The Mother of the Bride speaks out: a five-part series in The New York Times
Romancing the Stone
MAY 2, 2018, The New York Times
This is the first of five articles, written from the perspective of one mother of the bride.
Jesse wants to meet me for coffee, and I bet I know why. What I don’t know is why I’m not prepared.
Of course he intends to propose to my daughter, Sarah; the news is merely that it’s imminent. Of course she’ll say yes. Even I, with my perfervid imagination, cannot concoct a scenario in which she turns him down. I’ve had plenty of time to think of the right thing to say, and yet all I can manage is a hug and a “mazel tov,” since Yiddish seems to be the default language for monumental good news when I’m otherwise speechless.
This is the inaugural moment of my tenure as the mother of the bride, and I’ve blown it. A hug and congratulations is not the memorable response that Jesse will recall and recount for decades. You’d think a writer could muster something more. I better start working on my toast.
Wait. My pinball brain lights up with a bigger idea: I offer Jesse a diamond for the engagement ring, and we make a date for him to come by and look at the jewels.
No Seat in the Fitting Room for Me
MAY 17, 2018, The New York Times
This is the second of five articles, written from the perspective of one mother of the bride.
Sarah is on the other side of a heavy white curtain with Michael, a genial young man with precision stubble. I am not allowed to join them. Mothers are not welcome in wedding-dress fitting rooms, it seems, not even in rooms as large as this one. With a practiced gesture, Michael herded Sarah and a bunch of dresses into the room and pulled the curtain shut behind him. I’m on the exile side before I can open my mouth to protest.
It’s not like I was going to make trouble, you know. I would’ve sat quietly on that little straight-backed chair, because after all, what is a fitting-room chair for if not to be sat on?
For her tote bag, I guess.
It’s Their Wedding, and Their Wedding Planning
MAY 31, 2018, The New York Times
This is the third of five articles, written from the perspective of one mother of the bride.
You may think you have her figured out: A woman of a certain age sits at a garden table in the waning hours of a Brooklyn Sunday brunch, reading a book while she finishes her meal. She considers the dappled sunlight filtered through the leaves, takes her time enjoying each bite, dawdles over her coffee. She lingers to jot a line or two in a tiny notebook. You might assume that she uses journal as a verb.
That’s my cover. In fact, I am here to check out the likely wedding venue. I travel incognito on purpose, to get a true reading, because if I’d identified myself as the mother of the bride they might have sent out a bigger salad or better coffee art. Not that I have veto power or even an equal vote. No, I visit Sarah and Jesse’s favored spot because I am genetically programmed to do so. Anything less would qualify as neglect.
All That a Mother-of-Bride Dress Reveals, Inside and Out
JUNE 14, 2018, The New York Times
This is the fourth of five articles, written from the perspective of one mother of the bride.
If the first set of wedding dresses was beyond our budget, the second set is beyond belief, and we take refuge in ridicule to keep from getting depressed. In a single store in a single hour, Sarah tries on the Downton Abbey dress, the Roaring Twenties dress, and a cupcake number I dub the Operation Petticoat dress.
Doubt has sneaked into the fitting room even if I cannot, so I smile the confident smile that parents paste on when we assure our kids about things we can’t possibly yet know. Of course you’ll like the new school, the math teacher, Latin, your college roommate, college in general, sushi.
I hide behind a comforting logical fallacy: Sarah has to have the right dress, so the right dress has to exist. In the meantime, we are having a perverse kind of fun, aren’t we?
A Wedding Day Saga Ends With Words From the Heart
JUNE 27, 2018, The New York Times
This is the fifth of five articles, written from the perspective of one mother of the bride.
It has come to this: 10:30 on a Saturday night and I sit cross-legged on the hotel room floor inside a silken tent, the skirt of Sarah’s dress four inches from my face, the delicate overskirt draped over my head. I steamed the overskirt with my new portable hand-held steamer, the one I practiced with at home to make sure it didn’t sputter. Once I got into a nice rhythm, I figured I’d do the skirt, too.
One more pass on the overskirt, in case it got wrinkled sitting on my head, and I’m satisfied. I steam my dress. I steam Jesse’s clothes. I count the hours until their wedding tomorrow. Fourteen. I practice what I want to say to the bride and groom in front of all their guests and choke up, as I do every time.
Trust us, you don’t want a reservation at L.A’s hottest new restaurant
NOVEMBER 6, 2016, Los Angeles Times
I am as guilty of culinary speed-dating as anyone: When I come to L.A. these days, a friend scours the food sites, curates a shortlist of the best new restaurants, and off we go. Forget the antiquated notion of being a regular. Even a single return visit seems as passé as an iPhone with an earbud jack.
We’ve yet to venture farther east than the landward side of Lincoln Boulevard — which is to say, we’ve barely made a dent in the available inventory of L.A. hot spots. There’s a bustling food scene downtown, after years of rolling up the sidewalks before dusk. And you have to eat in Highland Park — have to — now that Eater has dubbed a stretch of Figueroa Boulevard there “L.A.’s hippest block.” We no longer crave a specific cuisine; what we want is the place that just opened.
I vow to not jinx the Cubs by watching even one game
OCTOBER 27, 2016, Chicago Sun-Times
The goat's got nothing on me.
It's 1984 – we all remember 1984 – and I've just moved into a house with the man who in three months will become my husband. He's one of those Cubs fans who can rattle off batting averages and specific plays. Me, I just love the Cubbies. I grew up in Skokie; it was the only option.
We unpack the television set, which sits perched on a tower of boxes, and unwrap the oak wardrobe where all the tee-shirts and sweats are stored. We eat popcorn into the seventh inning, slightly unnerved by the sixth but pretending otherwise. And then, inexorably, inevitably, things start to head south. Denial does not survive the inning. The Cubs are going to do what they always do, and lose.
The icing on the cake
OCTOBER 2, 2013, The New York Times
My mother lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., so packing for a summer 90th birthday visit was easy: Loose linen clothes, a sheet of baking parchment, and a three-ounce bar of Scharffen Berger bittersweet chocolate because my sister wasn’t sure she’d bought enough.
I was going to bake my mom a birthday cake — the chocolate cake her mother-in-law was known for, called “bachelor bait cake” on the little index card I inherited in a box of family memorabilia. I tormented myself, a little bit, over which cake in my repertoire was the right one; I liked this one because it had history.
My mother’s mink
MARCH 11, 2013, The New York Times
One day my mom simply put the mink coat in a plastic bag, stuffed the bag into a box and shipped it to me. She lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., where she has no needof a calf-length fur in the eight weeks that pretend to be winter, and the mink had become something of a reprimand: Why did she no longer live the kind of life that required a fur coat?
Not an easy question to answer, so she sent it to me, to do with as I wished. Selling it was the obvious choice, but not the easy one. Mom’s coat is one of those things that mattered to my parents enough for them to assume it would matter to their kids; it seemed callous to dump the mink the moment it arrived.
I hung it away until a friend warned me that mink sheds in the summer heat. A day later it took up residence in Macy’s fur storage vault until the following winter, when I found a furrier who trafficked in used fur coats.
It was only four blocks from Macy’s to the furrier, but by the time I arrived I had relived most of the happy mink moments of my youth, snuggling against my mom in the midst of a Chicago winter, inhaling the crisp, cold, dry smell of a sea of minks on an outing to the symphony. How proud my dad was to go into debt to buy my mother that coat; how proud she was to wear it.
A proper greeting (and it isn't 'Hey')
JANUARY 13, 2013, The Los Angeles Times
If you bristle ever so slightly at the presumed familiarity of that salutation, you're almost surely over 40, and you likely grew up well north of the Mason-Dixon line.
If you say "hey" back, the demographic possibilities are a lot broader. Everyone from anywhere who was born after 1980 seems to have adopted this onetime Southern regionalism, as have over-40s who work in a business that uses "trending" as a verb and requires them to stay forever young.
Los Angeles Magazine
I have never been an absolutist about relationships, but four years ago, when we acquired a horse, I was adamant about how this had to end. I told our twelve-year-old daughter that the day she went to college, he would go back to the sale barn he came from, to be sold to the next little girl who was ready to fall in love. A horse was a big financial stretch for us, but we told ourselves we could handle it, in great part because we knew the effort was finite.