Column Classic: Women’s Rights and Wrongs

By Lisa Scottoline

Everywhere you look you can see enormous regard for women, especially among big business. 

I’m talking about two great new products. 

The first is the wine rack. 

No, not that wine rack. 

Not that shelf with the holes that hold wine bottles. 

Silly. 

I’m talking about a bra that has two plastic bags, one in each cup, and you can fill the bags with wine, which you can drink through a tube attached to the bra. 

The “wine rack.” 

Get it? 

It’s so punny! 

Anyway, what a clever idea, right? 

I’m sure that every woman has wondered whether she could drink wine out of her bra. 

That is, everyone but me. 

Although to be fair, I have wondered if I could eat chocolate cake out of my bra. 

Then I could have cupcakes! 

See, I can think of stupid puns, too! 
By the way, I don’t know where your breasts go if the cups of your bra are occupied by wine bags. Evidently, you can’t be picky when your underwear doubles as a beverage delivery system. 

And who doesn’t want their wine warmed by body heat? 

In any event, it’s good to know that American business is constantly thinking of innovative ways to meet the needs of women. 

Alcoholic women. 

In fact, if you look up the wine rack online, they call it “every girl’s best friend.” 

Really? 

More like every girl’s best frenemy. 

Because, let’s be real. It’s a bra. 

Every girl’s best friend is going braless. 

Amazingly, in addition to the wine rack, I came across another genius product for women, called the Shewee. 

Yes, you read that right. 

According to its website, the Shewee is “urinating device that allows women to urinate when they’re on the go.” 

In other words, if you have to go while you’re on the go. 

I’d like to describe a Shewee to you, but good taste prevails. 

For a change. 

The bottom line is that it’s plastic and it’s shaped like – well, it’s for girls who have penis envy. 

In other words, no girl ever. 

Only a man would come up with the idea that women have penis envy. Because anybody who has ever seen a penis knows that no woman would want one.  

You know what’s in men’s pants that we want? 

A wallet. 

To stay on point, the Shewee is the “the original female urination device.” 

Copycats, beware. 

Accept no substitutions. 

Like a Tupperware funnel. 

The website says that the Shewee is perfect for “camping, festivals, cycling, during pregnancy, long car journeys, climbing, sailing, skiing, the list is endless!” 

It doesn’t say anything about being middle-aged. 

Too bad, because I’m pretty sure that if you’re middle-aged, you’ll want one of these babies. Even if you don’t camp or go to festivals, and your days of pregnancy are behind you. 

We know why, don’t we, ladies? 

Do I have to spell it out for you – in the snow? 

I myself am about to order a gross. 

Because it’s gross. 

My favorite thing about the Shewee is that it comes in seven different colors. 

Oddly, there was no yellow. 

If you ask me, that’s a no-brainer. 

Get your marketing together, people. 

My favorite color was “Power Pink.” 

Because nothing says empowered like being able to pee where you want, damn it. 

Sayonara, rest stops. 

I gonna pee in my car! 

Woot woot! 

Now you know the perfect gifts for all your girlfriends. 

If you get them the wine rack, I guarantee they’re going to need the Shewee. 

Copyright Lisa Scottoline 2014 

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: Recipe for Disaster

By Lisa Scottoline

Turns out you’re never too old to call your mother about a recipe. 

And regret it. 

We begin when I decide to cook a nice meal for Daughter Francesca, because we’re about to start book tour, where we’ll eat MacDonald’s French fries for dinner and pretend that it’s a hardship. 

We eat French fries for dinner every book tour, and it’s worth writing an entire book for an excuse to eat French fries. 

But if I eat French fries without being on book tour, I start signing things. 

Occupational hazard. 

To stay on point, I decide to make eggplant parm, which I haven’t made in years. Mother Mary, as you can guess, is the Queen of Eggplant Parm, and she has the best recipe ever.  When was in my twenties, I used to call her about her recipes because I’d never made the dish.  But now, in my fifties, I have to call her because I can’t remember if I made the dish, or where my keys are, or what year it is. 

I actually forgot that, yesterday. 

At least I think it was yesterday. 

Back then, in my twenties, my big question was whether you had to preheat the oven. 

Mother Mary always said yes. 

So I did, but now I learned that the answer is no. 

Preheating the oven is as big a lie as the check is in the mail. 

Believe me.  Take risks.  Don’t preheat. 

Anyway, I couldn’t remember the order of business for breading the eggplant slices, whether it was egg, flour, and bread crumbs, or flour, egg, then bread crumbs.  I know it seems obvious, but when I breaded a slice in the logical order – egg, flour, bread crumbs – the eggplant’s surface cratered like bad skin. 

So I called Mother Mary for the recipe, but before I could ask her my question, she asked me hers:  “Did you preheat the oven?” 

I paused.  “No.” 

“You have to.” 

“I will,” I lie. 

“Don’t lie.  Do it now.” 

“Ma, I haven’t even made the eggplant yet.  If I preheat the oven from now, I’ll use up enough energy to bake Earth.  So tell me, what’s the order?” 

“Wait.  The oven has to be 350 degrees.  No more, no less.” 

“Got it.  Now, Ma−”

“Also you have to peel the skin off, did you do that?” 

“No.  I read that it has vitamins.”  Also I’m too lazy. 

“Wrong!  Peel it!” 

“Okay, I will,” I lie again.  “Now, Ma –”

“Did you leave the eggplant slices out overnight, to let the water leak out?” 

I fall silent, trying to decide whether to lie a third time. 

“You have to do it the night before.  You put salt on the slices, lay them flat between two plates, and put your iron on top of the plate, to weigh it down.” 

I’m still trying to decide how to respond.  I remember growing up, I used to wonder about the eggplant slices between two plates, sitting on the counter all night.  By the next morning, about half a teaspoon of eggplant water had dripped into the sink. 

Like it matters. 

So, of course I didn’t take anything out the night before.  I never make a recipe that requires taking anything out the night before.  I never think that far behind. 

Also, I don’t own an iron. 

Other than that, I followed her recipe exactly. 

Mother Mary asks, “Well, did you drain them last night?” 

“Yes,” I lie.  Third time’s a charm. 

“You didn’t, I can tell,” Mother Mary says firmly.  “Salt the slices, drain them, and make the parm tomorrow night.” 

“Ma, tomorrow night I’ll be at a book signing.”  By the way, I could remind her that the book in question, Meet Me At Emotional Baggage Claim, is almost entirely stories like this one, about her, but I’m sensing the irony might be lost. 

Mother Mary raises her voice, agitated.  “Then make the parm the next night.” 

“Ma, I have to make it tonight.  So what’s the order –”

“YOU CAN’T MAKE THE PARM IF YOU DIDN’T DRAIN THE EGGPLANT!” 

So, you know where this is going.  Shouting and fighting, ending in false promises, heavy guilt, and mediocre eggplant parm. 

In other words, dinner, Scottoline-style!

© Lisa Scottoline 

Column Classic: Princess Lisa

By Lisa Scottoline

I live a fairytale existence. 

But not in a good way. 

When I was little, I remember reading old-school fairytales, and there was one in which every time a princess spoke, no words came out of her mouth, but only snakes, newts, spiders, and mice. 

Well, it turns out that princess is me. 

And they’re not coming out of my mouth, but they’re coming out of my heat vents. 

Or from under couches. 

Or even from my oven. 

I don’t know where to begin the fairytale. 

Maybe just to remind you that every year in the autumn, I always have an invasion of wolf spiders. 

To be fair, they don’t invade.  They have better manners than that. 

They merely wait for the front door to open and run in, usually in a flying wedge. 

There are NFL teams that don’t have the formations of these spiders. 

Mine are professional spiders. 

I can’t bring myself to kill them, so I try to catch them under drinking glasses, flip the glasses upside down, and throw them back outside. 

I’ve made my peace with the spiders, as I have with the mice that tend to appear this time of year, too. 

I found one in the oven last week, and he wasn’t helping with the cooking. 

So, I set a bunch of mousetraps, because I don’t cut mice the same slack that I cut spiders. 

You have to draw the line somewhere. 

Anybody who has had a mouse in the house knows that the best and worst sound is a snap of the trap. 

Then a few days ago I noticed a horrible smell coming from the wall of my bedroom closet and all the dogs were going crazy every night, at bedtime.  When I couldn’t take the stench anymore, I called a contractor.  The dogs told him exactly where in the wall to dig. 

They’re cadaver dogs. 

Kind of. 

Anyway, in five minutes, the contractor had opened the wall and found three dead mice. 

Presumably they were not blind. 

Still, I can live even with dead mic e. 

I’m not a picky woman, and everybody’s just looking to keep warm for the winter, myself included. 

But just now, I was at my desk working on the computer when I happened to look down and see something dark, long, and skinny wiggling rapidly across the rug. 

All the dogs were asleep. 

Thanks, freeloaders. 

But to stay on point, at first, I thought it was a worm, but it was moving way too fast, and my body shuddered instantly, because it figured out what the thing was before my brain did. 

A baby snake. 

I jumped up and said, eeeeek! 

Because I’m entitled. 

I ran to get a glass, returned to my office, and put the glass down in front of the baby snake, who undulated cooperatively inside. 

Yes! 

I mean yessssssss! 

Then I ran outside with the glass and left the snake in the backyard. 

So, he could be a snake in the grass. 

It seemed only natural that there should be a living cliché in the backyard of a writer. 

I thought it was over until this morning, when I saw another baby  

snake crawling out of my heating vent in the floor. 

Eeeeeekkkkk! 

And now enough is enough. 

I can put up with spiders and mice, but I can’t put up with snakes. 

I thought instantly of the princess in the fairytale, but I want my happy ending. 

Which means that I won’t wait for a prince to save me. 

Because I might be waiting a long time. 

I can’t even get a dog to wake up. 

I’m going to find an exterminator. 

And I’ll live happily ever after. 

© Lisa Scottoline 

Column Classic: Mother Mary Flunks Time Magazine

By Lisa Scottoline

You may have read the article in Time magazine, entitled “The Five Things Your Kids Will Remember About You.”  It was predictably sweetness and light, but none of it reminded me of Mother Mary, who was anything but sweetness and light. She’s been gone almost two years now, and she was more olive oil and vinegar.

In fact, I considered the five things that Time set forth and compared them to Mother Mary, to see how she measured up, magazine-wise.

You can play along, with your mother.

Or if you’ve read the previous books in this series, you could probably fill in the same blanks with Mother Mary stories.

But no spoilers.

So don’t tell anyone about the time Mother Mary refused to use the discount Batman bedsheets because she didn’t want a life-size Batman laying on top of her.

Or the time she took to wearing a lab coat because it gave her an air of authority, plus pockets for her cell phone and back scratcher.

Or the time she grabbed her doctor’s butt to prove that she was ready for cardiac rehab.

Nobody would believe those stories, anyway.

So, to stay on point about the Time magazine article, the first thing that your children are alleged to remember about you is “the times you made them feel safe.”

Awww.

How sweet.

Except that with Mother Mary, what I remember are the times she made me feel unsafe.

Because those were truly memorable.

And my general safety was a given, if less dramatic.

For example, when Brother Frank and I were little, we used to fight, which drove my mother crazy. I remember, one day, she yelled at us to stop fighting and we ignored her, so that she took off her shoe and threw it at us.

She missed, but that didn’t stop her.

Because she had another foot with another shoe.

So she took that shoe off and threw it at us, but she missed with that one, too.

We stopped fighting.

You’re probably thinking that she missed us intentionally, and I’ll let you think that, but you didn’t know Mother Mary.  She loved us in a fiercely Italian-American sort of way, which meant that motherhood and minor personal injury weren’t mutually exclusive.

So lighten up, Time.

The second thing in the article was that your children will supposedly remember “the times you gave them your undivided attention,” and the magazine advised parents to “stop what you’re doing to have a tea party” with your kids.

Again, growing up, I had no doubt that I had my mother’s attention, but it was never undivided and she wasn’t into tea parties.

But she chain-smoked.

Does that count?

Mother Mary was a real mom, busy doing laundry, cooking dinner, and cleaning the house, and though she was always available, she wasn’t staring deeply into our blue eyes.  But every night, the Flying Scottolines would sit on the couch and watch TV, giving it our undivided attention.

We all loved TV, so by the property of association, we all loved each other.

Good enough for me.

The third thing was, your kids will remember “the way you interacted with your children’s spouse.”

This doesn’t apply to The Flying Scottolines, since the statement assumes that the parents interacted.

You can’t win them all.

My parents barely talked to each other, but at least they never fought and nobody was surprised when they divorced. But happily, they both loved us to the marrow, and my brother and I knew that.

What I learned from growing up in a house with an unhappy marriage is that divorce is better.

And so I’m divorced twice.

Which I think is the good news, considering the alternative.

If I can’t have a happy marriage, I’ll have a happy house.

The fourth factor was, you kids will remember “your words of affirmation and your words of criticism.”

I don’t know if Italian-American families have things that can be characterized as words of affirmation, except “I love you.”

And as a child, I heard that at least ten times a day.

But I also heard, “Don’t be so fresh.”

So I grew up thinking that I was lovable and fresh, which might be true.

The last thing in the article was that children would remember “family traditions,” like vacation spots and/or game nights.

The Scottolines weren’t the kind to have “game nights,” but every summer, we did go on vacation to the same brick rowhouse in Atlantic City, New Jersey. All day long, we played on the beach while my parents smoked, and at night we sat on the front porch while assorted relatives dropped by and the adults talked, drank beer, and smoked into the night. When the mosquitoes got too bad, we all trundled inside the house, where the adults played pinochle until my brother and I fell asleep on the couch, to the sound of their gossiping and laughter, breathing in the smoke from their Pall Malls and unfiltered Camels.

We had no oxygen, but a lot of love.

And it wasn’t Norman Rockwell.

But it was perfect.

Looking back, I wouldn’t change a moment.

Thanks, Mom and Dad.

I love you.

And I’m still fresh.

Copyright Lisa Scottoline