Sunday, July 31, 2005

She Ain't What She Used To Be

As if daily life weren't reminder enough, there is nothing quite like spending the weekend with someone you haven't seen in nineteen years to remind you of the ravages of time on your mind and body.

This weekend was the visit from the old friend/crush from high school for whom I wasn't going to buy "real" shoes, wear a skirt or curl my hair (lest I freak out some of my current friends). Happily, none of that is really necessary with him, although he did scare me on the phone the night before he came by saying he was going to go use "Just For Men" haircolor in the shower. I said, "No, don't do that! If you do that, then I'll have to do something and I'm really not wanting to do anything."

Anything I might have done would've been wasted since we spent the whole day Saturday tromping through the woods in state forest lands, including finding probably the only mud in a hundred mile radius--it having been a fairly dry summer in our area. This was boggy-suck-the-shoe-right-off-yer-foot mud, "real" shoes wouldn't have stood a chance.

There are all sorts of things I'll be taking from this weekend, things it may take me a week or two to process (that's probably being foolishly optimistic), but the main thing is something my friend summed up on the phone during the "Just for Men" exchange. He said, "I hope by the end of this weekend, you'll know I'm really still the same person, just older, fatter and balder."

To which I say, "Ditto."

Friday, July 22, 2005

A Mile In Her Shoes

I was watching MTV last week with some assortment of my children. I do that sometimes, both to check in on what they're ingesting via the television set and because, somewhere inside my ever-aging Masked Mom body, there is some elemental part of me that remains sixteen and still kind of likes the stuff on MTV. We were watching an episode of "MADE," a show in which an "average" teenager wants to make some extraordinary change in his or her life and MTV sends out experts and coaches and offers the occasional well-placed product to help make the kid's dream come true. Some of the ones I've seen in the past have involved a self-described geeky kid learning to dance well enough to enter a competition and a moderately popular girl running against the really popular crowd for some homecoming queen-type title. It's all sort of fairy godmother-esque in a more hip, modern way and I've been comforted by the fact that the wishes of high school aged kids are largely the same as they were when I was a high school aged kid.

This last episode we watched, though, struck a whole other chord. Sam, a tomboy, wanted to be "made" into a "girly girl" and get a date for the prom. MTV sent in Rosalie a "beautiful actress and pageant winner" to help whip Samanatha into shape. Sam is introduced to the world of eyelash curlers, eyebrow waxing and high heels. Several times in the month or so they spend together, Sam breaks down crying and threatens to quit the program. The most disturbing scene for me was when Sam was talking to her mother and father about wanting to quit and Sam's mother was literally in tears, very nearly begging Sam not to quit. I couldn't help wondering if it had really been Sam's dream to be a girly girl in the first place.

But there were several other scenes that were almost as upsetting: The "new" Sam blows off her little brother, who was her closest friend, in order to hang out with "girls she admires" (Rosalie's words). When Sam is asked to the prom by her friend Eric, she accepts, but then as she gets "girlier" and attracts the attention of "hot Eric" she decides (partly on the advice of Rosalie and her new friends) to tell friend Eric that she can't go with him--friend Eric's feelings are completely glossed over by everyone involved--there is some lip service paid by "hot Eric" to the other Eric's feelings, but we never get to see friend Eric's reaction on-screen (Sam gave him the news on the phone). Rosalie helps Sam pick out high-heeled shoes and makes Sam wear them in the mall for practice--even though Sam is wearing a tomboy outfit--and when Sam points out that people are laughing at her, Rosalie denies the obvious truth and even tells Sam that the shoes don't hurt "that bad," while holding back tears herself. (That last scene is the second video clip available at the MTV page that's linked above.)

I was a ranting fool by the end of the episode. Any "cool" mom points I had gotten for hanging out watching MTV evaporated in the face of my screaming at the television. There were so many things wrong with the episode that I could barely catch a breath. "You do not sell a person out because someone 'hotter' comes along!" "She doesn't look like a girly girl, she looks like a tomboy with makeup on." "She looks intensely uncomfortable." "Why is that woman LYING to her on national television?" "Why is her mother so upset? Does her mother wish she'd had girly-girl lessons?"

There were no girly-girl lessons when I was a girl; there was no "MADE" on MTV. (There was, despite my children's professed doubts, TV. There was even MTV.) I wouldn't have wanted them anyway, though I struggled with not being "feminine enough." In fact, those doubts staked out a fairly large corner of my psyche and made themselves at home. They lingered even after I married and had children. So deep were they that even though I'd had three boys in a row and everyone thought I must be dying to have a girl, I was pretty sure I wasn't qualified to raise a girl--there was so much about being a girl that I didn't "get."

Eleven years into raising a daughter, there's still a lot I don't get--eyebrow waxing? Insane. High heels? Inhumane. But there are some things I do get now--humanity is infinitely more important than some pre-packaged concept of "femininity." Being comfortable with who I am, rather than doing mental, physical and emotional contortions to fit some cultural ideal is the best example I can set. My tomboyishness is an essential part of who I am*.

For Daugther-Only's part, she straddles the girly-girl/tomboy line--equally comfortable in jeans and skirts. It will be great if she can always dance in and out of those two worlds (in high heels OR sneakers), but if not, she will have a sympathetic ear. I have a feeling Sam may be needing a sympathetic ear these days as well (I found follow-ups on some of the kids from "MADE," but not of Sam) and I hope she finds it.

*A story of how deeply ingrained my tomboy tendencies are: I have an upcoming Event (the visit of an old friend/crush from high school) and a friend of mine said to me, "You're not going to, like, put on real shoes and wear a skirt and curl your hair or anything, are you? Because I think I would freak out a little if you did."

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Harry Potter & the Half-Awake Prince

Son-Two is the rabid Potter fan in our household. He preordered his copy from Amazon with his birthday money in January. The copy was in our mailbox at 10:24 Saturday morning. Despite Son-Two's elaborate surveillance system (including repeatedly sending his little sister outside to check if the mail truck was on our street), I was the one who saw the mailman first.

The box was open in seconds and off Son-Two went with a grin and a "See ya' later." He holed up in his room until I dragged him out around 2 p.m. for food. This is the boy who's usually first in line at the buffet, who eats a staggering amount of food (since he's been blessed with his father's physique and metabolism, it's all converted instantly into sculpted muscle--it's an unjust world), who will do Matrix-worthy manuevers to get that last pork chop or last anything remotely edible left on the plate. Yet, in the grip of Rowling's spell food was completely forgotten. I am in awe of her skills...

Except for another mother-enforced visit to the kitchen around 10 last night, he was in his room, reading for at least fourteen hours straight. He claims he's a slow reader, but he slept face-down on page 458, so I don't think he's doing badly.

There's been some insinuation around the house that I'm a neglectful mother for not purchasing additional copies since there's a line behind him for this copy, which is, technically, his. I think it's the height of generosity that I didn't use my pull around here to cut to the head of the line.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Internet Quiz: Dorks Only Need Apply

You're A Prayer for Owen Meany!

by John Irving

Despite humble and perhaps literally small beginnings, you inspire
faith in almost everyone you know. You are an agent of higher powers, and you manifest
this fact in mysterious and loud ways. A sense of destiny pervades your every waking
moment, and you prepare with great detail for destiny fulfilled. When you speak, IT

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

This has been on my Top 10 Favorite Books List for years. Of course, my Top 10 is ever-changing and shifting but this is one of the "keepers." I'm not sure, though, what it means that I "AM" this book. My sister pointed out that my kids probably do think I TALK LIKE THIS, which made me wonder if they're maybe not the only ones who think I TALK LIKE THIS. (Bet you're glad this isn't an audio-blog, aren't you?)

There are supposed to be 64 possible books a person can "be." Makes me wonder about all those books I'm not.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Two Thumbs...Just Grateful To Be Out Of The House

In an occurrence almost as rare as interplanetary invaders, Hubby and I went to see a movie alone last night. We were trying to remember the last movie we'd gone to see alone together and we're pretty sure it was "Daylight" with Sylvester Stallone--a movie so horrible that the man sitting directly in front of us fell asleep and snored loudly through the second half of the movie and we didn't even mind because we didn't feel we were missing anything of any value. "Daylight" was a disaster movie in which Sylvester Stallone tried to save a bunch of commuters trapped in the Holland Tunnel. Though it's hard to choose, the thing I hated the most about the movie was that everyone trapped in the tunnel was so annoying I found myself actively hoping they wouldn't make it.

Last night we saw
"War of the Worlds." It's the kind of overly hyped mega-blockbuster movie I would normally avoid (a partial list of "must-see" movies I haven't seen: "ET," "Titanic," "Independence Day," and all but the very first "Star Wars" movie). I've always gravitated toward the less splashy stuff on the belief that if a movie is really good, there's no need for all the noise about how good it is. The movie will speak for itself. In our tiny town, though, the theater offers only two choices at a time and when all the other stars are aligned for Hubby and I to go see a movie alone-together, we have to take what we can get. (Our other option was "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," by the way. We picked "War" on the grounds that Pitt and Jolie wouldn't look significantly less impressive on the small screen when they're out on DVD in six months, but the special effects-laden "War" might.)

Whatever its flaws, "War" at least had characters I didn't want to root against. Dakota Fanning was, as usual, stellar. She's like a little alien in her own right, superhuman in her ability to emote on cue. Cruise was solid, especially in the scene where he sings "Little Deuce Coupe" to his daughter because he doesn't know the words to either of her favorite lullabyes. What struck me, though, was the scene in which Cruise's son, played by Justin Chatwin, takes Dad's car without permission. I flashed on Cruise, as the son, tooling around in Daddy's Porsche without permission in
"Risky Business." As the aliens stepped up their attacks, I was stuck on the thought that I had no idea how so much time had passed--how had Cruise, the consummate teenager become Cruise, dad of the consummate teenager?

My overriding impression of the movie, offered when the kids swarmed us the second we walked in the door, was it was loud. It is a very, very loud movie, but still somehow more relaxing than being at home on another Friday night.

*Geek that I am, I could not let a mention of "War of the Worlds" pass without mentioning a book I read in 2002 called "The Spinster & The Prophet." The book is the true story of Florence Deeks, a teacher and amateur historian, who sued H.G. Wells, author of the original "War of the Worlds," accusing him of plagiarism. (The disputed manuscript was non-fiction, not any of his better known science fiction works.) The book is worth reading, though it might fill you, as it did me, with impotent rage on Deeks's behalf.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Oh What A Dork Am I!

I'm a word-geek. This means all kinds of things in my daily life--for instance, I hardly ever leave the house without reading and writing materials. When I do leave the word-supplies at home, I usually regret it--I crave word input (and I guess, in the case of writing, output) like a junkie craves that next fix and the withdrawal symptoms aren't pretty. One of the other things my addiction means is that I proofread everything, everywhere. This is truly a curse. To find typos about which you can do absolutely nothing is the second-worst form of torture for a word-geek. (The first being making a typo and realizing it after it's too late to do anything about it.)

Then there are the mistakes that can't even be blamed on typos--the grammar, usage, spelling errors that are absolutely everywhere and make a word-geek cringe. I'm not talking about icky-picky things like ending a sentence in a preposition--I'm talking about things like the church sign I saw over the weekend. It said: "The Ten Commandments are not an option."

This has been driving me crazy for the past thirty-six hours. I actually took the long way on an errand today so I could avoid driving by the church and seeing the sign all over again. Clearly, the minister means to highlight the fact that the Commandments, as the first two-thirds of their name implies, are requirements and not a list of helpful suggestions. What he means is that following the Commandments is not a choice, but a necessity. What he's said is that following the Commandments is not among the choices available to us.

There are two things that scare me about this sign. The first is that presumably no one in the congregation of the church has taken the minister aside and said, "Listen, what you mean is 'The Ten Commandments are not optional.' " That means either no one noticed or everyone's afraid of the minister. The second scary thing is this is not the first time this church has had this message on their sign. Sometime last year, I noticed that another church in town had the message "The Ten Commandments are not optional." on its sign. The very same day, the sign on the offending church said, "The Ten Commandments are not an option." I said to my sister, "Oooh they must subscribe to the same Church Sign Newsletter*." And then we discussed the mistake the second minister had made by apparently trying to stand out from the church-sign crowd.

The scariest thing about this whole situation by far, though, is how bad it all gets to me. I have always known I was a dork, but the true depth and breadth of my dorkiness has only begun revealing itself to me.

*I was only joking about the Church Sign Newsletter, but I stumbled upon this website this weekend and it turns out that church signs are quite an industry and making fun of them a popular pastime.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Wedded Blitz

A year or so ago, at the Day Job, a customer was ordering something for his aunt and uncle's 62nd wedding anniversary. I said, "Wow, 62 years, that's amazing."

The customer said, "It's really amazing. If you were around them for a few minutes, you'd never believe they'd been married 62 years."

So I'm thinking they must be one of those lovey-dovey older couples and I'm all set to roll out the "aww, how cute" when the guy continues, "Yeah, if you were around them for a few minutes, you'd wonder how they hadn't killed each other a long time ago."

In Dennis Lehane's book
"Mystic River," Annabeth (Laura Linney, in the movie) is talking to Sean (Kevin Bacon) about marriage: "The person you love is rarely worthy of how big your love is. Because no one is worthy of that love and maybe no one deserves the burden of it, either. You'll be let down. You'll be disappointed and have your trust broken. You'll have a lot of real sucky days. You lose more than you win. You hate the person you love as much as you love him. But, shit, you roll up your sleeves and work--at everything--because that's what growing older is."

I was watching the movie
"Alfie" starring Jude Law the other night. There is a scene in the urologist's restroom (where Alfie has gone while waiting to find out the results of the biopsy of a lump on his, um, penis). There is an older man there, Joe, who has just lost his wife of many years. As they're concluding their small talk, Alfie apologizes to Joe for his loss. Joe says, "We weren't all that fond of each other, but we were very close if you know what I mean." Alfie says he does, but having never been married, I'm not sure he possibly can.

I, on the other hand, have been married 18 years as of Monday and I get it, I totally get it. Love and marriage may go together like a horse and carriage, but neither one of them is getting anywhere without all sorts of other accessories: patience, compromise, and for whole stretches of time, just plain endurance. Does that sound cynical? Or just pragmatic?

Either way, it's true. But there are some other things that are true, too. Sometimes he gives me a look and I still get that giddy-tickle feeling in the pit of my stomach. Sometimes at the end of a long day, it is the greatest comfort in the world to come home to someone who knows every wart, flaw and blemish, physical and emotional, and will give me a big hug anyway. Sometimes it feels like a gift just to have someone so familiar to hug back at the end of the day.

In the end, I wouldn't trade a minute of it--the good, the bad, the morning breath--because to change one tiny detail puts all the rest in jeopardy. It's a package deal, every moment depends upon all the moments that came before it. Until all of a sudden, there are 18 years of moments behind you and, you hope, many more moments to come.