It’s Summertime, and the Addictions Flow Easy

“My name is Shelley and I am a Words With Friends-aholic.”

Like most addicts, I was unaware that I was one. “Playing” was simply something I enjoyed. All the time. With up to ten people. Simultaneously. I checked the site first thing in the morning, last thing at night, and often in between. I kept my phone plugged in by my pillow, within easy reach in case insomnia struck.

My new best friend was a grammar school classmate who had tracked me down on facebook. Buddy and I would sometimes have five games going at once. We were constantly in cyber-contact. As soon as I played a word, he was right back. Thrust and parry. Not a moment in between until I would look at the clock, and cringe at how long I had been glued to the screen, lost in time and space.

I was a moth and this was my flame.

I started cursing others, out loud, when they racked up a high point word. I began bearing them ill will. These were no longer my friends. They were my adversaries. I checked the leaderboard after every play. Number two was not an option.

It was on a week internet-less vacation in Maine when my spousal equivalent first voiced his unhappiness with my behavior. As soon as we were within WiFi access, I whipped out my phone and checked out. Deprivation at the cabin resulted in unbridled binging. I was entitled. I ignored bucolic scenery. I preferred interactions with my fellow WWF-aholics to interacting with local lobstermen. He said I was rude, obsessed and unsociable. I said he was petty, selfish and needy. He said I spent more time with Buddy than I did with him. I said he was ridiculous and jealous.

Still, I didn’t stop. Instead, I began sneaking.

I stayed in the car at gas stations, lingered in the grocery store and “rested” at rest stops. I thought about WiFi. All the time. And stewed with resentment.

On that tense ride home, I realized I had better at least pretend to see the light. I admitted that I needed to stop, or at least to moderate my consumption. I acknowledged that my hobby was becoming an “issue” in our relationship. I would be more sensitive and less obsessed. I could do this. I would do this.

Not so easy, I discovered. Especially when my buddy Buddy-the-enabler was not on the same page. I finally conceded I couldn’t beat this alone.

Fate was on my side. WWF Anonymous had just started weekly meetings at my local Unitarian church. I saw the ads in the paper and began circling them, first in pencil and then in red pen. At last, one day I went.

The group was small and sat in a circle. I recognized a few faces and tried not to register surprise or relief. I took a seat and listened.

“Welcome to Words With Friends Anonymous.”

To be continued.

My Virgin Visit to Nordstom’s Makeup Department

I have been to Las Vegas, Reno and Aruba, and left without putting a single quarter into a slot. I have all the television stations and have never seen a single episode of “American Idol,” “Dancing With the Stars” or “Survivor.” Nordstrom opened in Peabody on April 17, 2009, and I had never stepped foot inside its doors. As a 60-something Jewish female, it was time.

I wanted to sport visible proof of my deflowering. What better way than letting the beautician Chanelle use my face as a canvas for her palette of expensive face paint?

In truth, I had a headshot photo shoot scheduled the next day, and oral surgery the previous week had left me looking, well, my age.

Chanelle was gentle with me, cooing encouragement as she removed my glasses and examined every pore with evaluative eyes. She described the procedures I would be undergoing, defining why each product was necessary to achieving her goal. The list was long.

Feeling like an obedient preschooler, I submitted to her authority. My makeup regime is limited to concealer, blush, mascara and lipstick, and then only when attending a gala wedding at the Four Seasons. I had no idea what the four beigecolored pots de maquillage were. Chanelle’s explanation left me feeling I had been living on borrowed time, and that each product would be critical to my survival going forward.

Even in my naked myopia, I could sense the array of clinical instruments to my left, laid out neatly by shape and function. There was no turning back.

Coat after coat was applied, brushed, reapplied and rebrushed. I counted six different brushes, more than the Impressionists ever used to create masterpieces. The makeup had names like primer, foundation, concealer, highlighter and bronzer. I felt like the outside of my house. The functions sounded inherently contradictory: an illuminating concealer, a lightweight foundation and one that lifted as it covered. Even my eyelids needed camouflaging. When I looked atmyself in the mirror, I saw a Prendergast oil painting rather than the captured glow of pubescent skin. I burst out laughing.

Chanelle, bless her heart, soldiered on. Next came the eyes. I was immediately reminded why contact lenses and I had never gotten along. The approaching mascara wand in my peripheral vision elicited a textbook Pavlovian response of watering and blinking. Before the eyeliner had been imbedded between each lash (“Never draw a line across your lids!”), I was fantasizing about makeup removers and a long shower.

The one that really got me, however, was the creation of eyebrows. I truthfully had never felt disadvantaged by my lightly endowed eyebrows. In fact, my girlfriends who are slaves to plucking and waxing are green with envy. I thought they were a lifestyle asset. Not so, apparently. My face would look much more youthful with the framing eyebrows would provide. When I looked in the mirror, I saw a cross between my grandmother and Martin Scorsese.

By contrast, the blush was fun. Unsurprisingly, the one named Orgasm is their top seller. Luckily, it did not match my skin tone, as it was predictably out of stock. My lined dry lips required a $30 remedy. The case, at least, was exquisite, worthy of Faberge. I did not escape purchase-free, but I only added one item to my shopping list of blush, lipstick and gargantuan quantities of concealer (which I would apply with a paint roller, if such a product existed). That add-on purchase? A case full of autumn eye shadows. The included free eyeliner had clinched the deal.

I tried my best to gush and cluck as I gave myself a parting glance in the blindingly lit mirror, but I’m sure I fooled no one. Especially not Chanelle. In the privacy and muted, conventional lighting of my kitchen, however, I did ooh and aah, and yes, admire. Those eyebrows did lift my face, and I’ll be darned if my skin didn’t look 25 years younger. (Okay, maybe closer to 10.) I wondered if the store’s bright lights are deliberately of torture quality to terrify and encourage equity loan-caliber purchases. Ponce de Leon’s ghost holds court in Nordstrom’s makeup department, where he is healthy, wealthy and wrinkle-free.

I am a 60-something Jewish female who has never had Botox or any of its iterations. Don’t count on an article chronicling a change in that status any time soon.


Pictured above: The author, after Chanelle did her magic.