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Getting Better and Better

| Sunday, March 12, 2006

I never realized there was so much wrong with me until I started reading the women's magazines. Actually, I didn't even have to look inside, because the cover said it all.

I learned that I need to drop 10 pounds in 10 days, cook better meals for my family and be a better wife. Furthermore, I need to redecorate my house, learn how to give memorable parties for a hundred guests and make sure I am getting enough high-quality sleep.

Wow! Now I know how Hercules must have felt when faced with performing the Twelve Labors. One hardly knows where to begin.

I decided to tackle the last job on the list first, so I promptly climbed into bed for a nice, long nap. I awoke bright-eyed but, thankfully, not bushy-tailed.

That was easy enough. So far so good. I stretched languorously and blissfully contemplated how best to continue my self-improvement. I longed for the innocent days of my youth, when young ladies scheduled "self-improvement" nights, which consisted of washing their hair.

But back to the present. I scanned the list to see if I could find something else that would appeal to me as much as taking a snooze had. I skipped the one about dropping 10 pounds in 10 days because, with my appetite, that would be an impossible feat. One has to be sensible about this self-improvement stuff, you know.

So I moved on to "cook better meals for my family." I turned to the article and was please to see that it included recipes. After glancing at some of the recipes, however, I quickly realized that the recipe lady wasn't talking about my family. No way would they be "coming back for seconds of crispy, crunchy jicama tossed with a tangy balsamic vinaigrette." Nor would their taste buds be tantalized if I scattered herbs about with gay abandon: "A pinch of chervil makes scrambled eggs sing."

(We've never been too big at our house on scrambled eggs that sing.)

If you're out there, recipe lady, here are some sample comments from my family about my ordinary everyday cooking: "There are leaves in my spaghetti!" (a little parsley); "How come there are nails in the ham?" (cloves); "What makes it taste so funny?" (cinnamon, perhaps).

I can just imagine their reaction if I served the crispy, crunchy jicama, or scattered herbs about (with or without gay abandon).

"The dog won't even touch it -- that tells you something!" "I'm not eating that slop!" "Me neither!" "Yuck!"

So much for serving better meals to my family. Maybe it would be easier for me to become a better wife, I thought, so I checked out the suggestions on how to do that. However, very soon it occurred to me that in order to be a better wife, one needs a better husband. Some ideas the article mentioned will make this clear: Make him hand-knitted socks, iron his underwear, pay the bills early. I mean, what's the point of knitting him cashmere socks if he quibbles just because one came out an inch and a half longer than the other• After all, whose feet are perfect• Or why iron his underwear if he responds by snidely asking, "Any chance you'll iron my shirts next?"

Likewise, why bother to surprise him by paying the bills early if he nitpicks just because there isn't enough money in the checking account to cover them?

Maybe I'd do better with the next thing I must work on: redecorating my house. I don't mean to be unreceptive to new ides, but I really am not on the same wavelength as the designer lady who wrote the article. It seems she wants me to achieve feng shui (whatever that is) by getting rid of my recliner and choosing a "fresh new color palette of zingy citrus tones accented with brilliant splashes of fuchsia."

I don't want to get rid of my recliner, and as for the fresh new color palette, the less said the better.

Unfortunately, the only item left on my self-improvement list is learning how to give memorable parties for a hundred guests. Even though I've never, ever done that, deep in my heart I know I don't ever want to. The reason is quite simple. I once knew a lady who did that very thing -- did it quite often, in fact, and did it with great aplomb. I'm sorry to report that she met a very sad fate indeed.

She ended up as a politician's wife.

In my opinion, this dreadful state of affairs was the direst result of all those memorable parties for a hundred guests which she threw with such great aplomb.

All this self-improvement is hard work, and it has made me very tired. So, if you'll excuse me, I think I'll take a little nap in my recliner (the one I didn't get rid of).

Isobel L. Livingstone is a Rahway, N.J., freelance writer for the Tribune-Review.

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