Suit Up!


“The clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” –Mark Twain

I’ve had the pleasure of working at home in my sweats, pajamas, and bunny slippers for the past several months, and I’ve got to tell you, that particular perk of self-employment is way over-rated. There’s something about having just the right outfit for work that makes you want to, well, actually work.

My first real, grown-up suit was from Ann Taylor. It was a “power suit” that my mom bought for me in anticipation of my college graduation. It was blue worsted wool with a kick pleat in the narrow skirt and a stylish cut that made me feel like Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday. I was totally posifticated.

Sure the wool was itchy, I ripped my panty hose half the time, and I’ve always been walking-in-pumps-challenged, but I could swear my vocabulary went up an SAT point or two when I wore that suit. I joked that it was actually made of armor, because it protected so well from my workplace insecurities.

Having the right outfit made me feel busy, important, like someone on the move with places to go and people to see. My power suit also made me stand up a little taller, maybe even work a little harder.

The right clothes can do that for you. The right outfit can work wonders. But it’s got to be the right outfit in the right place. Your derriere may rival J-Lo’s in those awesome $900 jeans, but that doesn’t mean they’ll fly at a funeral. And unless you’ve got an Olympic gold medal coming your way, that banana sack Speedo is always a fashion don’t.

In the TV show, How I Met Your Mother, Doogie Howser is one of the rare males to extol the virtues of “suiting up” to his friends. Like Superman, Batman, and George Clooney, Doogie knows the power of the suit.

Most men don’t get this, despite the metrosexual revolution of hair gel and manscaping.

My husband would actually prefer to wear an old pair of pants till they literally fall apart, than buy something new that wouldn’t be “quite as soft and comfy.” The other day, he had the nerve to ask me if I really thought I needed a 27th pair of black pants when I hadn’t worn out the other 26 pairs yet. Since when do women wear out their clothes? Other than gym shoes, I haven’t worn out an article of clothing since the 5th grade.

Besides, can you see how slimming this new bonded cotton fiber is? This is the pair of pants that is going to revolutionize my whole wardrobe in a way the salmon pink pashmina shawl of 2003 and the neon green polyester wrap skirt of 1989 only promised to.

Plus — and here’s the real kicker — like the four-inch hoop earrings of 1993 and the Madonna corset of 1987, having this new pair of pants makes me feel good. Not as good as it would if they were a size 8, but there’s an issue for another column.

Men don’t understand our relationship with clothes.

Shockingly, I have a theory about this. It all comes down to tuxedos.

There’s a reason men look so good in tuxedos (the 1980s polyester pastel/ruffled shirt phase and my unfortunate prom pictures aside). Most men stand a little taller and behave a little more politely when they’re dressed in a traditional black tux. Plus they can feel confident they’re dressed appropriately, and they never seem to worry that someone else has appropriated their look.

For a woman there’s nothing worse than seeing another woman in the same dress — unless of course that other woman is younger and thinner. Can you imagine walking into a formal party and hearing a man say how embarrassed he is, because there’s another man in a black tuxedo?

They say every bride is beautiful because she’s so happy and in love. I say it’s all about the clothes. Think about it: she’s standing next to man in a tux, and all of her best friends are lined up next to her — in the most unflattering garments imaginable. As a bride you can’t help but giggle at the unflattering glow the puce green taffeta sheds on your beautiful cousin Rhonda’s face.

Bridesmaid’s dresses are intentionally ugly because they’re all about flattering the bride. It’s the law.

But what’s the law for work clothes? I would feel ridiculous putting on a power suit just to sit and type in my kitchen. And we have no air conditioning, so I’d be taking my jacket off and putting it back on all day long. Plus I couldn’t afford the dry cleaning bill every time the spontaneous urge to dust the blinds or paint the kitchen attacks, as it sometimes does when I’m on deadline.

Like my mother, and grandmother, and great-grandmother, I decided the only cure for this particular ailment was a little bit of retail therapy. Unlike my foremothers –who didn’t have the Internet– I didn’t even have to suit up to leave the house to go shopping. There I found a whole new category of clothes for stay at home workers — loungewear.

To the naked eye, my new duds may look like yoga pants and t-shirts, but I know a power suit when I see one.

Want to know what Leslie’s wearing next week? Email her at email

Originally published in Santa Barbara Daily Sound on April 28, 2006.

Not Me (By Koss Klobucher, understudy for Leslie Dinaberg)

Courtesy Adam S., Flilckr.

Courtesy Adam S., Flilckr.

Do you remember how every time Bil Keane was sick, he’d have little Billy draw the Family Circus comic like a real six-year-old would draw a Family Circus comic… if that six-year-old was extremely precocious with the same soul-crushingly bland sense of humor as Bil Keane?

Well, Mommy is sick, so I’m Billy this week. But I promise I won’t do any “Not Me” or dotted-lines stomping through clothes-line jokes. Even though I’m only six and I’ve never actually read a Family Circus cartoon, I’m sure that I’ll grow up to have the same disdain for it that my father does, since I worship him and want to be like him in every way.

Nonetheless, I decided to steal this idea from Bil Keane, even though my mommy has two Ls in her name like a real person, unlike some people.

If, purely as a hypothetical, my dad was helping me write this column, and he was stuck trying to describe exactly how he felt about the Family Circus in the first paragraph, then I might chirp in with something like, “Glassy, shallow, hi-tech, furious, other stuff. Just think of adjectives.”

I like to help. And, I’m good at Mad-Libs.

The other thing I might do while I’m writing this column is sing a ten-minute song composed purely of stream-of-conscious ramblings, and then ask if it’s good that I’m singing, and ask how it’s helping.

I suppose I should let you know why Mommy is sick, and how she got that way. My dad thinks it has something to do with how I came into their room the other night at two a.m., crying. I told them about a nightmare I had where I stepped on a bunch of cats, and where Dad got really mad at me.

I know if Mommy was in my nightmare, she wouldn’t have gotten mad at me just for stepping on cats. She hates cats. And we’ll never have a cat in this house. I know. I know. If Mommy was in my nightmare she’d probably raise my allowance for stepping on the cats. So, really, she got herself sick by not showing up in my dream.

Anyhow, I told them my nightmare, they patted my back, and then I barfed all over Mommy’s side of the bed. I felt better.

So that’s my dad’s theory. I think she’s sick because an evil Genie was released from a jewel and spread this green mist stuff all over her, which made her look very green and stony.

You know what I’m saying?

Man, these columns are tougher than they look. I just asked Mommy how long they had to be, and she said 600-800 words, and I’m only about 400 into it. I’m tempted to start one of my rambling tales about when I went skiing with ghosts. It was a long time ago, when I was about three or four, and I was…

Sorry. I digress. It’s part of what happens to us six-year-olds when we recover from being sick. We get strange little bursts of energy, and… whoa! Did you hear that hiccup? I’m going to check out

I sure hope Mommy gets well soon. I want her to start playing with me again, ’cause it’s not that much fun to bounce on the bed while she just lies there and moans. I also miss the story-tales of her life she tells me right before I fall asleep at night. Dad tries, but most of his tend to be about getting drunk in college, which seem kind of inappropriate to me.

Mostly, I miss her working, because I simply do not have the focus for this. What do you expect? I’m six. Maybe I could draw a bad comic, but not write a whole column. Billy had it easy.

Phew. Finally. 600+. I’m going to go give Mommy her column, but first I’ll visit all the neighbors, and draw huge dots to mark my path. Just my luck, I’ll run into some of their cats on the way and step on them.

Not Me!

Leslie Dinaberg will be convalescing and, if she loves me, ignoring the e-mails you send her at email

Originally appeared in in the the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on April 21, 2006.

The ABCs of Parenting



Sure, Passover has just passed over. I’ve got a Matzo Ball hangover to prove it. Yes, the chocolate bunnies are in their spring finest for the first-ever rainy Easter in Santa Barbara. Keep those chocolate umbrellas handy. But with all due respect to those observations, I’ve got another holiday to celebrate. Today, April 14th, is the 178th anniversary of the day that the first edition of Noah Webster’s “American Dictionary of the English Language” was published.

Inn honnor of speling gud, Iv ritten a shoret dixionarie uv mi owne.

A is for ALCOHOL: an essential ingredient to household harmony. It may lead to AMNESIA, which is the condition that allows a man who has watched his wife give birth have sex with her again.

B is for BABY: my husband when he gets a slight cold. B is also for BASKET CASE, if he actually spikes a fever higher than 98.7.

C is for COOK: a mythical household creature that, legend has it, mixes more than two ingredients together to make something called “not-take-out.”

D is for DATE NIGHT: infrequent outings where Mom and Dad try to find something to talk about besides their kids.

E is for EXCUSE ME I FARTED, I’M TERRIBLY EMBARRASSED: a phrase my husband, and now child, says repeatedly, with a huge grin.

F is for FEELINGS: which were discussed three times a day before you got married, and are now part of the date night discussion at least every three years.

G is for GENIUS: your own child, of course.

H is for HOOKER: anyone else’s child.

I is for INTAXICATION: the short-lived euphoria when you realize you are getting a refund from the IRS this year. I is also for IDIOT, when you blow it all shoes

J is for JACKPOT: when your kids are unexpectedly invited to sleepover somewhere else for the night.

K is for KARMA: what you threaten your kids with when, “Santa and Mommy know if you’ve been good for goodness sake” loses its effectiveness.

L is for LIKE: ya know, like, as if, like, m’kay?

M is for MAYBE: which usually means no.

N is for NO: which means no, no matter how many times you ask.

O is for OK: which means you wore me down this time, but next time, “No means no.”

P is for PARK: Before children this was a verb meaning, “to go somewhere and engage in an adult activity, such as necking.” After children, it became a noun, meaning, “to go somewhere and engage in what now passes for adult activity, such as nodding hello to other adults.”

Q is for QUEEN: a figurehead title, referring to mom’s role before the children were born.

R is for ROYAL RELATIVE: mom’s new role now that his highness has arrived.

S is for SHOW OFF: which is any child more talented than your royal heir.

T is for TOWELS: a mysterious cotton floor covering that can apparently only be hung up or folded by the Queen.

U is for UMPTEEN: the number of times Mom must instruct her husband and offspring to do something before it actually gets done.

V is for VALENTINE’S DAY: I have no idea what that means.

W is for WEINER: a hotdog if you’re at all mature, something else entirely if you’re my husband or child.

X is for XOXOXOXO: mom’s lunch box note signoff guaranteed to delight anyone under 7 and horrify a teenager.

Y is for YIPPEE: what mom would jump up and shout if her kid stopped asking “WHY” for at least seven consecutive minutes.

Z is for ZILLION: the number of times mom tells you why, goes to the grocery store, picks up your towels, and counts her blessings every week.

Gut eny werds tow ad? Email email

Originally appeared in in the the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on April 14, 2006.

Who is Serving Whom



A Lesson in Tine Language for Restaurant Professionals

The lights are low and the company is scintillating. You’ve got the perfect second glass of wine glow, and you’re delighting in the fact that you didn’t have to cook the meal in front of you or drive up to an oversized squawk box to order it. You throw back your head to laugh at something your friend has just said about your other friend, when all of a sudden you see it, the busboy’s hairy hand coming to whisk away your plate while your companion is still eating.

Major buzz kill.

Why do they always do that?

Or you’re catting up with your other friend about the first friend, when a waiter swings by to utter the over-used under-thought phrase: “You still working on that?”

Working? Yes. This is my job. It was this or medical school.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I enjoy looking at the carnage of my meal for hours on end, which is the usual Santa Barbara restaurant service alternative to trying to rush you out of there as quickly as possible, but isn’t it about time these servers learned to speak “Tine Language?”

Once upon a time, etiquette goddess Emily Post had a wonderful idea. Why don’t we invent signals for patrons to alert the wait staff that they are still eating, or conversely, that they’ve finished their meals? That way we can avoid all of the pesky hovering over tables, annoying queries about whether we’re still working on our food, and accidental interruptions of embarrassing conversations about PMS, pap smears and other patrons.

Tine Language for, “I’m still eating, and if you come near my plate I’ll eat your finger,” is placing your knife and fork on opposite sides of the plate, tines down, with the fork and the knife kissing daintily in the center.

To say, “I’m finished, please clear my plate,” in Tine Language, simply place the fork and knife on the plate diagonally, with the tines of the fork pointed to the upper left side of the plate. That’s 11 o’clock, for those of you who like to think visually, or 10 o’clock for those of you who don’t observe daylight savings time.

Very civilized, no?

Tine Language is such a simple system, really. No verb conjugation to worry about, no deciding if plates are masculine or feminine. To help move adoption of this new language along a little faster in our local restaurants, which are renowned for their food but never their service, I decided to add a few “Tines” of my own.

Holding a fork in each hand while flapping my arms at the hostess means, “Hello, paying customer here. I’d like to be seated, whether or not my entire party has arrived.”

If, upon arriving at said table, I place the fork on my head (tines up), this means, “The restaurant’s not even remotely full, so would you kindly not seat me on top of the other patrons?” Chances are good that if I don’t know them, I know — or am somehow related to — the person they’re gossiping about, so let the waiter walk the extra five steps that separate our tables.

And when you see me poking a fork in my left eye, this means my blind date is not going well. I’ll slip you a twenty if you escort me from my table into the kitchen to assist with a runaway lobster. When I poke the fork in my right eye, it just means I’m telling a really bad joke.

If I happen to have kids with me, that’s not the only reason I’ve grabbed the knife and am now making a throat slitting motion. It’s also “Tine Language” for “let the waiter walk an extra 17 steps and put me as far away from other customers as possible.”

And if I take that same knife and slit my wrist with it, even if I don’t draw blood, that means, “check please.” If you bring me a Band-Aid, I might even leave you a tip.

Got any other “Tine Language” tips for Santa Barbara’s renowned service economy? Email us at email

Originally appeared in in the the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on April 7, 2006.