Girl Talk, Life Lessons, Mothers and Daughers, Pop Culture

Red Hat Lady for a Day

Have you ever seen a group of women all wearing red hats, and flamboyantly dressed in purple?  These older ladies can be seen lunching and laughing, and generally whooping it up all around town.  Some of them even wear feather boas… Truth be told, my mother is one of them and, on a recent visit home, I crashed the party.  But I did not wear the requisite purple, nor the red hat.   According to Red Hat Society lore, someone my age wears lavender and pink instead.

The Red Hat Society was founded quite by accident by a woman who bought a stylish red hat for herself, then started giving them as gifts to her friends.  The purple attire came about as an homage to the poem that begins, “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple…”  Now, there are a bazillion chapters all over the country.

On the first Wednesday of every month, when my mother and her friends get together adorned in their whimsical outfits, they remain mindful that everyone is not as carefree and blessed as they are.  That’s why they never fail to pass around an envelope for their donation to a food pantry.

I was expecting lunch to be a quiet affair in a subdued café.  Instead, it was a raucous celebration in a sports bar with Bon Jovi and Led Zep piped through the loud speakers.  The ladies talked about hair and makeup, current events, and their families, just like my friends do when we get together.  And I nearly forgot how much older they were until the talk turned from gardening, to their former careers, and to their numerous doctor appointments.  Save for the arthritis, they were mostly just like their younger counterparts.

So thank you Red Hatters for welcoming me into your circle, and for offering me a window into what lies ahead.  It promises to be fun and fabulous!

Girl Talk, Life Lessons

Italian Sisters

Ya know, I’ve known you for more than half my life,” my friend mused as we were enjoying a long-overdue girls’ night out recently.

I get a kick out of how she eats with such gusto.  She marvels at my talent for knowing exactly what shoes to wear with any given outfit.  When we shop there’s no dilly-dallying.  We see something we like, there’s no waffling, we just buy it.  The compliments are abundant and genuine.  I comment on her new eye shadow and she notices my new earrings.

We share the same story:  The only daughter in an Italian-American family.  Exceptionally close to our mothers.  New Yorkers who came to Boston for college – and stayed.  We are modern women yet we celebrate, even revere, tradition.  We’re scratch cooks who constantly swap recipes.  We know how to set a nice table.  We send hand-written thank you notes.

When we talk, our conversations are peppered with Italian words and phrases:  mia cucina (my kitchen); la familia (the family); and ciao bella (so long beautiful).  And the slang, of course: scoochi (pest); jaboney (jerk); and capisce (understand).

Our lives have taken us in different directions.  She’s married with two little girls while I’m the single one.  She’s the teacher and I’m a writer.  We’ve grown but we have not grown apart.  We remain each other’s confidant and sounding board.  One year for my birthday she gave me a Willow Tree figurine of two young girls sitting on a bench, seemingly deep in conversation.  It was the perfect gift.

“We’ve been friends for a long time,” I agreed.  “We’re like sisters.  Italian sisters.”

Life Lessons

Breakfast with NYC’s Bravest

The mood in the hotel restaurant was subdued, save for the witty banter taking place at the bar, where I sat with four men to my left, and four more to my right.  You see, a friend was visiting Beantown with “some of the guys” for the Yankees-Red Sox game and we met for breakfast.

I watched in amazement as they devoured large plates of hearty breakfast fare and washed it all down with Bloody Marys and black coffee.  In between talk of sports and politics, and poking fun at the guy who got carried away with his Fitbit, I caught a rare glimpse into the stuff of male friendships.

“How long have you guys been together?” I asked.  “Eight years.”  “Eleven years.”  “Thirteen years,” they were all chiming in.  One of them patted my friend’s shoulder declaring, “I’d do anything for this guy…”  Their ages ranged from barely-thirty to mid-fifties, but these were no ordinary men and theirs were no ordinary friendships.  Because they were firefighters.  New York City’s Bravest.  I’d heard about the brotherhood of firefighters, but I’d never seen it up close before.


When the bartender presented the bill, one of the guys called out, “Credit card roulette!” and took off his baseball cap, then pointing to me, clarified, “But she’s not in it.”  Each of them took a credit card from his wallet and placed it in the hat.  The fellow next to me explained the rules.  A stranger – always a woman, preferably a hot woman – would be asked to pick the credit cards, one by one, and call out the names.  The final credit card would be used to cover the entire bill.  This is so NOT how women divide a check, I thought.


As we said good bye, I thought about their selflessness and their character, the extraordinary work they do, and the bond they share.  I was in awe of them.  NYC’s Bravest – thank you for your service, and thanks for poppy

Girl Talk, Life Lessons


No, I am not referring to World Wrestling Entertainment.  I’m talking about my girls, aka: the Women Who Eat.  The WWE, for short.  The four of us have been friends for about a hundred years – collectively speaking, that is – and were named by a long-forgotten boyfriend one night during a raucous and lavish dinner.

“I love these women!” he gushed.  “They eat.”

Truer words were never spoken…  We’ve gone to Tea at The Ritz.  Eaten Fenway Franks standing up.  We’ve been to Morton’s for steaks, and the North End for pasta.  We’ve sipped Malbec, toasted with Kir Royales, and indulged in a margarita or two.  PMS’ed on obscenely expensive and highly caloric cupcakes.  We’ve had breakfast for dinner, brought in take-out, and cooked for each other.

But who we are, and who we are to each other, goes way beyond our shared healthy appetite.  During our collective hundred years of friendship, we’ve celebrated weddings and babies, hosted showers, housewarming parties, and milestone birthdays.  No topic is off limits and the laughter is infectious whenever the WWE get together.

Over the years, there have been some dark times spent in hospital waiting rooms.  We’ve lifted each other up through illness, prayed for each other as well as for ailing parents.  Too many times, we’ve comforted each other through heartbreaking losses.


Our lives are complicated and we can’t get together as often as we’d like.  But we do our best.  Just last week, as the weather turned pleasantly warm, a flurry of late-afternoon emails and texts were exchanged.  We not only wanted to dine outdoors, we wanted to be near the ocean. The waitress was overburdened and the food was a long time coming.  But we didn’t mind.  Because the view of the harbor was breathtaking.  And we were together.

red poppy