Sunday, April 25, 2010

Dear Banana - or birthday advice to a 15-year-old that a lot of us could use too

A few weeks ago, the Princess to whom I am Fairy godmother, celebrated her fifteenth birthday.  I sent her a tiara.  It is time for her to learn to wear one properly.  Besides I spent nearly a year in Mexico watching many, many 15 year old girls celebrate their quincenearas and I learned a lot about the importance of a fifteenth birthday, and the tiara.

In Mexico and many Latin cultures, the fifteenth birthday is a celebration of a young girl’s continuing growth from childhood to maturity.  If only the young girls waited that long in the US.  During a quincineara celebration, the father removes his daughter’s flat ballet-style slippers as replaces them with high heels in a symbolic gesture of her growing up.  Unfortunately for my tastes, I’ve seen way too many twelve-year-olds already in high heels for the transition to have much American meaning.

The celebration includes religious customs, usually a church service, and extols the virtues of family traditions and social responsibility. highlighting God, family, friends, music, food and dance.  The Quincineara is surrounded by a Court of Honor of her closest  girlfriends and usually 8 boys, her Chambela’n or Escorte.  In San Miguel de Allende, we would often see them all lined up for pictures on the church steps in their formal wear, the birthday girl looking like a bride, flowers and family all around just before climbing into limousines for the drive to the venue selected for the big party.

There was no religious component to the Princess’s celebration , for which I was exceedingly glad (even though I was thousands of miles away at the time).  I held her for her Christening 15 years ago after the  priest, in his role as representative of the Church, had accepted my involvement as a non-Catholic.  At that time, I personally accepted my role as her Godmother during the ceremony.  However, as the years have passed my discomfort with the Church has increased and finally when the news broke about the Pope’s personal involvement in the sexual abuse scandal I felt I could no longer condone my involvement, implicitly or explicitly, in the Princess’s association with such a misogynistic, greedy, misdirected and blatantly un-Christian organization as the Catholic Church. 

So I resigned  as the Princess’s Godmother. 

Whew! That really pissed off her Mom, my BFF and I definitely “had some ‘splainin’ to do” But as I said then, I can no longer in good conscience, or as an honest example, accept a role of encouraging the Princess to be part of the Church even if that is her parents’ wish, but I will always be her Fairy godmother (lower case ‘g’) with all rights, privileges and responsibilities thereto assigned.

In other words, I gotta help her grow up right.  And that includes how and when to wear a tiara --- and a lot of other things, as well.  I will only talk about that church thing if she brings it up. That is my compromise with her mother because I really want to tell her  all the reasons for my action.  That will come in time.  Anyway, all she really cares about at fifteen is the presents I send ( though invariably late), the summer vacation with me and that I am someone she can bitch to about her parents and know I won’t tell.  I hope she also feels that way about talking to me about boys.

I think as part of this growing up process it is time I begin to impart some wisdom.  There will certainly be more throughout the years and some of what is here falls more into the think- about it, or plan-for-it realm than the do-it- now phase.  More importantly, I want these to be some of the things we talk about while she is visiting in Florida this summer.  Well, that and a lot of BASEBALL!!!!

Oh ,and there is no rational order of these tidbits of wisdom and advice.  Just how things popped into my head.  Comments are welcome.

Dear Banana,

Happy birthday, again.  Here are some things I want you to think about.

You live in a man’s world and unless things change a  whole hell of a lot over the next few decades, which certainly has not been the case over the past millennia, you will continue to do so.  Just get over it.  Men, for the most part, are not very bright when facing a cute woman so, if necessary, make him think it was his idea, but never hesitate to get what you want.  As Maureen Down said, “I succeed in a man’s world  living by man’s rules but  I never forget that a woman’s first role is selecting the right shade of lipstick” (or something like that)

Always own at least one tiara, and never be afraid to wear it.

Always have your own money.

Save at least 10% of every single dollar that comes your way.  Starting today! Get a piggy-bank and always put all your coins in it. (Coins do not count as part of the 10%, they are “gimmes”)

Wear gloves.  Warm ones to keep your hands from getting chapped and classic ones on other occasions.

Develop a personal style - classic, bohemian, preppy, fashionista, outdoorsy, girly, dressed-up, dressed-down - but NEVER only dress in that style.  It is good to shake things up once in a while.

Have one trademark item that if left at a crime scene would immediately implicate you
- eyeglasses, a pen, a pin. a piece of jewelry, a hairclip, your gloves, a beautiful notebook, your phone, your wallet, a linen hanky you always carry - you’ll think of something.

Know what colors are flattering to you and don’t bother buying anything else.  This  makes shopping easier and keeps you from standing in front of the mirror for hours in that really cute top that just doesn’t look right for some reason.  Choose a basic “background” color and build around it  -like black, brown, navy, ecru, white.

Never wear white next to your face unless your teeth are at least as white as whatever you are wearing.

Less makeup is always more.

Whenever you leave the house - even if just for a quick errand - wear lip gloss and perfume.

Choose two personal scents - one for every day and one for more dressed up.  And be sure to re-evaluate every few years as your scent should grow up as you do.

Take care of your hair.  Don’t over process it and never change anything about it unless you are in a very good mood at the time.

Take advantage of every learning opportunity you are given - school, theatre, music, lectures, travel - whatever - Soak it in!

Never get bored and, even  more importantly, never ACT bored.  It is unbecoming.


Find an activity that you enjoy and can do throughout your whole life -  tennis, chess, backgammon, squash, cards, sewing, knitting, painting, drawing, photography, bird-watching……

Have at least one interesting topic of conversation for someone to whom you have just been introduced, your parents‘ friends or your friends’ parents.

Swear only when you intend to and make it count. And always use good grammar unless you are making a point.

If you don’t know how, learn how to play with kids.

Don’t  get drunk in public.  A little tipsy can be charming but drunk is just ugly - and dangerous.  Remember what Dorothy Parker said” One martini is nice, two at the very most, three I’m under the table, four I’m under the host.”

ALWAYS have a glass of water after each drink before you start the next.  This will allow you to “keep up with your friends” without getting sloppy or sick.  And if you really do this you may never have a hangover.

Never drink a lot of sweet alcoholic drinks of any type.  Stick with beer or wine to be safe. One shot is safe - after that it gets sketchy.

Get as much sleep as possible.

Develop a good skincare regimen and never ever go to bed without cleaning your face.

Wear comfortable shoes.  They don’t have to be ugly.  Remember no matter how cute a pair of shoes may be if you can’t stand up in them for an hour or walk comfortably for several blocks DO NOT BUY THEM.

Buy trendy clothes in trendy inexpensive shops.  Shop at thrift stores and consignment shops - especially for day-to-day things or the one- time wear stuff.   Save the big bucks for investment purchases.

If you shop wisely and take care of handbags and shoes they will last for years!!!

Know how to do your own manicure and pedicure but pay for one when you can.

If your budget permits choose waxing over shaving and laser over waxing.

Get your eyebrows shaped by a very good professional.

Eat your vegetables.  Skip bread and dessert whenever possible.  Women have eaten that way for centuries and stayed thin.

Get over over-consuming.  Want and waste is a bad model to set for your self and even worse for the world.  The less you can live with the more you can enjoy life.  Really, Trust me on this one.

Always have at least one outfit, a hairstyle and quick makeup routine that will have you dressed and looking cute in a flash.  A famous designer once said that  the difference between true beauty and just too-high-maintenance was the ability to get drop dead gorgeous in less than 15 minutes.

Don’t have sex until you are ready.  That means the first time should not happen just because everything gets hot and heavy and you are convinced he is the love of your life or definitely not because he tells you that is how to prove you love him (tell that guy to fuck off!)  When you feel like you can’t stand it unless it happens right now, STOP!  If you wake up tomorrow and still feel the same way then the two of you should plan a perfect time and place.

As soon as you even start thinking that you might  be gonna have sex get on birth control.    Do not pass go, do not collect $200.  Your fairy godmother has been pregnant 4 times and these were the ONLY times I did it without birth control and your mother got pregnant on her honeymoon.  This is not something you should mess around with.  Being smart should never be embarrassing. Ask me for help if you need it.

Always, always, always use a condom.  Get together with your friends and practice putting one on a banana.  Seriously. If he won’t use one - lose him!

Do not do drugs.  Period.  They make you stupid and vulnerable.
Also, understand that I do not consider marijuana a drug.  It does however reduce your inhibitions so be very careful when, where and how if you choose to use it.

NEVER NEVER get into a car driven by someone who has been drinking, smoking weed or doing drugs.  This includes family members and yourself.

Keep your “space” - room, desk, handbag, book bag, whatever - neat and orderly.  It reduces stress in your life in so many ways,

Learn to meditate.  Seriously.  Look for a teacher.

Learn to appreciate different kinds of music and art. Study it.  Read about it.

Learn to dance both popularly and properly.

Look people in the eye and speak up!

Stand up straight.  Nothing exudes confidence more than good posture.  And this includes sitting properly too.

Learn how to properly use a fork and knife and what the other utensils are for.

Avoid any group or activity that purports to make you more popular.  It is always bullshit. No exceptions.  Popularity is over-rated anyway.  I mean, do you even like those people that everyone is trying to be like?  You are so much nicer as yourself.

Depend on your parents.  They are your allies and always have your best interests at heart.

Do risky stuff like drinking or smoking weed with you sister and/or brother first.  They will look out for you.  They will also laugh at you if you over do and never let you forget it.

Learn to plan an amazing party.  I am EXCELLENT at this.

Learn to cook.  I mean really learn to cook.  It is fun and everyone always appreciates it.

Read good books - not just junk fiction (although junk fiction is also good too, just not as the only thing you read)

Read a newspaper every day  - and on Sundays, meet some friends at Starbucks and share the New York Times.

Learn how to properly order a drink, a beer and most importantly wine.  You can drink legally at 16 in many European countries and it is awful to look like either a stupid American or an unsophisticated clod.

Learn to read menus in French, Spanish and Italian - and ,of course, English.

Travel everywhere you can.  Each new place will teach you something about the world and something about yourself.

More will come as the time goes by.  I love you.

Your Fairy godmother


  1. Mimi Garrity DenmanApril 27, 2010 at 10:47 PM

    all this and wear sunscreen always

  2. Wish I had you around at that age!