Laments About Arthritic Adventures

Everybody’s a Critic

Feedback Bites Back

Critic taking and giving stars

It used to be that criticism belonged to the ranks of five classes of people – professional critics, impartial consumer product reviewers, your mother, your best girlfriend, and your in-laws.

Now, thanks to the Internet, everybody’s a critic. Everybody with a bone to pick — informed or terribly ill-informed — is a critic.

You can ding short-staffed restaurants, struggling retailers, and barely-managing masseurs on Yelp; you can demolish drivers on Uber and Lyft, and you can anonymously trash-talk people on all sorts of social media websites. It’s a scary Internet world.

For a long time, I ignored casual “citizen” reviewers. If I wanted to know what somebody thought, I wanted to know what somebody-in-the-know knew and opined. If I needed a theater or a movie review, I opened The New York Times Arts and Book Review sections. If I needed a new toaster or vacuum cleaner, I turned to Consumer Reports.

If I needed confirmation that my husband was an insensitive clod, I asked my mother (although she generally sided with my husband). If I thought I looked fat, I’d ask my girlfriend for a hasty assurance that I was mistaken.

But now I know that everything is reviewed online, even you, even me! Read more

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Hawaii Va-cay. Hawaii Dismay.

Or How I Wish I Spent My Summer Vacation

Hawaii vacation spot: White sandy shore with calm waves

Dear Middle-Aged Muddlers,

I hate to complain, but I just got back from my so-called vacation and I cannot tell you how much I wish I had followed my instincts and opted for that restful, peaceful stay-cation I so dreamed of.

As you may recall, Handsome Hubby (HH) had invited me to join him on a business trip to Hawaii. I was reluctant, but you know me, always the good wife. So, off I went.

“Oh, Hawaii. How fun,” enthused everyone I told about the upcoming trip to our nation’s 50th state. “Wait – you’re not excited?”

“Nope, not a bit,” I’d politely replied. “I’m more a desert rat than a sea and sand fan.”

I understand that the idea of a Hawaiian getaway sounds great to most people, but I’m from Las Vegas. My idea of a watery retreat is a mega-resort and swimming pool, lightly chlorinated, with me floating on a pink raft with a Diet Coke in the drink holder.

As for the ocean? I don’t snorkel. I don’t scuba dive. I don’t surf. I’m afraid of the water. Of rip tides. Strong tides. Big waves. Any waves.

I’m scared of sharks, jellyfish, stingrays, even random tiny fish that swim by. I don’t like sand in my swimsuit and I hate the stink of salt water in my eyes and its taste in my mouth.

Then, there’s the chubby-thigh issue and the extended walk of shame from the unfurled beach towel to the water’s concealing, albeit treacherous, waves. No itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini for me. No way.

In short, I was apprehensive about a vacation to Hawaii. It turned out, I was right – but not for any of the aforementioned reasons. Read more

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CIA? Me, a Spy? Oh, My

The Day The Agency Called

Diana Riggs as Emma Peel

I’m not sure what prompted the recollection. I was just sitting on the couch watching some silly spy movie for the 17th time with Handsome Hubby. Somewhere between the commercials, the snacks and nodding off, I engaged in a little middle-aged woolgathering, the way we of a certain age do from time to time. I remembered something I hadn’t thought about in a long time – my own, true-to-life, almost CIA spy adventure.

I was young. (Like I said, it was a long time ago.)

I had studied in the then-Soviet Union, had two degrees in Russian Area Studies – political science, history, language, and economics, and spoke Russian with some degree of fluency.

Then the CIA called.  Read more

Middle-aged Chatter

Why Do We All Talk to Strangers?

Do you remember the doll Chatty Cathy? If you grew up in the early 60s, you probably had one. Second to Barbie, this pull-string talking toy was the most popular doll on the market. I had a Chatty Cathy and loved her dearly.

And like my doll, I was a regular Chatty Cathy. I talked so much as a child that my family used to pay me to keep quiet. I’d get a nickel for every fifteen minutes I’d keep still. The truth is, I didn’t collect many nickels.

I wasn’t just chatty. I was really friendly. I once invited a total stranger over to our house. When he showed up, my mother won’t let him in, of course. But he wouldn’t leave. My mother called the police and that night both my parents gave me a stern lecture about not talking to strangers.

Yet, if I wasn’t supposed to talk to strangers, my middle-aged mother was setting a bad example. Read more

I Ache, Therefore I Am

Age Gracefully. I Dare You!

“I think, therefore I am,” Descartes said. Yet, as people age, many switch to a different, less inspiring paradigm, namely ‘I ache, therefore I am.”

I have, for instance, a cousin who spends entire telephone conversations reciting litanies of medical ills, without offering even one hosanna for the medical miracles that keep him alive and kicking and well enough to bitch and moan the whole time on the phone.

For my part, I have always vowed to age gracefully and suffer silently whatever slings and arrows come my way.

Well, that pledge has been put to the test lately and I confess, I have to give myself barely passing grades in the dignity and grace department.

Read more

I Embarrass My Husband

The Subject is Flowers

I embarrass my husband. It’s true, I do.

It’s not my weight. My table manners. My political opinions or even my high-pitched snorting laugh. It’s gotten to the point he won’t be seen in public with me – or to be more precise – he won’t go for walks with me.

The path I take, he takes no more.

Read more

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From Broadway to Basketball

How I Went Head Over Heels for Hoops

Blame it on the state of the world. Blame it on the folks in Washington, D.C. Blame it on my children or my husband (my personal default fault mode). Whatever the cause, I have long yearned for moral clarity and distinct boundaries between right and wrong. I am tired of gray, of ambiguity, of uncertainty. I need to know who the good guys are, who the bad guys are, and that the outcome of things will be for the best – and to my liking.

And in my desperation, I turned – for the first time in my life – to a new source of solace. No, not religion. Sports. Yes, in the Spring of 2016 I unexpectedly became a devoted – no, make that a fanatical – Golden State Warriors basketball fan. I now proudly sport a tee shirt – make that an officially NBA-sanctioned-tee-shirt. Yes, I pledged allegiance to Dub Nation.

(And to think, just a short time ago, I had to ask my hairdresser what the “Dub” in Dub Nation was. For the uninitiated, non-Californian, it is slang for the beginning phonetic pronunciation of the letter “W” in Warriors which is “dub-bel-yoo.” Got it? Duh!)

But then something happened. Read more

The Cat Conundrum

When Music Mixes with Politics, Which Wins?

Do you remember Cat Stevens? If you are middle-aged, you undoubtedly do. And if you liked folk/rock music, you undoubtedly loved Cat Stevens. Well, I am middle-aged and I loved Cat Stevens. I loved him more than Gordon Lightfoot, on whom I had a slight musical crush. And I probably loved him more than the Beatles, who were my gateway drug to Rock ‘n Roll.

So, I cannot tell you how excited I was to learn that Cat Stevens was touring again. When I read the ad announcing his concert dates, I entered not only the date of his San Francisco concert in my iPhone but also – in all capital letters – with a 15-minute ringtone reminder for safety – the date and time the tickets would go on sale. I canceled my standing exercise class to stay home to buy the tickets at the exact second they went on sale. I sat by my computer, my finger poised above the “buy” button, all in an effort to get the best seats possible. Even so, the tickets I scored were a bit further back than I would have liked, row R, but no matter. Handsome Hubby and I were to set to see Cat Stevens in concert.

I started counting the days.

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Are You Still Sexually Active?

And other Signs you’re not as young as you think you are.

“Are you still sexually active?”

“Excuse me?”

“Are you still sexually active?” repeated the gynecologist, peering up and around my legs.

Why? I worried silently. Was she finding something ‘down there’ to indicate I wasn’t or shouldn’t be?

“Of course, I am,” I replied sharply, snapping my legs together to signal an end to that embarrassing and frankly insulting line of questioning.

Read more

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