If You’re Not the Doctor, You Don’t Need To Know

Thank God my friends did not tweet the birth of their child.

Brad and I have been super-close for a decade. I wrote a whole ode to our friendship in a post back in April. We’ve seen each other through all kinds of drama: work, family and relationship-oriented. We’ve spent countless hours on the phone. We Facebook IM every day before I go to work and email each other once I get there. There’s absolutely nothing romantic between us; we’re just lucky to have each other as friends.

Yesterday, Brad became a daddy for the first time. His wife Carrie delivered baby Max after about 24 hours of quasi-labor followed by the real thing.

And not a word of it transmitted on the internet, until after little Maxwell arrived.

I knew Brad and Carrie would never go for the social network method of childbirthing, because neither one of them have the stomachs for that. Neither do I. A coworker has told me more than once about the person she had to nix from her online life because he was offering up regular transmissions about his wife’s dilation, effacement and station. The fact that he did this made my co-worker pretty sure he had some other significant character flaws.

Nobody wants to know that stuff.


Or at least, so I thought.

I spent Tuesday night with minimal sleep, waiting for a message on my phone (I had been promised a direct message, as opposed to learning about the child’s birth via Facebook, which I would have tried to be a big person about, but would have definitely hurt my feelings). I had dreams about it. When I got up in the morning I had to check the phone to make sure that Brad hadn’t actually called me and told me they were worried that the baby was breech, and that I had lost track of reality in some fuzzy sub-alert state (indeed, it was just a dream). Hours and hours and hours went by. Brad had told me around midnight that the doctors were going to induce Carrie because her contractions weren’t regular enough, and by noon I was wondering if they had done it right away or let her sleep for a while and then did it, or what. It could be hours and hours, I told myself.

I had flashbacks to when my sister was in labor with my nephew. That was hours and hours, though not as many as Carrie. The whole time, I was resisting the urge to pick up the phone and send a text: “Update???” Read: “Um, yo, bro-in-law, that’s my sister you’ve got there trying to squeeze that kid out, so if you wouldn’t mind letting us know if she’s still alive, that’d be great. Thanks.” But I didn’t do that. Delivering a child is sort of a hurry up and wait situation and no anxious father-to-be and exhausted, pained mother-to-be need to be bothered in the process. It’s an experience that’s between them. Much like the conception. They’ll tell you when the kid is here. Leave them alone.

So I left Brad alone, which I had promised I would do; he was already in a high state of agita with his in-laws and his mother at his house. They drive him crazy on a totally normal day.

It’s this “Leave Them Alone” philosophy that resulted in my tremendous annoyance when, hours and hours into this whole delivery effort, I found that some other people – mutual friends – did not share my viewpoint. I had decided it wouldn’t hurt if I checked out Carrie’s Facebook page to see if anything had been posted that I missed. I wouldn’t post anything, of course; I just wanted to see if there was an update. She and Brad had posted nothing, but a small cadre of friends had.

“What, no update in the middle of labor? We’re waiting!”

“Yeah, we’re waiting!”

“You should be keeping us posted!”

“Get the drugs!”

People. Are you kidding me with this?

First of all, there’s a reason neither Carrie nor Brad had posted anything on their respective pages about Carrie being in labor. There was no mention of it on the pages at all until our friend and former co-worker posted that first one. But he goes and posts it and now everybody sees that Carrie’s in labor. Which means everybody chimes in, sends messages, sends texts, whatever. Because people think it’s all about them. And they apparently never think of the possibility that something may have gone wrong, that something tragic may have happened. It didn’t, thank God, but it always could, and then they’d feel like total jerks. And they would be right.

I mean, who posts on a laboring woman’s Facebook page that they want an update? Basically all you’re doing is broadcasting personal information to hundreds of people she didn’t want to be informed. She’s not going to see the page until at least the next day. She doesn’t exactly have her laptop in the delivery room, or her smartphone in her hand. She’s sort of preoccupied with trying to deliver a child and then trying to wrap her head around the fact that this little bundle is here and needs her for everything and all of a sudden she needs him for everything, too, and the nature of her marriage and her life has just completely changed. She’s got some stuff to digest. So she maybe doesn’t want to be answering Facebook messages right now.

As for Brad, maybe there aren’t many of us who truly know how he is in major life-changing situations. His anxiety level is high on a regular basis, but he’s really good at hiding it, so maybe the circle of those who know not to make this crazy life-changing situation any more manic is fairly small. But as one of the people who does know this, I feel the urge to protect him from the mindless people who don’t.

I found myself drumming my fingers on the keyboard, dying to post something snarky under all these people’s idiotic musings, something zingy and pithy, directed at them, in hopes that they would get how stupid and thoughtless they were being.

But… I took a deep breath and employed the Thumper Rule instead. If you can’t say nothin’ nice, don’t say anything at all.

Brad was going to be annoyed enough at them later, though he’d let it go because he’d be holding his newborn son when he read the messages.

We could talk about them after.

Finally, at 4:30 or so yesterday afternoon, I got a text informing me that one of my dearest friends in the world was now the father of a healthy, 8 lb 12 oz boy named Maxwell. I yayed out loud at work. Which was awkward, because at the time, I was on the phone with a co-worker friend who was telling me about how his neighbor’s home had been robbed.

“So these kids just came in in the middle of the day, broke a window and got in–”

“OH YAY!!!”

“…Yeah, I’m gonna assume that’s not in response to the robbery.”


I spent the rest of the day checking to see if pictures had been posted… and they were, here and there. I won’t post them in this entry because he’s not my kid and I don’t have the copyrights to him. But he’s beautiful, and he’s got his eyes wide open most of the time, it seems. Much like his father, he appears to need entertainment.

This morning, while I was still practicing the Leave Them Alone, This Is Family Time philosophy, Brad sent me a text and a picture of little Max, wide awake and ready for action. “This is one alert dude,” Brad told me.

“How are you?” I asked.

“Good. I cried for about 20 minutes,” he said.

I loved that text. It told me so much about our friendship and his life in those few words. It made me cry to read it.

We exchanged a few more messages – everything went really smoothly, Carrie’s hurting but doing okay, they’ll go home tomorrow (the hospital has a minimum two-day stay at $750 a night – and I think that’s just the room rate). I know we’ll talk soon, and I can’t wait to meet the little guy.

But I’m so glad the whole cyber-universe didn’t have to read about Carrie’s cervix.

Well done, Brad and Carrie.

Featured image from gawker.com

Is This All There Is?

I wish Michele Bachmann would stop sounding like an idiot, for her own sake and for the sake of all of womankind. Though I wouldn’t vote for her, I know she’s not an idiot. But she just keeps opening her mouth and saying things that are so freaking stupid, they make me want to reach through the television/intertubes and shake her and tell her to stop making my entire gender look like morons.

The woman has a post-doctorate degree in tax law. That takes a brain. Why won’t she make that obvious?

She said the “shot heard ’round the world” was fired in New Hampshire.

It was in Massachusetts.

She said the founding fathers worked tirelessly to end slavery.

Um, the founding fathers owned slaves. Abraham Lincoln ended slavery. Sixteen presidents into the republic.

She said John Quincy Adams was one of the founding fathers.

John Quincy Adams was 10 when the country was formed. He later became the sixth president. Much later.

She said John Wayne was from Waterloo, Iowa.

John Wayne was from Winterset, 150 miles away. John Wayne Gacey, the serial killer– he was from Waterloo. (Lady. Google it. It’s not hard to fact-check your speeches.)

She said (and continues to say) that she believes states have the right to make laws and that she would not force them to overturn their laws on gay marriage, but that she favors a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage… which, by definition, overturns laws in states allowing it.

Alright… she studied hard at most things. Maybe just not history.

Bachmann is also painfully bad at walking back misstatements and owning up to mistakes. After her “shot heard ’round the world” comment, she posted on Facebook: “So I misplaced the battles Concord and Lexington by saying they were in New Hampshire. It was my mistake, Massachusetts is where they happened. New Hampshire is where they are still proud of it! And by the way, that will be the last time I borrow President Obama’s tele-prompter!”

I guess that means they’re not proud of it in Massachusetts anymore.

Nevermind that, when you’re running for president, you can’t just flippantly dismiss a misstatement that makes everyone think about elementary education. (See also: Sarah Palin’s version of Paul Revere’s ride.)

When Bachmann was questioned by Chris Wallace on her position on gay marriage and state vs. federal control over it, she couldn’t explain what she meant in any way that made sense (because it just flat-out doesn’t make sense – you either believe in state control over marriage or you believe in a constitutional amendment regarding it; you cannot possibly back both of those horses) and wound up talking about activist judges.

When George Stephanopolous of ABC News questioned her about the founding fathers/slavery statement, she started talking about how it’s good that we can change the things that are wrong in the country, talked about the Constitution, and then said the current administration is taking away our freedoms.

When she talks like that, when she answers direct questions with rambling talking points that only tangentially relate to what she’s been asked, she reminds an awful lot of people of Sarah Palin.

Pic snatched from theconservativetreehouse.wordpress.com, which may or may not still exist.

If she thinks that’s going to help her, I’m pretty sure she’s out to lunch.

With these two women coming from back-to-back Republican races, it’ll be a wonder if anybody (sane) ever thinks a woman could be smart enough to run the country and, by extension, the free world. A male friend of mine asked me, during the 2008 campaign, how I would feel as a woman if Sarah Palin wound up as vice-president. Politics aside, I told him there were so many other Republican women in American history – recent American history – who could do that job so much better that my feeling was, “Why does it have to be her?” Not “why does it have to be a Republican?” (I’m a registered Independent who, you may have guessed, leans left), but “why her?” I could have been proud if it were Ann Richards (though being dead would make her campaign difficult), or Kay Bailey Hutchinson, or Bay Buchanan, or Christine Todd-Whitman. I’m not saying I support their politics inherently, but those are smart, effective women.

It’s not fair to ask one female political candidate to carry a mantle for all of womankind, but frankly, that’s what she’ll likely be expected to do if she ever gets to that top echelon, and well… I’d like her to properly identify the Founding Fathers.

George Washington? Yes. (image from americaslibrary.gov)

George Bush? No. (pic from bspcn.com)









But Bachmann and Palin are not the only politicians to make stupid mistakes when they open their mouths. Plenty of our male politicians do it too. I remember at one point during the previous presidential campaign, Sen. John McCain talked about the border of Iraq and Pakistan. The border of Iraq and Pakistan has its own names: Iran and Afghanistan. He made that mistake more than once. In fact, Sen. Joe Lieberman bent to quietly whisper a correction in his ear at one point (which must be why McCain originally wanted Lieberman to be his VP). He thought Darfur was in Somalia instead of Sudan. He called Vladmir Putin the president of Germany instead of Russia.

Facepalm, indeed. (pic from blog.reidreport.com)

These may seem like easy academic errors (after all, how many people know what nations border Iraq just off the top of their heads?) But when you’re campaigning to be president, and oh, there’s a war there, these kinds of fact errors matter. A lot.

And it’s not just Republicans who make these kinds of mistakes. President Obama said he had visited 57 states. He said his parents got together because of the march in Selma, Alabama, which happened three years after he was born. He said 10,000 people died in a tornado in Kansas that killed 11 people. Those are substantial fact-based errors too.

Sometimes I do think we’re sexist when it comes to female politicians, regardless to which party they belong. Chris Wallace, pointing out her history of making false, or at least partly false, statements, asked Rep. Michele Bachmann if she’s a flake. He stopped for a second before he said it, as if he knew it might cause a problem, and it did; he got a lot of flak from viewers who thought the question was sexist. I happen to agree. We don’t call men flaky. It’s not a perception problem; it’s a wording problem. Wallace could have found a better way to say it, but he chose a sexist word. That’s terribly unfortunate. I’m not going to peg him with the entire weight of sexism in this country and its political system, but it’s an example.

And again, it’s not just Republican women who take flak, although it seems the other side takes flak for different reasons. Remember how up-in-arms people got when the tough as nails Hillary Clinton momentarily softened and she got teary at a public event? We love it when men do that, but legions of people shrieked that Sen. Clinton wasn’t strong enough to run the country. If she showed her mettle, she was a b*&^h. If she softened, she was weak.

We seem to be in a political environment right now that allows any attractive Conservative woman to run for president or vice-president. I don’t know why that is; I don’t know why more attractive Democratic women aren’t garnering national attention. Then again, I don’t want those to be the criteria for candidacy; I’d much prefer someone like now-Secretary Clinton, who’s got the brains and the chops to get things done and not come across like an idiot.

But maybe, after all these years, this country still likes its women pretty and maybe not so goshdarned obvious about their smarts.

Nobody likes a show-off. Unless the show-off is a man. In which case, he’s just confident and capable.

Congresswoman Bachmann is smart, but maybe she’s not very politically savvy. Maybe that’s the distinction we need to make. She knows her talking points (without having to write them on her hand) and she knows that she needs to focus everything she says on how to make President Obama retire in 2012. But she has no skill or deftness, and apparently she either has no staff to help her with it, or she doesn’t listen to them. And either she needs to learn that or she’s going to continue to be the whipping girl for everybody out to find someone to hate in this election cycle.

Why be a sacrificial lamb? Get smart, or get out.

Michele Bachmann: Still Not Making Sense

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, believe it or not, has not actually officially really truly announced yet that she’s running for president. She’s announcing today sometime. (I’m writing this Sunday night to post on Monday, so apologies if she’s beaten me to the post.) She made what’s called a “soft” announcement at the New Hampshire debate, telling CNN’s John King that she had filed her paperwork that day. She said she wanted him to be the first to know.

Well, him, the other six candidates on the stage, the entire audience at the venue, the people at the satellite venue who were submitting questions, and everybody who was watching CNN right then.

Anyway, despite still not having made her official, serious announcement, as of Sunday, she was already within one percentage point of Mitt Romney in the Iowa caucus polls. (More on what that means later, but here’s a hint: possibly not much.)

Steeped in conservatism. (photo from allvoices.com)

Yesterday, she made the rounds on the Sunday morning talk shows. I didn’t see her on all of them — which made me a little sad, because I wanted to see if she had a tea bag in her hand like she used to carry to her public events — but I did hear a replay of her appearance on Fox News Sunday as I was listening to C-SPAN radio in my car. And once again, the position that made no sense to me at the debate returned… and still made no sense to me.

Chris Wallace, who sounds like he’s been practicing to be a news anchor since he learned to speak (he’s CBS “60 Minutes'” Mike Wallace’s son, so I guess it’s possible), was asking Rep. Bachmann about her position on gay marriage. In the wake of NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo signing a bill legalizing gay marriage there, Wallace wanted to clarify what Bachmann said at the debate. Here’s a transcript from the show:

BACHMANN: Well, I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. And I also believe — in Minnesota, for instance, this year, the legislature put on the ballot for people to vote in 2012, whether the people want to vote on the definition of marriage as one man, one woman. In New York state, they have a passed the law at the state legislative level. And under the 10th Amendment, the states have the right to set the laws that they want to set.

WALLACE: So, even though you oppose it, then it’s OK from your point for New York to say that same-sex marriage is legal?

BACHMANN: That is up the people of New York. I think that it’s best to allow the people to decide on this issue. I think it’s best if there’s an amendment that goes on the ballot where the people can weigh in. Every time this issue has gone on the ballot, the people have voted to retain the traditional definition of marriage as recently as California in 2008.

WALLACE: But you would agree if it’s passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor, then that’s a state’s position.

BACHMANN: It’s a state law. And the 10th Amendment reserves for the states that right.

So, that sounds like Rep. Bachmann believes the states have the right to decide the definition and validity of a marriage. This is the part where Chris Wallace asks Rep. Bachmann to watch a clip of herself answering this question at the New Hampshire debates. At that time, she said she supported a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, but she would not go into individual states that allow gay marriage to overturn their laws. Apparently, I’m not the only one still trying to figure out what the hell she meant.

WALLACE: That’s why I’m confused. If you support state rights, why do you also support a constitutional amendment which would prevent any state from recognizing same-sex marriage?

BACHMANN: Well, because that’s entirely consistent–

In my car, out loud, I said to my radio, “No, it’s not! I think what you meant to say was it is, in fact, not at all consistent.”

BACHMANN: –that states have, under the 10th Amendment, the right to pass any law they like. Also, federal officials at the federal level have the right to also put forth a constitutional amendment. One thing that we do know on marriage, this issue will ultimately end up in the courts, in the Supreme Court. I do not believe the judges should be legislating from the bench.

My head snapped focus from the road to the radio. “Lady, what are you talking about?”

BACHMANN: As president of the United States, I would not appoint judges who are activists —

WALLACE: But this has nothing to do with the judges.

“Thank you, Chris!” In my car, I’m on a first-name basis with Chris Wallace. 

BACHMANN: — who want — who want to legislate from the bench. Under the federal government, again, federal representative can put forward a federal constitutional amendment because ultimately, with states having various laws, the federal government —

(CROSSTALK) Chris is confused, Bachmann is trying to get back on the rails…

WALLACE: My point is this, do you want to say it’s a state issue and that states should be able to decide? Or would like to see a constitutional amendment so that it’s banned everywhere?

BACHMANN: It is — it is both.

“WHAT?! It’s both?” The people behind me could now see me throwing a hand up in the air in the universal “WTF?” gesture.

BACHMANN: It is a state issue and it’s a federal issue. It’s important for your viewers to know that federal law will trump state law on this issue. And it’s also — this is why it’s important — Chris, this is why it’s so important because President Obama has come out and said he will not uphold the law of the land, which is the Defense of Marriage Act. The Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act and Bill Clinton signed it into law, to make sure that a state like New York passed a definition of marriage other one man, one woman, that other states wouldn’t be forced to recognize New York’s law.

WALLACE: But just real quickly —

BACHMANN: And President Obama has said —

WALLACE: Congresswoman, if I may —

BACHMANN: Let me just finish this. In opposition to what is supposed to do, he is charged with executing our laws, whether he likes them or no. That’s why this is so crucial. That’s why I think you may see again a rise at the federal government level for a — a call for the federal constitutional amendment, because people want to make sure that this definition of marriage remains secure, because after all, the family is the fundamental unit of government.

She’s gone ’round the bend!

WALLACE: So, just briefly, you would support a constitutional amendment that would overturn the New York state law?

BACHMANN: Yes, I would. I would. That is not inconsistent–

YES IT IS!” I’m so emphatic that I nearly swerve into another lane.

BACHMANN: –because the states have the right under the 10th Amendment to do what they’d like to do. But the federal government also has the right to pass the federal constitutional amendment. It’s a high hurdle, as you know. We only have 27 amendments to the federal constitution. It’s very difficult. But certainly, it will either go to the courts, or the people’s representatives at the federal level.

That’s the end of that topic; they moved on to abortion, which I tune out because I don’t believe it’s a political issue. Phew. Now I can calm down a little. Good thing: people on the highway were beginning to look at me funny. Like they do when I sing my vocal warm-ups as I drive. It would have been really embarrassing to have to explain to an officer that I ran my car off the road because Michele Bachmann was trying to explain her position on gay marriage. It only would have been a shade less embarrassing than explaining that my vocal slides confused other drivers and made them think there was an ambulance behind them.

Clearly, Ms. Bachmann knows she can’t answer the gay marriage question very well. She’s a Republican and therefore against “big government,” which means she wants states’ rights preserved, so she’s trying to play to that with her insistence that marriage is a state issue. But she’s also a Christian conservative pandering to the Tea Partiers in the GOP, which means she has to come out strongly against gay marriage, which leads to her saying she wants a constitutional amendment. Her off-topic rant about “activist judges” (and I love that they’re only “activist” when they rule against conservative Republicans) was apparently her attempt to back up her assertion that the decision over gay marriage will eventually go to the Supreme Court.

Republicans don’t want gay marriage cases to go to the Supreme Court without a constitutional amendment, because there’s nothing in the Constitution that defines marriage. Marriage has always been left to the states. Which means if a state case goes to the Supreme Court, the Court is very likely to rule that the marriage is allowed, or at least is not disallowed, because the Court is sworn to uphold the Constitution… and the Constitution renders no legal opinion on the matter. So… certain (not all) Republicans want a Constitutional amendment so that judges on the Court will be more likely to rule against gay marriage.

Got me?

Rep. Bachmann’s sudden injection of President Obama’s position on the Defense Of Marriage Act (signed into law by President Clinton in 1996) is another end-around for the state vs. federal jurisdiction argument. DOMA defined marriage, for federal purposes, as being between a man and a woman, and told states that they would not be required to recognize a gay marriage if it had been performed in a state where it was legal. So why did DOMA happen? Because the Constitution contains in its original body (not an amendment) something called the Full Faith and Credit Clause. That clause requires any state in the union to legally recognize “public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state.”

Which means the Full Faith and Credit Clause would force a state where gay marriage is not legal to recognize a same-sex marriage performed in a state where it was.

If it weren’t for DOMA.

And the president, along with at least one federal judge, a California bankruptcy court and US Attorney General Eric Holder, all say DOMA is unconstitutional, so the president has directed his administration not to defend the 1996 law.

After that it gets a little tricky, because President Obama does not actually support gay marriage. But that doesn’t stop some Republicans from blasting him for it anyway.

Bachmann got in her factoid about President Obama refusing to support DOMA because she wanted to get another talking point in: namely, she was accusing Mr. Obama of not upholding his sworn duty as a member of the Executive Branch of US government.

One problem.

The president swears to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. And as we’ve already established… there is no constitutional law about marriage. Except that which is implicit in the Full Faith and Credit Clause.

Ruh-roh, Republicans.

So what about that other thing I mentioned? The thing about Rep. Bachmann pulling to within one point of Mitt Romney in the Iowa caucus polls? What does that mean?

It could mean that she’ll win the first primary in the country, which sometimes sets the tone for a party’s nomination process.

Or it could mean nothing, since Mitt Romney isn’t even taking part in the Iowa caucus; he’s focusing his attention on New Hampshire, where he knows he’s stronger. So technically, Rep. Bachmann is not quite tied with a guy who’s not actually spending any time in the state.

In 2008, Arizona Governor Mike Huckabee came from a 4% general poll rating to win the Iowa caucus outright.

Caucus polls are just fun for poli-sci wonks and campaign staffers. They don’t actually mean anything. In fact, sometimes things swing pretty wildly from one caucus to another; in 2008, Pres. Obama broke out in Iowa, but Hillary Clinton beat him in New Hampshire.

Rep. Bachmann is not a dumb woman. She’s actually very well educated. She has a post-doctorate in tax law, she has run a business and she has raised five children and fostered 23 with her husband, to whom she’s been married for 33 years. She deserves credit for all of those things. She’s certainly a hell of a lot smarter than Sarah Palin, and Rep. Bachmann doesn’t quit her job, or her bus tour, come to think of it. So we would do well to resist the urge to lump her in with the former VP candidate.

But I, for one, will be waiting for her to start making some kind of sense on gay marriage.

"I don't really know." (photo from scienceblogs.com)

Plastic Surgery. Who Thought This Was A Good Idea?

I caught Barry Manilow on Piers Morgan last night.

At least, I think it was Barry Manilow. Either him, or Howdy Doody has learned to play piano.

It's Howdy Doody Time!


Barry? Is that you?


Barry Manilow may write the songs that make the whole world sing, but he’s had surgical procedures that make the young girls cry. I didn’t have the volume up; I’m not sure if that made the show more or less frightening. At one point, he got excited about something and opened his eyes really wide, and my heart stopped.



Oh, Barry. What happened? You now represent a cadre of men who have decided that it’s a good idea to go under the knife. Why have none of you recognized that men never look good after they have plastic surgery? Most women look a little odd, though some can pull it off if it’s understated and they’ve already got good genes. Men just look terrifying.

There’s poor Smokey Robinson, who can’t blink anymore…


Just like Pagliacci did, he tries to keep his sadness hid.


There’s Mickey Rourke, who can only play fighters now because he looks like he got hit in the face…

Oh, Mickey. Not so fine.

There was Michael Jackson… need I say more?

"I only had my eyes and my chin done."

Kenny Rogers had to have been the worst call – the guy was so ruggedly perfect looking for his gig, and then he got bad advice from his friend Dolly Parton…

Know when to walk away... know when to run.

So why, Barry? Why didn’t you look at these guys, almost all from your generation, and say, “Um… nah.”?

You know what I find really kind of hilarious about it? He’s never had his nose done. I did actually hear a clip from the Piers Morgan interview and he was talking about how he would never even consider having his nose done.


The nose? No.



(Of course, when I heard that, I immediately started singing the bastardized version of “Copacabana:”
Got a nose shaped
Like a banana
My nostrils both live in Montana
Got a nose shaped
Like a banaaaaanaaa–
Off my  nose, you can see half of the city of Atlanta…)

Look. I know it’s tempting. You’re adored by millions, you want to hang on to that youthful appearance that made you beloved… you’re stupid rich… and you think you can buy a fountain of youth. But you come out – always – looking like someone took a floor waxer to your face.


I don’t want to get old. I don’t want to look old. I’m already in the mirror every night and every morning with the anti-aging creams and cleansers. And you know, there are some plastic surgeries that maybe I would endorse… like a little lipo here and there. But can’t we all agree that no one looks normal after they have their eyes done?

You can't fix Crazy.

The only guy I can think of who’s had work done and manages to still look semi-normal is Paul McCartney.

"Who, me?" Not bad, Sir Paul. But could have let it be.

Then again, Paul McCartney may have been killed in a car accident in 1966 and that could be that chap William Campbell on his third round of plastics. In which case, I say well done, Doc.

I personally like a man with a little age to him. Women always say it: we look haggard as we get older, and most men develop faces of distinguished experience. I find it sexy. If I have to pick between Rob Lowe and the showing-his-years George Clooney, I’m going Clooney every time. (I’m aware that this is not really a terrible choice.) Rugged and weathered beats pretty and preserved every time. Don’t mess with what God gave you. You will not win. I’d rather see some laugh lines, some crow’s feet, some furrowed brow. Close up, that tells me your story so much better.

Because, Barry, the thing about lines is, you can’t smile without them.

The Ugly Truth

Beauty pageants.

Why do we still have these things, again?

No, really. I don’t understand. What is this for?

Oh, right. Mindlessly judging young women based on their attractiveness and barely camouflaged sex appeal. In a contest.

Yes, yes, I know, there are questions they have to answer. Allegedly, these are questions one cannot get wrong. They’re sort of opiniony, bleeding-heartish, “I wanna save the world!” questions. Yet somehow, people like that poor girl on Miss Teen USA a few years ago can still muck it all up with their “Maps and like such as” stuff.

And I don’t blame her. I don’t. She was 17 and sparkly and shiny and she had super-white teeth and pretty hair and that was really all she was supposed to have to do. I don’t know the poor girl, but I’m sure she’s not really that dumb… she just got caught in the lights and she was only 17, so she hadn’t quite figured out how to save the world yet. Maps. Everyone needs maps. That should help.

These events use the idea of national spokeswomanhood for some cause or another, and maybe some cash for a scholarship, as so much blemish concealer to try to hide the fact that they’re really just about the base social studies lesson of trying to determine, from year to year, which state has the prettiest young women on the whole. Then this particular pageant sends that girl on to see if she’s as pretty as the women from other countries.

Really, though, they barely talk about anything but the prettiness contest. It’s actually rather brazen.

I did a little research. (Very little. It’s hard to bring oneself to google “Miss USA” while hating everything it stands for.) Miss USA is the pageant that catapults its winner to the Miss Universe pageant. (Nevermind how stunningly Earthist that pageant is. Not unlike the World Series involving only American and a couple token Canadian teams.) Miss USA’s “history” page says the Miss Universe pageant started from a “local bathing beauty competition” spearheaded by a swimwear designer.

How inspirational.

It says the Miss Universe contest has “evolved into a powerful, year-round, international organization that advances and supports opportunities for these young women” who are “savvy, goal-oriented and aware.”

It doesn’t say what they’re aware of.

Then it asks you to click on the past titleholders to see where they are now. So I did. I thought maybe they’d have some women who have made successful careers in business, finance, movies, whatever.

I have never heard of any of these women in my life. Including the years they won.

Nevermind that there are no links for these women. There are photos of them dating back to 1952, with their names… but no links to see “where they are now!”

The website, like the event itself, is a bunch of flash and glitter. And that’s all.

Now don’t get me wrong. The women who win these preposterous contests do travel the world and do some charity work. I don’t know how dirty they get, but they do some stuff. And that’s great.

Now show me what they do after they’re done being a beauty queen for a year.

Isn’t that what we should celebrate?

But that’s not how it works. We spend an evening (and I’m playing fast and loose with the word “we”) sitting in front of a television, judging these women on who’s pretty, who’s prettier, and who’s prettier still. Do we like her hair? What about her hips? Oh, she’s got nice legs. The one on the right might be better. Wow… honey, where’d you get those teeth? Ease up on the mascara! Those boobs cannot possibly be real.

The Question and Answer portion of the evening usually boils down to “She’s an idiot” and “That wasn’t an awful answer…”

I know a few women who have been in pageants here and there. Mostly small events, though I worked with a former Miss Massachusetts. Nice woman. I’d tell you her name, but you wouldn’t know her. She’s very nice, and was fine at her job. She wasn’t an idiot; she wasn’t an empty head. I’m not saying they all are. I’m saying the pageants they participate in are full of empty promises. Bright lights in big cities and some money for school, maybe. Maybe a chance to take a year off, travel, see Haiti and Africa, work with AIDS-infected orphans and do some real good (if it’s not just a photo op). I’m sure those experiences are formative for those women. I’m sure they make impressions.

Just not on us.

Isn’t the pageant industry just a way to put pretty women on a stage and see who falls? Who falters? Who flubs? Aren’t the “opportunities” afforded to these women based completely on how they look?

Aren’t we supposed to be getting past that by now?

1952. That’s when this nonsense started. From a bathing suit competition in California.

Haven’t we evolved since then?

What about the girls all over the country who really need opportunities? Who have poise but aren’t pretty? Who are pretty but not privileged? Do we realize how many pageants, how many entry fees, how many ball gowns and hairdos these girls need to go through, how many contests they have to win, to get to the national stage, where the “real opportunities” happen?

What a joke.

The money that’s spent on the tiaras and the production and the TV time and the staff for the event, for the facade of a website… There’s so much good that money could do.

So many opportunities it could create for so many women.

But instead, it’s all funneled for one woman, who’s judged to be the best-looking one on the stage.

Who we never hear of again.

They don’t need to do huge things when they’re done being the queen. But I’d like to see the celebration start after the tiara comes off. When they go to work. Become mothers. Become better, smarter, more real. Celebrate them on a national stage then.

Because that’s when women are really beautiful.

Featured image from lasvegassun.com

My Father’s Daughter

My father was nearly 26 when I was born. The first of four daughters, I would train him in what it meant to be a dad. I was the guinea pig. And I quickly showed my parents that they would have little to no control over what their darling little girls would be.

My mother will tell you that when I was about two and still (for a few months) the only child, she was rather surprised to realize that her children would not be little malleable personalities that she could mold into whatever she wanted them to be. They would be who they were, and she might not be able to do much about it.

My father puts it differently. “You’ve been independent since you were two damned years old,” he tells me. But there’s always a twinkle in his eye when he says it.

My dad is big: six feet four inches, and every ounce of 240 pounds. He could scare you as soon as look at you, and my sisters and I joke about the look we would get if we didn’t have our best table manners on display at dinner. My father inherited The Look from his father, who was not big at all. The Look is well understood in my extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins. Many of us have inherited it, including me. I don’t have any children to give it to, but I’ve been known to give it to coworkers and friends. But I still hate getting it from Dad. Takes me right back to being eight years old.

My father never went to college, a choice he has regretted for decades. But I thought he was the smartest man in the world, and sometimes I still do. He has a natural curiosity, a passion for “getting it,” and a knack for quickly processing things. He might not have book knowledge, analyses of literature or philosophy, but there’s never a conversation between us in which he can’t hold his own. We talk about a lot of things: business, politics, current events, family history, present drama. We can talk for an hour and a half.

He’s stubborn and difficult sometimes, but when it comes to academic things, he’s never afraid to say, “Hey, I don’t know this. What do you know?”

When I was a little girl, there was nothing he couldn’t answer for me (unless he chose the answer “Go ask your mother”).  When I was out of the house and my little sister was in fourth grade, I called one night and Dad was studying with her for a test. This was something he had never done with us older girls; he’d always been working.

On the phone, Dad seemed aggravated, and I could hear my little sister laughing in the background.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“Your sister has a test tomorrow and I’m trying to study with her–” (cackles from what sounded like a place lower than where he was standing… was she on the kitchen floor?)      “–but she won’t focus!”

“Where is she?”

“Oh, she’s on the floor,” he replied with a mock-casual tone, clearly irritated with my sister’s youthful giddiness.

“Let me talk to her.”

“Hello?” she giggled.

“Hey shorty. I hear you laughing and Dad seems annoyed.”

A sigh. “I have a test tomorrow in social studies. It’s about fields and streams and exploring and settlements and stuff, but Daddy keeps going on and on about maps.”

“You should know it!” Dad yelled from somewhere sounding like the family room.

“Dad! That was last week!” my sister yelled back.

Aha. “Put him back on the phone,” I told her.

“She’s impossible!” he huffed. “She studied this last week! She should understand how it goes together with this week’s lessons!” Not only had Dad not studied with his older daughters; he’d lost what little patience he had as he’d gotten older.

“Dad, kids don’t learn like that.”

“She just did it last week!”

“I know, Dad, but she’s young. They don’t care about last week. They care about this week. It doesn’t all come together until later.”

He sort of growled. My sister laughed again in the background. 

“She’s killin’ me,” he said. But there was laughter in his voice.

My mother and I don’t have a close relationship. My independence and self-possessed nature– my non-malleability– was never something she could get her head around. Many times between  my 18th and 25th birthdays, my father would call me and start his first sentence with, “Your mother…”

Any time my father started a sentence with “your mother,” I knew he was running interference for her. He wanted to smooth the way and get me to understand and respect something from her perspective. He also wanted me to call her and make whatever was going on go away, even if she was in the wrong.  Yet as I have gotten older, he’s also called me and asked me to explain certain things about my mother to him.

“I give up. What the hell is wrong with your mother?” he’ll say.

My father is a pretty stoic guy. Being as big as he is, and as Irish as he is, it’s almost a requirement. He can be gruff and abrupt. He can bark. His whole expression can change in a second from something relaxed to something that looks like it’s going to shoot lasers out of its eyes. One of his friends and former employees used to call him The Man of A Thousand Faces.

I have inherited this trait, as well. I make lots of faces that get me into trouble. But incongruously, I don’t show much emotion. Very few people have ever seen me cry. I’m sensitive, but no one sees that. “She’s a rock,” people say.

Guess who I got that from.

This leads me to be able to understand my father a little better, perhaps, than most people do. Maybe even better than my sisters. When he lost his job to “corporate downsizing” nine years ago, I happened to be home for a visit. He told all of us how everything was fine and my sister’s upcoming wedding was already paid for and he would find another job. But I knew, as the oldest daughter, the one who had inherited his stubbornness and stoicism mixed with tenderness and sensitivity, the first one to inherit his work ethic and sense of self, that it was killing him. He was 51 at the time. He had moved his family from city to city and state to state for that job, finally working his way back to where we were from,  finally “home,” back with family and old friends, where he’d meant to retire. He had no degree and no experience outside of what he’d been doing (on call 24 hours a day) for 28 years. I knew he was worried about getting another job. When I heard him on the phone, telling his parents that the way he’d supported his family for decades was disappearing, I died for him.

His friends and former co-workers created a position for him in a rival company. He took a major pay cut, but he had a job. He worked for two years in that position until the company told him they had a job for him in Florida. His choice was to take that job and move just as he and my mother had planned to settle in where they’d been raised and be around for their aging parents… or lose his job again.

They moved. Twenty-four hours later, they were called home because my grandfather was dying.

Everything that was stewing in my father got very powerful, very quickly. It built into a head of steam that led to a confrontation a few nights later with one of my older cousins over something stupid that nearly led to a fistfight.

We have never spoken of that night, as my grandfather lay dying in his bed in the house and the rest of the family sat in the backyard, digesting a cookout.

It was Father’s Day, 2004.

My dad thought he would lose his father that night, and have to leave his siblings to care for his unwell mother, after he had lost his job, and his whole plan for being there as his parents aged and his children had children.

What he showed was anger. What he had was guilt, and a broken heart.

Later, he called my cousin out from the house. I heard it. He used his eldest nephew’s  nickname – the one that only my father (and I) call him. And I knew everything was going to be alright. Dad had realized how wrong he was. I’m sure he was ashamed, and he has a lot of Irish pride, but I know he apologized. He recognized the man his nephew had become, and he had confronted within himself what had really caused that time-stopping standoff in the yard.

As Dad has gotten older, he’s acknowledged that the next generation has gotten older, too. He realizes that his daughters are women now, and that they each deserve respect for what they’ve accomplished, what they know, and who they are. He treats us as the women we’ve become instead of the little girls we used to be.

Most of the time, at least.

He is never happier than when he has all four of his girls together. He admires his daughters. Which makes me love him even more.

As it turns out, my father did have some control over who I would become. I got my college education, in large part, because he did not. He is not perfect, and having inherited much of my personality from him, neither am I. I have his wit. I have his work ethic. I have his bad back and his dirty looks. I have his curiosity and his impatience. I have his stubborn pride and his tender heart. And I could not be prouder, or more grateful, to be his daughter.

Isn’t It Romantic? Wait… Isn’t It?

Yesterday, while I was at work, I decided to take a walk up the street to get a little treat after dinner. I had brought my food, but I work in a windowless basement to which I refer as the sensory deprivation chamber, and I needed to get out and get some fresh air before I lost my mind on my sixth day of work in a row.

When I got above-ground to a place where I could see the outside world, I realized it was raining. Really, really hard. Big, fat plops of rain. What my father would call a “wet rain.”


I debated. Do I really want to go out in that? I have an umbrella, but I don’t know. It’s not windy- it’s coming straight down… but I don’t really want frozen yogurt that much… I was really just looking for an excuse to go outside, but now…

Oh come on, woman. You won’t die. It’s rain.

So I went. I pulled my umbrella out of my purse. (It’s a small, but not too small, umbrella. Lime green. Super cute.) 

Jack and I separately fantasize a lot about playing in the rain. I thought of this as I made my first steps up the street, brightly-colored umbrella bobbing among the black and tan boring ones. The rain was temperate – not cold. It wasn’t a particularly hot day, so the rain didn’t bear that especially refreshing feeling, but still, it cleaned the air.

I was rather enjoying it. I was thinking that, sometimes, even walking alone in the rain is romantic.

I had to ignore the big noisy smelly buses and the cars sloshing up and down the street and the homeless guy yelling that he loved me (which is not romantic), but I kept with the vibe.

I had worn jeans to work (my declarative statement about working an extra day), with kicky bronze strappy sandals. They were starting to get a little wet. I had avoided the streams of water at the curbs and jumped over the river that was running from a store’s downspout out to the street (curiously, the rain that comes from this downspout is always soapy-looking, leading me to wonder what exactly is going on on that roof). And the bottoms of my jeans were getting wet, too.

Still, it wasn’t a bad walk.

At the frozen yogurt place, the mixed vanilla and chocolate dispenser was taking forever to drool my fat-and-sugar-free goodness into the cup. I had to hold my dripping umbrella in the hand that was also holding the cup, while the other hand held the lever down to dispense the swirls. Helplessly, I watched chocolate yogurt drip into the umbrella.


Okay, well… maybe I can wipe it off before I go out.

When I had finished putting fatty and sugary toppings on my fat-and-sugar-free yogurt, I paid, and walked out into the rain again. I had forgotten to try to wipe off the inside of the umbrella, and now little rivulets of chocolate threatened to drip onto my clothes as I walked.

I mused about how chocolate rain is not as great as we might think.

With the umbrella over my head, I couldn’t eat the frozen yogurt as I walked. I had to just hold it, awkwardly, passing people on the sidewalk who looked at me like, “Aren’t you gonna eat that?” I had tried in vain to find a way to make it work, but alas… the spoon was clutched impotently in my umbrella-holding hand.

Chocolate dripped.

The river of sudsy water coming from the business’s downspout had grown. I couldn’t jump over it.

My feet and kicky bronze strappy sandals were drenched. That meant I couldn’t change my stride or my feet would slide in the sandals and I’d twist my ankle or break a strap.

The bottom six inches of my jeans were sopping. And, increasingly, the upper reaches, around my thighs, were getting wet where the rain was dripping off the outside of my umbrella onto me as I walked.

Design flaw.

By the time I got back to work, my Romantic Walk in the Rain For One had become pretty damned uncomfortable.

I glanced in the wall mirror as I beeped my way back in with my keycard. Somehow, a chunk of my hair had gotten wet. Really wet. I hadn’t felt it happening. Now I had that really awesome 3/4 styled but now flat, 1/4 wet and hopeless look going on.

And I still hadn’t had a spoonful of my frozen yogurt.

Back at my desk, my co-worker looked at me. “Oh, is it raining?” she asked.

“No, I just walked through a car wash on my way back,” I replied, feeling street-grit on the bottoms of my feet and between my toes.

I sent Jack an email. “I just went for a walk in the rain. I had an umbrella, but the bottom 12 inches of me is soaked. Walking in the rain is much better when you’re not working.”

I won’t tell you what his reply was. Suffice it to say it was to do with the wet jeans.

Come to think of it, I realized, there are a lot of things we tend to imagine as romantic that often turn out not to be. The conditions have to be just right, don’t they? It’s a controlled experiment, those romantic notions-come-true. I remember (how could I forget?) the night that my first and longtime love showed up at my door to ask me for another chance. He had broken my heart over and over again for years, and I had finally closed the book on us. He lived 700 miles away. He had driven 10 and a half hours, by himself, and showed up with a bottle of wine and a single white rose.

Sounds so amazing, doesn’t it?

It wasn’t. It totally sucked.

First of all, there was no music when I opened the door. No Puccini (in case I wanted him back). No Gloria Gaynor or Beyonce’ (in case I didn’t). There was only stunned silence and a big mess of unpleasant emotion. There was no holding each other in our arms and kisses on the head and nose and mouth and murmurs of “I’m so glad you’re here.” There was no sense of female empowerment when I told him he’d used all his chances and he’d thought I wasn’t good enough then, and he didn’t deserve me now. I said it with some pretty convincing movie star chutzpah, but there was snot running out of my nose and my eyes were all puffed up, so the cinematic quality didn’t really come through. And then he left, and I opened the wine and got myself a little drunk, and nothing funny happened after that.

So. Walk In the Rain For One: Not romantic.

Old Love Returns, Begging For Forgiveness and Another Chance: Not romantic.

Chocolate Rain: Not awesome. (Very disappointing.)

I am a romantic. I think all writers are. And it gets me in trouble. We have these expectations, and then when we find ourselves in those situations we’d thought would be so wonderful, we realize something is missing somehow from our grand idea of how it would be.


So I think it’s the other moments, the other situations, the ones we never imagine, when we find ourselves overwhelmed with how wonderful it is. Maybe not the first kiss from the person we adore, but the sixth, on a random night at a random spot in the house, after an ordinary evening with ordinary people in an ordinary place, for no reason at all except because he wanted to kiss you. That’s the one that takes your breath away. That’s the one you remember.

Romance isn’t what we think. It’s what we never imagined. I’ll still go for walks in the warm summer rain, and maybe someday the schedules will sync up so that Jack and I can walk together. But next time, it’s going to be in something other than jeans and sandals.


I Believe the Children Are Our Future

We have lots of interns where I work.

And, um… I kind of hate them.

When did it become acceptable to come to your not-yet-job inappropriately clothed? Can someone tell me this? I’m no prude, and I’m not yet of the age at which I rant uncontrollably against any young thing who looks good in something I could never pull off. It’s fine. But why are you wearing it here? You get that this is, like, a job, right? You would wear that to work? Work-work? And if you’re not scantily clad, why are you wearing jeans and a tank top?


Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate them because they’re young and have no cellulite. That’ll smack them in the face soon enough, when they learn that they don’t have to be fat to have cellulite. I hate them because one of them refers to herself as “mini-hottie.”

I did not. Make. That. Up.

You hate them too, now, don’t you?

Fine, so it’s just the one insipid girl who refers to herself that way. But I blanket them with my irritation because I can’t tell them apart. There’s one blonde. The rest of them are brunettes like “mini-hottie.” I’d have to see her in the exact same outfit she was wearing when I heard the reference in order to know for sure which one she is. And they all end their sentences with question marks? Even declarative sentences? That doesn’t help.

I shared my disdain with one of my co-workers yesterday, via computer IM. “Is it me, or are these interns a lot more annoying and loud and pushy than we were when we were interns?”

“I totally just said that yesterday, when one of them was offering me advice on how to do my job,” was the reply.

“NO. WAY.”

“Yeah. She’s actually really sweet, though.”

“Which one is she?”

“Her name is Paige.” (Of course it is.)  “Thick accent.”

I have no idea which one that is, because I try not to talk to them.

“Is she the one who refers to herself as ‘mini-hottie?’ One of them calls herself ‘mini-hottie.'” I told her.


Truth is, I don’t have a problem talking to the interns if they have a question or even if they’re just sitting there. I have a sister their age; I’m comfortable with the general population. The actual hang-up is I don’t know what to tell them anymore. I used to be the one all the interns came to. I’m good at training people. I’m happy to teach them the ropes of what we do, as we do it. But it’s changing a lot, and nobody knows where it’s going, and therefore the best sage advice I can give them when they ask what they should know (if they don’t already think they know everything) is, “Go sit with the web people. That’s what you need to know.”

When I was an intern, 427 years ago (fine, 14), I had a lot of get-up-and-go. I had a lot of initiative. I had a lot of drive. But I didn’t have the nerve these kids have. I didn’t cackle and joke around with the established professionals like I had worked there for years. And I wasn’t so presumptuous as to think I could offer them tips, that they worked for me; that they would have no problem doing something for me, finishing a project for me, answering questions for my homework assignment. (One of them actually grabbed one of my six bosses – this is the #2 ranked boss – and asked him to answer some questions for her on a sheet of paper for her blog entry assignment. I’m writing a freaking blog and I was annoyed. And he did it! It was 6:30pm, time for him to go home, and he did it. Sucker.)

When I was an intern, I knew I had something to offer: namely, free labor. I would do whatever those people wanted me to do, and I would do it for free. I gave away hours. I worked many, many more hours as an intern than I got college credit for, because I wanted them to give me a job. My internship was a three-month interview. These kids? No way. These kids are there for exactly the amount of time they need in order to get the college credit, and that’s it. And during that time, they’re not working for us so much as they’re working for themselves and using our stuff (and some of our staff) to accomplish their goals, and don’t get in their way, okay? Thanks.

There was one kid last night who wore a shirt and tie and did what he was supposed to, asked good questions and was willing to do whatever, without any sense that he deserved anything from us. Also, he remembers who Neil Young actually is, and not just the Jimmy Fallon version of him singing the Neil Young-esque version of “Whip My Hair” by Willow Smith.

I think he’s going to be my favorite. Him, and the girl who really can’t write to save her life, but is trying really hard and asks for help because she knows there’s something she can learn.

I suppose, when I was an intern, there were some annoying ones in the bunch; just not where I was. We worked hard, and we’re all still working hard, in the same business. We did our time, proved our worth and now we’re making our livings practicing a dying craft. Meanwhile, a new crop of 20-year-olds has walked in, feeling like they own the world, and we’re there to make their lives better. They want to do something that’s not going to be around in a recognizable form in five years. They have no idea. But then again, someday, they’re supposed to be helping us out. They’re the ones who have to reinvent what we’re doing now, and somebody’s got to teach them the foundational stuff, the stuff that was around before Facebook and Twitter and cell phones, so they don’t cock it up later. Fine. I’ll help them to the best of my ability, even though I have no idea what’s going to be happening in five years.

As long as no one refers to herself as “mini-hottie.” When I figure out which one of them that is, I’m totally taking her down. 
Featured image from thecampussocialite.com

The Age of Bighair-ius

I don’t know what’s going on in the universe, but an awful lot of my friends are posting horrific high school era pictures on Facebook these days. And tagging me in them.

Make it stop.

First there was the picture from 8th grade graduation. I was old for my age, and we didn’t do the cap and gown thing at my school, so I was wearing a pastel, floral dress with a gathered waist and pouffy short sleeves. It was tea-length. I had a perm (which was required of me from 2nd grade – yes, 2nd grade, thanks Mom – until I was in college). In addition to the perm, there were the curled and feathered bangs.


I showed the picture to a co-worker. She laughed hysterically.

Yet, somehow, some of my classmates looked worse. There was this one guy I went to school with, Joe. Poor Joe, at the age of 14, couldn’t say his Rs. He wore heavy-framed squarish glasses in a particularly unattractive shade of brown. He was wearing a sportcoat at our 8th grade graduation. He looked like a 45-year-old nerd at the age of 14. Sad.

He’s my Facebook friend now, married with two children, and I often wonder if he ever learned to say his Rs, but I can’t, like, ask. (I have searched for videos of him, in case I could hear him speaking. Nada.)

The 8th grade graduation photo sparked a flurry of old-schoolmate comments. Fortunately, we were all equally mortified. Except probably for that brat Emily, who was always pretty and looks just sweet and unblemished as can be in that picture. I hope she’s fat and big-nosed now.

Not really.

Oh, who am I kidding? Yes, really.

Then someone posted a picture from what I think was my junior year of high school. It’s my school choir. It was an all-girl choir. You can imagine the hair. There have got to be 40 girls in this picture, all white, all wearing that horrible choir dress, and all with big, curly, mall-bang hair. It’s a wonder we all fit in the picture with our ‘dos.

I showed that picture to the same co-worker and challenged her to find me in it. She couldn’t. When I pointed myself out, she denied that it could possibly be me.

At my voice lesson today, my teacher was talking about a choir reunion her high school is having. She had debated going (for which she would have had to fly back to a town where no one in her family lives anymore), but got out of it when she realized one of her other vocal students is getting married, and the events conflict. Carol is 10 years older than me, but she’s still just as bitter as she ever was about the politics of high school, and the girls she hated then and still hates now. Aside from that brat Emily, I think I’m pretty much over all the issues from back then. One of the things I found myself glad of was the fact that we were all making fun of ourselves in our FB comments. Even the guys in the 8th grade picture were mocking their own outfits, heights (apparently the short guys are still short)… they were wishing aloud that they still had that much hair, or that they were still that thin.

Being a grown-up is sometimes so much better than being a kid. As kids, we mocked others out loud and secretly hated everything about ourselves. As grown-ups, we’ve accepted a lot about ourselves. We mock ourselves out loud and secretly hate other people. Like Emily.

I applied for my passport on Monday. Of course, they had to take a photo. (Of course, they had to charge me $15 for it.) Passport photos are just one step above driver’s license photos, and probably only because the fact that it’s for international travel makes it seem more glamorous. But mine is a mug shot.

No, really. If I die suddenly, go missing, or am accused of a horrific crime, this is the picture that’s going to be on the news. My eyes look funny (which is probably a product of me trying not to cross them; I sometimes think that if a camera is too close to me and I’m actually “posing” for the photo, I come out looking slightly cross-eyed, even though I’m not) and my mouth looks funny (because I was trying not to smile like a doofus). Thank God I remembered to wear something with some color, because that’s the only saving grace. The post office guy who took the picture said it was the best one he’d taken all day. But it was only 11:30am. So.

My hair was pulled back into a ponytail, which, in the photo, is lying limply across one shoulder.

What do I have to do to my hair? Geez.

Having to do with nothing at all: today is my grandfather’s 93rd birthday. I realize that I’m very lucky, at 34, to still have a grandparent. He’s the only one I’ve got, and I don’t get to see him much. About a year and a half ago, he had an “episode” (undiagnosed despite a month of trying) – something like a tiny stroke that had no effect except that of paralyzing his epiglottis. That’s the thing what keeps you from choking when you eat and drink. Which means he can’t eat and drink anymore. He’s fed through a tube in his stomach, and for the first time in his life, he looks his age. He sent me a note the other day: “Please don’t send me a gift for my birthday or Father’s Day. I have gifts in my bedroom that I might never use. Please send me cash instead.” I laughed out loud; in my family, flat-out asking for cash is gauche. But you know what, Pop? You were born into poverty. You were given away to someone else to be raised. You served four years overseas in a war. You buried a child. You raised three more. You sent a son to Vietnam (and, fortunately, got him back). You worked every day until retirement. You watched two of your children’s marriages fail, and you couldn’t understand why. You cared for a wife with Alzheimer’s Disease and never broke your promise not to put her in a home, even though we all thought you should. Ten years ago, you buried her. And today, you’re 93, and you don’t want a gift because you know that, frankly, you might die before you get to use it. You can’t even drink an Old Fashioned to toast your years. Today, Pop, you can have anything you want. Check’s in the mail, along with all my love and respect. Happy birthday.



Y’All Ready For This?

Last night was like the first regular season game of the NFL season for me.

Nevermind that we might not have an NFL season.

Last night was the GOP presidential debate in New Hampshire.

Strike up the band! It's time to run for president! (I love the paper printouts of who should stand at which podium.) pic from politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com

I get excited.

No, really, I do.

I love football. That wasn’t a sexist comparison; I will be terribly disappointed and possibly actually pissed if there is no NFL season this year. But I also love presidential campaigns.

I know. I’m really weird.

Ten minutes before the debate began, I was sort of ramping up. I had CNN on (CNN hosted the debate), and they were doing the introductions of the candidates. I could feel the tingling in my limbs and the fluttering in my belly. I wanted them to run out under a bridge of colored explosives and confetti and cheerleaders’ arms.

Just kidding. I didn’t want that.

It would be kind of cool if they played “Lllllet’sss get ready to rrrrrruuummbbbbbblllle!” first, though. Yeah. Jock Jams for politicians. That would be so sweet.

I had Facebook running and my cell phone in my  hand so I could IM or text my fellow pseudo-wonky friends with running commentary akin to a game of Mystery Science Theater 3000: the Politics Episodes.

I can’t explain why I love it so much. Part of it is patriotism, sure. But I’m actually one of those people who thinks that television news networks should not use slo-mo animations of flapping American flags in various colorizations as the backgrounds for their graphics; it’s a giveaway to their biases. (Think about how American television news looks to people in other countries. It skews to an American worldview. It implies the US is always right. It’s as patently offensive to other parts of the world as their news coverage can be to us. It’s like history books written only by WASPY men. It doesn’t tell the whole story, and it seeks to glorify one nation above all others. Not that the US isn’t probably the best country in the world; just that it’s kind of obnoxious to constantly scream that at the other guys while you do stupid stuff like, oh, invade a country on totally false intelligence.) And I don’t think politicians should all have to wear American flag lapel pins. Like that’s how you know they’re really Americans. Silly.

Part of the reason I love campaigns is my love of history. I’m sure part of it is that. And part of it, I think, is to do with Aaron Sorkin. Pretty much everything he ever wrote (except “SportsNight” and in some ways including “Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip”) makes me love the political process, however belabored and convoluted and ridiculous it can be.

I also love to see how certain people kind of screw up and how others manage to capitalize on it, and nobody ever makes a face. I make a lot of faces without even knowing it. It’s a problem. I’m amazed that politicians are so good at never making faces. (Well, Pres. G.W. Bush and Sen. John McCain weren’t so good at hiding their faces.)



Strategery. I like the strategery. The Xs and Os.

But I really have no idea what the mystery element is that so attracts me to televised situations featuring six, seven, eight people standing behind podiums (how weird, to put that many podiums next to each other on a stage) and carping at each other while also pandering to each other. I recognize the annoying things about political campaigns and politicians. I totally get why so many people are so turned off by it. Politicians are annoying, lying liars who never really answer a question and are somehow universally trained on how never to say “yes” or “no” to a question. It’s fascinating how they do that.  As I explained to Jack (who doesn’t vote despite being a really smart person, and has heard all of this before): I like to listen not only to what the candidates say, but to what they don’t say. I like to see exactly how they sidestep a question. Since Newt Gingrich went on a two-week Mediterranean cruise less than a month after announcing his candidacy and 16 top-level campaign staff members quit while he was gone, I want to see if and how he bounces back. Since Mitt Romney instituted a health care plan while governor of Massachusetts that is remarkably similar to President Obama’s national health care plan, I want to see how he tries to work around it. Rep. Ron Paul is practically his own cartoon; I want to watch him sort of implode while making a certain degree of sense and providing the refreshing straight answers that most politicians won’t give. 

(At one point, though, he sort of went on a tangent about illegal immigration vis-a-vis the Catholic Church vis-a-vis the economy vis-a-vis homelessness, I think? At which point I pretty much declared he had lost the race and his train of thought.)

(And there were moments when I saw him looking around like he wasn’t quite sure where he was.)

I also like to watch the candidates listen to each other. That’s totally fun. Sometimes, even though they’re good about not making faces, one gets the sense that the other candidates are thinking,  “Dude, you are totally nuts… how do you get away with this stuff?” when they listen to Rep. Paul. The one time somebody sort of made a face was when Mitt Romney was listening to Rep. Paul say that he wouldn’t wait for generals to tell him what to do in war, that if he was the Commander-in-Chief, he would tell the generals what to do instead of listening to what they thought. Romney did sorta look like he was thinking, “Ron, you are outside your mind” when Paul said that.

It’s kind of fun to go all Mean Girl on the moderator, too. Most of the time I get annoyed with them for not making the candidates answer the actual question. But I thought John King did a pretty good job at that. What I got a kick out of was his way of trying to keep the debate moving and make the candidates keep their answers short. He kept interjecting “rights” and “uh-huhs” and other nondescript grunts while the candidates spoke. This basically made it sound like the debate was being moderated by a seal. It just made John King look bad. It didn’t make the candidates look bad. At one point, I’m pretty sure Rick Santorum just totally blew him off.

“You have 30 seconds, Senator.”

“Yeah. Okay.” (Actual reply. Preceded by about a minute of discourse and followed by about another minute of it.) 

There were, of course, some substantive issues on which I found the answers interesting. None of those was how to solve the problems of the economy. Basically, each candidate said they’re in favor of fixing the economy.

Good to know.

They didn’t really volunteer much else, though. Except businessman Herman Cain, who seems to have figured out, at least on that topic, how to answer the question with the specifics people want to hear. I’m pretty sure he’s deluded in his insistence that it would work, but still.

Ah, but here’s where the Republicans get me, cute as they are sometimes:

The Gays.

Every candidate thought the country should have kept the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Even though it resulted in more dishonorable discharges on the grounds of sexual orientation than there were before DADT was instituted during the Clinton administration. Even though when you’re in the middle of the heat of battle in war, you’re probably not thinking about what a nice ass the guy in front of you has. Even though we need men and women who want to serve, and we’re casting them off because we don’t like who they love. Did any of the Republicans running for president ever serve? Nope. Wait: Ron Paul did serve as a flight surgeon and then enlisted in the National Guard. Wonder if he listened to the generals then? 

Give me a good reason not to like the repeal of a law that basically said, “If you don’t tell us we should think you’re disgusting, we won’t ask if we should think you’re disgusting.” And don’t say “commanding officers say it will disrupt the unit.” Because guess what? They don’t actually say that. Even if they did, I seem to remember a history lesson in which I learned that the country used to not allow black men to serve alongside whites because it would disrupt the unit. Apparently, we’ve gotten over that. Did we lose a war because of it?

None of the candidates believe that marriage can be anything other than between a man and a woman. Now, if that’s your belief, I get it. However, I think in most cases, humans can own the fact that religious or spiritual belief  is what’s behind their insistence on that particular issue. Well, here’s the trick in government: we have a separation of church and state in this country. And I have never heard a politician explain coherently, but not religiously, why they refuse to allow for the possibility that same-sex oriented individuals might actually love and be able to share life with each other in a non-“gross” and genuine way. Their reasons for being against same-sex marriage are either “Because I said so” or “Because God said so.” Again: I’m willing to respect religious belief. I can’t tell you you’re wrong, because I won’t allow you to tell me I am. But when you want to lead a country that’s founded on a separation of church and state, you gotta give me a solid legal reason.

I’m pretty sure the solid legal reason is “it’s too damned expensive to all of a sudden start giving benefits to same-sex partners.” I get that reason. It’s probably true. It’s not necessarily right, or fair, to my way of thinking, but it’s probably true. So say it.

Of the seven candidates, I think I counted four who were in favor of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Which is sort of fascinating, considering these are the same people who believe in the sovereignty of states’ rights. Two of them said marriage is a state issue (and it’s protected nationally, by the way, in the Full Faith and Credit clause; a marriage in one state must be recognized in another state… so I don’t quite get why states that don’t sanction same-sex marriage don’t have to recognize a same-sex marriage from a state that does allow them).

Rep. Michele Bachmann said she supports a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, but she would not go into any of the states that currently allow it and seek to overturn their laws.



(But nobody made a face! Amazing!)

Featured image from ac360.blogs.cnn.com