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all my bad haircuts are self-inflicted

Ah, hair. No one is happy with their hair. If I’m wrong and you are, please be sure to post a comment here and I promise not to make fun of you in my reply. The thing about hair is that when it’s good, you can hardly look at anything else. I’ve written of my love of Khloe Kardashian before, and 80% of my love for her, is love for her hair. It’s long, it’s bouncy, it’s perfectly piece-y, it’s got volume at the crown. I’d give my left kidney to have Khloe’s hair. And my right kidney, to have Lamar.

But this post is not about Khloe Kardashian’s hair. No, it’s about hair that is roughly 1/8000 as good–my hair. Actually, it’s less about my hair than my tragic inability not to get in the way of my stylist, which results in situations like this:

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I readily admit that the issue might not be easy to spot, as my entire hairstyle was carefully conceived years ago to look like a high-end rat’s nest. But the problem here is that my ear is almost completely exposed. Just on my right side–the ear on the other side is totally covered, as it should be, which just informs the observer that the haircut is an accident. It’s likely psychosomatic, but I actually feel colder on the right side of my head. It probably doesn’t look like a big deal to you, but to me, it feels like I look like this:

Anyway, it’s not my stylist’s fault. I worship the ground Galen walks on and I dedicate a full minute of every day to having a panic attack that she will leave town or quit hair altogether. No, the problem, as usual, is me.

By the time I get to the salon, I’ve spent an entire car ride coaching myself not to micromanage my haircut. It’s never any good, though. I breeze in and plop down in her chair with a forced casualness that to my mind approximates the behavior of the 20-something clientele to which Galen is accustomed, and then I’ll usually say something cheesy like, “Galen, you do your thing.” Except that I never end up letting her do her thing. After she’s done, I’ll heap her with praise and then ruin everything by asking her to cut a little more at the back, or to trim up the bangs a little bit. I can think of 15 instances when that last Yoona-mandated tweak of the bangs has taken the cut from great, to freakshow. And the worst part is that as I sit there, forcing myself to look hard at my hideous reflection and fighting back hot, burny tears as Galen nervously sweeps up the hair around me, I know I have only myself to blame. But the lesson never takes. I’ll inevitably do the exact same thing two months later.

This last go-around, when Galen finished up, I was convinced that the hair looked shorter on one side. So I grabbed a lock of hair from my right side that looked out of place and told Galen to cut it. Galen gave a visible wince, but she knows who’s calling the shots in her salon, and it’s not her. So she cut it. Turns out that lock of hair covered my right ear. And that’s how I ended up where I am today.

The ear is almost grown over by now. Time for a new haircut.

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not having it all

If you’re sick of talking about having it all, join the club. After a while, I started to think of the Anne-Marie Slaughter article from the Atlantic Monthly as an annoying land shark that follows me around and wants to hang out, totally uninvited. The article came up at dinners with friends, at the gym, at my kids’ school. It came up at work, when our forward-thinking managing partner sent around an email, inviting discussion on the subject. When I actually read Slaughter’s book-length article, the first thought I had was that I’d have a lot more time to have it all if I didn’t spend so much time reading about having it all. But by all means, please don’t let that thought stop you from reading this post.

Just when things started dying down, new Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer threw fresh kindling on the fire by proclaiming that she intended to take an abbreviated maternity leave. I’m not in the stratosphere of “high-achieving” women who occupy cabinet posts and run Fortune 500 companies. But I have a job that is important to me. And I have kids and a husband. And anyone with a worklife combined with a homelife knows that having it all is hard no matter what your job is. It is a vast understatement to say that I include full-time stay-at-home parenting as a job, but I’m not going to demean my friends who do that work by trying to talk about it intelligently, because it is not my reality, and I can only talk about the pain I know about.

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when kids and work collide

The thing about the word “all” is that everyone’s definition of “all” is different. I know what my definition of “having it all” is, and it’s this: feeling 100% effective and satisfied in all aspects of my life. And I can’t have it all, at least not as I define it, without the aid of reality-altering drugs. The assumption that you can be 100% effective in all aspects of your life, and fully satisfied in all aspects of your life, has to be a uniquely American one. In 2009, the birth rate in my homeland, South Korea, was the lowest in the world, in large part because women are prioritizing their careers and opting out of having children altogether.

For me, the idea that you CAN have it all is the most damaging part of the discourse, because it sets a standard that no one, male or female, has a hope of attaining. I feel worse for many of the dads I know than I do for myself. Tom has me at home, expecting him to shoulder 50% of the parenting burden, or 65%, if he wants to earn his TV time. And Tom has partners at work, many of whom raised kids in a time when they were not subject to the same demands at home, and are therefore challenged to understand why Tom has to be home for dinner, even if he has to go back to work later.

I don’t blame Tom’s partners. It’s like asking someone without children to understand the reality of life with children. Or asking me to understand what it feels like to be a lion. I’m not a lion. I’m a human. On some level, understanding and empathy can only go so far. But we have to keep trying.

at work on a sunday, my birthday. thanks amara for bringing me cake and taking this pic

Right now, it’s enough when I’m hitting 100% in one aspect of my life at any given time. Like, when I write a brief that I’m proud of. Or when my kid eats a vegetable without throwing up. When I’m writing that brief, my kids are at home with their dad eating Chipotle for dinner, because I can’t be at home to cook. And when my kids are eating vegetables, it’s because I took mental time away from work to think hard about a viable vegetable option, and got home in time to cook that vegetable in the least threatening presentation possible, and to prepare myself emotionally for the inevitable rejection.

I can’t write the killer brief and get my kids to eat vegetables at the same time. Once I figure out how to do that, I guess I’ll really have it all. Until then, it’s enough that I have a lot of good stuff, most of the time.

sleeping with the enemy

I enjoy being home without Tom, for short periods of time.  I have behavior that I save for Tom’s trips, like the cleaning out of my food cupboards (by mouth), and the voracious reading of the romance novels that Tom loves to ruin when he’s here, by snatching them from my hands and reading aloud the choicest bits in a pirate voice.  It really interferes with the fantasy when he does that.

The thing I enjoy most about Tom’s absences is that I don’t have to share our bed with him.  I read an article long ago about how sleeping in separate beds can improve a marriage, because most people experience more restful sleep when sleeping alone.  I remember reading the article and feeling a frisson of recognition and the thrill of possibility, but I tamped it down because the idea seemed unworkable—mostly because I couldn’t afford two beds at the time.  Aside from the practical aspects, the idea of getting married only to sleep apart seemed absurd.  In some sense, I got married in order to obtain the comfort that comes only when you’ve locked down a warm slab of human who is obligated to sleep next to you.

My issues with sleeping with Tom are myriad. For starters, Tom seemingly lacks the bodily mechanism that regulates your body temperature during sleep.  Which is to say that immediately upon falling asleep, Tom turns into a wood-burning pizza oven.  If only he produced wood-fired pizza to go along with all that heat.  I imagine some of the heat is a result of the fact that he insists on wearing tube socks to bed, no matter how warm the night, or how little other clothing he might be wearing.  By the way, nothing says romance like tube socks.

If I’m not sweltering in his man heat, I’m freezing, due to the TJ Frankfurter.  This isn’t that kind of blog post, and “TJ Frankfurter” is not a euphemism.  Instead, it’s Tom’s signature move, where he tucks one edge of the duvet under him and then progressively rolls the duvet towards his side of the bed until he is rolled inside the entire down comforter like a wiener dog.  His head sticks out one end and his tube socks stick out the other.  I am left to fend for myself with whatever part of the flat sheet hasn’t gotten sucked into the TJ Frankfurter, and a spleen full of bitterness and resentment.

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It’s easy to get bitter and resentful in your sleep when you have no blankets AND no pillows on which to rest your head.  Our bed starts out with four pillows: two on his side, and two on mine.  Each night, Tom wages some epic battle in his sleep where he is the hero, I am the enemy, and our pillows are the booty that must be wrested from my evil grasp.  Apparently I am much weaker in sleep than when awake, because I lose the battle every single time.  I wouldn’t mind so much if I woke up and Tom was luxuriating on all four pillows, but the worst part is that after stealing my pillows, he throws them on the floor on his side of the bed.  I give and give, and for what?

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If Tom could ring in, which he can’t, because this is my blog, I’m sure he’d say I’m no peach to sleep with either.  My extremities get notoriously cold and the most gratifying part of my day is the high-pitched screeching that ensues when I stick my ice-cold feet on Tom as I climb into bed.  He also thinks the soles of my feet are scratchy, but frankly, I think he’s overplaying his hand when he complains that my heels feel like daggers.  The coarsest of sandpapers, perhaps.  But daggers?  Come on.

Anyway, it’s nice when he’s away.  Right until I wake up, and reach for that hot bundle of TJ Frankfurter, and find cool blankets instead.  Then I miss Tom, and wish he was home.

*Thanks to Finn for filling in for Tom in these photos while Dad’s away.

winning legoland

For the last three years, I have successfully avoided traveling with my children unless absolutely necessary. But given that Finn is now almost six, what I had previously justified as self-preservation began to feel a little like I was robbing my kids of formative experiences. So I booked a trip to Legoland.

When traveling with children, I find that it helps to build up the dread beforehand until it’s well-nigh immobilizing. There’s no way your trip can end up being as horrific as your imagination, so you’re left with the conviction that you nailed the vacation, and nailed it but good. I also recommend having a parenting partner as organized and goal-focused as mine. Of the many epiphanies I experienced on this trip, the most profound one was the realization that I had somehow ended up marrying my dad.

My dad was a master planner and organizer. But he had nothing on Tom, who views planning and organizing with the glee that most of us reserve for birthday cake. At Legoland, I saw Tom in his element. The morning of our visit, he hurried the family through showers and breakfast, having heard that the parking lot at Legoland can fill up well before 9:30, when the park opens. My rational mind told me that it didn’t make sense to drive to Legoland at 8:30 when the park didn’t open until an hour later, but the thing about panic is that it bears no regard for the rational mind, and is contagious to boot. So I followed Tom’s lead, yelling at the kids when they failed to shotgun their orange juice with appropriate speed, and snapping at the valet who brought our car around two minutes behind schedule.

It’s a good thing we hurried, because, as you can see, the parking lot was almost full when we screeched in at 8:40 AM.

I had a few pithy comments for Tom at the moment that I was surreptitiously taking this picture, but I kept them to myself, partly because we had made a pact that we would be especially nice to one another that day, but mostly because I felt sorry for him. Not that Tom himself was fazed. Tom doesn’t second-guess himself. Tom also doesn’t feel embarrassment, like normal people do. Here, opening up the stroller, he was probably congratulating himself on the prime parking spot that his efforts had secured for the family.

We moved to the entrance, where we couldn’t even burn time off the clock by buying tickets, since we’d already purchased them beforehand to avoid the lines that we discovered to be non-existent at 8:45 AM. So there we were, with 45 minutes to kill at the gates, with a 2-year old and a 5-year old. As any parent can testify, 45 minutes in bored toddler time is roughly equivalent to 17 adult hours. We hadn’t even entered the park and I already felt exhausted, and scared. How would I divert them for 45 minutes, when my iPhone batteries were good for only another 25?

Thankfully, Tom had plans for that time. Laying out the park map, he began planning out the day’s route with the boys. Convinced that the commoners would start their day by moving to the right through the Imagination Zone, Tom insisted we would begin by going left, through Dino Island and DUPLO Village. I listened to Tom mutter to himself that if everything went according to plan, we could be at Star Wars Miniland by lunch.

Once the route was all planned out, Tom asked me to stay with the boys while he got tips from Guest Services about the best way to rack up points on his Lego VIP card (below). For those not in the know, the VIP card is the free membership card you get at your local Lego store. You accrue points with your Lego purchases, to be saved up for rewards, like free Legos. Tom remembered to pack and bring the Lego VIP card all the way from Portland to Legoland, which requires a level of foresight and nerdiness that I’m at a loss to put into words. The closest thing I can compare it to is bringing your Benihana Chef’s Table membership card with you when you go to Benihana on your birthday. I always have the intention of doing that but inevitably decide that my pride is worth more than the cost of a meal. Anyway, Tom thought he’d rack that VIP card up with a ton of points from the day’s purchases. So I’m really proud that he kept it together when he came back from Guest Services to tell me that the VIP card doesn’t work at Legoland, because Legoland is not, it turns out, owned by Lego.

Once inside the park, Tom got over his disappointment about the VIP card and turned his attention to his ultimate goal: getting Finn on Legoland’s marquee ride. At Legoland, there are a bunch of rides, but the most popular ride of all is the Volvo Driving School, which is essentially a large plot of land with a bunch of streets on which kids aged 6-13 can drive around in little Lego cars. I have no explanation for the popularity of this ride, which is like bumper cars without the excitement of the bumping. But it is highly touted in the guidebook literature as one of the featured attractions at Legoland, and as such, Tom wasn’t about to let an age requirement keep his firstborn from getting into one of those cars.

The end result was hardly certain, as everything hinged on Finn’s ability to lie to an authority figure, something he had proven himself incapable of doing a year ago, when, as a tall four year old, we asked him to say that he was five in order to get into a day camp at a lawyer convention that we had dragged him to. Finn nodded solemnly as we explained that if he wanted to play with the other kids at the convention, he would have to say that he was five when asked his age by the camp counselor managing the check-in desk. As we waited in line, he gave off the quietly confident air of the star athlete who has been entrusted with the final play of the game and is guaranteed to deliver. So it was a complete and utter shock when we got to the front of the line and, without even being asked his age, Finn said in a ringing voice: “I’m Finn. My daddy says that I’m five today, but I’m really four.” I’m told that many parents feel like they suck at parenting. But I suspect that I feel that way with a lot more regularity than the average mom.

This time around, when asked to lie about his age, Finn made the play and won the game.  And the win was particularly impressive because Legoland doesn’t station the average carny at the Volvo Driving School.  Only the best and brightest are selected to operate the marquee attraction, and these ringers have clearly been trained that when sufficiently intimidated, a child will always revert to the truth.  Completely ignoring my ingratiating smile, the ride operator crouched down next to Finn and fixed him with a stern expression.  “How old are you, little man?”  But Finn rose to the test.  Motivated by the desire to drive a tiny plastic car, he shouted “I’m six, I’m six!!”  And then, he was off.  To the car of his choice, for two minutes of driving bliss.

As he watched Finn lap the track, Tom’s happy smile said it all.  It was a great day.  I didn’t even lose my composure when some punk kid doused me with a water cannon on a pirate ride at 10:00 AM, completely deflating my carefully voluminized hairdo and soaking my jeans.  Anyone who knows me, knows that there was serious magic that day at Legoland if I was able to enjoy the day despite looking like I had swum to the park from Japan.  But ultimately, I just didn’t have the heart to ruin the day for Tom.  He had planned and organized, and for that, I was grateful.  As we left the park with exhausted kids in tow, we looked at each other and locked lips in a passionate kiss.  Victory gets us hot, and we’d done it—we’d won Legoland.

animal lover

My family returned today from a week-long trip to Southern California.  Lots of blogging material there, but today, I’m going to write about what I learned about myself on this trip.  And what I learned about myself on this trip is that animals are really boring.

Before we left for California, I did my research.  Practically everyone I know told me that if I did not visit the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, I would be sorry.  I heard it so often that I started to feel guilty that I’d not taken my boys there already.  Busy planning the rest of the trip, I put Tom on safari detail, and asked him to reserve one of the safari park’s tours for us ahead of time, which he did, at $82 a pop.  That’s right, $82 per person.

good luck finding the non-boulder

At $82 per person, I had expectations of this safari tour.  It sounds dumb in retrospect, but for $82, I believed that I’d see, like, a lion chasing and eating a wildebeest.  But it was not to be.  After settling into our super-sized golf cart with two other families, a couple things quickly became apparent.  First, this was a “conservation” park, meaning that they keep the predators and prey apart—lame; and second, without some predator-on-prey action, I had about a 0% chance of keeping my sons under control for the duration of the hour-long tour.

After the tour guide drove us up to our third herd of antelope chewing hay, I began to panic in earnest.  At the fifth stop, Finn started asking, loudly, if he could play Fruit Ninja.  Even Tate, who as a f-ing TODDLER should be way into animals, lost interest.  At the zebra stop, when I turned my back for a moment to teach Finn a lesson about gratitude, Tate just walked off the golf cart, apparently headed back for the gift shop.  As for his dad, Tom had entered the semi-catatonic state that he enters when faced with a kid-related situation that is not being handled.  That doesn’t mean he wasn’t working.  From the expression on his face, I knew that he was calculating the number of snacks in his backpack, and how far apart he would have to space them in order to keep the boys from going entirely AWOL.

if you’re wondering why i made tate eat this fruit roll-up hannibal lecter style, it’s because that is the slowest way to eat a fruit roll up

The situation would have been stressful enough without having to worry about ruining the $82 safaris of the other six people on the golf cart.  But then some of the other adults started asking questions like (true story) “Why did that giraffe sit down?” and “Do all these animals age in dog years?”, and I decided that these people deserved to have my children inflicted upon them.  So instead of stressing, I sat back, and tried to enjoy the animals.  And that’s when it occurred to me that I derive no pleasure whatsoever from the viewing of animals.  The highlight of the tour was the white rhino, which, as the tour guide somberly informed us, will become extinct in our lifetimes.  I put on my sad face, but it was hard to feel terribly torn up about the loss of this particular rhino species given that the rhino just sat in the mud for the 7 minutes we were parked in front of him.  I couldn’t even tell he was a rhino for a while because the safari park has cleverly designed his habitat to include a bunch of gray boulders that look exactly like the rhino.  Did I mention that the tour cost $82.

When all else fails, I enjoy animals when I can get really close to them and take photos that I can post on Facebook to show how close I was.  But I was even foiled there.  I mean, this is as close as we got.  If I told you these were claymation animals, you’d be like, “Yes, I saw that movie, and it sucked.”  I mean, those would have to be some pretty tall giraffes to be impressive from this distance.  And they weren’t.  They were really small giraffes.

So anyway, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.  Go, if you’re into that sort of thing.  Or save your money for Legoland, where you can see beautiful animals, up close and personal.

downers: man sandals

People love themselves some summer.  My own relationship with summer is conflicted. What I don’t like about summer is that summer brings out man sandals, and I have a big problem with man sandals (“mandals”).

I realize it’s unfair to disparage an entire seasonal category of footwear.  But I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I have NEVER seen a pair of men’s sandals that I felt good about.

Tom wears mandals.  I have a job and two sons and I can’t monitor Tom all the time.  But he doesn’t wear them in public, and he doesn’t wear them when he’s with me.  It’s in my marriage contract, look it up.  Although he wears them, when I asked Tom to model some of his sandals, he threw a sh*tfit of such epic proportions that I was frankly taken aback.  And some of the friends who own the feet in this post allowed me to use their photos on the condition that their identities are kept anonymous.  Which all leads me to the conclusion that deep down, men know that man sandals are wrong.

Acceptance is always the first step to recovery.  Below, some of the most popular mandals.

1. Slides


Are you David Beckham?  Wait, back up.  Are you David Beckham, and stepping out of a shower at this very moment?  If so, my number is 503-YOU-FINE; call me.  If you are not David Beckham stepping out of a shower and you are wearing these to do anything other than the recycling, what the hell are you doing?  These slides were really big when I was in middle school, when the popular kids wore them to class with tube socks.  I have, like, two fond memories of middle school, and the fact that I was not popular, and hence never did that, is one of them.  As an aside, I admit that the feet above belong to people in my family, but the smaller feet came home from school with the socks.  You can be damn sure that they did not leave my house with them.

2. Fisherman sandals

When I see these on a grown man, my soul cries.  For some reason, these are popular with many of my lawyer friends, like Doug (above) and Ben (below), who are both totally boss because each allowed me to use a photo of him wearing fisherman sandals that includes his face.  Anyway, they may be popular with professionals because they seem like a more serious man sandal option.  And they are serious alright, in the sense that religion is serious, and the only grown man in the history of time who has pulled these off is Jesus.  The irony in professionals gravitating towards the fisherman sandal is that this type of mandal makes men look especially infantile, because they are essentially a modified version of these.  It pains me to write this, because I have friends reading this post right now while wearing fisherman sandals.  You know who you are.  I know who you are.  And it’s going to be ok.

3. Keens

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I hate Keens.  I HATE THEM.  Keen makes some cute sneakers, but their bread and butter is this monstrosity, which is like the unwanted bastard offspring of a trail sneaker and an Aquasock.  If you have a boy child between the ages of 2 and 12 and you have tried to buy a cute summer shoe only to be confronted with these Keens in twelve different colors as your only options, I sympathize.  They have overtaken the market and I consider it National Priority No. 1 that they be stopped.

The thing that I don’t get about Keens functionally is that they cover so much of the foot that you lose the point of wearing sandals, which is to keep your feet aired out.  Anyone who has smelled their child’s Keens after a day of wear knows that there is absolutely no airing out going on whatsoever.  So, why do these shoes continue to exist?  I’m hoping that someone will educate me in the comments; I am all ears.

4. Crocs

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What can I say about Crocs that hasn’t already been said?  I can say that I find them cute on children, but that could be the Stockholm syndrome talking.  I can also tell a story, about the time that Tom went on a man trip with some men with guns.  Beer, cigars, and poker were had.  The next morning, Tom woke up to find pieces of his orange Crocs strewn across the property, because someone had shot them up after he fell asleep.  To that anonymous man, I say: well done, sir.

Crocs also bring me to a point that should have been made up front.  And that is this: in general, your chances of pulling off a pair of mandals depends in great part on how attractive you and your feet are.  I am sorry to put it out there like that, but there it is.  It helps if your feet are tan, for starters.  Tom’s feet are so pale that in the wrong light, they look blue.  He also has toes that are better described as, well, knuckles.  Suffice it to say that Tom is better off keeping his dogs covered.  But sometimes, it just doesn’t matter how hot you are.  My friend Eric (below) is very hot.  And dare I say that even he isn’t up to the challenge.  In that regard, I guess Crocs are the Great Equalizer.

5. Flip flops

I know I’m going to get pushback on this one.  I think a pair of cheap rubber flip flops or Reefs is probably acceptable–if you’re hot, 18, or at the beach.  I have not met the guy in the picture above, who is a friend of a friend, but clearly he is at the beach, given the sand, and hot, given that he is pulling off flip flops and wearing sideways seersucker.

What I find unacceptable are the flip flops that have thick soles on them, or leather trim, or some other gussied-up detail that is designed to make the flip flop seem street legal.  Below, my case in point.  The feet below belong to my friend John, whom I adore.  But the fact that I adore him makes these mandals no less of an abomination.  Tom saw this photo and suggested with a straight face that these shoes would be great for camping, for when you “accidentally kick a tree root.”  I grant that these might be ok in that sole instance.  Outside of that one circumstance, I can’t think of even one other situation in which these would be acceptable, and that includes fleeing a housefire in the dead of night.  Repeat after me: just because someone makes and sells them, doesn’t mean you should buy them.

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To conclude: guys, don’t give me any bull about mandals being the only viable summertime option.  Sneakers (Chuck Taylor, Jack Purcell, Tretorn, Superga, etc.) are almost always going to look ok, assuming you are capable of wearing them without socks.  Toms stay cool and are comfortable, if you don’t mind walking on cardboard.  Boat shoes maybe, if you can pull them off, but don’t assume you are a good judge of whether you can pull them off–you have teens in your life for that.  Point being, there are options.

I hope you take this post in the spirit in which it was written, which is, in dead seriousness.  Happy Monday.