Monday, November 11, 2013

15 Ways to Stop Being Human

I find the "if you just do THIS... then you will be happy"  aspect of self-help culture truly enraging.  "Happy" is a relative concept and most certainly a First World concern. I doubt that the woman dragging herself for twelve miles across sub-Saharan Africa to a field hospital with a baby's head hanging out of her vagina is wondering if she's happy. People are surviving in most places, barely getting by minute by minute, and here we are wondering why we aren't happy enough. Boo fucking hoo.

There is one particularly irritating website, Purpose Fairy,  that continues to make its way into my life via social media. It promises solutions to our chronic psychological malaise, fifteen of them to be exact.

Let's just say that, for the most part,  I beg to differ:

"Here is a list of 15 things which, if you give up on them, will make your life a lot easier and much, much happier. We hold on to so many things that cause us a great deal of pain, stress and suffering – and instead of letting them all go, instead of allowing ourselves to be stress free and happy – we cling on to them. Not anymore. Starting today we will give up on all those things that no longer serve us, and we will embrace change. Ready?"

First of all, being happy isn't a right. Yes,  the Constitution of the United States  promises that we all get to pursue it, but there are no guarantees. Happiness is a moment or two here and there and the rest of it is just being alive. If you do find yourself continuously happy, be very afraid and seek medical attention- you may have been dosed or are experiencing a prolonged manic episode. Why do we think we all need to be happy all the time? How could we be "stress free and happy" all of the time, considering the state of things and what we all encounter on a given day? But this author says that giving up on these 15 things, "will make your life a lot easier and much, much happier". Okie dokie... 


1. Give up your need to always be right-

"There are so many of us who can’t stand the idea of being wrong – wanting to always be right – even at the risk of ending great relationships or causing a great deal of stress and pain, for us and for others. It’s just not worth it. Whenever you feel the ‘urgent’ need to jump into a fight over who is right and who is wrong, ask yourself this question:
“Would I rather be right, or would I rather be kind?”-Wayne Dyer. 
What difference will that make? Is your ego really that big?"


Okay, first, it's actually possible to be right AND be kind, and still be god damned right. Being right is AWESOME, and anyone who says otherwise is full of shit or wrong a large percentage of the time. It has nothing do to with ego, it's about our need for  justice and fairness. To deny the person that is actually right the validation they deserve in openly admitting that they are right is VERY unkind. 
Now, if you are always arguing with your significant other about being right, maybe you married the wrong person. Try marriage counseling, move on, do what you have to do, but remember that differences of opinion are why we live in the "free world". Giving up to "keep the peace" smacks of the Submission Movement, which is really just Stepford Revisited, in my opinion, because I'm not seeing a lot of self help books encouraging men to submit to their wives. 
I can be wrong, and often am, but I refuse to stand down when it comes to common sense or someone else's laziness. It's insulting to all parties involved to concede unless it's really just not that important. Agreeing to disagree is a much better solution that giving up. And just in case you were were buying into this right or kind nonsense, know this: Wayne Dyer- the author of the new age tinged quote used to shame you into giving up your need to be right- has fathered seven kids in the span of three marriages. I'm not terribly traditional and no judgement and all,  but in addition to the fact that most of his quotes are things you'd find crocheted on a pillow, I generally don't place much value on advice from people whose lives are more fucked up than mine.

2. Give up your need for control-

"Be willing to give up your need to always control everything that happens to you and around you – situations, events, people, etc. Whether they are loved ones, coworkers, or just strangers you meet on the street – just allow them to be. Allow everything and everyone to be just as they are and you will see how much better will that make you feel."
“By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try. The world is beyond winning.” Lao Tzu 

Yeah, clearly this author is not a parent- I pity her future children. Control is kind of the name of the game when you have mini-insane asylum inmates running around. Homework doesn't do itself, broccoli doesn't eat itself, shoes don't walk themselves from the middle of the floor to the expertly planned shoe cubby, and bedtime doesn't just happen spontaneously. If I just allowed my kids  to "be", they'd watch SpongeBob Squarepants all day long and live on Z Bars and microwave popcorn. Someone has to drive the boat here, folks, and it looks like it's going to be us, the parents. And again, the quote is super spiritual and all that, but in our 2013 world, the Father of Taoism, Lao Tzu, is just wrong. "Letting go" means it all piles up, badly, crippling everything, so really nobody wins. He also lived in the 6 century BC where he probably had a single water bag made from a goat carcass to worry about and multiple slaves managing the world he supposedly won by "letting it go".

3. Give up on blame-

Give up on your need to blame others for what you have or don’t have, for what you feel or don’t feel. Stop giving your powers away and start taking responsibility for your life.
(There's no quote that accompanies this gem).

Okay, this has wee kernels of truth. I am a big believer in Personal Responsibility, like watch your own children, pick up your own dog shit, get rid of your own lice, immunize your own kids. However, as far as blame goes, I'm on the fence. Most of the shit that goes wrong in my life is usually someone else's fault. I blame the Post Office for losing my thank you letters and glossy eco-unfriendly magazines. I blame the slow, dangerously moronic drivers for making me late. I blame my kids for waking me up every fucking night and generally sucking the life out of me on a daily basis. Legally, I can't "give up" on them, or lock them in a closet with a sock stuffed in their mouth so I can sleep, so I DO blame them because I FEEL like SHIT in the morning. I hardly call that "giving my powers away". It's just my life happening to me. And I wouldn't trade it for anything.

4. Give up your self-defeating self-talk-

Oh my. How many people are hurting themselves because of their negative, polluted and repetitive self-defeating mindset? Don’t believe everything that your mind is telling you – especially if it’s negative and self-defeating. You are better than that.
“The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very destructive.” Eckhart Tolle

Let's be honest,  self deprecation is the root of most evolved humor. Watch ANY good comedy from Mel Brooks to Albert Brooks, to Carol Burnett to Lucille Ball to Kristen Wiig to my personal favorite, Louis C.K. Funny equals making fun of something or someone, and often one's self. Perhaps the author refers to people who truly hate themselves, in which case, they need to get a fucking sense of humor or join an improv class or hang out with people on the brink of death- get out of your own head for a spell. The quote kills me. The man who said it is so fucking adorable-like woodland creature cute-that I wonder if that is why Oprah peed her one hundred percent organic cotton drawstring pants upon meeting him. According to his website "At the age of 29, a profound inner transformation radically changed the course of his life. The next few years were devoted to understanding, integrating and deepening that transformation, which marked the beginning of an intense inward journey." 
Hmmm, so one day he felt worthless and wished to die, then, when he woke up the next morning, “everything was miraculous, deeply peaceful. Even the traffic." He spent the better part of two years sitting on park benches and sleeping outside appreciating the traffic. He might be a spiritual flame for millions, but how is his bizarre, highly unusual experience (cough..cough...psychotic break) actually helpful to others? 

5. Give up your limiting beliefs-
about what you can or cannot do, about what is possible or impossible. From now on, you are no longer going to allow your limiting beliefs to keep you stuck in the wrong place. Spread your wings and fly!
“A belief is not an idea held by the mind, it is an idea that holds the mind” Elly Roselle

I suppose this has some veracity, but it lacks substance. I actually might be okay with it if the whole limiting belief thing were selective- like certain ubiquitous multi-careered celebrities. Could see a lot less of them and what they think they can do and be totally fine. This paragraph is very vague, implying that everyone knows exactly where they would fly if their wings would just open. The quote is kind of Yoda-ish, so much so that I'm not sure it even makes any sense. Elly Roselle became famous for turning around a lifelong battle with anorexia/bulimia into positive thinking gold, which is pretty amazing. Well fucking done and all, but she's in the "more fucked up than I am " category and I'm not sure her mind blowingly impressive sheer force of will is applicable to anyone else but her.

6. Give up complaining-

Give up your constant need to complain about those many, many, maaany things – people, situations, events that make you unhappy, sad and depressed. Nobody can make you unhappy, no situation can make you sad or miserable unless you allow it to. It’s not the situation that triggers those feelings in you, but how you choose to look at it. Never underestimate the power of positive thinking.

Come ON. In combination with all the other things I've already given up at this point, I'd be a beatific mute, like Jim Caveziel in that Terrence Malick movie on the island. Complaining is a basic First World Right, the right to bitch and moan about how sucky our lives are while billions are actually experiencing sucky lives. Just going outside makes me unhappy, sad and depressed because the world is a very  strange and sometimes wonderful place that I react to because I am human. To blame me because my reaction isn't always filled with boundless joy is UNKIND and UNREALISTIC. It is impossible (there goes that self defeating talk again) to let it ALL roll of my back.  Sometimes complaining is the only way that people know that you are unhappy. Sometimes complaining is how people realize that they are not alone. NOT complaining builds resentment and gives people cancer. NOT complaining creates the Fifties where everyone hid behind a manicured facade, slowly dying as they pretended, high diving into their martinis.

7. Give up the luxury of criticism-

Give up your need to criticize things, events or people that are different than you. We are all different, yet we are all the same. We all want to be happy, we all want to love and be loved and we all want to be understood. We all want something, and something is wished by us all.

No, my soft headed friend, we are NOT all the same. Many of us are, but some of us are ASSHOLES and need to be pointed out. Warlords are not just waiting for a hug. Mothers and wives are programmed to criticize. I call it a perk that comes with a VERY HARD JOB. And that last sentence of hers makes me want to discharge a firearm...

8. Give up your need to impress others-

Stop trying so hard to be something that you’re not just to make others like you. It doesn’t work this way. The moment you stop trying so hard to be something that you’re not, the moment you take off all your masks, the moment you accept and embrace the real you, you will find people will be drawn to you, effortlessly.

Impressing others is human nature. It's basic social psychology that we try to impress other people with how great we are. It's why we procreate, live in cities, don't murder each other too often.  I imagine if we all decided to be the "real us" it would get post-Apocalyptic pretty fast. Pretty sure that zero people will effortlessly be drawn to the "real me"- hairy, smelly, lazy, rage filled. 

9. Give up your resistance to change-

Change is good. Change will help you move from A to B. Change will help you make improvements in your life and also the lives of those around you. Follow your bliss, embrace change – don’t resist it.
“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls” Joseph Campbell

FINALLY, I agree. I rarely practice it, but she picked an excellent person to quote.


10. Give up labels-

Stop labeling those things, people or events that you don’t understand as being weird or different and try opening your mind, little by little. Minds only work when open. “The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.” -Wayne Dyer

This guy again. I certainly have a few labels I can think of for him.  Not sure his quote really warrants quotation marks, it's a common sense sort of thing.  He's very Jack Handey from SNL, which makes me miss Phil Hartman.  I personally think a higher form of ignorance is assuming your imitation pearls of wisdom apply to everyone equally,  but it's all semantics anyway. My brain hurts.

11. Give up on your fears-

Fear is just an illusion, it doesn’t exist – you created it. It’s all in your mind. Correct the inside and the outside will fall into place.
“The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” Franklin D. Roosevelt-

The above quote, while excellent,  did NOT mean what the author is saying it means when it was said. Yes, it sounds good in the context of self helpery, but it is downright cruel to insist that we create our own fear. Fear DOES so exist. It is a natural instinct that serves us well a lot of the time, so if it is unmanageable, try meditation or deep breathing or singing your favorite song or calling a friend.Telling me it's all in my mind is bullshit and wrong and not very fucking kind.

Here is the context in which the world first heard this quote:

*"FDR had been elected president and was taking office in January of 1933. This phrase was part of his inaugural address. The nation was in the fourth year of a terrible economic depression, and he wanted the American people to know that they should not allow fear to hinder the government's attempts to find solutions to end the depression. Roosevelt said this for any number of reasons. Here are a few:

(1) To calm and reassure the American people,

2) To humiliate--in advance--those who planned to hinder his upcoming economic programs by indirectly calling them cowards for doing so (a stroke of genius in my opinion),

(3) To let the nation know that an active and intelligent administration has replaced the do-nothing and incompetent Hoover administration.

Here's the quote in context:
I am certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our people impel. This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.

Source(s): http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5057/


12. Give up your excuses-

Send them packing and tell them they’re fired. You no longer need them. A lot of times we limit ourselves because of the many excuses we use. Instead of growing and working on improving ourselves and our lives, we get stuck, lying to ourselves, using all kind of excuses – excuses that 99.9% of the time are not even real.

I think many of the excuses that people have are very real- lack of resources, no support from family, disability, illness, chronic depression- there are a million reasons why everyone can't be their best self.

If the author actually offered a single technique for how to apply what she is espousing, I might not find this one so annoying. Sort of like saying "just lose weight" to the morbidly obese. Yeah, thanks for the tip.

13. Give up the past- I know, I know. It’s hard. Especially when the past looks so much better than the present and the future looks so frightening, but you have to take into consideration the fact that the present moment is all you have and all you will ever have. The past you are now longing for – the past that you are now dreaming about – was ignored by you when it was present. Stop deluding yourself. Be present in everything you do and enjoy life. After all life is a journey not a destination. Have a clear vision for the future, prepare yourself, but always be present in the now.

"Give up the past?" Isn't that the one thing that we learn from the most? Isn't that how we see our own mistakes and try not to repeat them?  Yes, living in the past may not be terribly productive, but it's how we arrived at the present, so I'm hanging on to it for reference, thank you very much. Being present all the time is pretty unrealistic, but not a bad goal. She just doesn't really explain how to do that.  

14. Give up attachment-

This is a concept that, for most of us is so hard to grasp and I have to tell you that it was for me too, (it still is) but it’s not something impossible. You get better and better at with time and practice. The moment you detach yourself from all things, (and that doesn’t mean you give up your love for them – because love and attachment have nothing to do with one another, attachment comes from a place of fear, while love… well, real love is pure, kind, and self less, where there is love there can’t be fear, and because of that, attachment and love cannot coexist) you become so peaceful, so tolerant, so kind, and so serene. You will get to a place where you will be able to understand all things without even trying. A state beyond words.

"Attachment and love cannot coexist"? What is she talking about? Attachment makes people feel safe. Attachment breeds security in our kids so that later they feel like they have something to push away from. Yes, of course she's peaceful, tolerant, kind, serene- SHE'S COMPLETELY CHECKED OUT. Seriously, who in the world has this luxury to just detach themselves from all things? Who is she talking to?  "A state beyond words", indeed. Sounds more like a lithium haze to me.

15. Give up living your life to other people’s expectations-

Way too many people are living a life that is not theirs to live. They live their lives according to what others think is best for them, they live their lives according to what their parents think is best for them, to what their friends, their enemies and their teachers, their government and the media think is best for them. They ignore their inner voice, that inner calling. They are so busy with pleasing everybody, with living up to other people’s expectations, that they lose control over their lives. They forget what makes them happy, what they want, what they need….and eventually they forget about themselves. You have one life – this one right now – you must live it, own it, and especially don’t let other people’s opinions distract you from your path.

Despite the weird wording (she seems to be describing people who have stolen the lives of others), she isn't entirely wrong about this. Yes, people do feel compelled to live up to the expectations of others, but in my current experience as a parent, that's just what it is to be part of a family unit. It's is ALL about expectation 24 hours a day. As a mother, you become the World's Mother, and it is just the way it is unless you seriously place limits or pay someone else to do it so you can have some other life that you think you should be living. The inner calling is something that not everyone gets- many people never feel driven to do anything but watch reality TV and text with their friends. If I listened to my inner calling,  I might have dragged my kids to India to live off the land or opened my home to the wheel chair bound homeless guy at the bus stop near the Vista Theater. Inner voices are very valuable, but not always the best road map unless you are obligated only to yourself. As for the "opinions of others"- she is also right about that with regard to parenting.They are lobbed like burning sacks of doggie doo from the moment you conceive.They come on fast and furious from family, medical professionals, strangers and keep coming until you die, and possibly after that. I'm not sure it makes us lose control of our lives, but it sure is exhausting. Most of us are not on a path, but in the trenches, so perhaps her underlying advice is to stick your head up and look around from time to time? 

Well, that's it- fifteen steps to happiness, folks. All you have to do is get a lobotomy and have your brain and heart replaced with robot parts and you, too can be in a perpetual state of bliss.  It seems that very few of these directives are realistically applicable to the average person's life. Most of it just adds to that old familiar feeling that we aren't who we are "supposed to be".
It kills me that there are people out there making millions off of natural human conditions by branding them as deficiencies and writing books that claim to solve all these "problems". Nobody has "the answer". I'm not convinced there actually is an "answer", although millions swear that it can be found in religion. But that's a whole other subject.
Accept yourself, do your best and don't take advice from people whose lives are more fucked up than yours.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Dentalists

Big has FIVE cavities. Five. They all appeared within the last twelve months, so I can assume that she either has a stash of Swedish Fish under her pillow or has been secretly doing meth up in her room while she was supposed to be reading "Little House on the Prairie". Aside from the incredible expense and anxiety surrounding a whole lot of cavities, the news brought back fun filled memories of the  decay filled dental wanderings of my youth.
The first dentist that I can remember looked just like a ginger haired Grizzly Adams.  He was sort of a  combo of Dan Haggerty and his co star, the giant bear. I will call him Doctor Meanie. I  saw him a lot- since I must have never brushed my teeth-and he drilled seven holes in my head over a period of five years, which meant at least two shots of Novocaine per cavity in my head and countless hours spent half asleep lying in the chair with him hunched over me, wild haired and wild eyed,growling "open......OPEN......keep it OPEN..".
When I got older and moved to another state, I went to Dr. Shaky, who was in his seventies and likely ancient by dental standards. I'm no ageist, but  his drill holding hand shook fairly significantly. He inevitably nicked a nerve whilst trying to replace a Dr Meanie filling.  I was in excruciating pain for a couple of days until it was decided that I had to get a root canal. I was seventeen, and I needed a specialist. I was referred to Dr. Pudgy and Nondescript  across town who did the root canal for seven hundred dollars. He  wisely suggested I not return to Dr. Shaky, unless I wanted a few more root canals before I could legally vote.
I moved to LA that summer.It was 1987.  Before long, my molars swelled up in the back. I went to Doctor Fuzzy Face for removal of my wisdom teeth. They put me to sleep for the procedure. All I remember is crying when I woke up and feeling really embarrassed about it.
I moved east and found Dr. Hedgehog, who was a nice lady up on Silverlake Blvd. She looked uncannily like her namesake. She gave me a silver crown and seemed competent but for some unknown reason, I kept looking. She was followed by Dr. LA Weekly Coupon and Dr. Amazing Long Lasting Bonding whose bonding of my Shannon Dougherty like tooth gap lasted almost as long as my acting career.
Dentists are a strange bunch, kind of like magicians- there is something inexplicably fucking bizarre about them. I was desperate to  find the right one.  I came close: Dr. La Weekly Coupon was a purely economical choice, but her regular rates after the first visit were cost prohibitive. Dr Amazing Long Lasting Bonding was not on my insurance plan, so after paying out of pocket for some incredibly durable bonding,  I found a guy in Beverly Hills that accepted my insurance: Dr. Lecherous and Son. They had an office on an upper floor of a well known medical building on Roxbury, but when the elevator doors opened,  the entire floor was under construction. There were bare primed walls, painters tape galore and the office door had a hand written number taped to it. Despite the "I'd turn back if I were you" sign blinking in my head, I went in and was hurried into an archaic dental office with machines from Dr Meanie's era. Dr Lecherous' resemblance to Zell from Marathon Man would have been the deal breaker if Son hadn't beat him to the punch when he loomed over me in the chair like I was some sort of specimen and hissed "Mmmm... You are quite beeyoootifulllll!". His father shooed him away, and I was instantly reminded of Dracula's minion Renfield and his appetite for bugs, spiders, birds and whatever else he could get his hands on.  The Son peered over his father's shoulder while he cleaned my teeth making odd guttural noises. I fled from the office as soon as I could, my blood stained bib still attached.

The next dental discovery was Dr. Seems Like a Serial Killer and his wife, Miss I Cook the Books. He was just about the oddest person I'd ever met, prone to gazing off mid sentence and turning beet red for no apparent reason, the vein in his forehead bulging out simultaneously. He also had the unnerving habit of talking with the scraping instrument poised over my face, so each gesture would cause it to sway and dip precariously close to my eyes and nose. However, the upside was that he was extremely skilled and pretty much pain free in his technique. Oh, and he and his wife managed to get me as much free bonding as a gal could ever want, even though it wasn't covered by insurance. My insurance company must have thought that my mouth was a sewer with all the "deep scaling" going on. I was young, dumb, broke and vainly trying to make it in the land of Chiclet teeth, so I took what I could get. Miss I Cook the Books would "make it work" and tell me "not to worry about it", with an ominous  cackle while Mr. Seems Like a Serial Killer would say things like "She does work her magic!." which meant "when we get arrested for insurance fraud, she will be going to prison, and I will be going to Aruba". I stayed with the practice for a few years until my future husband paid them an emergency visit and came home looking spooked. He couldn't really say why, but he urged me to keep looking.
I decided to go back to the beginning. I went in search of the guy whose bonding had lasted so long and remembered his name wrong. It was the same neighborhood, but I inadvertently ended up in the chair of Dr. I Hate My Life, the most lugubrious individual I have ever encountered, who behaved as if  the very act of looking into my open mouth might make him vomit or blow his brains out. As he did the initial exam, he impatiently called out numbers for the corresponding teeth, but never told me what the numbers meant:
" two......one.......three.....one.....one..two...".. I didn't bother to ask since I had no plans to return, but it stayed with me- are my teeth really that bad?
I left his office, vowing never to return,  and there, across the street was the shingle with Dr. Amazing Long Lasting Bondings' name on it. Back to the beginning, Vezzini!. Of course Dr. Amazing Long Lasting Bonding still had the cute bungalow with the fish tank. Of course he did, because he was as amazing as his long lasting bonding.  I made an appointment, arrived early, practically giddy with the anticipation of a normal dental experience. I was greeted by a glossy coiffed woman in a white lab coat with incredibly shiny lips and a clip board. She escorted me into an office and sat me in the chair. There was an enormous flat screen TV,which later showed the inside of my mouth in HD, but not before the glossy woman did an impromptu presentation about some sort of groundbreaking veneer procedure that "only" cost nine hundred per tooth. I listened, crestfallen, wondering what had happened to my homey approachable Dr Amazing Long Lasting Bonding? He breezed in about twenty minutes later- older, fatter and balder to check my older, fatter and more decayed mouth. He was disappointingly nonplussed that his amazing long lasting bonding had brought me back to him some fifteen years later. He had clearly moved on into the 21st century and I was still in 1993.  He suggested a few expensive unnecessary cosmetic procedures and had them take some x-rays with a high tech camera. Glossy coiffed woman escorted me out, her lips reflecting the light like the Spoon Diamond of Topkapi Palace.
I kept looking.
In the meantime, Husband was referred to Dr. Old School, whose offices were a ringer for Dr. Lecherous and Son, but he was a delight. He did tell Husband that flossing was overrated, though, and his clientele was a bizarre combo of won't look you in the eye Orthodox Jews and mentally unstable people, by virtue of the fact that he shared a suite with a mental health professional. I went to him in excruciating pain, eight and a half months pregnant. Some sort of lightning was striking about every six seconds inside my jaw and no matter how many people said it was a great precursor to labor, in retrospect, it hurt worse. Dr. Old School looked worried. He took a reluctant, blurred x-ray and determined that Dr. Shaky's error has reared its ancient head and need to be re- rooted tout suite. Naturally, I'd need a specialist, so he sent me to Dr. Snooty Velvet Paws  just down the block from  Dr. Lecherous and Sons in Beverly Hills. He was young, slick,  very well coiffed, and very  condescending, but because I was about to deliver my baby any second, he was "respectfull", despite the gnawing feeling I had that my very pregnant existence repulsed him. Three shots of Lidocaine later he gave me perhaps the most amazing root canal I have ever had. Pain free and with finesse. He applied a temporary filling, and  I was instructed buy his buxom secretary to return two weeks later to get the permanent crown put on. I delivered my baby a week later and was instructed by my pediatrician not to leave the house for the next month. Literally, do not go outside except for wellness visits for the baby. I tried to abide by this but Dr Snooty Velvet Paws had been clear- two weeks. Yes, I pushed it- almost three, and arrived- exhausted, engorged, depressed-for my root canal. How mean was life right then? He took a look and made some tsk tsk noises and broke the news to me that I'd waited too long, and I'd be needing another root canal (for another 1500 bucks). I sobbed all the way down the elevator and called my husband, blubbering. Seriously? My husband called  Dr. Old School, who was was furious and called Snooty Velvet Paws to ask for a little understanding. After an outright hostile second look peppered with mutterings about Dr. Old School being old school, Dr. Snooty Velvet Paws decided that the seal was in fact viable and that he just needed to charge me five hundred dollars to fill it in....possibly to explode with infection down the road? Not his problem, clearly, and so, far not mine either.
Needless to say, I kept looking.
Then the clouds parted and the dental storm subsided- friends referred us to Dr. I Can't Believe He's a Dentist. He was so approachable-normal even-with a nice, friendly,non- cackling, non- insurance fraud committing staff. He recommended I have some maintenance work done but nothing cosmetic or unnecessary.  I kept waiting for the weird to show itself but it never did. I kept waiting for the ridiculously expensive recommendation to roll in, but it hasn't yet. When I foolishly removed my ancient crown with a Coffee Nip, he replaced it with a stern warning as opposed to talking me into a whole new set of veneers and state of the art crown. He might be a Republican, though it's unconfirmed,  but I can live with that. I'm overdue for my next check up, in fact, and I'm downright excited to go in. How weird is that?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Sensodyne Full Body Paste

Big came home from school a few weeks ago completely mute. She refused to speak from the moment I picked her up and for the better part of the next hour. I arrived, ready to greet the kids in their usual state-  tired, hungry, emotional, end of the week, always on the verge of a freak out. Usually there is a tiff in the car because they both immediately start talking about their respective days at the same time and invariably one will try and take the floor via pinching, hitting, yelling or through my personal favorite a clenched jaw. It always ends badly, usually with me yelling or pulling over or taking away something of enough importance that they will both shut the hell up until we get home to food, separate rooms and sanity.

However, with one mute kid, none of the above occurred. Little and I played a twenty questions style game to try and figure out what was wrong with Big,  and through our deductive reasoning and questioning we figured out that something "mildly embarrassing" had happened to Big that would "possibly make me mad". Naturally, I went to the worst place possible and after forty five minutes of asking, cajoling, demanding and flat our insisting that she spill- she wouldn't. After writing "I don't want to talk about it" on a kleenex and putting up her DIY "keep out" door hanger favor from the last birthday party she attended, after desperately crawling into my lap and not letting me leave, I was convinced that I should call the police.

And then she spilled:

A boy in her class had hurt her on the playground, "possibly by accident", but he had hit her on the mouth, hard. She said she felt like she couldn't open it to talk and had spent the rest of the day after lunch speaking out of the side of her mouth, like W.C Fields. I asked if the teachers noticed. Perplexingly, they had not, but maybe she regularly did impressions of dead comedians all the time so it seemed normal to them?

Then came the real issue: her class is learning about Ruby Bridges, the African American girl who had kick started the move to end school segregation in the South by going to a predominantly white school. Ruby had all sorts of terrible things done and said to her in the process. Big began to describe the movie they watched in class- the black babydoll in the coffin that was put outside the school, Ruby's  fear of being poisoned by anything other than prepackaged or home cooked food, the white adults yelling at her, the white teachers refusing to teach her (except one that was specially brought in). Big was so enthralled by what she had seen that she wept in between descriptions of various scenes, clutching at my sweater to wipe her tears, and murmured that she, too, felt like Ruby Bridges....

wait, WHAT DID SHE JUST SAY?

We backed up a little and I asked her to explain herself- fearing momentarily that I had a full blown narcissist on my hands.  As she spoke, it hit me-she is just like I was- really, REALLY sensitive. I had LOTS of those experiences in school, where I let my emotions get the better of me, usually resulting in me crying in front of everyone. I really could have used a tube of Sensodyne Full Body Paste right around age eight.
I told her my most memorable story about reading aloud in third grade from "Bob, Son of Battle", a nineteenth century English tale about two rival sheep herders and their dogs Bob and Red Wull.  I was asked to read the part where Red Wull dies after being ambushed by a gang of rival sheep dogs:

"Down at the bottom lay that which once had been Adam M Adam's Red Wull. At the sight, the little man neither raved nor swore, it was past that for him. He sat down, heedless of the soaking ground, and took the mangled head in his lap very tenderly ."They 've done ye at last, Wullie! they've done ye at last", he said quietly, unalterably convinced that the attack had been organized while he was detained in the tap room. On hearing the loved little voice, the dog gave one weary wag of his stump tail. And with that, the Tailless Tyke, Adam M'Adam's Red Wull, the Black Killer,went to his long home."

 It goes on to describe, in painstaking and merciless detail,  Adam M'adam singing mournfully to the dead dog's carcass, even rising up and calling out to him:
 "Come to me, Wullie!", he implored very pitifully," 'Tis the first time iver I kent ye' not come and me whistlin'. What ails ye lad?".
After which he picks up the body and slings it over his shoulder:
"Limp and hideous, the carcass hung the down little man's shoulders. The huge head, with grim wide eyes and lolling tongue, jolted and swagged with the motion, seemed to grin a ghastly defiance at the world it had left". 
The townsfolk find them in a dead embrace on a hillside when the sun comes up.

A lovely, uplifting tale for eight year olds, right?

So, right around "took the mangled head", my voice began to quaver and by "the dog gave one weary wag of his stump tail" I was unintelligible with tears and heaving sobs. My teacher, Mr. Willoughby, had someone else take over, but not before saying: "You don't  have to get so upset. It's just a book".
I actually got choked up just retelling the story to Big because it was profound moment in my life. Big watched me intently and also got choked up as I told the story, weeping into my shoulder and asking me to explain in great detail how the dog dies several times before I steered us back to her distress.

I explained that some people are affected by things differently than others. It's called sensitivity,which can sometimes also be empathy, and while it is nothing to be freaked out by, it might make you cry in public more than you might like. It also might make you hate people that make awful jokes about things that you might feel are off limits. Later it will all be hilarious, but it's very important not to feel ashamed of it now. It means you are a present, feeling person. Embrace your emotional freakishness, kid,  because as time goes on it dissipates as we learn to handle it. Marriage, children and life have pretty much squeezed the overly empathetic/sensitive person right out of me, but it was nice to walk for a few minutes in her tear-stained, confused, well meaning little shoes.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Porn Star for a Ten Days

Yes, it's true. I was a porn star for ten days.

Okay, not entirely true, but it got pretty porny there for a spell after I discovered- via google search- that if you typed in my maiden name and the name of this actor I worked with on a TV movie from 1991, a link came up claiming to have a video of "hot sexy ME getting banged".

Hmmm.

Let me just clarify that I never even came close to showing/doing anything on film that wasn't G rated at anytime during my illustrious fifteen year acting career. No one even asked to see my boobs, or anything else for that matter, so naturally I was kind of curious. Was I the victim of some Tucker Max inspired video that had surfaced and been sold to a porn site? And why the link didn't use the name of the the actor, who went on to become a two time Academy Award winner, was confounding.

When I clicked on the "hot sexy ME getting banged" link, a clip that I had filmed from the TV movie popped up. It's where the actor and I fall onto a bed in a romantic embrace and it fades to black right before my character gets knocked up and ruins his character's life. I have enormous hair and am clearly wearing some industrial strength enhancers aka. chicken cutlets-my cleavage is ridiculous in a skin tight blue jean mini dress fit for my role as The Trashy Girlfriend. The clip by itself is as tame as it gets. It aired on prime time twenty two years ago and is acceptable for my five and seven year olds to watch-the questions about why I am kissing someone that isn't Daddy, notwithstanding.

It's the... other stuff, the retinally scarring framework around the clip that got me a little...concerned.

While I won't go into detail, suffice it to say that the images the website chose to feature alongside our romance novel cover make-out scene were most likely illegal, utterly disturbing, and certainly not titillating. Porn can be pretty gross-unless it isn't.

During his obscenity trial, Larry Flynt posed the question: which is more obscene-sex or war? I get the point he is trying to make, obviously, but in my opinion, the kind of porn he and websites like his are purveying and defending is the equivalent of looking at a photograph of soldier pissing in the oozing skull of the innocent civilian he just shot in the head for laughs. Or watching a hunter pose with the bear he just killed, the deceased's tongue lolling out of its mouth, an arm draped around its executioners shoulders like they are old pals. It's exceptionally gross, and it lacks any shred of decency or humanity. And it's usually the female who is being degraded.

Larry Flynt can say stuff like "If the human body's obscene, complain to the manufacturer, not me" all that he wants to defend his choice to sell smut, but in my not so humble opinion, it is all about context. Last week, I saw a picture of a banana shoved into a cantaloupe on a friend's Facebook page. With all the fresh imagery now permanently burned into my brain, it seemed totally pornographic to me, which according to Justice Potter Stewart can be judged by the "I know it when I see it" standard set in 1964. Although the fruit image was designed to provoke, if a child were to see it, they'd likely miss the overt, raw sexual nature of the photograph because they have no context for it. I, on the other hand, have all sorts of context, but did not find it offensive in the least because I am pretty sure that no cantaloupes or bananas were coerced into the act, nor did they pose for the picture to fuel their heroin addiction, or need for approval from a lifetime of sexual or emotional victimization. Neither piece of fruit contracted HIV or was punched in the stomach to appeal to a broader audience, either.

You be the judge...obscene or just really fucking delicious?





The weirdest part about this whole experience by far was not having to view a bunch of porn, or even having my actress likeness lumped in with something totally distasteful to me. No, it was having to share this experience via email with a complete stranger- the female lawyer in charge of licensing for NBC/ Universal.I wrote to her,explaining that a twenty year old clip was being used illegally to promote other people's porn on an incredibly yucky website. She wrote back to me right away asking me to send her every link to it that I could find, which meant having to click on every google result for six pages until the results no longer applied to me "getting banged". It was a long, disturbing night and my sexual landscape is forever scarred by what I came across. The Playboy magazines of my youth, discovered one summer in my uncle's man cave up in the attic (I liked to read the comics, I swear), now read like Highlights Magazine. I'd totally pay to watch Goofus and Gallant have full on orgy with the Timbertoes AND Poozy, Woozy, and Piddy if I could have my memory cleared of what I've seen.

I can only assume my lawyer acquaintance must feel somewhat the same way, since she, too, had to click on the all of the links I sent her to verify that the clip was in fact an NBC/ Universal property. She replied with a great deal of empathy, and apologized, understanding that I must be so upset. She drafted a cease and desist letter and cc'd me when she sent it. I was glad to know that the link came down the following week. Yes, I braved the search a few more times to make sure that it didn't just move somewhere else. I switched the computer to the "safe search" setting, fearing my inquisitive seven year old might google my name while researching for her Wannanosaurus report. I can't imagine trying to explain the things I've seen to someone who thinks a big hug is where babies come from, but if it happens, I'd be inclined to show her the cantaloupe picture and call it a day.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Mitzvah Schmitzva

My life is turning in to a George Carlin routine about stuff. I love George Carlin, but we are simply running out of room. In reaction to the onslaught of stuff that made its way into our house this past holiday season, I have put a moratorium on acquisitions until late March when Little turns six.
I revisited the whole "Mitzvah Birthday" idea again-where the party guests donate to a charity of Little's choosing in lieu of gifts- but I had forgotten it was kind of a bust when we tried it when Big turned six a few years back.
A mitzvah, if you don't know, is the word used to describe a good deed in the Jewish faith. It is something that both kids have been steeped in since we started going to our amazing Jewish school five years ago.
The idea for a Mitzvah Birthday began a two years ago on one particularly tedious weekday afternoon, just before Big was going to turn six. I was making dinner and after a series of games, some wrestling, some fighting, both of my incredibly well attended (if not over indulged) children declared themselves bored. I heard them whining and told them to go play outside.They ignored me. I reminded them that boredom wasn't an option, as long as they live in this house, in this city, in this country.
They persisted, so I cut to the chase:
I told them that they should be thanking their lucky stars that they weren't born somewhere in an Indian slum where they might be sifting through piles of dirty medical waste all day every day instead of complaining that their pasta didn't have enough cheese. I had read an article about it in the paper a few days before. Big pricked up her ears and wanted to know more. Little buried her head in some stuffed animals. I explained that there were parts of the world where little girls didn't spend their days fighting over one of eleven nude Barbie dolls, painting outside, going to school, or hosting fancy birthday parties. No, those little girls, sometimes as young as four, sat in a disgusting fly infested,maggoty garbage dump from sun up to sundown with no sandwiches with the crusts cut off and picked hypodermic needles out of a large pile of trash to sell back to the medical communities in their town. The poor kids often got stuck by the needles and many contracted terrible illnesses and died because of it. I explained that those children had no pretty clean room to mess up or drawers full of clothes to throw on the ground when they weren't satisfied with their Mother's choice of wardrobe.
They were both silent for a second. Little wandered off (which made me wonder how the Indians got the four year olds to sift through the garbage in the first place), but Big was mesmerized. She nodded passionately as I spoke, hanging on every word. She asked how we could help them, and I broached the subject of her having a Mitzvah Birthday, assuring her that she would still receive numerous gifts from her large, generous family. After I explained the part about the needles a few more times, she decided that this would be her charity of choice for her birthday party. I found a link to a wonderful organization called Ragpickers Education and Development Scheme or REDS. They have drop in centers in and around the areas where most of the kids are scavenging and they spend time encouraging  the parents to let their kids get educated and have a childhood instead of be ragpickers.
I encouraged the Mitzvah Birthday for two reasons- 1) to forgo the bazillion Chinese made plastic twenty dollar well meaning gifts from her eighteen guests ( no offense but how many more My Little Pony set or Pet Shop or Polly Pocket or Disney Princess phones,"computers", dress up shoes, tiaras, tutus, do we really need to have?) and 2) So she could learn that giving is actually pretty cool, even on your birthday.

I completed the Evite and pressed send, feeling very proud of my kid.

Two hours later, I ran into a mom whose child from another school was invited to the party. We were both in line at Trader Joe's. She was impeccably dressed, in full make up with her buttery blonde hair swept up into a perfect French twist. It was a Tuesday, and she was grabbing a quick lunch between broker open houses. She looked up from her phone and asked what sort of gift Big might like. I smiled and began to explain the Mitzvah Birthday concept to her. As soon as the word "ragpickers" left my lips, her eyes glazed over, as if I had handed her The Watchtower pamphlet and parked myself on her doorstep. As I spoke, she became a slow motion montage of eye rolling, sighing and checking her phone. I kept talking while she nodded over my words, her eyes wandering.  By the time I had finished my twenty second explanation, she had paid for her salad was gone, leaving behind a cloud of perfume and some unintelligible remark about liking to buy stuff. I watched her go, pretty sure I saw her shake her head in disbelief. 
I stood there in my goto unbelievably comfortable faded black yoga pants and a waffle knit hoodie, my hair a messy after thought, feeling like a squishy, flabby, smelly, stubble-covered, unwaxed, caterpillar-browed, braless, yellow toothed,"natural", placenta eating, braid wearing, vegetarian, reusable bag carrying, liberal cliche that should be milking goats in Oregon and not attempting to make a home in Hollywood. God, did I even brush my teeth today?

She managed to make me feel bad about trying to save starving needle pricked children in India.

While I waited to check out, I noticed a hole in the arm of my waffle hoodie, likely sewn by the very same Indian slave child that my daughter wanted to help. I walked to my car, feeling very squinty and conflicted, and fished around for the lipstick that had been rolling around on the floor for the last year.
It was a MAC named Meltdown. Perfect.
I drove home asking myself when encouraging your child to consider other people became such a yawn worthy concept. I know that many five year olds have their own Mini Ipads and all, but when did empathy go out of style?  It isn't as if I was going to deny Big birthday gifts. She couldn't go without gifts if she tried to since both kids have a small army- four grandmas, three grandfathers, a two grand aunts, three great grandmas,two aunts, two uncles, several cousins and their adoring parents-that routinely showers them with gifts.
As I unloaded the car, I questioned my own motivation for the whole mitzvah thing. First, it's the stuff.I am done with too much stuff. Second, it's the entitlement. I do not want to raise entitled children. It is my worst fear, that all of our attempts to give our kids everything they need will  make them heartless insatiable little assholes. So far, not the case, but we've had our moments. I barely survived Little's Horrendous Performance at Department Stores Phase that lasted almost seven months, where Mommy specifically said every single time we went to a store "you each get one thing", WELL before entering the store, only to have Little persist relentlessly in wanting two things. I never gave in, but the HPDS phase aged me rapidly and brought me closer to child abuse than almost anything else has before or since.  I rarely take them to stores at all anymore: HPDS induced PTSD is a bitch.
I look around our house and see all the stuff they have-LOTS and lots of toys, clothes, stuffed animals, games, piles of gifts from birthday after birthday. All of it represents how much they are loved by their family and friends, but most days, I  wonder if we should give it all away. Just let them pick some of what they actually play with, which is maybe twenty percent of what they have. Unfortunately for me, I married someone who hates that idea with a passion and has vowed to replace each item I discreetly place in the Goodwill bag tenfold. I believe him. He has an irritating yet astonishing sixth sense about the toys that have been culled and will ask suspiciously about a random brown squeaky cow from a bath set he bought them at the Phoenix airport three years ago. If it can't be produced, he vows to buy more, "just to teach you not to toss their stuff, their memories", no matter how useless and ignored it might be. I should mention here that he is an excellent father and has instituted the "word of the month" in our house. He and the kids pick a meaningful word (determination, respect and courage are some of the previous choices). They define it, write it on a piece of paper and stick it on the wall for the month. How awesome is that?

I voted for "frugal" for February.

He also enjoys buying them stuff immensely. He took Little to the toy store for her birthday last year and offered her anything in the store. Really, a five year old was told to "pick anything". She looked at all of it over the course of thirty minutes and chose a twenty dollar sale item. I was thrilled because I might have insisted he return the thousand dollar mini Hummer in hot  pink if she had chosen it. Call me a killjoy, but I believe in limits, even on your birthday.
Two days before Big's party, with the linen closet  packed with gifts from family as promised, and I had not received a single notification of a donation sent to REDS, the ragpicker charity. Then a Paypal notification came- yes! Someone had actually read the Evite details. The day of the party came- a luau theme-  and the first two guests brought gifts. They were received with a little confusion by Big, so I put out a box next to the leis that said "Donations Here". After some clarification that the donations were not meant to purchase leis,  a few more guests put in their donations and, all told, seven out of sixteen people brought gifts and four people donated that I know of.  I guess that electronic communication isn't the most personal and most people probably just read the Evite to get the basic facts, but it was a huge disappointment for Big. Perhaps we will try it again in a few years, provided we haven't drowned in our own excess.
However, having momentarily convinced Little to go the same Mitzvah Birthday route in a few weeks, I am kind of relieved that she changed her mind. She wants her friends to bring her gifts, and that is okay. Especially because her charity of choice was, inexplicably, "to help people in Colorado". I wanted to tell her that they have legalized marijuana now, and that there are other more uptight states that could use the help-any needy folks in Connecticut?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Play Date

When Big was a cheeky ball of thighs and slobber, her social life started with Mommy Monday movies. Droves of exhausted mommies ventured out of their spit up stained dens to sit in dimly lit theaters and watch movies with the volume turned down (to protect all those virginal ears). It beat staying home in crusty sweatpants and watching The View or staring at the ever increasing laundry pile. It forced us to interact with other moms, even though that mostly consisted of mildly competitive small talk in the ticket line or the lending of a baby wipe or a shoulder to cry on in the filthy changing table-less bathroom.
Once the kids were a few months old, my movie buddy mom and I started to wonder if watching loud,violent action movies where Ewan MacGregor was trying to escape from the future might not be the kind of stimulation that all the baby books said our kids needed. Plus a lot of the other more seasoned moms just let their kids run wild. We grew weary of watching unattended toddlers eat mystery items off the movie theater floor or navigate flights of stairs in the dark. We transitioned to home or park visits, and life was post partum perfect. It was truly a sanity saver, if only for some semblance of adult conversation and maybe a five minute period where my teeny kid wasn't focusing on me and what I could be doing for her. The downside was the dating process that is New Motherhood.
Finding suitable play date material deserves its own Match Dot Com like website, with check boxes for the plethora of parenting choices out there:
Welcome to www.degreesofbatshitcrazy.com where we find suitable play date material for you AND your children! Just answer a few simple questions and soon you will be asking your child not to draw on the walls of someone else's cheerio strewn, bodily fluid stained, protective foam covered  family room to the sounds of The Wiggles blaring in the background! 
Let's get started:
1. Breast or bottle- and is the like/dislike of either option a deal breaker?  And when you eventually wean, will it be after the bare minimum of three months,  the recommended two years or will you wait until they go to middle school to stop?
2.Organic vs. Conventional- will your eyebrows go up if the other Mom opens a jar of Gerber's baby food instead of whipping out some hand mashed, locally grown, butternut squash puree that she made that morning right after she milked the family goat and scrambled some eggs still warm from the chicken coop?
3.Are you potty humor friendly? Are their legitimate naughty words in your vernacular or is there a cutsie euphemism for each that you prefer that my jaded child will eventually take issue with and give your child the correct terminology-"it isn't "oh fudge... it's..."
4. Do you use cloth or disposable diapers-and is the like/dislike of either option a deal breaker? Are you holding your three month old over the sink for hours a day to get a jump on things?Are you buying adult diapers in XS because your child and the potty can't seem to get along?
5. Is the use of salt water versus traditional pool a forty five minute conversation about the dangers of chlorine? How about sunscreen- is that a full blown lecture when someone pulls out the fertility compromising SPF 130 in a spray can or will you feel secretly relieved that such ignorant people are also conveniently preventing themselves from reproducing?
6. Are you current events friendly, and will you judge the other Mom when she doesn't know that Bombay has been called Mumbai since 1995?
7. Do you read anything with more than three words per page? Is it exclusively Nicholas Sparks novels?
8.Do you or your children watch TV-and if so, how much?
9 Do you have a clue-and if so, how much?
10. Is your child kind and relatively non-violent? If not, will you step in when he/she starts pummeling the other child or will it become a Jerry Springer like spectacle when she politely requests that your child not play Five Finger Fillet with your child's fingers?
11. Will you insist that your six month old's blabbering is really them saying "Beethoven" because of all the classical music they listened to in utero?
12. Will you brag about how little Hedgefund has slept through the night from the day he was born or will you fess up to the reality that your night nurse was there and it was YOU who has been sleeping through the night all this time-hence your impeccable grooming and accessorizing? 

The list goes on, but there is a lot to discover about other people once you are already at the play date, like they have dogs and everything that hits the floor will become immediately caked with fur. A LOT of fur. Or that they leave the TV on all day long and let their kids have unlimited amounts of diet soda and Cool Whip, the fat free kind of course, "because it's healthier". Or they will freeze like a deer on the highway when you put something in the microwave that their child is about to eat.  Or they will let you go on and on about a notoriously bizarre mom with outrageous behavior, only to tell you right before they leave that she is their best friend. Or they will text with another friend the entire time, or their spouse will call five times in the hour that you perch on their couch, making you wonder if they are unhealthily codependent or maybe just bored, or both. Or their collection of rare Japanese Samurai swords is at toddler height, waiting to decapitate someone.
So many reasons to simply stay home, alone, and stare at your kid.
Don't get me wrong- I am certainly not suggesting that I am better than other parents.  I microwave a lot. I have a terrible temper and a worse potty mouth. My children have been playing with separate Ipads for the last two and a half hours while I write, internet surf for a pair of gold loafers that I will never wear and make lists of things that I will never accomplish. They have been interrupted only by bodily functions and an almost entirely microwaved dinner- and yes, I do know about the dangers of microwaving. I wrote an entire post about it awhile back. And, no, I don't practice what I preach.
It has been a long haul, these seven years, and sometimes I just need to say goodbye to "hands on" and hello to technology.
However, while  I am as lazy and feckless as they come, I have the good sense not to show this side of myself to other people when they come to my house.  I try and put up a decent facade, be generally polite, and strive to keep my life free of people who need more than I can give them. I have three immediate people who already need be a whole lot, pretty much non stop, especially when we are all together. Not a five minute period goes by, unless a TV is on or a grandparent is in the room, where a kid/spouse isn't asking for/about something/help/their shoes. It is really quite spectacular some days, and I often count the intervals just to torture myself. I can't be the only woman in America with this issue, but perhaps a mommy flask and pair of earplugs is the solution because no amount of explaining, describing or flat out yelling seems to deter them from checking in every ninety seconds or so:

Kid: (from the next room)"MOM??? HOW DO YOU SPELL ISLAND?"
Me: " I_S_L_A_N_D"....
Kid: "MOOOO-OOOOM!!!! ONE LETTER AT A TIME!!!!!"
Me: (deep breath) "I.........S........L......-"
Kid( interrupting): " "WHICH WAY DOES THE CAPITAL "L" GO AGAIN?"
Me: " TO THE RIGHT......"
Kid:"OKAY-WHAT'S NEXT??"
ME: ( recapping)"I-S-L.........A.........N........D.........."
Kid(big pause): " MOM!!!!THIS SPELLS ISISLAND???!!!! I ASKED FOR ISLAND!!!" (sound of paper crumpling, kid stomps all the way down the hall, passing the many garbage cans within range, just to throw balled up paper in trash can below my desk).
Other kid: " I'M DONE!!!!!"( code for  "come wipe my ass")
Husband:"HAVE YOU SEEN MY BLUE HOODED SWEATSHIRT???"
Kid: " MOM? CAN YOU SPELL IT CORRECTLY THIS TIME?"
Other Kid:" I SAID I'M DONE!!!'"
Husband: "Do you know where the walkman is?........."

At this point, I have done my Edith Bunker routine and am ready for a primal scream and a stiff drink.
I know, I chose this, but it reinforces my acute understanding that I can also choose to have play dates with people who aren't high maintenance. I choose not to be around people who are trying to figure out ways to put me to work. The mom who asked me to fetch her a plate of food at my kid's chaotic, crowded birthday party-for no apparent reason other than she didn't feel like walking the ten feet to the incredibly well thought out, readily accessible serve yourself buffet and get it herself-was crossed off the list. Another mom pretty much insisted that my kid give up the pretty flowered tea cup (after she had been heartily encouraged to pick the teacup of her choice) so her kid wouldn't throw a fit ("yeah, that's her favorite one..."), even though the whole play date was supposed to be a surprise birthday celebration for my kid that they had both made quite a fuss about. I will never forget the look of confusion on my kid's face as she slid the flowered tea cup across the table and took a plain blue one instead, but she made me proud, or was it my suggestive squinting she responded to?The same mom let her child play video games while my kid explored her room and was told to not touch anything. This mom was clearly terrified of her five year old and seemed to be waiting for her child to come in and raise hell because she'd let my child touch her stuff. I just ran out of energy trying to keep the conversation alive while trying to explain to my kid why she couldn't touch anything in her friend's room.
Another mom, with whom I'd had two perfectly acceptable casual play dates, called my cell phone at five thirty one evening and said,"We are driving by your house- are you home?". Let me just say that I was not a drop by kind of gal when I was  young and single and am even less so now, especially at dinner time with two cranky hungry kids making whining noises that science has proven to be the  most irritating sound known to human ears. I hemmed and hawed and told her we were going out to dinner any minute and actually got in the car with both kids and drove away, just in case she was lurking about.  The desperation in her voice was palpable, but I am no Stay at Home Mother Teresa. I just didn't have it in me that day, or ever, really, to be the rock for someone I barely knew and understood even less. Besides, she had one kid to deal with for a few more excruciating hours, and I had two.
Another mom let her kid DESTROY an entire area of our play space, I mean TOTALLY DISMANTLE, then walked out without picking up a single thing. Her kid actually eyeballed the mess, tripping over a pile of books as she exited, and let me know as the door was closing that she wasn't going to help clean it up, either.
Another Mom, who I call the Play Date Bully, just wouldn't take no for an answer. I didn't want her or son coming over to our house and was even less inclined to leave my child at the mercy of her ancient nanny at their house. She broached the subject every so often when I had occasion to see her, and emailed me infrequently over the course of several months. I managed to dodge and weave but the correspondence became increasingly hostile, pointed and vaguely threatening. I used every excuse possible for as long as I could and finally had to give in or just tell her the truth. Naturally, I gave in but mostly to avoid coming home and finding our figurative pet rabbit boiling on the stove. As the date neared-my body filled with dread-a miracle occurred(they cancelled)and our scheduled enforced play date was postponed indefinitely. But like jury duty, it never goes away, and I fully expect a passive aggressive email to arrive any day now with the heading "let's try this again, shall we?"

You might ask, okay, Mrs. Judgeypants MacPerfect, how would YOU have handled these situations had the shoe been on the other foot?
Well, I'd be delighted to tell you:
I'd never ask anyone to get me anything unless it was a bandaid for a cut or an extra pair of undies because someone had an accident.
I'd have had the conversation about the teacups way ahead of time and told my kid that the birthday girl was getting whatever cup she wanted, because we were celebrating her. I'd have told my video game player to put the game away or  the play date would be over.
I have yet to call another mom at dinner time and say "right outside your house, whatchadoing?", but I suppose I will never say never.
If I'd been so clueless as to leave a big fat mess for another mom to clean up, and my kid brought it to my attention, I'd have stopped in my tracks and made her clean it up, just so she never embarrassed me like that again.
As for the persistence- I get it. We all want to connect, make friends, have something for our kid to do from three to five thirty( affectionately referred to as "the witching hours" by my Mother in Law), but if I reach out to someone and get zero traction, I will give up before I have the urge to write mafiosa tinged emails to a mom who clearly doesn't have any interest in me or my child.  Perhaps there is room for a self help book entitled "That Mom is just not that into You" with a description like this: "Straightforward and sensible, "That Mom is Just Not That Into You" educates otherwise smart women on how to tell when another Mom just doesn’t like them enough, so they can stop wasting time making excuses for a dead-end relationship".
And then there are those rare times that everyone gets along- where there is pure glorious chemistry at work-the kids, the moms-the whole thing is like a perfect moment, and I feel like busting out into the theme from The Golden Girls because it is such a relief. To those women, I say thank you, and let's do it again really soon.