Weekend humor from Celia Rivenbark: Circus clothes and the middle-aged woman

I’m not sure when it happened but fashion has decided we women of a certain age need to dress like clowns. Billowy, technicolor, ruffled things that seem designed to make everyone stare when we walk into a room. And then look away awkwardly because nobody wants to see Nana wearing what appears to be a psychedelic wedding cake. With leggings.

At our age, maybe any attention is positive. As the middle-aged Kathy Bates character lamented in “Fried Green Tomatoes,” women who are menopausal and beyond become invisible. It’s why so many of my friends leave restaurants with wine glasses in their oversized Scout totes. No one ever sees them. It’s a game they play. One particularly daring sister wife emerged with a complete table setting and a couple of candle holders. Allegedly.

I’ve been pondering the over 50 circus clothes phenomenon and the only thing I can figure is we said one too many times we were tired of being invisible, ignored. The designers must have been listening…while eating highly questionable mushrooms scraped from the bark of trees. And now here we sit, in the waiting room at the eye doctor surrounded by a dazzling assortment of animal prints embellished with crystals and, God help us, plumage.

We want to be noticed, and listened to, for sure. This doesn’t mean we want to dress like we have lost our damn minds. I get more than a dozen unwanted clothes catalogs in my mailbox every month and many times that number in my social media feed and here’s what they seem to be saying about me: “You are deranged so let’s tell the whole world!” I would describe the fashion catalogues as “Escaped Mental Patient Monthly” but some of you would say I was making light of mental health issues which are very serious indeed and you’d be right. Humor-impaired but right.

Now this is not to say we should dress like the Marthas in The Handmaid’s Tale. Gray on gray with a saucy side of … no, more gray. Animal prints? Sure, in moderation, I’m a big fan, but what’s with the proliferation of zebra striped tops with giant fluorescent hibiscuses dancing across the top and bottom that are less “I’m fun!” and more “I was completely hammered when I ordered these from the QVC.”

Yes, yes, I hear you. You should wear what makes you feel good about yourself, happy, carefree, young. Why is that anyone’s business? To which I say, have we met? What’s next? Neon elf shoes with bells on the toes? Only the venerable style icon Iris Apfel can get away with such tomfoolery and, sacrilege alert, I’m not sure she does more than half the time. Yeah, I said it. Mostly she just looks weird.

Paradoxically, I’m oddly proud of the tanned granny who wears a teeny bikini at the beach. That’s a kind of confidence that has nothing to do with a catalogue or website that makes you look like you’re wearing a pinata from Dollar General.

Tanned granny does not give a …hoot. And it shows. She laughs too loud, still applies baby oil and iodine as “sunscreen” and smokes on the beach. IN FRONT OF CHILDREN. This is a woman who is crazy comfortable in her own tortured beef jerky skin and doesn’t waste a moment worrying about what you think of her exposed upper arms or muddied-by-time tatts. I love her.

The late Nora Ephron’s blockbuster bestseller, “I Feel Funny About My Neck” dealt with themes of the American woman growing older with her trademark humor. If Ephron were alive today, I’d request a sequel: “That Olay Serum Helps My Neck But What Are We Going to Do About These Awful Upper Arms?”

Oh, wait. I get it now. Plumage!!!

Celia Rivenbark is a NYT-bestselling author and columnist. Write her at [email protected].

Weekend humor from Celia Rivenbark: On celebrity misdeeds and mea culpas

OK, so I was wrong about Chrissy Teigen.

Here’s my quote in this space a month or so ago: “As I say 12-15 times a day, thank God for Chrissy Teigen…” This was in reference to CT’s aura of awesomeness in general and, specifically, her successful campaign to eliminate from the medical lexicon tone-deaf phrases like “geriatric moms” for pregnant women over 35.

That, combined with her “fi-yah” chocolate chunk banana bread, her talented, adoring husband and her delightful, tumbly-in-PJs kids just made Chrissy’s life look flat-out amazing. Rich, but humble, she had no secrets, which can be obnoxious if you’re a Kardashian (see “bleaching, comma, butt”) but not so with Chrissy. When CT talked about her miscarriage or her depression struggles, she oozed authenticity.

But now Chrissy is on the apology tour because 10 years ago she sent some powerfully hurtful texts to Courtney Stodden, a model whose pronouns of preference are they and their, inviting them to kill themselves. Repeatedly. She now admits to being a cyberbully and “straight-up troll” to a slew of folks, famous and not. Blech.

Chrissy Teigen has spent more than a decade trying to convince us she’s just like us (she cooks casseroles!) but it turns out she’s, kinda, the worst parts of us. Stodden shared the texts and others came forward sooooo this wasn’t a sudden surge of guilt so much as a most unwelcome sullying of a carefully crafted brand.

Of course, we should give Chrissy some grace. Like the saying goes, each of us is more than the very worst thing we’ve ever done. For example, I wore a brunette Dutch girl-style wig most of 7th grade because I thought it looked groovy. OK. Maybe that’s not the same at all.

We pop culture consumers tend to give a lot of grace to celebrities. Look no further than famous author and legal expert Jeffrey Toobin, whom CNN rehired after a seven-month hiatus because he was observed, er, pleasuring himself, on a work Zoom call. This just proves that people don’t really think celebrities put their pants on one leg at a time (or, in Toobin’s case, perhaps they don’t put them on at all.) His 8-minute on-air apology for “deeply moronic behavior” was admittedly about 7 minutes too long and a little hollow as he proclaimed he’d spent some time volunteering at a food bank to show he was a good person. Yeah, OK. See here’s how humility works, Jeff. You do not do good deeds in front of people and boast about them. You do them in private. Like other stuff. Ahem. Maybe you didn’t call TMZ to tell them where you’d be bagging okra that day but still… shut up about your “giving back.” That’s not how it works.

While those two are in the penance box for a while longer, there are some who claim they have been wrongly accused of bad behavior. And maybe they have. The passion with which distance runner Shelby Houlihan, now banned for four years from competing in her beloved sport, has denied steroid use after failing a random drug test has me convinced. Her explanation? She ate a bad burrito. See, pig offal was a main ingredient in the food-truck burrito Houlihan consumed before testing and it has high levels of the steroid Nandrolone. Should she have known better? I guess so; it’s a fairly well-known link in athletic circles. But who among us hasn’t followed our noses, cartoon style, to the source of yummy smelling food-truck goodness? (And sometimes we’ve been surprised to discover the source was, crazily enough, fried Brussells sprouts!) So here’s hoping they give Houlihan another chance. As a former wig-wearing 7th grader, I recognize the difference between legit bad behavior and simple bad judgment. And it’s huge.

Celia Rivenbark is a NYT-bestselling author and columnist. Write to her at [email protected].

Weekend humor from Celia Rivenbark: Belated Father’s Day best wishes

Dear Readers: This column ran in Gannett newspapers on Father’s Day. My contract requires me to wait a couple of weeks before posting on my personal media, which is entirely fair. Soooo, that’s why you’re reading a Father’s Day column (or I hope you’ll read it) very much after the fact. I hope you’ll find it a fun read despite the tardiness. There’s always NEXT FD, right?



Happy Father’s Day, y’all. I know that irritates those of you who like to sneer at so-called “Hallmark holidays” but I think people who complain about “over-commercializing everything” aren’t philosophically opposed to these traditional celebrations so much as they’re lazy and/or cheap.

Y’all need to get over yourselves and commit one stinkin’ day to celebrating dad, faux dad, mom who is both dad and mom, Uncle Dad, Mentor Dad…you get the idea.

You remind me of those folks who spin not going to church as not only noble but also superior: “Church? Oh, no. I’m not religious, but I AM spiritual.”

No, you’re not. I’m guessing you’re really just into sleeping late. To be clear, I’m not unsympathetic but instead of acting like you’re some kind of Dalai Lame-o, summon the gonads to tell the unvarnished truth: “I would go to church but that will seriously eat into the time I need to stand in the sweltering humidity to wait for a table to open up at the latest overrated brunch place.”

I would totally respect that kind of candor. Spiritual? Hallmark holiday? Just stop, all y’all. Own your stuff, no matter how borderline repellent it is to the rest of us. OK, me.

A close friend allowed herself to be momentarily sad last month when her adult children ignored Mother’s Day, but the moment didn’t last long.

“I get it, of course!” she said pluckily to me, the completely wrong person to share this with. “It’s sort of a made-up holiday, after all.”

“Yes, it is,” I said. “So what?”

She looked a little flustered at this but I’m pretty sure she took it to heart because she left almost immediately to likely ponder the wisdom bomb I just dropped on her. Yes, I’m sure that was it.

So what if it took Hallmark to guilt-trip you into actually calling your parents? Bless them and all their treacly, overpriced greeting cards. (Well, not the ones that cost seven bucks because now I gotta send $13 to the neighbor kid I barely know who graduated, which seems weird and cheap…budget isn’t just a rental car agency, you know.)

If you’ve got two living parents, is it such a heavy lift to show up? Take Dad to the steak place with the unlimited yeast rolls. Yes, it’s a chain and we know you don’t approve of those either but, end of the day, it’s not about you. Take Mom, next time because you’ve already blown it this year, to the Thai place where she embarrasses you by requesting “no spice.” Or, if geography dictates, mail a gift in plenty of time and put a little thought into it. Too much for you to do? Two words: forceps delivery. What is WRONG with you?

My Dad has gone to glory, 13 years now, so I don’t have the crushing burden of having to shop for just the right Volkswagen Beetle coffee table book for him. Damn, I miss that.

Sometimes, Hallmark gets it right. If they make a few bucks in the process, I care not.

Well. I care a little because their “Sweetest Day, Always Celebrated on the Third Saturday In October!” is pure BS. A more realistic designation for that fake holiday would be Flop-Sweaty Desperate Drive to the Nearest Costume Store Day. It’s for parents who like their Halloween with a few extra hay bales of anxiety. You waited too late and the only costume left in the store is Slutty Tax Collector. It’s the kind of thing you could commiserate with your own parents about because they could relate. See, they did the parenting thing long before you discovered it, maybe not perfectly but mostly OK, and they deserve some gratitude. And, yes, a few of those yeast rolls.

Celia Rivenbark is a NYT-bestselling author and columnist. Email her at [email protected].

Weekend humor from Celia Rivenbark: A UFO close encounter

SOMEWHERE, LIKE, UP IN THE SKY—I love how they call us “unidentified aerial phenomena” now. Sounds classier than UFO, don’t you agree, Zorx?

Zorx: Most assuredly, Amber. I never liked the “objects” part of Unidentified Flying Objects. It sounds derisive, irregardless of which galaxy you inhabit.”

Amber: Zorx! You mean “regardless.” If we’re going to meet the Americans soon, we need to be sure we are fluent in English.

Zorx: (sulking) I’m not sure they’re worth all this effort. Frankly, I’m weary of their childish jokes about how we always want to probe them inappropriately. As if. They should be so lucky!

Amber: Zorx!!

Zorx: Sorry! It’s just that after all these years they finally realize we’re out here. Can you imagine being so arrogant as to think your planet is the only one capable of supporting intelligent life? It’s honestly preposterous.

Amber: It’s a curious place, this Earth. I remember when we almost decided to give up on them.

Zorx: Ah, yes. The Marjorie Taylor Greene years. Challenging times indeed.

Amber: Hold that thought, hon. Someone’s at the dock. Oh, no! It’s the American and it’s a half hour early! Quick! Do my scales look symmetrical?

Zorx: Yes, you are gorgeous as always. (pouty) But of course it’s early.  Only boring people arrive early.

Amber: Try to be nice! Oh, look. It brought cake.

Zorx: Is it wrapped in tin foil? Ha! That’s funny because…

Amber: Yes, yes, I get it.

Zorx: (huffy) Of course the American would bring cake. What if we were gluten-intolerant? See what I mean? They don’t think they’re the center of the universe; they think they ARE the universe.

Amber: Zorx, you must remember they are millions of years behind us! Cake is delightfully anachronistic if you think about it. They still eat MEAT! Hahahahahahaha!

Zorx: Point taken. Although, if I’m being honest, I do rather miss bacon but that was many trillions of light years ago. Still, you never forget that smoky, salty, crispy flavorful goodness…

Amber: Zorx! Your antennae!!

Zorx: (blushing) Sorry. Admit the American. Ack. I hope it can read the room, you know, not try to keep us up all night. I’ve got pickleball at noon.

Amber: Pickleball? What’s that?

Zorx: No idea. It’s just something the Americans are crazy about once they arrive at the final stage of their normal life span so I thought it might be a topic of conversation. Did a little reading up on it in case we hit an awkward silence.

Amber: Me, too. It turns out the higher functioning humans use sarcasm and humor; the lower ones click on things like “See Elizabeth Hurley’s bikini pix!” on their archaic laptop computers. Also, what’s a lap?

Zorx: I have no idea about anything you just said. And I’m fine with that. (opens door) Welcome! Do come in. (visibly shocked) Whoa. What’s that thing in the middle of your skull covering?

American: Uhhhh, you mean my nose?

Zorx: Yes, sorry. How rude of me. May I take your exoskeleton?

American: Uhhhh, pretty sure it’s attached big guy!

(awkward silence)

Zorx: Soooooo… pickleball. Do you partake?

American: No, but my grandpa likes it a lot. I’m Gen Z. So my mom sent cake. I was gonna go with some weed. Peace pipe, amiright? Up high. No. Higher. No. See it’s called a high 5. Oops. My bad. Can you grow another one of those?

Zorx: Already done.

American: Whoa. Can you do that again? This’ll blow up Tiktok. You guys ever see the guy who slices a banana instead of peeling it? That gets me every time.

Zorx: (under his breath) Aye, the idiot is strong in this one…

Amber: Who wants cake? Jeff! Come serve us, will you?

Jeff Bezos: Be right there, Mom!

Celia Rivenbark is a NYT-bestselling author and columnist. Email her at [email protected].


Weekend humor from Celia Rivenbark: Cicadas and Friends…they’ll be there us

Are we honestly supposed to think it’s mere coincidence the Brood X cicadas have emerged after 17 years underground at the exact same time the original cast of “Friends” has emerged in public together after the same 17-year-absence?

Well, are we?

I mean, 17 years is a bit random, isn’t it? Not 10 or 20 but exactly 17 years. Look, I’m not saying Jen Aniston has anything in common with subterranean tunneling creatures that feed off root juices ingested from their weird built-in face straws but I’m not NOT saying it either. Work with me here.

The only thing we can say for sure is both the cicadas and HBO Max have some mighty hard-working publicists because, for the past month, it has been virtually impossible to read or watch any media without a reminder that for the first time in SEVENTEEN YEARS, noisy, oversexed creatures are going to be screeching loudly for a mate, eventually coupling with several and finally leaving their tiny, crunchy exoskeletons behind like a parting gift.

But enough about Courteney Cox.

Both the cast of “Friends” and the Brood X cicadas are set to burst onto the nation’s consciousness for the first time since 2004 at the exact same moment, which makes me wonder if we should expect more dormant-since-2004 phenomena to reappear? After all, it has been 17 years since Janet Jackson’s breast was famously exposed, however accidentally, by Justin Timberlake. Will he look her up and do it again? On second thought, that’s a bad idea; wifey’s quick to rile and the world doesn’t need another JT Apology Tour. All that contrition following the Britney Spears revelations took the sexy he brought back, punched it in the throat and draped it in a deeply unflattering housecoat.

Will Martha Stewart go to jail as she did 17 years ago for insider trading? Not likely. I’m pretty sure Martha’s biggest offense these days is endlessly bragging about how beautiful her farm peacocks are which is technically not a crime but probably should be.

Perhaps Paris Hilton should resurface long enough to remind us of her popular catch phrase of 17 years ago: “That’s hot!” which we can all agree, as catch phrases from 2004 go, pales in comparison to “Friend” Joey’s endearingly lecherous “How YOU doin’?” or “Friend” Chandler’s brainy, sarcastic “Could I BE any more…”

I haven’t had a single Brood X visit yet, but it shouldn’t be long because I live in one of the 12 states (plus the District of Columbia) that will see billions of cicadas emerging noisily from underground demanding to know if John Kerry won the presidency and if Rachel and Ross were really on a break.

There’s a lot to catch up on but they will only have time for, er, love. In fact, they eat almost nothing once they emerge, devoting all their time to furiously buzzing and gyrating in hopes of finding a mate. Speaking of which, good for you JLo.

Entomologists (motto: “STOP CALLING US ETYMOLOGISTS! IS IT REALLY THAT HARD?”) say cicadas spend their short 4-6 weeks of life above ground consumed with mating and barely eating. Cicadas, the scientists say, are part of a huge insect “superfamily.” Think of them as the insect version of the Duggars, without the creepy brother with the molestation charges and porn addiction. On second thought, never think of the Duggars again. Let us not feed that which should be starved.

Speaking of Matt LeBlanc…kidding! As the only member of the “Friends” cast with a dad bod, LeBlanc is built like an actual middle-aged man, not a rail-thin insect who only occasionally feeds through its weird built-in face straw. Good on him! I give the reunion two thumbs up. No word on the cicadas yet. I’ll let you know.

Celia Rivenbark is a NYT-bestselling author and columnist. Write her at [email protected].