Restaurant Baby

It is 11 a.m. The empty bar at this hour seems about 40 feet long, curved mahogany polished to a high sheen, like the shinbone of some extinct woodland giant. The mirror behind it reflects row upon row of bottles, the popularity of their contents revealed by the level of liquid in each one. The room smells of leather, cigarettes, and last night’s perfume. My drink sits on a napkin in front of me. Down at the far end of the bar, the owner huddles with a friend over bottomless cups of coffee. On his way to refill their cups, he smiles and wordlessly plunks another maraschino cherry in my glass.

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Brisket brought us together

I grew up after the crinoline and before the slip dress, on propriety's waning edge. When I was little, I wore a dotted-swiss and organdy party dress to Passover Seder at my aunt's house, and I dutifully scanned my patent-leather shoes for nicks while I waited for the service to end. But by the time I graduated to a kilt with matching sweater and knee socks, questioning the status quo had become the politically correct attitude, and so my sister and my cousins and I perfected an array of disaffected expressions to let everyone at the table know that we had far more important things to do.

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Summer cooking : The corn chronicles

One man, who eats complicated foods and sophisticated wines, confessed that, for all the extravagant dishes he has sampled, he has always longed to taste fresh corn.

A realist asked me what I would do if the kernels didn't form properly, and for a moment I imagined myself the heroine of an O'Henry short story, sneaking out in the dead of night to paste a healthy ear of supermarket corn on the stalk, to spare Sarah the heartbreak of an inedible ear.

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A VW van for your feet

You had to have been there. For less than 40 bucks — maybe 30, who remembers? — a weird and compelling pair of sandals, nothing more than natural leather straps crisscrossed on top of a fat suede platform, with a name straight out of an orthopedic shoe catalog: Kork-Ease. They took a certain segment of the female population by storm in the 1970s, and now they're back, the price adjusted for inflation, you bet.

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As blue jeans fade, so does individuality

Listen, the car dealer in my neighborhood has a great deal on a new Mercedes. It's got everything — a ding in the left rear bumper, a little crumple in the front grill, a paint scrape on the driver's door, a missing hubcap — and he's only going to charge an extra $4,000 for all those custom touches.

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This President gets a 'No' vote

Too much prime-time soap opera, not enough reality 'Commander in Chief' is not the distaff White House of feminist dreams.

First, the disclaimer: My husband, teenage daughter and I are inveterate watchers of "The West Wing." Having had quite enough of the reality series that is the Bush administration, we have for years used "The West Wing" as both our escape and an ongoing current-events tutorial.

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What Yale women want

If the last generation of women obsessed about cracking the glass ceiling, a new crop of college undergrads seems less interested in the professional stratosphere than in a soft — a cushy — landing.

The New York Times recently got its hands on a Yale University questionnaire in which 60% of the 138 female respondents said that they intend to stop working when they have children, and then to work part time, if at all, once the kids are in school. 

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The rise and fall of the female waistband

Is there a mother anywhere in the United States who has not had an argument with her daughter over a waistband — or rather, the lack of one? A walk down any retailer's aisle presents an array of jeans that come to a screeching halt a full latitude shy of the waist. They seem to defy the laws of gravity, except when they don't, and we're treated to more information about a stranger's taste in underwear — brand, color and size — than we might have wanted to know.

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Girls want the media to shape up

The television series "Fat Actress" is like a yo-yo diet. Kirstie Alley looks blissful in the credits, boogieing with an abandon that covers entire ZIP Codes - but what about those Jenny Craig ads that reassure us about how much weight she's losing? A fat actress isn't really happy, it seems, unless she's headed for thin.

Everywhere we look, we see the contradictions of a culture obsessed with women and weight: Big is beautiful, as long as it's not too big; you can't be too rich or too thin, but please, honey, don't be anorexic. Emphatically skinny is still in, but fat has achieved a certain political correctness; it's been redefined as a healthy rejection of the undernourished look.

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Send her to the ash heap

It is time to retire Cinderella. The penniless gal saved by a handsome prince has been a Hollywood favorite ever since Disney's animated version hit the screen in 1950, but "The Prince & Me," the latest retread, proves that the story has run out of steam. The target audience -- tween-age and teenage girls -- stayed away from it in droves, as well as from several other recent versions of the once-unassailable myth. What used to work doesn't anymore, confounding executives who await the release of this summer's fairy tales with growing apprehension.

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Can separate ever be equal? For girls, answer isn't simple

For more than 30 years, Title IX has prohibited gender discrimination at any school that receives federal funding. We think of it as the legislation that led to parity in athletic programs, but Title IX did much more than that: Among other things, it prohibited single-sex classes in public schools unless there was documented proof of inequity in the coed classroom.

Last week, that changed. The Bush administration issued revised Title IX guidelines that will allow single-sex public schools and classes. Separate but equal seems to be staging a comeback, at least where gender is concerned.

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The trouble with 'girl trouble'?

If girls are made of sugar and spice, the spice must be hot pepper flakes--or so it would seem from the run of bad press they have received this summer. A spate of new books tells us our daughters are mean or aspiring to be, sexually aggressive or about to be, wilder than we want to think, downright nasty and as self- doubting as ever. We seem particularly eager to read about the mess we have made: Check any bestseller list and you will find teen girls in trouble.

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Sarah's party dress

It looked to me like the right dress. Calf length, shimmery enough for a party dress, big flowers splashed all over and a demure white collar and cuffs. It had the sort of full skirt that spun when an 8-year-old twirled around, always the deal maker for my daughter. The saleswoman offered to hold it until I picked up Sarah from school. I figured this whole dress issue would be retired before dinner.

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