Friday, March 29, 2002

I passed a dead sock on the side of the road this morning.

By "dead," I mean soggy, dirty, and obviously run over several times, lying in a twisted, tragic lump and looking, at first glance, like a mutilated chipmunk.

I just have to ask this question. How the hell do so many socks and shoes inevitably end up on the highways and streets of our great country? Do people just not notice that their shoes are flying out the window? Do passengers stick their sock-clad feet up on the dash, kicking back for a long drive, when suddenly… whoooooooooosh! the wind snatches a sock right off their unsuspecting foot? Do kids roll down back seat windows and amuse themselves by jettisoning footwear?

As a kid, this really bothered me. I imagined some poor guy hopping around with only one tennis shoe.

A lady called into a radio show once and told a story about her mother, which she swore was true. The old woman used to take walks near a local highway. On one of her walks, she found a fairly nice red shoe. She picked it up and took it home with her. God knows why. Weeks later, she found another red shoe along the same stretch of road. It turned out to be a perfect match, and she sold the pair at a garage sale for five bucks.

Cute, right. Well, I think there’s a dark side. Imaging being that woman, finding a pair of shoes like that. Could you ever, ever pass a mangled shoe on the roadside again?

For the rest of her life, this poor old woman must have combed streets and overpasses, picked up moldy, rain-soaked shoes, hoarded them carefully in a closet or basement just waiting for the day when a mate would turn up.

I can only hope she and hopping guy eventually found each other and put an end to the madness.

Thursday, March 28, 2002

My six-year-old daughter leaned over to me at dinner and whispered that she needed to talk to me later, in private, without daddy... you know, about private girl things.

She wanted a bra.

I said something like, "Aren’t I supposed to get a few more years before you ask me that?" I offered the "undershirt" option. No deal, she wanted a bra. I played the reality card. "You have no boobies," I told her bluntly. She scrunched up her face into an indignant frown and lifted up her t-shirt to prove me wrong. Little ones, she pointed out. I shook my head sadly.

I don't think I handled it exactly the way the parenting books advise. When the heat is on in these situations, I choke. Me, who always promised myself I would be every bit the liberal, frank, open, you-can-talk-to-me-about-condoms mom. There it was, bases loaded, bottom of the ninth, the pitch, and… steeeerike.

Clearly we're entering a new parenting dimension. One where all of the tricks, skills, and pat answers that worked just fine yesterday are suddenly thrown out the window. I should have seen this coming one afternoon when we were trying on clothes at the mall. I slipped on a pair of pants, and Kaitlyn said matter-of-factly, "You look sexy." I sputtered something about that's a grown-up word! Where did you hear that? as I tried to smoothly change the subject.

(I bought the pants.)

It all goes hand-in-hand with her favorite playground game: boy chasing. I asked her once if she's ever caught one, which she hasn't. Not yet. "What would you do with it if you did?" I asked.

She answered, "Give it to Claire."

Apparently this Claire knows something we don't.

I wonder what kind of weird boy-girl dynamics are starting to piece together in her first-grade world, and I wonder when boys will be more than playground bait and "boyfriend" will start to mean something more than an insult. I’d better start rehearsing those discussions now.

I know I could be brilliant with this stuff if only she'd stop catching me off guard. I was in the grocery store bathroom one day with Kaitlyn and the baby, changing a messy diaper, when suddenly Kaitlyn said, "What are tampons?" Uh…? I was immediately aware of the fact that there was another woman in the bathroom with us, inside one of the stalls. I didn’t have time to react. As if Kaitlyn sensed a connection, she asked the follow-up: "How does a baby get out of its mom’s belly?"

I’ve answered that question before MANY times, especially in the months before Cally was born, but I think Kaitlyn likes to keep asking it because it makes me squirm. And I’ve never gotten the answer right. I should try to have answers to these questions handy, like all the good parenting books tell me I should, but it doesn't come out the way Liberal Mom intends. I get caught in the loop that begins with a flashback to my grinning baby daughter in diapers, leading into a terrifying flash-forward of my sixteen-year-old daughter in the back seat of a car with a boy. I’m perched on the edge of a cliff, and if I don’t say exactly the right thing, I will cause irreparable damage to this little girl’s budding self-awareness and sexual identity. The pressure makes me second-guess my modern, liberal answers, there’s no time to formulate a whole new, sensitive, respectful, insightful, down-to-earth approach with two little innocent eyes looking up at me expectantly. PRECIOUS SECONDS ARE TICKING! TICKING! SAY SOMETHING, YOU FOOL! And so all I can offer her is what every girl who has ever had a mother knows intimately well: shame. Here you go, kid, it’s all yours. Shame, secrecy, and embarrassment on a silver platter. For whatever reason, I revert to the same vague answers my mother spat at me, handed down from repressed generation to generation. Things like "Don’t worry about it" and "You’re too young to understand" and "I’ll fill you in when you’re older."

With the woman on the other side of the bathroom stall silently judging me, what came out was a strange mix of Liberal Mom and Mrs. Cleaver. "Tampons, they, well, when girls get older… to keep your underwear neat, and well, I’ll explain it later."

IDIOT! What the hell did I just say? Why can't I do this? Maybe I should practice in front of a mirror: Vaaaah…giiiii…naaaaaaaahh.

My blood pressure was escalating. Kaitlyn simply looked at me, waiting for clarification, and I could sense the poor lady in the stall freeze like a deer in the headlights and frantically try to figure out how to get from the stall to the exit without hearing another word of this unfortunate discussion.

I tried to pick up the pieces, intending to reassure Kaitlyn that there’s nothing shameful about biology, to perhaps throw in a little mother-daughter warmth and bonding in the "you can talk to me about anything" vein.

Kaitlyn knew she had me. She moved in for the kill. "What’s sex mean?"


Monday, March 25, 2002

I love the Oscars. At our house, watching the Oscars means a whole lot of pretending I know what I'm talking about.

Says my geek husband Gary to his geek friend Todd:
"Was it John Smith who was nominated for best supporting actor the same year that Julie Duncan won best actress for Unreachable? I remember Alexio Boudreas was up for best director…"

"No no, you’re thinking of Jim Smith, who was in Backwater Blues with Nancy Mulgahey. Which, coincidentally, was co-produced by Michael Joe Matthews – the father of the guy who wrote the screenplay for Under Cover, which Boudreas directed."

"Really? Under Cover was one of the three films ever turned down by Robin Oswald’s sister, Jane Oswald Lewis, who was in Blanco de Viso with Rich Taylor. You know, he played the old guy in Coumadin Creek with Marie Lancaster." Geek husband turns to me and says, "Were you with us when we saw that in the theater?"

At this point, I want to say, "No, that wasn’t me… that was the niece of Angela Gadsbury, Mickie Livwell, who also played Jane in Ghost Rider with Lance Criton and went on to marry the guy who wrote the score for Purple Sunrise in 1997 before co-staring with Tom Bigalla in Roses for September. She was the girl with the one eyebrow and the shoulder harness, remember?"

It’s not that I don’t like movies. I just don’t pay attention to anything beyond A) the story, and B) the execution. If you’ve explored both A and B, then you’ve reached the limit of my ability to discuss the film.

Gary and his geek friends are self-confessed movie geeks. In a way I envy that. I couldn’t know the amount of film minutia they know if I spent my entire life studying it.

Geek. \geek\ n [prob. fr. E dial geek, geck fool, fr. LG geck fr. MLG] : person who has vast and impressive knowledge of useless info that is important to few people outside of a particular geek genre (i.e. movie geek).

Note the important clarification in this definition: geek genre. There are many species of geek in our society, but the geek language is not universal. A movie geek and say, a math geek might empathize with each other on certain aspects of geekness, but they could never truly share the specifics of their own genre.

I’m not going to pretend that I’m not a geek, I’m just not a movie geek. I am a Lord of the Rings geek.

In my geek prime (age 11-16) I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy no less than 7 times consecutively. I knew every nuance of the middle earth cultures. I studied maps. I translated English characters into runes. Under my breath, I once called a teacher the Orc equivalent of a pig-sniffing demon wench.

It was a magical thing, seeing the Lord of the Rings translated to the big screen, sitting there in the theater – geek husband and geek wife – side by side, each immersed in his and her own geek world… we were almost able to connect on a transcendent geek level.

Friday, March 22, 2002

This is Day Two of spring. Why is it 30 degrees outside? I'm so sick of winter I basically want to step outside every morning and vomit.

I’m trying several techniques to hasten the warm weather. None of these has worked, by the way.

In the optimistic delusion that winter would take pity on my toes, I dug a pair of whiteish-looking, coldish-feeling sandals out of the back of my closet one morning. The weather did not turn warm. Actually, it rained. The very icy, stinging kind.

Imagining that the night was just too hot and sticky for pajamas, I went without. Subject abandoned the experiment at approximately 2:23 a.m. prompted by the obsessive thought that there was someone in the house. Not in the robbing/plundering/havok-wreaking/oh-crap-what’s-the-number-for-9-1-1 sense, just in the I-don’t-want-strangers-to-see-me-naked sense.

Several hours and several emptied glasses later, I found myself riding a mighty caffeine rush and urinating fiendishly.

Now I’m just resolved to waiting it out, but by no means patiently.

Thursday, March 21, 2002

I could be a computer programmer if I wanted to be. (See? I put a counter on my page!)

Except for things like, well, math and logic. There's a part of me who thinks she's good at math and logic, but most of the time she's busy getting her teeth kicked in by various other parts of me who feel the need to put the little wanna-be in her place. So right now she's huddled in a corner sucking her thumb and humming bits of tuneless songs whilst twirling a strand of hair between her fingers.

It's the little things that convince me I'll never get a grasp on computer science. Like, for example, my bookmarks have disappeared. I don't know how or why, they were just there one moment and gone the next. The really sad part is that I’m not even going to try to figure it out. I’m just going to re-bookmark all my pages and pretend it never happened until it happens again. I’m the person who thinks that when something’s wrong with your computer, restarting it will fix everything.

The magical data fairies will race through the machine while it’s rebooting, restoring lost files and rebuilding mutilated code! And then I squeeze my eyes real tight and clap my hands three times, and it’s all fixed.

The help desk here thinks I’m a real fruit. I recently put a sign up that says: Is that dust on my keyboard or are the fairies just happy to see me?

Tuesday, March 19, 2002

Here is a list of things I am not:

1. A "people person" type. People make me nervous and when I’m talking to someone I spend most of the conversation trying to figure out if I have something in my teeth.

2. A "cheerleader" type. I don’t generally get enthusiastic about things, and when I do I don’t assume that it’s my place to get other people on board. That makes me feel creepy.

It used to bother me that I was not these things. Because looking around at all the popular, smart, capable people, their degree of popularity was directly proportional to their level of spunk. Therefore, THIS was the RIGHT way to be, and damn, was I ever preoccupied with doing the right thing.

So that stuck, that there was something slightly wrong with me for not being a freaking cheerleader, and I’ve been compensating for it ever since.

All of this might explain, in some tightly woven psychoanalytical tapestry, what could possibly have possessed me to volunteer for ESPRIT… that is, "Employees Supporting Public Relations Identity and Tradition." That is, "Let’s plan an employee bingo night and see if any fools show up!"

It might lead us to understand how I came to be sitting at a small table in the cafeteria on my lunch break selling tickets to an event which I had no intention of ever attending myself.

It might begin to explain why I agreed to not only participate in March of Dimes WalkAmerica, but also to volunteer as "team captain." To wake up in a cold sweat every morning because I haven’t yet recruited our quota of walkers. To glance up periodically at the calendar in a panic and quickly calculate how many more days until I have to start groveling and begging people for donations.

No. It doesn’t explain a damn thing.

It’s been many years since the last time I heard my P.E. teacher say "everybody partner-up!" and send my stomach wrenching into a convulsive knot. One of the best perks of being a grown-up is the god-given right to extricate oneself from situations that make one uncomfortable. Smart little weasels learn what it is they don’t like to do and then avoid it like the plague.

And some of us are still pretending we’re cheerleaders.

Monday, March 18, 2002

Test blog! The weasel has arrived. Not just any weasel, but the representative weasel that slinks and scurries in the heart of all of us. The collective inner Everyweasel, if you will.