The glamorous invalid (or how to be sick like a star)

sick suzy parkerAfter four Turner Classic Movies Film Festivals, you’d think I’d be ready for just about anything. Well, I was. Except for the violent virus that came a-romping through my workplace. One minute, I was happily stowing the perfectly planned wardrobe into my natty little suitcase. The next, packing my purse with an auxiliary hanky, even as I refused to confront the truth.

sick camille

Finally, I had to come to grips with the horrifying fact that I wouldn’t be able to attend the festival this year.

sick stanny

At least, not without risking being “that woman” on the plane who is repeatedly asked if she’s alright because of the god-awful noises she’s making.

sick kay f

These days, there’s a shared delusion of radiant, blinding health in today’s offices. No one will admit or succumb to viruses; they’re ignored and treated like urban legends. These Typhoid Marys staunchly stay at their posts, nobly smiling as they dab at their red noses and hoarsely whisper that they’re just fine, thanks. As a result, our cube farms become incubators of disease. There’s no way on earth you’re not going to get sick in this terrarium of germs.

sick jeanette droppy

However, I have learned that anything I need to face I can do so with some help from Hollywood’s legendary beauties. Especially illness!

sick dr. kildare

So, nothing daunted, rather than sob into my tissue-filled hands, I’m going to offer my fellow sufferers a peek at how Tinsletown conquers germs and raises spirits.

sick hedy

The warning signs

sick grace

One morning, you wake up and there it is. That nasty inkling that all is not well.

sick ly bed

Or, you get that distinctive tickle in the throat. Or the cough that makes you sound like your Uncle Bill. And you know you’re in for it. You’re officially sick.

sick kim

Once you’re good and sick, if you decide to buck the system and cave into it, you have several choices. You can schlump around in your ratty tee shirt and pj bottoms, stepping over the disgusting, growing bedside pile of tissues or you can get better quicker by bolstering your spirit with some nurturing self-care.

sick polka dots

And in this case, that means being sick like a star. Here’s how it’s done for short-term illnesses.

sick myrna 2

Set the stage

Assuming that you don’t have a staff of faithful servitors, as so many of our heroines do, you’ll have to do some preliminary prep work before you completely collapse.

sick rita b in b

Stock your cupboard, fridge, and medicine chest

jungle shop

When you get those first warning signs, high-tail it to the grocery store and make sure you don’t have to go out when you’re feeling down and out. Aspirin, cold remedies, Vap-O-Rub (don’t laugh, it works!), Listerine, tissues (lots and lots of those), OJ, cans of low sodium chicken soup, crackers, caffeine-free tea, honey, lemons, cough drops, oranges and orange juice. That’s the short list. And stock up on cola and ginger ale–they’re ideal for upset tummies, especially if you let them go flat first.

sick cola

Make your bed
bed bacall
Your heard me. Make it with clean sheets. You will feel MUCH better if you’re sure that your cocoon of comfort is relatively germ-free to start with.

sick kim bed

Arrange your sick room

sick tea in bed

Think. What will you want at hand when you awake in the night with a raging head and a Niagara nose? Stock that night stand with: A pretty mug for hot tea, a crystal tumbler for orange juice; medications; a charged cell phone or land line.

sick kate

Tissues and cough drops in nice little bowl, perhaps, too. And how about some reading material?

sick claraMaybe even a little handiwork for that sleepless hour!

sick in bed mo

On stand-by

My dear mother was a nurse’s aide and I learned a lot from her about babying oneself during an illness. Mom always kept a thermometer, a bellhop’s bell, and a pretty little crystal vase on my bedside table when I was sick.

sick mo

She also stocked several clean, dry washrags and a basin for those sad moments when I needed sponging off. The smallest drop of lavender or citrus added to your wash water is divine; soak your washrag in it, wring it out completely, and bathe that fevered brow with it. Laugh if you will, but the old fashioned ice bag can be a real relief for a feverish head, too.


Trays elegante
sick gene b in b

The height of luxury, a bed tray will instantly make you feel better. It doesn’t have to be that fancy, but make sure you’ve got a nice placemat on it to soak up the soup or juice when you jostle.

sick harlow

A pretty cloth napkin or some luxe paper ones will help. If you’d like to toss in a crossword puzzle book, that’d be extra fun.

sick ginger tray

Feed a fever, starve a cold..

I tried, I really did. But I couldn’t find Louis B Mayer’s chicken matzo-ball soup recipe (which they STILL serve at the M-G-M commissary on the Sony lot). In lieu of that, I strongly advice you pick up a few (dozen) cans of Campbell’s or Progresso or your preference and eat it daily.

sick mm soup

Yogurt, poached eggs, orange sorbet, plain toast, Premium saltines…these are the staples you’ll crave, so give in and eat what your body is asking for.

sick mm

And, as the doctor always says, drink fluids. Lots and lots.

sick judy stove

Don’t surrender your style

Research shows us that our attitude in any situation often determines the outcome.

sick kathryn dr checkCatching sight of yourself in sagged out sweats and a tee shirt you found in the laundry room will do nothing to lift your spirits.

sick rita bed

While you don’t have to lounge slinkily around in a nylon peignoir, a clean set of pjs or a lightweight nightie is a mood-lifter.

sick kate robeA bathrobe that isn’t stained, ill-fitting, belt-less or ragged to the point of humiliation helps. How can you tell if you need a new one? Ask yourself this…would you want C. Dexter Haven to see you in it? ‘Nuf said.

sick kate bathrobe

Have a few sets of nightclothes ready, in case fever sets in and you wake in the night, soaked to the skin. That’s the time to bathe yourself with that lavender water and slip into the other clean set of pjs you’ve thoughtfully prepared when you didn’t feel like death on the half-shell.

sick june

bed rita


No kidding, the best thing you can do is give your body a chance to heal by sleeping or at least resting in bed.

sick bette

Running around saving the world will only result in dragging out your illness and, frankly, annoying the hell out of your co-workers who have to listen to you coughing up your spleen for 3 weeks. Go to bed, already. You’re human!

sick joan in bed

Take care of that wonderful body. Hollywood studios insisted that their stars hit the hay early and often, especially if they were fighting a cold.

sick viv tea

Take care

Brush your teeth; you’ll appreciate the feeling (and if you’re lucky enough to have a caregiver, they will, too). Use mouthwash, especially if you have a tummy issue that is causing some unhappy moments.

sick audrey teeth

Brush your hair and, if it’s long, tie it back or use a hairband.

sick leslie grooming

Wash your face with your favorite gentle cleanser and dab on a soothing moisturizer. A touch of lip balm will make your illness-chapped lips so happy.

sick face creaming

When the dawn breaks

sick liz

After a few days of your rotten illness, one morning you’ll arise and not feel like immediately crumbling back into a fetal position.

sick jeanette That’s the day you gently prod yourself to pull back the covers for an airing while you take a shower.

sick audrey

Brush your hair vigorously and get your scalp tingling–then hop into the tub or shower and shampoo it twice to make sure it’s well and truly clean.

sick paulette shampoo

Use a loofah or scrubbie on your sluggish body to slough off all that bed-crumpled skin and wake up your circulation again. And revel in the fact that you can actually smell your favorite body wash again!

sick lana

Towel off well and slip into a comfortable (that does not have to translate to sloppy) ensemble and move from the bed to the sofa.

sick sophiaSet up a little way station for your must-haves and luxuriate in the change of scene.

sick ly couch

Cue up the DVRed TCM films you’ve hoarded for just such a moment and pinch yourself. It’s true! You’re getting better!

sick deanna well