Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Comment: Coke Zero is my crack.

I really need to have it every day.

And I’m not one of those women who’s been swilling Diet Coke since high school.

To me, drinking Diet Coke is akin to sucking on some week-old corn syrup plus saccharine left in an old shoe.

I had a roommate in college who every night ate a salad slathered in dressing (which is the fattiest thing in a salad, with the possible exception of artichoke hearts) and a Diet Coke.

The Diet Coke and Brownie diet was also popular. Go figure.

Anyway, I never understood it. If you’re going to diet, do it. If you’re not, I thought, drink Coke. Sweet, sugary Coke. But I am no longer an eighteen year old with the metabolism of, say, an eighteen year old. I can no longer afford the calories my sugary beverage of choice saddled me with so effectively.

So I stopped drinking soda.

Until about three months ago. Or maybe it was more. It’s all a hyper-caffeinated blur to me. Since me and my baby CZ hooked up, we have been inseparable.

But don’t try to pass off Diet Coke as Coke Zero. There’s a difference. I LOATHE Diet Coke. Despise it. Non merci, mon ami.

Coke Zero is particularly bubbly and fizzy, painfully so. It’s like a thousand little flavored needles attacking your tongue. (Not that I’m into that kind of thing.)

So cool, so biting, so full of caffeine and fake sugar. It is best drunk ice cold, but not with ice. The distinction is important. Once it gets warm it begins to taste a little bit more like Diet Coke, so watch out.

I ‘m pretty sure there’s stuff in Coke Zero that’s addictive. The caffeine, of course, but something else too. Probably the phenylalanine. MMM, phenyl-ly.

Did you know that in Peru people drink Coca tea, which is made from coca leaves, which are also what make up cocaine? So perhaps we are not so far from the crack analogy after all.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Complaint: Yes, I'm afraid so.

I know I said I'd try to stay away from complaints, but apparently things keep getting worse.

I mean, OMG, this whole election thing is almost moot now, isn’t it? All the change in the world isn’t going to change the fact that this country is dans la toilette for whoever inherits its legacy.

This whole economy thing is berserk.

Question from the audience: Why are we rewarding people for being greedy, arrogant and stupid?

Sadly, the richest will stay rich. And the poorest will get poorer.

And we thought it couldn’t get any worse.

Stocks went down 777 points today. Biggest point drop in a single day.

Oh crap.

Probably not the time to buy a new car or that fabulous sectional you had your eye on.

Let’s see: a botched war, bullshit programs like “No Child Left Behind” which leave busloads of kids behind (don’t get me started) , mild antipathy to seething rage towards Americans everywhere, astronomical gas prices.

Wasn’t that enough?

How are people thinking that somehow we should continue to vote for more of this? I don’t get it.

But regardless of ideology, whoever gets elected in November is going to have their hands full. Full of the shit left behind.

Hey, there’s a program that’s been a roaring success!

All Shit Left Behind.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

No time to write. Third vampire book just got here from Amazon. Must read. More later.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Comment: I think I may be a vampire

No, not the blood-sucking kind. But it is related strongly to the color red.

I had this revelation (of sorts) today as I pushed my croup-y child in the double jog stroller.

Neither she nor I feel great; it was a rough, coughing night for us and her dad. When my son heard her barking cough this morning, he said, “So THAT’S what I heard last night.” He probably thought he was dreaming about a trip to Sea World.

Anyway, the baby and I went for a walk, to get out of the house. We went to Target, because all roads lead to Target. I picked up some tights for her, some underwear for the boy, and some Coke Zero for me, because I have addiction issues.

But I noticed that after I left, I felt better.

Sure, you’ve all heard of retail therapy.

But I mean I felt physically better, less ill, more energized. Healthier.

And I believe it’s because if I don’t get into a Target at least once a week for one reason or another (and there’s always a reason, trust me) I get, for lack of better word, depleted.

One might even say thirsty.

And when my Target thirst needs to be quenched, I have to drag my listless sorry ass over there to get in infusion of my beloved red logo.

You may think to yourself, this chick has read way too much teen vampire fiction. And you’d be right. But honestly, the metaphor works for me. I mean, no, my eyes don't change color like Edward Cullen's, but I do get a twitchy, lonesome, kind of yearning, if you will, for the red bullseye.

The whole vampire thing is about addiction, feeding a habit. And we all have some habits that run our lives. So I guess we’re all vampires in one form or another. Or maybe this comparison is just ridiculously obvious and only seemed like a revelation because I was an under-caffeinated, slightly mucous-filled, sleep deprived mama walking in the stinking hot sun hoping her child would nap. Maybe it's not the epiphany it felt like at the time.

But I like saying it.

I am a Target vampire.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Question: What can I let my kids watch?

So here’s the thing. We have a TV but we don’t have an antenna or cable or a dish. So we don’t watch commercial TV. But we do watch TV. Carefully selected videos and DVDs have cycled their way through our living room for the past five and a half years with no sign of stopping. But now, with a three and five year old, I’m running into a bit of a quandary about what to let them watch.

Baby Einstein is a scam and is way too young for my kids now.

The Wiggles, well, you know how I feel about them. My husband can’t have them on in the house when he’s home. He gets apoplectic.

The Doodlebops are so vacuous they make The Wiggles look like the freakin’ Algonquin Round Table.

Highly moral vegetables?

Thomas bores them.

They’re sick of Blues Clues (which I personally thought was awesome).

They’re over Dora.

Kipper is too young for them. It moves about as fast as molasses in January.

For a while, Charlie and Lola were big. I think I loved them more than my kids did.
They are so over C&L now.

Hey, you say, how about Disney?

Ahh….Disney…you’d think anything Disney would be safe, good, family-friendly.

You'd be wrong.

You see, it depends on how you define family. Disney is way traditional and kind of limiting in that department. The happily ever after Disney-style involves a gorgeous woman and a gorgeous man getting married. Kind of a narrow view of family if you ask me.

Let's analyze a little deeper: Disney movies tend to have impossibly pretty, perfect-looking young women who are in desperate need of a man to help them solve their problems. Mothers are often absent/dead, or only appear as evil stepmothers or window dressing next to the king. It’s quite annoying and a pretty narrow stereotype upon which to base one's life.

My daughter once picked a DVD from the library that featured Disney princesses living little vignettes that supposedly taught that “beauty comes from within,” but were really about great outfits and cute hair. Argh.

So when I look at Ariel , I think, will she trade who she really is to be with a man? That’s messed up. Now, caveat: I haven’t seen the movie in a LONG time, but the take-home seemed to be that her relationship with her boyfriend was more important than her own identity, her relationship with her father, or the rest of her world, for that matter.

Clearly I have too much time to think about these things.

Even 101 Dalmatians? Puppy, right? Not so tame. Lots of “you idiot!” and “stupid” and “shut ups.” Beauty and the Beast? At least the main character isn’t BLONDE, and likes to read. She’s a pretty decent heroine, but the Beast parts is scary for my three-year old, and even my five-year old isn’t keen on the fight scene. In fact, he’s never watched the end of the movie. It’s fast forward and they lived happily ever after.

Where does that leave us?

There’s a really cool DVD called ANIMUSIC. It’s music played by computer-simulated instruments and it’s super cool. But how many times can the kids watch lasers and pseudo-sci-fi music without going nuts? (Oh wait, that’s me.)

Right now we’re on a Bob the Builder kick, from Netflix. That’s a pretty wholesome show. But I still find things to pick apart. Why is the main female vehicle named “Dizzy?” What’s going on between Bob and Wendy? Who’s this scarecrow guy? He freaks me out. I think his name is Dump or Spud or Skid or something. Still, Bob’s where it’s at for now.

So tell me, analytical minds out there, if I’m going to let my kids watch something, and I am, what can it be?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Question: What would you have said?

Today as I was picking up my daughter from preschool and strapping her into her booster seat, she said: “Don’t die, Mom.”

She’s three and a half.

I wasn’t exactly shocked. I had heard her and her big brother talking about “dying the buildings” they made out of blocks. Not killing, dying. So I know she is familiar with the word and has maybe a vague sense of it.

But this was the first time she said something like that point blank to me. And I didn’t really know what to say, so I said the first thing I could think of, which was: “Well…I’ll do my best.”

I’m pretty sure the actual meaning of this conversation is quite different to her than it is to me. I mean, she basically means, “don’t leave me, Mom” and the real gut-wrencher is that someday I will.

But she doesn’t need to know that now, does she?

She wouldn’t understand that, would she?

The idea of being away from my children makes me want to die, to be honest. I can’t imagine living my life without them. But they will hopefully long outlive me.

And then they will live without me.

This is pretty deep for a blog post. Aren’t I supposed to be talking about the laundry or something?

Hey, is this a “mommy blog”?

Hate the term, not the bloggers. If it’s a “mommy blog,” because the blogger is a mother, then I guess all the men who blog and are also parents are doing “daddy blogs.” And “daddy jobs.” And “daddy commuting.” And "daddy trash-to-the-curbing.”

And I guess right now I’m “mommy typing.” And I was just “mommy cleaning” after supper tonight.

Give me a fracking break.

I don't enjoy hearing adults using the word "mommy" to designate someone. Call them a person, a writer, a mother, but please, leave "mommy" for the kids.

Being a mother is an identity and can be a full time job, to be sure, but do we have to cutesie-fy everything and only write about one thing? There are other thoughts in our minds, we “mommies” the media likes to pit against each other when we work part, full or no time “outside the home.”

“Outside the home.” That’s another annoying expression.

I met a really fun woman at a kid’s birthday party who was also (of course) a mother and we hit it off, and she said to me, in a very fakey deep voice, “Do you work outside the home?” I burst out laughing and so did she. Because she doesn’t, and I don’t. And somehow we’re supposed to suddenly be less than human because we are at home with our kids instead of in the boardroom.

We're all human.

And it’s like this taboo thing: if you do “work outside the home” you’re screwed; if you don’t, you’re screwed. If you do, you feel guilty or resent that you’re not home; if you don’t, you feel guilty or resentful that you’re not at work.

Is nobody satisfied? And I ask you, how is all that guilt and resentment good for anyone?

And finally, what do you say to your child when they tell you not to die?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Comment: The Wiggles Have Gone Too Far

The Wiggles have officially become too commercial.

Or maybe that’s not the right way to say it. They’re too…perfect.

With the unfortunate departure of founding member Greg Page, the Wiggles have added another perfectly fine new yellow-shirted wiggle, Sam Moran. He's about 20 years younger than the oldest member, but seems to fit in nicely. He can sing, he’s lovely and all that, but it’s not the same without Greg.

Something else has changed, too, and it may be a coincidence with the timing of Greg leaving and Sam joining. But The Wiggles have become so slick and shiny that they have lost what made them so much fun. Previously their videos were somehow imperfect, kooky, and kind of slapdash in places. The Wiggles seemed like real people, not characters. Not anymore.

In their DVD entitled Pop Go The Wiggles, the music is highly orchestrated, the whole thing is filmed on shiny pretty film, not video, and the editing is far superior to anything that they’ve put out before. It’s all songs all the time. Gone are the little vignettes and corny introductions to songs. This DVD just flows seamlessly from one song to another.

Having seen a DVD of one of their live performances (but never one in person) I could see that they had gotten tighter. Their timing was better, their dancing was pretty darn good, and their pacing was really on point. So I knew things were changing. I just didn’t think things had changed so much. The Wiggles are now virtually indistinguishable from the other plethora of candy-colored shiny children’s entertainment.

As I watched Pop Go the Wiggles for the first time, I felt a sinking dread. These are not The Wiggles I learned to tolerate and which my children love. They aren’t obnoxious, rowdy or goofy. They’re so smooth they slide right off the TV screen.

One of the things that was charming about The Wiggles was their rough-hewn quality. You knew they were dads/educators who just wanted to entertain kids so they decided to just do it themselves. And remember, if you will, the real kids, extended members of Wiggles themselves, who would be on the early DVDs babbling or looking distracted, picking their noses or staring at their parents off-screen. The old Wiggles DVDs were really rough around the edges. You could actually SEE the duct tape holding Dorothy the Dinosaur’s white gloves on.

In earlier videos, there were some kids who danced with the professional dancers, who were pretty good and getting better every new release. But now, with Pop Go the Wiggles, things have changed, and not for the better. Gone are any amateur dancers. No more goofy cute kids with moxie and talent. It’s all been streamlined. It’s depressing somehow.

I wonder if Dorothy has a voice double, because she’s never sounded this fabulous.

That’s ultimately the problem with this newest incarnation of The Wiggles, or at least this video. It’s too perfect.

I never expected The Wiggles to teach my kids anything. I mean, most kids’ entertainment is pretty vacuous, but now somehow it’s worse. The Wiggles were kind of the kids’ performer underdogs. They were do-it-yourselfers and that held a certain manic charm. Now they’re just like every other group on Nick Jr. and Playhouse Disney: pretty and somewhat indistinguishable fluff that doesn’t have much of a personality. Theses talented and lovely performers have gotten too good at their job.

And that’s too bad.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Complaint: My back hurts.

My husband’s does too. And so does my friend’s, who is almost ten years younger than me. She has a herniated disc. That sounds painful, because it IS. She even had to have an MRI. She hated it.

Did you know that something upwards of 100% of people over the age of 35 have back problems? (My friend is very advanced for her age.)

In today’s crumbling economy, it would appear our middle-aged backs are buckling under the pressure and wreaking havoc with our sleep, our waking hours, our lives.

And our kids are still young enough not to sleep through the night.

That’s the bitch of starting your family “later in life,” my friends. They’re young and leaky and you’re old and creaky.

But I digress.

Actually, I don’t really just want to complain about my back. I’ve actually been trying to complain less.

I spent so much of my misspent youth complaining, and a good part of my misspent early adulthood, too. Then I spent the first few years of being a stay at home mother complaining and enviously coveting the time my husband had away from the house at work, if only for the uninterrupted bathroom time.

So I guess now that I have children who are young and impressionable and all that, I don’t really want them to end up copying a complaining, back-aching gal such as myself.

And I’ve read so much about Buddhism, and it makes so much sense to practice what’s called “right speech.” This is simply trying (and of course failing a lot) to say the right thing at the right time and not saying something just because you feel like saying it. It’s the whole process of actually thinking before you speak, something I do way way too infrequently.

So the whole complaining thing comes under the heading of negative or wrong speech. Who does it help if I rant and rave about my problems or how late my husband comes home or how I hate to cook? Someone somewhere has it much worse than me, and probably someone somewhere has it better, but so what? What does it tell my kids if I’m a whiner? I don’t like it when THEY whine. So I guess I shouldn’t, either.

So let’s turn this complaint into a QUESTION: Why do we complain so much?

Do we expect anyone to actually do something about our problems? I posit that yes, we do. And in fact after years of study with some of the world’s best (and worst) psychotherapists and self-help books, I am here to tell you that nobody but nobody is going to save you, fix your problems, solve everything, and whisk you away to perfection-land. Not gonna happen.

At first blush this seems really depressing, right? But it’s not.

I remember really coming to this conclusion while talking to a wise person I knew in Southern California (there are more than one, contrary to popular belief). And I realized that I had always, and I mean all through my life to that point, been waiting for some mythical, metaphorical rescue helicopter to come and save me from whatever was troubling me.

I mean, often, this yearning came in the form of hoping/demanding/assuming that someone else (my husband, parents, friends) would FIX whatever I deemed broken.

But it doesn’t work that way.

So at the risk of going all Dr. Phil/Oprah/Jack Handey on your ass, the only rescue helicopter you’ve got is yourself.

It’s all in your hands, baby. Now what are you gonna do with it?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Question: Is there something disturbing about the fact that I'm hooked on teen vampire fiction?

Specifically, the Stephanie Meyer/Bella Swan Series?

What does it say about me that the age demographic for this stuff is about one THIRD my own?

Am I just immature? (Probably.) Or is it my excessive desire for escapism that gets me? It’s not that I don’t like my life, but I do like to escape on occasion. Stephanie Meyer is a mom, and I think that she really understands the need to mentally check out for at least a few minutes a day in order to keep sane. So even though she purportedly wrote these books aimed at teens, there are lots of moms out there who love them and I am one of them.

I actually bought the book on a lark. I thought it would suck (ha) (love the pun on a platter there) and was pleased when it didn’t. At first I found the adverb-heavy writing a bit exhausting, but the more I read the more I realized that I was actually enjoying this book, and that I gave a shit about the characters, even though they speak in typical teen hyperbole about every feeling. In fact, that’s their charm. They’re so INTENSE. Of course these books have an enormous (and intense, natch) fan following. (This is the first time I’ve ever used the word “natch.” Exciting. For a long time I didn’t know what it meant, but it’s really obvious when you DON’T think about it. I of course thought about it too much.)

There are no less than a gazillion fan sites dedicated to Meyer’s series of books. These sites are usually run by a thirteen year old who is obsessed with Edward Cullen, the teen vampire in the series. And they all seem to identify with Bella, the teen human who is caught in the fairly unusual situation of being in love with the undead. Kind of a problem.

But I can’t honestly believe I’m the only over 14 years old who loves these books. So I did about three seconds of research and I found evidence supporting my hypothesis. I am not the only mother who is into these books. I very quickly found Twilight Moms.com, which clearly states that this site is for the likes of me (no longer a girl, not yet a senior). Its bubbly welcome page certainly confirmed for me that I am not alone in my interest in these books, but still, let’s examine why I like these so much and then I’ll go back and compare on the Twilight Moms page when I’m done. I don’t want to bias my speculations with actual information. But you know I’ll go back to the site and see what the other moms are saying.

First, the premise: forbidden love is hot. This is true. Because it’s all in our heads, the forbidden/potentially deadly love between the protagonist Bella and the vampire Edward is a vicarious thrill for those of us in happy and very stable relationships. My days are pretty predictable, and for the most part that is fine with me. But these books open up a little on that whole drama–as-life thing.

Remember when the most important thing in the world was who was hot? Now when we talk about hot, we’re talking thermometers and late night trips to the pharmacy for liquid Tylenol. Where we used to ruminate all day about our crush, we now obsess about all the crushed damn cereal in between the seats and under the car seats. (Man, it’s gross). Where once we dreamed of a future full of unknown possibility, we now just dream about getting more than five hours of sleep in a row on any given night.

I think as mothers we are so frequently required to contain ourselves and not over-emote, that when we read about someone who is completely intense and 300% emotional, it’s a release for us. The main drama around my house has to do with what shirts are clean for tomorrow’s school day, or why the noodles taste “disgusting,” even though they’re the same ones I’ve served every other day for two years.

So we’ve got the forbidden love. Teenage girls love this. And apparently so do grown women. There are countless descriptions of Edward’s utter perfect hotness, right down to his fabulous odors that make Bella, and as a result, us, swoon.

And all this with no sex and no swearing. Well done, Stephanie Meyer! The hotness is all in the implication, not the action.

And though I’m not going to admit to full-on swooning over this stuff, it did make me realize that as wholesome as the majority of the elements in these books are, there’s something really subversive going on. (And I’m not talking about the death, blood and gore that crop up on occasion.)

Because the big question, at least in the first book, was essentially, will they or won’t they, and I’m not talking about the little teasing hyper-charged kisses that happen in the book. I had a really rude catch phrase I was going to use, but I don’t think Stephanie Meyer had this in her mind when she wrote these. She comes across as a pretty wholesome mama. But the bottom line, in “Twilight”, at least, is we are waiting for (a) the relationship between Edward and Bella to be consummated, or for (b) Edward to consume Bella. I’m sure I’m not the first person to make this point. But it keeps the readers hanging on. And it’s kind of naughty, isn’t it? Sex and death. That’s heavy. No wonder these books are so popular.

This is also why these books are not “the next Harry Potters”. The Harry Potter books were fantastic. They told a story of coming of age and of absolute good and utter evil. Stephanie Meyer’s books, at least what I’ve read so far, are more about sex, or the promise of it, and death, and a lot of gray areas between good and evil. There isn’t so much good and evil as there are degrees of it in these books. This is much more interesting and complex than the straight good/bad of Harry Potter’s world. (Not that I’m dissing the books. We all WISH we could write like J.K.)

So stay tuned for more rambling about vampires. I’m sheepish but not ashamed. And apparently I’m not alone.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Question: Do you know what your nails say about you?

And did you ever wonder what other people's nail predelictions say about them, if I may be so bold as to offer broad generalizations?

Did you ever wonder if you can type people, women, in general, according to their toenail situation? If you look at a woman’s toenails, what do you see? I posit that you see more than simply the tools/appendages she uses to get around on. You see a window into her personality. After all, it’s like our clothing. The way we dress is a deliberate statement we make about ourselves every day (unless, of course, someone else dresses you, which means that you are too young or too old to choose, or have the inabiliy to choose. Which is unfortunate, because then what you are wearing isn’t you, it’s a projection of the you the dresser is aiming at the world. They see what they perceive to be you, and they dress you that way, or they dress you the way they WANT you to be perceived. It’s pretty complicated, actually.)

Anywho…the toenails. And, I suppose, we could extend this to fingernails as well. The woman who has bright fuchsia toes with a flower embellishment on each big toe is a different animal altogether to the one who cuts, files, and forgets about her feet after that.

Do you do anything to your nails? How far do you go with the cutting, buffing, filing, and possibly polishing? Does a foot file enter the picture? Do you ever paint your toenails or fingernails? If so, what color? Do you have someone else paint them? If so, what color? And do you have extra decorations added on top? Or do you do fake nails, and if so, are THEY embellished in some way with flowers or stripes or the Union Jack or whatever? How much of a statement are your nails making?

They are saying something. They tell me if you have enough band width to think of them. Do you have enough time to paint them yourself? Or do you have the time and the money to pay someone else to do it for you? This is where the wondering gets personal. I used to be a diy-er. I painted my nails myself, when I felt like it. Usually it was fingers and toes, silver, or a steel gray, almost black. My sensibilities run pretty Goth, in general, although I do tend to have a sunnier disposition. But let’s look a little more in depth at the types of nail people there are. See if you can recognize yourself or others you know in any of these categories.

Au Natural
Au Natural people are the ones who essentially say, “Who cares, so why would I waste my time on that?” There are many women who barely notice their finger and toenails. Basic maintenance is all that’s required. Time is not spent on exfoliating, decorating, or moisturizing. Just the basics. This kind of person is practical and no-nonsense. My sister is an A.N. nail person. She’ll cut, she’ll file, and heaven knows she needs to clean them because she makes her living digging out volcanoes with her students, but still, that’s it. Nary a color of any kind has ever graced her fingers nor toes. Not even clear nail hardener. Nothing. She doesn’t take any crap from anyone. And she runs 10 miles a day .

Do it Yourselfers
DIYers are usually teenage or college-aged girls who have the time and not the money to do this, and can justify changing colors and patterns every day if they want to, since they have all the time in the world. Except for these days what with all the text messaging. How do the teens of today manage? You could do your nails and talk on the phone for hours, but now what? GOT 2GO. NLS WET. CATCH U L8er. People who do their own nails either have a lot of time on their hands, or not much money, or both. They are also likely to have a sense of fun and adventure. They can change their nail color as often as they like! They believe in the can-do spirit of the American Dream. DIYers are usually very patriotic and believe in pulling up their bootstraps and painting their toes red white and blue for the fourth of July.

Salon Nail People
These are, as we’ve already said, people with enough time and money to pay someone else to do it. But you don’t have to be rich to have your nails done. At least not in California! The ones who pay to have it done aren’t necessarily filthy rich. I knew plenty of low-income students who were S.N.P.s and spent all they had on nails because it meant that much to them. But the ones who go to the salons where you sit and get your legs gooped up and massaged and you read magazines while quiet women (some masked, most in white) trying to get larger commissions by trying to sell you more services (hey, if I’d know it was five bucks extra for the calf massage, I would have just run my leg along a laundry basket while I was folding the umpteenth load of clean clothes. Please.) Salon real nail people enjoy a little pampering on occasion, but don’t have the time or inclination or money for the excessive upkeep fake nails require. Salon real nail people are a broad lot, but one thing you know about them-they have some sense of whimsy. They care enough to do something that’s entirely unnecessary and in many climates almost entirely unnoticeable. I think people who bother going to salons are looking for comfort, mostly. The women in white who sit at your feet might make you uncomfortable at first, but you will feel a little bit cared for after the experience is over, and that counts for something.

Salon Fake Nail People
More time and money is required to get fake toes or fingers painted, polished, buffed and puffed. You need an assistant, a babysitter, or a really flexible job in order to get these kept up appropriately every few weeks. This person cares quite a bit about their appearance and is willing to go to great lengths (ha ha) to get it. So time and money and a priority on external appearances is clearly part of the salon fake nail person’s diorama of personality. As for the home fake nail people, they are an adventurers, a patient and hardy lot, or they just don’t have the means to have someone else do the industrial filing and gluing and filling for them. They’re taking on an enormous amount of work and toxic chemicals. I’m just not coordinated enough or I would have tried it at least once. As it is, I attempted press-on nails. They suck. They fall off almost immediately and the idea of accidentally ingesting one of them while eating a salad just wasn’t appealing.

The other main thing you know about women with fake fingernails is this: clearly they don’t do much gardening, diaper changing, or needlepoint.

Do you see yourself or someone you know? Perhaps you've just learned sometihng.

But probably not.

Still, next time you're on the bus or at the mall or picking up your dry cleaning, look at the hands, and look down at the feet. You might find a friend. Or at least a kindred spirit.

(For the record, I’ve had four pedicures in my life, all of them within that last 18 months , with three in California and one in Minnesota at the Mall of America. But I’m not excited anymore about going out and paying someone to paint my feet or hands. What with today’s economy, my two small children to care for and three schools to keep track of, my nails just aren’t a priority. I look enviously at the women with perfect toes and fingernails. That used to be me, once in awhile. But at the end of the day, I’m too damned tired to sit up and exfoliate and buff and polish. Maybe when the kids are in college. I'll definitely be a DIYer then.)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Comment: Emoticons R Us

Actually, it’s more of a confession. Take a deep breath, sit down, and listen carefully.

I’m hooked on emoticons.

There. I said it. And I feel so dirty. ;)

No really, it’s embarrassing.

I’ve started really laying on the emoticons, and this is something I am concerned about, to say the least. I always thought I was not one of “those” people, the ones who use little smiley faces on everything and multiple exclamation points to clarify my feelings. But guess what? I do!! ☺

Seriously, it’s something I’ve only recently started doing and I wasn't sure why, but I thought it bore some examination. In the past, I saw emotional exclamation points and little typed faces and smiley winky yellow faces as pretty fakey and cutesy and only in use by women who draw hearts above the “I” in their name, but apparently that’s not the case.

Because I use them. A lot.

But I think know why I use them.

I use them not because they are cute, but because they are useful. In theatre when you overact, it's called "indicating," and the little faces you make with your keypad or Yahoo! Messenger are indicators. And in today's ever-electronic, never-in-person world, we need some serious indicating.

Because email is a nefarious and tricky medium. And unless you want to appear like an asshole much of the time, a few little emoticons are in order.

And there’s ample choice—on Yahoo! You have a wide range of expressive little yellow faces. And of course, you can always do the plain old typed ones--;) for the winky one, :o for the mouth agape one, etc.

But let’s look at this in action. For example, you are writing to say “I feel just super today.” With no emoticon or emotional punctuation, this is harder to decipher; are you saying it deadpan (as I often do) or with major sarcasm (guilty!!!) or with a happy face and an exclamation point? Because it makes a difference. So if you’re happy and you know it, put on a happy face. And if you’re irritable, find the vomiting one, or the one where the eyes are bugging out. I’m partial to the cowboy with the green hat. He just seems like such a friendly guy, like he’s tipping his hat and saying, “Thank you maam, now you have a nice day here in the wild west. I gotta mosey.”

If you say “Dear so and so, I hate you!”, but there’s a winky face, then this person will know that you are kidding and that they are still your friend. So much of email can be grossly misinterpreted. Sarcasm does not work well on email, so at least use an eye rolling emoticon if you’re being sarcastic. Otherwise people will take you literally and possibly no longer enjoy your company. Or maybe that was bound to happen anyway ;).

So I guess what I’m saying is, I’m the “them” I always mocked and/or feared. Ladies and gentlemen, we have seen the enemy and it is us . ☺

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Question: Does Everyone Secretly Yearn to be a Rock Star?

It's not just me, is it? I mean, doesn't everyone want to?

Because I think they do. I know I do. And there’s nothing like a great song coming on your Ipod or the radio or Yahoo! music or whatever (do people still have stereos?) to send you off intro fantasy land. As a child of the MTV generation, in which videos were actually and exclusively played, every song had a visual, a story. So what’s happened to gen exers like me is every song we hear has a soundtrack. Is it just me? Because when I hear old Duran Duran tunes I can SEE John Taylor cavorting with an elephant and Simon LeBon in his fetching fedora and sexy super models in bikinis with garish 80s face paint. And I can see John Mellancamp (then Cougar) with his white-gloved hand claps in “Jack and Diane.”

So if you’ve seen a video to a song, the images come to you when you hear the song. But if you’ve heard a song and not seen an accompanying video, it is incumbent on YOU, the listener, to come up with a visual. And frankly that’s what I do all the time. I’m the rock star in my own personal video life. It's like I'm always on TV.

But it’s definitely not reality TV. Reality TV is goosed and gussied to be real and fake at the same time. Rock star video life is all fantasy. And that’s what makes it so palatable. We all need to escape from the barrage of ads, invitations on damn internet “friend” interfaces, IMs, phone calls, etc. and when I turn on my ipod and run, or just sit by myself, I don’t think about the laundry, or Sara Palin and her hockey mom remark, or how tired I am, or that I’m no longer the younger, thinner, hipper version of myself. I’m not. But in my fantasies, I am.

This is why people drink.

This is why people do drugs.

This is why people eat too much, screw too much, gamble too much, etc.

We’re all dying to be alive.

And music makes us feel alive.

Which is why when I have the rare opportunity to listen to music, I take it. And running to music makes me run much farther, and much faster. Because I pretend I’m running in a video. I’m Anthony Kiedis running under the bridge in L.A., I’m that freaky guy from Live with the bald head and long braid rat tail absolutely freaking out in front of the camera, I’m even, sometimes, Madonna, rolling around in florescent off the shoulder outfits in Venice, pretending I’m feeling virginal. (ha)

Having two small children has reminded me how much we all at one point loved to play pretend, and I guess I still do. I think most humans want to play, most grown ups want to play, but they’ve either forgotten how (other than Jello shots, which is not always as fun as it sounds) or they think they’re not supposed to because they have grown out or up or over such behaviors as playing air guitar or lip-synching in the mirror when nobody is looking.

There’s something elemental, primal about music that cuts past all of our stupid learned behaviors and pretensions and delusions. And what puts you in that zone of ecstasy is very personal. And you never have to tell anyone, because your mind is your very own private screening room.

But consider this: although I think we all want to be the lead singer/rapper/rocker/diva in our lives, because so often the reality we live in is so mundane, it’s all a myth, really.

Even the rock stars living the dream don’t really get to do that much of what we consider the dream. They ride buses, fly in planes, eat crap food, sign autographs, answer stupid and sometimes intelligent questions from hundreds of people, pose for pictures, stop and start shooting a video in the middle of the night when they’d probably rather be home with their girlfriend or their kids, which is where YOU are, pretending that you’re where they are, which they really aren’t, because that’s an illusion, too.

It’s an illusion that rock stars live a rock star life, except for one thing. The actual performance. As someone who has performed in front of crowds before, I can honestly say there’s nothing like it. I’m not a rock star. I did comedy improv in front of drunk people in night clubs and performed in front of symphony orchestra audiences and children and theatre audiences. And it rocked. There is nothing, nothing, like having a rapt audience enjoying something you’re doing. I can’t imagine how it must feel to be someone like Mick Jagger, having thousands of fans going utterly apeshit in front of you JUST BECAUSE YOU ARE THERE. This is the part of my internal video fantasies that I play over and over and over.

But honestly? It would get exhausting to live that way. Why do you think so many rock stars go deep into drugs and excessive random sex and all those behaviors that can actually be fun in moderation? Because it’s too hard to live up to the hype. There’s no way to live up to the fantasy that’s created in a video, or live from New York or whatever.

So the image we have of famous musicians is what we glom onto, and we carry that in our fearful and hopeful little hearts and desperately cling so that we can have that feeling, just once in awhile. That feeling of being on top of the world, and intense and perfect and gorgeous and connected to the entire universe in the best way. So we listen to music and pretend we’re them. But we don’t really need to be them, except for their brief moments onstage. We all want an adoring audience, and maybe even an online fan club.

But we’ll just have to settle for our own vivid imaginations, if we can resurrect them from being buried and inundated by images on YouTube, MySpace, Facebook and four hundred crap TV stations. I think I’ll go put on the Chili Peppers and see what’s playing in my head.