The Secret Life of Melanie O.
Monday, March 26, 2007
The Lawnmower Man
Dan has a continual battle with the lawnmower. The mower is second hand and at least 20 years old. It's been repaired several times, but never completely dies. Dan's never seen a reason to buy a new one, and now that we have a large mortgage, he's stuck with it for the time being.

It's been raining quite a bit where we live, and the grass grows like mad, so, every weekend, Dan has a new battle with the lawnmower. One week, he allowed it to run out of fuel, and even after refuelling, it refused to start until it had a nice long rest. In the meantime, we had a very patterned lawn, with high and low spots. Had he thought about it beforehand, Dan could have created a nice contour map or bas relief sculpture in the grass before the fuel ran out. We precipitously scoured eBay looking for rebuilt lawnmowers, thinking that "this is it." The end of the lawnmower.

Never one to give up, Dan decided to pay closer attention to the fuel level. This past weekend, he got the old mower out since the grass resembled something out of a Tarzan movie. It wouldn't start.


He swore at it.

It wouldn't start.

He gave it a good kick.

A couple more yanks on the starter and it reluctantly started up... and proceeded to belch blue oil smoke everywhere. I lost sight of Dan on the back 10 metres while blue smoke fumigated the trees. Dan however, was a man victorious. I saw him beat his chest and do a Tarzan yell as he pushed the mower through the lush grass.

The lawnmower must be on its last legs this time, but it's been on its last legs for the past eight years. Who knows how long this will go on? To be honest, I think that Dan secretly enjoys this battle with the lawnmower, as he always wins in the end. The weekly battle with the lawnmower and the lawn stirs something primitive within my husband. Mowing the lawn is not a chore to Dan - it's a conquest.
posted by Melanie O. at 8:44 AM - 1 comments
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Naughty but nice
A couple of women recently asked me why I pose in vintage lingerie, baring my soul and other parts, to the world.

I had to think about the answer to this. It's not just about nostalgia. Anyone can collect nostalgia. Most women don't display it. There must be something a bit exhibitionist about me. Mainly though, it's about rebelling against the whole pop culture - fashion industry that believes that every woman must be built like an adolescent boy. If you have breasts or hips, somehow you are perceived by the fashion industry as "too fat."

Why women buy into this (young ones, especially,) I have no idea. Do young women really think that if their BMI is 19, that they'll be spotted by a talent scout and made famous? Off the top of my head, I can think of three women that happened to: Marilyn Monroe, Twiggy, and Claudia Schiffer. Two of those women are curvy women, and as much as I thought Twiggy was cute in the '60's, I never had an inclination to look like her.

When I was in second grade - all of 7 years old - I announced to my friends that I wanted to be a pinup model. I didn't see anything wrong with it. The Vargas pinups I'd seen, (thought to be hidden from prying eyes) seemed to be very happy with their femininity. The images were beautiful - larger than life to my mind. The soft and exaggerated forms celebrated the female gender, and I wanted to be like that. There seemed to be a hidden power they possessed - and I wanted some of that. I couldn't wait to grow up.

Of course, in my teens and twenties, and even into my thirties, I completely lacked the courage and confidence it takes to emphasise ones curves for the camera - especially since curves seemed to have gone out of fashion with the '80's. I was in my twenties in the 1980's, but busy with kids and family life. Posing for pinup photos was the last thing on my mind.

But something happened once I hit age 40. Realising that I was getting older, I decided that I needed to start living some of my dreams. And I'm so glad that I did. One day I will be an old woman and I'll have some fabulous photos to look back on. I'll just see that little girl who wanted to be a Vargas pinup, and I'll still be rebelling, even if it's just for an audience of one. And I'll probably be wearing a bullet bra, too.
posted by Melanie O. at 8:32 PM - 3 comments
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Music memories
I remember the first time I ever realised that music was fun and somehow "cool," as it reflected the times I was living in (the late 60's.) Everyone had a transistor radio for the beach, and I had one that I listened to in my bedroom. Of course, this was long before kids had TVs and video games to amuse themselves with in their rooms. The radio was my world, and Top 40 tunes of the day filled my head and still have a profound influence on me, years later.

I had a little white transistor radio, and almost all music was broadcast on the AM band, which meant no stereo. The music was a little tinny, but no one cared, since no one knew anything else. From that tiny little speaker came the sounds of Davy Jones singing "Daydream Believer," or Paul Revere and the Raiders singing "Cherokee People," or the Cowsills singing "The Rain, the Park and Other Things." The first female artists I remember were Petula Clark and Dusty Springfield. I used to borrow Petula Clark albums from the local library. I think she and Dusty are responsible for inspiring my current hairstyle.

I don't know what triggered these memories, but one day, "The Rain, the Park and Other Things" popped into my head. I don't think I've heard that song since 1968. Where I grew up, our neighbours had a copy of the LP and showed it to me. I remember thinking that some of the guys were cute. That was the great thing about LPs - plenty of room for large pictures on the cover, and fan materials that often accompanied the recordings, inside.

So, I went back and rediscovered the Cowsills as if I'd been a teen back in the '60's. I was sad to learn that two of the sons had passed away and the mother died back in '82. Suddenly, I'm feeling really old. I am happy to hear that four of the remaining siblings are still singing together, though. I bet Tiger Beat would have never predicted that!

I'm obviously entering my second childhood - and the music is wonderful.
posted by Melanie O. at 6:59 PM - 0 comments
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Too many hormones
I got emotional today in a work meeting - which, as a grown middle-aged woman, is anathema to me. We're about to start our campaign for mental health and homelessness awareness, and I suggested that we use my son's letters (with his name changed,) to let people know that people with a mental illness aren't their illnesses. They are whole people with an illness that stops them from achieving their full potential. I figure, if the public has the chance to read some of my son's letters, they'd know and maybe they wouldn't treat the mentally ill like creatures to be avoided. Maybe they'd feel more comfortable around the mentally ill.

I got a letter from my son yesterday:

"Dear Mom, Thank you for the birthday card. It was all wet when I received it. Did it contain water or something? I think it got crushed in the mail.

I hope you are doing well. How is Dan, I've been having trouble with my life. Sometimes I think I'm a bad person with no future. I feel like I have never done anything good for anybody. That would be scary because I want to get to heaven. I'm sorry I didn't see you much when you came to Grandma Ellie's house. I hear voices and they keep me crazy.

I wish I had hung out with you and Dan, but my disability causes me to do weird things.
I love and miss you. I'll write you again soon."

There was a pregnant woman in our meeting today. I could swear it was all that estrogen in the room that made me all emotional.
posted by Melanie O. at 7:23 PM - 4 comments
Sunday, March 04, 2007
Railway dreams
Dan and I went to Thirlmere for the annual Steam Festival. You could view everything from HO gauge engines, to the full size real deal, and, for the fun of it, ride one of the old trains. Old number 2705 was polished and looking as good as it must have 80 years ago. Every carriage was full of passengers eagerly awaiting a trip down memory lane - even if it was their grandparents' memory, and not theirs.

We paid our $2 admission fee to see the layouts set up by the many model train clubs in the area. Dan explained all of the technical specifications to me - how far apart the rails were for each gauge, how tight the curves in the track could be before the trains wouldn't be able to manoeuvre them, and told me the years of operation for certain engines. Needless to say, I can't remember anything he told me, but I can tell you that the Flying Scotsman is green and one of my favourite model steam engines.

Dan loves the details - I love the aesthetics. Seeing these old trains and models feeds my need for nostalgia, and apparently, there are quite a few people who feel the same way, as Thirlmere was crowded with people from all walks of life. Toddlers and great grandparents stood in queues to ride trains or to view layouts that inspired both fantasy and envy.

The only bad thing I have to say about the festival, besides the heat, is that now I want a garden railway (G gauge - at least I remembered that bit.) I even know where I want it, and I know that I want a model of the Orient Express. To continue the creation of my fantasy life, I need a fantasy railway that I can ride (at least, in my imagination) to far off places in style.

I wouldn't have it any other way. If you're going to dream - dream big. Or at least, in my case, in G gauge.
Click on images to enlarge.
posted by Melanie O. at 6:19 PM - 0 comments
Thursday, March 01, 2007
Vintage lingerie
I was recently asked by an old friend, what was the draw to retro and vintage lingerie? He was mystified by it all, seeing that the woman he is involved with doesn't share the same fascination for lycra and nylon that I have.

This was easy to answer.

For the longest time, I've been into American nostalgia. In fact, I can't remember when I haven't loved Big Band music or old MGM musicals. I think, for me, anyway, all this vintage stuff is a form of escapism. It's all part of the same thing: surrounding myself with vestiges of an era gone by, when life was less complicated, people had expectations that could be met (for the most part), and it was OK to be sexy and feminine without being made to feel like you were upsetting the feminist apple cart.

Nowadays, it's all backwards, and real femininity and sexiness has become trampy and trashy and little girls think that pole dancing will make them powerful. It's all become too sad for me. I like lingerie because it leaves a little to the imagination. When I undress for Dan, I feel like I am unwrapping a gift for him, and he feels the same. Often times he asks to undress me. It's those little rituals that make life more enriching and full of a certain fantasy quality. Many women have lost their mystique by exposing it too much!

I love my lingerie collection, even if I don't wear things every day that would be considered out of the ordinary. I do wear garter belts and stockings more than I used to, and I've been known to wear a waist cincher to work. I can work as a technical and marketing professional and still feel like a woman. I see no value in "letting it all hang out."

Give me my bullet bras, waist cinchers, girdles, full body shapers and garter belts, or, to quote Dolly Parton's character Truvy in Steel Magnolias: " I haven't left the house without spandex on these thighs since I was 14."

posted by Melanie O. at 7:53 PM - 0 comments
Big hair
The rumour circulating amongst my women friends now is, big hair is making a comeback. This is great news for a woman who has enough hair on her head to supply two people. New South Wales is begging for rain so that the dams are replenished, but I dread when it rains because it means I will have big, pouffy, uncontrollable hair all day. No straightener or hair product exists that can rectify this problem.

Big hair was never a problem in the '50’s. Women regularly got permanent waves. Curly hair was seen as desirable (“eat your bread crusts – they’ll give you curly hair”); however, when the ‘60’s and the Hippy movement rolled around, straight hair became the fashion. It was considered bourgeois to force ones hair into a neat, well-coiffed shape. If you couldn’t get the right shape via a good cut, then one was supposed to let ones hair “do its thing.”

The problem is, my hair doesn’t know what its “thing” is. It’s curly at the nape of my neck and at my temples, and practically straight on top. To get it looking nice, I either have to perm it so that it’s all curly, or relax it so that it’s all straight. Without chemical assistance, my hair looks like Easter grass – except that it’s not green and made of plastic.

Big hair made a comeback in the 80's, but it was really exaggerated Big Messy Hair. Few women could carry it off and not look like they'd been caught in a shredder. Sinead O'Connor probably shaved off all of hers in protest of Big Messy Hair. They even coined a name for it back then: Bed Head.

Honestly though, my hair does Big very well. The thing is, I’ll still have to torture it with a blow-dryer and curling iron and use styling products that won’t hold up in the rain.

I can’t wait for Easter Grass to come into fashion.
posted by Melanie O. at 2:10 PM - 0 comments

About Me
Name: Melanie O.
Home: Durham, North Carolina, United States
About Me: Female, American health and beauty-conscious professional who has rekindled a childhood love of dolls.
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