Sunday, March 29, 2015

Putting My Taxes in the Red Box

It’s a glorious day and I should be out spreading bat poo in my gardens in preparation for spring planting. But I’m not. I can’t afford even a thimbleful of bat poo right now. If I was truly resourceful then I could rustle up some bats and collect their poo, which is actually called guano. I wondered where the organic manure companies find guano (I have never seen a bat in a diaper) so I googled it and learned that guano is found on the walls of caves. I want to take a moment to express my appreciation for the men and women who crawl around in caves scraping guano off the walls and bagging it up so I can put it in my garden. (I hope you guys wear gloves.) Or not, actually, since I can’t afford to buy guano this year because I have to pay so much in taxes. I can’t afford food, let alone guano. This year is the first time in 30 years that my husband and I have no children to declare as dependents on our taxes. Ouch. I need to borrow a baby.

My accountant tells me that earning more money is a good thing. I’m not convinced. I think I saw a place on the tax return where you put how much you earned the previous year on line 142 and how much you earned this year on line 141 and then you subtract, and the result comes out on a line labeled “pay this much more to the government this year, sucka.” I’m going to ask the IRS to apply my taxes this year toward a down payment on the purchase of Airforce One. I could own Airforce One free and clear in just a few years, I think. Then I could lease it to the president.

I have no clue how to do my own taxes. My jaw drops every time I hear someone say, “I’m going to do my taxes this weekend.” Really? And I’m going to build a space shuttle this weekend. I sometimes wonder if people who say they do their own taxes are lying to impress me. However, I know for a fact that my brother really does his own taxes; but he also knows how to build a space shuttle. I could sooner assemble a Sears swingset with instructions in Chinese than do my taxes. (I have actually done that, even with the wrong bolts provided in the package; so maybe I could build a space shuttle if I was supplied with instructions in Chinese.) I believe that my taxes are unusually complicated. My taxes have more schedules than the NJ Transit System. Do other people’s taxes have so many schedules? I couldn’t possibly figure out all the schedules if I didn’t have a really really really good accountant to guide me through the maze of numbered lines, itemizations, credits, depreciations, exemptions, deductibles, inflatables, dirigibles, alternatives, initiatives, value of seaweed purchased for my nutrition biz, porcupines, life rafts, and Ping-Pong balls. (In hindsight, I imagine it is not advisable to put porcupines and life rafts in the same sentence as it could blow up in my face.)  

I confess that I have a complicated and emotional relationship to my finances. My mother had a talent for managing money and she was my financial adviser until she passed over in 2005. When I lost her, I lost my fiscal anchor. Since that time, I have engaged in many extraordinarily creative financial contortions to afford the cost of putting three children through college. I have bought food on my credit cards (not recommended). I have transferred credit card balances from one card to another offering a special 0% rate for one year on balance transfers, and then transferred the money back when the other card made a 0% offer a year later (very much not recommended). I have called credit card companies and convinced them to lower my interest rates. I have called utilities and health care providers and haggled to lower my bills. This actually works more often than you would imagine. I convinced my propane gas supplier to give me the same per-gallon promotional rate that the company offers to brand new customers to entice them to sign up. It’s the lowest rate available. I have been a customer for 23 years, so shouldn’t they give me a rate as good as they give a new customer? (I’m pretty convincing, huh?) You would be amazed how arbitrary medical costs are. I once called the hospital to haggle over payment for an outpatient procedure and when the account clerk heard my story she erased the whole fee. She said that fee was for health insurance providers and since we were required to pay out-of-pocket by our insurer, she would waive the fee. Go figure.

My accountant assures me that I make good financial decisions. I call him my financial therapist. He knows that taxes are an emotional rollercoaster for me, and that I miss my mother terribly whenever I have to deal with my money situation. Once, when I had a meltdown during a conversation about my financial situation at tax-time, my accountant said to me, “remain calm.” I wrote those words on a post-it and put it up above my desk. “Remain calm” has helped me bumble along for many years. Money is a constant worry for me and I have to work hard at letting go of that worry so that it doesn’t cause stress. As a nutritionist, I know that stress has a huge detrimental impact on our health. I refuse to let stress make me sick. I invented a mental exercise to help me refrain from obsessing about money. I close my eyes and visualize a red box. I take the lid off the box and I put all my worries about money into the box. I put the lid back on. I slide the box onto the top shelf of my closet and tell myself that I will open it another time and sort everything out. In truth, there are much more important things in life than money, and I have been graced with all of them. Leave the taxes on the shelf and pass the gratitude, right?

Every year I have to remind my children that when they get tax refund money, it’s because they overpaid, not because the government is sending them a bonus. Tax refund money is your money, you earned it, and the government had no business with it in the first place. The best case scenario is to come out owing or receiving less than 20 bucks. Breaking even. Perfect calculation. Or, really, the best case scenario would be if the government would spend the money I pay in taxes on things of which I approve instead of largely spending it on things for which I don’t wish to foot the bill. I wish that just once I could designate 100% of my taxes to go to Head Start. I pretend that’s what I’m paying for when I write the check; otherwise I couldn’t do it.

I’m attaching a picture of purple delphiniums instead of a photo of my taxes because I fear the identity thieves lurking on the internet who would love to get their hands on my taxes. I have a spectacular purple delphinium blooming on my deck and it takes me out of my head so I don’t think about the boatload of my hard-earned money going straight to the federal government. The delphinium demonstrates that I can grow excellent things in my yard without buying that coveted bat guano. This year I just might put a purple box on the shelf in my closet instead of a red one. It’s tax season and I’m remaining calm.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sense of Wonder

Right now, today, two young people are on a wedding journey around the world that has captivated my imagination. I am not alone. Many imaginations have been captivated by Cheetah Platt and Rhiann Woodyard’s enchanting worldwide trek as they marry over and over again in different locations.

They left on Feb. 8 to get married in 11 countries, 38 times, over the course of 83 days. They have been posting photographs on Facebook of their various weddings in places like the Colombian Rainforest, by the great pyramids of Egypt, at the Boleykarrigeen Stones in Ireland, in the Ajanta Caves in India, at a Maasai Mara Village in Kenya, and at the Giraffe Center in Nairobi, to name a few. Cheetah and Rhiann were both ordained in the Church of Spiritual Humanism before they left the U.S. so they could “self-marry.” The couple met through their profession as aerial, pole, and acrobat artists. They have been showcasing their acrobatic talent in the photographs of themselves at their wedding locations. They have also been teaching acrobatics to others along their wedding route. Their story has gone viral, appearing in many online media outlets, and today they are doing an interview for CNN.

Full disclosure:  I have known Cheetah since he was seven years old. He and his siblings grew up with my children. Summer camp. School performances and events. Gymnastics classes. Our families remain friendly. Like my children, the Platt children enjoyed a childhood in the wilds of the Mendocino countryside with limited access to TV and abundant access to the great outdoors. It’s a recipe for a wide imagination and an abiding ability to delight in the gifts life brings.

There are many things to love about Cheetah and Rhiann’s wedding adventure. The media focuses on the romance of it, linking to photos (taken with a timer by the couple) of the weddings in picturesque places. Of course it’s romantic, but the thing I love the most about these two young people and their journey is their tremendous sense of wonder at the limitless magnificence of creation. They visit sacred sites and take advantage of their wedding celebration to discover people, landscapes, animals, and the natural world. One of my favorite photographs they have posted is the two of them showing a group of Maasai in Kenya how high they can jump. The Maasai told them that in their culture they value the ability to jump high, and as acrobats Cheetah and Rhiann obviously could not pass up the opportunity to demonstrate their jumping. For me, the jumping is more meaningful than the weddings. Look at how excited they are to jump! Their delight at kissing a giraffe, viewing waterfalls in Colombia, shaking hands with an elephant, watching a lightning storm at night from their hotel window, and teaching acrobatics to children in Mumbai goes beyond the weddings.

Photo by Cheetah Platt taken at the Maasai Mara Village in Kenya.

We live in a time when wonder has been draining out of the world. Our outlook for survival on Earth as a species does not appear to be so great and the inhumanity of governments and powermongers around the globe is made manifest in media images without respite. If I did not limit my exposure to the news, I fear I would spend my entire day weeping for the many traumatized, marginalized, murdered, and suffering souls; and for the poisoning of the planet. By contrast, the incredible journey of Cheetah and Rhiann is magic. It reminds me and others who are following their world-tour to stay positive and to appreciate the beauty and the joy that continues to surround us, and that will surround us even unto the very last breath of the very last human on the planet. There remains much to celebrate in the world. The splendor of a purple flower in the field lifts from me the mantle of grief and loss that threatens to weigh me down to the bottom of the ocean. May I always remember to look for that flower.

The wedding trek of this young couple reminds me that there are still young people setting out in life with love in their heart, joy in their smile, and happy curiosity. Cheetah and Rhiann’s rolling celebration of love and discovery rekindles my hope that we, all of us, of all ages, in many circumstances, can remain positive. May the delight and breathtaking beauty of the world in which we live continue to amaze us and move us to tears. May we always, always retain our sense of wonder.

Online stories about their journey are popping up all over the place, including People Magazine online, ABC News, and Yahoo Travel. Click here to read an article in the HuffingtonPost.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Busting Out of the Race Box

As a matter of principle, I refuse to identify my race on forms. I have come to view racial definitions as the cornerstone of an artificial social construct that creates barriers and divisions between people and ultimately validates racism. That is not to say that our cultural background and context is insignificant, or that we are all basically the same because we are all human, both of which I view as false assumptions. First, our cultural context is extremely important and impacts us and the people we touch in our lives in a myriad of extraordinary and vital ways. I would never want anyone to perceive me as anything other than Jewish. My culture is a key part of me; and to see me, you must see that part. Second, I do not believe all people are fundamentally the same, with the same basic human attributes. I believe people are fundamentally different and that we can learn so very much from each other if we are open to discovering different perspectives in the world and accepting diverse truths. By thinking people are fundamentally the same, we risk imposing our personal or cultural perspective on others and making assumptions that are condescending and insulting.

I want to share a couple amusing family stories about exploding the race boxes.

In the 1980s, my father presented at a math conference in Moscow. Dad has his Ph.D. in math and has worked as a mathematician his whole life. He has published a couple of important books that form the foundation for a particular branch of mathematics. On the airplane on the way back from the Moscow conference, Dad sat next to a man who introduced himself as a physics professor who taught at Clark Atlanta University. The professor recognized Dad from the conference. He told Dad that he had attended the conference mainly to get help solving a math problem in order for him to move forward with his work and he was disappointed because no one at the conference could solve the problem. During the flight back to the U.S., Dad solved the man’s problem for him. Dad says this was not as dramatic as it sounds. He explained to me that the problem was one that any number of mathematicians at the conference could have solved, but the professor had sought assistance from physicists and, according to Dad, it was not the kind of problem that a physicist could easily solve. Being a mathematician, Dad was better able to solve it. When he returned home, he told Mom this story. Mom asked, “You say the professor was from Clark Atlanta? That’s a historically black university. Was the professor black?” Dad thought for a moment and replied, “I don’t remember. He was a physicist. I can’t remember what color he was.”

When I tell this story to black friends, they laugh uproariously and declare that they love my dad. Good for him. Several years later, the professor invited Dad to visit Clark Atlanta as a guest lecturer. Dad discovered that the professor was, indeed, black. He was light-skinned. Dad remarked to me that if the man had been dark-skinned, he would certainly have remembered, but since he was light-skinned, he couldn’t remember for sure. I guess the distinctively African element of the man’s features did not stand out to my father, who spent his time with the man engrossed in a math problem. Bravo Dad for seeing the content of the man’s work and not the color of his skin.

Here’s another fun family story about busting the race boxes. My brother Dan once rented the 2007 remake of the movie Hairspray to watch with his children. His youngest, Ben, was five at the time. You may remember that at the end of the film, Tracy Turnblad successfully integrates the The Corny Collins Show, a dance show that is white-only except for once a month on “Negro Day.” After the movie ended, Ben asked Dan what Tracy did that was so special at the end of the movie when all the kids were dancing together. Dan explained that at the beginning of the movie the black kids and the white kids weren’t allowed to dance together, and that was the way it was in this country for a long time in history. Then he pointed out to Ben that at the end of the movie, Tracy had made it change, and all the kids got to dance together. After the explanation, Ben said to Dan, “So the black kids and the white kids couldn’t dance together at first but then at the end Tracy made it so the black kids and the white kids got to dance together.” “That’s right,” Dan confirmed. “I get it,” Ben said, “and which ones are we?” When your uncle is black and your only first cousins are black (actually multiculti), it can be confusing as to whether your family is black or white.

Thank you, Ben. Racial lines blur and racial divisions lose their meaning. What a relief. It’s time that we busted out of the prison of those racial identity boxes that attempt to rigidly and falsely classify the huge diversity of us humans.

Traditionally, the three races are itemized as Caucasoid (white), Negroid (black), and Mongoloid (Asian). Beginning around 1885, and going for about 100 years, these were the only three races recognized. More recently, indigenous peoples have been classified as their own race, often listed on forms under categories such as “Native American” or “Pacific Islander;” because, really, where do they fit in the three-race system? Anthropologists are careful to state that “Hispanic” or “Latino” is not a race per se, but terms that refer to people of any race who have a linguistic connection to the Spanish language. Yet “Hispanic” is now a box on the race/ethnicity form. How confusing is that? Truthfully, Hispanic is, in most instances, multiculti; i.e., part Latino (originally of Spanish origin) and part Native (indigenous), and often something else as well. I have often wondered which race box should be checked by people from India or Pakistan, or by Arabic people who come from countries like Iran (i.e., Persians). What race is Persian supposed to be? Is it considered Caucasian? Seriously? Is Pakistani considered Asian? Moreover, most American blacks are multiculti (unless they have recently emigrated from Africa), with a common combination being black, white, and Native. When Ron did a DNA test, the results showed that he has more Northern European DNA than any other single type of DNA in his make-up. So theoretically he should check the Caucasian box. This invites a whole other discussion about which box inter-racial people should check.

I prefer the concept of ethnicity to race as a way to explain who we are. Ethnicity is more about the culture from which we come and is more elastic than the three races. It gives me the opportunity to define myself as a Jew. When I am pressed to check a “white” or “Caucasian” box, it makes me feel as though everything that my people have suffered as a marginalized and minority culture is invisible. Suddenly I am the privileged white majority. Nothing could be further from the truth. Ethnicity tells more about who I am, but it’s still not the most informative way to classify people. I could go for describing myself based on cultural context. But the way I envision this sort of definition, it’s not a definition so much as a story. What I would like on the race form is a box I can check that is labeled “personal narrative.” I suppose that’s the same as “opt-out,” but it implies I have a story about my background and home culture that’s worth telling and that makes me who I am. Everyone does. Those narratives do not fit into the boxes.

Some people would argue that the statistics gathered using racial delineations are helpful in telling us something useful that can be applied to help improve people’s lives. As a grant writer, who makes arguments for need based on these kinds of statistics every day, I can see how that works to gain funding for helpful programs. And yet, I wonder how much of the disparities told by the numbers were created in the first place by those boxes. The thought of busting open those boxes on the race form makes me feel free and empowered. Don’t stuff us into those boxes. Let us be the sum total of our life stories, in which race or ethnicity or culture plays a part, but is not necessarily the defining characteristic. Imagine a whole world in which everyone pauses briefly in confusion and asks, like little Ben, “Which ones are we?” 

Here is a scene from the 2007 Hairspray -- getting ready for integrated dancing.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Believing Is Seeing

Apparently people need to believe that something exists, and in some instances have a word for it even, before they can actually see it. Such was the case with the color blue, which has only recently entered the consciousness of people on the timeline of human existence. There is considerable evidence that the ability to see the color blue is a relatively recent development in human evolution. According to scholars, the ancient languages of Greek, Chinese, Japanese, and Hebrew didn’t have a generic word for the color blue in them. Without a word to label the color, strong evidence indicates that these ancient peoples didn’t see it. In the Odyssey, Homer describes the ocean as “wine-dark” – never blue. Wine is not blue. The Odyssey contains detailed descriptions of the trappings of life at that time, but the references to color are limited. Classics scholars note that black is mentioned over 200 times in the Odyssey and white over 100, but other colors are barely mentioned. Red is mentioned about 15 times and yellow or green less than 10. Blue never. There is no word for blue in ancient Greek.

The nineteenth-century philosopher Lazarus Geiger hypothesized that the evolution of reason is intimately connected with the evolution of language. Geiger explains that the last color to begin to appear in the evolution of language from ancient times to the present day is blue. Geiger studied ancient texts and discovered some interesting things about perceptions of color. Democritus and Pythagoras note four fundamental colors:  black, white, red, and yellow. The Hindu Vedas describe the heavens in intricate detail at all hours of the day and night, but never once say anything about the sky being blue. Blue does not appear in the Koran, Icelandic Sagas, ancient stories from New Guinea, or ancient Chinese stories. In short, ancient civilizations did not perceive blue as a separate color the way we do in modern times. It was not distinguished as different from green. The only exception is the ancient Egyptians, who did have a word for blue, and who had figured out how to make a blue dye. Geiger came to the conclusion that the use of language to describe the world is arbitrary. I would say it is not so much arbitrary as rooted in culture, and cultures are widely different.

Neuropsychologist Jules Davidoff conducted research in Namibia to explore the question of whether or not we can see something if we don’t have a word for it. The Himba Tribe of Namibia has no separate word for blue. The word for green is also used to describe blue and Himbans make no distinction between blue and green. This makes sense if you imagine the world in which a Himba lives. Blue occurs infrequently in nature, and probably less or not at all in the native environment of a Himba. When shown a circle of 11 squares in which 10 were green and one was blue, Himbans could not pick out the blue square. But when shown a circle of 11 squares in which 10 were the same shade of green and one was a slightly different shade, Himbans could easily pick out the odd square, while Davidoff could not. Can you?

The picture below reveals the renegade square.

I can’t see any difference in the shades of green in the squares. I imagine that there are many words for different types of green in the Himba language and perhaps even a word for the different shade of green of this different square used in the test. In the daily life of a Himban, an extraordinary range of shades of green are probably perceived. Without knowing anything about Himban culture, I would hazard a guess that being able to recognize the difference between greens of very close color is an important ability that contributes to daily life and perhaps even survival. For instance, when a particular medicinal mushroom has a certain shade of green around the edge then it could be poisonous while a different shade of green around the edge could mean it is edible. I have made up this story about the mushroom to prove a point, but I think you can see what I’m saying. Similarly, Alaskan Natives have no one word for snow but many different words that each describe the type of snow. Thus my assertion that the use of language to describe the world is deeply rooted in culture. (Although how Himbans can see such delicate differences in shades of green and not notice that a blue square is a different color eludes me.) I have to wonder if people with limited vocabularies have limited perceptions of the world.

The word gives us a way to comprehend something within the context of our worldview, and a way to describe it. Without the word, it appears that we are in danger of not recognizing it. Can we see something if we don’t have a word for it? When Columbus arrived on this side of the ocean, he first made land in what is now the Dominican Republic. It is well-documented that the indigenous people did not see Columbus’s ships approaching. (See Charles C. Mann’s book 1491.) It is speculated that they did not have any frame of reference into which they could fit the image of his ships on the water and therefore they didn’t register their existence. I have to wonder what I am not seeing because I have no word for it or frame of reference in the context of my consciousness. I suppose (this is a leap but stay with me) it would be theoretically possible for extraterrestrials to pass among earthlings without detection because we have no word for them and thus no way to comprehend what we see when we see them. They could be a color that has not yet appeared on our spectrum.

I confess that I don’t think that there are extraterrestrials among us, although that might be a plausible explanation for some of my husband’s behavior. Invisible extraterrestrials are too supermarket-tabloid for my rational mind. But I do believe that there are forces of nature and spiritual commerce that we fail to see because we have no way to define, name, or comprehend. Some people are more able to perceive and recognize activity on the spiritual plane than others. The history of the color blue reminds me that an infinite array of events transpire in the world right in front of me that I fail to notice because I have a finite brain, a culturally-defined vocabulary, and a limited ability to see. Noticing and recognizing these things would unravel mysteries and enrich my life, I’m sure. I regret that they escape me. With a nod toward Aldous Huxley and his hallucinatory memoirs, we need to open wider the doors of our perception and believe in a broader possible reality. For now, I’m grateful that I can see blue. It’s one of my favorite colors; moreover, if I stopped being able to see it then I would not be able to find my car.

Sunday, March 1, 2015


I saw a news item this week about the strange disappearance of actress Lupita Nyong’o’s gown worn at the Oscars. The gown was a custom-made Calvin Klein designed by Francisco Costa described as “6,000 pearls affixed to silk lamé” valued at $150,000. That decadent price tag twists my brain in knots. I like Lupita and all, but it’s hard for me to accept that you could buy a house for the value of her dress. Seriously? She actually didn’t buy the dress, she just wore it. The dress still belongs to Calvin Klein, whom I very much doubt will auction it off and use the proceeds to feed the homeless. Costa is quoted as saying that he wanted the dress to be “graphic, yet warm and luxurious.” That sounds to me more like a description of a house than a dress. Since the dress costs as much as a down-payment on a house, that actually makes sense in a round-about kind of way.

I am the first one to admit that I’m no fashionista. Some of my favorite dresses came off the made-in-Bali rack at CVS Pharmacy, and cost about $15. No pearls. For many years back in the early 80s I wore a dress I found in a FREE box in Berkeley. I wouldn’t have worn the dress to the Academy Awards, of course. Well, maybe I would have worn it after sewing 6,000 pearls to it. But who has time for such nonsense? You could probably put 6,000 pearls on just about anything and it would become a masterpiece of attire.

This brings me to the next weird thing about Lupita’s stolen gown. It appears that the thieves stole the gown to determine whether or not the pearls were real. The day after the gown disappeared, an anonymous call was made to gossip website TMZ revealing where the gown could be found (in a garment bag under the sink in a restroom at the London Hotel in W. Hollywood) and informing TMZ that the pearls on the gown were fake. The thieves had taken two pearls from the gown and had them assessed by an expert in the garment district. The anonymous caller said the thieves stole the gown because they wanted show the world that Hollywood is fake.

So, did the thieves believe that Hollywood was real before they stole the two pearls from Lupita’s gown and had them assessed? Hollywood is about making movies and movies are inherently fiction; unless of course they’re documentaries, which are often fiction, but not as often as fiction movies. Were the fake pearls the tip-off for the thieves that Hollywood is not real? I would hazard a guess that an awful lot of fake pearls have passed through Hollywood. Heck, I made fake pearls back in the day when I worked in theater. We could make just about anything in the prop shop as long as it only had to last for six weeks. Although I do want to know why Calvin Klein values the dress at $150,000 if it’s covered in 6,000 plastic pop-beads.

People can get pretty passionate about dresses. You may have seen the latest clothing debacle focusing on the blue-and-black dress that some people see as white-and-gold. Apparently an optical illusion of a dress was posted on Tumblr last week. Some people see it one way and some people see it another. A heated debate ensued, which eventually prompted the NY Times to run an article in their Science Section about why we see the dress as we do. In reality, the dress is blue-and-black. Apparently many of the people who see it as white-and-gold are crushed that they can’t see the true colors of the dress. The expert at the NY Times explained that if your brain registers the dress as being in bright light it will see blue-and-black, but if your brain registers the dress as being in shadow then it will see white-and-gold. What baffles me is how this conversation about the color of the dress went viral when I can’t get a dozen people to read my blog, even when it’s on a topic of greater import than dresses (such as seaweed or plumbing repairs).

I suppose I have no business talking about dresses since I have no sense of style and as much understanding of fashion as a turtle. Approximately once every two years I go on a four-hour shopping spree and find a dress I like, buy three of them in different colors, and call it quits for another two years. I don’t get why my daughter and daughter-in-law drool over shoes. I go from flip-flops in the summer to Ugg boots in the winter, with Birkenstock’s to bridge in between hot and cold weather. I have been known to fall off flats and sprain my ankle; so if I wore heels I would probably suffer permanent spinal injury.

Last year, when Akili and Tina got married, I practically needed a Valium prescription to shop for a dress to wear to the wedding. In case you wondered, you can’t find a mother-of-the-groom wedding dress at CVS Pharmacy. In the months leading up to the wedding, I spent more hours in dress shops than I had spent in the previous twenty years. I began my search at bridal shops, which was a mistake. I suspect that most of the dresses at bridal shops contain about 90% glue and are made for women who don’t believe in wearing a bra. They even smell like glue. I figured out that the way it works is that you lick the dress and then press it against your tits and it sticks; kind of the way contact lenses work. Since I breast-fed three children in my youth, this method of apparel placement would leave me looking distinctly bovine. In one shop I tried on a dress that was capable of standing up by itself in the corner of the dressing room. It really didn’t even need a person in it because it could clearly go to a wedding all on its own. I wondered if it was haunted and if it had ever killed anyone and I got so spooked that I fled the dress shop. My daughter wanted me to wear something glamorous. Her father took a phone picture of me in a floor-length royal-blue gown that slid off my shoulders and he sent it to my daughter, who approved. But I couldn’t walk in it and the price was beyond my reach. If I fell on my face and broke a tooth, I wouldn’t have enough money left to get the tooth replaced.

A friend took me shopping for an entire day in the Bay Area. She knew a half a dozen super women’s clothing stores. I found an exquisite sheer black jacket with sequins and bought it, hoping I would find a dress to wear it with eventually. My friend knew the salesgirl and talked her into selling it to me at half price. I tried on a lot of dresses that day, but never found the right one. I had been looking high and low for several months at that point and was beginning to worry. Where else could I look? (Under the sink in the restroom at the London Hotel in W. Hollywood?) Would I ever find the right dress? Had the scary dress in the bridal shop put a curse on me? The following day, on the drive North from the Bay Area, I stopped at Macy’s in Santa Rosa and stumbled on the perfect dress, which would look great with the fancy black jacket. It was unequivocally black and martini-olive-green (no question about colors any way you looked at it) and it had no pearls (real or fake). The price was reasonable.

My daughter (who knows a lot about fashion) said the dress I chose was not as glamorous as she had hoped, but that it was very good and she approved. She once told me that when you get a dress for a special occasion it’s a wear-once dress. You never wear it again. I thought she was wrong about that, but now that the wedding came and went, I don’t think I will ever wear the dress again. Nothing else would be an important enough event for such an auspicious dress. So maybe my daughter is right. I wonder if Lupita’s pearl splendor will ever be worn again. If so, they will have to replace the two missing “pearls” to make it perfect again. In my opinion, it was not Lupita’s dress that was luminous, it was Lupita, who is a stunningly beautiful woman.