tiaras optional

"My only argument is with those who do not view the world as cynically as I do." Michael Korda

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Mr. Yuk Is Mean, Mr. Yuk Is Green

To really get the full impact of the story I'm about to tell you, you have to know a little about my childhood. I was raised by a mother who was deathly afraid of germs, food toxins, and generally any kind of bad thing one might accidentally ingest. While shopping, she ruthlessly examined all canned goods for any sign of a dent (botulism kills!), and she had the Poison Control hotline on speed dial. Once I inadvertently colored my tongue with a magic marker (long story). First, she washed my mouth out with soap (I am perhaps the only child in history who has had her mouth washed out with soap for reasons other than bad language). Then she got right on the line to Poison Control. Although I was only six or seven, I remember thinking that something made for kids probably wasn't toxic. That thought apparently never occurred to my mother.

Growing up in that sort of atmosphere, you can either become completely crazy and avoid anything potentially dangerous, or you can go in the opposite direction and not worry much about anything. I went in the latter direction. (This may have something to do with my father, who was pretty much the opposite of my mother and used to do things like feed me raw ground beef.*)

Anyway, fast forward many years. A few weeks ago, I offered to cook dinner for my mother and grandmother. My mother's dietary restrictions (she's pretty much only allowed to eat dew off petals**) mean that there are only two or three dinner options available, and I was bored with all of them, so I figured that I could easily cook something within her restrictions. I brought all the ingredients to her kitchen and got to work. She tried to micromanage the whole endeavor, and she forced me to overcook the chicken because she was convinced it wasn't going to be done enough not to give us salmonella. The only ingredient I got from her kitchen was a tablespoon of olive oil.

"You used the olive oil in that cabinet?" she said, in a tone that implied I had taken the olive oil off a public bathroom floor.

"Yeah." I didn't want to ask, but I did. "Why?"

"Well, it's just that it's really old."

"How old?" I said, examining the bottle.

"I don't know. Maybe a year or two."

"That's nothing," I scoffed. "It doesn't have an expiration date on the bottle. I'm sure it's fine."

"If you say so," she said, which is of course what people say when they don't believe you.

She did manage to choke the dinner down, and it wasn't terrible (although a bit overcooked, which was totally not my fault.)

A few days later, she called to thank me for cooking.

"It was really good."

"No problem. I like cooking," I said.

"So, I hope you don't mind, but I was a little worried about the olive oil," she said.

"What did you do?" I asked.

"Do you remember the Poison Control hotline?"

This is a ridiculous question. OF COURSE, I remember the Poison Control hotline. The Mr. Yuk jingle starts running through my head and I try my best not to curl up on the floor in the fetal position. "Yes."

"Well, I looked them up and it turns out they're still in business," she said, sounding delighted.

"Huh. You would think most people would just look stuff up on the internet these days," I said.

"Oh no. They're a much smaller operation now, but the woman who answered the phone was so nice, and it turns out they're located just up the road."

Fascinating. "But did you feel sick after you ate the food?" I asked.

"No. We were both fine. I was just... concerned," she said.

And it turns out that, according to the nice lady at Poison Control, the olive oil probably wouldn't have killed us, although it's always possible that if it was old enough, some bacteria might have grown in it, but it would have only given us garden variety food poisoning and not actually killed us.

So, that was ok. More problematic is the fact that my mother actually thought I had tried to poison her and my grandmother. Sigh.

*So delicious.
**Courtesy of Lila.

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Friday, March 06, 2009

Shopping in My Closet

With the current economic crisis, I have been reading a lot of “helpful” advice on penny-pinching. Occasionally, it’s disgusting Depression era suggestions like boiling your dental floss and then reusing it. But since I read a lot of fashion magazines and blogs, it’s more often really obvious advice like:

Buy stuff on sale.
Actually like consider whether you really need something before you buy it.
Buy less crap.
And my personal favorite: Go shopping in your closet.

I’ve been using the first three for years, and I sort of can’t believe they’re even offered up as advice because they seem so obvious. I’ve always had certain rules for shopping:

1. Don’t buy anything I can’t afford (i.e., I don’t charge clothes. Either I have the money or I don’t. And if I don’t, I don’t buy it).
2. Ask myself whether the item fills a need in my wardrobe.
3. If I answered no to #2, I then ask myself, is it such a fabulous bargain that I’ll be kicking myself for months if I don’t buy it?
4. Recognize when I have enough stuff and stop shopping.

These techniques work pretty well for me.

But let’s go back to the shopping in your closet advice. I’ve read this little gem of advice in a number of places. I can only assume it’s geared toward women with closets the size of a studio apartment who wander into them and say things like, “I totally forgot about this Chanel suit” or “Why don’t I ever wear these Miu Miu pumps?”

Still, it’s not the worst advice. I have a lot of clothes, and there are many pieces I forget about for months at a time. So, maybe it’s time to reassess my closet.

There’s just one problem with this: If I walked into a store that looked like my closet, I would turn around and walk right back out again.

It’s a terrible, terrible closet. It’s not even 18 inches deep. It extends two feet on either side of the door, but it’s nearly impossible to see anything that’s more than a few inches beyond the doorway. There’s a light, but it doesn’t illuminate anything. I suppose one solution would be to get rid of about half of my clothes, but that just isn’t going to happen. In my last two apartments, I had fabulous walk-in closets, both of which were really well-designed and made organizing my clothes very easy. Not so with my current closet. Sometimes I look into it, and I want to cry. We met with a realtor last week, and when he asked what our requirements were in an apartment, big closets were my only dealbreaker. Everything else is negotiable.

The only good thing about my closet is that, since it’s so hard to see things, I do occasionally come across an item of clothing I haven’t seen in months, and that can be sort of exciting. Sadly, it’s never a Prada bag that I’ve totally forgotten I own.

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