Because today my six year old son said, “Mom, I’m not doing enough coloring and stuff.”
Ouch. Truer words were ne’er spoke. (Spaken? Spackled?)
We’ve been spending too much time inside looking at various screens. And this is why we don’t have TV normally. Because we can't control ourselves. There is, however, cable TV where we are and it’s devilishly compelling. My kids know all the jingles for the shows on PBS Kids.
It’s easy to fall into bad habits, especially when you’re living in a temporary place with very little space. The TV and computer beckon. Hell, they beckon me. I’m online every other minute, so why wouldn’t my kids gravitate to screens too?
It's an addiction we have, to all things screen. We often spend more time with people virtually than we do in real life. That’s happening a lot to me lately, and I’m sure I’m only one of billions. You can spend the whole day working and only be in contact with people via email, IM, Facebook, or Twitter. (I’m not going there. If Facebook makes me compulsive, imagine what would happen to me on TWITTER. Shudder.)
So this afternoon my kids and I sat down and drew, wrote letters, colored. It was…fun. Imagine that. Fun without a screen.
But I will say this: virtual communication is better than no communication at all. I wouldn’t be able to talk to my little sister in England if it weren’t for Facebook.
But I’m back on my guard. And the other good thing is, we’re headed to Canada to see family who are more anti-TV than we are. They only get two stations. And it’s Canadian TV, so it’s earnest and poorly produced.
To quote former Canadian TV stars “The Kids in the Hall”: Yes, we’re safe, but for how long?
I just had an experience I probably won’t have again for a long time. I got my hair done at a place far above my means, mainly because it’s in the building where my family and I are staying, and because one of the building’s residents told me I’d love it.
Was she right? Absofreakinlutely.
I got highlights, a cut, and a glass of wine. I was pampered and coddled and left alone to read tawdry magazines. And then when I arrived home (down the hall) with my new look, it was all my husband could do to not jump my bones right then and there.
This is why women spend a fortune on their hair.
I get it now.
It’s not like I’ve never had my hair professionally colored, or cut by someone who charges an arm and a leg, but this is by far the swankiest place I’ve ever been to. And the bill was a glaring reflection of that swank factor.
Given that we’re sending our kids to private school and buying a house, I’m guessing my day at the fab salon will remain in the singular. Not likely to be budgeting for THAT for awhile.
And what’s happened is I’ve got myself a high maintenance hair color situation. It looks great now, but in a few more weeks, it’ll be rooty mcrootfest and I’ll have to figure out how to smooth the transition as my natural hair color slowly takes over.
Luckily, my hair is short; on the negative side, that means more frequent cuts; on the up side, even if I get a hack job, it grows in fast. It’s the color thing that’s my challenge. I’m no stranger to home hair coloring, but my hair color is really complicated. It’s red, and blonde, and lionesque. How many freakin’ caps and pokey sticks am I going to need to even remotely attempt to replicate (as opposed to destroy) the funky look I got at Salon Swank? I need a Fine Art major, stat.
Ah well. I’m good at improvising, and I’m good at making random things work, so I guess it’s back to reality, back to the drugstore for Clairol.
But it was fun while it lasted. Maybe when I get a job, I can go back and see my one-time fling stylist; he’ll be waiting for me, glass of wine in hand and foils at the ready.
I'm tired of trying to make myself a better person.
My shelves are lined with books telling me how I can be nicer, stronger, healthier, a better parent, a better wife, a better teacher, a better person.
I'm so fucking sick of trying so hard.
Obviously I'm not the only one who feels this way. Millions of dollars, nay, billions, are made every year on self-improvement books.
We feel like if we could just find the right book, it would fix our life. Erase our character defects.
I've talked about this before. When under stress, I always search for a book to solve my problems, quell my fears, give me perspective.
But no such book truly exists.
They're band-aids, books. They help you through a tough time and then you're on your own. You get a little help when the skin is ripped and there's blood pouring out, but once the wound closes up, it's just you and the scars. There are no books about scars.
Right now I'd love to find a book called "Biting Off More than You Can Chew: A Story of Moving, Transitions, and Exhaustion." I would buy that book.
Okay, Mia Michaels is not so bad after all. There was this incredible performancce on So You Think You Can Dance last night (choreographed by Tyce Diorio), about a woman with breast cancer. Ade and the ballerina everyone says is old because she’s (gasp) 29, did the dance and by its end there wasn’t a dry eye in the house, Ms. Michaels included. What other show on television unites people like SYTYCD?
I love SYTYCD. I know I’ve already said it here before, but dang, is there any other reality/competitive show on TV that is actually about pure talent, where so many people cry while trying to express themselves but not as a result of surgery/adultery/extra or insufficient weight/love problems, etc.? I know, I know, what about American Idol and America’s Got Talent?
They’re not as pure as a show about dance and only dance. Turning good-looking young people who can sing into superstars is no big deal. Turning choreographers in rock stars? That’s impressive.
I just love this show and I echo the producer/head judge Nigel Lythgoe (that’s Dr. Lythgoe, thank you very much) when he says, “I never in my wildest dreams thought it would get this big.”
My dancing is strictly of the Elaine Benes category: best left to the privacy of my living room.
But watching true artists dance? Sublime.
Now excuse me, but there’s another episode on tonight and I’m emotionally invested, plus they’re going to do lots of clips from old shows.
It’s summer, and that means lots of down time, which is both a blessing and a curse. I mean, how many times can you go to the Children’s Museum without losing your mind? (I’ll get back to you on that.)
Aren’t children supposed to be bored sometimes? Can they please just be bored but not fight with each other? I was on the phone yesterday with a brand new acquaintance with whom I was arranging a possible play date. And my kids were losing it and letting the world know. (Please note: I haven’t heard back from her.)
I was mildly mortified, and I thought, can’t these kids entertain themselves for fifteen minutes without me? In a word, no. Actually, they can entertain themselves, and for longer than fifteen minutes, but only if they think I am doing chores or something menial and (here’s the key) boring.
The minute, the SECOND, I’m on the phone for ANY reason, they are all over me with requests, demands, and whines. Do they have some kind of internal RADAR that goes off?
Dude, Mom’s trying to read a book. Let’s ambush her!
What’s Mom doing now? The laundry. Oh, okay, let’s go play by ourselves.
They smell the enjoyment you might be having. If you’re cleaning up urine, they could care less. But the minute you’re IM-ing your best friend or reading an interesting article in The Economist, it’s all over.
So the secret, I’ve discovered, is to hide in plain sight. Don’t ever announce that you’re going to do something that can’t be interrupted; that’s asking for trouble on a silver platter. Just kind of, quietly, disappear. Stay within earshot, so when they call out, you’re there, but don’t make any other noise and for god’s sake don’t act like you’re having fun!
Just some tips I’m picking up this summer. This being the summer of our one bedroom apartment.
I’ve spent the first month living in a new city bustling at the speed of a hummingbird on Mountain Dew, and now? The crash.
I’m tired of meeting new people.
I’m tired of putting on a happy face.
I’m tired of paperwork and logistics and appointments and introductions.
I just want to sleep.
Moving is stressful, yes, but there’s that blowback I always forget about when I move.
The month long high is great, but it’s kind of a letdown when a month of newness has faded and you look at the weather and it’s rain for a week straight and you don’t have big plans so you and the kids are stuck in a small apartment with little to do than annoy the piss out of each other. Ah togetherness.
I don’t want to complain. Well, maybe I do. Maybe I’m just tired of being a (low-level) superhero and my façade is cracking. Of if not a façade, maybe it’s just my energy waning. Oh, how it wanes.
I’m sick of PBS Kids and playing “Zingo” and reading the same books to my kids over and over. Babar is starting to piss me off and that’s serious.
Luckily, we have a vacation to look forward to: we are off to Canada, the kids and I, to see my mom and our extended, delicious family who will take care of us and laugh with us and serve me wine and May Wests. (Note to Americans: May Wests make Twinkies and Little Debbies look like piles of puke.) (Ten bonus points if you get the reference.)
It just occurs to me: I wonder if they have Drake’s Cakes here. I’ll have to look into that. Drakes Cakes KICK ASS.
Well, I’m sure you’re glad you just spent the last few minutes reading my ranting. Enlightening, yet carb-based. Bleah.
I’m reading “The End of Overeating” by the former head of the FDA and boy howdy, it’s hitting me and my muffin top where we live.
I’m only about one tenth through it, but already I can see the writing on the wall, and it’s covered in chocolate, gravy and butter.
The culprits, according to David A. Kessler, are the trifecta of sugar, fat and salt. Restaurants and food manufacturers go OUT OF THEIR WAY to make food combinations that capitalize on these three things and make us want them…real bad.
The result? We eat like starved pigs at the trough. We eat more than we need. We eat more than we want. We eat when we’re not even hungry. And we think about food. A lot.
I don’t know about you, but I found it rather comforting to have it affirmed that I am not the only one who thinks about what I’m going to eat next ALL DAY.
Kessler says both people of healthy and unhealthy weights are prone to this. I know that later in the book he is going to talk about his own eating challenges. I guess his weight went all over the map through the years, and he wondered why. This book answers it.
So yes, a plate of M and Ms staring up at you while you try to have a constructive meeting really are a distraction. A strong one.
We’re fat and getting fatter as a nation, and the people manufacturing our food are encouraging us every lumbering step of the way.
Kind of scary, no?
I saw an ad for like, Applebee’s or Outback Steakhouse or something and I felt the evil. They WANT us to eat all those fried onions and slathered potato skins. They want us to spend money and they don’t care that we’re bloating out and killing ourselves in the process.
So we have to care ourselves. We can’t go all nihilist like these guys. We have to be alert. I see these ads for baby back ribs with freaking chocolate gravy and whatnot and I think, ewww, propaganda. If I order that, I’ll not only eat all of it, I’ll eat the triple-sized deep-dish mocha-loco-choco-ya-ya torte a la double mode for dessert.
And then I’ll wonder why I ate so much. And why I feel bloated and sluggish. And I’ll vow not to do it again.
And the next time I end up at a party or restaurant where there’s a vegetable tray, it won’t matter; I’ll still inexorably be pulled to the canapé table, what with its puff pastry, and sausagy, saucy, cheesy delights. I’ll eat more than I need or want and then I’ll rue. (See post for 10/10/08, where I brought this up the first time. Am I prescient or what??)
Anyway, I haven’t changed my eating habits yet. But, to quote George Costanza, "I am aware…"
And Applebees, I’m watching you, you son of a rich, buttery biscuit.
Well, it’s close to the end of the week, and we know what that means: exhaustion. So I went to the good old Plinky Prompts to get inspired. The question is: “What movie really frightened you?”
I can think of two, with one far more obvious than the other.
I saw “The Exorcist” on TV when I was twelve. Scared the shit out of me. My dad watched the “edited for television” version with me. (Apparently I missed some pretty nasty stuff down south.)
The idea of possession is not new to me. Suffering from various phobias is a lot like being possessed. You feel your mind, and your life, are not your own.
Linda Blair’s possessed child was unbearably scary because what happened to her was so random. Why did the devil attack her? Did she do something to bring it on? I was twelve going on five, so I really got scared. I was sorry I watched it.
(Sidebar: The actor who played her shrink in the movie was the head of the Syracuse University Drama Department, where I went to college: Arthur Storch.)
The other movie that scared me was “Gone with the Wind.” Sure, it’s not a horror movie, but to a child, the destruction of home and hearth is pretty heavy. (And apparently I am awesome at alliteration.)
There was something about Atlanta burning, and a pregnant woman being pushed down the stairs that just didn’t sit right with me. I felt bad for Scarlett, even though she was a total diva. She was struck by love, and was the unfortunate loser in the game. She wasn’t all sweet and light. She was Veronica, Melody was Betty. And Ashley was Archie. (It could have been a comedy if there’d been a Moose or a Jughead, but oh well.)
So there you have it. One never knows what will scare a person. It’s not always what you think. But when you boil it all down, the residue is always the same: fear of loss.
There’s a particular type of soul-eroding music that I keep finding on radio stations and it’s killing me. My kids like it, but I hate it. What is it?
No, it’s not Hannah Montana or even the Jonas Brothers.
It’s Adult Contemporary.
It’s the kind of music you hear muzakked (or more frequently nowadays, NOT) in dentists’ offices and elevators. It’s also the kind of music you hear in clothing stores aimed at the middle aged. At some point, someone decided that the least offensive, blandest music should be put on one CD and played endlessly in said stores.
I worked in one of those stores and I nearly lost my mind. There was a song by Paula Cole, I think, where she kept whining, “I don’t wanna wait, for my liiiiifffe to be ovahhhhh” and I found myself wishing for the demise of her or myself, just to not have to listen to it. Gah.
So we’re in a new city, and we’re trying to find radio stations. I’ve solved the NPR dilemma (this city’s only does about 15% talk, the rest is classical music, which is fine, but I don’t want to listen to it in the car or I’ll fall asleep) by using an app on my iPhone.
But current radio, yikes. I’m running into some situations here. I’ve managed to find two stations, both of which tease you with one sort of hip and current song, and then mangle your brain with five or six ACs in a row that are more powerful sedatives than valium.
There are a few types of AC artists, as far as I can tell: There’s the quirky-but-in-a-non-threatening-way female folk singer, all sophisticated lyrics and breathy notes. There are the pseudo alt rockers who sound just like the regular rockers, except with delicate facial hair. There’s the sincere, deep-voiced, male-vocal-led band that is indistinguishable from the other sincere, deep-voiced, male-vocal-led bands. Nickelback, Daughtry, if it’s one word and there’s a soulful sounding guy leading it, I don’t want to freaking hear it ever again.
So I think I’m going to have to explore my last option: try to find a college radio station. Those can be annoying, what with stoned and/or illiterate DJs babbling, but at least the music is fresh, and not adult fucking contemporary.
I don’t want to identify with that music, I don’t want to hear it, and I don’t like it.
We’re talking about our aspirations again. Okay, you're not. You're reading this. I'm talking about aspirations again.
For those of you unfamiliar with it, I invented a term called the Asp-Gap ™. Basically, it’s the gap between who you want to be in life, and who you really are.
We’re about to buy a house, and I’m Asp-Gapping ™ myself stupid.
The kitchen in this house is so warm and inviting. I envision myself somehow magically knowing how to cook, so that I can linger there, while the children play quietly two stories above me. Splendiferous wafts of cookie and stews (like either of my kids would eat stew) and baked chicken flow up to the kiddies playing in their rooms.
The children have their own rooms. The children have their own floor!
Viva la East Atlantic region’s massive houses! We have almost no furniture, but we will soon have a beautiful, big house. What the hell are we going to put in it?
I have dreams and fantasies about the house and how my family and I will live in it. But a new house doesn’t mean a new life. It does, however, mean a fresh start. I’m all for those. Big fan.
The woman who’s selling us her house is lovely, kind, and has more good taste in her pinky finger than my husband and I do in our entire bodies. I wish she would just leave the furniture, but that’s totally tacky and as I told the kids at the house showing, “Don’t touch anything, it’s not ours.”
But hopefully, in another six weeks or so, the house, at least, will be ours.
There used to be a snack mix in Canada called Bits n Bites. In French, it was called Meli Melo (there are supposed to be accents on both e’s but of course I don’t know how to do them.) (If this were a computer in Quebec, it would be under arrest. Ha!)
The closest the US comes to this savory treat is Chex snack mix. But there’s a certain taste to BnB that I think if I tasted some of it now, I’d be lurched back into time when I used to bring it for snack at recess in elementary school. Buffy L. would always expect me to share it with her, even though her family had more money. (They had a tree house WITH a trapdoor AND the first microwave in the neighbhorhood. ) But somehow Buffy determined that my snack was her snack. It bugged me, but I wasn’t very good at saying no in those days.
It should come as no surprise to you that her favorite game to play with me was “Queen and Servant.” And who do you suppose I got to play? Damn, she was a bossy girl. Whenever my two neighbors and I played school, I always wanted to be the teacher, sure, so I know from bossy. But she took the cake. Literally. (I mean it, she hogged everything.)
Many many years later, I ran into her at a party in another city completely randomly. I had absolutely nothing to say to her face, but inside, I was wondering: is she still as spoiled and bossy or did she outgrow that? Does she remember hogging my snack? Does she remember following me home and lying, claiming that her grandmother wasn’t home to take care of her after school so she HAD to come to my house? (She wasn’t above a pity playdate.) I wonder about her. She’s probably on Facebook, but I don’t want to know that badly.
Which reminds me of another memory: Kent H. spat in my face on the bus when I was in kindergarten. It was humiliating, and there was no provocation. He was just an asshole, I guess.
But we ended up going to high school together, and as our paths crossed in the school play one year, I told him that I remembered that he’d spit on me all those years ago. He was mortified. He actually turned out to be a pretty nice guy in the end.
So maybe there’s hope for Buffy, and all the other meanish kids who badger or torment us when we’re small. Maybe we can outgrow some of our character defects. That's hopeful.
But nowadays, I share my snack mix with my kids. They don’t hog it.
I'm tired and old and out of ideas, so I went and looked up a Plinky Prompt, those chatty, party-hilarity-inducing questions that someone has to think of every day and puts out for those of us too burnt out to think up our own. (Question: Who do the Plinky Prompt people go to for their ideas? Enquiring minds want to know.)
I didn't like today's question, so I went back a few days, and here it is: "Which could you spend a whole week in: a treehouse, a tent, or an underground bunker?"
Alert readers can refer back as recently as yesterday's post to know that I'd pretty much rather have my eyes poked out than hang out in anything underground. So bunker it is NOT.
Tents? I have tent issues. I went camping once with my husband and his camping (but sadly, not campy) buddies. We went to the Sequoia National Forest or somesuch large-treed area where it proceeded to rain. And rain. And rain. And rain.
It didn't stop raining the whole weekend. For all I know it's STILL raining there, and this was 8 years ago. What did we do? We sat in our tents, under tarps, and talked optimistically of hikes and dry socks. It was not fun. So a tent is O-U-T.
That leaves a treehouse. I don't have a particular problem with spending time in a treehouse, as long as it's not all cobwebby and shit. Speaking of which, where do you go potty in a tree house? There's no plumbing in a tree house. Do you just hang your ass out the window and let it all out? Men would so have the home court advantage in a treehouse. I mean, I wouldn't want to pee on a squirrel or something. That would probably make Smokey the Bear cry. And Ranger Rick would kick my ass.
I guess there'd be some sort of chamber pot, but then someone (not me, not me) would have to clean it out. Oh who am I kidding, I'm the go-to-gal for clean ups on aisle 5 in the urine department. I've cleaned up more feces and urine than I care to disclose. (and I don't even have a DOG!)
So a treehouse, avec chamber pot, and hopefully some music, candles, and a cooler for the sandwiches I'd make ahead of time (I'm assuming there's no electricity up there. Because if there is, I'm bringing up lights, my computer, maybe an electric blanket.)(Because you know that a treehouse is drafty.)
My treehouse will have one of those cool pulley rope dealies that you can send up and down by pulling on it. That way, when my Entertainment Weekly is thoroughly read, I can send down for another one, or possibly some more snacks. I think I'll get very hungry in my treehouse. I'll need lots of refreshments. Possibly pots of honey.
And I might get lonely in my treehouse, so better have my cellphone. And a few changes of clothes. I can only imagine how bad I'm going to smell after a week in a treehouse. Do you think I should even bother changing my clothes? I reckon the owls would not enjoy my musky scent, but you never know: they're kind of freaky.
The only other thing I'd need would be a really snuggly blanket and a futon mattress. I'm not doing sleeping bags; I hate the feeling of being mummified in a zipped up bag. (I told you, I'm not a camper.)
I'd bring some pillows, maybe a throw, just to dress the place up a little.
Okay, so we're set here. Good. I'm ready for my week in the treehouse.
So we’re looking at houses and it’s taking some time to retrain my eye to the non-California look (all one story, newer, less wear and tear) and appreciate the well-worn, massive, crumbling edifices that line the Eastern part of the country.
The houses here are a different breed entirely. I vaguely remember these things from my childhood. There are so many stories, and so many nooks and crannies, and what’s this thing down at the bottom of the stairs?
Oh yeah. Basements.
I forgot about those.
Oh how I wish I didn’t have to think about those again.
I remember our basement in Montreal, when I was growing up: dank, damp. dark and dirty. Possibly good adjectives for a punk band, but not for a room in your house.
These things called basements disturb me.
There are so many unknown places in a basement. There is so much that can grow, fester, or spread. I really hate them. I think in some ways I fear them.
And now it’s time to deal with one of my (many) fears.
Every time we look at a house, I have to walk downstairs and face my demons. I have to dwell in the dank, bonk my head on a light fixture, and cringe as I peer into crevasses that would be better left unpeered upon.
Here’s my test: I have to imagine myself walking downstairs to do the laundry, alone, at night, when my husband is away and my kids are in bed; if I can’t imagine doing that in said basement, without Jason or Mike Myers (either one) jumping out at me with a mask and a machete to ambush me, no dice. I pass on that house. Next, please.
But I’ve started seeing flaws in my system. Because pretty much ALL basements are dark and dank. Even if you pour a ton of money into them, they still smell, leak, seep and drip. They’re just on the less disgusting part of the continuum of the basement gnarl scale. So I need to readjust myself, and see basements not as foes to be vanquished, but afflictions to be endured.
All houses here have basements. That’s the way it is. I cannot avoid the basement. I shall have to face my fears. In facing the real spider-webby, potentially rodent-dropping-filled basements, perhaps I will face the dank and dark and nasty in my own psyche. Perhaps by facing what disgusts me in basements, I can face what disgusts me in my own life.
Or maybe I could seal off the basement of our next house and just wash the clothes in the sink.
So it appears that I’m having a little writer’s block. I was writing about brick walls for the online writing course I’m taking from the incomparable Ariel Gore (oh you name droppa) and it strikes me that writer’s block is also the proverbial brick wall.
I’m just too damn tired to climb it, there’s no door, and I don’t have any utensils in my arsenal that would blast the wall open. I thought about doing a “Plinky Prompt” but I’m too lazy to look it up. Besides, its questions seem to be glorified Cocktail Conversation 101.
Or perhaps I’m just grouchy.
I’ve just noticed that this month, I’ve been finding it hard to think of things to write about. Maybe it’s because I’m also writing for this class. I don’t know. (Dude, I’m writing about writing. I’m so meta I just blew my mind!)
I’m also thinking, I told my fellow students that I have a blog, what if one of them actually goes and reads it? Will I look like an ass? Will they think, what the fuck is this bozo doing in writing class? Will I be found out? That’s an example of what we here at QCC call Imposter Syndrome. I think everyone in the world has it, to a certain degree.
You know what I’m talking about. You think that at any moment, you will be discovered as the fake you really are. All the people who think you’re smart, reliable, interesting and witty will suddenly realize that it’s all a sham, and that you are, in fact, a stupid, mean, boring and insecure pile of jelly, quavering desperately for love and validation.
Or maybe that’s just me.
Imposter Syndrome strikes any time you think you’ll be discovered as inadequate at whatever you’re doing. Parents feel this a lot. And actors. And writers, oh lord, don’t get me started. When you start a new job somewhere, especially if it’s at a level higher than the one you had before, look out: Imposter Syndrome will rear its ugly head, guaranteed.
We all aspire to be something more wonderful than we are (Remember the Asp-Gap(TM) ?) and we all fear that we are far worse than we really are (Imposter Syndrome).
I think I should get a Ph.D. in psychology for summarizing this so succinctly.
There’s a positively dreadful show on PBSKids. It isn’t really dreadful, but it’s dreadfully annoying. It’s called “Big World” and if I have to listen to Scrub or Scruff or Snout, or whatever the hell the sloth’s name is, sing about our wonderful world one more time, I may hurl.
This show makes Mr. Rogers look like a punk rocker. It’s all super-saturated hues and creepy, saccharine puppets singing. It’s so pure and innocent that I bet it looked better on paper than it does in reality. It's too bright and squishy.
I mean, am I missing something? I think I’m immature enough to appreciate children’s programming. For example, I think “Sesame Street” rocks, and “Clifford” is barely tolerable, while “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” is sweet yet informative, and fun (except for the lushy-looking Ladee Lane) and “Fetch with Ruff Ruffman” is really entertaining. Ruff is a smart-ass dog who bosses real live kids around, what’s not to love? “Cyberchase” leaves me cold, but the kids love it, and it’s sponsored by the NSF, so how bad can it be? There’s actual MATH in it.
So “Big World” just really sets my teeth on edge. As I said, I’m sure the people who created it are super nice and horribly well-intentioned and are surely better humans than I.
But there’s no edge.
I need children’s programming with an edge, even a teeny one that only comes up sporadically. Give me edge, not singing sloths and toucans, I beg you!
Which is also why “The Doodlebops” still remains the worst kid show ever in the “vacuous AND annoying” category. “Big World”, at least, is kind-hearted, albeit sappy as hell.
And I really do like sloths. Just not ones that sing.
Well, I did it. I watched Michael Jackson’s memorial service. The whole thing.
And I cried mainly at the following points: when Brooke Shields was on, when Jermaine Jackson cried while singing, and when Usher lost it by Michael’s casket.
I’m sure I wasn’t the only one sobbing.
Is it disingenuous or fake to be sad about someone you’ve never met, and at least recently, hadn’t paid much attention to? Is it hypocritical to practically canonize someone whom you thought odd or weird when they were alive? Is it true that Michael Jackson really was out of the ordinary, and that we’ll never see the like of him again? Are we all, in the end, voyeurs living vicariously through others' joy and (especially) pain?
I don’t know the answers to any of these questions, except the last one.
I’m more of a secular humanist (with Buddhist aspirations), so the religious parts of the service didn’t particularly do it for me. But when a glowing and pregnant Jennifer Hudson came out in white dressed like an angel, singing about the spiritual, well, that was a pretty powerful image.
I watched all this while my kids played on their computer and badgered me to put on PBSKids. I said, “You get to watch whatever you want every day, today it’s my turn.” And I was indeed mesmerized.
For those of you who, willingly or not, missed the service: it wasn’t tacky, it wasn’t ostentatious, and it wasn’t cheap. It was prone to hyperbole, sure, but that’s what happens when someone dies. We remember all the very best things about them and they overshadow any foibles or defects of character, perceived or real.
It is tragic to see a mother lose a child. And it’s also tragic to see children lose a parent.
How could you not shed a tear over that, at least?
You stare at the ceiling, or, if you’re lucky enough to have an LED display, you watch the numbers go up or down, silently willing them to go faster. It’s too much to be that close to strangers. I mean, if you’re on the elevator with someone, and then someone else comes on, you stop your conversation, right? There’s something about being in such close proximity to others that makes even the chattiest person shut up.
You also automatically space yourself as far as humanly possible from each other, resulting in constant shifts of position whenever you stop. Is this automatic, or learned behavior? I say, automatic, baby.
What would happen if you went ahead and stood really close to, or even, FACING someone? It would totally freak them out. Can you imagine? You’d automatically be assumed to be a perv or a freak or psycho. Normal people don’t stand close to each other on elevators, right? If someone did that to you, you’d flip out. You can be on the subway, squished in so tight and close to other people that you can smell their deodorant (or lack thereof) but never on an elevator.
Watch yourself, and everyone else, on an elevator next time, and see what you do without even thinking about it.
I was going to post this yesterday, but I was too grouchy. I found myself wandering around a Regatta with my family in my new home town feeling invisible, irritable and bored.
This isn’t usually the way you’re supposed to feel on a major national holiday.
Which brings me to the whole fun thing. We went to this event because we thought it would be fun. Other people think it’s fun, and we’re people, so why not?
But overpaying for food that made half the family sick does not a fun day make. Especially when said day consisted of small children complaining when we arrived, demanding food, drink, then immediately more drink, then treats, then a balloon. It was bratastic! They didn’t like the loud boat races and they couldn’t see past the crowd to see the frisbeeing dogs. It was one kvetch after another. And not just from the kids, sadly. (And even though frisbee-catching dogs are adorable, it seemed kind of cruel the way the "contestants" were kept locked up in a van, barking their little lungs out while waiting for their turn.) (This is why I don't like zoos and stupid pet tricks. It doesn't only demean the animal, people.)
Sure, we’re new in town, so we don’t know anyone we could have met there, which I’m sure would have made it much more fun.
The events and food all sounded good on paper, but the actual event? Not so much.
I think it comes down to exhaustion. We have spent the last three weeks reinventing ourselves and starting to feather our nest (though we don’t actually have a nest yet, but you know, our metaphorical nest) (Okay, that analogy sucks).
Anyway, we were all so tired and overstimulated that a proper holiday would have consisted of eating in, watching a movie and ordering pizza. Why didn’t we do that? We did what we thought we should do because other people think it’s fun.
And the definition of fun is pretty loosey-goosey if you ask me. One woman’s fun is another woman’s nightmare. So it stands to reason that a one-size-fits-all approach to fun doesn’t cut the mustard. I guess we all have to learn to define our own fun, as opposed to asking society to spell it out for us.
It’s WAY more work that way, but in the end, doing what you want instead of what you think you should do because everyone else is, usually is fun.
I don’t believe in ghosts. I have never seen a ghost, or believed that an actual dead person was visiting me, or trying to tell me something. I have not experienced the paranormal in any shape or form. Traditional ghosts aren’t interested in me.
There is a different kind of ghost, however.
There are goofy ghosts, like ex-boyfriends with poor hygiene and bad manners, or pathetic kissers with good intentions, obnoxious English teachers who annoyed you. Old friends from elementary school that you’ll never see again except perhaps on Facebook. These are the easy ghosts. They don’t lurk or linger. They pop in, then pop right back out again. They don’t want to interfere with your day. They just want to remind you that you’ve done some stupid shit, but you can laugh about it now, no worries, see you later, peace out.
Your drug friends, your drinking buddies, long since gone, haunt you whenever you take a drink or light a cigarette. Ghosts do smoke cigarettes. Menthols, usually.
But the really ugly ghosts that torment you are the mistakes. The people you’ve wronged, or who have wronged you. They remind you of your many flaws, foibles, and sheer stupidity. They are angry, petulant, terrified. How do you exorcise something you can’t see?
Will you someday have to meet these ghosts in some freaky afterworld? Or is their haunting you in the day and in dreams enough torture? Is there an expiration date on payback? Because these ghosts love to linger.
They love to remind you that you suck. That you screwed up. That you’re not fooling anyone. You will be found out. The ghosts know that. They don’t want you to forget that.
Guilt is a ghost. So is regret. Remorse. Anger is one of the most powerful ghosts. You think you’re over it, but you get haunted again and again.
I’ve got a severe case of server burnout. If you’ve ever waitressed, you know what I’m talking about, even if you don’t have kids yet. If you have kids, you definitely know what I mean.
Serving people is supposed to be honorable and spiritually enriching and kind and good. And sometimes that’s true.
But today, fueled by hormones and the particular flavor of stir-crazy that comes from spending a rainy afternoon inside with two small (and generally delightful) children, I am Sick. Of. Serving.
If it’s not food, it’s drink. If it’s not drink, it’s pencil, marker, sticker, crayon. It’s reading fucking Dora the Explorer’s six-volume collection over and over. Literary swill, but it makes them happy, and they snuggle up, which mitigates the lousy writing.
Soon it will be supper time. I will have to imagine it, make it, scarf it up while mostly standing, clean it up, and wait for my husband to come home from his stimulating job. Then I will clean the house some more, and get ready to start the whole thing again tomorrow.
Yes, I know, the time has come for me to get a job outside the house. Trust me, I just need to get my kids settled into their new school, my family into a new house, and I’m Audi 5000. I know I’ll probably complain about that, too, when I’m working outside the home. It’s in my nature.
Because what I worry about is, with a job outside the home, who’s going to envision and implement dinner, clean it up and keep track of laundry, errands and other household chores? I’m still going to have to do that, too. It wasn’t fair, but that’s what my mom did. And that’s probably what I’m going to have to do.
Honestly? I feel like I have a pretty fabulous life overall. But these days my kids need me less onsite and more mentally available. And in order to be sane, I need me to have a life of my own. So I guess I’ll have a more cluttered house when I work outside the home, but I’ll take the dust bunnies if it means I can use those parts of my brain again.