Thursday, March 28, 2013

Garden Club Snub

Spring has sprung, at least according to the calendar, and the neighborhood garden club is gearing up for a new year. I know this only because some of my other neighbors tell me about the invites, notices and events that are starting to sprout up. They know I have been left out, since I am snubbed by the garden club of Governor's Square.

It's easy to spot the garden clubbers in my neighborhood: these are the women who power walk together in the mornings, shop together for sweater twin sets, and get together for wine and whine once a month under the guise of flowers and the like. Let me be very honest in saying that the snubbing goes both ways: I'm fine with not being included, especially since I don't power walk, I try my best to never, ever rock a pair of khakis, and I prefer to have my wine time be whine-free whenever possible.

When we moved into our house, the woman next door came to introduce herself and to warn me about the garden gals. Apparently, she was cutting grass one morning when two of the women who are the organizers for all things neighborhood stopped her. They informed her that this is Governor's Square, and in Governor's Square, women do not cut grass. My neighbor simply turned to those two busybodies and said, "Well, this one does," and then fired that mower up again. Oh my! Scandal!

We don't get "booed" with little ghost chain letters and candy at Halloween, we aren't invited to the fall pizza party and hayride. Some mornings when I am out walking the dog, I will pass a house whose driveway is littered with SUVs and minivans with magnetic soccer balls on the back and bumper stickers from private schools nearby. And I know: the petal pushers are holding a meeting. Snubbed again.

Fliers went out for the ice cream social on Sunday afternoon (which was technically hosted by the HOA, also known as rose buds plus spouses); the house next door which has been vacant for the last nine months managed to get an invitation, but ours was somehow lost along the way. I can't say it didn't make me smile a Grinch smile and do my best evil laugh when Sunday rolled around and it was 42 degrees and raining. Get yourself two scoops of that with some sprinkles and a cherry on top, ladies.

I am, in general, a joiner and an overachiever to boot, so it may be surprising that I sit this one out. Let me tell you how it all began: with the Unfortunate Outdoor Decorating Contest of 2005. The year before was our first Christmas in our new house, and my mom had helped me decorate so that it was a very Martha Stewart Christmas at the Stancil residence, if I do say so myself. That was 2004, and we came in second place in the contest. I was happy, but again, the overachiever inside me said we could do better.

Christmas 2005 was upon us, and I gussied our house up even better than the year before. Neighbors stopped me left and right to tell me that our house was the best decorated in the neighborhood, and I was excited that this might be the year that first place award (see also: plywood yard sign in the shape of a candle) would be ours. Imagine my surprise when I awoke the morning after the judging to see the sun coming up on a big, white, third place sign. We came in behind a life-size cutout of three Elvises (or is it Elvii?), and another lackluster house with some sort of snowman, snowflake, I don't even remember. I'm being honest and (somewhat) unbiased when I say that we got hosed.

The white candle yard sign declaring our home third place did nothing for my holiday merriment, so I simply removed it from my yard and put it on the side of our house, waiting for the garden club--who had so lovingly bestowed it upon us--to come and pick it up. I got a call from, let's call her Muffy for good measure, the President of that wonderful club at the time, who demanded to know why my sign was not on display. I told her that I preferred not to discuss it, and after a bit of scolding, Muffy insisted I tell her why I did not proudly own that third place award.

I'm not sorry to say that my temper got the better of me and I told President Muffy in no uncertain terms that apparently, the garden club's tastes were vastly different than mine and that I did not feel that their unsightly plywood candle matched my home d├ęcor. I told her it could be found alongside my driveway and to please come claim it at her leisure. Sure enough, at dusk, Muffy's station wagon crept into my driveway, headlights off, and her son scampered out, grabbed that sign, and they sped away. Since that incident, I make sure that my house is ablaze with yuletide glory every night of the holiday season, save for the night the garden club's decorating contest is judged. And then, we go dark. Not a single light flickering. The Stancils do not participate--the Stancils don't play those (reindeer) games.

So now you know the truth: I am a rebel, a garden club outsider, a loner in the world of neighborhood flower discussions over lukewarm Chardonnay. I know how their garden grows, and I am thrilled to be a blooming absentee. April showers bring May flowers? I say bring it on.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Year of the Beard

Disclaimer: this post is superficial and, as I'm sure many will say, shallow. It does not address world peace, the budget deficit, or cures for any diseases. It does, however, discuss an epidemic that affects the appearance of the world around us. So consider it a beautification project on my part.

I know it's trendy, and I know lots of celebrities are doing it. But that also applies to Kabbalah and colonics and I don't see you rushing out for a red string bracelet or a thorough cleansing, so why the whiskers? Beards are popping up everywhere lately; it's like living in a world full of lumberjacks. Take a look around you, and I'm betting it won't take long to find some trendster who is proudly sporting some serious stubble. I'm just going to go ahead and say it: shave already!

Hugh Jackman, George Clooney, and Ben Affleck all wore beards to the Academy Awards this year. A beard and a tuxedo are about like a fish and a bicycle--they two really should exist exclusively of each other. If your date can endure a crash diet, three hours of hair and makeup, a full Spanx bodysuit and six inch heels to be Oscar appropriate, surely you can raise your razor, brandish a blade, and show up clean shaven. You notice you didn't see Channing Tatum, the reigning Sexiest Man Alive, with any scruff, did you? Channing knows how it's done. And just to confirm I'm not alone on this, Jennifer Garner brought clippers with her to the after party and did away with Ben's lucky beard right then and there. Not a moment too soon.

I have never seen a man with a beard who wouldn't most certainly look better without it. Sure, a beard is fine and probably functional if you have a) been trapped in the wilderness for a period of time, b) lost some sort of bet with your fraternity brothers, c) are raising money for charity, or d) are in witness protection and need a disguise to hide your identity. Other than that, it's a good crumb catcher and that's about as far as I can praise face fur.

Unless you are a pirate, Santa Claus, or Chuck Norris (who can do anything he wants because the man can kill two stones with one bird), grab a razor and keep it clean. The Dos Equis guy--The Most Interesting Man in the World is also allowed. I don't want to hurt any feelings, but the rest of you men frankly aren't that interesting and you can't get by with the beard. The beard is to the face what the fanny pack is for the wardrobe: it's not working for you.

These people are beard approved.

Now, I know some of you are going to immediately counter this argument by bringing up the no doubt dapper gentlemen of Duck Dynasty, ZZ Top, or that redheaded stranger Willie Nelson. I would say to you that these bearded beauties are entertainers, who are not especially known for getting by on their good looks (my husband, a true Willie Nelson devotee begs to differ on this and insists Willie, beard and all, has the face of an angel--to each their own). So, if you are of the male persuasion and not a star of the reality or rock variety, give it up. This also applies to the goatee, Fu Manchu, handlebar mustache, mutton chops, and the like. Let's bid the beard buh-bye.

Easter Sunday is coming up, so clean up your act and practice the fine art of shaving. Not only will you immediately look cleaner, more handsome, and fresh faced, you'll also make your mama proud. Who can argue with that?

Friday, March 15, 2013

I Kid You Not

Remember those good old days of just being a kid? When your biggest worries were what to take for Show-and-Tell, the cool way to tie your Sebagos, and what in the heck it was your Speak and Spell was trying to say in that strange electronic voice? Were those even words? Yes, times were simpler then, even though we didn't realize it. Do you ever think about the ironies of the way it used to be, and my, how things have changed?

Then: Before anyone even asked your age, you were happy to not only volunteer it, but bump it up to the next highest number. "I'm nine and three quarters and I will be ten in May!"

Now: My standard answer to how old are you is "not old at all." Enough said. In addition, depending on who is doing the asking, I may or may not fib in the age check box on a form. It's another way to help slow down the aging process.

Then: You couldn't wait to find out what the toy was in your Happy Meal. A plastic doll, a toy car with a wheel that fell off before you made it home, some kind of gadget you had no idea what to do with...better than the food, even!

Now: You realize that the Happy Meal toy, whatever it might be, is something that will be left in the floor and found by your bare foot in the dark, causing you to lose your mind/patience/religion and possibly pinky toe. However, the thought of a cheeseburger and fries has the possibility of making it all better.

Then: You loved playing princess and getting all dressed up in makeup, tons of jewelry, frilly dresses and toddling around in playtime high heel shoes. The dress code was tea party perfection and you couldn't wait to wear real earrings and lipstick. Ooh-la-la.

Now: I don't know about you, but I own every blister preventer, shoe insert, cushion--basically every Dr. Scholl's product that promises any kind of comfort ever created, and the best part of wearing heels is still that moment when you take those suckers off. Ahhh.


Then: Remember how your Mom would ration out the Halloween candy, to keep you out of sugar shock oblivion and only let you have a little at a time?

Now: Why, in the name of St. Hershey, patron saint of all things delicious, doesn't someone ration my candy? Or at least stop me when I've eaten 413 pieces? I feel the need to be sent to bed without dinner.




Then: A truly special occasion meal was rectangular pizza in the school cafeteria. Yessss!

Now: A truly special occasion meal, at least at my house, is one where you get to use a coupon. Three dollars off is the new brick of pizza with ranch dressing (you ate it, you loved it, and it's gross).


Then: Bedtime was dread time. You perfected your begging approach and learned the true art of negotiation: please can I stay up just a little bit later? Please? Five more minutes!?

Now: You find yourself dozing off on the couch in the middle of Duck Dynasty and wishing you could stay awake just long enough to at least clear some of the shows out of your ever-filling DVR. In reality, going to bed after dinner and getting a solid 11 hours of sleep would be the best gift ever. Please can I be sent to bed now? Puh-lease?

Ah, those were the days. Most of us would be better off if we could still be put in timeout when we need it, have someone remind us to say our prayers at bedtime, and keep a watchful eye on our manners (elbows off the table, thankyouverymuch).

For the record, I still love Skeeball, a snow day, roller coasters, Lucky Charms, and the occasional temper tantrum. Some things will never change--no kidding.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Tantrums and Tiaras

My husband has threatened to write a tell-all book entitled "The Ugly Side of Beauty Pageants," based on what he's observed from his point of view as a pageant husband. I decided I better beat him to the punch.

For one pageant or another, I've walked around the house dusting and vacuuming in sweatpants and four inch heels to practice walking in them, soaked my elbows in grapefruit halves for 30 minutes at a time (exfoliates the rough skin), had my mom hot glue rhinestones on to fishnet pantyhose while I was wearing them (calm down: they were for the talent competition. It was the only way to tell where they needed to be placed and her exact words every other time she burned me were "Well, do you want to win, or don't you?"). There's a lot of prep, and the prep isn't always pretty. Or as my cousin so perfectly put it yesterday, "Beauty is pain."

Clint's first real foray into this "ugly side" was a few years ago when I was preparing for a Mrs. pageant. Getting ready for swimsuit competition is no minor task, and I worked out two hours a day, six days a week--the thought of appearing in public, in front of strangers in a swimsuit small enough to fit an American Girl doll will highly motivate you. First an hour of weights and then an hour of cardio, every day of the week save for one glorious day off that always seemed so far away and to go by so very quickly. One day during my cardio session, Clint opened the door to the spare bedroom I use as my torture chamber gym and glimpsed me in all my pageant preparation glory: headband to keep the sweat from blinding me, sweatbands on each arm to keep it from dripping off my fingers, neoprene shorts (which are supposed to increase calorie expenditure), a heart rate monitor, and two sports bras. I'm pretty certain that is the recipe for glamour. I do not think it an understatement to say he was horrified, bemused and shocked to his core all at the same time.

He thought that was the ugly part; bless his heart, he was about to be proven so wrong. Compared to all the crazy things that we have seen and heard and done, that was a beautiful moment. Having done pageants in high school and college, I have seen contestants get competitive and not exactly be their kindest, gentlest, sweetest selves, and I've heard tales of sabotage and snarky behavior. Yeah, all that pales in comparison to the world of married women's pageants.

Some of these MRS (which I think actually stands for misinformation, rumors, and sniping) pageants are a Hollywood movie waiting to happen. A sort of cross between I Know What you Did Last Summer, Mean Girls, and Miss Congeniality. They say if you pull at a thread, the whole sweater will unravel. Well, when I stepped back and looked at this particular sweater, it looked a whole lot like a (bedazzled) straight jacket.

I have heard more salacious gossip than I could possibly retell. Examples include the rumor that one queen's husband visited strip clubs while attending the national pageant (in reality, he was walking down the sidewalk and a club promoter gave him a flyer), another beauty queen being widely (and unfairly) called an unfit mother, and even a contestant claiming she had a terminal illness and asking other contestants to withdraw from the competition so she could fulfill her bucket list wish of winning the crown (TRUE story...you can't make this stuff up).

Gossip abounds that this woman is a prescription drug addict, that one is faking a chronic disease for the sake of attention, this one is seeing a psychiatrist because of all the mean things other Pageant Pattys have said about her, the list goes on and on...and on and on and on. You would think these grown, adult women with children, husbands and careers would tire of all this, but it absolutely never ends.

For my part, three contestants who were very friendly to my face secretly tried to have me disqualified. Afterward, one of them even spent an hour helping me steam the train of my evening gown, and although I didn't know at the time, I'm guessing she was hoping like heck I did not get the chance to wear it (I did, and placed first runner up, thank you very much, ladies).

That same contestant told the pageant's directors I threatened to beat up the newly crowned queen and snatch her tiara (I'm 5'4 and at the time was 108 pounds and also Mrs. Congeniality...a sinister threat in every way). And although I personally assured them that I was no threat and meant no one ill will or bodily harm, they continued to spread tales of my treachery. For over a year. I heard through the grapevine that additional security was posted at the door the next year in case I tried to cause any trouble with my attendance. Like I told a friend, I had no idea what a badass I was until I heard it from the rumor mill. Two years after I competed, a total stranger who also runs in pageant circles started the story that I was writing a book about how to win beauty pageants. Add author to my resume, right there under badass. I'm sure there are more rumblings, but I have put as much distance as possible from all this. I get enough drama during my daily episodes of Days of Our Lives to keep me satisfied.

You've probably watched Toddlers and Tiaras and thought that stage moms were the worst. But I can tell you from experience, it's moms on the stage who really take it to a whole new level of crazy. Thankfully, I made some great real friends through those experiences so we can compare notes on all the wild, wacky, and just plain bizarre things that we hear. And we've decided that the real winner in these kinds of pageants are the people smart enough to stay on the other side of the stage.