Category Archives: family

Homework or Flowers?


Look: I’m the last person in the world to be ragging ANYONE about homework, because I spent most of my childhood simply acting as if homework were merely an absurd suggestion from ridiculous grownups – grownups WITHOUT weaponry to enforce these hilarious suggestions.

That is, until I hit Catholic school. There, to my dismay, I found someone had equipped the nuns with a secret wooden arsenal of rulers – and slapping hands, besides, which they clearly were highly trained in the use of, particularly in the application of maximum pain and minimum trace marks that might reveal their cruelty beyond the crumbling walls.

Nasty stuff.

Still: that only made the game of homework avoidance more of a challenge.

I spent sixth grade math class playing a diabolical game with Mr. Elvins. I would prop up my book right on my desk, hiding my empty notebook. To me, it seemed so blatantly obvious that I wondered at times, even then, if I was trying to get caught.

The trick went like this: chubby Elvins was too lazy to collect and grade any homework. So all he would ever do was randomly choose students each day and have them give him the answers to the math problems from the previous night’s homework.

If he called on me, I’d simply look down at the problem, solve it in my head, and give him the answer.

Mr. Elvins was so rigidly blinkered at the idea of any student, much less a GIRL student, being able to pull off such a Las Vegas trick, that although every once in a while he’d cast a suspicious glance at my book wall and my wide-eyed innocent gaze, he was not about to rouse his low-belted, big-bellied body off the chair behind The Big Desk and actually CHECK to see if I’d done the work.

Even in college, I was able to scam a bit.

I was scholarshipped to college, but worked my way through the rest of it: there’s more than tuition, of course: there’s drinking and partying money you need.

So naturally, I was loathe to waste my money on $400 books. Actually, what used to end up happening to me at the beginning of each semester was this:

I’d enter yon bookstore with all good intentions of buying the books I was supposed to buy, but then I’d get so very intrigued with all the OTHER cool-looking books from all the OTHER classes that I’d buy THEM instead, leaving me, er, a little short when it came to MY books.

So I’d make deals with the other students. I was a phenomenal studier – a perfect test-taker. I knew JUST what professors wanted to hear in essays, on tests. So I’d find myself someone who was NOT, and pair up with them.

They had the books, and I had the savvy, so we’d both make out.

Now, I have two daughters, and I’M the one who’s supposed to be getting on THEIR case to do their homework.

What an ethical conundrum.

Considering that despite all my rackets and schemes, the whole problem with the homework thing throughout my whole life was that I didn’t believe in it to begin with – and I still don’t.

After all, unless you’re on salary, and have major responsibilities at your job, which you for some reason have to take home – most adults go to work at a certain hour – say, nine a.m. – and come home at five p.m., and then they’re DONE.

Kids, on the other hand, get up at around six a.m., get home around three p.m., and I’ve seen mine – and others – work on their homework for HOURS.

In New York, I queried one teacher: “How long do you expect a student to work on homework for your class?”

“I expect them to spend about 45 minutes,” she answered blithely.

At the time, my kid had seven periods. That would add up to five hours and fifteen minutes of homework a night if all her teachers expected the same.

In addition to a day’s worth of school? That’s just wrong.

So I face an ethical dilemma, as I try to align myself with my kids’ teachers.

Sure: boring homework has its place in life. It’s good practice for life, since we all will someday face a life of work with incredibly useless, boring tasks that we will have to perform.

But will we have to perform them for hours and hours, after work, and all weekend?

I dunno. I’m a grownup now, and I still think homework sucks. And I sometimes still write notes to get my kids out of it.

“Dear Teacher: Please excuse my child from her homework last night because we were attacked by a giant squid. Love, me.”

Okay, maybe NOT that outrageous. But I DO make sure to write it on my InklessTales.com stationary, to ensure my “authority.”

I just can’t stand the idea of watching them do 100 math problems when we could count flowers outside instead.

1 Comment

Filed under confidence, education, family, homework, humor, kids, life, parenting, school

You just don’t think of principals as black.


You know, the same way you just don’t think of women as your boss, or Asians as doing much besides pulling rickshaws, or Mexicans as anything but fruit-pickers or housecleaners. YOU know. Isn’t everyone who COUNTS… just like me?

Sigh. And here we all were, thinking it was 2010, not 1910.

movie poster, original 1975 Stepford WivesMy daughters have been complaining about school here in Stepford.

Not the daily four hours of homework, although that has certainly put a damper on our typical wandering around, exploring the world, talking-to-strangers kind of things my two daughters and I tend to do.

Not the quantum leap in difficulty this new California school has presented them with, loading them with academics far beyond what they were accustomed to in New York, a few months previous. They’re fairly smart kids. They pick up things fast, and besides, we’ve always done something I now know has a name: “afterschooling.”

While my two sisters “homeschool,” a tradition that sends a frisson of horror down my spine, for so many, many reasons, I instead send my kids tottering off to public schools. In this way, no matter what they learn (or don’t learn), they at least get a taste of real life – as in: showing up every day; dealing with other humans your age and thereabouts who range from the mind-staggeringly stupid to the much-smarter-than-you-are; and teachers (much like the bosses to whom they will someday report), who also range from the mind-staggeringly stupid to the much-smarter-than-you-are – only the proportions are different, and I’ll refrain from giving my personal opinions here.

<Insert extremely loud throat-clearing>

So public school has its place. I was always sort of against private school, because of its exclusivity. It sort of – well, it TOTALLY went against the whole reason I sent my kids out in the world to begin with – private school creates an imaginary oasis of cookie-cutter sameness.

Play-Doh Fun FactoryIt’s sort of like a school-shaped version of that Play-Doh® toy, where you shove in the neon-colored goo, push down the lever with one hand, get your little plastic knife ready in the other, and squirt out slice after slice of the same brightly-colored shape.

Perfect, if you want to create a bunch of automatons in Izod® polo shirts, marching in lockstep into mortgage brokerages to buy McMansions in (sometimes, for variety) gated communities, razing more and more of the landscape in the furtherance of making every place, everywhere, look exactly like the same three or four house plans – all of which boast half-circle windows.

half-circle windows(Ever notice? What IS it with the damn half-circle windows, anyway?)

Everything the same. Like, you know, milk. The same four blonde popular girls. The same one ethnic kid. Maybe Indian. Maybe Asian. Maaaybe black. Maybe.

If the school is lucky, that kid has siblings, and then they have more than ONE token.

Otherwise, the school is all-white, all-perfect, all-C+ or better.

The athletics department is better funded than the arts, of course, because heavens, who wants Jack or Brittany to grow up to be an ACTOR, my GOD…

In the New York area where we came from, in our old, historic neighborhood, the Board of Education redistricted the neighborhoods in a labyrinth that looks like suspiciously like scribbles on the city map. The effort was to get the poorer kids out of the oldest schools – the ones with the crack pipes in the playgrounds – and into the better, bigger, newer schools where my kids attended.

It worked. In fact, it worked so well that my kids, who look as white as snow, despite their mixed heritage (their paternal grandfather was half-black, and their maternal great-grandmother was Jewish) were actually in the minority.

Mocking Shane DawsonTherefore, my oldest daughter can speak ghetto better than YouTube’s Shane Dawson, and can swear in Puerto Rican almost better than I can. In fact, if I were to record her voice and play it for you here, you would never in a million years believe she was white.

So when one of her classmates in her new, nearly all-white, affluent, sunny California, blonde, blue-eyed school, made the following comment, you can just imagine.

School chum: (as if divulging information like: “you know, the principal is secretly a man”) “You know, three years ago, we actually had a BLACK principal.”

Daughter: (as if hearing “the principal is a principal.”) “So?”

School chum: (with a “duh” tone in her voice) “Well! You just don’t imagine a principal as being BLACK, that’s all.”

Daughter: (too dumbfounded to speak.)

My kids love the stories Rudyard Kipling wrote: Rikki Tikki Tavi, The Jungle Book – but the one story I’ve yet to tell them is the one fairy tale Kipling himself bought into: the one of “the white man’s burden.” You know: the burden of the so-called civilized, “enlightened” white man to bring his own bullshit down, nice and hard, with weaponry, when necessary – onto aboriginal and indigenous peoples.

The sort of nice way of rationalizing the British Empire’s habit of wandering around the globe, stumbling upon some grassy spot, and planting the Union Jack flag, and claiming it for King and country. THEIR country, that is.

Um,” native peoples would – at first – politely protest, from their existing dwellings. “Have you lot happened to have noticed that we’re already peacefully, happily living here? That we’ve even named our country, have our own laws, government, etc? You Brits wouldn’t mind shoving off, now, would you?”

“Sorry, chaps, can’t do that. White man’s burden, you know. You don’t know it, what with all your extra leisure time, your happy life, your low impact on your environment, and all that, but you aren’t like us, and you need to be.

Er,” responded aforementioned natives, growing a bit irritable. “Says who?”

Well, says us British invaders,” would proudly proclaim the British invaders.

Natives, now thoroughly vexed, would hold up spears, or what have you, and repeat: “All right, then, that’s quite enough of that. You’ve worn out your welcome, now: shove off. We really don’t give a donkey’s behind what you say.”

At which point, yon British invaders would smile – sort of creepily – stick out their shiny red-coated chests with the bright gold buttons, and hold up their superior weaponry, like muskets and cannons. “What does your donkey’s behind think about what our gunpowder has to say, mate?”

At which point, most natives got blown to smithereens, or assimilated, rather like Star Trek’s The Borg Collective, a hive mind nemesis whose slogan was “Resistance is Futile. We are the Borg. You will be assimilated.” Borg victims were then basically turned into mostly cyborg, emotionless organisms whose minds would join the single mind of THE Borg, whose aim it was to crush out the individuality of the entire rest of the universe, etc.

History, obviously, duh, repeats itself.

Sorta Borg. Sorta Stepford, if you think about it. (Does anyone, actually, think about it, except for me?)

There’s this thing about history: if you don’t learn from it, you’re kinda doomed to repeat it. I KNOW this, because I’M not the one who came UP with that saying. So SOMEONE must be thinking about this stuff. Why isn’t it working?

Welcome to sunny Northern California. It’s not exactly golden here. It IS very very nice. But the color is more of a very, very …. white. Not a vanilla white, really – sort of a Stepford white.

Leave a comment

Filed under America, bias, family, humor, kids, language, life, news, parenting, people, satire, self-image

Red Ribbon Train Wreck


prescription pills with a red ribbon on themWell, the community in Manatee County, Florida, as reported in the online periodical, “mysuncoast.com” last October, 2009, is united by a red ribbon breakfast against prescription drug abuse by teens. They say their mission is to be “the wall.”

I guess they’re going to be a beribboned wall. “Pounding the pavement” with their ribbons and bows.

Not really sure how that’s going to help the estimated 2,500 teens SEEKING illegal prescription drugs, but that’s their plan, anyway. Guess it’s better than nothing. It might make the teens laugh too hard to take drugs.

The Connecticut Hartford Courant reported this month that although a federal survey says teen drug use is down, teens don’t see drugs as all that terrible, which the feds find vaguely disturbing, natch.

Hmm…

While I am terrific at picking out things like computers, colors, solutions to most problems, etc., there is one thing I am really, truly horrible at in my life.

Choosing boyfriends.

Two spectacular mistakes in my past spring immediately to mind.

One was a crack addict, desperately in need of drug treatment.

The other was a FORMER crack addict and blazingly explosive alcoholic. (He could seriously have used some genuine alcohol rehabilitation – but then, one has to want the help.)

While I was under no delusions I could CHANGE either of these idiots, I was delusional enough not to NOTICE either gigantic flaw until I was in too deep to get out fast enough.

The soft HEART in me, unfortunately, softened my HEAD.

The thing was? Both of these <ahem> fine gentlemen would have done well to have gotten help in the teen years. BEFORE they stumbled along and cut swathes of destruction through the lives of women like me, and others, before and sadly, after me.

(Don’t, whenever you sluff off a moron, wish you could phone the next poor victim and warn her? Totally NOT out of jealousy, but rather out of pity for the next girl? As in: “Honey, sit down: Let me just tell you what this jackass is REALLY like…” Ah, if only they would listen…)

Early course correction. When I was a teacher at a college, the math department had this GREAT picture of a train wreck.

“This train was only off by .0000023 degrees.”

But it was enough, over time, to wreck the train.

I loved it. I use it as my own parenting philosophy.

Get help early on with addiction recovery. Save the teen, and save the adult a world of misery – and the rest of the people’s lives they touch. Including your own.

7 Comments

Filed under America, confidence, family, health, humor, kids, life, love, news, parenting, people, relationships, reporting

La La La La Lasik…


Mr. Magoo

I don’t know how many people out there recall the lovable Saturday-morning cartoon gentleman Mr. Magoo, but for those of you not as addicted to YouTube YouTube as I am, his gimmick is that he’s blind as a bat.

(For those of you who’d LIKE to get to know the old codger better, here he is in an old black-and-white beer commercial. You know, back in the good old days when kids’ cartoon characters were deemed perfectly suitable for, you know, beer.)

ANYWAY: While navigating some really ridiculously stupid outdoor steps the other day – put together, I swear, by someone who REALLY either wants a lawsuit, or wants NO visitors, ever – they’re unlit, and all different sizes – it’s like they’re booby-trapped or something – my oldest daughter runs up to me, as I’m slowly navigating down the perilous path.

What are you doing?” I say, a little irritably, as she gently takes my elbow, as if I’m elderly or something, and she’s helping me across the street.

Er, well, I dunno,” she says, non-plussed. “You ARE a little hard of seeing, you know.

Hard of seeing. Hmm.

Never quite thought of it that way.

I’m Ms. Magoo.

Elizabeth Williams Bushey with multiple=That’s when I thought to myself – not for the first time – or the hundredth – or the hundredth thousandth – wouldn’t it be nice to actually SEE out these eyes of mine?

Not just CONTACTS, which are a drag, really, sticking your finger in your eye, and not being able to fall asleep on the couch watching television, or reading a book in bed. Do that, and wake up with holes in your cornea, or at the very least, your eyes stuck shut.

But rather, really open up your eyes and SEE, when the dawn breaks, you throw off the blankets and stretch into the day.

I’ve never experienced that feeling.

You know: waking up and being able to actually SEE past my hand. Or even actually SEEING my hand. Clearly, I mean. I wonder what that would be like?

Maybe I need that LASIK surgery.

screen shot from Six Million Dollar Man: bionic eyeYou know: the one where they actually slice up your eyeballs? Make them better, stronger, etc? (Insert intro from 1970s hit TV series, The Six Million Dollar Man)

I used to be afraid of it – and I used to be right – because the whole trick of it was to find a doc with experience, otherwise you could end up worse off than you started.

But all the way in California (of course, now that I’m here in California, wouldn’t you know?) I just heard about some docs in New York who are pretty darn skippy good at it. At the Stahl Eye Center, with locations in Manhattan and Long Island, N.Y., they have doctors are graduates from top universities such as UCLA, John Hopkins and Yale. Their 35-year record is pretty good, too: they meet or exceed the norm for the surgery – and it’s independently verified, which is cool.

And, being in quite enough pain, thank you, having been literally run over by a truck on November 28, it’s nice to know the procedure is (a) virtually painless, and (b) the recovery is in a couple of hours, with most patients seeing clearly in a day or so.

Makes a girl want to fly back east, is what it does.

SEE what I mean?

(Little joke there. Very little.)

Because it’s not about vanity.

It’s about booby-trapped stairs, and independence, and not having to worry about losing glasses, and most of all? Not having to worry about worrying daughters.

1 Comment

Filed under confidence, family, health, humor, kids, life, news, parenting, reporting, self-image, technology

French Kiss First, Introductions Later.


Welcome to California.

golden_gate_bridge

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

If all your contact with the outside world is mass media, or, say, you’re an alien from space, seeking information about earth, and your research dart on the globe hit the USA, and you began, sensibly enough, with mass media –you would surely presume the only places IN America were…

New York, and California.

Because EVERYTHING on television, in movies, etc., is located in: you guessed it. NY or CA.

Naturally, when the opportunity flung itself like a blob of goo to head west with my two daughters to the flipside of mainland America, I figured: hmm? Why not see life as the extraterrestrials – I mean, Californians – do?

I kid, I KID.

Actually, this time I DO kid, because if you happen to be reading this…

WAIT.

Don’t you just HATE when writers write: “If you happen to be reading this?

Talk about “author intrusion,”* which, of course, I’m doing now in a MAJOR way, but for some reason, I am egomaniacal enough – or feel strongly enough about this point – to have the nerve to think I can get away with it.

Duh. Of COURSE you happen to be reading this; if you WEREN’T reading this, you wouldn’t be READING this: the author’s SENTENCE that says, so very stupidly, “if you happen to be reading this.”

Why THANK you, Captain OBVIOUS.

(How do you spell “AAUGHHH?”)

I can’t STAND it when people don’t give other people the credit for the most BASIC intelligence. Or when they refuse to exhibit the most basic intelligence of their own, and simply swallow and regurgitate clichés.

Sorry. That’s just not thinking “out of the box.”

(That’s a joke. I am SO hoping you all got that….)

::-::-::

Anyway, tirade over, now that I’ve “intruded,” my job as a writer now is to suck you so hard back into the work that you forget about me again. So: forget me, move on without me, save yourselves….

To get back to Californians: if you’ve been wondering where all the nice people in the world have gone; if you’ve lost your faith in humanity, you’ve been betrayed, you can’t seem to find a kind soul in a cold-hearted world, no matter where you look…

<can you hear the swelling orchestral strings…?>

Get your ass to northern California.

InvaderZimWthoutStripesSomeone, I don’t know who – Invader Zim?

…has scooped them all up in a giant net and deposited them HERE.

Of course, the New Yorker in me wants to warn you: I’ve only been here a few weeks, so they COULD be putting on an devastatingly good show (California, Hollywood, Oscar…), and I SHOULD keep checking my back for knives…

But honestly, if these folks aren’t genuinely nice, then I’ve landed where Ira Levin got his idea for The Stepford Wives, because everybody – and I do mean everybody – walks around with a light step, a friendly smile, and an open outlook.

This is either the Cosmic Galactic Nexus of Benevolence, or these folks are gobsmackingly realistic test robots for Disneyland’s newest animatronic attraction.

They’re cheerful and concerned for others in a state with a bigger unemployment problem and more housing foreclosures than New York.

And, unlike New York – and particularly unlike, say…oooh, I dunno, GEORGIA, they are warm and inviting to strangers. Even strangers who come from scary and disreputable places like New York. No one here has prejudged us at all.

oscar-wilde-ph

Oscar Wilde

(At least not to our faces, where it counts. As far as I’m concerned, I’m with Oscar Wilde. Let people say whatever they want behind my back; I’ll worry when they STOP talking.)

These folks are even charming and positive in an area located less than – well, my guess would be, less then twelve inches from the Sun.

I can’t seem to figure it out. We aren’t any closer to the equator (although maybe we’re WAYYYY higher. As in, we’re astronauts. Californunauts.)

When they say “sunny California,” they aren’t just whistling Dixie.

(Side note: having made a side trip on the way to visit family in Rocky Plains, Georgia, I know what I’m talking about when I say “Dixie,” too.)

The sun is so strong here I carry a bottle of water around with me nearly everywhere I go, wishing I could haul a tank around, like someone on oxygen. I never realized what a deliciously humid state New York actually was.

oldwomanSomeone PLEASE let me know what moisturizing cream I need. I’m going to look about 45 years old in about 45 minutes. In another 45, I’ll look 90. As it is, the jar that used to last me six months is half gone.

In fact, Californians are SO friendly, that in a recent trip to a music store (I was rescuing a guitar I’d discovered that had been criminally abused) I got to joking with the owner, who began to tease me – and then somehow, things got a little weird.

Now, if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ve probably caught on: I’m not someone you want to DARE.

Play chicken with me? You’re pretty much guaranteed two totaled cars.

So when I jokingly said: “Well, then, I’ll just have to get one big, fat, sloppy kiss,” never in a million years thinking he would take me up on it – for no one in their right mind in New York would take that phrase as ANYTHING but, er, symbolic, when the music store owner said something along the lines of me not having the nerve…

… Well, what could I do? Apparently, he was calling my bluff – or thought I was bluffing. I had my entire state’s reputation to defend.

It was only later, perusing my copy of The Secret, Closely-Guarded Girl Manual, that I remembered that those of us with a little too much tomboy in them have to be wary of dares and the like, and that boys will steal kisses when they can, particularly from impulsive redheads.

So I called his bluff back, and dashed over boldly right behind his workspace, again, never dreaming his own oncoming car would not swerve.

Yet swerve he did NOT, and put his arms around me, and kissed me like Bogart kissed Bergman in Casablanca.

Yipes.

Careful to keep my New York cool, I then shook his hand and said:

“How do you do? I’m Elizabeth. And your name is?”

“Larry,” he said. “Welcome to California.”

::-::-::-::-::-::

Author Intrusion (also sometimes called, literarily, “authorial intrusion” – I don’t know why they like the extra two syllables, but professors sometimes do…) is explained nicely here, at about.com:

Have you ever read a book where the author suddenly jolted you out of the storyline with a comment that just doesn’t flow with the rest of the work? That’s an authorial intrusion. Sometimes it works, but only when it’s done by a master storyteller/writer.

Authorial intrusions are of substantial length (not just a brief aside in a novel) and they are addressed to you (the reader).

Leave a comment

Filed under America, confidence, family, humor, life, love, people, relationships, reporting, satire, self-image, work

Michigan Goes Mad.


michiganI’m visiting my family in the deepest heart of rural northern Georgia, a place where the wildest action happening is watching the kudzu overtake the pines lining Route 20 to Atlanta – that is, on the extremely rare occasions we load up my sister’s seven children, ranging in age from 18 months to 18 years in the giant grey commercial vehicle her family uses for transport.

There are no chain stores here. No 7-11s, no Outback Steakhouses, no Galleria Malls. The biggest cluster of stores is located at a lonely intersection of country roads only locals travel, consisting of The Rocky Plains Community Store, Nancy’s Cuttin’ Up Salon, The Baptist Church, and while there are two new gas pumps, you can still set yourself up with dyed diesel and dyed kerosene from old-fashioned pumps that look like something out of the 1950s.

No one has yet to be able to explain to me what, exactly, dyed diesel or dyed kerosene is used for, nor why it is dyed, but they are politely apologetic as they forlornly explain to me that they do not know, as if they are announcing the funeral of a long-lost friend, and they ALWAYS call me ma’am when they do so.

This throws me, living as long as I have in New York. I still think of myself as a “miss.”

Nevertheless, as strange as dyed diesel, dyed kerosene, and sheets of relentless zudzu plants as intent on overtaking the entire state as horror movie triffids might seem? Michigan has Georgia beat, hands down.

Here’s the latest news from the Wolverine State – and some insight, perhaps, as to why Michigan acquired that toothy nickname:

According to Associated Press reports, in Muskegon, this week, a man was sentenced to 45 days in jail for biting his girlfriend’s five-year-old son in the face.

In the FACE.

Why did he do it?

Because the little boy bit him first, of course.

Duh – gotcha back.

The boy’s mother defended the boyfriend, explaining that the man was merely trying to discipline the boy – after all, said boyfriend was trying to get the kid to brush his teeth when the kid bit the man in the face.

Perhaps the man was trying to demonstrate the value and strength of a good, healthy set of chompers. Why, I wonder, were their mouths and faces so close together in the first place? Were they sharing toothbrushes?

Interestingly, the mother didn’t turn the guy in – school officials, noticing the bite marks on the child’s face, alerted Child Protective Services.

I don’t know about any of you, but I can NOT think of an excusable reason for ANYONE to bite my kids. Were anyone to attempt such a foolhardy thing, I can honestly say they would begin to know the true meaning of wolverine.

In Mount Clemens, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit, a 33-year-old mother was sentenced to six to 20 years in prison. Her crime? She settled her 10-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son down for some soothing hot chocolate – laced with sedatives – then set fire to the house and expected them all to sit quietly with her and, well… die.

The judge basically decided she’d forfeited her status as “mommy” from now on.

Luckily, the kids shook off the wooziness and escaped the house in time.  Mom had taken the kids out of school early, too.

Big disappointment, huh? Usually when mom takes you out of school early, it’s a good thing.

Writing straight-like-that they are “scarred for life,” the kids have my sympathy – but so does the mom, to tell you the truth.

Apparently, she suffers from a mental illness which affects six million Americans – 5,999,999 of whom did NOT attempt to kill ANYONE today, FYI, although thank YOU, “fair and balanced” Fox News, for making darn SURE that’s the first “fair and balanced” item you mention in your “fair and balanced” report on this “fair and balanced” news day.

Way-to-go, perpetuating that old-fashioned “fair and balanced” stigma against mental illness.

Odd, isn’t it, Fox has to keep reminding us that they’re “fair and balanced?” How come The New York Times never has to defensive – I mean, defend – itself all the time like that?

While we’re at it, why do all crime news reports describe men who commit them like this:

Carpenter/Architect/Professor/Janitor Massacres Many….

NEVER ONCE MENTIONING whether or NOT the male of the species has even propagated the species?

But if a WOMAN commits a crime, her status as mother FAR OUTWEIGHS any other accomplishment she might otherwise have earned?

For instance:

Mother of Two Embezzles Funds…

It will only be in the last paragraph that we may or may not learn she’s also received the Pulitzer, a Grammy Award, AND the MacArthur Genius Grant.

Sigh.

Leave a comment

Filed under bias, confidence, etiquette, family, humor, kids, life, news, parenting, reporting, satire

The Girl on the Left.


awkwardEtiquette: Useful. Nice is only a side benefit.

Oldest daughter, exasperated, from backseat, to me: “Mom? MUST you narrate EVERYTHING you see? As if it’s your business in the first place?”

Me, non-plussed by this surly teenaged dismissal: “Why, yes. Yes, I do.”

Oldest: “You’re the only one who can even SEE them.”

Youngest, cheerfully, having had the foresight to pipe up earlier:I call shotgun,” and therefore sitting in the catbird seat, immediately to my right, now pipes up: “I can see FINE.

No words are necessary. The heat alone from the backseat is enough.

Words come, anyway.

Oldest: “Why do you even CARE about them, anyway?”

Me: “Because it SUCKS to be the girl on the left.”

Youngest: “I don’t know what you’re talking about at all.”

Oldest (still furious, about my car-to-car meddling, and the whole shotgun thing in general, since she knows quite well she’d completely understand what I was talking about if SHE COULD JUST SEE FOR HER OWN DAMN SELF): “ohKAY, why does it suck to be the girl on the left?

I grin, happy at last: my chance to give a short lecture on the nature of awkward situations. (It has to be short, the girls know, because we are headed for the bank, which is coming up just a few turns away.)

The car in front of me has three people in the back seat: on the left, there is one brunette ponytail. In the middle, there is a blonde ponytail, who is being bear-hugged, and generally molested by, a burly boy – probably a footballer – on the far right.

This jock is so into his blonde ponytail that he keeps nuzzling his squeeze – and is ending up squeezing the girl on the left ever-over, ever-closer to the left-side passenger door. She doesn’t turn her head, not once, not ever. She is graciously bearing this indignity; why, I do not know.

I myself would have given them a good shove back, and suggested they find a room or something. Well, maybe not “find a room,” since that’s pretty cliché.

Perhaps instead I would “accidentally” drop my purse, lunging forward towards that endlessly annoying hump in the middle, knocking them BOTH toward the RIGHT side passenger door. When they both responded: “HEY!” – as if “how dare you interrupt our foreplay?” I’d smile apologetically, while at the same time planting my ass just a little further to the right, with my big fat backpack/purse/knapsack, or what have you tucked to my left, in between the passenger’s side door and myself.

Cozy but effective strategy for flipping the awkwardness back over onto THEM. My, aren’t we ALL awfully close now? Still want to kiss her, quarterback, now that I’m practically on her lap?

If THAT didn’t send the intended message across, I’d wait till the next big smooch, break out my math homework, and tap the blonde ponytail on the shoulder right in the middle of tonguing it.

Hey, Brittany, did you understand what Mrs. Meyer was talking about when she ran through that binomial theorem today, because I’m TOTALLY lost? Mind taking a look at my notes for a sec, and seeing if they make ANY sense to you, because I’m about to have an EPIC FAIL here.”

Then hold aforementioned binder right up to yon spit-covered face, with innocent smile.

Basically, you get the strategy: incredibly annoying politeness until the people you’re being annoyingly polite to either catch on that they’re being ludicrously rude, and stop, or just stop out of sheer annoyance. Either way, what can they say to you? You’re being incredibly polite.

The beauty of politeness. Don’t let anyone tell you that politeness, etiquette, good manners, is to make other people feel BETTER. That’s just a side benefit.

Etiquette is for one main thing only: So you ALWAYS know what to do in any given situation, without being embarrassed. That’s it. It’s almost as practical as money. Which is why most people who’ve had money for a long time have good manners.

It’s not really snobbery. It’s sensible.

Best of all? YOU can do it, too. Just keep reading this blog, and I’ll learn ya.

My daughter, of course, at 13, could not rest at letting me be right.

What if she didn’t mind?”

Me: “You think the girl on the left ENJOYED being squeezed over while the two of them sucked face?”

Oldest, grasping for straws: “Maybe she’s a lesbian.”

Me:In that case, she’d have to be a pretty CHARITABLE lesbian; don’t you think otherwise she’d be jealous?”

Oldest: “Maybe she IS a charitable lesbian.”

It DOES take all kinds to make a world. My oldest COULD be right. The one thing I DO know? At 13, the one thing Mom isn’t, is right. About anything.

For everyone else? Take my word for it. If you ever find yourself The Girl on the Left? Try etiquette.

Ah, etiquette: the most effective way to be obnoxious and get away with it.

Leave a comment

Filed under confidence, etiquette, family, humor, kids, life, relationships, satire, self-image, sexuality