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rein it in

I have fond memories of walking into the Macy’s flagship store on 34th Street in New York just after Thanksgiving to find that it had been transformed into a winter wonderland overnight. No more. Now that transformation happens everywhere the second that Halloween is over. Candy corn is replaced by candy canes at a speed to rival that of Santa’s global-circling reindeer. And suddenly it’s Christmastime.

Is this rush really necessary? To add to the clamor, our too-early-holiday hysteria is set to a deluge of seasonal music played everywhere — radio stations, malls, restaurants, theaters, elevators — starting the first day of November and going all the way up until New Year’s Day. All holiday sounds. All. The. Time.

Sure, lots of holiday songs are charming, fun, spirited, spiritual — but none of them warrants that kind of over-and-over play. Even Irving Berlin’s White Christmas can go from dream to nightmare in a matter of days. To wit:

Deck the Halls First time I hear it: Fa-la-la-la-la to you too! Fifth time: Holly jolly! Tenth time: Leave me alone before I deck you.

Jingle Bells First time: Everybody into the sleigh! Fifth time: Sing it, ring it! Tenth time: Jingle no more. And what the hell is a bobtail anyway?

Dreidel, Dreidel First time: Aww, look how cute — it’s made out of clay! Fifth time: Spin it, baby! Tenth time: Shut up — I’d rather have a Christmas tree.

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus First time: Ooh, a little naughty there! Fifth time: How fun — she’s tickling him too! Tenth time: Stop the music — this little kid is going to need therapy. Either Mommy is cheating on Daddy or Daddy is really Santa and Santa (gulp!) doesn’t exist!

All I Want for Christmas Is You First time: I’m yours forever. Fifth time: What a sweet lyric! Tenth time: Sounding a little needy. Go away. 

Santa Claus Is Coming to Town First time: Such a cute little song! Fifth time: Okay, I won’t pout! Tenth time: He’s making a list? He knows if I’ve been naughty? What is he — a stalker?

Santa Claus Is Coming to Town / Bruce Springsteen Version First time: It rocks! Fifth time: It really rocks! Tenth time: Turn the volume way up!

So, to all the music-programming gods out there: Can we mix in some other songs among those unending holiday tunes? Or can we at least hold off on the barrage until December? Or can you put noise-cancelling headphones in my stocking?

Time for a little elf control.



© 2019 Claudia Grossman






oy of cooking

I don’t love to cook; in fact, I don’t even like it all that much. Sure, I make a mean brisket, a respectable eggplant parmigiana, a well-reviewed ziti with meat sauce, and an assortment of other “not bad, pretty good” entrées. But, if I’m really honest with myself, when it comes to cooking, I’d rather be doing something else. Like eating leftovers (I realize, of course, that in order to have leftovers, you have to have cooked previously — unless they’re leftovers from yesterday’s restaurant dinner); ordering in a pizza; or busting open a bag of tortilla chips and calling it dinner.

But, while cooking is not a joy for me, reading about it is. I love to read cookbooks the way some people read novels. I love to read cooking magazines the way some people read Vogue. And I love to read the food section of the paper the way some people read — I don’t know, the comics? Sports? Arts & Leisure? Anyone?

I think that the joy of cooking skipped a generation in my family. My mom was a wonderful cook, so I never felt the need to learn how. In fact, when B. and I moved in together 23 years ago, his kitchen skills far outshone mine. (To this day, he thinks his recipes for tarragon chicken and amaretto sweet potatoes seduced me and won my heart — don’t tell him, but I was a sure thing.)

To help me learn how to cook all those years ago, I purchased the 1997 edition of Joy of Cooking, the legendary bible written by Irma S. Rombauer in 1931 and updated several times since. I tried, I really did, but I found that rather than mincing garlic, I’d rather find a way to mince words in a too-long headline I was working on. Rather than blending together oil and balsamic vinegar to make the perfect vinaigrette, I’d rather be blending together the perfect cast of characters in a story I was writing. And rather than skimming fat off the top of turkey gravy, I’d rather be skimming the New York Times Sunday Book Review to find my next great read.

What I did enjoy, though, was reading Joy of Cooking. From bruschetta to brioche, from paprikash to polenta, from filet mignon to fondant — reading these recipes satisfied my soul in a way that only the best fiction can. What it didn’t do was make me want to dash into the kitchen and whip up any of them.

So our dinners are more simple, our once-in-a-while desserts no more elaborate than really good brownies (or Ina Garten’s mind-blowing chocolate ganache cupcakes, which I make for B.’s birthday). It seems that I’m more likely to take the time to bake something special than to sauté, flambé, roast, or toast.

The 2019 edition of Joy of Cooking was just released this week — touting 600 new recipes and 4000 favorites. Will I, an admitted non-lover of cooking, buy it?

Of course. Every delicious word.

Joy to the girl.


©2019 Claudia Grossman






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counter point

As a single working woman in New York for many years — many years ago — one of my favorite lunch-hour pursuits was to browse those big, beautiful department stores, some of which no longer exist. Stores like B. Altman, Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s (the last two are still there) offered something that you don’t see very much these days — salespeople waiting behind glass counters or cases to help you with your purchases.

Not merely cashiers, these employees actually handed you the items you requested from inside the case (purses and scarves and gloves, oh my), offered their advice if asked (and sometimes even if not), and then rang up and wrapped your purchases beautifully (in store tissue paper and gorgeous shopping bags).

Ahh. Sorry, I needed a moment there.

Much has changed in the past 20+ years. Shopping online — with its progeny, the ever-growing demand for instant gratification — has been the loudest tolling bell for those once-great department stores. Buy-online pick-up areas have replaced flesh-and-blood salespeople in brick-and-mortar retailers. Something is lacking.

Fortunately, as in so many areas of our changing cultural landscape, we can find what we’re missing in the movies. Even department-store counters and the sales personnel who used to man them can be found — delightfully alive and well — on film. To wit:

Eugene Levy in Serendipity. Playing a hilarious, strictly-by-the-rules salesman at a counter in the men’s department at Bloomingdale’s, Levy’s character is key in the romance of Jonathan (John Cusack) and Sara (Kate Beckinsale), who meet cute at his counter. The two share nothing but first names, deciding to leave it up to kismet to bring them together again if they are meant to be. (While I personally like this sweet rom-com, I’ve got to admit that I think the premise presented this way is just crazy — I mean, who does that? Share your names and numbers already! Sheesh.) At any rate, Levy’s performance is brilliantly delivered and all-out funny. Sold.

Rowan Atkinson in Love Actually. This performance brings me to tears of laughter. Every time I see it. Atkinson plays a jewelry-counter salesperson, waiting on Alan Rickman’s character — a married man trying to purchase a Christmas present, for the secretary who lusts after him, while his wife is shopping in another part of the store. Speed is of the essence here, and Atkinson’s bumbling sales clerk in the midst of a ridiculously exorbitant gift-wrapping process — including adding candies, lavender, a cinnamon stick, and holly berries (after donning gloves to protect against the sharp-edged leaves) — is absolutely hysterical. Sold, actually.

John McGiver in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. McGiver plays a Tiffany & Co. salesman who waits on Paul Varjak (George Peppard) and Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn, of course). When it appears that Paul cannot afford to buy anything romantic for Holly at her favorite store, McGiver’s character agrees to have the store engrave the ring Paul found in a CrackerJack box. If you’re saying “awww” right now, you’re in very good company — all of us Huckleberry friends out here. Sold — in a little blue box.

Today’s culture argues that we make it quick, quick, quick; as these scenes remind us, though, there is much charm to be savored when we take it slow, slow, slow. Counter to texts, counter to insta, counter to the clock.

Counter culture.


© 2019 Claudia Grossman

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who’s on first

Ah, the things we do for love. Bringing home a bunch of flowers. Cooking — and cleaning up — a special dinner. Getting our partner’s car washed. Going to a concert we could never have imagined wanting tickets to — much less sitting through.

For those of you who are regular readers, you might remember my post from a few weeks ago, talking about how B. actually bought tickets — and went with me! — to a Barry Manilow concert (for better or for verse). Something he would never, ever have considered going to, wanting to go to, or even talking about if not for me, the admitted Fanilow in the family, whom he loves dearly.

So, in the spirit of turnabout being fair play, love being a two-way street, and what’s right being what’s right, it appears that we are going to a Who concert later this week at the Hollywood Bowl.

If you were betting that The Who is B.’s choice, you’re right — not one of my friends, past or present, would ever take me for a Who fan. Let’s just say that when it came to our high-school and college years, mine were a lot less adventurous (probably because I always had my nose in a book); a lot more sheltered (thanks, Mom and Dad); and a lot less fun (as a result of the other two) than B.’s. Also a lot less rock and roll (hence the Fanilow status), although, thankfully, Springsteen made the cut.

Not to say that I know nothing about The Who’s music. I know a good deal from Tommy and I can sing along  — somewhat — to Who anthems like Behind Blue Eyes, My Generation, and Who Are You (I particularly like the expletive-laden line in that last one — how much of a bad girl am I?). I’ve even been listening to B.’s song suggestions for the past two weeks (concerts are always better when you actually know the music, duh) and am now ready to go. To quote John Fogerty, “Put me in Coach, I’m ready to play.”

Times like this remind me that the person I was all those years ago has been changed — in a good way — by what I’ve done, where my life has taken me, when it was that I realized my possibilities, why I’ve made the choices I have, and how I’ve managed to get from there to here. Who I am is a work that has progressed quite a bit.

So bring on Daltrey with those killer blue eyes (even if they are behind blue spectacles these days).

Who needs Mandy?


© 2019 Claudia Grossman




out on a limb

So there’s a bunch of things that apartment-dwelling city people don’t take to naturally — driving a mini van for one; clearing snow from a driveway that we don’t have for another; and trimming trees for a third. And it’s this last one that came into play just this weekend, as the overgrown (read three-story) shrubs outside our bedroom windows had to be snipped.

Yes, it’s usually something the building’s landscapers would handle but no, that didn’t look like it was going to happen, so B. and I decided to take the matter (the branches, really) into our own hands. But not without some expert advice, and for that I turned to a dear friend who is a former professional tree trimmer extraordinaire and all-around terrific guy. (When he heard my account of what is known as my Woody Woodpecker sighting a few years ago (wood-a, coulda, shoulda), he fell on the floor laughing and then set me straight on how not all woodpeckers resemble Woody).

The advice he gave me was clear. After approving a photo of the cutting tool we already owned (neither B. nor I have any idea of how or why we even own it), our friend explained that B. should hold the cutting tool with the blade facing the direction in which he would be cutting. My role in this little drama was crucial. “Put your hands in B.’s waistband and hold on to him. You don’t want him to fall out the window.” And then, in a more ominous tone, “Believe me. I’ve seen it happen.” Okay then.

Other advice included attaching the tool to B.’s belt loop with a shoelace so that if he dropped it, it wouldn’t fly down three stories and hit anything in the tiny locked alley below. And to be sure that the aforementioned shoelace extended past the window of the apartment below ours so that if B. dropped the cutter, it wouldn’t swing into the glass. Oy.

All this you say, for a few branches? Well, yes. While we love the greenery — and there is plenty of it remaining outside our windows — this group of branches totally obscured our view of the Hollywood hills (to say nothing of it feeling like my workspace was being smothered behind a wall of leaves).

So, instructions in mind, our adventure began. And then hit a snag immediately. B.’s weekend workload of paper- and exam-grading is heavy, so I had been surprised when he suggested, in the midst of it, that then would be a good time to trim the trees. When he did, I jumped at the chance, albeit forgetting for a moment that I had been right in the middle of something else. “Oh no! The meatballs!” came to me, Lucy-style, at the exact moment that B. was already leaning out the window, branches in one hand, cutter in the other, my hands in his waistband (I giggle every time I write that part).

As if on cue, the oven timer began to ring, reminding me to turn the temperature of the baking meatballs up to “broil” to make them brown and crispy on the outside. What to do? What to do? “Hold it!” I said after the first snip, after the first bunch of branches had been pulled inside and into a trash bag, and after B. was safely and 100% back within the window frame.

I dashed to the kitchen, took the meatballs from the oven, and stood there, my mind in “what would Lucy do and how can I avoid that?” overdrive. I knew that I couldn’t set the oven to “broil” and then walk away (you have to watch those meatballs every minute or else the little suckers can burn). But I also knew that I didn’t want to keep B. from getting back to grading for any longer than necessary. So, in the spirit of some of history’s most solemn choices — Thick crust or thin? What’s behind door #1 or what’s behind door #2? Ginger or Mary Ann? —  I chose trees over meatballs and headed back to my hero husband who awaited my return.

We did great with the branches that were close enough to reach; however, there were a couple that were just a bit too far. Until I had an idea — a wire hanger straightened out with its hook still in place. It worked — those couple of stubborn branches were ours! But then yet another bunch loomed, even farther away. And, like that piece of pound cake that you just have to slice away to even out the rest of the loaf, we absolutely had to have it.

I am proud to say that I then MacGyvered the s**t out of the situation. I got my handy roll of duct tape (a girl’s best friend for situations just like this), a second straightened-out wire hanger, and voilà! After I taped the two hangers together, B. reached out with the contraption, and, like magic, we owned that final annoying cluster of branches.

About one half-hour, two full trashbags, and three major hugs of self-congratulation later (and a quick vacuuming of the bedroom carpet), we emerged victorious. (The meatballs, having been returned to the oven for broiling, emerged delicious).

Bough-worthy, indeed.



© 2019 Claudia Grossman




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give me a sign

As probably every half of a close couple can attest, there is some kind of secret signal we use to communicate with our partner — in full view of others, when we want no one else to know what we’re saying. Whether it’s signaling that a) it’s time to leave the Horowitz-Solomon wedding reception; b) I can’t stand these eight strangers we’ve been seated with; or c) does that food look as inedible to you as it does to me? — all of these thoughts can be conveniently communicated and easily understood between partners with just a subtle gesture. Usually.

In my case, it’s one perfectly raised eyebrow, usually my left. Don’t ask me how I can do it at will — I just can. And once B. sees it, he knows it means a) the party’s over; b) if I spend one more minute trying to chat with these pre-assigned tablemates my head will begin to spin around 360 degrees; or c) better to fill up on bread and dessert. Most times.

As for B., he’s got his own signal that tells me all I need to know — it’s a quick wink of one of his amazing turquoise eyes (the very first thing I ever noticed about him). It is code for: a) let’s blow this popsicle stand; b) ten more seconds with these insufferable strangers with whom the Horowitz-Solomons have seated us and I’m going to spontaneously self-combust; or c) what is that on my plate and where can I hide it? Almost all the time.

Do our signals ever get crossed? Er, maybe. All right, yes. In fact, three times at that one proverbial wedding reception. First, when B. thought my raised eyebrow meant I wanted to leave — he tried to rush me out the door before the bride had even changed into her second “yes-to-the-dress” dress of the evening. In truth, I had something in my other eye, which was squinting. The raised eyebrow was just a reflex of my non-squinting eye being wide open.

Or when I misread his wink as “time to go — don’t even think about starting a new topic of conversation.” I got up to leave immediately, even before the Viennese table had been set out (see my post an affair to remember if you’ve never heard of a Viennese table). In fact, the wink was his way of encouraging me to tell my latest funny story to that table of the most boring people on earth, thinking it would make the evening at least a little bit interesting. (Thankfully, he pulled me back just in time so that we didn’t miss out on the chocolate parfaits.)

And when we both sent our “danger Will Robinson — do not eat!” signal to each other. Or so we thought. The truth was, I was raising my eyebrow in awe of the eyebrow-raising presentation of the catered dinner while he was winking at me because he was flirting. The result? Two very hungry people who passed on what looked like an absolutely delicious entrée (nary a crumb of stuffed derma to be seen!) because of a misread signal.

Okay, so maybe subtle, private signals between partners can sometimes go awry. But what about those signals that everyone knows — those most universal of signals that strangers share everyday? Why is it so hard for road signals to be received and perceived clearly? It’s really not difficult. To wit:

Hey, Ms. BMW — are you thinking of changing lanes? Give me a clue. You, Mr. SUV — want to make a right? Just push that lever on the left of your steering column — the one that goes tikka, tikka, tikka — up before you do so. And whoa, Sir Range Rover — see that traffic sign that says, “No left turn. Right turn only”? It’s not a suggestion, buddy.

When I’m sending my traffic signals, please take a second and think before blaring your horn at me. Like if I’m sitting in the right lane at a red light with my turn signal on but not moving, maybe its because the sign directly above the light says “no turn on red” and not because I’m an idiot. (You really want to go IQ to IQ with me, Ms. Gas Guzzler?) Or when I’m stopped behind a sanitation truck with my left signal on, perhaps consider slowing down and letting me cut in front of you, Mr. Maserati. That one is a suggestion — a suggestion that you be a mensch. Do the right thing and I’ll reward you with a wave — my signal for “thanks.”

You know what we could all use these days? A little bit of a signal switch. If you take that angry middle-finger salute and just add your index finger to it, bam! You’ve got a peace sign. And a peace sign could never, never be confused with that middle-finger dismissal (the same way “the Corvette could nevuh be confused with the Buick Skylark!” as per Marisa Tomei’s big-haired Mona Lisa Vito in My Cousin Vinny).

The lesson here? Choose your signals wisely. Read others’ signals carefully. And always, always, go with the Corvette.


© 2019 Claudia Grossman





new kid on the block

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you might remember a previous post about my starting the adventure of writing a novel (a novel approach). Well, there’s good news and bad news.

The good news is that the adventure continues and progress has been pretty good most days. I’d say we’re now halfway there (albeit definitely living on a prayer). The bad news? For the last few weeks, it feels like I’ve hit the proverbial wall. No, not the wall with the handwriting on it (that would be helpful), but the writer’s-block wall with the yellow tape on it that reads, “Detour — no thru traffic.”

So, like all writers before me who have encountered this mortal enemy — this Darth Vader threatening my creative force, this Satan burning my storytelling threads, this Freddy Krueger slashing my plot lines — I have had to really reach to find ways to a) stay strong, and b) practice my wall-climbing.

Here, then, are some tactics I’ve devised to do just that. To wit:

Target the problem. Literally. As in, take a stroll (or two, or three) around Target. I call it looking for inspiration (even if what I’m looking for is a new shampoo). You never know what will trigger an idea. (Besides, who can write while having a bad hair day?)

Feed your imagination — aka, nosh. Or cook. Or I know — bake cupcakes! Lots and lots of cupcakes.

Research. Step away from your laptop and go to the library. (Think of the wall-climbing muscles you’ll build by getting up from your chair and walking through the stacks. To say nothing of the calories and time you’ll burn.) Warm up — and conveniently forget why you’re there in the first place — by getting lost in New Fiction and reading a novel that someone actually did finish writing.

Scout locations to create Scout Finch. If you want everything in your novel to be as accurate as possible (of course you do), then mere library or online research is for suckers. Visit your location in person. It helps if you set the novel locally so that you can spend the day exploring (read “doing anything but sitting in front of an unfinished page”) while still getting home in time to bake another batch of said cupcakes.

Dream, dream, dream. Another way to say that: nap, nap, nap. For one thing, it’s restorative. For another, it’s relaxing. For a third, it’s fun to be in denial.

Pray to the writing gods. Whomever your chosen patron saint — Hemingway, Grisham, Brontë (I’m partial to Charlotte myself), Rowling — send up a wish for a light to help see your way through. Or, at the very least, for a movie version of one of their novels on afternoon TV while you’re waiting for that light.

And so, dear reader, do not fear. The novel is on its way — from my heart through my fingertips to my keyboard. I just need to get over that roadblock of a wall. And I will.

One cupcake at a time.


2019 Claudia Grossman



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prints charming

Once upon a time there was a kingdom where print media reigned — newspapers, of course, but also magazines. And in this kingdom, one little girl grew up loving all the magazines that appeared magically at her house — the stories, the pictures, and the fact that there were always new pages to turn and get lost in.

And get lost in them she — that is, I — did. Whether it was the monthly deluge of my mom’s McCall’s, Ladies’ Home Journal, and Good Housekeeping, or my dad’s choice of LIFE and National Geographic, or their weekly subscription to Newsweek (in those days, yours was either a Newsweek or a TIME family; ours was the former), I grew up and in love with magazines in general. If it was there, I devoured it.

The passion continued. I have vivid memories of the August issue of Seventeen — the back-to-school issue — of poring over its pages with my friends, picking out the clothes we couldn’t live without. That was quickly followed by Glamour, a stalwart through my teens and 20s and beyond, and Mademoiselle, also known for its fiction-writing contests. And magazines that came later — like Self and More and others — filled with pages of beauty and fashion news, career and lifestyle writing. Each adding its color and freshness to my day, each influencing my style in some way, each a small piece of art on its own.

Sadly, most of these titles have disappeared from the classic newsstand (equally sad is that so many classic newsstands have also disappeared). And that, to me, is a huge loss. Because these print titles were a part of my history. Seeing them arrive each month (or week), turning the pages, rolling them up to fit in my bag, enjoying the tactile sensation of their glossy finishes — a ritual all but lost.

Given my love affair with magazines, it’s not a surprise that I’ve been lucky enough to incorporate magazines into my career — first as associate editor at True Confessions (no, not a risqué publication as its title might imply — what is wrong with you? ) and then as a contributor to other titles. Not a surprise that when B. and I first moved in together, he filled the front seat of his car with dozens of magazines when he picked me up at the airport to welcome me to my new home. And not a surprise that The New Yorker continues to grace my mailbox week after week.

With September here, I cannot close this post without mentioning the grande dame herself, Vogue, whose history extends back more than a century. Its legendary September issue has pages in the multiple hundreds and enough gloss and beauty to fill this magazine aficionada’s heart with joy. Brings me back to my younger self thumbing through the pages of the August issue of Seventeen.

Dreaming of happily ever after. And of a man who loves that I love the printed page.

ⓒ 2019 Claudia Grossman



i’ve got you under my skein

In my ongoing reporting of my Lucy moments (I would be remiss if I didn’t mention lucy bakes a cake or exit dancing or   i see london, i see france among others), a few things are clear. Attempting to be always-graceful, trying to balance all the balls I’m juggling, and doing my best to avoid the self-made mischief that follows me — all these are pretty much lost causes.

In that spirit, a little anecdote about one of my latest scenarios — one which I believe would make La Redhead proud.

Earlier this summer, B. and I headed up to Hood River, Oregon, a wonderful small town on the Columbia River Gorge in the shadow of Mount Hood. (If you had told me years ago that I — a former New York City girl — would love being out in nature, hiking around, and enjoying the hell out of myself, I would have told you that you were nuts. But living out here can change a person. So there.)

We’d been to Hood River before, but this time I was intent on finding one of the area’s alpaca farms. I mean, llamas are hot right now, so why not alpacas? We found a farm where we took a tour and got an education about these sweet and adorable beasts.

The alpacas we saw had just been shorn and looked nothing like miniature versions of llamas, as I had been expecting. They looked like cartoon characters — fluffy heads, skinny arms and legs, total cuteness.

And of course, like every good tour, this one ended up at the farm’s gift shop. Being a dabbler in needle arts, I was eager to check out alpaca wool. (I should digress here to explain that when I say “dabble,” I mean “I can make a scarf.” Yes, I have drawers full of crocheted scarves. Not much use for someone who lives in LA. But I love being immersed in and creating with colors. What can I say?)

So, there I was, in front of a huge assortment of alpaca yarn, skeins twined in a rainbow of varying shades, one more beautiful than the next. I finally made my choice (B. deserves combat pay for his patience) and off we went.

Just recently, I sat down to start my millionth scarf project, this one à la alpaca. And here’s where this blonde became that redhead.

Because, unlike any other skein I’ve worked with, this one had no real beginning or end. I tried to wind the wool into a ball but with the opposite of success. The twisted skein could not be untwisted logically; it wound around itself impossibly and then it wound around me mercilessly. Strands were knotted together, ends were splitting, it was ugly. I ended up wearing the skein — and I swore it was mocking me.

At one point, B. looked up from the TV, glanced at me, and did a double-take.

He:  “Nice wool.”

Me:  “Funny.”

He:  “You don’t even have to crochet with it. It’s already a scarf.”

Me:  “Seriously!?”

He:  “You’re right. It’s not just a scarf. It looks like you’re wearing a scarf and gloves.”

Me:  “Don’t get me started.”

He:  “I hear they’re holding auditions for a new version of The Mummy. You could –”

Me:  “If I ever get out of this, I’ll hurt you.”

He:   “Got an ETA on that?”

Eventually I did get untangled but, alas, the skein suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune — it lost. Sort of like the fate of those chocolates in the chocolate factory, the grapes in the wine-making vat, or the overly yeasted bread in the oven. All not meant to be. But all props in a very funny experience — an amusing yarn, if you will.

No skein, no pain.


ⓒ 2019 Claudia Grossman





read ’em and weep

Looking in the mirror can be a risky proposition, depending on the day. Are those really a few more laugh lines on my face? How is it possible that several more strands have strayed from golden to silver? And, to quote Meryl Streep’s character, Jane Adler, in It’s Complicated — is that what I look like? (Jane was stoned at the time, but still, you get my import. )

But I’m not talking about the literal what-do-you-see-when-you-look-in-the-mirror kind of thing. I’m talking about being able to look at yourself in the mirror every day in a figurative sense; that is, being able to look yourself in the eye because you feel good about what you stand for as a person.

The issues can be huge — like just how much human suffering and injustice you can put up with before saying “enough.” One only needs to read a newspaper (does anyone else out there still do that?) or merge onto the fast lane of any 24/7 news outlet to find dozens of reasons to stand up and say “no” — along with plenty of other equally socially conscious people to join in making a change.

But there are smaller things, too. And that’s where I landed recently upon contemplating the next book on my reading list. As I’ve mentioned before, I read constantly. All. The. Time. It’s rare that you’ll find me between books for more than a day, and, frankly, that’s one of my favorite things about myself.

My recent summer reading has included three books with very strong feminist (or learning-to-be-feminist) characters — Where the Crawdads Sing; Summer of ’69; and Mrs. Everything. Not surprisingly, all three novels are written by women (Delia Owens, Elin Hilderbrand, and Jennifer Weiner, respectively) and all three are coming-of-age stories about the path from girlhood to womanhood in sometimes turbulent times under almost always personally turbulent circumstances.

In choosing my newest addition to the list today, I went with The Only Woman in the Room, by Marie Benedict, a novelization of the life of Hedy Lamarr — glamorous screen star and brilliant scientist (she invented a secret communications strategy to help fight the Nazis that became the basis of today’s form of wireless communications). Talk about more than just a pretty face.

Which is all to say that with so many incredible stories about extraordinary (and ordinary) women — women who live amazingly full lives or those who just manage to string together one day at a time in order to survive — with all these rich and rewarding female-driven stories out there, why would any author choose to make murdering women the focus of their work? And why would we choose to read those books?

I imagine you may have read some books like that. I know have. And one day it dawned on me that I’d had enough. Enough of thrillers that center on women being maimed, molested, murdered. Enough of stories that hit the bestseller list with a plot line that revolves around females as victims. Enough of women characters being bruised, bludgeoned, and bloodied as a way to keep pages turning.

And so, I’ve boycotted this particular kind of writing in my own reading. Do I think that my refusal to read these kinds of books will in any way deter from their bestseller status? Of course not. Do I think that by not reading these books that these authors’ sales will falter? Not in the least.

It’s not about that for me. It’s about being able to look at myself in the mirror each morning and feel good about the fact that I’ve taken a stand against something ugly.

Pretty good. For a girl.



ⓒ 2019 Claudia Grossman




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