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Monday, May 21, 2012
The Perfect Coverup
most important lesson I’ve ever learned is to never answer the question, “So
what is the most important lesson
you’ve ever learned?”
My life is made up of
many important lessons, just as I’m sure yours is, and what was so terribly
significant two years ago is now relegated to the back of my closet. And what I
consider important may be fodder for someone else’s mental paper shredder.
These lessons began in
the third grade, thanks to my father who purchased a skeleton marionette at FAO
Schwartz. By tilting the wooden handle, Harry’s ceramic bones separated onto
the puppet strings, and he flew into pieces. My classmates loved it. You could
have stuck an owl in their mouths as they watched this spectacle with awe.
But this wasn’t enough
for me. I designed a red wig out of wool and led Harry in dance to Hair at the school’s talent show. Some
kid’s piano concerto won first place, with second place awarded to my best
friend who belted out a song from South
Pacific. The lesson learned here is that people will laugh at anything.
My Greek grandmother from Janina taught me the value of a home cooked meal, accompanied by a cackling laugh. I
learned to add feta cheese to everything but must have missed something because
the last time I invited a friend over for dinner, he noted that he would be
“But I didn’t tell you
when,” I said, puzzled.
“It doesn’t matter,”
he replied, wearily. “If you’re cooking, I have other plans.”
My grandmother taught
me to curse in two languages. This has been more useful.
When I was 20, my
worldly lesson was “just be yourself,” which I embraced with all of the fervor
and hysteria of youth but with no direction.
When I hit 30, a
friend in the fashion business, Stephanie Arcel, taught me an important lesson,
one that women of all sizes can benefit from, particularly those wearing too
small stretch pants. I was a repeat offender, not of stretch pants because they
prevent me from breathing, but of waist-length jackets. Stephanie ticketed me.
“Always - cover - your
- ass,” she said.
“It presents a better
line,” she explained. “No one needs to see what’s behind you.”
I took her advice and diligently follow it by wearing long sweaters and blouses covering my contentious
but hopefully, not too large derrierre. Based on the shapes and sizes I’ve seen
on others, she’s right. Some things are better left to the imagination.
Stephanie, the wife of
the legendendary boxing trainer Ray Arcel, first met when I interviewed her
husband and covered the boxing scene more than a decade or so ago. She always
looks impeccable. In another time, I can picture her at the Alqonquin offering a
one-two punch loaded with charm at Dorothy Parker, with constructive comments about her
fashion ensemble and ways to improve her witticisms, just as she’s always contributed
suggestions to me.
Ray, she recalls,
advised her, like one of his champion prizefighters, “Don’t be a district
attorney.” She passed it on to me but I haven’t learned that lesson. It must be
the journalist in me: I must know how and why everything works. In all the years I’ve known her
and as many times as I’ve asked her, Stephanie has never revealed her age or
how many times she’s been married.
I kind of agree about
the first one but would include hair color and weight. People will decide for
I taught myself an
important lesson, shared here with you. It has taken eight years for me to earn
my bachelor’s degree and I graduate, finally, this June. In reality, it has
taken me a total of twelve years, five colleges, seven boyfriends (at some
point, I stopped counting) and several careers over too many years, but this is
another story. The lesson here is that time will pass, whether or not you
decide to go back to school, embark on another adventure, or sit on the couch
and watch television, and complain about life passing you by.
Another lesson here:
You, too, will be fine without the television. But stick with the laughs and
feta cheese. And always, always cover your ass.
A special thanks to Manuel Guzman for the photograph at the end of the video.
Listen to the podcast of The Perfect Coverup by clicking on the image below:
Welcome to my blog!
As a writer, editor, journalist, photographer, filmmaker, and teacher, my published books include the award winning The Prizefighters: An Intimate Look at Champions and Contenders; 23rd Precinct: The Job; and Cop on the Beat. I'm a proud member of PEN, the literary organization; The Newswomen's Club of New York; Society of Silurians; Women in Communications; and the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance. Born in the Bronx and raised in Brooklyn and Long Island, I currently reside on the island of Manhattan in Inwood.
Do enjoy my work. Please note that all writing, photographic images, and videos appearing on this blog or anywhere else are copyrighted and may not be reprinted or reproduced without expressed written consent. Copyright 2013 Arlene Schulman. All rights reserved. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.