Monday, January 30, 2006

Sob story

I just saw a commercial on TV advertising the release of the new movie “Bambi II.” It immediately made me think back to when I was young and saw the original “Bambi” movie. I cried my eyes out when the hunter shot Bambi’s mother. I think the movie emotionally scarred me for life.

I’ve always cried over sad movies. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been too embarrassed to show my mascara-streaked face in the theater lobby after watching a real tear-jerker. I also can’t count the number of times my husband has relentlessly teased me about it.

For some reason, he and my mother always have had a knack for finding the humor in sad movies and spoiling them for me. In fact, there have been plenty of times when they have caused me to want to slide underneath my theater seat and hide there.

For example, back when I was a kid, my mom took me to see the Disney classic, “Old Yeller.” It was a movie about a beloved dog that ended up saving the life of the boy he belonged to and then dying of rabies at the end of the movie (the dog, not the boy). The name “Yeller” referred to the boy’s slang pronunciation of the yellow color of the dog.

Well, my mother suddenly started to laugh in the middle of the movie. As heads turned toward us and eyes glared at us, I asked my mother why on earth she was laughing. She explained that the lead actress (Dorothy McGuire) had such yellow teeth, she’d thought that SHE was Old Yeller, not the dog!

Then there was the time I took my mother to see the movie, “Romeo and Juliet.” I’d already seen it once and had been so touched by it, I wanted my mother to experience the same intense emotion I’d felt.

My mother was fine until the scene in the square where Juliet’s nurse, wearing a huge, puffy skirt, came looking for Romeo. The guys in the square began to taunt the nurse, making faces at her and dancing around her. Then one of the guys, Mercutio, lifted a corner of the nurse’s skirt, stuck his head underneath it and came out holding his nose and gasping.

That did it. My mother dissolved into fits of laughter. She laughed through the wedding scene. She laughed through the death scene. She laughed all the way out to the car after the movie had ended. And to this day, whenever I mention the movie to her, she still bursts out laughing.

I’m pretty sure we made a lot of enemies in the movie theater that day.

When my husband and I were dating, I convinced him to take me to see “Love Story” at the Rex Theater in Manchester. About 15 minutes into the movie, I could tell from his sighing and eye rolling that he probably would rather have been sitting in a Laundromat and washing his socks.

He managed to keep silent, however, until Ali MacGraw’s death scene. It was supposed to be romantic and touching, a real Kleenex moment. But the minute Ali said to Ryan O’Neal, who played her husband in the movie, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry,” my husband could remain silent no longer.

He burst out laughing. “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard!”

“Shhhhh!” I said. “This is the sad part! She’s going to die!”

“If we’re lucky,” he said, “he’ll put a pillow over her face and help her speed things along!”

I heard a few other men in the theater start to laugh.

An irritated-sounding “Shhhhhhhh!” came from the woman who was seated behind us.

Once again, I had to hide my face behind a box of popcorn as I left the movie theater.

When I sobbed through “Wuthering Heights” and the ending of “Funny Girl,” my husband mercilessly razzed me. And when I cried buckets over “Brian’s Song,” he called me a marshmallow, even though I thought I detected him swallowing against a lump in his throat.

But then came the day when Hugh Beaumont, the actor who played one of the world’s most popular dads on TV, Ward Cleaver on Leave it to Beaver, passed away.

Leave it to Beaver always had been my husband’s favorite TV show. He watched all of the originals when he was a kid and then all of the reruns when he grew up. When my husband came home from work that night, I casually mentioned that Hugh Beaumont had died.

His face immediately paled, and to my shock, he burst into tears. “Not Ward Cleaver! It can’t be!”

He spent the rest of the night sobbing over poor Ward. I honestly had never seen him so emotional about anything. The man practically needed a sedative.

The next morning, my husband really looked embarrassed. “Gee, I don’t know what got into me,” he said. “I mean, after all, Ward Cleaver was only a TV character.”

Ever since then, he hasn’t teased me much at all when I’ve cried during sad movies.

Could it be that maturity finally has softened him?

Nah. It’s because he’s afraid I’ll tell all of his buddies about the Ward Cleaver incident.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Just call me crinkles

I opened the cabinet under the bathroom sink the other day and nearly broke my toe. About 400 jars of foundation makeup came bouncing out onto the bathroom floor.

For years, I wore Cover Girl Moisture Wear makeup. I have dry skin, so Moisture Wear, which contained oil, was perfect for me. It slid smoothly onto my face, soaked into all of the crinkles and uncrinkled them, and gave me a “dew-kissed” glow.

Then one day, I was in a closeout store and spotted a big rack of Moisture Wear for only $2.50 per jar. I couldn’t believe my good luck and immediately stocked up. Unfortunately, I was too clueless to see the writing on the wall. I should have known that when a product ends up in a closeout store, it’s only a matter of time before it goes to that big warehouse in the sky.

Sure enough, a few weeks later, Cover Girl stopped making Moisture Wear.

Panicking, I contacted the company and asked why the product had been discontinued. I half expected the woman to say, “Because YOU like it!”

It seems as if all my life, whenever I’ve said I liked a product, I’ve unintentionally given it the kiss of death.

From what the woman did say, in a roundabout way, I got the feeling that Cover Girl’s bigwigs thought that only old, wrinkly people were buying Moisture Wear and that the time had come to target a younger, more baby-faced clientele.

“Try our new tinted moisturizer,” the woman suggested. “You will love it just as much as you did the Moisture Wear.”

So I bought the tinted moisturizer. In retrospect, the minute I saw “Oil Free” on the label, I should have known better. It made my face so dry, I actually could see the peels forming five minutes after I slapped it on.

Frustrated, I went to the cosmetics department in a store at the mall and told the clerk that I wanted foundation makeup with oil in it – the oilier the better.

“We actually do have one with oil in it,” she said. “And it also contains a wrinkle reducer.”

She had my full attention. She tested a few shades of the makeup on the back of my hand until she found the perfect match. I had to admit that it looked pretty good on my hand. And it felt nice and creamy, too.

“I’ll take it!” I said.

The clerk smiled. “That will be $50.”

After my heart started beating again, I forked over the money, then muttered all the way home about how I could have bought a year’s worth of Moisture Wear for what I’d just paid for one jar of the fancy stuff. I also silently called the people at Cover Girl a bunch of not-so-nice names.

When I told my husband about the new makeup and what I’d paid for it, his expression clearly told me that he thought I’d finally lost what little mind I had left. “Couldn’t you just have bought some cheap makeup and mixed it with baby oil or WD-40 or something?” he asked.

I’d never even thought of that.

When I put the expensive makeup on my face the next morning, I expected to look into the mirror and see a reflection that resembled fine porcelain. Instead, I looked embalmed. Even worse, I didn’t like the smell of the stuff. I hadn’t noticed it when I’d tested it on my hand at the store, but when I smoothed it on my face, especially right underneath my nose, it smelled terrible – kind of like a cross between skunk oil and a lilac bush.

Thus began my marathon quest to find another foundation makeup. I ended up trying just about everything I could find…liquids, powders, creams, mousses, gels. Most of it I used only once and then tossed it under the sink, never to be seen again (until, that is, it fell out).

Then I heard about Rite-Aid’s policy that allows customers to buy makeup, take it home, try it out and then get a full refund if they decide it doesn’t look good on them. I bought and returned so much makeup over there, the clerks must have thought that I either had some kind of a fetish or I’d enrolled in clown college.

Finally, I turned to Ebay. No one was more shocked than I was to actually find a precious jar of Moisture Wear up for bid. I didn’t care how much I had to bid for it. My crinkly, pasty skin was so desperate by then, I would have mortgaged the house to win that auction.

I won the Moisture Wear for $13. It wasn’t even my usual color, but that didn’t matter to me. Walking around with my face three shades darker than my neck wasn’t as important as having my dew-kissed glow back.

I did manage to find and win three more jars of Moisture Wear on Ebay. But alas, for about a year now, no one has put up any more for auction. That’s probably because any of the makeup that might still be lying around is so old, it’s become fossilized.

So here I am, still searching in vain for a suitable replacement. In the meantime, I’m going to head out to the tool shed to look for some WD-40.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Confessions of a Germophobe

I hate to admit it, but I’m just a tad on the phobic side about germs.

It’s not completely my fault, however. When I was about six, the pediatrician scolded my mother for keeping me too clean. “Let her get dirty now and then,” he told her. “Let her build up some immunity to germs. She’s too spotless.”

So maybe if I had been a grubby little kid with a crop of potatoes growing in my ears, germs would be my friends today instead of my enemies.

People who fear germs see everyday occurrences in a totally different light. For example, when my husband and I go to a restaurant, he usually will say something like, “Oh boy, I’m in the mood for a nice, juicy cheeseburger!” while I, on the other hand, will be wondering if the cook is out back using the burger spatula to swat flies on the kitchen wall.

And when I see a couple kissing on TV, instead of thinking, “Oh, how romantic,” all I can think about is whether or not they just ate lunch and have tuna salad decaying between their teeth.

Public restrooms always have been a source of heart palpitations for me. Every time I enter a bathroom stall and look at the toilet seat, I envision the germ equivalent of Woodstock gathered on there, dancing and partying. If I could stand up on the seat and do my business, believe me, I would.

Recently, however, I went into a restroom that had this nifty little gizmo attached to the commode. It automatically dispensed a circle of paper that covered the entire seat. And then when I stood up, it sucked the paper neatly back into the machine.

I thought it was a clever invention till I told my husband about it and he laughed and said, “Yeah, the paper probably goes back into the machine so they can recycle it for the next person!”

The man is a sadist.

Because I’m a germophobe, I think the greatest invention of the past century has to be liquid hand-sanitizer. I carry little bottles of it with me everywhere I go. I also have a large bottle of it in my car and three even larger ones in my house. I swear, if I passed away, the manufacturers of hand sanitizer probably would have to file for Chapter 11.

There’s been a commercial on TV lately that tells you that if you want to avoid catching the flu during flu season, you should go hide on a deserted island till spring. I hate to say it, but I am tempted. I was in the supermarket the other day and there was so much coughing and sneezing going on in there, the place sounded like a refuge for wild geese.

Even worse, the checkout clerk looked as if he should have been picking out a headstone instead of working.

“Sick?” I almost was afraid to ask.

“Yeah, I’ve had this lousy cold for over a week now.” He sniffled for effect. “I’m beginning to wonder when the heck it’s ever going to go away.”

My first impulse was to whip out the travel-size can of Lysol from my purse and spray the entire contents on his nose, but I refrained. As I watched him scan my groceries, however, I cringed, thinking of all of the germs his sneeze-covered little paws were depositing on each item.

“I can disinfect the outside of the bottle of juice and the jar of mayonnaise,” I found myself thinking. “But the sack of flour might not be so easy.”

When Typhoid Tommy handed my change to me, I took it with only two fingers. Then the minute I got outside, I doused it (and my hands) with hand sanitizer.

Nothing on earth, however, is more torturous for me than having to sit in a doctor’s waiting room with potential bubonic plague and Ebola-virus carriers facing me. If I could do it without suffocating, I’d zip myself inside a plastic garment-bag before setting foot in the place.

I do think my germ phobia has improved slightly over the years, though. I no longer wear a Hazmat suit when I clean the bathroom. And I don’t cook meat so long, it turns into jerky. And the last time my dog licked my hand (after licking herself), I waited a full 20 seconds before I rushed to the sink to scrub myself with disinfectant soap.

Maybe things would be easier if I just took my former pediatrician’s advice and allowed myself to get good and germy now and then.

Perhaps I’ll go dive into a dumpster.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The gift of creativity

Every Christmas season, I come up with what I think are unusual gift ideas. And every Christmas season, I end up having to return a few gifts before I even give them.

This Christmas season was no different.

You’d think I’d have learned my lesson from past disasters. For example, there was the wood carving of a buffalo that I had specially made one Christmas for my husband, the buffalo collector. Unfortunately, the carver had never carved a buffalo before, so the end result looked like something that had been in a horrible, disfiguring accident.

Still, the artist was so proud of his masterpiece, I ended up forking over a wad of money for it…and then hid the buffalo in the back of the closet, where to this day, it still remains. I can only hope that a nest of hungry termites has attacked it.

And then there was the round tablecloth I had a woman crochet for my mother. The center of the darned thing wouldn’t lie flat, no matter what my mother and I did to it. We tried stacking books on it, ironing it and starching it, and still the center continued to rise as if it were part of Houdini’s magic act. We were tempted to bring it outside and beat it with a stick.

Another gift disaster occurred when a glass blower at a mall told me he could make a set of miniature bowling balls and pins for my mother. At the time, I thought it was a great idea because not only was my mother an avid bowler, she also collected blown glass. The final result looked like a clear-glass turkey drumstick surrounded by skinny baked potatoes. When the glass blower first handed it to me, I honestly thought it was a replica of someone’s lunch.

This year, however, I wasn’t quite as creative. Still, I had problems.

We have a dear friend who collects pocket watches, so I bought him a pocket watch that had wood trimming encircling the face. It came in a matching wooden case. I decided to have the back of the watch engraved with, “TO BILL, CHRISTMAS 2005.”

A week before Christmas, I picked up the watch. The back read, “TO BULL, CHRISTMAS 2005.”

Then I bought my mother a pair of dainty pearl earrings. When I went to wrap them, I noticed that they were lying in the bottom of the case instead of attached to the velvet backing, where I’d last seen them. I picked up the earrings and discovered that the little slip-on backs were missing. I finally located them, loose in the case, and slid them back onto the earring posts. They immediately fell off.

I rolled my eyes. The earring backs obviously were way too big. I shoved everything back into the case and decided to head back to the jewelry store. That’s when my search for the sales receipt began.

I searched everywhere for that darned receipt, even outside in the trash barrel. By then, I was so frustrated, I was flinging trash onto the ground and shouting, “Come on! You’ve GOT to be in there!”

I could only imagine what the neighbors were thinking. Probably, “There’s Sally on her diet again, looking for stray M&Ms.”

I never did find the sales receipt, but I decided to be brave and return to the jewelry store anyway.

The female clerk seemed overly pleasant until I told her I had a problem with some earrings I’d purchased. Her expression immediately changed to something that looked as if I’d just told her I was dating her husband.

I explained that the backs of the earrings were too big and kept falling off. She opened the box and removed the earrings…and only one earring back. The other one was nowhere to be found. The clerk even turned the box upside down and shook it over the counter.

“It was in the box when I left the house,” I said. “Honest, it was!”

Her suspicious look told me it was highly unlikely that she was buying any of my story. I guess I really couldn’t blame her. After all, there I was, a complete stranger with no sales slip and a missing earring-back…a 14K white-gold earring back. I may as well have been the long-lost daughter of Bonnie and Clyde.

The clerk stared at me a moment, her eyes boring into mine. I suspected that her years of working with fine jewelry had made her develop a sixth sense, a built-in lie detector. I didn’t dare blink.

Finally, she silently walked over to a drawer, pulled out a small box and brought it back to the counter. The box contained earring backs of all sizes and shapes. She pulled out two and slid them onto the posts of the pearl earrings. They fit perfectly.

“There you go,” she said, her lips forming a taut line.

I got out of there, stopped and breathed a sigh of relief. Things, I told myself, definitely were looking up.

That is, until I decided to order a musical clock with little moving dancers in it for our friends in New York.

But that’s a whole other story…