Rodeo Drive

I spent today walking up and down and through Rodeo Drive.  It was fun.  And funny.

Fun because it was a bright, beautiful day in Beverly Hills and no matter who you are or how aloof you try to be, no one can resist the unbridled materialism and giddy optimism of southern California.

 Funny because, unlike most shopping venues that reflect the taste (and income level) of their patrons, the shops on Rodeo Drive seem to thrive by selling a look and lifestyle diametrically opposite to that of its customers.  Chanel and Prada may peek through those pretty store windows, but tank tops and cutoff jeans are what’s staring back.  After my day of people watching, I was surprised (and comforted, I won’t lie) that the premiere fashion district of our wealthy nation doesn’t seem to draw, um, wealthier people.  Or at least better looking people.   (Myself included.)

Look, I get it:  Rodeo Drive is more of a tourist attraction than anything, which is why tourists come in vacay garb like stretch pants and visors (though I was in capris and a tee, thankyouverymuch.)  Wecome to see the fantasyland that’s been constructed out of glass and chrome, silk and leather.  And even more alluring than this glittering world of nouveau riche is the idea that we, via our conspicuous consumption, somehow deserve a place in it.

The sumptuous dressing rooms, the gorgeously indifferent mannequins, the hedonistic prices—all convince us, initially, that holding court here is a privilege reserved for the elite.  So imagine our delight when the manicured sales staff graciously accepts our presence and—lo and behold!—our credit card?  Finally, we’ve been invited to sit at the Cool Table.  I left each shop a little disillusioned, though, because really:  would you want to belong to a club that would admit you as a member?  The prestige of shopping in a Fancy Store is a little deflated when everyone in line looks like they’re on their way to the county fair.  I found myself wondering why, if we can all afford such expensive clothes, we aren’t we wearing any of them?  Because if you’re not going to wear your nice clothes while shopping on Rodeo Drive, where are you gonna wear them?  (And please don’t say the county fair.)

My conclusion?  None of us really has a place to wear those Jimmy Choos, but we certainly share a purpose in buying them:  it gains us temporary admission into a world more glamorous than than our own.  It’s also called escapism, and the whole thing’s a little Vegas-y to me; average people throwing their money down to be someone else for a little while.  It’s not necessarily a fatal thing.  Just an expensive one.

Now lest I’ve gotten too heavy-handed in this post, rest assured:  I like clothes, and I like money.  Strolling down the the “Golden Triangle” of Beverly Hills, I realized that though I had little interest in purchasing that splendid clothing, I was supremely happy it was there.  I enjoyed the merry buzz it created among the shoppers, I enjoyed watching them fawn and gawk over it all (awkward as the fawning and gawking may have been), and I enjoyed the thread of commonality it seemed to weave among us all.  (Money!  Shopping!  Capitalism!  We were practically cheering it in silent unison.)  I enjoyed seeing the handiwork of artistic fashionistas, I enjoyed the visceral euphoria in the air.  I enjoyed inhabiting, for a little while, a world more glamorous than my own.  (Think Julia Roberts but with shorter legs, shorter hair, covered hindquarters and no blank check.  That was me today.)

Rodeo drive is fun, and funny, and just a little bit tacky—as are we all.  So I say:  embrace the tackiness.  Just don’t spend too much money on it, dahling.  Vegas is waiting.

p.s.  There is one exception to the tinsel found on Rodeo Drive, and that is Tiffany & Co.  Not one piece of jewelry in Tiffany’s was garish or gaudy, only pretty and bright and sparkly and did I mention pretty?  Today I decided that I heart Tiffany’s diamonds.

(Are you reading this, Derrick?)

When your little sister wears perfume, don’t tell her she stinks

It was 1985.  I was twelve years old and dripping with the anticipation of attending my first real dance.  Our church’s youth group, which hosted weekly dances for teens aged fourteen to eighteen, had given a rare invitation to the twelve- and thirteen-year olds to join in the fun for one night.  One magical, moonlit night—I envisioned it spent twirling in the arms of a high school guy (not boy) draped in an oversized poly-knit sweater and a hefty dose of Drakkar.  Oh, the thrill of it all!

Sure, the dance was being held on a Wednesday from 7-8:30 pm.  Sure, it was taking place in a small, linoleum lined room just off the church kitchen, which would be well-lit and swarming with watchful adults.  Sure, a ghetto-blaster (can I still call it that?) would be passed off as the DJ.  No matter.  I saw this initiation into the world my older brother and sister had long inhabited as a turning point in my desperately linear march from tween to teen.  Along with my first real bra and the sky-blue stirrup pants my mom had sewn me, dancing with high schoolers was, in my mind, a rite of prepubescent passage from which there was no undoing.

Sure, they were just the boys from my church.  Sure, I’d seen most of them in their Boy Scout shirts on Wednesday nights, complete with neckerchief and slider belt.  Sure, most of them weighed less than I did.  No matter.  Regardless of who was wearing it, I was determined to brush my cheek against someone’s (anyone’s) poly-knit sweater and take a deep sniff of the masculinity-in-a-bottle that was Drakkar.  Of the numerous things about boys that enchant young girls, nothing compares to the kryptonite of cologne; it is a knee-weakening agent of the most intoxicating order.  We’d have gotten drunk off it, had we been allowed to get drunk.  And it was this very rapture over all things eau de toilette that got me into trouble that night.

See, when it came to my sixth-grade love life, I’d always tried to put myself into the other person’s shoes, treating them as I would want to be treated.  Like the time I got my crush a big, purple ribboned basket full of pretty treats (I know I would have loved it), or when I called my (other) crush several times each day, certain he would enjoy the attention as much as I would have, had he called me as often.  (He hadn’t.  Shocker.)  And the fact that this do-unto-others approach hadn’t born the exact fruit I’d hoped for didn’t deter me now; I was determined to apply the same logic to My Big Night.  I reasoned that if I enjoyed smelling cologne on my dance partner, he would surely enjoy smelling perfume on me.  And if a little perfume was good, a lot was better.  A lot.

So early Wednesday evening, after my algebra was done, my perm Aqua-Netted and my lips Bonne Belled, I performed the final, crowning hose-down:  an ample supply of Love’s Baby Soft.  This, my friends, was the perfume of the ages; it smelled heavily of baby powder with a kind of synthetic-floralish undertone, and it was enough to make boys beg you to Bear Hug.  (Even though we weren’t allowed to bear hug in the church.  But a girl could dream.)  I had received a pink encased Value Pak of Baby Soft for Christmas that year with perfume on one side, talcum powder on the other.  The perfume was a bubble gum pink color that showed through a clear plastic bottle with red hearts painted on it.  It was divine, and I couldn’t wait to seduce my first hapless suitor.

I generously covered my pre-dressed body, post-dressed body, clothes (yes) and hair with the diaper/flower scent, followed by an extra application to the pressure points I’d read about in Seventeen:  wrist pulse, neck pulse, interior of elbows, behind the ears and, of course, behind the knees.  (Who knew where the evening might lead?)  Let the games, I thought, as I sprayed and powdered and puffed, begin.

After a final mirror check/pulse-point sniff, I grabbed my lavender leatherette purse and bounced out to the Buick where my sixteen-year old brother and fourteen-year old sister waited for me.  I hopped in the back, wisely foregoing my standard “shotgun!” as I knew my mere admission into this vehicle was, tonight, a fragile privilege.  I sat down, slammed the door excitedly, and settled in the backseat as we pulled out of the driveway.  We had gone all of one block when my normally easygoing brother turned around in a sudden, inexplicable fury.

“WHAT is that smell?  Jen, is that you?”

“Um.  What?”

“Holy crap!  How much perfume are you wearing?”

“Um…what?  Not that much…”  My voice was small.  He was still glaring at me over the seat but I doggedly avoided eye contact.

“YOU REEK TO HIGH HEAVEN!”  Such words from big brother!  He groaned loudly and rolled down the window.  “Roll yours down too.”  (This was pre-auto windows.)  “I can hardly breathe!  What are you thinking?”

I was silent.  And then, with the raging hormones of a sixteen-year old boy trapped in his dad’s car, driving his two little sisters to a church dance, he dealt the final blow:

“If I was a guy dancing with you, I’d turn around and leave so fast…”

That was all it took.  Though I still refused to dignify him with a response, the minute I entered the church I ran to the ladies room and spent the first two (slow!) songs trying desperately to undo what I’d done.  I ran a paper towel under the faucet, wrung it out, and scrubbed every exposed pulse point. (The backs of my knees, swathed in the sky-blue stirrups, were unavailable.)  I even lathered some hand soap on my wet palms and attempted a mini sponge bath, but to no avail.  Turned out that getting perfume off one’s skin was much trickier than getting it on.

But I am proud to say that that same twelve-year old skin–now stinking of both Baby Soft and wet paper towel–remained admirably thick.  Hmph.  I wasn’t about to let my bossy older brother bring me down.  After all, what did he know about boys that Seventeen couldn’t teach me?

Before leaving the bathroom I took a deep breath, did a final pulse-point sniff (I settled on potent-but-irresistible) and marched my stirrupped legs right past the kitchen into the “dance hall.”  Bright lights, Careless Whisper, and numerous guys in sweaters greeted me.  This was my night, and I was gonna own it.  I scanned the scene, spotted a conspicuously attractive cable-knit, and locked in on my prey.  Following the inebriating scent of Drakkar, I could only wonder at my brother’s uncharacteristic outburst in the car.  Poor guy.  What did he know about love?  Because, really:

who wouldn’t want to get with this?


photo (11)


p.s.  I had lavender corduroys to go with that lavender sweater vest, both of which I insisted on wearing the first day of school, even though it was ninety-seven degrees out.

Three things I hated about “The Fault in Our Stars”

This summer, like everyone else on the planet, I succumbed to the hysteria and read The Fault in Our Stars.  I laughed, I cried, I was moved.  I really liked this book–except when I hated it.  I know hate is a strong word and good people aren’t supposed to use it, but look:  it’s a lot more fun to write about what I hate than to write about what I deeply dislike.  You get me.

So, here is what I hated (ooh, that’s a rush!)  about The Fault in Our Stars:

  • I hated, hated, hated that they slept together.  Wait, “sleeping together” is a euphemism that muddles the facts on this issue.  Let me rephrase:  I hated that these two minor children went to a hotel room and had sex with each other. I know it was “AugustusandHazeltheCoolest,” I know they were superduper In Love, and I know that they were both soon to be taken by cancer and thus needed to experience the joys of the flesh before returning to the dust of the earth.  But really:  wasn’t it still teen sex?  What’s more, I hated the writer’s seduction of the reader, so that by the time they reached this point in the story, they were happy for the teen sex.  (After all, where is YOLO more applicable than to two dying cancer patients?)

I hated the subtle but powerful message that 1)  teen sex is okay (no, commendable!) as long as you’re In Love, 2) being In Love and Having Cancer makes it extra-okay, and 3) Being In Love, Having Cancer, and being Smart/Witty/Just Generally Cool makes it extrasuper okay.  Subtract the witty dialogue, subtract the heartwrenching illnesses, subtract the dire circumstances, and you still have teen sex, and it’s still wrong.  And I hate that now this same message has been plastered on the big screen.  I realize that teen sex is so common in the media that we barely bat an eye anymore, but maybe that’s the problem.  Maybe we need to get a little more indignant when it’s served up like popcorn to our already hormone-soaked children.


  • I hated how ridiculously articulate these kids were for their age.  Okay, I get the author’s angle:  snappy dialogue makes for much better reading than the standard “dude, like, whatever” of teen speech.  However, even the most verbally gifted teens (or adults, for that matter) do not constantly wax poetic the way these young folk did.  And though it did make for dynamic characters, it also made the characters seem much older than they were, which led us straight to Problem #1.

In the author’s defense, he is writing for a teen audience, and most teenagers actually see themselves as this insightful and articulate—they just can’t, um, articulate how, like, articulate they are.  And so August and Hazel give their adolescent audience a voice (i.e., that’s what I was gonna say!)  And while the advanced dialogue is entertaining, it’s a too-common thread, too frequently woven, in the cultural cloth that blurs child- and adulthood.  (See Problem #1.)


  • I hated how, through all the talk about dying, living, and loving, the idea of an afterlife or even (gasp!) diety was clearly absent.  Facing imminent death would, I imagine, force the Question of the Ages even upon two “intellectuals” like Hazel and Augustus.  There is one scene at the book’s end wherein Hazel sees children playing outside and has a warm fuzzy about the circle-of-life-in-general, and there are a couple short references to “not knowing” about a hereafter, but that’s about it.

This irked me because Augustus and Hazel are portrayed as the ultimate I.Q. studs, and so their ignorance of all things religious is conspicuous and, in my opinion, unrealistic.  I’ve always noticed that thoughtful people (like Hazel and Gus) tend to think about the larger questions of existence, which leads them to at least contend with the concept of religion.  But popular culture has written a narrative in which intellectualism (put a big fat “psuedo” in front of that) and religious belief cannot coexist.  And Green’s story strictly follows that narrative; these poor souls were zooming toward death’s door without an iota of interest in what might lie behind it.  Regardless of one’s family culture, it seems like the questions would have come up.

It would have been splendidly refreshing to see our heroes, at their life’s end, wrestle with religion, or even the vaguer notion of “faith.”  Even if they concluded a disbelief, chewing on the possibility would have lent authenticity to their plight; it’s what most people facing death do.  But alas, in this book, nothing.  Sad.  And so predictable.

And now for the fun part of my post, ’cause this is what I loved about The Fault in Our Stars:

  • The writing.  It was sharp, interesting, original, and oh-so-readable.  John Green is a genuine talent.
  • The plot.  Two cancer victims in a doomed relationship?  Green makes it work.  Bittersweet in the best sense; sincere but never saccharin.
  • The parents.  I loved (loved!) how tenderly, positively portrayed the parent-child relationships were in this book.  The parents loved their children and the children loved their parents, and their hearts broke constantly for one another.  No dark issues, no raging resentments.  Talk about splendidly refreshing.
  • Hazel and Augustus.  Loved them both.  Despite their inflated oratorial skills, the character development here was outstanding.  You meet them, you hang with with them, you love them, you are devastated for them.  Which is why this young adult book makes grown-ups cry.

And though I scathed some of the messages in this book, I loved some of the others, like how love as a youth can be as real and meaningful as love as an adult.  I believe that.  (But it still doesn’t justify Problem #1.)  I also loved the message that a girl with tubes in her nose can still be beautiful to the boy who loves her.  We need more of that.

Conclusion:  The Fault in Our Stars is just one more twisted, emotionally confusing puzzle in a long line of puzzles that my brain will have to sort out while while I’m doing laundry.

What did you think?  Did you read it?  Are you going to?  Tell me.  (No wrong answers here.  I won’t judge you if you loved the “love” scene.)  (Well, I might judge you a little.  But don’t worry, I won’t say so on this blog.)