Monday, May 29, 2017

The Case For Letting Yourself Go

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published June 1, 2017] ©2017
When my young granddaughter was visiting one weekend, she queried, “Mormor, why do you always wear the same thing?” I turned to my husband, Olof.  “I think I’ve just been fashion-shamed by a five-year-old.”
As I explained to her it only looks like the same thing. I actually have eight pairs of those black slacks and at least as many of the white tops, the combination of which make me look like a server at a trendy trattoria. I do actually have slacks in other hues but it is my personal opinion that black best minimizes years of food felonies. In my defense, I do possess a wide selection of colorful sweaters and shirts. Sometimes I even wear them.
Both sons cheerfully insist that Olof and I dress like bag persons. And we assure them that this is intentional. I think this comes under the heading of "letting oneself go,” a philosophy we think is underrated.
Of course, we’re both retired so we can dress any way we want. In college, I was seriously into fashion, owning at least 40 pairs of shoes, the blue Pappagallos with the green trim, the green Pappagallos with the blue trim. I was also really slender. 
But in 1983, the year I was divorced, two major factors impacted my sartorial life. I packed on 30 pounds on the post-divorce Mrs. Fields Cookie and Chardonnay Acute-Depression Diet©. I was also suddenly poor.
In my post-divorce working years, I was wearing makeup and skirts so I was probably in the top one percent sartorially in my department.  That’s because I worked in an uber-casual male-centric office where if a guy was wearing shoes and long pants, somebody would call security.  Or think he was a Dell salesman. This environment was ideal for the retail-challenged.
One might think that it is just since we retired that we’ve let ourselves go. But we told the travel agent who was booking our honeymoon in 1995 that she could immediately eliminate any place where Olof was required to wear a jacket at dinner.  We’ve just been achieving a higher level of goneness since retirement. 
Frankly, I might try a little harder if clothes that I could actually try on in a store were a little easier to acquire. Finding apparel at any price in my size in most shopping centers is an exercise in futility.  I would chat it up with the personal shopper at Nordstrom who would inform me that they usually only order one size 16 in any particular style and those are so in demand that she immediately pulls them for her regular customers.  Now, I’m not in retail, but if I had a size that was instantly selling out, I’d order, well, more. But I’d be missing the point. Once you get past a certain size, department stores don’t want you waddling around in there among the osteoporotic svelte. 
Chunker departments, where they even exist, are invariably hidden in a corner of the third floor which you can spot from fifty yards: racks of nasty brown, navy, and black polyester slacks, and skirts with hideous floral prints in colors not found in nature. We chunkies just HATE wearing this stuff – a point that I routinely note in the feedback box at Nordstrom Oinker. (It’s actually Nordstrom Encore, but if you say it fast it comes out sounding like Oinker, which, in fact,  I am convinced is the subliminal meaning in that choice of word. What, after all, does “encore” have to do with fat people?)
It quickly became apparent that for any reasonable selection, I would be relegated to catalogs from the Talbots Butterball Collection or Lands’ End-Porcine.  Logging on to Lands’ End in search of attire for the adiposely-amplified, I was happy to discover a feature called Virtual Model.  You type in your assorted measurements, hair color, age, and voila, there is a virtual you standing there in your undies ready to try on clothes.  You can fine-tune the virtual you to a certain extent, but I did notice that “modify My Model” did NOT include such features as “add cellulite” or “increase sag”.  In fact, the My Model of me with my weight and measurements wasn’t half bad – because of course, I had the flabless thighs of an Olympic speed skater.  Given this, I enjoyed trying on bikinis and even making myself different races. Alas, clothes that looked great on the virtual me rarely looked good on the real me. Fortunately I know exactly what size black slacks and white tops fit me on Lands’ End.
And hence, my patented orphan look.
In recent years we’ve only dressed up for weddings, funerals, or our office Christmas parties. And now since we’re both retired, we don’t even have those. Hopefully no one will die any time soon. We’d have nothing to wear.


Monday, May 15, 2017

When More Is Not More

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published May 17, 2017] ©2017
Being defeated by an alarm clock was definitely a new low in my ever-deteriorating relationship with technology.
The iHome Color Changing FM Dual Alarm Clock Radio + USB Charger was actually a Christmas gift from my younger son and his wife. Message to kids: I don’t know how to say this nicely, but henceforth, please do not give me any techno Christmas gifts. Seriously, if it so much as has a plug, I don’t want it.  
And about the Roku you gave me last year. Frankly, I still don’t really understand what a Roku IS. Olof got it set up for me and wrote out the directions in words of one syllable.  I really intended to use it. But by the time I get out the instructions and the Roku remote and start trying to follow them, I usually feel so stressed that I require a glass of chardonnay. Unfortunately, the chardonnay does not make my Roku-instruction-following skills better. So after a certain number of really bad words, I pour myself a second (this time medicinal, to recover from the stress of Roku-induced failure) glass and switch on HGTV.
I often debate whether the loss of whatever meager techno skills I ever had is the result of incipient cognitive decline (well, duh) or that the world has simply gotten to be too technical a place for vast parts of its populace, i.e. anyone over 40. It’s clear to me that I am a word person marooned in a world of icons.  I can never even figure out what the icon is supposed to represent so it’s not exactly helpful in making me operate the gadget.
But about my new iHome Color Changing FM Dual Alarm Clock Radio + USB Charger.  This clock is definitely an over-achiever. Fortunately, you kids intended it for the guest room where you sleep.  What, that nice $10 CVS alarm clock wasn’t good enough for you? OK, apparently not. But I’d like to point out that anyone with the IQ of an amoeba could set the time or the alarm on the CVS thing. It’s a truly intuitive appliance. News flash, techno-designing geeks: more isn’t always more.
First of all, no alarm clock should ever come with THREE cords. That alone just about broke me. OK, so it turns out that one of them is the FM antenna. (Why? Why?) Another is apparently an “aux audio cable” which will allow you to connect an audio device (an MP3 player, I think?)  The third is apparently an actual power source. How mere mortals are ever supposed to figure this out is beyond me. 
I concede that the USB port in the back could be useful in charging your iPhone or “any other USB-chargeable device” (no idea what that would be). If I could figure out the settings, I suspect this clock would do my taxes.
The FM radio sports six “pre-sets” and the clock display can be personalized with adjustable brightness levels.  Personally, I never had trouble adjusting to the non-adjustable brightness level of my CVS alarm clock (which you will have to pry out of my cold dead hands, by the way).
But the truly baffling, over-the-top feature is that the clock itself changes colors. This would frankly drive me bat-s--t crazy. There are six color choices. If you had an engineering degree, you could set it to Fade mode (colors slowly fade in and out continually from one color to the next), Fast mode (colors change quickly from one to another through the color spectrum), or One Color Mode (just choose one color). I can only assume that the first two options are meant to be selected while smoking a lot of now-quasi-legal pharmaceuticals. Is this the new generation of lava lamp?
The different alarm options?  You don’t want to know. At least, I don’t want to know. I can’t even understand them never mind want to rely on them to wake me up for an early morning flight.
I spent an entire evening with the manual trying to get so far as setting the time on the iHome-from-Hell alarm clock before consigning it in exasperation to Olof. My Cal Tech-nuclear physics-trained husband finally got it set up.  When I queried how he had achieved this, he replied dryly, “You read the instructions.”  (Sometimes I really, really hate him.) But he agreed that we should (a) leave the manual underneath the clock on the night stand for consultation, and (b) break out the CVS alarm clock for guests in our own demographic.
There is a part of me that hopes this clock drives the kids nuts when they come down. This could motivate me to figure out how to do the thing that makes it keep changing colors. Hah! Teach YOU to disparage my perfectly good, totally user-friendly CVS alarm clock! Revenge would be so sweet.
CVS alarm clock – intuitive even to lower life forms