Read an Excerpt
Since the beginning of time the same question has been asked over and over again: What came first? The chicken or the egg? Well, I’m happy to say that I finally have the answer.
It’s neither. The chicken’s mother came first.
That’s right. The mother dropped an egg and the first chicken was hatched.
And that’s what we chicks have been doing ever since.
So, if you’re reading this, I have obviously not dropped my last egg yet.
Oh, sure, I dropped my last reproductive egg a few years ago. But my fertility eggs? Fuhgidaboutit.
I’m Fertile Myrtle now. I’m back to a daily grind on the Today show after an eight-year hiatus from television, I’m producing my fourth musical for the theater, I’m in development for two screenplays to be made into films, I’m halfway through writing my first novel, and I’m under deadline to finish this book by Christmas.
In other words, forget about a pig in mud. I’m more like a pregnant pig in placenta!
I share none of this information in a bragging way—on the contrary, I am so overwhelmed with gratitude that I still find joy and wonder and inspiration and challenge each day that I want to encourage everybody else to understand that the same sense of creative fertility is possible for them.
For years our society has perpetrated the perverse notion that once nature is done with us—especially women—we’re done, too! “ONLY THOSE WHO OVULATE ALLOWED!” But it’s a lie, and we don’t have to cooperate with it. Who says we have to hoist our beefy carcass onto the gurney and disappear into the sunset? Not me. Because you know when we’re really done? When we drop dead, that’s when. And even then it’s a whole different discussion about where we go from there.
But until that day comes, I believe we can experience creativity far beyond our wildest expectations. We can give birth daily to something beautiful and meaningful in ways we’ve never dreamed. Because when we’re older, we are free from raising young kids, building careers, and managing households, all the while battling Midol headaches. I don’t bloat anymore! Now it’s just fat, but that’s another essay. Think how much money we’re all saving because we bypass the feminine hygiene shelves at the drugstore. Okay, you argue, but what about all the hormone replacement stuff and edamame we need now?
You’re right, nothing’s perfect. But that’s really my point. Our lives stopped being perfect the moment we slipped out of the womb and got our heinies smacked.
Right then we should have realized that those days of sloshing around safe and sound in that amniotic fluid without a care in the world were over.
But, no. Then society started reinforcing that other ridiculous lie: that “happily ever after” crap.
We’d no sooner finish reading those fairy tale books when we’d start dreaming of our own Prince Charming, riding up on his Harley and carrying us away.
Oh, he rode up and carried us away all right. To a life of cooking, cleaning, birthing, and diapers. But we didn’t mind, did we? We were doing what we were created to do AT THAT TIME in our lives.
But none of the books we were encouraged to read ever mentioned that Prince Charming might end up being a jerk or a lousy provider or even, unfortunately for some, gay, which is indeed problematic in a traditional marriage.
So even if he was a sweet, loving, hardworking heterosexual prince, chances are his breath stunk, or he was a slob, or he ate too much or developed hair in weird places or liked to play with his putter more than he liked to play with his wife. And if we women are really honest, we might even admit that we were no “picnic in the park” either. More like a “bologna sandwich in the backyard on a hot day with a storm coming.”
Truth is, if you live long enough, you’re bound to be disappointed and you’re bound to disappoint others in return.
For me it’s been a matter of coming to grips with reality. Sometimes life doesn’t march on; it limps. Sometimes it’s on a walker and sometimes it’s on an IV drip in the ICU. What’s for sure is that we’re going to have ups and downs, good days and bad, triumphs and tragedies, shock and awe, and everything in between no matter what the fairy tales told us.
How we deal with it is ultimately what makes the difference between a life well lived and a life, well, . . . lived.
I’m so tired of reading the word “aging.” Not because it’s a bad word in itself. A bottle of wine, a savings bond, certain cheeses, antiques, these are all examples where “aging” is considered an asset.
So why isn’t that true of people? I mean, the opposite of aging is not aging. Therefore, if you’re not aging—call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure you’re dead. Now, I don’t fear dying, but I don’t particularly love the idea of being dead. It’s just so final-sounding.
The problem I have is that the word “aging” is almost always attached to a celebrity of a “certain age.”
Example: Madonna, the aging rock star; Clint Eastwood, the aging actor/director; John McCain, the aging presidential candidate; Kathie Lee, the aging . . . Well, no need to dwell on that. You get my drift.
Okay, what about Paris Hilton? Am I missing something or is she not aging at the exact same rate that all of the above are? So why isn’t she referred to as “the aging celebutard”?
Scientifically, we’re all aging one second at a time, day by day, year by year.
Thus the adjective is being used, really, to say something else. But, what exactly? That someone is beginning to show their age? Maybe, but that’s not true of Madonna. She’s fifty but she’s got the body of a twenty-year-old. Granted, Clint Eastwood looks like the Rock of Gibraltar, but I think the Rock of Gibraltar is beautiful. John McCain? I think after five and a half years in a Vietnamese prison camp and cancer, he looks amazing. And Kathie Lee? She doesn’t look a day under sixty.
Hey, it’s not complicated. Every day has twenty-four hours in it. The richest person in the world gets the same allotment that the poorest person gets. The difference is the poor guy is better off. He’ll never have to read “Bill Gates, the aging billionaire . . .”
Da Agony of da Feet
If your eyes are the window of your soul, what the heck are your feet? It’s frightening to think what my feet say about me. If genetics are the “sole” determinator then my feet say that I am a hard-loving, hardworking (by hooker standards), much traveled, extremely gnarly person.
Oh, and one more thing, each of my big toes lives in a different zip code from the rest of my foot, so I bet that suggests a sort of schizophrenic existentialism. I don’t have a clue what that actually means but it felt good writing it.
Anyway, back to my feet. Because they are fascinating. I remember my mother telling me about her grandmother and the horrendous pain she suffered from the crippling arthritis she had in her feet. My mother can be incredibly descriptive when she wants to be, and the picture she drew of Great-Grandma Florence Kathryn’s feet succeeded in making me pray that I would never live to be that old. But I have. My mother’s mother died of tuberculosis when my mother was only two years old, so Mom never did get a good look at her own mother’s feet. But I have a sneaking suspicion they looked a lot like my mother’s.
Now, my mother, Joanie, is a gorgeous woman from her ankles up—I mean, Miss America beautiful—but her feet wouldn’t win an honorable mention in the Most Beautiful Pig competition at the county fair. They have more than their fair share of bunions (the size of Delaware and Rhode Island), corns, calluses, neuromas, hammertoes, and various and sundry other ailments. And just like our great-grandmother before us, my sister, Michie, and I inherited the feet from hell. We really shouldn’t call them feet; they’re more like hooves. Even in my baby pictures you can already see the beginning of a small growth beside my big toe. So it was inevitable that I would also someday have wicked-stepsister feet even if I did nothing but sit around on my lard butt all day wearing orthopedic shoes.
But noooo, I had to choose show business. Ta da! Two shows a night, on a raked (angled) stage, and grueling choreography—all in four-inch Manolo Blahnik heels. See? I was stupid long before Carrie Bradshaw was. Forty years stupider. I would show you these feet I’ve just described, but I’m not able to. Nope. ’Cause I don’t have ’em anymore. At the age of fifty-four I took a good long look at my face. Then I took a good long look at my feet. And as much as I thought I could use a face-lift, it was no contest. Hands down, the feet won.
I was tired of my feet telling me where I was gonna go, what I was gonna do, and how long I was gonna be able to do it. So I made an appointment with a Zimbabwean surgeon (don’t ask), and on November 16, 2007, I had both of my feet completely redone. I spent the next week in abject agony, and I spent the next month contemplating the murder of a certain Zimbabwean surgeon. Then, all of a sudden, miracle of miracles, the stitches came out, the pins came out, the ugly boots came off, and the Zimbabwean surgeon became a genius. I am now a veritable born-again, back to life Ginger Rogers. I’m seriously considering Dancing with the Stars, running the New York marathon, and becoming a Rockette, all the while moonlighting as a foot model for Manolo Blahnik himself.
So the moral of the story is: Reach for the stars, baby. But make sure your feet are up for the trip.
Now, about my face . . .
Recently I was invited to a very chic, very sophisticated birthday party for my friend Barbara Taylor Bradford. Barbara is the celebrated author of twenty-four books worldwide and a fabulous woman. The magnificent private room at Le Cirque restaurant in New York City was filled with maybe thirty women of various ages, backgrounds, and interests. You would recognize most of them by name if I mentioned them, but I’m trying hard to keep from offending more people than absolutely necessary, so they shall remain nameless.
Anyway, after a delicious lunch it was time for the birthday toasts. The first to clink her glass and rise to speak was Edwina Churchill. With her elegant bearing and lovely English accent she began, “My grandfather Winston [yes, that Churchill] was a man of . . .” and she went on for quite some time about his accomplishments, which as you know from history were pretty remarkable by anyone’s standards.
Finally, as Edwina came to a close, she lifted her champagne glass even higher into the air and said, “And so, my dear Barbara, my grandfather Winston Churchill would have loved you.”
After we all said “Hear, hear” and took a sip, a deathly silence filled the once cheery room. I guarantee you the thought every one of us was thinking was “How the hell do you follow that?”
But being the fool that I am and always will be, I clinked my glass and stood to speak. (Hey, somebody had to!)
Looking lovingly at my friend, I said, “Barbara, my grandfather Meyer Epstein was a bootlegger, a snake charmer, and a carnival barker.” I paused for dramatic effect. “And he would have loved you even more!”
Everyone laughed except Edwina, who has never spoken to me since.
What’s the point of the story? I’m not sure, except to make note of the fact that our families are our families and each one of us has to come to some place of acceptance about that eventually. The sooner we do, the sooner we’ll come to a place of peace about our own purpose in life.
King Charles, the Omniscient
Most women go crazy over George Clooney.
Me, I’m in love with Charles Krauthammer. Oh, calm down. Frank knows all about it. Every time he turns on the Fox News Channel, there Charles Krauthammer is, and Frank immediately says, “There’s your boyfriend.”
I make absolutely no attempt to persuade him differently. Why you may ask. Why do I love Charles Krauthammer? Because he is the single smartest man on the planet, and knowledge is power. That’s why.
So, if knowledge is power and Charles Krauthammer is the smartest man on earth, then Charles Krauthammer is the most powerful man on the planet. And we all know that power is the greatest aphrodisiac on earth.
P.S. I’m sure this is going to crush George Clooney, but he’s just gonna have to get over it.
There is such a huge debate in our country over immigration. It’s interesting to me on a deeper level than politics because we’re all, in essence, immigrants of one kind or another. Except for the Native Americans. Now, they really got the shaft. Think about it. Only the ones that own casinos seem to have gotten a piece of the American pie.
I’ll admit, my ancestors didn’t come over on the Mayflower. I’m no pedigree. My dad’s father, Meyer Epstein, came over on a steamer from Saint Petersburg, Russia, right after the turn of the century. That would be the century before this one—around 1900.
He was a Russian Jew and he married my dad’s mother, Evelyn, who by all accounts was a full-blooded Native American. So we nicknamed Daddy “Sitting Shiva.”
My mother Joanie’s parents had completely different heritages. Her father was from a distinguished publishing family in Toronto, Canada, directly descended from the brilliant writer Rudyard Kipling. Her mother came from Brooklyn, born of German stock. Joanie’s nickname was “Cuddles” Cuttell. Apparently Mom was very popular, but she won’t tell me why.
So, Sitting Shiva and Cuddles fell in love as most human beings are wont to do, and they started a little dynasty of their own. Right off the bat they had David Paul, Kathryn Lee, and Michele Suzanne. Three little Epsteins, just like the Three Little Pigs, but more like three little Russian Jewish German French Canadian Indians.
In other words, “American.”
From the Hardcover edition.