Portrait of the Artist as a middle-aged mom.

A few months ago, my husband and I took a fun little quiz that informed the quizzee on what kind of personality he/she has.  The answers given to a series of questions determined the participants value system and general outlook on life.  My husband’s answers categorized him as an Inventor, which is someone who “worries about the future.”  My answers, of course, landed me in a very different department.  I was an Artist, or one who “worries about the past.”  Although my husband has never really invented anything and I have never really artist-ed anything, the broader implications of the quiz were uncannily accurate.


I am a sentimental slob.  I spend roughly eighty-percent of my time looking over my shoulder, relishing in memories and aggrandizing the “good ‘ole days.”  Don’t get me wrong; I am generally quite happy in the present and enjoy my day-to-day life immensely.  It’s just that I want each piece of it to last forever, and I find it tragic when Present is swallowed into Past and I can’t hold on to both at the same time.  My approach to life as an Artist is why I have a mini-breakdown at the beginning of each new school year and every time one of my children has a birthday.  Mathematically, this means I have a mini-breakdown once every three months.  (Did I say I was generally quite happy?)

When I was in my twenties, I dreamed fondly of my carefree adolescence.  My thirties had me longing for the idealistic glow of my twenties.  And my forties have, of course, brought with them the realization of just how splendid and splashy were the days of my thirties (never mind that they were a mere six months ago.)  Savoring the past can, for me, lead to discounting the present, and even dreading the future.

My husband is different.  He gets excited about

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our growing retirement account and, someday, Getting The Kids Out Of The House.  He gobbles up the latest technology and recently spent a month counting down the days to Apple’s iOS 7 unveiling.  (When I ribbed him about this, he told me that “everyone else” was just as excited as he was, and that I was the weird one for not caring.  Sure, honey.)  He goes to conferences on “The Future of Urban Living,” and comes home aglow with What’s Next in the world.  He likes The Future because, as an Inventor, he has every confidence that he can navigate–if not create–it.


I, on the other hand, am little bit afraid of the future because, as an Artist, I feel that I cannot shape, but merely define it.  And it’s so much pleasanter to define the past, which is safe and define-able and is, therefore, where we Artists like to dwell.  (I am italicizing the word Artist because I do not consider myself one and am simply assuming the title given me by the quiz.  The day I try to pass this blog off as “art” is the day I die of embarrassment.)

The difference between the Inventor and the Artist can be summed up in the conversation the Hub and I had a few days ago before getting the kids off to school.  I came downstairs and leaned over his shoulder as he scrambled some eggs.

“I’m sad this morning.”


“Because our kids are so big.  And they’ll never be little again.”

“Yeah.  But look at what great people they’re turning out to be.”

“I guess.”

“When they were little, we didn’t have that certainty.  Think about it.”

Of course he was right.  And when I panic about unfinished scrapbooks or someone I offended in the ninth-grade, my Inventor husband is also right in telling me to “let it go.”  I’m not saying he’s right about everything (or even most things), but I will give him credit for this one thing:  the future can be a very good place, if we just allow ourselves to decide that it will be.  If we just allow ourselves to make it so.


To that end, I’d like to adopt some of the Inventor’s thinking while keeping my dreamy Artist tendencies intact.  I’d like to keep savoring the past, but to stop worrying about it–especially about how to stay in it. Because even though the past is so nicely bound and resolved,  it’s no longer a liveable reality, which is kind of an important factor when it comes to reaching our potential in life.  And that beautiful, sepia-tinted existence that I long to revisit?  It’s fake; brushed on years later by the stroke of my heavy Artist’s hand.  In our attempt to capture a fading past, we sometimes accidentally create a false one.  And clinging to a false past is like trying to diet our way into pre-baby skinny jeans:  they’re both frustrated and futile fantasies that leave us hungry for what we can no longer have.

So on this soft and sentimental Sunday, complete with steel-gray clouds in the sky above and piano music in the hall below and every other sign of longer nights and changing seasons that hurls me, each autumn, into the Land of Looking Back, I’m determined to look forward.  I’m determined to believe–no, to decide–that the best is yet to come.  That I can create the future rather than recoil from it.  That these are the good ‘ole days.  Because they are.  No sepia tint required.



Lesson #1 for the over-forty-woman: you will never again be as cute as your hairdresser.

Last Friday morning I made the third-biggest mistake of my adult life (I’ll tell you about the first two later) when I asked my hairdresser to dye my hair brown.  Okay, I didn’t exactly request “brown,” but I did ask her to take my hair a few shades darker for the fall.  See, I’ve been a fake, trashy dumb blonde for decades now, and as I ’round the middle-aged bend, I’m thinking that 1)  people may be starting to suspect that my bright and bouncy hair color is not, in fact, my bright and bouncy hair color, and 2) it’s getting holy-cow expensive to keep covering these roots.  So last week, in a flash of uncharacteristic bravery, I asked my stylist–who is beautiful, hip, and artsy–to make my hair the same color as, well, hers.  She works this kind of light-and-dark streaky thing through a tangle of loose curls, and it’s fab-u-loso.  Granted, she works it atop a willowy, stylishly dressed figure and boho-chic persona, but I figured, hey–if I can’t have any of those things, I can at least have her hair color.  There has to be something left in this world that money can buy.


If a middle-aged mom trying to copy her younger and cuter hairstylist sounds pathetic to you, rest assured, my friends:  it was.  And it is.  ‘Cause see now, instead of short and “sassy” blond hair, I have short and demure brown hair.  A mere ninety minutes in the salon chair took me from Marilyn to Meryl. (As in Julie & Julia, not Mama Mia.  Although if this midlife crisis keeps up, singing through my pain is probably next.)

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My stylist tried to warn me.  She is a master at her craft, and has told me, repeatedly, that I need to go blond and stay blond.  (She says it’s because of my skin tone, but I think she’s just softening the fact that blond is a close cousin to my ever-increasing gray.)  She has also told me, repeatedly, that if my hair is short, it really should be blond.  But last Friday morning I dismissed years of professional counsel and asked her to make me look, well, more like her.  She dutifully agreed, but told me that if I wanted her hair color, I’d have to first go dark, then get lighter with the next appointment, as this would give me that two-toned look that I so admired on her (and thus, I thought silently, make me look like more like her!  I could scarcely keep from rubbing my hands together.)  She warned me that I may not like the brown that I had to start with, but I ignored all that and simply commanded her to “dye!”

And dye she did.  And wrong I was.  Because now I do not look like a willowy, artsy, boho-chic hipster.  Now, I look just like me–but with brown hair.  The one feature I retained (okay, maintained) from my youth, the one psuedo-beauty I boasted–I’m a blonde!–has now been flushed down the Drain of Age with everything else I’ll never recover from my best years, like plans on a Friday night or  a non-farmer tan, even in the summer.

If I was a little unsure of Being Brunette at first, the real downward spiral came when I saw my big brother the next day.  I walked through my mom’s front door and he glanced up from his perch on the couch.

“Your hair looks dirty.”

I quickly informed him that my hair was, in fact, clean; I had just dyed it a darker color.


“Because I’m going darker for fall.  But I’m going to lighten it up next time.”

“Why would you dye it dark, just to lighten it again?  That doesn’t even make sense.”

“Yes it does.”


“Because it does.”

“And are you going to pay to get it light, after you’ve already paid to get it dark?”


My mom chimed in from an adjacent loveseat:  “If you don’t like the color, Jen, all you have to do is get a really bad cut, something short and wispy and weird.  Like this–”  She grabbed her own hair and pulled it violently away from her scalp to illustrate.  “Then no one will notice the color.”  She was perfectly serious.  I just stood mutely in the middle of the living room, taking this hail of abuse from a seated Judge and Jury whose opinion, by the way, was never once requested.

I texted my stylist that night, begging her to undo this latest disaster in a growing pile of “anti-aging” disasters I am accumulating.  She generously accepted my plea and penciled me in for Thursday at noon.  Later, I texted my brother and told him not to worry, that I would soon be cleaning up my “dirty” hair.

“Happy, dear?”  I goaded, expecting an apology.  He wrote back:

“About time.”

Apparently I had sat on the Brown too long for my bro.  But the joke’s on him, because on Thursday at 1:30–after two separate dye jobs and two separate credit card payments–I’m gonna emerge from that salon with what will likely be the exact same color with which I entered it last Friday afternoon.  Who’s lookin’ good now?[/sociallocker]


Ten reasons I love Leonardo DiCaprio.

So last weekend I finally watched Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, which I’d been meaning to all summer, despite its mixed reviews.  Some critics called it “a disaster,” while others gave it the lukewarm stamp of “sincere.”  I am not a movie buff and was not a Film major (I heard the pay was bad so I chose English instead), but I have my opinions and share them I must.  I loved this movie.  I inhaled it, devoured it, swooned over it; it’s the kind of movie that demands swooning.  Was it the dazzling cinematography, heartbreaking story line, or luscious musical soundtrack that invoked said swooning?  Maybe.  But truthfully, I’m quite certain that other forces were at play in my fondness for this film, and I’m quite certain their names are Leonardo and DiCaprio.


Do you know him?  I don’t.  Do you love him?  I do.  For the following ten reasons:

1.  His big baby blues.  Can’t get over ’em.

2.  Catch Me If You Can.  Go back and watch it again.  You’ll be surprised by how good it is, and how good he is in it.  Still one of my all time faves.

3.  He was man enough to play Leading Man to a Leading Lady who outweighed him by at least fifty pounds in Titanic.

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4.  He was man enough to play Leading Man in Titanic, whose script was obviously not equal to his talent.  But he pulled it off with style, and we were given the final scene of his standing atop the staircase, glorious tuxedoed, waiting on the other side of heaven for his long-lost love.  Sold.

4.  His face is a getting just slightly round and squishy, which only makes him look more like a real person, and thus somehow increases the likelihood of his asking me out someday.  (Don’t worry, Derrick, I’d say no–but it would be nice to finally be asked.)

5.  He is an aloof, slightly unlikeable celebrity in real life.  For some reason I always like those guys; you know, the moody Russell Crowe types that womanize, bar fight, and basically thumb their nose at the media.  One of my friends told me I was “twisted” in my taste for Bad Boy Actors.  I told her it was a side effect of having married an engineer.  A girl’s gotta have an outlet.

7.  He does dark, tortured, emotional stuff.  (Remember The Aviator?)

8.  He plays a man who knows how to love a woman.  Romeo and Juliet.  The Great Gatsby.  Inception.  Oh, my.  

9.  He does the beautiful-yet-vulnerable thing.  With those baby blues.  Oh, my.

10.  I once saw a picture of him in People Magazine somewhere, shirtless on the beach.  He had a little extra squidge around the middle, in a very un-Hollywood like way.  My view is that anyone, famous or not, with a little extra squidge around the middle is a friend of mine forever.  Not to mention that said squidge makes him look more like a real person, which somehow increases the likelihood of his asking me out someday.

Bonus point:  At age ten, his agent suggested he change his name to the more American-friendly Lenny Williams.  Even as a child, Leo was too savvy to take this advice, and I’m so glad he didn’t.  I couldn’t post a passionately breathless blog today about my devotion to one Lenny Williams.

So the question is:  are you a Leonardo DiCaprio fan?  Or do your preferences sway more to the likes of Matt Damon?  (Who I also love ardently, but in a different way and for different reasons.) Of course, if you’re getting into action heroes, there’s always Hugh Jackman, Mark Wahlberg, Henry Cavill…oh, it’s so hard to choose.  Who’s your guy? And how have we not talked about this?