This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Days of Derangement Sidesplitting Stories from a Loopy Life JACKIE PA PA N DRE W . PLEASE POST A REVIEW AT AMAZON. VISIT FUNNYJACKIE.COM FOR DETAILS.IF YOU ENJOY THIS BOOK. KINDLE AND NOOK FORMATS.COM: http://amzn...to/XVNYdi DAYS OF DERANGEMENT IS AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK.
com . First Print Edition ISBN 978-0-9839391-5-3 All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher.funnyjackie.Copyright © 2012 by Jackie Papandrew. www.
You’ve put up with me all of these years and provided so much great humor material.This book is dedicated to my wonderful family. I love you all. especially because not one of you is planning to sue me…right? .
Where’s My Son? The Loose End and the Laundry The Desperate Dad’s Guide to Getting Some Tips for Tool Men On Top of Spaghetti The Shirt The F Word The Potty Predicament Fruit and Fannies Crime and Punishment True Grit Soapy Situation Stylish Skivvies Chewing on Chores 1 5 9 13 17 22 25 28 30 33 37 40 43 47 50 53 v .Table of Contents Introduction Days of Derangement Dude.
Days of Derangement Spring Cleaning Busy. Busy The Hound from Hades Gums and Games The Tell-Tale Hamster Crimes of Crookedness Boot Camp Horses on Porches The Most Wonderful Time of the Year Shopping Shangri-La Teens in a Tree Testosterone Trouble Towel Tyranny Bathing Suit Blues To Do or Not To Do Resistance is Futile Space Time Turmoil The Power of Pigskin The Hairy Truth Driving Drill Instructor LBD Conspiracy It’s Over Bee’s Knees The B and B 57 59 62 66 70 73 76 79 83 86 89 92 95 98 102 105 108 111 114 117 120 123 126 129 vi .
Barbie Body Hair Fashion Forward Blackberry or Bust Plumber’s Pants Bikini Babes Trivial Pursuit Hard Times for Humor Drive-Thru Dilemma Llama Drama Beauty Shop Dropout The Rock and the Hard Place Got Flax? 132 135 138 141 144 147 150 152 155 158 161 165 168 171 174 177 181 183 186 190 193 197 200 203 vii .Table of Contents E-nnoyed by Emoticons High Maintenance Woman Pity the PTA Germ Warfare Pull My Finger Backpack Black Hole The Pedometer A Man’s Job Rocky Beautiful People The Grill General Thanks.
Days of Derangement Silence is Golden The Five-Second Rule There Should Be an App for That Minivan Mentality The Trail Ahead Picture Perfect Of Boys and Bunnies The Garden Room The Pig Story Pirates and Packers Cooler Online Beware the Bingo Wings Adios Internet Column Creation Couch Potato Confessions Ladies Room Rebel Fake Brain Football Goes Feminine Weighty Matters The Big Wee My BFF Aunt Bea Goes Bonkers Turbulence Hail Britannia 206 208 210 213 216 218 220 222 225 228 232 235 237 239 242 245 247 250 253 256 259 262 266 269 viii .
Table of Contents The Scariest Costume Costumes for the Craft-Challenged Of Mice and Martha Plunging into Thanksgiving Things For Which I Am Thankful ‘Tis a Few Weeks ‘Til Christmas All I Want for Christmas Is Me Cruise Control Rover Resolutions Holiday of the Heart Survivor for Sweethearts Midyear Resolutions Mother’s Day Manifesto About Jackie Papandrew 272 275 278 281 284 286 289 291 294 297 300 303 306 311 ix .
t all began with a bunch of dirty laundry and a newspaper editor who needed an immediate answer to her question. “What do you want to call your column?” Your column. Boy, did I like the sound of that. I grinned and squeezed the phone in excitement, staring at the sweaty socks, unclean unmentionables and assorted other dirty duds I’d managed to sort into piles on the living room ﬂoor but couldn’t seem to get around to washing. It would be just my luck right then for my mother-in-law to stage one of her “spontaneous” visits to check out the condition of my house. You’ve got to love the woman. “Umm…how about Airing My Dirty Laundry?” I asked, thinking that title was a good ﬁt for all the stories I wanted to tell about myself and my family. And with that, my career as a humor columnist and spinner of sudsy, if silly, stories was born. But before that, I gave birth to a couple of really good sources of loopy life material (one male and one female), and we acquired some other, utterly insane sources of the canine and rodent variety. And before that, I married the son of the Not Really Spontaneous Drop-by Queen.
Days of Derangement
So you could say it all began—as so many things seem to in the world of women—with a man. That man has given me so much humorous material that I dubbed him Funny Man and started writing stories for my column about his amusing ways. If you’re a woman, you’ll probably recognize similar traits in the men in your life. I also began writing stories about my daughter (naturally labeled Funny Girl) and son (Funny Boy), as well as our crazy relatives and wild animals (sometimes, I swear, one and the same thing). And I hung out to dry on that ﬁgurative clothesline tales about my own goofball psyche, with the hope I’d discover I’m not the only one out there with a full hamper. Judging by all the readers who wrote to me with their own dirty laundry, I know I’m not. So now I’ve put many of the stories from my column into this book. There are also never-before-published stories here. They are presented in no particular order, simply all jumbled together the way they are in my head and in my heart. Funny Boy and Funny Girl are now in college, and they are still embarrassed by me. That’s OK. Funny Man and I are older, plumper, with more gray hair. Well, he has more gray hair. I have an ongoing relationship with a bottle of hair color to ward off the gray. Hopefully, we are also wise enough to be able to laugh at ourselves. I have a feeling you’ll see yourself and your own family members in these pages. But if your life and your brain aren’t quite as loopy as mine, I hope you’ll still laugh off a certain posterior part of your body reading this book! If you’d like to read more of my stories or get in touch with me, check out my website, FunnyJackie.com. Or you can join
where I post funny stuff every day.Introduction the rowdy folks laughing it up on my Facebook page. Hope to see you there! Thanks for reading! Jackie Papandrew 3 .
Days of Derangement
or quite a few years, I had teenagers living in my house. If you are at all familiar with this irrational and often irritating species (homo smartaleckus), you know these creatures are embarrassed by the very existence of their parents. This is perfectly natural. I can remember, as a teen, thinking my parents were utterly clueless idiots. But my folks never provided me with the proof of parental derangement that I regularly bestowed upon my kids when they were growing up. Take the day I managed to humiliate my daughter (hereafter known as Funny Girl), without saying a word. See, I’d read in a magazine about a nifty makeup trick. Apparently, if you take an eyebrow pencil and draw a line down each side of your nose and then blend the lines in with foundation, even the most crooked nozzle takes on a straighter appearance. Having always disliked the shape of my nose, I was eager to try this. So one afternoon, just before I was due to pick up Funny Girl from school, I carefully drew two black lines down my malformed muzzle. Then, before I could cover them up, I was distracted by a phone call. And with a mind withered down by
Days of Derangement
motherhood and approaching menopause to only a few functioning memory cells, I naturally forgot all about the artwork adorning my snout and walked right out the door. When you are a teenage girl, simply having your mother appear in public during daylight hours is mortifying. Having to acknowledge a mother sporting what appear to be miniature railroad tracks running down her nose causes chagrin at levels previously unknown to modern adolescence. When she saw me walking amiably toward her, Funny Girl’s face froze in horriﬁed disbelief. She spun around and quickly sprinted away, leaving me to be informed of my error by a guffawing group of her friends. There’s also the time I wore a dress to church and underneath, I wore only pantyhose. If you are a woman, you will instantly recognize my motivation for this. I wished to avoid even the possibility of that dreaded fashion faux pas known as VPL (visible panty lines). If you are a man, no amount of explanation will help you understand the socially disastrous consequences of a VPL manifestation, so never mind. Anyway, midway through the service, I went to the restroom. Unfortunately, I failed to notice upon my return that the back hem of my dress had become entangled in the waistband of my sheer hose. As I made my way toward my family sitting near the front of the sanctuary, the faithful ﬂock got an eyeful of a body part that, especially on me, really should remain covered up. I’m pretty sure I heard several people cry out for divine mercy, probably beseeching the Almighty to wipe the sight from their memories. But I, blind to my bared backside, didn’t realize I was the cause of all the distress until one merciful woman caught up
Days of Derangement
to me and whispered in my ear while yanking my hem down. I don’t remember anything that happened the rest of that day. There was also the infamous “mountain pee affair” as my kids still refer to it. We went camping in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. At ﬁrst, things went well. We decided to go hiking. We drank in the beauty of the outdoors as we walked along a trail near our campground. The sun was shining through the trees. The air was crisp, cool and dry. So dry, in fact, that I emptied my water bottle within the ﬁrst couple of hours of the hike. And soon, I felt the need to answer nature’s call. Being a descendent of pioneers, I did not panic, even though we were a long way from the nearest toilet. I explained the situation to my loved ones and then went off to ﬁnd an appropriate place to do my business. Our campground was crowded, and I was concerned about other hikers coming down the trail. Each bush and tree I examined seemed either too short or too thin to provide the necessary coverage. But I ﬁnally found just the right spot, well hidden from the trail, and proceeded to do my business. What I failed to realize was that there was another trail just above me which merged into our trail a little further on. And that I was fully exposed to this other trail. I found that out when, squatting in my secluded spot, I heard a highly amused young voice quip, “Nice view.” And he wasn’t talking about the mountains. I whirled around, yanking my pants up at the same time, and found myself staring at a group of college-age hikers, all of them male and every one of them grinning from ear to ear. Without responding, I ran, absolutely mortiﬁed, toward where my family waited. When I told them what had happened,
Days of Derangement
they laughed so hard I thought they were all going to need medical attention. Naturally, I became the butt of many family jokes after this. My children pretty much stopped appearing with me in public. Maybe when they have kids of their own, they’ll understand.
Dude, Where’s My Son?
This story has gotten more reader response than anything else I’ve written. It’s about that heart-wrenching moment you realize the sweet child you gave birth to has morphed into something entirely different. Mother Nature is providential. She gives us 12 years to develop a love for our children before turning them into teenagers.
hen my son (hereafter known as Funny Boy) turned 13, the last traces of that sweet little boy who thought I hung the moon seemed to vanish overnight. In his place stood a strange, slouching creature with a pencil-thin mustache and adolescent angst oozing from every pore. The moody extraterrestrial I once called ﬂesh and blood was suddenly intent on bungee jumping from that rickety bridge connecting a child with adulthood, and he apparently planned to drag his rapidly aging mother along for the ride. A drastic language change was the ﬁrst indication of alien infestation. The rosy-cheeked cherub who used to run to me,
Days of Derangement
eyes shining with adoration and shouting “Mommy!”, began to address me (and everyone else) as “Dude.” At 13 months, he was a sponge, joyfully soaking up new words, becoming more communicative every day. At 13 years, the hormones surging through his body had cut a swath through the speech center in his brain; his mouth, when it spoke at all, produced mere shrunken shreds of complete sentences apparently understood only by other members of his species. “S’up” was a perfectly acceptable, all-purpose phrase in an adolescent’s world. “Mom, I love you,” on the other hand, would have burned his monosyllabic lips like acid and permanently corrupted his coolness. Communication with this high-tech yet illiterate generation was fraught with frustration. Funny Boy, who couldn’t utter two intelligible sentences to me, would air his gripes by texting. One day, a message ﬂashed on my cell phone in fractured syntax designed to torture my English-major soul. “i no u h8 me. i try so hard 2 b good. y r u mad @ me?” Cave men scribbling on walls were more eloquent. Then there was the alteration in appearance. While I tried desperately to avoid bags and sags, the long-haired Neanderthal living in my house embraced them as fashion. Wearing gravity-defying pants slung low across his scrawny backside, he looked just like a baby with an overly full diaper. When I helpfully pointed this out, I got the text message equivalent of a scream.
Dude, Where’s My Son?
Adolescent males seem to lose all capacity for living like civilized human beings. My boy constantly raided the refrigerator but couldn’t manage to close a door, took 30-minute showers but could never hang up a wet towel, stuffed freshly laundered clothes back into his hamper rather than putting them away. I’d ﬁnd sticky cereal bowls in his closet because he was too lazy to return them to the kitchen, and the lunchbox he claimed he lost growing whole colonies of bacteria under his bed. I began to understand why some animals eat their young. The child who begged me to read to him daily would roll his eyes in disgust when I suggested we turn off the video games and pick up a book. The angel who proudly showed me off to his kindergarten classmates pretended not to know the deranged woman waving to him in the middle school hallway. My fall from grace, seemingly overnight, left me depressed, bewildered and prone to emotional excess. “You could cut the apron strings without slicing through my heart, you know,” I whimpered in one of my calmer moments. “Mom,” Funny Boy mumbled in that teenage tone of voice, “why can’t you just act normal?” Normal is, of course, a relative term. Someday, he will surely realize I’m not so strange after all. At least I hope so. In the meantime, I’m going to hang on to those severed apron strings. I may need them to strangle him.
Days of Derangement
The Loose End and the Laundry
Anybody who watches three games of football in a row should be declared brain dead.
y some strange twist of fate, I gave birth to a football fanatic. My son is one of those creatures whose very DNA, I’m convinced, has a pigskin membrane. Unfortunately for him, he has a mother who wouldn’t know a touchdown from a hoedown. For the life of me, I can’t understand the appeal of the game—a chaotic mix of men pushing, shoving and bellowing, slobber and obscenities ﬂying. And that’s just the fans. But my boy was hooked from an early age, spending countless hours watching, playing and dreaming about football. He consumed whole forests of paper drawing intricate plays marked with Xs and Os. And I grew tearful remembering other Xs and Os my sweet child long ago scribbled on construction-paper cards, right under the words “I Love You Mommy.”
Days of Derangement
I tried, occasionally, to ﬁght back. Once, I suggested he end a six-hour football fest and read a book. But Funny Boy has the same regard for reading that I have for cellulite, and his withering response cut me to the quick. “Print is dead, Mom. Nobody reads anymore.” “There is no way,” I wailed, “no way you came from my loins!” He gave me a blank look. “What’s a loin?” By the time he reached adolescence, Funny Boy’s football ﬁxation had reached a fever pitch, and when he made the high school team, his ecstasy knew no bounds. He even ﬁgured out how to combine his pigskin passion with the only other thing that really captured his interest. The kid who could barely ﬁnd time to do his homework or hold a meaningful conversation with his mother nobly volunteered to coach his school’s powder puff football team, a fact that seemed to ﬁll his father with pride. “It is a great way to meet girls,” Funny Man said, his chest expanding. I just shook my head. Realizing it was a losing battle, I decided, reluctantly, to embrace the madness. I boned up on gridiron lingo and proudly spread the word to all my pals about my boy’s performance on the team. Unfortunately, most of my friends don’t know any more about football than I do, and they failed to point out that I’d gotten his position slightly wrong. I found that out when I went to pick him up after a powder puff practice. Approaching a pack of puffs on the sidelines, I smiled warmly. “My son is your coach,” I said. “He’s a loose end, you know, on the school’s team.”
The Loose End and the Laundry
For some reason, the group of girls began to giggle. Bafﬂed, I had to let Funny Boy know that some of his puffs were not the sharpest knives in the drawer. “They were laughing at me for no reason,” I told him. My son’s face acquired a look of dread. “Mom,” he said slowly, between gritted teeth, “what did you say to them?” “I just said you’re a loose end on the team.” He grabbed his head with both hands as if he expected it to explode and wanted to catch the pieces. “I’m a tight end!” he practically screamed. “Not a loose end!” “Tight end, loose end,” I shrugged. “What’s the difference?” He avoided me like the plague for several days after that. To redeem myself, I invited some of his friends over to watch a game on the enormous new television the men in my household had insisted was vital to our existence. I’ve noticed that when you combine big-screen and TV in a sentence, it induces a Pavlovian response in males of any age. Sure enough, my son’s buddies began to salivate at these words, eagerly agreeing to come. I gained some yardage right off by offering snacks. Then, perhaps overconﬁdent, I attempted to lose my rookie status by tossing out lingo I’d learned, words like blitz, ﬁ eld goal and third and long. But then I fumbled by mentioning how attractive I found the teams’ costumes. Funny Boy’s mouth compressed into a scrimmage line of fury. “Mom,” he muttered, “stop it!” Feeling unwelcome, I retreated to another part of the house, where my eye fell on several baskets full of clean clothes in need of folding. Figuring I might as well take advantage of the
Days of Derangement
idle hands in my living room, I placed a basket in front of each boy. You’d think, by the looks of horror on their faces, that I was experiencing a Janet Jackson-style wardrobe malfunction right in front of them. “You want us to fold during football?” one gasped as nacho cheese dribbled down his chin. Funny Boy was speechless, emitting only strange noises that made me fear for his sanity. “Never mind,” I sighed, retreating. That’s when I understood that football and I could never be allies; we’d have to remain wary competitors, sharing the love of our loose end. Then I went to fold my laundry.
The Desperate Dad’s Guide to Getting Some
A few years ago, Funny Man and I were talking about sex. Well, he was talking about sex. Actually, he was complaining about a lack of sex. I was talking about cleaning. Actually, I was complaining about a lack of cleaning. In Funny Man’s mind, the two had absolutely nothing to do with each other. In my mind, however, the enthusiastic performance of the one is directly proportional to the enthusiastic performance of the other. If you’re a woman, you know exactly what I mean. If you’re a man, you are in luck, because that discussion inspired me to write a helpful primer, The Desperate Dad’s Guide to Getting Some, that would make the issue clear for my husband and other men. OK, it was actually a humor column. Being a humor columnist, I tend to use everything in my life as material. If you’re a man, you’re feeling sorry for my husband right now. The Desperate Dad’s column prompted a ﬂood of reader responses, including some from men who didn’t quite catch my tongue-in-cheek tone and assumed I was a professional sex therapist. (Boy, did Funny Man laugh at that idea!) Many of
Days of Derangement these men sent me questions of a very, um, personal nature that I was deﬁnitely not qualiﬁed to answer. But I was inspired to write yet another humor column based on Funny Man’s obvious need for enlightenment: Tips for Tool Men. I hope both stories will make you bust a gut. The man who never in his life Has washed the dishes with his wife Or polished up the silver plate He still is largely celibate.
odern moms, it seems, are just not in the mood. Pummeled by children and chores, exhausted by careers and carpools, once hot mamas are now too whupped for whoopee, too crabby to conjugate. I hate to say it, fellas, but at day’s end, we’d often rather curl up in the baggiest pair of granny panties we can ﬁnd and hit the hay without ya. Coincidentally, scientists have been shocked recently to discover that women are much more genetically complex than men. It turns out the female’s double X chromosomes operate on a far deeper molecular level, which explains why we are able to pick up our socks and throw out pizza boxes in a timely manner. Hmm. Could our lack of libido and your genetic simplicity be related? For all you befuddled bearers of the Y chromosome (AKA men), I offer a short Honey Do and Don’t List that just might help you get some X-rated action tonight: DO the windows. And the dishes. Scrub the sink, clean the toilet. Choreplay is foreplay, baby.
not that kind of tool. Do not automatically chalk it up to the vagaries of menstruation. are faking it for free. Cheerfully take on home improvement projects. My husband stubbornly clings to a belief that he has a 10-minute window of opportunity between the time I ﬁnish my wine and the time I am blissfully asleep. DON’T blame the hormones. Corral the children and keep them quiet. You have to do more than sling one heavy. Try not to suggest surfaces for sex that are likely to cause discomfort. on the other hand. the one with the price tag still on it.) He calculates every activity so that we are back in the bedroom within the required time frame. where we will feel like concrete on the wrong end of a jackhammer. Doing so will ensure long cycles of celibacy. where we are bound to be impaled by an errant toy. If we seem annoyed. We. DON’T follow formulas. Really. Forget any grainy videos you may have seen of surgically enhanced women who appear to enjoy having sex under these conditions. DO take a cuddling class. DO turn into a tool man. hairy arm across our chests a microsecond before you begin snoring. Then bring us breakfast in bed. at least not yet. No. Do not try this at your home. assume it is your fault. Professional help is available. This severely limits our culinary opportunities and makes me mad as a hornet. and we require a soft stage on which to perform. (I don’t know where he got this idea. A 19 . DO let us sleep in.The Desperate Dad’s Guide to Getting Some DON’T promote pain. This would include ﬂoors. and walls. This will release passionpromoting endorphins all over our bodies that by nightfall will have us convinced you are Brad Pitt. We might even slip into that negligee you bought years ago. They are being paid to fake it.
Unlike ebony and ivory. 20 .” This is a wise and undoubtedly well-satisﬁed man. avoid yelling at the youngster. And don’t throw anything at the poor tot who wonders why Daddy brought his drill to bed. If you are a victim of coitus interruptus caused by a wandering child and an unlocked door. (I was obviously temporarily retaining water!) It’s at times like this that I realize God has a wicked sense of humor. Gracefully ﬂip on your back. X and Y shouldn’t even be on the same keyboard. DON’T make stupid comments. DO remove your socks. Leaving your socks on feels quick and dirty. and will make us think we should post an hourly rate on the back of the door.Days of Derangement friend of ours built a laundry room for his wife in hopes of “getting some good sex out of it. with no audible obscenities. Funny Man was once foolish enough to point out that I seemed to be developing a beer belly. and swiftly yank up the covers. AND FINALLY DON’T threaten the children.
The Desperate Dad’s Guide to Getting Some 21 .
One poor man then wrote me in despair. and his 22 . Like those middle-ofthe-night infomercials. —Samuel Lichtenberg I once wrote a column in which I offered men some practical tips they could use to procure from their wives certain physical privileges on a more regular basis. doggedly set out to follow my pointers in the apparent belief that I was to be taken seriously. my column promised sureﬁre results if the men would only follow my simple choreplay plan. saying he’d done lots and lots of choreplay. But some of my male readers failed to catch the article’s dripping sarcasm. but marriage restores its sight. and that’s how most readers took it. My advice was deﬁnitely meant to be tongue-in-cheek. which probably dropped right on to the ﬂoor and made a puddle that their wives had to clean up. These tips encouraged the guys to perform stimulating activities—such as cleaning the bathroom. These readers took my tips to heart and. bless them.Tips for Tool Men Love is blind. scrubbing the dishes and vacuuming the rugs— designed to make their wives feel frisky.
be sure to ﬁnish the job. and I believed our neighbor was a wise and well-satisﬁed man. as further proof. I meant that men should cheerfully take on home improvement projects designed to make life easier for their deserving wives.Tips for Tool Men wife was still not interested. But I’ve seen the lovely laundry room he built. As the dinosaur character Rex in Toy Story said. Anyway. but another 23 . “Great. Then. No. of course. now I have guilt!” I wonder if those infomercial hosts ever feel that way. However. As we talked. And never leave town in the middle of it. Fired up with enthusiasm. after I wrote that column. “getting some good sex out of it. my man announced he had to go out of town on a business trip. as he told my husband. Not the clever laundry-room Lothario. Funny Man decided one year to do some “minor” ﬁxing-up in the kitchen. while on this business trip. not that kind of tool. I began to feel obligated to add to my previous words of wisdom. I cited the example of a friend of ours who built a laundry room for his wife in the hopes of. one of the things I suggested in the column was that deprived guys should try turning into tool men. I pointed to Exhibit B—my other neighbor.” We did not. inquire as to the outcome of this venture because it’s none of our (or your) business. I offered up Exhibit A—my husband. As proof why this is a bad idea. So I added this piece of advice: If you turn into a tool man. When he’d torn apart the kitchen so that it was impossible to actually prepare food there. And then. I could hear in the background glasses clinking in toasts and happy people talking and laughing as they ate real food while the kids and I ate yet another drive-thru dinner. he had the gall to call me from a restaurant where he was being wined and dined by a colleague.
When this hard-working neighbor called his wife. who was trying to keep four young children from smearing spackle all over the place. I’m laying odds that she was not in the mood for many nights thereafter.Days of Derangement home-improvement dropout who lives near us and who also left his house (and his wife’s sanity) in shambles and then left town on business. he actually told her to hold on so he could place his drink order. I’d made it as clear as mud how to proceed. Like the IRS. So those were my tips for tool men. 24 . I should have done an infomercial.
On Top of Spaghetti On top of spaghetti All covered with cheese I lost my poor meatball When somebody sneezed. The Sixties is a historical period. How could a sneeze be powerful enough to knock a meatball off its pasta perch and send it all the way out the door. full of the groovy gooﬁness that deﬁned The Sixties. For a young whippersnapper like me. Being a very curious child prone to over-analyzing things. I spent a lot of time puzzling over the logistics of the spaghetti song. it’s a time you remember fondly. What a great song that was. Well. I used to sing aloud that fanciful ditty from the 1960s—sung to the tune of On Top of Old Smokey—about a mountain of spaghetti and a wayward. sneeze-propelled meatball. W hen I was a kid and apparently had far less to occupy my time than kids do today. But for many of you old-fogy ﬂower children. practically ancient times. I 25 . those of you who still have functioning memories remember it fondly. The rest of you are busy searching for your lost meatball.
and I was desperate to soothe him. My own kids covered their ears as if they were in pain. “all covered with cheese…” The baby stopped crying and looked at me in amazement. It worked wonders on my son. But apparently. it remained somewhere in my head. but at the time. Unfortunately. I started singing the spaghetti song. springing out of my mouth like a mushy meatball. my kids turned into teenagers and lost interest in cheesy melodies. but I guess it’s like riding a bike. He was probably just stunned at his poor genetic luck in being born to such a weird woman. “On top of spaghetti. The baby started to cry and once again. he would stop crying and gaze at me with rapt attention. Those were good times. my kids would sing with me. too. Whenever I sang it. It had been a while since I had to entertain a baby. And when my son was a crying infant. I didn’t say I was a smart one. 26 . I credited the song. And why had I never seen one of the trees described in the song. We all laughed at the idea of the stupendous sneeze and the miraculous meatball. The spaghetti song was forgotten. becoming a moss-covered relic of the past. And when they got a little older.” I warbled. I gave up singing that song and pondering those timeless questions and devoted myself to more worthy pursuits like ﬁguring out how to meet and marry The Fonz. until one day when I was taking care of my neighbor’s baby. and they were still innocent and thought I was the greatest thing since sliced bread. When my daughter came along. I sang it to her. With the passage of time and my discovery of TV. growing meatballs and tomato sauce? I said I was a curious child. the song reappeared one day out of nowhere.Days of Derangement wondered. The spaghetti song once again burrowed its way into my memory banks.
On Top of Spaghetti “Mom! What are you doing?” they protested. “Don’t you remember me singing this song with you?” I asked them. “You used to love it.” she said. Somebody should have spit in her spaghetti. “that I ever liked a song as stupid as that. the way only a teenage girl can. crestfallen that they didn’t seem to recall those happy days. “There is absolutely no way. 27 .” Saucy kid.” Funny Girl tossed her head in disgust.
the ﬁsh pretty much disappeared except for a section of tail ﬁn and an alarmed-looking eye. That was on a T-shirt I gave my dad as a gift years ago. holding up a large ﬁsh and surrounded by smiling buxom beauties in bikinis. —Thomas Carlyle W omen Want Me. there would be about a 98-percent chance he would come to the door wearing that shirt. If you stopped by my father’s house unexpectedly. In fact. their buxom parts stretched out and saggy. If you happened to visit during one of those two-percent times when the shirt had been wrestled off my 28 . Underneath the words was a picture of a happy-looking man in a ﬂoppy ﬁshing hat.The Shirt Trust not the heart of that man for whom old clothes are not venerable. That shirt became his favorite. It was washed so many times (at my mother’s insistence) that it eventually ended up being half-shirt and half-hole. kind of like what happens in real life. Fish Fear Me. And the shirt’s laughing ladies aged rather dramatically. all of whom appeared to be having a grand old time.
but it did the job in a pinch. But I don’t know if I’ll be able to part with it. Fish Fear Me shirt spent a great deal of its time pressed up against my dad’s beloved easy chair. how can you even think about throwing this shirt away?!” he yelled. “Oooo…Grandpa’s got man-boobs!” My mom—a practical woman who does not hold on to clothing that is riddled with holes—tried several times to throw the shirt away. The Women Want Me. All of the other gifts I gave him through the years were no doubt appreciated for the thought. He still has it. That would make them roll around on the ﬂoor laughing. where it caught crumbs falling from his mouth. especially the part about women wanting my dad. My kids used to get a big kick out of the shirt.The Shirt dad’s body so that it could be washed. 29 . He says he wants to be buried in it someday. But nothing was as well-used and well-loved as that shirt. And so the shirt survived another day. when my dad found it and yanked it out in a rage. he would have greeted you wearing his backup T-shirt that proudly proclaimed I’m In No Shape To Exercise. the shirt decayed to the point that not even my dad wanted to wear it. though. And the large hole that allowed a certain part of his chest to show through left them shrieking. sopped up liquids that dripped from his drinks and provided a comforting (if airy) covering when he napped. spent cleaning rags and used tissues. “Woman. It was once actually in the trash can on garbage day. The backup shirt only had a few holes and a smattering of stains. lying there crumpled amidst the coffee grounds. cradling the beloved bit of apparel with a crazed look in his eye. stuck in a drawer. Inevitably.
no computer. no video games. as I had many opportunities to practice it. Family as the bedrock of society. Taking great umbrage became a specialty of mine over the years. I would usually try to enforce in my house a no-screens rule for Sunday afternoons. “Oh. no!” they’d cry out.” I took great umbrage at this. The ingrates I gave birth to always responded with great groaning and lamentation. There was even some weeping and considerable gnashing of teeth. to cast aside the technological gadgetry that separated us and look deeply into each other’s eyes. I’d say the word in a honeyed.The F Word E very year when my kids were teenagers and football season was ﬁnally over. It was Family Time. I’d announce grandly to my children on our ﬁrst football-free Sunday. “Mom is using the F word again. no hand-held whatchamacallits of any kind. 30 . That meant no TV. reverent tone to convey its importance: Family with a capital F. I saw it as a time for us to bond with one another.
” I’d make my voice tremble. Cave moms who simply wanted to spend quality time with their stubborn cave kids around the ﬁre probably had to threaten to go along on 31 .The F Word “I can’t believe you refer to Family as the F word. I could lay it on pretty thick. It’s enough!” So I hauled out my ultimate weapon—the threat of public humiliation. “We had Family Time last year. And when my kids were younger. and I’m sure that’s what clouded the judgment of my own cast of characters. “It breaks my heart.” I would say with withering disapproval. I know. All those raging hormones stuff their heads with what I call Charlie Brown cotton. my face downcast. But they were unmoved. Why else would they not have wanted to spend time with people as fascinating and fun as their mom and dad? To pierce this foolish fog. While we moms often wallow in guilt. I’m good at it. The delivery of withering disapproval was another one of those manipulation methods at which I excelled. I would usually pull another arrow out of my maternal quiver and ﬁre off a good helping of guilt. “Mom!” they’d groan impatiently. it used to work quite well. You know how all the characters in the Peanuts cartoon only hear the words of adults as “wa wa wa wa?” That’s Charlie Brown cotton. Yes.” Then I’d shake my head sadly. “I just don’t understand why you don’t want to be around us anymore. we are also pretty darn good at spreading it around when need be. This is not a new technique. But teenagers seem to develop immunity to parental opinion.
and Scrabble seemed too much like school. Monopoly took too long. Hee hee. I would suggest we start off by simply talking to each other. Funny Man would give me one of his looks and ask. At that point.Days of Derangement the next adolescent mastodon hunt to get them to comply. we’d be enjoying some screen-free Sunday Family Time. In a place where their friends were sure to see them. Before you knew it. After several moments of awkward silence. and Funny Boy would’ve been caught text-messaging his girlfriend under the table. we’d move on to board games. “Are we having fun yet?” Although our bonding had been a fairly painful experience. where we wasted time arguing over which game to play. So we usually settled on Clue. I would use the F word again the next Sunday. Only the locale has changed.” and my children would do almost anything to avoid that. we’d have it on Friday night. 32 . But I usually ended up looking forward to the start of another football season. And before we’d even had a chance to ﬁnger Colonel Mustard for the crime. In public. Most times. This is what my daughter always referred to as “social suicide. Funny Girl would have pronounced herself bored. So I informed my kids that if we didn’t have Sunday afternoon Family Time.
It was one of the colorful. Over the next few months. was colored on and used to collect 33 . the child seemed delighted. It served as a playpen for stuffed animals. I kept the commode in the closet for a few weeks. however. not wanting to place unrealistic expectations on Funny Boy. but he’s still giving me gray hair… I bought a potty for my son before he turned two years old. When I ﬁnally placed it in the bathroom. The boy who inspired it is all grown up now. a front-loading plastic bowl and sure-grip sides. The ﬁrst skirmish—over positioning—raged throughout the house and left me exhausted and demoralized. The potty’s various parts turned up in the closets. under my bed. even once ﬂoating in the birdbath. in my husband’s underwear drawer. the potty was transformed into a nagging symbol of intergenerational warfare. only to return later to ﬁnd it missing. I started planning how to spend the money I’d save on diapers.The Potty Predicament This is my very ﬁrst attempt at humor writing. deluxe models with removable parts. in the backyard sandbox. I would place the potty in the bathroom.
I played my trump 34 . so I ﬁlled the potty with water and then dumped in half a bag of Cheerios. I took this as a hopeful sign and launched a campaign to wear down his resistance. as if I could create some kind of gravitational force that would pull down his little posterior. But it didn’t work. Jingleheimer. I’d read his favorite stories over and over. Reluctantly. That’s when I invoked the dreadful specter of peer pressure. Then my boy discovered he could ﬁll the bowl from the bathtub and carry it around. I won the battle by attrition. size XXXL. Jacob. He really liked doing that. and I began to lose sleep. books. faster and faster. His second birthday came and went. Next. I ventured into singing—his favorite was John. My son became bored.Days of Derangement various toys. “Do you want to be the only two-year-old you know who’s still in diapers?” I asked. hoping to challenge his competitive instincts. But he sure didn’t ﬁll it with anything else. almost weeping at the prospect. the kid was impervious to public opinion. remained in the bathroom. No luck. now looking like a fourth-generation hand-me-down. even feminine hygiene products carelessly left within reach. picturing Funny Boy at his high school graduation in Huggies. First. Eventually. I tried literary inducements to get him to sit on the potty. Schmidt. The potty. My voice would careen around the words. One of my well-meaning friends insisted that boys need a target to aim at. I caught him scooping the soggy circles out with his hand and cramming them into his mouth. despite my inadequate strategy. speaking in an animated tone designed to capture his attention. slowly draining it in a trail of carpet-soaking spots.
but he. The demon seed I’d previously considered my son started using the toilet as if he’d been doing it all his life. he’d emerge. quite literally. His eyes gleamed with sweet anticipation. In a few minutes. ranging 35 . with a telltale aroma trailing him. shame-faced. Despondently. I became truly depressed about my failure. I put away the potty and bought a large supply of Pull-Ups. I peeked through the door to see what he was doing. As the three-year mark approached. He’d place his hands on the foot of the bed. younger children who pranced proudly to the potty.The Potty Predicament card—bribery—promising him candy for each successful use of the potty. continued to hold his own. the fruit of my womb wouldn’t give in. never once even mentioning the toilet and its uses. As soon as it was on. he’d slip quietly into his room and close the door. I acted deliriously happy. Next I’d hear a series of grunts. When my son informed me that he needed to be changed. After all those agonizing months. Worried that he was poisoning his insides. I cried along with him.” I’d let out a heavy. “I pooed.” he’d say. He began to have terrible stomachaches because he would not allow himself to have a bowel movement. I started putting a Pull-Up on him every evening at the same time. It wasn’t too long before I couldn’t get him out of the bathroom. but still. feet astraddle as if he were water skiing. He would have in-depth conversations with himself (or maybe it was an imaginary friend) while he was in there. and I saw Funny Boy upstaged by other. pained sigh and shake my head as if he’d just confessed to crimes against humanity. Once or twice. this strategy succeeded in exactly two days. I deployed my ﬁnal weapon. “Mommy.
“Would you like to see what a penis looks like?” Dazed. wondering what I’d created.Days of Derangement from a soliloquy on the makeup of the solar system to what sounded like a verbal tour of his more interesting body parts. I heard him say. Walking by the bathroom one day. I continued down the hall. 36 .
I was rushing around getting ready for the day. But to paraphrase a line in that tasteful movie Blazing Saddles. Being a marvel of multitasking. 37 . I couldn’t just sit down and eat my breakfast. however. readers in the United Kingdom began to contact me to ask if I realized that the word fanny has a different meaning in the UK than it does in the U. it refers to a very intimate female body part. All I have to do is look down into my cereal bowl. It is said to be dumbing us down and driving us crazy. So I set my bowl on the kitchen counter and ate standing up while also doing leg lifts AND checking email on my iPhone.S. One morning. Awkward… Multi-tasking: Screwing everything up simultaneously S cientists regularly warn us about the dangers of multitasking. I don’t need no stinkin’ scientists to tell me that. Let’s just say that in the UK.Fruit and Fannies After this story was published online. I poured Cheerios into a large bowl—what my dad (a Beverly Hillbillies fan) would call a Jethro Bodine bowl—and then ﬁlled it up with milk.
Funny Man. I accidentally let go of my electronic idol. 38 .Days of Derangement I opened an email—with the Subject line YOU’VE GOT TO READ THIS—from a friend and clicked on a link to a news story revealing some earth-shaking news: women’s butts are changing shape. heard the sound and came running naked into the kitchen. but have moved up the ofﬁcial Fanny Fruit Scale to the larger Tomato Tush category. Horriﬁed. thinking I must be suffering some kind of medical emergency. The article said scientists have discovered that a lot of women must be eating out of Jethro Bodine-sized bowls because the majority are no longer sporting a peach-shaped rear end. and it splashed right down into the bowl. really stupid as he grabbed the phone away from me. who was just getting out of the shower. “It’s worse than that!” I gasped. Standing there holding my iPhone and with a mouth full of Cheerios. gurgled groan as Cheerios and milk ran down my chin. this article helpfully included a close-up of Kardashian’s famous tomato-shaped derriere. “I dropped the iPhone in my cereal!” Funny Man gave me the kind of look one gives a teenager caught doing something really. In compliance with a federal law stating that one out of every 10 news stories must be accompanied by a picture of Kim Kardashian. I naturally had to twist around to look at my own bottom and try to ﬁgure out what fruit it was shaped like. And when I did that. I let out a loud. ﬁshing out the phone and cradling it like a drowning victim while I reached frantically for a towel.
Fruit and Fannies “Why were you eating breakfast standing up? And why were you holding the phone over the bowl? Why can’t you just do things the way a normal person would?” “That would be boring. I guess Apple is one fruit in ﬁne shape. On the bright side. however. “Hey. Then I turned so my back was toward him. my iPhone survived its milk bath. what fruit would you say my fanny is shaped like?” I can’t print his answer in this family-friendly book. Let’s just say it was not complimentary.” I responded. Unlike my fanny. 39 .
We went to a hockey game. I don’t care how cool you are. Call me a dork—my kids still do—but I have never been interested in watching sports unless my children were participating. you know just how my loved ones were feeling. contact me later. —Stockard Channing E very once in a while when my kids were growing up. bringing a book with me to ward off certain boredom. If you are shaking your head at anyone nerdy enough to bring a book to a hockey game. My family. perhaps thinking they could redeem me. Such a moment occurred when we gathered to watch a group of males armed with sticks ﬁght over a slippery. If you are nodding your head in dweebish accord because you feel my pain. I arrived at the game knowing only one thing (thanks to that famous joke from Rodney Dangerﬁeld) about hockey—that 40 .Crime and Punishment Everyone’s a nerd inside. seemingly trivial object. insisted I come along to the hockey game. So I did. We dorks need to circle the wagons and stick together. I’d realize—in a blinding moment of clarity that fortunately didn’t last long—that they thought I was utterly insane.
It turned out to be a ﬁtting title to be reading at the game. my beloved book clutched close in case someone tried to snatch it and begin reading. many of them wearing team jerseys and happily drinking adult beverages. losing myself in 19thcentury Russia.Crime and Punishment it tended to occasionally break out in the midst of a brawl. we made it to our seats without incident. I managed to read for quite a while. Large video screens hung over the rink. it could happen. Surprisingly. It was exciting stuff. our team had scored a goal. enabling everyone to see each act of disorderly conduct in vivid detail. I decided to delve into my book. I began to wonder if I’d committed a crime and this was my punishment. So I entered the arena primed for violence. most of which involved allegations of insufﬁcient manhood. my head down. As I tried to focus on this great work of literature in the midst of the maelstrom all around me. There was a great deal of pushing and shoving. and the ear-splitting sound was 41 . No one else appeared to be holding a book. When the game began. I looked around at the enthusiastic crowd. the fans started screaming encouragement to their players and heaping insults. Apparently. on the opposing team. and so I’d brought along the great classic. my shoulders hunched. hacking away with their sticks at a tiny black speck (evidently called a puck) on the ice. I was at that time in my Dostoevsky phase. and bodies were slammed against the sides. elbows frequently ﬂew into faces. After watching this riveting spectacle for several moments. Hey. The men battled each other valiantly. when I was jolted back to the present by a very loud horn that made me literally jump out of my seat. Crime and Punishment.
you are going to want to drink your adult beverage in celebration. 42 . the unexpected jolt caused me to drop my book. though. Courageously. not have it spilled all over your seat by runaway Russian literature. The fan grabbed my beer-soaked book off the ﬂoor and looked up in a way that made me think I’d be safer if I was that little black puck on the ice below. Sadly. I even got my book back. I managed to survive the game. I hid behind my husband. My family decided then and there that I would no longer be allowed to accompany them to sporting events. The crime was deﬁnitely worth the punishment. and it tumbled from the nosebleed seats down on to a frenzied fan below. knocking his beer out of his hand.Days of Derangement necessary to commemorate the event. If you are a happy hockey enthusiast whose team has just scored a goal. Somehow.
he knows all things. my hair streaming out behind me as I raced across the plains. she hadn’t been on a horse in more than 40 years. as suicidal 43 . to go on a two-hour trail ride. a rugged symbol of America itself. I wanted to be like the girl in True Grit. I was fascinated as a child by the westerns. It’s amazing what people will do for their grandchildren. I was a ﬁne rider. —George Herbert I grew up on John Wayne movies. The only problem was that in real life. were presented with numerous pages of legalese assuring us that riding a horse is a dangerous activity and that we. my fantasy fell ﬂat when confronted with actual horse ﬂesh. Although my mom grew up on a farm. and times being what they are. where Wayne rode tall in the saddle. and they managed to convince my mother to come along. I had an opportunity. as I found out one summer when my kids were preteens.True Grit When one is on horseback. In my dreams. My children were excited. We arrived at the stables. I’d never even been near a horse. with my family. In reality. riding at breakneck speed alongside the hero.
“Well. This perfectly described the creature. The stables. Unfortunately. RIP refused to move. In deference to her age. I found myself thinking that John Wayne would never have signed such a statement.” We signed on the bottom line. The Duke would have horse-whipped him. “Giddy up. “Giddy up. After I made several clumsy attempts to pull myself up and over what seemed like the world’s tallest horse. 44 . were crazy to want to be placed on hooved hazards for the express purpose of inﬂicting upon ourselves serious injury or. therefore. Wrong. more likely. “Ma’am.Days of Derangement idiots. I was sure I could hear tiny ﬂy laughter. The young whippersnapper called me Ma’am. As soon as the ride started. RIP stood perfectly still.” said one of the cowboys. Pilgrim. a slow and painful death. I knew exactly what to do. even the ﬂies on his neck seemingly frozen in place.” he’d have said. prepared to mount our trusty rides. I was on a horse named RIP for Rest in Peace. but had no discernible effect on RIP. This appeared to greatly amuse the wranglers. could not be held responsible. he was already practicing for the time when he assumed room temperature. But as a John Wayne devotee. the two young wranglers who would accompany us brought my mother a step stool. though. they apparently assumed someone of my relatively young years ought to be able to hop right into the saddle. it took both wranglers— who each did an embarrassing amount of grunting as if it was back-breaking work—to shove me into position.” I repeated.” I said to the horse. and having dispensed with the legalities. “we best just get on outta here. you gotta kick him.
my mom had been placed on a more lively horse named Navajo.” I pointed out. And as sometimes happens when teachers meet a student for the ﬁrst time. “Now Napoleon. who was supposed to be following RIP but who kept leaving the trail to munch on grass. I gave RIP a few timid kicks. my 5'1" mother was an elementary school teacher who could strike fear into the hearts of misbehaving students with just a glance.” she said in her strictest schoolmarm tone. Back in the day.” “No. and the half-dead horse ever so slowly started down the trail. she mustered all her teaching techniques to subdue him.” My mother has an annoying habit of assuming she is always right. “His name is Navajo. mister. Being faced with the equine equivalent of a problem pupil.” she snapped. as my kids say. “The guy clearly said his name is Napoleon. jerking on the reins as Navajo/Napoleon moved further away from the trail.” “Mom. Meanwhile. “you get yourself back on the trail this minute or you’ll be hearing from me.” “Napoleon. she got his name wrong. “I think I know what my own horse’s name is.” “Mom! Can you just once admit you’re wrong? I am absolutely positive he said Navajo. which caused the slightest ﬂicker of an ear on my one-foot-in-the-grave ride. Why would anyone in America name a horse Napoleon?” 45 . he said Navajo. The wrangler then gave him a resounding whack on the rear. twisting around in the saddle. a character defect that she fortunately did not pass on to her daughter.True Grit Nervously.
“Serves you right. And that. This is how the whole ride went: RIP kept refusing to move in the face of my most gallant giddy ups and Navajo/Napoleon. Pilgrim.” I heard my mother chuckling. despite my mom’s expert educational methods. but I was kind of proud of both myself and my mother.Days of Derangement I turned back around just in time to get slapped in the face by a tree branch before RIP stopped yet again. Our two-hour ride had stretched to three by the time we returned to the stables. Navajo/Napoleon completely ignored her. Maybe we weren’t up to John Wayne’s standards. Then she continued to lecture her horse. happily noshed on every blade of grass within reach. Then he ambled along for about a minute before once again heading for the grass. is true grit. of course. The overworked wranglers were grumpy. 46 . But we’d managed to stay astride our stubborn steeds. until the wrangler approached.
pick up his underwear. You spend years sleeping next to him. Then that person does something that leaves you wondering if you ever really knew him at all. That’s just what happened to me. Y 47 . And it all started with a bar of soap. ou think you know everything there is to know about a person. I explored the shop in awe. The sales clerk explained that a woman’s skin is intelligent. You love him through thick and thin. See. and that it needs soap with the same qualities. Of course.Soapy Situation Marriage means commitment. natural. I’d discovered a wonderful little soap shop. honest and pure. You love him even when his head has a whole lot less hair on it while his nose and ears have a whole lot more hair in them. smelling each handmade concoction and imagining its gentle ingredients caressing my skin. You love him for better or worse. It’s one of those delightful places that pull women in like a pied piper and make men believe they’ve lost their manhood just by walking through the door. Now this wasn’t any ordinary bar of soap. listen patiently to all his stories. so does insanity. You raise his children.
” “That was my special. homemade.” she said. Instantly.” Naturally. When I’d ﬁnished bathing. I’d been washing it with horrible man soap. thrusting the bar at him. Consumed by guilt. “What special soap? The bar that was in there was getting too small. The pretty store paper was lying crumpled on the ﬂoor. I carefully re-wrapped my special soap in the pretty paper from the store and put it into a drawer.Days of Derangement “A woman shouldn’t be using a man’s soap. and I felt tingly all over. I brought my high-class suds home and promptly took a bath. I had to throw that particular bar in the trash. my skin began to look smarter. I was horriﬁed to ﬁnd my womanly washing material in the shower. 48 .” Well no wonder my skin hadn’t been looking too good lately. looking forward to using it again the next day. The rest of my special soap is now kept in an undisclosed location.” he said. I made the kind of growl a mama grizzly makes when her cub is threatened. girly soap! The soap I paid big bucks for! The soap that’s going to do wonders for my skin!” “Oh. grinning. shortly after Funny Man had showered. I just pulled out whatever was in the drawer. pure. “No wonder it made my butt feel so soft. “If you insult its intelligence. Funny Man had the gall to look confused. covered with suds. But when I went into the bathroom the next morning. then grabbed my soap and went in search of my spouse. your skin will rebel. lathering my suffering skin. I ﬁlled a shopping bag with scented soaps that set me back a pretty penny. “Did you use my special soap?” I yelled.
Any day now. I only use it when I’m alone in the house and can enjoy taking an undisturbed bath. 49 . my skin will start to look utterly brilliant.Soapy Situation under lock and key.
They’ll hang on to a pair of drawers until there’s nothing left but an elastic waistband and. —Rodney Dangerﬁeld S tylish men’s skivvies.Stylish Skivvies This morning when I put on my underwear. those are words that should be banned—on pain of a slow and torturous death—from being included in the same sentence. We have items in our house that can still be called underwear only in the theoretical sense that they once performed the traditional services of a pair of skivvies. And yet. Victims of this ailment believe that underwear never needs to be replaced. I could hear the Fruit of the Loom guys laughing at me. I belong to a family of men suffering from a genetic mutation called the underwear overuse gene. If you ask the men in my family. possibly. it almost takes an act of Congress to get my hole-y he-men to go to the store and buy new knickers. See. I usually have to resort to throwing out all the threadbare boxers and briefs while my husband and son are out of the house. They then have the choice of either allowing me to buy for them (not a popular 50 . one frayed leg hole surrounded by fragments of fabric.
as well as in a cornucopia of ﬁt options (relaxed or slim). 51 . “I’m not wearing any of these!” Funny Boy will declare. colors and patterns. They come in a variety of silhouettes and rises (low. high). “This is an abomination!” Funny Man says. going shopping with me or going commando. “Whatever happened to good old-fashioned tighty-whities?” my husband always moans. men’s undies have become a whole new fashion segment. Sounds an awful lot like padded bras to me.Stylish Skivvies option since the time I came home with boxers covered with cute little palm trees). and then actually wear. including padded and “proﬁle-enhancing” briefs. Getting my men to purchase. That’s how we periodically end up in the men’s section of a nearby department store. In the end. But nowadays. I guess the men are just catching up. “They’re trying to turn men into…into…women!” In order to get the job done.” Funny Boy will stare in horror at packages of underwear that claim to “sculpt and support muscular movement. new boxers or briefs has always been difﬁcult. And forget about traditional cotton. And that’s exactly what my men try to do. holding up a pair of plaid briefs with buttons—buttons!—in the front. It’s enough to make a man with the underwear overuse gene cling even more tightly to his decaying derriere covers. “I can’t buy any of these. Spandex and various microﬁber synthetics. mid.” Next to that there’s usually an entire display of enhanced undies promising to further ﬂatter the male physique. Now there’s also Lycra. I always have to inform my skivvy-skittish spouse and son that we aren’t leaving the store without some kind of covering for their backsides.
But I doubt it. staid Y-fronts that make my men comfortable. 52 .Days of Derangement we usually ﬁnd a bin—stuck way back in the corner of the underwear section—containing the kind of safe. Maybe someday they’ll feel bold enough to explore all their underwear options.
struggling to get the word out of her mouth. It was organic milk. crippling pain in her legs when asked to take out the trash. “People have to work hard on a farm. displaying a newfound interest in agrarian life. I could feed the chickens. “They wouldn’t be like regular chores. chores would be fun. the one who at age 10 diagnosed herself with a severe allergy to the vacuum cleaner.” I said.” This from a kid who always developed sudden. “Why can’t we live on a farm?” Funny Girl asked.Chewing on Chores M y daughter. Well.” I watched her shudder at the dreaded word. and the carton depicted blissful-looking cows reading Thoreau. maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. This from the child caught more than once ﬂinging the dog poop over the fence into the neighbor’s yard instead of disposing of it 53 . “There are a lot of chores to do on a farm. And milk the cute little cows. was sitting at the kitchen table eating her favorite brand of sugar-in-a-bowl and reading the back of the milk carton. “Farm ch… ch….” she said. but you certainly got the idea from reading the carton that life in this bovine boudoir was pretty darn good.
I could pick crops and stuff like that. “You could milk the cows. The conversation got me thinking about children and chores and TV shows that leave me chewing my own ﬁgurative cud. Then she brightened.” I distinctly remembered this happening to John Boy and his siblings on many occasions. since you like to get up early anyway. on the other hand.” she countered. at an hour she only saw when she stayed up all night at a sleepover. have long been an expert in farm life. I informed her that cute little cows like to be milked very early in the morning. Funny Girl appeared to chew this revelation over carefully.” she said. I attempted to enlighten my delusional city slicker. “It doesn’t work like that. “I know. ecstatic at being able 54 .Days of Derangement properly. they even kick over the bucket of milk just when you’ve got it ﬁlled. “I’m sure the cows wouldn’t mind waiting until a more reasonable hour. I remembered thinking the cows should have to milk themselves when they acted like that. I.” I told her. Their children did chores happily. having watched endless hours of Little House on the Prairie and The Waltons when I was young. “The cows can’t wait. It was so easy for Ma Walton and Ma Ingalls to do everything right. she didn’t understand the reality of life in the country. Clearly.” This from a kid who never willingly picked up her own socks off the ﬂoor. much like an organically fed Daisy Mae would chew its cud. And sometimes.
pick up their dirty clothes. As the donkey moved forward to get the carrot. That’s why my daughter’s vision of picking crops made me laugh. right there on the TV. I know this was true because I saw it for myself. I initiated elaborate incentive programs that would rival a political candidate’s election platform in complexity (and uselessness). The boy held a long stick to which a carrot had been tied. It so happens that the original carrot-and-stick metaphor referred to a boy sitting on a cart being pulled by a donkey. I still had to remind them to make their beds. 55 . Every day. take out the trash. Ma Papandrew. But my carrot-and-stick approach simply didn’t work.Chewing on Chores to contribute to the family. always chasing my TV-created ideal. It’s not like I didn’t try. Come to think of it. They had so much more time on their hands. My kids wore me down. No wonder Ma Walton and Ma Ingalls were always smiling and baking and making quilts. on the other hand. maybe I belong on a farm. I offered allowance money and took away privileges. my children and their chores. I was always the donkey. it pulled the cart—and the boy—so the carrot always remained just out of reach as the cart moved forward. was never very successful at getting her young’uns to cooperate. wash their dishes. That’s a pretty accurate picture of me. I issued dire threats and made dark predictions about the fate of those who failed to do their chores. I had job charts and task wheels complete with stickers and brightly colored posters. and he dangled the carrot in front of the donkey but just out of its reach.
Days of Derangement 56 .
only when I pulled off my socks to examine my foul feet. so I rushed inside to start a load. since there’s no time like the present. and speaking of loads. and so I thought I’d make an appointment for a haircut. which reminded me I’d been intending to exercise since sometime before the last millennium and. but this got my sneakers wet. but then I remembered that I sorely needed a pedicure. which lately has had more bad days than good. I realized I had no clean socks because I failed to ﬁnd the time all week to do laundry. so I pulled out a hose and began washing it. and speaking of pushing. where my eyes fell upon my very dirty automobile. I suddenly wanted to read the newspaper to ﬁnd out what kind of hooey those humble public servants in Washington are pushing. but when 57 . so I went to the garage for a broom and came across my long-neglected bike. I realized I should get back to the garage to grab that broom.Spring Cleaning O ne ﬁne spring day. which reminded me that I really wanted to do some serious shoe shopping. I pulled the creaky bike out to the driveway. but then I saw the mop right there next to it and that got me thinking about my hair. I decided to make my mother proud and embark on a vigorous cleaning program.
Mom. one naturally loves books as well. and if one likes words as much as I do. I started thinking about how much I like the word squeegee and then I started thinking about how much I like words in general. which is why I decided to lie down for the day and put off cleaning until the next spring.Days of Derangement I picked up the phone. and I really love to read and thinking about reading caused my brain to take a philosophical turn. but then I was jerked back to reality with the realization that I’ve never actually owned a squeegee and therefore could not properly clean my windows. but then she asked if I’d begun my spring cleaning and so. I recalled the irate conversation I’d just had with my mother. only to notice the deplorable condition of my windows so I went in search of a squeegee and while I was looking. Sorry. so I rushed outside. but seeing the tub made me think of the word tubby which made me think of my stomach. which often leads to reading. which it has a habit of doing whenever cleaning is on the horizon. which reminded me that I’d left the bike in the driveway. and I’m pretty sure that it was Plato who said that if one cannot correctly clean one’s own windows. and she’s undoubtedly right. any other kind of cleaning is not morally justiﬁable. I hung up the phone and gathered a tub full of cleaning supplies with which to attack the job at hand. 58 . remembering this. who feels I should call her more often.
We’re a society bustling with busyness. Even my dog is busy. The problem is that a lot of you are busyness bamboozlers.Busy. You’re just pretending to be busy. Busy Beware the barrenness of a busy life. am truly busy. —Socrates I have a philosophical riddle for you to ponder. we can’t all be busier than everyone else. The riddle is this: if everyone is busy—very. Even the ﬂeas on my dog are busy. very busy—doesn’t that really mean no one is busy? After all. on the other hand. You’re like those all-circuitsare-busy multinational corporations that have an unending supply of sales people to take our money and exactly one employee who is frequently either out to lunch or clipping his toenails. too busy to take our calls when we need service. agitated by all our activities. I. Busy is the new black. No one has time to do anything because we’re all so darn busy. 59 . everyone I read about or hear about. I would ponder it myself but I’m far too busy with more important things. I could see your busyness bet and raise you a bundle. claims to be frantically busy. In poker terms. can we? And yet everyone I know.
We have numerical tables to tell us if we’re thin or not-so-thin. Does exercise merit a mark on the busy meter? Oh. Unless you are—like my daughter—only working out your thumbs through too much text-messaging. in an age in which everything is measurable. tall or height-challenged. have to be safeguards in place to prevent corruption of the high standards of the Busy Brigade. I’d tell you what I’m doing to make me so busy but it’s not really any of your business anyway. and most of them are lying. You’ve got people running around all over the place claiming to be busier than everyone else. yeah. you are deﬁnitely busy. If you are a size 2 and everything automatically looks great. We have cholesterol levels and credit scores. I hate you. including the very powerful Bureau of Unmotivated 60 . you are deﬁnitely not busy. you have to go from store to store trying to ﬁnd something that makes you look slim. we’re on our own. rich or not-so-rich. who frequently seem to have too much time on their hands. Britney Spears hitting every Starbucks in a 10-mile radius? Not so much. like me. Of course. A single mom (or dad) working two jobs to make ends meet? Busy.) There would. And that’s dangerous. as our new committee should be called.Days of Derangement If I had the time. of course. after all. However. by the way. (And. What about shopping? If. we’d have to engage in a national debate about what exactly counts as being busy. This must be stopped. but when it comes to determining who is a bona ﬁde busy person. so I’m proposing a national rating system to separate the truly busy from the bogusly busy. by a host of special interest groups. I do want credit for my superior state of busyness. I suggest we appoint the members of Congress. to serve on a committee which would establish busyness benchmarks. We live.
61 .Busy. Busy Men (BUM) to which several members of my own family belong. But I honestly believe it would be worth it. Constant complaining or channel surﬁng—regular activities in my household—would not count. I anticipate years of lobbying and litigation over this issue from the lazy. and it must be a difﬁcult rank to achieve. Being labeled as ofﬁcially busy must mean something.
raid the trash cans. We picked out an abandoned Labrador mix boringly named Blackie and upgraded her to the more elegant Ebony. We tried to resist. Whenever my back was turned. but somehow we found ourselves one day at a shelter—an animal shelter that is.The Hound from Hades A t some point. Ebony would use all those heads to simultaneously chew my furniture. almost all parents are expected to enhance the childhood experience with a pet. a cat—should pass by and require an ear-splitting round of 62 . which eventually swelled into a swirling. My life would never be the same. Unfortunately. which built over time into a full-blown nag. steal food right off people’s plates and maintain an ever-vigilant patrol near the front windows in case another dog—or on really good days. It soon became obvious that this Hound from Hades had relocated to my house. That’s what happened in our family. tear-fueled Category 5 caterwaul. you’ll recall that the underworld was said to be guarded by a dog with many heads. It began with a tot’s tiny plea. her behavior didn’t follow suit. If you remember your Greek mythology (and who among us doesn’t).
And my children. shot through the open back door and began to run circles in my living room. in addition to multiple mouths. Then. I soon became convinced that. I tried moving her bed to another part of the house. developed an amazing variety of excuses for avoiding the job. She’d come lie down next to me on the bare ﬂoor. There should be a congressional investigation into the millions of phony poo-pickup promises made by generations of dog-desperate kids. frantically rolling her freshly cleaned body in every bit of dirt she could ﬁnd. I even tried shutting my door. the task of bathing the furry ﬂea bag also fell to me. No single derriere could possibly have produced the copious amounts of doggie doo that littered my backyard after Ebony’s arrival. She’d scratch and whine all night if necessary until I opened it. at the Canine Olympics. Then she made a beeline for the house. if there was such a thing. She could earn a Golden Tongue award. to be exact. she’d duck under the dining room table and manage to look both guilty and absolutely unrepentant at the same time. I know this because she always launched her lick fest—complete with loud slurping and popping sounds—right next to my bed. gleefully grinding her grime into my pink (PINK!) carpet.The Hound from Hades barking. where she insisted on sleeping. Ebony bolted away from me and raced around the yard. the mutt had a high number of heinies. when I yelled at her. And did I mention that she started early? Five o’clock in the morning. 63 . The dog is a master licker. She licked like there was no tomorrow. who swore up and down they would clean up every bit of it. The ﬁrst time I gave her a bath. Eb started every day with a vigorous session of self-licking. Naturally. It’s a national scandal.
Then. That’s when she’d move into the next phase. Ebony would place herself right in front of me and. and I used it just like I used my children’s full names when I was communicating my displeasure with them. After a few quiet minutes and with dastardly doggie daring. But that was just a clever. she’d wake up with a blissful sigh and a sumptuous stretch and move on to the second part of her day. which involved getting her bowl ﬁlled up with dog food. This was a very effective way to get me out of bed in a hurry. sometime in the afternoon. “Stop it now!” Yes. Eb would then hook her paw under her unﬁlled dish and actually ﬂing it through the air so that it landed with a great clatter on the 64 . bleary-eyed and cranky from lack of sleep. “Ebony Joyce Papandrew!” I’d shout. The bowl momentarily stayed put. long nap. There I’d be at my computer. using her full name. She’d start with the stare-down.Days of Derangement Most mornings. and the house would go silent. She began pushing her empty metal bowl around the kitchen. And while I was retching into the bathroom sink. Being bleary-eyed and cranky and knowing just who to blame for that. Ebony did her best to ensure I didn’t turn into a lazy slugabed by licking me right in the mouth with the same tongue that she used to lick every part—and I do mean every nasty part—of her body. knowing full well that it made a lot of racket. having successfully completed her morning tasks. she has a full name. attempt to subliminally communicate the fact that she wanted to be fed. and by never taking her eyes off me. would take a nice. Eb. I abandoned subliminal communication for something more direct. psychological ploy. I subliminally communicated the fact that I didn’t care by totally ignoring her.
rather than engaging in normal dog activities. both literally and ﬁguratively.The Hound from Hades kitchen tile. content just to be near me. she’d press her face against the door and whine until I let her in. When she again woke up. was that from the day we brought her home with us. I’d pet her. muttering curses I wouldn’t want my mother to hear. She might even go out for a walk with her utterly submissive human. she’d instantly appear and place her body against my leg. And when I was feeling depressed or anxious. This would propel me out of my chair. When I sat down somewhere in the house. following me from room to room. The thing about Ebony. Once. in a moment of weakness. even if I didn’t want to admit it. When. the very worst thing. She’d place one paw on my knee or on my arm and gaze at me with unconditional love. I’d realize the Hound from Hades was actually my best friend. After ﬁlling her stomach. she seemed to know it. 65 . At times like that. she would devote her evening to catching crumbs of people grub that fell from the counters or perhaps engage in an energetic round of barking at a neighbor’s dog. she would shudder with delight. straight to the cabinet that held the dog food. on a particularly tense and frantic day when I’d tried to shave my legs too fast and managed to cut myself in several places. Ebony would contentedly settle down for another nap. she showed up as soon as I got out of the shower and proceeded to carefully lick my wounds. she utterly adored me. She was nauseatingly needy. When I put her outside.
Once you hear the words gums and receding in the same sentence. baby. The gums are the middle-aged 66 . she’s a trophy wife in her off-hours. peering at me closely. You know the kind of creature I mean. This procedure would measure how far my traitorous gums. Then I arrived at my dentist’s ofﬁce for my regular checkup. and I was ushered in by The Happy Hygienist. “Woa. Mom. “You’ve got.” Funny Boy said. She put a cute little bib under my chin and informed me I was overdue for a periodontal workup. a body has a mind of its own.Gums and Games After 30. have pulled away from their assigned teeth. —Bette Midler M y midlife crisis was triggered by yet another birthday and inﬂamed by a comment from my teenage son. young and chipper.” It was probably just such a remark that led to the creation of boarding schools. like. you have passed the point of no return. a whole tic-tac-toe grid under your eyes. with a smooth face no one would be tempted to mark with Xs and Os. Undoubtedly. seeking to disassociate themselves from my aging body.
Then ask Hulk Hogan to slam the door as hard as possible and lean on it for good effect. The mammogram was clearly invented by a man. mangling my mammaries in a most professional way. For those who have missed the pleasure. too weighed down by my new long-in-the-tooth status to notice that my wallet was considerably lighter. 67 . possibly one who spent his youth in a boarding school after saying something stupid to his mother. signaling to the other organs when it’s time to start heading for the hills. an obvious affront to the over-40 crowd.Gums and Games body’s bellwether. My dental inspector propped open my mouth and began to probe my periodontal pockets. stand in front of your open refrigerator. an insufferably cute girl barely out of her teens (or so it seemed) with a personality that could only be described as perky. In a moment of medical masochism common to women my age. calling out numbers that identiﬁed the depth of my deterioration. Insert some particularly sensitive part of your body. Then her voice brightened. here’s a three. “Oh. I’d scheduled a mammogram for the same week.ﬁve millimeters. “Four millimeters…. it’s not pleasant. very good!” She praised me in the exact tone one would use to train a puppy. oh my…. I departed soon after. you are a private in the bosom brigade. But if. The well-endowed among us probably don’t have too much of a problem with a mammogram. and I responded in kind with a line of drool that soaked my bib. This delightful experience was delivered by a close cousin of the hygienist. like me.” she shook her head in grave concern. Miss Perky did her best.
I paused in my planning to take a call from my mother. I decided to ﬁght back. 25-year-old male masseuse as “gorgeous. She shocked me by describing her new. Mom?” I couldn’t resist. Glum over the prospect of a steady slide into decrepitude. Maybe I’d even turn into a cougar.” she assured me in all seriousness. tackle my tic-tac-toe lines with shots or surgery. trying to add some comic relief to the situation. “I guess you’ve heard that one before. I would not go quietly into the night. caused by dragging one foot that was already in the grave. She just rolled her eyes.” I joked through gritted teeth. “Only 20 years younger?” Suddenly.Days of Derangement compressing each between two cold plastic plates until I felt one of us should propose marriage. absolutely gorgeous.” Sometimes I lay on the sarcasm so thick that it drips right out of my mouth and makes a puddle on the ﬂoor. apparently. because I was deﬁnitely worried about that. “He didn’t try anything with me. “Don’t worry. Desperate times call for desperate measures. If I was only 20 years younger…” “Really. who had been trying to tame her aches and pains with massage therapy. I felt all kinds of aches and pains of my own that could deﬁnitely be eased by a hunk’s healing touch. By the time I got home. If my mother 68 . the second symptom of impending geezerdom. My destiny was now determined. “I haven’t been squeezed like this since I went to the high school prom with a boy named Bubba.” “Good. Telling stale jokes is. I’d join the Peace Corps. My mother pretended not to hear my question. learn to ride a Harley. I had a pronounced limp.” I added lamely. right behind truant gums.
maybe I would have better luck. Especially if I kept my game face to the ground.” I said absent-mindedly. “You’ll have to get up on a stool to even reach my knees. Mom.” The pole threat is one of her most common. “I’m going to beat you with a pole the next time I see you. for some reason. When we’re not under the same roof. she’ll actually try to make me clean it up. she has to resort to threats. I was still thinking about the manly masseuse. 69 . and I responded with one of my standard answers. put the moves on my mother. Even if he didn’t.Gums and Games happens to be around.
she decided that Sunset must surely be a girl. It didn’t take long for this furry bit of ﬂuff to drive me to the brink of madness. I fully expected Sunset to also 70 . an igloo to sleep in. pine-scented bedding. multilayer habitat with towers and tunnels and a state-of-the-art wheel. I had to pay a pretty penny for all the paraphernalia necessary for today’s hip hamster—a colorful. an exercise ball. …How. they will undoubtedly be bafﬂed by our penchant for raising rodents. lush. Without any evidence to the contrary. vitamin drops and chew sticks. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. When archaeologists of the future sift through the layers of our lives to try to understand how we lived. a considerable amount of whining and periodic bouts of pouting. I was puzzled by this myself as we drove home with the golden-hued creature Funny Girl affectionately named Sunset.The Tell-Tale Hamster Above all was the sense of hearing acute. am I mad? —Edgar Allen Poe A fter launching a successful campaign consisting of much begging. then. my daughter talked us into getting a hamster.
who was covered with additional fuzz from the underbelly of the fridge. Sunset was placed in her cage. But I soon came to wish she’d stayed under the refrigerator. If you looked under the fridge. went wild—barking. pacing in front of the fridge and repeatedly trying to shove her nose under there far enough to actually open her mouth and consume what she apparently thought was a special treat we’d brought home just for her. no doubt enjoying the chaos its presence had caused. She apparently also invested a lot of time and creativity into ﬁguring out how to distribute her waste in as wide an area as possible. she made a bid for freedom. Despite living in a spacious Hamster Hilton. Someone forgot to remind me that hamsters are nocturnal.The Tell-Tale Hamster demand deed restrictions to keep rodent riff-raff out of her neighborhood and a complete schedule of social activities. and I breathed a sigh of relief. We had to put Ebony in the back yard and were ﬁnally able to coax out the reluctant rodent. Ebony. Before we even got the ungrateful creature into her luxurious new digs. scampering across the kitchen and under the refrigerator. She must have pressed her furry little bottom right up against the cage and aimed for the walls. While the much larger dog worked herself into a frenzy. there was the mess. the little lab rat stayed serenely in place. Sunset liked to party hearty all 71 . howling. Pet brain size must be inversely proportional to body size. First. you would probably have seen beady black eyes shining with satisfaction. Then there was the noise. Our dog. Sunset spent most of her time shoving the bedding out of the cage and onto my ﬂoor. I found poo pellets in places that no poo pellets have any business being.
often barely able to climb the ramp from one level to another. One night. I caught the horrible hamster licking it off. We buried our fuzzy family member in the backyard—at sunset. I tried moving the cage to another room. But the rodent lived on and on. Now the exercise wheel is silent. I was reminded of Poe’s short story—The Tell-Tale Heart—in which the narrator is driven mad by the sound of a beating heart. I wondered if I faced a similar fate. I realized that Sunset had grown old right before our eyes. My kids had lost interest in her. Sayonara Sunset. 72 . In the middle of the night. I tried putting cooking oil on it. But then. I’d wake up and hear it squeaking. And squeak. as they often lose interest in aging pets and aging parents. I guess none of us can ask for more than that. Initially. the worthless wheel began to squeak. Still. She was no longer using the exercise wheel and was moving around the Hamster Hilton much more slowly. the squeaking. I began to feel sorry for the creature. hearing the high-pitched noise grow louder and louder. But sometimes in the night. this wasn’t a problem. naturally. And then she died at a ripe old age.Days of Derangement night in her exercise wheel. Until one day. I swear I can still hear it. I set aside a shoe box to be used for a quick burial and began to look forward to the day the sun would set on our rat-like pet. my sanity threatened by the incessant squeaking caused by a tell-tale hamster. And squeak.
anal-retentive individuals such as my husband who adamantly insist that vehicles must always be left in perfectly straight lines.Crimes of Crookedness I love being married. less linear approach to auto positioning. See. there are those rigid. as we simultaneously began having children and exercising our right as Americans to own no means of 73 . Funny Man apparently found my creative car placements rather endearing. Never the two should meet. much less get married. —Rita Rudner I believe every man and woman considering marriage should ﬁrst undergo counseling to determine if they are spatially compatible when it comes to parking. During that sweet time. Then there are kinder. But I was unaware of the great stock my man placed on parking proﬁciency until we’d passed through the sappy initial phase of matrimony that’s about as realistic as professional wrestling. gentler souls like me who take a more contemplative. it would have saved me much marital strife. If I’d known this many years ago. But then. It’s so great to ﬁnd that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.
But even there. And suddenly. It wasn’t my fault that. when I attempted to back out. Then he painted another one on the minivan side. I managed to put a big dent in the driver’s side mirror. So then I parked closer to Funny Man’s truck and. I was offended. I again tried to conform to his ridiculous demands. I tried to comply with his unreasonable demands by parking as close to the wall on my side as possible. scraped up the side of his prized pickup. I was then ordered to abandon the garage and park only in the driveway. continuing to park itself in crooked lines. I found him angrily painting a heavy black stripe down what he claimed was the center of the garage ﬂoor. First.” “Did not. upon reversing. “All you have to do is park between these lines. Funny Man started to complain.” 74 . my van refused to cooperate.” “Did so. several inches from the wall. Again. Naturally. for some reason.” “Did not. our marriage entered the sobering Eyes Wide Open phase. But in the interest of family harmony. This led to an almost nightly exchange between my husband and me that went something like this: “You parked crooked.” he told me in the same exasperated tone I had used when house-training our very dense dog. I can’t even get into the driveway.Days of Derangement transportation smaller than a tank. Not long after that. the back end of my van refused to align itself with the front. he complained that I took up too much space in the garage.
but Funny Man and I continued to provide comic relief to the neighbors for quite some time. In our case. knowing I could win by attrition. trying to convince me of the error of my ways. he’d pull out a tape measure or a piece of chalk. And sure enough. my son would be compelled to shout: “Yo Mama’s so fat she has to iron her pants in the driveway!” Getting no response. I’d just shake my head and smile serenely. dickering in the driveway over my alleged crimes of crookedness. 75 . that is. Good thing they’re not parked close to each other.Crimes of Crookedness Our children came to accept these mature conversations as a routine part of the evening and completely ignored us. Upon hearing that word. Funny Boy came down with a serious addiction to Yo Mama jokes. Sometimes. it was driveway. he’d say it several more times until he found himself on the receiving end of a wedgy. Until. almost any word can trigger an outburst. Funny Man eventually gave up. I’d like to say we soon reached a compromise and started acting like adults. sighing heavily as he re-parked my vehicle each night and muttering about the differences between Mars and Venus. As any parent of a Yo Mama-afﬂicted child knows.
Then I waited for the blubber to be gone. as I discovered when I tried (and failed) to ﬁnd a bathing suit that would render me somewhat more attractive than a whale. unwilling to actually show up at the gym. I turned to televised exercise.Boot Camp L ike many people entering middle age with an everexpanding midsection. I have fond memories of TV ﬁtness from college. 76 . Although we rarely actually did her workout. So. though. Jane. I still can’t listen to Jimmy Buffett’s Changes in Latitudes Changes in Attitudes without experiencing a strong urge to do buttocks tucks. paying the membership fee and buying an adorable workout outﬁt. Apparently. when my roommates and I wasted valuable study time watching Jane Fonda prance around in leg warmers while encouraging us to feel the burn. I really need to get in shape. So I joined a gym to ﬁght the battle of the bulge. there’s more to it than that because my body continued to balloon. Thanks for the memories. we deﬁnitely toned our young tummies with all our hearty laughter at poor Jane’s expense.
” Cath and her energetic e would chirp. wishing Cath and her fancy e would wear leg warmers and put on some Jimmy Buffet. never giving me time to think it over. I was elated. pumping. I spent about a week watching Boot Camp from the comfort of my couch. “Are you ready for this?” they’d ask at the beginning of each show. We spent what seemed like an hour on spine-popping stretches. shoulderknotting arm swings and thigh-cramping knee bends. Then they’d rather arrogantly respond to their own question. I decided to seek out a new queen of calisthenics to show me the way. put on some sweatpants and stood in my living room. Cath and her e looked pleased. jumping. Yes. Surely that e stood for exercise. italicized and gussied up. when 77 . tiny shorts that wouldn’t go past my knees. feeling the pressure. And I found her in the form of a ﬁtness show called Boot Camp led by a woman in stunningly good shape named Cathe.Boot Camp Being older and wiser now. “and that is YES!” Eventually. This kind of name conﬁdence impressed me. with a tummy in need of more than laughter. and surely this military-style Jane could whip my ﬂaccid form into shape. Cath and her e were relentless in urging me to end my inertia. I put down my chocolate. “There’s only one answer. that’s Cath and then an e that is set off from the rest of the name. But they stayed clad in teeny. pushing and crunching their way to muscular perfection—all to the frenzied beat of some disturbing technosweat music. thinking I was going to sail through Boot Camp. ready to give it my all.
but seemed willing to give me another chance. My numerous problem areas protested. refusing to soldier on. those faithless ﬂabby regions turned traitor during the ﬁrst cycle. That’s when I decided to dig up that old burn-feeling video and return to Sweet Lady Jane. but I assured them that my problem areas and I were united in the cause. I collapsed on the carpet. Cath and her sneering e seemed to threaten a court martial. Even her buttocks tucks would be better than Boot Camp. they explained that we’d be doing eight cycles of training designed to strengthen my heart and tone problem areas. If I could just ﬁnd some leg warmers. Unfortunately. I decided to try again. cruelly eating Cheetos and Oreos in my presence and placing bets with each other on how long I could last. making it through an awe-inspiring two cycles before succumbing to exhaustion. Cath and her increasingly annoying e looked skeptical.Days of Derangement Cath and her slightly sadistic e announced that the warm-up was over. but I pressed on. I gave myself a good week or two to recover before making another attempt. quivering like mutinous mounds of Jell-O. my children had sensed an opportunity for amusement and gathered around like vultures to watch. Worn out. Cath and her drill-instructor e were by now openly dubious. By now. 78 . I barely survived Cycle Two before my arms and legs went AWOL. After the warm-up. A few days later.
lost the most hair. a little shy. who’s driving the nicest car. F amily reunions are a charming phenomenon. We all confess astonishment at how fast the kids are growing up. Kinfolk are dangerous individuals who can recite all our embarrassing faults. we would never go near these people again. But many of us are drawn to cousinly confabs like moths to dysfunctional family ﬂames. all a little hesitant. At my last reunion. who can provide blackmail material to our children. If we were smart. trying to gauge who’s gained the most weight. I’ve determined there are ﬁve phases to the typical family reunion. most of the kids were teenagers who looked horriﬁed at just being there. We like to occasionally get together with our kinfolk. once we’d grown up and escaped. who know about every youthful transgression.Horses on Porches Every family tree has some sap in it. those who are at our end of the gene pool. That’s when everyone is on his or her best behavior. awash in warm feelings and cold sweat. The ﬁrst is the meet and greet phase. We subtly assess each other. And based on my attendance at several such events. They huddled together for 79 .
And with the food. and things got heated. And he’s still rebelling. You gotta love Joe. but secretly admire. It’s always the best part of our reunions. but now I enjoy the Remember Whens. Joe’s simple explanation: “I didn’t do what he said I did. my cousin Joe. 80 . I remember experiencing agony myself at earlier reunions. That left those of us in the middle—we of the sandwich generation who would eventually get around to talking hormones and hot ﬂashes—to focus on the food. He’s the one we all cluck our tongues and shake our heads over. At this point. we moved into the Remember When phase. from-scratch dishes made by grandmas who still remember how to cook. This is the phase that causes the teens to actually writhe in agony. First names of presidential candidates were tossed around as weapons and then someone brought the Good Lord into it. quickly getting down to discussing pressing physical matters involving hemorrhoids and heartburn. frantically sending text messages to their friends.Days of Derangement protection with their smart phones out. even a couple of great-grandparents—huddled together too. and as everyone started to relax. many reunions degenerate into a third phase: church-state squabbling. his wife told how she’d had to pay $400 to bail him out of jail after he refused to sign a ticket given to him by a highway patrolman. The oldest generation—the grandparents. True to form. At our last reunion. we consumed a few adult beverages. my family began discussing religion and politics.” That set off a merry round of Joe-centered Remember Whens in which my crazy cousin denied doing what we all knew he’d done. Many of our most colorful memories include the family rebel. begging to be rescued.
started gently (or not) pitching rocks at its feet to encourage it to comply. This creature has a habit of standing on the front porch of their rural home and pointing his posterior toward the house so that when Joe’s wife looks out the front window. The ladies. shrugs his shoulders and says a single word weighted with all the necessary meaning: “Women. unable to coax the horse off the porch.” said one on the right side of the political spectrum to one on the left. “You need all the help you can get. one of the rocks bounced up and shattered the front window. only lasts about 30 seconds. though. will devote hours to dissecting the failings of their men. So his wife. and my cousin had the gall to be upset with his wife.” Wisely. she gets an eyeful of an equine end zone. has refused to discourage its behavior.Horses on Porches “I’ll pray for you. on the other hand. and usually. segregation of the sexes. The men go one way and the women go the other. The men’s conversation. we allowed Joe’s long-suffering wife to go ﬁrst. we were all instantly sympathetic to her. At our last reunion. When the women at the reunion heard this story.” All of the other men nod their heads in agreement. before things really got out of hand. My cousin. One of them sighs heavily. apparently sensing a soul mate in this rebellious horse. the groups start out by complaining about each other. This happens at every reunion I’ve ever attended. and then they move on to something more important like sports or ﬁshing. She described a problem she was having with one of their horses. Although most of us no longer live in the 81 . we moved into the fourth phase. instead of being able to see the glories of nature. Unfortunately.
The ﬁnal phase comes when we are emotionally waterlogged from swimming in the gene pool and—our family ties strengthened—we say our goodbyes. we all have our own version of the marital horse on the porch. Before we know it. given my family history. But. Soon. I’m probably doomed to repeat it. and I’ll be one of the old fogies. the reunions will become part of our Remember Whens. 82 .Days of Derangement country. the teens will be the middle-agers. Hopefully. I won’t talk about hemorrhoids.
an unstructured one spent running through sprinklers. watching the Road Runner never fail to foil Wile E. perhaps dip into Tolkien or even Tolstoy (it could happen). would write their own plays. 83 . I made a stupid decision. One year. I envisioned euphoric days where my children. gleefully tossing in school supplies as his dejected children follow glumly behind and The Most Wonderful Time of the Year plays in the background. Sweeter words were never spoken. You know the kind of summer I mean. their imaginations ﬁred by boundless freedom. I wanted them to savor their summer before it slipped away like a melting scoop of ice cream. “They’re going back!” the announcer tells us. Coyote. lying in tall grass deﬂowering dandelions. rediscover the innocence of youth.The Most Wonderful Time of the Year M y all-time favorite commercial is the one where a father with an ear-to-ear grin is pushing a shopping cart through a Staples store. I decided that my little darlings needed a slacker summer. in the calm quiet of my house before my kids got home from school.
But I. Only it didn’t quite go as I planned. the bloom came off the rose just a bit. I was determined that my fantasy of summertime fun and creativity. They slept until noon. And they showed some true creativity there. but they did read the words on Popsicle wrappers before tossing them on the table. we went on vacation. banal bickering. My husband. My son—the one destined for a career as a comedian or possibly a member of Congress—informed me that his religion forbade any activity between sunup and sundown. my children were deﬁnitely slothful. They argued over the color of the sky or which one of them was 84 . My kids became deeply involved in endless. In June. enjoying round-the-clock togetherness as we attempted to bolster our family bonds while simultaneously blowing our budget. I congratulated him on his staunch adherence to his faith. managing—while still lying down—to punch. They didn’t dip into either Tolkien or Tolstoy. recommitted myself to giving my kids a season of sloth. when I clearly had too much time on my hands and would appear to have been smoking something. kick and bite each other without ever assuming a vertical position. where they somehow summoned the energy to ﬁght over the TV remote. By the end of the month. our family bond had been bolstered to such an extent that it felt like an iron collar around our necks. then stirred themselves just enough to move to the couch. Oh.Days of Derangement That was in May. By the time August came around. went back to work. With school out. would come to pass. unencumbered by a schedule. the lazy days of summer had begun to really drive me crazy. Even our Labrador seemed nearly comatose in those dog days. still deeply in a delusional phase. his face wearing the liberated look of an escaped convict.
The Most Wonderful Time of the Year the biggest brat (dead even. fortunately. they chose Dad). They were too weak. 85 . they went to camp. “Mom!” they’d wail from the living room. poor things. “We’re hungry! Can you bring us food?” Finally. I’d say) or whether Mom or Dad had more wrinkles (wisely. They went back to school. to even feed themselves. all the annoying inertia came to an end. They became hibernating bears. apparently storing up fat for the winter by barely moving. And the next summer. where they had actually become part of the furniture and needed dusting.
In my case. one of those crammed occasions when I’d meet myself coming and going. in the seat. making a beeline for the big red bull’s eye. I started out slowly. There are times in the often frenzied life of modern motherhood when we could all use a little retail therapy. I was a-tingle with excitement. I pulled out a shopping cart and savored the sensation of placing my purse. On an ordinary day. —Marcelene Cox E arly on a Saturday morning when my kids were young. I’d be racing down the aisles like a NASCAR driver. my careening cart festooned with some rowdy rug rats. 86 . when I could walk alone through those beckoning doors. I gave my slumbering husband a kiss and a whispered lie about returning soon and headed out the door. drinking in the well-organized ambiance of everyday economics. rather than a squirming child. unencumbered by children.Shopping Shangri-La The quickest way to know a woman is to go shopping with her. As I pulled into the parking lot of my local Target store. I felt like I’d hit the big-box bonanza.
just because I could. Soon. I sauntered with sweet anticipation to my favorite part of the store—personal care products. where my toes touched dozens of shoes. I moved to the shoe department. I strolled to the clothing section and moved among the racks like a famine victim suddenly given a steak dinner. Next. feeling drunk with pleasure. if over budget. I studied rolls of wrapping paper as if they were literary classics and read about a hundred greeting cards. There. I headed for the home section. I ambled over to the craft area. The bedding aisles claimed what felt like a wonderful eternity as I considered different designs. I waxed ecstatic over dishes in bright shades sure to soothe my soul. I received 87 . Although my cell phone. I ignored it. Hesitantly. I even got up the nerve to check out the bathing suits and spent precious moments pretending I’d soon be losing weight. empowered in this emporium to ﬁnd that deﬁnitive pair of panties. ensuring I would be well-coiffed. where I grew weepy at the opportunity to sift at a snail’s pace through scrapbook supplies.” had been buzzing every ﬁve minutes. After a while. I grabbed a scarlet shade of lipstick that would likely win my mother’s disapproval. debating for long. I put dozens of items in my cart. I selected a sea of hair products. Finally. hiding like an adolescent playing hooky from a truant ofﬁcer. Eventually. the ﬂoodgates open. I went to lingerie and frittered away the day among slinky silks and polyester imposters. everything a woman might need to feel smooth and sexy. I explored every kitchen appliance.Shopping Shangri-La But now. delicious intervals which ones to purchase. I spent almost half an hour mulling which shade of eye shadow to buy. Then. Next. which I’d set to “vibrate. feeling free and festive.
“Really NOT funny!!!!” “how can u do this 2 me?” “AAAARRRGGGHHHH!!!!!!!” At checkout. determined to make the most of my temporary status as a lady of leisure. My cell phone had by now been buzzing so much that it had nudged my purse from one side of the cart to the other. Soon. I unhurriedly unloaded my cart with a consequences-be-damned attitude. But my shopping Shangri La had been well worth it. ingeniously designed with a curved handle and biodegradable cloths and so environmentally friendly even Al Gore would use it.Days of Derangement a series of text messages from my husband. I breathlessly spent several minutes admiring it. I sashayed over to cleaning supplies and experienced something like a spiritual awakening when I beheld the mop of my dreams surely capable of cleaning even the dirtiest house. It was a wet/ dry mop. I’d have to go home to face the music. 88 . accompanied by ominous punctuation and vague threats: “When are you coming home????!!!!” “I know you’re ignoring me!!!! ” “The kids are driving me nuts!!!!” “You are SO going to hear about this!!!” I stashed the phone in my purse and pressed on.
I’m a veteran of those wrongly named events where very little actual slumber occurs. I knew she’d probably want to have a slumber party. It wasn’t exactly the way I expected to celebrate my daughter’s 14th birthday. And I knew I could survive it. If I did. after all. But using my extraordinary powers of perception. but still scary—a slither of shrieking teenage girls stuck in one of my trees. when I was faced with a situation perhaps not as lethal. But I went along with what my daughter wanted. her birthday. 89 . For some reason. that a bunch of snakes invade a plane and cause bedlam in the skies. I get the gist of the plot.Teens in a Tree I ’ve never actually seen the 2006 movie Snakes on a Plane. Whoever thought it was a good idea to bring in other people’s children and attempt to persuade them to go to sleep at a reasonable hour? I’d like to have a word with that person. Who invented slumber parties anyway? It’s difﬁcult enough to get your own kids to go to bed. I’m fairly sure I would never get on an airplane again. namely. that’s the scenario that popped into my head not long after the movie came out. Oh. it was.
each scream building exponentially on the others. the whole neighborhood was reverberating with the sound of a manhunt gone manic. despite the fact that it was well past dark and cold outside. One girl got a boost from another and scrambled up into the tree. each girl then decided she could not come down the way she’d gone up. Unfortunately. all accompanied by intense discussions of the attributes and faults of various boys the girls knew. the girls decided to go out and play manhunt. There were secretive sessions of Truth or Dare which would mysteriously cease the moment Mom walked in the room. the wind picked up about this time and something—maybe a bird or a squirrel—stirred up there in the dark. Then several other girls decided the tree would make a good hiding place. up in that tree. Naturally. Teenage girls tend to shriek in tandem. trying to suppress their giggles as the “hunter” began looking for them. There were numerous rounds of nail painting. They were stuck. The giggles turned to screams. and sigh-ﬁlled talk about celebrity males they wished they knew. They inched higher and higher in the tree. spreading oak tree. They headed across the front yard toward a large. like so many oversized kittens. and the music now came courtesy of an iPod rather than an LP. the slumber party ran its expected course. 90 . But then. makeup application and hair braiding. It was all pretty standard slumber-party stuff that could have happened when I was a teenager. except that the obligatory crank calls were now made by cell phones instead of antiquated land lines. No amount of persuasion from me could get them down.Days of Derangement At ﬁrst. Soon.
But thanks to the magic of cell phones. But I’ll bet the snakes were quieter than our teens in the tree. he gently coaxed each girl down to safety. I doubt Samuel L. Funny Man had retreated to a local sports bar. battling all those hissing serpents on the plane. Jackson. to hang out with other men and do whatever it is men do at such places. giving me one of those “why can’t you handle this?” looks. and immediately fetched a ladder. Climbing up into the tree. I was able to summon him home to play ﬁreman. He arrived.Teens in a Tree It was probably Eve who ﬁrst asked the question we women have been asking ever since: Why is it there’s never a man around when you need one? The males in my family had made themselves scarce that evening. 91 . was any more heroic.
That’s what I thought. From the time the ﬁrst man-like creature crawled out of the primordial muck and used his newly developed hands to grab the remote and put up the toilet seat. it’s been the same. and I loved them both. I gazed fondly at these two men in my life. she must face the fact that every male in her life is a walking testament to testosterone. my men’s heads whipped around in identical fashion and all four ogling eyeballs locked like missile radar on the ta-ta F 92 . As she walked past our table. But mothers don’t tell this to daughters. thinking their guys are different. when I found myself in a restaurant with my father and my new husband. Like it or not. They were polar opposites in personality. created equal. These creatures unable to pick up socks or discard over-used underwear are doomed to forever repeat hormonal history. they allow girls to grow up blissfully ignorant. Then along came a wellendowed woman in a low-cut blouse.Testosterone Trouble or every woman. there comes a moment when she realizes that all men are. In a conspiracy of silence designed to ensure the survival of the species. years ago. indeed.
after a mere 10 years of consideration. But when he turned 13. He decided. This intelligent activity is apparently the highlight of a movie called Jackass. my own dear father cracked. Take my husband. Women have clearly failed in their duty to humankind. I got a call from the middle school principal. he had snorted wasabi sauce. which I think pretty much says it all.” I said indignantly.Testosterone Trouble target. At ﬁrst. it seemed to be working. obnoxious guffaws. We should have long ago harnessed the unifying power of the hooter and used it to eradicate intractable problems such as war. Unfortunately. I attempted to get their attention.” Then the man I called Daddy and the man I called Darling made complete boobs of themselves. I was convinced that I could reverse the macho march of his life with my humanizing inﬂuence. “If she’s a nuclear physicist. I’d like to see her reactors. who told me that the Neanderthal to whom I’d given birth was sitting in detention and whimpering about the agony in his nasal passages. Although disillusioned. adolescent behavior in the human male extends far beyond the teen years. “But you’re treating her like a sex object. Shocked and angry. high-ﬁving and breaking into loud. I was determined to go on. for all you know. ﬁnally kicking them under the table. a lifetime bond cemented by a set of knockers. “That woman could be a nuclear physicist.” Without missing a beat. On a dare. then run screaming through the halls swatting at his inﬂamed nose. best hope. When my son was born. Cleavage may just be the world’s last. crime and Paris Hilton. to get a 93 . for example. and apparently trying to impress a nearby group of girls.
I gave thanks that it was over. alone in the woods. Funny Man fell right into this pattern. They’d all slap each other on the back after every goofy gag and double over in laughter. this highly educated doctor would gather the other fathers on the sidelines to exchange jokes about the alteration of my husband’s nether regions. 94 . on the other hand. take great pleasure in throwing their friends into turmoil with derogatory comments designed to undermine a buddy’s manhood. Women can turn to other women for honest opinion and concerned counsel. Women may be the bedrock of society. How wrong I was. endlessly amused in the same way that younger males never fail to ﬁnd humor in their own bodily processes. Week after week. When a man undergoes a vasectomy. It took a good year before we could get through a game without some reference to the silly snip. The urologist who performed the procedure happened to have a son on the same soccer team as our son. It was then I realized testosterone will always triumph. but somehow still managed to go under the knife. but men are the life of the party. Men. A woman could give birth to triplets.Days of Derangement vasectomy. with far less hullabaloo. and Funny Man would join right in. all his friends will deliver countless cutting remarks about the expected failure of his masculinity. assuring him his life as a he-man is history.
And since every other member of my family denies any responsibility for them. So I painstakingly fold the towels right out of the dryer. Towels that earlier were well-behaved are suddenly mingling with sheets and pillowcases on unauthorized shelves.Towel Tyranny I ’ve decided I must be the victim of towel tyranny. appearing unfolded all over the place in varying stages of cleanliness. If I open the closet door. I’ll ﬁnd towels in a tumultuous state. As neither my children nor my husband avows any knowledge of how they got there. I give them crisp contours and place them lovingly on their assigned shelves. I can only conclude the troublesome towels themselves are trying to stage a takeover. And how do these ungrateful bolts of blotting material repay my hard work? By running rampant in my linen closet. I have to assume the terrible towels are in revolt. I am apparently the only person in our house capable of the feat of folding. 95 . It’s a burden those of us born with greater abilities must bear. hanging like hoodlums off the shelf or brazenly bunched up in the corner. Those rectangular household items seem to have taken over my home.
The towels in my house adhere to a certain hierarchy. Then they’ll lie on the ﬂoor for hours.Days of Derangement There’s also the matter of moisture. Our towels have a strange mania for mildew. have the enviable duty of just looking good. they will even ﬂing themselves into closets and under beds where they will be unlikely to be discovered for days. Sometimes. And none of my family members ever does touch them. amassing smelly spores and funky fungi. Then. Instead of staying put in the guest bathroom. I discovered them disgracefully hiding out on the back patio. So the pretty towels must be acting on their own. for some unknown reason. 96 . soaking wet. I ﬁnd them lying. stained fragments of fabric consigned to sopping up spills or drying the dog. look-but-don’ttouch decorative soaps. I have their sworn statements on that. still-presentable cloths assigned to dry the skins of their owners. These privileged pieces. which even get matching. in the ﬂoor or in the sink. The middle class towels are those ordinary. are the elegant elite—the decorative towels. No one is allowed to soil their softness with actual use. It’s truly diabolical. They will leap off the hooks on which they have been faithfully hung (and my family members always hang them up). they chose to throw themselves over the hamster cage and somehow ended up frayed and chewed. where they evidently decided to clean a stinking pair of soccer cleats. at the top of the heap. in serious need of rehab. By then. One time. The lowest caste belongs to the torn. Another time. they’ll have hardened into crustily creative origami.
But it seemed to tame the towels. my family members did not like this at all. 97 . I became so traumatized by the behavior of my traitorous towels that I decided to put them all under lock and key so I could closely monitor their behavior.Towel Tyranny At some point. Oddly enough.
having a middle-aged mom midriff untouched by a surgeon’s 98 . on the other hand. —Erma Bombeck I have to admit I admire men’s indifference to bathing-suit reality. I too was seeking a supermodel suit. The rules are the same. Allow for room to grow. I envy that kind of conﬁdence. the one that will leave us looking like a supermodel. believes she resembles a Teletubby in her swimsuit. Look for something you’ll feel comfortable wearing. Almost every woman. Now. We can only be persuaded to try on new ones each summer because—as with childbirth—we forget the agony endured during the experience. When I was younger. This seasonal amnesia allows us to set out once again on a search for the sublime suit.Bathing Suit Blues People shop for a bathing suit with more care than they do a husband or wife. I hoped to be considered bodacious in my bathing attire. Every man thinks he looks good in his bathing suit. even those with enough back hair to weave a small rug and a beer belly of sufﬁcient size to be a walking Budweiser billboard.
It doesn’t get any better than that. said appendages seemed to have vanished. you can now re-create yourself online by entering your measurements. I thought I’d found the ideal answer with the Virtual Model. See. The virtual you maintains her shape even as the real you adds another 10 pounds. Then you can try on computerized bathing suits in the privacy of your home while eating an entire carton of Haagen-Dazs.Bathing Suit Blues scalpel. Upon further inspection. Not only was I not a hot mamma. On the real me. certain appendages intended to nourish babies had provided a pleasingly perky presentation. I begin my spandex search every spring. Why do retailers insist on equipping their ﬁtting rooms with 200-watt ﬂuorescent lighting and three-way fun house mirrors? Don’t they realize if we could view our bodies via candlelight through frosted mirrors (and perhaps after a couple of martinis). Unfortunately. So with these modest goals in mind. On the virtual me. but I will spare you the details. The virtual me turned out to be quite a hot mamma and I eagerly anticipated the arrival of my online bathing suit. I was then forced to drag myself down to the department store and enter the psyche-smashing chamber of horrors known as the dressing room. when I attempted to stuff my real skin into my virtual suit. I found them cowering under my armpits. I was sorely disappointed. we’d likely take out a second mortgage to buy every bathing suit in stock? 99 . My high-tech suit solution having shriveled. I’m content if my beach body fails to cause vomiting or retinal damage. The spectacle was even scarier in the lower regions. I wasn’t even warm.
checked suits and some with polka-dots. was a deﬁnite non. Nothing made me happy. skirted bathing suits supposedly capable of camouﬂaging cellulite and sarong swim attire meant to minimize the midsection. is bound to bestow a certain sexy je ne sais quoi. so to speak). dubbing my quest a dismal failure. I struggled into a skirted ﬂoral number that made me look frighteningly like Hyacinth the Hippo. despite its French connections. I armed myself with an assortment of the latest in swimwear styles and colors: the tankini. which gives you the illusion of a two-piece but with the promise of greater coverage (a bikini with beneﬁts. Maybe I’ll feed her some Haagen-Dazs. none of them met even my humble expectations. Sadly. I stood in front of those blasted mirrors under those blinding lights and tried on suit after suit. Now. I wrapped myself in a striped sarong that was deﬁnitely not right. I squeezed into suits both black (which conveniently matched my mood) and colored. a one-piece that. I’m considering spending my summers in a burlap sack. The tankini tanked as my ﬂesh oozed out of its assigned areas. I left empty-handed. In the end. For a couple of hours. just by virtue of having a French name. The maillot. First though.Days of Derangement Determined to face the task at hand. 100 . the maillot. I’m going to pay another visit to that vixenish virtual me.
Bathing Suit Blues 101 .
I’d order them “to sleep. perchance to dream. or as extensively as my Cliff Notes knowledge of him would allow. When it was past my kids’ bedtimes. I hope they’ll forgive me for my Shakespeare phase. I’d call out after them: “Parting is such sweet sorrow!” My children would roll their eyes and groan in the pained yet patient way young people do in the presence of crazy relatives.To Do or Not To Do O that way. “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. 102 .” When I had to pick up my son’s stinky sneakers.” When my daughter was whining about something. madness lies… —William Shakespeare W hen my children look back over their childhoods. I’d announce that “the lady doth protest too much. I’d say sarcastically as I gagged at the odor wafting from them.” And when my darlings would head out the door to school in the morning. This was a phase in which I’d quote The Bard extensively.
though. It covered an entire page and then spilled over on to a second page. At ﬁrst. After a few days. disgusted letters right across the list. I decide I no longer want to function like ﬂotsam.To Do or Not To Do My Shakespeare phase coincided with one of my occasional attempts at time management. “Be not afraid of greatness. I couldn’t resist embellishing it with bits of Will’s wisdom. with my to-do list not even close to being done. “Oft expectation fails.” I scrawled in large. I decided to involve them in my time-management activities as well. I wrote each of them 103 . though. where we lie as limp and exhausted as an overworked metaphor. my notes to self became slightly more pessimistic but still poetic. In true Shakespearean spirit. when I hadn’t actually accomplished anything on my list. Periodically. Naturally. By the end of the week. I was deeply annoyed with myself. “Woman. Others such as me tend to ﬂoat along like ﬂotsam on the sea of time. and so I try to establish some habit that will help me tame my time. thy name is frailty. Some people can properly manage their time. my to-do list was grandiose and unrealistic. I took to writing a daily to-do list.” I wrote at the bottom. This gave me the feeling of organization but with a smidgen of rebellion thrown in. I called it my To Do or Not To Do List. Just what I wanted. Sadly for my family members.” I scribbled encouragingly to myself in the margins. carried helplessly by the tides of tardiness until we are broken up by the rocks of regularity and washed on to the shore of scheduling. During my obsession with The Bard.
104 . At least he has his own TV show. Simon Cowell. what light through yonder window breaks? Time to get up!” My kids covered their heads with their pillows and moaned. And before I knew it. of course. “Hark. “If there is anyone here whom I have not insulted. you are so weird!” my daughter said. “No one cares about Shakespeare! He didn’t even have his own TV show!” The illogic of this statement left me so stunned I momentarily forgot about the to-do lists. They ignored me. and then I encouraged everyone to get up early on a Saturday morning so there would be plenty of time to get everything done.Days of Derangement a to-do list. I also got over William and moved on to quoting yet another witty Brit. After that. so I barged into their bedrooms spouting another Bardism. I beg his or her pardon” I’d say with true Cowell attitude. the timemanagement urge had passed. “Mom. I went happily back to being ﬂoating ﬂotsam.
and they didn’t want to be.Resistance is Futile W hen my children were younger. except that it didn’t slam doors or wear low-slung pants that showed its many pairs of 105 . Picard would. the Borg was one giant. my family went through a time of serious Trekkiness. the ﬁrst thing the poor drone would notice would be its own loneliness. and the galaxy would be safe for another day. When one was cut off from the Collective. souped-up teenager. delivered in a phony English accent.” I’d say as I sent them to their rooms. we’d curl up together on the couch and watch a rerun of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Essentially. One of our favorite series of Star Trek episodes involved the Borg. When the show was over. That’s the Star Trek show in which the elegant Capt. They were not individuals. Picard’s space-alien-butt-kicking crew would comply.” No matter how daunting the task. a race of aggressive. “Make it so. technologically enhanced beings—part human and part machine—which had a collective consciousness. Shakespearean baritone. in his rich. I’d send my own crew out with the more humble mission of getting ready for bed with the same command. Each night. command his crew to “Make it so.
just to see how many times my name comes up. Eventually. And I’m not really one to talk. Sometimes.” I’d intone without mercy each time one of my children tried to avoid going to bed. My daughter saved up her money to buy a computer game that allowed her to “bake” an online cake. And we carry it with us at all times. but no one is autonomous. “Resistance is futile. and I like it. What the Borg did was ruthlessly assimilate all other life forms into its Collective. willingly shedding our individuality to become one with the great external mind. And we adults are just as bad.Days of Derangement underwear. “Resistance is futile. Our children play virtual games. I am an online organism. We are all becoming part of the cyberspace collective. For days after a Borg episode had aired. and the Borg went away where no man has gone before. My husband and I make our living by way of the Web. our Trekkie phase passed. my children would take on its robotic personality. Ah. those were good times. with virtual friends. I’m not sure my mate knows where he ends and his Crackberry (Blackberry) begins. in the form of the Internet. I’ve developed a serious addiction to Googling myself. She could whip up a comely 106 . and an assimilation battle would rage throughout the house that would continue until someone screamed “I am Borg!” and ﬁnally succumbed to the Borg identity.” the Borg would intone without mercy to all its victims. Or so I thought until recently. just like teenagers do. in virtual rooms where everyone can be anonymous. She could select different frostings and decorations. when I realized that the Borg have secretly stayed among us for quite some time.
she answered impatiently. And she could share her cake with other online bakers. no cold glass of milk to wash down this lifeless computer cake. I’m baking. no reality. We are Borg. “Mom. When I asked her to help me make a real cake.Resistance is Futile confection with the click of a mouse. I’m busy right now. Funny Girl was devoted to the game. Even though there was no taste. 107 .” I’m pretty sure that resistance is futile.
you know the space-time continuum is about as reliable as a cheap pair of pantyhose. It’s been that way since time immemorial. our family followed that hallowed tradition. There were several times when my kids were growing up that I was pretty sure that crazy continuum had gone and done it again. Spock) to perform heroic feats to save the day. If 108 . who is a little hard of hearing and tends to speak loudly. I’ve always been attuned to the possibility of a warp in the time-space continuum. And most of the time. See. noticed that Funny Girl was eating calamari. B eing a recovering Trekkie who once had a serious crush on Captain Kirk. For example. the unwritten rule of the universe is that older generations get to embarrass the younger one. My mother-in-law. three generations bonding over a good meal. always getting runs in it that throw everything into turmoil and require humans (or half-humans in the case of Mr. If you’ve watched as much Star Trek as I have. we went out to eat one time with my in-laws.Space Time Turmoil The rate at which a person can mature is directly proportional to the embarrassment he can tolerate.
not long after that. Except that she didn’t say tentacles. My husband and son were getting ready to go out. unfortunately. everything was turned topsy turvy. never actually starting the process of getting ready until about ﬁve minutes after he was supposed to be somewhere. and so she saw my husband walk in. And in that split second when he saw the girl’s face on the computer screen and she saw him standing there in his towel. Through the miracle of modern technology. knowing all was right with the world. She used another word that sounds very similar to tentacles but actually describes a very private part of the male anatomy. operated (and still does) on a different timetable than the rest of us. my husband. Funny Man had already taken a shower. dressed only in a towel. Funny Boy. my kids turned a deep shade of red and appeared to be trying to get under the table.Space Time Turmoil you’ve eaten it. But I went right on with my meal. you also get fried squid tentacles that look like little spiders ready to scamper right off the plate. What he didn’t know was that Funny Boy had recently installed a webcam and was using it to communicate with his girlfriend. She could also see past him into his room. As several restaurant patrons turned to look at us. Knowing this. our dog—who has often enjoyed a game of snap-the-towel with my husband—decided to get the game going by yanking the towel off with his teeth. So my mother-in-law innocently made a loud comment about the joys of eating tentacles. he could see her and she could see him. However. Sometimes. walked into my son’s room to lovingly (or not) suggest the kid should get moving. 109 . you know that calamari is just squid dressed up with a fancy Italian name and often served fried in little rings.
Days of Derangement leaving Funny Man standing there with his dignity exposed and our son’s girlfriend probably in need of therapy. I wonder if Mr. Spock is available to ﬁx it. Clearly. something is wrong with that old space-time continuum. 110 .
Game days were serious business around our house. and all his rowdy friends could come over and make me appreciate the game. I ﬁnd myself so not ready for another football season. and my papa and his pals would be bursting with pride. My father was gripped by gridiron giddiness. I doubt even Hank Jr. It started.The Power of Pigskin Football combines the two worst things about America: it is violence punctuated by committee meetings. I ﬁnd myself deeply embedded in the season of beering and cheering. if they fumbled and failed. By the time my dad’s friends arrived to catch the kickoff. —George Will E very fall. a deathly pall would hang over the house. and most of his mania was focused on the University of Oklahoma Sooners. the air was electric with excitement. And I realize all over again how much the power of pigskin has shaped my life. If they did not do well. Yet every year. If the Sooners did well. and each man would have to 111 . all would be right with the universe. as most psychologically traumatizing things do. of touchdowns and testosterone. in childhood.
On the day of that granddaddy of all games for the diehard Sooner fan—OU versus Texas—my father and his mates would do a happy little dance around the room every time their team scored. and I was shocked one Saturday to ﬁnd this fellow that I’d fallen for screaming shirtless in a stadium. things would be gloomy. One of my dad’s friends actually once punched a hole in the wall. on a bright August day. All over a silly game. But if. you know exactly which song I mean. We talked about everything under the sun. I met a handsome. We had football bed sheets. a great number of football referees. But then came September. I’d have run away as fast as I could. by some terrible tragedy. So I foolishly married the man. the loathsome Longhorns won the game. philosophy. If you’re a Sooner or a Longhorn. When my skinny son reached high school. judging by fan reaction. But I was in love. even football toilet seat covers. naturally) and there. If I was smart. and they’d sing a mockingly modiﬁed version of the Texas ﬁght song that ended with a rather rude suggestion involving biting and backsides. and in time. we spent our Friday nights watching him in constant danger of being turned into a football version of Flat Stanley 112 . unable to contain his outrage at the calamity that had befallen the team. I just didn’t get it. and we all know that love is as blind as. our hopes and dreams. produced a miniature Madden man of my own.Days of Derangement ﬁnd his own way to deal with his distress. and beer would be necessary to drown their Sooner sorrows. football posters on the walls. Then I went to college (at OU. art. I ended up living in a house inundated by pigskin passion. seemingly normal man. literature. his face and body painted crimson for the team.
It was enough to make me want to throw up. anyway) like giants on the opposing team trying to tackle him. caused by a constant assault from nacho cheese. the televisions in our house broadcast a perpetual stream of games. Our living room carpet suffered from football-mouth disease.The Power of Pigskin by what looked (to me. three generations of football fanatics would genuﬂect before the gridiron god. interrupted only by endless rounds of neckless men in nice suits discussing those games and the gladiators who play them. During this silliest of seasons. beer and chips that fell from lips that had to stop eating and scream at the idiots who were letting the victory slip from their very large hands. onion dip. When our extended family gathered to give thanks. 113 . The holidays were also hamstrung by this crazy sport. But usually I just grabbed some of my rowdy friends and went shopping. Or punch a hole in the wall.
If you have problem hair that just lies slouched across your scalp as sluggish as a teenager in the summertime. Oh Lord. Why. however. can be a curse if—like me—you are unfortunate enough to have inherited his calamitous coif. beautiful. That’s because he is a man and. and I am allowed to ask one question. You. being a HIM is a real blessing. Those faulty follicles have not been a problem for my father. he’s a HIM (HairIndifferent Man). but that’s because you have not had to spend nearly ﬁve decades attached to a stringy substance that has resisted all attempts to mold it into something attractive. A HIM does not care about his hair. bouncy hair who dropped the genetic ball at your conception and allowed your father’s lackluster gene to beat her 114 . have not had to live with my father’s follicles. on top of that. A HIM spends even less time thinking about his hair than wondering if his jeans make his butt look big. my friend. I already know what it’s going to be. And if—like me—you have a mother with thick. did you give me my dad’s hair? This may seem to you like a ridiculously shallow question to be asking at such a moment.The Hairy Truth W hen I reach the Pearly Gates. Being the daughter of a HIM.
cuts and coloring. I would also need a full-time stylist to ﬁx my “do” every day. along with expensive styling products with French names that will surely make my hair look better just by virtue of being French. you may have enough Oedipal issues to keep any therapist busy (and wealthy). try it yourself 115 . I have to confess I understand why all those wealthy divorcees demand thousands monthly in alimony for personal upkeep. but instead I was melancholy. Whenever I have my hair done at a salon. Personally. If I could. “It’s just that my hair looks decent for once. Of course. That should have made me happy. that after my last salon visit. What they do doesn’t look hard. people were still talking about my hair a week later.” I say.The Hairy Truth good hair gene to the punch. and my normally limp locks are temporarily looking good. “Can’t you learn to make it look good yourself?” my HIM husband asked. in fact. I plan on skipping the shrink’s couch.” So decent. given my follicular disability. even after I’d gone back to my familiar ﬂat-as-a-pancake look. In the meantime. It was like getting a glimpse of the Promised Land and then having to go back into the wilderness. I patiently tried to explain that hairdressers are like golf players. I’d spend that much on my hair alone—perms. It was a bitter pill indeed to return to my helmet-hair existence. The hairy truth is that stylists know things we mortals just don’t know. I’d tasted life as one of the hair fortunate. and eventually just taking the matter up with the Creator himself. Strangers on the street treat me with more respect. though. “No. My co-workers ask if I’ve had a face-lift or maybe some liposuction. I feel like I’ve beaten the genetic odds. and yet.
Mom. Thanks a lot. Really. I should have been born a HIM. I simply cannot get my hair to look the way it does when my stylist does it.Days of Derangement and see what happens. Even using the same products and appliances. The only solution is to get a divorce and spend every penny of my alimony to keep a hairdresser at my beck and call. dear. of course. I’m just kidding. 116 . I’m just kidding.
My parents worked in tandem to instill in me the appropriate levels of fear and loathing necessary for success on the road. the little car would buck like a bronco. I learned to drive in a bright yellow Volkswagen Bug with manual transmission that I affectionately called The Egg Yolk. and my mom sat in the back. So we went to our local Department of Motor Vehicles ofﬁce. my mother would shriek as if she were in real danger.Driving Drill Instructor The best substitute for experience is being 16. I was eager to carry on the family tradition. Learner’s 117 . But when Funny Boy was old enough to get his learner’s permit. I looked forward to my turn as the parent in the passenger seat ever since my own teenage driving debut many years ago. and my father would simultaneously yell “Clutch!” This happened over and over until I was a shaking bundle of nerves requiring years of therapy. My dad took his place beside me. Each time I tried to smoothly shift into gear. T eaching a teenager to drive ranks right up there with potty training as one of parenting’s ﬁnest experiences.
But. Now that’s a true public servant. alas. reminding my junior joy rider that his driving destiny legally rested in the hands of his loving parents. You got that?” Funny Boy nodded his head as if in total agreement (he was faking it). Next. The kind soul at the DMV did her best to lay down the law.” I said sarcastically. her warning went in one teenage ear and out the other. Not a good sign. from there. so to speak. When it was time for his ﬁrst lesson. My son’s apparent need for speed led me to point out that it wasn’t 118 . and I gave the government guardian angel a grateful look. he proceeded to check his hair in the mirror.Days of Derangement Permit is far too innocuous a term for a document that puts a pimply person with a mouthful of metal in control of several thousand pounds of steel with an accelerator. We had high-decibel discussions about the meaning of words such as slow and stop. and we got into a screaming match over the proper enactment of that rule known as Right on Red. reset all the radio buttons and casually drape his left arm out of the open window. my son emerged from the house wearing a T-shirt that said Easily Distracted. “Before you turn 18. The trip from our driveway to the nearest intersection was fraught with the kind of nail-biting nausea common to stressful situations.” she told him sternly. “How about we start out with both hands on the wheel?” It all just went downhill. “your mom and dad can take away your license for any reason—maybe because your grades slip or maybe just because you don’t keep your room clean. “I’ve got an idea. already feeling my blood pressure rising.
” Funny Boy responded in all seriousness. “You can go ﬁve miles over without being stopped by the cops. I know. I had twice been called a terrible teacher. By the time we returned home. still miraculously alive. Funny Boy will thank me for it. that he could drive more slowly. “Oh. But I felt a deep satisfaction knowing I’d fulﬁlled the familial obligation to be a driving drill instructor.” I maintained a death grip on the handle above the passenger door and found myself wishing I’d left this particular task to my husband.Driving Drill Instructor necessary to always drive the speed limit. One day. I meant. 119 . of course.
He’s leaning against that sports car. dear). For my husband. He keeps a picture of himself—I call it his Top Gun picture—from those days. with his airplane in the background. Or something like that. 120 . and the ﬂight suit would require some alternations if he wanted to wear it now (sorry. The car and the plane are long gone. but I know my Tom Cruise clone still sees himself as that studly single man. this frosted fantasy is more than 20 years old and revolves around his bachelor days when he drove a little red sports car and spent his weekends logging hours as a private pilot.LBD Conspiracy I t’s funny how one’s self-image tends to stay frozen in time. Your mind picks out a moment when you looked your best. handsome and dashing in a ﬂight suit. sometimes a moment that occurred many moons (and many pounds) ago. and it goes through some kind of freezing process that crystallizes this warm memory into a mental ice cube tray where you can periodically pull it out of the ﬁgurative freezer of dreams and lick it with the symbolic tongue of delusion just to make sure it’s still there.
LBD Conspiracy My ﬂash-frozen picture of myself occurred about the same time. But for some reason. and then annoyed. as my size-zero. Someone is sabotaging the LBD. when I ﬁrst wore a Little Black Dress. soonto-be-disowned daughter snickered and rather cruelly implied that my love for a certain Italian dessert could have contributed to my size shrinkage problem. yet timeless LBD. I had my daughter and my mother in tow. the size that has ﬁt me for years. “Oh. For a woman. the LBD is far more than a piece of clothing. In fact. trying to be helpful. back in my skinny season.” Funny Girl said mockingly. the dresses in my size failed to ﬂatter my ﬁgure. probably the same folks adding lead to children’s toys. I tried on dress after dress in what I thought would be a quick quest for a trendy. And I stumbled upon a shocking scandal. began bringing me LBDs in larger sizes. Someone. And once a woman has felt beautiful in this essential item of apparel (a la Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s). I started. So with this assumption ﬁrmly in mind and having not worn an LBD for quite a while. each terribly tight toga refused to go much past my knees! I was astounded. tiramisu. is removing fabric from the fundamental fashion frock and skewing the sizes. one that should have every woman in the country up in arms. These people have a lot to answer for. one of the most important items in her wardrobe. It’s a canvas on which she can showcase her stylish self. naturally. “how could you?” My mom. 121 . she tends to assume she will always look good in it. with the size that I know ﬁts me. I went shopping one holiday season for a new little black dress. I refused to try them on.
Days of Derangement “That’s my size and I’m sticking to it!” I said heatedly. 122 . A warm ﬂush of embarrassment began to spread over my face and threatened to melt that icy illusion in my head. That’s when I realized I was the unwitting victim of a vast LBD conspiracy. But I won’t give them that satisfaction. These people are trying to make me look fat and send me into the little black dress doldrums. I’m calling my congressman. I want my original size back. pointing to one of the discarded dresses.
“It’s really. —Henry Wadsworth Longfellow F unny Man regularly declares that it’s over. long thoughts. I used to laugh at my geriatric spouse. such as youth or life or sanity. But I stopped laughing after I celebrated yet another birthday on the wrong side of 40. I liked to point out that not a single hair was sticking out of my nose. He said it again the ﬁrst time he had to buy a nose hair trimmer. He made this declaration the ﬁrst time an attractive young woman called him “Sir. “It” is usually something precious and irretrievable once lost. really over. and I didn’t even notice it 123 .It’s Over And the thoughts of youth are long. That’s because I found myself in a long and serious conversation with my dad about the attributes of various high-ﬁber breakfast cereals. Being a full six months younger. throwing up his arms melodramatically. An interest in ﬁber is a sure sign of impending geezerdom.” Funny Man moaned when he stood in front of the mirror with his trimmer.” “It’s over!” he lamented.
but I’d never had them before. I also picked up an anticipatory package of Depends. long thoughts of youth mentioned by Longfellow (who seems to have had the perfect name for such nostalgia). we got a new car. Yogi Berra: It ain’t over ’til it’s over. I know they’ve been around a while. though. I was alarmed when a warm feeling spread across my backside. See.Days of Derangement until I saw the looks on the faces of my children. to look over the selection of nose hair trimmers. I did head on into the store. I’m going to quote another great poet. Not realizing this. At least not yet. Apparently. I was almost weak with relief when I got out of the car and discovered that my pants were dry. It will give him or her a greater appreciation for the ﬂeeting Cap’n Crunch phase of life. As I was driving to the drugstore to get some Depends. 124 .) When I placed my purse on the car’s console. it apparently pressed the seat heater button. I want to be prepared for the inevitable. Even so. I might have forgotten about our ﬁber forum if I hadn’t gotten freaked out when it appeared I needed to add adult diapers to my shopping list. I began to have some of those long. (OK. which was equipped with those new-fangled seat heaters. I’m not quite as long-in-the-tooth as I thought. Every teenager should have to sit through a discussion of the digestive delights of eating a cardboard breakfast. I assumed Father Time had put my bladder on the fast track to incontinence. the next time my husband announces that it’s over.
It’s Over 125 .
But tragically. —Phyllis Diller L ife just moves too fast nowadays. until I was 11 or 12 years old. Today’s parents only have until their kids are about 6 before they become a source of embarrassment to their offspring. By the time they are on the cusp of adolescence. That golden period used to last about a decade. that precious period now has shrunk until it’s as short as a bee’s knee would be (assuming bees actually have knees). And when they are teenagers. The little ingrates start to roll their eyes at our actions almost before they learn to ride a bike. For example. take that wonderful window of time during which your children idolize you and think you’re the bee’s knees. you actually can make them nauseous by using old-fashioned phrases involving insects and their theoretical body parts. the cat’s meow. 126 . It’s all so unfair. at the very least.Bee’s Knees Always be nice to your children because they are the ones who will choose your rest home. I deﬁnitely can remember thinking my parents were the bee’s knees or. you can mortify them merely by appearing in public.
I suddenly heard the van’s door being yanked open. I made up the last one. When I was a teenager.” I warbled loudly.Bee’s Knees I was pondering this great injustice one day while waiting for my daughter in the car line at school. to a classic rock station that helps me remember I’m still young and hip. “And party every day. geriatric name such as The Dove or The Breeze or The Snooze. I used to tear around town in my yellow Volkswagen Beetle with my friends. “I wanna rock and roll all night.) When I get that disturbing desire to change the dial. A group of amused-looking teenagers stood behind her. I even started playing a pretty impressive air guitar. Halfway through the second stanza. a groovy rock groupie a long way from easy listening. my eyes closed. In the car line that day before the ﬁnal bell rang. even if I usually listen at a much lower volume than I once did. I turned it way up and there in my very hip minivan began to bob my head and gyrate to the music like the carefree kid I used to be. The radio was tuned. blasting KISS tunes at unhealthy decibel levels. Occasionally. Easy-listening stations generally have a gentle. Funny Girl was standing there.” I was lost in the ’70s. her face about as white as the makeup the members of KISS used to wear. I ﬁght it by cranking up my classic rock station and letting such young and hip (replacement) rockers as The Rolling Stones shore up my devotion to rock ’n’ roll. I heard the radio start playing Rock and Roll All Nite by that band of upstanding citizens known as KISS. I get an unfortunate urge to change the station to one playing easy-listening songs. Hearing Rock and Roll All Nite brought back a lot of memories. And because the windows were rolled up. (OK. as usual. I began to sing along to the music. 127 .
a middleaged mom who should probably start acting her age. Someday. she’ll look back on this incident and laugh. 128 .Days of Derangement “Mom! What are you doing?!” “Just listening to music. I’d been abruptly thrust back into the 21st century. trying not to be seen.” I said sheepishly. get us out of here!” Funny Girl slumped down in the seat. I just hope when she does I’m still young enough to remember it. turning it down. “Hurry.
I booked a night at a “Victorian-era” inn that described itself as quaint and picturesque.The B and B The difﬁculty with married life is that we fall in love with a personality. the B and B apparently brought his dear. We decided—OK. “It’s quaint and picturesque. —Peter De Vries I thought a bed and breakfast—a place oozing with charm. 129 . I couldn’t wait to cuddle up there with my husband. departed grandmother to mind.” I pointed out. he looked doubtful. It wasn’t exactly the atmosphere I’d envisioned. delightful with doilies and pretty teacups—would be the perfect spot to celebrate our 19th anniversary several years ago. When I told my husband where we were going. more civilized time. romantic images of an elegant. however. but must live with a character. one rich in history and character. I decided—to wrap up our family visit to Colorado by leaving the kids with their grandparents and sneaking off to a little town nearby. The very phrase bed and breakfast evoked for me soft. For Funny Man.
it was deﬁnitely a problem. then added disparagingly. the room was very warm. “It looks just like my grandmother’s old place. I was thinking. But I just shook my head as a smiling woman showed us up the creaky stairs to our room at the top of the house. Room is a generous word to describe this slightly oversized closet. I asked the hostess why I wasn’t told about the heating problem when I reserved the room. When we pulled up to the house on a sleepy side street. fanning himself. Are you sure you wouldn’t rather get a hotel room?” Not on your life.” On top of that. but which would be mighty close quarters for two people of our well-fed proportions. my man expressed even greater doubts. lying down on the bed.” Funny Man said. Our hostess explained the house had an ancient heating system that unfortunately could not be shut off. tucked under the sloping roof. “It’s lumpy. you unromantic schlub. There was barely enough space for a bed. “It’s as hot in here as my grandma’s house used to be. “they probably don’t even have ESPN. “Just leave the window and door open. “Just like the beds at Grandma’s house. “Oh.Days of Derangement “That means old and broken-down.” “That will make for a very romantic night.” Wondering if I could possibly get that lucky. In the summer. I was eager to arrive at our lacy love nest.” he said.” Funny Man snorted. her smile fading a bit. this would have been just ﬁne.” He gave me one of his obnoxious I-told-you-so looks. it’s really not so bad.” she said breezily. In a Colorado winter. 130 . And it was a bed in which Tom Thumb and his wife would have been comfortable.
“Your mama’s got her back up. “if you bring up your grandmother again. where we drank champagne and toasted our marriage in an ice-cold room on a king-size bed. Finally. “There’s not one. After a while.” Most of the time.” he said sorrowfully. but then returned to our stuffy little room and stared at each other across the lumpy bed. Isn’t it great?” “Just like Grandma’s house. I am deﬁnitely my mother’s daughter. ESPN never sounded so good. you’re going to be seeing her much sooner than you expected. I broke down and suggested that we leave. “Darling. “Where’s the TV?” he asked. The hostess left. 131 . my dad was the reason for my mom’s spinal contortions. and we began to unpack our clothes. That’s when my mate realized the situation was even worse than he thought. my father would say. I was too uncomfortable to keep my back up any longer.The B and B When I was growing up. and my mother would get upset about something. We quickly packed our things and headed for a hotel.” The evening kind of went downhill from there. The I-told-you-so look Funny Man sent me put my back right out of proportion and made me stubbornly determined to spend the night in this balmy B and B.” I told him in a syrupy voice. We had a nice enough dinner.
You just called me a weenie. if inserted sensibly. It is the insidious infection known as “emoticons. I have a thing for punctuation. while their cousins—the comely colons—leave me more in love than ever with language. Poor little punctuation marks—the workhorses of the written word—are being improperly pressed into service to convey emotion online. 132 . Semicolons. you’ve no doubt seen them polluting e-mail and Web sites.” If you’ve spent any time at all on a computer. (I heard that.) That’s why my knickers have long been in a knot over a serious threat to the purity of punctuation. Commas make me jump with joy. Periods and parentheses provide pure pleasure. —Andy Rooney A s an English major and therefore (according to my kids) a certiﬁed weenie. but most of the things they make it easier to do don’t need to be done. are beautiful things to behold. I can wax ecstatic over an exclamation mark.E-nnoyed by Emoticons Computers make it easier to do a lot of things.
I am. I stopped in horror. I thought I was immune to emoticon creep. But I fear our mother tongue is still in peril. beautifully transmitting my feelings without any assistance from stupid symbols. As if words—the medium of artists like Shakespeare and Wordsworth. to add insult to injury. after all. just when I was about to hit Send on a routine e-mail to an acquaintance. My text stood on its own. standard spelling is falling out of fashion. (You called me a weenie again. back to a world where man crudely expressed his thoughts with hieroglyphics. didn’t you?) But one day. Of course.” some cyber geek has given us this Frankenstein of feelings. at the 133 .E-nnoyed by Emoticons By combining the words “emotion” and “icon. not to mention that great author. Is there no end to the indignity? I know this blight upon language has been around for a while and that many software programs can now create emoticons—even animated emoticons that move e-nnoyingly around on your computer screen—without sacriﬁcing the lives of priceless punctuation. Until recently. Snooki—are no longer good enough to express our sentiments. folks. Words are wasting away. now that I think about it. something you never have to do with words. It’s as if we are moving backward in time. a dash is even forced to stand between the “eyes” and the “mouth” to indicate a nose :-). you have to view it at a 90-degree angle. hieroglyphics were a lot more sophisticated than the smiley face. The most common emoticon is that sickening smiley face made with a colon for eyes and the right parenthesis as the smile : ). There. Sometimes. We may be in real trouble here. Actually. an English major.
Days of Derangement end of a perfectly adequate sentence—“It was nice seeing you last week”—I had actually typed not one. Even the word-weenies like me are gradually being worn down. : ( 134 . Shakespeare must be rolling in his grave. I could only shake my head in disgust. but two obsequious smiley faces.
my mate refuses to accept the Rule of Triple Reciprocity that has been in place ever since Eve needed more time at the bathing brook than Adam. knobs. See. and was labeled—you guessed it—Women. every woman and every man should have her and his own bathroom. —Catherine Zeta-Jones once received an email containing a couple of pictures that pretty much sums up the difference between the genders. The caption on this picture: Men. levers and gauges in a dizzying and complicated array. The second picture showed dozens of buttons. The ﬁrst picture showed two simple push buttons. The end. This would allow the I 135 . The obvious implication was that women are a high-maintenance sector of our species. I think about those pictures every time Funny Man and I have one of our regular conversations about access to the master bathroom. A wise and reasonable man would resign himself to this timeless reality and use another bathroom. The rule says that women get triple the time and space in the bathroom as men.High Maintenance Woman For marriage to be a success. one labeled On and the other Off.
loofah. I’ve developed a multi-step system for getting ready every morning. cannot be rushed. Over the years. herbal-infused conditioner and. Phase 1 is taking a shower. An unwise and unreasonable man. honeysuckle shaving cream. would insist on throwing a monkey wrench into the convoluted process that is necessary to keep his wife looking like her lovely self. The timing between Phase 4 and Phase 5—the all-important hair styling step—is crucial. means that my hair will fail to 136 . vitamin-enhanced shampoo. A woman’s shower.Days of Derangement wife of such an admirable man to enjoy her God-given right to bask in the boudoir. Each phase in this process is divided into a series of tasks. especially my shower. Phase 2—the after-shower—includes applying various lotions and oils designed to smooth and perfume my body. That leads directly into Phase 3. But a woman’s shower ritual requires numerous wash cloths. and each task is absolutely essential for me to be ﬁt to face the world. fruity face soap. It’s usually during this phase that Funny Man. like the one I married. Any kind of unexpected setback. This threatens to stall Phase 4—the application of makeup— and usually leads me to lovingly suggest that my man should exit the premises without further delay. such as if my husband turns stubborn and stays in the shower. when I momentarily leave the bathroom and enter my closet to decide what to wear. A man might think this is a simple and quick procedure involving a bar of soap and minimal scrubbing. That’s when things get dicey. of course. pumice stone. rapidly steaming up the place and fogging the mirror. sneaks into the bathroom and jumps into the shower. employing guerilla warfare tactics.
I’m a high-maintenance mama bear who needs her own bathroom. Maybe someday.High Maintenance Woman achieve its desired fullness. I’ll get it. 137 . A Bad Hair Day wipes out all of my hard work and leaves me grouchy as a grizzly. and I will be cruelly condemned to a Bad Hair Day.
thrusting a sheaf of volunteer sign-up sheets my way. I inadvertently managed to sock it to my local unit. But the group has a serious ﬂaw in its screening process. I cast my memory back to that childless period that my husband calls BK (before kids).Pity the PTA S ometimes. That’s when my adventures with the Parent Teacher Association began. we became fruitful and multiplied. 138 . we sent them to school. We were young and ignorant then. God bless the parents who donate their time and talents to the schools. Don’t get me wrong. The PTA is a very worthwhile organization. In a few short months. It started with the best of intentions. we brought forth fruits who needed to be educated. I don’t think the PTA ladies have yet recovered. But in the fullness of time. Back when. a group of relentlessly energetic moms surrounded me. And so. for all we knew. and I obediently scribbled my name on sheet after sheet. and lo. I dutifully joined PTA when my oldest child started school. And that’s when I realized I’m probably not cut out to be a PTA mom. At open house. the acronym PTA stood for pizza takeout activities. proven by the fact that it allowed me to join.
and never the two should meet. wrestling with felt and fabric. So I was moved to food. I was assigned to crafts and gamely did my best. So I tried to be a stereotypical PTA mom. I cooked a soggy spinach quiche for a teacher breakfast and Kitchen Sink cookies for the ﬁrst PTA meeting. my house was a disaster: dirty dishes in the sink. But I proved to be severely craft-challenged. I obviously needed to do more. partially folded laundry on the table. but invited her in. I opened my door to an unexpected visit from the PTA president. a well-coiffed woman in sensible shoes. In December. volunteering in the classroom while wearing a school bus sweater in September. I was eager to prove my maternal mettle. I became an aide-de-camp to the homeroom mom. bent on marshaling her troops for the task at hand. glue and glitter. I was a walking festival of kitsch. crushed Cheerios adorning the furniture. I put on a saccharine smile and covered myself in cute. And the new puppy had just pooped on the ﬂoor. I felt my parental conﬁdence ebbing away. and good old guilt setting in. I’d been conscripted into her volunteer army. She was clearly an uber-parent. swathed in yuletide apparel. Naturally. There are those who “pop over” without warning and those who know better.Pity the PTA Soon after. Those treats turned literal when they actually fell into the sink as I tried to juggle a cookie-laden plate and a 139 . but she continued her recruitment speech. holding up the walls while she ran the show. Her dismayed eyes swept over my domestic disarray. bungling the carefully planned projects and snickering at all the seriousness. a candy corn necklace in October and a turkey broach in November. I ﬂushed in embarrassment. anxious to impress. By the time she left. I really did.
I gave it my all. And as long as I’m moving away from them. By Thanksgiving.Days of Derangement crying child at the same time. I tried to redeem myself at Christmas. the patrons of the PTA think that’s just ﬁne. but my cupcakes collapsed into a gooey mess. So by mutual agreement. my hands trembled. I was clearly an abomination to the bake sale set. 140 . Madame and her cabal of Super Moms were not amused. because the sales numbers were lackluster. I was a conﬁrmed bottomfeeder. instructed to bring turnips (turnips!) to the class Pilgrim feast. I discovered that I can be a better mother by marching to my own drum. knocking over a display at the Book Fair and spilling the soda at the Fall Festival. I managed to fall short at every turn. I was a round soul trying to ﬁt into a square PTA.) My giant Jell-O monster at Halloween was more funny than frightening. the Parent Teacher Association and I parted ways. (The rash of reported illness among parents the next day was a mere coincidence. So I was switched to membership. Audience members gave each other alarmed glances as they headed for the door. My job was to get up at school functions and community events and beg people to join. Clumsy and barely competent. They were slightly damp. and I began to giggle. convinced my ﬂy was open. forgetting the spoons for the Chili Cook-off. but still perfectly edible. and membership plummeted. I kept nervously touching my pants zipper. But my lack of enthusiasm must have shown. Plus. schlepping shoddy merchandise and tacky trivia in the name of education. They couldn’t have picked a worse spokesperson: my voice squeaked. That’s when Madame President transferred me to fundraising.
even a stray copy of Scientiﬁc American. was deceptively bright and cheery. 141 . I can still remember walking into my pediatrician’s ofﬁce. lined on all sides by irritable-looking adults and hordes of (literally) snot-nosed children. curious. scowling to hide their embarrassment. then settle for a speck of wall next to the magazines. even a few slouching teenagers. Newsweek. just a rack of magazines for parents and a few more austere publications like Time. I remember staring at it. The room. There were no toys or children’s books there to spread infection. its walls were papered with smiling clowns holding balloons.Germ Warfare T hey don’t call it a waiting room for nothing. knowing the endurance test that awaited. I’d look around for a seat. thinking this doctor must have a strange sense of humor. germladen toddlers strolling about. I’d shiver. There were the usual suspects: young mothers with newborns clutched close. two sick toddlers in tow. We’d amuse ourselves for the ﬁrst ﬁve minutes by staring at everyone else in the room.
000 times. pint-sized germ carrier with a big loopy grin encircled by caked-on mucus. It played one animated movie over and over. “Mommy. an outgoing. each letter formed by those *!&#?$%@*! clowns. But it did seem to pacify some of the children. for the ﬁrst hour. The germ warrior would move on to the next victim. Finally. including my own. we’d be approached by The Infector. We’d be ushered into another waiting room. 142 . There’s one in every pediatrician’s waiting room. I’d had the pleasure of seeing it at least 5. Funny Boy would say. At some point while we were waiting. “What’s your name?” I’d pull my children close and wonder how I could discreetly repel the threat. A surreptitious trip? A quick jab in the stomach? But a cold shoulder seemed to sufﬁce. “Hi!” this biological time bomb would say. Then someone unable to ﬁnd a seat would choose to stand directly in front of the screen. loudly. I can’t see!” And then he’d say it again and again and AGAIN. Since my children cultivated ear and sinus infections faster than my yard sprouted weeds. this one with the doctor’s name in a framed picture. spewing viral droplets all over my kids and then reaching out with the most terrorizing weapon of all: a well-lubricated ﬁnger. The movie was changed approximately every six months. She’d come closer. the door to the inner sanctum would open and we’d be summoned. This set off a chain reaction of whining that put the screen-blocker in real danger from a group of adults who couldn’t be more on edge if they were undergoing a mass ﬁngernail extraction.Days of Derangement The room’s one concession to the amusement of children was directly across from me—a big-screen TV.
But I knew better.” he’d say briskly. That’s when I would catch sight of THOSE CLOWNS. I’d straighten up. “Just a cold this time. the door opened. having atrophied. my kids promptly started to ﬁght over positioning on the examination table. convinced I’d developed several new wrinkles since I arrived. Funny Boy and Funny Girl would stop pummeling each other and come to attention.” And with that he was gone. I’d splash water on my face at the sink in the corner. I’d reel off a list of symptoms and watch as he conducted a quick exam: eyes. and there he was: THE DOCTOR! “Long time no see”. but my facial muscles. failed to lift my mouth. Children’s’ screams echoed up and down the hall. ears. we would hear an authoritative voice just outside. See you next time. he usually joked. I’d try to smile back. I’d console myself with the thought that any serious injuries they inﬂicted on each other would eventually receive medical attention. then stare up into the little mirror over it. Suddenly. throat. They’ll be ﬁne in a few days. writing something in the chart. The knob turned. 143 .” I’d sigh to the kids. nose.Germ Warfare Once inside. lungs. like an ice cube in July. seemingly prancing on the walls in spiteful celebration of my plight. “Give ‘em plenty of ﬂuids. “Come on. heading for the exit and vowing my children would have to exhibit signs of bubonic plague before I darkened the doors of this place again. extra rest.
But after I’d calmed down. Turns out. suggesting I must employ the services of a male ghostwriter. He made man and woman. “Your columns are too funny. Then. I sometimes have to deal with difﬁcult people. He invented humor. it has been scientiﬁcally proven that men and women process “funny” differently.Pull My Finger After God created the world. One such brazen fellow once contacted me to let me know that he did not believe I actually write my columns.” he wrote. “And women aren’t funny. I did a little research on gender differences in the appreciation of humor. 144 . retrieved my goat and put him (or her) back in my mental barn. —Bill Kelly A s a professional columnist who writes on matters of national importance. to keep the whole thing from collapsing. These people share a common trait—they openly admit to being men.” This reader’s chauvinistic comments really got my goat.
he may be skeptical that it was written by a woman. This ability to be easily amused is a wonderful quality for members of your audience to have if you are in the business of trying to make people laugh. you should probably grab a seat because the punch line isn’t coming for a while. It’s also why. we occupy different planes of existence. like making fun of everyone. If a woman has something funny to say. Women laugh more at themselves. well. a joke. and I really do write my own material. it’s a joke. Women like sharing narratives that create a bonding moment. They don’t have the attention span or the desire to wait for the rib-tickling to begin. from the perfect armpit fart (which I’ll admit does take some skill) to the loudest burp. I really am a girl. “Oh. as a professional humor columnist with a duty to tickle as many funny bones as possible—regardless of gender—I often write about simple things. Man hears joke. Men. on the other hand. But in order to further my comedic career and appeal to the widest possible audience. guys. I frequently try to think like a man. Pull my ﬁnger. Men are humor primitives. In the world of wit. if one of my male readers actually laughs at one of my columns.” man laughs because. and they don’t do crude. They like one-liners and sucker punches that come with a sting. They consider bodily noises an art form. That’s why. And that is why men don’t think women are funny. But it renders the XY side of our species (AKA men) incapable of appreciating more sophisticated female funnies. 145 .Pull My Finger Women think a bit more about whether or not they ﬁnd something amusing. man thinks. We’d never ask someone to pull our ﬁnger.
Days of Derangement 146 .
I had to clean out my son’s backpack. the school district would temporarily abandon its attempts to educate my children and deposit them back with me. But Funny Boy always gave me a beginning-of-summer hidden mystery. I could block out the evidence of its steady deterioration. along with all their educational 147 . In May of each year. The intrepid explorer may have had to face a pit of snakes and various other vermin.Back pack Black Hole I ndiana Jones has nothing on me. Ignorance is bliss. I am the one who paid for it after all. a stinky. its various substances emitting sulfurous fumes that are probably banned by international treaty. and I needed a lot more than a whip and a fedora to do it. That’s because it suddenly showed up at my house. I’d known all year. But as long as it was coming and going daily during the school year. but that’s child’s play compared to the task that awaited me at the end of every school year. and I didn’t have to travel to Disneyland to experience it. overstuffed sack with fraying stitches. of course. however. about the existence of this book bag. There’s an attraction at Disneyland called the Indiana Jones Summer of Hidden Mysteries. never in my house for too long.
perhaps. one on its way to being civilized but not quite there yet. Funny Boy’s backpack. And. Some of the bag’s dignity was lost. It was festooned with glued-on sequins. It was full of funky-smelling and largely unidentiﬁable things. This is when the gloves came in handy. I considered applying for federal assistance. It was without a cover. The top layer contained still-recognizable items—crumpled up sheets of notebook paper. by some miracle. She’d attached a collection of fancy key chains to it. It would probably qualify as a toxic Superfund site. it did not smell. but it was still a book. things got murkier. an actual book. empty water bottles covered with what appeared to be chewing gum. bore only a theoretical resemblance to the device that started out slung over his shoulder way back in the fall. importantly. and scribbled on with cutesy messages and smiley faces from her friends. Indiana Jones would do no less. There were a few stray pieces of paper left inside and a motley collection of school supplies rolling around on the bottom.Days of Derangement paraphernalia. naturally. I felt just like an archeologist digging through the life layers of a primitive group of humans. Funny Girl’s book bag still appeared to be an item designed to transport knowledge. Wearing thick rubber gloves. There was even. but it was still recognizable. The backpacks were ﬂung joyously into a corner and instantly forgotten. though. folders and binders in varying states of decomposition. There they sat for several days. but then decided to tackle the cleanup on my own. a couple of fast-food containers sporting dried-up French fry fragments. on the other hand. Below that ﬁrst level of compaction. I reached in and gingerly extracted various moldy objects that might once 148 .
149 . Digging deeper into the crud. I wised up and just threw out the bag at the end of the school year without looking inside. I was amazed at how the molecular structure of the slimy material appeared to have changed. becoming part of the bag itself. but nothing had ever come out of it. Eventually. It looked just like that fake vomit you can buy as a gag gift. I should have sold it as an attraction. except that it smelled like the real thing. It was clear to me the backpack had become a black hole. Come to think of it.Back pack Black Hole have been part of a school lunch but were now deﬁnitely a biological hazard. On the bottom of the backpack was a thick. Things went into it. solidiﬁed layer of goop that I had to pry off with both hands.
I’d actually settle for walking myself a little less fat. But at some point. I realized I was already taking the requisite daily steps and didn’t even need additional 150 . It claimed walking 10.000 steps a day doing their jobs.000 calories a week. busboy and dishwasher) combined. On most days. while custodians take nearly 13. I ﬁgure I perform the functions of a couple of custodians and several restaurant workers (cook.The Pedometer I n one of those “What was he thinking?” moments that frequently seem to afﬂict men. And it got even better. I put it up on a shelf next to the blender I received for Valentine’s Day.000 steps. The brochure pointed out restaurant employees walk those 10. I obviously need to get the word jewelry tattooed on my forehead as a subtle hint. Funny Man once gave me a pedometer for Mother’s Day. I realized the pedometer might just come in handy in my ongoing quest to walk myself thin. That’s a lot of pumpkin pie and Christmas cookies. waitress.000 steps a day burns up to 3. So I eventually got the pedometer out of its box and read the accompanying brochure. I’d be content just to pound the pavement enough to allow some guilt-free eating. Heck. I liked the sound of that.
Other shoppers gave me alarmed looks. Then I collapsed on the couch and checked the pedometer. I walked into the kitchen and made coffee. where I accidentally knocked the pedometer off my waist while reaching into the frozen foods. took the dog outside and went to the laundry room in hopes of ﬁnding a clean pair of socks. Then I went grocery shopping. Or maybe Funny Man had given me a defective device. I had to climb almost all the way in to retrieve it. Discouraged. Sadly. trotted into the kids’ bedrooms to gently wake them up for school. At home. Then I dashed to the curb with the garbage that no one else can remember to take out before hurrying back to the bedrooms for a Get Your Rear End Out of Bed Right Now wake up call. sure I’d already taken at least 5. 151 . I tossed the pedometer on the couch.000 steps that morning.The Pedometer exercise. Then I went back to the bedrooms for a second. Maybe all I need is a tattoo artist. coming to rest among the corn. It landed in the green bean section and then slid toward the back of the freezer. I just needed the knowledge. I logged more steps dashing around looking for my car keys. My hips and thighs would melt away under the power of positive thinking. I made six separate trips carrying in groceries and logged more steps putting them away. I had not even hit 500. Obviously. I clipped the pedometer to my waistband ﬁrst thing one morning. To prove it to myself. Once I ﬁnally got the kids out of the house. the pedometer was not working properly. The word jewelry would look very nice on my forehead. Maybe it was damaged by its foray into the freezer. slightly less gentle wake up call.
which is.A Man’s Job I ’ll admit I’m a hypocrite when it comes to the division of labor between men and women. But that’s just what Funny Man did a while back. Sure enough. nearly dropped my dentures (assuming I had any). to use another colorful phrase from Grandpa. There was Ebony. he went to China. And no man—say. for example. as my grandpa would say.” But I’m convinced there are some things only a man should do. “a far piece” from our home. before the other side of the bed was even cold. courtesy of our dog. Upon further. Ostensibly on a business trip. I was going about my highly productive day when I looked out on the back patio and. the one I married many moons ago—should be allowed to shirk his duty by conveniently being out of town when one of these man-jobs needs doing. It is risking a fate worse than death for a male in my house to suggest any task is “woman’s work. horriﬁed inspection. happily chewing on what appeared to be the carcass of an animal that had no business being dead on my property. I was presented with a doozy of a man-job. I discovered it 152 .
four-legged humans who don’t like baths. In China. But for some reason—probably due to the long distance it had to travel—the sigh did not produce the desired effect.A Man’s Job was a rabbit and what remained of its head was actually hanging out of the mouth of our lovable family pet. I know you can. I let out one of my best. in an incredulous and unnecessarily hostile tone. “and Eb has already eaten its head!” There was a long pause. sometimes. Women are very good at the delivery of sighs. that dogs are not really that far removed from their wolf ancestors. staring down at the bloody rabbit bits that remained. “You called me in China to tell me this? In the middle of the night? In CHINA?!” Over the years. I called my man. “You’re not going to make me feel guilty about this. Feeling the time was right. I chased her away and stood there. I’ve perfected a series of guilt-inducing sighs. on the verge of panic. the love of my life responded. You forget. and I had no man around to do it. Ebony wagged her tail at me. You forget they aren’t just furry. Here was a major man-job. How was I supposed to remember the time difference when I had the body of a once-cute cottontail on my mind? “There’s a dead rabbit on the patio. Something had to be done right away. as if her behavior was perfectly normal. Finally. “You can handle it.” I told him breathlessly. And I woke him up.” 153 .” Funny Man said. each expertly crafted to elicit a certain emotion. Even my man in training was at school and wouldn’t be home for hours. So I took the obvious course of action.
a retired gentleman who valiantly disposed of the critter. I also brieﬂy considered bribing the UPS man to have the decapitated rabbit delivered to his hotel in China. I guess the truth is I want to have my cake and eat it.Days of Derangement I hung up the phone in a not-so-gentle manner and began to make a mental list of all of my husband’s faults. If my granddad was here. too. he would have performed the man-job. I turned to my neighbor. And he would have laughed at my squeamishness. 154 . But in the end. It would have been worth the cost. As long as Ebony doesn’t get there ﬁrst. Grandpa was a ﬁrm believer in gender work separation. but that just doesn’t work for me.
Rocky. we greatly enlarged our family’s canine repertoire to include pretty much every known dog behavior. I think she’s always been proud of that particular talent.Rocky W hen Ebony was about eight years old. 155 . which is very much like adding a new child. A shepherd-border collie mix with soft. raiding trash cans and sticking her nose into inappropriate places on the human body. we fell in love with Rocky. her malodorous mongrel scent is restored. joining old Ebony. we added another dog to our family. Ebony is an expert at standard dog activities such as barking for no apparent reason. So we went to the animal shelter and almost instantly. But as skilled in doggy tricks as she is. For instance. With our new pup. She’s also mastered a technique known only to dogs—Bath Aroma Neutralization—whereby she releases smelly secretions all over her skin so that within hours of a bath. assuming that child is very hairy and spends a lot of time licking itself. Ebony was unable to provide the full canine experience our family apparently needed.
and together we’ll watch Rocky carry out his daily battle. just lies in the sun and gazes at the younger dog with the same expression I wear when gazing at those adolescents who wear their pants down around their knees.Days of Derangement shiny black fur. I’m pretty sure Rocky will be the one to do it. He leaps wildly into the air over and over. waiting for the squirrely intruder to appear. Now. but I’m pretty sure it is sadistic. apparently convinced that one day he will actually be able to reach his enemy and rip him or her to satisfying shreds. We also found out that Rocky is a champion digger. So we took him home. I don’t have the heart to tell the poor creature the truth. We were hooked. I don’t know if the squirrel that darts back and forth on the electric line above our fence really is demonic (although Rocky is convinced of it). smiling at us (I swear he was smiling) and waving one paw in the air as if to invite us over. Every day. That’s because I’ve watched the squirrel torment my dog. It was while he was digging in the backyard that Rocky happened to look up and ﬁnd his reason for living—the destruction of the Demon Squirrel. Rocky stands guard. Rocky sat calmly in his cage. Ebony. Sometimes I’ll sit down next to her. 156 . He barks and snarls. and Rocky soon began to expose us to those doggy deeds that Ebony had left undone. We discovered right away that our new pet should probably be renamed Silent But Deadly due to a certain unfortunate gaseous habit he has that can quickly clear a room. And when it begins to saunter across the electric line—clearly enjoying itself—Rocky goes into full attack mode. who in human years is old enough to collect Social Security and drive 50 miles with the blinker on. If it’s possible to make it all the way to China.
We humans should be so lucky. exhausted. Rocky. 157 .Rocky Eventually. clearly satisﬁed with his efforts for the day. the squirrel will tire of the game and scamper away. will drop down next to Ebony and me and go right to sleep.
If you were brought up in the country. It’s my sad duty to let them know. This great injustice means that instead of getting to earn a living as an ofﬁcially designated Beautiful Person—spending my days posing for pictures—I’ll have to stick to my day job as a professional humor columnist. shriveled snack food. I often receive email from people who want to know how they too can become columnists. that would be raisin’ as in a slang term for upbringing. don’t get above your raisin’.Beautiful People E very year when People magazine comes out with its annual list of the 100 Most Beautiful People. with good old-fashioned country sensibilities.) 158 . I am shocked to once again not ﬁnd myself on the list. You non-columnists may scoff at such a statement. Although it’s not quite as glamorous as being a Beautiful Person.” (For those of you without country sensibilities. you might even be shaking your head right now and saying—as my grandma often did—“Jackie. as gently as possible. being a humor columnist is an important job. not the tasty. that only an elite few of us possess the skills needed for such a prestigious occupation.
159 . They could call it Keeping Up With The Comical Columnist or something like that. Maybe someone will decide. All your top columnists do this. It’s a sacriﬁce we’re willing to make. to turn my life into a reality TV series. putting the dogs in the backyard and settling into a comfortable chair with sure-ﬁre brain fuel: coffee and chocolate. I begin early in the day by throwing some breakfast at these distractions (not literally. my children and husband choose to leave.Beautiful People But I am not getting above my raisin’. even if I didn’t regularly make unbelievably stupid comments or ﬂaunt body parts to the whole world that probably should be kept private. except sometimes in the case of the dogs) and ordering them to “either do something funny I can write about or leave. husband and our two dogs. And generally. namely. after reading this. It’s just that I know how difﬁcult writing a humor column can be. my children. like they do on Keeping Up with the Kardashians. So today. highly caffeinated concentration in my chair. In my case. doing everything in their power to be amusing. After several hours of intense. I will usually have a plethora of brilliant column ideas. though. I’m sure lots of people would watch such a show. But if they don’t. the ﬁrst step is to clear the house of distractions. That’s why all your top columnists are overweight insomniacs. I move to step two. they even succeed. the dogs choose to stay. Occasionally. You’d think the ﬁrst step would be to come up with a cute column idea. I’d like to give you a behind-the-scenes peek at the laborious process involved in writing witty words.” Generally.
which involves actually leaving my house to scour my surroundings for inspiration. The scouring process often ends up in front of my favorite coffee shop. It’s what all your top columnists do. 160 . I move into the next phase. none of us are part of the beautiful people. and I usually have to go inside to get some more sure-ﬁre brain fuel.Days of Derangement If not. And for some reason.
The Grill General That outdoor grilling is a manly pursuit has long been beyond question. —William Geist. Woe to the woman who tries to tell him how to grill. you’d never get grown men to put on those aprons with pictures of dancing wienies…and messages like ‘Come ‘n’ Get It’. is a man’s job. only one of those brave bearers of the Y chromosome also known as men can possibly tame the open ﬂame. where only testosterone is allowed to roam free. the man who promised to love me for better or worse morphs into the General Patton of the barbecue set. As everyone knows. After more than 20 years of marriage. I usually cannot resist the temptation at the beginning of each summer to rile my king of the 161 . after all. Even though I know this. New York Times Magazine D uring grilling season. The man who won’t touch the stovetop in our kitchen for fear that it might infuse him with estrogen is somehow an expert on cooking in the great outdoors. If this wasn’t ﬁrmly understood. a tyrant with tongs who must not be questioned. Grilling. I’ve come to expect this annual transformation.
mentally summoning his forces for the task ahead. He is also being counseled by the other beerswilling men in his backyard brigade on the latest in meatsearing strategies. I go inside to set the table. vegetables and baked beans. I also prepare the meat for cooking. a beer in hand. Then I go back outside to inform my boss of broiling that the meat is burning. Old Blood and Guts receives their adulation as his due reward. I ﬁx a tasty dessert. The General performs the most important part of the process. something that seems to have escaped the attention of all the grill groupies gathered around the ﬁre. lavishing him with praise for his efforts. who is lounging beside the grill.” he grunts in true Patton fashion. do not tell me how to manage my grill. the act that only a member of the male species can competently pull off: HE PLACES THE MEAT ON THE GRILL! The other men stand by. Maybe they were blinded by their beer cans. When he is ready. I buy the food. “Woman. I usually do this by suggesting that he needs to clean his grill. 162 . Meanwhile. his chest swelling with pride. After this.Days of Derangement crackling cut of meat at least a little bit. and place it on a tray with all the necessary utensils and sauces. we fall into an unvarying routine. Whenever we are going to have a barbecue with friends. Then I take it out to The General. I prepare the salad.
“Huh?” “Never mind.The Grill General “Woman. Then he performs the next amazing feat: HE FLIPS THE BEEF OVER! His fellow ﬁre-conquerors offer oohs and aaahs at his meatturning prowess. beaming with satisfaction. General.” I mutter sarcastically. after I’ve washed the dishes. I can see that for myself. During the meal. Later. he grandly announces the grilling process is complete.” I say. he asks me how I enjoyed my “night off.” “Oh. Upon my return with his second beer. I bring all the food to the table and summon everyone to come and eat. and he nods and grunts at them. I enjoyed it very much. The General is congratulated by the other men on a job well done and thanked for all his hard work. “Maybe you should go clean the grill.” 163 . commanding me to bring him another beer to drink as he deals with the sizzling situation. again acknowledging their rightful admiration.” the General growls. Then he hands me the charred main dish.
Days of Derangement 164 .
I played with a whole bucket of Barbies. My mother was concerned I’d grow up thinking the perfect woman was 12 inches tall with a four-inch bosom. even though she will get her AARP card before I get mine. But she needn’t have worried. Not that dreaming about it did me much good. She made little outﬁts for the dolls that matched the ones she made for me. Maybe that’s because all of Barbie’s body parts have remained toned and pleasingly perky through ﬁve decades. But I am apparently more upset about this fact than Mattel’s plastic princess. I grew up to dream of having a much larger bust measurement than that. She celebrated her 50th birthday not too long ago. while mine have gone in a different direction. and I’m about to hit that milestone myself. I idolized her. and my mind was never narrowed by doll dimensions. My favorite was a purple sheath mini-dress. my knobby knees sticking out 165 . standing barefoot in the grass. I have a picture of myself in that dress. my mother stopped worrying and grew quite fond of my Barbies. Barbie S o Barbie and I are nearly the same age. The blond bombshell and I have had a roller-coaster relationship. Eventually.Thanks. When I was a little girl.
And my son carried on the family tradition of dismemberment. My children have their own Barbie memories. just as I did. to name just a few. only one of the busty beauties in the photo has a head. I apparently had only one intact doll left and was probably waiting impatiently for Dad to get home from work. I would sneer at her various manifestations—doctor. but it’s too late for that now. I became embarrassed by the matching outﬁts. That’s because my little brother had a disturbing desire to decapitate Toyland’s most famous female. In the picture. That’s probably an issue that should have been addressed with Funny Boy in therapy. By the time I was a teenager. I once found a whole family of my daughter’s dolls hanging naked and legless in one of our trees. effectively depriving him of the toys forever. My kids have moved on from Barbie. and now I have only that picture. and my ardor for all things Barbie began to cool. The purple dresses somehow disappeared. no amount of soap could erase the contamination of female undergarments. After a while. military ofﬁcer and Madame President. My daughter played with dolls of every color and career. teacher. with a specialty in head reattachment. and he succeeded often enough that my dad became quite an experienced Barbie surgeon. astronaut. I’m holding a purple-sheathed Barbie in each hand.Days of Derangement under the hemline. In his cootie-fearing mind. 166 . Sadly. The day that picture was taken. I retaliated against my brother’s Barbie butchery by hiding his Legos in my mother’s underwear drawer.
I have a new appreciation for the platinum icon. she was a trailblazer. When I turn 50. she’s still going strong. she’s sporting tattoos and looking like a cougar. In her own perky way. But that’s OK. And in her 50s. Barbie Today.Thanks. And I thank her for the memories. 167 . however. In fact. I very likely will not be sporting any tattoos or reminding anyone of sexy. I still wish Barbie the best. predatory felines.
it’s a forlorn hope. so it wasn’t my ﬁnest moment as a supportive spouse. “It is just way too early in the morning for me to have to deal with your body hair issues. OK. And now.” I said. But my man has been driving me crazy lately with his concerns about hordes of hair accumulating in places where just a little hair had been before. staring at himself in the mirror. Places like his ears and his nose. drying my hair upside down. I dry my hair upside down in the forlorn hope that this will infuse it with volume and leave me with bouncy. apparently. —Benjamin Disraeli “H ow much underarm hair is too much on a man?” That’s what Funny Man shouted at me one morning as I stood hunched over in the bathroom. shut off the dryer and glared at Funny Man. who was standing with his arms raised. beautiful locks. under his arms. I straightened up.Body Hair It destroys one’s nerves to be amiable every day to the same human being. As I said. 168 .
lowering his arms. “remember when I branded your butt?” I turned the dryer toward him. “but lately mine has gotten much bushier. we attended a marriage retreat in which we were told there are different phases of marriage.) Funny Man continued to contemplate his armpits while I turned the dryer back on. (He’s still telling people about it. I guess we’re somewhere in one of those stages. and learn to love each other anyway.” “I know. and you don’t care about where hair might be growing because you can’t see it anyway. In between are some nitty-gritty stages during which you develop a realistic view of your spouse and yourself. and my husband was shaving in front of the bathroom mirror with a towel wrapped around his torso. But I pushed it in a little further than I intended. I suddenly remembered a day back in our honeymoon phase when I was again drying my hair upside down.Body Hair “Men are supposed to have hair under their arms. Playfully.” he sighed. realizing I was running out of time to make my own hair look decent. and the dryer’s hot coils scorched his rear end.” I said. I wonder if I should trim it?” He sighed again and added sadly. “Would you put your arms down! I don’t need to see it. just to take your mind off all that proliferating body hair of yours.” I said. leaving a red ring on his butt and prompting him to start telling everyone we knew that I’d tried to brand him. I stuck the dryer under the towel to give him a little shot of hot air. ranging from the honeymoon phase right on through to that golden phase when you sit happily together in rocking chairs on the front porch.” A few years ago. “Hey. “I’m getting old. “I could do it again.” 169 .
” he said grumpily. 170 .Days of Derangement “Don’t you dare. walking out of the bathroom. “I’m too old for that.” We’re deﬁnitely out of the honeymoon phase.
Most of life’s transitions are like that. I’ve never been a woman on a ﬁrst-name basis with good taste. though. I’ve been wondering. I like to think. Pinpointing the exact moment of transformation can be tricky. One reality gradually turns into another the way ice cream gradually turns into cellulite. Often it can only be recognized in retrospect. I’m far more interested in wearing comfortable clothes than in being fashion forward. I have morphed into a fashion frump. when you fell in love? Or fell out of love? So when. for example. for goodness sake. did I fall out of fashion? It’s not like I was ever a true fashionista. without even realizing it. one of those people who look like a million bucks just stumbling out of bed. 171 . Was there a precise moment. that good taste and I were once at least acquainted with each other.Fashion Forward It’s frightening to wake up one morning and discover that while you were asleep you went out of style. I used to wear spandex and leg warmers. —Erma Bombeck I am not sure exactly when it happened. Yet somehow.
These outﬁts have been with me since those days when good taste and I would at least nod when we saw each other on the street. the perpetually cranky character played by the late. So I invited her over and started pulling some very fashionable outﬁts out of my closet. The Golden Girls. curled her lip. And that is making me feel old. 172 . I have a friend with a ﬁnely calibrated fashion sense who wouldn’t be caught dead in a pair of mom jeans. My friend. I’ll soon be so far out of the game that being a fashion victim would be a step up. orthopedic shoes will undoubtedly be more appealing to me than high heels. In fact. Polyester dresses with forgiving elastic waists are surely in my future. Before long. “Uh. I hate the woman. This made me sound hip and trendy.” I heard myself snipe in sour Sophia style about a woman my age who was wearing a mini-skirt. I used the word ensembles to describe these outﬁts to my annoyingly fashionable friend. And I looked hip and trendy when I tried on my 1980sera outﬁts. however. great Estelle Getty on that classic TV show. things I hadn’t worn for a while. how long have you had these clothes?” she asked in the same tone one would use when inquiring about distasteful failures in personal hygiene. I’m starting to remind myself of Sophia. “She’s about 20 years too old for that outﬁt. At least I thought I did. she manages to always look stylish and put-together in her size 6 designer jeans.Days of Derangement I just can’t be bothered anymore with being stylish. clunky. Even after having three children. But I ﬁgured she could help me ﬁx my style shortcomings.
Fashion Forward “For about 20 years. She clearly doesn’t know what she’s talking about. I’ve probably got some leg warmers in there somewhere. I hate the woman. And I’m going to do a little more exploring in my closet. for Pete’s sake! You need to buy some new clothes. 173 . hearing a defensiveness in my voice. and they’re timeless. “They’ve got shoulder pads. they’re not!” she snapped.” I said. I’m going to start wearing those chic ensembles at the ﬁrst opportunity.” Like I said. “But they’re really high-quality clothes.” “No.
And while early pioneers had to contend with problems such as hunger and disease. For starters. I mean camping in the civilized way practiced by middle-age city dwellers with tender backsides and uncompromising hygiene standards. we faced our own challenges on the ﬁrst day. gear in reverse and window down. Mountains have an annoying lack of level space. To accomplish this task. renting a recreational vehicle and heading out across Colorado. Many of them painted “Pike’s Peak or Bust” on their canvas wagons. That’s how my family camped one summer. and we were required to back in to our assigned spot. This mighty mountain was one of the landmarks seen by settlers as they made their way across the prairie. W hen I talk about camping. 174 . Funny Man and I assumed the traditional vehicle reversal gender roles. there was the peril of parking. stopping in the shadow of Pike’s Peak. We set out with a similar sense of adventure in our modern-day covered wagon. He stayed behind the wheel.Blackberry or Bust Life was much easier when Apple and Blackberry were just fruits.
we prepared to encounter nature. calling out the number of bars on the device in moods that ranged from ecstatic (“I’ve got ﬁve beautiful bars. which caused me to screech “Stop!” which caused him to press too hard on the brakes. expecting to be bored hiking in the great outdoors. “Put that silly thing away!” I snapped as he rubbed his bruised forehead. But he pushed too hard on the gas pedal. slipping the portable pestilence into the holster on his belt.Blackberry or Bust while I stood outside ready to guide his efforts. his Crackberry. barely able to see the trail. baby!”) to dejected (“How can I only have one stinkin’ bar?”) as we followed the trail around the mountain. or as I affectionately call it. which resulted in a series of loud crashes inside the RV. And Funny Man had his Blackberry. he complied. Then we came to a clearing. He started obsessively checking his signal strength before we’d even hiked a mile. The woods seemed to close in on us. and I squinted into the blinding sun. “Why don’t you learn how to drive?” Then. I carried water bottles and ﬁrst aid supplies. We slathered ourselves in sunscreen and insect repellent. armed themselves with iPods. Our teenagers. “We’re camping!” Reluctantly. eventually degenerating into an ugly exchange that began with my husband questioning my navigational skills and ended with me snarling. The terrain grew steeper. That’s when 175 . My husband saw nothing of the glories of nature until nature took a hand and steered him right into a tree. determined to salvage our recreational experience. This cycle was repeated over and over for about an hour. Striding along in the lead. dropping off precipitously on one side. I thought of pioneer tales I’d read about attacks by packs of ravenous wolves.
uh.Days of Derangement I looked into the furry face of death—a menacing form ahead. only stared mournfully down at the broken pieces on the rocks below. with pointy ears and. Then he glared at me. it looked just like a wolf. pointing at the dog now disappearing with his owners down the trail. I could have sworn. “In the sun. We’d had quite enough nature for one day. “Wolf!” I screamed. they inquired about our welfare. “I’m sorry about your Crack. my husband was frantically searching the ground for his fallen Blackberry. a pair of fangs. Abandoned to my fate. Just as I was undoubtedly about to be ripped to shreds by razor-sharp teeth. 176 . After an appropriate period of mourning and after allowing our children. with every intention. Funny Man didn’t say a word. Then I felt a cold nose touch my hand. But suddenly. I closed my eyes. we headed back to our motor home in strained silence. I assured them we were ﬁne. Noticing our ashen faces. I’m sure. who’d collapsed in helpless laughter at their parents’ expense.” I stuttered. to regain their composure. clutching at his waist. So I did what any self-respecting woman would do. I opened one eye and looked down at a friendly German shepherd whose owners were just catching up to him. but I could still hear the satisfying sound of a shattering Crackberry. too traumatized to speak. of rescuing his damsel in distress. Nervously. I mean Blackberry. he stopped and swirled around. “Wolf!” And Funny Man scrambled up the trail toward me.” He just shook his head.
See. girl love handles and whale tails (also known as thongs). That’s what happened one fall when my son was playing high-school football. moving away from low-rise jeans. I am seized by a desire to look slightly less frumpy. (You stick-insects know who you are. But occasionally. the cause of countless sightings of “mufﬁn tops” (that very attractive fat that bulges over the waistline). Usually. and I couldn’t be happier. I just lie down and wait for this unfortunate urge to pass. But occasionally. the kind that only look good on female stick-insects who survive on lettuce. I should have put back the low risers and gone 177 . It seems the fashion world has ﬁnally raised its standards just a tad. I know this because I am an avid follower of fashion. I inadvertently tried on a pair of those low risers. (NOT!) Actually. I go out and buy something stylish.Plumber’s Pants T he plumbers are taking their pants back. I follow fashion about as often as a politician tells the truth. and dozens of people who attended a game are still in therapy trying to get over the sight.) As soon as I realized my mistake.
Days of Derangement in search of some mom jeans. I had not yet sat in my trendy trousers. and when I looked in the dressing room mirror. the poor fans behind me got an eyeful of my less-than-stylish skivvies. Hey. I popped right back up. but sufﬁce it to say da Nile ain’t just a river in Egypt. At least I wasn’t going commando. a woman who looked hot enough to be oh so cool. Until I had to sit down. When I did sit. If you wear low-rise jeans. Anyway. So I bought those jeans and. but I’ll tell you that I was sporting my usual. Then they would have been exposed to some serious butt cleavage and that might have 178 . I had failed to consider the underwear issue. shocked at how far my waistband slid down my fairly broad backside. I don’t want to get too personal here. I like to be comfortable. See. But I was experiencing one of my rare passion-for-fashion moments. I saw a woman who looked pretty darn good standing there in her posh pants. that night. running late as usual. Psychiatrists have a medical term for such delusions. As I climbed the stands looking for a seat—my gut sucked in to prevent stomach spillover—I was feeling high on life in my hip huggers. you need to wear low-rise undies. I didn’t see a mom who’d consumed too many mufﬁns and was now oozing enough doughy ﬂesh over the waistband for a good baker’s dozen. the roomy kind with waistlines that almost brush your collarbone. I quickly slipped them on just before walking the few blocks to my son’s high school to watch him play in a football game. high-waisted bloomers. when I sat down in the stands. Instead.
right). telling people I was just too excited about the start of football season to stay seated. 179 .Plumber’s Pants caused mass retinal damage. I won’t be wearing any more low risers. (Yeah. the jeans hung unworn in my closet. I just didn’t want to give up my good ol’ granny panties. As much as I wanted to be fashion forward. Plumber’s pants should only be worn by plumbers. You’d have probably heard about it on the news. for that matter. Or eating mufﬁns. After that. I spent the rest of the game standing along the sidelines.
Days of Derangement 180 .
Whatever happened to American ingenuity? This should have happened no later than Season Two. got a golden ticket to Hollywood based on the votes of the two male judges. my husband wears a pair of very dark 181 . My other question is this: Are there any men out there who can think straight in the presence of a hot body in a bikini? That last question is purely rhetorical. despite having the musical ability of a duck. you’ll remember a young woman auditioning in Season 8 who showed up wearing nothing but a bikini. —Joey Adams I f you are an American Idol fan. I only have to look within my own household for an example. as I already know the answer. It protects the property without obstructing the view. First. why did it take eight years for someone to think of auditioning for the show in nothing but a bikini? This is a sure sign our country is on a downward slide. And you’ll remember that Bikini Girl. When we go to the beach or any other location likely to attract babes in bikinis. of course. This raises a couple of questions in my mind.Bikini Babes A bikini is like a barbed-wire fence.
C. Sometimes. never moving as he seemingly stares far out to sea. You won’t be surprised to know these researchers were male. Poor Funny Man. You can always tell when a sunglasswearing guy is trying to stare at bikini bodies without getting busted. the cave men were hairy enough to simply pull part of their eyebrows down and peer out surreptitiously at the B.Days of Derangement sunglasses. In reality. someone actually got paid to conduct this research. Yes. trying to take in all the bathing beauties walking by without getting whacked with a bottle of sunscreen by his wife or girlfriend. His head seems to be frozen on his neck. Today’s men can’t always count on excessive eyebrow hair to solve this problem (although there are exceptions). This is a classic man trick developed way back when people lived in caves and wore animal skins. so they invented sunglasses. The good news is that recent research indicates men exhibit improved cognition and creativity after exposure to pictures of good-looking women in bikinis. his eyes are rolling all over the place behind those glasses. of course. I think that’s what happened to my man. He’s still trying to pry his eyeballs loose from their respective sockets. the poor men might get whacked with mastodon bones by their cave wives and girlfriends. I think they need a good whack with a mastodon bone. Fortunately. He wants you to think he is having profound thoughts about the need for world peace.—and the cave men were forced to invent devious methods of leering at them. babes. Some of the more attractive cave women wore well-tailored fur bikinis— just like Raquel Welch in One Million Years B. Otherwise. 182 .C. a poor sap will overdo it and wind up with a severe case of Exhausted Eyeball Syndrome.
Trivial Pursuit Why don’t men do laundry? Cause the washer and dryer don’t run on remote control! ou men reading this. Let me explain myself. If you’re a woman. you already know that remote control reverence has gotten out of hand. I did not take this action lightly. it gets worse. Hours can slip by as they wear out the buttons on the hand-held hazards. Men whose ancestors tamed the wilderness through backbreaking labor now ensconce themselves on the couch. unable even to cross the living room to change the channel. Wars have been waged with lesser cause. I once hid all of our televisions’ remote controls. ﬂipping through hundreds of channels and pausing only when they spot a show featuring Y 183 . You may need to grab hold of a heavy object in case you feel faint. prepare yourselves for what I’m about to tell you. the hiding place I’d chosen for the remotes was so good I forgot where it was. And so the beloved remotes were missing in action in our house for two whole weeks. Sadly. It was a measure of last resort. But wait.
I’d loudly slam it into the drawer. Annoyed by all the undone chores around my house. making my sighs louder and windier each time. the men who have been on the couch long enough and have grown large enough can avoid even the minor effort involved in placing the remotes on a table. You’d think this would have done the trick. Whenever I passed the living room and saw my man stretched out like a slumbering sea lion. This had absolutely no effect. I put the game in the top of a closet. When they actually want to put the remotes down for a brief period. hoping to send a message. intending to retrieve it after a short time. I decided to make war on this object of worship. there was a lot of lamentation over the lost devices. until I eventually needed an oxygen tank just to keep it up. both). I slipped all the remotes that run our lives inside a game of Trivial Pursuit that was sitting on the coffee table. but Funny Man simply increased the TV volume. Then I tried the Silverware Slam. Every time I was putting away the clean silverware.Days of Derangement either a sporting event or scantily clad women (or. Thus. feeling very clever. Then. You’d 184 . They can simply let them fall from their hands and rest easy knowing the devices will be caught and securely held until needed by the folds in their bellies. So when no one was looking. I used the standard Sigh And Shake Protocol employed by legions of women before me. I initially tried a diplomatic solution to the problem. I was left with little choice. I tried this for several days. Search parties were formed to look high and low. Predictably. First. I’d sigh heavily and shake my head in obvious disgust. on really good days.
But I think I made my point. For two long weeks. But before the cable guy could come. I’ve promised to never again pull such a stunt. I even scheduled a service call with the cable company to obtain new remotes since our TVs require devices that only a highly trained cable guy can program. You’d think I was missing. Finally. And after suffering a few days of acute remote withdrawal. I was even mad at myself. I was the one in agony because everyone in the family was mad at me for ruining TV time. And then. assuming Funny Man would look as fervently for me as he looked for those remotes. But because the Trivial Pursuit game was not one of my usual hiding places and because the old memory ain’t what it used to be. I searched. I suddenly remembered—after hearing someone on the radio use the phrase trivial pursuit—where I’d put those blasted pieces of plastic. I forgot where I’d put the remotes. 185 . my man actually got some of the chores done. after leaving him in agony for a few hours. I confessed to hiding the things.Trivial Pursuit think a precious gem was missing. Then I informed him they would remain hidden until at least some of the items on my long-delayed Honey Do List had been accomplished.
Unfortunately. only the most committed pun providers remain in the ﬁeld. And we’re having to dig much deeper for our jokes. It used to come bubbling up from the ground like oil—black gold for even the borderline funny. Soon. Mirthful material used to practically fall from the trees like leaves in autumn. it is also the worst of times because the supply of high-caliber comic relief is getting harder to come by. it is the best of times and the worst of times. Anybody could be a humorist. thanks to society’s rabid appetite for amusement and a restriction of humor supplies by the grumpy but powerful Organization of People Expecting Calamity (OPEC). unless we can develop new sources for our laugh lodes. Now though. rib-tickling humor has never been higher. Everybody could use a good laugh these days.Hard Times for Humor I n the ﬁeld of funny. Texas tea for those who were only marginally witty. professional humorists like me will have to drill for droll in places no comedian has gone before. 186 . It’s the best of times because demand for real.
Not even OPEC seems to want it. If. and anything that causes genuine belly laughs is assessed at the very highest rates. charges go up dramatically. I have to do any reading or. Additional fees are incurred by any reader who fails to realize my column is not to be taken seriously. heaven forbid. this stuff is easy to get. It’s practically lying around on the ground. however. I had to impose a new fee schedule on my column. Kind of like the airlines and the phone companies have been doing. who are grateful for the attention. deep thinking in order to produce a column. I was forced a couple of years ago to do the same. Low-grade humor consisting mainly of references to bodily functions and Paris Hilton/Lindsay Lohan/Kim Kardashian jokes—the kind necessary to entertain adolescent boys—remains free of charge. now requires a surcharge based on the amount of work I have to do to deliver it.Hard Times for Humor Therefore. especially in business attire. And those charges are doubled on readers who believe I can offer valid advice on 187 . Stories about my kids still come relatively cheaply as my offspring provide plenty of material. I felt an obligation to mothers of said boys to continue to provide this service. however. Besides. Being a civic-minded person. Slightly more sophisticated humor. my readers are nickel-and-dimed to death. just as many industries have been passing on skyrocketing energy costs to their customers. Guffaws garner an additional charge. Readers who wish to challenge these fees have to provide proof that they did not so much as snicker. And if I have to leave my house. Ditto for any humorous bits about my dogs. A fee is levied for every laugh-out-loud line provided in one my columns.
And any reader who tells all their friends about me and uses terms to describe me such as “genius” and “should receive a Pulitzer Prize” gets a year’s worth of free laughs. you’ll realize that you’ve already racked up some serious charges. This type of reader has to pay me the same hourly rate charged by real therapists. my friend. I accept cash or credit cards. Any reader who praises me lavishly to friends or even strangers on the street receives a Laugh Offset Loan (LOL) that can be used against future levies. You’ll be glad to know that I do offer some discounts to help with these humor delivery charges. 188 .Days of Derangement their personal lives. Anyone who can bring himself or herself to say that I’m gorgeous and that I have a better butt than Kim Kardashian gets a lifetime’s supply. If you’ve read this far in the book.
Hard Times for Humor 189 .
our family’s road trips are always more calorie-laden than I’d envisioned.Drive-Thru Dilemma And that’s the wonderful thing about family travel. That resolution lasts about ﬁve minutes into the trip. We are going to eat up the miles on our minivan migration. As we 190 . naturally. and ward off any additional weight gain. loaded to within an inch of our axles. packed for every possible contingency. Determined to save time and keep down costs—and having usually just seen myself in a new bathing suit—I bring along a cooler full of healthy food and drinks to prevent any drive-thru excursions. that wonderful elixir of life for mothers and road warriors alike. I am determined. —Dave Barry E very summer. I will have planned meticulously. We begin late. It provides you with experiences that will remain locked forever in the scar tissue of your mind. when I realize we’ll have to hit the drive-thru for coffee. despite my best intentions.
I assure my brood that we will probably not be doing the drive-thru run again. I command my husband to pull into the nearest drive-thru and order everything on the menu. and all my carefully prepared provisions have already assumed a tepid room temperature. In a desperate attempt to preserve the peace. the ﬁrst dreaded Are We There Yet? is launched. That resolution lasts about two hours. despite the silence-inducing wonders of DVDs and iPods. and chaos descends. gathering discarded french fries and spitball-delivering straws to use as weapons. Then. At that point. As we pull back onto the road with a heavenly smelling bag of grease cleverly camouﬂaged as a snack. I resort to burger bribery. That resolution usually lasts about three hours.Drive-Thru Dilemma pull back onto the road with a heavenly smelling bag of grease disguised as breakfast. until the inevitable accusations of secretly unleashed ﬂatulence began to swirl through the charged atmosphere. That resolution lasts about three hours. I again warn my crew. in a slightly less ﬁrm tone. followed shortly thereafter by several high-pitched volleys of He’s Touching Me and an equal number of the obligatory Am Nots. Grievances are aired in violent fashion. As we pull back onto the road with a heavenly smelling bag of grease disguised now as lunch. 191 . I warn my family in the strictest terms that we absolutely will not be going through another drivethru on the trip. I’m proud to say. that we will deﬁnitely not be doing that again. until we discover that someone (usually me) has forgotten to add ice to the cooler. Snarling from stress. my children typically gird themselves for war.
we buy bathing suits in larger sizes and ditch the cooler. 192 . Drive-thru dilemma resolved.Days of Derangement As we get back on the road. I say nothing. just stuff every wonderful morsel into my mouth. weighed down with bag after bag of grease. When we ﬁnally reach our destination.
with an indolent expression and an undulating throat. 193 . We came across a very annoyed llama. but based on my own expert research. like an unsuccessful literary man. was engaged in a strenuous tug of war with a man who looked like he’d rather be undergoing a root canal. The llama was having none of it. —Hilaire Belloc T he llamas are spitting mad. oddly enough) with my father.Llama Drama The llama is a woolly sort of ﬂeecy hairy goat. and they’re not going to take it anymore. loaded down with camping gear. The llama. as I haven’t personally communicated with all the world’s llamas. The ﬁrst part of my research took place one summer while I was hiking a part of the Colorado Trail (in Colorado. This man was pulling on the reins. That may be a slight exaggeration. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch. trying to get the llama to cross a log bridge.
Because my husband was fortunate enough not to be there. unnecessarily.” he whispered to my grinning dad. however. I couldn’t help transitioning into sympathetic Wife Advisory Mode. Although my experience with llamas has been limited to watching them in Disney movies. and I understood this to mean “Yeah. but being subjected to a double dose of wife advice must have been too much for him. pointing out what he was doing wrong and what he should do to successfully lead the llama. 194 . He was assisted in this effort by his wife. He abruptly threw up the reins and announced he was heading home. “This is only our ﬁrst day. did not speak llama. giving another tug on the reins and adding.Days of Derangement Although I’ve had no formal training in llama language. I offered my suggestions to the llama-challenged man before me. He explained the couple had come from Maryland and rented the llama to carry the gear as they communed with nature for several days. I clearly heard the cranky creature spit out “SNORRRBAH!” as it dug in its heels. “and we don’t know anything about llamas. thrusting his head in his wife’s direction. Her husband. who stood next to him on the trail. who was now sweating profusely. and he continued to tug on the reins. had obviously shifted into the Wife Interpretation and Management Phase (WIMP) and was nodding at her vigorously while totally ignoring what she said. She was in full Wife Advisory Mode (WAM). right!” The man. “This was all her idea.” he moaned. He ignored me as well.” The llama issued another “SNORRRBAH!” which this time sounded liked “No kidding!” and again dug in its heels.
I typed the word llama into Google. 195 . We wished the couple (and the llama) well with the rest of their camping trip and continued down the trail. as it is known. There’s only one thing to say about that: “SNORRRBAH!” And we all know what that means. Before the llama could make a break for it. Well no wonder the llamas are livid. The NDL. My dad is still laughing about it. That’s when I discovered I have somehow missed a major part of our culture—the Naked Dancing Llama. This intriguing encounter led me to the second part of my research.Llama Drama The llama looked confused at this sudden capitulation. It’s even worse to have all these humans believe any live llama would parade around without its fur. and we all knew what that meant. It’s bad enough having to bear the burdens of camping city slickers. Millions have followed the antics of this virtual camel’s cousin. “SNORRRBAH?” it asked. however. my dad—a farm boy who has a way with animals—quickly led it across the bridge. doing the tango across the Web in its birthday suit while offering advice and running for President. self-respecting llama would ever run for President. When I returned to civilization (meaning to a computer). But it must be intolerable to have anyone think a sane. has apparently been around since the early days of the Internet (the 1990s).
Days of Derangement 196 .
Beauty Shop Dropout She was at the beauty shop for two hours. That was only for the estimate. like high school. One customer at a 197 . The hairdresser is not to be questioned. a little more self-assured. sources of instant intimidation—at least to me—too often populated by women with great hair and prominent cheekbones. You leave it looking good—cleanly cut. These are the women who always seem to be at the salon at the same time that I emerge from the shampoo sink looking like a starved dog after a night in a thunderstorm. The hairdresser is an authority ﬁgure. cleverly colored and skillfully styled. with a bed head that looks like it got tangled in a spinning ceiling fan. One chair. I hate these women. I’ve been to a fair number of beauty shops in my day. a little younger. So I thought I’d found the ideal solution when I started going to a hairdresser who works solo. —Henny Youngman T he salon is a sacred place for many women. Most are. a sorcerer with scissors who can make us feel a little prettier. You enter it ugly.
Soon. If you are a woman. If you are a man. you are wishing I would just stop whining because—as every female knows—it is better to look good than to feel good. except that I was far less attractive than Pig Pen. This is a tool that could have been found in a medieval torture chamber. graying rat to frosted blond bombshell (OK. with sprouts of hair sticking up all over and a stinging scalp. she insisted on using The Cap. No one to see my transformation from drowned. was tied around my head. but my hairdresser was adamant that The Cap was still the best. you are wondering why on earth I would put up with such torment. Men should not be permitted to walk into salons when women are there being beautiﬁed. I resembled Pig Pen. wishful thinking on my part). dig through the circles and pull a few strands of hair—those destined to be plied with peroxide—through the cap. This wouldn’t have bothered me too much except for the fact that this neighbor has the audacity to be a man. which is covered with small colored circles. To bring out my inner blonde. And because having a hairdresser is often like having a husband— you tend to stick with them for better or for worse—I’d always been reluctant to go elsewhere. The plastic cap. I know there are other ways to lighten my locks. Then my hairdresser would take a crochet hook. and in walks one of my neighbors. I’d tell you that this neighbor is a ﬁne-looking man. hair standing straight out and basting in bleach. The problem is that this hairdresser still operates in the styling stone age. If I was single and allowed to notice such things. with very nice hair 198 . Or at least I was until the day when I was once again in the styling chair.Days of Derangement time. the stinky character from the Charlie Brown comic.
And for a while. My handsome neighbor is probably still trying to recover from what he saw that day. I considered going natural.Beauty Shop Dropout that was apparently in need of a cut. forsaking my quest to be comely and giving Pig Pen a run for his money. As I’m happily married (and my husband may be reading this). I’ll just tell you that I was beyond mortiﬁed to have this particular person see me looking like Phyllis Diller on acid. But that didn’t happen. 199 . I haven’t been able to look him in the eye since then. I found a new hairdresser.
For men. this convoluted courting process is no problem. for example. those just on the cusp of the real world who don’t have a clue what they’re getting themselves into. blood pressure to rise and the lips to pucker. Except for the ones that really have changed. causes eyes to sparkle. hard-wired for complexity. S ometimes—when I haven’t had to put down a toilet seat or listen to several rounds of a burping contest for a while—I begin to feel sorry for today’s men. like the typically bafﬂed Homer Simpson. For women. between a rock and a hard place. Take the dilemma of dating. And if they are 200 . where all the rules have seemingly changed.The Rock and the Hard Place Love: a wildly misunderstood although highly desirable malfunction of the heart which weakens the brain. especially the young ones. this is a nightmare. simple creatures who can’t faithfully follow a grocery list. all the rules remain pretty much the same. but in truth. cheeks to glow. These befuddled beings are caught.
a Scrooge-like youngster who once gave a set of eight coasters as Christmas gifts to eight different people (one coaster per person). “She needs a corsage that matches her dress.The Rock and the Hard Place newbies in the land of love and utterly unfamiliar with the world of women. even in the 21st century. My young Vulcan got quite emotional. I wondered if the bloom would soon fall off this romantic rose. yanking the covers off the bed. What color is her dress?” When “Huh?” was his only response. It was a sweet. That’s how it was when Funny Boy had a girlfriend for the ﬁrst time. when suddenly faced with the harsh reality that. Spock from the ﬁrst Star Trek series. they would often probably like to dive under that rock and pull the hard place down like a fortress around them. full of furtive phone calls and ﬁerce feelings. For a kid whose only income was a weekly allowance (assuming he did his chores). pulling the covers over his head. this was a harsh reality indeed. And it was dangerous territory for a boy who once spent a week impersonating the ultra-logical and emotionless Mr. I knew we were in trouble. “Why would I need to buy some stupid ﬂower?” “She’s probably going to spend several hours getting ready for the dance.” he said crankily. The ﬁrst time it hit him upside the head was on the morning of his high school’s Homecoming Dance. I waited until the day before her birthday to 201 . harmless little relationship. “I already bought her ticket. I asked him what color corsage he’d ordered for his sweetheart. Rousting him out of bed that Saturday morning at the ungodly hour of 11.” I told him. the guy is usually still expected to pay on dates. And when the girlfriend’s birthday rolled around a couple of weeks after that. though.
I refused. thanks to me. Finally. The next day. gazing up at the ceiling with a self-satisﬁed smile on his face. But he ﬁnally emerged with an acceptable gift. “Can’t you go in and get it for me. I ordered him to accompany me to the mall. his answer (“As little as possible”) made me pity his poor girlfriend. “Christmas is right around the corner. I found him lying on his bed. I heard the store clerk offer to help. “Better save your money.” 202 . When he groaned as if he were in real pain. It was time for the boy to bite the bullet and enter the arena alone.Days of Derangement ask my son if he’d bought her a gift. When she asked him how much he wanted to spend. Funny Boy survived the birthday and came out undeservedly smelling like that proverbial rose. I had to actually push my reluctant Romeo into the shop. where I pointed out a store full of appealing but inexpensive baubles sure to warm a young girl’s heart. where he dithered at the entrance for many minutes.” I said. So. kiddo. a smile that collapsed like a house of cards when I brought him crashing back to earth. and I’ll pay you back?” he pleaded. apparently fearing that his mere presence in such a prettiﬁed place would render him unmanly.
that your thighs seem to be swimming in cellulite. You suddenly notice that even your knees have wrinkles. decides that your middle-aged self no longer has any business thinking like a jaunty juvenile. if you’re a woman. she smites you with self-doubt. you begin to worry even more about what’s going on among your rapidly aging innards. And as bad as your body looks on the outside. using forces like gravity and your love of things like gravy. Ma Nature. So. being a crotchety old lady with creaking joints. Groups of white-smocked scientists 203 .Got Flax? I’m happy to report that my inner child is still ageless. —James Broughton O ne of life’s little ironies is that at the same time you are sharing a house with people who think they will live forever—people otherwise known as teenagers—Mother Nature begins to help you realize you might not even make it into next week. Fortunately. you have plenty of reliable medical research to validate all your worries. that your tummy seems terminally tubby and.
you realize. If you’re like me. I blended it with some blueberries and yogurt until it looked like something my dog might regurgitate in the yard after chewing her way through the trash. business-type person. I rebuilt my personal food pyramid. at least according to those sadistic science types. Then I. I often put on business attire and go out into the world pretending to be a very busy. according to noted medical researchers.Days of Derangement get together regularly and publish studies that advise you to be afraid. I brought my smoothie in the car with me and drank it while I was driving to my very busy. But for some reason. So I started preparing a ﬂaxseed smoothie every morning. went right into a meeting with other business types who had probably stuffed themselves that morning with deathinducing donuts. the others seemed to be snickering under their 204 . But ﬂaxseed is supposed to be good for you. to pay the piper of the palate. a hard-charging and healthy professional fueled by ﬂaxseed. I also developed a friendship with ﬂaxseed. All that heavenly tasting junk that you’ve eaten for years has now. business-type ofﬁce. It’s time. very afraid. but besides writing witty columns about canine regurgitation. Because I was running late. and growing giddy over whole grains and vegetables. That’s just what I did. I should have had the upper hand. You may not have realized it (and you may not believe it). turning into a fan of ﬁber and fruit. which combines the ﬂavors of sawdust and straw with the piquant aftertaste of sand. coagulated into globs of deadly goop in your arteries. at this point you will morph into an overnight convert to the church of the changed diet. And that’s just what I did one morning not long after I’d begun drinking my smoothies. Not that I like the taste of ﬂaxseed.
above my busy. where I gazed into the mirror. lay a thick.Got Flax? collective breath. I looked like one of those celebrities in the Got Milk? ads. 205 . red-faced. I was annoyed and wondered why she didn’t put some ointment on that lip. a dim light began to burn. Then I went in search of some donuts. ﬂaxseed-speckled mustache. One woman kept rubbing her ﬁnger across her upper lip while staring urgently at me. There. I excused myself and went to the restroom. business-type mouth. blueberry-colored. somewhere in the recesses of my busy business brain. And then. I wiped off my mustache and went back. except that I looked like a complete idiot. to my meeting.
Called The Mute. when 206 . I am very excited about this. Sure. Consider how it could revolutionize the often high-pitched job of parenting. We’d still be able to savor a baby’s comforting coos. though. But do we always need to perceive the blare of sibling bickering? Say. this remote control gadget sends a signal to two little buds that users stick in their ears. sweet silence. emanating from one of my children. on occasion.Silence is Golden T ell me I didn’t just hear that… I used to ﬁnd myself saying that just about every day. soon to be available. for instance. the priceless peals of our children’s laughter. that will allow annoying noises to be switched off. we’d still need to hear certain things. Recently. verbal or otherwise. I read about a new device. But as those precious bundles of joy get older and somehow morph into little nuggets of noise with dirt on them. from the awesome (“I love you” coming from a grateful child) to the alarming (“Watch me ﬂy” coming from the roof). All you do is point The Mute at the reason for the racket and voila!—sweet. the patter of pint-sized feet. simply tune them out. usually in response to some disturbing sound. we could.
The marvelous Mute would become even more valuable as our children reach adolescence and develop the desire to torment us acoustically. Mute. If a teenage girl slams a door and screams “I hate you!” and her parents don’t hear it. It’s easy if you try. Because sometimes. thumps and bangs reverberates through my walls as fratricidal force is deployed over access to an Xbox. ignorance is bliss. This could have profound philosophical and ﬁnancial implications.” followed by a frantically whispered “Don’t tell Mom” (even worse when it is preceded by the sound of a toilet ﬂushing). and silence is golden. do you really have to feed him? Imagine the heightening of harmony in homes inhabited by teenagers across our nation if we could mufﬂe their decibeldevouring music. You may say I’m a dreamer. 207 . stiﬂe their sounds. Imagine all the parents. I could act quickly. but I’m planning to have The Mute surgically implanted in my ears as soon as it’s available. I could just point and click Mr. Point.Silence is Golden a worrisome set of crashes. click…serenity now. And I could sure do without that ubiquitous (at least at my house) phrase “Uh oh. did it really happen? Or if no one notices when an eternally hungry teenage boy stands in front of an open refrigerator stuffed with $300 worth of food and complains loudly “There’s nothing to eat in this house!”. Or when the ﬁrst sound waves of shattering glass resulting from a baseball thrown into a whirling ceiling fan begin to lap against my auditory antennae. cover up their cacophony. living life in peace.
I must have led a very sheltered—or at least a very clean— existence before I got married. because I somehow managed to get through almost three decades of life without knowing about the ﬁve-second rule.The Five-Second Rule The Five-Second Rule has many variations. You know. Who knew? I naively assumed my husband was the only person crazy enough to buy this theory. I discovered that he seemed to have been born knowing the ﬁve-second rule. the rule that says it’s OK to eat food dropped on the kitchen ﬂoor as long as you pick it up within ﬁve seconds. Turns out that germs are apparently polite enough to count to ﬁve before they attach themselves to goodies. all of them men) also believe in mannerly microorganisms. It certainly comes in handy for an enthusiastic eater with butter ﬁngers like my boy. 208 . but I found out later that a lot of people (oddly enough. The Seven-Second Rule and the extremely handy and versatile However Long It Takes Me to Pick Up This Food Rule. And when I had a son. including The Three-Second Rule.
Mom. 209 . “What do you think you’re doing?” I asked in a horriﬁed tone. but it nearly happened one day with a Twinkie. I had to drop the delectable little cake down the garbage disposal to prevent my Troll eater from inhaling it. I just can’t believe you!” I don’t know how the kid would survive without me. and that was clearly all the reason Funny Boy needed to invoke the ridiculous rule after he dropped the golden snack item on the ﬂoor. dog hair and all. Then. He was actually moving it. “Five-second rule. he added “It’s the last one!” as he lunged toward the hairy Twinkie and tried to grab it back. you are so mean! A little dog hair’s not going to hurt anybody. especially in our two-dog household. It was the last Twinkie in the package. where dropped food items usually resemble those Troll dolls with hair sticking out in all directions when you pick them up.The Five-Second Rule Now I have to say that I still have no faith in the ﬁve-second rule. as if explaining the obvious to an idiot. “Mom. now enhanced by a whole colony of dog hair.” he said. How anyone could stick such an item in his mouth is beyond my comprehension. He was not appreciative. toward his mouth when I grabbed it.
but that’s beside the point. Being technologically savvy. There is also a game app that lets you score points by licking your phone’s screen. I happen to know that an ‘app’ (short for application) is a nifty little cell-phone program you can use to do things you wouldn’t even have thought of doing if there weren’t an app to make it possible. there is an app to let you go around making cow sounds. —Henry David Thoreau I like to think I am technologically savvy. which I suppose would come in handy were you trying to communicate with our bovine brethren. 210 . I also like to think I look like Angelina Jolie.There Should Be an App for That Lo! Men have become the tools of their tools. For example. I can’t imagine any circumstance under which I would want to do this. but apparently many people have downloaded this particular app. I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know any of those people.
there will no doubt be a dozen more. This program would automatically shoot a high-pitched. Why anyone would want people to think such a thing is beyond me.There Should Be an App for That Another hugely popular app lets you emit loud bodily noises normally considered unacceptable in polite society. Just in the time it takes you to lick your screen a couple of times and try out a few foreign phrases that would make your mother wash your mouth out with soap (if only she knew what you were saying). hey. and developers are working feverishly every day to create even more. there is even an excuse generator app. But I can think of a few other apps that someone should invent right away. Hundreds of thousands of apps already exist. but. And I would have loved to have had a Chore Completion Assistant app that at my command would disable all the electronic devices that always seemed to prevent my kids from doing their chores. I could certainly have used a Teenager Tune Out Terminator app. when my kids were growing up. For instance. And I wouldn’t mind 211 . This app magniﬁes the sound so that people will think you have serious gastrointestinal issues. and there’s an app for that. it’s a free country. There’s also an app that teaches you how to say dirty words in a variety of languages. I’d also like to have a Bug Zapper app that could send out some kind of radioactive signal that would fry every creepy crawly or ﬂying insect in my vicinity. And for those of us who are frequently late for work and in need of a convincing excuse. impossible-to-ignore sound into the ears of certain adolescents who regularly claimed not to have heard me tell them something.
which would usually sound something like this: “Honey.” I’d call that my Girlfriend App. 212 . I could take a picture of the suit with my phone.Days of Derangement having an app that would talk sense into me when I’m about to try on a bathing suit. There should deﬁnitely be an app for that. and then my app would give me an honest assessment. Get Real.
they assumed. in horror. spotless. I’d said “hippier” and suggested I cut back on the carbs. for a few days. But a couple of weeks into our relationship. After I explained that my liberation from the mom-mobile had transformed me into a groovier parent—a cool and deﬁnitely with-it individual—they ordered me. At ﬁrst. Apparently. 213 . I was having a hard time with it myself.Minivan Mentality Y ou can take the mom out of the minivan. But you can’t always take the minivan mentality out of the mom. for some reason. my new vehicle was sleek and. And. and I immediately felt hipper. always slightly disapproving of my driving even after I’d morphed into a mother myself. After 15 years. Oh. she began to remind me of my mother. to be honest. She was even equipped with a state-of-the-art navigational system that I nicknamed Nancy. my SUV-inspired chic hadn’t sunk in with them yet. I ﬁnally stopped driving a family truckster. We traded it in for a mid-sized SUV. to never leave the driveway. When I told my children that. it was rather pleasant to have Nancy telling me—in her disembodied voice—where to go.
Nancy was really starting to get on my nerves. she sounded a bit snippy. Every time I deviated from her dictatorial directions. the dents and scratches made by a wide assortment of balls and even a couple of bicycles. sugary drink known to mankind. The new auto.Days of Derangement “You missed the turn! You’re driving too fast! You’re going to get us killed!” OK. Nancy’s turn-by-turn instructions took on a nagging quality. seemed sterile and devoid of the debris that made the minivan kind of a family scrapbook on wheels: the faded bumper stickers that touted the kids’ accomplishments. I also missed the way the minivan smelled— that bouquet of old french fries. sweaty soccer cleats and fetid football jerseys. clean carpet and unmarked exterior. but that’s what my mind heard. I missed all of those things. “I am recalculating the route. a handle on the back of the driver’s seat. maybe Nancy didn’t say those words speciﬁcally. the van still retained its distinct aroma. rotten bananas. stale milk in sippy cups lodged under the seats. all left to heat up year after year in the sun. And I 214 . the congealed essence of childhood. non-talking minivan. with its factory-fresh scent. and all mingling with the nauseating odor of dog vomit that we never could completely eliminate. hanging on haphazardly after one kid tried to pull it out and use it as a weapon against another. I think I actually missed the old. Even when everything was cleaned out.” she’d say with the same peevish inﬂection I used when inquiring which member of my household stuck an empty milk jug back in the refrigerator. Believe it or not. a variety of stains inside courtesy of every colorful. And it wasn’t just the Nazi-like navigational system.
) Whoever you are. (They’ve probably got the windows open. In exchange. someone else is hurtling down the highway right now with a minivan full of my memories. I want to remember where I’ve been. you can have Nancy and the stylish SUV that encases her. I want those memories and that cruddy old minivan back.Minivan Mentality thoughtlessly gave it away. Somewhere. 215 . You’ll always know where you’re going.
mortarboard perched precariously on his head. I watched my oldest child cross a stage. I’m sure all the other parents were as stunned as I to suddenly be standing at the closing bookend of childhood. Grandpa remembers a pair of osprey that 216 . We’ve been hiking the same stretch since my children were preschoolers. I don’t see how this is possible as it was just yesterday he crossed a stage with another mortarboard on his head and ﬂashed a gaptoothed grin at his kindergarten graduation. Another remembers eating lunch on the trunk of a fallen pine tree until an attack by ravenous ants. One of us recalls stumbling into an ice-cold stream and then walking for hours in wet shoes. streams and boulders are infused with memories.The Trail Ahead A few years ago. We’ve hiked that trail so many times now that certain trees. I have pictures of both kids being carried on the shoulders of their dad and grandpa. and accept his high school diploma with a brilliant smile. But it didn’t really hit me until a few days later when our family began its annual summer hike in the Rocky Mountains. and every family member remembers details the rest of us have forgotten. In fact. unable to keep up.
eager voices. Someday. The ﬁrst time each of our kids clambered across that bridge unassisted was a momentous event. My husband and I share a favorite location—a log bridge over a rushing stream. as I always do. then turned to look back. Grandma’s memories of the trail center on which boulders and tree trunks provided the most privacy for the inevitable call of nature. My daughter remembers our yearly pilgrimage to the grave of a beloved dog who was buried just off the trail. This year. 217 . curving out of sight. I can still clearly hear my kids’ high. though. captured in pictures. I stopped to take a picture of the bridge. sunny rock. We spent a couple of hours after we ﬁrst found the grave amusing each other with stories about Sid’s imagined adventures on the trail. Funny Boy. not realizing my chosen spot could be seen from another part of the trail. then had to sit down on a rock to compose myself.The Trail Ahead nested in a tree overlooking a beautiful mountain lake. exposed my backside to a group of college students. I snapped the shot. Sadly. We lay back on a large. talking over each other as they competed to give Sid’s life the juiciest details. Grandma is an expert at picking out secluded spots. the trail with its unseen destination stretching ahead of him. watching the birds swoop down to catch ﬁsh for their hungry offspring. The trail from the bridge leads off into dense woods. The dog’s owner had erected a simple wooden marker on which he (or she) had painted a heartfelt epitaph: Sid—World’s Best Dog. crossed ahead of me. he’ll understand why. My son’s favorite hiking story is about the time that I. all grown up and soon headed off to college. I am not.
I’ve noticed that your picture hasn’t changed in several years. She prefers the Kick ‘Em While They’re Down parenting philosophy popular during the rough-and-tumble pioneer days. I happened to mention this email to my mother.S. But my mom is old school. It’s nothing personal. Don’t you think it’s time to update your photo?” Then thoughtful John added the coup de grace: “P.Picture Perfect Pictures must not be too picturesque. Really. —Ralph Waldo Emerson I once received an email from an eagle-eyed reader named John who apparently had nothing better to do with his time than send me the following message: “As a longtime reader of your columns. expecting her to say something soothing to boost my self-esteem the way today’s helicopter parents always strive to do for their children. I am. John? MIND?? Of course not. I’m thrilled that you were paying such close attention to the status of my photo. I hope you don’t mind me saying this. I just think it’s kind of like false advertising.” Mind. 218 .
they throw up all their little camera parts in disgust when they are pointed in my direction. dear. though. was I happy. You know how the camera is said to love some people? Well.Picture Perfect “He’s right. I’ll also have you know that it has always been very difﬁcult to get a decent photo of myself. thanks a million for taking the time to notice that my picture is obsolete. I have a long face and small beady eyes. They demanded an actual photo of my actual face. 219 . OK. “That picture is at least six years old. sweet John. For some reason. I ﬁnally got a picture that did not cause people to cover their eyes in horror. So when I started writing a humor column. It really is false advertising. making me look like Eeyore with Winnie the Pooh eyes.” Ouch. Through the magic of modern technology that included hours and hours of state-of-the-art retouching techniques. So anyway. it wasn’t actually a picture of me. and I’m sticking to it. Cameras not only don’t love me. Out of desperation. It is not a pretty sight. Boy. but I ﬁgured no one needed to know that. I sent my editors a really gorgeous picture. I engaged the services of a highly skilled professional photographer. I really appreciate it. How rude. I faced the terrible prospect of having to provide a photo of myself to go with my columns. Now. I’ll have you know my picture is no more than ﬁve years old (give or take a year or two). what I’m trying to say here is this: Thanks. my rotten editors did not believe I look just like Angelina Jolie. But by golly. I hate those people. and I haven’t changed a bit since it was taken. and every camera in existence has conspired to exaggerate those features.” she said. that’s my picture.
he’d clutched his favorite toy. and tried to be very brave.Of Boys and Bunnies W hen my son started his freshman year of college—after I’d made enough of a blubbery scene to thoroughly embarrass him. and we were driving home—I got to thinking about his ﬁrst day of preschool. Maybe I was a little biased. I remember praying silently on that drive that he would like school and that the other kids would be nice to him and that his teachers would be smart enough to see how utterly special this blue-eyed child was. head and shoulders above any other kid in the school or any other kid in the world for that matter. So did I. “It makes Malcolm feel better.” he’d once explained to me. On the short drive to the school that day. He didn’t look convinced. Funny Boy got out of the 220 . “You’re going to have a wonderful time!” I remember saying too cheerfully. But only a little. He kept rubbing his ﬁnger across Malcolm’s head. a stuffed bunny he’d inexplicably named Malcolm. I think it probably made my little man feel better too. When we arrived at the preschool. something he did often to comfort the rather emotional rabbit.
as he lovingly strapped the little rabbit into the car seat.” he said. Rogers. Malcolm. worn down to the fabric by a little boy’s ﬁngers. I’ll be back soon.Of Boys and Bunnies car with Malcolm tucked under his arm. For a moment. “You stay here. “Hi Malcolm. through my own brimming tears.” When we got home after dropping him off at college. The top of his head is bare in several places. I reminded him that Malcolm would have to stay with me. stroking the bunny’s head one last time. I promised to take good care of him. and pulled out an old stuffed bunny. “Only people can go to school. I went into his room and reached into the top of his closet. I sounded like Mr. 221 .” I said. the seams in his body are visible. those blue eyes brimmed with tears. You’ll be OK. The bunny’s ears are frayed now. I rubbed his head several times. I think it made him feel better. He rubbed Malcolm’s head several times to reassure him. I still remember watching. “Long time no see!” I sat down on Funny Boy’s bed and just stared at Malcolm for a while.” I said. sounding again like Mister Rogers. way too cheerful. and his fur looks matted. then placed the rabbit back in the car. “He’ll be right here waiting for you when I pick you up. way back behind the boxes of video games and soccer trophies.
We wove fake ivy and silk ﬂowers along the fencing to complete the look. The bench and its fence were secured to one of my daughter’s bedroom walls. —Christopher Morley he called it her garden room. and a mirror. So did some of mine. together. they’ve all grown up. Colorful smudges took the place of the intended clean. She held the brush and proudly created a few of them all by herself. We painted the walls pink and hung lacy little curtains at the window. S 222 . We decided to leave it that way. we painted the whole structure white and added more stenciled ﬂowers—red roses this time—all over the bench. bordered with glued-on ivy and still more silk ﬂowers. was mounted above. She was four years old then. We used stencils to paint dainty ﬂowers on the pink walls.The Garden Room We’ve had bad luck with our kids. I nailed a small wooden bench to a section of picket fencing. Some of her work went outside the lines. Then. and the ﬂoral theme in her ﬁrst “big-girl” bedroom delighted her. stenciled edges. as if the ﬂowers on the wall were blowing in a gentle breeze.
Mommy. Some days. after I’d excused myself and rushed out. My ﬂower child grew into a willowy teenager.The Garden Room Funny Girl would sit on that bench in her garden room. These were formal affairs at which I was expected to wear a pretty hat and conduct myself in a manner beﬁtting my lovely surroundings. Sometimes I succeeded at this. her head resting on them. We took down the bench and its fencing and put them in the garage. I walked in to ﬁnd her breathing deeply. fuzzy friends. I’d ﬁnd her curled up on the bench asleep. She also wanted black. Many days. she would carry on the party with her faithful. Once. We removed the prettily painted shelf with its daisy-shaped knobs underneath that held trophies and ribbons and other childhood memorabilia. Later. So we ﬁnally updated it. naturally. a Mary Quite Contrary who had long been embarrassed by her blooming bedroom. but often—too often—I was so preoccupied with the day’s must-do tasks that I failed to fully enjoy the garden party. “I’m just smelling all of my ﬂowers. Sadly or not—depending on your perspective—the garden room is no more. Occasionally. I was invited in for tea parties. I could smell them too.” she said simply. she’d play dress-up in front of the mirror. with ﬂowers. And she plastered the walls with posters of young male actors and rock stars who look like they could use an attitude 223 . lime green—because that’s the color desired by the girl whose legs were now longer than the quaint bench she used to nap on. functional-looking furniture with nary a ﬂower to be found. and she would pretend she was in a real garden. At that moment. cuddling her crew of stuffed animals. wearing a lovely hat adorned. We painted the room lime green—yes.
Days of Derangement adjustment. She was right. The day we ﬁnished the room makeover. What I wouldn’t give to attend one more tea party. I stood in the garage and stared at the still-beautiful little bench. she informed me I’d turned into an old fuddy duddy. 224 . symbol now of a line crossed in the inevitable journey out of childhood. a journey that seemed to have passed in the blink of an eye. When I told her that I preferred ﬂowers on the walls. And what amuses me is that I’m OK with that.
born when her father was in his 70s and married to his third. My parents grew up on farms several miles apart in southeastern Oklahoma. I’ve heard The Pig Story so many times that I could recite it in my sleep. in a more simple time. he’s perfected a series of coy pauses and soft smiles. with fading eyesight. my dad has been telling The Pig Story. He tells it with great ﬂourish. It’s a tale of how. (And this was before Viagra!) My grandfather was a local legend. My mother was the youngest of 10 of my grandpa’s children. my father procured my mother’s hand in marriage for the price of a couple of hogs. much younger wife. For as long as anyone around there could remember. Even when he was in his ninth decade. Local residents knew to steer clear when they saw Old Man Gibson coming. Over the years. the two men had fought 225 . delivered at just the right moment. renowned for his ornery ways. my granddad had been feuding—Hatﬁeld-McCoy style—with his nearest neighbor. weaving from one side of the road to the other. that make its oration a work of art. he’d insist on driving his battered pickup along the dirt roads near his home. Over the years.The Pig Story E ver since I can recall.
the old man would fall asleep in the truck with the shotgun slung across his lap. my grandpa would look out over his crops. over a defunct moonshine still tucked way back in the woods that each man claimed to have operated in his younger. watching for signs of porcine invasion. And eventually. he’d swear up and down. if still rancorous. who was a high school senior at the time. even. happened to be driving by during one of the scattershot 226 . cursing his enemy and expressing great surprise that anyone could commit such a vile act. Then he’d grab his shotgun. for bragging rights. One summer. rowdier days. the pigs didn’t seem to take him too seriously.Days of Derangement over property lines. the neighbor started releasing his pigs into the ﬁelds where my grandpa still grew corn and cotton. my granddad would do the same. waking occasionally to ﬁre a random shot before resuming his nap. announcing loudly to the trespassing pigs that they would soon draw their last breaths. the pigs would tire of the game and make their way home. But as my grandpa was unable to chase them down or shoot them. park his pickup under a couple of sweeping oak trees at the edge of the pasture and start ﬁring wildly in the pigs’ direction. But by the time they were each around 90. routine. He’d stay there awhile. One day my father. chicken-thieving dogs. stray cattle. unable with his poor vision to actually hit anything. For several mornings in a row. Invariably. the two old warriors had settled into a fairly harmless. Both men had spent short spells in jail when things got too heated and the sheriff wanted to calm them down. and late in the afternoon. When he thought he’d spotted the neighbor’s porkers trampling his plants underfoot.
They were married a year later and recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. 227 . When told of the situation. as my dad always adds to universal groans. he introduced him to his 16-year-old daughter. my dad quickly caught the pigs and put them in the back of the old pickup. is hogstory. He stopped and asked my grandpa if he needed help.The Pig Story shooting sessions. The rest. They would provide quite a few tasty meals for the family. My grandpa was so pleased at this unexpected triumph over his nemesis that he invited my dad to come over that night for supper and there. They’ve been living high on the hog ever since.
And the NFL realizes a handsome proﬁt in the bargain. Despite the fact I wouldn’t know a touchdown from a hoe down. Not just any football game: an NFL (Not For Low-incomers) game. An NFL event is a reassuring example of the strength of our capitalist system.Pirates and Packers The reason women don’t play football is because 11 of them would never wear the same outﬁt in public. hot dogs and soft drinks while having the pleasure of watching hefty. I was forced to undergo 228 . I wanted to be part of this patriotic process. So I begged my family to let me come along. Because I brought a book to the last professional sporting event I attended (a hockey game) and embarrassed my children. It’s a win-win situation all around. You get to invest extraordinary amounts of your personal capital in things like tickets. —Phyllis Diller I decided one day in the fall to take a break from worrying about whether the American economy is heading for a hot place in a hand basket and go to a football game. well-paid men run around chasing a piece of pigskin.
the home team was named after a group of plundering pirates called buccaneers. but the cheese head was charmingly apologetic. The paperback I’d hidden under my shirt was conﬁscated. and the cheese knocked over the soft drink for which I’d just paid more than the average day’s wage in some Third World countries. and so I arrived at the game betting on being bored. Pirates could surely beat Packers. That made it even more special. Because the stadium is thoughtfully crammed with more seats than one would think possible. I could actually feel these belches on the back of my neck. I had an upclose encounter with one of these chunks of cheese when its bearer bent over to pick up something.Pirates and Packers an airport-style security screening before we left home. I was sitting among fans of the home team. I could smell them too. especially the ones directly behind me who showed their support by combining loud. and it’s hard to be churlish with cheese. And it didn’t much matter that I don’t understand the ﬁrst thing about football. The fans behind me provided a running commentary on the mental and physical capacity of each player (“You’re an idiot!” or “My grandma can run faster than that!”) 229 . Unlike the visiting team. This seemed to me like a good omen for the home team. pirate-like bellows (Aargh!) with beer-propelled belches worthy of the most fearsome buccaneer. So I got another drink and took my seat just as the game began. But surprisingly. I was a little upset. I was joined in this belief by many Buccaneer fans. The ﬁrst thing I noticed was that many fans were sporting large yellow pieces of synthetic cheese on their heads. which was named after men who once packed meat into little cans. there was plenty to capture my attention.
Days of Derangement and on the quality of the coaching (“You’d better be ﬁred after this game!”). I was amazed to realize that I had a great time. I felt so sorry for the ladies who were denied such an honor. the various attributes of the Buccaneer cheerleaders. In keeping with the team theme. in their outside voices. the beer boys would discuss. During breaks in the action on the ﬁeld. 230 . In the end. The Bucs fans happily went home singing yo-ho songs. the cheerleaders wore outﬁts that looked just like pirate eye patches. except that pirate patches cover more skin. Maybe that’s because cheese does for them what chocolate does for me—makes everything better. My fellow fans rated each cheerleader on whether she was “hot” or merely lukewarm. Even the performance of the referees was analyzed (“Are you kidding me?!”). I didn’t even miss my book. and even the cheese heads didn’t seem too upset. and debated which ones should be given the privilege of dating the manly men behind me. These guys really helped me grasp the ﬁner points of the game. the Buccaneers did indeed beat the Packers.
Pirates and Packers 231 .
Cooler Online I’m so much cooler online. That means not much has changed for me since high school. I’m cooler online. In theory. and after much effort. If they agree. let me tell you how it works: You sign up and create your personal page with photos and a proﬁle. which my charming children pointed out ofﬁcially made me a loser. You also can announce what you are doing at any given moment and send it out through cyberspace for all your friends 232 . I managed to accumulate 10 online friends. you also post truthful information in your proﬁle. you post an actual photo of yourself rather than someone far more attractive that you try to pass off as yourself. —Brad Paisley song I joined Facebook a while back. In theory. except that now I have a few more friends. You send messages to others on the site asking them to be your friend. Just in case I am the next-to-last person in the world to join Facebook. and you are the last. Yeah. you look at each other’s pages and post comments. Then you begin to amass your Facebook friends list.
” and all 10 of my friends will feel better knowing this. You also can show off your intellectual bent by recommending books and pretending you’ve actually read these books. But that would mean my friends list wouldn’t even reach double digits. In this brave new world of social networking. You can even send them an online hug. “Jackie is clipping her toenails. This is what I’m going to do. But it gets even better. you can deliver a virtual slap or bite. you can “super” poke them. which I suspect is not quite as good as the real thing that involves actual arms. Or. in cold weather. So. I have a couple of Facebook friends who regularly send me super pokes. and I’ve been tempted to “de-friend” these people. and those friends will tell still other friends. virtual hot cocoa. I only have 10 of them. of course. You can send your friends truly useful things like a virtual glass of wine or. I can type in something like. My 10 friends will be so impressed with my literary ﬂair that they will tell all their other friends about me. you can even spank your friends or throw thongs at them. If you are the kinky kind. I would never do this to one of my friends. Lest you think Facebook is just a frivolous way to fritter away time keeping your friends updated on routine bodily maintenance activities. You can join online groups and causes and invite friends to come along. Soon. This has left me feeling like a voodoo doll. if you’re one of those people who likes to live on the edge. I’ll have so many friend requests. If one of your cyber friends has stepped out of line. and so on and so on. I can’t take the humiliation. let me assure you it has true social value. But then.Cooler Online to see. you also can poke your friends. I’ll 233 .
If you were my friend.Days of Derangement have to start screening people. Maybe I’ll even start a Facebook fan club for myself. I have to go now and clip my toenails. 234 . you’d get to hear all about it.
This is a normal. and I raised my arms to lift something from an upper shelf. You may think I’m lifting weights for cosmetic reasons. Yes. wings. You may think I’m hoping to be considered a sleek and sexy cougar on the prowl for a younger man. and I’ve got ﬂabby arms and a pelican neck. Lifting two weights at the same time was a little too ambitious for my longdelayed return to ﬁtness. That’s because I’ve apparently grown wings. I’ve actually lifted one weight. kitchen-type S 235 . I didn’t even know I possessed bird-like qualities until one day when I was standing in my kitchen. but what difference does that make anyway because everything in my life sucks. —Laurie Metcalf o I’ve started lifting weights.Beware the Bingo Wings I’m 36 years old. So I’m starting out slowly. my friend. and all my house plants are dead. I’m actually just hoping to avoid inadvertently taking ﬂight in a strong gust of wind. and no one loves me. in an effort to look cut and ripped or some other painful-sounding adjective. shifting it from one hand to the other. But you’d be wrong. OK.
You labor in agony to bring them forth into the world. 236 . I’ve started lifting weights. But this time. And then you stand in your kitchen with ﬂabby. I can lift it into the air and then bring it back down. I never promised you a rose garden. But I may soon send those kids of mine airborne. “You’ve got some serious bingo wings there.” You carry them through nine months of pregnancy. put down your arms.” “Bingo wings?” I asked. covering her eyes as if she couldn’t bear to look at me. “Nothing personal. I’d like to point out. you know that arm fat that. were sitting nearby eating food prepared for them by the person they were about to insult. “Yea. I got a ﬁgurative punch in the gut from my own children who. uh. You lose sleep for years worrying over every aspect of their lives. as I said.Days of Derangement activity that I’ve done many times before. “But you could clean off a chalkboard with those bingo wings of yours. I’m pretty sure my bingo wings won’t lift me off the ground. So. Mom. careworn arms that could be used as cleaning implements by a school janitor. I beg your pardon. Well. You pay for their college tuition. “Whoa.” said Funny Girl. as my grandma used to sing to me. Mom.” Funny Boy chimed in. I’ve started lifting weight. This weight weighs a whole 10 pounds. especially women who play Bingo?” “Older women? Arm fat? Bingo?!” I sputtered. You sacriﬁce time you would undoubtedly have spent doing pushups if you weren’t driving them from one activity to another. Now I know what she meant. older women get. And as long as I hold on to this weight. and you watch the ingrates snicker at you behind their hands.
and that might be an insult to the mosquito. rarely diving into the depths of the sea of information. lamenting the I 237 .Adios Internet My mind is going. Granted. While I’ve greatly enjoyed my years in cyberspace. But it’s deﬁnitely for my own good. The problem is that I just can’t seem to focus anymore. as he invented the darn thing. Naturally. possibly even sabotaging my soul. In fact. Believe me. I can feel it. this has not been an easy decision. reprogramming my memory. My brain skims along life’s surface. —Supercomputer HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey ’ve reluctantly decided that I need to resign from the Internet. down where complex thinking and unhurried contemplation still reside (at least I hope they still do). people have been bemoaning the negative consequences of technology for a long time. I’m pretty sure that my online time has shrunk my attention span to the size of a mosquito’s. Socrates started what may have been the ﬁrst technology scare. I have the uncomfortable sense that the Internet is tinkering with my neural circuitry. I blame Al Gore.
constantly craving the ﬂeeting pleasure of new information without ever digesting the old stuff. update our Facebook status and check out our friends’ statuses. the invention of the telegram was blamed for triggering an outbreak of mental illness. Imagine how much smarter we would be if we’d never sat around watching the antics of all those Californiabased Kardashians or their high-IQ counterparts on the East Coast. I’m pretty sure Socrates would be deeply impressed. But as bad as TV has been for our mental fortitude. And we lurch from site to site. now that I think about it. When the printing press came along. encouraging us to incessantly peek at our email. The Web makes it so easy to interrupt ourselves. Imagine what the old guy would think of Twitter. By the end of the 19th century. We fritter away vast amounts of time on Twitter. And let’s not even talk about the detrimental effects of television on our minds. 238 . assuming I don’t fall asleep ﬁrst. which he thought ruined the memory. we waste the day away on eBay. I am convinced the Internet has been even worse. there were those who complained that it ruined the eyes and made the ﬁngers ache. From now on. the cast of Jersey Shore. I’ll be spending my time reading classic novels in pretentious cafes where I’ll be available to discuss them with anyone whose nose is not buried in a laptop (if I can ﬁnd such a person). So I am walking away from the Web. Actually. I’m also going to spend tons of time sitting around thinking deep thoughts. I’m going to give up television as well.Days of Derangement invention of books.
I love having written. My witty and brilliant brain is always on alert for possible topics. however. But occasionally. I often receive email from adoring fans. I get genuine fan mail. Sometimes topics are so plentiful—like when I go to a class reunion or listen 239 .Column Creation I hate writing. How do you write such witty and brilliant columns each week?” I’m sure there are many more of you out there who wonder the same thing. —Dorothy Parker A s you might imagine. so I’d like to take you behind the scenes for a look at how I write a column. OK. Let me warn you. The ﬁrst step in the process is to come up with a topic. which typically goes something like this: “Dear Jackie. most of them are people in Nigeria who have $10 million they need to deposit into my bank account or people who want to sell me some Viagra. especially when a family member or friend does something I can ridicule (this is why I spend a lot of time alone). that the making of humor columns resembles the making of laws and sausage—it’s not always a pretty sight.
though. Not long ago. It is essential I keep up with events in case I am called to participate in them. for example. Like many a great artist. endeavor. sleep-induced topic. So I left the economy in the hands of the ﬁnancial geniuses who’ve been running it so far. To be the very best humorist I can be.Days of Derangement to a presidential debate—that they practically hit me upside the head. Writing can be a grueling. which is conveniently placed in front of the TV to allow me to keep up with world events. A prime focus lately has been the unwanted hair that’s suddenly appearing in places no hair had 240 . Those needs are usually best met in my favorite chair. cut off part of his own ear. but my deprived fans soon demanded I resume writing witty and brilliant columns. That’s when. as you’ll recall. but I have been known to pluck stray chin hairs while I wait for my creative muse to strike. and sometimes she doesn’t show up. I invest a lot of time in sleeping. and I returned to my easy chair. The best such research occurs while I’m asleep. Being a columnist on the cutting edge of the whole work/life balance thing (as all your best columnists are). Other times. I am often driven to the edge of madness in my quest for perfection. Van Gogh. I was forced to suspend my column-creation campaign and ﬂy to Washington. When I’ve slept enough to come up with a humdinger of a topic. My muse is fairly ﬁckle. DC to try to ﬁx the economy. I awaken and head to my home ofﬁce to begin writing. So I spend some time considering my physical imperfections. even with a killer. I have a ﬂexible ofﬁce space that moves around to meet my needs. I have to conduct in-depth topic research. even painful. I can’t quite begin writing. I gave it my best shot. I haven’t gone quite that far.
It’s tough to be witty and brilliant when faced with such a problem.Column Creation gone before. 241 . Maybe I could write a column about that. That’s probably why Van Gogh cut off his ear. he saw hair growing out of it.
I’m a connoisseur of couch-potato technique. The best receptacles for couch-potato champions like me are long enough to accommodate the entire body in a horizontal position. I’ve got that in spades. And ideally. First.Couch Potato Confessions I ’m ashamed to admit that I’m a couch potato. While the main accessory for being a couch potato is. with no danger of the dreaded pretzel twist. just in case you’re living with one of those fanatic. I’ve spent many lazy hours catching Zs (while pretending to be doing something productive) on a variety of couches. vegged-out and prone to napping. you need the right kind of personality: starchy. Couches should be soft and wide enough so you do not feel as if you’re going to fall off. they should be positioned so they are not visible from other rooms of the house. there are other essential ingredients. high-energy people who never play potato. And I’m not just your ordinary. a couch. of course. run-of-the-mill sofa spud. 242 .
you can casually throw your covering across the arm of the couch as a decorative accent. Many men like to have sports playing on the television while they snooze away the hours in non-productive loaﬁng. But blankets. You need those cute little decorated sofa pillows that are designed to stay on the couch. I can pretend to be improving my mind while indulging my lazy body. That way. you need a TV. I prefer.) 243 . If someone—say a man’s wife—asks him to do something annoying such as take out the trash. if someone unexpectedly interrupts your snoozing. naturally. to have educational TV programs playing on the set. That way. are a dead giveaway. But you don’t want to use your regular bed pillows. and no one will be the wiser. A blanket is also an essential element of today’s successful lounge lizard. if someone stumbles upon your spudly snooze. That’s why you need to use a blanketlike device such as small coverlets or those granny-knitted afghans—the ones that often smell like mothballs—to cover yourself during surreptitious naps. Other accessories are also helpful in attaining the ultimate in couch-potato comfort. a sofa-spud spouse can legitimately claim to be watching a very important (and very long) game. you can quickly sit up.Couch Potato Confessions Next. You need pillows. Then. wipe the drool off your chin and nod intently at the educational TV program you were obviously using to enhance your brain power. being actual bed accessories. That would indicate a premeditated intention to spend disgraceful periods of time as a potato person. Then. (Just remember to hurriedly smooth your tell-tale bed head. you can at least appear to be doing something when you’re in horizontal heaven. however.
Pass me that afghan. I often come up with great column ideas during my couchpotato periods. you may think I have too much time on my hands.Days of Derangement Because I know so much about being a couch potato. I’m feeling a bit drowsy right now. Actually. Not at all! In fact. 244 .
I drink more than a few beverages. where there was no line. 245 . Not surprisingly. Most of us. this means I also spend quite a bit of time in the ladies room. That’s how it was when I was in an unusually long line that snaked past the men’s room. Where there is never a line. legs are crossed and eyeballs beginning to ﬂoat before we even make it to the restroom door. In some cases. We waiting women began to glare at the men and seethe at the injustice of it all. I spend time standing in a line of women waiting to get into our designated comfort station. I like to kill time when I’m there by making frequent trips to the concession stand. That’s the place where the team owner charges almost as much for cellulite-friendly food as my dentist charges for a root canal. As someone who would almost rather undergo a root canal than attend such events (I said almost).Ladies Room Rebel I was recently compelled to attend yet another professional sporting event. We had to watch dozens of males stroll in without encountering any delay in doing their business. To wash down all the junk food I’m eating. Actually. however. are none too comfortable.
” She strode purposefully into the male inner sanctum as we gasped in admiration. “Bigger bathrooms! Yeah!” So must have begun the American experiment with democracy when the Founding Fathers. as the British say. “Yeah!” we shouted in agreement. lining our lips and talking about feelings and other things I cannot disclose here. “Why isn’t the women’s bathroom twice as big as the men’s?” Why indeed. All we needed was a leader. we also need extra time in the loo (another British term) to stand around powdering our noses. The rest of us—ladylike lemmings afraid of the sight of urinals—continued to toe the line. So much for revolution. I sensed that revolution was in the air.Days of Derangement Finally. men need far less space than women to.” And due to certain personality differences. who probably never had to wait for a toilet stall. 246 . Our ladies’ room rebel had to enter the arena alone. was fortunate enough to have followers to back up his brave bid for freedom. That’s why we need much larger public restrooms. expressed similar outrage over inequality. “I’m using the men’s room. as the line inched forward only slightly. But still. one lady posed aloud the question we’d all been asking ourselves. “spend a penny. And suddenly. Washington. “I’m not waiting in this line any longer.” she announced. however. a tall. It was like watching George Washington crossing the Delaware River. They might have been a little more eloquent about it than we were. Due to certain anatomical differences. She stepped forward. conﬁdent-looking woman in stylish boots. standing outside the ladies’ lounge with my legs crossed. we had one.
Yes. a recent study from “experts” at a university in New Zealand who bravely took on the task of studying whether men stare at women’s breasts. Take. There’s too much fun going on out there on the Internet. we are not becoming a nation of idiots because half of us don’t realize the other half have faces. But you may be surprised to ﬁnd out I’m more interested in another recent study which concluded that we’re all becoming a nation of idiots. Apparently. for example. You might also be surprised to ﬁnd out these two studies are not linked. and shockingly. 247 .Fake Brain The lesson here is you can’t expect users to learn. who will undoubtedly need to do follow-up studies. they really did spend serious scientiﬁc time studying this. —Pete Lindstrom I t’s good to be a researcher. I feel really good knowing that such scientiﬁc knowledge is out there to assist future researchers. especially if you are a researcher studying topics crucial to the well-being of humanity. these experts discovered that a majority of men do indeed gaze at the girls when they ﬁrst meet a woman.
I’m ﬁnding it very difﬁcult to concentrate and absorb all the knowledge so painstakingly amassed by those primitive. at least. Or maybe I should store all the stupid stuff in my real 248 . But I can tell that my once sponge-like mind has been marred by my Internet habit. You remember books. Now. Then I could ofﬂoad all the worthless information clogging my head into the artiﬁcial brain and reserve space in my real brain for important things like reading good books. but it is at least relaxing.Days of Derangement It’s because of all the time we spend online. pre-Internet people. I’d never actually given up reading books altogether. I think what I really need is an artiﬁcial brain that is attached to my faltering real brain so that I can’t go off and leave it in the grocery cart. Smart people used to put worthwhile information in them before all those smart people were recruited to conduct research on boob boys. My mind wanders after a few minutes of sustained reading. but most of my reading has been done in little snippets of time I would steal here and there for the printed page. we could be in real trouble. because I have recently embarked on an experiment in which I try to read a book for one hour each day. folks. I make a concerted effort to sit down with a book. I’m especially interested in this. where we tend to skim through a lot of trivial data instead of actually absorbing worthwhile information. If everyone else is like me. I don’t know whether reading for an hour a day is making me smarter. and I feel a strong urge to ﬂip over to something else. I had missed the leisurely experience of immersing myself in a book. such as checking out the latest in silly scientiﬁc studies or reading the newest SPAM email in my inbox.
249 .Fake Brain brain. Of course. and turn over all important thinking to the fake brain. Then I wouldn’t have to worry about what my face looks like. if I get a fake brain. which is probably past repair anyway. I might as well install other fake body parts as well.
for the sake of discussion. like any average middle-age American woman. that’s exactly what I do during football season. let me remind you. a shrinking bank account and the possibility you will be the soggy. (Time to change the pan.) If you are such a woman. you absolutely love football. you undoubtedly spend your fall weekends in front of the television. and his rowdy friends a little sick of the sport. having been an average middle-age woman for quite some time now (except. I have no cellulite). you are an average middle-age woman with the everyday concerns typical of your kind. Because I am such a woman (except that I don’t have even a smidgen of cellulite). (Please insert a pan under this column to catch dripping sarcasm before it makes a mess. concerns such as spreading cellulite. I’ve spent several years wallowing each autumn in every minute of televised football I can get my eyes on. And say that.) 250 . Actually. middle-of-the-night victim of a toilet seat that was left in an upright position.Football Goes Feminine S uppose. watching enough football to make even Hank Williams Jr.
like grill burgers or leer at women in bikinis or scratch themselves in public. The advertisers are targeting you. very manly men wearing lots of padding would run around chasing a ball while thousands of screaming people encouraged them to rip each other to shreds. which protected them so well they did not need padding. You’d watch another commercial where very manly men (even the ones who weren’t so large) drink beer and stand around doing things only men who drink that particular brand of beer can do.Football Goes Feminine And I’ve noticed something interesting. Next. during which very large. very manly men drive very large. and by this point. average middle-age woman. you’d have several more pickup commercials. Fully clothed women and children ran amuck in these commercials. you—the average middle-age woman—were starting to feel left out. But all that has changed. and you’d watch very large. The beer commercials tout drinkability and a reduction in calories. It wasn’t that long ago that football commercials pushed only two products: beer and pickup trucks. for a change of pace. 251 . Then the TV would cut to a commercial for a pickup truck. as well as one pushing sandwiches with organic roasted vegetables and one for a credit card featuring people buying theater tickets. You’d have several minutes of football. I counted a gourmet coffee commercial. The commercials are going coed. That’s right. followed by more beer commercials. very manly pickups. I’ve been thrilled to discover in the last year or so that the auto commercials are now pushing not-so-manly features like fuel efﬁciency and family friendliness.
252 . Not that I’ll need it. there will no doubt be half-time commercials promising to wipe away cellulite. if not feminine. at least a bit metrosexual. Football would appear to be going. Soon.Days of Derangement And the only men to be seen were older and much smaller men who looked thrilled to be offered medicine to lower their cholesterol and conquer those enlarging prostates.
M 253 . there is only one Right Way to Weigh Yourself. waxing ecstatic over every lost pound. with ample parking in the back. because. Naah. You would think this would mean that we’d be very supportive of each other. we’ve had to settle for whichever one of our children needs to get on the parental good side. however. presided over by an impartial judge who is supposed to record our weight each morning and ensure there is no cheating. As everyone knows. As we are short of impartial judges willing to come into our bathroom. That means we have to have a daily weigh-in. We’re actually in a cutthroat competition to see who can get svelte (or maybe just slightly less lumpy) the quickest. And I’ve done this while adhering to my spouse’s terribly unfair weighing system. I’m usually winning the weight competition. I don’t need to bribe the judge. celebrating every time a stalk of celery took the place of a plate of cookies or bag of chips.Weighty Matters My body is a temple. y husband and I regularly try to lose weight. Funny Man has actually resorted to attempted judicial bribery.
who is late getting ready for school. Exhale. however. Let go of the towel bar very. Take off all of your clothes. and this judge. 7. very slowly. Brush the crud off your teeth. 4. being careful not to swallow any water. fails to notice that you have not yet let go of the towel bar. 2. It is OK. 9. 3. the overage will increase exponentially with every pound. 8.Days of Derangement a highly sophisticated method that has worked beautifully for generations of women. Go to the bathroom. lift the other foot and put it ever so gently on the scale as well. 254 . including your underwear. so much the better. If it is even one hair’s breadth above the zero. grip the towel bar tightly. Or. Wake up. This weigh-in procedure consists of the following steps: 1. 5. If you need support during this transition. Every ounce counts. 6. When the ﬁrst foot is in place. Look down at the dial and note your weight. if the needle rests slightly below the zero as this will just cancel out weight unfairly added by variables such as wind direction and humidity (even in the bathroom). if you have an impartial judge there to write down your weight. Place one foot on the scale and slowly transfer your weight from the ﬂoor in a calm but deliberate movement. Calibrate the scale.
an imprudent process practiced at health clubs. 2. And I sure don’t need that. This foolish procedure consists of only two wildly risky steps: 1. Get on the scale. medical ofﬁces and other places in which women hate to be weighed.Weighty Matters Unfortunately. my man adheres to The Wrong Way to Weigh Yourself. This dangerous way to weigh has been known to startle a scale into adding ﬁve or 10 pounds to a woman’s real weight. Note your weight. 255 .
thanks to technology. —Christian Bale T he Internet has changed everything. You arrive at the resort fully clothed. only the people who were there that day would have the pleasure of seeing you in such a predicament. there’s not much else that can really get to you. leaving you—bare-bottomed—dangling helplessly upside down. you decide to go skiing. while your boot and ski simultaneously become lodged in the lift. As you slide. your pants are pulled down. it malfunctions. and the pictures 256 .The Big Wee But I learned that there’s a certain character that can be built from embarrassing yourself endlessly. But now. those people would take pictures of you with their cell phones (assuming they could stop laughing long enough). as most skiers do. for example. Say. and you hop aboard the chairlift. causing you to slide through a gap between the seat and the chair back. If you can sit happy with embarrassment. Before we all became entangled in the Web. Unfortunately.
pronounced it “Wee. I kept thinking about this unfortunate fellow. This actually happened a couple of years ago to a man in Colorado. If the chairlift butt exposure incident could happen to someone else. I didn’t see anybody dangling upside down with bared buttocks. Sven showed us how to stop by pointing the tips of our skis in a V. On the way. But I hadn’t gotten there yet. I was the oldest one in the class except for the instructor. a hale and hearty man named Sven. I was part of the “never ever” class. But Sven. I could only creep along like a crab. Then everyone on the planet would have a chance to chortle at your chapped cheeks. Although I’m about half Sven’s age. ﬂat devices on their feet and attempted to slide down a mountain on top of massive amounts of snow. So I was quite concerned as I walked in my unfamiliar skis—like a bowlegged cowboy—from the ski shop to the “bunny slope” where I would begin my lesson. And having my dangling derriere gracing websites worldwide would not be a pretty picture.” 257 . I know this because he kept reminding us as he clambered like a kid up the gentle incline of the bunny slope and then encouraged us to follow him. Sven was originally from Sweden. and he was 80—80!— years old. it could deﬁnitely happen to me. I looked nervously at the chairlift that was taking people to the mountaintop. That’s because I consider myself an embarrassment magnet. being Swedish. those sane individuals who’ve never before put long. And when I agreed to take a ski lesson.The Big Wee would appear online before you’d even had time to warm up your freezing rear end.
and my dignity. I was sufﬁciently adept at making a big wee that I was taken. trembling. after many hours of effort. safely in place. The Internet is certainly better for it. Eventually. to the chairlift. Each time Sven said it.” he kept shouting as I continually chose an alternative method of stopping—falling over. I’d giggle some more. You’ll be pleased to know I made it to the top of the mountain with my pants. until I—with my middle-age mom’s bladder—was in danger of making a different kind of wee than my instructor intended. This caused me to childishly giggle. 258 .Days of Derangement “Just make a big wee.
when the living is easy (that would make a great song lyric). Kathy and I have been pals since our children were babies. consulting with the rain. is that it gives you the opportunity to get away from it all and reconnect with family and friends. In modern parlance. even the insects seem friendly. at least until they bite you. conferring with the ﬂowers. you can while away the hours. —Oprah Winfrey W hat’s nice about the summertime. I’d turn that into a catchy tune. we are BFFs (best friends forever. I sometimes have the privilege of going on vacation with my friend Kathy and her family.) Getting away from it all is just what I like to do in a cabin in rural North Carolina. which is about as friendly a place as you’ll ﬁnd on this earth. In North Carolina.My BFF Lots of your friends want to ride with you in the limo. (If I only had a brain. but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down. for those of you who still speak 259 . In the sweet summertime.
And speaking of my knees. holding out her arms for me to see. we got even closer to Mama Earth when she brought a raging thunderstorm our way. Before we got too depressed.” Kathy said glumly the last time we got together. When we get together. That night. who didn’t even seem to notice that we’re all getting older. On the walk.Days of Derangement actual English).” she said excitedly. We found ourselves taking shelter in the basement of some friendly neighbors. 260 . Kathy made a heartwarming discovery. and we had a great time conferring with Mother Nature. listening to the storm above us and clutching our loved ones close. complete with a power outage and warnings of a nearby tornado. Kathy suddenly nudged me and pointed ﬁrst at her bare legs and then at mine. I noticed on the drive up here that they’ve gotten very wrinkly. Then we moved on to lesser matters like how quickly our children have grown up and how scary a place the world is getting to be. My wrists still look great! Notice how young and skinny my wrists are!” And lo and behold. “Hey. “I absolutely hate my thighs. I noticed that my own wrists still looked pretty darn attractive as well. “I’ve discovered something I still like about my body. “They’ve fallen down past my knees. Kathy and I—being BFFs who know pretty much everything there is to know about each other—can dispense with the usual pleasantries and get right down to talking about what truly matters while sitting in a couple of rocking chairs on the front porch. As we sat there in the ﬂickering candlelight. I suggested we go for a walk in the woods. and we spent another half hour lamenting the increasing force of gravity on our various body parts. How did that happen?” I nodded gravely.
our thighs look really good.” she said. She’ll always help you look on the bright side. I’ll still want to share a front porch with my friend Kathy. That’s why. “Down here in the dark. 261 .My BFF “Hey.” That’s what is so wonderful about a good BFF. when even our wrists no longer look young.
And there was no person sweeter in Mayberry than Aunt Bea. And it was all Opie’s fault. Watching that program as a kid was about as good as eating warm-out-of-the-oven cookies washed down with cold milk. ﬁctional TV characters on that beloved old sitcom The Andy Grifﬁth Show. The make-believe Mayberry was based on Grifﬁth’s reallife hometown of Mount Airy. it gave you a nice feeling all over. The world was a sweet. far more reliable than a man. I always wanted to climb up in her lap. Love is a substitute for chocolate. NC.Aunt Bea Goes Bonkers It’s not that chocolates are a substitute for love. On the show. so it wasn’t the real Aunt Bea or the real Opie. let’s face it. comforting and pillowy soft. Chocolate is. —Miranda Ingram I saw Aunt Bea go a little bonkers. As everyone over a certain age knows. a community that proudly 262 . She was warm. well. the real Aunt Bea and Opie were. and she could cook up a storm. Aunt Bea was Sheriff Andy Taylor’s aunt. When I watched the show as a child. OK. simple place in Mayberry USA.
This is a good thing for children. So I completely understood when an Aunt Bea look-alike walked into Opie’s Candy Store while I was there one day and. Chocolate is life. had a chocolate-triggered meltdown. Chocolate is nature’s Midol. Next door. you can get a trim and shave (assuming you are a man or a very hairy woman) in the real Floyd’s Barber Shop. chocolate sings. I am quite fond of the cocoa bean. and it’s an even better thing for women. a relative newcomer to the street. Opie’s also has many different kinds of chocolate. when denied her nostalgic nourishment. Chocolate single-handedly sustains the vital control-top panty industry. Opie’s Candy Store is a walk down memory lane that offers old-time goodies some of you more seasoned citizens loved when you were kids—things like Mary Janes. Along Main Street in Mount Airy. While money talks. Right beside Floyd’s is Opie’s Candy Store. 263 . a particular form of chocolate is wrapped up in our minds with a special memory. where the real Andy got his hair cut before he moved to Hollywood and had to pay a lot more for it. As you might have guessed. you can visit Snappy Lunch and eat the same famous pork chop sandwich that Andy ate as a boy.Aunt Bea Goes Bonkers promotes its favorite son. She really did look like Andy’s aunt—upswept hair. And often. Chocolate is to women what beer is to men. I came to my senses before I ended up in the Mayberry jail guarded by Barney. For a moment. Fortunately. Squirrel Nut Zippers and Big Hunk candy bars. warm smile and pillowy soft frame. I had a childlike urge to climb into her lap. I have many of my own special memories bound up in chocolate.
The other customers clutched their candy closer. then approached the clerk and asked where to ﬁnd the chocolatecovered caramels. kindly informed her the store was temporarily out of that item. she said it yet again.” The clerk. When he returned. And again. “I came speciﬁcally from Florida for Opie’s chocolate-covered caramels!” she said loudly. “I’ve never forgotten how good they tasted. Then she said it again. her voice forlorn. but the other female customers gently guided our suffering sister out the door. giving her an understanding pat on the arm. distinctly non-Aunt Beaish look. She ordered the clerk to check in the back for more caramels. a young man apparently unaware of the dangers of depriving a woman of her desired form of chocolate. beaming. 264 . “And I’m in menopause!” The clerk looked bewildered. Aunt Bea began to tremble and. to sweat profusely. Her face took on a crazed. The real Aunt Bea would have done no less. Then she added the kicker.Days of Derangement Aunt Bea’s clone looked around the store several times. shockingly. “I had them years ago when I was here with my children” she told him. “I came speciﬁcally from Florida for them!” she told everyone in the room. empty-handed.
Aunt Bea Goes Bonkers 265 .
” Good old Ben. Franklin actually reminded his fellow signers that the cantankerous King George III would not be happy with their declaration. We had an enthusiastic National Park Service guide who gave us all the salient historical details and then threw in some interesting tidbits. The guide also reminded us of Franklin’s stirring comment as he added his signature and anticipated all the Fourth of July barbecues to come.Turbulence I had the honor of being in Philadelphia at Independence Hall one July Fourth not too long ago. It was a moving experience. we shall all hang separately. “We must all hang together. like the fact that the youngest signer of the Declaration of Independence was 26 and the oldest—acclaimed kite-ﬂyer Ben Franklin—was 70. 266 . I made that last part up. always throwing a wet blanket on the festivities.” Franklin famously said “or. “Give me good potato salad or give me death!” OK. most assuredly.
Sure enough. I kept thinking about a boy who’d been on our ﬂight into Philadelphia the day before. waving his ﬂag and shouting every sentence. making everyone jump in their seats. he made his own little declaration of independence. pointing excitedly at the airplanes. he did it again. but as she walked away. “Turbulence!” he yelled happily. He grinned appealingly at her and nodded as if he would comply. He carried a small American ﬂag and wore a plastic derby hat festooned with stars and stripes. Our horse was 267 . so I was royally perturbed when this young ﬁrecracker sat directly behind me on the plane. His tired-looking mother tried to shush him. He was about eight years old and dressed in patriotic garb. he exploded.Turbulence Our guide described the turmoil swirling around Philadelphia in July of 1776 as the Continental Congress debated the Declaration. we took a horse-drawn carriage ride around historic Philadelphia. Standing in the hallowed room where that document and the United States Constitution were signed. I was tired that day and feeling about as cranky as the king. shortly into the ﬂight. but a few minutes later. After several more outbursts. everyone was aware of this child because he was loud and boisterous. Before we even boarded the ﬂight. the ﬂight attendant came by and admonished him. which he ignored just like my own children always did. “Turbulence!” I turned around and gave him my most severe maternal look. “Turbulence!” After touring Independence Hall.
Spot had a bag placed strategically below his business end. there was only one thing to say as we passed him. 268 . Anyway. and Ben pointed out this innovation was not in use in Revolutionary times. As we ended our ride and got out of the carriage. and our driver was Ben.Days of Derangement named Spot. still wearing his hat and waving the ﬂag. who should arrive for the next ride but the brash boy from the ﬂight. who even in old age was apparently quite a ﬁrecracker himself. Ben the driver regaled us with the exploits of Ben Franklin. I suppose that’s why the founding fathers wore those high boots and why the founding mothers insisted the boots be removed before entering the founding houses. “Turbulence!” Franklin would probably have loved that kid. Naturally.
the Queen’s loyal subjects will then do their best to make you loopy with their lingo. as well. They are highly civilized. This is their way of paying America back for that little matter of a tea-party tantrum. If only they’d learn to drive correctly and speak the language properly. It labels what is clearly a cookie as a biscuit and what is brazenly a biscuit as a scone. If you manage to survive this drive-by assassination attempt. My family went on a trip a few years ago to Merry Olde England. the Brits have a chance to pick off yet another descendent of those ill-mannered colonists. rich in culture and history.Hail Britannia I ’m a big fan of the English. and I’m sorry to report that her inhabitants still insist on driving on the left side of the road. as one member or another of my family did repeatedly. Spelling is handled haphazardly. It calls potato chips crisps and French fries chips. Despite having been native English speakers for quite some time. Every time one of us Yanks looks the wrong way when crossing a road over there and steps into oncoming trafﬁc. they’d be a perfect people. England has apparently failed to develop along appropriate linguistic lines. with the letter u added to words—like colour and honour—that have no 269 .
We heard exciting tales of monarchy and mayhem. We trembled with terror at the thousand-year-old Tower of London as we listened to stories of long-ago torture in the dungeons. 270 . popularly known as a Beefeater. paintings and sculpture far older than our own country. in spite of a few foibles. This was served with what is apparently used to ﬂavor all food in England.Days of Derangement business with a u. We gazed upon statues. A colorfully dressed Yeoman Guard at the tower. On our ﬁrst morning in London. Black Pudding is a sausage made by cooking pig’s blood with a ﬁller until it is thick enough to congeal when cooled. And so we set out to savor the civilization that produced both Shakespeare and the Spice Girls. circular breakfast item deceptively named Black Pudding. We went to palaces and castles. kings (like a certain multi-wived Henry and the cranky. Our mouths fell open with wonder as we checked out the crown jewels and marveled at the majesty. while re is used to spell words that everyone knows need an er. No wonder these poor people tried to colonize the world in earlier times. They were simply seeking more tasty cuisine. we each bravely ate a dark. the ubiquitous Brown Sauce. The Pig’s Blood Affair. Turns out. And an extra e is sprinkled into all sorts of words that would be far better off without it. It’s enough to keep an American on the other side of the pond. But I assured my crew that. Then there is the bizarre nature of British food. almost spoiled our appetite for exploring the Sceptre’d Isle. of queens who lost their heads. museums and galleries. colony-losing George III) with too much power and ravens who even today rule the roost on the Tower grounds. as my children took to calling it. the English are a lovely and lively bunch.
after all. wasn’t built in a day. Rome. The English spend a great deal of time drinking very dark. 271 . And Britannia may yet rule the waves. You’ve got to love the British. This explains their legendary jolliness and also explains why they haven’t gotten around to correcting their driving or spelling systems. But maybe we just need to give them some more time.Hail Britannia cheerfully reminded the uncouth Americans in the crowd that if we’d simply paid our taxes. If she could only give up the Black Pudding. all the culture and history at which we were agog could still be ours. the pub. We also paid a call to that most iconic of English institutions. very strong beer in pubs with names that start with Ye.
There were naughty nurses with uniforms so low-cut they could induce heart failure. was deﬁnitely not headed to her grandmother’s house. with her plunging neckline and platform 272 . But when I went costume shopping with my family. I promised them. Little Red Riding Hood. that I’d dress up for Halloween. and a deviant housewife ensemble that seemed ill-suited for mopping ﬂoors.The Scariest Costume O ne year when my kids were still young enough to care. Maybe. And Goldilocks. sporting thigh-highs. I found that the hags have turned to hoochies. with a few adult modiﬁcations. after much begging on their part. I searched through dozens of costumes. The witches were wearing very little. and the princesses are parading more than their tiaras. I thought. Or maybe I’d reprise my polyester princess phase. I’d continue my longtime childhood role of witch—one of those wonderfully hideous hags with a pointy black hat and hooked plastic nose complete with wart. all of them offering a shrink-wrapped style that ranged from sexy to slutty to skanky.
I am 273 . I pondered my predicament. I wear a disguise every day. I could get creative with the cardboard and felt and appeal to the stomach by appearing as a plate of nachos or a tray of chocolate chip cookies. I could cut a circle out of a laundry basket and insert it over my body. along with one labeled Law and Order 24/7. I went with something very simple. something funny and familiar. There’d be a Full-time Football button and a Constant Cartoons knob. I considered buying one of these outﬁts. But my vixen vanished when I saw the looks of horror on the faces of my children. My Halloween attire would have to be homemade. For the briefest of moments. actually mulled over the suggestion on the package of one costume that I channel my inner vixen. looked ready to sleep in everyone’s bed. In the end. I could include one they’d ﬁnd highly useful on occasion—Mute Mom. the kind of eye candy that would spark my gang’s gratitude. Or I could pose as a giant red spoon with Betty Crocker scrawled across my forehead. Or. or perhaps soothing and sweet. or maybe even slightly scary. I could remind them of all that I do. for laughs. Mom in a minidress was too monstrous an idea. I could cover myself with foil marked as leftovers. So. But not salacious. I realized that. Every morning. It was all more strip club than storybook. I could dress up as one of the most important items in our house—the remote control—with custom buttons designed to appeal to each member of my family. And. Or maybe I could stick some toy tires on my arms and legs and masquerade as a minivan. still in need of a disguise. in a way. with pieces of dirty clothing dangling from clothespins.The Scariest Costume heels.
And my kids thought that was the scariest costume of all. 274 .Days of Derangement transformed from a bleary-eyed creature straight out of Night of the Living Dead into something resembling an attractive human being. I paint my face. I get dressed up in slimming garb designed to trick people into thinking I’m a treat. So I decided to skip that step and stroll the streets as myself. and I ﬁx my hair.
Costumes for the Craft-Challenged O ne of the good things about watching your children grow into teenagers who are too old to trick or treat is that you no longer have a panic attack when you hear someone on one of those morning television shows say something like this: “Halloween is coming! It’s time for all you good parents to make fun and creative costumes for your kids. Otherwise. And like me. your children will spend years in expensive therapy that you’ll have to pay for!” Maybe the announcer doesn’t say exactly those words. but that’s what you hear because you are like me. festering resentment of those Martha Stewart clones who’ve had the gall to get fruitful and multiply and are even now hunched over their dining room tables creating costumes for their children that require more time and effort than you spent planning your wedding. 275 . a craft-impaired individual who was not told before becoming a parent that part of the job entailed coming up with homemade Halloween costumes. you have a deep.
and you’re going to have to do better than that. You’ve got to take your store-bought outﬁt to a seamstress who can personalize it so much that everyone will think that you actually made it yourself. Parenting has become a competitive sport (soon to be an event in the Olympics). For little girls you’ll have a selection of highly realistic occupational costumes (my personal favorite: the ‘Major Trouble’ military outﬁt complete with camouﬂage short skirt and heels) or some version of Barbie or the perennial favorite princess. my friend. And don’t think you can just throw together some half-baked costume like a bed sheet with a couple of poorly aligned eye holes. For little boys. streamers of this resentment shoot up and cause considerable heartburn. Buy the costume and hustle on out of the mall. and all the Martha clones will want to be your friend. You’ll have lots of choices. 276 . No. So get yourself down to the mall and buy your child a fun and creative costume made in a factory in China. Then you’ll be a hero to your child. you may choose some version of a licensed character that will not only delight your son but further enrich whatever multinational corporation owns the rights to that character. the way your parents did. But no one will feel sorry for you. but it’s deﬁnitely there. and when you hear those words on television. you costume-defective parent. But do not think that you’re done. so stop whining about your heartburn and focus on the task at hand.Days of Derangement This resentment is so deep that it’s in one of those places that people don’t talk about at parties.
I’m glad I could help. 277 . which will no longer cause you heartburn because everyone will consider you to be cool and crafty. There’s no need to thank me for this valuable advice.Costumes for the Craft-Challenged Then you’ll be invited to those parties where people don’t talk about your festering resentments.
the green beans and sweet potatoes dressed up for the occasion. 278 . —Martha Stewart E very year at the beginning of November. Martha Stewart will be proud of me. and the pies mighty with meringue.Of Mice and Martha I invented ‘It’s a good thing’ before you were even born. goes my fantasy. The cranberries will be expertly jelled. and I will bask in the awe accorded domestic doyennes such as Martha and me. There will be no chaos this year. Order will prevail in my world of good things and gracious living. I ﬁnd myself vowing. Gone will be the snickers brought on by past disasters. my mother-in-law will eat crow along with the succulent turkey I place on her plate. I envision a holiday season infused with peace. no crush of time bearing down on us like a frenetic freight train. We’ll be giddy with gratitude at Thanksgiving. We’ll gather before a table tastefully turned out and groaning with good food. I harvest a new crop of hope that’s been watered by an abundance of denial. saturated with a spirit of thankfulness and goodwill.
there’ll be parties for hosting in my immaculately clean house. The gifts I have purchased will be hidden away so well that they are forgotten. She will perch on my shoulder. but I prefer to think of it as eternal optimism. My in-laws will leave with empty stomachs and wagging tongues. and hearts will radiate good cheer and glad tidings. By December. It will truly be the most wonderful time of the year. the rolls run amok with assistance from my brawling brats. And old Tom Turkey. a stylishly dressed angel of ambiance. If tradition holds. Some people excel at execution. My joyfully jingle-belling children will make delightful decorations. marshmallows for toasting and chestnuts for roasting. the meringue meander. whispering in my ear. and the beans and potatoes lie limp. 279 . Psychiatrists have another term for such delusions. My mistakes will be of the classic variety: the cranberries will quiver. My hopeful harvest will soon begin to wither. those for whom the best-laid plans of mice and Martha almost always go awry. Loved ones will gather near. The piecrusts will pucker. The dogs will manage to knock over the Christmas tree almost every day. under the heat of seasonal expectations. others. I’ll be walking on the dark side. I’ll turn to Martha for help. There’ll be cookie baking and eggnog making.Of Mice and Martha At Christmas time. when pierced. Failure will not be an option. however. Thanksgiving Day will dawn as gray and gelatinous as my gravy. like me. consulting her books for guidance. I’ll burn the cookies and scald the eggnog. will spurt ice-cold juices from the depths of his still-frozen interior. are dreamers.
I’ll remember young and eager ﬁngers that used to tickle me awake. now dressed in black—a Darth Vader of domesticity—will prod and nag and threaten until I am drowning in a sea of self-reproach.” they’d whisper. Martha. “Mom. My Christmas spirit will spring a leak. “it’s Christmas!” And suddenly. and old Ebenezer Scrooge won’t seem like such a bad guy. nothing else mattered.Days of Derangement and I will hurry out to buy more. 280 . on Christmas Day. I will suddenly have a much better understanding of the Grinch. And that’s a good thing. and breathless voices full of wonder from children who didn’t care that I wasn’t the queen of homemaking. Yet. she’ll want more. Peace and calm will give way to panic. And still. somewhere in the midst of all the un-Martha-like mayhem. I will crumple under her pressure like ill-conceived origami. promising her the world. wondering how I can be so disgustingly disorganized.
The women scurried about preparing the meal. This is what happened to my family one Thanksgiving. to drink in the clear. we gathered before a table groaning with good food. a calamitously clogged commode and enough tension to earn a spot on the Jerry Springer Show. We salivated at the smell as we offered up our thanks.Plunging into Thanksgiving W hat do you get when you take a dozen family members of varying ages and degrees of regularity. hands and feet ﬂying. When all was ready. delirious with the joy of being out of school and unsupervised. Everything began beautifully. to feast and frolic. The children sprinted around outside. And 281 . noses running. We were giddy with gratitude. put them in the woods in a cabin with one low-ﬂow toilet and then stuff them to the gills with Thanksgiving bounty? You get. We headed to the woods like modern-day Pilgrims. of course. The men did what men do on such occasions. they stood around waiting to begin the traditional male holiday jobs of eating and sleeping. cold air and give thanks for all our blessings.
Grandpa. the terrible news came from a single. The men began the task of conquering the cranky commode. sloshing way every creature dragging more than a ton would scramble. And when we were bloated like beached whales. when Congress mandated that toilets should ﬂush with a measly 1. The evidence of its rebellion was plainly visible and set off a round of groans and gags in the adults that made the kids giggle. “The potty’s exploding!” There are few things less welcome at such a time than the words potty and exploding used in the same sentence. History will record the ‘90s as the decade of the bum rap.5 gallons that swirled through our childhoods. When we eventually arrived. we ate some more. as the patriarch. headed up the attack. are far too well-acquainted with the plunger. then gave a strong pull that sent him ﬂying across the room and left the kids helpless with laughter. He pumped vigorously with the plunger. By scrambled. and overworked digestive systems begin the Herculean task of breaking down all that food. Tempers rose.6 gallons of water. As it often does. And ate. Today’s children. and bladders threatened to burst. 282 . small voice. deprived of the 3. the rolling. The trouble began in the magic hour when men assume their positions on the couch to catch the kickoffs. The youngest child emerged from the bathroom shouting excitedly. we gathered soberly around the overworked toilet.Days of Derangement then we ate. We scrambled toward the bathroom to assess the situation. I mean the sea lion’s scramble. every corpuscle groaning from the gluttony.
The latrine gurgled and grunted. Sweating and muttering curses. resurfaced as brother betrayed brother. 283 . each wielded it like a samurai sword as he took his turn in battle. and sanitary practices questioned. That’s when Grandma stepped in. watching all their hard work laid waste. The children eagerly took part in our vicious ﬁnger pointing designed to identify the guilty clogger. where the call of nature got a grateful reply.Plunging into Thanksgiving Each football-deprived man then took his turn as a toilet tamer. the effort was ﬂush with failure. sadly. Brooking no dissent. The family was falling apart. she ordered everyone into their vehicles. and we headed for the nearest service station. and in-laws were made to feel like outsiders. The men began to bicker over possession of the plunger. we attempted to assign blame. daughters cast aspersions on mothers. but. Old insults and resentments. Legs and expressions were crossed. slights delivered years ago. and eyeballs appeared to be ﬂoating. but would not back down. Accusations of tissue overuse were hurled. did what moms do best. The women.
which—though seemingly as full of holes as Swiss cheese these days—is still intact enough for me to remember not to end my sentences with a preposition. I am also most thankful for ﬂexible. and for this I am again most thankful.Things For Which I Am Thank ful A round Thanksgiving. My education relied heavily on old-fashioned. low-tech items called books. Speaking of loose and comfy PJs. which taught me a quaint skill called spelling. This skill makes it impossible for me to decipher my kids’ text messages. I am thankful for my memory. however. forgiving elastic like the kind that seems to increasingly be found in the waistbands of my clothes. I am very thankful for the Internet. I like to consider the things for which I am thankful. which allows me to do my Black Friday shopping online while I sip a steaming cup of coffee and enjoy wearing my warm and roomy pajamas. Elastic hides 284 . to the beneﬁts of technology. This grammatical giftedness is a result of my education. I am not immune. another thing for which I am truly thankful.
Sometimes my life ﬂows along smoothly. ﬂavorful stream of goodness. I should sift it with thankfulness the same way my grandma used to strain her gravy. Perhaps then my life wouldn’t be as strained as this goofy metaphor I’m beating into the ground here. while I am deﬁnitely not appreciative of cellulite. Other times. Perhaps you haven’t been paying attention. Gravy is actually a symbol for my life. those people will be going to her house instead of mine. I am thankful for my mother. People come from miles around to sample my mother’s gravy. It doesn’t get the gratitude that it deserves. Just about the only thing I’ll have to do is show up wearing my elastic pants. It doesn’t get much better than that. I am certainly thankful for the surface glories of good gravy.Things For Which I Am Thank ful a multitude of ﬂaws and is surely one of man’s greatest inventions. I am grateful for gravy. a rich. during the holidays. gelatinous mess in desperate need of a sanity strainer. it turns into a lumpy. Perhaps I’ve said “perhaps” once too often. This is a much more profound statement than you realize. 285 . Anyway. And every Thanksgiving. luscious sauce that coats my taste buds and then goes on to coat my hips. Perhaps you’re wondering what on earth I’m talking about. Perhaps when my life gets lumpy. In particular. who is a gravy grand master. But I’ve come to realize lately that gravy is much more than that. a fact for which I am deeply thankful as it means I won’t have to clean my house. I am thankful for those tasty substances that cause it. that warm. Speaking of a multitude of ﬂaws. speaking of gravy.
snug in their beds While dozens of toy commercials dance in their heads. I tripped over last year’s toys to see what was the matter. My children nestle each night. When out near my lawn. she just had to call to check on his welfare. I’m too seasonally stressed for even a short winter’s nap.‘Tis a Few Weeks ‘Til Christmas I wrote this very silly poem after Funny Man had a little mishap trying to satisfy my mania for keeping up with the neighbors in Christmas decorations. And me in my stained sweatpants. After the poem appeared in the hometown newspaper of one of Funny Man’s old girlfriends. So sweet of her to do that… ‘Tis a few weeks ‘til Christmas and all through my house. and I’m feeling like a louse. with my hair in a cap. Nick will drop her off on some beach. 286 . The dog chewed the stockings I left in her reach. there arose such a clatter. Not a gift has been bought. I’m hoping St.
And then. When what to my weary eyes should appear. But a miniature plastic sleigh with eight phony reindeer. When I whistled and shouted and called them by name. I knew in a moment our Yuletide décor needed a kick. I heard on the roof The prancing and pawing of his big. Sliding off the roof. I fell with a crash. Tore a hole in those sweatpants. too. When they rush to the stores. at my bidding. Now Boy and Girl! Now Bad Dancer and Little Vixen! On Retailers’ Dreams! On Merchandisers’ Minions! Put more lights on the porch. He was dressed in his grubbies. So the next day.‘Tis a Few Weeks ‘Til Christmas Down hard on the ﬂoor. As I rushed outside and was turning around. panic mounting to the sky. my children they came. Slightly more rapid than turtles. my husband he ﬂew To the housetop with more lights. But a bundle of lights he still held on his back And he looked ready to kill when he gave me that sack. from his head to his foot. The moon on the tops of inﬂatable decorations below. Now his clothes were tarnished with leaves and a root. on my leg was a gash. His eyes. how they glared at me. and a bad attitude. in a manner so lively and quick. ‘til I felt very wary. my husband came with a bound. Gave a luster of true tackiness to my fake falling snow. in a twinkling. awkward hoof. more lights on the walls! We must impress the neighbors—now dash away all! As dry leaves that before the manic shoppers’ eyes ﬂy. Put up by my neighbor. 287 .
It shook when he moaned like a bowl full of jelly. A stray piece of grass he picked out of his teeth. He fell into bed. The frown on his face and the twist of his head Soon gave me to know I had something to dread.Days of Derangement His cheeks. He spoke not a word. I started to speak. But I didn’t dare laugh at him then. to the dog gave a whistle And the children scattered. But I heard them exclaim as they dove out of sight. he’d given up on this work. His not-so-droll mouth told me his anger I did sow And I feared that his temper.” 288 . it surely would blow. but he pointed his ﬁnger at my nose And shaking his head. if I valued myself. they were burning as red as a cherry. usually a jolly old elf. He brushed off the leaves circling his head like a wreath. he turned with a jerk. up to our bedroom he rose. “Poor Dad! He’s not going to have a good night. like the down of a thistle. With a hand on his sore back. He had a mad face and his little round belly. He’s a bit chubby and plump.
All I Want for Christmas Is Me D ear Robustly Round Man in the Unﬂattering Outﬁt (formally known as Mr. I need a clone. that part is not true. even the more-than-ample middle-age version of me can’t quite seem to ﬁll the bill. Actually. Santa. One dog usually needs to go out. You would think. During the holiday season. Claus): All I want for Christmas is more of me. I need to go to work. I can successfully be in all the different places doing all the different things I’m expected to be doing all at the same time. but it should beg to be exercised). and the other dog needs to come in. (OK. I need to write out Christmas cards and bake cookies and do my holiday shopping. But alas. That way. This is not as egotistical as it sounds. My body begs to be exercised. judging by the way I tip the scales lately. The laundry cries out to be laundered. You see. and the other child a little 289 . I need to clean my house. One child typically needs a little lifting up. that there would be plenty of me to go around. I need four or ﬁve clones.
I sure don’t need another household appliance. leave me a few clones on Christmas morning. They could smooth things over with my mother. My car sometimes won’t start. Don’t bring me bon-bons or baubles. The plants are usually wilting. So get right on that. The phone is always ringing. But don’t let me catch one of my clones kissing you under the tree. What I need. forget the fruitcake. My mother-in-law is always mad at me. 290 . and ﬁnally give my mother-in-law a well-deserved piece of my mind. as well as go to work and hit the gym (better them than me). So. cookie-baking and eggnogmaking. bathe the dogs. I don’t need another set of frilly pajamas or a soft new sweater. And that is only one day. I might even ﬁnd time for marshmallow toasting and chestnut roasting. Sweet Saint Nick. My mother is sometimes mad at me. And my Mister Coffee gives up the ghost and leaves me uncaffeinated and in need of a strait jacket. you right jolly old elf. My clones could cook and clean. Claus. with plenty of time for joyful jingle-belling. So next Christmas. That really would make it the most wonderful time of the year. My husband can’t ﬁnd any clean socks (due to that crying laundry). if you would. They would leave me free to enjoy the holidays. is more of me. I’ll have to tell Mrs. answer the phone and water the plants. I don’t think it’s too much to ask. They could wash the clothes. Santa.Days of Derangement dressing down. and I am often missing a shoe.
Despite having inhaled enough calories during the holidays to keep Paris Hilton alive into the next millennium. we needed drinks to wash down all that “free” food. Fortunately. It’s not that we wanted to sail around the sea for a few days eating everything in sight. Then we poured more money into the cruise line coffers 291 . He wouldn’t have invented the cruise ship. We certainly didn’t choose to arrive home after our gluttonous voyage weighing about the same. in tonnage. when presented with limitless amounts of food on board ship. So we must have been on a mission from God. as the boat we came in on. Naturally. there were always smiling attendants nearby to bring us round after round of beverages that were deﬁnitely not free.Cruise Control I f the Good Lord had wanted us to eat sensibly right after the holidays. And when we were bloated and seemingly unable to cram in one more bite. It must have been divine compulsion that drove my family and a couple thousand of our closest friends to set sail one year on an after-Christmas cruise in the Caribbean. The human psyche is a funny thing. we ate some more. we fell to eating as if we were famine victims. We ate and we ate.
a dashing and slender man who gazed upon us the way I imagine Captain Ahab must have looked at his prey. An astonishing number of these. we stuffed our bodies into bathing suits and rolled on to the deck. The next day. after a hearty breakfast. But I managed to select a winner. Each man was encouraged to strut his stuff. and by that time. er. wriggling and jiggling his chest and various other body parts for my enjoyment. not a makeover. the ship’s staff roused us for a hairy chest contest. every hair bristling with excitement. you are bound to discover that quite a few of these friends are sporting furry chests. sure enough. hunks took the stage for the contest. and then my family and I headed back to the buffet. That night. not even at bingo. where we sunned our globular ﬂesh. When you are cruising with thousands of your closest friends. Luck was certainly not a lady to me that day. That’s when the cruise director began to look for the “lucky” woman who would be required to select the best bushy chest. the great white whale in Moby Dick. It was almost enough to ruin my appetite. just when we were beginning to feel hunger pangs. we’d worked up enough of an appetite to devour platefuls of food at the midnight buffet. we donned formal wear—leaving the zippers open—and went to meet the captain. careful not to fall overboard lest we be mistaken for well-fed sea lions. many of which are accompanied by bald heads and very round bellies. But. I “won” the right to judge the shaggy strivers before me. After a few hours.Days of Derangement by visiting the casino and the onboard shopping mall. I never win anything—not the lottery. 292 .
is six months OLDER than I am. for some reason.Cruise Control Then—surprise. who. Funny Man foolishly took to calling me “Mom” for the rest of the cruise. 293 . Once we got home. When we visited the ship’s portrait gallery the next day to order copies.” Each time. I must point out. I needed a larger portion of the bed. not only because I was mad at him but because. I corrected him. the young man who waited on us referred more than once to the picture of “you and your son. he got to sleep on the couch. surprise—we sat down to a sumptuous dinner and shortly thereafter. speaking between clenched teeth and glaring at my highly amused husband. we had pictures taken to commemorate our nautical adventure.
And he was right. here are the Papandrew Pups’ Rover Resolutions. Surprisingly. Having lived with them for quite some time. I resolved to be realistic. however. decide to translate the goofy New Year’s resolutions of my two dogs. —George Carlin M ark Twain once suggested that the second week of January is a good time to begin paving hell with all those “humbug” resolutions we make on New Year’s Day. buoyed by research that shows that onethird of these well-meaning intentions don’t even last a month. I know just how they think. So one January. I did. and I didn’t make any resolutions. if limited. as my dogs are still trying to achieve them: 294 . they are fairly eloquent. thinkers (with an apparent appetite for alliteration). These resolutions stay the same year after year. So without further ado.Rover Resolutions Life is a series of dogs. I wasn’t going to be out there on the paving crew with the rest of you.
but we’ll try to remember not to be caught with our heads in The Trash when the often hysterical human female known as Mom enters the room. So we will borrow a page from the kitty playbook and cover our tracks so we don’t get caught. Grandma’s bouquet is very boring. the neighborhood cat who prances spitefully on our front porch right before our eyes. due to excessive use of a nasty people product apparently called soap. and he doesn’t appear at all upset if we smell interesting areas on his body. No longer will we openly 295 . We’ll devise a way to stick our snouts into areas requiring snifﬁng without being swatted. we’ll do our trash trolling in the presence of the wonderfully clueless biped called Funny Boy. We will learn to imitate the subtlety of our foe. We will become more sophisticated combatants in the war of the noses. and. Instead. 2. We will never cease and desist. He doesn’t seem to mind if we get into The Trash. that delectable repository of delight the humans call The Trash. The repercussions just aren’t worth it. We will not attempt to smell the private parts of the crotchety human named Grandma. We will emulate the enemy. When we justiﬁably launch a blistering volley of barking designed to alert our family to this brazen intrusion. We will win the war of the noses. the clever cat seems to vanish into thin air. This includes the canine Holy Grail.Rover Resolutions 1. Better to stick to the malodorous males. leaving the humans to look at us as if we’re stupid.
We will think like a cat and be more subtle. a squirrel. But when Mom sees us doing this. Then we will be forced to wrench Dad’s arm out of its socket and twist his knees ’til they tremble as we lunge against our leashes in our attempt to investigate. a cat or. 296 . though. Maybe that should be one of his New Year’s resolutions. We’ll let him know. if we get a whiff of another dog. This is a perfectly normal act that is very effective in scratching annoying anal itches. We will take pity on the inferior joints of the somewhat heavy human known as Dad and go easy on him during our walks. All bets are off. a fragrant splotch of road kill. she howls like our wolf ancestors and kicks us out of the house for unreasonable periods of time. And ﬁnally: 3. We will do a better job of walking the man. This would not be necessary if our human was in better shape and could run with us. best of all.Days of Derangement drag our backsides across the carpet.
but it takes real lovers to be silly. a light will begin to dawn. women have to begin the arduous process of focusing their men’s attention on something far more important: Valentine’s Day. and ends up on the ﬂoor staring at a full-page ad that mentions Valentine’s Day in a font large enough to be seen by the astronauts on the space station. He will not become aware that it’s time to pay homage to the holiday of the heart until he begins slipping on newspapers I place in front of the shower. As he steps out. There’s a reason Cupid’s commemoration comes so soon after the Super Bowl. dripping wet. sadly. and. It’s taken a mere 20 years of this type of subtle training for my sweetheart to remember to pick up something special like a kitchen item we already have or an exquisitely wrapped 297 . It’s an obvious test of the depth of men’s romantic tendencies. is no exception. My husband. it’s a test they fail more often than a Cosmo magazine relationship quiz.Holiday of the Heart Anyone can be passionate. —Rose Franken E very year when football season is ﬁnally over. God love him.
But the worst was a pair of silk pajamas—size XL—that Funny Man brought back from a business trip to China. Another time. consider yourself lucky) and created a lovely lamp that added a certain je ne 298 . Big. he brought home a cylinder head from a World War II-era airplane (if you don’t know what this looks like. nothing gets a wife in the mood for love more than struggling to ﬁt into anything marked XL.Days of Derangement collection of hotel toiletries. in a bid to impress me with his thoughtfulness. I’ve also received my share of ego-shattering lingerie. just after Funny Girl was born. Designed for the smaller Asian woman. always been so fortunate. big mistake. Under his name. little bits of ﬂuff that would barely ﬁt the anorexic hips of a Victoria’s Secret model. In an attempt to personalize the card. I haven’t. I can tell you. he gave me two sample-size bottles of the same perfume worn by his mother for the past ﬁve decades. Funny Man had tenderly tried his hand at poetry. I received a bottle of stretchmark-treating cocoa butter clearly purchased last minute at the nearest 24-hour drugstore. One year. Funny Man has also tried to be sweet with scent. This was accompanied by a box of Christmas candy with a 75 percent-off sticker and a card (sans envelope) featuring two kissing chimps. he’d written: Roses are red Violets are blue You want my body I know you do. those damned PJs wouldn’t go past my knees. One year. however.
I’ll try not to lose heart.Holiday of the Heart sais quoi to our living room décor. I’m hoping that by our 30th or possibly 40th anniversary. my man will have progressed to the point where he’ll ﬁll a vase with a single rose and a diamond necklace. In the meantime. or maybe the keys to a new Mercedes. 299 . It took me weeks to arrange an accident that sent this romantic piece of wreckage back to the junkyard.
) 300 . Take my son. wherever you are. those things just don’t bother me anymore. many of them are in the proverbial dog house. I’m mellower in these matters now. I once labeled a guy I was dating (who happened to be named Joe) “about as emotional as a park bench” when he sheepishly handed me a clip-on teddy bear with the price tag still on it after I’d given him a beautifully wrapped cashmere sweater. (Joe. Really. And to add insult to injury. with a girlfriend. The poor creatures are still mourning the end of football season.Survivor for Sweethearts A round the end of February. When he was in high school. I want that sweater back. We women can be particularly hard on our men at this time of year. he’d feel the holiday of the heart bearing down on him like a freight train. they’ve just had to endure another Valentine’s Day. There are probably no couples who sail through every Valentine’s Day with their relationship unscathed. I start to feel sorry for men. for example. As a result.
you’re miserable. however. he didn’t have a clue.” Many women. the little ﬂying man with the bow and arrow manages to make fully half of our species quiver with fear. If you don’t have a girl. Kind of like a Survivor for Sweethearts reality show. staring forlornly into his dog-eared wallet. “You don’t get credit for going to a nice restaurant or buying jewelry. “Like paying your mortgage or showing up for work. even though he apparently has never been able to get out of diapers. Cupid must be pretty smart. At least that’s what a married (and male) friend of mine told me. quiver.” he said. (Get it—bow and arrow.Survivor for Sweethearts So my heart hurt a little as I watched my boy trying to navigate the treacherous rapids of romance. it’s just expected. 14 as a trial-by-ﬁre day during which they try to stay out of trouble while not forking over too much money. 301 . Funny Boy often found himself asking the age-old question: What do women want? And like Freud. Like most males. you’re miserable. the most a man who makes it through Valentine’s Day can hope for is a wash.) That’s because men tend to see Feb. “Every guy hates Valentine’s Day. on the other hand. In February. Just before V-Day one year. But just like that hopeless romantic Sigmund Freud. “I hate Valentine’s Day!” he groaned. he really wanted (I think) to make his lady happy. I found him sitting on his bed. Unlike the million-dollar winner on the real Survivor show. And if you do have a girl. believe that what happens on Valentine’s Day will be an indication of how the rest of their relationship will play out for eternity. not to mention broke. Cupid is so stupid!” Actually.
ladies. 302 . I suggest that we cut them some slack and allow them to come out of their canine quarters. Not even the brilliant Dr. We really can’t expect them to be able to read our minds. Freud could do that.Days of Derangement That’s a lot of pressure we’re putting on our men.
overly optimistic infant aspirations need to be trimmed accordingly. after all. Once the lean and vigorous New Year’s baby has aged into a less lively. the thought that counts.Midyear Resolutions W hen the ﬁrst half of the year has been safely swept into the dustbin of history. and it simply has to go. our annual. middle-aged adult with love handles. That’s the No. And as we’ve all really wanted to do those things 303 . glamorous goals made when the year was young. 1 pledge on most people’s lists. Speaking of love handles. it is time to also throw out our New Year’s resolutions—those giddy. It is time to roll out more modest midyear resolutions. It is. Who are we kidding? Our midyear resolution will be to merely have the intention of exercising and eating right. and we were possibly inﬂuenced by too much champagne. the whole ridiculous weight-loss resolution absolutely must be on the midyear chopping block. So I always start with that diabolical duo of duties— exercise and eating right—that each of us swears to embrace in January.
Here. even when I have to then dash naked and wet through the house in search of a clean towel.Days of Derangement for months. we can check that one off our list right away. and that’s the only real reason to have resolutions in the ﬁrst place. rendering it illegible and making it impossible for me to do anything on that list. Then. The nice thing about slimming down our resolution roster in the summer is that we can add to it things we’ve already accomplished. faithfully writing out a to-do list each day as I watch exercise videos while enjoying coffee and donuts. Next on our midyear list should be a resolution to ignore our previous New Year’s Resolutions. They were utterly unrealistic anyway. Midyear declarations—like middle-aged muscles—tend to be a little loose and ﬂabby. are just some of the accomplishments I’ve been able to add to (and check off) my midyear lists: I will faithfully watch exercise videos each morning as I enjoy my coffee and donuts. for example. I will faithfully doze off when I am supposed to be writing inspiring works of great literary merit. Check. This gives us a deﬁnite sense of purpose. resolving to begin actual exercise very soon. Been there. I will faithfully not look in any mirrors as I’m doing this. when I wake up with drool running down my chin and realize I’m running out of time. lest I regret eating all those donuts. I will faithfully take a shower every day. I will faithfully (and frantically) throw 304 . done that. I will be a master of multitasking. Then I will faithfully spill coffee on my list. We can ﬁt pretty much anything inside them.
my friend. can live a productive and satisfying life by simply resolving to do what you’re already doing.Midyear Resolutions together a humor column about something stupid like midyear resolutions. 305 . You too. As you can see. it is easy to escape the tyranny of all those New Year’s resolutions that never give us a moment’s peace. Just make sure you have clean towels in the house ﬁrst.
“I just can’t believe Mother’s Day is coming up so soon.” Yet my family would still get up on that special Sunday and express astonishment—while trying to avoid the ﬂames shooting out of my eyes—that the darn day had snuck up on them again. the laminated footprints of a ﬁve-year-old. handmade apron I got one year and the artful collage created with canned food labels that left me guessing at the contents of my cans for weeks. I remember the ﬂowered. the I Love You Mommy mug. starting in April. irreplaceable gifts made by eager young hands: decorated pencil holders. It wasn’t always this way. I’ve received my share of those wonderful. in which I’d sigh heavily and say to no one in particular. So I began to use a subtle system of reminders. I began to notice when my kids turned into teenagers that it always seemed to take them (and the man who helped create them) by surprise.Mother’s Day Manifesto E ven though Mother’s Day is ﬁxed on the calendar. picture frames studded with colored macaroni. 306 .
So one year. I want chocolate. Not thick as Mississippi Mud like you made for me last year or the weaker-than-water stuff I got the year before. The holiday was conveniently forgotten until the last minute. after determining that it was not edible. Bring me chocolate in every form known to woman. I do not want to have to get up and wake you all up to remind you that it is Mother’s Day. but never. And with the coffee. the list was knocked off. Begin practicing now. lots of it. The coffee should be of the traditional strength and consistency. Realizing a more direct approach was required. but I bravely persisted: What I Want for Mother’s Day No. I wrote a list cleverly titled What I Want for Mother’s Day and put it on the refrigerator for everyone to see. as far as I could tell. 307 . I gathered my loved ones around me—actually. when childlike sweetness sours a bit and honoring your mother can seem about as cool as elevator music. I stood in front of the TV they were watching—and began to recite from my mom’s manifesto. used to blot a spilled spot of jelly. stepped on. my well of homemade wonders suddenly ran dry. actually read. I had to speak loudly to drown out the catcalls and boos coming from the crowd. and I’d end up holding a wilted bunch of hastilypurchased ﬂowers and eating a pancake dinner at IHOP. Naturally. 1: I want coffee brought to me in bed the moment I awaken. I took matters into my own hands.Mother’s Day Manifesto But with the approach of adolescence. had ignored it. Even the dogs.
No.Days of Derangement No. No. No surreptitious text messages may be sent to friends. no kicking a sibling under the table. one that requires an advance reservation and has no child’s menu. no breaking up knock-downdrag-out ﬁghts. Mom. where’s the sugar?” or “Did I mention I have a science project due tomorrow?” No. No eating with your ﬁngers. 4: I’d like to be taken to dinner at a nice restaurant. no toilet unclogging. I’ll probably also eat some more chocolate.” and you have to mean it. I’d like my offspring to conduct themselves admirably. There will be no Victoria ’s Secret Specials. No cleaning. And not a single word about bodily processes. During the meal. THE TV. Not once during this glorious bath will anyone interrupt me with “Hey Mom. And each of you has to say “I love you. No ESPN will appear on the TV that day. 3: After my bath. I plan to take a very hot bath and read a very long book. 308 . You are required to look pleasant and appear to be having fun. 5: After dinner. no cooking. not even any stuck-zipper zapping. That 52-inch high-deﬁnition behemoth in the living room. And I will allow myself the luxury of using a brand-new bar of soap. I want to have control of the television. I’d like us all to go through family pictures together and reminisce about old times. no toy repair. Not even one teenage eye may roll in disgust. no chewing with your mouth open. 2: I want a temporary cessation of all maternal responsibilities. I will be watching every movie Brad Pitt ever made.
ain’t nobody happy.Mother’s Day Manifesto At that.” I told my gang. I folded the paper and ﬁnished with something my Grandma used to say. “If Mamma ain’t happy. “Just remember.” 309 . several groans went up. something ungrammatical but undeniable.
VISIT FUNNYJACKIE.COM: http://amzn. The Tampa Tribune and The Oklahoman. 311 .. as well as awards from the Oklahoma Press Association.IF YOU ENJOY THIS BOOK. She’s won a Neal Award from American Business Media. PLEASE POST A REVIEW AT AMAZON.com. About Jackie Papandrew J ackie’s humor writing has been featured in several books. Parenting Publications of America. Jackie is a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists..COM FOR DETAILS. To ﬁnd out more. KINDLE AND NOOK FORMATS. America’s Funniest Humor Press and the Florida Freelance Writers Association. including the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. as well as in newspapers such as The Cleveland Plain Dealer. visit FunnyJackie.to/XVNYdi DAYS OF DERANGEMENT IS AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.