Every once in a while, I get the bug to peruse the used/vintage/old book sections of my second-hand haunts. I have found quite a few interesting reads. Some I buy just because of the title. Some for its color. Some because I like the texture of the cover or the page edges.
I have to say - even though the Internet is WAY TOO COOL AND CONVENIENT - nothing can compare to a good, old fashioned book. The smell. The feel. The sound of a dust cover crinkling when you open it.
Back in high school, one of my chosen electives was to work in one of our elementary school libraries. I spent several hours shelving books. Mending the bindings. Erasing pencil marks. AND my VERY favorite, reading to the little kids. Me, sitting in a "big" kids' chair, surrounded by a semi-circle of ready-to-listen kids whose faces were full of anticipation to be read to. I'd read. Show the pictures. Turn the page. Read some more. I loved that.
I always read to my boys. I couldn't wait for them to read to me.
Do you remember the RIF (READING IS FUNDAMENTAL) van/bus? I remember how excited I was when they came to our elementary school. I think, these days, the schools just have book sales in the school library or common area. Still a GREAT idea, but clearly not the same!
Then, there was the monthly book order form that the teacher had us take home. Oh, man! An early shop-at-home experience AND a sure test of patience! It seemed like FOREVER before the order arrived. Just about the time you forgot about it, SURPRISE! The teacher would pass out the orders. I usually got to place an order, but I was thrifty, even way back then! I'd peruse once. Mark my faves. Then narrow it down to the "best buy" to get the most for my money - the added-value freebies (usually mini-posters) helped me narrow down my choice. But no matter what, by far, my favorites were Encyclopedia Brown Boy Detective and Mad Libs, and as I got in the upper elementary grade levels, the Judy Blume Series'.
Anyway, now that I've rambled on and on...let's get back to the "daisies".
I bought this book a while ago. I really liked the title. I wasn't familiar with the author, but some of the words inside caught my eye. Meet Jean Kerr.
Here is one of the stories I read last night. Seemed pertinent, as most of my girlfriends and I have always been on some sort of (and I use this term VERY loosely!) DIET!
WARNING: this is kind of long, so if you DON'T like to read....
The chapter is titled: Aunt Jean's Marshmallow Fudge Diet.
Fred Allen used to talk about a man who was so thin he could be dropped through a piccolo without striking a single note. Well, I'm glad I never met him; I'd hate to have to hear about his diet.
I can remember when I was a girl - way back in Truman's administration - and No-Cal was only a gleam in the eye of the Hirsch Bottling Company. In those days it was fun to go to parties. The conversation used to crackle with wit and intelligence because we talked about ideas - the esthetic continuum in western culture, Gary Cooper in western movies, the superiority of beer over lotion as a wave-set, and the best way to use leftover veal.
Go to a party now and the couple next to you won't say a word about the rich, chocolate texture of their compost heap or how practical it's been to buy bunk beds for the twins. They won't talk about anything whatsoever except their diets - the one they've just come off, the one they're on now, or the one they're going to have to start on Monday if they keep lapping it up like this.
I really blame science for the whole business. Years ago when a man began to notice that if he stood up on the subway he was immediately replaced by two people, he figured he was getting too fat. So he went to his doctor and the doctor said, "Quit stuffing yourself, Joe." And Joe either stopped or he didn't stop, but at least he kept his big mouth shut about the whole matter. What was there to talk about?
Today, with the science of nutrition advancing so rapidly, there is plenty of food for conversation, if for nothing else. We have the Rockefeller diet, the Mayo diet, high protein diets, low-protein diets, "blitz" diets which feature cottage cheese and something that tastes like very thin sandpaper, and finally - a liquid diet that duplicates all the rich, nourishing goodness of a mother's milk. I have no way of knowing which of these is the most efficacious for losing weight, but there's no question in my mind that as a conversation-stopper the "mother's milk diet" is way out ahead.
Where do people get all these diets, anyway? Obviously from the magazines; it's impossible to get a diet from a newspaper. For one thing, in a newspaper you can never catch the diet when it starts. It's always the fourth day of Ada May's Wonder Diet and, after a brief description of a simple slimming exercise that could be performed by anybody who has had five years' training with the ballet, Ada May give you the menu for the day. One glass of skim milk, eight prunes, and three lamb kidneys. This settles the matter for most people, who figure - quite reasonably - that if this is the fourth day, heaven deliver them from the first.
However, any stoics in the group who want to know just how far Ada May's sense of whimsey will take her can have the complete diet by sending twenty-five cents in stamps to the newspaper. But there you are. Who has twenty-five cents in stamps? You're not running a branch of the post office. And if you're going to go out and get the stamps you might as well buy a twenty-five cent magazine which will give you not only the same diet (now referred to as Our Wonder Diet) but will, in addition, show you a quick and easy way to turn your husband's old socks into gay pot holders.
In a truly democratic magazine that looks at all sides of the picture you will also find a recipe for George Washington's favorite spice cake, which will replace any weight you may have haphazardly lost on that wonder diet.
If you have formed the habit of checking on every new diet that comes along, you will find that, mercifully, they all blur together, leaving you with only one definite piece of information: french-fried potatoes are out. But once in a great while a diet will stick in your mind. I'll never forget one I read about last summer. It urged the dieter to follow up his low-calorie meals by performing a series of calisthenics in the bathtub. No, not the bathroom. I read it twice, and it said bathtub. What a clever plan! Clearly, after you've broken both your arms you won't be able to eat much (if at all) and the pounds will just melt away. In fact, if you don't have a co-operative husband who is willing to feed you like a two-year-old you may be limited to what you can consume through a straw, in which case let me suggest that mother's milk formula diet.
The best diet I've heard about lately is the simplest. It was perfected by the actor Walter Slezak after years of careful experimentation. Under the Slezak plan, you eat as much as you want of everything you don't like. And if you should be in a hurry for any reason (let's say you're still wearing maternity clothes and the baby is eight months old), then you should confine yourself to food that your just plain hate.
Speaking about hateful food, the experts used to be content with merely making food pallid - by eliminating butter, oil, and salt. Not any more. Nowadays we are taught that, with a little imagination and a judicious use of herbs, anyone can turn out a no-calorie dish that's downright ghastly. Just yesterday I came across a dandy recipe for sprucing up celery (with the tops) in a little skim milk. When it's tender, you add chopped onion, anise, chervil, marjoram, a dash of cinnamon, and you have a dish fit for the Dispose-All. And you'd better have a Dispose-All, because it's awfully messy if you have to dump it into a newspaper and carry it out to the garbage can.
And where is all this dieting getting us? No place at all. It's taken all the fun out of conversation and all the joy out of cooking. Furthermore, it leads to acts of irrational violence. A friend of mine keeps all the candy and other luscious tidbits in the freezer, on the theory that by the time they thaw out enough to be eaten she will have recovered her will power. But the other night, having been driven berserk by a four-color advertisement for Instant Brownies, she rushed out to the freezer, started to gnaw on a frozen Milky Way, and broke off her front tooth.
But let's get to the heart of the matter. All these diets that appear so monotonously in the flossy magazines - who are they for? Are they aimed at men? Certainly not; most men don't read these magazines. Are they intended for fat teen-agers? Probably not; teen-agers can't afford them. Do not ask for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for you, Married Woman, Mother of Three, lumpy, dumpy, and the source of concern to practically every publication in the country. And why, why is the married woman being hounded into starvation in order to duplicate an ideal figure which is neither practical nor possible for a person her age? I'll tell you why.
First, it is presumed that when you're thinner you live longer. (In any case, when you live on a diet of yogurt and boiled grapefruit, it seems longer.) Second, it is felt that when you are skin and bones you have so much extra energy that you can climb up and shingle the roof. Third - and this is what they're really getting at - when you're thin you are so tasty and desirable that strange men will pinch you at the A & P and your husband will not only follow you around the kitchen breathing heavily but will stop and smother your with kisses as you try to put the butter back in the icebox. This - and I hope those in the back of the room are listening - is hogwash.
Think of the happy marriages you know about. How many of the ladies are still wearing size twelve? I've been giving this a lot of thought in the last twenty minutes, and I have been examining the marriages in my own troubled circle. More than that, I have taken a cross section of the divorcees. (Cross? My dear, they were irate!) What I have discovered - attention, Beauty Editors everywhere! - is that the women who are being ditched are one and all willowy, wand-like, and slim as a blade. In fact, six of them require extensive padding even to look flat-chested.
That the fourteen divorcees, or about-to-be divorcees, whom I happen to know personally are thin may be nothing more than a coincidence. Or it may just prove that men don't divorce fat wives because they feel sorry for them. Then again - and this is rather sinister - men may not divorce fat wives because they imagine that the poor, plump dears will never locate another husband and they'll be paying alimony to the end of their days. (I mention this possibility, but my heart's not in it.)
The real reason, I believe, that men hang onto their well-endowed spouses is because they're comfy and nice to have around the house. In a marriage there is nothing that stales so fast as physical beauty - as we readers of Modern Screen have observed. What actually holds a husband through thick and thick is a girl who is fun to be with. And any girl who has had nothing to eat since nine o'clock this morning but three hard-boiled eggs will be about as jolly and companionable as an income-tax inspector.
So I say, ladies, find out why women everywhere are switching from old-fashioned diet to the modern way: no exercise, no dangerous drugs, no weight loss. (And what do the mean, "ugly fat"? It's you isn't it?) For that tired, run-down feeling, try eating three full meals a day with a candy bar after dinner and pizza at eleven o'clock. Don't be intimidated by pictures of Audrey Hepburn. That girl is nothing but skin and bones. Just sit there smiling on that size-twenty backside and say, "Guess what we're having for dinner, dear? Your favorite - stuffed breast of veal and corn fritters." All of your friends will say, "Oh, Blanche is a mess, the size of a house, but he's crazy about her, just crazy about her!"
Thanks Jean Kerr, where ever you are.
ALL this is DEFINITELY copyright to the above author and publisher. I hope I typed o.k. and didn't butcher it!
So much has changed, yet so much has stayed the same. Size 12? Yee Haw!
This short story reminded me of this conversation:
A while back, when we females were exchanging our "I used to wear a size such-and-such" and from the other room, my dear Phillip chimes in with "Oh Yeah? Well, I used to wear a Onesie!" Enough said!
UPDATE: I found this today on the internet. http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/07/theater/jean-kerr-playwright-and-author-dies-at-80.html
Talk of the Town #107
4 hours ago