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Dirty Dancing by myself

There are movies that everyone has seen, like Top Gun. These movies give us a common lingo, a pop culture lingua franca.

When you meet someone who doesn’t speak the language, you notice. My best friend Linds knows me better than almost anyone. But the fact that she’s never seen Top Gun really hurts our ability to ever truly know one another. How can I really connect with someone who hasn’t experienced the agony of Goose dying in that ocean? Someone who hasn’t felt the erotic snap of an in-his-prime Val Kilmer, wrapped in a towel, chomping his teeth at Maverick in the locker room?

Tom is even more aghast that Linds hasn’t seen Top Gun, because he considers Tom Skerritt’s role in that movie to be an archetype of manhood. Simply put, Tom wants to be Viper when he grows up. And I second the motion.

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When I was a teenager, I made a list of all the movies my parents wouldn’t let me see. I planned to view them all in quick succession as soon as I turned 17. I remember nothing about that list except that Tequila Sunrise was at the top of it. And that Dirty Dancing was somewhere farther down.

Dirty Dancing is my Top Gun. I never saw it as a kid. Tom has no interest in seeing it, and it’s not a movie you feel good about watching by yourself. But this last Friday, that’s exactly where I found myself. In front of the TV, alone, watching Dirty Dancing.

Title aside, I assumed the dancing in the movie would be cheesy and awkward. I was not prepared for it to be, in fact, dirty. I mean, the movie was made in like 1985. Had dirty dancing really even been invented yet?

Turns out it had. Patrick Swayze spends essentially the entire movie with his crotch stuck between someone else’s legs. Watching him writhe against Jennifer Grey with “Hungry Eyes” wailing away in the background, I looked nervously around my living room and wondered if I should close the curtains. As if the movie I was watching was actually porn. Unfortunately, it wasn’t porn, because there isn’t even a real sex scene. After an hour of libidinous pelvic thrusting, I felt downright cheated that the sex all happened off screen.

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Still, no wonder my parents wouldn’t let me watch this movie. I mean, if I had seen this movie as an impressionable teenager, I would definitely have spent my late teens and early twenties trying to get laid by a dance instructor.

As an adult, there were many things that I found challenging about Dirty Dancing. It was jarring and unpleasant that the guy who plays Baby’s dad is the corny cop from Law & Order. I found it unbelievable that in the space of three days, Baby went from dressing like Laura Ingalls Wilder to the trampy Sandy at the end of Grease. The scene where Johnny and Baby go into the woods to practice their dance moves on a log? Why would they practice their dancing on a log? That scene sucked and I fast-forwarded most of it.

Speaking of that scene, why does Johnny need to break into his own car to drive it to the forest? I found it hard to believe that Johnny Castle, using nothing but his tender dancer feet, would be able to kick a concrete post out of the ground. I have hit like twenty of those posts with my CAR and they didn’t budge. That whole scene was supposed to tell me something profound about Johnny Castle, but I wasn’t getting the message. Probably because I was too busy focusing on Patrick Swayze’s pants and shoes throughout the movie, which were distractingly cheap and hideous, like the bottom half of a Panda Express uniform. Lastly, I feel pretty damn certain that the real Johnny Castle would not have had a shaved chest. The real Johnny Castle would have had a hairy mat on which to nestle a heavy gold chain.

All told, Dirty Dancing was kind of a scandalous movie, at least to this 37-year old. After all, the events in the movie are set into motion when a character has an abortion. AN ABORTION. Kind of heavy for a movie about learning how to mambo at summer camp.

I pushed the “info” button on my remote control to verify that this movie was PG-13, which it was. My older kid is almost 8. That means he could technically watch this movie in five years. Over my dead body. I made a mental note to add “Dirty Dancing” to the list of things I needed to protect my kids from, right before “carcinogens” and after “girls.” Then I played the whole movie again. For this blog. For research.

giving up the ghost

This post is about dreams, and letting them go. I spent most of 2013 feeling strongly that I was meant, nay DESTINED, to have three children. I hounded Tom daily for my unborn third child, prompting much consternation and dry-gulping of Advil.

Leaving aside the problem of an unwilling sperm donor, I sensed unease from those closest to me. There were comments that I took as judgmental warnings. “Wouldn’t that mean you have to change your life a lot?” “Don’t you think that would be hard on Tate?” “But things are finally getting so easy!” “WHY do you want to have three children?”

WHY did I want to have three children? Because my first two are fucking awesome and I had a vision of a third awesome kid, poking his head up from the empty back row of my SUV. And maybe this time, the kid would actually look like me. An awesome new kid that looked like me. Was that so much to ask?

Although he did not want another child, Tom still wanted to have regular sexual congress, which seemed a bold and uncompromising position to take, given the circumstances. And that’s where we come to the letting go of Tom’s dreams. The dream of remaining a man in full. The dream of leaving his man tubes uncut and un-cauterized.

The dream of having regular sex while at the same time not having a vasectomy.

Anyway. He’s had the consult. The procedure is scheduled. I know it’s scheduled because Tom sent me an Outlook calendar invite for that entire weekend, the description for which reads “Resting at Home.” The invite was followed by a verbal clarification from Tom. “The doctor said I can’t move around AT ALL because the gravity on the weight in my balls might mess up the healing. Like, I can’t STAND. Or MOVE. So I am just going to be in the TV room that weekend, HEALING.”

The easy joke here is that I already have a third child, and that his name is Tom. The tougher joke is that I’ll spend that weekend solo-parenting my two amazing kids, putting to bed my dreams of a third.

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sick hair day

Tuesday found me at home with Finn, who had fever.  I will admit that once I get past the stress of missing work, I like staying home with a sick kid. A sick kid needs you. A sick kid wants you. A sick kid accepts your cuddles and kisses because he’s too weak to push you off.

Alas, this was not a big fever. It was just a spot of fever. The kind of fever that keeps your kid barred from school but fails to keep him quiet and immobile on your couch. I have a special name for this kind of fever, and that name is A Pain in My Ass.

“Mom. Can we dye my hair today?” I squeezed my eyes shut and mentally cursed myself. He’d been asking for days to dye his hair blue. If I’d remembered about the hair, I’d have plugged him full of Motrin and used my full upper body strength to shove him into his classroom. But here we were, just the two of us. Alone. With nothing to do, because Tom had loudly conditioned Finn’s staying home on NO SCREEN TIME, before he himself ran away to the office for a busy day of surfing the internet for articles about the World Cup.

I didn’t object to the blue hair. I enthusiastically support my kids any time they want to look different from other people. No, what I objected to was the work. So many steps. The procurement of the dye. The covering of all surface areas in the bathroom. The application. The waiting. The washing. I didn’t sign up for that. I signed up for forced cuddling, seven hours of daytime TV, and a late-afternoon Slurpee and Doritos run.

We drove to Sally’s, where Finn took a look around the store and commented loudly on how empty it was. “Boy, this store is EMPTY!!” As an aside, my kids can’t step into a store without remarking on how few customers there are, always in front of the person running the store. Why do kids do that? Does it reaffirm their own bodily presence, their own existence in the world? I’ve thought about this a lot, and my only conclusion is that it’s incredibly awkward. For me.

Anyway, the woman at Sally’s led us to the blue hair dye section, and assured me that the stuff would work without bleaching, even on Finn’s brown hair. Has my own black hair ever been dyed? Yes. Have I ever known it to take color without pre-bleaching beforehand? No. Unfortunately, these long-known truths escaped me in the face of my 7-year old’s enthusiasm.

Back home, I carefully laid out the dye, Vaseline, and shower cap, while pulling on my gloves. I covered the sink with towels. Finn took his shirt off and plopped down on the toilet seat. I traced a thick gob of Vaseline all around his hairline. Then I started rubbing in the blue gel, which looked bright, bright blue. Finn started fist-pumping the air before I’d even done his whole head. He turned his head from one side to the other, admiring himself. Then I put on the shower cap, and then, we waited.

shower cap

40 minutes later, I gingerly pulled off the shower cap. The hair still looked blue, but mostly because the gel was blue. The actual hair underneath looked alarmingly black. And worse than that was his scalp, which was bright teal. I felt a tingly sensation on the back of my neck. The same tingly feeling I get when Finn asks me at school what we are having for dinner, and I know that we are having turkey meatloaf, and that Finn is about to lose his shit in front of a roomful of parents.

I pushed Finn into the shower and turned on the shower head. I watched in horror as all the blue gel washed out of his hair, leaving behind a head of hair that was two shades DARKER than before. Finn, in the meantime, was watching the blue water run over his feet, and freaking out. “MOM YOU’RE WASHING ALL THE BLUE OUT!!!! STOP!!! STOP IT!!! STOP WASHING THE BLUE OUT!!!” My mind was racing. Because I knew that if he was pissed now, he was going to fall apart when he saw himself in the mirror.

No help for it. Finn jumped out of the tub, splashing blue everywhere, and ran to the mirror. When he saw himself, he opened his mouth in a rictus of pain, started screaming, and didn’t stop. He screamed for like ten minutes, I swear. And I didn’t even have the heart to quiet him, because goddamnit, I have been there. Who hasn’t entered a hair salon clutching a picture of Kate Moss, and walked out, dreams crushed and soul broken? Some of us do that four times a year.

post dye job

post dye job

Anyway, Cuz eventually stepped in and we went back to Sally’s to procure some hair chalk. The box says “Hot Huez,” which apparently does not rhyme with “Hot Suez,” but instead rhymes with “Hot Shoes.” Go figure. Finn woke me up at 6:00 AM today so that I could rub some Hot Huez into his hair. I rubbed it in but good. Then I set it with hairspray. Finn craned his neck around me, trying to get a peek.

“Is it blue, Mom?”

That it is, kid. That it is.

More pics of Finn’s blue hair odyssey available right there to the right via Instagram…  

 

lice, you ain’t nice

Every time I see an email about lice from my kids’ school, I read it with a shudder of revulsion and then try to figure out which kid in the class has the lice. Then I try to prevent my kids from coming in contact with the perp, all without actually mentioning the word “lice.” It’s tricky.

Me: “Hey Finn. So how about those Blazers, huh. Say, anyone at school get a haircut recently?”

Finn: “What?”

Me: “You know. A haircut. Like anyone cut their hair super short? Or…I don’t know. Any of your friends get a new hat?”

Finn: “Like what kind of hat?”

Me: “You know. A hat. Like, a baseball hat. Any kind of hat.”

Finn: (Long pause). “No.”

Me: “Ok, that’s cool.” (Pause). “Hey, maybe don’t do any reading today in the reading corner.”

Finn: “Why not?”

Me: (Pause). “Well, you can read. Just don’t, you know, touch any of the pillows. Don’t do any lounging. And maybe, you know, don’t touch any of your friends today.”

Finn: “Why not?”

Me: “Because.”

Finn: “Because why?”

Me: “Because I said so, ok?”

Finn: “But why?”

Me: “BECAUSE THERE MIGHT BE BUGS ON THE PILLOWS OK?? Now eat your breakfast.”

The thing about lice is that centuries of human familiarity with lice hasn’t robbed it of its power. It’s like leprosy. I haven’t heard of anyone having leprosy in a really long time. But anyone who has seen Ben-Hur knows that leprosy is no joke. Your skin falls off, and then your fingers fall off. I don’t want leprosy, and I don’t want lice. Lice isn’t a sexy old-timey disease like consumption, which makes you think of Chopin coughing delicately into an embroidered handkerchief and seems kind of romantic. Yes I know that consumption is technically tuberculosis. But do YOU know that lice is BUGS? In your HAIR??

Feel free to start screaming. I did, when we got the call. I buzz my kids’ hair on a regular basis and we’d avoided five rounds of lice at my kids’ school, so I thought we were home free. Nope. Tate had a bug near his ear, and needed to be picked up. The school checked Finn as a precaution and said he was clean, but my older son was leaving for outdoor school the next day, and I wasn’t taking any chances. My car screeched into the school parking lot and I left the engine running while I ran in to grab Finn. Tate had already been picked up by Tom and with any luck, was at home being fumigated. Inside the school, Finn sensed my distress and reacted accordingly.

Finn, digging in his heels: “Wait, why are we going home early?”

Me: “Ha ha, happy to see you too, sport. Hey Chandra!” (Waving to another parent). “I just, you know, felt like picking you up early because…I missed you.”

Finn: “But I want to play soccer!”

Me: (Leaning close, grabbing shirt, and hissing). “Listen, buddy. Your brother has BUGS, ok?? IN HIS HAIR. We need to leave. RIGHT. NOW.”

With Finn in the car, I sped off for Lice Knowing You. The only nice thing about lice in the modern age is that there are places like Lice Knowing You. Lice Knowing You is a real place that actually exists. It is a salon, just like any other salon, except that this salon isn’t marked from the outside and the only service they offer is the removal of bugs from your person. The school had told me that Finn was clean, but, no offense to the school, I needed a professional opinion. I screeched into the parking lot and dragged Finn into the salon, where I tried to be really chill about not touching any of the surfaces. There, a lady sprayed conditioner in Finn’s hair and then gave Finn the first combing of his life. No lice.

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I packed Finn into the car and we peeled off for home. I arrived to find Tom and Cuz stripping all the beds. Tate was running around the house stark naked. I waved to Tate from a safe distance and turned to Tom. “So, did you do the lice treatment?”

Tom looked up from spraying a mattress with an expression that suggested that he had been dealing with lice and spraying the mattress for approximately seven years, instead of the 45 minutes that had elapsed since he’d left the school with Tate. “I didn’t find anything,” he said.

What did he MEAN he didn’t find anything? Tom wasn’t like Finn, who often asks where his glasses are, when they are on his face. Tom is a FINDER. Tom’s ability to find things is like number 4 on the top ten things that I love about my husband. If Tom didn’t find lice, there were no lice. But still. The school wouldn’t have sent Tate home on a TUESDAY unless they had found some serious lice. Would they?

“What do you mean you didn’t find anything?,” I asked. “Do you even know what lice look like? They look like little white grains of rice, Tom. Like little white eggs. Did you even look at any pictures??!!!” I could feel myself sounding and looking like a howler monkey and was powerless to stop it. Tom stopped spraying and pulled his body up to full height. “Yoona. I know what lice looks like. I know what nits look like. I looked at the pamphlet in the kit. He didn’t have any lice.”

Well. He didn’t have to get all hysterical about it. I gave him a look and hauled both my boys to the bathroom, where I clipped on my trusty Number 1 guide and buzzed them clean.

Try clinging onto that fuzz, you nasty lice. And you nasty nits, too. ‘Til next time.

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the truck effect

Tom got an F-150 around Christmas, and it’s been a topic of considerable amusement for our friends and family. Myself, I’ve moved through various emotional stages with the truck.

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1. Magnanimousness: Tom works hard. He’s driven my POS 2003 Ford Escape for a long time. He can’t even fully extend his legs in the POS 2003 Ford Escape. He needs this truck. And so he shall have it.

2. Annoyance: Why won’t Tom stop talking about the truck? Why does he spend our evenings in the driveway, alone inside the truck? Isn’t that kind of strange? How can his truck console already be filled to the brim with stuff like mouthwash and Clif bars, when he’s only had the truck for a week? How come I can’t eat in his truck, when he eats his food in my car, and then leaves the wrappers on the floor? When I return to the house after being away, why does Tom rush to the door and ask me if I saw his truck in the driveway, and doesn’t it look good? What is a bed cover? Why does Tom’s truck need a bed cover? Why does Tom need to tell me about a bed cover while I’m at work? Why would I care that because his new bed cover folds in three, I will never have to take it off? Why would I ever need to take a bed cover off of a truck? What am I, a fucking cowboy?   

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3. Jealousy: Ok, that didn’t feel good when my kids called my car the “Old Car.” It also didn’t feel good when they asked why it feels so small. In fact, it kind of stung. My car is not small. I can’t even park it by myself in my parking garage! And once I hit a post with my far mirror because I didn’t realize how big my car was. It is that big. And by the way, it’s only a year old. And it has stuff that the truck doesn’t have, like this chrome trim here on the gear shift. As anyone will tell you, chrome = luxury. And the truck doesn’t have this ambient lighting around the cupholders that I can change to turquoise or purple. And this push button start! Never mind that I can only tell 50% of the time when my car is turned off and that I’ve accidentally left it running for two hours at the mall. It can come in handy, that push button start. Like if I’m ever being chased by a criminal, I can run to my car and start it just by pushing a button. I don’t even have to find any keys. Tom’s truck doesn’t have a push button start. It also doesn’t have these cool sunglasses that I keep in my handy sunglasses keeper.

Ok, the truck has a sunglasses keeper, but it doesn’t have these cool sunglasses.

4. Resignation: Well, this truck is here to stay, apparently. And sometimes it’s blocking my car in the driveway and I have to drive it. So I better figure out how to park it. Let’s take it to the gym, where there are big parking spaces.

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5. Acceptance: Wait a second, I LIKE this truck. Hot guys do double takes when I jump out of this truck. They never do that when I jump out of my Explorer. On the road, cars move out of my way when I merge. I’ve been trying to get them to do that for years! I like that when I open the door, I have to hold on to the steering wheel just to hoist myself into the driver’s seat. That’s burly. And speaking of burly, I like that this truck goes with my distressed jeans. Think I’ll turn up the Willie’s Roadhouse and go haul something.

dad soccer

I really look forward to Wednesdays. Wednesdays are when Tom goes to play futsal with his team, which is made up of dads from my kids’ school. And I submit that hearing the recaps of those games is better than any entertainment you might pay to experience.

But let’s back up. If you don’t live in Portland or some other hipster town (or South America), you might not even know what futsal is. Futsal is indoor soccer, but with different rules, none of which I know. My only real knowledge about futsal is that every adult I’ve met who has suffered bodily injury during adulthood has done it playing futsal. There’s Keil, who broke his toe. There’s Matt, who tore his ACL. There’s Eden, who broke her elbow PRACTICING futsal in her driveway. Tom is not particularly prone to injury, but neither would I describe him as particularly body-aware. So I had real anxiety about Tom playing on a futsal team.

My anxiety ratcheted up to a fever pitch when I found out that Tom’s first game would be played at 10:20 PM. I mean, by 10:20 PM I’ve been in bed for an hour and twenty minutes, if I’ve played my evening right. As for Tom, the only thing I can envision him doing well and with intention at 10:20 PM is watching HBO. Maybe brushing his teeth. MAYBE folding laundry, but only if it’s all towels. But that’s it. Futsal at 10:20 PM!! No wonder people dropped like flies playing the sport.

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Tom wasn’t having any of my doubt. Dressing for the first game, he pulled on his shin guards, which seemed to cover alarmingly small acreage on his long white shins, and a pair of striped knee socks. Then he pulled out a pair of sports glasses. I didn’t realize he HAD sports glasses, and told him so. “Remember,” he told me, rolling his eyes. “I got them for squash.” Tom has played squash exactly twice. Which puts the use-per-wear on his sports glasses, I’m guessing, at approximately $150. More critically, he hasn’t played squash in about three years, so we were working with an old prescription and impaired vision. Jesus! Why didn’t he just stay home and let me break his legs with a hammer? It would be faster and I wouldn’t have to wait up.

Tom left for the game, and I waited at home, anxiously. I looked back at the text I’d gotten from our friend Ethan, who plays in a Monday night league, and had lost his first game only two days before. The text was a photo of his skinned arm, and a message: “They made me bleed my own blood.” I kept waiting for Tom, until about 9:30, when I fell asleep. Around midnight, I was woken up by Tom, who was scarily alert and high off adrenaline. “We won,” he crowed. I dug deeper, and learned that the other team, ManChestHair United—while comprised of younger, more able-bodied men—had had no subs during the game. Meawhile, Tom’s team, with a deep, enthusiastic bench, had subbed players every 90 seconds. No matter. Tom was SO HAPPY. So I was happy.

This week’s game was a different story. The excitement of the first game having worn off, Jeremy, the team leader, was having difficulty fielding a full five-man team for the game. Tom showed me the potential line-up. Tom was listed as a “Yes (but likely drunk),” because he was going to the game straight from a dinner out. Patrick was listed as “Yes (with weird fluid).” Most of the other players were listed as “No” or “???”

“Look at this!,” Tom complained, thrusting his phone in my face. “Just look at it! I mean, I have ass stitches and I’m playing.” Tom had gotten stitches on his ass while skiing the weekend prior, and now he apparently intended to lord those ass stitches over achier, more exhausted teammates. I asked him about Patrick’s weird fluids–what kind of fluids? Were they from last week’s game? And how could fluids last seven days? I mean, I practiced yoga with Patrick. How could a dude that bendy have been wrecked by a single futsal game? Another teammate, Todd, could apparently barely walk. My old doubts started to come back. Maybe these guys WERE too old to play futsal.

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patrick. warmups.

But they’d won their first game, hadn’t they? I watched Tom leave for his second game (start time, 11:00 PM), and tried to put my fears to rest.

Well, they lost. Recapping the second game, Tom focused less on his team’s performance than the fact that two of the players on the other team were full-time soccer coaches. “Division 5! It’s total bullshit that those guys signed up for Division 5! I mean, I’m a lawyer!” Tom told Finn the score was 7-1 and mentioned that the other team had cheered when Tom’s team scored, so it didn’t sound TOO bad. I mean, the cheering from the other team sounded fun, if a little pathetic. But Patrick told me afterwards that they have to stop keeping score after a certain point and that the score was more like 20-1. Which makes me want to cry.

But it’s ok. Tom’s not injured (so far) and he’s having fun, and really, that’s all you can ask for when it comes to dad soccer.

pants on fire

On the list of undesirable behaviors, lying has never seemed that bad to me. I mean, I’m a mom. Honesty may be the best policy, but sometimes, lying is just easier on everyone. Like when my seven-year old croons “I put your faith to the test, when I tore off your dress” along with Jason Isbell in the car and then asks me what the song is about. There’s only one answer to a kid’s question about the meaning of a country song. “America,” I always answer, looking off into the distance, imagining I’m in a Chevy commercial. Seems appropriate.

Anyway, it’s January. And January means resolutions. This year, I’d settled on “chew slower” when I overheard Finn and Cuz talking about lying. “I never lie,” Cuz said. And boy wasn’t that the truth. Three weeks ago, I’d passed by her on the stairs in a new backless top, late for a party. “How does it look?,” I asked, twirling.

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cuz and me, new year’s eve

Cuz made a face and looked pained. “You aren’t tan enough,” she offered, apologetically. Changing in my closet, I cursed her under my breath while pulling on a mechanic’s suit that covered every inch of my mid-winter skin. But Cuz was right. And if she’d lied, I’d have inflicted my pasty back on a whole room full of party-goers. So maybe there was something to this honesty thing.

Over the next few days, I thought more about resolving not to lie. Maybe it was time to go back to the basics. After all, I’d lied recently to a total stranger and it had gone very badly for me.

My car was in the shop and the dealership had shuttled me to a rental agency. There, I met Kevin, the most falsely chipper employee I have had the misfortune to meet. You know the type. Sunshine on the outside, but inside is a black, rotten core, and it’s cursing your mother. I endured about three dozen of Kevin’s questions at check-in with a stoic calm. Right up until Kevin asked for the name of my employer.

“Why do you need that info?,” I asked, incredulous. “For the computer, Ma’am,” Kevin answered, his fake smile slipping just a hair.

I don’t know why, but I did not want to tell Kevin where I worked. For what possible reason would Enterprise Car Rental need to know where I worked? They had my name, my address, my telephone number, my credit card on imprint–why?? WHY?? And now he was calling me MA’AM?

Something inside of me snapped.

“I don’t have a job,” I said to Kevin. Once told, the lie felt bold and bracing, as if someone had splashed a bucket of ice water on my face. It felt wild and crazy and amazing. Until, that is, Kevin gave me a fake look of sympathy and said, in a stage voice three times as loud as the one he’d been using up until then: “I’m sorry, Ma’am. It’s a tough time out there.”

What the hell. Why would he assume I was looking for a job, and not happily unemployed, like a good portion of the populace? Was Kevin fucking with me? Was he purposely trying to embarrass me? I turned around and noticed, for the first time, four other people in the line behind me, who had observed my testy exchange with Kevin and were now leaning in for more. Did these people think I was jobless? I wasn’t jobless. I had a job. I had a job!!!!!

I turned back to Kevin and leaned over the counter. “Actually,” I said, “I have a job.” Kevin raised a skeptical eyebrow that I visualized wiping off his face via shovel. “Yes,” I said, loudly. “In fact, I’m a lawyer.” I heard a snicker behind me, followed by a loud throat clearing and some shuffling. The four eavesdroppers were standing so close behind me that I could feel all four of them breathing on the back of my neck. “No really, I am,” I said, to Kevin, but mostly to the room. At this point, I was fully aware that I sounded like an ass hat, but there was no turning back. “I’m a lawyer. I really am.”

“Uh huh. Ok, ma’am,” said Kevin, not even bothering to ask me for the name of my fake employer. “Would you sign here for the rental protection?”

Back to my resolutions. I’d lied at Enterprise Car Rental, and the result had been ignominy. But that grown-up lie was certainly different from the little white lies I told my kids. Wasn’t it? I’m thinking now about the twenty or so little lies I told my kids TODAY, starting with “Bummer, the person in line in front of me bought all the cake pops” and ending with “All toy stores are closed on Mondays.” What will I do when my kids are older? They won’t buy these lies forever.

So. I am resolved. Slower chewing. Less lying to the kids. Bring it, 2014.

the tattooed baby

When I was pregnant with Finn, the time would come at the end of my OB appointments where my doctor would ask if I had any questions about the pregnancy. I had lots of questions, but they were mostly about food. Not food for the baby. Food for me. Like, “The French drink wine while pregnant, so why can’t I,” “Can I eat oysters, and if so, how many;” and “What, exactly, is a ‘soft’ cheese?”

My OB is one of the more attractive older men I’ve met, and I’m already predisposed to developing crushes on men who are responsible for my physical well-being. This is why I developed a crush on the dentist who removed my wisdom teeth, and why I currently have a crush on my spinning instructor even though I hate his class. Anyway, with my OB, I developed a crush that was disturbing (to Tom) in its intensity. I liked my OB so much that I needed him to like me. This all seems irrelevant, but it’s not, so stay with me. This background explains why I couldn’t ask my OB the only question about my baby that I really wanted to ask, which was “Can you tell from an ultrasound whether the baby has a large birthmark on his face?”

Finn came out with no discernable birthmarks although he was so pale that he glowed. But Tate. I should have known from day 1 what I was getting into with Tate, because he came out with all sorts of marks. A lightning-bolt shaped mark on his forearm, a dark thumpbrint on his wrist, and best of all, huge Mongolian spots on his rear end that made his butt look blue. Most of the marks have since faded, but he must have been born with a taste for skin art. Because now he wants tats. And he wants ‘em bad.

tattoo

I am sympathetic. Every few weeks I see a cool tattoo on some nubile 20-something in my yoga class and I’ll ask Tom if I should get a tattoo, and he answers as he always does, by staring stonily out the car window in long-suffering silence. If he’s in a lighthearted mood he might say something fun, like “I will divorce you if you get a tattoo. I really will.” But mostly he just stares out his window.

The worst is when Tom plays along and asks what kind of tattoo I’d get. That always gives me pause. The only thing I’ve ever considered is a tattoo for my dad, who is gone. And then I take an even longer pause while I consider that while we never talked about tattoos, I’m pretty sure my dad hated them. And what kind of homage would that be? It would be as if my kids decided to honor me after I’m gone by engraving my name on a pair of man sandals and wearing the sandals everywhere with tube socks. That would be terrible. I can’t do that to my dad.

So maybe a tattoo is not in my future. But something tells me we will be visiting this issue again, when Tate is old enough to beg. Last week he padded up the stairs and stood next to my bed, in the dark. Tate’s voice is at approximately the same pitch/frequency as a dog whistle, and sounds particularly shrill at 5:45 AM. “Grandma says we can go to the tattoo store and get real tattoos.” I poked Tom, who played dead.

When I asked Grandma about the tattoo date, she said that she felt really bad for Tate when she caught him soaking stickers in a plastic bag full of water, trying to make them into tattoos. I tabled the discussion, and Grandma, in turn, brought home some fake tattoos to tide Tate over. He flipped through the tattoo book and landed on the one he wanted. I placed it square in the middle his chest, as directed.

In the mornings, Tate picks out v-neck shirts that will show his tattoo off best. In the evenings, when I try to wash it off, he pushes my hand away, or screams.

I don’t know what I’m going to do when he’s 18.

Have a tattoo? Even better, have a kid who wants a tattoo and is coming of age? I’m all ears.

lying to your kids about santa

Tate asked me this morning if today was Christmas. It’s November 26th. It’s going to be a long month. Especially since my kids won’t stop grilling me about Santa. Below, actual questions I’ve fielded about Santa in the last two weeks, and my actual responses.

Q: “Is Santa real?” A: “What do you mean by ‘real’?”

Q: “Is the Santa I saw last year for pictures real?” A: “He was kind of real.”

Q: “If that Santa is not real, who is he?” A: “He’s the real Santa’s brother.”

Q: “What about the Santa we saw at Lloyd Center, was he also Santa’s brother?” A: “Yes.”

Q: “Can Santa fit down a chimney?” A: “Yes he’s very flexible and squishy. Like playdough.”

Q: “Can Santa fit down a chimney that has a wood stove, like ours?” A: “Usually. But sometimes he needs to use the front door.”

Q: “How does he open the door to the wood stove from the inside?” A: “There’s a handle on the inside.”

Q: “How does Santa get to every house in the world in one night?” A: “He flies super fast. Plus, the concept of time is malleable.”

Q: “What is a malleable?” A: “It’s something that’s very bendy.”

Q: “How does Rindy (my kids’ elf on a shelf) fly back to Santa every night if he can’t move?” A: “He can move. He just can’t move while you are looking. And he gets picked up by Rudolph.”

Q: “We left 8 carrots on the plate last year for the reindeer but there were three left. Why didn’t the other reindeer eat the carrots?” A: “What the hell? I don’t know. But carrots give you night vision so you guys should try eating one sometime.”

Q: “How powerful is Rudolph’s nose?” A: “Powerful enough, buddy. Powerful enough.”

Q: “How does Santa eat all the cookies that all the kids leave for him?” A: “Santa doesn’t eat for days beforehand.”

Q: “How can he do all that work on Christmas eve just by eating cookies when you say cookies have no protein?” A: “Well he has to stay awake all night and there’s a lot of sugar in the cookies and sugar can be good in situations like that.”

Q: “Well maybe he would like meatballs instead. Do you think he would like meatballs?” A: “I’m pretty sure ‘Santa’ would love meatballs.”

Q: “Where do all the elves live?” A: “In apartments.”

Q: “The North Pole has apartments?” A: “Yes.”

Q: “If I wake up on Christmas Eve and come downstairs, will I see Santa and be scared?” A: “Maybe. That’s why you should never wake up in the middle of the night.”

santa

 

spinning to nowhere

Used to be, you couldn’t mention the word “bike” without prompting Tom to launch into his standard tirade about bike commuters. But listen. Tom’s white. He’s an attorney. And nearing middle age. You put those three things together in a Venn diagram and the overlappy bit in the middle will say “soccer” and “bikes.” So the bike thing was inevitable.

Tom started getting into bikes last summer, when he began riding his giraffe bike to and from Timbers games. We call Tom’s silver Globe the giraffe bike because if a normal-sized person stands next to it, it looks freakishly tall. It also weighs approximately what a giraffe weighs. I’ve seen people try to hold it up only to have it topple onto them.

“YOONA!! You don’t even know how awesome a Timbers game is until you’ve ridden home with the Timbers masses,” he told me. “Mmmm,” I’d respond, having tuned out everything after the word “Timbers.” He started to treat his buddy Ethan like he was a loser for driving a car to the stadium. “ETHAN! You HAVE to ride your bike to the game. Stop being so lazy.” Ethan, who rode his bike to and from his house way back in law school and once had the nerve to show up at my house in a bike unitard, would become visibly annoyed in the way that you get when a friend becomes newly and loudly obsessed with something that you discovered ten years ago.

giraffe bike

Next, Tom started spinning. I don’t regularly work out with Tom, but I’ve worked out next to him in hotel gyms, so I know what that intense regimen looks like. 15 minutes of a loping, horse-like canter on an elliptical trainer while paging through the New Yorker, followed by a couple sets of half-hearted chest presses with eyes glued to ESPN. Rinse, and repeat. I’d observe from a distance and wonder how he didn’t gain weight during his workouts.

But once Tom got a taste of spinning, he became an animal. Not having broken a sweat during a workout in years, he viewed all the new-fangled wicking fabrics with the skepticism that the rest of us would reserve for, say, a muscle tank made of mesh. “Now, Dri-Fit–do you think that’s trying too hard??,” he’d ask. I didn’t have the heart to point out that the only other guys at the gym still wearing cotton t-shirts were all 80 years old.

Tom started making his own spinning playlists, which I only learned about when I received an email receipt for my Amazon account with a bunch of song purchases. I took a quick look at the email and concluded that my account had been hacked. I forwarded the email to Tom and Cuz, both of whom have access to my Prime account, before I called Amazon’s fraud alert line. I got an immediate response. “That’s for my spinning playlist,” emailed Tom. Spinning playlist? I took a closer look.

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Ah. This explained why he’d been turning up “Royals” whenever it came on in my car, eyes rolling back into his head. “I LOVE this song,” he’d moan. Tom habitually discovers a pop smash three to six months after it first becomes popular. A month ago he turned up “Get Lucky” and gave me a knowing look. “You’ve heard this, right? It’s awesome.” I expect he’ll discover “Blurred Lines” sometime in early December.

I looked again at his spinning playlist. Eminem, ok. As a white guy from the wrong side of Detroit (Ann Arbor), Tom has long identified with Eminem. Ke$ha is like, workout gold, so I respected that. But Bryan Ferry, for SPINNING? The Smiths? What kind of depressing workout was this? And what about Gordon Lightfoot? Who plays Gordon fucking Lightfoot during a workout?

Anyway. The bike thing’s not going away. On his trip to Ann Arbor last month, Tom mailed back to Portland his dad’s Schwinn Le Tour III. Once it arrived, he texted our friend Dieter, who gave him advice about how to (pay to) convert the bike into a single-speed. I observed it all with amusement. But when he brought it home from Velo Cult, I got it. It was orange, a very good color. For a 35-year old bike, it seemed rather elegant. Best of all, it was a connection to Tom’s dad, who I never got to meet. A man who was responsible for raising my irrepressible, inimitable Tom.

So welcome to the family, Mr. Schwinn. And do watch out for the giraffe bike in the garage.

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