Sunday, August 30, 2009

I Heart Robin Thomas

My girlfriend Robin was responsible for me starting to blog. She is my most ardent supporter, offerer of encouragement, medical advise provider and honest to goodness safety net in that I know she is there if I start to fall. She is a beautiful person, creatively brilliant, college professor, science geek, mother who is not afraid to save for college AND therapy, part time PA and geesh Robin, could you squeeze a little more into your life, oh yeah, she blogs.

Robin and I took one of those mind numbing, you-have-nothing-better-to-do-with-your-time, Facebook surveys recently. You know the ones like "What kind of bug would you be if you were smashed on a windshield" or "At what age will you begin to lose bladder control". You get the point.

Ms. Thomas and I endeavored to uncover which Sesame Street characters we were. Robin went first and found she was a gay muppet with a unibrow, a penchant for collecting bottle caps and mild OCD when it comes to neatness - yes, that's right. She was Bert.

And of course, there can be no doubt who was dubbed Ernie. Rubber ducky and all, I am he.

After much discussion, I think we both got comfortable with these characterizations; mostly because we knew the universe was telling us what we already knew. We are soul mates - we get each other.

The delightful Robin Thomas honored me on my birthday a few days prior with a blog on her blog about me and my blog. Pause a moment to soak that in. She likes me, she really, really likes me. It was the best birthday present ever; although as usual, her Barbie collection kicks my Barbie collection's ass.

Thanks babe. Also, check it out - this is my first time to link. Ta-da!!

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Birthday Buddha

Today is my birthday. I'm 46 today. I'm not one to get all freaky about passing 45; sliding down the backside of that proverbial hill; finishing my "early" 40's; cruising past the midway point of my life expectancy, etc. Jeez, it's just a number for cripes sake.

Most people still react with shock when I tell them my age or the fact that I have a 23 year old son. The shock seems genuine. I'd hate to think everyone was faking shock; that would be mean. I choose to believe them and as such, I feel it's safe to say the old gal is holding up fairly well (for her age).

I'm in the mood today, on this day of my birth, to explore my inner Buddha. I am hoping with a little meditation and really fast typing fingers, I can download the essence of my life, discovering the paramount purpose for my existence, delving into the vortex of my subconscious then emerging as an enlightened pilgrim on the footpath to one day be able to look myself in the mirror and say yes child, you have done well.

Or at a minimum, I'm hoping to answer the question of the ages as it pertains to my life. The question many of us are simply too afraid to ask. WTF?

Quick reminder before I proceed....

This blog is about "Waxing the Life Rhapsodic". Waxing, as in going on and on, increasing in intensity and Rhapsodic because my life is a case study in enthusiastically and passionately exceeding what are considered normal or approved bounds. So I shall endeavor to wax on.

The early years, youngest and only girl, three older brothers; I learned to fight tyranny and injustice with my wits. My mantra was, "if they can do it, so can I". This included things like running around outside with no shirt, jumping into the deep end of the pool, riding motorcycles, and playing sports. My brothers tolerated me but also loved to pin me down and beat on my chest with one crooked-knuckle until I would break and meet their insipid demands - UNCLE, okay UNCLE already.

Lesson Learned: Wait until you hear dad's car in the driveway and cue the crocodile tears - or in other words, brother dearest, I'd like to introduce you to your beating - who's your uncle now? That's right, I own you.

Real Lesson Learned: I'm smart, don't mess with me.

Skipping over all the middle school and high school bullshit years because it's all so whiny and predictable, except for that time my girlfriends and I were kicked out of school for having alcohol and porn in our Florida hotel room while on a band trip. It's true what they say about band camp, you know. Alcohol and Playgirl centerfolds was, by comparison, way down at the lowermost hash mark on the spectrum of contra ban that could be, and in fact was, smuggled onto those Greyhounds. I'm just sayin'.

Lesson Learned: There's very few things in life that alcohol, porn and possibly a Sara Lee pound cake can't cure.

Real Lesson Learned: I'm loyal - it wasn't even my room.

Enter the marriage and fertility years. The mantra in this phase could be described as "just keep doing it until you get it right". Going into all the gory details here would be a waste of good material as I am soaking in a deluge of blogs-in-progress with working titles such as:

1. My first marriage was a mulligan.
2. Death, taxes and child rearing.
3. Top ten reasons not to get married.
4. How to squeeze out a baby in two hours or less.
5. Okay, I'll marry you so our kids will be legit.
6. That one damn near killed me.
7. Affairs of the Smart
8. E. D. and the big O
9. Impervious but not impregnable.
10. I can bring home the bacon, why can't you be a man?

Lesson Learned: All this waxing is taking a toll on me, maybe that's why Buddha didn't type.

Real Lesson Learned: I'm still learning, haven't found the answers yet - give me a break, it's my birthday.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Parenting Tips from the Dark Side

They say the key to good parenting is consistency. I believe the key to good parenting is to think on your feet and make it up as you go. Then of course, you need to be consistent with the shit you make up.

Oh yeah, and don't pick your baby up by its head.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Germs of Endearment

When did it happen? I haven't been tech-savvy since the days of DOS. I can't do spinny rides anymore. Reading a menu in a dimly lit restaurant is absurdly challenging. Gravity is doing what gravity does. I am subject to hot flashes and random bouts of rage. Sneezing while standing can get ugly.

And now this.....

I am freaked out by large water parks with unusually hairy men who are always tugging, scratching and adjusting their cojones before hurling themselves into the water near me where I've been diligently eyeballing two pre-teen boys engaged in a rapid-fire spitting contest just narrowly managing to avoid a direct hit to the young mommy floating by with her newborn baby, packing God knows what in those swimmy diapers, only to turn around just in time to enjoy the delightful display of one of my very own precious offspring sneeze and subsequently shoot a glob of snot out of his nose equivalent to the size of one of those frozen yogurt dollops that sometimes drip out of the machine after you think you've shut it off.

Chlorine take me away.......or better yet,

get me the f#@k outa here.

I'm afraid, I'm very afraid.

Seriously, can the pool filters really keep up with all that hair?

Oh well, at least the kids had fun.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Willing To Lie About How We Met

I could write an entire book on the topic of internet dating. In fact, I seriously considered it as a project until I researched the books already in print on the subject. Every angle, every nuance, each and every annoying, hilarious aspect of internet dating had been covered to ad nauseam. What could I possibly add to that depth of literary profusion? I mean seriously, how could I top "Internet Dating for Dummies"?

Dating in the virtual world is a fact of life, especially for the over 40 crowd. We've put the stigmas behind us and embraced Match.Com as if it were our pushy grandmother whose sole purpose in life is to marry us off.

I remember my first experience with online matchmaking. It was three years ago and I was a little over a year post divorce. I felt I was ready to get back out there but didn't really want to start bar hopping or desperately crashing my cart into the good looking guy in the produce isle. I spent hours developing a thoughtful profile, after all, I am a writer, right? With my usual flair for tapping into the deepest meaning of the universe, I laid it all out there with my most earnest and keen desires. "To look at him is to see within my own soul" or "We will feel as if we've known each other for many lifetimes" type stuff.

The end result was a portrait of a woman with high standards, looking for an educated, worldly man who possesses the abilities to cook and be romantic but also can don a tool belt and turn me on with his fully loaded, impressively large caulk gun. He has sturdy shoulders and is not intimidated by a successful woman but he knows this same woman can be reduced to a pile of rubble after watching a Hallmark commercial if Cousin Flo is about to visit.

This man dresses well, can pick out an excellent bottle of wine, is athletic, compassionate, open minded, spiritual, tall, witty, successful, exceedingly handsome and charming enough to rival the best of the Disney Prince fantasy dates. (Prince Eric anyone?) I went on to include photos of myself and use impressive words to portray yours truly as one smart cookie.

After a few weeks of exhausting myself answering every email and wink, setting up lunch dates, meeting for a quick drink here or a cup of coffee there, I realized I had made a grave error. This is how my profile should have read:

Looking for a man with straight teeth and a job.

The numbers were staggering. I ended up receiving six months free on the Match.Com guarantee so I whirled on this not so merry-go-round for a year. At the end of the year I had encountered just over 10,000 potential suitors. Early on, I had to develop a thick skin to eliminate the riff raff. Here's my short list of characteristics that would send my right pinky finger into action with a quick triggered delete.

1. The only photo you have of yourself was taken while standing in front of your bathroom mirror.
2. The only photo you have of yourself was taken while standing in front of your bathroom mirror with your shirt off.
3. The only photo you have of yourself was taken while standing in front of your bathroom mirror with your shirt off while flexing your free arm in a Mr. Universe pose.
4. Your deepest desire is to have a woman that can go from jeans to an evening gown.
5. In the background of your photo, it is clear you are a hoarder.
6. You are fashioning a flannel shirt with the sleeves cut off or a mullet.
7. You are fashioning a flannel shirt with the sleeves cut off AND a mullet.
8. You are listed as "athletic and toned" but your body hasn't seen toned since 8th grade gym class.
9. You are 45 and have never been married.
10. Unless 1969 was the year of your birth, you should not use the number 69 in your profile name.
11. You are unable to write in complete sentences, or you skip capital letters and punctuation all together.
12. Your photos consist of your car, your boat, your Harley and your dog, all without you.
13. You describe yourself as a fungi looking for a petri dish to land on and grow.
14. Your favorite restaurant is the Olive Garden.
15. You are too poor or too cheap to pay for your Match.Com membership so you cleverly sneak in your email can find me, you know where, boogiebear69 at that place that rhymes with wahoo dot com.


After a year, I did meet someone who had most of the qualities I sought; I thought he might even be "the one" but as it turned out, he was a spineless, coward who couldn't stand up to his ex wife or deal with the slightest variation from his extremely limited perception of the norm. God knows, my life has very little to do with things that are normal.

The good guys are out there and you CAN find them with a click of your mouse, just be prepared to dig deep, delete often, and meet more than one guy who looks nothing like his photos and bares little to no resemblance to that fictitious Disney Prince character he created in his deeply thoughtful, earnest and keen, giant, whopping heap of funky smelling baloney profile.

But that's just my opinion.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wisdom, Wit and Wisecracks

We rarely hit where we do not aim.
Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Little White Cloud

My mom passed away in March, 2007 from breast cancer. In the ten years leading up to her death, she endured the loss of her youngest son Mark, her beloved sister Lila who was also her best friend, the love of her life (my dad) and finally, her eldest son, Robby. In the immediate days following her passing, I poured through her photos and writings, discovering a woman I barely knew. I was dramatically swept into the formative years of the woman that would one day be my mother.

Her later years were defined by grief; though you never saw her outwardly mourn. You could see the hurt in her eyes. There was a dullness to them letting us know that a considerable part of her spirit had died along with her loved ones. She wrote this poem on January 27, 2003, just one month after losing Robby.

Footsteps on the carpet
Loud and Clear
They are mine
No one else is here

Squish, squish, squish
Rings in my ear
The constant reminder
No one else is here

Where are they now?
Where will I be?
Unanswered questions
Wish I were free.

Free from the pain
What have I done?
Loved them too much?
Need the sun.

We all take a great deal of solace knowing that she is free from the pain, with those she dearly loved, and that she has once again found the sun. I was estranged from my mom for those last few years leading up to her death. In my eyes, she was so consumed with caring for the dying, she forgot she still had someone in her life who was living. I left Oklahoma in large part to escape the death march that stampeded through our family. After being with both dad and Mark as they passed on, I couldn't handle one more and I knew Robby was already on his way. Mom always understood this and assured me that we all have our "thresholds of pain". For instance, she wasn't able to sit with dad when the life support was shut off because it exceeded her threshold. She waited in the family room and later told us she knew when his spirit left his body because she felt him pass through her.

Looking back, it is clear to see she never recovered from the enormity of her losses. She was depressed and unable to embrace joy in her life. To this day, I feel a sense of being robbed for not having a mom in my adult life. When I see other women my age shopping with their mother's, my heart hurts. I know she allowed herself to die, perhaps she even wished it upon herself. What other reason could account for her ignoring the lump. Why else would she refuse to tell the doctors about it even after all other tests had been exhausted and no cause for her symptoms had been found? The cancer had metastasised into her bones. She was literally aching to her bones with pain so intense she could barely breath but she still wouldn't tell them she had a lump, a very large lump, visible to the naked eye. She had been living with the dying for so long, she was now dying to live with them again.

Mark Twain once said, "Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it." I do not suffer any grudges against my mom. I miss her but I am not angry with her. On the contrary, I have journeyed back in time to meet the woman I barely knew. This is the woman I have come to know and love. She was vulnerable and innocent and yet fiercely strong and protective of her loved ones. She had to work extra hard on me, her only daughter, to "make me a lady" when all I wanted to do was act like my brothers. Morals, honesty and integrity were as much a part of her fiber as the love of her children and family.

She was a stunning beauty with piercing blue eyes. She played the guitar, the violin and the steel guitar. Her extended family members enjoyed coming to their small, white house behind the school every Friday night for a family hoe-down. They nearly all played an instrument. She dreamed of playing the cello but her family could not afford to purchase one. It was during this period of time she discovered what she called the “neverland of music lovers”. She had also heard it referred to as “another time and place”. She writes, “I was able to transport myself to this place with various artists. It has gotten me through many hours of intense pain”. Music was her salvation.

At the age of 17, she used to tag along with her sister, Lila, to a club called The Little White Cloud. The sisters enjoyed dancing and were known to be quite good at it. Mom marveled at her older sister’s ease and grace on the dance floor. They loved taking the free dance lessons to learn the hot new Latin dances of the time. It was during one of these outings, when her life would take an unexpected turn.

I convey this in her words: “The chemistry between us could not be denied. He was 24, tall, slender, tan and had the most beautiful hair styled in a duck tail. He was wearing blue suede shoes. He was, to use 1950’s terminology, ‘a cool cat’. He had hands that totally fascinated me and over the years I came to the conclusion they were a little magic. From the time of our first meeting, he became the center of my life. We eventually married and of this union, four children were born.”

Now of course, legend has it that Grandma Bea attempted to shoo this ‘cool cat’ right off her front porch when he came a callin’. After all, she was only 17. We have never been able to get a confirmation on this but after seeing the photos of dad during those years, we’re fairly certain it is an accurate historical account. In spite of Grandma Bea’s wishes, mom loved him. As we have come to know, when Joyce Macdonald loves somebody, there ain't gonna be no stopping it.

I wish I had a little more time with mom now so I can ask her more questions about those early years. I want to know what she was thinking in every picture. Did she realize how beautiful she was? Doubtful, she was too humble to think much about her looks, but she was indeed quite eye-catching. I want to know what color her dresses were in all those black and white photos. I want to ask her how she managed to curl her hair like that and what color of lipstick was her favorite. I want to see her again with these new eyes of mine. But most of all, I wish I could help her see herself through my eyes. The eyes that now see clearly the wonder of this woman.

As she was slipping away from us, we all gathered around her to give her our love. Earlier that morning she had whispered, “where we goin’, where we goin’?” We imagined she was talking to dad or Lila or one of the boys. We knew she was scared so we assured her and gave her our permission to go. As she drew in for her final breath, I asked her to look for Lila on the dance floor. I told her they would be dancing together soon. I pictured them standing under a sign reading, The Little White Cloud. I want to imagine it is Lila who first greets her as they find themselves on a dance floor, listening to the heavenly music, feeling once again transported from her pain………when in walks a tall, slender, tan man with beautiful, messy hair and magic hands.

Just as he had done so many years before, he immediately captures her, taking her in his arms. They are dancing. She is home. With a gentle spin on the dance floor she becomes aware of another person in the midst. It is Mark. He is healthy, strong and handsome with that beautiful smile on his face and a camera in his hand. With the second turn, she notices the heavenly melodies, stirring at her heart are being played by Robby. He is backed up by her daddy and the long line of musicians from which she came. One generation to the next, it is an entire orchestra of forefathers. She’s not immediately certain who they all are but she instinctively knows they are clan, her tribe, her people. Each new turn brings more family, more friends, more understanding of just how significant her time on this earthly plain was. Her nurturing spirit and gentle caring soul is now at peace.

Overwhelmed and slightly breathless, she feels she can dance no more. The divine harmonies are drawing her near. When she arrives at the foot of the orchestra, she notices an empty spot has opened up between Robby and Grandpa. She takes her seat and skillfully presses her delicate fingers of one hand to the strings of her instrument. It is a cello. With her other hand she smoothly caresses the strings with her bow.
She is once again beautiful, made whole, with the man she loves and those she had once lost. The light has returned to her eyes. They are together forever in a heavenly grace, free of physical and emotional pain, where souls are renewed and love endures for all eternity.

Rock on gypsy soul.
Let your soul and spirit fly
Into the mystic.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Who Needs Sensible Shoes?

Trimming my kids toenails has always been a chore I disdain. Not because it's working with smelly feet - on the contrary, I have always loved my kid's feet. When I look at their feet, no matter what age, I always think of that first time I held them as newborns and counted each teeny, tiny toe to verify a full set of ten. I dislike trimming toenails because it seems to bother them beyond all normal reasoning.

After all, they are nail clippers, not implements of torture.

As they are getting older, they seem to be a little more rational about it; though, I still have to give them sufficient warning, cross my heart and hope to die it won't hurt and then proceed to chase them down as if they were a band of outlaws running from the hangman.

Last night, I was pleasantly surprised and quantifiably shocked when I completed the full set of toenails on my ten year old son and one of the seven year old twin girls with no muss, no fuss, bing, bang, boom, I am done. NEXT!

Enter twin number two. She hadn't been paying attention and didn't realize I had already completed the others. There hadn't been any agonizing death screams, no hysterics whatsoever. She was tentative, verging on incredulous. Seizing my opportunity, I assured her she hadn't heard anything because, I said with a very matter-of-fact tone, it didn't hurt.

To which came the even more matter-of-fact, most unpretentious, straight forward reply, "Well mom, what you don't know is that MY toes are very sensible." Well then baby, I will be extra careful. I wouldn't want to offend those delicate little digits. Then I placed her foot in my mouth and nibbled on each of those sensible toes until she completely forgot the terror awaiting her at the behest of the nail clippers.

The lesson we learn here, of course, is to always eat sensibly.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

If Life's A Buffet , I'm Gonna Need More Plates

I like food. I like to think about food. Thinking about food has gotten me into a bit of trouble in my life because thinking about it leads to coveting it and craving it, which leads to an almost ritualistic feeding frenzy where all sense of good judgment is temporarily suspended while I plow through a large plate of spaghetti and meatballs.

My relationship with food is complicated. It is as loaded as a colossal serving of cheese fries. On one side of it there is passion, desire, respect and appreciation. I am a foodie. I love the preparation of food, the careful selection of ingredients, the aroma of a savory saute. My dad was a foodie too. Early childhood memories of him involve his love of eating. He seemed to be at his best when it came time to select and consume good food. This is really saying something because my dad was generally not at his best.

My mom cooked most every weeknight but the weekends belonged to my dad. Mom had an arsenal of tried and true recipes that could quickly be prepared after a long day at work. She was a good cook with four hungry kids to feed. Most of us happily sat down and ate with very little discord, most of us except my brother Mark. Born with a picky palette, Mark was well known for finding interesting ways to hide the food he didn't want to eat. A convenient dog under the table, sneaking food onto other people's plates or ingeniously stuffing food into the cushion of his chair. This wasn't discovered until many months later when the rancid mystery smell was finally traced back to the vinyl chair cushion stuffed with foam rubber and a mountain of peas.

Dad used to complain quite frequently about mom's quick-prep meals. (If we'd only had Rachel Ray back then.) Nothing sat that man off like coming home from work and finding Hamburger Helper on the stove. "Blank-it-e-Blank, Blank, Blank, Blank Joyce, you know how I hate that Blanker Blankin Blankburger Helper". What can I say, dad had a way with words. I suspect that's why the weekend food duties were summarily turned over to him.

One night of the weekend he would cook and the other night he would usually do take-out. He did both with passion and vigor. You couldn't help but get caught up in his excitement. This was the same colorful, grumpy Archie Bunker who sat in that recliner five days a week watching Truth or Consequences; the same man you carefully tip-toed around so as not to get hit with the fallout from his explosive temper. This same man now stood in the kitchen with a smile on his face, zestfully throwing in every kind of spice known to man kind, chopping, frying, stirring and humming as if a tiny cartoon bluebird were resting on his shoulder. Food made the man happy.

On the other hand, mom used food to make the rest of us happy. Cherry cobblers and banana pudding made from scratch were like giant band-aids she placed over our hearts when we were downtrodden. Or if God forbid, she noticed one of us looking a little too thin - she made it her personal quest to pack the pounds on us. This included our poor dogs. In addition to being on the receiving end of all the vegetables that couldn't fit into the vinyl chair cushion, our dogs were subjected to my mother's truest form of love. Here's our portly poodle named Prissy. She looks like a stuffed sausage with curly, white hair. We could decorate her with silly hats and sunglasses because once she was propped up like that, she was like a rolly polly on it's back.

I have continued to use food to self medicate during the low-lows or when life calls for a Sara Lee pound cake and a fork (why bother to cut a slice, just pop off the paper lid and and dig in). I was blessed with a tall frame and for most of my life I have been able to get away with these episodes of stress-induced hedonism. That however, is not the case today as I approach my 46th birthday. If you look closely, you can see the tiny red Sara Lee logo imbeddid in the form of cellulite on my thighs.

I recently realized I have been thinking of food as the enemy, something I need to strategically avoid, something that elicits fear, panic and loathing; both of the food and of myself. Not long ago, my boyfriend and I decided to venture downtown to "split some appetizers". Neither of us were hungry enough for a full dinner so it seemed like a splendid idea. It was late so our options were limited. We ordered what we thought was a serving of 12 small bites of deliciously mouthwatering munchies; however, through a simple math error and a misleading menu, we ended up with a platter containing 36 of my worst nightmares. A strange sort of involuntary nervous laugh was heard at the table and it was me.

Later recounting the experience to a trusted friend, I had one of those ah-ha moments of clarity. She reminded me of my love of food and told me to quite simply relax and enjoy it. Oh yeah, I do love food. The fear and negative energy I was associating with food was the very thing that was causing me to abuse it. I was sneaking around with my overindulgences. Like an alcoholic hiding the empty bottles, I was hiding in my relatively dark living room, dreaming up and then following through with the most outrageously decadent temptations I could possibly imagine.

I don't know if any of this makes sense to anyone other than me but I suspect we do a lot of things we know we shouldn't do under the cover of darkness. Sometimes it's literally dark and sometimes it's figuratively dark. I was in the dark in more ways than one. Until I was willing to recognize the fear and guilt and then let it go, I couldn't get back to thinking of food in a healthy, loving, natural way. Now I can nurture myself with food in the light of day, enjoying all of the subtle, palatable nuances, the edifying memories of childhood and the search for decent Mexican food in Milwaukee.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Another Fine Text You Got Me Into

I thought I might have created a new word yesterday. Textlexia. Twice in one day I had misinterpreted entries  aimed at humor, into hurtful, disappointing revelations about his character and our future together. Did I mention I also had PMS?

I woke up this morning wondering if, in fact, textlexia was already a word so I did what everyone does when they need to find out if something exists. I googled it. I found several entries for the word in a site called the "Urban Dictionary" - who knew there was such a thing? If I'm just now brave enough to be texting, I'm certainly not supposed to be aware of things like an urban dictionary containing an entirely different language than that taught by Mrs. Humpfreys in the 7th grade.

Afterall, I have to rely on my 23 year old son to tell me how to speak and write text or to translate text speak into the Queen's English. He even had to tell me how to talk about texting when he caught me referring to the act of sending or receiving a text as text mailing. "Mom", he says with a slight hint of smarmy exasperation, "it's text messaging".

In my very early, rudimentary texting days, a friend once told me to make sure to type little emoticons to ensure the meaning of my texts. A wink ;-) for example, would indicate you were joking. Since I didn't have the benefit of a wink yesterday, I was left to determine the meaning using the time honored female tradition of deductive reasoning. ;-) ;-) Yeah right. This amounts to immediately jumping to the worst possible conclusion and dismissing any other possibilities. All while managing to create a parallel universe where whatever he said must somehow be your fault.

I did find a meaning for Textlexia in the urban dictionary; however, it wasn't related to misinterpreting the meaning of a text. Officially, textlexia is 1.) the accidental use of text language when writing manually, like in composing a business letter or resume or 2.) the inability to spell words when using those frustrating predictive text modes. I tried to find a word to fit my situation but there are approximately 587 words in the urban dictionary using a derivative of the word text. Seriously?

Some of my favorites were Text Massage or getting a text when your phone is on vibrate; Textcrastinate which is to delay your text response or Textually Frustrated which is what happens when you're communicating with a textcrastinator and they are not meeting your textpectations. Since text rhymes with sex - there are tons of sexually suggestive text-slang words but my favorite is the classically simple Textual Intercourse, which when performed means you have consummated your relationship (and you need a cigarette). Can't you just hear it now, "I did not have textual relations with that woman."

After exhausting my research on all forms of the word text, I went on to look up hundreds of other words. With each new word I felt more trendy, increasingly hip and smart, like my 28 year old assistant. It felt like I was an unpopular kid who was finally allowed to hang with the cool kids. Like I was allowed to join a secret club where you have to know what cankles are or that the use of finger guns is strictly limited to creepy people with porn mustaches.

In the end, it looks like it's going to be up to me to coin the phrase to describe the affliction I experienced yesterday. I've decided I had a bad case of Textmorphic Disorder (TMD). Morph from the Greek Morphos meaning form, shape or structure and Disorder from the way I have lived most of my life. It will be defined as the inability to extrapolate tone, inflection or meaning from a text based communication.

There are a few basic guidelines I've come up with to help others who may find themselves impaired with TMD.

1. Do not jump to conclusions.
2. Do not use deductive reasoning.
3. It is best to textcrastinate to a perceived hurtful text - or better yet, do not respond at all.
4. If you have PMS, use the phone!
5. If you did fire back a 'WTF?' or 'SOB!', quickly follow it up with, "sorry, fingers slipped, having issues w/ texterity today.

I wonder if it wouldn't be a lot easier if we could simply all agree to ban the use of sarcasm in text mode. Or, at the very least, it should be mandatory to give a little text wink at the end of a potentially hazaardous message. Or maybe I should just not take things so seriously. Did I mention I have PMS?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Barbie Wasn't Gettin' Any and Ken Got No Head

Last week while cleaning out the basement, I stumbled upon the relics of my childhood. Actually, I didn't stumble at all. I purposely dug through the collection of boxes until I found those containing my childhood memories. While hormones, alcohol and aging have wiped out much, if not most, of my actual memories, I knew these few precious boxes had been carefully packed away to ensure instant memory archive retrieval. I have moved them countless times from place to place, refusing to even consider letting them go. I have a card catalog in my head containing the items residing in those clear plastic bins.

There's china - real china - from my tea set collections, an old basketball uniform with Harlem Globe Trotter-esque red, white and blue striped shorts. There are tattered pom pons, yearbooks, jewelry boxes complete with my chokers, bracelets and rings circa 1976. I have a shoe box full of poetry written throughout my childhood. The poems are numbered and the index is scribbled in pencil on the lid of the shoe box (yes, I was organized even back then). There are photos and scrapbooks - not like the scrapbooks of today - mine are all glue, hodge podged and magic marker-ee.

I saved a few special dolls hoping to pass them down to my girls but upon further inspection I realized they are not up to today's standards. They don't do anything, natta, absolutely nothing at all. My girls looked at them with curiosity, gave them a token bit of affection then promptly tossed them aside. Undaunted, I kept searching. Then I found the most unlikely of treasures, the cream of the crop, the piece de resistance - there it was - the white and blue case with the vintage floral design on the cover - it was the World of Barbie double doll case for Barbie and her friends.

I could hear the angels sing.

I opened the case to find Barbie and her friends a little worse for the wear. Barbie had developed hip problems and lost both her legs, Ken's head pops off and on (mostly off) and poor Skipper had suffered at the hands of a seven year old armed with scissors - that would be me. But the fashions, oh the fashions....they were all there.

Ken had his business suit/tuxedo, his scuba gear, his pajama ensemble complete with slippers and his psychedelic shirt and faux leather fringe vest. I remember thinking Barbie was so lucky to have a hot boyfriend like Ken. He was willing to marry her nearly every single day. For me and my friends, that's what Barbie and Ken did. They got married and they "played house". At the end of a long day filled with horseback riding and getting married or scuba diving and getting married, they would change into their PJ's and slip off to bed together, which usually meant we were ready to play with something else. Barbie and Ken kissed but that was it. Come to think of it, given his love of shopping with Barbie, keeping the house neat and always looking so perfectly groomed - never a hair out of place, I wonder if Ken wasn't gay.

Barbie had her wedding dress and veil, her complete snow skiing ensemble, her fur trimmed business suit with high gold lame' boots; multiple jumpsuits and ball gowns; go-go boots and fish nets in every color; a June Cleaver looking yellow dress (pearls included); and of course, her nighty. My, oh my, that was one sexy piece of lingerie Barbie was sporting. It was a peach colored satin nightgown with a lace bodice that left nothing to the imagination. Ward Cleaver never had it this good and unfortunately, it was most likely wasted on Ken. Wonder what my mom and dad thought of Barbie's super short, tush-baring, Frederick's of Hollywood creation?

Skipper was first introduced in 1964 as a preteen little sister for Barbie. As wholesome as milk and cookies, Skipper had an innocent appeal. Her fashions were spunky and hip; yet, they managed to provide plenty of coverage, if you know what I mean. Like her big sister, Skipper had a thing for gay guys. Both she and her best friend, Skooter, loved hanging out with the boy next door. His name was Ricky. You can judge for yourself but tell me Ricky isn't ten shades of gay.

All of my Barbies are from the "Mod Years" of the Barbie historical collection. The mod years represent one of the most tumultuous times in our country with sexual revolution, the Vietnam war, protests against the government, mainstream drug use and women's liberation. Barbie and Ken's daily wear would hint they were a part of these movements. Barbie wasn't wearing any bras. They both had outfits suggesting they participated in anti-war rallies - seriously, where else was Ken going to wear that psychedelic shirt and fringe vest? Yet, the Barbie and Ken I knew were only interested in adventure sports, travel and of course, getting married.

This is vastly different than the way my beautiful seven-year old twin daughters engage in doll play today. I have bought them Barbie dolls but honestly, I don't think they know what to do with them. Barbie's seem to all come with a theme these days. There is Island Princess Barbie and Fairytopia Barbie, Skating Sensation Barbie and on and on. The dolls are based on a lucrative franchise of Barbie movies. Essentially, girls don't need to create stories anymore - they come to them with their stories all packaged up neatly in a DVD case.

To me, this is an interesting evolution, considering the creator of Barbie, Ruth Handler, observed her daughter playing with paper dolls while imagining them as adults. She sensed a need for girls to have options other than baby dolls. Thus, Barbie was born in 1959. I don't know why my pretend play centered around marriage; afterall, it was 1969 - Barbie should have been happy to remain single. Whatever the reason, it is safe to say Ruth Handler was on to something.

The other options my girls have today is the proliferation of Hannah Montana dolls, High School Musical dolls and of course the you-will-never-own-one-as-long-as-I-am-alive-Bratz dolls. Mattel must be losing market share to those slutty Bratz dolls. Their latest Barbie's are sporting darker makeup, lower back tatoos and even leather chaps for their Harley. Am I the only one who finds the image of this Barbie a little scary? She would have bitch slapped Ken the minute he suggested she wear her pink sleeveless dress to the mall.

They don't really have a normal Ken doll either. Today there is Ken as James Bond, Captain Kirk, Legolas (from the Lord of the Rings), Superman, Prince Charming and even Ken as Shaggy. Barbie is not going to want to marry any of these characters. In 2006, they came up with a "new look" Ken doll. New look, my ass. They took one of those little high school musical teeny-bopper dolls and slapped a Ken head on it. Suddenly, Ken is a teenager. My Ken was muscular - he could fly planes and he owned a tuxedo. In fact, Ken disappeared from the market in 1967 and did not reappear until 1969 with a beefier, more muscular body. Some speculated he went off to war. My Ken was a man and Barbie loved him (gay or not).

I have watched my girls role-play with their doll collection for several years now. One of my favorite things to do is get within earshot of them and listen in without them knowing I'm there. I do this because once I am seen, they want me to join in; thereby spoiling my opportunity to hear them freely, spontaneously and delightfully pretend. It is a marvelous wonder of nature to witness identical twins engaging in pretend play. They are so in tune with each other, they can assume a role and let it flow for hours. They never stop to discuss story lines, assign new roles or argue about who gets to be Sharpay. They just pick up the dolls and let it flow.

So you can imagine how excited I was at the thought of watching these two dialog with my tattered conglomeration from the blue and white box. I sat down with them at the kitchen table, spread everything out and began to sort through the outfits. I had to explain fishnets, go-go boots and bell bottom pants. They actually loved the colorful fashions. I gave them a mini-tutorial on the characters. Barbie, Ken- the boyfriend and Skipper -the little sister. Then I let them have a go at it.

Over the next few days, they played with them on and off. It seemed to take them a little while to warm up to the idea of these ordinary dolls who came to them with no preordained storyline. Then one evening as I was busying myself with various chores, I was stopped dead in my tracks when I overheard them putting on the wedding dress and tuxedo. They were preparing for nuptials. I never once heard them planning a wedding for Troy and Gabriella, certainly Hannah Montana never thought of walking down the isle; yet, here they were snapping Barbie's legs back into place and popping Ken's head back on while dressing them in their wedding ensembles!

I dropped my laundry basket, tripped over the coffee table and literally leaped to the end of the couch where I could be positioned to hear them. The wedding was short and sweet, very little fanfare or ceremony - just a couple of "I do's" and then it was off to change into their nightwear. They were obviously tired. By this time, I am hanging over the arm of the couch, stretching my body outward and twisting it around the corner to the dining room as far as I can without injuring myself. I'm thinking I have just been given a unique opportunity to delve into what, if anything, my precious little girls know about a husband and wife going to bed together, and on their honeymoon no less:

Here's how the dialog ensued:

Barbie - That was a nice wedding.
Ken - Yes it was but I'm tired - are you ready for bed yet?
Barbie - I like your pajamas Ken.
Ken - I like yours too (remember Frederick's). Where's the bed?
Barbie - (Loudly) You were supposed to buy the bed!
Ken - Sorry Barbie, I didn't have any money to buy the bed.
Barbie - Why not, what have you done with all your money?
Ken - I spent it all on beef jerky.

At that moment, I was outed. My laughter caused me to darn near fall off the couch. I ran into the dining room and hugged them both. They had been married for less than ten minutes and they were already arguing. They were arguing over money - perhaps a little too close to home. And what's with the beef jerky? Nobody in our house eats beef jerky - where did that come from? Oh well, at least Barbie seemed to have her act together. It was Ken who was the deadbeat.

What is the lesson we learn from all of this? Is it good for kids today to only have their innocent teenage dolls with ready-made dialog or was it better when I was a little girl pretending to be a grown up with an exaggerated propensity to get married? History now reflects I did, in fact, get married a few times too many. I am glad I kept those old Barbie dolls. Perhaps what we learn is that to keep - means to keep tradition - to throw away would be to forget the experiences that have molded us. I don't know which kind of pretend play is better. I would like to think it's better to nurture imagination that to package the stories for our children. But who knows? After all, imagination sure got Ken into trouble by exposing his beef jerky habit.

Listen to the imaginings of children - you will learn and be inspired either way.