Thursday, March 13, 2014


I recently had so much trouble buying a new pair of jeans that fit me comfortably, I honestly began to think there was something wrong with my anatomy.

Years ago, buying jeans was simple. You’d walk into the store, find your size, and seeing that jeans basically came in only one style, if they fit, you bought them. And even if they didn’t fit exactly right, you still bought them. If they were too long, you’d wear them cuffed up. If you were a young kid, you’d wear them cuffed up twice, until you grew a couple more inches.

Well, when I walked into the jeans section of a department store a couple weeks ago, my first thought was that I should have brought an interpreter. The jeans were grouped by categories: baggy, skinny fit, relaxed fit, boot cut, flare leg, western fit, hip huggers, capris, low-rise, high-rise, and talk-in-a-higher-voice rise.

And then there were the ones with so many holes in them, they looked as if someone had used them for grenade practice. When I was a kid, the minute I got a hole in my jeans, usually on one of the knees, my mother didn’t waste a second covering it with an iron-on patch. So it’s really difficult for me to grasp the “paying for holes” trend nowadays.

Anyway, I was so confused, I did the only logical thing a woman in my situation could do…I grabbed the first pair of jeans I found in my size. They were black and “relaxed fit.” I figured that with a name like “relaxed,” they had to be comfortable. So I tried them on and discovered they were just a little too relaxed. Somehow, the crotch-down-to-the-knees look just wasn’t for me. And because my backside has fallen with age and currently is located somewhere behind the backs of my knees, there was nothing to fill up all of the bagginess.

But even if the jeans had fit right, I probably wouldn’t have bought them anyway. I mean, experience has taught me that black jeans attract every lint ball and dog hair within a 10-mile radius. Every piece of black clothing I currently own looks as if I wore it while cleaning out the lint trap in my clothes dryer.

So I continued my search for jeans. I grabbed a pair of hip huggers. I’m high-waisted, so I figured hip huggers would make me look as if I had a longer torso. I tried them on and stared at my reflection in the mirror. The jeans looked pretty good from the front. Then I turned and looked over my shoulder at the back. Two inches of my underwear showed above the jeans. I bent over…and all of my underwear showed. The only way I’d have felt comfortable wearing those jeans would have been underneath a dress.

I didn’t even bother trying on the skinny jeans because the word “skinny” does not exist in my vocabulary. The only thing on my body that’s getting thinner right now is the hair on my head.

Frustrated, I asked a sales clerk which jeans were the most similar to the ones everyone wore back in the 1950s and early ‘60s. She said probably the classic fit, which made sense.

So I searched for a pair of those in my size and tried them on.

The minute I zipped and buttoned them, I breathed a sigh of relief. They fit exactly the way I’d hoped they would. The only problem was when the jeans reached my shins, they abruptly ended. From there to my ankles, my legs were bare.

I walked out of the dressing room. “What happened to the rest of the legs on these?” I asked the clerk.

“Those are cropped jeans,” she said. “They’re all the rage right now.”

“Where? In flood plains?”

She wasn’t amused.

Finally, after I’d tried on so many jeans I was suffering from denim skid-burns on my thighs and the residual pain of more than one wedgie, I bought a pair of medium-rise, boot-cut, stretch jeans. At least they covered most of my backside and my ankles, and when I bent over, they actually stretched to the full width of my hipbones without begging for mercy.

The other day I was telling one of my friends about my shopping experience and she suggested that perhaps I should forego the jeans and T-shirts and start dressing more appropriately for my age.

I wasn’t certain what she meant by “appropriately,” but visions of my grandmother’s cotton housedresses immediately popped into my mind.

All I can say is that after all of the trouble I went through buying these jeans, I plan to continue wearing them until I’m at least 95. And if they’re full of holes by then, all the better.

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Sally Breslin is an award-winning syndicated humor columnist who has written regularly for newspapers and magazines all of her adult life. She is the author of several novels in a variety of genres, from humor and romance to science-fiction. Contact her at:




Thursday, March 6, 2014


My friend Gregg and I currently are at war.  The problem is, I’m not certain if either one of us is going to win.
We’ve both entered the same novel-writing contest, the top prize of which is $50,000.
He’s the one who told me about the contest, but only about a month before the entry deadline. My first thought was there was no way I could enter because not only didn’t I have a prize-worthy novel completed, I didn’t have any novel at all. So I decided to put the contest out of my mind. My mind, however, had other ideas. It kept saying to me, “Just think of what you could do with $50,000!”
Finally, I sat down and wrote a novel – 55,000 words in just 24 days. I wrote it so fast, I’m still wondering if it even makes any sense, mainly because I barely had time to proofread it. But I was determined to make the contest deadline, even if my character’s love interest in the book is 5’9” tall with brown eyes on page 20 and then suddenly is 5’11” with gray eyes on page 52.
During those 24 days of intense writing, I neglected things like sleeping, housework, the laundry and my friends. I figured the dust, dog fur and dirty laundry still would be there when my book was finished. I wasn’t so sure about my friends, however, who probably thought I either was ignoring them…or I was dead.
When I finally finished my manuscript, I thoroughly read the contest’s entry rules. I got the distinct impression the judges don’t want to do any more reading than is absolutely necessary.
I thought I’d just have to send in my manuscript and that would be it, but no, the judges want three things: first, “the pitch” – a description of the book in under 300 words; second, a sample – the first 3,000-5,000 words of the book; and third, the completed manuscript.
So, what it all boils down to is the all-important pitch. If the judges don’t like the pitch, they’re not going to bother to read anything else. A contestant could write the equivalent of another “The Wizard of Oz,” but if the pitch isn’t exciting, intriguing and well-written, the book itself never will make it to the judges’ eyeballs.
For example, if someone pitched “The Wizard of Oz” as something like: “This is the story of a girl named Dorothy who dreams she takes a flight to a place far from home and then comes back again,” how many judges would want to read the book? It sounds about as exciting as watching grass grow.
My friend Gregg’s novel, which, unlike mine, took him over ten years to write, is a fantasy about a young man who leaves home on an adventure and encounters everything from a flying child-stealing giant dog to shape-shifters, witches, a killer hog and a king. However, when he sent me his pitch and asked for my opinion, my first reaction was that it could put even someone who’d overdosed on caffeine to sleep.
His entire pitch was, “This is the story of a boy who can’t get along with his father so he leaves home to find his way in life.”
“You have to make your pitch sound a lot more exciting than that!” I told him. “How are the judges going to know that your book has all sorts of exciting characters and creatures in it?”
“Well, I don’t want to give away too much of the plot in advance,” he said. “I want them to be surprised.”
 “They’ll be too busy snoring to be surprised,” I said. “Let me write up something to give you an example of what I think your pitch should be like.”
So I wrote him a pitch that made his main character sound like a combination of Harry Potter, James Bond and Indiana Jones all rolled into one.
I then went to work on writing the pitch for my own book. It took me hours to come up with something I finally was satisfied with because I knew it was my only chance to impress the judges. My story is a thriller about a woman who, just by looking at a person, can tell exactly when and how he or she will die. So I finally came up with what I thought was an interest-inducing first line for my pitch: “If it were possible to find out the exact date, time and way in which you were going to die, would you want to know?”
The problem with the contest is the organizers are anticipating about 10,000 entries. But I’m pretty sure about 9,000 of those will be eliminated on the pitch alone. From there, the contest first will be broken down into finalists, then quarter- finalists, followed by semi-finalists and top-ten finalists. After that, a group of online readers will give their input on the manuscripts. So I figure that by the time the final judging is over, I’ll be about 93 years old and the $50,000 grand prize probably won’t even be enough to pay for the gas to drive to the bank to cash the check.
Still, it should be interesting to see whether Gregg or I will make it to the finals.  I think he may have a slight advantage over me, though. He’s 80 and has been writing ever since he was old enough to hold a pencil.
But if his book makes it and mine doesn’t, there will be no hard feelings. But I just might kick myself a few times for writing that pitch for him.