Smile Lines and Changing Times

A female crossing guard with sunglasses and orange vest poses with stop sign overhead in a dance move.
Shay studied at the Saturday Night Fever School for Crossing Guards earning a Disco Ball and Spandex Certificate of Excellence.

I offered to do some volunteer work with a friend of mine the other day when our conversation took a hard turn.  (On a side note, next time I’ll do the driving because riding with her took ten years off my life and not in a good way.)

“Do I look alright to you?” I asked.

“What do you mean?  Like if I was a lesbian?” she asked beginning to check me out.

“No. I mean, do I look weird?”

“You look like you always do.” She shrugged.

“You mean I’ve always looked hideous?”

While she slammed on the gas to merge into traffic I flipped down the visor to look in the mirror.

“Have I always had that vein in my temple?  And that scar on my lip?  What are these lines around my eyes?  I think I have a skin condition.” I said in rapid succession.

“Those are smile lines.” She said, trying to sound positive.

“Oh my God, do I smile that much?  That’s it, I have to stop watching comedies.  Wait a minute, smile lines?  That’s code for crows feet, isn’t it?” I said accusingly.  “What’s next? Double chins?”

I flipped the visor back up, stretched my neck and began slapping my chin.

“What are you doing?” she asked swerving back into her lane.

“It’s supposed to keep the double chins away. I think.” I said, starting to flinch at the pain.

“You’re just making your neck red.”

Flipping down the visor mirror again, I confirmed she was right and I looked more hideous than ever.

“I guess I’m going to have to convert.” I said sadly.  Flipping the visor up again.

“Convert?  Girl, what are you talking about?”

“I’m going to become a Muslim so I can wear a burqa.” I explained.

“First of all, you are the most devout Christian I know.  Granted, that’s not saying much since most of my friends are Jews or Atheists, but I don’t see you giving up your faith.”

“You’re right.  I love Jesus.  Do you think He would mind if I had plastic surgery?” I asked seriously.

She stared at me for a very long time, which was terrifying because she was doing 70 mph on the interstate.

“What?” I asked when she continued taking our lives in her blind hands.

“Girl.” She said, which really meant “You are too stupid for more words.”

We exited the freeway and I breathed a sigh of relief, beginning to believe we would actually get to our destination without an accident.

“I wish I was black.” I said wistfully.

She gave me that look, which said “girrrr-l” but with a question mark on it, which means “what they hell are you talking about?”

“Black people don’t age.  Look at Will Smith.  He looks the same now as when he was the Fresh Prince.  And Samuel L. Jackson.  And Denzel Washington.” I continued.

“Those are all black men.” She pointed out.

“Well… Beyonce’ then.  She looks like she’s only about thirty-five.”

“She’s thirty-six.” She advised.

“Oh, I said.

“Beyonce’ at eighty would be an improvement for you though.” She said only half joking.

“That’s what I’m saying.” I agreed.

“You know what your problem is?” she said, parking the car. It was a rhetorical question, so I didn’t try to guess at which problem she was referring to.  “You don’t know what you got, ‘til it’s gone.”

“That’s not-“ I began to argue, because if there’s one thing I am good at, it’s appreciating the who’s and what’s in my life.

“Let me finish.” She said holding up the quiet finger. “Have you ever looked back at photos and thought “Hey, I didn’t look half bad then.” but at the time you thought you looked terrible?”

A light switch flipped in my brain and I understood what she was saying.  “You think you look bad now, just wait a few years.”

With those words of wisdom, I slipped my big sunglasses on, tossed my hair over my shoulder and buttoned my vest snug across my chest.  Then, stepping from the car, I strutted across the street like John Travolta taking the dance floor in Saturday Night Fever.

To the kids at the elementary school, I may have looked like an old lady with big glasses who was hearing voices, but to me, I was a volunteer crossing guard with a few good years still ahead of her.

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What’s in a name?

Several times recently the subject of names has come up.  That got me to thinking about how we are sometimes defined by our name.  Think about famous people: Hilton, Kardashian, Clinton or Trump.  People know the name and make judgements.  But, what’s in a Name? A person? A job? A legacy?

When I was young I was married for a brief time.  Sometimes people referred to it as a “practice marriage.”  I hate that label, but I have to admit he was practicing infidelity.

When I divorced him, I went back to my maiden name. I didn’t want to have to explain: “I’m not Italian, I’m divorced.”

Weather man in front of map showing 2 hurricanes off the coast.
“As Hurricane Damn-it barrels down on North Carolina, O’#hit is quickly moving in to dump a load on Aruba.”

But names aren’t just applicable to people, think about hurricanes. For years hurricanes only had female names.  Then they started alternating between male and female. But there’s still the possibility someone is going to feel left out that their name hasn’t been used.

To me, it seems to make more sense to use cuss words as names for hurricanes.

Another thing we define people by is their jobs titles: Banker, Lawyer, Drug Dealer. But some people have really obscure jobs that don’t necessarily have titles.  Like what do you call the person that records the sound of a golfers swing at the PGA Tournaments? Whack! It’s someone’s job to do that!  If you didn’t hear that “whack” think how boring golf would be to watch…

And what about the people that do the ropes and pulleys for plays that require actors to “fly” like “Peter Pan?”  There’s the person that hooks him before he flies: the Hooker. And the guy that pulls the rope so he flies: the Peter Puller.  These are important jobs that take skill to make “flying” effortless. Shouldn’t they have important names?

Movies have crews with names like “Best Boy” and “Key Grip.”  I don’t know what they do, but I’m sure it’s important or they wouldn’t be “Key” and “Best.”  In fact, those are better names than, girlfriend or boyfriend for someone that is supposedly a serious romantic relationship.

I guess the moral of the story is, don’t judge people by their names, or their titles.  Judge them by what they do. Then label them accordingly!


The Pitch – Rocaberti Retreat at Marouatte Castle

A woman with a big candy inside her right cheek.
The never ending gobstopper dilemma.

I had a screenwriter’s nightmare while at the Rocaberti Retreat in France at Marouatte Castle.  I dreamed it was my turn to pitch, but I couldn’t remember my screenplay, so I had to make up a new one  on the spot.

Just an FYI for those of you not familiar with the term “meets.” Meets is the term used to describe the genre and feel of your script using well known films.  You might describe Snow White and the Huntsman as Snow White meets Lord of the Rings. (This is different than a “meet-cute” which I won’t get into.)

“It’s You’ve Got Mail meets Teletubbies.” I begin.  My three judges, (Joan, Kathy and Golan) have no idea what that means, and neither do I.  Then my logline comes out of nowhere:  “A woman who has a child through artificial insemination, begins to notice her ten year old son looks just like the mail man.”

“Think Bruce Willis played by Ashton Kutcher.” Which doesn’t even make sense! “And she starts following the mailman on his route and discovers all her neighbors are Teletubbies.” I continue, dying with every word.

Golan’s looking disappointed. Kathy, like she’s about to witness a train wreck, but can’t look away. And Joan is flat out horrified.

Horror.  That’s it! Horror doesn’t have to make sense, I’ll go with that.

“Then he suddenly pops up in the back seat of her car, like a Twilight Zone episode, and whispers in a chilling voice ‘You don’t have proper postage!’” I say trying to sound mysterious.

Golan looks like he’s considering putting me out of his misery.  Kathy, having witnessed the train wreck looks down at her notebook.  Joan still horrified, but in a bad way.

And because it’s a dream, weird things start to happen.  Like, now I’ve got a huge gob stopper in my mouth and I don’t know what to do with it.  I try to hide it in my cheek, which I know they can see, plus, I can’t talk.  So, I pretend to cough so I can spit it in my hand, but then there’s another one in my mouth and another.  And I’m thinking, this isn’t possible!

As I’m trying to make sense of the never-ending gobstopper, I notice that Golan has turned into Tom Hanks and I don’t know if I’m excited or more scared.

Before I can decide, I’m suddenly on the outside looking in and it’s just Kathy and Joan left and they are conspiring with each other to destroy the world, but they’re not Kathy and Joan now, they are Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton!

I wake up, trembling at the nightmare.  Then, seeing the silhouette of two ghostly figures floating around the seven hundred year old castle bedroom, I lie back, relieved the pitch was only a dream.


Epilogue: My actual pitch went slightly better, but I found it hard to talk clearly with braces on my teeth. In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have worn the headgear.

Planes, Trains and Where’s Waldo

A woman asleep in a flat plane seat wearing pjs with a stuffed animal.I flew to France yesterday for a writer’s retreat.  Thankfully my husband has a ton of frequent flyer miles and I was able to get a business class seat on a 777!  If you’ve never been in business class on a triple seven, it’s like a mini man cave. You have your own little sofa bed with a castle wall around you.  There’s a pop out TV, a seat that lays flat and even has a “massager” in it.  The only thing missing is a toilet, but you probably wouldn’t want a toilet right next to you for seven hours, anyway.

Since we were flying through the night, I ate dinner, put on my PJ’s and went right to sleep.  I got a few strange looks, but hey, girls like Spider Man too, you know.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t sleep. And, I accidentally hit the “massager” which is really just an annoying rolling motion in your chair.  So, every 35 seconds your head nods as it rolls up the seat back and then down again.  I think the flight attendant thought I was going to be sick because she brought me an extra barf bag.  When I told her I couldn’t sleep, she suggested the eye mask in the goody bag.

I had forgotten about the goody bag!  I broke it open, brushed my teeth, gargled with the mouth wash, spritzed my face with something I assume is a sleeping potion and put the eye mask on.  Still, sleep eluded me until we touched down and I heard, rather loudly, “Thank you for flying Delta. Please remember to take all your belongings.”

Customs was slightly awkward in my jammies, but if they said anything about it among themselves, I couldn’t tell because I don’t speak French. Except to say “I don’t speak French.”

I had five hours to kill before the train to Angoulême where we would be picked up and taken to the castle – yeah, the retreat is in Miles Copeland’s castle!  Did I mention this was a cool trip?  More on the Rocaberti Writers Retreat next time.

Another cool aside, I noticed most of the men in France wore scarves.  Not on their heads; around their necks.  I just have to say, it’s a pretty hot look.  (I know what my husband’s getting for Christmas.)

Anyway, most of the other retreat attendees were arriving today, so I pulled up their photos from the email I got and tried to pick them out of the crowd.  Immediately, I spotted one of them.  I wasn’t completely sure and she didn’t appear to recognize me, so I refrained from being “the loud American.”  But then I thought I saw another one and another.  In fact, about every five minutes I was sure I spotted one of the people from the email photos.

After two hours of playing “Where’s Waldo” in the airport, I realized they had all headed down the breezeway to the train terminal.   Duh!  They wouldn’t stay in the airport, they would be down at the other end of the terminal waiting for the train.

It was harder to find them in the train terminal because it was so crowded.  I started snapping pictures of the suspects so I could compare with the photos from the email.  I guess it looked unusual to be taking seemingly random pictures of people, because six very nice French Police in plain clothes had a little talk with me.  I would never have guessed any of them were in law enforcement.  In fact, I thought two of them were attendees!  But one of them flipped out a security badge, just like in the movies.  It was so cool!

Since I don’t speak French, I tried to explain in my best French accent, but I don’t think they understood.

They just looked at each other, looked at my ticket, and seem pretty happy I was catching the next train.  Then they said “Au revoi.”  Don’t you just love French?

Until next time “Haricot Vert!” (I think that’s French, but I forgot what it means.)



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