Wednesday, August 17, 2005

From Riches to Shmattas

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Here's another piece I wrote many, many, many years ago, and just dug up. I haven't read it in years, and will be reading as I type it. Hope the humor is still fresh.

From Riches to Shmattas
By: A. Shmatta

Wipe, wipe, wipe. Shine, shine, shine. Polish, polish, polish.

Oh, I'm so tired. Please let me rest awhile. Mrs. Baumgarten continues to rub me over her silver wine cups. Oooo, I'm so black and streaked. How will I ever get white again?

Mrs. Baumgarten tosses me onto the counter the moment the phone rings. She rushes to answer it. "Hullo? Ida Kaplan, how are you? How's Morris? How're the grandchildren?" She rattles on and on, finally giving me a chance to rest. She didn't place me in a very comfortable position however, so I'm lying her all scrunched up.

These days, my home is in the cupboard underneath the kitchen sink (where I can at least stay warm while hanging over the hot water pipes), and I only get washed about once a month. But you should know that not long ago, I was something. I was important! I was a white, cotton, fleece-lined sweatshirt and belonged to Selma, the youngest Baumgarten daughter. And not just any old white, cotton, fleece-lined sweatshirt either; I was a Camp Beverly Hills sweatshirt.

Was I ever thankful when three years ago, someone came into the boutique, ruffled through the rainbow-colored sweatshirts, and salvaged me from the bottom of the pile. Mmm, I don't look so bad, just a bit rumpled, I thought to myself as the teenager unfolded me and held me up against her chest as she looked in the mirror. The body contact felt good -- I'd lacked contact for a few weeks since that lady had finished sewing me in the factory. Was I thrilled when the girl told the saleslady, "Okay, charge this white one to my dad. Here's his credit card."

I was very popular in those days and got lots of compliments from Selma's crowd. "Wow, what a great sweatshirt. Selma, do you think I could borrow your 'sweat' sometime?"

Selma and I became bosom buddies. She took me nearly everywhere she went and I got to see a lot of sights -- the high school gym, the school library, some good movies, and even the back seat of an old, beat-up '69 Chevy. Spain last summer was great and California during spring break was even wilder. Some unpleasant places I came into contact with and dreaded were cluttered gym lockers and the dirty clothes hamper.

I also lived for a while with Brian Green, one of Selma's many boyfriends. He gave her a gold bracelet, and she in turn gave him her favorite sweatshirt -- that's me! Life with Brian wasn't so splendid. I often had to tag along to football games and be left alone on the bleachers. Once in a while, Muffy, Brian's terrier, started up with me. We'd get into some pretty heavy arm wrestling. She thought it was a ball. I didn't!

Lucky for me, the relationship lasted only a couple of months. Brian and Selma broke up and returned each other's love tokens. So, back I was with Selma, a little out of shape and showing a few more wrinkles, but still in style nonetheless.

At first, Selma was excited to have me back, but it soon became evident that there was competition in my life.

On a shopping outing one day, Selma, with me hugging her shoulders, stepped into the same boutique where we had first become acquainted (ie. where she had picked me up). She wasn't looking for anything in particular, but that didn't matter. No sooner were we in the store, than Selma spotted a neon banana-yellow sweatshirt. "Oh, how chic!" she exclaimed. "I just have to buy this Fiorucci. It'll add so much color to my wardrobe."

I hung there, peeking over Selma's shoulder and silently pleading, No, no. You don't want a Fiorucci. Fiorucci isn't in style. Camp Beverly Hills garb is!

Selma voiced her opinion to the saleslady as she pulled out her father's infamous credit card. "I'm going to be the first one in my crowd with a 'Fio' sweatshirt. If the girls see that I have one, they'll all want one too."

The next thing I knew, I was being stuffed into the Boutique La Moda bag, while the Fiorucci sweatshirt took its place around Selma's shoulders. Was I angry and jealous! Selma walked home, swinging the bag freely in her hand, so I was feeling pretty claustrophobic and nauseated within my plastic prison by the time we got home.

Selma laid me and my archrival side by side on her bed and went to call her friends to tell them of her latest purchase. The Fiorucci tried to make conversation with me, but I was in no mood to try to break through the language and cultural barrier.

Selma would still take me with her when she'd go out, but less frequently and to fewer places. I'd sit and wait anxiously in Selma's top dresser drawer for her to choose me, but more often she chose to take "the little bambina who ain't from Pasadena." There was no doubt that Camp Beverly Hills was out and Fiorucci was in!

One day, Selma came into the room, opened the drawer,took me lovingly into her arms and said aloud, "Well, the jig is up. You've just about had it with me. I think I'll donate you to the Hadassah rummage sale. Someone might still be able to make use out of you."

What was I hearing?! Selma, you can't mean it! After all those good times we've had together, you're getting rid of me?

There was no time to plead my case aloud 'cause Selma took me into the kitchen, tossed me over to Mrs. Baumgarten and said, "Here, Ma. You can take this along with your other old clothes to the rummage sale next week," and walked out.

Mrs. Baumgarten turned me over in her hands, examining me closely and said aloud, "Bazaar, shmazaar. They'll have enough stuff to sell. I'm keeping this. It'll be good to use as a shmatta for polishing silver."

Oh, no! How can she do this to me? How can Selma do this to me...?

So...that's the story of my life -- "A sweatshirt today, a shmatta tomorrow."

Confessions of a Barbie Doll

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I dug up this piece I'd written over 20 years ago. At the time I'd hoped to publish it, and after some snail mail back-and-forth correspondence with Mattel to use the Barbie and Mattel trademarks, permission was denied. Guess you can see why...

BTW, I shared the piece with a newfound friend and she said, "Your Barbie sounds just like Paris Hilton!!!"


Hi, I'm Barbie. Actually, that's not my full name, but that's what my friends call me. Ken, Skipper, Madge, Farrah, Brooke, and Mr. T. all know me as Barbie. And if they really want to get my attention, they call, "Hey, Barbie Doll!" That's sure to make my head turn.

I lead what I think is a pretty exciting life for a young person, and I have lots of friends. Ken has been my steady boyfriend for quite a number of years now. We've talked about marriage, but have decided that we're not yet ready or mature enough for it. (Besides, Mattel has not yet designed a wedding chapel.)

Before I met Ken, I had a thing going with a soldier -- a G.I. His name was Joe; I never did find out what his last name was. But it didn't really matter -- I like men in uniform and I was very attracted to his army fatigues. We met on a blind date that Madge had arranged and we began dating after that.

The relationship didn't last too long because Joe always had to leave town for overseas missions and we began to drift apart. I had suggested that he try to get a job at NASA, but too many people had the same idea, and no more applications for astronauts were being accepted. Joe decided that he was meant to be a G.I. rather than just a suburban type and we broke up. I also had to give him back his dog tags, which he had let me wear as long as we were dating.

And then there was Ken. He was everything I'd ever wanted in a man: he was tall, handsome, wealthy, athletic and cultured. He reminds me, even to this day, of Oliver Barrett, the character that Ryan O'Neal played in the movie Love Story.

Like I mentioned before, I lead a pretty exciting life. I LOVE shopping for clothes and have a wardrobe like you wouldn't believe. My problem is that I can't bear to throw anything out. I got closets-full of clothes that I might've worn for one season and never again. But now, that might change because some of the styles are back in. I'm so glad that I can wear my patent leather shoes and purses again and not stand out in a crowd. The same goes for my plaid skirts, my leather bomber jackets, my fun furs and my ear muffs.

As for my hairstyle, well, that's changed with the times as well I've had it long, short, crimped, curly, braids a la Bo Derek and a fluffy hairdo like my friend Farrah. Maybe I should have taken a hint from my friend Madge, who believes that her pageboy style will never be out of fashion.

Most people think I'm pretty. I guess I am. Sometimes I'm even considered glamorous. People are pretty envious of my peaches-and-cream complexion, my natural blonde hair and my proportioned figure. But I've worked hard to look that way and my lifestyle is regimented by beauty tips and nutrition tips that I read about in Vogue, Glamour and Mademoiselle magazines each month. Even while growing up, I had subscriptions to Young Miss, Co-Ed, Teen, and later, Seventeen magazine.

Mom's friends told me to try my hand at modelling and I took a few course at Barbizon's modelling school in the city. My picture got into some catalogues for which I modelled clothing and accessories, and I was popular for a few years. I started losing contracts and realized that a look like mine is needed in the business for only a short while. It's okay -- I learned to handle it and took a few sessions with a psychotherapist who taught me how to deal with the rejection. There were a couple of chances for a comeback last year, but I declined the offers.

These days, my purpose in life is to fill the pages of my appointment book. I sty physically, socially, and mentally active. Every afternoon, I go to aerobics classes and then work out on the Nautilus equipment with my friends Mr. T. and The Incredible Hulk. Other than aerobics and Nautilus, I swim, surf, rollerskate, skateboard, cycle and dance. When I'm not physically or socially active, I like to read. Believe it or not, I like Harlequin stories, Kahlil Gibran's works, the New York Times, do-it-yourself, and also self-improvement books. I had once considered taking up journalism, but at the end, opted against it. I figured that a journalist's job is part of a dog-eat-dog world, and I hate violence.

I haven't worked in the last few years, anyways, not since I was modelling. When I was a teen, I worked after school in a Burger King and made pocket money. But ten years ago, Grand-Daddy passed on and left his billion-dollar fortune to our family. Dad divided the money equally among us and then helped me make some wise investments with my portion. I've lived off the interest ever since from my purchases, and my real estate properties. I also bought a motor home, a dune buggy, a show-dog Afghan, and became a partner in an ice-cream shop. Three years ago, I bought a home and decorated it myself. It has even been featured in Metropolitan Home and Architectural Digest magazines. I've had some tempting offers from people who want to buy it, but I've got no intention to sell it at the moment.

Not long ago, I celebrated my twenty-fifth birthday. It was a blast. Daddy rented out a beach house with its own private beach and flew me and twenty of my closest friends there for the weekend. A mini-bus picked us up at the airport and drove us along the coast to Malibu, where we partied all weekend long. The weather was perfect, the view was fantastic and the company was just great...especially Ken. I couldn't have asked for anything more.

My gifts were pretty special, too. Ken gave me a beautiful sterling silver hairbrush, comb and mirrow set, and to top that off, he also gave me a diamond bracelet which read: BARBIE--25. He says that next year he'll give me a diamond ring for my birthday. Mom and Dad bought me a large share in that famous toy company Mattel, and an Italian sports car.

Now I think I'm all set for at least another twenty-five years, don't you?

You Can't Retract Your Words Even If You Try To Retrace Your Steps

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I was just "blog surfing" and came across such a stark rant that a child had for a parent. It was ugly; it was detailed; it was ANGER SPEAKING OUT.

Call me naive, but even if a person has been truly hurt, physically and emotionally, by a parent, is a blog the right path to take for venting? EVERYTHING you ever say in blogland "can and will be held against you." Even if you keep your identity secret, there is always something in a post that will give it away. Google archives hold you and your words captive for a very long time!

If it isn't a personal counselor/analyst you choose to speak to, then write a letter detailing your thoughts, but certainly do not post them. Those words are coarse, and ugly, and I really don't know how cathartic they are for you. I do know that I, as an innocent bystander, am more than embarrassed to read them...especially from a fellow Jew.

You rant in one post, and in the next post, you want to retract your words and announce your apology for venting so publicly, so loudly.

Your pain is palpable, but you can never retract those uttered words... Google's gotten hold of them and just won't let them go without a struggle.

Walk before you run. Look before you leap. Think before you speak.

Sometimes you just have to use those same lessons that a nasty parent might have taught you.