Happy Birthday

The singing waiters sang¬† “Happy Birthday” to me in the Red Lobster as the free vanilla ice cream with whipped cream was brought to my table.

They had pleasant voices and had been called into service numerous times because in the short time my family sat at the table we heard at least five or six neighboring “Happy Birthday” tunes at other tables.

The highlight of the day was finding two clothing items I could buy in Boscov’s. Is there a Boscov’s near you? My mother wanted to get me a birthday gift so took me to this store that anchors a shopping mall.

What is the attraction to cheaply made and poorly constructed chain store garments? If you can’t afford better clothes shopping here only makes sense if the clothes are on sale.

My mother balked because one of the items–a simple blue tee shirt–was originally marked $38 dollars. How could that be you wonder? A tee shirt that costs $38 dollars and it’s not in Target or H&M? Luckily it was on sale for $15 dollars.

Numerous trips to the dressing room proved almost futile. For starters, the smallest size jeans in Boscov’s are often a 4 or 6 so they’re too big for me. (The horror–you’re laughing at this. Go on, laugh.)

Anyway, a size 6P pair of Gloria Vanderbilt jeans fit so I snatched them up before anyone else could take them.

A woman came out of the dressing room and told me: “These pants don’t fit. I’ve gained weight. Yet I refuse to buy a larger size.”

Honey, I wanted to say, the size on a clothing tag is no measure of your worth or whether you should like yourself or how you look.

I thought the woman who came out of the dressing room looked beautiful. She didn’t look sloppy or slovenly to me, which is what counts more than what you weigh.

By the way, I have gone into H&M and couldn’t fit into their size 8 regular pants. Only a Barbie Doll could fit into those pants. They were a size 8 regular and I couldn’t get them over my knee.

Have I now convinced you female readers once and for all that sizing is arbitrary and makes no difference as long as you LOOK GOOD in your clothes?

Submitted for your amusement–because it amuses the heck out of me–is that now I’m the proud owner of four different sizes of jeans hanging in my closet. I own a 0P, a 2P, a 4P, and now a 6P–all Petite sizes no clowning around so this shouldn’t garner me any sympathy.

Yet this panoply of clothing sizes should make it clear that the number on a tag is arbitrary. With good reason you might ask what causes this variation in sizes? Well, it is laughable more than anything that one woman could fit into four different sizes.

Which proves that not only is age only a number–I’m 52 now–the size on a clothing tag is only a number.

I wish the woman who came out of the dressing room could’ve seen it in her heart to buy the next size up in the pants. The pants really did flatter her–I saw her in the smaller size and she already looked good in them.

Retail stores are closing down all over the place. Penney’s is closing something like 123 stores this year. You wonder why? The clothing looks cheap, and finding clothes that fit and flatter is near impossible.

If video killed the radio star according a song in the 1980s it’s also true that Alfred Dunner killed retail stores in the 2010s. Alfred Dunner–need I say more?

I do buy cheaper clothes. I only buy clothes with a coupon code of at least 30 percent off. The difference is these clothes don’t look cheap. And you won’t see a mirror image of yourself wearing the same clothes going up and down the street.

It’s possible to look good in clothes that don’t cost a lot of money. You just have to be a detective to track them down. You have to use your eye to see whether the clothes flatter you.

I’ve bought for only $35 after tax online a denim jacket. I’ve bought for $44 dollars after tax from GAP online a pair of jeans. Which makes paying $69 for these items in a no-name chain store really ridiculous.

Cost isn’t the issue. Looking good is the issue. Trust me what woman wants to spend hours in a dressing room trying on pants and jeans and blouses that she winds up looking awful in?

None of the blouses I tried on in Boscov’s fit and flattered by the way. I was glad as heck to get out of that store pronto with two items of clothing that looked good and fit good.

Yes, I’m 52 now.¬† I’m glad to be 52. And at this point, I doubt I’d care if I gained any weight. How much a woman weighs is besides the point.

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Night of the 7 Fishes

2016-lobster

Un Buon Natale Con Italiani!

This photo was shot with my digital camera on Christmas Eve–the Night of the 7 Fishes in coastal Italian families.

You can read about this tradition in my memoir Left of the Dial.

We are from a town near Naples so we are Neapolitan thus we celebrate the holiday with 7 fish–the lobster is the big attraction.

Years ago when I was the Health Guide at the HealthCentral website I researched via a simple Google search the impact of culture on a person’s recovery from a mental health challenge.

Trust me I couldn’t find any studies that corroborated the link between culture and recovery. I couldn’t find this for Italians, Hispanics, African Americans, or any other ethnic folk.

You can read more about Italian American Mental Health in the book Benessere Psicologico: Contemporary Thought on Italian American Mental Health. The book costs $20 and is well worth the splurge.

It was published in November 2013. To this book I contributed a 10-page chapter titled “Recovery is Within Reach.”

Years ago at HealthCentral I did write about the impact of culture on my recovery. I wrote about finding a female Italian American therapist to talk to.

I do think that ethnic identity can have a positive role in helping a person recover.

I stand firm in my assertion that I recovered because of my mother. I recovered because I had the love and support of my close-knit Italian American family.

It’s time to stop judging people. It’s time to stop stereotyping people. We each of us need to see the person first. Not attribute to them a characteristic you think they have just because they’re from a certain ethnic identity.

Which is to say that not all Italians are bigots. A friend of mine who was Sicilian had a woman tell him she couldn’t hang out with him because he was Italian and she was African American. She had always been told to have nothing to do with Italians.

Can you imagine that?

I say: come on over and have some lobster!

Come on over and have some lobster!

Insieme.

We’ll treat you like family.

Winter in New York

The tourists are now out clogging the streets of our fair city. I’ve always loved the tourists even though others joke about them.

Whenever you go there Times Square is as crowded as if it’s noon. With the fluorescent lights it’s like an eternal noontime on 42nd Street. Even at nine o’clock in the evening it’s bustling and bright with people and lights.

I dipped into Sephora and bought Fresh Sugar lip scrub. This beauty emporium played alternative holiday music. You’ve got to love Sephora.

Ten of us took our seats in the theater. The words quickly popped out of my mouth as I eyed the women in the seats in back of us.

“We’re the opening act.” I laughed as my family coordinated where to sit. You need to have a sense of humor about things.

We saw Circ du Soleil perform Paramour and the play was exceptional. It featured the amazing acrobatics and a great story.

I recommend seeing Paramour if you’re a tourist in New York City. Even if the cost of the tickets will set you back a pretty penny.

Winter in New York IS a magical time.

Here’s to you, Verna from South Bend, Indiana!

Buona Pasqua

Buona Pasqua–is Happy Easter in Italian. Though most likely it could be titled Happy Eater.

I went to my cousin’s. Her mother my Aunt and her sister were there. The amount of food could feed a small nation.I knew there would be too much food so I wasn’t worried that I couldn’t eat whatever meat was served–I knew there would be a ton of other food like vegetables. And the antipast’–a banquet before the main meal.

We are Italian, so there was a cheesecake, Russell Stover chocolates, a multitude of cannoli, other pastry, sorbet, chocolate chip cookies…and the list goes on.

It’s all relative…as to who your relatives are…when you are Italian. We consider them as true as blood. An Italian woman I talk to gave me this advice about a guy I like: “Kiss him. You’re Italian. You know how this goes: we’re Italians and we kiss people.”

The spring is coming: beautiful weather to be out and about. The tour guide in Rome told us it’s all “kissy-kissy” when I traveled there.

You turn 50 and think: it’s all about famiglia because you don’t know how much longer you’ll have with them.

I say: honor the parents who gave you birth. Except if there was outright abuse our parents most likely did the best they could. Honor them and protect them and care for them in their old age.

Buona Primavera. A Happy Spring to you!

Hospitals in Winter

You’re 22 and you’re diagnosed with schizophrenia and start to go down a long and winding road to get to a better life.

One day you turn 50 and are confronted with the reality that you don’t know how long your parents will be here. You don’t think NAMI and other mental health agencies are doing anything to help people older than 50 achieve a better recovery on their own.

I picked up two bereavement and grief pamphlets at the APA convention I attended in 2014 and read them. At HealthCentral I wrote about geriatric psychiatry and recovery at mid life when no one else was tackling these issues.

This is how it plays out:

You visit a person in the hospital. You’re told to go into the solarium while he’s checked on. You don’t sit on the couch. You count the available seating in the room: 15 chairs. You circle around the coffee table over and over.

A TV plays some kind of Christmas sitcom. There’s a remote control built into an electrical outlet on the wall. You channel surf until you hit CNN which is a better though not by much alternative to FoxNews.

All the news reporters have attractive faces. You wonder if being photogenic is written into the job description as one of the requirements for getting a news announcer’s job.

Why aren’t there any plain-looking news announcers? you think.

You’re called back into the room. He’s old; 81 years old. Your mother has brought pignoli cookies and seven-layer cookies for him. The three of you have a brief conversation before you head out to leave. “I love you” you tell him.

The next day you tell your hairdresser. She takes 50 minutes to perfect your new haircut. It looks stunning. It’s better than a trip to the shrink. “I want you to leave here happy,” she tells you.

You duck into a store and buy yourself gifts with the holiday money you were given. It’s just another Christmas in recovery.

Luckily you recovered. What about the others? What will happen when their parents are gone? How will individuals living on SSI and Medicaid be able to function on their own when their caregivers are gone?

Riddle me this Batwoman: who will care about them then when no one cares about them now?