Tag Archives: beth herman

Life at the Middle: Opposites Attract

My husband and I are close, but we don’t always agree. The first four years of our marriage, we lived in a house with bare white walls, because we couldn’t settle on even one single picture. Over time our tastes have converged. We can now buy a couch or decorate a room without busting into an argument. But there is one thing about which we still disagree.

Despite my love of running, I am not an outdoorsy person, and I accept this about myself.  I’m a city girl, a New Yorker in fact. I moved there when I was 17, and it never occurred to me that I would live anywhere else.

I stay pale all summer. I love to walk too, but on city streets thank you, with shop windows, restaurants and street lights at night. I get nervous when the concrete ends. Plants are pretty (although don’t make the mistake of trusting me with yours); flowers are lovely, and I love trees. But I do not care for moving nature. What I’m trying to tell you, is that nature is fine with me, as long as it stays in place.

My husband, on the other hand, is a bona-fide nature boy. Having grown up a scholar, with most of his time spent reading and writing, he loves the outdoors.  He’s a self-declared friend of nature- and all those who live in it. He stops to admire frogs, or marvel at the geometric simplicity of certain bugs. And as often as the not too bright squirrels in our neighborhood fling themselves under the wheels of the car, he always swerves to avoid hitting them. 

His true weakness however, is turtles. My husband fancies himself a friend of the turtle, and like every nine year old boy, he loves to touch them. Driving with him is an adventure because whenever possible, he brakes for turtles.  If they’ve wandered into the street, he jumps out of the car and moves them to safety. And although I have tried to make my position on moving nature clear to him, this once almost became a problem.  

Out for a drive one day, my husband spied a turtle in distress. He put on his turtle saving super hero costume and leapt out of the car. But instead of delivering the turtle to safety, he decided to present it to me as a gift. As the turtle’s tiny head got closer and closer to mine, it’s wrinkled neck craning up to see me, I got more and more nervous, until I finally shouted, “I do not need to meet that tortoise!”

Seven years have passed since that near tete a tete encounter. While we now have clarity regarding what constitutes cute (puppies) versus gross (amphibians), my distaste for moving nature remains unchanged. I still do not appreciate turtles, frogs and the dreaded S creatures. On the issue of bugs, a division of labor has been arranged; I spot the nasty critters, and my husband disposes of them.

Beth Herman in an artist and essayist. She enjoys running the hills of Charlottesville and the city streets of Washington D.C., in almost equal measure.

Hunters Become the Hunted

My real estate karma is kicking back at me. After years of indiscriminately looking at properties, my husband Arthur and I now have our house on the market.

Until we renovated the kitchen and master bath and opened our house up to strangers, real estate was my hobby, my sport, my escape. What fun I had,watching House Hunters and Property Brothers on HGTV. Or reading the Wall Street Journal Mansion Section aloud: “Five bedroom, six acre farmette with new chef’s kitchen,” I’d yell to Arthur in the next room. “Guess how much?”

Out for a walk or drive, spying that little colored flag with the exalted words, Open House, my pulse raced. Like a child angling for an extra hour before bedtime, I’d begin the pleading, “Please, let’s go tour that house/apartment/loft, and we can go anywhere you want for dinner!”

So, a bit of an apology here: To those whose homes we have tromped through, thank you. We appreciate your efforts; every toy tucked away, every article of clothing closeted. I, Beth Herman, have new found respect for homeowners who put their houses on the market, especially those with young children and pets. In our family, there is only my husband, myself and Mr. Moopoo, our giant teddy bear, and still it is challenging.

Preparations began after a seven week renovation. First, pretty young men from the used furniture store came and took away our gold velvet covered couches, extra wardrobe and antique writing desk.

Then the Staging Ladies arrived. The ex-stewardesses had lots of suggestions, including moving the bed in the guest bedroom to capitalize on the view (they were right), and disposing of hundreds of our many books.

I knew from watching HGTV that buyers look for ‘clean homes, devoid of clutter’, where they can imagine themselves living. So we were surprised when one agent described the house as ‘stark.’

Next came The Lookers. We marvel at what they see and don’t see, do or don’t do. In a kitchen flooded with natural sunlight, why turn on all the lights and leave them on? Knock one of the screen deckdoors off its track, shouldn’t you leave a note? Why call for a showing that afternoon when the listing specifically states, “24 hour notice required!”

Sometimes we wonder who is walking through our house and what they think. That’s the thing about real estate. Both intrusively intimate and incredibly impersonal, it’s a mystery on both sides. Most people viewing our property will never know who lives in the house with book shelves in every room and a giant teddy bear upstairs with his own portrait hanging in the kitchen.

bethphotoaugusMr. Moopoo is the muse for my children’s books and teddy bear portrait model.  Before the house got listed, our agent Denise decided he could stay home in his chair during showings.  We agreed, hoping he might pass along some details about who came to the house and how they reacted. But so far, he’s said nothing.

Feedback is rare from house hunters too. Like many other businesses, you usually only hear the negative. But recently, one agent wrote, “though my clients have decided not to move forward with this home, really wonderful setting and marvelous aura inside the house.”


Beth Herman is an artist and essayist. You can see her bear portraits at www.bearpainter.com. To learn more about life with Mr. Moopoo, look for her children’s books on Amazon: You, Me and Mr. Moopoo Makes Three and Mr. Moopoo in the Kitchen.

Body Image After Age 50

Mother Nature is cruel. In addition to hot flashes and night sweats, I’ve gained nine pounds in the last seven months and outgrown most of my clothing.

Going from a size zero to a size four and acquiring a jelly belly may not seem significant. But for someone who runs 25 to 28 miles a week and isn’t much of an eater, it’s pretty disturbing.

At the age of 51, I’m smack in the midst of perimenopause, a term describing the hormonal roller coaster prior to menopause. According to the internet, diminished estrogen levels are to blame for my weight gain. The loss of testosterone has reduced my muscle mass and lowered my metabolism. Online articles by medical professionals offer meager advice: “Move more!” (I already run 80 to 90 minutes four or five days a week), “Cut calories!” (Steamed vegetables comprise my dinner most nights), and the ever helpful, “reduce stress!”

Many products promise relief. There are progesterone patches and creams, herbal remedies, medical grade supplements, and bioidentical hormones.

Given the controversy over hormone replacement therapy, and the fact that I am a wimp who avoids taking medication unless it is really necessary, I opted to start with Estroven, an over the counter product from Trader Joe’s. If they sell it at Trader Joe’s, I reasoned, how harmful could it be? Or how effective? My hot flashes continued, and I struggled not to gain anymore weight.

“Sorry!” The 50-something female cashier said when I returned the product. “I tried this stuff too. It does nothing!”

Tired of listening to myself complain, I consulted my gynecologist. “Eat fewer salty snacks,” she advised.

Since I haven’t eaten a potato chip since circa 2003, I decided it was time to change doctors. My new GYN was much more sympathetic. “The weight will come off once you get through the process,” she reassured me.” But you will lose your waist.”

Lose my waist? That explained the jelly belly. She was a good listener, so I forged on. “My boobs are huge,” I whined. “Huge!”

I explained that in addition to larger pants and tops, it was also necessary to buy new bras, which became too tight within a few months. “Don’t throw away your old bras,” she advised. “Your breasts will return to their normal size.”

I took a breath and started to relax, until my doctor said, “and then they will become pendulous.” Pendulous! I thought, what an interesting word to describe my body, like something out of an Edgar Allen Poe story. I went home and replayed the conversation for my husband “Pendulous, pendulous,” we said it a few times together.     

Mother N. might be cruel, but she is on schedule. I haven’t had a period since last summer, so my doctor thinks I should be nearly finished with the bloating and weight gain of perimenopause.

Until I complete the transition though, I’ve asked my husband to gain a few pounds; take a couple of extra helpings of mashed potatoes and apple strudel for the team. Being the generous guy that I married, he’s made the sacrifice.


Beth Herman is an artist and essayist. She enjoys running the city streets of Washington and the hills of Charlottesville in almost equal measure.


Do You Take This Dress?

I got married 27 years ago, but weddings still enchant me. Preferring to get my fix unfiltered, I skip most reality TV bridal shows, but occasionally catch Say Yes to the Dress. I lived in New York as a single girl, and the story of Kleinfeld, the store at which the television show is set, was legendary, but for different reasons than it is today. Founded in 1941, the original shop was located in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. As I heard it, the building was only open to the public on weekends, when the elevator was not in service. The bride, her bridal party, her mother and sometimes grandmother would have to trudge up numerous flights of stairs in search of the perfect dress.

In 2005, Kleinfeld moved to more sumptuous quarters in Manhattan.They hired my old boss, Frank Jedda, to run their new men’s division. Many years ago, Frank and his wife, Stella, owned an elegant and expensive men’s shop called FrankStella. I began working there while studying English at Hunter College. Frank was warm, funny and generous. As a full time student who only worked Fridays and Saturdays, he knew I sometimes fell short of cash by the end of the week.“Ethbay,” (he always called us by nicknames) Frank would quietly ask, “Do you need some money for lunch?”

Stella worked with me every Saturday. She was the older sister I should have had. She was there the day I met my husband–who, I later discovered, walked into the store after seeing me through the shop’s window.

“I want to buy this tie but it has a snag in it,” he told me. Arthur left the store several hundred dollars poorer, carrying a bag of expensive shirts, ties and my phone number. As we watched him cross 56th Street and fold into the crowd, Stella said, “That’s the one you are going to marry.”

“Don’t be silly,” I said. “You know I am not getting married.” She was right of course. A year and a half later, we tied the knot.

bethherman4At 24, I had no idea who I was. But like any good graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology, I had a vague sense of what I wanted to look like as a bride.White was good. Anything traditional or bride-like was not. I tried on silk pants with camisoles, beaded evening wear, and classic white suits. I finally decided on a tea length dress from the department store Bonwit Teller. It had a tight bodice, illusion lace sleeves, and a polka dot tiered lace skirt. A pill box hat with a bow and netted veil completed the ensemble.

New York has changed a lot since the lovely August day when Arthur and I were wed. Bonwit Teller closed in 1990. Frank and Stella split, and the store sold. Garvin’s, the Greenwich Village restaurant where we took our vows and celebrated the future, shuttered its doors. But I still have my dress. Festive and chic, it was the perfect outfit in which to start our wonderful marriage.

Beth Herman is an artist, painter and essayist based in Charlottesville. She enjoys running with her husband every morning, home renovations, and oil painting. Visit her website www.bearpainter.com to view her artwork. You can also find stories from Beth in each issue of Bella Magazine. Go pick up your copy today!

Hair’s The Thing

 The Never-Ending Pursuit of “Perfect” Hair

“When standing among many people, I’m hardly difficult to spot. I have a wild head of curly hair with a mind all its own.”

I wrote those words 33 years ago. They formed the first sentence of my college application essay, but still describe me perfectly today. The difference is -I’ve since made peace with the way I look.

I didn’t get the “good” curly hair. You know, like actresses Andie MacDowell and Keri Russell. Their beautiful tresses grow shinning and cylindrical down their backs. My type of curly hair, on the other hand, shrinks up to half its length while drying, reminiscent of 1970’s male rockers. Bette Midler’s does too, which she admitted in a film to her straight-haired costar, “at least you have hair with weight.”

Since I also have hair without weight, I have opted for hair with height. For the last ten or 15 years, I have worn my curly hair in a ponytail on top of my head, with tendrils hanging down around the sides and front. My husband calls it the ‘Rare Tropical Shrub Look.’ He can always find me in a crowded room. Recently watching a televised gymnastics meet, I noticed the girls competing from of the University of Auburn and Florida State also wear their hair, straight or curly, this way.

Perhaps that should have tipped me off. At the age of 51, I know I am too old for this hairstyle.  I was probably too old at 40.  But the curls hanging down frame my face, and my delicate features aren’t overwhelmed by a hair explosion.

Being blessed with naturally curly hair is challenging and time consuming for me, perplexing to others. Millionaire Matchmaker Patty Stanger claims men hate curly hair and forces her female candidates to have their hair straightened before they can attend her Choose Me mixers. “Men want something they can run their fingers through,” she says.

bethherman1Despite the challenges, curly hair is a big part of my identity, which is perhaps why Stanger’s comments hurt. When I tell people that I am an artist, they often say, “you look like an artist.” I’m guessing this is because of my hair. 

There are many women with curly hair who choose to wear it straight, including my friend CB. Her hair is silken and shiny, reaching down to the small of her back. If my hair behaved like that, perhaps I would wear it straight more often. But my hair has no weight. When straightened, it quietly curls up at the ends, hour by hour, until I end up like the model for the 1970’s hair spray advertisement: Self Styling Adorn

Curly hair is messy and naughty. Washing my hair, coating it with product and getting a comb through it takes time. (I am amused when women ask me if I simply get out of the shower and shake my head.)

On the other hand, it doesn’t need to be washed every day. My roots do not show as readily as they would if I had straight hair.  It can also predict the weather. Having curly hair is unique and fun- a little wacky even.

It’s taken me a long time but I now embrace my hair.  And despite Stanger’s theory, I had no trouble finding the love of my life.  Like blue eyes or a bubbly personality, curly hair is an important part of who I am.

Beth Herman is an artist, painter and essayist based in Charlottesville. She enjoys running with her husband every morning, home renovations, and oil painting. Visit her website www.bearpainter.com to view her artwork. You can also find stories from Beth in each issue of Bella Magazine. Go pick up your copy today!