Social Myopia

Gossip magazines – we’ve all seen them. Lined up at the checkout lane in the grocery store. Fanned out on tables at the dentist office. Mindless fodder, for passing the time while we wait for the interminably slow checker to scan lettuce, or for the dentist to call us in.

I admit that I’ve skimmed these volumes through myopic eyes while sitting at the hair stylist waiting for the miracle of hair color to occur. There I sit, with my hair smooshed into a style that would never make it into said magazine, except perhaps under the “worst hair ever” section. While deprived of my glasses, I sit squinting at the pics of perfectly coiffed celebrities in evening gowns, and trying to read the recommendations for the best new books and upcoming movies.

But recently I’ve gotten a better look at this drivel, and what I see worries me. I bought something online which awarded me a “free” subscription to one of the more prominent gossip magazines, so now I’m getting a chance to give it a closer look.  One recent headline reads “Ellen: How I finally found happiness.” This implies to me that Ellen must have been significantly unhappy and solved some insurmountable problem to “finally find happiness.” I’m thinking cancer, maybe an abusive relationship, or financial ruin. But, not to worry about Ellen, she is completely fine. Turns out the only unhappiness alluded to in the article was that before Ellen was famous, and before any of us ever heard of her, she was poor and lived on one can of soup a day. But, as she has been rich and famous for some time now, I doubt that one could say she just recently “finally” found happiness. The story goes on about her happy home relationship with her partner, her dogs, her career success, and more, so I am hard pressed to feel too badly for Ellen.

Another article is sure to draw much concern though. Turns out Kylie Jenner had a huge problem, in that “..I felt that no one wanted to kiss me.” Apparently, being beautiful and constantly in the spotlight was not enough. Kylie was so distressed she had to get LIP INJECTIONS. Yes, disturbing I know. Maybe now she will get almost as much attention as the other Kardashians, and finally get all the kisses she deserves.

Just in case you were worried about Gwen Stefani, you can now relax. Turns out that she now is “The happiest I’ve ever been.” Apparently there is happy, and celebrity happy. Rest assured, she has moved on from her heartbreak, and  “is in the next phase” and life has “more meaning and purpose” Whew.

I don’t mean to sound like a curmudgeonly fuddy-duddy, but somehow I remain unsympathetic to the sensationalized plights of celebrity. Sure there are famous people who do have serious problems: illness, financial ruin; family dysfunction; loss of loved ones and so on. I don’t mean to trivialize those who truly do experience the same distress that we ordinary people do throughout our lives, yet I wonder how we as a society have become so superficial that we need to elevate the minutia of celebrity life to the importance of news.

Maybe our penchant for mindless gossip and scandal, and even the glorification of it explains in some way our acceptance of the vapidity of our recent presidential contest. Shock – Donald Trump is a womanizing bigot. Shock – Crooked Hilary deleted emails! Frankly, I am shocked, shocked, not just by these insipid arguments,  gossip, and negative discourse of accusations  and lies, but by how low  as a nation we have sunk, that many believe that this is the norm for candidates vying to become  the leader of the free world.

(Disclaimer: Huffygirl’s Blog does not endorse any political candidates.)

© Huffygirl 2016

Am I finally too old to shop at Victoria Secret?

1940s-Fashion-How-to-get-Christian-Diors-New-Look-4Here I stand, searching through bins of lingerie looking for my size. This store, which used to be a place I enjoyed, has turned into a (insert sputtering here) nightclub. Store associates with names like Amber and Autumn wearing skimpy tops and lace, flit by, arms overflowing with bras. Fifteen-year-old girls wearing outfits I would never let a daughter of mine leave the house in, shuffle through, with the requisite sleazy boyfriend in tow, pants dragging, seeming a little stunned from being  surrounded  by so much  underwear. I don’t want him here – this is supposed to be MY store.

Long ago, it was my store. Matronly women in black smocks with tape measures around their necks, tut-tutted around, making sure that everyone left with the right-sized bra. They still had pretty (and over-priced) lingerie, but in a more moderate, sensible  way. I would leave clutching my pink-striped bag, scented with a light whiff of perfume, feeling special and satisfied, as if I’d just had a pedicure or a night out.

But now, fast-forward to 2015, where clothing, and women’s underthings are a multi-billion dollar industry, fueled by a big corporations and an insatiable appetite for anything sex, and VS is now a lingerie superstore. But, even though I may be the only old fuddy-duddy in the store, I still need a new bra. I stand in line for a fitting room with girls half, no three-quarters my age. “Where is the rest of her outfit?” I wonder. “And how does she walk in those shoes?” The two store clerks are decked out as if for some kind of bedroom espionage: black lacy tops under an array of equipment strapped upon them: big phones, bags of clips, note pads, and tote bags filled with bras slung over their shoulders. At least they still have the tape measures. Sigh.

Finally I stand in the crowded check-out line. I’m wedged in between a girl with purple hair and a bin of orange lip gloss. Orange? Who would wear that? Every single person in the store except me, that’s who. At last I leave with my pink striped bag feeling heavy in my hand, head pounding from the club-beat music and the heavily perfumed air. I don’t think I’m too old. But my values feel that way.

© Huffygirl 2015

My annual spam brunch with Jane, Mark, Beth, Corrine, Cheryl, Erin & Wendy

100_6079,, © Huffygirl 2014It happens every year right before Thanksgiving: my annual spam email from Jane Fish. It’s a group email that “Jane Fish” sends out every year inviting all of us to meet for brunch, aka “turkey day brunch” around Thanksgiving time. Included in the group are Wendy, Wendy’s new boyfriend Brent, Mark Elder, Cheryl Davin, Beth Ide, Corrine Castano, Erin somebody, and me, Dave Barry. We are supposed to meet somewhere in Massachusetts at places that sound really real – The Bolton Street Tavern, the Horseshoe in Hudson, The Old Mill or Black Diamond II. The exchange of emails lasts several weeks and are always the same theme. Jane Fish wants everyone to meet for a turkey day brunch. All the members of the group, except me, Dave Barry chime in. This person can’t meet on Monday but could do Tuesday, someone else wants dinner instead of brunch, could they meet at 6 or 7 PM, can we meet after the holidays, how about skiing instead, and on and on. It sounds overly perfect with little newsy asides – is Keith bringing the baby this year, and unfortunately, Mark’s wife can’t come; someone else has soccer practice, and every one of them can’t wait to see the others. I’ve gotten this email every year now for at least ten years. There are some variations. Sometimes I get it again in the spring, as it seems they may want to meet for brunch around Easter too. Sometimes it ends right after Thanksgiving, but this year the group is still trying to plan that “turkey day brunch” now only a week before Christmas. The whole thing sounds very convincing, although a little too fake and cheery to be real. One’s first instinct upon getting this email is to think “oh no, I should reply right away so they know that they have the wrong email address for Dave Barry.” After all, I wouldn’t want Dave Barry to miss all the fun.

But, every year I resist because I know this email is not about turkey day brunch, but some elaborate phishing scheme. How do I know this? What are the tell-tale signs?

  • The email originates from Jane Fish. Really.
  • Everyone in the group chimes in with replies year after year, except me, aka Dave Barry. Yet, no one every says “Has anyone heard from Dave Barry?” or “How come Dave Barry never comes?” The group is totally unconcerned about the perennial absence of Dave Barry, someone presumably so important that they invite him year after year, but don’t miss him when he doesn’t reply.
  • The event never takes place. The emails wax on about all the times and dates for the event, but it is never planned. Replies pass hot and heavy at first, then dwindle, and eventually the exchange is done, with the annual Turkey Day Brunch having never taken place.
  • Everything about the exchange is too perfect. It sounds like a Hallmark movie script. Comments like “I will pencil you in” and reply “I’d feel better if you used a Sharpie” seem sappy and unreal.
  • Don’t these people know about texting? Really – who would spend weeks planning an event via email when a few texts could take care of the whole thing? Or how about an evite or Facebook? It would save so much time, were this a real event.
  • Blocking the senders does not help. I’ve blocked all the email addresses repeatedly for years, yet, every year they are back.

Dear Jane, Mark, Beth, Corrine, Cheryl, Erin and  Wendy,

Unfortunately I am unable to meet any of you for brunch, dinner, appetizers, skiing, Christmas mass, or any other event, either before, during or after the holidays. Sadly, I will miss all the updates about everyone’s kids, jobs, ski trips, sporting events and Wendy’s health issues. I will not be able to meet Wendy’s new boyfriend, Brent. I will never know why Mark is flying solo, or why the Old Mill is closed on Mondays. I am hurt by your continual unconcern for the lack of communication from me, and quite frankly, wonder why you still invite me when I never reply.

Looking forward to hearing from all of you next year.

Love, Dave Barry

© Huffygirl 2014

Hike to the secret beach

Hawaii guidebook writers seem to have a penchant for enticing the reader to a spot so pristine, so secluded, that no one else could possibly know about it. “Imagine yourself slipping into your own private, secluded swimming hole,” or “here’s a beach so secret, so hard to find, that even native Hawaiians don’t know about it.” Or, at least they didn’t, until they read this book along with thousands of others. Best Husband and I are not so naïve that we’d fall for this hyperbole, yet, wanting a little adventure, we allowed ourselves to be seduced down the path to the so-called Secret Beach.

The first rule in following the path to anything labeled “secret” is that the journey must be somewhat difficult. If any ordinary traveler could just fall out of their car and stroll to said secret location, there would be nothing special about it, and said location would remain unworthy of the title “secret.” The guidebook’s directions to the secret beach almost seemed too simple for something so obscure, so special. “…turn right off the first Kalihiwai Road, then right on the first dirt road you encounter.” We had already had enough experience with Hawaii’s carefree signage to have just a bit of trouble with this part. Then, we had to interpret the Hawaiian definition of “road.” We’d already discovered that what we might call a path or two-track at home, might actually be considered a road here. Finally after managing this part, we had to tackle the issue of parking. Seems that everyone else who read our guidebook had also showed up that day, and parking was limited on the dirt track.

Next, the directions said: “…take the 10 minute path to the bottom. It’s slippery when wet.” It had rained a bit earlier that day, so we were forewarned.

And so we began. We spent the next 20 minutes or so on a steep vertical wall of red mud, slipping and grabbing on to branches and each other to stop our untimely slide all the way to the bottom. Fortunately, there were plenty of roots and large rocks embedded into the mud to stop us from sliding to our deaths.

At the end of Mudslide Trail, which we later dubbed it, the view was worth it. A long beautiful, sandy beach and surf surging up onto huge black rocks along the shore. Unfortunately, with the surf so rough we were unable to take the second trail along the rocks to the Secret Lava Pools – a trip we’ll save for next time.

© Huffygirl 2014

Things I learned this winter

  • If you double the amount of sugar in your bread recipe, you end up with a gooey hunk of unleavened dough in your garbage can.
  • Online shopping helps you memorize your credit card number.
  • Sensa makes your wallet lighter, but not you.
  • They really CAN get along without you at work.
  • Watching tragic events on TV makes you feel more a part of them than listening to them on the radio.
  • Buying trip insurance is a good idea for clumsy people.
  • Everything that happens to you is not A SIGN, although it sure seems like it at the time.
  • Appreciating the little things in life is a good idea.
  • Turns out you can make lemonade from lemons.
  • Sometimes winter seems really long, but it probably isn’t.
  • No matter how much time you have on your hands, you still won’t get the projects done that you don’t really want to do.
  • Spray-painting a bird bath is easy.
  • Using Google Music makes you wish you’d bought an iPod.
  • If you fall on your elbow, and you can’t raise your arm afterwards, chances are it’s broken.

double rainbow,, © Huffygirl 2012© Huffygirl 2013

To Gabriele

Ken  Caryl Canyon

Gabriele died last week after a long illness. I have never met her, but thanks to her daughter, Suzanne at Walking Papers Blog, I feel like I have. For months, Suzanne has shared Gabriele’s journey, her prose interspersed with photos, poems and stories about her mom’s life, and finally, death. Stories about family. Photos of Gabriele and her daughters and grandchildren. In an unflinchingly frank journal, Suzanne shared the gritty details of a beloved family member’s gradual separation from this life and her step into the next.

As I read I sometimes laughed, sometimes cried, but always felt empathy for Suzanne and her family thousands of miles away, yet so close. And through it all, I relived my  own mom’s brief illness and death, recalling the good, the bad, and the journey of her life. Others felt the same way, as Suzanne’s journal brought friends and strangers together in a community of followers of the story of Gabriele.

The internet can be a monster  – it can sap us of our free time and energy, with cat videos, FB and endless news cycles. But it can be a blessing too, making us part of a community across a nation or across an ocean, bringing us together as we share our stories and making our world a smaller place.

I wish peace to Gabriele who is now at rest, and peace to all who trek through their own journey across this world that is not so big after all.

© Huffygirl 2013

Ice Adventure

Ice floe, 2974,, © Huffygirl

On a day so sunny that I felt like I needed sunglasses for my sunglasses, Best Husband and I ventured to Saugatuck, Michigan, for a winter’s day adventure. We ate lunch at  The Butler, a restaurant located in one of the original town buildings from 1892. We poked around in interesting little shops, ogling expensive kitchen knives in The Butler Pantry  kitchen shop, and admiring original artwork in the many art studios. We tasted exotic olive oils at The Olive Mill, and peered into windows of restaurants we had not seen before, hoping to savor them on another visit.

Then, the real adventure began. We left the downtown area and drove to the shore of Lake Michigan at Oval Beach. One never knows what they’ll find on the Lake Michigan shores in the winter. Often the water’s edge are encased in thick ice floes that may change daily with the weather. Other winters we’ve been to the Lake Michigan shores to find no ice at all. This day, we were not disappointed. The shore was blanketed with a massive ice floe, spreading out 50 to 100 yards from the shore. Not wanting to become an icy death statistic or an unexpected guest of the Coast Guard, we wisely kept to the water’s edge as we walked and photographed this amazing gift of nature.

© Huffygirl 2013

Droning on Remember that fatal scene early in the movie The Empire Strikes Back? The rebels are hiding on the icy slopes of Hoth, a safe-haven they’ve found for regrouping for their next move against the Empire. All is well. Then, that surveillance drone snaps a photo of their power generators, and they next thing they know Darth Vader is knocking on the door. Darn pesky drone.

Well, now we’ve got our own worries about drones. Maybe it won’t be Darth Vader at the door, but it might not be good. Sure, drones that scan burning buildings for victims, or search remote areas for lost hikers are great, and keep rescue personnel safe. But what about drones that give us traffic tickets, follow our whereabouts and peer through our walls without search warrants? Or drones loaded with bombs or used to transport illegal materials over borders? Drones can be so tiny, or so far away, that we won’t know where they are, or that we are being watched. Even though I don’t plan on doing anything illegal, I’m not sure I want my whereabouts watched by anyone who wants, without my knowledge or permission. And I’d like to think that I’m somewhat safe when out in public and not have to worry that a terrorist is about to land a destructive drone in the town square.

What do you think? Are drones welcomed 21st century technology, or the freedom-robbing big brother of 1984 come to life?

© Huffygirl 2013

Darth Vader

Darth Vader (Photo credit: Sam Howzit)

Run Camp

 It’s that time of year when nearly 1,000 people converge on my gym, filling the hallways, classrooms and restrooms, to spend the next few weeks honing their running skills, or for most, starting a brand new running career. They are young, old, fat, thin, male, female. Most are sporting a brand new kit of running gear from head to toe: bright neon jackets with Icebreaker wool shirts and gators sticking out at the neck; Lycra tights that still have their out of the box sheen, and pristine running shoes, with laces still lily-white and toes unstained by mud or rain. They’re loud, laughing, excited; their nervousness is palpable. They cling to their friends and offer disclaimers to the run leaders signing them in. They clutch up in the hallways and block the entrance to the gym, where I must pass through their gauntlet to get to Saturday morning spin class. They sit in the walkways, feet splayed out in fresh new SmartWool socks, begging to trip me, as I make my way past to spend the first part of my Saturday in a dark room on a bike that goes nowhere.

Last year, I hated them. I endured Saturday after Saturday wrestling my way through the rabid run campers to get to spin class. I resented them more each week. Not only were they clogging up the gym, blocking the way and taking our parking spaces, their fresh-faced enthusiasm at fever pitch, but they were running and I was not. Between years of arthritis, a bad ankle and an old hamstring tear, I didn’t think I could ever run again. Biking was going to have to be enough for me. But I watched them week after week: overweight, out of shape people caught up in the flurry with their running peers. I watched them struggle through the snow as they left the building for group runs, their spanking new shoes getting wet and dirty while they straggled along at the back of their group, some not even making it to the street before they tuckered out and walked. And, they inspired me.

So, as everyone knows who’s been reading this blog for a while, I had my own run camp. It lacked the benefit of group camaraderie, lectures from trainers and inspirational talks. But I started training and ended up a runner. Not a fast runner, not a long distance runner, but enough of a runner to satisfy that longing.

So this year, I empathize with them. They are new runners, entering into the unknown, exposing their novice skills to hundreds of others, in the quest to run a 5K, a half, or maybe even a marathon. They’re trying something new where they might fail, might get hurt, or worse, quit before they find out what they could become. Now, when I put up with the inconvenience of hundreds of runners clogging up my gym for a few weeks, it’s okay, because, now I’m one of them.

© Huffygirl 2013

Photos courtesy of

Related posts: