Monthly Archives: October 2015

Hey Slim, Can you Spare a Seam?

Hey, fans, I have a mild case of tendinitis, so I’m reposting one of my first posts, from way back in 2014. Remember those crazy days? Neither do I. I’m good if I don’t wear the same thing twice in a week. I think this one still works–don’t let me know if it doesn’t.

I swore to myself I wouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t become one of those middle-aged people who starts making suck-in-breath-I’m-shocked comments about what the young ones wear. I came of age in the 80s and was partial to the punk look, so who am I to judge? Safety pins in the skin, ripped leather pants, ripped everything, really. And so I drolly viewed the bare midriff shirts, the strapless tops, bra straps where no straps should be, Ugg boots with everything. I even was able to overlook the trend of pairing a regular-length top with leggings that were see-through, giving more an impression of hosiery rather than pants. Really, what’s the difference between ripping your pants to strategically reveal parts of your body and thinly veiling the lot with hosiery, er, I mean leggings? So there I was, smugly walking about with my superior acceptance, when I got blind-sided by the men’s slim-fit fashion suit. At first there were too few to register. But then I went to social media conference, they were out in full force. It might as well have been a men’s slim fit fashion suit conference. Complete with the big, black, thick-rimmed glasses and hair lightly gelled to spikey perfection, they were earnestly standing in small groups tapping on their phones and iPads and tweeting and posting. When I returned home, the slim suits, like a new word I’d just learned, were everywhere. Which is pretty astonishing when you consider only a small number of men can actually wear them and look good. All it took was one to send me teetering into middle-aged frumpiness.

I told my friends in groups about this horrible fashion turn, these suits. The ones who knew about them helped explain to the ones who didn’t, and everyone looked at me blankly when I got to the suck-in-my-breath part. Dang. So it wasn’t a mid-life thing. Or, rather it was something far more insidious—a mid-life thing masquerading as a high school thing. The suits were the cool crowd, and I was, once again being left out. Even worse, this was cool fashion with a geeky twist. Being a smart girl in my high school was the kiss of death, but useful as an adult. As I fumbled with my Twitter account among these slick slims, I was even robbed of the smart label. But there was something else. I’d become immune to women’s fashion because it changes all the time. But men’s fashion, especially office attire, rarely does. With all the new technology and constant information to keep track of, I’d come to depend on the fact that other than the ties getting wider or slimmer and the jackets styles varying slightly, men’s fashions were something I didn’t have to think about. But suddenly here was an entire new look that brought me right back to that high school awkwardness. So there I was settling into a good dose of frump, when “Modern Family” had their geeky, earnest dad character Phil, buy a new slim suit to look nice for his wife who was under a lot of stress. He spent most of the episode not being able to move or bend and she didn’t even notice except that his suit was too small. In the end, of course he splits the seams and bursts out of the thing. It was quite vindicating. I had noticed something that a top-rated, pop-culture commenting TV show had noticed. I can’t be all that frumpy. Now if they would just do a show on the see-through leggings.

The Jury Is Out

This week’s fun adventure was jury duty. Unlike most people, I don’t have a problem with getting a day off from work, being allowed to read a book for a number of hours, and getting a two-hour lunch. I don’t even mind getting shuffled around to various courtrooms—it’s good once in a while to see your taxes at work in settings other than trash pickup day and public schools. And I also don’t mind that I’ve been called, ahem, three times for jury duty, and have served as a juror for two times.

But this time, I did mind. I admit to being older and less patient. And, perhaps even a teeny weeny bit less, well, impartial. Over the years, people have pissed me off, and I’m tired of being nice about it. Some people are stupid, some people suck, and there is no amount of me thinking well of them that is going to change that. All this passed through my mind as I watched for the fourth time the happy little video about jury duty. Let me break down its messages:

Jury duty is an important part of being a citizen. Yes I know; this is my fourth time. And I vote. I’m citizened up to my eyeballs, thanks.

Name selection is totally random, which is why you may have been called 14 times and your neighbor is still a jury duty virgin. Um, yeah, could we maybe try more for fair instead of random? If you wrote a proper algorithm—I’m sure a freshman at MIT would love to help out—you could take me, fully participating citizen, off the list and give someone else his or her “special opportunity” to be a citizen. How about that? I really do want to share.

Jurors gush about their experience. “It was sooo interesting. I would do it again, absolutely!” Well, guess what sucker, you most likely will be doing it again and again and again. And for me, even though I may sound like a cranky person on this blog, I’m actually a thoughtful, sensitive person. The first trial I was on was a police brutality case, and it was four days of very disturbing testimony. In the end, because the lawyer for the brutalized person wasn’t very good, we couldn’t find the police officer guilty, which we were all sure he was. Justice served my ass.

The second case wasn’t traumatizing, as much as depressing. It was contesting the arrest of a pimp, and he and the two prostitutes in the courtroom were all middle-aged, worn out people. The trial itself was a day and a half, and honesty it wasn’t that complicated. We should have reached a verdict in few hours. Most people, 11 to be exact, came around to the fact that the detective was believable and the arrest was legit. But one woman did not believe the cop and would not change her mind. And that would have been OK if she had been able to say why. After a day and a half of deliberation, we would have taken anything from her. Like his choice of tie was indicative of a liar. It still would have ended in a hung jury, but at least we could say we all stuck to our principles, and if the court case had to go back to the drawing board, so be it.

We tried. But the hold out wouldn’t say, which was kind of infuriating and made us feel like we had to try harder to get her to our side. Otherwise we felt like we were just giving up. Even a stupid reason is better than no reason. No reason feels like laziness or absence of any thought process, good, bad, or otherwise. Even those of us who believed him offered up reasons—“Is it his shifty eyes? ” ; “Is it the way he hesitated when the lawyer asked why he decided to go past his shift to patrol?” But she just sat there and repeated idiotically, “I just don’t believe him.” Because we were trying to avoid a hung jury, which would make all of our time irrelevant, we kept sending down clarification questions to the judge. I’m sure after the third one, he was like, WTF is wrong with these people?!? This isn’t Brown vs Board of Education for god’s sake! But despite our best efforts, vacant thoughts lady held her ground and we had to return no verdict. Three days amounted to nothing.  Interesting experience says the video? More like a reminder to avoid our “peers.”

So on Wednesday, my fourth time being called, I decided I was done. I have prided myself on being thoughtful and fair and open-minded. I’ve worked really hard to be unbiased, but this week I was done. I might work up to being unbiased in the future, but until then, a lot of things have happened to me, and I’m tired of accepting everyone and everything. You people are on your own.

The first case was a workplace discrimination case. I know it happens, and I know it’s really hard to prove. I also know lots of people don’t sue because they are rightfully afraid of jeopardizing their career and/or job. So the fact that this woman had the courage to sue (and she was still working for the place that had discriminated against her) seemed to me like it must be true. Why else would she bother suing? Could I have reasoned with myself to be fair? Yes. Was I going to? Hell no. When the judge asked me if I had formed an opinion about the case, I said yes, and she dismissed me.

But lest you think that I got off easy, that whiled away the morning, but there was still a stack of afternoon cases to get through. I got sent back to the jury pool to wait for them. I was definitely fulfilling my duty—they just weren’t going to get more than a day out of me.

The afternoon case was a dealer getting arrested for selling crack cocaine. Dude, maybe you have the right to a trial by a jury of your peers, but I don‘t have to give up two to three days of my life to help make that happen. Let the 200 other people called today help you out. This time the judge asked me why I couldn’t be impartial, and I truthfully said that I have a drug addict living upstairs from me and he makes my life difficult. I have no sympathy for whatever happens to him. The judge thanked me for telling her and dismissed me. I do have to give a nod to the universe—clever of it to make me acknowledge that my upstairs neighbor finally came in handy for something. And that was it. It was 4 pm, and I was free to go, until I get another summons in the requisite three years when I’m “randomly” selected. Ha. I’m sure in three years, I’ll have a host of other people and situations I can be biased about. Or maybe I will have calmed down and decide I want to be Zen and unbiased. The jury is still out on that one.

A Modest Proposal of Gratitude for Parenting Advice

With school back in full swing, I’d like to take this opportunity to send an open thank you to all of the parenting advice experts who, through the internet, TV, books, and magazines, tirelessly keep me informed about how inadequate my parenting skills are. One article that particularly stands out was in the New York Times. That hallowed publication wouldn’t steer me wrong, would it? A clinical psychologist wrote that she noticed an increase in the number of lost and confused 20-somethings coming into her office. Normally she can find a despot parent as the cause of the problem. But these clients consider their parents to be friends and wonderful people. Luckily the author pointed out that in her opinion, it’s because these parents have been so nice that their kids are screwed up. Phew, I really dodged a bullet there. I had just gotten to the point in my 16 years of parenting that I thought maybe I wasn’t screwing my son up. After years of worrying and doing my best to follow all of your excellent advice, I had just begun to think that maybe my son would be OK. He has some good friends, is respectful, is an A student and got a perfect score in math and science on the Massachusetts standardized tests. But I have been rightly corrected and now understand my hubris. He is going to be lost and messed up, and it’s best that I not pretend I did a decent job.

When I first read the article, I did have a passing and erroneous thought that regardless of parenting styles, many 20-somethings are dazed and confused. Director Richard Linklater has made an entire career out of it. And wasn’t there some confusion among those young people from the 60s and 70s? But then I realized parents didn’t know any better back then, while today’s parents have a steady stream of advice. I just wish I were smart enough to understand why experts on older children tell me I haven’t allowed my child to fail enough and learn independence, while the experts on younger children create great lists of things I should be doing to prevent all kinds of physical and mental mishaps at home and at school.

There are a lot of lists and a lot of rules. Helmets, and knee and elbow pads for just being outside in general. Gates in the stairways and having the right kind of crib with the right-spaced slates, and making sure the food I fed him wasn’t too full of solids, sugars, fillers, dyes, or McDonald’s Happy Meal toys–oh wait we shouldn’t even be at McDonald’s.

I never did get around to putting those things on the cabinet doors to prevent them from opening. And even though the articles I read were very clear, I did not ask the mom at my son’s first play date if she had guns in the house. I should have, I know, even though Massachusetts isn’t really a pro-gun kind of place. Unlocked up guns are very dangerous, as are a host of other things I was supposed to check. But it was a really long list, and I was very busy following the advice of another article that said I needed to interact with my child most of the time to ensure his brains and body were properly stimulated. I take full responsibility that I couldn’t do it all. How my son is still alive is both a mystery and a miracle.

The school years bring more lists from both the schools and the articles, which all clearly state that I am to be involved in my child’s education and encourage sports and activities. Homework started in kindergarten, and I’m so very grateful for that. Since no kindergartener can do homework by himself, it helped me get involved from day one, whether I wanted to or not. As the years wore on, I confess there were nights when I was tired from earning a living, and the thought of helping with math homework, reading or reviewing schoolwork, assisting in science and history fair projects, or just having a family game night to reduce screen time made me want to sit in my car outside my house and drink. I know you experts wouldn’t steer me wrong, and my impulse to drink when I’m completely overwhelmed and stressed out proves how much I need expert advice to keep me on the right path.

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I thought when my child got older, I might be able to let him do more things on his own, but the school’s requirements for my participation increased, and the child experts concurred. In fact the school often sends home your articles to help me understand. Like helpful reminders that families who eat and exercise together stay healthier. I was also encouraged to attend more things at school like “math night” and “game night” and the always popular “middle-of-the-day-inconvenient-for-working-parents assembly.” It is my own fault that I couldn’t quite figure out how to attend all these events, make a good meal, get the family to exercise, and help with homework all between 6:30 and 8:30. Many of your expert articles warned me about letting my son stay up later than 8:30—it may lead him to drugs or a bad career choice or just being sleepy. I’m not sure—I screw up so much, I get a lot of the consequences of my terrible parenting confused.

When I’m avoiding some parental duty, I sometimes think back to my own childhood. My parents didn’t do most of these things with me, and in fact they forgot my name a lot of the time because I was the fourth  kid, and you can see how well that turned out; I can’t properly execute the expert advice you all so untiringly give me. It’s certainly not because the advice you give is contradictory and more based on trends than common sense. And it certainly isn’t a reflection of our society—its increased fear of nearly everything, the tendency to prevent every mishap and avoid every lawsuit, the obsession with perfection and preoccupation with blame. No, that’s just the wine and gas fumes talking. Because if it were true, we’d have to accept that each generation of parents does the best it can with the tools at hand, and that having too many tools can be just as difficult as not having enough. We’d have to accept that what each generation teaches the next is often a reflection of what society agrees is desirable in its future citizens. We’d have to accept that we are not perfect. Now THAT’S crazy. As experts, you must continue to put the blame on my child’s shortcomings squarely on me. I do thank you all for trying your best; some of us are beyond help.

Read the real story behind the funny fake and spot-on science project poster. 

Overheard, Secondhand

I’ve admitted many times that I live in my own bubble. It’s a nice, happy place where everything is equal. I can hang out and not worry my pretty little head about all those strangers on the stage during the award shows, or reality TV, or people who have a lot more money than I do. The downside is that what passes for normal conversation can sometimes seem like a foreign language I’m just starting to learn: I recognize words as nouns, verbs, and adjectives, but I have no idea what they mean. Like this sentence I just picked up on the internet randomly: Kim Kardashian Slams Khloe for Flirting with Lamar Odom. I recognize the alliteration, I understand Kim Kardashian is a fake famous person, but this cannot harm the bubble because all I really think about when I hear her last name is the Cardassian race on Star Trek the Next Generation. I could tell you a lot about them–they are aggressive and mean, and they start a lot of wars. Oh, wait, maybe I do know more about Kim than I thought. I have no idea who Khloe or Lamar are. Flirting seems vaguely familiar. So overall, a sentence like that is puzzling but cannot breach the bubble.

But the bubble can get breached, like when my friend recently related a conversation she overheard in a coffee line. Here’s the key: Bubble hit 1 (merely a nick) to 5 (full on breach).

Two women who hadn’t seen each other in a while exchange greetings. Bubble hit: 0. That’s nice. 

They start discussing kids. Bubble hit: 1. Boring, but harmless.

One mentions having an au pair. Bubble hit: 2. Not within my reach, but I know some people have them, and I am slightly jealous.

There is a mention of living in Lexington. Bubble hit: 2. Ah, money. I don’t want to live in Lexington, but I wouldn’t mind spending that kind of money to live in Boston, instead of having to crouch on its edges,

She has a little extra land in Lexington. Bubble hit: 3. Hmm, that would mean more money. I could get a bigger place in Boston.

She has chickens. Bubble hit: 3. Why are chickens a thing? Suburban chickens are the new black. 

And she also has not one, but three alpacas. Bubble hit: 4. Three what, now? 

The friend asks, and I quote secondhand, “What does one do with alpacas?” Bubble hit: 4. Indeed, the bubble wants to know too. 

Answer: “Shave them for their wool and knit.” Bubble breach, bubble breach. Soon she will move to Vermont and live next to the ad executive who left his company to make artisanal cheese. Who ARE these people who don’t have to slog to work on a train and wipe runny noses and have time to knit from shit that came from their back yard??

Don’t worry. I’m fine. The beauty of the bubble is that when it’s combined with perimenopoause, I can forget any of this ever happened. Or as the coffee line women might say, what does one do with a breach in the bubble? One forgets all about it and knits.