Ms. Meniscus,

I’m a former Manhattan It Girl who lives in a posh suburb in a domicile (that’s the generous description) which I had purchased at the height of my income earning days, along with a 1992 Jeep Cherokee – paid in full, all cash. Well there’s been a real reversal of fortune since roving photographer Bill Cunningham captured my likeness on the NY Times “Style” page — first item of discussion, my ailing body (ravaged by 20 years of punishing arthritis); second, the domicile (think weeds, cobwebs, a jungle of incontinent garden hoses); thirdly, the Jeep (the Beverly Hillbillies jalopy would be an slick improvement.) I could really profit from a Disabled Person’s parking placard and diminish a lot of unnecessary physical pain, Ms. Meniscus, but I admit, my It Girl vanity prevents me. The neighborhood kids already regard me as the local witch. I see them skittering away as I careen into my driveway, busted muffler roaring like the demon. To me a DP placard is like the final badge of dishonor. Will it elicit tea and sympathy and encourage the tow-headed sprites to help granny with her groceries? Or, will it embolden the local hooligans to up the ante and attack my wobegone domicile with paintballs?

— —  Six Degrees of Separation from Viva (not the toilet roll)

Dear Six Degrees of Separation from Viva,

First of all hon let me say that Ms. Meniscus is one who has not only lingered over the  New York Times many a Sunday morn but her favorite section of the old Grey Lady has always been Style—and where did she always flip to first in Style? Why, the “On the Street” photographs by Bill Cunningham, of course. Nothing better than perusing candid shots of the well-fashioned strolling around Manhattan while sipping one’s morning coffee.

How amazing that you not only caught attention of the renowned street fashion photographer but your pic but made it past the photo editor and onto the pages of the Times for posterity. You were obviously at the pinnacle of Manhattan It Girldom.

With that said, if I understand the gist of your question, how does one then shift from being someone who made the Style section to someone who drives around with a handicap placard (or since you’re in California, a disabled person parking placard) in your old Jeep Cherokee.

With grace, my dear Viva, with grace.

Ms. Meniscus is sorry you view the handicap placard as a badge of dishonor—it is not. However, many people say they are embarrassed to use one so you are not alone in your negative feelings towards this particular parking permit.

And many people do judge those who have handicapped placards in their vehicles in a negatively—but not in the way you may think  If you don’t “look sick”, don’t be surprised if some Bozo makes a comment that you don’t really need handicapped parking.

But the bottom line, my dear. If you could attain Manhattan It Girldom, Ms. Meniscus would suggest you can reach for the pinnacle again. Get the handicap placard, put it in the window of your old Jeep, and when you drive around, Ms. Meniscus wants you to imagine that young woman in Manhattan whose pic was being snapped by Bill Cunningham. Imagine her and you will be her again—only older and wiser.

As for the possibility of neighborhood ruffians paintballing your house, Ms. Meniscus would suggest this has nothing to do with your getting a handicap parking placard and everything to do with confiscating balls that have bounced on your property.

 — M 

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