Dolce Zitella's Latest Post, Girl Talk, Life Lessons

About My Blog: Dolce Zitella

typewriterWelcome to my blog Dolce Zitella.  Doesn’t it sound like a decadent dessert?  It’s not.  For those of you whose roots do not trace back to that lovely boot-shaped country, let me translate.  Dolce Zitella means “sweet spinster.”  That’s right, I’m a woman of a certain age who’s never been married.  It’s okay with me, but the word spinster seems to press a lot of women’s buttons.  I mean, really, it’s only a word.  But if shrouding the word in a layer of mystery and romance makes some people feel better, so be it.

While I have something to say about being a single woman, that’s not all I have to say.  So it doesn’t really matter if you’re single or married, younger or older.  After all, my younger sisters – I used to be you.  Whether you’re adding highlights and lowlights, dying your hair “granny gray,” or covering your gray, whether your hot body is the reward of working out or the result of menopause induced hot flashes – we’re all part of the same sisterhood.

Like you, I’m just trying to balance career with the rest of my life, whether it’s spending time with family and friends; meeting a new man; being proactive about my health; trying out a new recipe; embarking on my latest home improvement project; taking a night class; engrossed in a book; binge watching a television series; or searching for that perfect shade of red nail polish…

Dolce Zitella will be updated every other Thursday.  Visit and bring your friends.

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Dolce Zitella's Latest Post, Girl Talk, Life Lessons

I Blame Shakespeare

My friend’s two young daughters refer to Valentine’s Day as “the love holiday” because, even at their tender age, they’ve figured out that couples celebrate with greeting cards pledging love and devotion, bouquets of flowers, and gigantic heart-shaped boxes of chocolates.  But not everyone has a significant other.  And for some single folks, February 14th can be a tough day.  Here’s a re-post from March 2016 with my perspective.

The “rom-com” plot never changes: the pretty, but downtrodden, single woman gets saved by the rich, good looking, completely idealized man, whose only flaw is that it takes him a little while to figure out that he’s in love with her; then in the last ten minutes of the movie, he must race somewhere to find her and keep her from leaving town.

“Feel good movies,” that’s what they’re called.  But who feels good after seeing them?  Single women?  Like seeing this one movie is going to wash away past hurts and disappointments, bringing instead, inspiration and hope to carry on – and to believe – yes believe, that the exact same thing will happen for you because Mr. Right is just around the very next turn…

While channel surfing late one night, I realized this movie formula was well-established with 1950’s films like Sabrina, and the Doris Day comedies.  Who says that in order to have a happy ending, the couple must get together?

The BardShakespeare.  He’s the one.  All the comedies end with a wedding, just as all the tragedies end with a death.  We’ve had over four hundred years of conditioning!  But The Bard was wrong.  This is the new millennium and, back me up here ladies, in the real world the guy tells the girl that he doesn’t deserve her, that she’s going to be a great wife for some other lucky guy, blah, blah, blah, before leaving her with a few mementos and a broken heart.

So what’s a modern girl to do?

I muted the television and sat for a while in the darkness, only the blue glow of the screen lighting my way.  And in the solitude of my living room, I figured it out.

It’s time to change the narrative.  You can’t expect or rely on another person for your happiness.  You have to find your own bliss.  A happy ending can be whatever you want it to be.red poppy

 

 

 

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Best of Boston

Park It

We had our first significant snow storm a couple of weekends ago.   When my brother and I finally ventured outside, shovels in hand, and peered at all the chairs scattered in the street, he muttered, “here we go again.”

If you read this re-post from March 2018, you’ll know what he meant.

My old roommate texted me four snowflake emojis, and my friend called from Florida when they heard about the latest Nor’easter that dumped 20 inches of snow on Boston.   A snow emergency was declared and a street parking ban went into effect.  When the parking ban gets lifted, what happens next may sound crazy to anyone who’s not from Boston.  Or Chicago, Philly, or Pittsburgh.  This phenomenon, depending where you live, is known as “space saving,”  “dibbs,” or “chair parking.”

Most everyone does it in Beantown because we believe that when you spend several back-breaking hours shoveling out not only the snow that fell, but the surplus snow the plows have dumped in front of your house, you’ve earned this spot – that you can pahk ya cah – and Gawd help the person who tries to pahk there the moment you drive away.

The unofficial rule to this decades-old practice is that once you shovel out your spot, you have exclusivity to the spot until all the snow has melted.  Which could take a while.  This practice is so sacred that some people have been known to leave threatening notes warning that whoever takes their hard-won, shoveled-out parking spot risks bodily harm, and mysterious damage to their vehicle.  However, New Englanders are generally polite so the more accepted way of laying claim to the parking space is by putting a chair in the empty spot.  Any chair will do – a folding chair, a beach chair, a bar stool.   Over the years, I’ve seen some pretty funny stuff: an old toilet bowl, an anchored down Barbie Dream Car, and a plaster bust of Elvis.

I now live on a street that vehemently adheres to space saving and my brother and I are facing a dilemma.  We don’t have a chair we’re willing to sacrifice to the elements and place in front of our house.  Do we go to the nearest discount department store to buy a cheap, dispensable chair?  Or do we put something more unorthodox in front of our house as a space saver?  We have plenty of rubble from my on-going house renovation.  A discarded kitchen cabinet?  The old stove?  Or perhaps a slab of counter top with the sink still attached?  My brother believes in the “go big or go home” approach, figuring the heavier the item, the greater the chance no one will move it and park in front of our house.

In the end, we’ve decided to follow the “when in Rome” adage and  we’re going with the chair.

 

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Girl Talk, Life Lessons

Roommates

Whenever I speak about them, I don’t call them my friends.  Our relationship is special and it needs a qualifier to describe who they are and what they mean to me.  So I refer to them as my old roommates because living together made us closer than friends, and more like family.  Even though it’s been many years since we last lived together, this still holds true.

We met as grad students at Emerson College.  All three of us came from the New York-New Jersey area and were new to Boston.  The close quarters of grad school housing only helped our friendship to flourish.  At the end of the year, another New Yorker joined us, and the four of us moved off-campus.  Our new digs, a railroad-style apartment, was much larger, but in need of a major face-lift.  As young women living in the city, we didn’t mind residing in a self-proclaimed student slum.  We were too busy having fun.

Graduations and jobs inevitably ended our time of living together.  My roommates left Massachusetts – for New York, New Jersey, and New Mexico, while I found a cute studio apartment and stayed in Boston.  Although we often go for long periods of time without seeing one another, we stay in close contact.

Last winter, New York was the first of the roommates to visit me in my new home, arriving only a few weeks after I’d moved in.  She could see beyond the bare walls and the pile of cartons in every room, to what it would become with time.  And her enthusiasm for me was palpable.

In early November, New Jersey and New Mexico came to town for a conference and stayed with me for a couple of nights.  My first over-night guests since the big home reno was completed.  This symbolism was not lost on me.

We talk, we text.  And when I’m lucky enough to spend time with any of these three amazing women, we don’t miss a beat.  Time and age do not matter.  We feel as if we’ve never lived apart.  I’m sure we always will.

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Life Lessons

New Year’s Resolutions

Eat healthy, lose weight, join a gym, get more sleep…  It’s easy to make New Year’s resolutions but most people have a hard time keeping them.  For me, the key to keeping New Year’s resolutions is to be honest with yourself by setting realistic goals and adopting behaviors you can live with.  In that spirit, I’d like to share my plan for the new year.

Diet:  My three fruits per day will be two raisins and a glass of wine.  Cutting carbs is never easy, so rather than set myself up for failure, I won’t even attempt this.  However, when choosing brown food over white food, I will include two servings of chocolate (one dark and one milk). This way, the milk chocolate can double as one of my two dairy servings.  The other, a cup of ice cream (any flavor).  To reduce meat intake, I’ll cut bacon to no more than 3 slices with my weekend breakfast or brunch.  And a daily glass of V-8 to wash down a multi-vitamin should cover my veggies.

Weight:  Some people weigh themselves every morning, but I’ve always found once a week to be sufficient.  Funny thing: back in October, my scale broke.  I haven’t bought a new one and I’m not sure I need to because I really don’t miss this weekly ritual.

Exercise:  The gym is conveniently located a few doors down from the drug store and supermarket in the strip mall nearest home so I can easily go to the gym a few times per week.  If I park at the far end of the parking lot, and walk, I don’t even have to actually go into the gym.  I can just go past it on my way to the market where I’ll be buying all of my healthy food.

Sleep:  The sleep experts advise getting up and going to bed at the same time each day.  This would mean getting up at 6 AM on Saturday and Sunday.  Seriously?  What if I don’t set my alarm clock over the weekend and simply leave my rise-and-shine time up to fate?  I do resolve to go to bed earlier.  My goal is to turn out the lights at 1 o’clock.  After all, you can’t get much earlier in the day than 1:00 AM.

This should all work for me – hope it’s helpful for you.  Happy New Year!

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Best of Boston, Life Lessons

Hear the Angel Voices

The following is a re-post from December 2017.

“Are you ready?” friends kept asking.  And it was starting to vex me.  Ordinarily, I would be ready.  But with a week left before Christmas, there were cards not yet written and cookies still to be baked.  Moving in November had really messed with my holiday preparations this year.

When a dear friend invited me to her son’s Christmas concert the final Sunday before Christmas, the left side of my brain flatly rejected the notion.  I had too much to do to spend a whole afternoon at a concert.  But the right side of my brain which, for southpaws like me, runs the show had me blurting out, “Sounds like fun – I’m all in.”

Intuitively, I knew I needed some Christmas spirit.  And an afternoon of Christmas carols sounded like just the thing.  But as I traveled the long, convoluted train ride to Dorchester I wondered if my time might have been better spent preparing for the holiday.  I was behind and still had so much to do before Christmas.

The concert was held in a beautiful old Catholic church with magnificent jewel-tone stained glass windows and majestic statuary.  Even thought I had not been there before, I felt welcomed amidst all the familiar symbols of my faith.

Shards of late afternoon sunlight streamed through the stained-glass windows, and I settled into my seat in the crowded church pew.  The young singers and musicians were middle- and high-school aged and they represented four different Boston choirs and musical ensembles.  As they gathered on the steps of the altar, I couldn’t help but notice that these youngsters were a diverse group – in age, in height, in ethnicity, each one beautiful and perfect in his or her own way.  I knew by reputation that they were talented and the moment they began to sing, their pure, sweet voices touched my heart.  This, I thought, is what angel voices must sound like.  A peace I had not felt for some time came over me.  Yes, I thought, I am ready.  I am ready for Christmas.

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Life Lessons

The Sweatshop

My grandmother, like many Italian-American women, was a seamstress.  As a young woman, she worked in a sweatshop in Lower Manhattan.  After she married and had a family, she worked in a sweatshop closer to home, in Queens.  She was a working woman – a working mother – long before it was commonplace.  And my mother was a latch-key kid before there was such a term.

Over the years, my grandmother sewed men’s shirts, women’s blouses and skirts, and even crisp white nurses’ uniforms.  As a “piece worker,” her job might be to sew on the collars, or attach the sleeves, whatever was needed.  She didn’t work as a means to fulfillment.  She worked to maintain the basic necessities of life.

The stories I heard about the sweatshop left a profound impression on me.  The piece workers’ pay was based on the number of pieces they completed.  And the pay per piece was barely pocket change.  The seamstresses were forced to work at warp speed, with inspectors scrutinizing the finished garments to ensure high quality.  A bell signaled the beginning and ending of the lunch break, during which the women sat at their sewing machines eating their brown bag lunches.  They didn’t even stop to go to the ladies’ room until it was an emergency.  And there were no employee benefits of any kind.  Sweatshops were so named because in summertime, large noisy fans kept the air circulating, but did not cool the sweltering rooms, crowded with women who were literally drenched in sweat.  Now airborne from the whirling fans, the abundant fabric fibers and lint easily stuck to the women’s skin.

Today’s workplace feeds the 24/7 culture and the 9-to-5 workday is fast becoming obsolete.  Workers are expected to check email at night and on weekends.  Meetings are routinely scheduled between 12:00 noon and 2:00 pm so lunch breaks are sacrificed, and it’s not uncommon for workers to skip eating a meal all together.  When staff leave and are not replaced, the remaining workers’ workloads increase, sometimes twofold.  Earned vacation cannot be taken, and is lost.  Working mothers are in conflict – work late or go to your child’s soccer game?  And the single woman is expected to work late – because she doesn’t have a family.

A woman I know made a conservative calculation of the extra hours she worked, for no additional compensation, over a three-year-period, and was horrified when she realized the five-digit sum could’ve bought her a new, mid-sized car for cash, or better yet, secured the down payment for a condo.

Years ago, a brand of cigarettes that was specifically created for, and marketed to, women ran an ad campaign with the tag line, “you’ve come a long way, baby.”  Is the modern workplace the new sweatshop and, have we really come a long way?

 

 

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Best of Boston, Girl Talk, Pop Culture

The Basement

It’s Thanksgiving night and the holiday is winding down.  At least for me, that is.  But in a few hours, some of you, armed with a travel mug full of coffee, will be headed out to the malls for Black Friday.  This shopping frenzy makes me nostalgic for “The Basement” so here is a re-post from February 2016.

Let’s meet at The Basement on Saturday.

Wanna go down to The Basement after work?

These phrases were on the lips of Bostonian women of all ages.  That’s what we called it.  The Basement.

I am, of course, referring to Filene’s Basement, located on two floors beneath the art deco flagship Filene’s department store and cornerstone of Boston’s Downtown Crossing.

The Basement folklore was plentiful.  The Running of the Brides, so named for its resemblance to Pamplona’s Running of the Bulls, turned ordinarily polite young women into fierce competitors the moment The Basement doors opened, as they fought over designer bridal gowns offered at a fraction of their original prices.  And men would actually stand in line waiting for The Basement to open on the mornings of the semi-annual men’s suit sale.  But the outrageous bargains were only part of it.    A trip to The Basement could cheer you up on a rainy day.  It was as loud, as crowded, and as chaotic as Times Square on New Year’s Eve.  The Basement was pure joy.

The three-dollar Christian Dior bras I pulled from the depths of the lingerie bins were mine for the taking.  And the shoes!  I thought nothing of squeezing into incredibly cheap Ferragamos and Via Spigas that were only a-half size too small.  There were no dressing rooms in The Basement so I’d angle for a spot near a mirror then strip down to the Danskin leotard I’d worn under my clothes.  Some women were so intent on getting a bargain that they tried on their finds right over their clothes.  Others, caring nothing about modesty, were on full display in their bras and slips as they tried on a pile of potential purchases.  It was divine pandemonium.

In 2007, Filene’s Basement closed its doors for good and shopping has never been quite the same.  I’ll always miss the tradition and the spectacle that was The Basement.red poppy

 

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