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With Apologies to Cousin Karen

I babysit for my 5-year-old and 7-year-old grandsons on Tuesdays before and after school — let’s call them GS5 and GS7, to prevent my son and his wife from serving me with a protective order.

Last week, while I was doing dishes and the boys were eating bowls of sugary, colored marshmallow cereal (oh yeah, I’m that grandma), GS5 remarked to his older brother that one of his teachers always tells students to “sit down and shut up,” which, he said, was “mean and wooed.”

GS7, being two years wiser in the ways of the world, said, “Aw, forget it, she’s just a Karen.”

A Karen order at Starbucks

GS5 nodded in agreement and shook his head. “Why are there so many Karwins?”

Stunned, I turned from the sink and asked casually, “What is a Karen?”

“A person who talks to their manager and complains about everything,” GS7 replied.

“Don’t forget mean and wooed,” GS5 added, just in case anyone missed the extent of his disdain.

Wanting to see if they really understood the concept of a so-called Karen, I asked, “But surely some Karens are nice?”

“Some are,” GS7 explained, “But they change their name to Brittany or Nicole when they turn nice.”

° ° ° 

(Editors’ note: I’d like to apologize to all of the Karens out there, especially my cousin’s wife and the waitress at the local diner who serves my up-until-now spitless breakfast every Wednesday morning. Karen is a fine name. However, the Janets of the world really need to get their shit together.)

Vintage chicks lol

If we “Can’t Say Gay” to Kids, How Do we Explain Ken?

2022 Ken in his surgical scrubs and matching clogs.
Eat your heart out 2022 G.I. Joe.

When I was 10 I played with the trifecta of the newest, most popular dolls on the market — Barbie, Ken and Midge, Barbie’s BFF. There was something about Ken, something I could not put my finger on. No, it was not that — dolls in the 60s were not anatomically correct. It was his perfectly coifed hair, his pink plaid slacks with matching cardigan, his delicate, pink fingernails or the way he hid under the bed when I tried to marry him to Barbie or always-the-second-choice-Midge.

It started to come together for me three years later when Ken had not so much as given a promise ring to Barbie or Midge. When I dressed the girls up in their wedding and bridesmaid gowns, Ken would disappear, only to be found later at Barbie’s dressing table, completely nude and and wearing Midge’s purple silk dressing gown, his cheeks a rosy blush. The 60s were a confusing time for all of us.

As time went on, Ken seemed out-of-sorts and mildly depressed, but perked up when my three brothers got the new G.I. Joe Action Figures for Christmas. Side note: I once made the mistake of calling them dolls and my brother screamed “ACTION FIGURES!” and proceeded to smother me with a pillow.

I was young, but I noticed Ken, unlike G.I. Joe, was not violent, bloodthirsty, obsessed with guns and never said “Dude” or “Bro.” Plus, he absolutely refused to let me dress him in camouflage fatigues, saying they were “too bulky.”

Ken tells Barbie that he can’t come to bed; he’s been called in to work. Barbie sighs, but she knows Ken is a talented and sought-after surgeon because he’s been called out every night for the past 60 years.

I had a lot of questions about Ken, whom I loved dearly and worried about constantly — would he ever marry, have children? — but I had no one to ask. My parents? No way. I think they were more confused by Ken than I was. My teachers? No way.

Well, there was one teacher that I could have asked, but didn’t. He reminded me a lot of my Ken: His sense of fashion, his ability to break into song at any given moment, his neatly clipped flattop haircut, and the way he loved the “Wizard of Oz” even more than I did. He’s the one who told me that Dorothy was played by a woman named Judy Garland. “One of the greatest performers of the century,” he said, sighing.

1960s Barbie gives Ken a “come hither” look while Ken eyes the new pool boy perched seductively on a chaise lounge. Meanwhile, 1960s Midge looks dreadful uncomfortable at the Darling Debutante Ball in an itchy dress chosen by her mother instead of the 100% cotton, cuffed overalls she preferred.

I prided (no pun intended) myself in growing up in the 60s and 70s and emerging with better understanding of homosexuality, equality, justice and right and wrong. “How great it is,” I thought when I was in my late 20s and early 30s, “that people are finally understanding and empathizing with one another and coming together for the good of all.”

Which brings us to today and things like the Don’t Say Gay Law.

Those who don’t learn from history … well, you know the rest.

It’s sad really, because what will teachers tell kids who want to know why Ken refuses to sleep in the same bed with Barbie or why Midge and Barbie would rather sleep with each other than Ken? Or why G.I. Joe married Midge and had three kids, but often takes 2-week camping trips with Ken?

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Lovin’ Lucky’s

You gotta love Lucky’s. Well, I do, anyway.

The best in Royal Red Shrimp, fried green tomatoes, crab cakes and ambiance.

And, according to their sign, they serve everyone, regardless of their stance on well, just about anything. My kinda place.

So, if you’re ever in Fort Wayne, and looking to avoid political and social divisiveness, visit The Lucky Turtle Grill & Lucky Moose Lounge on Dupont Road and enjoy some great food and a few martinis.

Vintage chicks lol

The Meandering Brain

My day usually starts off well. I have Plans. Hopes. Dreams. A lot of shit to get done before I collapse on the sofa to watch reruns of “My 600 Pound Life.”

Then … something small, inconsequential, of no interest to anyone but me suddenly pops into my head and I lose focus. And before I know it, it’s time to take a double dose of melatonin and hit the sack.

Photo by Shreesha bhat on Unsplash

This morning it was the milk label. I try to buy organic food products, which is only possible when I’m swimming in cash — which I never am — so there was only a jug of “regular” 2% milk in the fridge. I had to have a glass of milk with my peanut butter cookies, so I carefully scanned the label to make sure there was no propyl parabens, phthalates, human toenails or udder phlegm in my milk.

“From cows not treated with rsBT,” it read. Good. No one wants to drink rsBT, whatever the heck that is. Then the manufacturers went on to say that “no significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rbST-treated and non-rsBT treated cows.”

This is like Monsanto saying “Well, sure, we paid out pay more than $10 billion to settle tens of thousands of claims that our Roundup herbicide causes cancer, but there’s no significant difference between our herbicide causing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cancer and an organic, glyphosate-free weed killer causing activism and unrest to bring about social change.”

“Excuse me, but I ordered a latte made with non-rsBT treated cows.”

So, of course I spend the entire afternoon researching rsBT. Turns out it stands for recombinant bovine somatotropin, which is a type of artificial growth hormone that increases milk production in cows. It is illegal for use in Canada, but not in the U.S. Studies have shown a link between rsBT and an increased risk of breast, colon and prostate cancer.

I dump the milk. Eat my cookies with a cup of fair trade coffee. Plop down in the recliner. Give up on the world. And, watch Dr. Now give Steven Assanti hell for being a 600-pound, adult brat.

Cooking, Reviews, Vintage chicks lol

Enlightened by “High on the Hog”

I always told people I was raised on southern cooking, meaning the foods cooked by my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. I was so wrong. Turns out, I was raised on African food.

Both of my parents were born and raised in Arkansas, but my mom migrated north with her father and siblings to find work in 1950. My Dad — her boyfriend at the time — wasn’t one to give up and soon followed. They married in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and had me, the first of nine, in 1952.

Foods like okra, watermelon, pinto beans, cornbread and fried chicken, as well as all kinds of greens (with just a drizzle of hot pepper juice), were daily fare in our household. My Dad also ate souse and pickled pig’s feet and loved to “ooh” and “ahh” and eat ever-so-slowly while my brothers and I gathered around to stare in disgust at the meats and yell “Eww!” at every bite.

Recently, my sister-in-law told me that I would enjoy a show on Netflix called “High on the Hog,” and that it would change everything I ever thought about so-called “southern foods.” She’s a teacher and her recommendations — books and movies — are always top-notch, so I heeded her advice.

Just minutes into the first of four episodes, I was overcome with emotion and reaching for a tissue.

Sorrow. Injustice. Powerful. Inspiring. Enthralling.

Narrated by chef and writer Stephen Satterfield, the docuseries tells the story of America through delightful and delicious cuisine, starting in Africa and moving on to New York City, Philadelphia, Virginia and Texas. Based on Jessica B. Harris’ award-winning book, “High On The Hog,” it’s a story of the courage, genius, inspiration and resourcefulness of the African American people.

As the “Because of Them We Can” website puts it, “It is a cultural exploration that fuses food, history and travel to explore and celebrate the nuanced history behind African food and its contribution to America.”

One thing’s for sure — our nation would not be near as great as it is without Black culture. Thank you, Jessica B. Harris, Stephen Satterfield and the entire cast for enlightening this aged product of Southerners.

Vintage chicks lol

When It Comes to Passwords, I’ll Pass

When my oldest son — who works in security in Washington, D.C.— comes to visit, he is always completely aghast at my total lack of securing anything.

He runs around the premises every night, locking doors, planning the escape route in case of a fire, terrorist attack or a locust invasion, stocking up on bottled water and 20-pound cans of beans while wearing cammo and SWAT gear to take out my garbage.

This disrupts my normal security routine of waking up in the recliner at 2 a.m. — after I fall asleep watching season 12 of “Hoarders” — and stumbling to the front and back doors to lock up for the night.

Photo by Sebastian Herrmann on Unsplash

What drives my son the craziest, though, is a document on my computer desktop appropriately titled “PASSWORDS.”

Actually, there are now two documents — one called “NEW PASSWORDS” and another called “OLD PASSWORDS.”

“Mom,” he admonished, “Tell me you do not put the passwords to every account you have out there for the whole world to see?!”

“Don’t be silly,” I said. “The whole world doesn’t use my computer, just you, Stacy, Ben, Chris, the grandkids, my friend, LeeAnn — ’cause her ex took the computer when he left her for his best friend’s much younger sister, you know, the blond masseuse who worked at Tender Touches — or my neighbors when their wireless goes out or they forget to pay the bill.”

Photo by Jamie Haughton on Unsplash

I often forget my password and am forced to come up with a new password. For that reason, I prefer easy-to-remember passwords like “password123,” “vivspassword” or “mypassword.”

But because of security measures, I can spend an entire afternoon on the computer, just trying to come up with an acceptable password.

My son, on the other hand, will change his passwords every five or six days. One week he changed one from “catinhatprobe?/{678}=&!^%@$$wipeDRAG79men2Jail” to “hatincatprobe?/{678}=&!^%@$$wipeDRAG79men2Jail”.

Who’s got that kind of time? I’m not a young woman.

This is how I create a password:

WEBSITE: Please enter your new password.

ME: password

WEBSITE: Sorry, password must have more than 8 characters.

ME: passwords

WEBSITE: Sorry, the password must contain at least one numerical character.

ME: 1password

WEBSITE: Sorry, the password cannot begin with a numerical character.

ME: password1

WEBSITE: Sorry, the password must contain at least one symbol.

ME: password1!

WEBSITE: Sorry, the password must contain at least one upper case character.

Viv: password1DAMMit!

WEBSITE: Sorry, the password cannot use more than one upper case character consecutively.

VIV: WTF!DAMN password1-iH8u!

WEBSITE: Sorry, the password cannot contain blank spaces.

VIV: NOW:Driving2YourCity2leaveU4dead!

WEBSITE: Sorry, the password cannot contain punctuation or hyphens.

ME: IH8U!*&%#off-DIEsucker!!

WEBSITE: Sorry, You’ve already used that password in the past.

ME: @#$%!&1*@#$%@&&!DIE!DIE!DIE!

WEBSITE: That password is already taken. Please choose another.

***

Coronavirus, Vintage chicks lol

COVID Crazed

I’ve gotten crazier in the last year. I blame the pandemic.

All of that time I had. Secluded. Social distancing. Avoiding people.

A good time to work on the many projects I hoped to finish: Write a book. Sort through bins of mementos and organize them into scrapbooks. Design and sew a wrap skirt like I had in the 70s. Learn Spanish. Lift weights and sculpt some dope (… working on my Millennial Slang) Baby Boomer biceps and triceps. Take an online woodworking course and build a breakfast nook. Find friends I haven’t seen for decades and reconnect. Read all the classic novels that I have yet to read.

I did none of that. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

What I did do was watch every single season of Schitt’s Creek, Shtisel, Frankie and Grace, RuPaul’s Drag Race and the Handmaid’s Tale. Those titles will tell you, and my therapist, everything you need to know about me.

Oh yes, and I did eat. And did I eat.

And eat. And eat.

No weight lifting, no working out. My upper arms are still flapping in the wind like an old weathered flag against a osteoporosic pole.

No Spanish. Except nada. And perezoso. (lazy, sluggish, slothful)

I never got through the first of many bins full of old pictures and mementos.

Was I ever really that young? OMG, my parents appeared to be so young at the exact same time I thought they were so old. A 5-year old son’s letter to Santa, asking for a mousetrap, rope and a screwdriver. Another son’s handprint turned into a turkey, with the feathers giving thanks for Family, No Homework and Fried Potatoes. A picture of my daughter and her brother in matching outfits I sewed for them with my son sporting a bowl haircut and cute little embroidered shorts (which he would later blame for his career as a Marine Corps Scout sniper).

I had to stop. I was a dry-heaving nostalgia-sobbing mess. My husband was dialing 911.

What I did do was find some old friends and reconnect with them, albeit through the obituaries and visits to the funeral home.

And, oh yes, I bought copies of George Orwell’s “1984” and Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina,” which I read and re-read.

That’s a lie. They’re both right there, by my bedside, stacked with the others. Waiting. Maybe I’ll get to them during the next pandemic.

Vintage chicks lol

Baby Squirrels ‘Nuts’ for Their Human Mommy

Abby, an employee of Blackburn & Green, a law firm with multiple locations throughout Indiana, had just left the Fort Wayne office and was heading to the parking lot when another employee called out to her. It was early May and a bit chilly and Abby soon discovered what her co-worker was so excited about. Two baby squirrels huddled together on the pavement, obviously in distress. The mother was nowhere to be seen.

Abby reached down and one of the baby squirrels crawled into her hand. That was all it took. She wrapped them up and took them home. 

After visiting a pet shop and getting a baby bottle feeding kit for kittens, she proceeded to bottle-feed the twin squirrels, whom she named Lenny and Squiggy, which was right in line with her two houseplants named Laverne and Shirley. She also gave the baby squirrels bits of assorted fruit. 

For a while, it was an around-the-clock effort to keep the squirrels fed, but the babies began to flourish. Abby bought a large birdhouse and placed it outside on the ground so Lenny and Squiggy could get used to it. 

A few nights later, when she thought they were ready, she placed the house up in a tree once the squirrels were snuggled inside. As of June 1, they are settled in their new home and scurrying up and down the tree with ease. Abby goes out and gives them fresh fruit and they will still take a bottle of milk from her. They are timid, which is good, Abby said. She plans to buy a second bird house and said she is hoping both will make her tree their fur-ever home.

* * *

Coming of Age, Vintage chicks lol

Resolution Execution

As a lark, I wrote this silly ditty about my hideous (to my mind) body. In my younger days it was simply known as “Removing Ribs or Your Skull — Whatever it Takes to Be Slim.” Nowadays they call it Body Dysmorphic Disorder. I sent the ditty to a health magazine that was looking for New Year’s Resolution stories. My take on a lifetime of starving myself was rewarded with a prize of about $400 worth of natural health and food products. I know, I know. The irony. Anyway, if you know a young woman who obsesses about her imperfect body, pass this along. Tell her not to wait until she’s in her sixties, like me, when she’ll no longer care about having the perfect body because she’ll be too busy cramming for her “finals.” Tell her to celebrate her body, pamper it, nourish it and be brutally honest — tell her she will never be perfect because no one is perfect. Well, except Cindy Crawford. She’s perfect. She’s soooo perfect. The Bad Viv wants to force feed her buckets of fudge cheesecake and chocolate eclairs until she breaks out in pimples, cellulite and Type 2 diabetes. But I digress …

Resolution Execution

For 40-plus years on January first

I resolved to lose weight, but my body was cursed

There’s always that 20 I think I must shed

But low and behold, it’s all in my head

It started in high school, no more and no less

No shame of my body, but the mind? What a mess

A skinny teen sneered, pointed and laughed

“Piano legs” she trilled, adding “and a fat ass.”

I reeled, embarrassed and to my dismay 

I saw my reflection — no longer okay 

Lettuce, boiled eggs begat famished, demented

Yet,

I was skinny! 

A lifelong obsession cemented

But no matter how slim, it just didn’t matter

I saw only my belly as my ankles grew fatter

Diet-fatigued, several decades later  

I fired myself as my own body-hater

I resolved to eat whatever I liked

Good fats, avocados, peanut butter delights

Don’t forget the red wine, it’s good for the heart

Dark chocolate, fresh peaches, shrimp cocktail to start

Oh, I lamented, all the years that I squandered

My body was normal

I blinked, quite bewondered

And now, on my walks, I may glimpse the reflection

Of that healthy, old woman who won my affection.

Photo by Ashley Piszek on Unsplash

Cover photo by Isi Parente on Unsplash “Girl in white holding plate”

Vintage chicks lol

Making Memories I Can’t Remember

Last week, I was enjoying a takeout meal and a glass of wine with my friend, Marcia, at our monthly StayIn Wine & Dine when she suddenly asked how long I’d been married. (She didn’t add “this time” which is why she is my friend.)

I paused for a silent brain debate — was it 13 years? 14? 15?

Gently coaxing, she asked, “OK then, when is your anniversary?”

“Uh, the 30th? 28th? No, wait, I remember — the 29th!”

She glanced at her phone and then at me, “Today is the 29th.”

“What?! Oh, my gosh! I’ve got to go buy a card and some kind of gift!” I jumped up, gulped down my wine, grabbed my things and sprinted out the door.

In a small town at 8 p.m. shopping options are always slim — a grocery store, dollar store, drug store or liquor store. The only other option was a 30-minute drive to the nearest city to find a department store. We hadn’t been married long enough for me to make that kind of sacrifice, especially on a weeknight when I’m normally in my pajamas and wrapped in a furry blanket by 9 p.m.

I masked up, chose the more-expensive dollar store (nothing but the best), grabbed a gift sack, tissue, a package of briefs, some outdoor solar lights, a few energy drinks and a large bag of peanut M & Ms that said, “I’m Not Sick of You Yet.” The rack labeled Anniverary Cards was completely bare, so I made do with a Thinking of You card that said “Let’s Keep in Touch.”

It would have to do. The important thing was that after 15 — no, wait, 13 years — I had finally remembered.

It’s really not my fault. We flew to Vegas to get married, our plane was late on arrival and there was a three hour time difference, so by the time we actually made it to the chapel and got married, it was nearly midnight on our Indiana watches. The entire wedding event transpired over 72 hours at the end of the month, so the exact day was somewhere between the 28th and the 1st.

I walked in the front door, plopped the beautifully bagged underwear and M&Ms on my husband’s lap as he was sitting in the recliner and said, “Happy Anniversary!”

“What?” he frowned quizzically.

“You thought I’d forget, didn’t you? Well, I didn’t,” I said smugly.

He looked at me for several long seconds and said, “Our anniversary is May 29th.”

“I know,” I said, beaming.

“Today is April 29th.”

Damn it.

Marriage has no guarantees. If that’s what you’re looking for, go live with a car battery.

—Erma Bombeck