Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Valentine's Day Primer for Men

A friend of mine with a new-ish girlfriend has been a good sport about me asking personal questions that are none of my business about his relationship. Recently (like, today) I asked him if he had any big plans for Valentine's Day. His emailed answer was pretty much proof that he hadn't even realized it was coming up and my mention of it was the first sign that he might need to do something.

Wow, he is so lucky he has me for a friend!

Anyway, it sparked a discussion (okay a lecture) of what is an appropriate response to a day like Valentine's Day, a commercialized Hallmark-holiday designed to remind single people of their sad and depressed state and force couples into cliched expressions of affection for each other while waiting forever to get into restaurants like some kind of National Date Night, because waiting an hour to rush through an over-priced and over-portioned meal on a school night is our way of saying, "you're swell." For the record, I'm a romantic.

Well, the answer depends on a few things:

1. How much she cares about getting something for Valentine’s Day (hint: she will say she doesn’t care but she does, especially when her friends start talking about whatever romantic thing has happened to them).

2. What kind of precedent you want to set in the gift-giving department.

3. How much you like her ‘cause she’s cute and you aren’t the only fish in the sea, bub, just sayin’.

If you got her a can opener for Christmas she is probably not expecting much. If she liked that, then you’re off the hook. She’d probably be delighted with a spatula.

BUT! What women really want for Valentine’s Day is for their man to completely pamper them with gifts and luxuries EVEN THOUGH they don’t need a special day to do those things. When men say, “I think its more romantic to send a card and flowers on a random day instead of on Valentine’s Day when flowers are marked up and everyone else is doing it,” that translates to women as, “I have no problem with my girlfriend feeling like an ugly duckling because on the ONE DAY each year dedicated to love, as commercialized as it is, I took the high road. And I am cheap.” Because let’s be real. Those guys don’t send flowers and cards on random days. The high road is a lonely place to be on Valentine’s Day.

If you’re not a flowers-on-a-random-day kind of guy, you better really do it up big on Valentine’s Day because she will not want to be left out of the “oh he loves me,” gushiness of the day. And if you are a flowers-on-a-random-day kind of guy, you better feel reeeeeeallllly confident that she also sees you that way, and you might want to make one of those “random days” be pretty soon so its fresh in her memory how you don’t need a special day to tell her she’s the most wonderful and beautiful thing that ever graced the face of the planet.

And then also do it on Valentine’s Day.

I mean, come on! Sure we're all evolved past falling for that crap but it's Valentine's Day! Suck it up and get all lovey-dovey. It won't kill you.

I think most women will agree with me that paying marked-up prices for roses that will be dead in a week just to say something that we say every day is a waste of money, and that they would rather have that money go towards something they really want, like new bath towels (hint). But call me a softie...I kinda think the fact that he went and payed marked-up prices on roses that will be dead in a week is romantic, because it isn't practical at all, and love makes us do impractical things.

Valentine's Day is coming up. Yeah its a fake holiday but celebrate it anyway by doing something impractical for someone who will say, "you shouldn't have."

Friday, January 8, 2010

I'm Okay If You Know I Wear Underwear

I was just at Wal-Mart standing patiently in the checkout line reading about the crazy marriage of Charlie Sheen and Brooke Mueller. I had chosen this particular check-out kid because he looked young, sprightly, and energetic and I figured I would be out of there in no time. I hadn't counted on the man two people in front of me shaking every carton of cigarettes against his ear before finally deciding to buy skoal. So I was getting a little ancy.

So the lady in front of me started piling her stuff on the checkout thingy, and she has miscellaneous Wal-Martish items, like tape and cat litter and dish towels. And then she stacks up some underwear, and rushes to cover it up with a magazine. She tries to be all casual like, "la di I am at Wal-Mart...buying a bunch of crap...BUT NOT UNDERWEAR! Oh no, not me! No underwear here!"

And it made me wonder, why are people so embarrassed to buy underwear? Like it is some dark, shameful secret that we wear it. I mean, frankly speaking, I would be more judgmental if you never bought underwear. I would be piling my underwear up and making sure people knew that I regularly bought new underwear. I am not ashamed at all.

It made me wonder what I try to hide in my shopping cart. I always feel a little sheepish when I show up with a bunch of wine, like I wonder if they think I am going to drink it all. But underwear...I'll just be completely honest with you - I buy underwear, and I am not ashamed.

And I am totally cool with you knowing that.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Goldilocks of Church

A couple of months ago I got into the usual conversation with my dad about church and why I don't go. It ended with him saying, "go to a Buddist church, a Catholic church, a Lutheran church, I don't care. Just go."

Here's the thing - I want to go to church but I don't want to go out of my way to do it.

I am a United Methodist but I don't like the UMC in my neighborhood. I have mixed feelings on which church to attend...its complicated. I'm kind of granola in a lot of ways and get turned off by fundamentalism, and it seems a lot of churches are going towards the contemporary services, which I am not into at all. I just want an old fashioned boring church with a smart sermon that isn't about saving the world through witnessing and no electric guitars or soulful singing. I am absolutely not going to sway or link arms with anyone, and I don't hug. I just want to sit in a pew, hear/read the lesson, and pray silently. Done. I don't want to be on a committee, I don't want to pray with you, I don't want to join the choir, I don't want to go to Bible study, I don't care if you're happy to see me if or you missed me when I was gone. I like old fashioned Puritan church without eye contact.

I took a survey once to see what my "actual" religious beliefs are and it said I was a Quaker. There is actually a Quaker church in my town but it's a long drive. Yeah, I'm lazy that way.

I guess I am a little cynical about the mechanics of spirituality; I believe in God and but I'm not all concerned about making everyone believe the same things. I'm somewhere in the middle of understanding the feel-good and therapeutic aspects of spirituality, while also applying some common sense and logic to how people determine their beliefs in a higher power. But that being said, I missed church and wanted to find one to attend.

Since I am lazy and hate to drive, I decided to start with the churches in my immediate vicinity. The Methodist church I used to attend had a sign out front that advertised that they had a "new name and new traditions," so I decided to give them another shot for the 11:00 service. But within minutes of entering the sanctuary and sitting down, I looked around at the band, the projection screens, and the number of people hugging, and realized that "new traditions" was a fancy way of saying, "like everyone else." I felt bad, but I bolted.

I drove half a mile to the Lutheran church. Pulling into the parking lot I spied a sign that notified me that 11:00 was the "contemporary" service. U-turn.

There was one church left, a Presbyterian church across the street. I was late, but I decided to give it a shot anyway and ended up slinking into the back and sitting against the wall. I scanned the bulletin to see how much hugging I had missed but didn't see any mention of it. Interesting.

A cursory glance around the church made me feel at home. There were large, sunshine-filled windows, high ceilings with exposed rafters, and the usual church light fixtures that look like enormous car cigarette lighters hanging from the ceiling. The hymns confirmed that Christianity was keeping alive the tradition of discrimination against altos, as they were all sung in an octave just below a dog whistle. The sermon was thought-provoking and actually related to the Bible, not just a sales pitch for salvation. I started to really like this place. I could get used to this.

At the end of the service, however, I was taken by surprise - a sudden call for us to all join hands after the benediction and sing a closing song set to the tune of "Eidelweiss," a song that always makes me cry. But this time, it felt sweet. I didn't even mind holding hands with the old man whose hearing aid appeared to be sending signals to an alien satellite (he has since had it fixed).

I felt a little bit like Goldilocks that day, trying church after church until I found one that was just right. And in the following weeks, the church has stayed true to its first impression.

I've made a bit of a habit of attending church since then, and it's worth going out of my way to get there. I feel refreshed and happy when I leave, and I'm having a hard time finding the downside to that. I'm glad I took my dad's advice to heart. Just don't try to make me hold hands and sway.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Breast is Worst

I've been making a little list of things I'd like to take up with God if/when I ever get the chance. Nothing major, just things I wonder about. Such as, why do some people wear jeans, long sleeves, and flip-flops? Why are yellow traffic lights so short? And why do we still care about Jessica Simpson?

And I also think that breast feeding should make your boobs look better, not worse. Am I right, ladies?

Seriously. Having a baby is a big deal - you turn your body over to science for nine months, get stretch marks and a stubbornly permanent tummy pooch, and spend the next year convincing yourself that everyone wears maternity clothes full-time and the scent of spit-up mixed with pureed peas is all the rage in Paris. It's really a small favor to ask that at least we don't suffer the insult of our boobs looking like, well, how they do. At least my husband can sleep well at night knowing that exotic dancing will never be a viable fall-back career for me.

Let me just say that I'm a proponent of breast feeding. Formula has come a long way, but I just think that if you can pull it off, breast feeding is the way to go. I did it, and, in theory, I'll do it again. I just wouldn't say no to a few perks along the way. It's the least He could do. On the list of Woman 2.0 upgrades, anti-gravity boobs would be a nice enhancement.

Granted, there are some women who return from the maternity wing of the hospital looking as if their pregnancies had been some elaborate ruse and they actually just pulled a basketball out from beneath their shirts and said, "gotcha!" These are probably the same women who run marathons on the weekends and and claim that they sometimes "forget to eat." Who forgets to eat? Freaks of nature, that's who. These women are not to be trusted and, just to be safe, should be universally scorned until they learn that they are not wanted here.

But for most of us, no amount of collagen-enhanced lotion, Pilates classes, or miracle snake-oil will return our bodies to their rightful state. And that's okay. The rewards of motherhood far outweigh the cost of admission. I'm just saying....I'm not opposed to the idea of a post-natal stimulus package courtesy of the Almighty One to boost morale.

And other things.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Under Pressure

I've got my eye on something shiny, but it's not what you're thinking. I want a Troy-Bilt 3000 MAX PSI / 2.7 MAX GPM Pressure Washer. It's red, it's powerful, and someday I will wield its wand.

It started innocently enough. I had invited my parents for a visit with the ulterior motive of securing free babysitters so the hubby and I could go out for our anniversary. At the last second, I asked my mom to bring along their pressure washer. It had been a while since we had done our house and it needed a good scrub-down. But what I didn't know is that I had sparked a fire within my mother that would not be easily extingished.

Before I knew it, I was in the middle of a military-style logistical meeting held via email with my mom. We would need bleach, at least two gallons. We would need gasoline. To maximize our time, the materials should be purchased ahead of time and ready when she arrived. I wondered what all the fuss was about and got back to sitting around doing nothing.

When my parents arrived, she couldn't hide the disappointment that her instructions had not been carried out. "Don't worry," I said. "We can get all of that stuff after we go to the farmer's market tomorrow." Her eyes darted around and she seeemd anxious. I offered her some wine.

The next day, after the farmer's market, we sat around the table eating sandwiches. My mom brushed her hands together and pushed back from the table. "Okay," she announced. "I am going to change into my work clothes and then we can get started!"

My dad looked at her, perplexed. "To do what?"

"To pressure wash!" Her eyes gleamed with the anticipation of a child on Christmas Eve.

Within 15 minutes we were on the driveway. Our role could best be summed up as, "supervisory." There really wasn't much for us to do, but we felt guilty going inside to watch football when she was outside doing manual labor. But when we suggested trading off for turns, she ignored us. When my dad finally wrestled the pressure washer from her iron grip, she had a vigor and energy I had only previously witnessed when she realized she could combine her coupons at Chico's. I had literally never seen my mom so happy.

It was easy to see why pressure washing was so addictive: instant results. Don't like that drop of paint on the driveway? Blast it away. The green mildew on the windowsills? Gone. Even the gutters looked like new. I was a little embarassed that there was so much to wash, but I was glad to no longer feel like the Boo Radley of my cul-de-sac. Well, once we take care of the weed garden growing alongside the house and fix the part of the fence that fell down. Yeah, we're those neighbors.

It's hard to describe the intoxicating, trance-inducing element that pressure washing provides, mostly because I have not experienced it first-hand. I never got a turn. Between my mom, dad, and husband, I was left with the task of chief cook and bottle-washer. At one point, I went inside and put the fall duvet on the bed. I folded a load of laundry.

And that night, after our date, we returned home to find my parents on the couch, my dad snoring with his mouth hanging open and my mom coming down from her buzz. We convinced her to let us keep the pressure washer for a month. I am still waiting for my turn.

To clean is mundane, but to pressure wash is divine. At least, that's what I hear. :)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I'm Tired of Setting the Example

I am the first born in my family, and as such I have spent a lot of time feeling like I should "set the example." Now, mom and dad, before you pick up the cell phone and call me in defense, I don't recall ever being told to do this...I was just compelled. I felt responsible. I think its an oldest-kid thing. Or maybe it is my over-developed guilt complex. Who knows.

But I'm 32 now. My brother and sister are adults, one with a child of her own. And I am sick of setting the good example! I want to have some fun!

I want to sneak out of my house in the middle of the night! And do what? Probably go back inside and get back in bed. I'm tired.

I want to stash liquor under my bed and feign suprise when it is found. (Gasp! How did that get there?)

I want to stay out all night with the wrong crowd and get a (temporary) tattoo.

I want to blow a bunch of money on 1985 Jeep Grand Wagoneer (navy blue with the wood panels and a roof rack like in "What About Bob?").

I want to play hookey from work and go to the beach in my Wagoneer and drink mojitos and not care at all about the empty calories from sugar.

I want to lose something expensive and then not care when it can't be found. Although I already have the losing things part down pretty well....

I want to empty my 401(k) and blow it on a summer home in New England. But at these rates, I could probably only afford a studio apartment...

Anyway, it just occurred to me today that I've been really good for a really long time. I'm ready to make people wonder what got into me.

I'll have to put that on my to-do list. :)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Dirty Mouth?

I realized something last night: I'm a bit of a potty-mouth.

It happened gradually...maybe I just started getting frustrated more often, or maybe I just enjoy being snarky, but over time my quiet mutterings have gotten louder and louder. Then last night I found myself walking down the hall hollering, "Damn it! I burned the oatmeal again!" And as I turned into the bathroom and saw the angelic face of my two-year-old son playing in the tub, I stopped in my tracks and thought, "I really need to stop cursing."

Everyone has heard the stories about kids saying the darndest things, usually in front of the church pastor or in the checkout line at the grocery store. I love to tell the tale of my friend's nephew who called out gleefully, "see ya later, f*** face!," instantly incriminating his father, who backed silently out of the room beneath the glares of his wife, mother, and sister. And I giggle when I remember hearing another friend's daughter mutter under her breath when a puzzle piece just wouldn't fit in its spot. And the day when a child at my son's birthday party called someone else a "dumbass" and his mother had to explain her battle with road rage to the instantly-silent crowd in my living room was truly hilarious. But when you realize those words might come out of your own child's mouth, and that you are the one who put them there, well, it's time to grab a metaphorical bar of soap.

I don't say the really bad stuff. I'm more a fan of the medium-level obscenities, the ones that have meandered their way into our daily conversations. You can say them on TV, you hear them on the radio, and well, everyone else is doing it. But regardless of relative shock-value and societal peer pressure, cursing is unladylike. And anyone who knows me knows that first and foremost, I am a lady. (Hint - that is your cue to ROFLYAO*.)

So I have started coming up with new exclamations of frustration:

Cheese and crackers!


Oh, go bake a pie!

But sometimes nothing quite gives you that oomph like a good old-fashioned f-bomb.

I'm not proud. I want to change. So as of today, I am the new and improved, less sailor-like me. And if you don't like it, well, you can...go stuff a turkey.

*Roll On Floor Laughing Your A** Off (for the un-hip**)
**And if you're friends with me, that probably includes you.