“Oh my God, I’ve become my grandmother,” I thought, as I excitedly showed my husband how it “burps” and comes with a convenient carrying handle. The next thing I know, I’m looking into a party of my own – and how much I have to sell to score the Pretty in Pink CrystalWave® Lunch Set.
Me – Parri Sontag. I once wore one earring and hung out in the East Village. I tied my hair up in hankies, like Madonna. I went to Russian poetry readings. Now I’m getting excited over freshness.
When did this happen? When did I give up browsing in vintage clothing stores for Boy George coats and some guy named Mel’s old bowling shirts? Wasn’t it yesterday that I partied ‘til four, sauntering home to my milk crate furniture after an early breakfast? Now I can barely keep my eyes open for CSI, and I get my jollies at the supermarket trying to scam coupons for items I didn’t buy.
It’s sick, really. I get a psychotic pleasure out of giving the checkout girl a coupon for Lysol Tub and Tile Cleaner, when I really bought the disinfectant spray. And if I can make a clean getaway after passing off a coupon that’s expired, that’s up there with having Ed McMahon show up at my door.
Hey, don’t judge me! I’m getting frugal in middle age. When my kid gives away T-shirts, I cut them into squares for a quilt I have no idea how to make. I sneak my own refreshments into the movie theater, because I refuse to spend $5 on a soda. (That’s highway robbery, and I can buy a 12-pack for that price.) And stale bread still makes good toast.
I remember Patrice Epstein’s mother practically made her open birthday gifts with a tweezer, so she could reuse the wrapping paper.
“How cheap,” I thought, sympathizing with my friend’s inability to just rip into her new Partridge Family album.
Then, a few years ago I went all Martha Stewart on my family and started handcrafting my own holiday gift bows. They were so lovely, I picked them out of the trash when my guests left.
My husband watches me closely now, to make sure this pattern doesn’t repeat itself. He’s seen too many episodes of Hoarders and believes it starts with bows, spirals to car parts, and the next thing you know, you’re collecting your own urine in a Wesson Bottle. But on Christmas morning, while he’s in the shower, I tiptoe to the dumpster and hide the evidence.
But, wait. It gets worse.
I have shopping bags full of “perfectly good” shopping bags. I can’t turn down a free tote or complimentary pen. I keep my shoes neatly stacked in boxes marked “white strappy high-heels” and “black patent peep toe.” And when I watch reruns of Friends, I actually find myself saying:
“That Jennifer Aniston looks so much prettier when she wears her hair off her face.”
I’m scared. I’m sure Gram once thought she was happening in her flapper dress and marcel wave. Is it a slow boat one takes to that sleeveless floral housecoat, or do you just snap one day and run to K-mart? When do you start passing senior citizen homes and thinking to yourself, “You know, they’re not so bad. You can play golf. You can meet people …”
When do you decide, “I never want anything new and fashionable again. That’s it. I’m laminating my furniture, so I can stick to it in a heat wave?”
And what if it happens to me?
What if I start reusing aluminum foil and stuffing rolls in my purse at a restaurant? What if I’m soon stuffing Kleenex up my sleeve so it’s always readily available … or going to bed with my head wrapped in toilet tissue to preserve my hairdo? … or saying things like:
“Those young people, with their dungarees and their rock music…”
What if I start putting “the” before any group that doesn’t include me (the blacks … the gays) … and “that” before anyone I don’t approve of:
“That Betty Midler flashed the audience her bosom.”
“Bette, Grandma. Bette Midler!”
“That’s what I said. Betty Midler. Disgraceful.”
And — Dear God — please call Kevorkian if I ever put on a shower cap before taking a “dip” in the ocean.
Still, the signs are there. My hipness has fallen and it can’t get up. How many times have I told my 17-year-old that I love her hair in the French bob she wore as a toddler, biting my lip to keep from repeating Gram’s famous words as I grew out the pixie she forced on me from kindergarten to seventh grade?
“Parri, dahling … you find a haircomb that fits your face – I don’t care what’s in style. You stick with it.”
But I suppose everything’s relative.
My brother asked me recently:
“Do you think you’ll look back on this time 15 years from now and remember, “Man, was I cool when I had those Tupperware parties?”
Could be. I still look back on my disco days with fondness and pride. I’m even woman enough to admit I still listen to the BeeGees (though my husband bans them to the car … when I’m driving alone).
So maybe I should just accept the inevitable:
I’m becoming my Gram. I’m morphing into an old Jewish lady.
Oy. My daughter just trotted out of my office with a pair of scissors.
“Danielle, be careful. You could poke an eye out with that thing!”