Monday, November 15, 2010

Book Review: Around the World with Auntie Mame

Around the World With Auntie MameAround the World With Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Around the World picks up where Auntie Mame leaves off: With Patrick and Pegeen saying good bye to their son Michael as he joins Auntie Mame in India for what was supposed to be 2 weeks.

Two years later, nearing Christmas, Michael hasn't returned home and the postcards and letters have stopped coming in. Patrick and Pegeen are besides themselves with worry about where in the world Michael is with Auntie Mame and the trouble they are getting into. Pegeen probes Patrick to tell her what happened on his trip around the world with Auntie Mame and thus our story begins.

I enjoyed this sequel just as much as I enjoyed the first book. When Patrick tells the reader (not his wife, as his adventures would surely send her to an early grave) about his trip around the world, he is 17 or 18. This being the trip that Auntie Mame promised him in his last weeks of school at St. Boney Face if he would just help her with a pregnant Agnes.

If the first book came off as being a bit risque for the time, this one is even more so! Which, for me, makes it that much more entertaining. Patrick is less of a dolt this time around as well. His teenage self a little more filled out. I felt a little more understanding towards his disagreements with Mame as she seems to have also let her common sense take a world trip but in the opposite direction.

Vera is back too, which is a lot of fun. I love how she flips between her Pittsburgh personality and her faux British stage personality on a whim. Mame gets a whole new cast of potential uncles for Patrick including an honorable Lord in the British court, a Spanish (I think) lothario, a Nazi, and a super creepy Uncle Beau impersonator (sort of impersonator, he looks like Beau if you're really, really drunk).

Mame is a munitions expert, a thief, and a matchmaker all rolled into one. Just another really great read from Patrick Dennis and more Mame love!

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Color Me Shocked and Surprised!

A couple of days ago I got a friend request from someone who went to my high school. I had no idea who he was so I asked him, "I'm sorry to ask, but can you help me remember how we know each other?"

I've had to ask several people this because my memories of high school are shoddy at best. There are some things that really really stick out and other things are pushed so far back in my head or lost forever.

He was very nice about reminding me of our connection. As I read his reply snippets came back to, little foggy memories, kind of like bad snapshots of who he possibly could be. Finally I remembered him. He was a year up on me. He was a techie in our school mash up production of "Our Town" and "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown!" I think I even sat with him and his girlfriend at prom.

(10th grade class picture, 1990, I'm dressing like the future Dana Scully. I thought I was so ivy league preppy in my blazer. yep. No fashion sense.)

I replied back to him profusely apologizing. He sent me this in return:
Hey Wendi, it's not problem. Like I said, it was a long time ago. I always really admired you though, I have to say. You were one of the few people at Enterprise High that was above all the B.S. plus you were an independent thinker and I always admired that about you.

I was above the BS? WOW! That's a shocker, I had no idea. Seriously, I'm totally not being sarcastic. I hated high school bull shit, the games, the politics. All I really wanted to do was hang out with my friends.

I knew I was an independent thinker but my thoughts usually came out of my mouth, and well, irritated and annoyed a lot of people, even some of my "friends." We were all trying to figure out who we were and how we fit into the high school community. Back then nobody wanted to be friends with the person who swam against the popular current even if it meant turning their backs on moral issues.

(Picture: 11th grade, it does not get better! what was i doing with my hair? At least I didn't have a gigantic poof on my forehead. But as Tyra Banks would say, I have a five finger forehead. And you can't see it, but there were neon green rubber bands around my bottom braces. Worst photo ever. I love that dress though and would wear it to this day if 1. I still had it and 2. it fit.)

This one time my group of friends that I hung with for three years (this was my junior year) hung me out to dry. One of our friends was constantly belittling his girlfriend, verbally abusing her right in front of us. Well, I had had enough and I let him have it. I looked at my friends and said, "Why aren't you all saying anything?! You know it's not right that he talks to her this way!" They just looked at me and shook their heads. My own group ostracized me.

I spent the next few weeks eating lunch alone because I couldn't bring myself to be around them. It was a lonely time.

So to get this message from this guy I barely remember means the world to me. Somebody out there, back then didn't think I was a social leper. It's nice to know. I would have liked to have known that then, but it still nice to hear now. I guess being a spitfire wasn't such a bad thing.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Speaking of Auntie Mame

Auntie Mame: An Irreverent EscapadeAuntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade by Patrick Dennis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I LOVED this book!

I first discovered Auntie Mame while flipping through the channels one day. I landed on AMC (American Movie Classics) and saw this extravagant woman with all her jewels and fast talk. The Rosalind Russel version of the movie is one of my all time favorite movies. I just love it. I think it's because, in a weird way, I relate to Auntie Mame. After seeing the movie for the first time, I decided I was going to do everything possible to be like the Auntie Mame in the movie - charismatic, outgoing, crazy. But not a lush, I can't hold my liquor at all. And I'm still working on being more outgoing. Luckily, I've got the crazy down pat.

Anyway, I learned that the movie was based on a book. Finally at the last Friends of the Library Book Sale, voila I found it in the 25 cent book section! I just about jumped out of my skin - the best find ever!!

The book is fabulous. Auntie Mame is tame in the movie compared to her book personality, which makes the book that much more interesting. "The book is a work of fiction inspired by the author's eccentric aunt, Marion Tanner, whose life and outlook in many ways mirrored those of Mame. In real life, Dennis was raised by his parents." (, I think)

Anyway, this is a great book. Beware it does have some non-21st Century comments and views by some of the antagonists. But they're antagonists so we expect crap from them.

There is a lot more interaction between Patrick and Mame in the book beyond the jolly stuff we see in the movie. Patrick and Mame have their rough moments the older he gets. Patrick seems caught between Mame's outlandish and arty farty world and the uber-conservative community he is forced into by the trustees of his father's estate. We know he loves Mame but that struggle many of us feel - wanting to fit in but being individual at the same time - puts a strain on their relationship from time to time. We really only see this one or two times in the movie version - when Patrick introduces the annoyingly "restricted" Gloria Upson to Mame. I'll give Patrick some credit though. It must have been hard on him living the majority of his life in super-white-suburbia and balancing out the circus that was his Aunt's life, sometimes making him mad that he couldn't figure out his own place in the world and taking that anger out on Mame.

Of course, his character does have some snotty male pig moments, but if you can overlook that there is a great story to enjoy.

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Crushed Dreams of Flouncy Pastel Southernness

I had a wonderful memory spark today thanks to Melodie, bloggeress of Pink Vintage Cupcake. Her Thursday post, Dream Job, was sweetly filled with her girldhood dreams of what she would do when she grew up. One of her dreams was to be an Azalea Trail Maid.

This sparked my own memory of growing up in Lower Alabama (LA) and wanting to be one of Dothan's Azalea Dogwood Trail maidens, done up in flouncy, pastel colored antebellum gowns. Oh how I wanted to be a part of that so badly!

(Photo by Denise Oliver of the Daily Kos. Weirdly, there are no Google pics of Dothan's Azalea Dogwood maidens, just the Mobile Azalea Trail Maidens.)

What I didn't know was that not just anyone can be one of Dothan's trail maidens. According to the Azalea Dogwood registration, these girls participate in a *chokes* pageant! I had no idea! I always thought I could just sign up, get a dress and stand on a street corner of the Azalea Dogwood trail with my parasol and wave at the cars driving by. Now that I've done some digging, I know that I would never have made it as one of Dothan's Azalea Dogwood Trail Maidens.

According to the registration form, to be qualified as a trail maiden one must be a girl who lives in Houston County and goes to school in the City of Dothan or Houston County is eligible. I went to school at Enterprise High School in Coffee County. Dang it. My former dream just got a small crack in it.

She must carry a "C" or above scholastic average and be of good moral character. I have good moral character, but my grades in high school were abysmal! I was a horrible student. I was so bored in high school and I was really, really bad at math.

Contestants must not be married or pregnant and have never been married nor had a marriage annulled nor given birth to a child. Oh my. I didn't realize that this needed to be stated. Then again, this is Alabama...

Also a specific dress is required, which makes sense since this is the Azalea Dogwood Trail Maiden Pageant! Not any old pageant dress will do, Miss Alabama and your strange troupe of Little Miss, Little Miss Teen, Miss Teen, and Miss Little Teen Miss Teen Little companions.

(Why yes, that is a baby. I have no idea what her talent was.)

Requirements, also from the registration form: **DRESS: ANTEBELLUM GOWN - HOOP, AND A PARASOL (required) Judging will be based on poise, appearance, and authenticity.

I would so not have made it on poise as my body continues to think that we are not on earth but on a planet closer to the sun and gravity often pulls me down (I'm extremely clumsy). I'm pretty certain that my authenticity wouldn't be the authenticity that the pageant officials require. One thing I learned growing up in Enterprise is that being your authentic self means to throw on an even thicker and super fake Alabama accent, tell people, "Bless your heart!" and then gossip about them when they walk away. Real authenticity. Of course not everybody acted this way, just the ones who participated in pageants. Hrmm...interesting!

What a bizarre post. Maybe there is a part of me that really did want to be in pageants; but the Janeane Garofalo in me held me back and would have never allowed me and my Payless Shoe Store version Doc Martens to go to the registration table and sign up.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

What Constitutes a Family?

I've been scouring the internet for blogs lately. Thank God for I've found so many fabulous blogs out there. However, so many of them are focused on, well, mommy-hood. Now, I am not totally dissing mommies. Obviously being a mother is one of the most sacred things a woman can do (if you do it right. Octomom, I'm looking at you, yeah, you.)

However, I haven't seen too many blogs out there about families that don't have children. Families, like mine, that consist of a loving relationship between two people. I've been wondering why that is. I've seen blog badges that purport "I belong to Mommy Blogs!" or "I'm a Blogging Mommy!" Awesome! I'm glad you have your community. Maybe us bloggers without children don't need badges to show who we are; however I think it's important to recognize that "family" is not always a mom, a dad, and two kids. I'm tired of that stereotype: a man and a woman who are married and have children seem to be what a huge chunk of society considers a real family.

Apparently, Wikipedia (or whomever wrote the entry) defines a family as thus: In human context, a family (from Latin: familiare) is an exclusive group of people who share a close relationship —a unit typically (or "traditionally") composed of a mated couple and their dependent children in co-residence. If this is the case, my husband and I don't constitute as a family. Neither do my gay partnered friends who don't have children, or those who do have children. Actually, it seems, from this Wikipedia entry, anyone without the traditional dependent children in co-residence is not a family.

When Sir Grump and I were first married I heard this phrase over and over again: When are you going to start a family? I honestly thought I already had! I mean, I got married right? Isn't that starting a family? Aren't we to be considered a family because we're married and living together? The people in that picture, at the time, were closer to me than my own family.

But apparently, to some people this doesn't actually mean we are a family. We're just, well, honestly, those people asking when I was going to start family never defined for me what Sir Grump and I were and are. So we've subconsciously made a point of defining what a family is to us.

We've made our version of family over the years, even before we were married, we created our own family. Our theater department at Troy University was a group of tightly knit student and professors and sometimes, yeah, we lived in co-residence. We didn't have kids, but we were there for each other. (This is us at an informal semi-reunion back in 2002, I think.) Sir Grump (there on the far left) lived the smiling guy in the middle. I lived with the chick in the hat. The girl with the glasses dated the smirking guy on the right. At some point I think we all lived with Super Smiley (guy in the middle) because of a hurricane. I still keep in touch with all of them, except for Super Smiley.

At one church I attended, the pastor asked me the dreaded question, when were Sir Grump and I going to start a family. He told me about how he had to "pray" his wife into wanting to have children. She originally didn't want any. I was so shocked to hear such a thing.

Funny enough at another church is where Sir Grump and I met another awesome couple whom we became fast friends with, mostly due to the fact that they had a truck and we didn't and we liked to move to a new apartment every year. Regardless, we stay in touch and when she's in town for work, we always make sure to spend time together. We're able to pick up from wherever we left off and always have an enjoyable time together. Isn't this what family should be?

We've since created more relationships with other friends that don't mind that Sir Grump is competitive at board games or that I am quite flakey. These are people that I love and adore. People who I trust my home and feline kids with when we travel. People I care about and know that they care about me.

So no, we're not going to have children. Sir Grump and I enjoy our family as we have defined it. I guess I don't need a badge for my blog that says, "I am a Non-Mommy Blogger" but I don't have a problem with Mommy Bloggers with that badge, it's a signal to other Mommy bloggers - kind of like saying, "I hear you, girl!"

I honor my girl friends who have decided to have children and I grieve with my girl friends who want children and can't conceive. I don't even define myself as living a "childree lifestyle" as I don't care for some of their militant views about people who have children (I don't think it's polite to call parents "breeders.")

However, I'd appreciate the courtesy of my family (the husband, the three cats, and the cockatiel) being recognized as a family and that our choice to not have children to be as good as others decisions to have children.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Just breathe

Don't think about it, don't judge it, just breathe.
~Dharma (yoga teacher)

My friend KL posted this on her Facebook page today. It's definitely something I need to remember. I always over think things and forget to breathe. We won't discuss the judging part...that would require a completely new blog.

Maybe I'll get this tattooed on the inside of my wrist. But then again, maybe that's not the best place because potential employers might see that as a bad thing and I don't want to give the impression that I'm some sort of wild chica who can't be counted on because I really can be and I shouldn't be judged for having tattoos...