I Feel Mad About My Neck

© Andresr | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

© Andresr | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

The older I get the harder it is to have heroes.

I still haven’t forgiven Molly Ivins for dying, Gwyneth Paltrow for that ill-fitting pink, Shakespeare in Love Oscar night dress, or Bill Clinton for that blue, slightly stained one. (By the way, a little club soda will clear that right up, or so I’ve heard.)

But today I’m mad at Nora Ephron.

I used to love Nora. How could I not love a woman who still makes me laugh every time I order a sandwich in a deli, thanks to that wonderful scene in When Harry Met Sally? And how could I not love a woman who “fictionalized” the story of her divorce–in Heartburn –by giving her husband a beard and making his cat into a hamster? When I divorce my first husband, I’m going to make him 4’9″ and bald, with extra toes.

Talk about a perfect hero for me. She writes that most of her mistakes turned out to be things she “survived, or turned into funny stories, or, on occasion, even made money from.”

But now I’m really mad at Nora. Thanks to her recent book of essays, I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman, I too feel bad about my neck, and that makes me really, really mad.

It’s hard enough to go through life with a disproportionately large behind, gigantic feet, and unpolished fingernails. Now I have to worry about my friggin’ neck?

There are days when the only solace I can find when I look in the mirror is at neck level. While my hair is still thick and thankfully low maintenance, the grays in my tresses are beyond the plucking stage and I know I’ll give in and start coloring them soon. My son is voting for green.

The laugh lines around my mouth are looking more and more like crow’s feet, and when I remember to put on lipstick, it invariably ends up decorating my teeth a lovely shade of coral. The same teeth that I now have to remember to use two different kinds of toothpaste for every day: Sensodyne in the morning, for my aging gums, and a teeny tiny prescription tube of $29 super-fluoride toothpaste at night, that will supposedly help prevent me from needing another $7,000 worth of dental work this year.

And my eyes, oh my eyes. My vision is getting so bad that I gave myself 47 new wrinkles last night, from squinting down at my 4’6″ husband and asking, “You want me to do what?”

But until I read this book, I was okay with my neck. It has kept my head in the right place for a long time.

Sure, it wasn’t dripping with the diamonds I once fantasized about. And okay, it’s not usually holding up a tiara. And it’s never worn an Olympic gold medal, or even a bronze. But I was okay with my neck until I read this book. To tell you the truth, I didn’t really give it much thought. If anything, I thought maybe the sagging boobs made it look longer, more elegant.

Now, I can’t stop thinking about my neck and I can’t stop looking at everybody else’s. I’ve become obsessed with looking at the necks of the other women at school, at Little League, at the grocery store, and at the gym.

The other day I was watching Grey’s Anatomy on TV, and I had to pause it so I could go put my nose right up next to the TV where I could see and stare at Kate Walsh’s neck. She’s supposed to be 40 on the show but I counted the rings around her neck and I don’t think she’s quite that old in real life.

Or maybe she is that old, and 40 just looks a lot younger than it used to, even on TV. It’s not that I never thought about these things before I read the book, but I never thought about aging in terms of necks. I never even noticed before how many women in their 50s and 60s wear turtlenecks on sunny days, or mandarin collars when they have to dress up. Cowards.

But now I notice. Everywhere I look there are necks, and thanks to Nora, I have this irresistible compulsion to rubberneck and check them out. I can’t stop myself.

What a pain in the … you know what.

Originally appeared in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on May 25, 2007

Outsourcing Gone Wild

Image by Sandid, courtesy Pixabay

Image by Sandid, courtesy Pixabay

“Pasadena Now” publisher James Macpherson’s plan to outsource his city government beat to reporters in India got the boot this week, thanks to public outrage about the ability of writers to report on live news events while sitting at a computer screen 9,029 miles away in a time zone 12.5 hours ahead.

Offering his rationale for outsourcing, Macpherson said, “A lot of the routine stuff we do can be done by really talented people in another time zone at much lower wages.”

While I do think the ability to actually be in the room and ask officials pesky questions is an important aspect of the job when reporting about even the most routine workings of our government, Macpherson may have been on to something with this outsourcing idea.

A 2004 study at Cornell found that 406,000 jobs were outsourced to other countries, so by now there must be a bazillion U.S. jobs being done overseas.

I’ve got to get in on this action. I wonder if I could spend a few rupees to outsource some of my more “routine tasks” to a highly qualified Indian?

I draft my Craig’s List India post: “I am seeking a competent, experienced professional based in India to run errands, provide transportation, cook meals, attend meetings and functions, assist with homework, dispense medication and nursing care, keep house, listen to and resolve family problems, maintain family order and harmony, keep family on schedule, and care for pets and elderly relatives.”

Sounds good so far.

According to Edelman Financial Services’ annual Mother’s Day survey, the combined salary of these jobs–Caretaker, Chef, Computer Systems Analyst, Food/Beverage Service Worker, General Office Clerk, Registered Nurse, Management Analyst, Child Care Worker, Housekeeper, Psychologist, Dietitian/Nutritionist, Property Manager, and Bus Driver–is worth about $773,700 per year in the United States.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

Luckily, this translates to roughly about five bucks a year in India. I think I can handle that. Plus my earning capacity would increase. Just think about how much more time I’d have to write if I could outsource all of that “routine” stuff.

Only five bucks a year. Hmmm …

You know what else takes a lot of my time these days? Upkeep. If I could get someone else to clean, condition, polish, hydrate, exfoliate and exercise for me, I’d really have a lot of extra time. Plus, what a great gig for an Indian woman who might not otherwise have access to top-of-the-line hair care products and an elliptical machine. It’s a win-win. I can outsource all of my grooming, earn myself boatloads of free time, and actually help out another woman in a far away land.

I wonder if this is how Anita Roddick felt when she had the Body Shop’s Pomegranate Seed Pink Grapefruit Peanut Butter Ocean Spray Body Lotion manufactured by Nicaraguan sesame farmers?

With all the money I could save outsourcing the “routine tasks” of my life to India, I could buy a huge house with an enormous yard and lots of servants. Then I could travel around the world with Angelina Jolie, adopting orphans to fill all of those empty rooms. Of course some of my new children might be babies, and require even more of those “routine tasks” to be outsourced. I wonder what the going rate is in India for changing diapers and midnight feedings?

When Leslie’s not actually doing those “routine tasks” she’d rather outsource, she can be reached at Leslie@LeslieDinaberg.com.

Originally appeared in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on May 18, 2007

In Search of my Inner Audrey

Breakfast at Tiffany'sShe was elegance, glamour, sophistication, and charm personified. She taught us the meaning of the word “gamine,” and was the epitome of boyish beauty. It’s been 14 years since her death and almost 30 years since her last major film role, but Audrey Hepburn is still an icon. Today would have been her 78th birthday, and it’s in her honor that I’ve spent the week channeling my inner Audrey.

Day 1

I immerse myself in all that is Audrey by watching “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” “Roman Holiday,” “Charade,” “Sabrina” and “My Fair Lady,” while gracefully sipping champagne and delicately nibbling on Bon Bons. When my husband asks, “What’s for dinner?” I laugh charmingly and say, “Love darling, we’ll dine on love.” He looks hungry and annoyed.

Day 2

I consider getting a pixie haircut, but it’s taken forever to grow the layers out, and I don’t think I have the cheekbones to pull it off. Instead, I buy an enormously stylish hat, which they still sell at Nordstrom. Since I don’t have access to the Ascot Race, I wear it to a Little League game instead. Everything goes with jeans, right? Bad news: my hat blocks the view of the five people behind me. Good news: it stops a foul ball from denting my skull, plus I get a 50 cent coupon to use at the snack bar. Thanks, Audrey.

Day 3

I need a dashing man to accessorize my outfit, but Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart, and Rex Harrison are all dead. My husband dresses in shorts and Hawaiian shirts, so he won’t do. I settle on the ticket taker at the Arlington. He’s a snappy dresser, and in the motion picture business.

Day 4

Trying to make my speech more ladylike, I walk around Paseo Nuevo with marbles in my mouth mumbling, “the rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain,” and “wouldn’t it be loverly.” Bad news: I choke on a marble and have to be Heimliched by a group of tourists. Good news: I’m Heimliched with grace and style.

Day 5

I buy myself a swanky cigarette holder, fill it with licorice, and fling it around saying (sans marbles) ” I do well on trips to the powder room. Any gentleman will give a girl $50 for the powder room.” My husband says, “Yeah. What’s for dinner?” What’s this guy’s problem?

Day 6

I do my best to lose the sarcasm. Audrey once claimed, “I could never be cynical. I wouldn’t dare. I’d roll over and die before that.” I do quite well until 7:30 a.m. when my son wakes up. Yeah, like I’m going to spend a whole day not being sarcastic.

Day 7

I try to emulate Audrey’s saintly side by volunteering to read to the blind, sing for the deaf, and walk for the wounded. I get a little discouraged when the news crews don’t show up, and can’t believe that no one brings me Bon Bons. Can I be Audrey? I’ll never fit into those skinny black pants, and her stylish flats make my feet look like U-Boats.

Instead I decide to embrace the one Audrey legacy I can actually live up to: “The most important thing is to enjoy your life –to be happy–that’s all that matters.” To celebrate her birthday I have her quote etched on a champagne glass. I toast my emaciated husband. Cheers to the inner Audrey in all of us.

Originally appeared in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on May 4, 2007