Saturday, February 28, 2009

Comment: No More Facebook.

That’s it. I’ve done it. I’ve quit cold turkey. I cut the cord. I’m done with Facebook.

You’ve seen me on here extolling its virtues and vices, so it should come as no surprise that my ambivalence is now carrying me in this direction.

What tipped the scales? I was getting too compulsive about it. I kept checking to look for people to talk to online, when I should be talking to people in person instead. It’s hard to admit that you’re lonely, and I am, but I’m not going to feel much less lonely talking to so-called friends who are, although all perfectly fine human beings, mostly not people I am in contact with on a regular basis. We’ve been out of each other’s lives for 20 plus years, what’s the hubbub now?

Simple. We connect because we can. And I will admit to a handful of rejuvenated friendships through Facebook (you know who you are) and one new local friend with whom I frequently Facebook, about all of which I am quite pleased. But ultimately? There are other ways to communicate: IM, email, the phone, a real live visit. I don’t want to deteriorate into someone who sits at home every night looking for someone to talk to online. I’d rather occasionally go out with actual people. But maybe that’s just me.

Besides, I was developing a side effect I didn’t like: Facebook Envy (FE ™) . That’s what you feel when you see that someone you hardly know but do like says “Tanya is…” and it’s something like, “Tanya is partying with her best friends in Tahoe!” and you’re sitting at home folding laundry or cleaning up dried puddles of urine from behind the toilet seat. Such a buzzkill.

I found myself one too many times looking at these overly cheery statements of alleged activity and wondering, are these people for real? Maybe they are. Maybe they aren’t. It doesn’t matter. What matters is what I am actually doing with my time in the here and now. Their here and now is their business. If they’re truly that happily active and fabulous, then fair play to them. If they’re not, then they’re deluding themselves to a wider audience.

See, I don’t really want to delude myself to a wider audience. I’m deluded enough in private, thank you very much. So when I started compulsively looking for people to chat with online when I could have been getting to know my neighbors or having coffee with a real girlfriend, I knew it was time to quit.

It may not take, I realize that. It’s tough. But I think my life will be richer, at least at this point, without Facebook. If any of my real or fake friends on my list want be in touch with me, they’ll figure out how to find me. Otherwise, so what?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Comment: Morrissey, Mon Amour

Morrissey has a new CD out.

He has not changed. This is a good thing.

“Something is Squeezing My Skull”, his song with lines like “it’s a miracle I made it this far” and “there is no love in modern life” is quintessential Morrissey. (And I don’t think there’s a better song title than that. He is one magnificent bastard. I bow down to his genius.)

It’s as if no time has passed since his vexed songs with The Smiths like “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” and “How Soon is Now?”, and his solo efforts like “Suedehead” and “Every Day is Like Sunday.” (If you want to kill the buzz on any public gathering, play this song. It may well clear a room, especially if it IS Sunday. Major downer.)

In this venture, aptly titled “Years of Refusal”, his songs are rocking harder than usual. He sounds angrier. Age is supposed to mellow a person out, but apparently, ever the contrarian, Morrissey is not calming down. He’s still morose as hell and evidently as desperate and consumed with angst as he ever was.

It is a great album. There, I said it, an album. You like that? That’s how I roll. Old school.

Seriously, what makes his stuff so compelling is the fact that Morrissey’s angst is real. This is what makes him so popular, even though he loathes attention and rarely performs live, as I understand. But put it this way: play The Pet Shop Boys right before you play Morrissey/The Smiths. That’s the difference between synthetic and authentic pain. Electronic, plastic angst versus raw, acoustic angst. (Sidebar: Did you know that The Pet Shop Boys were banned from entering the United States back in their heyday? They were considered too subversive to plant their feet on American soil. Guess they didn’t get to “make lots of money ahhhhhh” on US tours.)

Seriously, buy this music. If you’ve never listened to The Smiths or Morrissey’s solo efforts, you will encounter music that is hard to classify and easy on the ears. And the lyrics are easy to understand the first time. And if you know and love Morrissey, you won’t be disappointed. Or maybe you will be, but in the right way. Life sucks, remember?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Comment: Clothes Make the Mama

It’s important to have a reason to get dressed up once in awhile. Or at least change out of your sweats. I just finished reading Sandra Tsing Loh’s hilarious “Mother on Fire” and she makes a very specific point about our fashion sense as mothers. She talks about he ubiquitous sweat pants/loungewear/jammies seen on mamas from far and wide as they rush in and out of their cars picking up, dropping off, running errands, and sweating.

I’ve always been sweaty, but having children has brought my sweatatory glands up to gladiator status; man, a river runs through it, and I’m not even in peri-menopause yet (err, at least I think so, I’ll get back to you on that).

Anyway, the whole mother fashion thing. I know there’s a movement of young, urban, hip moms who drop nearly a grand on their bugaboo strollers and have matching Babystyle outfits with their offspring, but in the real world? We’re in sweats, or other outfits with generous elastic and forgiving seams.

The first two years of my son’s life I wore nothing but sweat suits. If you had told me when I was pregnant that I would be doing that, I would have both laughed and mocked. But I was already on the slippery slope of default-mama fashion. I was wearing floral maternity tops. Gah! Floral! It wasn’t that far to slip into velour sweat suits (me and George Costanza).

So I guess what I’m saying is, most of us end up in sweats unless/until we go back to work outside the home. If you’re lucky/brave enough to stay home full time with your kids, then your fashion range is, shall we say, limited. I looked at my closet and saw things that looked so alien to me, because I hadn’t worn them in SIX years. And there’s no sign of my wearing them anytime soon, if they even fit (which they may not) (Shut up! Only a woman can call herself fat with no consequences.)

When I’m cruising the aisles of Target and Old Navy, from whence all my children’s (and mine, and my husband’s) clothes come, I will on occasion see what I call “Teacher Clothes”, which are things I would wear if I were teaching, which is the job I held before I had my kids. I look longingly at the fabric and think, yes, those would be cute, I could wear them when I’m around grown ups, and other people with whom I can make sustained eye contact. I will wear make up and possibly shoes with heels, and funky earrings, and I will sit on an adult-sized chair.

So I think that some days, a person should dress up a little, just to keep the cool/swank dressing skills from atrophying. Maybe it will feel weird to wear full makeup and earrings for a play date, but what choice do we have? I say, dress up once a week at least. Let your children get used to you with eyeliner! Let them see you wearing shoes that aren’t rubber-soled! Show your children there’s more to life than fleece!

You owe it to yourself and your family, and your nation. Get dressed up!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Question: To Wii or not to Wii?

So the kids and I went on a play date (how I loathe that phrase; I'd rather call it an event, because that's often what it is) today and they were exposed to a very different world. They saw, for the first time in their young lives, a really really big screen TV. I think it was plasma, but what do I know? And they saw….Wii. We saw Wii.

None of us had ever seen anything Wii-related or Wii-ful, so this was an education. The seven year old host showed us Guitar Hero. There was a band singing “Dream Police” who looked NOTHING like Cheap Trick, and the three kids with whom we were visiting all sang all the words, as the oldest played the game.

It was ten shades of adorable watching a toddler sing “Dream Police”, but the whole experience left me a little cold. Because you don’t learn anything at all about playing guitar by doing Guitar Hero. It’s just another glorified video game. It’s probably good for your recognition and small motor skills, but so are marbles, FFS. So I don’t know about this whole Wii-volution. How interesting is it to push colorful buttons on a toy guitar?

Very, as it turns out. But I wouldn’t know. My kids didn’t want to try it and I didn’t get offered and it would probably not have come off so well if I hogged a second grader’s toy.

Let me say this: I do see the appeal of it; the music is totally GenX, so it’s fun for parents. And the little ones like anything with buttons and sounds. Maybe Guitar Hero is fun for the whole family. Maybe, even more so, it's a safe and drug-free way to indulge in our rock star fantasies.

If so, I say all hail guitar hero. But if it’s just another electronic game our kids can play while we try to ignore them, I’m not interested. Aren’t there enough things like that out there already?

So, Guitar Hero: brain rot or family fun n' fantasy fulfillment?

You be the judge.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Comment: Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow (sorry)

When I’m under stress, I pick a song that I like and play it relentlessly on my Ipod. Should it scare me that I have yet another Britney Spears song on endless play?

What’s up with that?

I feel a lot of empathy with Britney. I’ve mentioned this before. I think I know how she felt when she shaved her head; she’d had enough, she wanted to just disappear and start all over again, and hopefully feel much better. I’ve felt that way many times. It’s a pretty universal feeling, at least for women. (If a man shaves his head, people don’t freak out, so it’s not an equal opportunity act of distress.)

Most recently I went and had my hair shorn of all the fake blond highlights I had assiduously put in, and even though I look like more like a guy than I did at age 12, I still stand by my decision. I needed a change, and I got it. I feel a little more like myself, whoever that is.

A really under-rated movie from the early 90s called “State of Grace” had one of the best quotes ever: the main female character is getting a major makeover to adapt to a major life change, and she sees a friend at the salon, and says wistfully, “Change your hair, change you life, right?” or something close to that. Truer words were never spake, spoken, nor spaken.

Seriously, your hair as identity is an obvious thing, sure. But look back to Britney, who has grown enough hair to get natural-looking extensions. She’s come full circle. She is going right back to the way she looked pre-breakdown. If I were her, I’d have gone for something significantly different; for example, a short red bob, or a black “Rain”-era Madonna pixie cut. Instead, she is trying to get back to where she was. I suppose if my living depended on what I looked like, I’d consider being more consistent with my own hair.

Does it say something about my personality that I can’t seem to grow my hair longer than chin length? What does it mean? I haven’t worn my hair this short since I was Miss Hotsy Totsy Boho Actress Waitress Punk Girl.

Aha. Britney wants to maintain her image pre-meltdown. She wants to capitalize on the blonde bombshell she was before her issues became more public. And I want to go back to the sassy, free-spirited punk rocker artist I was many years ago. Aha, indeed.

I should pay myself for these insights.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Question: At what point do you go from being a “Miss” to a “Maam”?

That was the question I posted yesterday on my Facebook page, in that section where we all try to be as clever as possible.

But it’s a sincere question. I want to know.

One friend said “I think it's right around the time you start getting up a 5 a.m., instead of heading to bed.” (That sounds right to me.)

Another friend, in her late thirties, says she’s been called maam for two years now. (She has kids.)

A smart assed male friend couldn’t get over being called “sir.” (Hyuk)

Another friend mentioned that it scared her, and that she still, at forty something, feels “like a kid at heart.” (Hear, hear!)

A friend with Southern Cred said “In the south, if you are an adult female, you are maam. Not an insult at all, but sure feels like one!” (Agreed.)

My Canadian expert said: "Here it's madame (or monsieur if you're a male). It happens about age 35 and I figure it's some physical change that only people 20 and under pick up on. After that, it's everybody under 30. After 30, we're on a first name basis. By 45 you're complaining about your knees and comparing medications." (Sad but true? Stay tuned.)

So apparently this is a hot topic. “The View” has nothing on me, baby.

The reason I brought this up was that I’ve been called Maam for several years now, and yesterday, I was called Miss twice.

I can’t lie to you: I loved it.

It’s not that I’m ancient, but I’m far enough north of 25 that a store clerk would be foolish to call me Miss, especially when I’m knee deep in children’s clothes, books and teeny tiny accessories. Obviously, I’m not a Miss. I have kids. Right? Wrong.

Plenty of young women have kids. Do you call them Miss because they’re young, or because you think they’re not married or don’t have kids? Does Miss in fact, have anything to do with marriage or kids?

I say no.

As my wise friends point out, it’s definitely an age thing. So when the darling young men (children, really) at Office Max called me Miss yesterday and helped me with my purchases, well, let’s just say that I was both flattered and encouraged about my future. Why? Because sure, to most people, I am most definitely a Maam-and-don’t-you-forget-it. But if they’re that nice to me when they call me Miss, think how helpful they’ll be when I’m twenty years into Maam. They’ll be carrying my pens for me, and my heavy reams of paper; they’ll be paying for my stuff and carrying ME out to the car. Thank you Maam, indeed.

Such are the perks of aging. When you’re young, you get attention because you’re young, and usually, cute. When you’re old, you get attention because you might need help, and you have some street cred by virtue of being alive. When you’re middle-aged, you’ll take a Miss anywhere you can get it, and look forward to years of deferential service as you age gracefully.

Call me Miss if you want to see me smile. I still have all my teeth.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Question: Why do most movies suck?

Is it just me, or do most movies just truly and utterly suck? And isn’t it apt that I’m writing this while scads of people are glued to their televisions watching the Academy Awards while having seen very few (if any) of said films on offer?

What is it with movies? Dude, you’ve changed, man. Or maybe it’s me.

Case in point: Ever heard of “Shortbus”? If so, I’m sorry. If not, you’re lucky. It’s a graphic, totally unsexy look at sex for twenty somethings, and people, if that’s how it is in New York for young people today, I thank my lucky stars I’m an old married lady. If movies and TV have taught me anything (and they have, albeit usually with gaping facts missing) then what I deduce from the first twenty minutes I saw of “Shortbus” is that New York is full of sexually repressed/deviant twenty year olds with not much else to do with their time. Guh. (Not to mention the actual positions some of those actors got themselves into; whose agent told them this was a good idea for their career? FYI future ingenues, budity does not equal art.)

I’m sure I sound ancient as hell now, but color me curmudgeoned, because it was just a waste of time. And this seems to happen whenever a movie is selected on Netflix in our house. Invariably, it disappoints. Are my standards too high? Are movies just suckier? Or did movies when I was younger just transport me, take me to new heights and vistas? Because I used to LOVE movies. And now? Not so much.

The comedies aren’t funny, the dramas are depressing (although the fashions can be fabulous) and the action adventures have plot holes so big you could drive a semi through them.

So what is a middle-aged grouch to do?

30 Rock.


TV online.

I’m telling you, it’s better than shelling out the money and the time to watch close to two hours of what will generally just take time away from other more pressing things (quality time, , exercise, reading, sex).

Seriously, not only are movies a financial drain, but worse, in my opinion, they are a time suck. After I watch a lame movie I feel cheated; I’ve lost two hours of my life, and for what? To see a skinny English actress emote and have issues with a steamy Australian actor with nice pecs? Urgh.

I don’t really give a shit who wins any of the awards tonight, (with the exception of Kate Winslet, who I think has done enough solid work to merit an award, clothed or not) because ultimately it won’t push me to watch any of the movies anyway.

Online TV. It’s free, it’s on demand, and you don’t waste so much of your life.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Comment: Eat this book.

So I see that Brad Warner has another book out; this time it’s about divorce, sex, death and chocolate (I’m paraphrasing.) I didn’t know he had a new one, and I’m wondering if the divorce is his.

I wonder because I love his stuff and his style and it kind of bums me out to think that someone as theoretically grounded and together as he seems to be is getting a divorce. It’s depressing, frankly.

So maybe I should read the book.

Aha, you say, what a ploy! She wants to read the book to find out the state of a hardcore Zen practitioner’s marriage!

Well, it’s true.

If you haven’t read any of his other books, they are “Hardcore Zen” and “Sit Down and Shut Up.” He is sort of the anti-Zen Zen guy. He’s a former punk rocker who works on Japanese monster movies and practices Buddhism with a fervor that impresses. And he talks about Buddhism in a truly accessible way. I love his writing. It’s very much like punk rock music, blunt and no-bullshit. What’s not to love?

So dammit, now I’m going to have to go and get his book, which, for the record, is called “Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate: A Trip Through Death, Sex, Divorce, and Spiritual Celebrity in Search of the True Dharma”. I can’t wait on this, he might have some insights into life that I don’t know yet. And I’m so stressed, I’m looking for any written word that can at least theoretically save me from my anxious thoughts. So stay tuned.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Comment: Read this.

I’ve always taken solace in books. Nowhere is that more evident than my bedside, one of my favorite places for agonizing and worry. Piled high around my nightstand and below it are books about learning optimism, letting go, tuning in, kicking back, choosing the positive, to name but a few.

I have a parenting library full of books to (supposedly) make me a better parent. I have a shelf full of writing books to (allegedly) make me a better writer. And I have spiritual and self-help books in both my bedroom and the living room, where all of the other books in my house live, to (purportedly) live a more meaningful life. (Look who's got a thesaurus!)

When I have a problem, I buy a book. Amazon loves me. I’m such a frequent customer they send me presents. (Okay, not really, but they should.) (There’s that whole free shipping for $25 and over which gets me EVERY time because how can you say no to free shipping, and the answer is, as humans, we can’t, according to a book I didn’t buy on Amazon, called “Predictably Irrational,” which avid readers know I am currently reading.)

I honestly believe somewhere in my brain/heart continuum that a book can solve my problems. I don’t hit the bottle, or the bong, I hit the books. And they usually don’t fail me. They always help, at least a little, if only for the reason that they remind me that I am not unique in having a problem about said job/child/spouse/life issue, and that others have trod before me and have some insight about my vexing situation.

That’s what I’m always looking for: insight. If something is baffling me, I look for a book to explain what’s going on, in concrete terms, or at least more concrete than the jumbled morass of wiring that is my brain. Words on a page are concrete, even if they’re about intangibles.

Should I be discouraged that I own many books that I have not read? Or should I be excited that I have so much knowledge yet to explore?

In one of the books I was recently reading about de-cluttering, the author talks about how some people view owning books as owning the knowledge in the books, and are thus loath to give any of them up. I had never thought about it like that, but I agree with that sentiment.

My books are my knowledge, and I fear that without them I am nothing.

My family and I are in the midst of big changes, and what do I feel like doing? Finding a book about it to calm me down and make me feel less alone. I’m sure there are lots being written right now about our particular situation. These days it’s the norm to be in transition/limbo, and not know what’s coming or how to feel or react to any of it.

Actually that’s the human condition, isn’t it? Maybe I don’t need to go out and buy another book about this particular life stress; maybe I already have one.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Comment: A Cool Book

So I’m reading “Predictably Irrational" by Dan Ariely. What an amazing book! This guy's a researcher who points out the inherent flaws in the way we make decisions about everything from what soap to buy to who our friends are. It’s truly a page-turner.

So I’m going to go read some more of it.

Right now.

Seriously, I gotta go.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Question: Why do we make kids draw everything?

Is this something that they're supposed to be naturally good at? Is it supposed to help them? Is it used for children because they communicate in pictures before they can write? Because I don’t know about you, but whenever I was asked to draw something as a kid, I balked. I didn’t know how, and inevitably couldn’t communicate whatever it was I wanted to impart to the anticipating adult. It was just so much easier saying I liked elephants than actually drawing the damn things.

Case in point: my son learned to read when he was three. He’s now almost six and he draws like a three year old. He HATES drawing. He panics when he has to draw something, because he doesn’t know how. How is it that some kids seem to just KNOW how to draw? Is it the same way as some kids just KNOW how to read, or ride bikes, or do a somersault?

I wonder.

Maybe some people are just more comfortable with pictures, while I, evidently, am far more comfortable with words. My son is like me; he’d rather write a sentence than draw a picture. And my daughter hasn’t shown any interest in drawing, and she’s nearly four. Are we word-obsessed aberrations? Probably not.

I just remember trying to draw a bicycle for seventh grade art class, and the teacher was eternally disgusted with my efforts. She kept sending me back to the drawing board, like a grouchy old man returning soup at a restaurant. In my first picture, the pedals weren’t connected to anything. In my second attempt, the chain wasn’t connected to anything. In the third, the handlebars looked funny. I was beside myself. It was just some stupid bicycle to me.

Ironically, I finally won the teacher’s approval with a drawing that, in terms of skill, was about right for a first or second grader. I drew the earth in the middle of the page, then drew three different hands grabbing at it. They represented war, poverty and hate, or something close to that. She thought it was brilliant. But even then, it was my explanation that brought her pleasure, not my amateur visual arts skills.

Draw your own conclusion (hyuk), but I think some of us are wired more for words, while others are wired more for pictures. And some lucky few are wired for both.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Question: Sinus infection or depression?

You decide.

It’s come down to this. I spent ten days feeling like a sack of crap, tired all the time, down in the dumps, depleted in every sense of the word.

I thought I was falling into a depression, but maybe it was just the sinus infection I just got diagnosed. Because I’m about three days into treatment and I feel quite a bit better about life, even though my husband could be laid off at any moment and he’s having a medical problem and it’s raining and the weather here sucks and I’m mentally atrophying here and where is that kid with my latte?! (Simpsons reference)

Hmmm…could it be, sinus infection AND depression? You make the call.

I’d say we’re all in rocky waters. But I honestly believe in the whole “where one door closes, another one opens,” so perhaps this is a time of positive transformation. Not that I want to go all wack-job on you, but I do think you can look to the future with optimism because…well...why not? What’s the point in looking forward in despair? That’s when you get really depressed. Besides, these past months have been no picnic chez nous, so frankly it’s sort of the whole “it hurts when someone has their booted foot on your head and said removal is sweet relief and could be considered happiness”.

I may have bags under my eyes I’d have to pay big bucks to check in with at United, my hair may make me look a little too androgynous for my liking, my muffin top may runneth over, but I just spent an afternoon eating Vietnamese sandwiches and walking in the rain with my family, so things can’t be all bad.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Question: Are you in love with yourself?

Self love.

Everyone’s supposed to have it. If you don’t, you’re doomed to a life of misery and self-loathing.

Or so they say.

But I ask you, how much is too much?

There’s a little too much self love going on in some people’s heads, and the situation is getting out of hand. I know, I know, supposedly people who are full of themselves are simply masking gross insecurities. Frankly I’ll take the gross insecurities for $500, Alex. I mean, neurosis is much more attractive than arrogance.

Case in point: where my husband works, which is a large and bustling place, he has to THANK people for showing up to work. There is such a sense of entitlement going on in many of the people who work for or with him, that they believe that by showing up, they should get paid.

It’s the same principle as when my high school students expected to pass because they came to class.

Maybe it isn’t really self-love. Maybe it’s a sense of entitlement.

When people drive ahead of you dangerously because they are in a hurry, what they’re really saying is, “I’m more important than you and my needs supersede yours, slo-bo.” (or something to that effect) When people budge in line, they are essentially saying, “I am more important than you, so I should go first.” Honestly, didn’t these people go to freakin’ kindergarten?

So maybe I’m railing against entitlement, not self-love. But I do think self-love is over-rated. Self-like? Maybe. Self-acceptance? Probably. Self-respect? Definitely.

But the sense of being better or more important than other people, that’s just ugly. And that’s what arrogance is; and entitlement. It’s a feeling that you are truly superior to other people. Have a listen to Lily Allen’s new CD. She has a great song about it.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Question: How do you handle change?

This is a pivotal question, and not one to take lightly. We are in the midst of great upheaval in our country, and now, in our personal lives as well. How does one gracefully handle the pressure of imminent yet virtually unknown change?

Answer: do the best you can.

Paltry advice, but honestly, what the hell else can you do?

Every so often the universe whacks you upside the head and reminds you that you are not in charge, not of anything.

It’s a bitter pill, whose side effects may include nausea, paranoia, anxiety and irritability.

My hope is that both personally and nationally, we can take change with grace, cool heads, and the knowledge that all is ephemeral. The Buddhist idea of non-attachment comes to mind. Seems like the best option at this point.

What do you do when change comes at you fast and furiously? (bringing to mind that lukewarm trilogy of car movies we had to endure lo these many years, the highlight being Michele Rodriguez's bad-ass. I miss her on "Lost." Sigh.)

Seriously, what do you do?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Comment: Damn you, Disney! Redux

Okay, I have to admit that my rabid rants about Disney, although based on facts, do tend heavily towards exaggerated and heated invective. (Can you heat invective? I think so.) Where I feel I’ve most been off the mark is with “The Little Mermaid,” an error I wish to correct posthaste.

So we rented the lovely tale of the above-mentioned mermaid, and we watched the whole thing, my kids and I. As I had vaguely remembered it, Ariel, the featured mermaid, gave up her voice so she could go and be with her man, Prince Eric. It actually turns out that although she pays the Sea Witch (to become human)with her voice, in the end, she gets it back. So she doesn’t sacrifice her voice for her man. That would be a hideous and creepy message.

Sidebar: remember the movie, “The Piano,” where Holly Hunter’s character falls in love with the man who essentially prostitutes her out so she gets to play her beloved piano? And then she goes back to “civilization” and marries him? Disturbing. (Apparently, the original intention had been to end it with Holly’s character killing herself on the ocean trip back to the mainland. I guess it wasn’t Hollywood enough and the test audiences didn’t care for the suicidal ending, so it was axed. But it made WAY more sense.)

So you see, I had thought that by showing my kids “The Little Mermaid” it was going to basically be an animated version of “The Piano,” but thankfully, I was wrong. Ariel DOES indeed get her voice back, but she does sacrifice her family for her man (sort of the reverse of Disney’s Pocohontas ). Then again, many of us move away from our childhood homes when we marry. And there is a reconciliation between Ariel and her father, who had initially had a serious hate-on for the detested humans but comes around in the end.

The Little Mermaid as coming-of-age story, of believing in your dreams, and pursuing them relentlessly. Ah, so American. Even though the story of the original little mermaid is a Han Christen Andersen tale, so technically she’s Danish. I don’t think the Danish would make a movie quite like Disney’s. Or if they did, there’d be really good butter and socialized medicine.

Anyway, for the record, “The Little Mermaid” is not the worst offering Disney has out. Cinderella is much worse, but I’m not going to get into how she had no mother, then an evil stepmother, then a fairy godmother, no father, and then a prince who solved ALL her problems. Just pair Prince A with Good Looking Young Woman B and voila, happily ever after.

Sorry, I said I wasn’t going to get into it. Oops.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Question: A little help?

There’s a time of day for stay at home parents that makes you just want to stick a fork in your eye. And that time, for those of you without kids, is between 4-6 pm, better known as the witching hours, or the sixth circle of hell. (Costco is the seventh circle, in case you’re wondering.)

What’s happened is that by that time of day, you’ve used up every trick in the book, up your sleeve, and out of your hat, and you are out of ideas. You’ve done reading time, the craft project, TV time (or you’re saving it for dinner-making time if you’re savvy), homework time, outdoor time, free play time, and quiet/nap time. Plus the WF (whine factor) automatically ratchets up after 4 pm and increases exponentially until the other parent/caregiver gets home. Fresh blood is as important to the stay at home parent as it is to vampires.

So what do you do during those two hours where time seems to go backwards in slow motion? (Kind of like a "Lost" episode. Now where is that damn hatch?)

Not much, is the answer. I once asked a group of mothers what they did during the witching hours. One of them suggested going grocery shopping with my kids at 4 pm. I’d rather have my teeth pulled without anesthetic than do that, but maybe that’s just me. Or maybe I should ask some other people.

What does one do with these hours of endlessness? It’s not easy. Taking a walk is fine, if it’s not already dark, and you’re not so fried you can’t think straight; you have small children to protect. Play doh? Been there, done that. How many times can you squeeze it through the pump thingy and say “ewwwww”?

Sometimes we’re just all waiting for supper to happen so we can get ready for bed. It’s tiring, this growing up business. Kids have long days with probably too much stimulation, so no wonder by the end of the day they’re wiped out. There’s also so much pressure on today’s parents to do everything and more within their power to make their child’s life “perfect”, which is, of course, impossible AND ridiculous. We can help our children, lead the way, but ultimately they have to walk out into the big world themselves. Gulp.

So let’s hear from you, my select and cherished readers: what do YOU do between four and six PM?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Comment: Aha!

So Facebook is basically the inside of our high school lockers.

Sounds about right.

Complaint: More Facebook Kvetching

Apparently there is another pernicious little list going around Facebook and it involves “things I’ve done during my lifetime.” You’re supposed to check off the ones you’ve done.

I’m sorry, but TM freakin’ I.

Do I need to know that you’ve “kissed under mistletoe”? I think not. If I know you well enough, I already know the damn answer. And going on a spinnaker? What the hell’s a spinnaker?

(Wow, this post is shaping up to be quite a pleasant little complaint. Be careful what you wish for.)

Anyway, I’m not sure what you’re supposed to do with this list. I’m sure as shootin’ not going to fill it out, but I don’t know why other people would and then send it out. Sure, it’s one thing to do an informal inventory of your life’s accomplishments, but this list is just bizarre, if you ask me. It’s some Hallmark card/Lifetime movie wish list and its one size definitely does not fit all.

Besides, if these “friends” of yours on Facebook don’t know you, they won’t care about your list, and if they do know you, they’ll already know (and still won’t care; I’m sorry, “Ridden on a San Francisco CABLE CAR?” FFS!)

So okay, here a few of my suggestions for “Things I’ve Done During my Lifetime” that did NOT make their list:
() eaten sushi off a naked person’s body
() waited in line at Costco for three hours without harming anyone in the vicinity
() cleaned up a small child’s feces from a RUG
() dated one too many drummers
() had a failed body piercing
() watched “Lost” while enduring stomach flu in the bathroom
() sang back up in a Bluegrass band

I’m not going to tell you which of the above are true; you either know, or you don’t give a rat’s ass.


Ye Olde Addled and Irritable Curmudgeone

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Question: What do you want to be?

So I’m writing the preschool newsletter up, compiling the answers of three and four year olds to the following question: What do you want to be when you grow up?

There are lots of cute answers, “a human and animal doctor” and “a spider” and things like “a baker” and “a pirate so I can wear a real pirate costume!” (clearly this kid hasn’t heard about the pirates who hang out around Somalia). But the one that sticks with me is this one:

Mandy Q. wants to be a princess when she grows up. (Name changed to protect the cute and innocent.)

Well damn, who doesn’t? Life is full of pre-Prince-Cinderella-level drudgery, so why not aim high? Kids know how to say what they want, and often how to get what they want. I admire their moxie, and envy their confidence.

You can probably tell that I’m writing from “a negative place,” as the self-help/therapy crowd says, and you’d be right. It’s a combination of stress, weather, viruses, and mind-numbing routine that has brought me here. (Hey avid readers! This really is a complaint! I rock!)

Sometimes life has a way of falling apart piece by little piece and before you know it you find yourself in a rut so deep you could hang up posters. And that’s where we are today. I know it will pass, but I could really use feeling like a princess right about now.

The mythology really is powerful, because what do we mean when we say, “I want to feel like a princess?” What we mean is, pampered, admired, beautiful, special and beloved. I mean, have you ever heard of a hateful ugly princess other than in stories by those masters of buzzkill, The Brothers Grimm? (Have you read these? Do you realize that most times at minimum one person is dismembered, salted and eaten? Are we supposed to think it’s civilized that salt was added? WTF?)

So the idea of feeling like a princess is appealing, in spite of the inevitable glitter makeup I’d have to wear. I’ve tried on all my shoes and none of them are made of glass. There’s no fairy godmother in real-life, and mice don’t turn into anything but a health hazard.

So I say, dream big.

In perhaps the most prescient, rational and realistic response, one young lady put it simply when asked what she wants to be when she grows up. Her answer? “Umm, an adult.”

My advice? Don’t be in such a hurry. You have no idea how princess-life your life is at age four.

Enjoy it.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Question: What do you call it?

I don’t feel like a very interesting person. I wonder, does a person ever sit down and say to themselves, “By gum, I’m an interesting person!” or “People are fascinated by me and my antics.”

I tend to think that most people don’t think about this much on a conscious level, but on a more subconscious one, we definitely all worry about what people think of us. And it’s quite terrifying to think that we are boring to people. I mean, heck, we’re endlessly fascinating to ourselves, so shouldn’t we be that way to everyone?

Um, no.

We know this isn’t true, yet we persist in this delusion that other people will be as enthralled by us as we are, but honestly? They’re more into, well, themselves.

This isn’t meant to sound snarky or depressing: it isn’t. It’s just a reminder that after you’ve been to a party and you think you talked too much (you probably did) or said something dorky (always a possibility) most people will be too busy thinking about what they did or didn’t say at said event and will thus NOT be twittering about you the next day, scintillating or not.

How do we even define what an interesting person is? I’ve often heard nice people describing an acquaintance as “interesting” when they really mean something else but aren’t willing to say it aloud. Sometimes this is a euphemism for any or all of the following: different, weird, eccentric, strange, odd, goofy, bizarre, freaky, fill-in-synonym-here. I think that this is often the case with the word “interesting.” For fear of sounding mean, we don’t say outright that the person to whom we’re referring is strange; we just say they’re “interesting” and leave it at that.

But why? Why can’t we call strange behavior strange? Or odd habits as the oddities they are? Euphemisms abound in our culture: the “such a pretty face” to skirt around heaviness, the “nice personality” to avoid saying “he/she is not that good-looking in the conventional sense.” So too does “interesting” deliberately blur the lines between a compliment and an insult. Sometimes it really is hard to tell which one it is.

So here’s my question, would you rather be considered “interesting” or not? Interesting is not boring, but it opens up a Pandora’s box of possibilities. Are you willing to take those on, too?

I say, bring it.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Complaint: Get on it with it.

One of our faithful readers made a complaint here today that I don’t complain enough. After all, the name of this blog is “Questions, Comments, Complaints” and there’s no question (hyuk) that I spend a disproportionate amount of time on the first two, and few on the latter.

It goes back to a posting at the beginning of this blog’s life, wherein I proposed not to complain so much. So should I change the name of the blog, or just start complaining more?

This is a dilemma.

(One of my many nicknames as a child was “Emma the Dilemma.” Prescient, no?)

So maybe I should just try some complaining. Okay, here we go:

My husband’s stressed, I’m stressed, my kids are stressed, the economy sucks, I’m tired, I'm burnt out, I'm eating too much and I hate my hair.

I frequently hate my hair. Perhaps this is why I change it so frequently. But if hair is a metaphor for life, then I am constantly trying to change my life. Different styles, different colors. And yet, when I look through old photo albums, my hair stays within a fairly narrow area on the whole color/style continuum. So maybe I’m not trying to change my life as much as I’m trying to fine tune it.

Here’s a complaint: this post is boring!

Seriously, let’s talk about something else. Maybe you could post your complaints with life in general (and hopefully not this column, I’m a delicate flower, so please, be kind).

I’d be happy to hear them. Well, maybe not happy, but you know, you could help me fulfill part of my mission of living up to the title I chose. If you have alternate title suggestions for this blog, I’ll take those, too.

Here’s one more complaint for you: why aren’t you taking the quiz disguised as a poll? I mean come on, would it kill you to just click on SOMETHING?

The floodgates have been opened.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Question: Why am I doing my son's homework for him?

And furthermore, why does my son have homework? He’s in Kindergarten.


Look, I don’t want to be one of those micro-managing overbearing parents who do everything for their kids so that their grown children end up living with them and requiring assistance to do the laundry as adults. Not in the plan.

So I don’t want to get in the habit of doing his homework for him. His homework tonight is his “sharing” for tomorrow.

“Sharing” is this millenium’s version of “show and tell.” But we have to adhere to monthly themes, and this month, they are: President’s Day, Groundhog Day and Valentine’s Day.

President’s Day? A kindergartener sharing something about President’s Day? What could a five year old really have to say about this particular holiday? Sure, we can talk about the current president, everybody knows who he is, but I don’t think my son has an inkling about Lincoln or Washington; and I’m not fit to tell him because I was raised on fur traders, prime ministers and the seigneurial system of farming (look it up; you may doze off partway through).

Valentine’s Day, well, it seems kind of pedestrian/predictable to bring in an old valentine. Doesn’t do it for me. Well, I found myself in the position tonight of not having a book with pictures of a damn groundhog, and my son was already in the bath, and so I found the proclamation of Whosiwhatsis Phil (still too lazy/tired to look that up) and printed it out for him and told him that as of next week, he and I are going to do research for his sharing together, i.e. I’m not going to do his homework for him. I don’t want us to slide down that slippery slope where Mama fixes everything and the apron strings start to chafe.

But honestly, why homework in Kindergarten? I was told last night at a teacher meeting I attended that parents are begging for homework for their children. Now I do live at the nexus of uber-hyper-geekdom, so education is obsessed over here like few other places on this continent. But come on.

I don’t believe in homework for kids. Clearly, pushing everything down to the early grades, pressuring students and teachers alike to get better at things quicker isn’t the answer. I taught high school. All that cramming in the early grades? Lost by seventh grade.

Why? Hormones. Life. The fact that teenagers’ brains aren’t fully formed yet. They live in their limbic systems. This explains a lot of their behavior. So even though they crammed like mad for the first six years or more of their school careers, these kids are not going to remember anything once they hit puberty.

So again, I ask, why the homework for the little ones? They won’t remember, they’ll be inundated the rest of their life with assignments and their parents will over-function.

Let’s stop the madness.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Question: And what do YOU do?

Alert readers will remember my earlier mention/theory of a stress bubble. Well, here’s my question for you: what do you do when you’re utterly stressed out?

The basic options people generally come up with include sleeping, drinking, exercising, smoking, watching lots of reality TV, and eating.

Let’s parse these together, shall we?

Sleeping is nice work if you can get it, but most of us are sleep-deprived as it is, so more sleep is only going to slowly fill up our deficit, not give us the release we need from this icky recession. (I’m using the economically technical term).

Drinking has its down sides, too; if you overdo it, you feel bad, plus it makes you act stupid if you go too far. And it’s expensive. So scratch that.

Exercising is great if you live in California, but thanks to Puxiwhosit Phil we are getting six more weeks of winter. That means being stuck inside for most of us, and the lucky few who get good weather shouldn’t crow about it to those who are trapped in dry, hot, germy gyms and living rooms sweatin’ to the oldies and cursin’ under their breath.

Smoking is pretty passé. Frankly it’s expensive, socially awkward in most places, and ultimately makes you smell nasty. I’m not saying I’m not tempted, nor that I never succumb. But it’s not sustainable for the duration of this recession, which is predicted to go on and on and on…

Watching reality TV will actually depress you more. It’s only a matter of time before there are recession reality shows, with people in desperate situations trying desperately to get out of them with fifteen minutes of fame or some parting gifts. I wish I was kidding.

Finally, eating. What other option is there? Food as comfort is universal. Tomorrow I am going with my friend to a swanky cupcake store, yes, a cupcake STORE. And I feel that I cannot turn away from the cupcake in these times of stress. Sure, I’ve been eating too much with the stress of these days; and my husband being a great cook is helping me along with my muffin top nicely. So really, I should go and exercise tomorrow.

But I will not. I will eat cupcakes.

Because nobody can resist the cupcake in times of trouble. Seek the cupcake, and, at least for a few minutes, life will be beautiful and stress-free.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Comment: Not Bowled Over

Growing up in Canada, we didn’t have a football team. No cheerleaders, either. So the whole SuperBowl thing just doesn’t do it for me. I guess I’m just not the sports type, although for many years I avidly followed whoever Phil Jackson was coaching, because he coached for Chicago (where my husband grew up) and then moved to Los Angeles (where we lived for 10 years).

Once Kobe Bryant got involved in all that nastiness, I lost interest in the Lakers, and frankly now that we don’t have TV it wouldn’t matter if I loved them, I’d never see them anyway.

What I’m saying is, I know that right now a whole lot of people are eating chips and guacamole and watching football on a massive screen. It’s like watching “Football: The Movie.” I’m still not comfortable with those big screens. I get over-stimulated, what with all that flashing and blaring.

In fact, when I was pregnant with my daughter, I couldn’t even watch TV at all. I was so nauseated so much of the time that commercials literally made me throw up. I could sometimes squeeze in a Seinfeld rerun, (I’m not made of stone) but whenever the flashy commercials came on, I’d have to look away. Seriously.

Now don’t think that I’m looking down on football or TV; I’m mad for pop culture, love the pop; I just get mine in Entertainment Weekly or online. I know that coming up there’s some big change in the way TV is transmitted. It’s going digital, and everyone has to get ready, but I just don’t care. With YouTube and Facebook and all the networks with free online shows, why would I pay for cable or a dish or whatever you need to make your TV go after February 1?

And I just heard this story on NPR about how in Japan, cell phones are so ubiquitous that some people have three each. And they email, text, book train tickets, read the news and watch TV on their phones.

So who needs a TV? I’m with Japan. Technology is so fabulous, I’m just going to wait a little longer until having an IPhone is as easy and inexpensive as owning a decent-not-designer pair of shoes. I may have to wait a bit, but that’s okay. After all, I watch TV online with a tiny screen on a very slow computer.

I’m a patient woman.