Sexy Halloween

Nicole was my bosom-est buddy and roomie for a handful of graduate school years. We became close only at the tail end of college when, maybe, she decided to brave my off-putting seriousness or nerdiness-charading-as-snobbery and finally talk to me. (Apart from my true blue writer and musical theater friends, college was a lonely time.) Most stories worth reading describe a Nicole: exciting, interesting and interested, funny, whip smart, and crazy sexy. When I think about us in our 20s, I remember her as… bursting. Her easy confidence with boys was a tactile one, and I saw her literally nibble on a few who found that experience titillating. Even her nervous energy manifested as adorable hilarity. An utterly irresistible Italian girl, Nicole was all hair and curves and hugs and pinches. Ultimately, this untamable juggernaut of charisma and beauty settled down with the only boy smart and lucky enough to interest her for the next two decades.

But there were many years of dating that occurred between the moment she spotted him and the dramatic presentation of rings and promises, and what I remember fondly and vividly is Halloween. There were plenty of beer-ponging costume parties scattered around our Boston neighborhoods and hosted in our crappy apartments, and a few quite famous soirees with our very, very RISD artsy friends in Providence. The idea that we planned elaborate outfits and drove hours to attend a one-night-only party is unfathomable until I remember once upon a time we had zero children and an entire weekend to nurse a hangover. Carla and her then boyfriend once arrived from NYC as tin toys; and the next year after they had eloped, returned to the same party as mullet groom and pregnant bride. Everyone (but me) was extremely creative and delightful.

This was the ‘90s. Naturally, I dressed as Britney Spears because I could rock that look, and also because I already owned some version of a Catholic schoolgirl uniform that I wore every day until grunge took hold. I bet I could still find a plaid miniskirt in my closet. Another year I borrowed Nicole’s extreme cleavage dress with the silver fishtail silhouette, attached seashells to the busty velvet bodice with sticky tape, and was Sexy Mermaid. (The fact that I hadn’t asked Nicole if I could do that was testament to our friendship, or her inability to stay angry with me.) I don’t remember other clichéd costumes I cobbled together, though I’m sure they were all designed around wearing more makeup than usual and trying to look cuter than usual. It wasn’t until after I married Bernie that I was pulled out of my vanity rut and we went as Jay and Silent Bob. As I said, it was the nineties.

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Already a favorite among my oldest friends and wildly popular with my newer acquaintances in medical school, Nicole attended many of these monster mash-up parties with her future husband. One time, she was The Karate Kid with authentic competition garb. Sexy Daniel-san, this was not. Another time, as arguably the coolest girl at the party, and likely the spiciest gal in three towns, Nicole dressed up as Jimmy Buffet: hairy prosthetic belly protruding out of a horrible Hawaiian shirt, shaggy beard, bird perched on her shoulder… god, did she have a cheeseburger? This was no Sexy Parrothead costume. I’ll never forget giggling with her date over his half-lamentations regarding costumes that included more body hair than he had. Maybe next year, she wouldn’t dress up as a dude? I think we both kind of loved that she didn’t want to sex up her Halloween costume, preferring to be kind of gross or funny instead. Only a girl with that much confidence chooses not to be cute for Halloween.

(She was totally cute as Daniel-san.)

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I wonder if Nicole is still pulling these punches and adding realistic, rubbery warts to her Witch Crone getup. I wonder if her adorable daughter has inherited this trait and has made plans to be Groot or Morty or Post Malone instead of Wonder Woman or Cardi B. Truth be told, that year dressing as Jay to Bernie’s Silent Bob was the most physically comfortable I’ve ever been at a party. As Cher ruminated famously, “… party clothes are so binding.”

This past weekend was spent strolling down memory lane with my parents as they celebrated 50 years of marriage. Nicole’s name came up a few times, as you can imagine (see description, paragraph 1). And in that spirit of nostalgia, enjoy these ridiculous pictures of other, completely un-sexy Halloween outfits. Yes, that is I, an inexplicably pregnant 7 year old (wtf), an elementary school “scullery maid” (hand to heart, that is what mom called this), Frenchman (why), and a good Do Bee!

 

SHOW ME YOUR UNSEXY COSTUMES.

 

 

Throwback Thursdays

Of all the things that are annoying about social media, Throwback Thursday isn’t one of them. Spare me not one single photo of your moussed bangs, rainbow suspenders, or stone washed jeans diving into gigantic white high tops. I want to see you sunburnt on the Jersey shore in your Bon Jovi fringe t-shirt, sweating in your plastic Halloween mask, posed fireside with siblings in matching sweaters, gawky and proud and acned and feather-haired at your Bar Mitzvah party. These pics are awesome. They’re always, always awesome. Because there are so many selfie, check-in, sharing, linking, uploading opportunities to let The World know how accomplished, funny, lucky, and attractive we are… on Thursdays we post pictures to remind us of our shared, dorky beginnings. I like that. Plus, we’re all adorable.

Stevie, irrepressibly cute.

Stevie, irrepressibly cute.

Also, I’m a junkie for the milestone moments. I go to all of the graduation ceremonies and parties. Every. Single. One. I’m one of the few spouses who continue to attend these three course dinners followed by umpteen speeches where everyone is honored and privileged to be there. (Next year, I may propose a drinking game to my table-mates for every honor-and-privilege uttered.) Bernie and I just wrapped the final party after a month of roast-the-graduates and fish-or-filet evenings in ballrooms and country clubs. Honestly, neither my liver nor patience for hackneyed toasts could endure another fancy dress evening with surgeons. But there are small moments that bring forth a tear or a giggle, and that makes the whole high-heeled night worth witnessing. Truly, the close of a near decade of brutal scheduling, test-taking, presentation-preparing, and paper-writing during the same years of weddings and baby-making and eking out some approximation of life for these graduating residents: this deserves to be witnessed. But when I’m not being Moved by the Moment, I’m also having great fun sitting next to Linda.

Linda is the ageless and stunning wife of arguably the most famous hand surgeon in the world. She’s seen it all… and she’s been to more than her share of these privilege-and-honor laden evenings. Unfailingly kind, Linda will also share sniggers over unfortunate formalwear choices (“Where was her mother when she put that on?”) or strategies to endure monotonous speeches (“Let’s go powder our noses… for a half hour.”) Linda is magical and mindful and has mentored me through some unpleasant, upsetting, and downright bald moments. And so it wasn’t surprising that over arugula salads and between goblet-clinking, Linda asked, “Are you… OK?”

Well, of course I’m OK! I never stop smiling and I have so, so much great hair. I adore my husband, my kids keep getting funnier, and I’m tan. But I knew why she asked. Linda remembers a Thursday exactly two years ago, when she sponsored a Day of Beauty before my wigless debut. Knowing anniversaries are powerful punchers of stomachs, Linda was checking in. And somehow, two years later, I don’t cringe when I see this throwback…

My Sinead Moment

My Sinead Moment

… instead this photo recalls a touching memory of kindness and love. With only an inch of hair and handful of eyelashes, Linda made certain I felt like me.

I think we post #TbT photos with more studied nostalgia than we realize, choosing moments that belie the hilarity of the hairstyles. Perhaps that’s why I love them so much. I mean, look at Debby here with her Daddy:

Debby could still pull off this look.

Debby could still pull off this look.

Ned Gammons is 80 years old today, and what Debby’s picture captures is the preppy perfection of their father-daughter-ness—a love as timeless and enduring and comfy and perfect as blucher mocs and fair isle sweaters. There are hundreds of photos she could have chosen… but when cherry picking the perfect post pic, we unwittingly choose the ones that shout LOVE the loudest. And it shows.

I really could go on and on and on and on about this cutesy social media fad. And I hope it endures… if only so Henry can post this himself in twenty years time:

When mom finds only one little boy bathing suit in the bag, she'll improvise.

When mom finds only one little boy bathing suit in the bag, she’ll improvise.

It’s 1986 outside… let me grab a jacket

I bought a white jean jacket. Though it is neither spring-like nor 1986 outside, I left the store with this accoutrement of yesteryear, and have worn it every day hence. Although it might be ridiculous, I love it. I love love love it. I love it like I love U2 and Mia flats and that boy in study hall and Darcey’s bangs. And I love it mostly because Mom would never have let me buy it.

A white jean jacket represents all things Mom discouraged during our sartorial schooling. Clothes bought with hard-earned money should be practical, versatile, resilient, and never, ever (gasp) trendy. We wore Shetland sweaters, monogrammed turtlenecks, corduroys, Docksiders, and pearls; no jellies, rubber bracelets, or artfully ripped athletic wear for the Stockton girls. Naturally, during our first years living on our own dollar, my sister and I independently bought verboten clogs. We quickly learned that clogs were everything Mom said, plus a surefire platform for embarrassing falls; but buying banned footwear was a rite of passage into young adulthood for us– exorcizing a bit of our Fancy Lady upbringing.

We begged Mom for these ugly, ugly shoes.

We begged Mom for these ugly, ugly shoes.

Doesn’t every woman have at least one bizarrely nostalgic, outlandishly expensive, immodestly revealing, or otherwise completely inappropriate ensemble in her closet? I’ll never wear tuxedo pants, but at some moment in front of a three way mirror, I thought I could affect a 5 foot 3 Katherine Hepburn. (Nope.) I dressed like Annie Hall for most of sophomore year. Hats and all. The Hervé Léger murmurs, “Je pourrais vous gifler mais non!” every time I rustle his hanger. Even he knows I have no business squeezing into that thing. Many of these impulse purchases and quirky fashion choices–right up to my super fab, white jean jacket—probably represent small rebellions against too many shopping trips with Mom to Talbots.

That’s my theory. It’s also possible I have wretched taste in casual wear.

What’s hiding in your closet?

 

I spent a number of years wanting to look vaguely French and gorgeous like Darcey.

We all wanted to look vaguely French and gorgeous like Darcey with her perfect bangs.

Feral Children

This couplet of sentences was written in response to a writing challenge limited to 50 words, but also a recent article wondering why we’re denying our kids freedoms we enjoyed. I’d love to read a snapshot of your memories of a less chaperoned youth. Maybe together we can muster enough nostalgia to hazard our kids exploring the world a bit more without us.

 

We raced ten-speeds through three miles of neighborhood streets, screamed down the sledding hill into the flood plains, wove through the horse path leading to more backyards, and pedaled up the hill to find our friends. Mom had no idea where we were, so getting home by dinner was key.

No permission, no helmets, no schedule...

No permission, no helmets, no schedule…

A love letter to baseball, by Steve Safran

Many of us are feeling the nostalgia-twinged excitement tonight. Go, Sox!

Mom didn’t expect to see herself on the bright, new, hi-def Enormo-tron overlooking 36,000 people. None of us had ever been on Fenway Park’s big screen before. But there we were, enormously memorialized during Game One of the 2013 American League Division Series. How many lucky guys can boast attendance at this game, accompanied by the parents who birthed him into this great (Red Sox) Nation? Me. I can. Look at us.

Dad, Mom, her nose, and me

Dad, Mom, her Band Aid, and me

Mom wishes she’d timed the nose-mole removal a little better, since now her Band-Aid schnoz is captured forever, both here and on the JumboTron. We’re too superstitious to have arrogantly assumed this game would foretell future pennant grabbings. But now, my childhood team of bearded heroes is headed to the World Series, and the Jumbotron still of me, my parents, and one of my oldest friends gains even more sentimental cache. Also, superstition dictates that Mom cannot remove the Band Aid until this wraps up in November.

At the risk of having a puck hurled at my head, I’m partial to baseball over other popular sports in these parts. Playoffs in basketball and hockey are interminable. They’re playing when you file your taxes, hunt for eggs, and plan brunch for Mom… and they’re still at it when you put out the patio furniture and buy socks for Dad. That’s not a playoff system– that’s three entirely different cute kitties on the calendar. Baseball? Lose three out of five and you’re gone. And I’ve been to some magical nights at Fenway. As Humphrey Bogart once said “A hot dog at the ballpark beats a steak at the Ritz.” A bad night at the park–with the parking ticket and the drunk asshole and the Sox breaking our hearts–that’s still a damn good night.

A life-long love affair with the Red Sox, fostered by their parents, and shared with their best friends is a significant part what makes Bostonians of all ilk high five in the streets and feel Boston Strong. And tonight, on the eve of the first night of the World Series, I’m writing a love note to the Red Sox, to Fenway… to Baseball.

Dear Baseball,

I saw your gorgeous, green Fenway field for the first time in 1975– the very year the Red Sox came thisclose to winning the World Series in what is agreed to be one of the great Fall Classics. I was the seven year-old boy who cried when Fred Lynn crashed into the wall in Game Six, so worried for my idol that I sobbed myself to sleep that night. There was something about Carlton Fisk, and I missed the rest of the game, but Dad has his I-was-there story for all time.

That home run I hit in Little League in 1979? That cemented our bond, baseball. Maybe it was a grounder that went through the shortstop’s legs, allowing me to scoot from one base to another in a comical series of bad throws. Never mind all that. It was a Home Run, with merit trophy proof of my commitment to you… even if it was for coming in second.

I dozed off every summer night to announcers calling your plays on AM radio. Stu loved you as much as I did, and took me to game after game—a childhood relationship chronicled in Fenway ticket stubs. So I know you were sad, too, when it happened, losing one of your purist fans on September 11th when I lost my best friend.  After that we became even closer, baseball. Your games took on new meaning—weightier and urgent– as I root hard enough for the both of us.

A love note to you inevitably includes a family history of heartbreaks. Papa was a Boston Braves fan who was 20 when Babe Ruth played his final, sad year on the club. Dad once left a game early with his father, only to see a Ted Williams homer sail over his head as they walked behind the Green Monster. And me? Well, I died a little in 1978, 1986, and 2003. But then, in 2004, you rewarded us for our faith in you. (Because we know you love the Sox, too.)

Passing on our passion for you to our children is like a covenant in this town. My middle son was born in the fourth inning of a Sox game in 1998. I held him and explained your rules… starting in the sixth. Appreciating the subtleties of baseball, I told him, is a lifetime commitment. Baseball, you are the great imitator of life, providing the perfect proverb for my kids: though you may fail most of the time, you will still be a hero as long as you stay at the plate.

“How can you not get romantic about baseball?”  asked Billy Beane, echoing our feelings exactly. You are our shared history, our shared hot dogs, our shared disappointment, and tonight, our shared excitement. You’ve provided the venue for me to bond with my family, reminisce, enjoy new friendships, honor old ones, and drink an immoderate amount of beer. But you are a fickle lover, baseball, and I won’t implore you to bless our Sox tonight. We’ve got this covered. We’re Boston Strong. And Mom’s still wearing that Band Aid.

With great love, and a Pedroia jersey,

Steve