Author: Jennifer Hudak

When I Lost Weight, My Daughter Didn’t Recognize Me

I am watching home videos with my daughter, who is nearly 15 and prone to bouts of nostalgia. She likes to remind herself of a time when life was simpler — when she received toys instead of gift cards for her birthday, when her little brother still idolized her, when her favorite thing about the science museum was the diorama room and she could run freely through the exhibit since no one else’s favorite thing about the science museum is the diorama room. On the television screen, my children’s cheeks are still rosy and full, their smiles silly and unguarded. I love watching their skinny little legs kicking in the pool, their pudgy fingers picking up one goldfish cracker at a time. The only thing I don’t like about these old home movies is seeing myself on camera. The me I see onscreen is quite heavy – 40 pounds heavier than my current weight, to be exact. Because I am short – only 4’9” – a gain or loss of even three pounds is visible …

In Praise of Friends That Don’t Last Forever

When I was a girl, I believed wholeheartedly that in order for best friends to be for real, they had to be forever. And I know I’m not alone. Want proof? Just look at any girl’s yearbook. The acronyms may go in and out of vogue, but the sentiment remains: B.F. F. Now that I’m resting solidly in the middle of my 40s, I wonder if there’s any such thing as a “forever” best friend. We all change so much over the course of our lives, I barely recognize the young woman I was in high school, much less the kid whose prized possession was a Donnie and Marie Barbie play set. So why do we believe that the friendships we made back then should survive the dramatic overhauls and upheavals we traverse on the way to adulthood? I’m still in touch with many of my earliest friends; we wish each other happy birthday on Facebook and exchange holiday cards decorated with photos of our children. But we no longer tell each other our deepest …

Welcome to the Smelliest Time of Year

I love fall. It’s my favorite season. And I know what I’m talking about: I grew up in New England and live in Upstate New York, which makes me a bona fide autumnal expert. It is the most glorious time of the year around these parts. It’s also, unfortunately, the most intensely scented. I’m not talking about the natural scents of sweet ripe apples waiting to be picked or smoky leaves crunching underfoot. I’m talking about the olfactory assault of artificial fragrance that fills pretty much every public space from September through November. Normally I avoid stores that specialize in home fragrance or perfumed lotions, but this time of year, the scents spill over their normal boundaries and I have to steer clear of entire wings of the mall. Craft stores display fragranced candles and incense at the front end; bookstores sell autumn potpourri on racks near the checkout. Even my local grocery store has a display of seasonally scented wreaths by the entrance. And the most pervasive seasonal scent of all is Pumpkin Spice. …

Truth or Yawn: When Did the Material Girl Get So Boring?

I was surfing through radio stations in my car when I first heard Madonna’s latest single, “Bitch, I’m Madonna.” Her new album had been in the press, more due to her recent attention-grabbing antics than the music itself — the topless photos, the skirt that she flipped up to expose her well-toned tush to photographers — but Madonna has always courted controversy. I’d seen her simulate masturbation on stage and pretend to give a blow job to a bottle in the 1991 documentary Truth or Dare; if I was ever scandalized by Madonna, those days are long gone. But listening to “Bitch, I’m Madonna” made me change the station in disgust. I wasn’t shocked, and I wasn’t titillated. Really, I was just bored. Look, I grew up with Madonna. I was a fan. I stacked black rubber bracelets on my arms because she did. I attempted to style my bad perm into her tousled waves. I watched and re-watched Desperately Seeking Susan wishing that I could cultivate her “I don’t give a shit” attitude. Through her …

Comfort and Oy! Raising Kids in a Mixed-Faith Household

When my daughter was eight years old, she came home from school troubled. “Someone in my class said that Santa is not real,” she said. Her younger brother laughed. “But of course Santa is real! Otherwise, who’s that guy at the mall?” Thankfully, my daughter seemed satisfied with this answer. I sighed with relief and, not for the first time, thought, “I am completely unequipped to handle this Santa stuff.” I grew up Jewish, in a suburb of Boston. We celebrated Chanukah. We did not have a Christmas tree, or give each other Christmas presents. On Christmas day we did what all Jewish people do: we saw a movie and then went out for Chinese food. Many of the kids in my neighborhood, and in my school, were Jewish, so it never occurred to me to feel left out, or different. I married an Episcopalian, and while neither of us is terribly religious, both of us feel it’s very important to pass our family traditions on to our children. So we celebrate both Easter and …

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The Kids Are Alright (And So Is Their Music)

This piece is a response to Margit Detweiler’s essay about contemporary music, “The New Pop, Pop, Pop Music (And Why I Don’t Like It).” First, let me say that I don’t entirely disagree with Margit. I, too, am underwhelmed by a lot of what I hear on the radio, and my son went through a Psy phase that almost made me lose the will to live. But I’m more optimistic about the current state of music than she is, and even though my ears are old, I’m not ready to cover them just yet. Full disclosure: I was a Top 40’s kid in the 1970s and 80s. My only exposure to New Wave came from MTV, and the underground and alternative scene was completely alien to me and my suburban boom box. I owned a pair of Madonna-esque fingerless lace gloves, and I spent angst-filled hours listening to Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” on my tape deck. Oh, and my favorite band? Chicago. Yeah. That all changed when I went to college. I got the musical …