Excuse me, is that Mountain Dew you’re wearing?

The husband would gladly take a root canal over shopping for clothes any day of the week. But because the pockets in a pair of beloved dress pants finally wore out, he went shopping for a new pair of dress pants with absolutely no prompting or prodding from me. And you thought Donald Trump winning the election was a shock.

I was still in a stupor when he came home with the new dress pants. I shook them out to see if they needed pressing and commented that the fabric felt a little thin.

”This fabric reminds me of something,” I said.

“My old dress pants?” he asked.

“No, it’s something familiar, but I can’t quite place it. They sort of feel like, oh, what is it? I know – a Ziploc bag!”

A tag fell into view that said, “Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles.”

“So my new dress pants are made of 2-liters?”


“Yep, looks like you could be wearing Coke Zero, Gatorade, Mountain Dew and a touch of Dasani.

“We buy applesauce in plastic containers, don’t we?”

“We do. There could be some Musselman’s in here, too.”

We stared at the pants, mesmerized like natives viewing their first Polaroid. It was stunning to think we could go from water bottles to recycling bins to men’s wear. And who knew the husband was a trendsetter.

He’s not alone. Nearly half a million graduates will wear caps and gowns this year made from recycled plastic. There are also name brand athletic clothes, messenger bags, backpacks, jeans, car upholstery and fleece now made from recycled bottles.

It turns out, processors collect plastic bottles and shred them into flakes. The plastic flakes are then purchased by a company that converts them into small pellets. The pellets are melted, extruded and dumped in a large room with a young maiden with long hair who spins them into polyester yarn by morning.

It’s an involved process, but no doubt more efficient than engineering sheep to grow polyester.

I’ve always wondered what happens to all those plastic bottles that accumulate in recycling containers, and now I know. The husband is wearing them.

When he goes shopping in another seven years, men’s dress pants will probably be made from burger wrappers and used ketchup packets.

“I wonder what happens if you wear them in the hot sun?” he mused. “You think they’ll melt?”

“Naw. I think it will be like when women in skirts sit on vinyl car seats that have baked in the August heat. You’ll just let out a high-pitched scream.”

He is not amused.

“Wonder what happens to them in the cold?” he says.

“Probably like any polyester in the cold, the wind will whip right through them and you’ll feel like you’re freezing to death. On the upside, you can probably walk through a car wash and remain completely dry.”

When culottes was spelled c-o-o-l

Once again I find myself making fashion history and not necessarily in a good way.

One of our daughters texted me a picture of a short dress with wide legs and asked what I thought.

“Culottes! The ultimate in cool!”

“So you’ve seen them?” she asked.

Seen them? I created them!

I sewed culottes in home economics class in ninth grade. When I wore my homemade culottes I felt like the epitome of cool. It makes for a difficult life when you reach your fashion crest at age 15, but for some of us that’s life.

In any case, I loved my culottes and I wasn’t even good at sewing. The inner facings around the arm holes sometimes bunched up because I hadn’t bothered to “tack stitch” them. Girls talked about things like tack stitching, side-placket zippers and blind hems in high school because we didn’t have Facebook, Instagram or Stitch Witch.


The main reason I felt so confident in my culottes was because our home economics teacher, Miss Grove, approved of culottes and she was the definition of cool. She was young and pretty and wore her long brown hair in a perfect Mary Tyler Moore flip. If that wasn’t enough, she was the first person any of us had ever known to wear contact lenses. You could tell someone had contacts because they constantly batted their eyes.

Culottes and contacts – it was a total win-win. Oh yes, and Miss Grove could walk with a book on her head, something we girls were encouraged to practice at home. Today, it might seem strange sustaining eye contact with a female wearing a dress with baggy legs, balancing a book on her head and furiously blinking as though a piece of sawdust, or even an entire 2×4, just flew into her eyes, but there was a time it was cool.

We were full of cool back then. We were full of a lot of things back then.

Batting your eyes was nearly a status symbol.

“Wow, look at her blink.”

“So you think she—“

“I heard she did. And get this – they’re tinted!”

The first generation of contact lenses not only came in tints to enhance eye color but frequently fell out of the wearer’s eyes, which is why there were often large groups of people crawling on their hands and knees on shag carpet (also making a comeback) looking for someone’s contact lens.

CRUNCH! “Found it!”

Our cool factor was not limited to culottes and contacts; we also teetered at dangerous heights on platform shoes (also making a comeback) and swished about in long maxi dresses (also having made a comeback).

It’s not fine-line wrinkles that make a woman feel old; it’s seeing the fashions of her youth recycle. Even our 30-something daughters must be feeling old, as hair scrunchies and jellies they wore as girls poise for a comeback.

It’s entertaining watching the fashion gurus recycle old trends, but I do have one urgent request—please, no shoulder pads.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This columnist dines on humble pie

I’ve received a lot of kind emails from readers recently and it has me biting my nails. When I get a lot of positive feedback, I can be certain someone’s also going to whack me pretty good to take me back down a notch.

It’s email’s way of keeping columnists humble. Not only do readers help hold my ego in check, friends and family help as well.

A friend recently told me he found one of my older books at a Half-Price Books. He was excited that he got it at a bargain price. He wanted me to sign it, but first he had to tear out the page where I’d already signed it to someone else. “I can’t remember what you wrote, but it was really nice.”

“I’m sure it was.”


 Another friend mentioned she’d spotted one of my books in a free lending library along a bike trail. She thought it was great my book was being circulated. I was thinking it’s great when a book actually sells and I see a little money. But I’d had some nice emails that morning, so I kept quiet, knowing it was the lower case taking down any upper case attitude I might be developing.

The husband also does a wonderful job of keeping it real. He has a good eye for detail and has edited nearly everything I have written the past 25 years before it has gone out to another set of editors. (If you’re a retired English teacher still furious about something I wrote with glaring errors, send your blistering note to him, not me.)

Anyway, twice a year he might write “Great” at the top of a piece and once in a blue moon he writes “Fine.” Other than that he just marks misspellings, careless mistakes and challenges me on commas. Often he’ll edit something for me in the evening and fall sound asleep reading what I’ve written. His head goes down, his pen falls to the floor and he even starts snoring. And yet I still keep getting out of bed in the morning.

Fortunately, I once heard Jack Benny’s daughter give a lecture. She said that when she was a small girl, her father often let her sit in his den when the comedy team came to the house to write. They’d write a joke or a skit, someone would read it out loud, and they’d discuss whether it was funny or not. Nobody ever laughed.

In that moment she unraveled the mystery of my entire adult life—I married Jack Benny.

There is probably nothing more humbling for any writer than a poorly-attended book signing. After two hours of giving directions to the restrooms, you begin questioning the meaning of life.

On a more positive note, I had an email today from a retired police officer in upstate New York. He said I had a talent for writing and that he particularly enjoyed a recent column. “You could end your career on that one if you wanted.”

It was a compliment. I think.

Romantic dining room not what it seams

Wallpaper in other people’s homes usually says “classy.” The wallpaper in our home says “foreclosure pending.”

About four years ago, wallpaper seams near the ceiling began curling. I tried Elmer’s glue, which held for a couple of weeks. A while later, seams in the middle of the walls began curling. I tried old wallpaper paste. It didn’t hold either, so I moved all the wall hangings closer to the floor. Lower the focal points and nobody will notice.

Eventually, nearly every single seam began peeling and curling. I tried craft glue, super glue, double stick tape and lengthy consults in front of HGTV. If wallpaper curls on HGTV, they just knock out the wall. BAM! Problem solved. It seemed extreme, but, having stripped wallpaper several times before, I wasn’t ruling it out.

I finally settled on using the dining room only after dark and lighting it with two candles. Friends who come for dinner think we’re romantic. I don’t have the heart to tell them we’re not romantic—just lazy.

It was time to get serious, so I did what we all do when we get serious—I went to the internet and blew 15 minutes watching animal videos on YouTube. And yes, a praying mantis really can take down a hummingbird. (You’ll be sorry you watched it.)

After that, I searched how to remove wallpaper, desperately hoping there had been some technological advances in the past two decades eliminating the need for scrapers, buckets of hot water and endless elbow grease.

Good news indeed, the site I landed on touted a new approach to wallpaper removal. It said step one—a step that must not be skipped because removing wallpaper is a lengthy, drawn-out job—is (and this is a direct quote) “mental preparation.”

I found the husband. He was in the front room asleep on the sofa. For all I know, he may still be there. “I’ve started the wallpaper removal project,” I announced. “I’m on step one, which is mental preparation. Do you want to help?”

“What do you think I’m doing? This is step one—mental preparation.” Then he pulled a throw from the back of the sofa over his head.

“This isn’t how Chip Gaines does mental preparation on Fixer Upper,” I said. “He’s usually standing upright, wearing a tool belt, and flexing his muscles.

“Yes, and his perky little wife Joanna does cartwheels in the living rooms of empty houses.”

Point well taken. Neither of us are professional do-it-yourselfers of the HGTV caliber.

But, if I am ever tempted to wallpaper again, my step one will be to do exhaustive preparation, which will be to consider that the person who puts up the wallpaper will most likely be the person taking it down 20 years later.