are We Not Men?

Listening to DEVO, 1978
My dad: Devo? Ja, we like Devo.

Listening to DEVO, 2006
H: What kind of music is this? I like it.

Hart S., Criminal Mastermind

Offense: unlawful breaking and entering of parental bedroom for nefarious purposes.

Evidence: Original first-issue Beanie Baby found with tags removed. Toy unharmed. Tags found in perp's bedroom.
Defense: Perp claims brother is responsible.
No charges. First warning. Toy eventually sold.

Evidence: Expensive diamond engagement ring missing. Recovered in basement clothes dryer.
No charges. Ring removed to bank safety deposit box.

Evidence: New toy car bearing original price tag of $26.99. $30 simultaneously missing from dresser.
Witness (babysitter): Perp claims permission to spend the money.
Defense: "It's my money."
Toy returned to store for refund.

Evidence: Perp discovered at scene of crime.
Arresting officer inquires what perp is doing. Perp claims to be repairing broken shoe rack in closet. Officer asks how rack was broken.
Defense: Perp takes 5th Amendment rights, requests legal counsel.

September 15, 2006

Chevy Bel-Air by Jeff (art)


Dear YLJF,

My pajamas might have a few holes in them, but they've got years of wear left. Can I hang on to them for a while longer?
_________________________________ Too Tired To Shop

Dear TTTS,

Absolutely! You can get more use out of your "comfort" wardrobe by wearing it to garden, do household repairs, run local errands or lounge on weekends. Picking up a loaf of bread at 11pm? YOU'LL LOOK JUST FINE.

September 14, 2006

Bar Mitzvah bios (photos)

Hart's favorite school subject is Art. Hart is interested in nature and animals and is a member of The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. He loves Purim and Hanukah.

Jeffrey is a 7th grader. His favorite Jewish holiday is Passover. His interests include cars, dinosaurs and origami. Jeff is a member of the Evanston Speed Skating Club. He enjoys speed skating, soccer and basketball.

Bait and Switch

Many years ago when I was acting, I traveled some distance to an audition, which turned out to be an aggressive sales pitch for professional headshots. As such deceptions go, it took a very long time to spin the web. I was standing, half-listening, clutching my backpack for fear of the director/saleswoman extricating my checkbook by means of telekinesis, when she said to me, "You are very photogenic. Have you ever considered modeling?" (No, I have never considered modeling for many reasons. Among those is the fact that I am five feet tall. Not "five-foot-something." FIVE FEET. Period.) She was so cloyingly earnest, so serious: at that moment, I realized that passive resistance was futile. I had to escape.

It is the small price to pay for living in the world, to be subjected to schemes. There is the long, rigorous job interview in which it is slowly revealed that there actually is no employment opening. Sincere young men have engaged me in conversation and then tried to sell me magazines I do not want. Respectable-looking, well-dressed people have asked me for directions, then demanded money or told me how Jesus came into their lives.

I remembered that phony audition this week, after I had a preliminary phone conversation with a potential internet date. I answered an ad for a man who described himself as intelligent, articulate, funny and warm. And he was. We chatted for over an hour about our interests, what we are looking for in a partner, our former spouses, our reading habits.

The plot unfolds, then thickens. Finally, there is the denouement, where the ruse is revealed. And then, there is the moment of truth where you have to either buy the magazines, so to speak, or slowly back away and run like hell.

That is exactly what happened. I was enjoying the conversation, the easy banter, when a creeping realization took hold. What I thought was friendly give-and-take was intended to finalize a transaction of a very different sort.

September 13, 2006

Love, Valour, Compassion

Parents go to extraordinary lengths for their children. It is an evolutionary prerogative, of course, but what of people who have tubes retied to produce a second child as a marrow donor for the first child, those who donate organs, those who find themselves in dire poverty to pay for a child's medical or legal needs, people who DIE for their children? These news-worthy heroes always astonish me . . . people who undertake an act of amazing love, valor and compassion.

Luckily, I am not in such a situation. My life with Hart and Jeff calls for heroics, no doubt, but of the smaller, more modest sort. It works this way: I force myself to be patient most of the time until the 32nd occurrence of some behavior, then I explode. No matter, the boys are always up for number 33, 34, 35, 36. They never tire of aberrant behavior, even if they know that it is abnormal.

Ever so often, I cash in my chips all at once. "Do you know why we will never have another pet? Do you, do you!?" Yes, they do. "We bothered the cat," someone will mutter. But not once or twice, or even daily. "How many times a day did I say, 'Leave her alone?'" "Hundreds," they confess. Every single day.

"You are so crabby, Mommy," they tell me. Oh yes, I know I am. You would be crabby too if you were awakened every single weekday for over ten years in the wee hours of the morning. Every single day.

"Did you brush your teeth today?"

"Keep your hands to yourself and do not touch each other."

"Dirty clothes go in the chute." Pray, tell me, do 25-year-old men still fling their dirty underwear at each other? The boys think it is hilarious even after doing it for years!

"If I am speaking to your brother, you must wait to speak."

"Stay in your seat while you are eating." (Sadly, a complete lost cause. It's not a realistic goal: I reward Hart if he gets up fewer than three times.)

"Stop screaming." Variations: "Stop screaming, I am in the same room." "Stop screaming, we are in the same zip code." "Stop screaming AND stop touching each other." "Stop screaming. I am on the phone." "Stop screaming. It's 4 am on Saturday."

Every single day.

I am not really living in a hard-hitting documentary, as I occasionally imagine. I am living GROUNDHOG DAY, like Bill Murray, reliving the same exact day over and over again.

Julian, Chloe and Allison (photos)

Summer 2006

September 10, 2006

Cryptic VI

H: Where are my grhmtifjdk? Ninth and tenth.
L: I can't understand you. Ninth and tenth what?
H: I am putting on my shoes. I'm looking for grhmtifjdk in fmdmmmsnt.
L: Slower and clearer, please.
H: Where are the ninth and tenth? I am looking in the fmdmmmsnt.
L: I have no idea what you are saying. Do you need my help? Speak slower and use other words and stay standing in the same place while you talk.
H: Fmdmmmsnt. Sldddqeooirlksjfd.
L: Why are you in the furnace room? What's there?
J: He's looking for two Yu-Gi-Oh cards.
L: For sure, they aren't with the dirty laundry.

September 7, 2006


Dear YLJF:

I loved the pilot. Maybe you can help me. My sister-in-law embarrassed me at a family gathering by telling me that my top and pants clashed. I thought I looked fine. I wore a navy, red, pink and white striped shirt with a blue and pink floral skirt. The colors matched perfectly.
___________________________________ Sick of Sis-in-law

SOSIL: You were on the right track. If the idea of one solid piece and one patterned piece is too complex, wear ONLY solids. Every single solid color in the universe goes with every single other solid color. Easy.
P.S. Your SIL wears Crocs, don't listen to her.

Dear YLJF: I am a busy mother of three children, ages 2,4,6. We are fortunate to live in southern California, so I take the kids to the beach almost every day. I hate the way I look in a bathing suit. Any recommendations for beach wear?
___________________________________ Sunny CA

Dear SC: SPF 45! If you are over 5'4", wear a hat. If you are shorter than that, don't. You will look like a mushroom. Camouflage figure flaws around hips, waist and thighs with small children.

September 6, 2006

Cryptic V

H: What happened to the old garden?
Me: I bought a new one at the grocery store today.

September 3, 2006

YOU LOOK JUST FINE! A television proposal

Description: Half-hour reality series. Market research done on female viewers of all ages demonstrates that the majority of respondents have heard of at least one of the following cable programs, WHAT NOT TO WEAR, COVER SHOT, A MAKEOVER STORY. However, the study also shows that 17% of female viewers aged 31-45 and 38% of female viewers aged 46-65 are not interested in a conventional makeover for themselves or others, but rather are looking for validation of their own "personal style." This demographic is an underutilized market. In addition to the above-mentioned population, the pilot of YOU LOOK JUST FINE! tested well with gay men, aged 35-50.

Transcript of pilot/12.5 minutes

Sheila B., 28, 192 lbs, 5'2" and her sister Karen, 30.
Sheila: As you can see I am overweight. It's such a drag trying to find clothes that fit me and look good.
Karen: She's always wearing these horrible spandex pants. She has a closet full of black stretchy pants.
Sheila: Black makes you look slimmer!
Host: That's right.
Sheila: Told you!
Host: You look just fine. However, I see that you are short. Shorter women need taller hair. A few curlers and a bit of Dippity-Do and there you are! (Demonstrates putting three rollers at the top of Sheila's head.) Thanks for coming. (Yells off-camera as Sheila and Karen leave.) You have to sleep on a rolled up towel . . .

Crystal M. 59, 148 lbs, 5'8"
Host: Welcome, Crystal.

Crystal: I am turning 60 this year and it's really depressing.
Host: Hmmmm. You look fine to me.
Crystal: Every time I look in the mirror I see more wrinkles.
Host: You are wearing your hair swept back. That could be the problem. You need puffy bangs to hide your forehead. See? There you go.
Crystal: Also, I have to have these stupid reading glasses. I have turned into my own grandmother.
Host: Those glasses are much too small. No one will notice the wrinkles if your glasses are large enough to cover them. Remember TOOTSIE? No one could tell she was really Dustin Hoffman.

Melissa N. 37, 134 lbs, 5'3"
Melissa: I have spent the past year dieting and I have lost 27 pounds.
Host: Great.
Melissa: I guess I am not used to the new me. I am still wearing the same clothes. I haven't bought anything new. I just wear the usual uniform of baggy, oversized tops and sweatpants.
Host: Are you comfortable? That's the most important thing.
Melissa: Well, yes, I guess I am. I thought I was in some rut.
Host: You look just fine. Congratulations on the weight loss. Keep up the good work.

Gina G. 58, 126 lbs, 5'11"
Gina: My children complain I look like an aging hippie. I guess I am one.
Host: Those jeans look clean enough to me.
Gina: I have had this pair since my sophomore year of college. My hair used to be black, of course, but can you believe I have not had a haircut in seventeen years? (Whips braid around.)
Host: Ouch. That thing is lethal. I have to tell you that a woman of your age cannot wear such long hair.
Gina: My kids tell me I should get it cut. I am nervous about going to a hairdresser after all these years.
Host: Ridiculous.
Gina: I suppose you are right. Why should I be afraid of going to a hair salon?
Host: No, I meant ridiculous to pay someone to cut it. (Pulls out a pair of sewing scissors and cuts off the braid.) You look just fine now.
Gina: (holds braid) Can I keep this, as a souvenir?
Host: Of course. Don’t take those scissors though. I need them. That’s all for today. Thanks, and remember, YOU LOOK JUST FINE!

Tag: Send your fashion queries and comments to YOU LOOK JUST FINE! Our presenter promises to personally reply to all submissions. Photos welcome.

September 2, 2006

September 1, 2006


Me: Why are you two guys dressed exactly alike today?
H: We are twins.
J: Our shoes are different.