Sunday, January 1, 2017

I Don’t Get Up Early. I Get Up Yesterday.

by Marianne Curan

Today is officially the 8th day of my Christmas “staycation” and I’m just now beginning to see my way to the other side of exhaustion. That’s what happens when you get up at 3 a.m. every day to do a morning radio show.

I know I’m “cry-if-you-poke-me” tired when I’ve been in bed for 10 hours each of those 8 days and I still wake up too fried to scramble an egg.  So instead of the back breaking work of whisking eggs into a frying pan I’ve been eating leftover stuffing out of a Tupperware container. It’s much less tasking and, thankfully, I make damned good stuffing. 

Growing up it was a very rare occasion when my Mom, Saint Marge, would let on that she was so exhausted she’d groan, “I feel like I dug ditches all day.”  Well, if you spend 27 years raising four humans you’re bound to be pretty wiped. (Oh, I say 27 because that’s how old I was when I finally moved out.)

I cannot imagine how Saint Marge didn’t feel that exhausted every day after herding around four wetting, whining wee ones. I can’t believe she never actually dug a ditch and threw herself in it. That’s why Mom was a goddamned SAINT.

Look, I’m lucky I don’t dig ditches for a living. So why does hosting a radio show feel similar? I don’t literally use a jackhammer to pry open the earth but there are days when I’m so blotto tired I feel like someone’s used a jackhammer to pry open my head. 

I know my job isn’t rocket science or hard labor. And this deep exhaustion would make more sense if I was hosting an issue related talk show. You know the ones where bloviating hosts spend hours spewing about news and politics and then argue at full throat-ripping volume with incensed listeners who scream back even though they all actually agree on the same shit. Now that would be exhausting.

My show is a few hours of shoot-the-shit-chat and laughing with our listeners followed by a couple of hours figuring out what shoot-the-shit-chat we’re gonna talk about the next day—and the next day. That’s the gig and when the red light’s on and we’re live it’s a blast.

Unlike issue shows there is no screaming or arguing. (TO CLARIFY: that would be no screaming or arguing on air. There is occasional screaming and arguing off air because a) we’ve all been up since 3 am and b) my co-host is my husband.)

Another thing that sets us apart from issue shows is there’s usually nothing intellectually challenging. For instance, we recently talked about why I hate toaster ovens. “I have a toaster and I have an oven. Why do I need a toaster-oven?” You’d be shocked how many callers chimed in on that earth shattering conversation.

My show is the radio equivalent of Marshmallow Fluff…just a giant ooey, gooey jar of nutrition-free confection much like “Live with Kelly and Michael”— ooops,  I mean “Live with Kelly and “The Celeb Suck-Up O’ the Day.”  (Doesn’t Anderson Cooper have all the jobs he needs?) For the love of God, ABC, pick someone and move on.

However, there is a big difference between that fluffy TV show and my fluffy radio show.  According to “Good Housekeeping”—and they would know— Kelly Ripa gets up at 6 am, not 3. People love asking me, “How early do you get up?” My answer, “Well, I used to think I was a morning person. But now, I don’t get up early. I get up yesterday." 

This is how early 3 am is. Three a.m. is so early it can’t even be called the “ass crack of dawn.”  I don’t know what time is the official ass crack of dawn. I just know that at 3 am it is pitch black outside so there is no “dawn” and if there were an ass crack of something you wouldn’t see it anyway. 

On the flip side of career fate Ms. Ripa rolls out of her designer sheets at 6 am, then leisurely sips a cup of herbal tea and peels herself a grape (although she might have someone who peels it for her). She is then whisked to the TV studio for hair, makeup and wardrobe. She prances onto the stage at 9 for an hour of Marshmallow Fluff and is back in a limo on her way to a Pilates class by 10:01. 

Am I jealous of Kelly Ripa?  Of course I am.  She works one hour a day (or 44 actual minutes if you subtract the commercials.)  She’s a size “minus”— not a minus two, or even a zero, she’s just a minus. She’s too small to have a number. She makes about $20 million dollars a year, lives in a $27 million townhouse in Manhattan and has a getaway home in the Hamptons. 

Oh, and most importantly, she’s RESTED.  Hell yes, I am jealous of that.

As I finish up this little rant I realize I have one more day off before setting my alarm for work.—okay, not for work, not for digging ditches…for my show. 

So I’m gonna go get some laundry done, take the dogs for a walk and count my blessings.

Oh, and I better go grocery shopping. I’m almost out of stuffing.


Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Very Puppy Christmas

A Very Puppy Christmas...with Norton

Twas the night before Christmas and, as you can see,
the ornaments hang at the top of the tree.
The ones at the bottom ‘ol Norton destroyed
so we hung the rest high--a vet bill to avoid.

The gifts are piled safely locked up in his crate
away from his jaws and so as not to be “ate.”
“Guilty as charged” he was put in his place
but we just can’t get mad at that heavenly face.

Puppies are cute (which is why he’s still here)
to join in a holiday filled with good cheer!
We’ll keep him and love and when he grows up

maybe we’ll remind him what he did as a pup!

Merry Christmas!!
Marianne, Bob, Stanley and Norton

Have Yourself A Very Puppy Christmas!!

A Very Norton Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas and as you can see
the ornaments hang at the top of the tree.
The ones at the bottom ‘ol Norton destroyed--
so we hung them up high-- a vet bill to avoid.
The gifts are piled safely locked up in his crate
away from his jaws and so as not to be “ate.”
“Guilty as charged” he was put in his place
but we just can’t get mad at that heavenly face!

Puppies are cute (which is why he’s still here)
to join in a holiday filled with good cheer!
We’ll keep him and love and when he grows up

maybe we’ll remind him what he did as a pup!

Monday, March 14, 2016

“Stop Calling Me Ma’am!!”
by Marianne Curan

When I tell people how old I am, the most common response is, “Really?"  accompanied by a slight gasp and an eyebrow raised in suspicion. Embarrassed, they quickly add, ”You look great..." (their voices trailing off with a tell-tale dot, dot, dot at the end of the sentence, leaving off what I know they're really thinking) “…for your age."

They seem incredulous that someone "my age" isn't lying on a cruise ship deck chair recalling the revolutionary impact of control top pantyhose while eating a 7 course meal -- through a straw. So perhaps hearing "You look great..." (dot, dot, dot) should be considered a compliment. I'd raise an eyebrow in suspicion of that theory but I've had so much Botox I can't move anything above my knees.

By the way, I'm 50. There. I said it. And there you are with your facile forehead saying, "You look great..." (dot, dot, dot). Thanks. I think.

An embroidered pillow on my bed reads "Aging Gracefully Is Overrated" and I believe that's true. I also believe I need to get over it. And, by it, I mean my -- and perhaps society's -- expectations of where my life should be by now. (Let's not get started on where my butt and boobs should be. If they keep sinking, I'll need a Navy Seal to dredge them up.)

Let's see. Using my circa 1975, 14-year-old (and thus delusional) Helen Reddy inspired estimations, by "this age" I was supposed to be roaring and soaring -- managing my 401 k, winning 10k races and chasing twins who are pre- K... all while maintaining a size six with bowls of Special K.

None of this has happened.

So, I figure I have a choice. I can either find a way to feel good about my accomplishments -- despite my lack of a corner office, six pack abs and a calendar of play dates -- or not. I can accept my life "at this age" while shouting "I'm 50 and Fabulous!" as I wave my AARP card for 15 cents off a McDonald's fish filet -- or not. I can don stretch capri pants and let my hair go gray like Jamie Lee Curtis in a yogurt commercial -- or not.

For the last ten years or more, I've chosen "or not."

I've lied about my age since I was 40, shaving off five years knowing I could pull it off. This worked until I turned 45 and realized that subtracting 5 years still made me 40. And as an actress in Hollywood 2 + 2 = 4; Kate + 8 = television and actress + 40 = DEAD.

This reality hit me the hardest at the gym when I found myself lying to the elliptical machine as it prompted me for information. Input program: (1) Walk in the Park. Nope, too easy. (2) Run Up Big Hills. Nope, too hard. (3) Lie Through Your Teeth About Your Age. Bingo! I press three. Input weight. I cover the LED with my hand like I'm shielding my pin number at an ATM. 132. God I wish. Input age: Shit! With my index finger hovering over the display I break into a sweat -- and I haven't even started working out. My age?? What's that got to do with bobbing up and down on a machine? Why does the machine need to know? Isn't it bad enough it thinks I'm only 132 pounds? I press 45. The LED starts flashing. Input age: I try 46. It keeps flashing. I try 47, 48, 49. By the time I input 50 my time limit is up and another gym member is waiting. "Whew! Great workout! It's all yours!" I say to a petite Barbarella clone as I mop my brow and collect my dignity -- and my More magazine.

I finally stopped denying my age the day I found out I had a Wikipedia page put together by some well-meaning but overeager cyber geek who's apparently one of the six viewers of my TV career on Game Show Network. Right there on the World Wide Web is my birthdate glaringly displayed for the entire universe to see -- or those same six people (see above.)

It's not hard to edit a Wikipedia page- - believe me it's not if I can do it. But every time I went online and shaved five or six years off my birthdate, this unseen bothead went back and restored it.

How does Mr. WikiStalker know I've changed it, anyway? And why does he care that I'm so emotionally immature I can't bear to see the numbers 1-9-6-1 lined up in that order?

Besides, it's MY Wikipedia page. It's MY life. I can fake, forge or revise my own damned history, thank you very much. Who is this basement dwelling WikiWeirdo? This pleather-belt-wearing mouth breather who's cutting and pasting my life on some makeshift encyclopedia? Who has that kind of time? (Okay, I do, but I'd rather spend it sucking in my new middle aged gut. Oops, there goes 30 seconds.)

It's really crazy how crazy I can let my age make me. And it is just a number, right? Which I'm sure is how my silent editor feels. "Just the facts, Ma'am." Stop calling me Ma'am! Being called Ma'am is like hearing, "Hey, aging lady with a coupon for chocolate calcium chews who's buying Fresca and writing a check, how are you today, Ma'am?"

Okay, confession. I do Google myself -- occasionally. Maybe because it's much easier to look at old photos of my younger self than face the face I see in the mirror now --t he one that is slowly sinking -- the one with the jowls of life.

I blame modern technology for making us all so self-aware and too self-important. Why else are we constantly checking email, voicemail, texts, Tweets, Facebook -- and now an Encyclopedia of Us? Is it to reaffirm our existence and our worth... or to find a Groupon for half off some modern technology that can make us look half our age?

Is anyone else tired right now? I am. But then, I just turned 50. I had much more energy last year.

I guess I should embrace my age, my aging and technology's grasp on my truth. Perhaps I should get rid of that pithy little pillow and learn to age gracefully -- however overrated that may be -- because it is, after all, "Just the facts, Ma'am. Just the facts."

All right. I give. On one condition. Stop calling me Ma'am.


Published in "Huffington Post" and "More Magazine" April, 2012

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

You Can't Always Get What You Want...and That Sucks: A Recession Rant

You Can't Always Get What You Want... and That Sucks: A Recession Rant
by Marianne Curan
Huffington Post April 2012

In hard times I've often found comfort from Mick Jagger crooning, "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, well, you just might find, you get what you need." Thanks, Mick! You are so right, man. Everything's gonna be just fine.

Those words soothed me when an audition I really wanted didn't come through. I'd trust I'd land the next one -- with an even bigger paycheck -- which I really needed. 

I'd hum that tune as I scoured Designer Shoe Warehouse only to find nothing I wanted in my size. My pulse would steady and I'd leave content with a pair of much-needed socks instead. 

These days, however, I'm finding The Stones' lyrics less helpful. "Get what I want? We're in a recession, for God's sake! I can't even get what I friggin' need!"

As I headed to the post office to mail my unemployment form I tuned to a Lite Hits station. You know "lite," like the beer, less fill, more fulfilling. "Don't stop thinking about tomorrow. It'll be better than before. Yesterday's gone. Yesterday's gone." Well, no shit, Sherlock Mac. I know yesterday's gone, but much like The Beatles, "I believe in yesterday." Yesterday. When I had a job. Yesterday. When I could afford a drive-by shoeing at DSW. Yesterday. When I lived in a delirious whirl of instant gratification.

Music wasn't working, so I tried self-affirmation. "This too shall pass," I chanted, reassured whatever "this" was would pass, like it used to. But "that" was then and "this" is now, and "this" too may pass but does it have to feel like an 18-pound kidney stone?

And, yes, "that" which hasn't killed me has made me stronger -- which is good -- because now I have the strength to kill myself. 

Oh, calm down. I don't mean that last part. It's just a little black humor. Not ha-ha funny humor, just dark and pathetic -- but that's what long term unemployment does to people. It makes them dark and pathetic. Get over it.

Wow, that was harsh. I don't mean to be a black cloud over someone reading this who's in the same place seeking commiseration and camaraderie. Wait, who am I kidding? If you're looking for sunshine and lollipops go down a couple Five Hour Energy drinks and watch Rachael Ray. I'm just a little too bitter right now, okay?

Jeez, this isn't like me... that happy American Dream me... the conspicuous consumer me (I rarely was) but always knew I could be if I wanted to be me. 

I miss that me who could slap dinner and a bottle of wine at a great restaurant on a credit card and pay it in full every month. Now, unless I have a buy-one-get-one free coupon (free being "up to a $12.99 value"), those days are gone. Plus, those deals usually feature something "bottomless" like fried shrimp, breadsticks or the entire Olive Garden menu -- all food that guarantees when you eat it you'll be anything but bottomless.

I miss that me who casually bought $32 bottles of imported olive oil to drizzle on $7 a loaf focaccia from Whole Foods. Now I'm trying to convince myself even margarine tastes better when it sits on a Ritz.

Am I whining? I think I'm whining. I apologize for not being more sympathetic to your recession woes. I hope things turn around for you. I really do.

And, when they do, will you please invite me over for a fabulous dinner with expensive wine and drizzle everything with imported olive oil? Or, just drizzle me with the olive oil and let my husband sop it up with the focaccia. That'll be the most exciting date we've had since the economy tanked. 

I promise I'll be a good guest, use the right fork and pretend I like your cat. And, when you ask me what music I want to hear, I'll say, "Anything but rap, really. Maybe some Rolling Stones... I think I'm ready for a little 19th Nervous Breakdown."

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

"Bloobs" A Tale of Growing Older and Wider

“A Tale of Growing Older and Wider”
by Marianne Curan

   I’ve been avoiding my annual “Well Woman” gyno exam. Like most women I don’t like the exam (only a perverted exhibitionist would) but I don’t mind it. It’s quick, painless and protects my health. More importantly, they have candy at the desk when you check out. Plus, I really like my doctor. He’s gentle and kind. He listens to my whining, or pretends to, and I can usually make him laugh. These guys love hormone jokes.
   What I don’t like is getting weighed which is the very first thing they do. So I keep rescheduling, buying time to drop a few pounds.
   This all started a few visits ago when I was on the plump side–for me, and knew that stepping on the doctor’s scale was not going to be good news. I don’t have a scale at home for exactly this reason. I’m perfectly capable of perpetuating my low self-esteem by trying on a pair of old jeans. I don’t need the added humiliation of knowing how much I actually weigh.
   I was rescheduling for the third time when I was told I couldn’t refill my Ambien prescription without a checkup. Damn. They’d got me. So I sucked up my pride, sucked in my gut and went to the gynecologist.
   As soon as I arrived, Nurse Brenda, a cheerless and efficient woman in pink Panda Bear scrubs, grabbed my chart, grunted something that might have been “hello” and pointed to the scale. “Wait,” I said. “Don’t you need a urine sample?” figuring that would shave off a couple of ounces. She rolled her eyes and handed me a cup. “Make it quick.” 
   That done, I peeked out the restroom door hoping to make a run for the exam room. No such luck. My captor awaited me, tapping her pen on my chart. “Okay. Give me a second” I implored as I began to strip off my clothes next to the scale–which is in the main hallway. I figured we’re all women here, right? Sure, most of the doctors are men, but I’m guessing they saw a lot more than this in anatomy class. Off go my shoes. Belt. Jacket. Wristwatch. For a second I thought I was at the airport. 
   I was just slipping off my jeans when Nurse Ratchett squawked, “Other patients are waiting.” I looked behind me to see six half naked women shivering against the wall. One of them was trying to scrape off a tattoo. They all gave me a thumbs up–perfectly happy to put off their “turn.” I handed Brenda my wedding ring. “I’ll let you pawn that if you shave off five pounds.”
   The scale is one of those old fashioned clunky contraptions with the floating lever that slowly, torturously bobs up and down as you adjust the sliding metal bar to the correct weight. It’s like being in Vegas, waiting for the roulette ball to finally land on your winning number. “132! 132!” I shouted. All the women in the hall join me! “132! 132!” The bobbing slowed down, it was getting close and it was clearly not going to be 132. “136! 138! Oh-am-I-regretting-what-I-ate.” Nursey Dearest kept pushing the metal bar to the right. I’d push it to the left. She’d push it to the right. “Hey! That’s the wrong direction!” I squealed in protest. “It’s never gone that far before.” 
   I jumped off the scale and popped out my contact lenses. Brenda was not happy with my display. I stepped back up and she testily tapped the bar even further. “Wait!” I begged. “Got any nail polish remover? A lint brush?” She ignored me and announced the number for the whole hallway to hear. They let out a collective moan of empathy as she scribbled it on my chart. “Don’t worry” she snorted. “I’ve seen worse.”
   So here I am again facing my upcoming exam, wishing peanut butter toast didn’t taste so good at 10 p.m. and wondering how I’m going to lose 8 pounds in eleven days, 4 hours and 23 minutes.
   Oh, and by the way, they’ve modernized. Their new scale is digital so now my weight will be displayed instantly in red, glaring neon with nary a nanosecond to drop trou. I’m so nervous I’m hungry.
   Sigh. It seems I can’t escape reminders of those dreaded extra pounds. Like a news report I heard for a new plastic surgery to reduce “Bra Bulge”– or what is actually a combination of blubber (commonly known as back fat) and boobs. Blubber + Boobs = Bloobs.
   Where did these bulbous appendages squishing out the sides of my bra, these “Bloobs” come from?? I mean I get the concept of muffin top tummies and junk in the trunk, but fat boobs? Isn’t that a bit redundant?
For all my grown life I have been blissfully happy with my 34 B’s. They were perfectly perky and suited to my hip-less hips and my ongoing love affair with high impact aerobics. Even in V-neck sweaters they never distracted men from conversation but if I needed them to get attention, I could always push ‘em up, shove ‘em up in a Wonder Bra. My old boobs were accommodating boobs. Until that day I took them shopping at Bloomingdales.
   It was already a lousy day in the midst of a lousy couple of years. I was mired in a very deep depression after losing both my parents, losing my second lucrative TV job to cheaper, firmer talent, and being caught in the midst of my brand new husband’s salary-sucking custody battles with his deranged ex-wife. Between the meds, the stress driven binge eating and the onset of middle age I was rapidly gaining the pounds I had fought off since 1977 when I found out a mere 6 McDonald’s fries have a 100 calories–without ketchup. It seems I was not growing older and wiser. I was growing older and wider.
   Now I couldn’t wriggle into my size 6 jeans unless I was greased down like one of those fries. All my shirts seemed to have shrunken into size small midriffs when in fact they were still a medium. My midriff had become a large. And I’d gone up a bra size –to a 36B. “One size up, big deal,” I told myself. “And 36 B sounds sexy.” So I grabbed a couple bras to try on. They were snug, so I adjusted the hooks. Still snug. Uncomfortably snug. The sales girl brought me a 36C. My cups didn’t runneth over but the flesh wrapped around my torso and under my armpits did. I tried to smoosh it forward. No luck. Apparently cup size wasn’t an issue, my girth was. 
   A soul wrenching wail from my dressing room brought the salesgirl running. “Can you get me a thi-thi-thi-thirty, eight…” I said, hoping she might bring a revolver instead of a bra. 
   Of course it fit. I looked in the mirror and burst into tears. These were no longer my boobs. These were not overflowing globes of desire for my husband. These were fatty extensions of my overindulgence. They were Bloobs and they had to go. Newly determined, I slinked out of Bloob-ingdales and headed to the gym.
   Slowly and steadily I lost 10 of the 17 pounds I’d gained. It felt so good. I was wearing jeans I hadn’t worn in two years and I could almost get back into my 34 B’s…almost. Seven pounds to go, but I know I can do it. All I have to do is open my underwear drawer for a little inspiration.
   It’s now the day before my gyno appointment. I’m sure Nurse Brenda will be ready and waiting, tapping her pen on that clipboard and pointing at the Digital Doctor of Doom down the hall. But this time, I’m not going to turn my back on my Well Woman exam. I'm going to get weighed without undressing or exfoliating or doing anything else desperate and unflattering. I’m going to step right up on that scale. I’m just going to do it– backwards.
   There are certain things in life I just don’t need to know.


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Eggs Over. Not Easy.

Published in More Magazine & Huffington Post

Eggs Over. Not Easy.
by Marianne Curan

"More" Magazine: A woman chronicles how her thoughts and feelings about having children has changed through the years.

I was never one of those women who turned 30 and became a heat-seeking missile of Motherhood. It wasn’t like I was hitting the snooze button on the oh-so-tired biological clock cliché. I wasn’t even sure I had one.

I was married a couple of years by 30 and wanted kids, but knew it was too soon — for me. I was still young and was having fun being a carefree grown up and enjoying my career. I was content I had plenty of time — until my marriage (or what I now call “The Episode”) went off the rails like an Amtrak on the way to Grandma’s. Now in my early 30s, I found myself sampling therapists, trying on new boyfriends, and waiting for life to bloom again, and it did.

By 36, I was in a great new relationship, had a great new job, and was ready to start a family. There was one glitch, however. My boyfriend had three grown children and wanted a baby as much as he wanted — well, a baby.

Yet, I still thought I had time — until I got a wake-up call from my gynecologist. “So, Doctor-So-Handsome-It’s-A-Shame-You’re-Married-and-We’re-Not,” how much time do the ‘ol eggs have before they’re fried?” I said with a wink, enjoying my third-grade play on words.

“I’d say five good years,” he answered matter-of-factly.

“Five?!” I squawked, clamping my knees shut. “And, just good ones? Not even great?”

I looked past him to photos of all the babies he’d delivered — taunting me with their drooling, toothless grins; their chubby, dimpled fists clutching stuffed Pooh Bears and Sponge Bobs; their “I’m a Turkey Baster Twin” bibs spattered with perfect pools of organic strained peas.

Instead of imagining myself blowing raspberries on their tiny baby bellies, I tried to distract myself with visions of these cherubs as seething, hormonal teenagers slamming their bedroom door in my face, hiding plates of congealed nachos under piles of their weeks old dirty underwear, rap music blaring from my car as it comes squealing up the driveway with an empty tank of gas and a fender dangling— three days shy of turning in the lease. I envisioned my image burned in effigy hanging from a basketball hoop — dangling like a Suburban Saddam Hussein. And then, let’s talk about the bills. Twenty-two years (if you get off that early) of watching your hard earned money sucked into the earth by someone you can’t guarantee will visit you in the home someday. Who needs that shit?

This negative imagery was working until I looked back up at Dr. Bad News Bearer and launched right back into my baby fantasy. He was going to have to leave his perfect wife and children immediately. I would leave my boyfriend immediately, and we’d run off to some deserted island and try to populate immediately. After all, he’s the one who told me I only had five good years.

“Marianne,” he said, snapping me back from our beachfront hideaway. “That doesn’t mean you only have five years. Women are having babies well into their forties.”

“Yeah, I know!” I desperately responded.  “Jane Seymour had twins at like 50. And didn’t some woman in Norway have her first baby at 68 — or maybe it was 63. Okay, maybe I read that one while I was waiting in line at the grocery store.”  
He gently guided me to sit up. “What I mean is, you have about five good years to get pregnant naturally, without fertility treatments or complications, and you’ll have much less chance of having a child with ‘issues,’” he said.

“Oh, issues!” I chuckled. “Like what? A cowlick? Peanut allergies?  Stroller Envy?  C’mon, Doc!  Nothin’ a good Nanny can’t handle!”

“No, Marianne. I’m talking about serious health issues.”

“Ooohhhh.  Wow. Gotcha, Doc.” It was awkward for a minute, not quite the romantic ending I had planned. I shook the sand out of my imaginary sandals and nodded. He handed me my birth-control prescription and said, “Take care.” After he left, I cried a little, blew my nose on my tissue gown and got dressed. Then I did what any woman would do in my situation. I got a puppy.

I was now on the brink of 40 and back in the dating game. My five good years were running out. Tick tock. Tick. Tock. Oh, how I hate that friggin’ clock.

Suddenly I’m obsessed with any human under three feet tall, especially ones wearing light-up sneakers, who are game for a round of peek-a-boo with a stranger (i.e. me ) in the frozen food aisle at Ralph’s and who can’t pronounce their “r’s” (like my niece who used to say her favorite color was “pupple.”) 

I would find myself stalking toddlers at Target, tears streaming down my face as I’d wail, “Oh. My. God.Your baby is soooo cute!” Most mothers just put the stroller in fifth gear, whizzing past me to the safety of the checkout. But, occasionally one would scream for security as I ducked into a sale rack.

Even I found my behavior strange. Yes, I wanted kids. But I was never obsessed with them before. I always thought, “Sure, when they’re clean and in a good mood, they’re adorable. But when they smell like poop and their caterwauling can be heard above the din of The Cheesecake Factory then they’re a pain in the ass.” I had always cringed at the thought of going to “Mommy & Me Class.” I fully expected when I had a child it would be “The Nanny & You Class.”

I knew I could never choose the sperm bank route. Nor could I see myself whisking an orphan out of a dung hut in Africa. I wanted a kid with my DNA — and specifically the smart genes that gave my family all its doctors, lawyers and MBAs — and not the random gene I got called the “acting bug.” (There should be some vaccination for that.) I wanted a kid who looks like me, but wouldn’t need braces, a shrink and a nose job.  Is that too much to ask?

And, I wanted it to happen the old fashioned way. Fall in love. Get married. Then, when we we’re both ready — have a baby.

Bob and I fell madly in love on our first date.  But, (and you knew there was a “but” coming, didn’t you?) he had a child, and a son — The Holy Grail for a sports fanatic. He was done.

So, I stayed, for my last two “good” years, falling deeper in love yet deeper into frustration as each stroller passed me by. When I did leave, I knew I’d done the right thing for me.

God, it sucked.

Screw therapy. This time I went to a psychic. “I see a tall, dark, handsome man,” she said.  Well, that was a no brainer — I’m five ten in heels — I don’t date short guys. I wasn’t impressed.

Then months later, just as she’d predicted, Bob came back into my life. He wanted to get married, but he still didn’t want more children. I called up Madame for a refund. “Sweetheart, I never promised you that. I did not see it in the cards.” 

And to think I was going to invite her to my wedding.  

Bob and I have been married for eight years and have an adorable baby boy, now 7, named Dunkleman — a 95-pound Labrador Retriever. Obviously dogs don’t completely replace having your own child but they do have their advantages. You can’t crate a toddler for a couple of hours while you shop a shoe sale at Bloomingdales.

I actually do have real kids — my stepson and nieces and nephews, whom I all adore. But, as often as they fulfill my maternal instincts, I still feel like I’ll never be chosen for the dodge ball game.

So, here I am at 50, contemplating getting another puppy and wondering if I’ll ever be more than an unfinished jigsaw puzzle.

But aren’t we all in some way unfinished? Are any of us ever really done? Perhaps one day, sooner than later, I’ll celebrate that what I have is enough and that having my own child won’t necessarily “complete me.” I want to feel that anything beyond enjoying my given life and nurturing other’s people’s lives, with or without children, is an unexpected treat.

In the meantime, I’m gonna get myself a pair of light-up sneakers, play peek-a-boo with my dogs and find something to color “pupple.”