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This is the fourth chapter in the series. If this is your first foray in this blog, you may wish to start at the beginning.  

“It’s catastrophic, calamitous, cataclysmic!” I declared. I was on a roll now, my newly-roused fervor ignited in the throes of anticipated ruin.
"Oh-Kaay. I think that pretty much exhausts the "Cs" in the debacle category. Are we moving on to the Ds now, or do you care to elaborate?" Ilene remarked somewhat distractedly. She was busy trying on a new shade of eyeliner and humored my mini-meltdown perfunctorily while we stood at the Clinique counter at Nordstroms. She paused to take a closer look at her face now, frowning into the magnifying mirror as she examined an imaginary line of crow's feet while her features were getting super-sized.
“My life as I know it is over,” I exclaimed. “That’s it. Finnito, caput! My good name besmudged forever.” I paused while she persisted to examine her face.
“Are you aiming for a full-blown, self-loathing complex?” I interjected. “Get away from that thing. It would make Halle Berry look like Godzilla on a good day.”
“I think you mean ‘besmeared’ don’t you?” she corrected my terminology reflexively in true editor fashion. “There,” she declared, moving away from the mirror. “How does this look?” She turned to reveal one eye outlined in a ludicrous shade of lavender befitting Barney on Career-Day, and we both crinkled our noses and shook our heads. Without pause she reached for a tissue, and proceeded towards the eye-shadows.
“It’s insufferable! I have developed an allergy to the Blackberry! Every time it vibrates I break into a sweat. My chest feels tight, my fingers feel numb. Look - I’m even getting a rash!” I said, thrusting my arm out for her to examine.
“Why do they do this to us?” she proclaimed, impervious to my newly-discovered affliction.” Is this an evil scheme master-minded by some secret order of misogynistic architects? Are they trying to induce suicidal urges in all women over forty, forcing us to look at our faces in such ghastly lighting? You’d think they’d learn by now.” Exasperated, she put the tester back in its tray. “I think the hot flashes might be accounted for another way hon‘,” she added matter-of-factly, working her way down the display case while I trailed closely behind.
“Every time another one of those insidious little invitations from “Counterparts” pops up on my screen, my throat starts to close up,” I went on. “I begin to cough and gag. I think I might be developing late-onset asthma. I swear. Oooaughoaua! See! Hear that? Maybe I should get my thyroid checked.”
“I’m not a doctor, but I once dated a guy who played one on TV. Does that count? What do you think of this color?” she held up a cylindrical dispenser in a hideous shade of chartreuse.
“For you, or in principle?” I asked.
She waited.
“Fine. If you plan on living on a chicken farm.”
She put it back and continued surveying the rest of the collection.
“And look at my eyes,” I persisted. “Do they look green to you?” Ilene turned away from the tester tray to examine them. “They do don’t they!” I lamented. “Maybe it’s cadmium poisoning. I’ve read about this sort of thing. They‘re always coming out with new studies like that - how we get brain tumors from cell phones - or exotic bacterial infections from soda cans. Or was that from the rats that traipse across them...? I forget now. Maybe I’m being poisoned!”
"Hmm," she was looking into my eyes intently now. "Yes. You're right. They do look green. Now that I think of it, they've been that way for some time now. Like - since birth!" She turned her attention back to the eye-shadow case, exploring a new shade of plum. "Urban Wine," she read the label out loud. "Who do you think came up with that one? Can wine be urban? Or maybe they're talking about the screw-cap variety you can get at the 7-11- the kind bums at the bus station carry around wrapped in brown paper bags..." She drifted out loud.
“And I’m jumpy!” I added, ignoring her musing. “Every time it chimes I twitch. See!” I demonstrated, my shoulder and neck jerking exaggeratedly. “It’s almost Tourettes like. I think I’m developing a seizure disorder. I can’t get any work done. I think I need to see a doctor, get my blood checked.”
“That would explain the sudden incontrollable urge to curse. You know what I think? I think it’s nothing a couple of dates and a double Vodka Martini won’t solve.”
“Oh no you don’t. That’s the kind of thinking that got me in this mess to begin with. I was doing just fine, thank you - perfectly happy until you and Jody intervened. Now look at me. I haven’t slept since this whole online fiasco began! Do you know that I got Twittered the other day? Uh huh. That’s right, Twittered. And don’t ask me to explain what that is, because—I don’t know. But - it’s bad, I tell you. And it was done to me! The whole thing is insidious. Just a heinous breach.”
“AND?” She was motioning now, urging some obvious response which eluded me. “Do you have any hot dates lined up?” she finally interpolated impatiently.
“I tell you I’m dying of the plague and all you want to know is if I have a hot date?” She repeated the motion.
“I - I don’t know.”
“What do you mean you don’t know?”
“I don’t know. OK, I haven’t really checked,” I confessed somewhat abashedly, feeling inexplicably guilty, as though I was the one who somehow betrayed some fundamental tenet of sisterhood - let my best friends down - defied their efforts ungratefully. I cringed, waiting for the anticipated reproof.
"You mean you're not reading your messages?!" Ilene exclaimed incredulously. "Are you insane? What are you waiting for?! This is a first-come-first-served business babe! You snooze, you lose. You gotta strike while the iron's hot, act while the meat's still fresh."

I was still awed by the unlikely barrage of cliches she had just unleashed, when something somehow managed to filter through. Apparently not only was I the dreaded “meat“, but now I could go stale too? I shook my head in hopes it might unjumble the muddled heap fogging up my brain.
“What are you saying? I have a limited shelf-life - a virtual expiration date?” I probed incredulously, still struggling to grasp the new precepts. I wondered if there was a virtual equivalent to hydrogenated fats - something that extended ones cyber shelf-life.
“Honey,” she wrapped her arm around my shoulder, steering us towards the perfumes. “You don’t want to become a Chameleon, do you?”
“A Chameleon?”
“You know, one of those lizards that changes colors and blends into the background...
“Yes I know what a Cha -
“One of those poor schleps suspended in cyberspace-neverland—vanishing into the abyss, turned virtual wallflower? The sort who lurks about in wait for so long they just dissolve - disappear - merge into their surroundings undetectably like insipid hotel-art, only to be glossed over - bypassed, fading into cyberspace and dating oblivion forever? You’ll turn so inconspicuous you couldn’t get noticed if your gorgeous mug were broadcast on America’s Most Wanted and there were a million-dollar bounty on your head, much less get asked out. Trust me on this. It’s the ultimate online gaffe darling, tantamount to cyber-dating suicide. You‘re better off looking like Quasimodo.”

I stopped dead in my tracks. Turn invisible?  Online? That was a possibility I had never even conceived of. All this time I had been horrified with the notion of so much exposure, such colossal exhibitionism, when in reality what one really was supposed to worry about was going unnoticed? Was that even possible? My head felt like it was about to explode. Suddenly I was a greenhorn on a perilous expedition navigating uncharted territory minus a GPS, and my entire world had just been turned on its head. My learning curve had just been thrust into warp-speed, and I was plunging ahead at breakneck velocity, having to absorb that this new universe was a far cry from any I had ever conjured up, while the skin on my face blew back to my ears. This was "not you parent's" Mars Rover. This one came with its whole own unique set of paradoxes - and one that clearly defied any concept of metaphysics I had ever entertained. In this universe apparently the real threat wasn't about being hung out on display. It was about being hung out to dry! In the realm of cyber-dating the real transgression wasn't 'getting posted.' It was getting posted and then doing nothing about it! -- allowing one's cyber-presence to stagnate to a point of invisibility, of becoming overlooked - going unnoticed. Or worse, being ignored! And in the dating world this was a fate far worse than death. It portended virtual spinsterhood!  

My head was throbbing. I wondered, how I had ever been thrust into this position. But worse, what did it portend for my future? One thing was certain. My friends’ Karmas had just been fast-tracked. Reprisal machinations were in the works. If I had to go through this, I wasn’t going down alone. It was payback time.

To Be Continued... Copyright 2010.  

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