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