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IF YOU ENJOY THIS BOOK..to/XVNYdi DAYS OF DERANGEMENT IS AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK.COM FOR DETAILS. KINDLE AND NOOK FORMATS. VISIT FUNNYJACKIE..COM: http://amzn. PLEASE POST A REVIEW AT AMAZON. Days of Derangement Sidesplitting Stories from a Loopy Life JACKIE PA PA N DRE W .
funnyjackie. First Print Edition ISBN 978-0-9839391-5-3 All rights reserved. www.com .Copyright © 2012 by Jackie Papandrew. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher.
You’ve put up with me all of these years and provided so much great humor material. I love you all. especially because not one of you is planning to sue me…right? .This book is dedicated to my wonderful family.
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 .
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. 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 .
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.
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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 .
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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
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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
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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,
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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,
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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.
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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.”
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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
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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.
The Desperate Dad’s Guide to Getting Some DON’T promote pain. hairy arm across our chests a microsecond before you begin snoring. Really. DO take a cuddling class. DON’T blame the hormones. on the other hand. the one with the price tag still on it. assume it is your fault. at least not yet. DON’T follow formulas. (I don’t know where he got this idea. We might even slip into that negligee you bought years ago. 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. not that kind of tool. Doing so will ensure long cycles of celibacy. DO let us sleep in. where we are bound to be impaled by an errant toy.) He calculates every activity so that we are back in the bedroom within the required time frame. Then bring us breakfast in bed. This would include ﬂoors. Do not automatically chalk it up to the vagaries of menstruation. They are being paid to fake it. and we require a soft stage on which to perform. Corral the children and keep them quiet. No. We. You have to do more than sling one heavy. Forget any grainy videos you may have seen of surgically enhanced women who appear to enjoy having sex under these conditions. DO turn into a tool man. Do not try this at your home. If we seem annoyed. Professional help is available. A 19 . and walls. Cheerfully take on home improvement projects. Try not to suggest surfaces for sex that are likely to cause discomfort. This will release passionpromoting endorphins all over our bodies that by nightfall will have us convinced you are Brad Pitt. where we will feel like concrete on the wrong end of a jackhammer. This severely limits our culinary opportunities and makes me mad as a hornet. are faking it for free.
Gracefully ﬂip on your back. AND FINALLY DON’T threaten the children. Unlike ebony and ivory. DON’T make stupid comments. Leaving your socks on feels quick and dirty. X and Y shouldn’t even be on the same keyboard. (I was obviously temporarily retaining water!) It’s at times like this that I realize God has a wicked sense of humor. and swiftly yank up the covers. Funny Man was once foolish enough to point out that I seemed to be developing a beer belly.” This is a wise and undoubtedly well-satisﬁed man. avoid yelling at the youngster. If you are a victim of coitus interruptus caused by a wandering child and an unlocked door. 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. 20 . And don’t throw anything at the poor tot who wonders why Daddy brought his drill to bed. DO remove your socks. with no audible obscenities.
The Desperate Dad’s Guide to Getting Some 21 .
—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. bless them. One poor man then wrote me in despair. These tips encouraged the guys to perform stimulating activities—such as cleaning the bathroom. and that’s how most readers took it. and his 22 .Tips for Tool Men Love is blind. scrubbing the dishes and vacuuming the rugs— designed to make their wives feel frisky. My advice was deﬁnitely meant to be tongue-in-cheek. my column promised sureﬁre results if the men would only follow my simple choreplay plan. But some of my male readers failed to catch the article’s dripping sarcasm. which probably dropped right on to the ﬂoor and made a puddle that their wives had to clean up. These readers took my tips to heart and. doggedly set out to follow my pointers in the apparent belief that I was to be taken seriously. but marriage restores its sight. Like those middle-ofthe-night infomercials. saying he’d done lots and lots of choreplay.
No. I offered up Exhibit A—my husband. So I added this piece of advice: If you turn into a tool man. I meant that men should cheerfully take on home improvement projects designed to make life easier for their deserving wives. my man announced he had to go out of town on a business trip. be sure to ﬁnish the job. As proof why this is a bad idea. not that kind of tool. And never leave town in the middle of it. Funny Man decided one year to do some “minor” ﬁxing-up in the kitchen.” We did not. “getting some good sex out of it. As we talked. but another 23 . Then. “Great. I pointed to Exhibit B—my other neighbor. As the dinosaur character Rex in Toy Story said. as he told my husband.Tips for Tool Men wife was still not interested. while on this business trip. after I wrote that column. one of the things I suggested in the column was that deprived guys should try turning into tool men. of course. Fired up with enthusiasm. Not the clever laundry-room Lothario. Anyway. as further proof. inquire as to the outcome of this venture because it’s none of our (or your) business. And then. now I have guilt!” I wonder if those infomercial hosts ever feel that way. However. I began to feel obligated to add to my previous words of wisdom. he had the gall to call me from a restaurant where he was being wined and dined by a colleague. 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. But I’ve seen the lovely laundry room he built. and I believed our neighbor was a wise and well-satisﬁed man. I cited the example of a friend of ours who built a laundry room for his wife in the hopes of. When he’d torn apart the kitchen so that it was impossible to actually prepare food there.
I should have done an infomercial. 24 . who was trying to keep four young children from smearing spackle all over the place. I’d made it as clear as mud how to proceed. When this hard-working neighbor called his wife. Like the IRS.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. So those were my tips for tool men. he actually told her to hold on so he could place his drink order. I’m laying odds that she was not in the mood for many nights thereafter.
full of the groovy gooﬁness that deﬁned The Sixties. W hen I was a kid and apparently had far less to occupy my time than kids do today. Well. The Sixties is a historical period. What a great song that was. sneeze-propelled meatball. practically ancient times. I spent a lot of time puzzling over the logistics of the spaghetti song. 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. The rest of you are busy searching for your lost meatball.On Top of Spaghetti On top of spaghetti All covered with cheese I lost my poor meatball When somebody sneezed. those of you who still have functioning memories remember it fondly. I 25 . it’s a time you remember fondly. But for many of you old-fogy ﬂower children. For a young whippersnapper like me. How could a sneeze be powerful enough to knock a meatball off its pasta perch and send it all the way out the door. Being a very curious child prone to over-analyzing things.
Days of Derangement wondered. too. It worked wonders on my son. my kids turned into teenagers and lost interest in cheesy melodies. Whenever I sang it. but at the time. 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.” I warbled. the song reappeared one day out of nowhere. Those were good times. I didn’t say I was a smart one. But apparently. “On top of spaghetti. And when they got a little older. He was probably just stunned at his poor genetic luck in being born to such a weird woman. and I was desperate to soothe him. becoming a moss-covered relic of the past. 26 . “all covered with cheese…” The baby stopped crying and looked at me in amazement. growing meatballs and tomato sauce? I said I was a curious child. springing out of my mouth like a mushy meatball. The spaghetti song once again burrowed its way into my memory banks. The baby started to cry and once again. but I guess it’s like riding a bike. And why had I never seen one of the trees described in the song. Unfortunately. until one day when I was taking care of my neighbor’s baby. I sang it to her. it remained somewhere in my head. I credited the song. It had been a while since I had to entertain a baby. And when my son was a crying infant. My own kids covered their ears as if they were in pain. he would stop crying and gaze at me with rapt attention. I started singing the spaghetti song. and they were still innocent and thought I was the greatest thing since sliced bread. With the passage of time and my discovery of TV. When my daughter came along. The spaghetti song was forgotten. We all laughed at the idea of the stupendous sneeze and the miraculous meatball. my kids would sing with me.
“There is absolutely no way.” Funny Girl tossed her head in disgust. crestfallen that they didn’t seem to recall those happy days. the way only a teenage girl can. “You used to love it.” she said. “that I ever liked a song as stupid as that. 27 .On Top of Spaghetti “Mom! What are you doing?” they protested. “Don’t you remember me singing this song with you?” I asked them. Somebody should have spit in her spaghetti.” Saucy kid.
If you happened to visit during one of those two-percent times when the shirt had been wrestled off my 28 . the ﬁsh pretty much disappeared except for a section of tail ﬁn and an alarmed-looking eye. In fact. It was washed so many times (at my mother’s insistence) that it eventually ended up being half-shirt and half-hole. all of whom appeared to be having a grand old time.The Shirt Trust not the heart of that man for whom old clothes are not venerable. And the shirt’s laughing ladies aged rather dramatically. That was on a T-shirt I gave my dad as a gift years ago. If you stopped by my father’s house unexpectedly. kind of like what happens in real life. That shirt became his favorite. holding up a large ﬁsh and surrounded by smiling buxom beauties in bikinis. there would be about a 98-percent chance he would come to the door wearing that shirt. Fish Fear Me. their buxom parts stretched out and saggy. Underneath the words was a picture of a happy-looking man in a ﬂoppy ﬁshing hat. —Thomas Carlyle W omen Want Me.
That would make them roll around on the ﬂoor laughing. My kids used to get a big kick out of the shirt. And the large hole that allowed a certain part of his chest to show through left them shrieking. It was once actually in the trash can on garbage day. where it caught crumbs falling from his mouth. But nothing was as well-used and well-loved as that shirt. lying there crumpled amidst the coffee grounds. cradling the beloved bit of apparel with a crazed look in his eye. he would have greeted you wearing his backup T-shirt that proudly proclaimed I’m In No Shape To Exercise. but it did the job in a pinch. how can you even think about throwing this shirt away?!” he yelled. But I don’t know if I’ll be able to part with it. spent cleaning rags and used tissues. The Women Want Me. especially the part about women wanting my dad. All of the other gifts I gave him through the years were no doubt appreciated for the thought. 29 . the shirt decayed to the point that not even my dad wanted to wear it. “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 Shirt dad’s body so that it could be washed. The backup shirt only had a few holes and a smattering of stains. And so the shirt survived another day. He still has it. Inevitably. Fish Fear Me shirt spent a great deal of its time pressed up against my dad’s beloved easy chair. sopped up liquids that dripped from his drinks and provided a comforting (if airy) covering when he napped. stuck in a drawer. He says he wants to be buried in it someday. when my dad found it and yanked it out in a rage. though. “Woman.
“Mom is using the F word again. reverent tone to convey its importance: Family with a capital F. The ingrates I gave birth to always responded with great groaning and lamentation. as I had many opportunities to practice it. I’d say the word in a honeyed. It was Family Time. no hand-held whatchamacallits of any kind. Family as the bedrock of society.” I took great umbrage at this. Taking great umbrage became a specialty of mine over the years. I saw it as a time for us to bond with one another. I’d announce grandly to my children on our ﬁrst football-free Sunday. That meant no TV.The F Word E very year when my kids were teenagers and football season was ﬁnally over. no!” they’d cry out. no video games. There was even some weeping and considerable gnashing of teeth. I would usually try to enforce in my house a no-screens rule for Sunday afternoons. to cast aside the technological gadgetry that separated us and look deeply into each other’s eyes. “Oh. 30 . no computer.
we are also pretty darn good at spreading it around when need be. “I just don’t understand why you don’t want to be around us anymore.” I would say with withering disapproval. I would usually pull another arrow out of my maternal quiver and ﬁre off a good helping of guilt. It’s enough!” So I hauled out my ultimate weapon—the threat of public humiliation. While we moms often wallow in guilt. Yes.The F Word “I can’t believe you refer to Family as the F word. But they were unmoved. “Mom!” they’d groan impatiently. “It breaks my heart. This is not a new technique. I know. 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. I could lay it on pretty thick.” Then I’d shake my head sadly. my face downcast. I’m good at it. 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 delivery of withering disapproval was another one of those manipulation methods at which I excelled. it used to work quite well. “We had Family Time last year. And when my kids were younger. All those raging hormones stuff their heads with what I call Charlie Brown cotton.” I’d make my voice tremble. and I’m sure that’s what clouded the judgment of my own cast of characters. 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. But teenagers seem to develop immunity to parental opinion.
Hee hee. and Funny Boy would’ve been caught text-messaging his girlfriend under the table. and Scrabble seemed too much like school. Funny Girl would have pronounced herself bored. Only the locale has changed. Funny Man would give me one of his looks and ask. we’d move on to board games. So we usually settled on Clue. “Are we having fun yet?” Although our bonding had been a fairly painful experience. So I informed my kids that if we didn’t have Sunday afternoon Family Time. where we wasted time arguing over which game to play. In public.Days of Derangement the next adolescent mastodon hunt to get them to comply. Most times.” and my children would do almost anything to avoid that. But I usually ended up looking forward to the start of another football season. Before you knew it. Monopoly took too long. I would suggest we start off by simply talking to each other. we’d be enjoying some screen-free Sunday Family Time. And before we’d even had a chance to ﬁnger Colonel Mustard for the crime. 32 . I would use the F word again the next Sunday. In a place where their friends were sure to see them. we’d have it on Friday night. After several moments of awkward silence. This is what my daughter always referred to as “social suicide. At that point.
Over the next few months. a front-loading plastic bowl and sure-grip sides. I would place the potty in the bathroom. the child seemed delighted. The boy who inspired it is all grown up now.The Potty Predicament This is my very ﬁrst attempt at humor writing. not wanting to place unrealistic expectations on Funny Boy. It served as a playpen for stuffed animals. however. It was one of the colorful. in the backyard sandbox. but he’s still giving me gray hair… I bought a potty for my son before he turned two years old. The ﬁrst skirmish—over positioning—raged throughout the house and left me exhausted and demoralized. the potty was transformed into a nagging symbol of intergenerational warfare. only to return later to ﬁnd it missing. was colored on and used to collect 33 . When I ﬁnally placed it in the bathroom. I kept the commode in the closet for a few weeks. in my husband’s underwear drawer. even once ﬂoating in the birdbath. under my bed. The potty’s various parts turned up in the closets. deluxe models with removable parts. I started planning how to spend the money I’d save on diapers.
My son became bored. The potty. I tried literary inducements to get him to sit on the potty. hoping to challenge his competitive instincts. faster and faster. Jacob. now looking like a fourth-generation hand-me-down. Reluctantly. That’s when I invoked the dreadful specter of peer pressure. But he sure didn’t ﬁll it with anything else. even feminine hygiene products carelessly left within reach. I played my trump 34 . books. No luck. slowly draining it in a trail of carpet-soaking spots. as if I could create some kind of gravitational force that would pull down his little posterior. “Do you want to be the only two-year-old you know who’s still in diapers?” I asked. Next. so I ﬁlled the potty with water and then dumped in half a bag of Cheerios. remained in the bathroom. I won the battle by attrition. I ventured into singing—his favorite was John. size XXXL. picturing Funny Boy at his high school graduation in Huggies. despite my inadequate strategy. But it didn’t work. First. Then my boy discovered he could ﬁll the bowl from the bathtub and carry it around. My voice would careen around the words. speaking in an animated tone designed to capture his attention. the kid was impervious to public opinion. and I began to lose sleep. Eventually. I took this as a hopeful sign and launched a campaign to wear down his resistance. His second birthday came and went. almost weeping at the prospect.Days of Derangement various toys. 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. He really liked doing that. Schmidt. I’d read his favorite stories over and over. Jingleheimer.
I became truly depressed about my failure. pained sigh and shake my head as if he’d just confessed to crimes against humanity. In a few minutes. I peeked through the door to see what he was doing. but he.The Potty Predicament card—bribery—promising him candy for each successful use of the potty. Worried that he was poisoning his insides. “Mommy. He’d place his hands on the foot of the bed. I cried along with him. shame-faced. never once even mentioning the toilet and its uses. but still. Once or twice. younger children who pranced proudly to the potty. After all those agonizing months. he’d slip quietly into his room and close the door. He began to have terrible stomachaches because he would not allow himself to have a bowel movement. 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. I started putting a Pull-Up on him every evening at the same time. I deployed my ﬁnal weapon. I acted deliriously happy. with a telltale aroma trailing him. feet astraddle as if he were water skiing. His eyes gleamed with sweet anticipation. As soon as it was on. the fruit of my womb wouldn’t give in. As the three-year mark approached. this strategy succeeded in exactly two days. continued to hold his own. “I pooed. When my son informed me that he needed to be changed. 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. Despondently. quite literally.” he’d say. It wasn’t too long before I couldn’t get him out of the bathroom. I put away the potty and bought a large supply of Pull-Ups.” I’d let out a heavy. ranging 35 . Next I’d hear a series of grunts.
36 . “Would you like to see what a penis looks like?” Dazed. wondering what I’d created. Walking by the bathroom one day. I continued down the hall.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.
So I set my bowl on the kitchen counter and ate standing up while also doing leg lifts AND checking email on my iPhone. Awkward… Multi-tasking: Screwing everything up simultaneously S cientists regularly warn us about the dangers of multitasking. 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. I couldn’t just sit down and eat my breakfast. Let’s just say that in the UK. I don’t need no stinkin’ scientists to tell me that. it refers to a very intimate female body part. But to paraphrase a line in that tasteful movie Blazing Saddles. It is said to be dumbing us down and driving us crazy. however.S. 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. I was rushing around getting ready for the day. Being a marvel of multitasking. One morning. 37 .Fruit and Fannies After this story was published online. All I have to do is look down into my cereal bowl.
really stupid as he grabbed the phone away from me. I naturally had to twist around to look at my own bottom and try to ﬁgure out what fruit it was shaped like. I accidentally let go of my electronic idol. and it splashed right down into the bowl. In compliance with a federal law stating that one out of every 10 news stories must be accompanied by a picture of Kim Kardashian. 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 when I did that. I let out a loud. who was just getting out of the shower.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. this article helpfully included a close-up of Kardashian’s famous tomato-shaped derriere. Funny Man. Standing there holding my iPhone and with a mouth full of Cheerios. but have moved up the ofﬁcial Fanny Fruit Scale to the larger Tomato Tush category. “I dropped the iPhone in my cereal!” Funny Man gave me the kind of look one gives a teenager caught doing something really. ﬁshing out the phone and cradling it like a drowning victim while I reached frantically for a towel. thinking I must be suffering some kind of medical emergency. “It’s worse than that!” I gasped. Horriﬁed. gurgled groan as Cheerios and milk ran down my chin. 38 . heard the sound and came running naked into the kitchen.
39 . what fruit would you say my fanny is shaped like?” I can’t print his answer in this family-friendly book.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. “Hey. Unlike my fanny. however. On the bright side. I guess Apple is one fruit in ﬁne shape. my iPhone survived its milk bath.” I responded. Let’s just say it was not complimentary. Then I turned so my back was toward him.
If you are nodding your head in dweebish accord because you feel my pain. So I did. bringing a book with me to ward off certain boredom. —Stockard Channing E very once in a while when my kids were growing up. I’d realize—in a blinding moment of clarity that fortunately didn’t last long—that they thought I was utterly insane. I arrived at the game knowing only one thing (thanks to that famous joke from Rodney Dangerﬁeld) about hockey—that 40 . Call me a dork—my kids still do—but I have never been interested in watching sports unless my children were participating. perhaps thinking they could redeem me. seemingly trivial object. you know just how my loved ones were feeling. insisted I come along to the hockey game.Crime and Punishment Everyone’s a nerd inside. Such a moment occurred when we gathered to watch a group of males armed with sticks ﬁght over a slippery. We dorks need to circle the wagons and stick together. I don’t care how cool you are. contact me later. If you are shaking your head at anyone nerdy enough to bring a book to a hockey game. My family. We went to a hockey game.
The men battled each other valiantly. and bodies were slammed against the sides. No one else appeared to be holding a book. Large video screens hung over the rink. It was exciting stuff. Apparently.Crime and Punishment it tended to occasionally break out in the midst of a brawl. our team had scored a goal. losing myself in 19thcentury Russia. many of them wearing team jerseys and happily drinking adult beverages. we made it to our seats without incident. my shoulders hunched. and so I’d brought along the great classic. hacking away with their sticks at a tiny black speck (evidently called a puck) on the ice. So I entered the arena primed for violence. enabling everyone to see each act of disorderly conduct in vivid detail. the fans started screaming encouragement to their players and heaping insults. Surprisingly. elbows frequently ﬂew into faces. most of which involved allegations of insufﬁcient manhood. I decided to delve into my book. my beloved book clutched close in case someone tried to snatch it and begin reading. and the ear-splitting sound was 41 . I was at that time in my Dostoevsky phase. When the game began. I began to wonder if I’d committed a crime and this was my punishment. It turned out to be a ﬁtting title to be reading at the game. it could happen. I managed to read for quite a while. my head down. on the opposing team. I looked around at the enthusiastic crowd. Crime and Punishment. Hey. There was a great deal of pushing and shoving. After watching this riveting spectacle for several moments. As I tried to focus on this great work of literature in the midst of the maelstrom all around me. when I was jolted back to the present by a very loud horn that made me literally jump out of my seat.
the unexpected jolt caused me to drop my book. My family decided then and there that I would no longer be allowed to accompany them to sporting events. Courageously. though. Somehow. knocking his beer out of his hand. I even got my book back. The crime was deﬁnitely worth the punishment. I managed to survive the game. If you are a happy hockey enthusiast whose team has just scored a goal. and it tumbled from the nosebleed seats down on to a frenzied fan below. 42 . you are going to want to drink your adult beverage in celebration. 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.Days of Derangement necessary to commemorate the event. I hid behind my husband. Sadly.
riding at breakneck speed alongside the hero. a rugged symbol of America itself. were presented with numerous pages of legalese assuring us that riding a horse is a dangerous activity and that we. I was fascinated as a child by the westerns.True Grit When one is on horseback. In reality. as I found out one summer when my kids were preteens. where Wayne rode tall in the saddle. he knows all things. It’s amazing what people will do for their grandchildren. Although my mom grew up on a farm. —George Herbert I grew up on John Wayne movies. The only problem was that in real life. I’d never even been near a horse. and they managed to convince my mother to come along. with my family. my hair streaming out behind me as I raced across the plains. she hadn’t been on a horse in more than 40 years. We arrived at the stables. I had an opportunity. my fantasy fell ﬂat when confronted with actual horse ﬂesh. I wanted to be like the girl in True Grit. My children were excited. to go on a two-hour trail ride. I was a ﬁne rider. and times being what they are. In my dreams. as suicidal 43 .
Days of Derangement idiots. As soon as the ride started. The young whippersnapper called me Ma’am. “Ma’am. After I made several clumsy attempts to pull myself up and over what seemed like the world’s tallest horse. but had no discernible effect on RIP. a slow and painful death. RIP stood perfectly still. and having dispensed with the legalities. This perfectly described the creature. you gotta kick him. 44 . I was sure I could hear tiny ﬂy laughter. Pilgrim.” We signed on the bottom line.” I repeated. I knew exactly what to do. “we best just get on outta here. The stables. even the ﬂies on his neck seemingly frozen in place. he was already practicing for the time when he assumed room temperature. though. they apparently assumed someone of my relatively young years ought to be able to hop right into the saddle. therefore. But as a John Wayne devotee. it took both wranglers— who each did an embarrassing amount of grunting as if it was back-breaking work—to shove me into position. could not be held responsible. more likely. This appeared to greatly amuse the wranglers.” said one of the cowboys. were crazy to want to be placed on hooved hazards for the express purpose of inﬂicting upon ourselves serious injury or. RIP refused to move.” I said to the horse. Wrong. prepared to mount our trusty rides. Unfortunately. I was on a horse named RIP for Rest in Peace. “Well. The Duke would have horse-whipped him. “Giddy up.” he’d have said. the two young wranglers who would accompany us brought my mother a step stool. “Giddy up. I found myself thinking that John Wayne would never have signed such a statement. In deference to her age.
twisting around in the saddle. which caused the slightest ﬂicker of an ear on my one-foot-in-the-grave ride. “you get yourself back on the trail this minute or you’ll be hearing from me.” “Mom.True Grit Nervously.” “No. “His name is Navajo. she got his name wrong. mister. The wrangler then gave him a resounding whack on the rear. “The guy clearly said his name is Napoleon. And as sometimes happens when teachers meet a student for the ﬁrst time.” “Napoleon. “Now Napoleon. she mustered all her teaching techniques to subdue him. I gave RIP a few timid kicks. and the half-dead horse ever so slowly started down the trail. Back in the day.” she snapped. Meanwhile.” she said in her strictest schoolmarm tone. a character defect that she fortunately did not pass on to her daughter.” I pointed out. he said Navajo. Why would anyone in America name a horse Napoleon?” 45 . jerking on the reins as Navajo/Napoleon moved further away from the trail. “I think I know what my own horse’s name is.” My mother has an annoying habit of assuming she is always right. who was supposed to be following RIP but who kept leaving the trail to munch on grass.” “Mom! Can you just once admit you’re wrong? I am absolutely positive he said Navajo. my mom had been placed on a more lively horse named Navajo. as my kids say. Being faced with the equine equivalent of a problem pupil. my 5'1" mother was an elementary school teacher who could strike fear into the hearts of misbehaving students with just a glance.
but I was kind of proud of both myself and my mother. But we’d managed to stay astride our stubborn steeds.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. of course. Then she continued to lecture her horse. “Serves you right. Our two-hour ride had stretched to three by the time we returned to the stables. Then he ambled along for about a minute before once again heading for the grass. 46 . This is how the whole ride went: RIP kept refusing to move in the face of my most gallant giddy ups and Navajo/Napoleon. happily noshed on every blade of grass within reach. Navajo/Napoleon completely ignored her. despite my mom’s expert educational methods. until the wrangler approached.” I heard my mother chuckling. And that. Maybe we weren’t up to John Wayne’s standards. is true grit. Pilgrim. The overworked wranglers were grumpy.
You love him through thick and thin. And it all started with a bar of soap. Now this wasn’t any ordinary bar of soap. so does insanity. I’d discovered a wonderful little soap shop. honest and pure. listen patiently to all his stories. natural. See. That’s just what happened to me. I explored the shop in awe. Of course. Y 47 . ou think you know everything there is to know about a person. The sales clerk explained that a woman’s skin is intelligent. pick up his underwear. 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. Then that person does something that leaves you wondering if you ever really knew him at all. You raise his children. You love him for better or worse. You spend years sleeping next to him. 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.Soapy Situation Marriage means commitment. and that it needs soap with the same qualities. smelling each handmade concoction and imagining its gentle ingredients caressing my skin.
then grabbed my soap and went in search of my spouse. When I’d ﬁnished bathing. your skin will rebel. The pretty store paper was lying crumpled on the ﬂoor. Funny Man had the gall to look confused. I was horriﬁed to ﬁnd my womanly washing material in the shower. I made the kind of growl a mama grizzly makes when her cub is threatened. “No wonder it made my butt feel so soft. I ﬁlled a shopping bag with scented soaps that set me back a pretty penny. I just pulled out whatever was in the drawer.” Well no wonder my skin hadn’t been looking too good lately. Instantly. 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. But when I went into the bathroom the next morning.” he said. my skin began to look smarter. and I felt tingly all over. covered with suds. looking forward to using it again the next day. “What special soap? The bar that was in there was getting too small. “If you insult its intelligence. “Did you use my special soap?” I yelled. shortly after Funny Man had showered. I’d been washing it with horrible man soap. pure. homemade. thrusting the bar at him. The rest of my special soap is now kept in an undisclosed location. I brought my high-class suds home and promptly took a bath.” Naturally.” “That was my special. 48 . I had to throw that particular bar in the trash. Consumed by guilt. grinning. girly soap! The soap I paid big bucks for! The soap that’s going to do wonders for my skin!” “Oh. lathering my suffering skin.” she said.
I only use it when I’m alone in the house and can enjoy taking an undisturbed bath. 49 . Any day now.Soapy Situation under lock and key. my skin will start to look utterly brilliant.
those are words that should be banned—on pain of a slow and torturous death—from being included in the same sentence. one frayed leg hole surrounded by fragments of fabric. it almost takes an act of Congress to get my hole-y he-men to go to the store and buy new knickers.Stylish Skivvies This morning when I put on my underwear. They then have the choice of either allowing me to buy for them (not a popular 50 . Victims of this ailment believe that underwear never needs to be replaced. See. I could hear the Fruit of the Loom guys laughing at me. They’ll hang on to a pair of drawers until there’s nothing left but an elastic waistband and. I belong to a family of men suffering from a genetic mutation called the underwear overuse gene. And yet. possibly. I usually have to resort to throwing out all the threadbare boxers and briefs while my husband and son are out of the house. 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. —Rodney Dangerﬁeld S tylish men’s skivvies. If you ask the men in my family.
It’s enough to make a man with the underwear overuse gene cling even more tightly to his decaying derriere covers. new boxers or briefs has always been difﬁcult. In the end. And forget about traditional cotton. including padded and “proﬁle-enhancing” briefs. Now there’s also Lycra. colors and patterns.” Next to that there’s usually an entire display of enhanced undies promising to further ﬂatter the male physique. “I’m not wearing any of these!” Funny Boy will declare.” Funny Boy will stare in horror at packages of underwear that claim to “sculpt and support muscular movement. going shopping with me or going commando. Getting my men to purchase. mid. They come in a variety of silhouettes and rises (low. But nowadays. 51 . Spandex and various microﬁber synthetics. “Whatever happened to good old-fashioned tighty-whities?” my husband always moans. And that’s exactly what my men try to do. Sounds an awful lot like padded bras to me. and then actually wear. That’s how we periodically end up in the men’s section of a nearby department store. high). as well as in a cornucopia of ﬁt options (relaxed or slim). “They’re trying to turn men into…into…women!” In order to get the job done. “I can’t buy any of these. I guess the men are just catching up. 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. holding up a pair of plaid briefs with buttons—buttons!—in the front. “This is an abomination!” Funny Man says.Stylish Skivvies option since the time I came home with boxers covered with cute little palm trees). men’s undies have become a whole new fashion segment.
52 .Days of Derangement we usually ﬁnd a bin—stuck way back in the corner of the underwear section—containing the kind of safe. But I doubt it. staid Y-fronts that make my men comfortable. Maybe someday they’ll feel bold enough to explore all their underwear options.
Well.” I watched her shudder at the dreaded word. chores would be fun.” I said. “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. the one who at age 10 diagnosed herself with a severe allergy to the vacuum cleaner. And milk the cute little cows. It was organic milk. displaying a newfound interest in agrarian life. crippling pain in her legs when asked to take out the trash. maybe that’s a slight exaggeration.Chewing on Chores M y daughter. was sitting at the kitchen table eating her favorite brand of sugar-in-a-bowl and reading the back of the milk carton. “There are a lot of chores to do on a farm. I could feed the chickens. “People have to work hard on a farm. struggling to get the word out of her mouth. “They wouldn’t be like regular chores. 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 .” This from a kid who always developed sudden. “Why can’t we live on a farm?” Funny Girl asked. and the carton depicted blissful-looking cows reading Thoreau.
” This from a kid who never willingly picked up her own socks off the ﬂoor. she didn’t understand the reality of life in the country.” she said. Their children did chores happily. The conversation got me thinking about children and chores and TV shows that leave me chewing my own ﬁgurative cud. It was so easy for Ma Walton and Ma Ingalls to do everything right. “I know. on the other hand. I could pick crops and stuff like that. Clearly. “I’m sure the cows wouldn’t mind waiting until a more reasonable hour. they even kick over the bucket of milk just when you’ve got it ﬁlled. Then she brightened.” I distinctly remembered this happening to John Boy and his siblings on many occasions.Days of Derangement properly. Funny Girl appeared to chew this revelation over carefully. much like an organically fed Daisy Mae would chew its cud. “You could milk the cows. “The cows can’t wait. have long been an expert in farm life.” I told her. And sometimes. I attempted to enlighten my delusional city slicker. I informed her that cute little cows like to be milked very early in the morning. “It doesn’t work like that. having watched endless hours of Little House on the Prairie and The Waltons when I was young. I remembered thinking the cows should have to milk themselves when they acted like that.” she countered. at an hour she only saw when she stayed up all night at a sleepover. I. ecstatic at being able 54 . since you like to get up early anyway.
pick up their dirty clothes. always chasing my TV-created ideal. I initiated elaborate incentive programs that would rival a political candidate’s election platform in complexity (and uselessness). I offered allowance money and took away privileges. As the donkey moved forward to get the carrot. take out the trash. I issued dire threats and made dark predictions about the fate of those who failed to do their chores. it pulled the cart—and the boy—so the carrot always remained just out of reach as the cart moved forward. No wonder Ma Walton and Ma Ingalls were always smiling and baking and making quilts. Every day. I had job charts and task wheels complete with stickers and brightly colored posters. I still had to remind them to make their beds. wash their dishes. But my carrot-and-stick approach simply didn’t work. I was always the donkey. They had so much more time on their hands. My kids wore me down. was never very successful at getting her young’uns to cooperate. I know this was true because I saw it for myself. right there on the TV. 55 . Ma Papandrew. It’s not like I didn’t try.Chewing on Chores to contribute to the family. Come to think of it. my children and their chores. It so happens that the original carrot-and-stick metaphor referred to a boy sitting on a cart being pulled by a donkey. That’s why my daughter’s vision of picking crops made me laugh. and he dangled the carrot in front of the donkey but just out of its reach. maybe I belong on a farm. That’s a pretty accurate picture of me. on the other hand. The boy held a long stick to which a carrot had been tied.
Days of Derangement 56 .
I realized I should get back to the garage to grab that broom. which lately has had more bad days than good. I suddenly wanted to read the newspaper to ﬁnd out what kind of hooey those humble public servants in Washington are pushing. which reminded me I’d been intending to exercise since sometime before the last millennium and. but when 57 . so I rushed inside to start a load. and so I thought I’d make an appointment for a haircut. where my eyes fell upon my very dirty automobile. which reminded me that I really wanted to do some serious shoe shopping. I pulled the creaky bike out to the driveway.Spring Cleaning O ne ﬁne spring day. but then I saw the mop right there next to it and that got me thinking about my hair. so I went to the garage for a broom and came across my long-neglected bike. and speaking of loads. I realized I had no clean socks because I failed to ﬁnd the time all week to do laundry. but this got my sneakers wet. I decided to make my mother proud and embark on a vigorous cleaning program. so I pulled out a hose and began washing it. only when I pulled off my socks to examine my foul feet. and speaking of pushing. since there’s no time like the present. but then I remembered that I sorely needed a pedicure.
so I rushed outside. 58 . and I really love to read and thinking about reading caused my brain to take a philosophical turn. which reminded me that I’d left the bike in the driveway. 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. only to notice the deplorable condition of my windows so I went in search of a squeegee and while I was looking. which is why I decided to lie down for the day and put off cleaning until the next spring. who feels I should call her more often. but seeing the tub made me think of the word tubby which made me think of my stomach. remembering this. which often leads to reading. any other kind of cleaning is not morally justiﬁable. and if one likes words as much as I do. I recalled the irate conversation I’d just had with my mother. I started thinking about how much I like the word squeegee and then I started thinking about how much I like words in general.Days of Derangement I picked up the phone. but then she asked if I’d begun my spring cleaning and so. which it has a habit of doing whenever cleaning is on the horizon. Mom. and I’m pretty sure that it was Plato who said that if one cannot correctly clean one’s own windows. I hung up the phone and gathered a tub full of cleaning supplies with which to attack the job at hand. Sorry. one naturally loves books as well. and she’s undoubtedly right.
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. Busy Beware the barrenness of a busy life. too busy to take our calls when we need service. very busy—doesn’t that really mean no one is busy? After all. You’re just pretending to be busy. I could see your busyness bet and raise you a bundle. agitated by all our activities.Busy. We’re a society bustling with busyness. In poker terms. on the other hand. everyone I read about or hear about. claims to be frantically busy. The problem is that a lot of you are busyness bamboozlers. Even the ﬂeas on my dog are busy. Busy is the new black. 59 . I. Even my dog is busy. we can’t all be busier than everyone else. No one has time to do anything because we’re all so darn busy. can we? And yet everyone I know. I would ponder it myself but I’m far too busy with more important things. am truly busy. The riddle is this: if everyone is busy—very. —Socrates I have a philosophical riddle for you to ponder.
as our new committee should be called. If you are a size 2 and everything automatically looks great. tall or height-challenged. and most of them are lying. And that’s dangerous. we’re on our own. Of course. We live. have to be safeguards in place to prevent corruption of the high standards of the Busy Brigade. Britney Spears hitting every Starbucks in a 10-mile radius? Not so much.Days of Derangement If I had the time. in an age in which everything is measurable. rich or not-so-rich. I hate you. so I’m proposing a national rating system to separate the truly busy from the bogusly busy. We have numerical tables to tell us if we’re thin or not-so-thin. yeah. You’ve got people running around all over the place claiming to be busier than everyone else. A single mom (or dad) working two jobs to make ends meet? Busy.) There would. Unless you are—like my daughter—only working out your thumbs through too much text-messaging. but when it comes to determining who is a bona ﬁde busy person. you are deﬁnitely not busy. like me. you are deﬁnitely busy. after all. including the very powerful Bureau of Unmotivated 60 . I’d tell you what I’m doing to make me so busy but it’s not really any of your business anyway. I suggest we appoint the members of Congress. This must be stopped. of course. We have cholesterol levels and credit scores. we’d have to engage in a national debate about what exactly counts as being busy. I do want credit for my superior state of busyness. who frequently seem to have too much time on their hands. by a host of special interest groups. What about shopping? If. (And. However. you have to go from store to store trying to ﬁnd something that makes you look slim. Does exercise merit a mark on the busy meter? Oh. by the way. to serve on a committee which would establish busyness benchmarks.
61 .Busy. But I honestly believe it would be worth it. Constant complaining or channel surﬁng—regular activities in my household—would not count. Being labeled as ofﬁcially busy must mean something. I anticipate years of lobbying and litigation over this issue from the lazy. Busy Men (BUM) to which several members of my own family belong. and it must be a difﬁcult rank to achieve.
a cat—should pass by and require an ear-splitting round of 62 . her behavior didn’t follow suit. That’s what happened in our family. My life would never be the same. Whenever my back was turned. but somehow we found ourselves one day at a shelter—an animal shelter that is. which eventually swelled into a swirling. you’ll recall that the underworld was said to be guarded by a dog with many heads. which built over time into a full-blown nag. If you remember your Greek mythology (and who among us doesn’t). We picked out an abandoned Labrador mix boringly named Blackie and upgraded her to the more elegant Ebony.The Hound from Hades A t some point. Ebony would use all those heads to simultaneously chew my furniture. raid the trash cans. almost all parents are expected to enhance the childhood experience with a pet. Unfortunately. tear-fueled Category 5 caterwaul. 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. We tried to resist. It began with a tot’s tiny plea. It soon became obvious that this Hound from Hades had relocated to my house.
There should be a congressional investigation into the millions of phony poo-pickup promises made by generations of dog-desperate kids. I soon became convinced that. It’s a national scandal. 63 . in addition to multiple mouths. And did I mention that she started early? Five o’clock in the morning. who swore up and down they would clean up every bit of it. the mutt had a high number of heinies.The Hound from Hades barking. The dog is a master licker. Then she made a beeline for the house. No single derriere could possibly have produced the copious amounts of doggie doo that littered my backyard after Ebony’s arrival. at the Canine Olympics. She could earn a Golden Tongue award. I even tried shutting my door. developed an amazing variety of excuses for avoiding the job. I know this because she always launched her lick fest—complete with loud slurping and popping sounds—right next to my bed. Ebony bolted away from me and raced around the yard. And my children. The ﬁrst time I gave her a bath. gleefully grinding her grime into my pink (PINK!) carpet. when I yelled at her. shot through the open back door and began to run circles in my living room. she’d duck under the dining room table and manage to look both guilty and absolutely unrepentant at the same time. Naturally. She licked like there was no tomorrow. to be exact. frantically rolling her freshly cleaned body in every bit of dirt she could ﬁnd. Eb started every day with a vigorous session of self-licking. I tried moving her bed to another part of the house. where she insisted on sleeping. if there was such a thing. Then. She’d come lie down next to me on the bare ﬂoor. the task of bathing the furry ﬂea bag also fell to me. She’d scratch and whine all night if necessary until I opened it.
attempt to subliminally communicate the fact that she wanted to be fed. 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. sometime in the afternoon. psychological ploy. I abandoned subliminal communication for something more direct. long nap. which involved getting her bowl ﬁlled up with dog food. “Stop it now!” Yes. would take a nice. she has a full name. The bowl momentarily stayed put. Ebony would place herself right in front of me and. Eb. and the house would go silent. 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 . using her full name. I subliminally communicated the fact that I didn’t care by totally ignoring her. There I’d be at my computer. But that was just a clever. knowing full well that it made a lot of racket. And while I was retching into the bathroom sink. Being bleary-eyed and cranky and knowing just who to blame for that. she’d wake up with a blissful sigh and a sumptuous stretch and move on to the second part of her day. She began pushing her empty metal bowl around the kitchen. She’d start with the stare-down. and I used it just like I used my children’s full names when I was communicating my displeasure with them. “Ebony Joyce Papandrew!” I’d shout. bleary-eyed and cranky from lack of sleep. Then. After a few quiet minutes and with dastardly doggie daring. That’s when she’d move into the next phase. This was a very effective way to get me out of bed in a hurry. and by never taking her eyes off me.Days of Derangement Most mornings. having successfully completed her morning tasks.
she utterly adored me. I’d pet her. The thing about Ebony. she would shudder with delight. She’d place one paw on my knee or on my arm and gaze at me with unconditional love. This would propel me out of my chair. following me from room to room. When she again woke up. she’d press her face against the door and whine until I let her in. she showed up as soon as I got out of the shower and proceeded to carefully lick my wounds. she seemed to know it. I’d realize the Hound from Hades was actually my best friend. 65 . And when I was feeling depressed or anxious. muttering curses I wouldn’t want my mother to hear. was that from the day we brought her home with us. the very worst thing. When I put her outside. At times like that. When I sat down somewhere in the house. content just to be near me. She was nauseatingly needy.The Hound from Hades kitchen tile. in a moment of weakness. She might even go out for a walk with her utterly submissive human. rather than engaging in normal dog activities. 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. Once. When. even if I didn’t want to admit it. she’d instantly appear and place her body against my leg. Ebony would contentedly settle down for another nap. straight to the cabinet that held the dog food. both literally and ﬁguratively. 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. After ﬁlling her stomach.
you have passed the point of no return. peering at me closely. Undoubtedly. She put a cute little bib under my chin and informed me I was overdue for a periodontal workup. “Woa.” It was probably just such a remark that led to the creation of boarding schools. baby. You know the kind of creature I mean. —Bette Midler M y midlife crisis was triggered by yet another birthday and inﬂamed by a comment from my teenage son. Then I arrived at my dentist’s ofﬁce for my regular checkup. a whole tic-tac-toe grid under your eyes. have pulled away from their assigned teeth.Gums and Games After 30. This procedure would measure how far my traitorous gums.” Funny Boy said. she’s a trophy wife in her off-hours. young and chipper. and I was ushered in by The Happy Hygienist. with a smooth face no one would be tempted to mark with Xs and Os. a body has a mind of its own. like. Once you hear the words gums and receding in the same sentence. seeking to disassociate themselves from my aging body. The gums are the middle-aged 66 . “You’ve got. Mom.
calling out numbers that identiﬁed the depth of my deterioration. too weighed down by my new long-in-the-tooth status to notice that my wallet was considerably lighter. an obvious affront to the over-40 crowd. This delightful experience was delivered by a close cousin of the hygienist. But if. like me. “Four millimeters…. you are a private in the bosom brigade. Then ask Hulk Hogan to slam the door as hard as possible and lean on it for good effect. Then her voice brightened. it’s not pleasant. The mammogram was clearly invented by a man. “Oh.” she shook her head in grave concern. and I responded in kind with a line of drool that soaked my bib. For those who have missed the pleasure. Insert some particularly sensitive part of your body.ﬁve millimeters. My dental inspector propped open my mouth and began to probe my periodontal pockets. In a moment of medical masochism common to women my age. I’d scheduled a mammogram for the same week. Miss Perky did her best. possibly one who spent his youth in a boarding school after saying something stupid to his mother. stand in front of your open refrigerator. The well-endowed among us probably don’t have too much of a problem with a mammogram. 67 . very good!” She praised me in the exact tone one would use to train a puppy. an insufferably cute girl barely out of her teens (or so it seemed) with a personality that could only be described as perky. signaling to the other organs when it’s time to start heading for the hills. oh my…. here’s a three.Gums and Games body’s bellwether. I departed soon after. mangling my mammaries in a most professional way.
because I was deﬁnitely worried about that. “I guess you’ve heard that one before. apparently. tackle my tic-tac-toe lines with shots or surgery. I paused in my planning to take a call from my mother. My destiny was now determined.” I added lamely. My mother pretended not to hear my question. learn to ride a Harley. “I haven’t been squeezed like this since I went to the high school prom with a boy named Bubba. “He didn’t try anything with me. who had been trying to tame her aches and pains with massage therapy. I decided to ﬁght back. right behind truant gums. “Don’t worry. By the time I got home. 25-year-old male masseuse as “gorgeous.” I joked through gritted teeth. She shocked me by describing her new. caused by dragging one foot that was already in the grave.” Sometimes I lay on the sarcasm so thick that it drips right out of my mouth and makes a puddle on the ﬂoor.” she assured me in all seriousness. Telling stale jokes is. If my mother 68 .Days of Derangement compressing each between two cold plastic plates until I felt one of us should propose marriage. I’d join the Peace Corps. Glum over the prospect of a steady slide into decrepitude. I had a pronounced limp. Maybe I’d even turn into a cougar. Mom?” I couldn’t resist.” “Good. She just rolled her eyes. absolutely gorgeous. trying to add some comic relief to the situation. Desperate times call for desperate measures. I felt all kinds of aches and pains of my own that could deﬁnitely be eased by a hunk’s healing touch. If I was only 20 years younger…” “Really. I would not go quietly into the night. the second symptom of impending geezerdom. “Only 20 years younger?” Suddenly.
“You’ll have to get up on a stool to even reach my knees.” The pole threat is one of her most common. Mom. and I responded with one of my standard answers. When we’re not under the same roof. put the moves on my mother. Even if he didn’t. Especially if I kept my game face to the ground. maybe I would have better luck. she’ll actually try to make me clean it up. “I’m going to beat you with a pole the next time I see you. I was still thinking about the manly masseuse.” I said absent-mindedly.Gums and Games happens to be around. she has to resort to threats. for some reason. 69 .
a considerable amount of whining and periodic bouts of pouting. am I mad? —Edgar Allen Poe A fter launching a successful campaign consisting of much begging. I fully expected Sunset to also 70 .The Tell-Tale Hamster Above all was the sense of hearing acute. then. When archaeologists of the future sift through the layers of our lives to try to understand how we lived. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. …How. vitamin drops and chew sticks. she decided that Sunset must surely be a girl. lush. my daughter talked us into getting a hamster. I had to pay a pretty penny for all the paraphernalia necessary for today’s hip hamster—a colorful. an exercise ball. they will undoubtedly be bafﬂed by our penchant for raising rodents. Without any evidence to the contrary. an igloo to sleep in. I was puzzled by this myself as we drove home with the golden-hued creature Funny Girl affectionately named Sunset. It didn’t take long for this furry bit of ﬂuff to drive me to the brink of madness. pine-scented bedding. multilayer habitat with towers and tunnels and a state-of-the-art wheel.
The Tell-Tale Hamster demand deed restrictions to keep rodent riff-raff out of her neighborhood and a complete schedule of social activities. Despite living in a spacious Hamster Hilton. Pet brain size must be inversely proportional to body size. Someone forgot to remind me that hamsters are nocturnal. First. Our dog. she made a bid for freedom. who was covered with additional fuzz from the underbelly of the fridge. If you looked under the fridge. Ebony. I found poo pellets in places that no poo pellets have any business being. Sunset liked to party hearty all 71 . there was the mess. 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. We had to put Ebony in the back yard and were ﬁnally able to coax out the reluctant rodent. But I soon came to wish she’d stayed under the refrigerator. While the much larger dog worked herself into a frenzy. scampering across the kitchen and under the refrigerator. no doubt enjoying the chaos its presence had caused. She must have pressed her furry little bottom right up against the cage and aimed for the walls. the little lab rat stayed serenely in place. and I breathed a sigh of relief. howling. 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. went wild—barking. Sunset was placed in her cage. Then there was the noise. you would probably have seen beady black eyes shining with satisfaction. Before we even got the ungrateful creature into her luxurious new digs. Sunset spent most of her time shoving the bedding out of the cage and onto my ﬂoor.
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 kids had lost interest in her. naturally. Sayonara Sunset. the worthless wheel began to squeak.Days of Derangement night in her exercise wheel. And then she died at a ripe old age. One night. But the rodent lived on and on. as they often lose interest in aging pets and aging parents. And squeak. my sanity threatened by the incessant squeaking caused by a tell-tale hamster. Still. the squeaking. Until one day. I swear I can still hear it. I realized that Sunset had grown old right before our eyes. 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. And squeak. But then. I’d wake up and hear it squeaking. I wondered if I faced a similar fate. 72 . Initially. She was no longer using the exercise wheel and was moving around the Hamster Hilton much more slowly. I began to feel sorry for the creature. this wasn’t a problem. Now the exercise wheel is silent. I tried putting cooking oil on it. I tried moving the cage to another room. hearing the high-pitched noise grow louder and louder. often barely able to climb the ramp from one level to another. We buried our fuzzy family member in the backyard—at sunset. In the middle of the night. I guess none of us can ask for more than that. But sometimes in the night. I caught the horrible hamster licking it off.
there are those rigid. If I’d known this many years ago.Crimes of Crookedness I love being married. 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. less linear approach to auto positioning. It’s so great to ﬁnd that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life. But then. —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. as we simultaneously began having children and exercising our right as Americans to own no means of 73 . During that sweet time. See. Then there are kinder. it would have saved me much marital strife. much less get married. gentler souls like me who take a more contemplative. anal-retentive individuals such as my husband who adamantly insist that vehicles must always be left in perfectly straight lines. Funny Man apparently found my creative car placements rather endearing. Never the two should meet.
I was then ordered to abandon the garage and park only in the driveway. “All you have to do is park between these lines. And suddenly.” “Did not. 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.” 74 .” he told me in the same exasperated tone I had used when house-training our very dense dog.Days of Derangement transportation smaller than a tank. Again. Then he painted another one on the minivan side. But even there. Naturally. So then I parked closer to Funny Man’s truck and. when I attempted to back out.” “Did not. First.” “Did so. Funny Man started to complain. for some reason. our marriage entered the sobering Eyes Wide Open phase. I again tried to conform to his ridiculous demands. upon reversing. 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. several inches from the wall. I managed to put a big dent in the driver’s side mirror. Not long after that. the back end of my van refused to align itself with the front. I can’t even get into the driveway. I was offended. This led to an almost nightly exchange between my husband and me that went something like this: “You parked crooked. It wasn’t my fault that. he complained that I took up too much space in the garage. But in the interest of family harmony. my van refused to cooperate.
sighing heavily as he re-parked my vehicle each night and muttering about the differences between Mars and Venus. but Funny Man and I continued to provide comic relief to the neighbors for quite some time. Upon hearing that word. Funny Boy came down with a serious addiction to Yo Mama jokes. And sure enough. Good thing they’re not parked close to each other. I’d just shake my head and smile serenely. Sometimes. that is. it was driveway. Funny Man eventually gave up. he’d pull out a tape measure or a piece of chalk. dickering in the driveway over my alleged crimes of crookedness. Until. 75 . almost any word can trigger an outburst. trying to convince me of the error of my ways. I’d like to say we soon reached a compromise and started acting like adults. As any parent of a Yo Mama-afﬂicted child knows. knowing I could win by attrition. In our case. he’d say it several more times until he found himself on the receiving end of a wedgy. my son would be compelled to shout: “Yo Mama’s so fat she has to iron her pants in the driveway!” Getting no response.Crimes of Crookedness Our children came to accept these mature conversations as a routine part of the evening and completely ignored us.
Boot Camp L ike many people entering middle age with an everexpanding midsection. as I discovered when I tried (and failed) to ﬁnd a bathing suit that would render me somewhat more attractive than a whale. I still can’t listen to Jimmy Buffett’s Changes in Latitudes Changes in Attitudes without experiencing a strong urge to do buttocks tucks. So. Apparently. we deﬁnitely toned our young tummies with all our hearty laughter at poor Jane’s expense. I turned to televised exercise. I have fond memories of TV ﬁtness from college. there’s more to it than that because my body continued to balloon. Jane. Then I waited for the blubber to be gone. unwilling to actually show up at the gym. when my roommates and I wasted valuable study time watching Jane Fonda prance around in leg warmers while encouraging us to feel the burn. Thanks for the memories. Although we rarely actually did her workout. So I joined a gym to ﬁght the battle of the bulge. paying the membership fee and buying an adorable workout outﬁt. though. I really need to get in shape. 76 .
put on some sweatpants and stood in my living room. “Are you ready for this?” they’d ask at the beginning of each show.Boot Camp Being older and wiser now. I put down my chocolate. thinking I was going to sail through Boot Camp. “and that is YES!” Eventually. feeling the pressure. Yes. tiny shorts that wouldn’t go past my knees. italicized and gussied up. pumping. Cath and her e looked pleased. ready to give it my all. I decided to seek out a new queen of calisthenics to show me the way. that’s Cath and then an e that is set off from the rest of the name. Cath and her e were relentless in urging me to end my inertia. “There’s only one answer. never giving me time to think it over. We spent what seemed like an hour on spine-popping stretches. This kind of name conﬁdence impressed me. I was elated. wishing Cath and her fancy e would wear leg warmers and put on some Jimmy Buffet. Then they’d rather arrogantly respond to their own question.” Cath and her energetic e would chirp. I spent about a week watching Boot Camp from the comfort of my couch. when 77 . But they stayed clad in teeny. shoulderknotting arm swings and thigh-cramping knee bends. with a tummy in need of more than laughter. and surely this military-style Jane could whip my ﬂaccid form into shape. pushing and crunching their way to muscular perfection—all to the frenzied beat of some disturbing technosweat music. jumping. And I found her in the form of a ﬁtness show called Boot Camp led by a woman in stunningly good shape named Cathe. Surely that e stood for exercise.
I collapsed on the carpet. those faithless ﬂabby regions turned traitor during the ﬁrst cycle. my children had sensed an opportunity for amusement and gathered around like vultures to watch. I decided to try again. but I assured them that my problem areas and I were united in the cause. cruelly eating Cheetos and Oreos in my presence and placing bets with each other on how long I could last. A few days later. but I pressed on. refusing to soldier on. I gave myself a good week or two to recover before making another attempt. but seemed willing to give me another chance. My numerous problem areas protested. Cath and her drill-instructor e were by now openly dubious. By now. That’s when I decided to dig up that old burn-feeling video and return to Sweet Lady Jane. Cath and her sneering e seemed to threaten a court martial. Unfortunately. Cath and her increasingly annoying e looked skeptical. making it through an awe-inspiring two cycles before succumbing to exhaustion.Days of Derangement Cath and her slightly sadistic e announced that the warm-up was over. they explained that we’d be doing eight cycles of training designed to strengthen my heart and tone problem areas. 78 . If I could just ﬁnd some leg warmers. I barely survived Cycle Two before my arms and legs went AWOL. Worn out. After the warm-up. Even her buttocks tucks would be better than Boot Camp. quivering like mutinous mounds of Jell-O.
lost the most hair. That’s when everyone is on his or her best behavior. all a little hesitant. If we were smart. most of the kids were teenagers who looked horriﬁed at just being there. a little shy. Kinfolk are dangerous individuals who can recite all our embarrassing faults. who can provide blackmail material to our children.Horses on Porches Every family tree has some sap in it. We all confess astonishment at how fast the kids are growing up. And based on my attendance at several such events. We subtly assess each other. F amily reunions are a charming phenomenon. We like to occasionally get together with our kinfolk. trying to gauge who’s gained the most weight. we would never go near these people again. But many of us are drawn to cousinly confabs like moths to dysfunctional family ﬂames. awash in warm feelings and cold sweat. who know about every youthful transgression. They huddled together for 79 . who’s driving the nicest car. The ﬁrst is the meet and greet phase. once we’d grown up and escaped. At my last reunion. I’ve determined there are ﬁve phases to the typical family reunion. those who are at our end of the gene pool.
Days of Derangement protection with their smart phones out. He’s the one we all cluck our tongues and shake our heads over. I remember experiencing agony myself at earlier reunions. You gotta love Joe. This is the phase that causes the teens to actually writhe in agony. many reunions degenerate into a third phase: church-state squabbling. At this point. we moved into the Remember When phase. frantically sending text messages to their friends. Joe’s simple explanation: “I didn’t do what he said I did. but secretly admire. begging to be rescued. quickly getting down to discussing pressing physical matters involving hemorrhoids and heartburn. The oldest generation—the grandparents. And with the food. and things got heated. from-scratch dishes made by grandmas who still remember how to cook. 80 . True to form. First names of presidential candidates were tossed around as weapons and then someone brought the Good Lord into it. my cousin Joe. And he’s still rebelling. but now I enjoy the Remember Whens. and as everyone started to relax. my family began discussing religion and politics. At our last reunion.” 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. we consumed a few adult beverages. 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. Many of our most colorful memories include the family rebel. 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. It’s always the best part of our reunions. even a couple of great-grandparents—huddled together too.
When the women at the reunion heard this story. The ladies.Horses on Porches “I’ll pray for you.” All of the other men nod their heads in agreement. apparently sensing a soul mate in this rebellious horse. “You need all the help you can get. shrugs his shoulders and says a single word weighted with all the necessary meaning: “Women. we allowed Joe’s long-suffering wife to go ﬁrst. Although most of us no longer live in the 81 . she gets an eyeful of an equine end zone. though. and then they move on to something more important like sports or ﬁshing. will devote hours to dissecting the failings of their men. The men go one way and the women go the other. we moved into the fourth phase. the groups start out by complaining about each other. one of the rocks bounced up and shattered the front window. started gently (or not) pitching rocks at its feet to encourage it to comply. has refused to discourage its behavior. segregation of the sexes. and my cousin had the gall to be upset with his wife. 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. This happens at every reunion I’ve ever attended. My cousin.” Wisely. Unfortunately. The men’s conversation. One of them sighs heavily. unable to coax the horse off the porch. on the other hand. At our last reunion. we were all instantly sympathetic to her.” said one on the right side of the political spectrum to one on the left. So his wife. She described a problem she was having with one of their horses. before things really got out of hand. only lasts about 30 seconds. and usually. instead of being able to see the glories of nature.
The ﬁnal phase comes when we are emotionally waterlogged from swimming in the gene pool and—our family ties strengthened—we say our goodbyes. Soon. the teens will be the middle-agers. I won’t talk about hemorrhoids. given my family history.Days of Derangement country. the reunions will become part of our Remember Whens. we all have our own version of the marital horse on the porch. But. 82 . and I’ll be one of the old fogies. I’m probably doomed to repeat it. Hopefully. Before we know it.
gleefully tossing in school supplies as his dejected children follow glumly behind and The Most Wonderful Time of the Year plays in the background. in the calm quiet of my house before my kids got home from school. would write their own plays. Coyote. I wanted them to savor their summer before it slipped away like a melting scoop of ice cream. I decided that my little darlings needed a slacker summer. “They’re going back!” the announcer tells us. their imaginations ﬁred by boundless freedom. watching the Road Runner never fail to foil Wile E. One year. an unstructured one spent running through sprinklers. I made a stupid decision. I envisioned euphoric days where my children. You know the kind of summer I mean. Sweeter words were never spoken. lying in tall grass deﬂowering dandelions. rediscover the innocence of youth. perhaps dip into Tolkien or even Tolstoy (it could happen). 83 .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.
my children were deﬁnitely slothful. our family bond had been bolstered to such an extent that it felt like an iron collar around our necks. And they showed some true creativity there. In June. By the time August came around. They slept until noon. managing—while still lying down—to punch. My husband. went back to work. Even our Labrador seemed nearly comatose in those dog days. They didn’t dip into either Tolkien or Tolstoy.Days of Derangement That was in May. the lazy days of summer had begun to really drive me crazy. where they somehow summoned the energy to ﬁght over the TV remote. I congratulated him on his staunch adherence to his faith. 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. enjoying round-the-clock togetherness as we attempted to bolster our family bonds while simultaneously blowing our budget. banal bickering. recommitted myself to giving my kids a season of sloth. By the end of the month. But I. kick and bite each other without ever assuming a vertical position. still deeply in a delusional phase. My kids became deeply involved in endless. but they did read the words on Popsicle wrappers before tossing them on the table. Only it didn’t quite go as I planned. I was determined that my fantasy of summertime fun and creativity. They argued over the color of the sky or which one of them was 84 . Oh. would come to pass. we went on vacation. then stirred themselves just enough to move to the couch. unencumbered by a schedule. when I clearly had too much time on my hands and would appear to have been smoking something. With school out. his face wearing the liberated look of an escaped convict. the bloom came off the rose just a bit.
where they had actually become part of the furniture and needed dusting. all the annoying inertia came to an end. They became hibernating bears. “We’re hungry! Can you bring us food?” Finally. to even feed themselves. they chose Dad). apparently storing up fat for the winter by barely moving. “Mom!” they’d wail from the living room. 85 . they went to camp. And the next summer. fortunately. They were too weak. poor things.The Most Wonderful Time of the Year the biggest brat (dead even. I’d say) or whether Mom or Dad had more wrinkles (wisely. They went back to school.
rather than a squirming child. making a beeline for the big red bull’s eye. 86 . —Marcelene Cox E arly on a Saturday morning when my kids were young. There are times in the often frenzied life of modern motherhood when we could all use a little retail therapy. my careening cart festooned with some rowdy rug rats. On an ordinary day. one of those crammed occasions when I’d meet myself coming and going.Shopping Shangri-La The quickest way to know a woman is to go shopping with her. I started out slowly. I felt like I’d hit the big-box bonanza. I was a-tingle with excitement. I gave my slumbering husband a kiss and a whispered lie about returning soon and headed out the door. in the seat. when I could walk alone through those beckoning doors. I pulled out a shopping cart and savored the sensation of placing my purse. As I pulled into the parking lot of my local Target store. In my case. I’d be racing down the aisles like a NASCAR driver. drinking in the well-organized ambiance of everyday economics. unencumbered by children.
feeling free and festive. I headed for the home section. I studied rolls of wrapping paper as if they were literary classics and read about a hundred greeting cards. I selected a sea of hair products. everything a woman might need to feel smooth and sexy. if over budget. where my toes touched dozens of shoes. Although my cell phone. Next. Eventually. I moved to the shoe department. I even got up the nerve to check out the bathing suits and spent precious moments pretending I’d soon be losing weight. just because I could. feeling drunk with pleasure. There. empowered in this emporium to ﬁnd that deﬁnitive pair of panties. I received 87 . I explored every kitchen appliance. I spent almost half an hour mulling which shade of eye shadow to buy. Next. delicious intervals which ones to purchase. Finally. Soon. After a while. hiding like an adolescent playing hooky from a truant ofﬁcer. I ambled over to the craft area. the ﬂoodgates open. The bedding aisles claimed what felt like a wonderful eternity as I considered different designs. I strolled to the clothing section and moved among the racks like a famine victim suddenly given a steak dinner.Shopping Shangri-La But now. I put dozens of items in my cart. ensuring I would be well-coiffed. I sauntered with sweet anticipation to my favorite part of the store—personal care products. where I grew weepy at the opportunity to sift at a snail’s pace through scrapbook supplies. which I’d set to “vibrate. Then. I waxed ecstatic over dishes in bright shades sure to soothe my soul. I grabbed a scarlet shade of lipstick that would likely win my mother’s disapproval. I went to lingerie and frittered away the day among slinky silks and polyester imposters. Hesitantly. I ignored it. debating for long.” had been buzzing every ﬁve minutes.
Days of Derangement a series of text messages from my husband. Soon. “Really NOT funny!!!!” “how can u do this 2 me?” “AAAARRRGGGHHHH!!!!!!!” At checkout. I’d have to go home to face the music. 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. But my shopping Shangri La had been well worth it. 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 breathlessly spent several minutes admiring it. 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. I unhurriedly unloaded my cart with a consequences-be-damned attitude. determined to make the most of my temporary status as a lady of leisure. ingeniously designed with a curved handle and biodegradable cloths and so environmentally friendly even Al Gore would use it. 88 .
that a bunch of snakes invade a plane and cause bedlam in the skies. 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. namely. I’m a veteran of those wrongly named events where very little actual slumber occurs. Who invented slumber parties anyway? It’s difﬁcult enough to get your own kids to go to bed. when I was faced with a situation perhaps not as lethal. Oh. And I knew I could survive it. I knew she’d probably want to have a slumber party. If I did. It wasn’t exactly the way I expected to celebrate my daughter’s 14th birthday. But using my extraordinary powers of perception. I’m fairly sure I would never get on an airplane again. after all.Teens in a Tree I ’ve never actually seen the 2006 movie Snakes on a Plane. it was. her birthday. But I went along with what my daughter wanted. 89 . but still scary—a slither of shrieking teenage girls stuck in one of my trees. that’s the scenario that popped into my head not long after the movie came out. I get the gist of the plot. For some reason.
No amount of persuasion from me could get them down. except that the obligatory crank calls were now made by cell phones instead of antiquated land lines. like so many oversized kittens. They were stuck. despite the fact that it was well past dark and cold outside. Naturally. There were secretive sessions of Truth or Dare which would mysteriously cease the moment Mom walked in the room. Then several other girls decided the tree would make a good hiding place. Unfortunately. But then.Days of Derangement At ﬁrst. the whole neighborhood was reverberating with the sound of a manhunt gone manic. One girl got a boost from another and scrambled up into the tree. Teenage girls tend to shriek in tandem. the slumber party ran its expected course. They headed across the front yard toward a large. It was all pretty standard slumber-party stuff that could have happened when I was a teenager. 90 . the girls decided to go out and play manhunt. each scream building exponentially on the others. and sigh-ﬁlled talk about celebrity males they wished they knew. and the music now came courtesy of an iPod rather than an LP. up in that tree. the wind picked up about this time and something—maybe a bird or a squirrel—stirred up there in the dark. trying to suppress their giggles as the “hunter” began looking for them. makeup application and hair braiding. all accompanied by intense discussions of the attributes and faults of various boys the girls knew. They inched higher and higher in the tree. each girl then decided she could not come down the way she’d gone up. Soon. spreading oak tree. The giggles turned to screams. There were numerous rounds of nail painting.
I doubt Samuel L. was any more heroic. But I’ll bet the snakes were quieter than our teens in the tree. Jackson. Climbing up into the tree. He arrived. and immediately fetched a ladder. 91 . Funny Man had retreated to a local sports bar.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. I was able to summon him home to play ﬁreman. he gently coaxed each girl down to safety. to hang out with other men and do whatever it is men do at such places. battling all those hissing serpents on the plane. But thanks to the magic of cell phones. giving me one of those “why can’t you handle this?” looks.
Like it or not. they allow girls to grow up blissfully ignorant. 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. years ago. there comes a moment when she realizes that all men are. thinking their guys are different. They were polar opposites in personality. my men’s heads whipped around in identical fashion and all four ogling eyeballs locked like missile radar on the ta-ta F 92 . created equal. That’s what I thought. In a conspiracy of silence designed to ensure the survival of the species. she must face the fact that every male in her life is a walking testament to testosterone. Then along came a wellendowed woman in a low-cut blouse. and I loved them both. it’s been the same. These creatures unable to pick up socks or discard over-used underwear are doomed to forever repeat hormonal history.Testosterone Trouble or every woman. As she walked past our table. when I found myself in a restaurant with my father and my new husband. I gazed fondly at these two men in my life. But mothers don’t tell this to daughters. indeed.
I was determined to go on. 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. I attempted to get their attention. We should have long ago harnessed the unifying power of the hooter and used it to eradicate intractable problems such as war. adolescent behavior in the human male extends far beyond the teen years. my own dear father cracked. for all you know. “But you’re treating her like a sex object. I got a call from the middle school principal. crime and Paris Hilton.” Then the man I called Daddy and the man I called Darling made complete boobs of themselves. But when he turned 13.Testosterone Trouble target. Take my husband. He decided. he had snorted wasabi sauce. When my son was born. after a mere 10 years of consideration. for example. a lifetime bond cemented by a set of knockers. high-ﬁving and breaking into loud.” Without missing a beat. which I think pretty much says it all. At ﬁrst. This intelligent activity is apparently the highlight of a movie called Jackass. Cleavage may just be the world’s last. “That woman could be a nuclear physicist. I’d like to see her reactors. I was convinced that I could reverse the macho march of his life with my humanizing inﬂuence. “If she’s a nuclear physicist. then run screaming through the halls swatting at his inﬂamed nose. and apparently trying to impress a nearby group of girls. obnoxious guffaws. On a dare. Women have clearly failed in their duty to humankind. to get a 93 . best hope.” I said indignantly. ﬁnally kicking them under the table. Unfortunately. it seemed to be working. Although disillusioned. Shocked and angry.
Women can turn to other women for honest opinion and concerned counsel. alone in the woods. but men are the life of the party.Days of Derangement vasectomy. Men. all his friends will deliver countless cutting remarks about the expected failure of his masculinity. this highly educated doctor would gather the other fathers on the sidelines to exchange jokes about the alteration of my husband’s nether regions. Funny Man fell right into this pattern. 94 . with far less hullabaloo. on the other hand. They’d all slap each other on the back after every goofy gag and double over in laughter. The urologist who performed the procedure happened to have a son on the same soccer team as our son. take great pleasure in throwing their friends into turmoil with derogatory comments designed to undermine a buddy’s manhood. Women may be the bedrock of society. and Funny Man would join right in. assuring him his life as a he-man is history. I gave thanks that it was over. When a man undergoes a vasectomy. endlessly amused in the same way that younger males never fail to ﬁnd humor in their own bodily processes. but somehow still managed to go under the knife. It was then I realized testosterone will always triumph. A woman could give birth to triplets. Week after week. It took a good year before we could get through a game without some reference to the silly snip. How wrong I was.
appearing unfolded all over the place in varying stages of cleanliness. I give them crisp contours and place them lovingly on their assigned shelves. If I open the closet door. I have to assume the terrible towels are in revolt. hanging like hoodlums off the shelf or brazenly bunched up in the corner. I am apparently the only person in our house capable of the feat of folding. Those rectangular household items seem to have taken over my home. And since every other member of my family denies any responsibility for them. I’ll ﬁnd towels in a tumultuous state. I can only conclude the troublesome towels themselves are trying to stage a takeover. So I painstakingly fold the towels right out of the dryer. As neither my children nor my husband avows any knowledge of how they got there. 95 .Towel Tyranny I ’ve decided I must be the victim of towel tyranny. It’s a burden those of us born with greater abilities must bear. Towels that earlier were well-behaved are suddenly mingling with sheets and pillowcases on unauthorized shelves. And how do these ungrateful bolts of blotting material repay my hard work? By running rampant in my linen closet.
96 . where they evidently decided to clean a stinking pair of soccer cleats. They will leap off the hooks on which they have been faithfully hung (and my family members always hang them up). in the ﬂoor or in the sink. The middle class towels are those ordinary. Then they’ll lie on the ﬂoor for hours. Instead of staying put in the guest bathroom. One time. look-but-don’ttouch decorative soaps. have the enviable duty of just looking good. which even get matching. So the pretty towels must be acting on their own. Sometimes. they’ll have hardened into crustily creative origami. in serious need of rehab. at the top of the heap. Then. I have their sworn statements on that. The towels in my house adhere to a certain hierarchy. The lowest caste belongs to the torn. I ﬁnd them lying. By then. for some unknown reason. still-presentable cloths assigned to dry the skins of their owners. Our towels have a strange mania for mildew. I discovered them disgracefully hiding out on the back patio. No one is allowed to soil their softness with actual use. amassing smelly spores and funky fungi. they will even ﬂing themselves into closets and under beds where they will be unlikely to be discovered for days. Another time. stained fragments of fabric consigned to sopping up spills or drying the dog. soaking wet. are the elegant elite—the decorative towels. And none of my family members ever does touch them. It’s truly diabolical.Days of Derangement There’s also the matter of moisture. These privileged pieces. they chose to throw themselves over the hamster cage and somehow ended up frayed and chewed.
Towel Tyranny At some point. Oddly enough. But it seemed to tame the towels. my family members did not like this at all. 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. 97 .
Now. This seasonal amnesia allows us to set out once again on a search for the sublime suit. Every man thinks he looks good in his bathing suit. Look for something you’ll feel comfortable wearing.Bathing Suit Blues People shop for a bathing suit with more care than they do a husband or wife. I envy that kind of conﬁdence. —Erma Bombeck I have to admit I admire men’s indifference to bathing-suit reality. the one that will leave us looking like a supermodel. Almost every woman. having a middle-aged mom midriff untouched by a surgeon’s 98 . The rules are the same. When I was younger. I too was seeking a supermodel 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. believes she resembles a Teletubby in her swimsuit. on the other hand. I hoped to be considered bodacious in my bathing attire. We can only be persuaded to try on new ones each summer because—as with childbirth—we forget the agony endured during the experience. Allow for room to grow.
I wasn’t even warm.Bathing Suit Blues scalpel. you can now re-create yourself online by entering your measurements. 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. The virtual me turned out to be quite a hot mamma and I eagerly anticipated the arrival of my online bathing suit. On the virtual me. Then you can try on computerized bathing suits in the privacy of your home while eating an entire carton of Haagen-Dazs. Upon further inspection. said appendages seemed to have vanished. The spectacle was even scarier in the lower regions. I was sorely disappointed. we’d likely take out a second mortgage to buy every bathing suit in stock? 99 . On the real me. I begin my spandex search every spring. So with these modest goals in mind. when I attempted to stuff my real skin into my virtual suit. See. My high-tech suit solution having shriveled. I’m content if my beach body fails to cause vomiting or retinal damage. 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). It doesn’t get any better than that. but I will spare you the details. Unfortunately. I thought I’d found the ideal answer with the Virtual Model. Not only was I not a hot mamma. certain appendages intended to nourish babies had provided a pleasingly perky presentation. I found them cowering under my armpits. The virtual you maintains her shape even as the real you adds another 10 pounds.
100 . Nothing made me happy. I’m going to pay another visit to that vixenish virtual me. I wrapped myself in a striped sarong that was deﬁnitely not right. I armed myself with an assortment of the latest in swimwear styles and colors: the tankini. Maybe I’ll feed her some Haagen-Dazs. checked suits and some with polka-dots. just by virtue of having a French name. was a deﬁnite non. the maillot. The tankini tanked as my ﬂesh oozed out of its assigned areas.Days of Derangement Determined to face the task at hand. I squeezed into suits both black (which conveniently matched my mood) and colored. despite its French connections. is bound to bestow a certain sexy je ne sais quoi. I stood in front of those blasted mirrors under those blinding lights and tried on suit after suit. so to speak). I struggled into a skirted ﬂoral number that made me look frighteningly like Hyacinth the Hippo. Now. First though. Sadly. which gives you the illusion of a two-piece but with the promise of greater coverage (a bikini with beneﬁts. none of them met even my humble expectations. For a couple of hours. skirted bathing suits supposedly capable of camouﬂaging cellulite and sarong swim attire meant to minimize the midsection. dubbing my quest a dismal failure. The maillot. I left empty-handed. In the end. a one-piece that. I’m considering spending my summers in a burlap sack.
Bathing Suit Blues 101 .
I’d say sarcastically as I gagged at the odor wafting from them. I’d order them “to sleep. 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.” When my daughter was whining about something. or as extensively as my Cliff Notes knowledge of him would allow.” When I had to pick up my son’s stinky sneakers. I hope they’ll forgive me for my Shakespeare phase.” And when my darlings would head out the door to school in the morning. I’d announce that “the lady doth protest too much. “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. perchance to dream. madness lies… —William Shakespeare W hen my children look back over their childhoods.To Do or Not To Do O that way. 102 . This was a phase in which I’d quote The Bard extensively. When it was past my kids’ bedtimes.
I couldn’t resist embellishing it with bits of Will’s wisdom. thy name is frailty. It covered an entire page and then spilled over on to a second page. “Woman. During my obsession with The Bard. At ﬁrst. I decide I no longer want to function like ﬂotsam. and so I try to establish some habit that will help me tame my time. Naturally. I took to writing a daily to-do list. I decided to involve them in my time-management activities as well. I called it my To Do or Not To Do List. though. Periodically.” I scribbled encouragingly to myself in the margins. Sadly for my family members. my notes to self became slightly more pessimistic but still poetic. Others such as me tend to ﬂoat along like ﬂotsam on the sea of time.” I wrote at the bottom. with my to-do list not even close to being done. when I hadn’t actually accomplished anything on my list. though. I wrote each of them 103 . By the end of the week. my to-do list was grandiose and unrealistic. Just what I wanted.” I scrawled in large. This gave me the feeling of organization but with a smidgen of rebellion thrown in. 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. disgusted letters right across the list. Some people can properly manage their time. After a few days. “Be not afraid of greatness. I was deeply annoyed with myself. “Oft expectation fails.To Do or Not To Do My Shakespeare phase coincided with one of my occasional attempts at time management. In true Shakespearean spirit. where we lie as limp and exhausted as an overworked metaphor.
“If there is anyone here whom I have not insulted. “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. After that. At least he has his own TV show. “Mom. you are so weird!” my daughter said. I went happily back to being ﬂoating ﬂotsam. so I barged into their bedrooms spouting another Bardism. I beg his or her pardon” I’d say with true Cowell attitude. of course. And before I knew it. what light through yonder window breaks? Time to get up!” My kids covered their heads with their pillows and moaned. I also got over William and moved on to quoting yet another witty Brit. Simon Cowell. They ignored me.Days of Derangement a to-do list. the timemanagement urge had passed. 104 . “Hark. and then I encouraged everyone to get up early on a Saturday morning so there would be plenty of time to get everything done.
Each night.Resistance is Futile W hen my children were younger. souped-up teenager. I’d send my own crew out with the more humble mission of getting ready for bed with the same command. my family went through a time of serious Trekkiness.” No matter how daunting the task. They were not individuals. the Borg was one giant. technologically enhanced beings—part human and part machine—which had a collective consciousness. and they didn’t want to be. the ﬁrst thing the poor drone would notice would be its own loneliness. a race of aggressive. One of our favorite series of Star Trek episodes involved the Borg.” I’d say as I sent them to their rooms. When the show was over. delivered in a phony English accent. When one was cut off from the Collective. we’d curl up together on the couch and watch a rerun of Star Trek: The Next Generation. command his crew to “Make it so. Essentially. Picard would. “Make it so. That’s the Star Trek show in which the elegant Capt. Shakespearean baritone. and the galaxy would be safe for another day. Picard’s space-alien-butt-kicking crew would comply. in his rich. except that it didn’t slam doors or wear low-slung pants that showed its many pairs of 105 .
our Trekkie phase passed. 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. when I realized that the Borg have secretly stayed among us for quite some time. For days after a Borg episode had aired. We are all becoming part of the cyberspace collective. in the form of the Internet. What the Borg did was ruthlessly assimilate all other life forms into its Collective. and the Borg went away where no man has gone before. She could whip up a comely 106 . those were good times. just to see how many times my name comes up. My daughter saved up her money to buy a computer game that allowed her to “bake” an online cake. my children would take on its robotic personality. in virtual rooms where everyone can be anonymous. Eventually.” the Borg would intone without mercy to all its victims. “Resistance is futile. She could select different frostings and decorations. And we adults are just as bad. just like teenagers do. but no one is autonomous. I’m not sure my mate knows where he ends and his Crackberry (Blackberry) begins. with virtual friends. “Resistance is futile. I am an online organism.Days of Derangement underwear. My husband and I make our living by way of the Web. and I like it. I’ve developed a serious addiction to Googling myself. And I’m not really one to talk. Ah. Sometimes.” I’d intone without mercy each time one of my children tried to avoid going to bed. And we carry it with us at all times. Or so I thought until recently. Our children play virtual games. willingly shedding our individuality to become one with the great external mind.
she answered impatiently. Even though there was no taste.Resistance is Futile confection with the click of a mouse. I’m baking. no reality. And she could share her cake with other online bakers. We are Borg. Funny Girl was devoted to the game.” I’m pretty sure that resistance is futile. When I asked her to help me make a real cake. 107 . “Mom. I’m busy right now. no cold glass of milk to wash down this lifeless computer cake.
It’s been that way since time immemorial. we went out to eat one time with my in-laws. Spock) to perform heroic feats to save the day. the unwritten rule of the universe is that older generations get to embarrass the younger one. There were several times when my kids were growing up that I was pretty sure that crazy continuum had gone and done it again. three generations bonding over a good meal.Space Time Turmoil The rate at which a person can mature is directly proportional to the embarrassment he can tolerate. If you’ve watched as much Star Trek as I have. If 108 . noticed that Funny Girl was eating calamari. always getting runs in it that throw everything into turmoil and require humans (or half-humans in the case of Mr. And most of the time. See. My mother-in-law. B eing a recovering Trekkie who once had a serious crush on Captain Kirk. you know the space-time continuum is about as reliable as a cheap pair of pantyhose. 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. For example. our family followed that hallowed tradition.
you know that calamari is just squid dressed up with a fancy Italian name and often served fried in little rings. But I went right on with my meal.Space Time Turmoil you’ve eaten it. As several restaurant patrons turned to look at us. 109 . 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. knowing all was right with the world. my husband. my kids turned a deep shade of red and appeared to be trying to get under the table. 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. never actually starting the process of getting ready until about ﬁve minutes after he was supposed to be somewhere. However. She used another word that sounds very similar to tentacles but actually describes a very private part of the male anatomy. Sometimes. you also get fried squid tentacles that look like little spiders ready to scamper right off the plate. Funny Man had already taken a shower. dressed only in a towel. walked into my son’s room to lovingly (or not) suggest the kid should get moving. not long after that. Knowing this. everything was turned topsy turvy. She could also see past him into his room. My husband and son were getting ready to go out. and so she saw my husband walk in. he could see her and she could see him. Through the miracle of modern technology. What he didn’t know was that Funny Boy had recently installed a webcam and was using it to communicate with his girlfriend. So my mother-in-law innocently made a loud comment about the joys of eating tentacles. operated (and still does) on a different timetable than the rest of us. Except that she didn’t say tentacles. unfortunately. Funny Boy.
Spock is available to ﬁx it. something is wrong with that old space-time continuum. 110 . I wonder if Mr. Clearly.Days of Derangement leaving Funny Man standing there with his dignity exposed and our son’s girlfriend probably in need of therapy.
Game days were serious business around our house. It started. By the time my dad’s friends arrived to catch the kickoff. And I realize all over again how much the power of pigskin has shaped my life. the air was electric with excitement. I ﬁnd myself so not ready for another football season. all would be right with the universe. in childhood. as most psychologically traumatizing things do. If they did not do well. I doubt even Hank Jr. and each man would have to 111 . a deathly pall would hang over the house. and most of his mania was focused on the University of Oklahoma Sooners. and all his rowdy friends could come over and make me appreciate the game. If the Sooners did well. of touchdowns and testosterone. —George Will E very fall.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. My father was gripped by gridiron giddiness. Yet every year. and my papa and his pals would be bursting with pride.
I’d have run away as fast as I could. But then came September. art. So I foolishly married the man. football posters on the walls. produced a miniature Madden man of my own. and we all know that love is as blind as. When my skinny son reached high school. 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. We had football bed sheets. I just didn’t get it. and beer would be necessary to drown their Sooner sorrows. One of my dad’s friends actually once punched a hole in the wall. the loathsome Longhorns won the game. If I was smart. We talked about everything under the sun. you know exactly which song I mean. If you’re a Sooner or a Longhorn. literature. Then I went to college (at OU. and in time. his face and body painted crimson for the team. even football toilet seat covers. judging by fan reaction. philosophy. But if. we spent our Friday nights watching him in constant danger of being turned into a football version of Flat Stanley 112 . All over a silly game. But I was in love. by some terrible tragedy. and I was shocked one Saturday to ﬁnd this fellow that I’d fallen for screaming shirtless in a stadium. naturally) and there. and they’d sing a mockingly modiﬁed version of the Texas ﬁght song that ended with a rather rude suggestion involving biting and backsides. a great number of football referees. unable to contain his outrage at the calamity that had befallen the team. seemingly normal man. on a bright August day. I ended up living in a house inundated by pigskin passion.Days of Derangement ﬁnd his own way to deal with his distress. I met a handsome. things would be gloomy. our hopes and dreams.
caused by a constant assault from nacho cheese. During this silliest of seasons. But usually I just grabbed some of my rowdy friends and went shopping. interrupted only by endless rounds of neckless men in nice suits discussing those games and the gladiators who play them. The holidays were also hamstrung by this crazy sport.The Power of Pigskin by what looked (to me. When our extended family gathered to give thanks. Or punch a hole in the wall. 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. anyway) like giants on the opposing team trying to tackle him. onion dip. Our living room carpet suffered from football-mouth disease. It was enough to make me want to throw up. the televisions in our house broadcast a perpetual stream of games. three generations of football fanatics would genuﬂect before the gridiron god. 113 .
have not had to live with my father’s follicles. he’s a HIM (HairIndifferent Man). And if—like me—you have a mother with thick. my friend. and I am allowed to ask one question. If you have problem hair that just lies slouched across your scalp as sluggish as a teenager in the summertime. That’s because he is a man and. A HIM does not care about his hair. Why.The Hairy Truth W hen I reach the Pearly Gates. on top of that. I already know what it’s going to be. beautiful. can be a curse if—like me—you are unfortunate enough to have inherited his calamitous coif. Being the daughter of a HIM. being a HIM is a real blessing. A HIM spends even less time thinking about his hair than wondering if his jeans make his butt look big. Oh Lord. bouncy hair who dropped the genetic ball at your conception and allowed your father’s lackluster gene to beat her 114 . Those faulty follicles have not been a problem for my father. 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. however. 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. You.
but instead I was melancholy. I feel like I’ve beaten the genetic odds. I’d spend that much on my hair alone—perms. Whenever I have my hair done at a salon. If I could. given my follicular disability. What they do doesn’t look hard.” I say. “It’s just that my hair looks decent for once. even after I’d gone back to my familiar ﬂat-as-a-pancake look. I’d tasted life as one of the hair fortunate. It was like getting a glimpse of the Promised Land and then having to go back into the wilderness. I would also need a full-time stylist to ﬁx my “do” every day. you may have enough Oedipal issues to keep any therapist busy (and wealthy). try it yourself 115 . Of course. That should have made me happy. that after my last salon visit. people were still talking about my hair a week later. cuts and coloring. Strangers on the street treat me with more respect. My co-workers ask if I’ve had a face-lift or maybe some liposuction. in fact.” So decent. and eventually just taking the matter up with the Creator himself. and yet. and my normally limp locks are temporarily looking good. The hairy truth is that stylists know things we mortals just don’t know. “No. I plan on skipping the shrink’s couch. It was a bitter pill indeed to return to my helmet-hair existence. I have to confess I understand why all those wealthy divorcees demand thousands monthly in alimony for personal upkeep. though. I patiently tried to explain that hairdressers are like golf players. Personally. along with expensive styling products with French names that will surely make my hair look better just by virtue of being French. “Can’t you learn to make it look good yourself?” my HIM husband asked.The Hairy Truth good hair gene to the punch. In the meantime.
116 . I’m just kidding.Days of Derangement and see what happens. Really. dear. I’m just kidding. Thanks a lot. Even using the same products and appliances. of course. Mom. I simply cannot get my hair to look the way it does when my stylist does it. I should have been born a HIM. The only solution is to get a divorce and spend every penny of my alimony to keep a hairdresser at my beck and call.
Learner’s 117 . I looked forward to my turn as the parent in the passenger seat ever since my own teenage driving debut many years ago. I was eager to carry on the family tradition. But when Funny Boy was old enough to get his learner’s permit. So we went to our local Department of Motor Vehicles ofﬁce. My dad took his place beside me. the little car would buck like a bronco. Each time I tried to smoothly shift into gear. and my mom sat in the back. My parents worked in tandem to instill in me the appropriate levels of fear and loathing necessary for success on the road. my mother would shriek as if she were in real danger. T eaching a teenager to drive ranks right up there with potty training as one of parenting’s ﬁnest experiences.Driving Drill Instructor The best substitute for experience is being 16. and my father would simultaneously yell “Clutch!” This happened over and over until I was a shaking bundle of nerves requiring years of therapy. I learned to drive in a bright yellow Volkswagen Bug with manual transmission that I affectionately called The Egg Yolk.
Now that’s a true public servant. from there. and I gave the government guardian angel a grateful look. But. The trip from our driveway to the nearest intersection was fraught with the kind of nail-biting nausea common to stressful situations. her warning went in one teenage ear and out the other. My son’s apparent need for speed led me to point out that it wasn’t 118 .” I said sarcastically. “How about we start out with both hands on the wheel?” It all just went downhill. and we got into a screaming match over the proper enactment of that rule known as Right on Red. “I’ve got an idea. When it was time for his ﬁrst lesson. reminding my junior joy rider that his driving destiny legally rested in the hands of his loving parents. my son emerged from the house wearing a T-shirt that said Easily Distracted. “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. reset all the radio buttons and casually drape his left arm out of the open window.” she told him sternly. alas. Not a good sign. he proceeded to check his hair in the mirror. You got that?” Funny Boy nodded his head as if in total agreement (he was faking it). We had high-decibel discussions about the meaning of words such as slow and stop. Next. “Before you turn 18.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. already feeling my blood pressure rising. The kind soul at the DMV did her best to lay down the law. so to speak.
“You can go ﬁve miles over without being stopped by the cops. By the time we returned home. One day. I had twice been called a terrible teacher.Driving Drill Instructor necessary to always drive the speed limit. I meant. 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. 119 . Funny Boy will thank me for it. I know. that he could drive more slowly. “Oh. still miraculously alive.” Funny Boy responded in all seriousness. of course.
Or something like that.LBD Conspiracy I t’s funny how one’s self-image tends to stay frozen in time. He’s leaning against that sports car. 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. and the ﬂight suit would require some alternations if he wanted to wear it now (sorry. He keeps a picture of himself—I call it his Top Gun picture—from those days. The car and the plane are long gone. dear). 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. with his airplane in the background. 120 . but I know my Tom Cruise clone still sees himself as that studly single man. Your mind picks out a moment when you looked your best. handsome and dashing in a ﬂight suit. For my husband. sometimes a moment that occurred many moons (and many pounds) ago.
I started. tiramisu. one that should have every woman in the country up in arms.LBD Conspiracy My ﬂash-frozen picture of myself occurred about the same time. when I ﬁrst wore a Little Black Dress. with the size that I know ﬁts me. back in my skinny season. For a woman. And I stumbled upon a shocking scandal. the LBD is far more than a piece of clothing. is removing fabric from the fundamental fashion frock and skewing the sizes. began bringing me LBDs in larger sizes. I refused to try them on. the dresses in my size failed to ﬂatter my ﬁgure. one of the most important items in her wardrobe. the size that has ﬁt me for years. yet timeless LBD. 121 . But for some reason. she tends to assume she will always look good in it. These people have a lot to answer for. “Oh. I tried on dress after dress in what I thought would be a quick quest for a trendy. I went shopping one holiday season for a new little black dress. trying to be helpful. I had my daughter and my mother in tow. Someone is sabotaging the LBD. naturally.” Funny Girl said mockingly. Someone. each terribly tight toga refused to go much past my knees! I was astounded. as my size-zero. It’s a canvas on which she can showcase her stylish self. In fact. 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. And once a woman has felt beautiful in this essential item of apparel (a la Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s). So with this assumption ﬁrmly in mind and having not worn an LBD for quite a while. probably the same folks adding lead to children’s toys. and then annoyed. “how could you?” My mom.
122 . pointing to one of the discarded dresses. That’s when I realized I was the unwitting victim of a vast LBD conspiracy. I’m calling my congressman. I want my original size back. A warm ﬂush of embarrassment began to spread over my face and threatened to melt that icy illusion in my head. 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.Days of Derangement “That’s my size and I’m sticking to it!” I said heatedly.
such as youth or life or sanity.” “It’s over!” he lamented. and I didn’t even notice it 123 . throwing up his arms melodramatically. “It” is usually something precious and irretrievable once lost. “It’s really. He said it again the ﬁrst time he had to buy a nose hair trimmer. That’s because I found myself in a long and serious conversation with my dad about the attributes of various high-ﬁber breakfast cereals. long thoughts. really over. An interest in ﬁber is a sure sign of impending geezerdom. He made this declaration the ﬁrst time an attractive young woman called him “Sir. But I stopped laughing after I celebrated yet another birthday on the wrong side of 40.It’s Over And the thoughts of youth are long. I liked to point out that not a single hair was sticking out of my nose. I used to laugh at my geriatric spouse.” Funny Man moaned when he stood in front of the mirror with his trimmer. Being a full six months younger. —Henry Wadsworth Longfellow F unny Man regularly declares that it’s over.
) When I placed my purse on the car’s console. I’m going to quote another great poet. I’m not quite as long-in-the-tooth as I thought. I want to be prepared for the inevitable. As I was driving to the drugstore to get some Depends. Apparently. Even so. I began to have some of those long. Every teenager should have to sit through a discussion of the digestive delights of eating a cardboard breakfast. (OK. Not realizing this. I was alarmed when a warm feeling spread across my backside. it apparently pressed the seat heater button. I did head on into the store. I was almost weak with relief when I got out of the car and discovered that my pants were dry. the next time my husband announces that it’s over. but I’d never had them before. 124 . 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. Yogi Berra: It ain’t over ’til it’s over. we got a new car. which was equipped with those new-fangled seat heaters. long thoughts of youth mentioned by Longfellow (who seems to have had the perfect name for such nostalgia). though. to look over the selection of nose hair trimmers. See. At least not yet.Days of Derangement until I saw the looks on the faces of my children. I know they’ve been around a while. I also picked up an anticipatory package of Depends. I assumed Father Time had put my bladder on the fast track to incontinence. It will give him or her a greater appreciation for the ﬂeeting Cap’n Crunch phase of life.
It’s Over 125 .
I deﬁnitely can remember thinking my parents were the bee’s knees or. the cat’s meow. until I was 11 or 12 years old. —Phyllis Diller L ife just moves too fast nowadays. The little ingrates start to roll their eyes at our actions almost before they learn to ride a bike. you can mortify them merely by appearing in public. By the time they are on the cusp of adolescence. 126 . you actually can make them nauseous by using old-fashioned phrases involving insects and their theoretical body parts. Today’s parents only have until their kids are about 6 before they become a source of embarrassment to their offspring. For example. That golden period used to last about a decade. at the very least. It’s all so unfair. And when they are teenagers. take that wonderful window of time during which your children idolize you and think you’re the bee’s knees.Bee’s Knees Always be nice to your children because they are the ones who will choose your rest home. that precious period now has shrunk until it’s as short as a bee’s knee would be (assuming bees actually have knees). But tragically.
I even started playing a pretty impressive air guitar. Funny Girl was standing there. my eyes closed.” I was lost in the ’70s. as usual. Halfway through the second stanza. “And party every day. I get an unfortunate urge to change the station to one playing easy-listening songs. I used to tear around town in my yellow Volkswagen Beetle with my friends.Bee’s Knees I was pondering this great injustice one day while waiting for my daughter in the car line at school. 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. her face about as white as the makeup the members of KISS used to wear. (OK.) When I get that disturbing desire to change the dial. A group of amused-looking teenagers stood behind her. “I wanna rock and roll all night. I suddenly heard the van’s door being yanked open.” I warbled loudly. geriatric name such as The Dove or The Breeze or The Snooze. When I was a teenager. even if I usually listen at a much lower volume than I once did. a groovy rock groupie a long way from easy listening. Occasionally. I began to sing along to the music. And because the windows were rolled up. The radio was tuned. 127 . Hearing Rock and Roll All Nite brought back a lot of memories. 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. Easy-listening stations generally have a gentle. I made up the last one. In the car line that day before the ﬁnal bell rang. to a classic rock station that helps me remember I’m still young and hip. I heard the radio start playing Rock and Roll All Nite by that band of upstanding citizens known as KISS. blasting KISS tunes at unhealthy decibel levels.
get us out of here!” Funny Girl slumped down in the seat. 128 .Days of Derangement “Mom! What are you doing?!” “Just listening to music. she’ll look back on this incident and laugh. a middleaged mom who should probably start acting her age. Someday. turning it down.” I said sheepishly. I just hope when she does I’m still young enough to remember it. “Hurry. I’d been abruptly thrust back into the 21st century. trying not to be seen.
The B and B The difﬁculty with married life is that we fall in love with a personality. departed grandmother to mind. one rich in history and character. but must live with a character. romantic images of an elegant. We decided—OK. —Peter De Vries I thought a bed and breakfast—a place oozing with charm. I couldn’t wait to cuddle up there with my husband. I booked a night at a “Victorian-era” inn that described itself as quaint and picturesque. For Funny Man. he looked doubtful.” I pointed out. 129 . 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. It wasn’t exactly the atmosphere I’d envisioned. more civilized time. the B and B apparently brought his dear. “It’s quaint and picturesque. The very phrase bed and breakfast evoked for me soft. however. When I told my husband where we were going. delightful with doilies and pretty teacups—would be the perfect spot to celebrate our 19th anniversary several years ago.
fanning himself. I asked the hostess why I wasn’t told about the heating problem when I reserved the room. this would have been just ﬁne.” she said breezily. her smile fading a bit. And it was a bed in which Tom Thumb and his wife would have been comfortable. my man expressed even greater doubts. 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. the room was very warm. I was thinking. lying down on the bed. “they probably don’t even have ESPN. Are you sure you wouldn’t rather get a hotel room?” Not on your life. “It’s as hot in here as my grandma’s house used to be. In the summer. There was barely enough space for a bed. you unromantic schlub. When we pulled up to the house on a sleepy side street. “It’s lumpy. 130 . Our hostess explained the house had an ancient heating system that unfortunately could not be shut off.” “That will make for a very romantic night. “Just leave the window and door open. tucked under the sloping roof. I was eager to arrive at our lacy love nest. “It looks just like my grandmother’s old place.” Funny Man snorted. but which would be mighty close quarters for two people of our well-fed proportions.Days of Derangement “That means old and broken-down.” On top of that. “Oh. it was deﬁnitely a problem.” Wondering if I could possibly get that lucky. Room is a generous word to describe this slightly oversized closet.” He gave me one of his obnoxious I-told-you-so looks. then added disparagingly.” he said. “Just like the beds at Grandma’s house. it’s really not so bad. In a Colorado winter.” Funny Man said.
” Most of the time. We had a nice enough dinner. 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. “Where’s the TV?” he asked. my dad was the reason for my mom’s spinal contortions. where we drank champagne and toasted our marriage in an ice-cold room on a king-size bed. ESPN never sounded so good. but then returned to our stuffy little room and stared at each other across the lumpy bed. I broke down and suggested that we leave. and we began to unpack our clothes. The hostess left. “Your mama’s got her back up. I am deﬁnitely my mother’s daughter. Isn’t it great?” “Just like Grandma’s house. “Darling. That’s when my mate realized the situation was even worse than he thought.” The evening kind of went downhill from there.” he said sorrowfully. and my mother would get upset about something. you’re going to be seeing her much sooner than you expected.” I told him in a syrupy voice. We quickly packed our things and headed for a hotel. “if you bring up your grandmother again. I was too uncomfortable to keep my back up any longer. 131 . my father would say. “There’s not one. After a while.The B and B When I was growing up. Finally.
” If you’ve spent any time at all on a computer. Periods and parentheses provide pure pleasure. It is the insidious infection known as “emoticons.) That’s why my knickers have long been in a knot over a serious threat to the purity of punctuation. while their cousins—the comely colons—leave me more in love than ever with language. I have a thing for punctuation. Semicolons. but most of the things they make it easier to do don’t need to be done. are beautiful things to behold. You just called me a weenie. Poor little punctuation marks—the workhorses of the written word—are being improperly pressed into service to convey emotion online. (I heard that. you’ve no doubt seen them polluting e-mail and Web sites.E-nnoyed by Emoticons Computers make it easier to do a lot of things. —Andy Rooney A s an English major and therefore (according to my kids) a certiﬁed weenie. 132 . Commas make me jump with joy. if inserted sensibly. I can wax ecstatic over an exclamation mark.
I am. The most common emoticon is that sickening smiley face made with a colon for eyes and the right parenthesis as the smile : ). Words are wasting away. folks. didn’t you?) But one day. after all. something you never have to do with words. Of course. I stopped in horror. a dash is even forced to stand between the “eyes” and the “mouth” to indicate a nose :-). back to a world where man crudely expressed his thoughts with hieroglyphics. just when I was about to hit Send on a routine e-mail to an acquaintance. beautifully transmitting my feelings without any assistance from stupid symbols. now that I think about it. I thought I was immune to emoticon creep. Until recently. at the 133 . hieroglyphics were a lot more sophisticated than the smiley face. As if words—the medium of artists like Shakespeare and Wordsworth. standard spelling is falling out of fashion. an English major. We may be in real trouble here. But I fear our mother tongue is still in peril. There. not to mention that great author. (You called me a weenie again. 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.” some cyber geek has given us this Frankenstein of feelings. It’s as if we are moving backward in time. Snooki—are no longer good enough to express our sentiments.E-nnoyed by Emoticons By combining the words “emotion” and “icon. Actually. to add insult to injury. My text stood on its own. you have to view it at a 90-degree angle. Sometimes.
Days of Derangement end of a perfectly adequate sentence—“It was nice seeing you last week”—I had actually typed not one. : ( 134 . but two obsequious smiley faces. I could only shake my head in disgust. Even the word-weenies like me are gradually being worn down. Shakespeare must be rolling in his grave.
levers and gauges in a dizzying and complicated array. The ﬁrst picture showed two simple push buttons. This would allow the I 135 . I think about those pictures every time Funny Man and I have one of our regular conversations about access to the master bathroom. 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. The caption on this picture: Men. every woman and every man should have her and his own bathroom. one labeled On and the other Off. A wise and reasonable man would resign himself to this timeless reality and use another bathroom. and was labeled—you guessed it—Women.High Maintenance Woman For marriage to be a success. —Catherine Zeta-Jones once received an email containing a couple of pictures that pretty much sums up the difference between the genders. See. The second picture showed dozens of buttons. knobs. The end. The obvious implication was that women are a high-maintenance sector of our species. The rule says that women get triple the time and space in the bathroom as men.
But a woman’s shower ritual requires numerous wash cloths. rapidly steaming up the place and fogging the mirror. 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. A man might think this is a simple and quick procedure involving a bar of soap and minimal scrubbing. means that my hair will fail to 136 . sneaks into the bathroom and jumps into the shower. herbal-infused conditioner and. when I momentarily leave the bathroom and enter my closet to decide what to wear. That leads directly into Phase 3. That’s when things get dicey. An unwise and unreasonable man. Phase 2—the after-shower—includes applying various lotions and oils designed to smooth and perfume my body. Each phase in this process is divided into a series of tasks. of course. cannot be rushed. pumice stone. The timing between Phase 4 and Phase 5—the all-important hair styling step—is crucial. loofah. It’s usually during this phase that Funny Man. A woman’s shower. like the one I married. employing guerilla warfare tactics. I’ve developed a multi-step system for getting ready every morning.Days of Derangement wife of such an admirable man to enjoy her God-given right to bask in the boudoir. Phase 1 is taking a shower. and each task is absolutely essential for me to be ﬁt to face the world. Over the years. Any kind of unexpected setback. vitamin-enhanced shampoo. 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. fruity face soap. especially my shower. such as if my husband turns stubborn and stays in the shower.
and I will be cruelly condemned to a Bad Hair Day. A Bad Hair Day wipes out all of my hard work and leaves me grouchy as a grizzly. Maybe someday.High Maintenance Woman achieve its desired fullness. I’m a high-maintenance mama bear who needs her own bathroom. 137 . I’ll get it.
proven by the fact that it allowed me to join. In a few short months. But the group has a serious ﬂaw in its screening process. and I obediently scribbled my name on sheet after sheet. a group of relentlessly energetic moms surrounded me. I don’t think the PTA ladies have yet recovered. for all we knew. I cast my memory back to that childless period that my husband calls BK (before kids). Back when.Pity the PTA S ometimes. It started with the best of intentions. Don’t get me wrong. We were young and ignorant then. the acronym PTA stood for pizza takeout activities. At open house. 138 . And that’s when I realized I’m probably not cut out to be a PTA mom. we became fruitful and multiplied. and lo. And so. thrusting a sheaf of volunteer sign-up sheets my way. That’s when my adventures with the Parent Teacher Association began. The PTA is a very worthwhile organization. I inadvertently managed to sock it to my local unit. we sent them to school. I dutifully joined PTA when my oldest child started school. But in the fullness of time. God bless the parents who donate their time and talents to the schools. we brought forth fruits who needed to be educated.
anxious to impress. and never the two should meet. I opened my door to an unexpected visit from the PTA president. wrestling with felt and fabric. partially folded laundry on the table. crushed Cheerios adorning the furniture. And the new puppy had just pooped on the ﬂoor. I cooked a soggy spinach quiche for a teacher breakfast and Kitchen Sink cookies for the ﬁrst PTA meeting. She was clearly an uber-parent. Her dismayed eyes swept over my domestic disarray. I put on a saccharine smile and covered myself in cute. But I proved to be severely craft-challenged. I’d been conscripted into her volunteer army. I obviously needed to do more. and good old guilt setting in. a well-coiffed woman in sensible shoes. In December. Naturally. So I tried to be a stereotypical PTA mom. I felt my parental conﬁdence ebbing away.Pity the PTA Soon after. but she continued her recruitment speech. Those treats turned literal when they actually fell into the sink as I tried to juggle a cookie-laden plate and a 139 . volunteering in the classroom while wearing a school bus sweater in September. I ﬂushed in embarrassment. swathed in yuletide apparel. I was a walking festival of kitsch. I became an aide-de-camp to the homeroom mom. I was assigned to crafts and gamely did my best. glue and glitter. There are those who “pop over” without warning and those who know better. a candy corn necklace in October and a turkey broach in November. my house was a disaster: dirty dishes in the sink. I really did. By the time she left. bungling the carefully planned projects and snickering at all the seriousness. So I was moved to food. holding up the walls while she ran the show. bent on marshaling her troops for the task at hand. but invited her in. I was eager to prove my maternal mettle.
my hands trembled. I gave it my all. forgetting the spoons for the Chili Cook-off. Audience members gave each other alarmed glances as they headed for the door. but my cupcakes collapsed into a gooey mess. and I began to giggle. I was a round soul trying to ﬁt into a square PTA. But my lack of enthusiasm must have shown. Clumsy and barely competent. I tried to redeem myself at Christmas. I discovered that I can be a better mother by marching to my own drum. the Parent Teacher Association and I parted ways. knocking over a display at the Book Fair and spilling the soda at the Fall Festival. but still perfectly edible. the patrons of the PTA think that’s just ﬁne. I was clearly an abomination to the bake sale set. My job was to get up at school functions and community events and beg people to join. instructed to bring turnips (turnips!) to the class Pilgrim feast. I managed to fall short at every turn. and membership plummeted. Madame and her cabal of Super Moms were not amused. schlepping shoddy merchandise and tacky trivia in the name of education. convinced my ﬂy was open. I kept nervously touching my pants zipper. (The rash of reported illness among parents the next day was a mere coincidence. By Thanksgiving. So by mutual agreement. They couldn’t have picked a worse spokesperson: my voice squeaked.Days of Derangement crying child at the same time. 140 . because the sales numbers were lackluster. I was a conﬁrmed bottomfeeder. That’s when Madame President transferred me to fundraising. So I was switched to membership. And as long as I’m moving away from them. Plus. They were slightly damp.) My giant Jell-O monster at Halloween was more funny than frightening.
lined on all sides by irritable-looking adults and hordes of (literally) snot-nosed children. I can still remember walking into my pediatrician’s ofﬁce. germladen toddlers strolling about. its walls were papered with smiling clowns holding balloons. two sick toddlers in tow. even a few slouching teenagers. just a rack of magazines for parents and a few more austere publications like Time. then settle for a speck of wall next to the magazines. The room. knowing the endurance test that awaited. 141 . There were the usual suspects: young mothers with newborns clutched close.Germ Warfare T hey don’t call it a waiting room for nothing. even a stray copy of Scientiﬁc American. Newsweek. I remember staring at it. was deceptively bright and cheery. curious. We’d amuse ourselves for the ﬁrst ﬁve minutes by staring at everyone else in the room. scowling to hide their embarrassment. I’d shiver. thinking this doctor must have a strange sense of humor. I’d look around for a seat. There were no toys or children’s books there to spread infection.
the door to the inner sanctum would open and we’d be summoned. an outgoing. The movie was changed approximately every six months. loudly. We’d be ushered into another waiting room. “Hi!” this biological time bomb would say. 142 . But it did seem to pacify some of the children. Then someone unable to ﬁnd a seat would choose to stand directly in front of the screen.Days of Derangement The room’s one concession to the amusement of children was directly across from me—a big-screen TV. spewing viral droplets all over my kids and then reaching out with the most terrorizing weapon of all: a well-lubricated ﬁnger. She’d come closer. There’s one in every pediatrician’s waiting room. Funny Boy would say. A surreptitious trip? A quick jab in the stomach? But a cold shoulder seemed to sufﬁce. for the ﬁrst hour. I’d had the pleasure of seeing it at least 5. we’d be approached by The Infector. including my own. It played one animated movie over and over. At some point while we were waiting. 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. each letter formed by those *!&#?$%@*! clowns. I can’t see!” And then he’d say it again and again and AGAIN. “Mommy. “What’s your name?” I’d pull my children close and wonder how I could discreetly repel the threat. this one with the doctor’s name in a framed picture. pint-sized germ carrier with a big loopy grin encircled by caked-on mucus. Finally.000 times. Since my children cultivated ear and sinus infections faster than my yard sprouted weeds. The germ warrior would move on to the next victim.
Children’s’ screams echoed up and down the hall. failed to lift my mouth. Funny Boy and Funny Girl would stop pummeling each other and come to attention.” I’d sigh to the kids. my kids promptly started to ﬁght over positioning on the examination table. convinced I’d developed several new wrinkles since I arrived. seemingly prancing on the walls in spiteful celebration of my plight. writing something in the chart. lungs. I’d straighten up. “Just a cold this time.Germ Warfare Once inside. extra rest. ears. nose. I’d try to smile back. The knob turned. 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. I’d splash water on my face at the sink in the corner. But I knew better. I’d reel off a list of symptoms and watch as he conducted a quick exam: eyes. then stare up into the little mirror over it. 143 . throat. and there he was: THE DOCTOR! “Long time no see”. They’ll be ﬁne in a few days. “Come on. like an ice cube in July. we would hear an authoritative voice just outside. See you next time. he usually joked. That’s when I would catch sight of THOSE CLOWNS. “Give ‘em plenty of ﬂuids. Suddenly. having atrophied. but my facial muscles. I’d console myself with the thought that any serious injuries they inﬂicted on each other would eventually receive medical attention.” And with that he was gone.” he’d say briskly. the door opened.
One such brazen fellow once contacted me to let me know that he did not believe I actually write my columns. —Bill Kelly A s a professional columnist who writes on matters of national importance. “And women aren’t funny.” he wrote.” This reader’s chauvinistic comments really got my goat. suggesting I must employ the services of a male ghostwriter. I did a little research on gender differences in the appreciation of humor. He made man and woman. These people share a common trait—they openly admit to being men. 144 . it has been scientiﬁcally proven that men and women process “funny” differently. to keep the whole thing from collapsing. I sometimes have to deal with difﬁcult people. He invented humor. retrieved my goat and put him (or her) back in my mental barn. Turns out. Then. But after I’d calmed down.Pull My Finger After God created the world. “Your columns are too funny.
and I really do write my own material. 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. That’s why. We’d never ask someone to pull our ﬁnger. In the world of wit. Men are humor primitives.” man laughs because. we occupy different planes of existence. you should probably grab a seat because the punch line isn’t coming for a while.Pull My Finger Women think a bit more about whether or not they ﬁnd something amusing. on the other hand. Women like sharing narratives that create a bonding moment. But in order to further my comedic career and appeal to the widest possible audience. it’s a joke. Man hears joke. and they don’t do crude. They consider bodily noises an art form. a joke. “Oh. I frequently try to think like a man. They like one-liners and sucker punches that come with a sting. guys. man thinks. Men. They don’t have the attention span or the desire to wait for the rib-tickling to begin. If a woman has something funny to say. I really am a girl. 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. if one of my male readers actually laughs at one of my columns. And that is why men don’t think women are funny. well. Pull my ﬁnger. 145 . from the perfect armpit fart (which I’ll admit does take some skill) to the loudest burp. like making fun of everyone. But it renders the XY side of our species (AKA men) incapable of appreciating more sophisticated female funnies. Women laugh more at themselves. he may be skeptical that it was written by a woman. It’s also why.
Days of Derangement 146 .
In May of each year. its various substances emitting sulfurous fumes that are probably banned by international treaty.Back pack Black Hole I ndiana Jones has nothing on me. I could block out the evidence of its steady deterioration. I’d known all year. But as long as it was coming and going daily during the school year. The intrepid explorer may have had to face a pit of snakes and various other vermin. 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. and I needed a lot more than a whip and a fedora to do it. Ignorance is bliss. along with all their educational 147 . a stinky. But Funny Boy always gave me a beginning-of-summer hidden mystery. I had to clean out my son’s backpack. about the existence of this book bag. That’s because it suddenly showed up at my house. of course. however. the school district would temporarily abandon its attempts to educate my children and deposit them back with me. I am the one who paid for it after all. overstuffed sack with fraying stitches. There’s an attraction at Disneyland called the Indiana Jones Summer of Hidden Mysteries. never in my house for too long.
There was even. And. one on its way to being civilized but not quite there yet. importantly. but then decided to tackle the cleanup on my own. Some of the bag’s dignity was lost. but it was still recognizable. I felt just like an archeologist digging through the life layers of a primitive group of humans. naturally. empty water bottles covered with what appeared to be chewing gum. This is when the gloves came in handy. Funny Boy’s backpack. it did not smell. a couple of fast-food containers sporting dried-up French fry fragments. The backpacks were ﬂung joyously into a corner and instantly forgotten. There were a few stray pieces of paper left inside and a motley collection of school supplies rolling around on the bottom. an actual book. by some miracle. I reached in and gingerly extracted various moldy objects that might once 148 . and scribbled on with cutesy messages and smiley faces from her friends.Days of Derangement paraphernalia. things got murkier. Below that ﬁrst level of compaction. It was festooned with glued-on sequins. It was full of funky-smelling and largely unidentiﬁable things. Wearing thick rubber gloves. though. There they sat for several days. It was without a cover. The top layer contained still-recognizable items—crumpled up sheets of notebook paper. It would probably qualify as a toxic Superfund site. on the other hand. Funny Girl’s book bag still appeared to be an item designed to transport knowledge. She’d attached a collection of fancy key chains to it. bore only a theoretical resemblance to the device that started out slung over his shoulder way back in the fall. I considered applying for federal assistance. but it was still a book. Indiana Jones would do no less. folders and binders in varying states of decomposition. perhaps.
It looked just like that fake vomit you can buy as a gag gift. becoming part of the bag itself. Digging deeper into the crud. 149 . I was amazed at how the molecular structure of the slimy material appeared to have changed. On the bottom of the backpack was a thick.Back pack Black Hole have been part of a school lunch but were now deﬁnitely a biological hazard. but nothing had ever come out of it. I should have sold it as an attraction. except that it smelled like the real thing. Come to think of it. Eventually. solidiﬁed layer of goop that I had to pry off with both hands. I wised up and just threw out the bag at the end of the school year without looking inside. Things went into it. It was clear to me the backpack had become a black hole.
000 steps a day doing their jobs. I put it up on a shelf next to the blender I received for Valentine’s Day. It claimed walking 10. And it got even better. That’s a lot of pumpkin pie and Christmas cookies. while custodians take nearly 13. The brochure pointed out restaurant employees walk those 10. I realized I was already taking the requisite daily steps and didn’t even need additional 150 . waitress. Heck. I liked the sound of that. I obviously need to get the word jewelry tattooed on my forehead as a subtle hint.000 steps a day burns up to 3.000 steps. So I eventually got the pedometer out of its box and read the accompanying brochure.000 calories a week. But at some point. I ﬁgure I perform the functions of a couple of custodians and several restaurant workers (cook. busboy and dishwasher) combined. Funny Man once gave me a pedometer for Mother’s Day. On most days. I’d actually settle for walking myself a little less fat. I’d be content just to pound the pavement enough to allow some guilt-free eating. I realized the pedometer might just come in handy in my ongoing quest to walk myself thin.The Pedometer I n one of those “What was he thinking?” moments that frequently seem to afﬂict men.
sure I’d already taken at least 5.The Pedometer exercise. slightly less gentle wake up call. Sadly. Maybe all I need is a tattoo artist. Then I went back to the bedrooms for a second. coming to rest among the corn. Other shoppers gave me alarmed looks. the pedometer was not working properly. Then I went grocery shopping. I walked into the kitchen and made coffee. took the dog outside and went to the laundry room in hopes of ﬁnding a clean pair of socks. Maybe it was damaged by its foray into the freezer. It landed in the green bean section and then slid toward the back of the freezer. I logged more steps dashing around looking for my car keys. I had not even hit 500. Discouraged. Once I ﬁnally got the kids out of the house. At home. trotted into the kids’ bedrooms to gently wake them up for school. I made six separate trips carrying in groceries and logged more steps putting them away. where I accidentally knocked the pedometer off my waist while reaching into the frozen foods. To prove it to myself. 151 .000 steps that morning. I just needed the knowledge. I clipped the pedometer to my waistband ﬁrst thing one morning. 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. I tossed the pedometer on the couch. Or maybe Funny Man had given me a defective device. Then I collapsed on the couch and checked the pedometer. My hips and thighs would melt away under the power of positive thinking. I had to climb almost all the way in to retrieve it. Obviously. The word jewelry would look very nice on my forehead.
courtesy of our dog. I was presented with a doozy of a man-job. to use another colorful phrase from Grandpa. for example. 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. I discovered it 152 . happily chewing on what appeared to be the carcass of an animal that had no business being dead on my property.” But I’m convinced there are some things only a man should do. But that’s just what Funny Man did a while back. “a far piece” from our home. Sure enough. Upon further. nearly dropped my dentures (assuming I had any). horriﬁed inspection. There was Ebony. he went to China. which is. as my grandpa would say. Ostensibly on a business trip. before the other side of the bed was even cold. It is risking a fate worse than death for a male in my house to suggest any task is “woman’s work. And no man—say. I was going about my highly productive day when I looked out on the back patio and.A Man’s Job I ’ll admit I’m a hypocrite when it comes to the division of labor between men and women.
And I woke him up. I called my man. You forget they aren’t just furry. and I had no man around to do it. You forget. that dogs are not really that far removed from their wolf ancestors. Here was a major man-job. on the verge of panic. So I took the obvious course of action.” 153 . Something had to be done right away. Women are very good at the delivery of sighs. Feeling the time was right. 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. “You called me in China to tell me this? In the middle of the night? In CHINA?!” Over the years.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. Finally.” I told him breathlessly. each expertly crafted to elicit a certain emotion.” Funny Man said. Even my man in training was at school and wouldn’t be home for hours. I’ve perfected a series of guilt-inducing sighs. “You’re not going to make me feel guilty about this. Ebony wagged her tail at me. staring down at the bloody rabbit bits that remained. But for some reason—probably due to the long distance it had to travel—the sigh did not produce the desired effect. In China. as if her behavior was perfectly normal. “and Eb has already eaten its head!” There was a long pause. sometimes. I know you can. the love of my life responded. in an incredulous and unnecessarily hostile tone. I let out one of my best. “You can handle it. I chased her away and stood there. four-legged humans who don’t like baths.
As long as Ebony doesn’t get there ﬁrst. a retired gentleman who valiantly disposed of the critter. Grandpa was a ﬁrm believer in gender work separation. But in the end. 154 . I guess the truth is I want to have my cake and eat it. And he would have laughed at my squeamishness. but that just doesn’t work for me. I turned to my neighbor. too. he would have performed the man-job. If my granddad was here. I also brieﬂy considered bribing the UPS man to have the decapitated rabbit delivered to his hotel in China. It would have been worth the cost.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.
For instance. Ebony was unable to provide the full canine experience our family apparently needed. I think she’s always been proud of that particular talent. With our new pup. Ebony is an expert at standard dog activities such as barking for no apparent reason. raiding trash cans and sticking her nose into inappropriate places on the human body. 155 . we added another dog to our family. which is very much like adding a new child. 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. her malodorous mongrel scent is restored. A shepherd-border collie mix with soft.Rocky W hen Ebony was about eight years old. we greatly enlarged our family’s canine repertoire to include pretty much every known dog behavior. So we went to the animal shelter and almost instantly. assuming that child is very hairy and spends a lot of time licking itself. Rocky. But as skilled in doggy tricks as she is. joining old Ebony. we fell in love with Rocky.
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. apparently convinced that one day he will actually be able to reach his enemy and rip him or her to satisfying shreds. smiling at us (I swear he was smiling) and waving one paw in the air as if to invite us over.Days of Derangement shiny black fur. and together we’ll watch Rocky carry out his daily battle. waiting for the squirrely intruder to appear. He barks and snarls. who in human years is old enough to collect Social Security and drive 50 miles with the blinker on. 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. If it’s possible to make it all the way to China. Sometimes I’ll sit down next to her. I’m pretty sure Rocky will be the one to do it. Now. So we took him home. And when it begins to saunter across the electric line—clearly enjoying itself—Rocky goes into full attack mode. I don’t have the heart to tell the poor creature the truth. 156 . He leaps wildly into the air over and over. Rocky sat calmly in his cage. but I’m pretty sure it is sadistic. Every day. and Rocky soon began to expose us to those doggy deeds that Ebony had left undone. Rocky stands guard. 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. We also found out that Rocky is a champion digger. Ebony. That’s because I’ve watched the squirrel torment my dog. 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). We were hooked.
the squirrel will tire of the game and scamper away. 157 . exhausted.Rocky Eventually. will drop down next to Ebony and me and go right to sleep. clearly satisﬁed with his efforts for the day. Rocky. We humans should be so lucky.
that would be raisin’ as in a slang term for upbringing. as gently as possible. It’s my sad duty to let them know. not the tasty. being a humor columnist is an important job. don’t get above your raisin’. you might even be shaking your head right now and saying—as my grandma often did—“Jackie. shriveled snack food. with good old-fashioned country sensibilities. 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. Although it’s not quite as glamorous as being a Beautiful Person. You non-columnists may scoff at such a statement.) 158 . that only an elite few of us possess the skills needed for such a prestigious occupation. I often receive email from people who want to know how they too can become columnists.” (For those of you without country sensibilities.Beautiful People E very year when People magazine comes out with its annual list of the 100 Most Beautiful People. I am shocked to once again not ﬁnd myself on the list. If you were brought up in the country.
159 . That’s why all your top columnists are overweight insomniacs. After several hours of intense. namely. I’m sure lots of people would watch such a show. And generally.” Generally. All your top columnists do this. they even succeed. even if I didn’t regularly make unbelievably stupid comments or ﬂaunt body parts to the whole world that probably should be kept private. like they do on Keeping Up with the Kardashians. putting the dogs in the backyard and settling into a comfortable chair with sure-ﬁre brain fuel: coffee and chocolate. the ﬁrst step is to clear the house of distractions. They could call it Keeping Up With The Comical Columnist or something like that. Maybe someone will decide. except sometimes in the case of the dogs) and ordering them to “either do something funny I can write about or leave. my children. But if they don’t. to turn my life into a reality TV series. So today. I begin early in the day by throwing some breakfast at these distractions (not literally. after reading this. I move to step two. I’d like to give you a behind-the-scenes peek at the laborious process involved in writing witty words. my children and husband choose to leave. It’s just that I know how difﬁcult writing a humor column can be. In my case.Beautiful People But I am not getting above my raisin’. It’s a sacriﬁce we’re willing to make. husband and our two dogs. doing everything in their power to be amusing. You’d think the ﬁrst step would be to come up with a cute column idea. though. I will usually have a plethora of brilliant column ideas. the dogs choose to stay. highly caffeinated concentration in my chair. Occasionally.
which involves actually leaving my house to scour my surroundings for inspiration. none of us are part of the beautiful people. 160 . And for some reason. and I usually have to go inside to get some more sure-ﬁre brain fuel. The scouring process often ends up in front of my favorite coffee shop. I move into the next phase.Days of Derangement If not. It’s what all your top columnists do.
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. is a man’s job.The Grill General That outdoor grilling is a manly pursuit has long been beyond question. the man who promised to love me for better or worse morphs into the General Patton of the barbecue set. I’ve come to expect this annual transformation. New York Times Magazine D uring grilling season. Grilling. If this wasn’t ﬁrmly understood. after all. As everyone knows. I usually cannot resist the temptation at the beginning of each summer to rile my king of the 161 . Woe to the woman who tries to tell him how to grill. Even though I know this. After more than 20 years of marriage. you’d never get grown men to put on those aprons with pictures of dancing wienies…and messages like ‘Come ‘n’ Get It’. only one of those brave bearers of the Y chromosome also known as men can possibly tame the open ﬂame. —William Geist. where only testosterone is allowed to roam free. a tyrant with tongs who must not be questioned.
something that seems to have escaped the attention of all the grill groupies gathered around the ﬁre. Old Blood and Guts receives their adulation as his due reward.Days of Derangement crackling cut of meat at least a little bit. we fall into an unvarying routine. When he is ready. “Woman. and place it on a tray with all the necessary utensils and sauces. do not tell me how to manage my grill. 162 . mentally summoning his forces for the task ahead. Then I take it out to The General. The General performs the most important part of the process. Then I go back outside to inform my boss of broiling that the meat is burning. 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. I buy the food. I prepare the salad. I ﬁx a tasty dessert. Whenever we are going to have a barbecue with friends. lavishing him with praise for his efforts. After this. I also prepare the meat for cooking. I usually do this by suggesting that he needs to clean his grill.” he grunts in true Patton fashion. who is lounging beside the grill. his chest swelling with pride. I go inside to set the table. Meanwhile. vegetables and baked beans. He is also being counseled by the other beerswilling men in his backyard brigade on the latest in meatsearing strategies. a beer in hand.
” 163 . commanding me to bring him another beer to drink as he deals with the sizzling situation.” “Oh. beaming with satisfaction. he grandly announces the grilling process is complete. Upon my return with his second beer. “Huh?” “Never mind. and he nods and grunts at them.The Grill General “Woman. During the meal.” I mutter sarcastically. I bring all the food to the table and summon everyone to come and eat.” the General growls. Later. Then he hands me the charred main dish. he asks me how I enjoyed my “night off. again acknowledging their rightful admiration. General. “Maybe you should go clean the grill.” I say. I enjoyed it very much. I can see that for myself. Then he performs the next amazing feat: HE FLIPS THE BEEF OVER! His fellow ﬁre-conquerors offer oohs and aaahs at his meatturning prowess. after I’ve washed the dishes. The General is congratulated by the other men on a job well done and thanked for all his hard work.
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even though she will get her AARP card before I get mine. while mine have gone in a different direction. But she needn’t have worried. When I was a little girl.Thanks. Barbie S o Barbie and I are nearly the same age. I played with a whole bucket of Barbies. I have a picture of myself in that dress. She made little outﬁts for the dolls that matched the ones she made for me. I idolized her. Not that dreaming about it did me much good. The blond bombshell and I have had a roller-coaster relationship. and my mind was never narrowed by doll dimensions. She celebrated her 50th birthday not too long ago. I grew up to dream of having a much larger bust measurement than that. Eventually. standing barefoot in the grass. Maybe that’s because all of Barbie’s body parts have remained toned and pleasingly perky through ﬁve decades. my mother stopped worrying and grew quite fond of my Barbies. and I’m about to hit that milestone myself. my knobby knees sticking out 165 . But I am apparently more upset about this fact than Mattel’s plastic princess. My favorite was a purple sheath mini-dress. My mother was concerned I’d grow up thinking the perfect woman was 12 inches tall with a four-inch bosom.
and my ardor for all things Barbie began to cool. military ofﬁcer and Madame President. I would sneer at her various manifestations—doctor. That’s because my little brother had a disturbing desire to decapitate Toyland’s most famous female. and he succeeded often enough that my dad became quite an experienced Barbie surgeon. The day that picture was taken. After a while. In the picture. The purple dresses somehow disappeared. My children have their own Barbie memories. and now I have only that picture. astronaut. My daughter played with dolls of every color and career. I became embarrassed by the matching outﬁts. 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. teacher. 166 . My kids have moved on from Barbie. I apparently had only one intact doll left and was probably waiting impatiently for Dad to get home from work. Sadly. I’m holding a purple-sheathed Barbie in each hand. That’s probably an issue that should have been addressed with Funny Boy in therapy. just as I did.Days of Derangement under the hemline. And my son carried on the family tradition of dismemberment. only one of the busty beauties in the photo has a head. but it’s too late for that now. effectively depriving him of the toys forever. no amount of soap could erase the contamination of female undergarments. to name just a few. In his cootie-fearing mind. with a specialty in head reattachment. I retaliated against my brother’s Barbie butchery by hiding his Legos in my mother’s underwear drawer.
In fact. I have a new appreciation for the platinum icon.Thanks. I still wish Barbie the best. But that’s OK. she’s sporting tattoos and looking like a cougar. predatory felines. I very likely will not be sporting any tattoos or reminding anyone of sexy. When I turn 50. she was a trailblazer. And in her 50s. however. Barbie Today. she’s still going strong. In her own perky way. And I thank her for the memories. 167 .
under his arms. As I said. —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. 168 . so it wasn’t my ﬁnest moment as a supportive spouse. drying my hair upside down. staring at himself in the mirror. who was standing with his arms raised. I straightened up.Body Hair It destroys one’s nerves to be amiable every day to the same human being. 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. beautiful locks. OK. “It is just way too early in the morning for me to have to deal with your body hair issues. shut off the dryer and glared at Funny Man. it’s a forlorn hope. Places like his ears and his nose. I dry my hair upside down in the forlorn hope that this will infuse it with volume and leave me with bouncy. apparently.” I said. And now.
Body Hair “Men are supposed to have hair under their arms. In between are some nitty-gritty stages during which you develop a realistic view of your spouse and yourself. and you don’t care about where hair might be growing because you can’t see it anyway. I suddenly remembered a day back in our honeymoon phase when I was again drying my hair upside down.” A few years ago. I stuck the dryer under the towel to give him a little shot of hot air. and learn to love each other anyway.” he sighed. realizing I was running out of time to make my own hair look decent. “I’m getting old. I wonder if I should trim it?” He sighed again and added sadly.” “I know. “but lately mine has gotten much bushier. and the dryer’s hot coils scorched his rear end. But I pushed it in a little further than I intended. “Hey.” I said.” I said. ranging from the honeymoon phase right on through to that golden phase when you sit happily together in rocking chairs on the front porch. lowering his arms.) Funny Man continued to contemplate his armpits while I turned the dryer back on. Playfully.” 169 . I guess we’re somewhere in one of those stages. just to take your mind off all that proliferating body hair of yours. we attended a marriage retreat in which we were told there are different phases of marriage. leaving a red ring on his butt and prompting him to start telling everyone we knew that I’d tried to brand him. “remember when I branded your butt?” I turned the dryer toward him. and my husband was shaving in front of the bathroom mirror with a towel wrapped around his torso. “Would you put your arms down! I don’t need to see it. (He’s still telling people about it. “I could do it again.
” he said grumpily. “I’m too old for that.Days of Derangement “Don’t you dare.” We’re deﬁnitely out of the honeymoon phase. 170 . walking out of the bathroom.
Most of life’s transitions are like that. Pinpointing the exact moment of transformation can be tricky. I like to think.Fashion Forward It’s frightening to wake up one morning and discover that while you were asleep you went out of style. for goodness sake. I have morphed into a fashion frump. One reality gradually turns into another the way ice cream gradually turns into cellulite. —Erma Bombeck I am not sure exactly when it happened. I’m far more interested in wearing comfortable clothes than in being fashion forward. did I fall out of fashion? It’s not like I was ever a true fashionista. Often it can only be recognized in retrospect. I used to wear spandex and leg warmers. without even realizing it. Was there a precise moment. when you fell in love? Or fell out of love? So when. I’ve been wondering. one of those people who look like a million bucks just stumbling out of bed. I’ve never been a woman on a ﬁrst-name basis with good taste. for example. though. that good taste and I were once at least acquainted with each other. 171 . Yet somehow.
My friend. At least I thought I did.” I heard myself snipe in sour Sophia style about a woman my age who was wearing a mini-skirt. But I ﬁgured she could help me ﬁx my style shortcomings. I’ll soon be so far out of the game that being a fashion victim would be a step up. I hate the woman. clunky. The Golden Girls. I used the word ensembles to describe these outﬁts to my annoyingly fashionable friend. however.Days of Derangement I just can’t be bothered anymore with being stylish. 172 . In fact. This made me sound hip and trendy. So I invited her over and started pulling some very fashionable outﬁts out of my closet. “She’s about 20 years too old for that outﬁt. I have a friend with a ﬁnely calibrated fashion sense who wouldn’t be caught dead in a pair of mom jeans. 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. orthopedic shoes will undoubtedly be more appealing to me than high heels. 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. curled her lip. Before long. And that is making me feel old. “Uh. she manages to always look stylish and put-together in her size 6 designer jeans. Polyester dresses with forgiving elastic waists are surely in my future. And I looked hip and trendy when I tried on my 1980sera outﬁts. great Estelle Getty on that classic TV show. I’m starting to remind myself of Sophia. Even after having three children. the perpetually cranky character played by the late.
“But they’re really high-quality clothes. I’ve probably got some leg warmers in there somewhere.Fashion Forward “For about 20 years.” I said. for Pete’s sake! You need to buy some new clothes. She clearly doesn’t know what she’s talking about.” “No. hearing a defensiveness in my voice. and they’re timeless.” Like I said. “They’ve got shoulder pads. I hate the woman. And I’m going to do a little more exploring in my closet. 173 . they’re not!” she snapped. I’m going to start wearing those chic ensembles at the ﬁrst opportunity.
renting a recreational vehicle and heading out across Colorado. That’s how my family camped one summer. Funny Man and I assumed the traditional vehicle reversal gender roles. gear in reverse and window down. We set out with a similar sense of adventure in our modern-day covered wagon. Many of them painted “Pike’s Peak or Bust” on their canvas wagons. For starters. He stayed behind the wheel. And while early pioneers had to contend with problems such as hunger and disease. we faced our own challenges on the ﬁrst day. To accomplish this task.Blackberry or Bust Life was much easier when Apple and Blackberry were just fruits. W hen I talk about camping. there was the peril of parking. This mighty mountain was one of the landmarks seen by settlers as they made their way across the prairie. Mountains have an annoying lack of level space. and we were required to back in to our assigned spot. I mean camping in the civilized way practiced by middle-age city dwellers with tender backsides and uncompromising hygiene standards. stopping in the shadow of Pike’s Peak. 174 .
We slathered ourselves in sunscreen and insect repellent. Our teenagers. dropping off precipitously on one side. This cycle was repeated over and over for about an hour. He started obsessively checking his signal strength before we’d even hiked a mile. My husband saw nothing of the glories of nature until nature took a hand and steered him right into a tree. I carried water bottles and ﬁrst aid supplies. The terrain grew steeper. I thought of pioneer tales I’d read about attacks by packs of ravenous wolves. which resulted in a series of loud crashes inside the RV. Striding along in the lead. expecting to be bored hiking in the great outdoors. “Why don’t you learn how to drive?” Then. The woods seemed to close in on us. determined to salvage our recreational experience. baby!”) to dejected (“How can I only have one stinkin’ bar?”) as we followed the trail around the mountain. Then we came to a clearing. or as I affectionately call it. he complied. “Put that silly thing away!” I snapped as he rubbed his bruised forehead. we prepared to encounter nature. eventually degenerating into an ugly exchange that began with my husband questioning my navigational skills and ended with me snarling. slipping the portable pestilence into the holster on his belt. And Funny Man had his Blackberry. and I squinted into the blinding sun. his Crackberry. barely able to see the trail. calling out the number of bars on the device in moods that ranged from ecstatic (“I’ve got ﬁve beautiful bars. That’s when 175 . But he pushed too hard on the gas pedal. armed themselves with iPods.Blackberry or Bust while I stood outside ready to guide his efforts. which caused me to screech “Stop!” which caused him to press too hard on the brakes. “We’re camping!” Reluctantly.
“Wolf!” I screamed. But suddenly.uh. Abandoned to my fate. they inquired about our welfare. I opened one eye and looked down at a friendly German shepherd whose owners were just catching up to him. I assured them we were ﬁne. I could have sworn. my husband was frantically searching the ground for his fallen Blackberry. So I did what any self-respecting woman would do. with pointy ears and. 176 . I’m sure. but I could still hear the satisfying sound of a shattering Crackberry. We’d had quite enough nature for one day. After an appropriate period of mourning and after allowing our children. with every intention. only stared mournfully down at the broken pieces on the rocks below. “Wolf!” And Funny Man scrambled up the trail toward me. Noticing our ashen faces. we headed back to our motor home in strained silence. Then he glared at me. a pair of fangs. to regain their composure. clutching at his waist. who’d collapsed in helpless laughter at their parents’ expense. pointing at the dog now disappearing with his owners down the trail. too traumatized to speak. Just as I was undoubtedly about to be ripped to shreds by razor-sharp teeth.” He just shook his head. it looked just like a wolf. he stopped and swirled around. Then I felt a cold nose touch my hand. “I’m sorry about your Crack. “In the sun. I closed my eyes. Funny Man didn’t say a word.Days of Derangement I looked into the furry face of death—a menacing form ahead. Nervously. I mean Blackberry. of rescuing his damsel in distress.” I stuttered.
and dozens of people who attended a game are still in therapy trying to get over the sight. It seems the fashion world has ﬁnally raised its standards just a tad. I follow fashion about as often as a politician tells the truth. See. I inadvertently tried on a pair of those low risers. the kind that only look good on female stick-insects who survive on lettuce. the cause of countless sightings of “mufﬁn tops” (that very attractive fat that bulges over the waistline). I am seized by a desire to look slightly less frumpy. That’s what happened one fall when my son was playing high-school football. I go out and buy something stylish. But occasionally. (NOT!) Actually. girl love handles and whale tails (also known as thongs). But occasionally. and I couldn’t be happier.Plumber’s Pants T he plumbers are taking their pants back. moving away from low-rise jeans. (You stick-insects know who you are.) As soon as I realized my mistake. I know this because I am an avid follower of fashion. Usually. I just lie down and wait for this unfortunate urge to pass. I should have put back the low risers and gone 177 .
I had failed to consider the underwear issue. See. So I bought those jeans and. the poor fans behind me got an eyeful of my less-than-stylish skivvies. Anyway. When I did sit. high-waisted bloomers. At least I wasn’t going commando. shocked at how far my waistband slid down my fairly broad backside. Instead. Then they would have been exposed to some serious butt cleavage and that might have 178 . and when I looked in the dressing room mirror. the roomy kind with waistlines that almost brush your collarbone. you need to wear low-rise undies. but sufﬁce it to say da Nile ain’t just a river in Egypt. when I sat down in the stands. but I’ll tell you that I was sporting my usual. I popped right back up.Days of Derangement in search of some mom jeans. 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. 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. that night. I like to be comfortable. If you wear low-rise jeans. Psychiatrists have a medical term for such delusions. 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. I don’t want to get too personal here. But I was experiencing one of my rare passion-for-fashion moments. running late as usual. Until I had to sit down. a woman who looked hot enough to be oh so cool. I saw a woman who looked pretty darn good standing there in her posh pants. I had not yet sat in my trendy trousers. Hey.
the jeans hung unworn in my closet. 179 . I just didn’t want to give up my good ol’ granny panties. I won’t be wearing any more low risers. I spent the rest of the game standing along the sidelines. You’d have probably heard about it on the news.Plumber’s Pants caused mass retinal damage. As much as I wanted to be fashion forward. (Yeah. Plumber’s pants should only be worn by plumbers. Or eating mufﬁns. telling people I was just too excited about the start of football season to stay seated. After that. right). for that matter.
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got a golden ticket to Hollywood based on the votes of the two male judges. as I already know the answer. It protects the property without obstructing the view. Whatever happened to American ingenuity? This should have happened no later than Season Two. 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.Bikini Babes A bikini is like a barbed-wire fence. This raises a couple of questions in my mind. my husband wears a pair of very dark 181 . —Joey Adams I f you are an American Idol fan. And you’ll remember that Bikini Girl. When we go to the beach or any other location likely to attract babes in bikinis. 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. First. of course. 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. I only have to look within my own household for an example.
babes. He wants you to think he is having profound thoughts about the need for world peace. His head seems to be frozen on his neck. trying to take in all the bathing beauties walking by without getting whacked with a bottle of sunscreen by his wife or girlfriend. Some of the more attractive cave women wore well-tailored fur bikinis— just like Raquel Welch in One Million Years B. someone actually got paid to conduct this research. his eyes are rolling all over the place behind those glasses.—and the cave men were forced to invent devious methods of leering at them. of course.C. never moving as he seemingly stares far out to sea. The good news is that recent research indicates men exhibit improved cognition and creativity after exposure to pictures of good-looking women in bikinis. so they invented sunglasses. In reality. Yes.Days of Derangement sunglasses. You can always tell when a sunglasswearing guy is trying to stare at bikini bodies without getting busted. He’s still trying to pry his eyeballs loose from their respective sockets. Today’s men can’t always count on excessive eyebrow hair to solve this problem (although there are exceptions). Sometimes. 182 .C. I think that’s what happened to my man. a poor sap will overdo it and wind up with a severe case of Exhausted Eyeball Syndrome. Otherwise. Fortunately. You won’t be surprised to know these researchers were male. the poor men might get whacked with mastodon bones by their cave wives and girlfriends. the cave men were hairy enough to simply pull part of their eyebrows down and peer out surreptitiously at the B. This is a classic man trick developed way back when people lived in caves and wore animal skins. Poor Funny Man. I think they need a good whack with a mastodon bone.
I did not take this action lightly. unable even to cross the living room to change the channel. ﬂipping through hundreds of channels and pausing only when they spot a show featuring Y 183 . Wars have been waged with lesser cause. You may need to grab hold of a heavy object in case you feel faint. the hiding place I’d chosen for the remotes was so good I forgot where it was. you already know that remote control reverence has gotten out of hand. It was a measure of last resort. it gets worse. I once hid all of our televisions’ remote controls. Hours can slip by as they wear out the buttons on the hand-held hazards. prepare yourselves for what I’m about to tell you. Let me explain myself. Men whose ancestors tamed the wilderness through backbreaking labor now ensconce themselves on the couch. If you’re a woman. But wait. And so the beloved remotes were missing in action in our house for two whole weeks. Sadly.Trivial Pursuit Why don’t men do laundry? Cause the washer and dryer don’t run on remote control! ou men reading this.
First. 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. but Funny Man simply increased the TV volume. 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. Whenever I passed the living room and saw my man stretched out like a slumbering sea lion. I used the standard Sigh And Shake Protocol employed by legions of women before me. You’d 184 . So when no one was looking. intending to retrieve it after a short time. You’d think this would have done the trick. I initially tried a diplomatic solution to the problem. Annoyed by all the undone chores around my house. hoping to send a message. feeling very clever. Every time I was putting away the clean silverware. Thus. Then I tried the Silverware Slam. there was a lot of lamentation over the lost devices. I put the game in the top of a closet. both). I decided to make war on this object of worship. This had absolutely no effect.Days of Derangement either a sporting event or scantily clad women (or. Then. I was left with little choice. When they actually want to put the remotes down for a brief period. Search parties were formed to look high and low. until I eventually needed an oxygen tank just to keep it up. I tried this for several days. Predictably. on really good days. making my sighs louder and windier each time. I slipped all the remotes that run our lives inside a game of Trivial Pursuit that was sitting on the coffee table. I’d loudly slam it into the drawer. I’d sigh heavily and shake my head in obvious disgust.
I forgot where I’d put the remotes. assuming Funny Man would look as fervently for me as he looked for those remotes.Trivial Pursuit think a precious gem was missing. And after suffering a few days of acute remote withdrawal. And then. my man actually got some of the chores done. 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. You’d think I was missing. But before the cable guy could come. Finally. I was even mad at myself. I searched. For two long weeks. 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. 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. But I think I made my point. I was the one in agony because everyone in the family was mad at me for ruining TV time. I confessed to hiding the things. I suddenly remembered—after hearing someone on the radio use the phrase trivial pursuit—where I’d put those blasted pieces of plastic. 185 . after leaving him in agony for a few hours. I’ve promised to never again pull such a stunt.
Soon. It used to come bubbling up from the ground like oil—black gold for even the borderline funny. it is also the worst of times because the supply of high-caliber comic relief is getting harder to come by. It’s the best of times because demand for real. 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). Everybody could use a good laugh these days. Now though.Hard Times for Humor I n the ﬁeld of funny. And we’re having to dig much deeper for our jokes. unless we can develop new sources for our laugh lodes. professional humorists like me will have to drill for droll in places no comedian has gone before. Unfortunately. Anybody could be a humorist. rib-tickling humor has never been higher. 186 . it is the best of times and the worst of times. Mirthful material used to practically fall from the trees like leaves in autumn. only the most committed pun providers remain in the ﬁeld. Texas tea for those who were only marginally witty.
And those charges are doubled on readers who believe I can offer valid advice on 187 . Readers who wish to challenge these fees have to provide proof that they did not so much as snicker. I have to do any reading or. however. my readers are nickel-and-dimed to death. Guffaws garner an additional charge. this stuff is easy to get. Kind of like the airlines and the phone companies have been doing. Being a civic-minded person. however. I was forced a couple of years ago to do the same. charges go up dramatically. And if I have to leave my house. Additional fees are incurred by any reader who fails to realize my column is not to be taken seriously. Stories about my kids still come relatively cheaply as my offspring provide plenty of material. A fee is levied for every laugh-out-loud line provided in one my columns. now requires a surcharge based on the amount of work I have to do to deliver it. heaven forbid. Besides. just as many industries have been passing on skyrocketing energy costs to their customers. deep thinking in order to produce a column. If. Ditto for any humorous bits about my dogs. and anything that causes genuine belly laughs is assessed at the very highest rates. especially in business attire. I had to impose a new fee schedule on my column. It’s practically lying around on the ground. Slightly more sophisticated humor. who are grateful for the attention. I felt an obligation to mothers of said boys to continue to provide this service. Not even OPEC seems to want it.Hard Times for Humor Therefore. 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.
You’ll be glad to know that I do offer some discounts to help with these humor delivery charges.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. 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. This type of reader has to pay me the same hourly rate charged by real therapists. you’ll realize that you’ve already racked up some serious charges. If you’ve read this far in the book. my friend. 188 . 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. I accept cash or credit cards.
Hard Times for Humor 189 .
naturally. It provides you with experiences that will remain locked forever in the scar tissue of your mind. We begin late. That resolution lasts about ﬁve minutes into the trip.Drive-Thru Dilemma And that’s the wonderful thing about family travel. loaded to within an inch of our axles. packed for every possible contingency. As we 190 . that wonderful elixir of life for mothers and road warriors alike. I will have planned meticulously. despite my best intentions. and ward off any additional weight gain. when I realize we’ll have to hit the drive-thru for coffee. We are going to eat up the miles on our minivan migration. —Dave Barry E very summer. I am determined. 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. our family’s road trips are always more calorie-laden than I’d envisioned.
That resolution lasts about three hours. That resolution lasts about two hours. That resolution usually lasts about three hours. that we will deﬁnitely not be doing that again. I warn my family in the strictest terms that we absolutely will not be going through another drivethru on the trip. I command my husband to pull into the nearest drive-thru and order everything on the menu. As we pull back onto the road with a heavenly smelling bag of grease disguised now as lunch. Then. and chaos descends.Drive-Thru Dilemma pull back onto the road with a heavenly smelling bag of grease disguised as breakfast. I again warn my crew. followed shortly thereafter by several high-pitched volleys of He’s Touching Me and an equal number of the obligatory Am Nots. until we discover that someone (usually me) has forgotten to add ice to the cooler. my children typically gird themselves for war. the ﬁrst dreaded Are We There Yet? is launched. until the inevitable accusations of secretly unleashed ﬂatulence began to swirl through the charged atmosphere. gathering discarded french fries and spitball-delivering straws to use as weapons. In a desperate attempt to preserve the peace. 191 . in a slightly less ﬁrm tone. At that point. despite the silence-inducing wonders of DVDs and iPods. I’m proud to say. and all my carefully prepared provisions have already assumed a tepid room temperature. I resort to burger bribery. As we pull back onto the road with a heavenly smelling bag of grease cleverly camouﬂaged as a snack. Grievances are aired in violent fashion. Snarling from stress. I assure my brood that we will probably not be doing the drive-thru run again.
When we ﬁnally reach our destination.Days of Derangement As we get back on the road. weighed down with bag after bag of grease. I say nothing. just stuff every wonderful morsel into my mouth. Drive-thru dilemma resolved. 192 . we buy bathing suits in larger sizes and ditch the cooler.
The llama. with an indolent expression and an undulating throat. This man was pulling on the reins. The llama was having none of it.Llama Drama The llama is a woolly sort of ﬂeecy hairy goat. like an unsuccessful literary man. That may be a slight exaggeration. We came across a very annoyed llama. was engaged in a strenuous tug of war with a man who looked like he’d rather be undergoing a root canal. loaded down with camping gear. trying to get the llama to cross a log bridge. 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. but based on my own expert research. 193 . and they’re not going to take it anymore. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch. —Hilaire Belloc T he llamas are spitting mad. oddly enough) with my father.
I offered my suggestions to the llama-challenged man before me.” he moaned. unnecessarily. Although my experience with llamas has been limited to watching them in Disney movies. He was assisted in this effort by his wife. “and we don’t know anything about llamas. however. Her husband. “This was all her idea. He explained the couple had come from Maryland and rented the llama to carry the gear as they communed with nature for several days. and I understood this to mean “Yeah. She was in full Wife Advisory Mode (WAM). pointing out what he was doing wrong and what he should do to successfully lead the llama. I couldn’t help transitioning into sympathetic Wife Advisory Mode. 194 . He abruptly threw up the reins and announced he was heading home. Because my husband was fortunate enough not to be there. thrusting his head in his wife’s direction.” The llama issued another “SNORRRBAH!” which this time sounded liked “No kidding!” and again dug in its heels. “This is only our ﬁrst day.Days of Derangement Although I’ve had no formal training in llama language. but being subjected to a double dose of wife advice must have been too much for him. I clearly heard the cranky creature spit out “SNORRRBAH!” as it dug in its heels. who stood next to him on the trail. and he continued to tug on the reins. did not speak llama. had obviously shifted into the Wife Interpretation and Management Phase (WIMP) and was nodding at her vigorously while totally ignoring what she said. right!” The man. who was now sweating profusely. He ignored me as well.” he whispered to my grinning dad. giving another tug on the reins and adding.
That’s when I discovered I have somehow missed a major part of our culture—the Naked Dancing Llama. as it is known. 195 . I typed the word llama into Google. doing the tango across the Web in its birthday suit while offering advice and running for President. Before the llama could make a break for it. We wished the couple (and the llama) well with the rest of their camping trip and continued down the trail. “SNORRRBAH?” it asked. my dad—a farm boy who has a way with animals—quickly led it across the bridge. has apparently been around since the early days of the Internet (the 1990s). however. The NDL. It’s even worse to have all these humans believe any live llama would parade around without its fur. There’s only one thing to say about that: “SNORRRBAH!” And we all know what that means. When I returned to civilization (meaning to a computer). and we all knew what that meant.Llama Drama The llama looked confused at this sudden capitulation. Millions have followed the antics of this virtual camel’s cousin. self-respecting llama would ever run for President. This intriguing encounter led me to the second part of my research. But it must be intolerable to have anyone think a sane. It’s bad enough having to bear the burdens of camping city slickers. Well no wonder the llamas are livid. My dad is still laughing about it.
Days of Derangement 196 .
cleverly colored and skillfully styled. The hairdresser is not to be questioned. sources of instant intimidation—at least to me—too often populated by women with great hair and prominent cheekbones. So I thought I’d found the ideal solution when I started going to a hairdresser who works solo. a little more self-assured. One chair. You leave it looking good—cleanly cut. One customer at a 197 . with a bed head that looks like it got tangled in a spinning ceiling fan. Most are. 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. I’ve been to a fair number of beauty shops in my day. You enter it ugly. The hairdresser is an authority ﬁgure. a little younger. That was only for the estimate. like high school.Beauty Shop Dropout She was at the beauty shop for two hours. I hate these women. —Henny Youngman T he salon is a sacred place for many women. a sorcerer with scissors who can make us feel a little prettier.
but my hairdresser was adamant that The Cap was still the best. except that I was far less attractive than Pig Pen. hair standing straight out and basting in bleach. you are wishing I would just stop whining because—as every female knows—it is better to look good than to feel good. Or at least I was until the day when I was once again in the styling chair. you are wondering why on earth I would put up with such torment. If you are a woman. she insisted on using The Cap. No one to see my transformation from drowned. If I was single and allowed to notice such things. graying rat to frosted blond bombshell (OK. I resembled Pig Pen. This is a tool that could have been found in a medieval torture chamber. The plastic cap. dig through the circles and pull a few strands of hair—those destined to be plied with peroxide—through the cap.Days of Derangement time. with sprouts of hair sticking up all over and a stinging scalp. If you are a man. To bring out my inner blonde. Soon. The problem is that this hairdresser still operates in the styling stone age. I’d tell you that this neighbor is a ﬁne-looking man. 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. and in walks one of my neighbors. Then my hairdresser would take a crochet hook. with very nice hair 198 . This wouldn’t have bothered me too much except for the fact that this neighbor has the audacity to be a man. was tied around my head. which is covered with small colored circles. the stinky character from the Charlie Brown comic. Men should not be permitted to walk into salons when women are there being beautiﬁed. I know there are other ways to lighten my locks. wishful thinking on my part).
I found a new hairdresser. I haven’t been able to look him in the eye since then. My handsome neighbor is probably still trying to recover from what he saw that day. 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 considered going natural. I’ll just tell you that I was beyond mortiﬁed to have this particular person see me looking like Phyllis Diller on acid. And for a while. 199 . But that didn’t happen.Beauty Shop Dropout that was apparently in need of a cut.
simple creatures who can’t faithfully follow a grocery list. those just on the cusp of the real world who don’t have a clue what they’re getting themselves into. causes eyes to sparkle. like the typically bafﬂed Homer Simpson.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. Take the dilemma of dating. For men. but in truth. where all the rules have seemingly changed. blood pressure to rise and the lips to pucker. this is a nightmare. For women. between a rock and a hard place. 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. Except for the ones that really have changed. These befuddled beings are caught. cheeks to glow. And if they are 200 . this convoluted courting process is no problem. hard-wired for complexity. for example. all the rules remain pretty much the same.
And it was dangerous territory for a boy who once spent a week impersonating the ultra-logical and emotionless Mr. “Why would I need to buy some stupid ﬂower?” “She’s probably going to spend several hours getting ready for the dance.The Rock and the Hard Place newbies in the land of love and utterly unfamiliar with the world of women. this was a harsh reality indeed.” I told him. That’s how it was when Funny Boy had a girlfriend for the ﬁrst time. I knew we were in trouble. The ﬁrst time it hit him upside the head was on the morning of his high school’s Homecoming Dance. harmless little relationship. “I already bought her ticket. For a kid whose only income was a weekly allowance (assuming he did his chores). “She needs a corsage that matches her dress. Spock from the ﬁrst Star Trek series. What color is her dress?” When “Huh?” was his only response. And when the girlfriend’s birthday rolled around a couple of weeks after that. the guy is usually still expected to pay on dates.” he said crankily. My young Vulcan got quite emotional. they would often probably like to dive under that rock and pull the hard place down like a fortress around them. a Scrooge-like youngster who once gave a set of eight coasters as Christmas gifts to eight different people (one coaster per person). though. Rousting him out of bed that Saturday morning at the ungodly hour of 11. I asked him what color corsage he’d ordered for his sweetheart. yanking the covers off the bed. pulling the covers over his head. when suddenly faced with the harsh reality that. full of furtive phone calls and ﬁerce feelings. I waited until the day before her birthday to 201 . It was a sweet. I wondered if the bloom would soon fall off this romantic rose. even in the 21st century.
his answer (“As little as possible”) made me pity his poor girlfriend. Funny Boy survived the birthday and came out undeservedly smelling like that proverbial rose. Finally. gazing up at the ceiling with a self-satisﬁed smile on his face. “Christmas is right around the corner. I had to actually push my reluctant Romeo into the shop. apparently fearing that his mere presence in such a prettiﬁed place would render him unmanly. kiddo.Days of Derangement ask my son if he’d bought her a gift. I heard the store clerk offer to help. I refused.” 202 . When she asked him how much he wanted to spend. But he ﬁnally emerged with an acceptable gift. where I pointed out a store full of appealing but inexpensive baubles sure to warm a young girl’s heart.” I said. It was time for the boy to bite the bullet and enter the arena alone. I ordered him to accompany me to the mall. thanks to me. I found him lying on his bed. “Can’t you go in and get it for me. and I’ll pay you back?” he pleaded. a smile that collapsed like a house of cards when I brought him crashing back to earth. “Better save your money. So. The next day. When he groaned as if he were in real pain. where he dithered at the entrance for many minutes.
decides that your middle-aged self no longer has any business thinking like a jaunty juvenile.Got Flax? I’m happy to report that my inner child is still ageless. you have plenty of reliable medical research to validate all your worries. being a crotchety old lady with creaking joints. you begin to worry even more about what’s going on among your rapidly aging innards. that your thighs seem to be swimming in cellulite. You suddenly notice that even your knees have wrinkles. Fortunately. —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. So. And as bad as your body looks on the outside. if you’re a woman. that your tummy seems terminally tubby and. Groups of white-smocked scientists 203 . Ma Nature. she smites you with self-doubt. using forces like gravity and your love of things like gravy.
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.Days of Derangement get together regularly and publish studies that advise you to be afraid. I rebuilt my personal food pyramid. You may not have realized it (and you may not believe it). business-type person. at this point you will morph into an overnight convert to the church of the changed diet. I brought my smoothie in the car with me and drank it while I was driving to my very busy. I also developed a friendship with ﬂaxseed. business-type ofﬁce. So I started preparing a ﬂaxseed smoothie every morning. All that heavenly tasting junk that you’ve eaten for years has now. but besides writing witty columns about canine regurgitation. Because I was running late. But ﬂaxseed is supposed to be good for you. I should have had the upper hand. I often put on business attire and go out into the world pretending to be a very busy. turning into a fan of ﬁber and fruit. Then I. the others seemed to be snickering under their 204 . Not that I like the taste of ﬂaxseed. and growing giddy over whole grains and vegetables. That’s just what I did. But for some reason. very afraid. It’s time. And that’s just what I did one morning not long after I’d begun drinking my smoothies. you realize. to pay the piper of the palate. which combines the ﬂavors of sawdust and straw with the piquant aftertaste of sand. a hard-charging and healthy professional fueled by ﬂaxseed. at least according to those sadistic science types. coagulated into globs of deadly goop in your arteries. according to noted medical researchers. If you’re like me. went right into a meeting with other business types who had probably stuffed themselves that morning with deathinducing donuts.
a dim light began to burn. red-faced. blueberry-colored. I excused myself and went to the restroom.Got Flax? collective breath. And then. 205 . except that I looked like a complete idiot. I was annoyed and wondered why she didn’t put some ointment on that lip. lay a thick. to my meeting. One woman kept rubbing her ﬁnger across her upper lip while staring urgently at me. I looked like one of those celebrities in the Got Milk? ads. where I gazed into the mirror. above my busy. I wiped off my mustache and went back. business-type mouth. There. somewhere in the recesses of my busy business brain. Then I went in search of some donuts. ﬂaxseed-speckled mustache.
this remote control gadget sends a signal to two little buds that users stick in their ears. on occasion. I read about a new device. we could. the priceless peals of our children’s laughter. when 206 . Called The Mute. the patter of pint-sized feet. soon to be available. Sure. All you do is point The Mute at the reason for the racket and voila!—sweet. I am very excited about this. verbal or otherwise. Recently. But as those precious bundles of joy get older and somehow morph into little nuggets of noise with dirt on them. simply tune them out. emanating from one of my children. We’d still be able to savor a baby’s comforting coos. usually in response to some disturbing sound.Silence is Golden T ell me I didn’t just hear that… I used to ﬁnd myself saying that just about every day. But do we always need to perceive the blare of sibling bickering? Say. that will allow annoying noises to be switched off. Consider how it could revolutionize the often high-pitched job of parenting. sweet silence. we’d still need to hear certain things. though. for instance. from the awesome (“I love you” coming from a grateful child) to the alarming (“Watch me ﬂy” coming from the roof).
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. 207 . Point. 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. 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!”.Silence is Golden a worrisome set of crashes. This could have profound philosophical and ﬁnancial implications. I could act quickly. It’s easy if you try. Imagine all the parents. Because sometimes. If a teenage girl slams a door and screams “I hate you!” and her parents don’t hear it. and silence is golden. Mute. click…serenity now. You may say I’m a dreamer. I could just point and click Mr. cover up their cacophony. The marvelous Mute would become even more valuable as our children reach adolescence and develop the desire to torment us acoustically. stiﬂe their sounds.” followed by a frantically whispered “Don’t tell Mom” (even worse when it is preceded by the sound of a toilet ﬂushing). living life in peace. but I’m planning to have The Mute surgically implanted in my ears as soon as it’s available. ignorance is bliss. thumps and bangs reverberates through my walls as fratricidal force is deployed over access to an Xbox.
because I somehow managed to get through almost three decades of life without knowing about the ﬁve-second rule. The Seven-Second Rule and the extremely handy and versatile However Long It Takes Me to Pick Up This Food Rule. You know. I must have led a very sheltered—or at least a very clean— existence before I got married. Turns out that germs are apparently polite enough to count to ﬁve before they attach themselves to goodies. And when I had a son. 208 . 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. Who knew? I naively assumed my husband was the only person crazy enough to buy this theory.The Five-Second Rule The Five-Second Rule has many variations. but I found out later that a lot of people (oddly enough. all of them men) also believe in mannerly microorganisms. including The Three-Second Rule. I discovered that he seemed to have been born knowing the ﬁve-second rule. It certainly comes in handy for an enthusiastic eater with butter ﬁngers like my boy.
” he said. dog hair and all. especially in our two-dog household. as if explaining the obvious to an idiot. I just can’t believe you!” I don’t know how the kid would survive without me. How anyone could stick such an item in his mouth is beyond my comprehension.The Five-Second Rule Now I have to say that I still have no faith in the ﬁve-second rule. Then. “What do you think you’re doing?” I asked in a horriﬁed tone. 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. toward his mouth when I grabbed it. Mom. now enhanced by a whole colony of dog hair. I had to drop the delectable little cake down the garbage disposal to prevent my Troll eater from inhaling it. 209 . but it nearly happened one day with a Twinkie. where dropped food items usually resemble those Troll dolls with hair sticking out in all directions when you pick them up. you are so mean! A little dog hair’s not going to hurt anybody. “Five-second rule. he added “It’s the last one!” as he lunged toward the hairy Twinkie and tried to grab it back. It was the last Twinkie in the package. “Mom. He was actually moving it. He was not appreciative.
For example. 210 .There Should Be an App for That Lo! Men have become the tools of their tools. 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. I also like to think I look like Angelina Jolie. which I suppose would come in handy were you trying to communicate with our bovine brethren. but that’s beside the point. There is also a game app that lets you score points by licking your phone’s screen. but apparently many people have downloaded this particular app. I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know any of those people. Being technologically savvy. —Henry David Thoreau I like to think I am technologically savvy. I can’t imagine any circumstance under which I would want to do this. there is an app to let you go around making cow sounds.
hey. This app magniﬁes the sound so that people will think you have serious gastrointestinal issues. there will no doubt be a dozen more. For instance. when my kids were growing up. but. it’s a free country. there is even an excuse generator app. impossible-to-ignore sound into the ears of certain adolescents who regularly claimed not to have heard me tell them something.There Should Be an App for That Another hugely popular app lets you emit loud bodily noises normally considered unacceptable in polite society. And I wouldn’t mind 211 . 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’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. This program would automatically shoot a high-pitched. I could certainly have used a Teenager Tune Out Terminator app. and there’s an app for that. There’s also an app that teaches you how to say dirty words in a variety of languages. 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). Why anyone would want people to think such a thing is beyond me. and developers are working feverishly every day to create even more. But I can think of a few other apps that someone should invent right away. Hundreds of thousands of apps already exist.
There should deﬁnitely be an app for that. I could take a picture of the suit with my phone. and then my app would give me an honest assessment.” I’d call that my Girlfriend App. which would usually sound something like this: “Honey. 212 . Get Real.Days of Derangement having an app that would talk sense into me when I’m about to try on a bathing suit.
Minivan Mentality Y ou can take the mom out of the minivan. And. spotless. After 15 years. When I told my children that. in horror. I’d said “hippier” and suggested I cut back on the carbs. my SUV-inspired chic hadn’t sunk in with them yet. We traded it in for a mid-sized SUV. they assumed. it was rather pleasant to have Nancy telling me—in her disembodied voice—where to go. for some reason. But a couple of weeks into our relationship. She was even equipped with a state-of-the-art navigational system that I nicknamed Nancy. and I immediately felt hipper. But you can’t always take the minivan mentality out of the mom. for a few days. 213 . I was having a hard time with it myself. Apparently. At ﬁrst. she began to remind me of my mother. Oh. 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. to never leave the driveway. my new vehicle was sleek and. always slightly disapproving of my driving even after I’d morphed into a mother myself. I ﬁnally stopped driving a family truckster. to be honest.
I think I actually missed the old. Believe it or not. 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. Even when everything was cleaned out. I missed all of those things. maybe Nancy didn’t say those words speciﬁcally. with its factory-fresh scent. The new auto. clean carpet and unmarked exterior. non-talking minivan. a handle on the back of the driver’s seat. sugary drink known to mankind. the dents and scratches made by a wide assortment of balls and even a couple of bicycles. Nancy was really starting to get on my nerves. hanging on haphazardly after one kid tried to pull it out and use it as a weapon against another. she sounded a bit snippy. the congealed essence of childhood. stale milk in sippy cups lodged under the seats. the van still retained its distinct aroma. Every time I deviated from her dictatorial directions.Days of Derangement “You missed the turn! You’re driving too fast! You’re going to get us killed!” OK. I also missed the way the minivan smelled— that bouquet of old french fries. and all mingling with the nauseating odor of dog vomit that we never could completely eliminate. sweaty soccer cleats and fetid football jerseys. rotten bananas. “I am recalculating the route. all left to heat up year after year in the sun.” 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. Nancy’s turn-by-turn instructions took on a nagging quality. And it wasn’t just the Nazi-like navigational system. but that’s what my mind heard. a variety of stains inside courtesy of every colorful. And I 214 .
someone else is hurtling down the highway right now with a minivan full of my memories. In exchange.) Whoever you are. Somewhere. I want those memories and that cruddy old minivan back.Minivan Mentality thoughtlessly gave it away. 215 . you can have Nancy and the stylish SUV that encases her. I want to remember where I’ve been. You’ll always know where you’re going. (They’ve probably got the windows open.
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. In fact. But it didn’t really hit me until a few days later when our family began its annual summer hike in the Rocky Mountains. I watched my oldest child cross a stage.The Trail Ahead A few years ago. Grandpa remembers a pair of osprey that 216 . and every family member remembers details the rest of us have forgotten. 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. streams and boulders are infused with memories. We’ve hiked that trail so many times now that certain trees. I’m sure all the other parents were as stunned as I to suddenly be standing at the closing bookend of childhood. We’ve been hiking the same stretch since my children were preschoolers. 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. unable to keep up. mortarboard perched precariously on his head.
I stopped to take a picture of the bridge. not realizing my chosen spot could be seen from another part of the trail. then turned to look back. he’ll understand why. 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. Grandma is an expert at picking out secluded spots. the trail with its unseen destination stretching ahead of him. Grandma’s memories of the trail center on which boulders and tree trunks provided the most privacy for the inevitable call of nature. all grown up and soon headed off to college. crossed ahead of me. Someday. as I always do. curving out of sight. eager voices. captured in pictures. The ﬁrst time each of our kids clambered across that bridge unassisted was a momentous event. sunny rock. Sadly. This year. watching the birds swoop down to catch ﬁsh for their hungry offspring. I snapped the shot. though. I am not. The trail from the bridge leads off into dense woods. I can still clearly hear my kids’ high. Funny Boy. exposed my backside to a group of college students. My husband and I share a favorite location—a log bridge over a rushing stream. talking over each other as they competed to give Sid’s life the juiciest details. 217 . then had to sit down on a rock to compose myself. My son’s favorite hiking story is about the time that I. We lay back on a large.The Trail Ahead nested in a tree overlooking a beautiful mountain lake. My daughter remembers our yearly pilgrimage to the grave of a beloved dog who was buried just off the trail. 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.
I just think it’s kind of like false advertising. Really. I happened to mention this email to my mother. I am. —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. Don’t you think it’s time to update your photo?” Then thoughtful John added the coup de grace: “P. 218 .” Mind.Picture Perfect Pictures must not be too picturesque. She prefers the Kick ‘Em While They’re Down parenting philosophy popular during the rough-and-tumble pioneer days. 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’ve noticed that your picture hasn’t changed in several years.S. John? MIND?? Of course not. But my mom is old school. I hope you don’t mind me saying this. I’m thrilled that you were paying such close attention to the status of my photo. It’s nothing personal.
I ﬁnally got a picture that did not cause people to cover their eyes in horror. that’s my picture. making me look like Eeyore with Winnie the Pooh eyes. I have a long face and small beady eyes. I hate those people. my rotten editors did not believe I look just like Angelina Jolie. but I ﬁgured no one needed to know that. though. How rude.” she said. and I’m sticking to it.” Ouch. and I haven’t changed a bit since it was taken. I’ll also have you know that it has always been very difﬁcult to get a decent photo of myself. what I’m trying to say here is this: Thanks. was I happy. Out of desperation. It is not a pretty sight. “That picture is at least six years old. I engaged the services of a highly skilled professional photographer. Now. thanks a million for taking the time to notice that my picture is obsolete. It really is false advertising. I’ll have you know my picture is no more than ﬁve years old (give or take a year or two). dear. I really appreciate it. For some reason. 219 . they throw up all their little camera parts in disgust when they are pointed in my direction. They demanded an actual photo of my actual face. OK. it wasn’t actually a picture of me. Through the magic of modern technology that included hours and hours of state-of-the-art retouching techniques. I sent my editors a really gorgeous picture. sweet John. But by golly. You know how the camera is said to love some people? Well. So when I started writing a humor column. I faced the terrible prospect of having to provide a photo of myself to go with my columns. So anyway. and every camera in existence has conspired to exaggerate those features.Picture Perfect “He’s right. Cameras not only don’t love me. Boy.
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. I think it probably made my little man feel better too.” he’d once explained to me. When we arrived at the preschool. But only a little. head and shoulders above any other kid in the school or any other kid in the world for that matter. he’d clutched his favorite toy. Maybe I was a little biased. a stuffed bunny he’d inexplicably named Malcolm. He kept rubbing his ﬁnger across Malcolm’s head. “You’re going to have a wonderful time!” I remember saying too cheerfully. Funny Boy got out of the 220 .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. So did I. On the short drive to the school that day. and we were driving home—I got to thinking about his ﬁrst day of preschool. “It makes Malcolm feel better. and tried to be very brave. He didn’t look convinced. something he did often to comfort the rather emotional rabbit.
way too cheerful. then placed the rabbit back in the car. I still remember watching. The bunny’s ears are frayed now. I went into his room and reached into the top of his closet. those blue eyes brimmed with tears. through my own brimming tears. I reminded him that Malcolm would have to stay with me. and his fur looks matted. worn down to the fabric by a little boy’s ﬁngers. “Only people can go to school. Rogers. the seams in his body are visible. sounding again like Mister Rogers. I’ll be back soon.” I said. You’ll be OK.” When we got home after dropping him off at college. and pulled out an old stuffed bunny. I sounded like Mr. For a moment.Of Boys and Bunnies car with Malcolm tucked under his arm.” I said. stroking the bunny’s head one last time. “Long time no see!” I sat down on Funny Boy’s bed and just stared at Malcolm for a while. “He’ll be right here waiting for you when I pick you up. 221 . Malcolm. “You stay here. way back behind the boxes of video games and soccer trophies. He rubbed Malcolm’s head several times to reassure him. I rubbed his head several times. I promised to take good care of him. I think it made him feel better. The top of his head is bare in several places.” he said. as he lovingly strapped the little rabbit into the car seat. “Hi Malcolm.
I nailed a small wooden bench to a section of picket fencing. bordered with glued-on ivy and still more silk ﬂowers. together. as if the ﬂowers on the wall were blowing in a gentle breeze. and the ﬂoral theme in her ﬁrst “big-girl” bedroom delighted her. So did some of mine. We wove fake ivy and silk ﬂowers along the fencing to complete the look. We decided to leave it that way. She was four years old then. was mounted above. She held the brush and proudly created a few of them all by herself. Some of her work went outside the lines. we painted the whole structure white and added more stenciled ﬂowers—red roses this time—all over the bench. We painted the walls pink and hung lacy little curtains at the window. they’ve all grown up. S 222 . The bench and its fence were secured to one of my daughter’s bedroom walls. Then. stenciled edges. —Christopher Morley he called it her garden room.The Garden Room We’ve had bad luck with our kids. and a mirror. We used stencils to paint dainty ﬂowers on the pink walls. Colorful smudges took the place of the intended clean.
We painted the room lime green—yes. We removed the prettily painted shelf with its daisy-shaped knobs underneath that held trophies and ribbons and other childhood memorabilia. She also wanted black. Mommy. These were formal affairs at which I was expected to wear a pretty hat and conduct myself in a manner beﬁtting my lovely surroundings. but often—too often—I was so preoccupied with the day’s must-do tasks that I failed to fully enjoy the garden party. fuzzy friends. So we ﬁnally updated it. Occasionally. with ﬂowers. Later. 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. she would carry on the party with her faithful. My ﬂower child grew into a willowy teenager. she’d play dress-up in front of the mirror. naturally. cuddling her crew of stuffed animals.The Garden Room Funny Girl would sit on that bench in her garden room. Some days. Many days. after I’d excused myself and rushed out. I walked in to ﬁnd her breathing deeply. functional-looking furniture with nary a ﬂower to be found. “I’m just smelling all of my ﬂowers. Sometimes I succeeded at this. We took down the bench and its fencing and put them in the garage. her head resting on them. and she would pretend she was in a real garden. wearing a lovely hat adorned. And she plastered the walls with posters of young male actors and rock stars who look like they could use an attitude 223 . I’d ﬁnd her curled up on the bench asleep. I could smell them too. I was invited in for tea parties. Sadly or not—depending on your perspective—the garden room is no more. Once.” she said simply. At that moment. a Mary Quite Contrary who had long been embarrassed by her blooming bedroom.
I stood in the garage and stared at the still-beautiful little bench. She was right. And what amuses me is that I’m OK with that. 224 . What I wouldn’t give to attend one more tea party. she informed me I’d turned into an old fuddy duddy. The day we ﬁnished the room makeover. When I told her that I preferred ﬂowers on the walls.Days of Derangement adjustment. 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.
He tells it with great ﬂourish. with fading eyesight. My parents grew up on farms several miles apart in southeastern Oklahoma. Over the years. my dad has been telling The Pig Story. My mother was the youngest of 10 of my grandpa’s children. (And this was before Viagra!) My grandfather was a local legend. in a more simple time. Local residents knew to steer clear when they saw Old Man Gibson coming. For as long as anyone around there could remember. Over the years. I’ve heard The Pig Story so many times that I could recite it in my sleep. that make its oration a work of art. delivered at just the right moment. It’s a tale of how. he’s perfected a series of coy pauses and soft smiles. much younger wife. renowned for his ornery ways.The Pig Story E ver since I can recall. my granddad had been feuding—Hatﬁeld-McCoy style—with his nearest neighbor. Even when he was in his ninth decade. born when her father was in his 70s and married to his third. my father procured my mother’s hand in marriage for the price of a couple of hogs. the two men had fought 225 . weaving from one side of the road to the other. he’d insist on driving his battered pickup along the dirt roads near his home.
He’d stay there awhile. who was a high school senior at the time. But by the time they were each around 90. routine. the old man would fall asleep in the truck with the shotgun slung across his lap. But as my grandpa was unable to chase them down or shoot them. unable with his poor vision to actually hit anything. even. the neighbor started releasing his pigs into the ﬁelds where my grandpa still grew corn and cotton. over a defunct moonshine still tucked way back in the woods that each man claimed to have operated in his younger. cursing his enemy and expressing great surprise that anyone could commit such a vile act. park his pickup under a couple of sweeping oak trees at the edge of the pasture and start ﬁring wildly in the pigs’ direction. for bragging rights. Invariably. When he thought he’d spotted the neighbor’s porkers trampling his plants underfoot. if still rancorous. And eventually. For several mornings in a row. my grandpa would look out over his crops. Then he’d grab his shotgun. announcing loudly to the trespassing pigs that they would soon draw their last breaths.Days of Derangement over property lines. he’d swear up and down. chicken-thieving dogs. the pigs didn’t seem to take him too seriously. One day my father. and late in the afternoon. watching for signs of porcine invasion. rowdier days. stray cattle. One summer. my granddad would do the same. the pigs would tire of the game and make their way home. the two old warriors had settled into a fairly harmless. happened to be driving by during one of the scattershot 226 . waking occasionally to ﬁre a random shot before resuming his nap. Both men had spent short spells in jail when things got too heated and the sheriff wanted to calm them down.
They’ve been living high on the hog ever since. They would provide quite a few tasty meals for the family. He stopped and asked my grandpa if he needed help. 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. The rest. as my dad always adds to universal groans. is hogstory. They were married a year later and recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. he introduced him to his 16-year-old daughter. 227 . my dad quickly caught the pigs and put them in the back of the old pickup. When told of the situation.The Pig Story shooting sessions.
Despite the fact I wouldn’t know a touchdown from a hoe down. Because I brought a book to the last professional sporting event I attended (a hockey game) and embarrassed my children. well-paid men run around chasing a piece of pigskin. It’s a win-win situation all around. And the NFL realizes a handsome proﬁt in the bargain. hot dogs and soft drinks while having the pleasure of watching hefty. An NFL event is a reassuring example of the strength of our capitalist system. I wanted to be part of this patriotic process. So I begged my family to let me come along. I was forced to undergo 228 .Pirates and Packers The reason women don’t play football is because 11 of them would never wear the same outﬁt in public. —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. Not just any football game: an NFL (Not For Low-incomers) game. You get to invest extraordinary amounts of your personal capital in things like tickets.
pirate-like bellows (Aargh!) with beer-propelled belches worthy of the most fearsome buccaneer. The paperback I’d hidden under my shirt was conﬁscated. the home team was named after a group of plundering pirates called buccaneers. That made it even more special. which was named after men who once packed meat into little cans. and so I arrived at the game betting on being bored. Pirates could surely beat Packers. there was plenty to capture my attention.Pirates and Packers an airport-style security screening before we left home. But surprisingly. This seemed to me like a good omen for the home team. So I got another drink and took my seat just as the game began. Unlike the visiting team. I could actually feel these belches on the back of my neck. 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 . And it didn’t much matter that I don’t understand the ﬁrst thing about football. I had an upclose encounter with one of these chunks of cheese when its bearer bent over to pick up something. but the cheese head was charmingly apologetic. I was a little upset. Because the stadium is thoughtfully crammed with more seats than one would think possible. The ﬁrst thing I noticed was that many fans were sporting large yellow pieces of synthetic cheese on their heads. especially the ones directly behind me who showed their support by combining loud. and it’s hard to be churlish with cheese. I was joined in this belief by many Buccaneer fans. 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. I was sitting among fans of the home team. I could smell them too.
Maybe that’s because cheese does for them what chocolate does for me—makes everything better. and debated which ones should be given the privilege of dating the manly men behind me. 230 . Even the performance of the referees was analyzed (“Are you kidding me?!”). the Buccaneers did indeed beat the Packers. During breaks in the action on the ﬁeld. I was amazed to realize that I had a great time. In keeping with the team theme. and even the cheese heads didn’t seem too upset. the cheerleaders wore outﬁts that looked just like pirate eye patches. These guys really helped me grasp the ﬁner points of the game. I felt so sorry for the ladies who were denied such an honor. except that pirate patches cover more skin. the beer boys would discuss. My fellow fans rated each cheerleader on whether she was “hot” or merely lukewarm. in their outside voices. I didn’t even miss my book. The Bucs fans happily went home singing yo-ho songs. In the end.Days of Derangement and on the quality of the coaching (“You’d better be ﬁred after this game!”). the various attributes of the Buccaneer cheerleaders.
Pirates and Packers 231 .
Then you begin to amass your Facebook friends list. you post an actual photo of yourself rather than someone far more attractive that you try to pass off as yourself. Just in case I am the next-to-last person in the world to join Facebook. I’m cooler online.Cooler Online I’m so much cooler online. 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. In theory. except that now I have a few more friends. You also can announce what you are doing at any given moment and send it out through cyberspace for all your friends 232 . If they agree. You send messages to others on the site asking them to be your friend. —Brad Paisley song I joined Facebook a while back. Yeah. you look at each other’s pages and post comments. and after much effort. I managed to accumulate 10 online friends. That means not much has changed for me since high school. you also post truthful information in your proﬁle. and you are the last. In theory.
which I suspect is not quite as good as the real thing that involves actual arms. “Jackie is clipping her toenails. Soon. You also can show off your intellectual bent by recommending books and pretending you’ve actually read these books. My 10 friends will be so impressed with my literary ﬂair that they will tell all their other friends about me. I can’t take the humiliation. you can deliver a virtual slap or bite. in cold weather.” and all 10 of my friends will feel better knowing this. I only have 10 of them. If one of your cyber friends has stepped out of line. I have a couple of Facebook friends who regularly send me super pokes. of course. If you are the kinky kind. Or. So. you can “super” poke them. I’ll have so many friend requests. and I’ve been tempted to “de-friend” these people. But it gets even better. But that would mean my friends list wouldn’t even reach double digits. virtual hot cocoa. I’ll 233 . I would never do this to one of my friends. You can even send them an online hug. you can even spank your friends or throw thongs at them. In this brave new world of social networking. and those friends will tell still other friends. This has left me feeling like a voodoo doll. But then. if you’re one of those people who likes to live on the edge. Lest you think Facebook is just a frivolous way to fritter away time keeping your friends updated on routine bodily maintenance activities. and so on and so on. This is what I’m going to do. I can type in something like.Cooler Online to see. You can join online groups and causes and invite friends to come along. you also can poke your friends. You can send your friends truly useful things like a virtual glass of wine or. let me assure you it has true social value.
If you were my friend. 234 .Days of Derangement have to start screening people. you’d get to hear all about it. I have to go now and clip my toenails. Maybe I’ll even start a Facebook fan club for myself.
So I’m starting out slowly. But you’d be wrong. You may think I’m hoping to be considered a sleek and sexy cougar on the prowl for a younger man. and I raised my arms to lift something from an upper shelf. in an effort to look cut and ripped or some other painful-sounding adjective. and no one loves me. That’s because I’ve apparently grown wings. —Laurie Metcalf o I’ve started lifting weights. OK. wings. Yes. and all my house plants are dead. This is a normal. my friend. but what difference does that make anyway because everything in my life sucks. You may think I’m lifting weights for cosmetic reasons. shifting it from one hand to the other. I didn’t even know I possessed bird-like qualities until one day when I was standing in my kitchen. 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.Beware the Bingo Wings I’m 36 years old. kitchen-type S 235 . I’ve actually lifted one weight. I’m actually just hoping to avoid inadvertently taking ﬂight in a strong gust of wind.
I beg your pardon. I’ve started lifting weights. I’ve started lifting weight.” Funny Boy chimed in. “You’ve got some serious bingo wings there. put down your arms. You sacriﬁce time you would undoubtedly have spent doing pushups if you weren’t driving them from one activity to another. as my grandma used to sing to me. This weight weighs a whole 10 pounds. I’m pretty sure my bingo wings won’t lift me off the ground.” You carry them through nine months of pregnancy. I got a ﬁgurative punch in the gut from my own children who. as I said. careworn arms that could be used as cleaning implements by a school janitor. And then you stand in your kitchen with ﬂabby. were sitting nearby eating food prepared for them by the person they were about to insult. So. older women get. You pay for their college tuition. I can lift it into the air and then bring it back down. “Nothing personal. I’d like to point out. Mom.” said Funny Girl.Days of Derangement activity that I’ve done many times before. covering her eyes as if she couldn’t bear to look at me. I never promised you a rose garden. But I may soon send those kids of mine airborne. You lose sleep for years worrying over every aspect of their lives. Well. 236 . Now I know what she meant. you know that arm fat that. “Whoa.” “Bingo wings?” I asked. Mom. And as long as I hold on to this weight. “Yea. uh. and you watch the ingrates snicker at you behind their hands. “But you could clean off a chalkboard with those bingo wings of yours. especially women who play Bingo?” “Older women? Arm fat? Bingo?!” I sputtered. You labor in agony to bring them forth into the world. But this time.
Adios Internet My mind is going. Socrates started what may have been the ﬁrst technology scare. I blame Al Gore. this has not been an easy decision. 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. reprogramming my memory. rarely diving into the depths of the sea of information. The problem is that I just can’t seem to focus anymore. While I’ve greatly enjoyed my years in cyberspace. Naturally. possibly even sabotaging my soul. Granted. But it’s deﬁnitely for my own good. as he invented the darn thing. —Supercomputer HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey ’ve reluctantly decided that I need to resign from the Internet. and that might be an insult to the mosquito. Believe me. I have the uncomfortable sense that the Internet is tinkering with my neural circuitry. My brain skims along life’s surface. I can feel it. In fact. lamenting the I 237 .
encouraging us to incessantly peek at our email. now that I think about it. the cast of Jersey Shore. the invention of the telegram was blamed for triggering an outbreak of mental illness. When the printing press came along. Actually. 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. 238 .Days of Derangement invention of books. From now on. I’m going to give up television as well. I’m also going to spend tons of time sitting around thinking deep thoughts. we waste the day away on eBay. I am convinced the Internet has been even worse. assuming I don’t fall asleep ﬁrst. which he thought ruined the memory. I’m pretty sure Socrates would be deeply impressed. 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). But as bad as TV has been for our mental fortitude. So I am walking away from the Web. constantly craving the ﬂeeting pleasure of new information without ever digesting the old stuff. By the end of the 19th century. And let’s not even talk about the detrimental effects of television on our minds. update our Facebook status and check out our friends’ statuses. And we lurch from site to site. We fritter away vast amounts of time on Twitter. Imagine what the old guy would think of Twitter. there were those who complained that it ruined the eyes and made the ﬁngers ache. The Web makes it so easy to interrupt ourselves.
I get genuine fan mail. so I’d like to take you behind the scenes for a look at how I write a column. 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. that the making of humor columns resembles the making of laws and sausage—it’s not always a pretty sight. —Dorothy Parker A s you might imagine. I often receive email from adoring fans. I love having written. 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. especially when a family member or friend does something I can ridicule (this is why I spend a lot of time alone). Sometimes topics are so plentiful—like when I go to a class reunion or listen 239 . My witty and brilliant brain is always on alert for possible topics. But occasionally. The ﬁrst step in the process is to come up with a topic.Column Creation I hate writing. OK. however. Let me warn you. which typically goes something like this: “Dear Jackie.
as you’ll recall. cut off part of his own ear. even with a killer. though. and sometimes she doesn’t show up. It is essential I keep up with events in case I am called to participate in them. That’s when. I am often driven to the edge of madness in my quest for perfection. even painful. The best such research occurs while I’m asleep. To be the very best humorist I can be. Like many a great artist. I haven’t gone quite that far. Those needs are usually best met in my favorite chair. I invest a lot of time in sleeping. endeavor. but my deprived fans soon demanded I resume writing witty and brilliant columns. but I have been known to pluck stray chin hairs while I wait for my creative muse to strike. Other times. When I’ve slept enough to come up with a humdinger of a topic.Days of Derangement to a presidential debate—that they practically hit me upside the head. sleep-induced topic. I have to conduct in-depth topic research. I gave it my best shot. So I spend some time considering my physical imperfections. My muse is fairly ﬁckle. I awaken and head to my home ofﬁce to begin writing. Van Gogh. Not long ago. for example. So I left the economy in the hands of the ﬁnancial geniuses who’ve been running it so far. DC to try to ﬁx the economy. A prime focus lately has been the unwanted hair that’s suddenly appearing in places no hair had 240 . which is conveniently placed in front of the TV to allow me to keep up with world events. I can’t quite begin writing. I was forced to suspend my column-creation campaign and ﬂy to Washington. Being a columnist on the cutting edge of the whole work/life balance thing (as all your best columnists are). and I returned to my easy chair. Writing can be a grueling. I have a ﬂexible ofﬁce space that moves around to meet my needs.
241 . It’s tough to be witty and brilliant when faced with such a problem. That’s probably why Van Gogh cut off his ear. he saw hair growing out of it. Maybe I could write a column about that.Column Creation gone before.
they should be positioned so they are not visible from other rooms of the house. 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. a couch. 242 . Couches should be soft and wide enough so you do not feel as if you’re going to fall off. you need the right kind of personality: starchy. First. And I’m not just your ordinary. just in case you’re living with one of those fanatic. I’ve got that in spades. I’m a connoisseur of couch-potato technique. of course. And ideally. run-of-the-mill sofa spud. While the main accessory for being a couch potato is. there are other essential ingredients. with no danger of the dreaded pretzel twist. The best receptacles for couch-potato champions like me are long enough to accommodate the entire body in a horizontal position. high-energy people who never play potato.Couch Potato Confessions I ’m ashamed to admit that I’m a couch potato.
are a dead giveaway. if someone stumbles upon your spudly snooze. I can pretend to be improving my mind while indulging my lazy body. But blankets. That way.Couch Potato Confessions Next. You need those cute little decorated sofa pillows that are designed to stay on the couch. if someone unexpectedly interrupts your snoozing. You need pillows. I prefer. A blanket is also an essential element of today’s successful lounge lizard.) 243 . (Just remember to hurriedly smooth your tell-tale bed head. Then. 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. being actual bed accessories. and no one will be the wiser. That would indicate a premeditated intention to spend disgraceful periods of time as a potato person. you can quickly sit up. Then. But you don’t want to use your regular bed pillows. wipe the drool off your chin and nod intently at the educational TV program you were obviously using to enhance your brain power. you need a TV. naturally. however. you can casually throw your covering across the arm of the couch as a decorative accent. you can at least appear to be doing something when you’re in horizontal heaven. If someone—say a man’s wife—asks him to do something annoying such as take out the trash. Other accessories are also helpful in attaining the ultimate in couch-potato comfort. to have educational TV programs playing on the set. That way. a sofa-spud spouse can legitimately claim to be watching a very important (and very long) game. Many men like to have sports playing on the television while they snooze away the hours in non-productive loaﬁng.
you may think I have too much time on my hands. I’m feeling a bit drowsy right now. Actually. Pass me that afghan. I often come up with great column ideas during my couchpotato periods. Not at all! In fact.Days of Derangement Because I know so much about being a couch potato. 244 .
I drink more than a few beverages. however. As someone who would almost rather undergo a root canal than attend such events (I said almost). I spend time standing in a line of women waiting to get into our designated comfort station.Ladies Room Rebel I was recently compelled to attend yet another professional sporting event. legs are crossed and eyeballs beginning to ﬂoat before we even make it to the restroom door. That’s how it was when I was in an unusually long line that snaked past the men’s room. this means I also spend quite a bit of time in the ladies room. where there was no line. We had to watch dozens of males stroll in without encountering any delay in doing their business. Not surprisingly. In some cases. I like to kill time when I’m there by making frequent trips to the concession stand. 245 . Where there is never a line. Most of us. To wash down all the junk food I’m eating. are none too comfortable. We waiting women began to glare at the men and seethe at the injustice of it all. That’s the place where the team owner charges almost as much for cellulite-friendly food as my dentist charges for a root canal. Actually.
She stepped forward. was fortunate enough to have followers to back up his brave bid for freedom. we also need extra time in the loo (another British term) to stand around powdering our noses.” she announced.Days of Derangement Finally. 246 . Due to certain anatomical differences. But still. “I’m not waiting in this line any longer. “Bigger bathrooms! Yeah!” So must have begun the American experiment with democracy when the Founding Fathers. “Yeah!” we shouted in agreement. Our ladies’ room rebel had to enter the arena alone. standing outside the ladies’ lounge with my legs crossed. “Why isn’t the women’s bathroom twice as big as the men’s?” Why indeed. however. men need far less space than women to. we had one. It was like watching George Washington crossing the Delaware River. a tall.” And due to certain personality differences. I sensed that revolution was in the air. who probably never had to wait for a toilet stall. And suddenly. So much for revolution. All we needed was a leader. “spend a penny. expressed similar outrage over inequality. They might have been a little more eloquent about it than we were. That’s why we need much larger public restrooms. The rest of us—ladylike lemmings afraid of the sight of urinals—continued to toe the line. one lady posed aloud the question we’d all been asking ourselves. lining our lips and talking about feelings and other things I cannot disclose here. as the British say.” She strode purposefully into the male inner sanctum as we gasped in admiration. Washington. as the line inched forward only slightly. conﬁdent-looking woman in stylish boots. “I’m using the men’s room.
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. There’s too much fun going on out there on the Internet. for example. who will undoubtedly need to do follow-up studies. Apparently. these experts discovered that a majority of men do indeed gaze at the girls when they ﬁrst meet a woman. 247 . they really did spend serious scientiﬁc time studying this.Fake Brain The lesson here is you can’t expect users to learn. especially if you are a researcher studying topics crucial to the well-being of humanity. I feel really good knowing that such scientiﬁc knowledge is out there to assist future researchers. 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. Take. Yes. and shockingly. —Pete Lindstrom I t’s good to be a researcher. You might also be surprised to ﬁnd out these two studies are not linked. we are not becoming a nation of idiots because half of us don’t realize the other half have faces.
such as checking out the latest in silly scientiﬁc studies or reading the newest SPAM email in my inbox. I make a concerted effort to sit down with a book. because I have recently embarked on an experiment in which I try to read a book for one hour each day. I don’t know whether reading for an hour a day is making me smarter. Smart people used to put worthwhile information in them before all those smart people were recruited to conduct research on boob boys. but most of my reading has been done in little snippets of time I would steal here and there for the printed page. I’d never actually given up reading books altogether. I’m especially interested in this. 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. If everyone else is like me. 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. at least.Days of Derangement It’s because of all the time we spend online. Or maybe I should store all the stupid stuff in my real 248 . folks. But I can tell that my once sponge-like mind has been marred by my Internet habit. Now. My mind wanders after a few minutes of sustained reading. I had missed the leisurely experience of immersing myself in a book. and I feel a strong urge to ﬂip over to something else. pre-Internet people. where we tend to skim through a lot of trivial data instead of actually absorbing worthwhile information. You remember books. we could be in real trouble. but it is at least relaxing. I’m ﬁnding it very difﬁcult to concentrate and absorb all the knowledge so painstakingly amassed by those primitive.
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. 249 . Of course. I might as well install other fake body parts as well.Fake Brain brain. which is probably past repair anyway.
like any average middle-age American woman. you absolutely love football. for the sake of discussion.) 250 .) If you are such a woman.Football Goes Feminine S uppose. concerns such as spreading cellulite. Because I am such a woman (except that I don’t have even a smidgen of cellulite). I have no cellulite). you undoubtedly spend your fall weekends in front of the television. you are an average middle-age woman with the everyday concerns typical of your kind. I’ve spent several years wallowing each autumn in every minute of televised football I can get my eyes on. Actually. (Time to change the pan. middle-of-the-night victim of a toilet seat that was left in an upright position. watching enough football to make even Hank Williams Jr. having been an average middle-age woman for quite some time now (except. (Please insert a pan under this column to catch dripping sarcasm before it makes a mess. And say that. and his rowdy friends a little sick of the sport. let me remind you. that’s exactly what I do during football season. a shrinking bank account and the possibility you will be the soggy.
Fully clothed women and children ran amuck in these commercials. Then the TV would cut to a commercial for a pickup truck. average middle-age woman. for a change of pace. very manly men drive very large. The advertisers are targeting you. during which very large. and by this point. It wasn’t that long ago that football commercials pushed only two products: beer and pickup trucks. I counted a gourmet coffee commercial. The commercials are going coed. Next. you’d have several more pickup commercials. as well as one pushing sandwiches with organic roasted vegetables and one for a credit card featuring people buying theater tickets. 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. But all that has changed. which protected them so well they did not need padding. like grill burgers or leer at women in bikinis or scratch themselves in public. 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. You’d have several minutes of football. 251 . That’s right. very manly pickups. The beer commercials tout drinkability and a reduction in calories. and you’d watch very large. 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.Football Goes Feminine And I’ve noticed something interesting. you—the average middle-age woman—were starting to feel left out. followed by more beer commercials.
if not feminine. Not that I’ll need it.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. 252 . Football would appear to be going. at least a bit metrosexual. Soon. there will no doubt be half-time commercials promising to wipe away cellulite.
there is only one Right Way to Weigh Yourself. with ample parking in the back. waxing ecstatic over every lost pound. M 253 . As everyone knows. y husband and I regularly try to lose weight. Naah. Funny Man has actually resorted to attempted judicial bribery. we’ve had to settle for whichever one of our children needs to get on the parental good side. As we are short of impartial judges willing to come into our bathroom. celebrating every time a stalk of celery took the place of a plate of cookies or bag of chips. because. You would think this would mean that we’d be very supportive of each other. presided over by an impartial judge who is supposed to record our weight each morning and ensure there is no cheating.Weighty Matters My body is a temple. I’m usually winning the weight competition. I don’t need to bribe the judge. We’re actually in a cutthroat competition to see who can get svelte (or maybe just slightly less lumpy) the quickest. That means we have to have a daily weigh-in. And I’ve done this while adhering to my spouse’s terribly unfair weighing system. however.
fails to notice that you have not yet let go of the towel bar. Let go of the towel bar very. 3. Brush the crud off your teeth. grip the towel bar tightly.Days of Derangement a highly sophisticated method that has worked beautifully for generations of women. the overage will increase exponentially with every pound. Look down at the dial and note your weight. Take off all of your clothes. 7. Calibrate the scale. When the ﬁrst foot is in place. 2. It is OK. Place one foot on the scale and slowly transfer your weight from the ﬂoor in a calm but deliberate movement. Go to the bathroom. Or. If you need support during this transition. Exhale. 8. 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). very slowly. Every ounce counts. who is late getting ready for school. 9. 5. 6. and this judge. including your underwear. lift the other foot and put it ever so gently on the scale as well. however. 4. This weigh-in procedure consists of the following steps: 1. 254 . so much the better. being careful not to swallow any water. Wake up. If it is even one hair’s breadth above the zero. if you have an impartial judge there to write down your weight.
This dangerous way to weigh has been known to startle a scale into adding ﬁve or 10 pounds to a woman’s real weight. my man adheres to The Wrong Way to Weigh Yourself. 2. medical ofﬁces and other places in which women hate to be weighed. 255 .Weighty Matters Unfortunately. Note your weight. This foolish procedure consists of only two wildly risky steps: 1. an imprudent process practiced at health clubs. And I sure don’t need that. Get on the scale.
Before we all became entangled in the Web. As you slide. you decide to go skiing. those people would take pictures of you with their cell phones (assuming they could stop laughing long enough). it malfunctions. Unfortunately. thanks to technology. your pants are pulled down.The Big Wee But I learned that there’s a certain character that can be built from embarrassing yourself endlessly. leaving you—bare-bottomed—dangling helplessly upside down. only the people who were there that day would have the pleasure of seeing you in such a predicament. for example. If you can sit happy with embarrassment. But now. while your boot and ski simultaneously become lodged in the lift. and the pictures 256 . —Christian Bale T he Internet has changed everything. Say. You arrive at the resort fully clothed. there’s not much else that can really get to you. and you hop aboard the chairlift. as most skiers do. causing you to slide through a gap between the seat and the chair back.
I was the oldest one in the class except for the instructor. those sane individuals who’ve never before put long. Sven showed us how to stop by pointing the tips of our skis in a V. Then everyone on the planet would have a chance to chortle at your chapped cheeks. That’s because I consider myself an embarrassment magnet. pronounced it “Wee. 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. Although I’m about half Sven’s age. 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. But Sven. I could only creep along like a crab. I kept thinking about this unfortunate fellow. If the chairlift butt exposure incident could happen to someone else. This actually happened a couple of years ago to a man in Colorado. a hale and hearty man named Sven. And having my dangling derriere gracing websites worldwide would not be a pretty picture. I looked nervously at the chairlift that was taking people to the mountaintop. On the way.The Big Wee would appear online before you’d even had time to warm up your freezing rear end. I was part of the “never ever” class. Sven was originally from Sweden. being Swedish.” 257 . I didn’t see anybody dangling upside down with bared buttocks. But I hadn’t gotten there yet. it could deﬁnitely happen to me. and he was 80—80!— years old. ﬂat devices on their feet and attempted to slide down a mountain on top of massive amounts of snow. And when I agreed to take a ski lesson.
This caused me to childishly giggle. I’d giggle some more. Eventually. until I—with my middle-age mom’s bladder—was in danger of making a different kind of wee than my instructor intended.Days of Derangement “Just make a big wee. 258 . after many hours of effort. Each time Sven said it. and my dignity. safely in place. You’ll be pleased to know I made it to the top of the mountain with my pants. I was sufﬁciently adept at making a big wee that I was taken. to the chairlift.” he kept shouting as I continually chose an alternative method of stopping—falling over. trembling. The Internet is certainly better for it.
In modern parlance. In the sweet summertime. I sometimes have the privilege of going on vacation with my friend Kathy and her family. Kathy and I have been pals since our children were babies. conferring with the ﬂowers. which is about as friendly a place as you’ll ﬁnd on this earth. I’d turn that into a catchy tune. at least until they bite you. is that it gives you the opportunity to get away from it all and reconnect with family and friends. we are BFFs (best friends forever. you can while away the hours. for those of you who still speak 259 . consulting with the rain. even the insects seem friendly. when the living is easy (that would make a great song lyric). (If I only had a brain.My BFF Lots of your friends want to ride with you in the limo. In North Carolina. but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.) Getting away from it all is just what I like to do in a cabin in rural North Carolina. —Oprah Winfrey W hat’s nice about the summertime.
When we get together. 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. “I absolutely hate my thighs. 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. we got even closer to Mama Earth when she brought a raging thunderstorm our way.” Kathy said glumly the last time we got together. How did that happen?” I nodded gravely. “I’ve discovered something I still like about my body. My wrists still look great! Notice how young and skinny my wrists are!” And lo and behold. On the walk. “Hey. And speaking of my knees. Kathy made a heartwarming discovery. I noticed that my own wrists still looked pretty darn attractive as well. and we spent another half hour lamenting the increasing force of gravity on our various body parts. and we had a great time conferring with Mother Nature. As we sat there in the ﬂickering candlelight. I suggested we go for a walk in the woods. I noticed on the drive up here that they’ve gotten very wrinkly.” she said excitedly. We found ourselves taking shelter in the basement of some friendly neighbors. listening to the storm above us and clutching our loved ones close.Days of Derangement actual English). Before we got too depressed. who didn’t even seem to notice that we’re all getting older. That night. 260 . “They’ve fallen down past my knees. holding out her arms for me to see. 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.
I’ll still want to share a front porch with my friend Kathy. when even our wrists no longer look young. our thighs look really good. 261 .” she said. She’ll always help you look on the bright side.” That’s what is so wonderful about a good BFF.My BFF “Hey. That’s why. “Down here in the dark.
As everyone over a certain age knows. ﬁctional TV characters on that beloved old sitcom The Andy Grifﬁth Show. On the show. the real Aunt Bea and Opie were. She was warm.Aunt Bea Goes Bonkers It’s not that chocolates are a substitute for love. comforting and pillowy soft. a community that proudly 262 . it gave you a nice feeling all over. When I watched the show as a child. Chocolate is. far more reliable than a man. And there was no person sweeter in Mayberry than Aunt Bea. NC. and she could cook up a storm. The world was a sweet. Love is a substitute for chocolate. Watching that program as a kid was about as good as eating warm-out-of-the-oven cookies washed down with cold milk. let’s face it. OK. —Miranda Ingram I saw Aunt Bea go a little bonkers. The make-believe Mayberry was based on Grifﬁth’s reallife hometown of Mount Airy. so it wasn’t the real Aunt Bea or the real Opie. I always wanted to climb up in her lap. well. simple place in Mayberry USA. And it was all Opie’s fault. Aunt Bea was Sheriff Andy Taylor’s aunt.
263 . Chocolate is to women what beer is to men. and it’s an even better thing for women. 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. And often. As you might have guessed. She really did look like Andy’s aunt—upswept hair. when denied her nostalgic nourishment. Chocolate single-handedly sustains the vital control-top panty industry. So I completely understood when an Aunt Bea look-alike walked into Opie’s Candy Store while I was there one day and. I came to my senses before I ended up in the Mayberry jail guarded by Barney. This is a good thing for children. a relative newcomer to the street. I had a childlike urge to climb into her lap. I am quite fond of the cocoa bean. Right beside Floyd’s is Opie’s Candy Store. Fortunately. Squirrel Nut Zippers and Big Hunk candy bars. Chocolate is nature’s Midol.Aunt Bea Goes Bonkers promotes its favorite son. 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. had a chocolate-triggered meltdown. Along Main Street in Mount Airy. you can get a trim and shave (assuming you are a man or a very hairy woman) in the real Floyd’s Barber Shop. you can visit Snappy Lunch and eat the same famous pork chop sandwich that Andy ate as a boy. For a moment. chocolate sings. While money talks. I have many of my own special memories bound up in chocolate. warm smile and pillowy soft frame. Opie’s also has many different kinds of chocolate. Next door. Chocolate is life.
“I’ve never forgotten how good they tasted. a young man apparently unaware of the dangers of depriving a woman of her desired form of chocolate. distinctly non-Aunt Beaish look. “I came speciﬁcally from Florida for them!” she told everyone in the room. to sweat profusely. “I came speciﬁcally from Florida for Opie’s chocolate-covered caramels!” she said loudly. empty-handed. kindly informed her the store was temporarily out of that item. Then she added the kicker. beaming. And again. Her face took on a crazed. She ordered the clerk to check in the back for more caramels. “I had them years ago when I was here with my children” she told him. her voice forlorn. When he returned. “And I’m in menopause!” The clerk looked bewildered. 264 . Aunt Bea began to tremble and. she said it yet again.Days of Derangement Aunt Bea’s clone looked around the store several times. shockingly. then approached the clerk and asked where to ﬁnd the chocolatecovered caramels. giving her an understanding pat on the arm.” The clerk. The other customers clutched their candy closer. The real Aunt Bea would have done no less. Then she said it again. but the other female customers gently guided our suffering sister out the door.
Aunt Bea Goes Bonkers 265 .
“We must all hang together. I made that last part up.” Franklin famously said “or. Franklin actually reminded his fellow signers that the cantankerous King George III would not be happy with their declaration. most assuredly. It was a moving experience. “Give me good potato salad or give me death!” OK. we shall all hang separately. 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 . We had an enthusiastic National Park Service guide who gave us all the salient historical details and then threw in some interesting tidbits. always throwing a wet blanket on the festivities.” Good old Ben. 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.
which he ignored just like my own children always did. making everyone jump in their seats. he made his own little declaration of independence. I kept thinking about a boy who’d been on our ﬂight into Philadelphia the day before. everyone was aware of this child because he was loud and boisterous. “Turbulence!” I turned around and gave him my most severe maternal look. His tired-looking mother tried to shush him. “Turbulence!” After touring Independence Hall. so I was royally perturbed when this young ﬁrecracker sat directly behind me on the plane. Sure enough. Our horse was 267 . Before we even boarded the ﬂight. but as she walked away. He carried a small American ﬂag and wore a plastic derby hat festooned with stars and stripes. After several more outbursts. he did it again. he exploded. “Turbulence!” he yelled happily. shortly into the ﬂight. the ﬂight attendant came by and admonished him.Turbulence Our guide described the turmoil swirling around Philadelphia in July of 1776 as the Continental Congress debated the Declaration. He was about eight years old and dressed in patriotic garb. pointing excitedly at the airplanes. Standing in the hallowed room where that document and the United States Constitution were signed. we took a horse-drawn carriage ride around historic Philadelphia. but a few minutes later. I was tired that day and feeling about as cranky as the king. He grinned appealingly at her and nodded as if he would comply. waving his ﬂag and shouting every sentence.
and Ben pointed out this innovation was not in use in Revolutionary times. 268 . there was only one thing to say as we passed him. who even in old age was apparently quite a ﬁrecracker himself. “Turbulence!” Franklin would probably have loved that kid. 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. As we ended our ride and got out of the carriage. Anyway. who should arrive for the next ride but the brash boy from the ﬂight. and our driver was Ben. Naturally. Spot had a bag placed strategically below his business end. still wearing his hat and waving the ﬂag. Ben the driver regaled us with the exploits of Ben Franklin.Days of Derangement named Spot.
Spelling is handled haphazardly. They are highly civilized. the Brits have a chance to pick off yet another descendent of those ill-mannered colonists. rich in culture and history. with the letter u added to words—like colour and honour—that have no 269 . It labels what is clearly a cookie as a biscuit and what is brazenly a biscuit as a scone. It calls potato chips crisps and French fries chips. as well. If you manage to survive this drive-by assassination attempt. My family went on a trip a few years ago to Merry Olde England. they’d be a perfect people. and I’m sorry to report that her inhabitants still insist on driving on the left side of the road. Despite having been native English speakers for quite some time. If only they’d learn to drive correctly and speak the language properly. This is their way of paying America back for that little matter of a tea-party tantrum. the Queen’s loyal subjects will then do their best to make you loopy with their lingo.Hail Britannia I ’m a big fan of the English. as one member or another of my family did repeatedly. England has apparently failed to develop along appropriate linguistic lines. Every time one of us Yanks looks the wrong way when crossing a road over there and steps into oncoming trafﬁc.
circular breakfast item deceptively named Black Pudding.Days of Derangement business with a u. The Pig’s Blood Affair. in spite of a few foibles. We went to palaces and castles. This was served with what is apparently used to ﬂavor all food in England. They were simply seeking more tasty cuisine. But I assured my crew that. And so we set out to savor the civilization that produced both Shakespeare and the Spice Girls. paintings and sculpture far older than our own country. We heard exciting tales of monarchy and mayhem. of queens who lost their heads. almost spoiled our appetite for exploring the Sceptre’d Isle. the ubiquitous Brown Sauce. We gazed upon statues. We trembled with terror at the thousand-year-old Tower of London as we listened to stories of long-ago torture in the dungeons. popularly known as a Beefeater. 270 . And an extra e is sprinkled into all sorts of words that would be far better off without it. Then there is the bizarre nature of British food. 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. kings (like a certain multi-wived Henry and the cranky. On our ﬁrst morning in London. It’s enough to keep an American on the other side of the pond. museums and galleries. we each bravely ate a dark. Our mouths fell open with wonder as we checked out the crown jewels and marveled at the majesty. No wonder these poor people tried to colonize the world in earlier times. the English are a lovely and lively bunch. A colorfully dressed Yeoman Guard at the tower. while re is used to spell words that everyone knows need an er. Black Pudding is a sausage made by cooking pig’s blood with a ﬁller until it is thick enough to congeal when cooled. Turns out.
You’ve got to love the British. wasn’t built in a day. We also paid a call to that most iconic of English institutions.Hail Britannia cheerfully reminded the uncouth Americans in the crowd that if we’d simply paid our taxes. Rome. The English spend a great deal of time drinking very dark. But maybe we just need to give them some more time. 271 . This explains their legendary jolliness and also explains why they haven’t gotten around to correcting their driving or spelling systems. And Britannia may yet rule the waves. all the culture and history at which we were agog could still be ours. very strong beer in pubs with names that start with Ye. the pub. after all. If she could only give up the Black Pudding.
and the princesses are parading more than their tiaras. sporting thigh-highs.The Scariest Costume O ne year when my kids were still young enough to care. The witches were wearing very little. I promised them. And Goldilocks. There were naughty nurses with uniforms so low-cut they could induce heart failure. and a deviant housewife ensemble that seemed ill-suited for mopping ﬂoors. after much begging on their part. 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. with a few adult modiﬁcations. all of them offering a shrink-wrapped style that ranged from sexy to slutty to skanky. Or maybe I’d reprise my polyester princess phase. I searched through dozens of costumes. with her plunging neckline and platform 272 . Maybe. I found that the hags have turned to hoochies. But when I went costume shopping with my family. was deﬁnitely not headed to her grandmother’s house. that I’d dress up for Halloween. I thought. Little Red Riding Hood.
But my vixen vanished when I saw the looks of horror on the faces of my children. I could cover myself with foil marked as leftovers. My Halloween attire would have to be homemade. I am 273 . I could include one they’d ﬁnd highly useful on occasion—Mute Mom. 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. Or I could pose as a giant red spoon with Betty Crocker scrawled across my forehead. Mom in a minidress was too monstrous an idea. And. Or maybe I could stick some toy tires on my arms and legs and masquerade as a minivan. There’d be a Full-time Football button and a Constant Cartoons knob. I wear a disguise every day. something funny and familiar. in a way. I went with something very simple. I considered buying one of these outﬁts. Or. still in need of a disguise. Every morning. I could cut a circle out of a laundry basket and insert it over my body. I pondered my predicament. actually mulled over the suggestion on the package of one costume that I channel my inner vixen. I realized that. 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. or maybe even slightly scary. along with one labeled Law and Order 24/7. the kind of eye candy that would spark my gang’s gratitude. for laughs. For the briefest of moments. with pieces of dirty clothing dangling from clothespins. I could remind them of all that I do. It was all more strip club than storybook. looked ready to sleep in everyone’s bed. In the end. But not salacious. So.The Scariest Costume heels. or perhaps soothing and sweet.
So I decided to skip that step and stroll the streets as myself. I paint my face. And my kids thought that was the scariest costume of all. 274 . I get dressed up in slimming garb designed to trick people into thinking I’m a treat.Days of Derangement transformed from a bleary-eyed creature straight out of Night of the Living Dead into something resembling an attractive human being. and I ﬁx my hair.
And like me. you have a deep. your children will spend years in expensive therapy that you’ll have to pay for!” Maybe the announcer doesn’t say exactly those words. Otherwise. 275 .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. a craft-impaired individual who was not told before becoming a parent that part of the job entailed coming up with homemade Halloween costumes. 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.
For little boys. 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. You’ll have lots of choices. Parenting has become a competitive sport (soon to be an event in the Olympics). 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. my friend. you costume-defective parent. 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. the way your parents did.Days of Derangement This resentment is so deep that it’s in one of those places that people don’t talk about at parties. streamers of this resentment shoot up and cause considerable heartburn. 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. and when you hear those words on television. but it’s deﬁnitely there. But do not think that you’re done. Buy the costume and hustle on out of the mall. 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. so stop whining about your heartburn and focus on the task at hand. No. and all the Martha clones will want to be your friend. But no one will feel sorry for you. 276 .
I’m glad I could help. 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. 277 . which will no longer cause you heartburn because everyone will consider you to be cool and crafty.
278 . Martha Stewart will be proud of me. goes my fantasy. There will be no chaos this year. my mother-in-law will eat crow along with the succulent turkey I place on her plate. We’ll be giddy with gratitude at Thanksgiving. Gone will be the snickers brought on by past disasters. and the pies mighty with meringue.Of Mice and Martha I invented ‘It’s a good thing’ before you were even born. and I will bask in the awe accorded domestic doyennes such as Martha and me. Order will prevail in my world of good things and gracious living. We’ll gather before a table tastefully turned out and groaning with good food. no crush of time bearing down on us like a frenetic freight train. I envision a holiday season infused with peace. the green beans and sweet potatoes dressed up for the occasion. I harvest a new crop of hope that’s been watered by an abundance of denial. The cranberries will be expertly jelled. I ﬁnd myself vowing. saturated with a spirit of thankfulness and goodwill. —Martha Stewart E very year at the beginning of November.
By December. the rolls run amok with assistance from my brawling brats. The piecrusts will pucker. My in-laws will leave with empty stomachs and wagging tongues. there’ll be parties for hosting in my immaculately clean house. are dreamers. a stylishly dressed angel of ambiance. consulting her books for guidance. whispering in my ear. Thanksgiving Day will dawn as gray and gelatinous as my gravy. but I prefer to think of it as eternal optimism. the meringue meander. like me. marshmallows for toasting and chestnuts for roasting. My joyfully jingle-belling children will make delightful decorations. It will truly be the most wonderful time of the year. I’ll be walking on the dark side. My mistakes will be of the classic variety: the cranberries will quiver. I’ll burn the cookies and scald the eggnog. however. Failure will not be an option.Of Mice and Martha At Christmas time. My hopeful harvest will soon begin to wither. I’ll turn to Martha for help. She will perch on my shoulder. those for whom the best-laid plans of mice and Martha almost always go awry. and the beans and potatoes lie limp. The gifts I have purchased will be hidden away so well that they are forgotten. Loved ones will gather near. will spurt ice-cold juices from the depths of his still-frozen interior. when pierced. Some people excel at execution. under the heat of seasonal expectations. and hearts will radiate good cheer and glad tidings. If tradition holds. The dogs will manage to knock over the Christmas tree almost every day. Psychiatrists have another term for such delusions. There’ll be cookie baking and eggnog making. 279 . And old Tom Turkey. others.
280 . Martha. somewhere in the midst of all the un-Martha-like mayhem. she’ll want more. And still. promising her the world. I will suddenly have a much better understanding of the Grinch. 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. Yet.Days of Derangement and I will hurry out to buy more. “Mom. wondering how I can be so disgustingly disorganized. And that’s a good thing. and old Ebenezer Scrooge won’t seem like such a bad guy. “it’s Christmas!” And suddenly. on Christmas Day. I will crumple under her pressure like ill-conceived origami. Peace and calm will give way to panic. nothing else mattered. I’ll remember young and eager ﬁngers that used to tickle me awake.” they’d whisper. My Christmas spirit will spring a leak. and breathless voices full of wonder from children who didn’t care that I wasn’t the queen of homemaking.
to drink in the clear. 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 salivated at the smell as we offered up our thanks. delirious with the joy of being out of school and unsupervised. they stood around waiting to begin the traditional male holiday jobs of eating and sleeping. to feast and frolic. Everything began beautifully. The men did what men do on such occasions. The women scurried about preparing the meal. When all was ready. noses running. And 281 . We were giddy with gratitude. hands and feet ﬂying. We headed to the woods like modern-day Pilgrims. The children sprinted around outside. we gathered before a table groaning with good food. This is what happened to my family one Thanksgiving. of course. a calamitously clogged commode and enough tension to earn a spot on the Jerry Springer Show.Plunging into Thanksgiving W hat do you get when you take a dozen family members of varying ages and degrees of regularity. cold air and give thanks for all our blessings.
the terrible news came from a single. when Congress mandated that toilets should ﬂush with a measly 1. then gave a strong pull that sent him ﬂying across the room and left the kids helpless with laughter. 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.5 gallons that swirled through our childhoods. Today’s children. we ate some more. as the patriarch. By scrambled. sloshing way every creature dragging more than a ton would scramble. The men began the task of conquering the cranky commode.6 gallons of water. the rolling. deprived of the 3. And ate. The youngest child emerged from the bathroom shouting excitedly. He pumped vigorously with the plunger. headed up the attack. small voice. 282 . When we eventually arrived. and overworked digestive systems begin the Herculean task of breaking down all that food. I mean the sea lion’s scramble. As it often does. And when we were bloated like beached whales. are far too well-acquainted with the plunger. History will record the ‘90s as the decade of the bum rap. “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. we gathered soberly around the overworked toilet. The trouble began in the magic hour when men assume their positions on the couch to catch the kickoffs. and bladders threatened to burst. Grandpa. We scrambled toward the bathroom to assess the situation. every corpuscle groaning from the gluttony.Days of Derangement then we ate. Tempers rose.
but would not back down. where the call of nature got a grateful reply. resurfaced as brother betrayed brother. sadly. Brooking no dissent. Legs and expressions were crossed. but. watching all their hard work laid waste. slights delivered years ago. The latrine gurgled and grunted. The men began to bicker over possession of the plunger. 283 . Sweating and muttering curses.Plunging into Thanksgiving Each football-deprived man then took his turn as a toilet tamer. we attempted to assign blame. The family was falling apart. daughters cast aspersions on mothers. Accusations of tissue overuse were hurled. and we headed for the nearest service station. The children eagerly took part in our vicious ﬁnger pointing designed to identify the guilty clogger. she ordered everyone into their vehicles. and sanitary practices questioned. and eyeballs appeared to be ﬂoating. each wielded it like a samurai sword as he took his turn in battle. and in-laws were made to feel like outsiders. That’s when Grandma stepped in. Old insults and resentments. did what moms do best. the effort was ﬂush with failure. The women.
forgiving elastic like the kind that seems to increasingly be found in the waistbands of my clothes. Elastic hides 284 . I am not immune. another thing for which I am truly thankful. Speaking of loose and comfy PJs. which taught me a quaint skill called spelling. 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 like to consider the things for which I am thankful. This skill makes it impossible for me to decipher my kids’ text messages. however. This grammatical giftedness is a result of my education. I am also most thankful for ﬂexible. I am very thankful for the Internet.Things For Which I Am Thank ful A round Thanksgiving. to the beneﬁts of technology. low-tech items called books. 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. and for this I am again most thankful. My education relied heavily on old-fashioned. I am thankful for my memory.
I am thankful for my mother. those people will be going to her house instead of mine. It doesn’t get much better than that. I am grateful for gravy. I am thankful for those tasty substances that cause it. In particular. Perhaps then my life wouldn’t be as strained as this goofy metaphor I’m beating into the ground here. 285 . who is a gravy grand master. Perhaps when my life gets lumpy. that warm. It doesn’t get the gratitude that it deserves. But I’ve come to realize lately that gravy is much more than that. Other times. I should sift it with thankfulness the same way my grandma used to strain her gravy. Gravy is actually a symbol for my life. a rich. during the holidays. And every Thanksgiving. Speaking of a multitude of ﬂaws. People come from miles around to sample my mother’s gravy. Sometimes my life ﬂows along smoothly. ﬂavorful stream of goodness. Just about the only thing I’ll have to do is show up wearing my elastic pants. speaking of gravy. Anyway. a fact for which I am deeply thankful as it means I won’t have to clean my house. gelatinous mess in desperate need of a sanity strainer. Perhaps you’re wondering what on earth I’m talking about. it turns into a lumpy. Perhaps you haven’t been paying attention. Perhaps I’ve said “perhaps” once too often. This is a much more profound statement than you realize. luscious sauce that coats my taste buds and then goes on to coat my hips. while I am deﬁnitely not appreciative of cellulite. 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.
snug in their beds While dozens of toy commercials dance in their heads. with my hair in a cap. When out near my lawn. Nick will drop her off on some beach. The dog chewed the stockings I left in her reach. Not a gift has been bought. I’m too seasonally stressed for even a short winter’s nap. So sweet of her to do that… ‘Tis a few weeks ‘til Christmas and all through my house. I tripped over last year’s toys to see what was the matter. there arose such a clatter. I’m hoping St. and I’m feeling like a louse. And me in my stained sweatpants. After the poem appeared in the hometown newspaper of one of Funny Man’s old girlfriends. she just had to call to check on his welfare. My children nestle each night.‘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. 286 .
‘til I felt very wary. too. 287 . When they rush to the stores. Tore a hole in those sweatpants. His eyes. I fell with a crash. When what to my weary eyes should appear. on my leg was a gash. I heard on the roof The prancing and pawing of his big. my husband he ﬂew To the housetop with more lights. Sliding off the roof. He was dressed in his grubbies. And then. Put up by my neighbor. But a bundle of lights he still held on his back And he looked ready to kill when he gave me that sack. awkward hoof. in a manner so lively and quick. When I whistled and shouted and called them by name. Now Boy and Girl! Now Bad Dancer and Little Vixen! On Retailers’ Dreams! On Merchandisers’ Minions! Put more lights on the porch. Now his clothes were tarnished with leaves and a root. more lights on the walls! We must impress the neighbors—now dash away all! As dry leaves that before the manic shoppers’ eyes ﬂy. at my bidding. Gave a luster of true tackiness to my fake falling snow. my children they came. from his head to his foot. The moon on the tops of inﬂatable decorations below. how they glared at me. So the next day. my husband came with a bound. in a twinkling.‘Tis a Few Weeks ‘Til Christmas Down hard on the ﬂoor. I knew in a moment our Yuletide décor needed a kick. and a bad attitude. As I rushed outside and was turning around. But a miniature plastic sleigh with eight phony reindeer. panic mounting to the sky. Slightly more rapid than turtles.
Days of Derangement His cheeks. like the down of a thistle. if I valued myself. The frown on his face and the twist of his head Soon gave me to know I had something to dread. usually a jolly old elf. His not-so-droll mouth told me his anger I did sow And I feared that his temper. But I didn’t dare laugh at him then. but he pointed his ﬁnger at my nose And shaking his head. it surely would blow. he’d given up on this work. I started to speak. He’s a bit chubby and plump. to the dog gave a whistle And the children scattered. A stray piece of grass he picked out of his teeth. He fell into bed. up to our bedroom he rose.” 288 . He spoke not a word. It shook when he moaned like a bowl full of jelly. He brushed off the leaves circling his head like a wreath. they were burning as red as a cherry. He had a mad face and his little round belly. But I heard them exclaim as they dove out of sight. “Poor Dad! He’s not going to have a good night. he turned with a jerk. With a hand on his sore back.
Claus): All I want for Christmas is more of me. I need four or ﬁve clones. But alas.All I Want for Christmas Is Me D ear Robustly Round Man in the Unﬂattering Outﬁt (formally known as Mr. that there would be plenty of me to go around. That way. One child typically needs a little lifting up. My body begs to be exercised. judging by the way I tip the scales lately. that part is not true. I need to clean my house. One dog usually needs to go out. 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. I need a clone. I need to write out Christmas cards and bake cookies and do my holiday shopping. even the more-than-ample middle-age version of me can’t quite seem to ﬁll the bill. Actually. The laundry cries out to be laundered. (OK. I need to go to work. This is not as egotistical as it sounds. During the holiday season. but it should beg to be exercised). You see. Santa. and the other dog needs to come in. and the other child a little 289 . You would think.
So get right on that. My husband can’t ﬁnd any clean socks (due to that crying laundry). My car sometimes won’t start. Don’t bring me bon-bons or baubles. you right jolly old elf. I’ll have to tell Mrs. I don’t need another set of frilly pajamas or a soft new sweater. with plenty of time for joyful jingle-belling. They could wash the clothes. That really would make it the most wonderful time of the year. is more of me. as well as go to work and hit the gym (better them than me). Santa. And my Mister Coffee gives up the ghost and leaves me uncaffeinated and in need of a strait jacket. I sure don’t need another household appliance. 290 . So. cookie-baking and eggnogmaking. They would leave me free to enjoy the holidays. The plants are usually wilting. Sweet Saint Nick. My mother is sometimes mad at me. and ﬁnally give my mother-in-law a well-deserved piece of my mind. My mother-in-law is always mad at me. forget the fruitcake. I might even ﬁnd time for marshmallow toasting and chestnut roasting. answer the phone and water the plants. But don’t let me catch one of my clones kissing you under the tree. bathe the dogs. They could smooth things over with my mother. My clones could cook and clean. So next Christmas. leave me a few clones on Christmas morning.Days of Derangement dressing down. What I need. if you would. I don’t think it’s too much to ask. and I am often missing a shoe. Claus. The phone is always ringing. And that is only one day.
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. It’s not that we wanted to sail around the sea for a few days eating everything in sight. as the boat we came in on. So we must have been on a mission from God. Fortunately. we needed drinks to wash down all that “free” food. We ate and we ate. when presented with limitless amounts of food on board ship. Then we poured more money into the cruise line coffers 291 . The human psyche is a funny thing. we fell to eating as if we were famine victims. Despite having inhaled enough calories during the holidays to keep Paris Hilton alive into the next millennium. Naturally.Cruise Control I f the Good Lord had wanted us to eat sensibly right after the holidays. there were always smiling attendants nearby to bring us round after round of beverages that were deﬁnitely not free. We certainly didn’t choose to arrive home after our gluttonous voyage weighing about the same. we ate some more. in tonnage. He wouldn’t have invented the cruise ship. And when we were bloated and seemingly unable to cram in one more bite.
you are bound to discover that quite a few of these friends are sporting furry chests. 292 . Each man was encouraged to strut his stuff. not even at bingo. er. After a few hours. When you are cruising with thousands of your closest friends. we stuffed our bodies into bathing suits and rolled on to the deck. But. An astonishing number of these. But I managed to select a winner. we’d worked up enough of an appetite to devour platefuls of food at the midnight buffet. and then my family and I headed back to the buffet. The next day. wriggling and jiggling his chest and various other body parts for my enjoyment. just when we were beginning to feel hunger pangs. the great white whale in Moby Dick. That’s when the cruise director began to look for the “lucky” woman who would be required to select the best bushy chest. I never win anything—not the lottery. careful not to fall overboard lest we be mistaken for well-fed sea lions. sure enough. It was almost enough to ruin my appetite. every hair bristling with excitement. hunks took the stage for the contest. and by that time. the ship’s staff roused us for a hairy chest contest. many of which are accompanied by bald heads and very round bellies. not a makeover. a dashing and slender man who gazed upon us the way I imagine Captain Ahab must have looked at his prey. where we sunned our globular ﬂesh. Luck was certainly not a lady to me that day. I “won” the right to judge the shaggy strivers before me. after a hearty breakfast.Days of Derangement by visiting the casino and the onboard shopping mall. That night. we donned formal wear—leaving the zippers open—and went to meet the captain.
we had pictures taken to commemorate our nautical adventure. is six months OLDER than I am. I needed a larger portion of the bed. who. I must point out.Cruise Control Then—surprise. the young man who waited on us referred more than once to the picture of “you and your son. speaking between clenched teeth and glaring at my highly amused husband. Funny Man foolishly took to calling me “Mom” for the rest of the cruise. 293 .” Each time. When we visited the ship’s portrait gallery the next day to order copies. I corrected him. not only because I was mad at him but because. Once we got home. he got to sleep on the couch. surprise—we sat down to a sumptuous dinner and shortly thereafter. for some reason.
Having lived with them for quite some time. These resolutions stay the same year after year. buoyed by research that shows that onethird of these well-meaning intentions don’t even last a month. I wasn’t going to be out there on the paving crew with the rest of you.Rover Resolutions Life is a series of dogs. Surprisingly. as my dogs are still trying to achieve them: 294 . I resolved to be realistic. —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. thinkers (with an apparent appetite for alliteration). I did. I know just how they think. and I didn’t make any resolutions. here are the Papandrew Pups’ Rover Resolutions. So without further ado. And he was right. decide to translate the goofy New Year’s resolutions of my two dogs. if limited. however. they are fairly eloquent. So one January.
So we will borrow a page from the kitty playbook and cover our tracks so we don’t get caught.Rover Resolutions 1. We will learn to imitate the subtlety of our foe. The repercussions just aren’t worth it. 2. and. Grandma’s bouquet is very boring. We will become more sophisticated combatants in the war of the noses. that delectable repository of delight the humans call The Trash. we’ll do our trash trolling in the presence of the wonderfully clueless biped called Funny Boy. When we justiﬁably launch a blistering volley of barking designed to alert our family to this brazen intrusion. We will emulate the enemy. Better to stick to the malodorous males. leaving the humans to look at us as if we’re stupid. We will not attempt to smell the private parts of the crotchety human named Grandma. We’ll devise a way to stick our snouts into areas requiring snifﬁng without being swatted. and he doesn’t appear at all upset if we smell interesting areas on his body. We will win the war of the noses. This includes the canine Holy Grail. the neighborhood cat who prances spitefully on our front porch right before our eyes. Instead. due to excessive use of a nasty people product apparently called soap. No longer will we openly 295 . the clever cat seems to vanish into thin air. He doesn’t seem to mind if we get into The Trash. 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. We will never cease and desist.
This would not be necessary if our human was in better shape and could run with us. Maybe that should be one of his New Year’s resolutions. though. We will take pity on the inferior joints of the somewhat heavy human known as Dad and go easy on him during our walks. This is a perfectly normal act that is very effective in scratching annoying anal itches. she howls like our wolf ancestors and kicks us out of the house for unreasonable periods of time.Days of Derangement drag our backsides across the carpet. And ﬁnally: 3. 296 . We’ll let him know. a cat or. We will do a better job of walking the man. We will think like a cat and be more subtle. 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 fragrant splotch of road kill. But when Mom sees us doing this. a squirrel. if we get a whiff of another dog. All bets are off. best of all.
It’s an obvious test of the depth of men’s romantic tendencies.Holiday of the Heart Anyone can be passionate. sadly. a light will begin to dawn. God love him. and. women have to begin the arduous process of focusing their men’s attention on something far more important: Valentine’s Day. but it takes real lovers to be silly. 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 . dripping wet. There’s a reason Cupid’s commemoration comes so soon after the Super Bowl. As he steps out. is no exception. —Rose Franken E very year when football season is ﬁnally over. My husband. it’s a test they fail more often than a Cosmo magazine relationship quiz. 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.
I received a bottle of stretchmark-treating cocoa butter clearly purchased last minute at the nearest 24-hour drugstore. big mistake. always been so fortunate. This was accompanied by a box of Christmas candy with a 75 percent-off sticker and a card (sans envelope) featuring two kissing chimps. consider yourself lucky) and created a lovely lamp that added a certain je ne 298 . little bits of ﬂuff that would barely ﬁt the anorexic hips of a Victoria’s Secret model. One year. those damned PJs wouldn’t go past my knees. One year. he brought home a cylinder head from a World War II-era airplane (if you don’t know what this looks like. I can tell you. Big. just after Funny Girl was born. I haven’t. Designed for the smaller Asian woman.Days of Derangement collection of hotel toiletries. But the worst was a pair of silk pajamas—size XL—that Funny Man brought back from a business trip to China. I’ve also received my share of ego-shattering lingerie. Funny Man has also tried to be sweet with scent. he’d written: Roses are red Violets are blue You want my body I know you do. In an attempt to personalize the card. Another time. in a bid to impress me with his thoughtfulness. however. Under his name. nothing gets a wife in the mood for love more than struggling to ﬁt into anything marked XL. 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.
It took me weeks to arrange an accident that sent this romantic piece of wreckage back to the junkyard. or maybe the keys to a new Mercedes. 299 . my man will have progressed to the point where he’ll ﬁll a vase with a single rose and a diamond necklace. I’m hoping that by our 30th or possibly 40th anniversary. I’ll try not to lose heart. In the meantime.Holiday of the Heart sais quoi to our living room décor.
they’ve just had to endure another Valentine’s Day. many of them are in the proverbial dog house. When he was in high school.) 300 . those things just don’t bother me anymore.Survivor for Sweethearts A round the end of February. with a girlfriend. We women can be particularly hard on our men at this time of year. I want that sweater back. for example. 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. The poor creatures are still mourning the end of football season. And to add insult to injury. I start to feel sorry for men. There are probably no couples who sail through every Valentine’s Day with their relationship unscathed. I’m mellower in these matters now. (Joe. wherever you are. Really. Take my son. he’d feel the holiday of the heart bearing down on him like a freight train. As a result.
even though he apparently has never been able to get out of diapers. At least that’s what a married (and male) friend of mine told me. he really wanted (I think) to make his lady happy. “Every guy hates Valentine’s Day. not to mention broke. believe that what happens on Valentine’s Day will be an indication of how the rest of their relationship will play out for eternity. he didn’t have a clue. 301 . (Get it—bow and arrow. it’s just expected. “You don’t get credit for going to a nice restaurant or buying jewelry. Cupid is so stupid!” Actually. the little ﬂying man with the bow and arrow manages to make fully half of our species quiver with fear. And if you do have a girl.Survivor for Sweethearts So my heart hurt a little as I watched my boy trying to navigate the treacherous rapids of romance. “I hate Valentine’s Day!” he groaned.” he said. however. In February. Unlike the million-dollar winner on the real Survivor show. quiver. 14 as a trial-by-ﬁre day during which they try to stay out of trouble while not forking over too much money. Like most males. the most a man who makes it through Valentine’s Day can hope for is a wash. on the other hand. Cupid must be pretty smart. Just before V-Day one year.” Many women. Kind of like a Survivor for Sweethearts reality show. “Like paying your mortgage or showing up for work. you’re miserable. you’re miserable. But just like that hopeless romantic Sigmund Freud.) That’s because men tend to see Feb. staring forlornly into his dog-eared wallet. I found him sitting on his bed. If you don’t have a girl. Funny Boy often found himself asking the age-old question: What do women want? And like Freud.
Freud could do that. 302 . I suggest that we cut them some slack and allow them to come out of their canine quarters.Days of Derangement That’s a lot of pressure we’re putting on our men. Not even the brilliant Dr. ladies. We really can’t expect them to be able to read our minds.
Midyear Resolutions W hen the ﬁrst half of the year has been safely swept into the dustbin of history. It is. and we were possibly inﬂuenced by too much champagne. middle-aged adult with love handles. Speaking of love handles. and it simply has to go. the thought that counts. It is time to roll out more modest midyear resolutions. Who are we kidding? Our midyear resolution will be to merely have the intention of exercising and eating right. 1 pledge on most people’s lists. our annual. And as we’ve all really wanted to do those things 303 . Once the lean and vigorous New Year’s baby has aged into a less lively. the whole ridiculous weight-loss resolution absolutely must be on the midyear chopping block. it is time to also throw out our New Year’s resolutions—those giddy. glamorous goals made when the year was young. That’s the No. So I always start with that diabolical duo of duties— exercise and eating right—that each of us swears to embrace in January. after all. overly optimistic infant aspirations need to be trimmed accordingly.
This gives us a deﬁnite sense of purpose. 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. done that. resolving to begin actual exercise very soon. I will faithfully (and frantically) throw 304 . faithfully writing out a to-do list each day as I watch exercise videos while enjoying coffee and donuts. I will faithfully not look in any mirrors as I’m doing this. I will be a master of multitasking. we can check that one off our list right away. I will faithfully take a shower every day. I will faithfully doze off when I am supposed to be writing inspiring works of great literary merit. for example. They were utterly unrealistic anyway. Next on our midyear list should be a resolution to ignore our previous New Year’s Resolutions. Midyear declarations—like middle-aged muscles—tend to be a little loose and ﬂabby. even when I have to then dash naked and wet through the house in search of a clean towel. Then I will faithfully spill coffee on my list. We can ﬁt pretty much anything inside them. and that’s the only real reason to have resolutions in the ﬁrst place.Days of Derangement for months. Check. Here. lest I regret eating all those donuts. Then. rendering it illegible and making it impossible for me to do anything on that list. The nice thing about slimming down our resolution roster in the summer is that we can add to it things we’ve already accomplished. when I wake up with drool running down my chin and realize I’m running out of time. Been there.
Just make sure you have clean towels in the house ﬁrst. 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. 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. 305 . You too. my friend.
Mother’s Day Manifesto E ven though Mother’s Day is ﬁxed on the calendar. I remember the ﬂowered.” 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 I Love You Mommy mug. “I just can’t believe Mother’s Day is coming up so soon. in which I’d sigh heavily and say to no one in particular. So I began to use a subtle system of reminders. I’ve received my share of those wonderful. 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 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. starting in April. irreplaceable gifts made by eager young hands: decorated pencil holders. the laminated footprints of a ﬁve-year-old. It wasn’t always this way. 306 . picture frames studded with colored macaroni.
I took matters into my own hands. And with the coffee. the list was knocked off. The coffee should be of the traditional strength and consistency. Bring me chocolate in every form known to woman. my well of homemade wonders suddenly ran dry. 1: I want coffee brought to me in bed the moment I awaken. and I’d end up holding a wilted bunch of hastilypurchased ﬂowers and eating a pancake dinner at IHOP. I want chocolate. as far as I could tell. Naturally. but never. I gathered my loved ones around me—actually. Even the dogs. actually read. when childlike sweetness sours a bit and honoring your mother can seem about as cool as elevator music. The holiday was conveniently forgotten until the last minute. but I bravely persisted: What I Want for Mother’s Day No. I stood in front of the TV they were watching—and began to recite from my mom’s manifesto. after determining that it was not edible. Realizing a more direct approach was required. I had to speak loudly to drown out the catcalls and boos coming from the crowd.Mother’s Day Manifesto But with the approach of adolescence. had ignored it. Not thick as Mississippi Mud like you made for me last year or the weaker-than-water stuff I got the year before. So one year. used to blot a spilled spot of jelly. I wrote a list cleverly titled What I Want for Mother’s Day and put it on the refrigerator for everyone to see. I do not want to have to get up and wake you all up to remind you that it is Mother’s Day. Begin practicing now. stepped on. 307 . lots of it.
I will be watching every movie Brad Pitt ever made. I want to have control of the television. one that requires an advance reservation and has no child’s menu. No cleaning. 308 . There will be no Victoria ’s Secret Specials. no cooking. 3: After my bath. No ESPN will appear on the TV that day.” and you have to mean it. I’ll probably also eat some more chocolate. During the meal. Not once during this glorious bath will anyone interrupt me with “Hey Mom. Not even one teenage eye may roll in disgust. I’d like us all to go through family pictures together and reminisce about old times. And each of you has to say “I love you. No. Mom. That 52-inch high-deﬁnition behemoth in the living room. You are required to look pleasant and appear to be having fun. 2: I want a temporary cessation of all maternal responsibilities. no chewing with your mouth open. THE TV. No surreptitious text messages may be sent to friends. I’d like my offspring to conduct themselves admirably. I plan to take a very hot bath and read a very long book. No. 4: I’d like to be taken to dinner at a nice restaurant. no toilet unclogging. No eating with your ﬁngers. no kicking a sibling under the table. where’s the sugar?” or “Did I mention I have a science project due tomorrow?” No. 5: After dinner. And I will allow myself the luxury of using a brand-new bar of soap. no breaking up knock-downdrag-out ﬁghts. not even any stuck-zipper zapping.Days of Derangement No. no toy repair. And not a single word about bodily processes.
I folded the paper and ﬁnished with something my Grandma used to say. ain’t nobody happy. “If Mamma ain’t happy. several groans went up.” I told my gang.” 309 . “Just remember. something ungrammatical but undeniable.Mother’s Day Manifesto At that.
com.COM FOR DETAILS. including the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. She’s won a Neal Award from American Business Media. About Jackie Papandrew J ackie’s humor writing has been featured in several books.. as well as awards from the Oklahoma Press Association.to/XVNYdi DAYS OF DERANGEMENT IS AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK. KINDLE AND NOOK FORMATS.. To ﬁnd out more. 311 . America’s Funniest Humor Press and the Florida Freelance Writers Association. PLEASE POST A REVIEW AT AMAZON. visit FunnyJackie. The Tampa Tribune and The Oklahoman. Jackie is a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Parenting Publications of America. as well as in newspapers such as The Cleveland Plain Dealer.IF YOU ENJOY THIS BOOK. VISIT FUNNYJACKIE.COM: http://amzn.
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