Everybody’s a Critic

Feedback Bites Back

Critic taking and giving stars

It used to be that criticism belonged to the ranks of five classes of people – professional critics, impartial consumer product reviewers, your mother, your best girlfriend, and your in-laws.

Now, thanks to the Internet, everybody’s a critic. Everybody with a bone to pick — informed or terribly ill-informed — is a critic.

You can ding short-staffed restaurants, struggling retailers, and barely-managing masseurs on Yelp; you can demolish drivers on Uber and Lyft, and you can anonymously trash-talk people on all sorts of social media websites. It’s a scary Internet world.

For a long time, I ignored casual “citizen” reviewers. If I wanted to know what somebody thought, I wanted to know what somebody-in-the-know knew and opined. If I needed a theater or a movie review, I opened The New York Times Arts and Book Review sections. If I needed a new toaster or vacuum cleaner, I turned to Consumer Reports.

If I needed confirmation that my husband was an insensitive clod, I asked my mother (although she generally sided with my husband). If I thought I looked fat, I’d ask my girlfriend for a hasty assurance that I was mistaken.

But now I know that everything is reviewed online, even you, even me! Read more

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Hawaii Va-cay. Hawaii Dismay.

Or How I Wish I Spent My Summer Vacation

Hawaii vacation spot: White sandy shore with calm waves

Dear Middle-Aged Muddlers,

I hate to complain, but I just got back from my so-called vacation and I cannot tell you how much I wish I had followed my instincts and opted for that restful, peaceful stay-cation I so dreamed of.

As you may recall, Handsome Hubby (HH) had invited me to join him on a business trip to Hawaii. I was reluctant, but you know me, always the good wife. So, off I went.

“Oh, Hawaii. How fun,” enthused everyone I told about the upcoming trip to our nation’s 50th state. “Wait – you’re not excited?”

“Nope, not a bit,” I’d politely replied. “I’m more a desert rat than a sea and sand fan.”

I understand that the idea of a Hawaiian getaway sounds great to most people, but I’m from Las Vegas. My idea of a watery retreat is a mega-resort and swimming pool, lightly chlorinated, with me floating on a pink raft with a Diet Coke in the drink holder.

As for the ocean? I don’t snorkel. I don’t scuba dive. I don’t surf. I’m afraid of the water. Of rip tides. Strong tides. Big waves. Any waves.

I’m scared of sharks, jellyfish, stingrays, even random tiny fish that swim by. I don’t like sand in my swimsuit and I hate the stink of salt water in my eyes and its taste in my mouth.

Then, there’s the chubby-thigh issue and the extended walk of shame from the unfurled beach towel to the water’s concealing, albeit treacherous, waves. No itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini for me. No way.

In short, I was apprehensive about a vacation to Hawaii. It turned out, I was right – but not for any of the aforementioned reasons. Read more

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Celebrity Diet: Words to Live By

2 a.m., Any Night of the Week

That’s it. I’ve binged again. Must stop. Must take control. I will go on a Celebrity Diet. Starting right now. Read more

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CIA? Me, a Spy? Oh, My

The Day The Agency Called

Diana Riggs as Emma Peel

I’m not sure what prompted the recollection. I was just sitting on the couch watching some silly spy movie for the 17th time with Handsome Hubby. Somewhere between the commercials, the snacks and nodding off, I engaged in a little middle-aged woolgathering, the way we of a certain age do from time to time. I remembered something I hadn’t thought about in a long time – my own, true-to-life, almost CIA spy adventure.

I was young. (Like I said, it was a long time ago.)

I had studied in the then-Soviet Union, had two degrees in Russian Area Studies – political science, history, language, and economics, and spoke Russian with some degree of fluency.

Then the CIA called.  Read more

Guess Who’s Not Coming to Dinner?

My Husband Threw a Dinner Party, but I Wasn't Invited

Guess Whos Coming to Dinner

“Honey, do you mind if we host a dinner fundraiser at the house for XYZ solar energy non-profit organization next month?” queried Handsome Hubby (HH).

“Of course not, darling,” I devotedly replied. “My casa es tú casa,” I oh-so-wittily added.

“You won’t have to do anything,” he assured me. “It will all be catered and the organization’s staff will be on hand to handle anything that comes up.”

“Of course, darling.”

Pearl Mesta, Smesta

Of late, we have become quite the Pearl and whatever Pearl Mesta’s husband’s name was of hosting events at our home. Our home isn’t large. We can only do gatherings of 40-ish folks for receptions and buffet dinners or just 16-18 for sit-down dinners, but still, we throw a pretty good “do” – if I do say so myself.

As the days ticked down for the solar fête, my husband looked a bit worried.

“Problems with the dinner caterer?” I asked.

“Noooo” came the hesitant reply.

“Unexpected conflict on your calendar? If so, no worries. I can host solo if need be,” I graciously offered.

He got a strange, stricken look on his face. Read more

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Middle-aged Chatter

Why Do We All Talk to Strangers?

Do you remember the doll Chatty Cathy? If you grew up in the early 60s, you probably had one. Second to Barbie, this pull-string talking toy was the most popular doll on the market. I had a Chatty Cathy and loved her dearly.

And like my doll, I was a regular Chatty Cathy. I talked so much as a child that my family used to pay me to keep quiet. I’d get a nickel for every fifteen minutes I’d keep still. The truth is, I didn’t collect many nickels.

I wasn’t just chatty. I was really friendly. I once invited a total stranger over to our house. When he showed up, my mother won’t let him in, of course. But he wouldn’t leave. My mother called the police and that night both my parents gave me a stern lecture about not talking to strangers.

Yet, if I wasn’t supposed to talk to strangers, my middle-aged mother was setting a bad example. Read more