Column Classic: Thought Bubbles

By Lisa Scottoline

You’ve probably seen the Dove commercial in which a forensic artist sketches a woman according to her own description of her face and it turns out terrible, and then sketches a second picture of a woman according to a description of her by a stranger, and it turns out great.

Who is surprised by this?

Not me.

I could’ve told you that women are their own worst critics.

I also could’ve told you that composite drawings make everybody look ugly.

If you ask me, even the second pictures of the women didn’t look as good as the women did in reality.

Felons are never that hot.

But the tagline of the campaign is, “You Are More Beautiful Than You Think.”

And everyone is hailing this as a brilliant marketing campaign and a profound way to look at women, or for women to look at themselves.

But you know what I think?

I think it really doesn’t matter if you’re beautiful or not.

Let’s be real.

I don’t need a composite artist to tell me what I really look like, because I have a mirror.  And to tell the truth, every time I look in the mirror, I have the exact opposite reaction:

I thought I looked better than that.

It’s not like I have a big ego or think that I’m especially attractive.  But I can tell you that when I look in a mirror, it’s a disappointment.

I don’t even want to think about what would happen if I ran into a forensic sketch artist and he started drawing me.  I might take his pencil and stick it where the sun don’t shine.

In other words, my own personal tagline should be, “I’m Not As Beautiful As I Think.”

But who cares?

I’m not a model.

I’m a writer, a mother, and a middle-aged woman.  Bottom line, I’m fine with how I look, even though I’m not beautiful.

And all I want from Dove soap is to get me clean.

When did a soap company get to be our national therapist?

I wish Dove would get out of the self-esteem business and figure out how to get me even cleaner, longer.  Or how to make soap with more suds, because I like a lot of suds.

Dove, don’t flatter me by telling me I’m not only beautiful, but more beautiful than I think.  Because I wasn’t born yesterday, and I don’t look it.

In other words, don’t lather me up, just lather me up.

I guarantee we’ll never see a soap commercial like that for men.  Nobody will ever sell soap by talking about how men are handsomer than they think.  In the first place, most men aren’t half as handsome as they think, but they don’t care about that.

And they’re right.

I like Dove soap, but I don’t need it to build my self-image and I don’t want it to pretend to do so by convincing me that I’m in fact more beautiful than I think, because it assumes that beauty is and should be the key to our self-esteem.  What should matter to women is who we are and how we act, and if we set our own dreams and fulfill them, in our lives.

And none of that has anything to do with what we look like.

At all.

And even ugly women deserve to feel good about themselves.

Dove might know something about soap, but their analysis is only skin-deep.

I don’t even give them an A for effort.

I think that this is the softest sell ever.

And you know who’s taking a bath?

Women.

Copyright 2013 Lisa Scottoline

Column Classic: We Are All Ferraris

By Lisa Scottoline

By the time you read this, you will have survived Valentine’s Day. 

Congrats! 

I spent mine with dogs and cats, but I’m not all pathetic and sad about it, and if you were in a similar position, you don’t have to be mopey, either. 

Here’s why. 

You’re not alone. You may feel that way, thanks to TV commercials for conversation hearts and bouquets you aren’t getting, but you’re not the only one. There’s lots of women like us, who end up manless in middle age, whether by choice or not. I know, because I get lots of heartfelt emails from widows and divorcees, as I am fast becoming the poster child for inadvertent celibacy. 

By which I mean, not woe-is-me celibacy, but more like, Oh, has it really been that long? 

Also, why don’t I miss it, when I used to like it well enough?  

And why aren’t I on a mission to find a man? 

To begin, let me tell you about a recent blind date. Most of my dates are blind, as that gives me a fighting chance. 

I thought he was nice, handsome, and smart, which is three more things than I ever expect. And we were having a great time, yapping away though his first and second vodka. But by the time he got to his third vodka, his words slurred, his eyes glistened, and he blurted out the following: 

“I miss my girlfriend. I don’t know why she broke up with me. The kids didn’t like her, but I did.” 

Uh oh. 

This would not be a happy ending. He told me the next day that it was the only time he’d ever tried to kiss somebody who was putting her car into reverse. 

That would be me, and can you even believe he went in for the good-night smooch? 

Could it be worse? 

No. 

So, take a lesson from my horrible blind date. He was bemoaning the loss of his girlfriend, when he had a perfectly fine woman sitting across from him, ready, willing, and able. 

Oh, so able. 

In other words, don’t miss out on the fullness of your life merely because something is missing. 

A man is not a passport. Having one is nice, but not the law. And if you’re alone, you can’t go into suspended animation. You have to live your life and you can be happy. So, make yourself happy. 

How? 

Flip it. If you think that being on your own is the problem, turn that idea on its head.  Make being alone a bonus. For example, if you’re on your own, you don’t have to ask anybody’s permission to do anything or take anyone else’s feelings into account. You can paint your kitchen orange if you want and make all manner of dumb mistakes. 

You’re not single, you’re a cappella! 

Which sounds a lot more fun, plus it’s Italian. 

But how do you figure out what makes you happy? 

Try things. Try anything. Paint. Draw. Take piano lessons. Read a book. Keep a journal. Write a story. Go to night school. Volunteer. Sing. Rearrange the furniture.  Rescue animals. Join a book club or start one. 

Dance! 

Bottom line, any verb will do. 

Do whatever you like. And since I bet you’ve spent most of your life taking care of others, take a little care of yourself. Get your hair done, and your toenails. Especially the amazing disappearing pinkie toenail. 

If you can find it. 

Spend a little money on yourself.  Buy a new sweater and parade around. 

Look at you, girl! 

Here are some of the things that make me happy: Daughter Francesca, dogs, friends, work, books, reading, cats, a big TV, a pony, opera, and chocolate cake. My life and my heart are full, and though I live alone, I don’t feel lonely. 

As for the occasional date, if it happens, great. Maybe I’ll meet a man who doesn’t like vodka that much, but no matter. 

The point isn’t him. 

It’s me, and you. 

Think of yourself as an exotic sports car, like a Ferrari, that leaves its garage only occasionally. 

Not everybody can drive you, and you don’t wait to be driven. 

You’re not that kind of car. 

And neither am I. 

So hit the gas, and live. 

Copyright Lisa Scottoline 2011

Column Classic: I Like Big Brains and I Cannot Lie

By Lisa Scottoline

I have excellent news, ladies.

And its excellent news for men too, depending on how they feel about big butts on women.

But, men, whatever your opinion, I’m advising you to keep it to yourself. Don’t go spouting off to your wife or significant other while you’re reading. You will start a conversation that can go sideways pretty quick.

Or more appropriately, south.

Bottom line, no pun, I came across an article reporting that women with big butts are less likely to develop disease and are even smarter than women with average or smaller butts.

Finally, some good news!

Even if it does seem completely unbelievable!

According to the article, women with bigger butts have lower cholesterol levels because their – correction, our – hormones process sugar faster. And we also have less of a risk of developing cardiovascular conditions or diabetes.

I know that sounds totally wrong, but I read it on the Internet, so you know it’s 100% correct.

When it comes to medical information, the Internet is always dead-on.

But if you rely on it, you end up dead.

Just kidding.

I absolutely do rely on the Internet for medical advice. In fact, I don’t even know why we have doctors anymore.

Oh, right, we don’t.

Because if your deductible is $6500, like mine, you basically don’t have a doctor. Or you better hope that if something bad happens to you, it ends up being really catastrophic, so you get your money’s worth.

Fingers crossed?

To return to point, the article said that women with big butts have a surplus of omega-3 fatty acids.

Or fatty assets.

Or a fatty ass.

Anyway, I believe that. Because I’m a woman with a big butt and I have a surplus of everything.

Including goodwill and happiness!

And in even better news, omega-3 fatty acids are related to improved brain function.

How great is that?

Aren’t you glad you came?

You can thank me anytime!

In fact, I hope you’re sitting on your nice big butt as you read this column, and now you know that you’re comprehending it at warp speed because of your superior brain function.

Who knew that your brain was connected to your butt?

Unless you’re one of those people who have their head up their ass.

The article even said that the fatty tissue in our butts “traps harmful fatty particles and prevents cardiovascular disease.”

Wait, what?

That’s basically saying that fat traps fat – but maybe it does!

After all, birds of a feather flock together.

Who are we to question Dr. Internet?

More excellent medical advice!

So, from now on, just look at your big fat butt and visualize it as some extremely fleshy Venus fly trap, trapping all the fat in the tri-state area, strengthening your heart and increasing your IQ.

Fat is genius!

Now, if the medical advice in this article is true, that would mean that the Kardashian’s are the smartest people ever.

Laugh away, but the joke’s on you.

They made zillions of dollars selling pictures of their butts.

And we bought them.

In other words, they made asses out of us.

With their asses.

GENIUS!

I must say that I have never weighed in, again no pun, on the whole big-butt phenomenon. My butt is big and always has been, but I never viewed it as positive. When I was growing up, the cool thing was to have a flat, skinny, or nonexistent butt. Happily, those days are over.

Or behind us.

Nowadays, people pay to have butt implants, and since this article, I finally understand why.

So, people will think they’re smart.

Copyright Lisa Scottoline 2016

I’m a Little Teapot

By Lisa Scottoline

Once again, I learned something from Daughter Francesca.

I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be the other way around.

Either she’s a really smart kid or I’m a really dumb mother.

We begin last month, when Francesca had a cold and comes home with a neti pot.

If you’ve never seen a neti pot, it looks like the small pot they serve tea in in restaurants, which is cute.

Except a neti pot is not cute.

This is where it gets disgusting.

If you’re eating, move on.

But if you want to change your life, keep reading.

When Francesca came home, I asked her to show me how to use a neti pot.

So she fills the neti pot with distilled water, puts in a little packet of God knows what, and screws the cap on. Then she inserts the spout of the neti pot into her right nostril, tilts her head to the left over the sink, and pours water up her nose.

You know what comes out her left nostril?

Water and snot.

I almost threw up. It gave me nightmares.

Until I got a cold.

And I bought a neti pot.

And it changed my life.

My sinuses felt clean for the first time ever.

And my cold went away.

Meanwhile I didn’t even know I had sinuses beside my nose.

But my neti pot did.

I get more oxygen now than ever before.

I breathe like a champ.

My sinuses sparkle.

So I’m addicted to my neti pot. I use it every night, whether I need to or not. I can’t even wait until bedtime to clean my sinuses.

It’s sex for middle-aged women.

Meanwhile I barely shower.

I can’t be bothered.

And my hair never gets greasy like it did when I was young and normal.

It’s straw now.

At this point, I’m pretty sure it repels water.

Anyway to return to point, it’s easy to use a neti pot, once you practice.

All you do is stick it up one nostril and start pouring.

At first you’ll feel like you’re waterboarding yourself.

Don’t worry.

You are.

I forgot to mention, you have to keep your mouth open and breathe.

I forget that sometimes at night.

Basically I drown myself before bed.

If you forget the directions, remember the song:

“I’m a little teapot, short and stout.

Here is my handle, here is my spout.

Now stick it up your nose.”

Okay, that’s not the song.

I remember on the show Welcome Back, Kotter, when Vinnie Barbarino used to say “up your nose with a rubber hose.”

My mother always thought that was hysterical.

But that’s exactly what using a neti pot feels like.

It’s like a douche for your nostrils.

Meanwhile, does anyone even douche anymore?

I found a website for womenshealth.gov, which said that about a fifth of women between fifteen and forty-four still douche.

Why?

Why did anybody ever douche?

Way back when, Mother Mary did. She told me that women were supposed to so they were clean down there.

Where?

The sinus of the south.

Are you throwing up yet?

I remember there were commercials for douche on TV, telling you in sneaky ways that your vagina was stinky.

But I’m pretty sure it smelled like a vagina.

I checked online, and all the websites I found recommend unanimously that women should not douche.

Your vagina is self-cleaning. Like your oven.

But not like your sinuses.

It reminded me of another memory of my mother, and I have so many I think of them as mommaries.

Mother Mary was in a hospital gown being wheeled into surgery, and when the orderly moved the sheet aside, there was spotting underneath. The orderly hastily covered it up, embarrassed for her.

Mother Mary shrugged. “Don’t worry, it’s rust.”

Copyright Lisa Scottoline 2024

Column Classic: Lift and Separate

By Lisa Scottoline

Once again, you’ve come to the right place.

If you read this, you’re going to LOL.

But this time, I can’t take the credit.

Sometimes the world hands you an ace. All you have to do is set it down on the table and play.

I’m talking, of course, about the Smart Bra.

Have you heard about this? If not, I’m here to tell you that at the recent consumer electronics show, a Canadian tech company introduced a Smart Bra, which is a bra that is smarter than you are.

Or at least smarter than your breasts.

Microsoft is reportedly developing a Smart Bra, too, and I’m sure the other tech companies will follow suit.

Or maybe bra.

If it creeps you out that the male-dominated tech industry is thinking about what’s under your shirt, raise your hand.

Just don’t raise it very fast.

They’re watching you jiggle.

Bottom line, the Smart Bras contain sensors that supposed to record your “biometric data” and send it to an app on your mobile device.

It’s a fitbit for your breasts.

Or a fittit.

Sorry, I know that’s rude, but I couldn’t resist.

Like I said, the world handed me an ace.

Anyway, to stay on point, the biometric data it monitors is your heart rate and respiration rate, but Microsoft has taken that a step further. According to CNN, their Smart Bra is embedded with “psychological sensors that seek to monitor a woman’s heart activity to track her emotional moods and combat overeating.” In fact, their “sensors can signal the wearer’s smartphone, which then flash a warning message to help her step away from the fridge and make better diet decisions.”

Isn’t that a great idea?

It’s a bra that tells on you when you’re hitting the chocolate cake.

Forgive me if I’m not rushing out to buy one.

I already know when I’m being bad, and I don’t need to be nagged by my underwear.

By the way, the Smart Bra sells for $150.

If that price gives you a heart attack, the bra will know it.

Maybe the bra can call 911.

Maybe the bra can even drive you to the hospital.

Don’t slack, bra.

That’s for breasts.

The Canadian company says that wearable tech is the latest thing, and that it developed its Smart Bra because it had “a plethora of requests from eager women who wanted in on the action, too.”

Do you believe that?

I don’t.

On the contrary, I know a plethora of eager women who wish they didn’t have to wear a bra at all.

I also know a plethora of eager women who take their bra off the moment they hit the house.

Plus, I know a plethora of eager women who skip the bra if they’re wearing a sweatshirt, sweater, or down vest.

Finally, I know a plethora of eager women who would never use the word plethora in a sentence.

Okay, maybe I’m talking about myself.

Frankly, I don’t want “in on the action” if the action means a bra that will tell the tri-state area I’m pigging out.

However, I want “in on the action” if the action means Bradley Cooper.

And nobody needs a Smart Bra to monitor what would happen to my heart if Bradley Cooper were around.

By the way, researchers are not currently developing a pair of smart tighty whiteys for men.

That’s too bad because I have a name for it.

SmartBalls.

But maybe men don’t need underwear with a sensor that detects their emotional changes.

They already have such a sensor.

In fact, they were born with it.

Too bad it doesn’t make any noise.

Like, woohooo!

Copyright Lisa Scottoline 2016

Peach Forever

By Lisa Scottoline

There’s something worse than losing a dog.

Losing two dogs.

Which just happened in my family.

But this column isn’t about death, it’s about life.

By way of background, Daughter Francesca lost her wonderful Pip during the holidays. He succumbed to cancer at the age of fifteen, and we were able to be with him at the end, which was blessedly peaceful. And then, unexpectedly, my dog Peach fell ill last week when her kidneys failed, and we were able to be with her at the end of her fourteen years, which was also peaceful.

It was the worst instant replay ever.

But losing both Pip and Peach got me thinking that the sadness over their passing is part-and-parcel of the unique happiness they gave us, as the older generation in our dog family of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. Pip, Peach, and the late Little Tony were the older generation, and Pip and Peach were even half-brother and half-sister, having the same father. I still have Peach’s two sons, Boone and Kit.

At two human beings and five dogs, we were outnumbered.

Leg-wise, that’s four to twenty.

Though my legs are hairier.

People say dogs are a member of their family, but in our case, the reverse was true – we were members of their family.

And it was a hoot to watch them relate like a human family.

Peach was the smallest, but she barked nonstop, keeping everyone in line. If she smoked, she could have passed for Mother Mary.

Every night starting at 7:00, she would stand at the window overlooking the backyard and bark until 11:00 at night. The window was in the family room, so it was impossible to watch TV.

Bottom line, there was too much family in the family room.

Most nights I would let her out in the front yard so she could bark at the backyard, and the only thing missing was a side yard so she could bark at the front and the backyards at the same time.

Like stereo agita.

All of this barking kept squirrels, birds, deer, and passing clouds in order.

In fact, I’m pretty sure the world is safe from atomic warfare because of Peach.

And don’t think my neighbors hate me, because they’re too far away to hear.

Even as she got older, she never stopped barking. She had heart issues severe enough for the vet to tell me not to walk her anymore, but she barked forever.

Meanwhile her barking never bothered me.

I have nothing against a woman speaking up.

And she bore two terrific puppies, then got to live with them all her life, a terrific mother from day one. All of her feistiness was reserved for anything or anyone who tried to mess with her puppies. We whelped them in my bedroom, and just once Uncle Little Tony stuck his head in to see what was going on.

Peach got busy.

Mother grizzlies have nothing on mother cavaliers.

And she barely slowed down as she got older, except that she got mitral valve disease, which caused her heart to enlarge.

She was a little dog with a big heart, literally.

She slept on the pillow next to me, and because her heart was too big, I could actually hear it beat at night, in the stillness of my bedroom.

And I could feel its vibration on my pillow.

It was a comforting sound that lulled me to sleep, like nature’s lullaby.

To love a dog, or any animal, is to fully realize what it is to be a human being.

And how connected we are to animals, and honestly to everything in the world.

I have a dog family, but I believe there is a much larger family we all belong to.

That family includes people of kinds, and dogs, and trees, and various bugs and even the sky and the stars.

It was my little dog with the big heart that brought me to that realization, every night from my pillow to the sky entire.

I will miss my little Peach.

But I will always have her with me.

And so will you.

Love each other.

Copyright Lisa Scottoline 2024

Column Classic: The Off Switch

by Lisa Scottoline

Do you remember a commercial that used to say, “Reach out and touch someone?”

If you do, you may also recall that the product they were advertising was a telephone.

Because back in the day, people needed to be encouraged to use the phone.

Let’s pause for a moment of silence.

Not necessarily to mourn, but to consider how times have changed.

Because these days, you have to encourage people not to use the telephone. In fact, you have to beg them not to use the phone. You have to put up signs in hallways so that they won’t use the phone, and you have to designate special railroad cars so they won’t use the phone, and you have to pass laws so they won’t use the phone while they’re driving, because everybody uses the phone all the time, twenty-four seven, nonstop.

In other words, we’re reaching out.

But we’re not touching anybody.

We’re too busy on the phone.

We have priorities.

We’re also watching TV all the time. 

Do you remember when you used to have a wait a week for your favorite show to come on? The commercials called it “appointment television” and they encouraged you to “make an appointment” with your television to see your show.

Between you and me, it wasn’t that hard an appointment to get.

Try and see my gynecologist.

Next year.

But to stay on point, somewhere along the line, the appointment book got thrown out the window. And we started watching TV all the time, one show after the other, all the time, twenty-four seven, nonstop.

I do it, too. 

Last night, I was watching a new television show, and as soon as it finished, a commercial came on saying that I could get the second episode right away.

But it was already midnight, and I should have been asleep by eleven.

I pressed the On button and started watching.

I watched the whole entire second episode, half-asleep and half awake, so that not only am I tired today, I didn’t even see the stupid show.

I cannot be trusted with a TV in my room.

I’ve done the same thing when I watch shows on Netflix, where you don’t even have to press the On button to watch the next episode, thus eliminating that single volitional act, that tiny moment when you have a choice about watching another episode or returning to your life.

Nah.

Plus, I have been known to combine these nonstop activities, and undoubtedly so have many of you, so that you can be watching your 303rd episode of The Whatever Show, while you’re texting nonstop on the phone or cruising Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter nonstop.

When was the last time you were on the phone with somebody and you suspected they were scrolling through their phone during the conversation?

Or:

When was the last time you were barely listening to somebody while you were on the phone with them, because you were scrolling through your phone during the conversation?

Okay, guilty.

On both counts.

Anyway it’s very clear what the problem is here.

It’s not our fault.

It’s never our fault.

You could’ve guessed I would say that, if you have read me before.

I never blame me, or you.

This is a place where you can come, and I will reliably tell you how to solve problems in your life without changing anything you do.

Leave the diets and exercise to everyone else.

This is the true judgment-free zone, and all that we need is an Off Switch.

That’s the solution, right there.

If the television manufacturers would start making televisions with a big red Off Switch right in front, we would have a fighting chance.

It’s their fault.

In fact, the other day, I couldn’t find my remote, so I went to the television to turn it off and I couldn’t even find the Off Switch.  I spent fifteen minutes looking for the Off Switch on the front of the TV, then ran my fingers along its sides, feeling up my TV.

The TV enjoyed every minute.

This is what I’m telling you, it’s TV manufacturers conspiring with TVs to get felt up.

With the phones, it’s easy to turn off the phone, but that’s part of the conspiracy.

Here’s how it works:

The phone turns itself off, in that the calls “drop” all the time.

And what happens every time a phone call drops?

We become frenzied and call back instantly.

You could’ve been ending a phone conversation with somebody, but if the call gets dropped, you’re going to call back instantly and spend even more time on the phone.

See, another conspiracy!

More shenanigans with the Off Switch.

Sometimes they don’t give us one, and sometimes they work in mysterious ways.

It’s just not our fault.

Copyright Lisa Scottoline 2015

Column Classic: Rewarding, Or Why Free Is Dumber Than You Think

By Lisa Scottoline

Here’s what I’m telling you: beware “rewards points.”

What?

Yes, that’s right. I said it, and if you remember, it wasn’t always thus. I used to be a big fan of rewards points.

Let’s review.

I remember the day I found out that my credit card was accumulating rewards points, because I felt like I had won the lottery.

Okay, a really tiny lottery, but still, free is free, and I was excited. The way my credit card worked was that every time I used it, it accumulated points that enabled me to choose free stuff from a free catalog, full of freeness.

Wow!

I even wrote about how hard it was to pick stuff out of the free catalog, mainly because I was so dazzled by the free part that I thought I might faint.

I’m not cheap, but free has a unique power, no? I couldn’t go wrong if it didn’t cost me anything.

Or so I thought.

And since then, I’ve been all over the reward thing. I’ve even spread the word. Daughter Francesca is about to get a new credit card, and I’ve advised her to make sure she gets one with rewards.

Who doesn’t want to be rewarded?

Lately, me.

I came to this epiphany with my new spice rack. I saw it in the free catalog, and I forget how many points it cost, because it all came down to the same thing:

It’s FREE, dummy!

So, I bought/ordered/ willed it to exist in my house. And now, sitting atop my oven, is a too-cool-for-school spice rack from Dean & DeLuca. All of the spices are in glass test tubes with real corks, so they’re visible from the side and have nice colors. But the spices are things like lavender and Tellicherry peppercorns.

Huh?

I have no idea when lavender became a spice, but it does look pretty in its purple test tube. Too pretty to use, and anyway, what would I put lavender on?

Marigolds?

The rack also includes imported spices, like Greek oregano and French tarragon. Thank God. You wouldn’t want tarragon from anywhere else, would you? And I smelled the Greek oregano, which smells exactly like American oregano, which smells like a pizza parlor.

So maybe that, I’ll use.

Or eat out of the jar.

But I’ve never used any of the spices in the rack, and the test tubes don’t say when they expire, so the bottom line is, the French tarragon should have stayed in Paris. It was a waste, even though it cost nothing.

Paradoxical, no?

The spice rack taught me that even though something is free, I might not want it. I don’t need it. I’m not going to use it. If I had really wanted the spice rack, I would have bought it, and the fact that I didn’t means I shouldn’t have it in the house, at any price.

Even free.

That was my life lesson.

Let me interject to say that the problem may be endemic to spices. Even before the test-tube spice rack, I’d been known to buy spices that I’d never use. Mainly because I want to be the kind of person who cooks with green curry, I’d buy the spice and throw it out when it became a solid block of greenness. I’d make this same mistake around the holidays, when I’d pick up fresh jars of allspice, ground cloves, and cinnamon, which is the kind of thing I imagine the Cake Boss tosses into his shopping cart. But I never use it, and I’m no Cake Boss.

Cake is the boss of me.

Come to think of it, the real problem may be that I’m a stinky cook, as I barely use any spices at all, and in this regard, I am my mother’s daughter.

Let’s blame Mother Mary. After all, she’s not here, and she doesn’t read the column.

Truth to tell, there was no spice rack in our house growing up, and we had only four spices: dried oregano, garlic salt, onion salt, and salt.

Mother Mary mainly cooked Italian, and salt.

We didn’t even have pepper because Mother Mary is enough pepper for anybody.

And to this day, when she visits me and makes meatballs or tomato sauce, we first make a trip to the grocery store to buy her salts, with their preservatives included the faker the better.

And you know what?

Her food tastes delicious.

And I feel rewarded.

Almost free.

Copyright Lisa Scottoline 2011

Column Classic: Unresolutions

By Lisa Scottoline

This is the time of year when people make New Year’s resolutions, but I have a better idea. By definition, a resolution is something you want to change about yourself, something you’ve done wrong in the past that you want to start doing right.

Boo!

I think we would all be better served if this New Year, we made unresolutions. That is, let’s make a list of things we’ve been doing, and we’d like to keep doing. Who needs negativism around the holidays? Times are tough, and why should we make them tougher?  Especially on our favorite people in the world, namely ourselves.

Let’s give it a try, shall we?

I’ll go first.

UnResolution Number One.  I sleep in my clothes, and I resolve to keep sleeping in my clothes. I know this sounds weird, and it helps that my clothes are fleece pants and a fleece top, because I work at home. Sometimes I even wear a fleece hat to bed, like a nightcap, because I like my room cold but not my head. Bottom line, I never have to worry about what to wear, and I’m already dressed, all the time. So now you know.

UnResolution Number Two. I kiss my pets on the lips, and I like it. I know people say it’s unsanitary, but they’re no fun. All of my animals expect me to kiss them on the lips, even my pony. And if they balk, I grab them by their furry cheeks and force them to stand still. I’m paying the room and board, and all I want is a little smooch. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.

UnResolution Number Three. I don’t own an iron. It’s not the worst thing in the world if my clothes are a little wrinkly. No one really notices, or if they do, they’re too polite to say so, which is the same thing. To me.

UnResolution Number Four. I talk to strangers. I got this from my mother, who, when we went into the Acme, talked to the produce guy, the stock boy, and the cashier. She was always up in their business, and in time, they were up in hers. It turned every errand into a little party, a reunion of old friends, but there just happens to be a cash register in the room.

UnResolution Number Five. I make too much food. If I serve dinner and no one at the table says, “You made too much food,” then I feel like I failed. I love the idea that there’s a lot of food on the table. I want everybody full and happy, and I always give the leftovers to the dogs and cats.

You know what comes next.

(I kiss them on the lips.)

UnResolution Number Six. I wear flats. I used to always wear high heels, because I’m a shorty. I thought I felt more powerful in heels, but all I really felt was more painful. It was daughter Francesca who got me started wearing flats, and it changed my life. My toes are always happy, and

I’m still a mighty mite.

UnResolution Number Seven. I buy too many books. I love to read and have hundreds of books overflowing my bookshelves and stacked high on my dining room table, in piles. I love living around books, and reading is like traveling without baggage claim. Who needs a dining room anyway?

So maybe now you understand why I’m single.

Which brings me to UnResolution Number Eight.

I live alone, but I’m not lonely. I know lots of you live alone, whether by choice or by circumstance, and you may be lonely, especially around the holidays. I’m not saying you’re not allowed to be, all I’m saying is that the fact that you live alone doesn’t necessarily mean you’re lonely. It means you’re free to wear hats to bed.    

In the end, our own personal happiness is about figuring out what makes us feel the most ourselves and living that way – and to hell with what anybody else thinks.

So, when you’re making a list of resolutions, please do make some unresolutions, too.

It will be a Happier New Year.

Copyright Lisa Scottoline 2008

Sob Sisters

By Lisa Scottoline

One of the greatest things about the holidays is family.

But an even greater thing about the holiday is friends.

Because they’re the family you choose.

And they never ask for money.

But if they needed it, you would give it to them.

I never had a sister, but I have a circle of sisters in my girlfriends. And there’s no best friend among them. They’re all my best friends, and each of them is in their own circles of girlfriends. I have such old friends that I’ve even come to know their girlfriends.

We’re connected like the Olympic rings, but you don’t have to work out.

Like we’re all gold medal girlfriends.

There are some girlfriends I see all the time, but also old friends from high school whom I never see, like Sandy, who lives in Vermont. We don’t have to see each other to renew the connection or know it’s there.

Sandy grew up to be a psychiatrist.

I grew up to be a person who needs a psychiatrist.

Our friendship started on the tennis team, then was formed by a love of Breyer’s vanilla and Barbra Streisand.

We saw the movie Funny Girl and easily identified with its star, then we saw The Way We Were and A Star is Born, and we cried both times.

Then we grew up and Barbra Streisand started touring, so we went to see her and cried there, too.

We’ve basically cried over Barbra Streisand every decade.

You know we’re having a good time cause we’re crying.

Now Barbra Streisand has written a book and also recorded its audiobook, which we’re both listening to. It lasts 48 hours, but it’s not enough. Streisand recounts every detail of her life, what she thought, what she felt, what she wore, and what she ate. And when you listen, you realize how rarely it is that you hear the story of any woman told in such great detail, never mind that it is such a remarkable woman who has made for herself such a remarkable life.

Then Sandy and I text each other about how great it is, comparing this line to that one, studying it with a dedication we never showed in high school.

And that’s saying something because Sandy won the Calculus Award.

Me, I barely passed trig.

But did it hurt me?

No, frig trig.

And yesterday, Sandy sent me a video of herself, learning to play The Way We Were on the piano.

I burst into tears.

I was crying for so many reasons I couldn’t begin to sort them, which is the best thing about crying.

You don’t analyze.

You just cry.

Especially if you’re Italian.

And everybody is a little bit Italian, inside.

Anyway, at first I thought I was crying because Sandy was playing a song we heard Barbra Streisand sing, which would’ve been reason enough.

Then it was because I thought it was so great that she was learning to play the piano at our age.

But really it struck me that it was because I have been friends with this woman for most of my life, from the tennis team to the last set of the only game that matters.

I’m sure I’m not alone in this.

I bet many of you have friendships that have lasted decades.

And I wanted to take a moment to recognize how remarkable that is.

To me, everyone’s life is remarkable.

Every friendship is remarkable.

And I’ve made friends from all the decades of my life, and I value them all equally, whether I’m in contact with them or not, whether we’re speaking or seeing each other or not, because that connection remains.

And that may be something that only older people know, maybe even older women.

That to be girlfriends with someone over decades is the greatest gift you can receive or give.

Every old friend feels like home.

Copyright Lisa Scottoline 2023