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COM FOR DETAILS. PLEASE POST A REVIEW AT AMAZON. KINDLE AND NOOK FORMATS.IF YOU ENJOY THIS BOOK. VISIT FUNNYJACKIE..COM: http://amzn.to/XVNYdi DAYS OF DERANGEMENT IS AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK.. Days of Derangement Sidesplitting Stories from a Loopy Life JACKIE PA PA N DRE W .
com . First Print Edition ISBN 978-0-9839391-5-3 All rights reserved. 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.
This book is dedicated to my wonderful family. especially because not one of you is planning to sue me…right? . You’ve put up with me all of these years and provided so much great humor material. 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.
Days of Derangement Spring Cleaning Busy. Busy The Hound from Hades Gums and Games The Tell-Tale Hamster Crimes of Crookedness Boot Camp Horses on Porches The Most Wonderful Time of the Year Shopping Shangri-La Teens in a Tree Testosterone Trouble Towel Tyranny Bathing Suit Blues To Do or Not To Do Resistance is Futile Space Time Turmoil The Power of Pigskin The Hairy Truth Driving Drill Instructor LBD Conspiracy It’s Over Bee’s Knees The B and B 57 59 62 66 70 73 76 79 83 86 89 92 95 98 102 105 108 111 114 117 120 123 126 129 vi .
Barbie Body Hair Fashion Forward Blackberry or Bust Plumber’s Pants Bikini Babes Trivial Pursuit Hard Times for Humor Drive-Thru Dilemma Llama Drama Beauty Shop Dropout The Rock and the Hard Place Got Flax? 132 135 138 141 144 147 150 152 155 158 161 165 168 171 174 177 181 183 186 190 193 197 200 203 vii .Table of Contents E-nnoyed by Emoticons High Maintenance Woman Pity the PTA Germ Warfare Pull My Finger Backpack Black Hole The Pedometer A Man’s Job Rocky Beautiful People The Grill General Thanks.
Days of Derangement Silence is Golden The Five-Second Rule There Should Be an App for That Minivan Mentality The Trail Ahead Picture Perfect Of Boys and Bunnies The Garden Room The Pig Story Pirates and Packers Cooler Online Beware the Bingo Wings Adios Internet Column Creation Couch Potato Confessions Ladies Room Rebel Fake Brain Football Goes Feminine Weighty Matters The Big Wee My BFF Aunt Bea Goes Bonkers Turbulence Hail Britannia 206 208 210 213 216 218 220 222 225 228 232 235 237 239 242 245 247 250 253 256 259 262 266 269 viii .
Table of Contents The Scariest Costume Costumes for the Craft-Challenged Of Mice and Martha Plunging into Thanksgiving Things For Which I Am Thankful ‘Tis a Few Weeks ‘Til Christmas All I Want for Christmas Is Me Cruise Control Rover Resolutions Holiday of the Heart Survivor for Sweethearts Midyear Resolutions Mother’s Day Manifesto About Jackie Papandrew 272 275 278 281 284 286 289 291 294 297 300 303 306 311 ix .
t all began with a bunch of dirty laundry and a newspaper editor who needed an immediate answer to her question. “What do you want to call your column?” Your column. Boy, did I like the sound of that. I grinned and squeezed the phone in excitement, staring at the sweaty socks, unclean unmentionables and assorted other dirty duds I’d managed to sort into piles on the living room ﬂoor but couldn’t seem to get around to washing. It would be just my luck right then for my mother-in-law to stage one of her “spontaneous” visits to check out the condition of my house. You’ve got to love the woman. “Umm…how about Airing My Dirty Laundry?” I asked, thinking that title was a good ﬁt for all the stories I wanted to tell about myself and my family. And with that, my career as a humor columnist and spinner of sudsy, if silly, stories was born. But before that, I gave birth to a couple of really good sources of loopy life material (one male and one female), and we acquired some other, utterly insane sources of the canine and rodent variety. And before that, I married the son of the Not Really Spontaneous Drop-by Queen.
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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
Hope to see you there! Thanks for reading! Jackie Papandrew 3 . where I post funny stuff every day.Introduction the rowdy folks laughing it up on my Facebook page.
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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.
They are being paid to fake it. DON’T follow formulas. DO turn into a tool man.) He calculates every activity so that we are back in the bedroom within the required time frame. the one with the price tag still on it. DO take a cuddling class. No. DO let us sleep in. Do not try this at your home. Cheerfully take on home improvement projects. are faking it for free. at least not yet. If we seem annoyed. and we require a soft stage on which to perform. 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. Corral the children and keep them quiet. DON’T blame the hormones. where we are bound to be impaled by an errant toy. You have to do more than sling one heavy. assume it is your fault. Professional help is available. Try not to suggest surfaces for sex that are likely to cause discomfort. and walls. Then bring us breakfast in bed. This will release passionpromoting endorphins all over our bodies that by nightfall will have us convinced you are Brad Pitt. Forget any grainy videos you may have seen of surgically enhanced women who appear to enjoy having sex under these conditions. Really. (I don’t know where he got this idea. We. not that kind of tool. where we will feel like concrete on the wrong end of a jackhammer. A 19 . hairy arm across our chests a microsecond before you begin snoring. This severely limits our culinary opportunities and makes me mad as a hornet. Do not automatically chalk it up to the vagaries of menstruation.The Desperate Dad’s Guide to Getting Some DON’T promote pain. Doing so will ensure long cycles of celibacy. on the other hand. This would include ﬂoors. We might even slip into that negligee you bought years ago.
DO remove your socks. X and Y shouldn’t even be on the same keyboard. Leaving your socks on feels quick and dirty.” This is a wise and undoubtedly well-satisﬁed man. and swiftly yank up the covers. 20 . If you are a victim of coitus interruptus caused by a wandering child and an unlocked door. Unlike ebony and ivory. AND FINALLY DON’T threaten the children.Days of Derangement friend of ours built a laundry room for his wife in hopes of “getting some good sex out of it. with no audible obscenities. and will make us think we should post an hourly rate on the back of the door. DON’T make stupid comments. Gracefully ﬂip on your back. avoid yelling at the youngster. Funny Man was once foolish enough to point out that I seemed to be developing a beer belly. And don’t throw anything at the poor tot who wonders why Daddy brought his drill to bed. (I was obviously temporarily retaining water!) It’s at times like this that I realize God has a wicked sense of humor.
The Desperate Dad’s Guide to Getting Some 21 .
These readers took my tips to heart and. These tips encouraged the guys to perform stimulating activities—such as cleaning the bathroom. and his 22 . which probably dropped right on to the ﬂoor and made a puddle that their wives had to clean up. —Samuel Lichtenberg I once wrote a column in which I offered men some practical tips they could use to procure from their wives certain physical privileges on a more regular basis. bless them. 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. Like those middle-ofthe-night infomercials. and that’s how most readers took it. my column promised sureﬁre results if the men would only follow my simple choreplay plan.Tips for Tool Men Love is blind. scrubbing the dishes and vacuuming the rugs— designed to make their wives feel frisky. One poor man then wrote me in despair. 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. I cited the example of a friend of ours who built a laundry room for his wife in the hopes of. inquire as to the outcome of this venture because it’s none of our (or your) business. Then. I offered up Exhibit A—my husband. my man announced he had to go out of town on a business trip. Funny Man decided one year to do some “minor” ﬁxing-up in the kitchen. And then. while on this business trip. But I’ve seen the lovely laundry room he built. as he told my husband. So I added this piece of advice: If you turn into a tool man. As we talked. but another 23 . and I believed our neighbor was a wise and well-satisﬁed man. of course. “getting some good sex out of it. I pointed to Exhibit B—my other neighbor. he had the gall to call me from a restaurant where he was being wined and dined by a colleague. However. now I have guilt!” I wonder if those infomercial hosts ever feel that way. Fired up with enthusiasm. When he’d torn apart the kitchen so that it was impossible to actually prepare food there. “Great. not that kind of tool. And never leave town in the middle of it. be sure to ﬁnish the job. I meant that men should cheerfully take on home improvement projects designed to make life easier for their deserving wives. Anyway. 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.” We did not. As the dinosaur character Rex in Toy Story said.Tips for Tool Men wife was still not interested. after I wrote that column. As proof why this is a bad idea. one of the things I suggested in the column was that deprived guys should try turning into tool men. I began to feel obligated to add to my previous words of wisdom. as further proof. No.
he actually told her to hold on so he could place his drink order. When this hard-working neighbor called his wife. I’m laying odds that she was not in the mood for many nights thereafter. So those were my tips for tool men. 24 . Like the IRS. who was trying to keep four young children from smearing spackle all over the place. I’d made it as clear as mud how to proceed.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. I should have done an infomercial.
it’s a time you remember fondly. Well. The rest of you are busy searching for your lost meatball. W hen I was a kid and apparently had far less to occupy my time than kids do today. I spent a lot of time puzzling over the logistics of the spaghetti song. Being a very curious child prone to over-analyzing things. I 25 . practically ancient times. those of you who still have functioning memories remember it 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. The Sixties is a historical period. What a great song that was. For a young whippersnapper like me. 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. sneeze-propelled meatball. full of the groovy gooﬁness that deﬁned The Sixties. 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.
and they were still innocent and thought I was the greatest thing since sliced bread. “On top of spaghetti. And why had I never seen one of the trees described in the song. My own kids covered their ears as if they were in pain. he would stop crying and gaze at me with rapt attention. And when they got a little older. my kids would sing with me. It had been a while since I had to entertain a baby. springing out of my mouth like a mushy meatball. I sang it to her.” I warbled. He was probably just stunned at his poor genetic luck in being born to such a weird woman. The baby started to cry and once again. With the passage of time and my discovery of TV. Whenever I sang it. And when my son was a crying infant. the song reappeared one day out of nowhere. But apparently. The spaghetti song was forgotten. becoming a moss-covered relic of the past. The spaghetti song once again burrowed its way into my memory banks. Unfortunately. but I guess it’s like riding a bike. it remained somewhere in my head. 26 . my kids turned into teenagers and lost interest in cheesy melodies. “all covered with cheese…” The baby stopped crying and looked at me in amazement. When my daughter came along. and I was desperate to soothe him. I didn’t say I was a smart one. We all laughed at the idea of the stupendous sneeze and the miraculous meatball. 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. Those were good times. I started singing the spaghetti song. but at the time. growing meatballs and tomato sauce? I said I was a curious child.Days of Derangement wondered. It worked wonders on my son. until one day when I was taking care of my neighbor’s baby. I credited the song. too.
“You used to love it. the way only a teenage girl can.” Saucy kid.On Top of Spaghetti “Mom! What are you doing?” they protested. crestfallen that they didn’t seem to recall those happy days.” she said. “There is absolutely no way. “Don’t you remember me singing this song with you?” I asked them. 27 .” Funny Girl tossed her head in disgust. Somebody should have spit in her spaghetti. “that I ever liked a song as stupid as that.
the ﬁsh pretty much disappeared except for a section of tail ﬁn and an alarmed-looking eye. That was on a T-shirt I gave my dad as a gift years ago. That shirt became his favorite. their buxom parts stretched out and saggy. —Thomas Carlyle W omen Want Me. It was washed so many times (at my mother’s insistence) that it eventually ended up being half-shirt and half-hole. And the shirt’s laughing ladies aged rather dramatically. all of whom appeared to be having a grand old time.The Shirt Trust not the heart of that man for whom old clothes are not venerable. holding up a large ﬁsh and surrounded by smiling buxom beauties in bikinis. If you stopped by my father’s house unexpectedly. In fact. there would be about a 98-percent chance he would come to the door wearing that shirt. Fish Fear Me. kind of like what happens in real life. If you happened to visit during one of those two-percent times when the shirt had been wrestled off my 28 . Underneath the words was a picture of a happy-looking man in a ﬂoppy ﬁshing hat.
The Shirt dad’s body so that it could be washed. “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. lying there crumpled amidst the coffee grounds. cradling the beloved bit of apparel with a crazed look in his eye. stuck in a drawer. spent cleaning rags and used tissues. when my dad found it and yanked it out in a rage. though. the shirt decayed to the point that not even my dad wanted to wear it. But I don’t know if I’ll be able to part with it. My kids used to get a big kick out of the shirt. All of the other gifts I gave him through the years were no doubt appreciated for the thought. how can you even think about throwing this shirt away?!” he yelled. The backup shirt only had a few holes and a smattering of stains. but it did the job in a pinch. But nothing was as well-used and well-loved as that shirt. sopped up liquids that dripped from his drinks and provided a comforting (if airy) covering when he napped. 29 . “Woman. And so the shirt survived another day. It was once actually in the trash can on garbage day. He still has it. That would make them roll around on the ﬂoor laughing. And the large hole that allowed a certain part of his chest to show through left them shrieking. Inevitably. The Women Want Me. where it caught crumbs falling from his mouth. Fish Fear Me shirt spent a great deal of its time pressed up against my dad’s beloved easy chair. He says he wants to be buried in it someday. he would have greeted you wearing his backup T-shirt that proudly proclaimed I’m In No Shape To Exercise. especially the part about women wanting my dad.
I’d say the word in a honeyed. “Oh. Family as the bedrock of society. It was Family Time.” I took great umbrage at this. no hand-held whatchamacallits of any kind. I saw it as a time for us to bond with one another. reverent tone to convey its importance: Family with a capital F. Taking great umbrage became a specialty of mine over the years. I’d announce grandly to my children on our ﬁrst football-free Sunday. to cast aside the technological gadgetry that separated us and look deeply into each other’s eyes.The F Word E very year when my kids were teenagers and football season was ﬁnally over. no video games. “Mom is using the F word again. as I had many opportunities to practice it. The ingrates I gave birth to always responded with great groaning and lamentation. There was even some weeping and considerable gnashing of teeth. I would usually try to enforce in my house a no-screens rule for Sunday afternoons. no computer. That meant no TV. 30 . no!” they’d cry out.
But they were unmoved. The delivery of withering disapproval was another one of those manipulation methods at which I excelled. we are also pretty darn good at spreading it around when need be. 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. While we moms often wallow in guilt. Yes. All those raging hormones stuff their heads with what I call Charlie Brown cotton. 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. and I’m sure that’s what clouded the judgment of my own cast of characters.The F Word “I can’t believe you refer to Family as the F word. I know.” I would say with withering disapproval. And when my kids were younger. it used to work quite well. I’m good at it.” Then I’d shake my head sadly. “Mom!” they’d groan impatiently. It’s enough!” So I hauled out my ultimate weapon—the threat of public humiliation. 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. “We had Family Time last year. my face downcast. But teenagers seem to develop immunity to parental opinion. I would usually pull another arrow out of my maternal quiver and ﬁre off a good helping of guilt. This is not a new technique. I could lay it on pretty thick. “I just don’t understand why you don’t want to be around us anymore. “It breaks my heart.
and Scrabble seemed too much like school. I would use the F word again the next Sunday. So I informed my kids that if we didn’t have Sunday afternoon Family Time. So we usually settled on Clue. Most times. Before you knew it. In a place where their friends were sure to see them. 32 . “Are we having fun yet?” Although our bonding had been a fairly painful experience.” and my children would do almost anything to avoid that. But I usually ended up looking forward to the start of another football season. and Funny Boy would’ve been caught text-messaging his girlfriend under the table. we’d move on to board games. After several moments of awkward silence. And before we’d even had a chance to ﬁnger Colonel Mustard for the crime. Funny Man would give me one of his looks and ask. Funny Girl would have pronounced herself bored. I would suggest we start off by simply talking to each other. This is what my daughter always referred to as “social suicide. where we wasted time arguing over which game to play. we’d be enjoying some screen-free Sunday Family Time. At that point.Days of Derangement the next adolescent mastodon hunt to get them to comply. we’d have it on Friday night. Only the locale has changed. In public. Hee hee. Monopoly took too long.
under my bed. in my husband’s underwear drawer. a front-loading plastic bowl and sure-grip sides. I kept the commode in the closet for a few weeks. not wanting to place unrealistic expectations on Funny Boy. deluxe models with removable parts. When I ﬁnally placed it in the bathroom. in the backyard sandbox. was colored on and used to collect 33 .The Potty Predicament This is my very ﬁrst attempt at humor writing. I would place the potty in the bathroom. Over the next few months. The potty’s various parts turned up in the closets. It served as a playpen for stuffed animals. The ﬁrst skirmish—over positioning—raged throughout the house and left me exhausted and demoralized. however. only to return later to ﬁnd it missing. the potty was transformed into a nagging symbol of intergenerational warfare. even once ﬂoating in the birdbath. the child seemed delighted. I started planning how to spend the money I’d save on diapers. It was one of the colorful. The boy who inspired it is all grown up now. but he’s still giving me gray hair… I bought a potty for my son before he turned two years old.
as if I could create some kind of gravitational force that would pull down his little posterior.Days of Derangement various toys. Jingleheimer. the kid was impervious to public opinion. slowly draining it in a trail of carpet-soaking spots. Jacob. almost weeping at the prospect. even feminine hygiene products carelessly left within reach. and I began to lose sleep. I took this as a hopeful sign and launched a campaign to wear down his resistance. I ventured into singing—his favorite was John. Next. books. But he sure didn’t ﬁll it with anything else. The potty. I played my trump 34 . My son became bored. First. picturing Funny Boy at his high school graduation in Huggies. remained in the bathroom. hoping to challenge his competitive instincts. size XXXL. speaking in an animated tone designed to capture his attention. His second birthday came and went. One of my well-meaning friends insisted that boys need a target to aim at. “Do you want to be the only two-year-old you know who’s still in diapers?” I asked. Then my boy discovered he could ﬁll the bowl from the bathtub and carry it around. My voice would careen around the words. Eventually. Reluctantly. That’s when I invoked the dreadful specter of peer pressure. faster and faster. now looking like a fourth-generation hand-me-down. Schmidt. He really liked doing that. I’d read his favorite stories over and over. I caught him scooping the soggy circles out with his hand and cramming them into his mouth. I won the battle by attrition. despite my inadequate strategy. But it didn’t work. I tried literary inducements to get him to sit on the potty. No luck. so I ﬁlled the potty with water and then dumped in half a bag of Cheerios.
He would have in-depth conversations with himself (or maybe it was an imaginary friend) while he was in there. Despondently. quite literally. He’d place his hands on the foot of the bed. but still. “Mommy. Next I’d hear a series of grunts. I peeked through the door to see what he was doing. I deployed my ﬁnal weapon. When my son informed me that he needed to be changed. continued to hold his own. he’d slip quietly into his room and close the door. and I saw Funny Boy upstaged by other.” he’d say.” I’d let out a heavy. Worried that he was poisoning his insides. I acted deliriously happy. feet astraddle as if he were water skiing.The Potty Predicament card—bribery—promising him candy for each successful use of the potty. pained sigh and shake my head as if he’d just confessed to crimes against humanity. Once or twice. As the three-year mark approached. shame-faced. His eyes gleamed with sweet anticipation. After all those agonizing months. with a telltale aroma trailing him. I cried along with him. I started putting a Pull-Up on him every evening at the same time. but he. The demon seed I’d previously considered my son started using the toilet as if he’d been doing it all his life. “I pooed. the fruit of my womb wouldn’t give in. he’d emerge. ranging 35 . younger children who pranced proudly to the potty. I put away the potty and bought a large supply of Pull-Ups. this strategy succeeded in exactly two days. In a few minutes. never once even mentioning the toilet and its uses. As soon as it was on. I became truly depressed about my failure. It wasn’t too long before I couldn’t get him out of the bathroom. He began to have terrible stomachaches because he would not allow himself to have a bowel movement.
“Would you like to see what a penis looks like?” Dazed. I heard him say. wondering what I’d created. I continued down the hall. 36 . Walking by the bathroom one day.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.
Fruit and Fannies After this story was published online. I don’t need no stinkin’ scientists to tell me that. Awkward… Multi-tasking: Screwing everything up simultaneously S cientists regularly warn us about the dangers of multitasking. it refers to a very intimate female body part. 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 was rushing around getting ready for the day. 37 . All I have to do is look down into my cereal bowl. however.S. Let’s just say that in the UK. 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. Being a marvel of multitasking. readers in the United Kingdom began to contact me to ask if I realized that the word fanny has a different meaning in the UK than it does in the U. I couldn’t just sit down and eat my breakfast. One morning.
Horriﬁed.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. 38 . thinking I must be suffering some kind of medical emergency. “It’s worse than that!” I gasped. gurgled groan as Cheerios and milk ran down my chin. And when I did that. I let out a loud. I accidentally let go of my electronic idol. but have moved up the ofﬁcial Fanny Fruit Scale to the larger Tomato Tush category. ﬁshing out the phone and cradling it like a drowning victim while I reached frantically for a towel. “I dropped the iPhone in my cereal!” Funny Man gave me the kind of look one gives a teenager caught doing something really. In compliance with a federal law stating that one out of every 10 news stories must be accompanied by a picture of Kim Kardashian. heard the sound and came running naked into the kitchen. The article said scientists have discovered that a lot of women must be eating out of Jethro Bodine-sized bowls because the majority are no longer sporting a peach-shaped rear end. and it splashed right down into the bowl. Standing there holding my iPhone and with a mouth full of Cheerios. really stupid as he grabbed the phone away from me. I naturally had to twist around to look at my own bottom and try to ﬁgure out what fruit it was shaped like. this article helpfully included a close-up of Kardashian’s famous tomato-shaped derriere. Funny Man. who was just getting out of the shower.
39 . 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. my iPhone survived its milk bath. On the bright side. Unlike my fanny. however.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. “Hey. Let’s just say it was not complimentary.
Such a moment occurred when we gathered to watch a group of males armed with sticks ﬁght over a slippery. My family. —Stockard Channing E very once in a while when my kids were growing up. perhaps thinking they could redeem me. I don’t care how cool you are. I arrived at the game knowing only one thing (thanks to that famous joke from Rodney Dangerﬁeld) about hockey—that 40 . insisted I come along to the hockey game. So I did. contact me later. We went to a hockey game. I’d realize—in a blinding moment of clarity that fortunately didn’t last long—that they thought I was utterly insane. 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. seemingly trivial object.Crime and Punishment Everyone’s a nerd inside. If you are nodding your head in dweebish accord because you feel my pain. If you are shaking your head at anyone nerdy enough to bring a book to a hockey game. bringing a book with me to ward off certain boredom. you know just how my loved ones were feeling.
and the ear-splitting sound was 41 . and bodies were slammed against the sides. So I entered the arena primed for violence. my head down. Surprisingly.Crime and Punishment it tended to occasionally break out in the midst of a brawl. Crime and Punishment. I looked around at the enthusiastic crowd. elbows frequently ﬂew into faces. No one else appeared to be holding a book. I began to wonder if I’d committed a crime and this was my punishment. The men battled each other valiantly. Large video screens hung over the rink. There was a great deal of pushing and shoving. losing myself in 19thcentury Russia. the fans started screaming encouragement to their players and heaping insults. It turned out to be a ﬁtting title to be reading at the game. I was at that time in my Dostoevsky phase. my shoulders hunched. It was exciting stuff. it could happen. when I was jolted back to the present by a very loud horn that made me literally jump out of my seat. I managed to read for quite a while. on the opposing team. enabling everyone to see each act of disorderly conduct in vivid detail. As I tried to focus on this great work of literature in the midst of the maelstrom all around me. we made it to our seats without incident. I decided to delve into my book. and so I’d brought along the great classic. most of which involved allegations of insufﬁcient manhood. many of them wearing team jerseys and happily drinking adult beverages. my beloved book clutched close in case someone tried to snatch it and begin reading. When the game began. hacking away with their sticks at a tiny black speck (evidently called a puck) on the ice. our team had scored a goal. Apparently. After watching this riveting spectacle for several moments. Hey.
Courageously. not have it spilled all over your seat by runaway Russian literature. knocking his beer out of his hand. I managed to survive the game. If you are a happy hockey enthusiast whose team has just scored a goal. I even got my book back. The crime was deﬁnitely worth the punishment. Sadly. I hid behind my husband. Somehow. you are going to want to drink your adult beverage in celebration. My family decided then and there that I would no longer be allowed to accompany them to sporting events. the unexpected jolt caused me to drop my book.Days of Derangement necessary to commemorate the event. 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. and it tumbled from the nosebleed seats down on to a frenzied fan below. though. 42 .
she hadn’t been on a horse in more than 40 years. my fantasy fell ﬂat when confronted with actual horse ﬂesh. as I found out one summer when my kids were preteens. he knows all things. to go on a two-hour trail ride. and times being what they are. I wanted to be like the girl in True Grit. I’d never even been near a horse. It’s amazing what people will do for their grandchildren. as suicidal 43 . my hair streaming out behind me as I raced across the plains. In my dreams. I had an opportunity. riding at breakneck speed alongside the hero. I was fascinated as a child by the westerns. The only problem was that in real life. where Wayne rode tall in the saddle. In reality. We arrived at the stables. Although my mom grew up on a farm. with my family. and they managed to convince my mother to come along.True Grit When one is on horseback. I was a ﬁne rider. —George Herbert I grew up on John Wayne movies. My children were excited. were presented with numerous pages of legalese assuring us that riding a horse is a dangerous activity and that we. a rugged symbol of America itself.
they apparently assumed someone of my relatively young years ought to be able to hop right into the saddle.” We signed on the bottom line.” I said to the horse.” I repeated. but had no discernible effect on RIP. This appeared to greatly amuse the wranglers. he was already practicing for the time when he assumed room temperature. 44 . prepared to mount our trusty rides.” he’d have said. After I made several clumsy attempts to pull myself up and over what seemed like the world’s tallest horse. it took both wranglers— who each did an embarrassing amount of grunting as if it was back-breaking work—to shove me into position. even the ﬂies on his neck seemingly frozen in place. Pilgrim.” said one of the cowboys. I found myself thinking that John Wayne would never have signed such a statement. But as a John Wayne devotee. Unfortunately. “Well. “we best just get on outta here. As soon as the ride started. could not be held responsible. were crazy to want to be placed on hooved hazards for the express purpose of inﬂicting upon ourselves serious injury or. and having dispensed with the legalities. Wrong. “Giddy up. In deference to her age. I knew exactly what to do. RIP refused to move. I was on a horse named RIP for Rest in Peace. RIP stood perfectly still. The Duke would have horse-whipped him. the two young wranglers who would accompany us brought my mother a step stool. This perfectly described the creature. The young whippersnapper called me Ma’am. though. “Ma’am. I was sure I could hear tiny ﬂy laughter. more likely. The stables. therefore. a slow and painful death.Days of Derangement idiots. you gotta kick him. “Giddy up.
my mom had been placed on a more lively horse named Navajo. jerking on the reins as Navajo/Napoleon moved further away from the trail. a character defect that she fortunately did not pass on to her daughter. “His name is Navajo. Meanwhile.” “Napoleon. “Now Napoleon.” she snapped. I gave RIP a few timid kicks. twisting around in the saddle.” “Mom. mister. “The guy clearly said his name is Napoleon. she mustered all her teaching techniques to subdue him. as my kids say. Back in the day. who was supposed to be following RIP but who kept leaving the trail to munch on grass.” My mother has an annoying habit of assuming she is always right. Being faced with the equine equivalent of a problem pupil. my 5'1" mother was an elementary school teacher who could strike fear into the hearts of misbehaving students with just a glance. and the half-dead horse ever so slowly started down the trail. “you get yourself back on the trail this minute or you’ll be hearing from me. he said Navajo. The wrangler then gave him a resounding whack on the rear. “I think I know what my own horse’s name is.” she said in her strictest schoolmarm tone.” “No.” I pointed out.True Grit Nervously. Why would anyone in America name a horse Napoleon?” 45 . And as sometimes happens when teachers meet a student for the ﬁrst time. which caused the slightest ﬂicker of an ear on my one-foot-in-the-grave ride.” “Mom! Can you just once admit you’re wrong? I am absolutely positive he said Navajo. she got his name wrong.
until the wrangler approached. despite my mom’s expert educational methods. But we’d managed to stay astride our stubborn steeds. “Serves you right. is true grit. Then he ambled along for about a minute before once again heading for the grass. of course. Maybe we weren’t up to John Wayne’s standards. And that. but I was kind of proud of both myself and my mother.Days of Derangement I turned back around just in time to get slapped in the face by a tree branch before RIP stopped yet again. Pilgrim. happily noshed on every blade of grass within reach.” I heard my mother chuckling. This is how the whole ride went: RIP kept refusing to move in the face of my most gallant giddy ups and Navajo/Napoleon. Navajo/Napoleon completely ignored her. Our two-hour ride had stretched to three by the time we returned to the stables. The overworked wranglers were grumpy. 46 . Then she continued to lecture her horse.
You love him for better or worse. You raise his children. 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. pick up his underwear. natural. I explored the shop in awe. Now this wasn’t any ordinary bar of soap. listen patiently to all his stories.Soapy Situation Marriage means commitment. The sales clerk explained that a woman’s skin is intelligent. You spend years sleeping next to him. Of course. That’s just what happened to me. and that it needs soap with the same qualities. I’d discovered a wonderful little soap shop. See. honest and pure. Then that person does something that leaves you wondering if you ever really knew him at all. And it all started with a bar of soap. You love him through thick and thin. ou think you know everything there is to know about a person. so does insanity. Y 47 . You love him even when his head has a whole lot less hair on it while his nose and ears have a whole lot more hair in them. smelling each handmade concoction and imagining its gentle ingredients caressing my skin.
“No wonder it made my butt feel so soft. The pretty store paper was lying crumpled on the ﬂoor.” “That was my special. 48 . homemade. covered with suds. I was horriﬁed to ﬁnd my womanly washing material in the shower. pure. When I’d ﬁnished bathing. But when I went into the bathroom the next morning. Funny Man had the gall to look confused. then grabbed my soap and went in search of my spouse. I just pulled out whatever was in the drawer. Consumed by guilt. I ﬁlled a shopping bag with scented soaps that set me back a pretty penny. “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.Days of Derangement “A woman shouldn’t be using a man’s soap. shortly after Funny Man had showered. I had to throw that particular bar in the trash. I made the kind of growl a mama grizzly makes when her cub is threatened. my skin began to look smarter. and I felt tingly all over.” he said.” Well no wonder my skin hadn’t been looking too good lately. “If you insult its intelligence. Instantly.” she said. “Did you use my special soap?” I yelled.” Naturally. I carefully re-wrapped my special soap in the pretty paper from the store and put it into a drawer. thrusting the bar at him. looking forward to using it again the next day. your skin will rebel. grinning. lathering my suffering skin. girly soap! The soap I paid big bucks for! The soap that’s going to do wonders for my skin!” “Oh. I’d been washing it with horrible man soap.
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.
If you ask the men in my family. 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. See. I belong to a family of men suffering from a genetic mutation called the underwear overuse gene. one frayed leg hole surrounded by fragments of fabric. They’ll hang on to a pair of drawers until there’s nothing left but an elastic waistband and. Victims of this ailment believe that underwear never needs to be replaced. it almost takes an act of Congress to get my hole-y he-men to go to the store and buy new knickers. They then have the choice of either allowing me to buy for them (not a popular 50 . I could hear the Fruit of the Loom guys laughing at me. And yet. those are words that should be banned—on pain of a slow and torturous death—from being included in the same sentence. I usually have to resort to throwing out all the threadbare boxers and briefs while my husband and son are out of the house. possibly. —Rodney Dangerﬁeld S tylish men’s skivvies.Stylish Skivvies This morning when I put on my underwear.
new boxers or briefs has always been difﬁcult. “This is an abomination!” Funny Man says. Getting my men to purchase. “Whatever happened to good old-fashioned tighty-whities?” my husband always moans. Sounds an awful lot like padded bras to me. And that’s exactly what my men try to do. In the end. colors and patterns. as well as in a cornucopia of ﬁt options (relaxed or slim). holding up a pair of plaid briefs with buttons—buttons!—in the front. I guess the men are just catching up. I always have to inform my skivvy-skittish spouse and son that we aren’t leaving the store without some kind of covering for their backsides. “I can’t buy any of these. And forget about traditional cotton. high).” Next to that there’s usually an entire display of enhanced undies promising to further ﬂatter the male physique. Now there’s also Lycra.Stylish Skivvies option since the time I came home with boxers covered with cute little palm trees). including padded and “proﬁle-enhancing” briefs. 51 . They come in a variety of silhouettes and rises (low. “They’re trying to turn men into…into…women!” In order to get the job done. Spandex and various microﬁber synthetics. That’s how we periodically end up in the men’s section of a nearby department store. It’s enough to make a man with the underwear overuse gene cling even more tightly to his decaying derriere covers. But nowadays.” Funny Boy will stare in horror at packages of underwear that claim to “sculpt and support muscular movement. “I’m not wearing any of these!” Funny Boy will declare. going shopping with me or going commando. men’s undies have become a whole new fashion segment. mid. and then actually wear.
Days of Derangement we usually ﬁnd a bin—stuck way back in the corner of the underwear section—containing the kind of safe. staid Y-fronts that make my men comfortable. 52 . Maybe someday they’ll feel bold enough to explore all their underwear options. But I doubt it.
“Why can’t we live on a farm?” Funny Girl asked. struggling to get the word out of her mouth. the one who at age 10 diagnosed herself with a severe allergy to the vacuum cleaner. “They wouldn’t be like regular chores. Well.” This from a kid who always developed sudden. “Farm ch… ch…. but you certainly got the idea from reading the carton that life in this bovine boudoir was pretty darn good. It was organic milk. And milk the cute little cows. I could feed the chickens. crippling pain in her legs when asked to take out the trash. chores would be fun. “People have to work hard on a farm.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 .” I said. “There are a lot of chores to do on a farm.” she said. maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. was sitting at the kitchen table eating her favorite brand of sugar-in-a-bowl and reading the back of the milk carton. and the carton depicted blissful-looking cows reading Thoreau. displaying a newfound interest in agrarian life.” I watched her shudder at the dreaded word.
Days of Derangement properly. they even kick over the bucket of milk just when you’ve got it ﬁlled. And sometimes. I attempted to enlighten my delusional city slicker. Funny Girl appeared to chew this revelation over carefully.” I told her. have long been an expert in farm life.” she countered. “It doesn’t work like that. having watched endless hours of Little House on the Prairie and The Waltons when I was young. The conversation got me thinking about children and chores and TV shows that leave me chewing my own ﬁgurative cud. “I’m sure the cows wouldn’t mind waiting until a more reasonable hour. much like an organically fed Daisy Mae would chew its cud. on the other hand. she didn’t understand the reality of life in the country. “The cows can’t wait. “I know.” This from a kid who never willingly picked up her own socks off the ﬂoor.” she said. “You could milk the cows. ecstatic at being able 54 . I informed her that cute little cows like to be milked very early in the morning. I. I remembered thinking the cows should have to milk themselves when they acted like that. Then she brightened. at an hour she only saw when she stayed up all night at a sleepover. It was so easy for Ma Walton and Ma Ingalls to do everything right. Their children did chores happily. I could pick crops and stuff like that. Clearly.” I distinctly remembered this happening to John Boy and his siblings on many occasions. since you like to get up early anyway.
was never very successful at getting her young’uns to cooperate. Come to think of it. right there on the TV.Chewing on Chores to contribute to the family. I had job charts and task wheels complete with stickers and brightly colored posters. My kids wore me down. it pulled the cart—and the boy—so the carrot always remained just out of reach as the cart moved forward. I issued dire threats and made dark predictions about the fate of those who failed to do their chores. I know this was true because I saw it for myself. and he dangled the carrot in front of the donkey but just out of its reach. That’s why my daughter’s vision of picking crops made me laugh. I still had to remind them to make their beds. It so happens that the original carrot-and-stick metaphor referred to a boy sitting on a cart being pulled by a donkey. No wonder Ma Walton and Ma Ingalls were always smiling and baking and making quilts. But my carrot-and-stick approach simply didn’t work. Ma Papandrew. take out the trash. maybe I belong on a farm. The boy held a long stick to which a carrot had been tied. They had so much more time on their hands. That’s a pretty accurate picture of me. I was always the donkey. Every day. It’s not like I didn’t try. wash their dishes. I offered allowance money and took away privileges. pick up their dirty clothes. As the donkey moved forward to get the carrot. I initiated elaborate incentive programs that would rival a political candidate’s election platform in complexity (and uselessness). on the other hand. 55 . my children and their chores. always chasing my TV-created ideal.
Days of Derangement 56 .
I suddenly wanted to read the newspaper to ﬁnd out what kind of hooey those humble public servants in Washington are pushing. but then I saw the mop right there next to it and that got me thinking about my hair. only when I pulled off my socks to examine my foul feet. since there’s no time like the present. I realized I should get back to the garage to grab that broom. and speaking of pushing. so I pulled out a hose and began washing it. and speaking of loads. where my eyes fell upon my very dirty automobile. I realized I had no clean socks because I failed to ﬁnd the time all week to do laundry. but when 57 . which lately has had more bad days than good. which reminded me that I really wanted to do some serious shoe shopping. and so I thought I’d make an appointment for a haircut. I pulled the creaky bike out to the driveway. but this got my sneakers wet. I decided to make my mother proud and embark on a vigorous cleaning program. but then I remembered that I sorely needed a pedicure. so I went to the garage for a broom and came across my long-neglected bike. which reminded me I’d been intending to exercise since sometime before the last millennium and.Spring Cleaning O ne ﬁne spring day. so I rushed inside to start a load.
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.Days of Derangement I picked up the phone. but then she asked if I’d begun my spring cleaning and so. remembering this. I started thinking about how much I like the word squeegee and then I started thinking about how much I like words in general. who feels I should call her more often. which it has a habit of doing whenever cleaning is on the horizon. and if one likes words as much as I do. Mom. I recalled the irate conversation I’d just had with my mother. only to notice the deplorable condition of my windows so I went in search of a squeegee and while I was looking. which reminded me that I’d left the bike in the driveway. which often leads to reading. 58 . and I really love to read and thinking about reading caused my brain to take a philosophical turn. any other kind of cleaning is not morally justiﬁable. Sorry. I hung up the phone and gathered a tub full of cleaning supplies with which to attack the job at hand. which is why I decided to lie down for the day and put off cleaning until the next spring. but seeing the tub made me think of the word tubby which made me think of my stomach. one naturally loves books as well. 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. so I rushed outside.
am truly busy. In poker terms. The problem is that a lot of you are busyness bamboozlers. claims to be frantically busy. can we? And yet everyone I know. agitated by all our activities. Busy is the new black. —Socrates I have a philosophical riddle for you to ponder. The riddle is this: if everyone is busy—very. 59 . I would ponder it myself but I’m far too busy with more important things. too busy to take our calls when we need service. Even the ﬂeas on my dog are busy. Busy Beware the barrenness of a busy life. No one has time to do anything because we’re all so darn busy. We’re a society bustling with busyness. I could see your busyness bet and raise you a bundle. You’re just pretending to be busy. we can’t all be busier than everyone else. on the other hand. Even my dog is busy. very busy—doesn’t that really mean no one is busy? After all. everyone I read about or hear about. 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. I.Busy.
by the way. We have cholesterol levels and credit scores. (And. However. This must be stopped. you are deﬁnitely not busy. We live. yeah. like me. we’d have to engage in a national debate about what exactly counts as being busy. And that’s dangerous. and most of them are lying. We have numerical tables to tell us if we’re thin or not-so-thin. If you are a size 2 and everything automatically looks great. who frequently seem to have too much time on their hands. by a host of special interest groups.) There would. You’ve got people running around all over the place claiming to be busier than everyone else. of course. but when it comes to determining who is a bona ﬁde busy person. to serve on a committee which would establish busyness benchmarks. so I’m proposing a national rating system to separate the truly busy from the bogusly busy. I do want credit for my superior state of busyness. I suggest we appoint the members of Congress. tall or height-challenged.Days of Derangement If I had the time. after all. I hate you. have to be safeguards in place to prevent corruption of the high standards of the Busy Brigade. including the very powerful Bureau of Unmotivated 60 . rich or not-so-rich. you have to go from store to store trying to ﬁnd something that makes you look slim. Britney Spears hitting every Starbucks in a 10-mile radius? Not so much. you are deﬁnitely busy. Unless you are—like my daughter—only working out your thumbs through too much text-messaging. in an age in which everything is measurable. we’re on our own. A single mom (or dad) working two jobs to make ends meet? Busy. Of course. What about shopping? If. I’d tell you what I’m doing to make me so busy but it’s not really any of your business anyway. as our new committee should be called. Does exercise merit a mark on the busy meter? Oh.
Constant complaining or channel surﬁng—regular activities in my household—would not count. I anticipate years of lobbying and litigation over this issue from the lazy.Busy. Busy Men (BUM) to which several members of my own family belong. But I honestly believe it would be worth it. and it must be a difﬁcult rank to achieve. Being labeled as ofﬁcially busy must mean something. 61 .
but somehow we found ourselves one day at a shelter—an animal shelter that is. Ebony would use all those heads to simultaneously chew my furniture. which eventually swelled into a swirling. which built over time into a full-blown nag. That’s what happened in our family. her behavior didn’t follow suit. Unfortunately. raid the trash cans. It began with a tot’s tiny plea. If you remember your Greek mythology (and who among us doesn’t). you’ll recall that the underworld was said to be guarded by a dog with many heads. We picked out an abandoned Labrador mix boringly named Blackie and upgraded her to the more elegant Ebony. a cat—should pass by and require an ear-splitting round of 62 .The Hound from Hades A t some point. almost all parents are expected to enhance the childhood experience with a pet. 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. My life would never be the same. It soon became obvious that this Hound from Hades had relocated to my house. We tried to resist. tear-fueled Category 5 caterwaul. Whenever my back was turned.
where she insisted on sleeping. Ebony bolted away from me and raced around the yard. she’d duck under the dining room table and manage to look both guilty and absolutely unrepentant at the same time. if there was such a thing. And my children. the task of bathing the furry ﬂea bag also fell to me. developed an amazing variety of excuses for avoiding the job. And did I mention that she started early? Five o’clock in the morning. Naturally. Eb started every day with a vigorous session of self-licking. when I yelled at her. Then she made a beeline for the house. at the Canine Olympics. the mutt had a high number of heinies. There should be a congressional investigation into the millions of phony poo-pickup promises made by generations of dog-desperate kids. Then.The Hound from Hades barking. She’d scratch and whine all night if necessary until I opened it. I know this because she always launched her lick fest—complete with loud slurping and popping sounds—right next to my bed. who swore up and down they would clean up every bit of it. to be exact. gleefully grinding her grime into my pink (PINK!) carpet. No single derriere could possibly have produced the copious amounts of doggie doo that littered my backyard after Ebony’s arrival. in addition to multiple mouths. 63 . frantically rolling her freshly cleaned body in every bit of dirt she could ﬁnd. She’d come lie down next to me on the bare ﬂoor. It’s a national scandal. I soon became convinced that. She could earn a Golden Tongue award. The ﬁrst time I gave her a bath. shot through the open back door and began to run circles in my living room. I even tried shutting my door. I tried moving her bed to another part of the house. She licked like there was no tomorrow. The dog is a master licker.
After a few quiet minutes and with dastardly doggie daring. knowing full well that it made a lot of racket. and by never taking her eyes off me. would take a nice. Then. psychological ploy. using her full name. sometime in the afternoon. Eb. and I used it just like I used my children’s full names when I was communicating my displeasure with them. She began pushing her empty metal bowl around the kitchen. attempt to subliminally communicate the fact that she wanted to be fed. She’d start with the stare-down. she has a full name. I abandoned subliminal communication for something more direct. This was a very effective way to get me out of bed in a hurry. “Ebony Joyce Papandrew!” I’d shout. “Stop it now!” Yes. Being bleary-eyed and cranky and knowing just who to blame for that. That’s when she’d move into the next phase. There I’d be at my computer. 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 would place herself right in front of me and. and the house would go silent. long nap. 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. And while I was retching into the bathroom sink. which involved getting her bowl ﬁlled up with dog food. The bowl momentarily stayed put. having successfully completed her morning tasks.Days of Derangement Most mornings. she’d wake up with a blissful sigh and a sumptuous stretch and move on to the second part of her day. But that was just a clever. bleary-eyed and cranky from lack of sleep. I subliminally communicated the fact that I didn’t care by totally ignoring her.
even if I didn’t want to admit it. When she again woke up. The thing about Ebony. Ebony would contentedly settle down for another nap. After ﬁlling her stomach. She might even go out for a walk with her utterly submissive human. both literally and ﬁguratively. she would shudder with delight. she utterly adored me. 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.The Hound from Hades kitchen tile. When I put her outside. she’d press her face against the door and whine until I let her in. I’d realize the Hound from Hades was actually my best friend. Once. And when I was feeling depressed or anxious. When. At times like that. content just to be near me. rather than engaging in normal dog activities. was that from the day we brought her home with us. muttering curses I wouldn’t want my mother to hear. 65 . she’d instantly appear and place her body against my leg. the very worst thing. she showed up as soon as I got out of the shower and proceeded to carefully lick my wounds. straight to the cabinet that held the dog food. When I sat down somewhere in the house. She was nauseatingly needy. in a moment of weakness. 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. following me from room to room. I’d pet her. This would propel me out of my chair. She’d place one paw on my knee or on my arm and gaze at me with unconditional love. she seemed to know it.
a body has a mind of its own.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. You know the kind of creature I mean. a whole tic-tac-toe grid under your eyes. seeking to disassociate themselves from my aging body. young and chipper. baby. have pulled away from their assigned teeth.” Funny Boy said. “Woa.” It was probably just such a remark that led to the creation of boarding schools. Undoubtedly. you have passed the point of no return. and I was ushered in by The Happy Hygienist. like. “You’ve got. peering at me closely. she’s a trophy wife in her off-hours. This procedure would measure how far my traitorous gums. Once you hear the words gums and receding in the same sentence. The gums are the middle-aged 66 . Mom. She put a cute little bib under my chin and informed me I was overdue for a periodontal workup. with a smooth face no one would be tempted to mark with Xs and Os. Then I arrived at my dentist’s ofﬁce for my regular checkup.
For those who have missed the pleasure. calling out numbers that identiﬁed the depth of my deterioration. oh my…. But if. 67 . I’d scheduled a mammogram for the same week. Then ask Hulk Hogan to slam the door as hard as possible and lean on it for good effect. signaling to the other organs when it’s time to start heading for the hills. mangling my mammaries in a most professional way. I departed soon after.ﬁve millimeters. you are a private in the bosom brigade. Miss Perky did her best. and I responded in kind with a line of drool that soaked my bib. very good!” She praised me in the exact tone one would use to train a puppy. “Oh. here’s a three. The mammogram was clearly invented by a man. too weighed down by my new long-in-the-tooth status to notice that my wallet was considerably lighter.” she shook her head in grave concern. In a moment of medical masochism common to women my age. Insert some particularly sensitive part of your body.Gums and Games body’s bellwether. like me. “Four millimeters…. an insufferably cute girl barely out of her teens (or so it seemed) with a personality that could only be described as perky. My dental inspector propped open my mouth and began to probe my periodontal pockets. possibly one who spent his youth in a boarding school after saying something stupid to his mother. This delightful experience was delivered by a close cousin of the hygienist. Then her voice brightened. an obvious affront to the over-40 crowd. The well-endowed among us probably don’t have too much of a problem with a mammogram. stand in front of your open refrigerator. it’s not pleasant.
Mom?” I couldn’t resist. “Only 20 years younger?” Suddenly. who had been trying to tame her aches and pains with massage therapy. Desperate times call for desperate measures. “I guess you’ve heard that one before. Maybe I’d even turn into a cougar. absolutely gorgeous.” Sometimes I lay on the sarcasm so thick that it drips right out of my mouth and makes a puddle on the ﬂoor. “I haven’t been squeezed like this since I went to the high school prom with a boy named Bubba. I’d join the Peace Corps. I paused in my planning to take a call from my mother. trying to add some comic relief to the situation. tackle my tic-tac-toe lines with shots or surgery.” I added lamely. because I was deﬁnitely worried about that. apparently. 25-year-old male masseuse as “gorgeous. By the time I got home. caused by dragging one foot that was already in the grave. I would not go quietly into the night. right behind truant gums. I had a pronounced limp. Glum over the prospect of a steady slide into decrepitude. the second symptom of impending geezerdom.” she assured me in all seriousness.” I joked through gritted teeth. I felt all kinds of aches and pains of my own that could deﬁnitely be eased by a hunk’s healing touch.” “Good. My destiny was now determined. If my mother 68 . She just rolled her eyes. “Don’t worry. My mother pretended not to hear my question. She shocked me by describing her new. learn to ride a Harley. I decided to ﬁght back. Telling stale jokes is. If I was only 20 years younger…” “Really.Days of Derangement compressing each between two cold plastic plates until I felt one of us should propose marriage. “He didn’t try anything with me.
she’ll actually try to make me clean it up.” I said absent-mindedly. put the moves on my mother. When we’re not under the same roof. maybe I would have better luck. “You’ll have to get up on a stool to even reach my knees.” The pole threat is one of her most common. I was still thinking about the manly masseuse. she has to resort to threats. Especially if I kept my game face to the ground.Gums and Games happens to be around. Mom. and I responded with one of my standard answers. for some reason. 69 . Even if he didn’t. “I’m going to beat you with a pole the next time I see you.
they will undoubtedly be bafﬂed by our penchant for raising rodents. multilayer habitat with towers and tunnels and a state-of-the-art wheel.The Tell-Tale Hamster Above all was the sense of hearing acute. vitamin drops and chew sticks. she decided that Sunset must surely be a girl. an exercise ball. Without any evidence to the contrary. When archaeologists of the future sift through the layers of our lives to try to understand how we lived. am I mad? —Edgar Allen Poe A fter launching a successful campaign consisting of much begging. my daughter talked us into getting a hamster. I had to pay a pretty penny for all the paraphernalia necessary for today’s hip hamster—a colorful. lush. pine-scented bedding. 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. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. an igloo to sleep in. …How. then. a considerable amount of whining and periodic bouts of pouting. I was puzzled by this myself as we drove home with the golden-hued creature Funny Girl affectionately named Sunset.
who was covered with additional fuzz from the underbelly of the fridge. Someone forgot to remind me that hamsters are nocturnal. But I soon came to wish she’d stayed under the refrigerator. I found poo pellets in places that no poo pellets have any business being. you would probably have seen beady black eyes shining with satisfaction. While the much larger dog worked herself into a frenzy. Sunset liked to party hearty all 71 . Then there was the noise. no doubt enjoying the chaos its presence had caused. Pet brain size must be inversely proportional to body size. We had to put Ebony in the back yard and were ﬁnally able to coax out the reluctant rodent. First. 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. and I breathed a sigh of relief. If you looked under the fridge. the little lab rat stayed serenely in place. She apparently also invested a lot of time and creativity into ﬁguring out how to distribute her waste in as wide an area as possible. She must have pressed her furry little bottom right up against the cage and aimed for the walls. Ebony. 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. Sunset was placed in her cage. Sunset spent most of her time shoving the bedding out of the cage and onto my ﬂoor. there was the mess. howling. Before we even got the ungrateful creature into her luxurious new digs. went wild—barking. scampering across the kitchen and under the refrigerator. she made a bid for freedom. Our dog.
Days of Derangement night in her exercise wheel. We buried our fuzzy family member in the backyard—at sunset. My kids had lost interest in her. I caught the horrible hamster licking it off. And then she died at a ripe old age. hearing the high-pitched noise grow louder and louder. I guess none of us can ask for more than that. I began to feel sorry for the creature. I tried putting cooking oil on it. 72 . my sanity threatened by the incessant squeaking caused by a tell-tale hamster. I swear I can still hear it. And squeak. Sayonara Sunset. this wasn’t a problem. In the middle of the night. 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. But then. Initially. the squeaking. But sometimes in the night. And squeak. I was reminded of Poe’s short story—The Tell-Tale Heart—in which the narrator is driven mad by the sound of a beating heart. I tried moving the cage to another room. often barely able to climb the ramp from one level to another. Still. One night. Until one day. But the rodent lived on and on. as they often lose interest in aging pets and aging parents. I realized that Sunset had grown old right before our eyes. the worthless wheel began to squeak. I wondered if I faced a similar fate. Now the exercise wheel is silent. She was no longer using the exercise wheel and was moving around the Hamster Hilton much more slowly. I’d wake up and hear it squeaking. naturally.
there are those rigid. as we simultaneously began having children and exercising our right as Americans to own no means of 73 . anal-retentive individuals such as my husband who adamantly insist that vehicles must always be left in perfectly straight lines. But I was unaware of the great stock my man placed on parking proﬁciency until we’d passed through the sappy initial phase of matrimony that’s about as realistic as professional wrestling. less linear approach to auto positioning. Then there are kinder. See. gentler souls like me who take a more contemplative.Crimes of Crookedness I love being married. it would have saved me much marital strife. If I’d known this many years ago. Never the two should meet. Funny Man apparently found my creative car placements rather endearing. During that sweet time. —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. much less get married. It’s so great to ﬁnd that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.
“All you have to do is park between these lines. when I attempted to back out. the back end of my van refused to align itself with the front. I again tried to conform to his ridiculous demands. Naturally. continuing to park itself in crooked lines. for some reason. First.” “Did so. But even there. So then I parked closer to Funny Man’s truck and. Funny Man started to complain. I found him angrily painting a heavy black stripe down what he claimed was the center of the garage ﬂoor. several inches from the wall.” “Did not. I was offended. I managed to put a big dent in the driver’s side mirror. But in the interest of family harmony. my van refused to cooperate.” 74 .” he told me in the same exasperated tone I had used when house-training our very dense dog. I tried to comply with his unreasonable demands by parking as close to the wall on my side as possible.” “Did not. upon reversing. This led to an almost nightly exchange between my husband and me that went something like this: “You parked crooked. I was then ordered to abandon the garage and park only in the driveway. scraped up the side of his prized pickup. Not long after that. Then he painted another one on the minivan side. our marriage entered the sobering Eyes Wide Open phase. Again. And suddenly. he complained that I took up too much space in the garage. I can’t even get into the driveway. It wasn’t my fault that.Days of Derangement transportation smaller than a tank.
my son would be compelled to shout: “Yo Mama’s so fat she has to iron her pants in the driveway!” Getting no response. that is. Funny Boy came down with a serious addiction to Yo Mama jokes. it was driveway. Sometimes. sighing heavily as he re-parked my vehicle each night and muttering about the differences between Mars and Venus. but Funny Man and I continued to provide comic relief to the neighbors for quite some time. trying to convince me of the error of my ways. I’d like to say we soon reached a compromise and started acting like adults. Upon hearing that word. Good thing they’re not parked close to each other. 75 . I’d just shake my head and smile serenely. he’d pull out a tape measure or a piece of chalk. Funny Man eventually gave up. almost any word can trigger an outburst.Crimes of Crookedness Our children came to accept these mature conversations as a routine part of the evening and completely ignored us. Until. And sure enough. he’d say it several more times until he found himself on the receiving end of a wedgy. knowing I could win by attrition. In our case. As any parent of a Yo Mama-afﬂicted child knows. dickering in the driveway over my alleged crimes of crookedness.
76 . Apparently.Boot Camp L ike many people entering middle age with an everexpanding midsection. paying the membership fee and buying an adorable workout outﬁt. Thanks for the memories. I still can’t listen to Jimmy Buffett’s Changes in Latitudes Changes in Attitudes without experiencing a strong urge to do buttocks tucks. So. we deﬁnitely toned our young tummies with all our hearty laughter at poor Jane’s expense. I have fond memories of TV ﬁtness from college. I turned to televised exercise. unwilling to actually show up at the gym. Although we rarely actually did her workout. I really need to get in shape. Then I waited for the blubber to be gone. though. So I joined a gym to ﬁght the battle of the bulge. when my roommates and I wasted valuable study time watching Jane Fonda prance around in leg warmers while encouraging us to feel the burn. there’s more to it than that because my body continued to balloon. as I discovered when I tried (and failed) to ﬁnd a bathing suit that would render me somewhat more attractive than a whale. Jane.
feeling the pressure. I decided to seek out a new queen of calisthenics to show me the way. “There’s only one answer. tiny shorts that wouldn’t go past my knees. Then they’d rather arrogantly respond to their own question. Yes. Cath and her e were relentless in urging me to end my inertia. But they stayed clad in teeny. when 77 . Surely that e stood for exercise. put on some sweatpants and stood in my living room. This kind of name conﬁdence impressed me. “Are you ready for this?” they’d ask at the beginning of each show. I put down my chocolate. and surely this military-style Jane could whip my ﬂaccid form into shape. “and that is YES!” Eventually. pumping. shoulderknotting arm swings and thigh-cramping knee bends. I spent about a week watching Boot Camp from the comfort of my couch. We spent what seemed like an hour on spine-popping stretches. pushing and crunching their way to muscular perfection—all to the frenzied beat of some disturbing technosweat music. wishing Cath and her fancy e would wear leg warmers and put on some Jimmy Buffet. And I found her in the form of a ﬁtness show called Boot Camp led by a woman in stunningly good shape named Cathe. thinking I was going to sail through Boot Camp. jumping. I was elated.” Cath and her energetic e would chirp. that’s Cath and then an e that is set off from the rest of the name.Boot Camp Being older and wiser now. with a tummy in need of more than laughter. italicized and gussied up. ready to give it my all. Cath and her e looked pleased. never giving me time to think it over.
A few days later. I collapsed on the carpet. Cath and her drill-instructor e were by now openly dubious. Unfortunately. After the warm-up. my children had sensed an opportunity for amusement and gathered around like vultures to watch. By now. Even her buttocks tucks would be better than Boot Camp. 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. I decided to try again. My numerous problem areas protested. Cath and her sneering e seemed to threaten a court martial. I barely survived Cycle Two before my arms and legs went AWOL. Cath and her increasingly annoying e looked skeptical.Days of Derangement Cath and her slightly sadistic e announced that the warm-up was over. 78 . refusing to soldier on. but seemed willing to give me another chance. they explained that we’d be doing eight cycles of training designed to strengthen my heart and tone problem areas. Worn out. those faithless ﬂabby regions turned traitor during the ﬁrst cycle. cruelly eating Cheetos and Oreos in my presence and placing bets with each other on how long I could last. quivering like mutinous mounds of Jell-O. If I could just ﬁnd some leg warmers. but I pressed on. but I assured them that my problem areas and I were united in the cause. That’s when I decided to dig up that old burn-feeling video and return to Sweet Lady Jane.
I’ve determined there are ﬁve phases to the typical family reunion. That’s when everyone is on his or her best behavior. They huddled together for 79 . lost the most hair. most of the kids were teenagers who looked horriﬁed at just being there. And based on my attendance at several such events. we would never go near these people again. those who are at our end of the gene pool. a little shy. who can provide blackmail material to our children. who know about every youthful transgression. At my last reunion. trying to gauge who’s gained the most weight. awash in warm feelings and cold sweat. once we’d grown up and escaped. Kinfolk are dangerous individuals who can recite all our embarrassing faults. We subtly assess each other. The ﬁrst is the meet and greet phase. all a little hesitant.Horses on Porches Every family tree has some sap in it. who’s driving the nicest car. F amily reunions are a charming phenomenon. We all confess astonishment at how fast the kids are growing up. We like to occasionally get together with our kinfolk. If we were smart. But many of us are drawn to cousinly confabs like moths to dysfunctional family ﬂames.
from-scratch dishes made by grandmas who still remember how to cook. I remember experiencing agony myself at earlier reunions. we moved into the Remember When phase. And with the food. True to form. At this point. but secretly admire. It’s always the best part of our reunions. begging to be rescued.Days of Derangement protection with their smart phones out. quickly getting down to discussing pressing physical matters involving hemorrhoids and heartburn.” 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. 80 . Many of our most colorful memories include the family rebel. my cousin Joe. and as everyone started to relax. And he’s still rebelling. many reunions degenerate into a third phase: church-state squabbling. 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. frantically sending text messages to their friends. even a couple of great-grandparents—huddled together too. but now I enjoy the Remember Whens. The oldest generation—the grandparents. At our last reunion. This is the phase that causes the teens to actually writhe in agony. and things got heated. You gotta love Joe. First names of presidential candidates were tossed around as weapons and then someone brought the Good Lord into it. my family began discussing religion and politics. Joe’s simple explanation: “I didn’t do what he said I did. He’s the one we all cluck our tongues and shake our heads over. 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 consumed a few adult beverages.
” Wisely. “You need all the help you can get. only lasts about 30 seconds. Unfortunately. has refused to discourage its behavior. on the other hand. segregation of the sexes. instead of being able to see the glories of nature. the groups start out by complaining about each other.Horses on Porches “I’ll pray for you.” All of the other men nod their heads in agreement. My cousin. before things really got out of hand. The men go one way and the women go the other. one of the rocks bounced up and shattered the front window. unable to coax the horse off the porch. we allowed Joe’s long-suffering wife to go ﬁrst. though. The men’s conversation. and usually. 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. One of them sighs heavily. we were all instantly sympathetic to her. we moved into the fourth phase. This happens at every reunion I’ve ever attended. will devote hours to dissecting the failings of their men. shrugs his shoulders and says a single word weighted with all the necessary meaning: “Women. She described a problem she was having with one of their horses.” said one on the right side of the political spectrum to one on the left. and my cousin had the gall to be upset with his wife. So his wife. she gets an eyeful of an equine end zone. Although most of us no longer live in the 81 . The ladies. At our last reunion. apparently sensing a soul mate in this rebellious horse. and then they move on to something more important like sports or ﬁshing. started gently (or not) pitching rocks at its feet to encourage it to comply. When the women at the reunion heard this story.
82 . the teens will be the middle-agers.Days of Derangement country. Hopefully. I won’t talk about hemorrhoids. But. the reunions will become part of our Remember Whens. we all have our own version of the marital horse on the porch. Before we know it. I’m probably doomed to repeat it. and I’ll be one of the old fogies. 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. Soon.
lying in tall grass deﬂowering dandelions. I made a stupid decision. I wanted them to savor their summer before it slipped away like a melting scoop of ice cream. Coyote. 83 . gleefully tossing in school supplies as his dejected children follow glumly behind and The Most Wonderful Time of the Year plays in the background. in the calm quiet of my house before my kids got home from school. rediscover the innocence of youth.The Most Wonderful Time of the Year M y all-time favorite commercial is the one where a father with an ear-to-ear grin is pushing a shopping cart through a Staples store. perhaps dip into Tolkien or even Tolstoy (it could happen). “They’re going back!” the announcer tells us. watching the Road Runner never fail to foil Wile E. I envisioned euphoric days where my children. would write their own plays. I decided that my little darlings needed a slacker summer. Sweeter words were never spoken. their imaginations ﬁred by boundless freedom. You know the kind of summer I mean. One year. an unstructured one spent running through sprinklers.
And they showed some true creativity there. But I. then stirred themselves just enough to move to the couch. Oh. recommitted myself to giving my kids a season of sloth. the bloom came off the rose just a bit. They slept until noon. Even our Labrador seemed nearly comatose in those dog days. still deeply in a delusional phase. would come to pass. went back to work. By the end of the month. By the time August came around. the lazy days of summer had begun to really drive me crazy. our family bond had been bolstered to such an extent that it felt like an iron collar around our necks. With school out. enjoying round-the-clock togetherness as we attempted to bolster our family bonds while simultaneously blowing our budget. where they somehow summoned the energy to ﬁght over the TV remote. unencumbered by a schedule. In June. Only it didn’t quite go as I planned. I congratulated him on his staunch adherence to his faith. but they did read the words on Popsicle wrappers before tossing them on the table. banal bickering. my children were deﬁnitely slothful. They argued over the color of the sky or which one of them was 84 . My husband. managing—while still lying down—to punch.Days of Derangement That was in May. They didn’t dip into either Tolkien or Tolstoy. kick and bite each other without ever assuming a vertical position. I was determined that my fantasy of summertime fun and creativity. his face wearing the liberated look of an escaped convict. 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. we went on vacation. My kids became deeply involved in endless. when I clearly had too much time on my hands and would appear to have been smoking something.
85 . poor things. they chose Dad). I’d say) or whether Mom or Dad had more wrinkles (wisely. They went back to school. They were too weak. where they had actually become part of the furniture and needed dusting. They became hibernating bears. “Mom!” they’d wail from the living room. to even feed themselves. “We’re hungry! Can you bring us food?” Finally. all the annoying inertia came to an end. apparently storing up fat for the winter by barely moving.The Most Wonderful Time of the Year the biggest brat (dead even. And the next summer. they went to camp. fortunately.
one of those crammed occasions when I’d meet myself coming and going.Shopping Shangri-La The quickest way to know a woman is to go shopping with her. I pulled out a shopping cart and savored the sensation of placing my purse. 86 . when I could walk alone through those beckoning doors. drinking in the well-organized ambiance of everyday economics. On an ordinary day. In my case. I gave my slumbering husband a kiss and a whispered lie about returning soon and headed out the door. I started out slowly. I was a-tingle with excitement. —Marcelene Cox E arly on a Saturday morning when my kids were young. There are times in the often frenzied life of modern motherhood when we could all use a little retail therapy. unencumbered by children. making a beeline for the big red bull’s eye. in the seat. I felt like I’d hit the big-box bonanza. I’d be racing down the aisles like a NASCAR driver. As I pulled into the parking lot of my local Target store. rather than a squirming child. my careening cart festooned with some rowdy rug rats.
feeling free and festive. Although my cell phone. I even got up the nerve to check out the bathing suits and spent precious moments pretending I’d soon be losing weight. I strolled to the clothing section and moved among the racks like a famine victim suddenly given a steak dinner. Hesitantly. which I’d set to “vibrate. where I grew weepy at the opportunity to sift at a snail’s pace through scrapbook supplies. I headed for the home section. I put dozens of items in my cart. I selected a sea of hair products. There. feeling drunk with pleasure.Shopping Shangri-La But now. I moved to the shoe department. I ignored it. ensuring I would be well-coiffed. the ﬂoodgates open. where my toes touched dozens of shoes. Soon. I waxed ecstatic over dishes in bright shades sure to soothe my soul. The bedding aisles claimed what felt like a wonderful eternity as I considered different designs. After a while. I studied rolls of wrapping paper as if they were literary classics and read about a hundred greeting cards. Next. just because I could. if over budget. everything a woman might need to feel smooth and sexy. I explored every kitchen appliance. delicious intervals which ones to purchase. Finally. I received 87 . I spent almost half an hour mulling which shade of eye shadow to buy. hiding like an adolescent playing hooky from a truant ofﬁcer. Then.” had been buzzing every ﬁve minutes. I grabbed a scarlet shade of lipstick that would likely win my mother’s disapproval. debating for long. Eventually. empowered in this emporium to ﬁnd that deﬁnitive pair of panties. I sauntered with sweet anticipation to my favorite part of the store—personal care products. I went to lingerie and frittered away the day among slinky silks and polyester imposters. I ambled over to the craft area. Next.
Days of Derangement a series of text messages from my husband. 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. determined to make the most of my temporary status as a lady of leisure. My cell phone had by now been buzzing so much that it had nudged my purse from one side of the cart to the other. I unhurriedly unloaded my cart with a consequences-be-damned attitude. ingeniously designed with a curved handle and biodegradable cloths and so environmentally friendly even Al Gore would use it. I’d have to go home to face the music. Soon. I breathlessly spent several minutes admiring it. accompanied by ominous punctuation and vague threats: “When are you coming home????!!!!” “I know you’re ignoring me!!!! ” “The kids are driving me nuts!!!!” “You are SO going to hear about this!!!” I stashed the phone in my purse and pressed on. “Really NOT funny!!!!” “how can u do this 2 me?” “AAAARRRGGGHHHH!!!!!!!” At checkout. 88 . It was a wet/ dry mop. But my shopping Shangri La had been well worth it.
it was. I get the gist of the plot. when I was faced with a situation perhaps not as lethal. 89 . I’m a veteran of those wrongly named events where very little actual slumber occurs. But I went along with what my daughter wanted. 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. that’s the scenario that popped into my head not long after the movie came out. after all. And I knew I could survive it. that a bunch of snakes invade a plane and cause bedlam in the skies. Oh. but still scary—a slither of shrieking teenage girls stuck in one of my trees. I knew she’d probably want to have a slumber party. her birthday. But using my extraordinary powers of perception. For some reason. It wasn’t exactly the way I expected to celebrate my daughter’s 14th birthday. If I did.Teens in a Tree I ’ve never actually seen the 2006 movie Snakes on a Plane. namely. I’m fairly sure I would never get on an airplane again. Who invented slumber parties anyway? It’s difﬁcult enough to get your own kids to go to bed.
and the music now came courtesy of an iPod rather than an LP. trying to suppress their giggles as the “hunter” began looking for them. like so many oversized kittens. up in that tree. despite the fact that it was well past dark and cold outside. They were stuck. the girls decided to go out and play manhunt. Naturally. each scream building exponentially on the others. the wind picked up about this time and something—maybe a bird or a squirrel—stirred up there in the dark. the whole neighborhood was reverberating with the sound of a manhunt gone manic. The giggles turned to screams. Soon. They headed across the front yard toward a large. the slumber party ran its expected course.Days of Derangement At ﬁrst. 90 . But then. Then several other girls decided the tree would make a good hiding place. all accompanied by intense discussions of the attributes and faults of various boys the girls knew. One girl got a boost from another and scrambled up into the tree. except that the obligatory crank calls were now made by cell phones instead of antiquated land lines. There were secretive sessions of Truth or Dare which would mysteriously cease the moment Mom walked in the room. spreading oak tree. and sigh-ﬁlled talk about celebrity males they wished they knew. Teenage girls tend to shriek in tandem. each girl then decided she could not come down the way she’d gone up. It was all pretty standard slumber-party stuff that could have happened when I was a teenager. makeup application and hair braiding. They inched higher and higher in the tree. There were numerous rounds of nail painting. Unfortunately. No amount of persuasion from me could get them down.
he gently coaxed each girl down to safety. I was able to summon him home to play ﬁreman. was any more heroic. I doubt Samuel L. But thanks to the magic of cell phones. But I’ll bet the snakes were quieter than our teens in the tree. and immediately fetched a ladder. giving me one of those “why can’t you handle this?” looks.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. to hang out with other men and do whatever it is men do at such places. 91 . He arrived. Funny Man had retreated to a local sports bar. Jackson. battling all those hissing serpents on the plane.
But mothers don’t tell this to daughters. there comes a moment when she realizes that all men are. created equal. These creatures unable to pick up socks or discard over-used underwear are doomed to forever repeat hormonal history. As she walked past our table. when I found myself in a restaurant with my father and my new husband. I gazed fondly at these two men in my life. they allow girls to grow up blissfully ignorant. In a conspiracy of silence designed to ensure the survival of the species. thinking their guys are different. Then along came a wellendowed woman in a low-cut blouse. and I loved them both.Testosterone Trouble or every woman. That’s what I thought. she must face the fact that every male in her life is a walking testament to testosterone. 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 . From the time the ﬁrst man-like creature crawled out of the primordial muck and used his newly developed hands to grab the remote and put up the toilet seat. it’s been the same. They were polar opposites in personality. indeed. Like it or not.
” I said indignantly.Testosterone Trouble target. obnoxious guffaws. “But you’re treating her like a sex object. and apparently trying to impress a nearby group of girls. it seemed to be working. When my son was born. for example. my own dear father cracked. adolescent behavior in the human male extends far beyond the teen years. But when he turned 13. He decided. On a dare. which I think pretty much says it all. then run screaming through the halls swatting at his inﬂamed nose. crime and Paris Hilton.” Without missing a beat. to get a 93 . “If she’s a nuclear physicist. Women have clearly failed in their duty to humankind. a lifetime bond cemented by a set of knockers. Cleavage may just be the world’s last. This intelligent activity is apparently the highlight of a movie called Jackass. best hope. 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. high-ﬁving and breaking into loud. I’d like to see her reactors. Take my husband. “That woman could be a nuclear physicist. Shocked and angry. I was convinced that I could reverse the macho march of his life with my humanizing inﬂuence.” Then the man I called Daddy and the man I called Darling made complete boobs of themselves. ﬁnally kicking them under the table. he had snorted wasabi sauce. I attempted to get their attention. Although disillusioned. Unfortunately. I got a call from the middle school principal. after a mere 10 years of consideration. We should have long ago harnessed the unifying power of the hooter and used it to eradicate intractable problems such as war. At ﬁrst. I was determined to go on. for all you know.
but somehow still managed to go under the knife. Women can turn to other women for honest opinion and concerned counsel. endlessly amused in the same way that younger males never fail to ﬁnd humor in their own bodily processes. 94 . They’d all slap each other on the back after every goofy gag and double over in laughter. alone in the woods. Funny Man fell right into this pattern. this highly educated doctor would gather the other fathers on the sidelines to exchange jokes about the alteration of my husband’s nether regions. It took a good year before we could get through a game without some reference to the silly snip. The urologist who performed the procedure happened to have a son on the same soccer team as our son. assuring him his life as a he-man is history. A woman could give birth to triplets. and Funny Man would join right in. Week after week. all his friends will deliver countless cutting remarks about the expected failure of his masculinity.Days of Derangement vasectomy. I gave thanks that it was over. It was then I realized testosterone will always triumph. How wrong I was. When a man undergoes a vasectomy. on the other hand. take great pleasure in throwing their friends into turmoil with derogatory comments designed to undermine a buddy’s manhood. with far less hullabaloo. Men. Women may be the bedrock of society. but men are the life of the party.
As neither my children nor my husband avows any knowledge of how they got there. If I open the closet door. It’s a burden those of us born with greater abilities must bear. 95 . hanging like hoodlums off the shelf or brazenly bunched up in the corner. Those rectangular household items seem to have taken over my home.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. And since every other member of my family denies any responsibility for them. appearing unfolded all over the place in varying stages of cleanliness. I give them crisp contours and place them lovingly on their assigned shelves. I’ll ﬁnd towels in a tumultuous state. Towels that earlier were well-behaved are suddenly mingling with sheets and pillowcases on unauthorized shelves. I have to assume the terrible towels are in revolt. So I painstakingly fold the towels right out of the dryer. 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.
they chose to throw themselves over the hamster cage and somehow ended up frayed and chewed. where they evidently decided to clean a stinking pair of soccer cleats. I ﬁnd them lying. Then. By then. stained fragments of fabric consigned to sopping up spills or drying the dog. They will leap off the hooks on which they have been faithfully hung (and my family members always hang them up). look-but-don’ttouch decorative soaps. are the elegant elite—the decorative towels. The towels in my house adhere to a certain hierarchy. which even get matching. Then they’ll lie on the ﬂoor for hours. These privileged pieces. for some unknown reason. amassing smelly spores and funky fungi. I discovered them disgracefully hiding out on the back patio. still-presentable cloths assigned to dry the skins of their owners. at the top of the heap. soaking wet. The middle class towels are those ordinary. I have their sworn statements on that. No one is allowed to soil their softness with actual use. So the pretty towels must be acting on their own.Days of Derangement There’s also the matter of moisture. in the ﬂoor or in the sink. Instead of staying put in the guest bathroom. have the enviable duty of just looking good. Sometimes. they’ll have hardened into crustily creative origami. Another time. Our towels have a strange mania for mildew. they will even ﬂing themselves into closets and under beds where they will be unlikely to be discovered for days. 96 . in serious need of rehab. And none of my family members ever does touch them. One time. It’s truly diabolical. The lowest caste belongs to the torn.
97 . But it seemed to tame the towels. my family members did not like this at all. I became so traumatized by the behavior of my traitorous towels that I decided to put them all under lock and key so I could closely monitor their behavior. Oddly enough.Towel Tyranny At some point.
Look for something you’ll feel comfortable wearing. believes she resembles a Teletubby in her swimsuit. Almost every woman. even those with enough back hair to weave a small rug and a beer belly of sufﬁcient size to be a walking Budweiser billboard. We can only be persuaded to try on new ones each summer because—as with childbirth—we forget the agony endured during the experience. —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.Bathing Suit Blues People shop for a bathing suit with more care than they do a husband or wife. I too was seeking a supermodel suit. I envy that kind of conﬁdence. The rules are the same. on the other hand. When I was younger. Now. Every man thinks he looks good in his bathing suit. Allow for room to grow. the one that will leave us looking like a supermodel. having a middle-aged mom midriff untouched by a surgeon’s 98 . This seasonal amnesia allows us to set out once again on a search for the sublime suit.
I’m content if my beach body fails to cause vomiting or retinal damage. I begin my spandex search every spring. I thought I’d found the ideal answer with the Virtual Model. The spectacle was even scarier in the lower regions. 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). we’d likely take out a second mortgage to buy every bathing suit in stock? 99 . On the real me. See. My high-tech suit solution having shriveled. So with these modest goals in mind. On the virtual me. I found them cowering under my armpits. certain appendages intended to nourish babies had provided a pleasingly perky presentation. but I will spare you the details. Unfortunately. you can now re-create yourself online by entering your measurements. The virtual me turned out to be quite a hot mamma and I eagerly anticipated the arrival of my online bathing suit. when I attempted to stuff my real skin into my virtual suit. It doesn’t get any better than that.Bathing Suit Blues scalpel. Then you can try on computerized bathing suits in the privacy of your home while eating an entire carton of Haagen-Dazs. Not only was I not a hot mamma. I wasn’t even warm. said appendages seemed to have vanished. I was then forced to drag myself down to the department store and enter the psyche-smashing chamber of horrors known as the dressing room. The virtual you maintains her shape even as the real you adds another 10 pounds. I was sorely disappointed. Upon further inspection.
I’m going to pay another visit to that vixenish virtual me.Days of Derangement Determined to face the task at hand. so to speak). I wrapped myself in a striped sarong that was deﬁnitely not right. dubbing my quest a dismal failure. a one-piece that. I’m considering spending my summers in a burlap sack. the maillot. Maybe I’ll feed her some Haagen-Dazs. despite its French connections. checked suits and some with polka-dots. Now. For a couple of hours. I squeezed into suits both black (which conveniently matched my mood) and colored. I stood in front of those blasted mirrors under those blinding lights and tried on suit after suit. I left empty-handed. Nothing made me happy. skirted bathing suits supposedly capable of camouﬂaging cellulite and sarong swim attire meant to minimize the midsection. is bound to bestow a certain sexy je ne sais quoi. was a deﬁnite non. The tankini tanked as my ﬂesh oozed out of its assigned areas. 100 . I armed myself with an assortment of the latest in swimwear styles and colors: the tankini. none of them met even my humble expectations. In the end. just by virtue of having a French name. First though. which gives you the illusion of a two-piece but with the promise of greater coverage (a bikini with beneﬁts. The maillot. I struggled into a skirted ﬂoral number that made me look frighteningly like Hyacinth the Hippo. Sadly.
Bathing Suit Blues 101 .
I’d say sarcastically as I gagged at the odor wafting from them.” When my daughter was whining about something. I’d announce that “the lady doth protest too much. “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.To Do or Not To Do O that way.” When I had to pick up my son’s stinky sneakers. When it was past my kids’ bedtimes. 102 .” And when my darlings would head out the door to school in the morning. 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. This was a phase in which I’d quote The Bard extensively. perchance to dream. madness lies… —William Shakespeare W hen my children look back over their childhoods. I’d order them “to sleep. I hope they’ll forgive me for my Shakespeare phase. or as extensively as my Cliff Notes knowledge of him would allow.
I called it my To Do or Not To Do List. I was deeply annoyed with myself. my to-do list was grandiose and unrealistic. “Be not afraid of greatness. though. disgusted letters right across the list. my notes to self became slightly more pessimistic but still poetic. Some people can properly manage their time. Periodically. though. “Woman.” I wrote at the bottom. I couldn’t resist embellishing it with bits of Will’s wisdom. “Oft expectation fails. thy name is frailty. when I hadn’t actually accomplished anything on my list. 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. and so I try to establish some habit that will help me tame my time. with my to-do list not even close to being done. I decided to involve them in my time-management activities as well. I wrote each of them 103 . Just what I wanted.” I scrawled in large. where we lie as limp and exhausted as an overworked metaphor. At ﬁrst. By the end of the week. This gave me the feeling of organization but with a smidgen of rebellion thrown in.To Do or Not To Do My Shakespeare phase coincided with one of my occasional attempts at time management. I decide I no longer want to function like ﬂotsam. Others such as me tend to ﬂoat along like ﬂotsam on the sea of time.” I scribbled encouragingly to myself in the margins. During my obsession with The Bard. In true Shakespearean spirit. It covered an entire page and then spilled over on to a second page. Naturally. Sadly for my family members. After a few days. I took to writing a daily to-do list.
And before I knew it. 104 . and then I encouraged everyone to get up early on a Saturday morning so there would be plenty of time to get everything done. you are so weird!” my daughter said. I beg his or her pardon” I’d say with true Cowell attitude. I also got over William and moved on to quoting yet another witty Brit. After that. Simon Cowell. “Hark. At least he has his own TV show. “Mom. They ignored me.Days of Derangement a to-do list. “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. the timemanagement urge had passed. so I barged into their bedrooms spouting another Bardism. “If there is anyone here whom I have not insulted. of course. what light through yonder window breaks? Time to get up!” My kids covered their heads with their pillows and moaned. I went happily back to being ﬂoating ﬂotsam.
in his rich. Each night. my family went through a time of serious Trekkiness. Picard would. They were not individuals. Essentially. and the galaxy would be safe for another day.” I’d say as I sent them to their rooms. Shakespearean baritone. we’d curl up together on the couch and watch a rerun of Star Trek: The Next Generation.” No matter how daunting the task. Picard’s space-alien-butt-kicking crew would comply. delivered in a phony English accent. a race of aggressive. When the show was over. “Make it so. except that it didn’t slam doors or wear low-slung pants that showed its many pairs of 105 . That’s the Star Trek show in which the elegant Capt.Resistance is Futile W hen my children were younger. technologically enhanced beings—part human and part machine—which had a collective consciousness. 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. One of our favorite series of Star Trek episodes involved the Borg. command his crew to “Make it so. souped-up teenager. and they didn’t want to be. the Borg was one giant. the ﬁrst thing the poor drone would notice would be its own loneliness.
willingly shedding our individuality to become one with the great external mind. My daughter saved up her money to buy a computer game that allowed her to “bake” an online cake. just like teenagers do. my children would take on its robotic personality. Ah. Or so I thought until recently. and I like it. but no one is autonomous. We are all becoming part of the cyberspace collective. Sometimes. For days after a Borg episode had aired.” the Borg would intone without mercy to all its victims. Eventually. And we carry it with us at all times. She could select different frostings and decorations.” I’d intone without mercy each time one of my children tried to avoid going to bed. and the Borg went away where no man has gone before. What the Borg did was ruthlessly assimilate all other life forms into its Collective. in virtual rooms where everyone can be anonymous. Our children play virtual games. when I realized that the Borg have secretly stayed among us for quite some time. just to see how many times my name comes up. And we adults are just as bad. I am an online organism.Days of Derangement underwear. our Trekkie phase passed. And I’m not really one to talk. I’m not sure my mate knows where he ends and his Crackberry (Blackberry) begins. in the form of the Internet. My husband and I make our living by way of the Web. She could whip up a comely 106 . “Resistance is futile. I’ve developed a serious addiction to Googling myself. “Resistance is futile. those were good times. with virtual friends. 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.
We are Borg. Even though there was no taste.” I’m pretty sure that resistance is futile. no reality. When I asked her to help me make a real cake. I’m busy right now. Funny Girl was devoted to the game. no cold glass of milk to wash down this lifeless computer cake. I’m baking. she answered impatiently.Resistance is Futile confection with the click of a mouse. 107 . And she could share her cake with other online bakers. “Mom.
My mother-in-law. It’s been that way since time immemorial. three generations bonding over a good meal. See. we went out to eat one time with my in-laws. There were several times when my kids were growing up that I was pretty sure that crazy continuum had gone and done it again. Spock) to perform heroic feats to save the day. always getting runs in it that throw everything into turmoil and require humans (or half-humans in the case of Mr. B eing a recovering Trekkie who once had a serious crush on Captain Kirk. our family followed that hallowed tradition. If 108 . noticed that Funny Girl was eating calamari. And most of the time. For example. If you’ve watched as much Star Trek as I have. who is a little hard of hearing and tends to speak loudly. you know the space-time continuum is about as reliable as a cheap pair of pantyhose.Space Time Turmoil The rate at which a person can mature is directly proportional to the embarrassment he can tolerate. the unwritten rule of the universe is that older generations get to embarrass the younger one. I’ve always been attuned to the possibility of a warp in the time-space continuum.
dressed only in a towel. She used another word that sounds very similar to tentacles but actually describes a very private part of the male anatomy. he could see her and she could see him. Through the miracle of modern technology. Sometimes. Funny Man had already taken a shower. She could also see past him into his room.Space Time Turmoil you’ve eaten it. What he didn’t know was that Funny Boy had recently installed a webcam and was using it to communicate with his girlfriend. unfortunately. my kids turned a deep shade of red and appeared to be trying to get under the table. not long after that. never actually starting the process of getting ready until about ﬁve minutes after he was supposed to be somewhere. and so she saw my husband walk in. Knowing this. my husband. So my mother-in-law innocently made a loud comment about the joys of eating tentacles. you know that calamari is just squid dressed up with a fancy Italian name and often served fried in little rings. However. Except that she didn’t say tentacles. 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. operated (and still does) on a different timetable than the rest of us. you also get fried squid tentacles that look like little spiders ready to scamper right off the plate. 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. As several restaurant patrons turned to look at us. Funny Boy. everything was turned topsy turvy. walked into my son’s room to lovingly (or not) suggest the kid should get moving. My husband and son were getting ready to go out. But I went right on with my meal. 109 . knowing all was right with the world.
Clearly.Days of Derangement leaving Funny Man standing there with his dignity exposed and our son’s girlfriend probably in need of therapy. Spock is available to ﬁx it. I wonder if Mr. 110 . something is wrong with that old space-time continuum.
Yet every year. By the time my dad’s friends arrived to catch the kickoff. If they did not do well. And I realize all over again how much the power of pigskin has shaped my life. all would be right with the universe. I ﬁnd myself so not ready for another football season. —George Will E very fall. My father was gripped by gridiron giddiness. and all his rowdy friends could come over and make me appreciate the game. if they fumbled and failed. Game days were serious business around our house. of touchdowns and testosterone. in childhood. It started. the air was electric with excitement. If the Sooners did well. and my papa and his pals would be bursting with pride. I ﬁnd myself deeply embedded in the season of beering and cheering. a deathly pall would hang over the house. I doubt even Hank Jr. and most of his mania was focused on the University of Oklahoma Sooners. and each man would have to 111 .The Power of Pigskin Football combines the two worst things about America: it is violence punctuated by committee meetings. as most psychologically traumatizing things do.
We talked about everything under the sun. things would be gloomy. the loathsome Longhorns won the game. So I foolishly married the man. naturally) and there. I met a handsome. by some terrible tragedy. When my skinny son reached high school. judging by fan reaction. I’d have run away as fast as I could. on a bright August day. football posters on the walls. One of my dad’s friends actually once punched a hole in the wall. art. I ended up living in a house inundated by pigskin passion. our hopes and dreams. 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. even football toilet seat covers. But then came September. you know exactly which song I mean. and in time. seemingly normal man. and beer would be necessary to drown their Sooner sorrows. and they’d sing a mockingly modiﬁed version of the Texas ﬁght song that ended with a rather rude suggestion involving biting and backsides. philosophy. If I was smart. produced a miniature Madden man of my own.Days of Derangement ﬁnd his own way to deal with his distress. and I was shocked one Saturday to ﬁnd this fellow that I’d fallen for screaming shirtless in a stadium. literature. All over a silly game. unable to contain his outrage at the calamity that had befallen the team. and we all know that love is as blind as. I just didn’t get it. But I was in love. we spent our Friday nights watching him in constant danger of being turned into a football version of Flat Stanley 112 . a great number of football referees. But if. Then I went to college (at OU. If you’re a Sooner or a Longhorn. We had football bed sheets. his face and body painted crimson for the team.
When our extended family gathered to give thanks. caused by a constant assault from nacho cheese. During this silliest of seasons. anyway) like giants on the opposing team trying to tackle him. onion dip. Our living room carpet suffered from football-mouth disease. But usually I just grabbed some of my rowdy friends and went shopping. It was enough to make me want to throw up. 113 . the televisions in our house broadcast a perpetual stream of games.The Power of Pigskin by what looked (to me. 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. three generations of football fanatics would genuﬂect before the gridiron god. interrupted only by endless rounds of neckless men in nice suits discussing those games and the gladiators who play them. Or punch a hole in the wall. The holidays were also hamstrung by this crazy sport.
have not had to live with my father’s follicles. bouncy hair who dropped the genetic ball at your conception and allowed your father’s lackluster gene to beat her 114 .The Hairy Truth W hen I reach the Pearly Gates. 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. beautiful. If you have problem hair that just lies slouched across your scalp as sluggish as a teenager in the summertime. on top of that. You. 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. Why. and I am allowed to ask one question. however. Being the daughter of a HIM. Oh Lord. A HIM does not care about his hair. A HIM spends even less time thinking about his hair than wondering if his jeans make his butt look big. And if—like me—you have a mother with thick. can be a curse if—like me—you are unfortunate enough to have inherited his calamitous coif. being a HIM is a real blessing. my friend. That’s because he is a man and. I already know what it’s going to be. he’s a HIM (HairIndifferent Man). Those faulty follicles have not been a problem for my father.
In the meantime. I patiently tried to explain that hairdressers are like golf players. What they do doesn’t look hard. along with expensive styling products with French names that will surely make my hair look better just by virtue of being French. I’d spend that much on my hair alone—perms. and eventually just taking the matter up with the Creator himself. and yet. “No. I would also need a full-time stylist to ﬁx my “do” every day.” So decent. Of course. I feel like I’ve beaten the genetic odds. and my normally limp locks are temporarily looking good. I have to confess I understand why all those wealthy divorcees demand thousands monthly in alimony for personal upkeep.” I say. I’d tasted life as one of the hair fortunate. that after my last salon visit. That should have made me happy. though. try it yourself 115 . If I could. you may have enough Oedipal issues to keep any therapist busy (and wealthy). My co-workers ask if I’ve had a face-lift or maybe some liposuction.The Hairy Truth good hair gene to the punch. Personally. even after I’d gone back to my familiar ﬂat-as-a-pancake look. in fact. people were still talking about my hair a week later. It was a bitter pill indeed to return to my helmet-hair existence. I plan on skipping the shrink’s couch. “It’s just that my hair looks decent for once. 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. but instead I was melancholy. 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. cuts and coloring. Strangers on the street treat me with more respect. given my follicular disability.
The only solution is to get a divorce and spend every penny of my alimony to keep a hairdresser at my beck and call. I should have been born a HIM. I simply cannot get my hair to look the way it does when my stylist does it. 116 . I’m just kidding.Days of Derangement and see what happens. Really. Mom. Thanks a lot. dear. of course. I’m just kidding. Even using the same products and appliances.
My parents worked in tandem to instill in me the appropriate levels of fear and loathing necessary for success on the road. and my mom sat in the back. I looked forward to my turn as the parent in the passenger seat ever since my own teenage driving debut many years ago. But when Funny Boy was old enough to get his learner’s permit. T eaching a teenager to drive ranks right up there with potty training as one of parenting’s ﬁnest experiences. Learner’s 117 . Each time I tried to smoothly shift into gear. My dad took his place beside me. the little car would buck like a bronco.Driving Drill Instructor The best substitute for experience is being 16. my mother would shriek as if she were in real danger. So we went to our local Department of Motor Vehicles ofﬁce. I was eager to carry on the family tradition. I learned to drive in a bright yellow Volkswagen Bug with manual transmission that I affectionately called The Egg Yolk. and my father would simultaneously yell “Clutch!” This happened over and over until I was a shaking bundle of nerves requiring years of therapy.
You got that?” Funny Boy nodded his head as if in total agreement (he was faking it). and I gave the government guardian angel a grateful look. “I’ve got an idea. my son emerged from the house wearing a T-shirt that said Easily Distracted. reset all the radio buttons and casually drape his left arm out of the open window. alas. Now that’s a true public servant. from there.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. and we got into a screaming match over the proper enactment of that rule known as Right on Red. “your mom and dad can take away your license for any reason—maybe because your grades slip or maybe just because you don’t keep your room clean.” I said sarcastically. he proceeded to check his hair in the mirror. Next. My son’s apparent need for speed led me to point out that it wasn’t 118 . so to speak. already feeling my blood pressure rising. But. “Before you turn 18. her warning went in one teenage ear and out the other. We had high-decibel discussions about the meaning of words such as slow and stop. Not a good sign. When it was time for his ﬁrst lesson. “How about we start out with both hands on the wheel?” It all just went downhill.” she told him sternly. The trip from our driveway to the nearest intersection was fraught with the kind of nail-biting nausea common to stressful situations. The kind soul at the DMV did her best to lay down the law. reminding my junior joy rider that his driving destiny legally rested in the hands of his loving parents.
Driving Drill Instructor necessary to always drive the speed limit. that he could drive more slowly.” Funny Boy responded in all seriousness. “You can go ﬁve miles over without being stopped by the cops. By the time we returned home. I had twice been called a terrible teacher. Funny Boy will thank me for it. I know. But I felt a deep satisfaction knowing I’d fulﬁlled the familial obligation to be a driving drill instructor. One day.” 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. I meant. 119 . of course. “Oh. still miraculously alive.
120 . but I know my Tom Cruise clone still sees himself as that studly single man. handsome and dashing in a ﬂight suit. He keeps a picture of himself—I call it his Top Gun picture—from those days. For my husband. The car and the plane are long gone. He’s leaning against that sports car. Your mind picks out a moment when you looked your best. sometimes a moment that occurred many moons (and many pounds) ago.LBD Conspiracy I t’s funny how one’s self-image tends to stay frozen in time. and it goes through some kind of freezing process that crystallizes this warm memory into a mental ice cube tray where you can periodically pull it out of the ﬁgurative freezer of dreams and lick it with the symbolic tongue of delusion just to make sure it’s still there. and the ﬂight suit would require some alternations if he wanted to wear it now (sorry. 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. Or something like that. with his airplane in the background. dear).
with the size that I know ﬁts me. 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. And once a woman has felt beautiful in this essential item of apparel (a la Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s). I refused to try them on.LBD Conspiracy My ﬂash-frozen picture of myself occurred about the same time. “how could you?” My mom. she tends to assume she will always look good in it. began bringing me LBDs in larger sizes. trying to be helpful. yet timeless LBD. the LBD is far more than a piece of clothing. naturally. 121 . For a woman. 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. tiramisu.” Funny Girl said mockingly. In fact. I went shopping one holiday season for a new little black dress. I had my daughter and my mother in tow. It’s a canvas on which she can showcase her stylish self. the dresses in my size failed to ﬂatter my ﬁgure. probably the same folks adding lead to children’s toys. I started. and then annoyed. Someone is sabotaging the LBD. But for some reason. as my size-zero. “Oh. These people have a lot to answer for. one that should have every woman in the country up in arms. I tried on dress after dress in what I thought would be a quick quest for a trendy. is removing fabric from the fundamental fashion frock and skewing the sizes. when I ﬁrst wore a Little Black Dress. Someone. each terribly tight toga refused to go much past my knees! I was astounded. one of the most important items in her wardrobe. back in my skinny season. And I stumbled upon a shocking scandal.
Days of Derangement “That’s my size and I’m sticking to it!” I said heatedly. These people are trying to make me look fat and send me into the little black dress doldrums. That’s when I realized I was the unwitting victim of a vast LBD conspiracy. I’m calling my congressman. I want my original size back. pointing to one of the discarded dresses. But I won’t give them that satisfaction. 122 . A warm ﬂush of embarrassment began to spread over my face and threatened to melt that icy illusion in my head.
—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow F unny Man regularly declares that it’s over. Being a full six months younger. really over.It’s Over And the thoughts of youth are long. I used to laugh at my geriatric spouse. “It’s really. and I didn’t even notice it 123 .” Funny Man moaned when he stood in front of the mirror with his trimmer. throwing up his arms melodramatically. He said it again the ﬁrst time he had to buy a nose hair trimmer. long thoughts. He made this declaration the ﬁrst time an attractive young woman called him “Sir.” “It’s over!” he lamented. such as youth or life or sanity. “It” is usually something precious and irretrievable once lost. I liked to point out that not a single hair was sticking out of my nose. An interest in ﬁber is a sure sign of impending geezerdom. But I stopped laughing after I celebrated yet another birthday on the wrong side of 40. That’s because I found myself in a long and serious conversation with my dad about the attributes of various high-ﬁber breakfast cereals.
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. which was equipped with those new-fangled seat heaters. I know they’ve been around a while. long thoughts of youth mentioned by Longfellow (who seems to have had the perfect name for such nostalgia). Not realizing this.Days of Derangement until I saw the looks on the faces of my children. it apparently pressed the seat heater button. I was alarmed when a warm feeling spread across my backside. Apparently.) When I placed my purse on the car’s console. Yogi Berra: It ain’t over ’til it’s over. I want to be prepared for the inevitable. though. I did head on into the store. At least not yet. 124 . I began to have some of those long. (OK. Every teenager should have to sit through a discussion of the digestive delights of eating a cardboard breakfast. I’m not quite as long-in-the-tooth as I thought. I was almost weak with relief when I got out of the car and discovered that my pants were dry. but I’d never had them before. we got a new car. See. I also picked up an anticipatory package of Depends. It will give him or her a greater appreciation for the ﬂeeting Cap’n Crunch phase of life. to look over the selection of nose hair trimmers. As I was driving to the drugstore to get some Depends. I assumed Father Time had put my bladder on the fast track to incontinence. I’m going to quote another great poet. the next time my husband announces that it’s over. Even so.
It’s Over 125 .
until I was 11 or 12 years old. the cat’s meow. By the time they are on the cusp of adolescence. It’s all so unfair. you can mortify them merely by appearing in public. Today’s parents only have until their kids are about 6 before they become a source of embarrassment to their offspring. that precious period now has shrunk until it’s as short as a bee’s knee would be (assuming bees actually have knees). you actually can make them nauseous by using old-fashioned phrases involving insects and their theoretical body parts. at the very least. take that wonderful window of time during which your children idolize you and think you’re the bee’s knees. And when they are teenagers. But tragically. 126 . I deﬁnitely can remember thinking my parents were the bee’s knees or. —Phyllis Diller L ife just moves too fast nowadays.Bee’s Knees Always be nice to your children because they are the ones who will choose your rest home. The little ingrates start to roll their eyes at our actions almost before they learn to ride a bike. For example. That golden period used to last about a decade.
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.Bee’s Knees I was pondering this great injustice one day while waiting for my daughter in the car line at school. Funny Girl was standing there. In the car line that day before the ﬁnal bell rang. I began to sing along to the music. The radio was tuned. I made up the last one. A group of amused-looking teenagers stood behind her. I heard the radio start playing Rock and Roll All Nite by that band of upstanding citizens known as KISS.” I warbled loudly. 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. a groovy rock groupie a long way from easy listening. 127 . geriatric name such as The Dove or The Breeze or The Snooze. even if I usually listen at a much lower volume than I once did. (OK. And because the windows were rolled up. I used to tear around town in my yellow Volkswagen Beetle with my friends. as usual. Hearing Rock and Roll All Nite brought back a lot of memories. I even started playing a pretty impressive air guitar. Halfway through the second stanza. Easy-listening stations generally have a gentle. “I wanna rock and roll all night.” I was lost in the ’70s. blasting KISS tunes at unhealthy decibel levels. her face about as white as the makeup the members of KISS used to wear. “And party every day. When I was a teenager. my eyes closed. to a classic rock station that helps me remember I’m still young and hip. I suddenly heard the van’s door being yanked open. Occasionally. I get an unfortunate urge to change the station to one playing easy-listening songs.) When I get that disturbing desire to change the dial.
128 . Someday. I just hope when she does I’m still young enough to remember it. I’d been abruptly thrust back into the 21st century.” I said sheepishly.Days of Derangement “Mom! What are you doing?!” “Just listening to music. get us out of here!” Funny Girl slumped down in the seat. turning it down. trying not to be seen. she’ll look back on this incident and laugh. “Hurry. a middleaged mom who should probably start acting her age.
delightful with doilies and pretty teacups—would be the perfect spot to celebrate our 19th anniversary several years ago. We decided—OK. he looked doubtful. —Peter De Vries I thought a bed and breakfast—a place oozing with charm. more civilized time.The B and B The difﬁculty with married life is that we fall in love with a personality. I booked a night at a “Victorian-era” inn that described itself as quaint and picturesque. however. departed grandmother to mind. It wasn’t exactly the atmosphere I’d envisioned. For Funny Man. the B and B apparently brought his dear. When I told my husband where we were going. I couldn’t wait to cuddle up there with my husband.” I pointed out. but must live with a character. one rich in history and character. I decided—to wrap up our family visit to Colorado by leaving the kids with their grandparents and sneaking off to a little town nearby. 129 . romantic images of an elegant. The very phrase bed and breakfast evoked for me soft. “It’s quaint and picturesque.
you unromantic schlub.” He gave me one of his obnoxious I-told-you-so looks. 130 . In a Colorado winter.” he said. I was thinking. my man expressed even greater doubts.Days of Derangement “That means old and broken-down. the room was very warm.” Funny Man said. “they probably don’t even have ESPN. “Oh.” Funny Man snorted. There was barely enough space for a bed. lying down on the bed. “Just like the beds at Grandma’s house. “It’s lumpy.” she said breezily. it’s really not so bad. I asked the hostess why I wasn’t told about the heating problem when I reserved the room. “It looks just like my grandmother’s old place.” “That will make for a very romantic night. “It’s as hot in here as my grandma’s house used to be. In the summer. Our hostess explained the house had an ancient heating system that unfortunately could not be shut off. fanning himself. 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. “Just leave the window and door open. And it was a bed in which Tom Thumb and his wife would have been comfortable. her smile fading a bit. tucked under the sloping roof.” Wondering if I could possibly get that lucky.” On top of that. When we pulled up to the house on a sleepy side street. I was eager to arrive at our lacy love nest. Are you sure you wouldn’t rather get a hotel room?” Not on your life. this would have been just ﬁne. it was deﬁnitely a problem. then added disparagingly. Room is a generous word to describe this slightly oversized closet. but which would be mighty close quarters for two people of our well-fed proportions.
After a while.The B and B When I was growing up. The hostess left. “Where’s the TV?” he asked. “Darling.” Most of the time. you’re going to be seeing her much sooner than you expected. The I-told-you-so look Funny Man sent me put my back right out of proportion and made me stubbornly determined to spend the night in this balmy B and B. I broke down and suggested that we leave. “There’s not one.” The evening kind of went downhill from there.” I told him in a syrupy voice. I am deﬁnitely my mother’s daughter. my dad was the reason for my mom’s spinal contortions. and my mother would get upset about something. 131 . Finally. We quickly packed our things and headed for a hotel. I was too uncomfortable to keep my back up any longer. “if you bring up your grandmother again. where we drank champagne and toasted our marriage in an ice-cold room on a king-size bed. That’s when my mate realized the situation was even worse than he thought.” he said sorrowfully. my father would say. We had a nice enough dinner. “Your mama’s got her back up. but then returned to our stuffy little room and stared at each other across the lumpy bed. Isn’t it great?” “Just like Grandma’s house. ESPN never sounded so good. and we began to unpack our clothes.
—Andy Rooney A s an English major and therefore (according to my kids) a certiﬁed weenie. Commas make me jump with joy.E-nnoyed by Emoticons Computers make it easier to do a lot of things. if inserted sensibly. you’ve no doubt seen them polluting e-mail and Web sites. I can wax ecstatic over an exclamation mark. You just called me a weenie. I have a thing for punctuation. Semicolons. 132 . but most of the things they make it easier to do don’t need to be done. while their cousins—the comely colons—leave me more in love than ever with language. are beautiful things to behold. (I heard that. Periods and parentheses provide pure pleasure. It is the insidious infection known as “emoticons. Poor little punctuation marks—the workhorses of the written word—are being improperly pressed into service to convey emotion online.” If you’ve spent any time at all on a computer.) That’s why my knickers have long been in a knot over a serious threat to the purity of punctuation.
Words are wasting away. But I fear our mother tongue is still in peril. 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 stopped in horror. back to a world where man crudely expressed his thoughts with hieroglyphics. (You called me a weenie again. beautifully transmitting my feelings without any assistance from stupid symbols. Until recently. Sometimes. As if words—the medium of artists like Shakespeare and Wordsworth.E-nnoyed by Emoticons By combining the words “emotion” and “icon. We may be in real trouble here. Snooki—are no longer good enough to express our sentiments. I thought I was immune to emoticon creep. didn’t you?) But one day.” some cyber geek has given us this Frankenstein of feelings. It’s as if we are moving backward in time. The most common emoticon is that sickening smiley face made with a colon for eyes and the right parenthesis as the smile : ). Of course. standard spelling is falling out of fashion. Actually. just when I was about to hit Send on a routine e-mail to an acquaintance. now that I think about it. to add insult to injury. a dash is even forced to stand between the “eyes” and the “mouth” to indicate a nose :-). folks. an English major. you have to view it at a 90-degree angle. something you never have to do with words. not to mention that great author. My text stood on its own. hieroglyphics were a lot more sophisticated than the smiley face. after all. I am. There. at the 133 .
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. : ( 134 . Even the word-weenies like me are gradually being worn down. but two obsequious smiley faces.
The second picture showed dozens of buttons. The ﬁrst picture showed two simple push buttons. A wise and reasonable man would resign himself to this timeless reality and use another bathroom. one labeled On and the other Off.High Maintenance Woman For marriage to be a success. This would allow the I 135 . The obvious implication was that women are a high-maintenance sector of our species. every woman and every man should have her and his own bathroom. levers and gauges in a dizzying and complicated array. The rule says that women get triple the time and space in the bathroom as 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. See. —Catherine Zeta-Jones once received an email containing a couple of pictures that pretty much sums up the difference between the genders. The caption on this picture: Men. I think about those pictures every time Funny Man and I have one of our regular conversations about access to the master bathroom. The end. and was labeled—you guessed it—Women. knobs.
An unwise and unreasonable man. sneaks into the bathroom and jumps into the shower. rapidly steaming up the place and fogging the mirror. of course. cannot be rushed. Each phase in this process is divided into a series of tasks. would insist on throwing a monkey wrench into the convoluted process that is necessary to keep his wife looking like her lovely self. vitamin-enhanced shampoo. means that my hair will fail to 136 . The timing between Phase 4 and Phase 5—the all-important hair styling step—is crucial. Over the years. It’s usually during this phase that Funny Man. especially my shower. 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. A woman’s shower. Phase 1 is taking a shower.Days of Derangement wife of such an admirable man to enjoy her God-given right to bask in the boudoir. That leads directly into Phase 3. employing guerilla warfare tactics. pumice stone. like the one I married. Phase 2—the after-shower—includes applying various lotions and oils designed to smooth and perfume my body. But a woman’s shower ritual requires numerous wash cloths. such as if my husband turns stubborn and stays in the shower. That’s when things get dicey. herbal-infused conditioner and. when I momentarily leave the bathroom and enter my closet to decide what to wear. and each task is absolutely essential for me to be ﬁt to face the world. A man might think this is a simple and quick procedure involving a bar of soap and minimal scrubbing. honeysuckle shaving cream. fruity face soap. I’ve developed a multi-step system for getting ready every morning. Any kind of unexpected setback. loofah.
A Bad Hair Day wipes out all of my hard work and leaves me grouchy as a grizzly. I’m a high-maintenance mama bear who needs her own bathroom. I’ll get it. Maybe someday. and I will be cruelly condemned to a Bad Hair Day.High Maintenance Woman achieve its desired fullness. 137 .
for all we knew. At open house. proven by the fact that it allowed me to join. the acronym PTA stood for pizza takeout activities. a group of relentlessly energetic moms surrounded me. In a few short months. we became fruitful and multiplied. It started with the best of intentions. But the group has a serious ﬂaw in its screening process. We were young and ignorant then. God bless the parents who donate their time and talents to the schools. Don’t get me wrong. and lo. But in the fullness of time. That’s when my adventures with the Parent Teacher Association began. The PTA is a very worthwhile organization. 138 . we brought forth fruits who needed to be educated. And so. we sent them to school. I don’t think the PTA ladies have yet recovered. I dutifully joined PTA when my oldest child started school. Back when. and I obediently scribbled my name on sheet after sheet. And that’s when I realized I’m probably not cut out to be a PTA mom. thrusting a sheaf of volunteer sign-up sheets my way. I inadvertently managed to sock it to my local unit. I cast my memory back to that childless period that my husband calls BK (before kids).Pity the PTA S ometimes.
partially folded laundry on the table. I became an aide-de-camp to the homeroom mom. I really did.Pity the PTA Soon after. So I tried to be a stereotypical PTA mom. swathed in yuletide apparel. I was eager to prove my maternal mettle. By the time she left. anxious to impress. There are those who “pop over” without warning and those who know better. In December. I ﬂushed in embarrassment. I opened my door to an unexpected visit from the PTA president. volunteering in the classroom while wearing a school bus sweater in September. and never the two should meet. Naturally. wrestling with felt and fabric. I put on a saccharine smile and covered myself in cute. I was a walking festival of kitsch. But I proved to be severely craft-challenged. glue and glitter. but she continued her recruitment speech. I obviously needed to do more. and good old guilt setting in. crushed Cheerios adorning the furniture. but invited her in. Those treats turned literal when they actually fell into the sink as I tried to juggle a cookie-laden plate and a 139 . And the new puppy had just pooped on the ﬂoor. So I was moved to food. I felt my parental conﬁdence ebbing away. I cooked a soggy spinach quiche for a teacher breakfast and Kitchen Sink cookies for the ﬁrst PTA meeting. She was clearly an uber-parent. I’d been conscripted into her volunteer army. a well-coiffed woman in sensible shoes. I was assigned to crafts and gamely did my best. bent on marshaling her troops for the task at hand. bungling the carefully planned projects and snickering at all the seriousness. Her dismayed eyes swept over my domestic disarray. holding up the walls while she ran the show. a candy corn necklace in October and a turkey broach in November. my house was a disaster: dirty dishes in the sink.
instructed to bring turnips (turnips!) to the class Pilgrim feast. Plus. I gave it my all. knocking over a display at the Book Fair and spilling the soda at the Fall Festival. forgetting the spoons for the Chili Cook-off. I managed to fall short at every turn. I was clearly an abomination to the bake sale set. So I was switched to membership. Madame and her cabal of Super Moms were not amused. By Thanksgiving. the Parent Teacher Association and I parted ways. and I began to giggle. (The rash of reported illness among parents the next day was a mere coincidence. I tried to redeem myself at Christmas. My job was to get up at school functions and community events and beg people to join. 140 . and membership plummeted. I was a conﬁrmed bottomfeeder. but my cupcakes collapsed into a gooey mess. my hands trembled. but still perfectly edible. They couldn’t have picked a worse spokesperson: my voice squeaked. They were slightly damp. convinced my ﬂy was open. So by mutual agreement. Audience members gave each other alarmed glances as they headed for the door. schlepping shoddy merchandise and tacky trivia in the name of education. the patrons of the PTA think that’s just ﬁne. And as long as I’m moving away from them.Days of Derangement crying child at the same time. I discovered that I can be a better mother by marching to my own drum. That’s when Madame President transferred me to fundraising.) My giant Jell-O monster at Halloween was more funny than frightening. because the sales numbers were lackluster. But my lack of enthusiasm must have shown. Clumsy and barely competent. I kept nervously touching my pants zipper. I was a round soul trying to ﬁt into a square PTA.
We’d amuse ourselves for the ﬁrst ﬁve minutes by staring at everyone else in the room. thinking this doctor must have a strange sense of humor. Newsweek. There were the usual suspects: young mothers with newborns clutched close. The room. its walls were papered with smiling clowns holding balloons. then settle for a speck of wall next to the magazines. even a few slouching teenagers. I’d shiver.Germ Warfare T hey don’t call it a waiting room for nothing. scowling to hide their embarrassment. germladen toddlers strolling about. was deceptively bright and cheery. two sick toddlers in tow. I remember staring at it. 141 . just a rack of magazines for parents and a few more austere publications like Time. even a stray copy of Scientiﬁc American. lined on all sides by irritable-looking adults and hordes of (literally) snot-nosed children. There were no toys or children’s books there to spread infection. knowing the endurance test that awaited. I can still remember walking into my pediatrician’s ofﬁce. curious. I’d look around for a seat.
we’d be approached by The Infector. “Hi!” this biological time bomb would say. Finally.000 times. She’d come closer. for the ﬁrst hour. It played one animated movie over and over. pint-sized germ carrier with a big loopy grin encircled by caked-on mucus. this one with the doctor’s name in a framed picture. “Mommy. The germ warrior would move on to the next victim. the door to the inner sanctum would open and we’d be summoned. “What’s your name?” I’d pull my children close and wonder how I could discreetly repel the threat. including my own. The movie was changed approximately every six months. Funny Boy would say. But it did seem to pacify some of the children. At some point while we were waiting. loudly. I’d had the pleasure of seeing it at least 5. Then someone unable to ﬁnd a seat would choose to stand directly in front of the screen. an outgoing. spewing viral droplets all over my kids and then reaching out with the most terrorizing weapon of all: a well-lubricated ﬁnger. There’s one in every pediatrician’s waiting room. A surreptitious trip? A quick jab in the stomach? But a cold shoulder seemed to sufﬁce.Days of Derangement The room’s one concession to the amusement of children was directly across from me—a big-screen TV. I can’t see!” And then he’d say it again and again and AGAIN. each letter formed by those *!&#?$%@*! clowns. 142 . 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. We’d be ushered into another waiting room. Since my children cultivated ear and sinus infections faster than my yard sprouted weeds.
” he’d say briskly. They’ll be ﬁne in a few days. I’d straighten up.Germ Warfare Once inside. having atrophied. the door opened.” I’d sigh to the kids. Children’s’ screams echoed up and down the hall. I’d console myself with the thought that any serious injuries they inﬂicted on each other would eventually receive medical attention. nose. “Come on. 143 . like an ice cube in July. we would hear an authoritative voice just outside. Funny Boy and Funny Girl would stop pummeling each other and come to attention. But I knew better. convinced I’d developed several new wrinkles since I arrived. “Just a cold this time.” And with that he was gone. 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. and there he was: THE DOCTOR! “Long time no see”. I’d try to smile back. my kids promptly started to ﬁght over positioning on the examination table. Suddenly. he usually joked. failed to lift my mouth. throat. extra rest. lungs. I’d splash water on my face at the sink in the corner. ears. but my facial muscles. The knob turned. then stare up into the little mirror over it. I’d reel off a list of symptoms and watch as he conducted a quick exam: eyes. seemingly prancing on the walls in spiteful celebration of my plight. writing something in the chart. See you next time. That’s when I would catch sight of THOSE CLOWNS. “Give ‘em plenty of ﬂuids.
He made man and woman. it has been scientiﬁcally proven that men and women process “funny” differently. 144 . —Bill Kelly A s a professional columnist who writes on matters of national importance. suggesting I must employ the services of a male ghostwriter. These people share a common trait—they openly admit to being men. to keep the whole thing from collapsing.” he wrote. I sometimes have to deal with difﬁcult people. retrieved my goat and put him (or her) back in my mental barn. But after I’d calmed down. Then. “And women aren’t funny. One such brazen fellow once contacted me to let me know that he did not believe I actually write my columns.” This reader’s chauvinistic comments really got my goat. “Your columns are too funny. Turns out.Pull My Finger After God created the world. He invented humor. I did a little research on gender differences in the appreciation of humor.
They like one-liners and sucker punches that come with a sting. If a woman has something funny to say. We’d never ask someone to pull our ﬁnger. you should probably grab a seat because the punch line isn’t coming for a while.Pull My Finger Women think a bit more about whether or not they ﬁnd something amusing. if one of my male readers actually laughs at one of my columns. from the perfect armpit fart (which I’ll admit does take some skill) to the loudest burp. 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. They don’t have the attention span or the desire to wait for the rib-tickling to begin. They consider bodily noises an art form. And that is why men don’t think women are funny. we occupy different planes of existence. Women like sharing narratives that create a bonding moment. on the other hand.” man laughs because. I really am a girl. 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. and I really do write my own material. In the world of wit. 145 . It’s also why. a joke. I frequently try to think like a man. and they don’t do crude. it’s a joke. guys. Women laugh more at themselves. But it renders the XY side of our species (AKA men) incapable of appreciating more sophisticated female funnies. Man hears joke. But in order to further my comedic career and appeal to the widest possible audience. Men are humor primitives. he may be skeptical that it was written by a woman. Men. well. That’s why. like making fun of everyone. “Oh. Pull my ﬁnger. man thinks.
Days of Derangement 146 .
I could block out the evidence of its steady deterioration. But Funny Boy always gave me a beginning-of-summer hidden mystery. and I needed a lot more than a whip and a fedora to do it. Ignorance is bliss. I’d known all year. its various substances emitting sulfurous fumes that are probably banned by international treaty. along with all their educational 147 . the school district would temporarily abandon its attempts to educate my children and deposit them back with me. There’s an attraction at Disneyland called the Indiana Jones Summer of Hidden Mysteries. but that’s child’s play compared to the task that awaited me at the end of every school year. That’s because it suddenly showed up at my house. and I didn’t have to travel to Disneyland to experience it.Back pack Black Hole I ndiana Jones has nothing on me. I had to clean out my son’s backpack. I am the one who paid for it after all. of course. But as long as it was coming and going daily during the school year. about the existence of this book bag. never in my house for too long. a stinky. The intrepid explorer may have had to face a pit of snakes and various other vermin. In May of each year. however. overstuffed sack with fraying stitches.
on the other hand. The top layer contained still-recognizable items—crumpled up sheets of notebook paper. though. I reached in and gingerly extracted various moldy objects that might once 148 . it did not smell. The backpacks were ﬂung joyously into a corner and instantly forgotten. folders and binders in varying states of decomposition. She’d attached a collection of fancy key chains to it. It was without a cover. Indiana Jones would do no less. Funny Girl’s book bag still appeared to be an item designed to transport knowledge. I felt just like an archeologist digging through the life layers of a primitive group of humans. Funny Boy’s backpack. There they sat for several days. by some miracle. a couple of fast-food containers sporting dried-up French fry fragments. Wearing thick rubber gloves. one on its way to being civilized but not quite there yet. but it was still a book. It would probably qualify as a toxic Superfund site. perhaps. There was even. It was festooned with glued-on sequins. things got murkier. but then decided to tackle the cleanup on my own. It was full of funky-smelling and largely unidentiﬁable things. This is when the gloves came in handy. And. an actual book. There were a few stray pieces of paper left inside and a motley collection of school supplies rolling around on the bottom. bore only a theoretical resemblance to the device that started out slung over his shoulder way back in the fall. Some of the bag’s dignity was lost. and scribbled on with cutesy messages and smiley faces from her friends. importantly. I considered applying for federal assistance. but it was still recognizable. empty water bottles covered with what appeared to be chewing gum. naturally.Days of Derangement paraphernalia. Below that ﬁrst level of compaction.
Come to think of it. I was amazed at how the molecular structure of the slimy material appeared to have changed. I wised up and just threw out the bag at the end of the school year without looking inside. solidiﬁed layer of goop that I had to pry off with both hands. but nothing had ever come out of it. 149 . Eventually. except that it smelled like the real thing. Things went into it. becoming part of the bag itself. I should have sold it as an attraction.Back pack Black Hole have been part of a school lunch but were now deﬁnitely a biological hazard. It looked just like that fake vomit you can buy as a gag gift. Digging deeper into the crud. On the bottom of the backpack was a thick. It was clear to me the backpack had become a black hole.
It claimed walking 10. But at some point.The Pedometer I n one of those “What was he thinking?” moments that frequently seem to afﬂict men. So I eventually got the pedometer out of its box and read the accompanying brochure. Funny Man once gave me a pedometer for Mother’s Day. On most days. The brochure pointed out restaurant employees walk those 10. I’d actually settle for walking myself a little less fat. And it got even better. I ﬁgure I perform the functions of a couple of custodians and several restaurant workers (cook. I liked the sound of that. Heck. I realized the pedometer might just come in handy in my ongoing quest to walk myself thin. waitress. while custodians take nearly 13.000 steps a day burns up to 3.000 steps. busboy and dishwasher) combined. That’s a lot of pumpkin pie and Christmas cookies. I put it up on a shelf next to the blender I received for Valentine’s Day.000 steps a day doing their jobs. I obviously need to get the word jewelry tattooed on my forehead as a subtle hint. I realized I was already taking the requisite daily steps and didn’t even need additional 150 .000 calories a week. I’d be content just to pound the pavement enough to allow some guilt-free eating.
151 . sure I’d already taken at least 5. Discouraged. At home. It landed in the green bean section and then slid toward the back of the freezer. My hips and thighs would melt away under the power of positive thinking. I walked into the kitchen and made coffee. I just needed the knowledge. I tossed the pedometer on the couch. I had not even hit 500. trotted into the kids’ bedrooms to gently wake them up for school. Obviously.The Pedometer exercise. Then I went back to the bedrooms for a second. Once I ﬁnally got the kids out of the house. 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 it was damaged by its foray into the freezer. where I accidentally knocked the pedometer off my waist while reaching into the frozen foods. I had to climb almost all the way in to retrieve it. I made six separate trips carrying in groceries and logged more steps putting them away. To prove it to myself. The word jewelry would look very nice on my forehead. slightly less gentle wake up call. Sadly. I clipped the pedometer to my waistband ﬁrst thing one morning. Other shoppers gave me alarmed looks. Maybe all I need is a tattoo artist. coming to rest among the corn. I logged more steps dashing around looking for my car keys. Then I collapsed on the couch and checked the pedometer. Then I went grocery shopping. the pedometer was not working properly. Or maybe Funny Man had given me a defective device.000 steps that morning. took the dog outside and went to the laundry room in hopes of ﬁnding a clean pair of socks.
to use another colorful phrase from Grandpa.” But I’m convinced there are some things only a man should do. I was going about my highly productive day when I looked out on the back patio and. happily chewing on what appeared to be the carcass of an animal that had no business being dead on my property. before the other side of the bed was even cold. I discovered it 152 . Upon further. Sure enough. It is risking a fate worse than death for a male in my house to suggest any task is “woman’s work. he went to China. There was Ebony. for example. I was presented with a doozy of a man-job. horriﬁed inspection.A Man’s Job I ’ll admit I’m a hypocrite when it comes to the division of labor between men and women. “a far piece” from our home. But that’s just what Funny Man did a while back. as my grandpa would say. which is. 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. nearly dropped my dentures (assuming I had any). And no man—say. Ostensibly on a business trip. courtesy of our dog.
Even my man in training was at school and wouldn’t be home for hours. I know you can. And I woke him up. So I took the obvious course of action.” Funny Man said. You forget they aren’t just furry. “You can handle it. the love of my life responded. “and Eb has already eaten its head!” There was a long pause. in an incredulous and unnecessarily hostile tone.” I told him breathlessly. as if her behavior was perfectly normal.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. But for some reason—probably due to the long distance it had to travel—the sigh did not produce the desired effect. staring down at the bloody rabbit bits that remained. Feeling the time was right. sometimes. Finally. I’ve perfected a series of guilt-inducing sighs. each expertly crafted to elicit a certain emotion. Here was a major man-job. four-legged humans who don’t like baths. that dogs are not really that far removed from their wolf ancestors. 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. In China. You forget. “You called me in China to tell me this? In the middle of the night? In CHINA?!” Over the years. I called my man. Ebony wagged her tail at me. “You’re not going to make me feel guilty about this.” 153 . I let out one of my best. I chased her away and stood there. Something had to be done right away. Women are very good at the delivery of sighs. and I had no man around to do it. on the verge of panic.
It would have been worth the cost. but that just doesn’t work for me. 154 . But in the end. If my granddad was here. I guess the truth is I want to have my cake and eat it. Grandpa was a ﬁrm believer in gender work separation. he would have performed the man-job. As long as Ebony doesn’t get there ﬁrst.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. And he would have laughed at my squeamishness. too. I turned to my neighbor. I also brieﬂy considered bribing the UPS man to have the decapitated rabbit delivered to his hotel in China. a retired gentleman who valiantly disposed of the critter.
assuming that child is very hairy and spends a lot of time licking itself. But as skilled in doggy tricks as she is. raiding trash cans and sticking her nose into inappropriate places on the human body.Rocky W hen Ebony was about eight years old. So we went to the animal shelter and almost instantly. 155 . For instance. which is very much like adding a new child. She’s also mastered a technique known only to dogs—Bath Aroma Neutralization—whereby she releases smelly secretions all over her skin so that within hours of a bath. A shepherd-border collie mix with soft. joining old Ebony. I think she’s always been proud of that particular talent. Rocky. her malodorous mongrel scent is restored. we fell in love with Rocky. we greatly enlarged our family’s canine repertoire to include pretty much every known dog behavior. we added another dog to our family. Ebony was unable to provide the full canine experience our family apparently needed. With our new pup. Ebony is an expert at standard dog activities such as barking for no apparent reason.
Sometimes I’ll sit down next to her. apparently convinced that one day he will actually be able to reach his enemy and rip him or her to satisfying shreds. I don’t have the heart to tell the poor creature the truth. 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. Ebony. 156 . who in human years is old enough to collect Social Security and drive 50 miles with the blinker on. Now. Rocky sat calmly in his cage. waiting for the squirrely intruder to appear. We were hooked. That’s because I’ve watched the squirrel torment my dog. Rocky stands guard. but I’m pretty sure it is sadistic. Every day.Days of Derangement shiny black fur. and Rocky soon began to expose us to those doggy deeds that Ebony had left undone. I’m pretty sure Rocky will be the one to do it. smiling at us (I swear he was smiling) and waving one paw in the air as if to invite us over. We also found out that Rocky is a champion digger. and together we’ll watch Rocky carry out his daily battle. So we took him home. If it’s possible to make it all the way to China. And when it begins to saunter across the electric line—clearly enjoying itself—Rocky goes into full attack mode. He barks and snarls. He leaps wildly into the air over and over. 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). 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. 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.
We humans should be so lucky. clearly satisﬁed with his efforts for the day. 157 . will drop down next to Ebony and me and go right to sleep.Rocky Eventually. the squirrel will tire of the game and scamper away. exhausted. Rocky.
shriveled snack food.Beautiful People E very year when People magazine comes out with its annual list of the 100 Most Beautiful People. 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. Although it’s not quite as glamorous as being a Beautiful Person. as gently as possible. that would be raisin’ as in a slang term for upbringing. you might even be shaking your head right now and saying—as my grandma often did—“Jackie. with good old-fashioned country sensibilities. not the tasty. I often receive email from people who want to know how they too can become columnists. that only an elite few of us possess the skills needed for such a prestigious occupation. being a humor columnist is an important job. If you were brought up in the country.) 158 . don’t get above your raisin’.” (For those of you without country sensibilities. You non-columnists may scoff at such a statement. I am shocked to once again not ﬁnd myself on the list.
But if they don’t. I begin early in the day by throwing some breakfast at these distractions (not literally. except sometimes in the case of the dogs) and ordering them to “either do something funny I can write about or leave. They could call it Keeping Up With The Comical Columnist or something like that. I’d like to give you a behind-the-scenes peek at the laborious process involved in writing witty words. namely. Maybe someone will decide. to turn my life into a reality TV series. Occasionally. like they do on Keeping Up with the Kardashians.Beautiful People But I am not getting above my raisin’. All your top columnists do this. I move to step two. 159 . husband and our two dogs. You’d think the ﬁrst step would be to come up with a cute column idea. they even succeed. It’s a sacriﬁce we’re willing to make. I’m sure lots of people would watch such a show. So today. I will usually have a plethora of brilliant column ideas. though. After several hours of intense.” Generally. the ﬁrst step is to clear the house of distractions. the dogs choose to stay. That’s why all your top columnists are overweight insomniacs. my children and husband choose to leave. highly caffeinated concentration in my chair. It’s just that I know how difﬁcult writing a humor column can be. my children. after reading this. doing everything in their power to be amusing. And generally. In my case. putting the dogs in the backyard and settling into a comfortable chair with sure-ﬁre brain fuel: coffee and chocolate. even if I didn’t regularly make unbelievably stupid comments or ﬂaunt body parts to the whole world that probably should be kept private.
The scouring process often ends up in front of my favorite coffee shop. and I usually have to go inside to get some more sure-ﬁre brain fuel.Days of Derangement If not. none of us are part of the beautiful people. 160 . which involves actually leaving my house to scour my surroundings for inspiration. I move into the next phase. And for some reason. It’s what all your top columnists do.
where only testosterone is allowed to roam free. Woe to the woman who tries to tell him how to grill. only one of those brave bearers of the Y chromosome also known as men can possibly tame the open ﬂame. Even though I know this. After more than 20 years of marriage. the man who promised to love me for better or worse morphs into the General Patton of the barbecue set. 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. New York Times Magazine D uring grilling season. If this wasn’t ﬁrmly understood. —William Geist. Grilling. is a man’s job.The Grill General That outdoor grilling is a manly pursuit has long been beyond question. a tyrant with tongs who must not be questioned. after all. I usually cannot resist the temptation at the beginning of each summer to rile my king of the 161 . I’ve come to expect this annual transformation. As everyone knows. you’d never get grown men to put on those aprons with pictures of dancing wienies…and messages like ‘Come ‘n’ Get It’.
Whenever we are going to have a barbecue with friends. who is lounging beside the grill. 162 . something that seems to have escaped the attention of all the grill groupies gathered around the ﬁre. lavishing him with praise for his efforts. I go inside to set the table. Old Blood and Guts receives their adulation as his due reward. and place it on a tray with all the necessary utensils and sauces. vegetables and baked beans. do not tell me how to manage my grill. After this. I prepare the salad.Days of Derangement crackling cut of meat at least a little bit. “Woman. Maybe they were blinded by their beer cans.” he grunts in true Patton fashion. The General performs the most important part of the process. I buy the food. Meanwhile. Then I go back outside to inform my boss of broiling that the meat is burning. mentally summoning his forces for the task ahead. 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. we fall into an unvarying routine. When he is ready. I ﬁx a tasty dessert. his chest swelling with pride. He is also being counseled by the other beerswilling men in his backyard brigade on the latest in meatsearing strategies. I also prepare the meat for cooking. I usually do this by suggesting that he needs to clean his grill. a beer in hand. Then I take it out to The General.
” “Oh. beaming with satisfaction. again acknowledging their rightful admiration. Later. and he nods and grunts at them. The General is congratulated by the other men on a job well done and thanked for all his hard work. During the meal. Upon my return with his second beer.The Grill General “Woman. General. I enjoyed it very much. I bring all the food to the table and summon everyone to come and eat.” the General growls.” 163 . I can see that for myself. he grandly announces the grilling process is complete. he asks me how I enjoyed my “night off. Then he hands me the charred main dish. 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.” I mutter sarcastically. after I’ve washed the dishes.” I say. “Huh?” “Never mind.
Days of Derangement 164 .
my knobby knees sticking out 165 . my mother stopped worrying and grew quite fond of my Barbies. But I am apparently more upset about this fact than Mattel’s plastic princess. I grew up to dream of having a much larger bust measurement than that. Maybe that’s because all of Barbie’s body parts have remained toned and pleasingly perky through ﬁve decades. She made little outﬁts for the dolls that matched the ones she made for me. and my mind was never narrowed by doll dimensions. I have a picture of myself in that dress. standing barefoot in the grass. while mine have gone in a different direction. Barbie S o Barbie and I are nearly the same age. But she needn’t have worried. When I was a little girl. Not that dreaming about it did me much good. She celebrated her 50th birthday not too long ago. My favorite was a purple sheath mini-dress. Eventually. even though she will get her AARP card before I get mine.Thanks. I idolized her. The blond bombshell and I have had a roller-coaster relationship. I played with a whole bucket of Barbies. and I’m about to hit that milestone myself. My mother was concerned I’d grow up thinking the perfect woman was 12 inches tall with a four-inch bosom.
And my son carried on the family tradition of dismemberment. just as I did. The day that picture was taken. to name just a few. astronaut. 166 . I once found a whole family of my daughter’s dolls hanging naked and legless in one of our trees. and now I have only that picture. I would sneer at her various manifestations—doctor. I apparently had only one intact doll left and was probably waiting impatiently for Dad to get home from work. teacher. My kids have moved on from Barbie. After a while. That’s probably an issue that should have been addressed with Funny Boy in therapy. In his cootie-fearing mind. The purple dresses somehow disappeared. I became embarrassed by the matching outﬁts. I retaliated against my brother’s Barbie butchery by hiding his Legos in my mother’s underwear drawer. military ofﬁcer and Madame President. Sadly.Days of Derangement under the hemline. I’m holding a purple-sheathed Barbie in each hand. no amount of soap could erase the contamination of female undergarments. That’s because my little brother had a disturbing desire to decapitate Toyland’s most famous female. In the picture. with a specialty in head reattachment. By the time I was a teenager. and he succeeded often enough that my dad became quite an experienced Barbie surgeon. effectively depriving him of the toys forever. only one of the busty beauties in the photo has a head. but it’s too late for that now. My children have their own Barbie memories. My daughter played with dolls of every color and career. and my ardor for all things Barbie began to cool.
she was a trailblazer. predatory felines. I very likely will not be sporting any tattoos or reminding anyone of sexy.Thanks. And in her 50s. Barbie Today. But that’s OK. 167 . When I turn 50. she’s still going strong. however. she’s sporting tattoos and looking like a cougar. In fact. I have a new appreciation for the platinum icon. I still wish Barbie the best. And I thank her for the memories. In her own perky way.
I dry my hair upside down in the forlorn hope that this will infuse it with volume and leave me with bouncy. OK. who was standing with his arms raised. staring at himself in the mirror. under his arms. beautiful locks. “It is just way too early in the morning for me to have to deal with your body hair issues. 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.Body Hair It destroys one’s nerves to be amiable every day to the same human being. I straightened up. Places like his ears and his nose. it’s a forlorn hope. 168 . shut off the dryer and glared at Funny Man. As I said. drying my hair upside down. so it wasn’t my ﬁnest moment as a supportive spouse. apparently. And now.” I said. —Benjamin Disraeli “H ow much underarm hair is too much on a man?” That’s what Funny Man shouted at me one morning as I stood hunched over in the bathroom.
ranging from the honeymoon phase right on through to that golden phase when you sit happily together in rocking chairs on the front porch.Body Hair “Men are supposed to have hair under their arms. Playfully. realizing I was running out of time to make my own hair look decent. I suddenly remembered a day back in our honeymoon phase when I was again drying my hair upside down. “Would you put your arms down! I don’t need to see it. and my husband was shaving in front of the bathroom mirror with a towel wrapped around his torso. (He’s still telling people about it. leaving a red ring on his butt and prompting him to start telling everyone we knew that I’d tried to brand him.” I said. “but lately mine has gotten much bushier.” he sighed. I wonder if I should trim it?” He sighed again and added sadly. and the dryer’s hot coils scorched his rear end.” 169 . “Hey. “I could do it again. and you don’t care about where hair might be growing because you can’t see it anyway. “remember when I branded your butt?” I turned the dryer toward him. But I pushed it in a little further than I intended. “I’m getting old. lowering his arms. In between are some nitty-gritty stages during which you develop a realistic view of your spouse and yourself. and learn to love each other anyway.) Funny Man continued to contemplate his armpits while I turned the dryer back on. we attended a marriage retreat in which we were told there are different phases of marriage. I guess we’re somewhere in one of those stages.” A few years ago. just to take your mind off all that proliferating body hair of yours. I stuck the dryer under the towel to give him a little shot of hot air.” I said.” “I know.
” We’re deﬁnitely out of the honeymoon phase.” he said grumpily.Days of Derangement “Don’t you dare. walking out of the bathroom. “I’m too old for that. 170 .
Pinpointing the exact moment of transformation can be tricky. though. did I fall out of fashion? It’s not like I was ever a true fashionista. —Erma Bombeck I am not sure exactly when it happened. for goodness sake. Yet somehow.Fashion Forward It’s frightening to wake up one morning and discover that while you were asleep you went out of style. I’ve been wondering. when you fell in love? Or fell out of love? So when. Was there a precise moment. without even realizing it. for example. Often it can only be recognized in retrospect. One reality gradually turns into another the way ice cream gradually turns into cellulite. I like to think. 171 . I’ve never been a woman on a ﬁrst-name basis with good taste. I’m far more interested in wearing comfortable clothes than in being fashion forward. I have morphed into a fashion frump. Most of life’s transitions are like that. one of those people who look like a million bucks just stumbling out of bed. I used to wear spandex and leg warmers. that good taste and I were once at least acquainted with each other.
I’m starting to remind myself of Sophia. My friend. she manages to always look stylish and put-together in her size 6 designer jeans. “Uh. In fact. Even after having three children. So I invited her over and started pulling some very fashionable outﬁts out of my closet. At least I thought I did. I hate the woman. The Golden Girls. the perpetually cranky character played by the late. I used the word ensembles to describe these outﬁts to my annoyingly fashionable friend. I’ll soon be so far out of the game that being a fashion victim would be a step up. “She’s about 20 years too old for that outﬁt. how long have you had these clothes?” she asked in the same tone one would use when inquiring about distasteful failures in personal hygiene. however. 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.Days of Derangement I just can’t be bothered anymore with being stylish. 172 . I have a friend with a ﬁnely calibrated fashion sense who wouldn’t be caught dead in a pair of mom jeans. Polyester dresses with forgiving elastic waists are surely in my future. orthopedic shoes will undoubtedly be more appealing to me than high heels. Before long. And I looked hip and trendy when I tried on my 1980sera outﬁts. This made me sound hip and trendy. curled her lip. And that is making me feel old.” I heard myself snipe in sour Sophia style about a woman my age who was wearing a mini-skirt. great Estelle Getty on that classic TV show. But I ﬁgured she could help me ﬁx my style shortcomings. clunky. things I hadn’t worn for a while.
for Pete’s sake! You need to buy some new clothes. and they’re timeless.” Like I said. I’m going to start wearing those chic ensembles at the ﬁrst opportunity. She clearly doesn’t know what she’s talking about. I hate the woman. 173 . And I’m going to do a little more exploring in my closet. I’ve probably got some leg warmers in there somewhere. “But they’re really high-quality clothes.Fashion Forward “For about 20 years. hearing a defensiveness in my voice.” I said.” “No. “They’ve got shoulder pads. they’re not!” she snapped.
gear in reverse and window down. And while early pioneers had to contend with problems such as hunger and disease. He stayed behind the wheel. we faced our own challenges on the ﬁrst day. To accomplish this task. Mountains have an annoying lack of level space. We set out with a similar sense of adventure in our modern-day covered wagon. W hen I talk about camping. Funny Man and I assumed the traditional vehicle reversal gender roles. there was the peril of parking. and we were required to back in to our assigned spot. renting a recreational vehicle and heading out across Colorado. This mighty mountain was one of the landmarks seen by settlers as they made their way across the prairie. Many of them painted “Pike’s Peak or Bust” on their canvas wagons. That’s how my family camped one summer. 174 . I mean camping in the civilized way practiced by middle-age city dwellers with tender backsides and uncompromising hygiene standards. For starters. stopping in the shadow of Pike’s Peak.Blackberry or Bust Life was much easier when Apple and Blackberry were just fruits.
which caused me to screech “Stop!” which caused him to press too hard on the brakes. “We’re camping!” Reluctantly. The terrain grew steeper. slipping the portable pestilence into the holster on his belt. But he pushed too hard on the gas pedal. eventually degenerating into an ugly exchange that began with my husband questioning my navigational skills and ended with me snarling. determined to salvage our recreational experience. I carried water bottles and ﬁrst aid supplies. And Funny Man had his Blackberry. I thought of pioneer tales I’d read about attacks by packs of ravenous wolves. he complied. which resulted in a series of loud crashes inside the RV.Blackberry or Bust while I stood outside ready to guide his efforts. That’s when 175 . He started obsessively checking his signal strength before we’d even hiked a mile. and I squinted into the blinding sun. “Put that silly thing away!” I snapped as he rubbed his bruised forehead. barely able to see the trail. “Why don’t you learn how to drive?” Then. My husband saw nothing of the glories of nature until nature took a hand and steered him right into a tree. armed themselves with iPods. This cycle was repeated over and over for about an hour. dropping off precipitously on one side. Then we came to a clearing. we prepared to encounter nature. baby!”) to dejected (“How can I only have one stinkin’ bar?”) as we followed the trail around the mountain. calling out the number of bars on the device in moods that ranged from ecstatic (“I’ve got ﬁve beautiful bars. Striding along in the lead. expecting to be bored hiking in the great outdoors. his Crackberry. Our teenagers. The woods seemed to close in on us. or as I affectionately call it. We slathered ourselves in sunscreen and insect repellent.
but I could still hear the satisfying sound of a shattering Crackberry. too traumatized to speak. who’d collapsed in helpless laughter at their parents’ expense. “In the sun. we headed back to our motor home in strained silence. “I’m sorry about your Crack. I mean Blackberry. only stared mournfully down at the broken pieces on the rocks below. I opened one eye and looked down at a friendly German shepherd whose owners were just catching up to him. Noticing our ashen faces. with pointy ears and. Just as I was undoubtedly about to be ripped to shreds by razor-sharp teeth. it looked just like a wolf. a pair of fangs. Then he glared at me. Then I felt a cold nose touch my hand. he stopped and swirled around. they inquired about our welfare. So I did what any self-respecting woman would do. clutching at his waist. “Wolf!” And Funny Man scrambled up the trail toward me. “Wolf!” I screamed. my husband was frantically searching the ground for his fallen Blackberry.” I stuttered. Funny Man didn’t say a word. I closed my eyes. I could have sworn.Days of Derangement I looked into the furry face of death—a menacing form ahead.” He just shook his head. Nervously. I assured them we were ﬁne. But suddenly. Abandoned to my fate. of rescuing his damsel in distress. After an appropriate period of mourning and after allowing our children. with every intention. to regain their composure. pointing at the dog now disappearing with his owners down the trail. 176 . We’d had quite enough nature for one day. I’m sure.uh.
moving away from low-rise jeans. the cause of countless sightings of “mufﬁn tops” (that very attractive fat that bulges over the waistline). (You stick-insects know who you are. I just lie down and wait for this unfortunate urge to pass.Plumber’s Pants T he plumbers are taking their pants back. the kind that only look good on female stick-insects who survive on lettuce. But occasionally.) As soon as I realized my mistake. That’s what happened one fall when my son was playing high-school football. girl love handles and whale tails (also known as thongs). and I couldn’t be happier. I am seized by a desire to look slightly less frumpy. I should have put back the low risers and gone 177 . and dozens of people who attended a game are still in therapy trying to get over the sight. But occasionally. Usually. It seems the fashion world has ﬁnally raised its standards just a tad. I inadvertently tried on a pair of those low risers. (NOT!) Actually. See. I go out and buy something stylish. I know this because I am an avid follower of fashion. I follow fashion about as often as a politician tells the truth.
Psychiatrists have a medical term for such delusions. I quickly slipped them on just before walking the few blocks to my son’s high school to watch him play in a football game. Then they would have been exposed to some serious butt cleavage and that might have 178 . but I’ll tell you that I was sporting my usual. At least I wasn’t going commando. I don’t want to get too personal here. and when I looked in the dressing room mirror. the roomy kind with waistlines that almost brush your collarbone. But I was experiencing one of my rare passion-for-fashion moments. shocked at how far my waistband slid down my fairly broad backside. I like to be comfortable. a woman who looked hot enough to be oh so cool. running late as usual. Anyway. I had failed to consider the underwear issue. I saw a woman who looked pretty darn good standing there in her posh pants. I popped right back up. So I bought those jeans and. that night. I had not yet sat in my trendy trousers. Until I had to sit down. when I sat down in the stands. you need to wear low-rise undies. but sufﬁce it to say da Nile ain’t just a river in Egypt. Instead. When I did sit. the poor fans behind me got an eyeful of my less-than-stylish skivvies.Days of Derangement in search of some mom jeans. If you wear low-rise jeans. high-waisted bloomers. Hey. See. 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 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.
I spent the rest of the game standing along the sidelines. I just didn’t want to give up my good ol’ granny panties. Or eating mufﬁns. Plumber’s pants should only be worn by plumbers. 179 . (Yeah. You’d have probably heard about it on the news. right).Plumber’s Pants caused mass retinal damage. After that. the jeans hung unworn in my closet. for that matter. telling people I was just too excited about the start of football season to stay seated. As much as I wanted to be fashion forward. I won’t be wearing any more low risers.
Days of Derangement 180 .
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. When we go to the beach or any other location likely to attract babes in bikinis. I only have to look within my own household for an example. of course. 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. you’ll remember a young woman auditioning in Season 8 who showed up wearing nothing but a bikini. 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. my husband wears a pair of very dark 181 . And you’ll remember that Bikini Girl. First. despite having the musical ability of a duck. as I already know the answer.Bikini Babes A bikini is like a barbed-wire fence. This raises a couple of questions in my mind. Whatever happened to American ingenuity? This should have happened no later than Season Two. It protects the property without obstructing the view.
You won’t be surprised to know these researchers were male. his eyes are rolling all over the place behind those glasses.Days of Derangement sunglasses.C. so they invented sunglasses.C. Otherwise. the poor men might get whacked with mastodon bones by their cave wives and girlfriends. I think they need a good whack with a mastodon bone. someone actually got paid to conduct this research. Fortunately. He wants you to think he is having profound thoughts about the need for world peace. trying to take in all the bathing beauties walking by without getting whacked with a bottle of sunscreen by his wife or girlfriend. You can always tell when a sunglasswearing guy is trying to stare at bikini bodies without getting busted. Poor Funny Man.—and the cave men were forced to invent devious methods of leering at them. Yes. 182 . a poor sap will overdo it and wind up with a severe case of Exhausted Eyeball Syndrome. In reality. never moving as he seemingly stares far out to sea. Some of the more attractive cave women wore well-tailored fur bikinis— just like Raquel Welch in One Million Years B. Sometimes. The good news is that recent research indicates men exhibit improved cognition and creativity after exposure to pictures of good-looking women in bikinis. babes. Today’s men can’t always count on excessive eyebrow hair to solve this problem (although there are exceptions). the cave men were hairy enough to simply pull part of their eyebrows down and peer out surreptitiously at the B. This is a classic man trick developed way back when people lived in caves and wore animal skins. of course. I think that’s what happened to my man. His head seems to be frozen on his neck. He’s still trying to pry his eyeballs loose from their respective sockets.
If you’re a woman. Hours can slip by as they wear out the buttons on the hand-held hazards. Wars have been waged with lesser cause. Men whose ancestors tamed the wilderness through backbreaking labor now ensconce themselves on the couch.Trivial Pursuit Why don’t men do laundry? Cause the washer and dryer don’t run on remote control! ou men reading this. 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 . It was a measure of last resort. it gets worse. I once hid all of our televisions’ remote controls. Let me explain myself. unable even to cross the living room to change the channel. And so the beloved remotes were missing in action in our house for two whole weeks. But wait. prepare yourselves for what I’m about to tell you. I did not take this action lightly. You may need to grab hold of a heavy object in case you feel faint. you already know that remote control reverence has gotten out of hand. Sadly.
Annoyed by all the undone chores around my house. 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. First. feeling very clever. until I eventually needed an oxygen tank just to keep it up. Whenever I passed the living room and saw my man stretched out like a slumbering sea lion. 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. I was left with little choice. Then. When they actually want to put the remotes down for a brief period. You’d 184 . both). I’d loudly slam it into the drawer. So when no one was looking. I’d sigh heavily and shake my head in obvious disgust. Then I tried the Silverware Slam. but Funny Man simply increased the TV volume. Predictably. Every time I was putting away the clean silverware. 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. Thus. on really good days. there was a lot of lamentation over the lost devices.Days of Derangement either a sporting event or scantily clad women (or. making my sighs louder and windier each time. You’d think this would have done the trick. intending to retrieve it after a short time. I used the standard Sigh And Shake Protocol employed by legions of women before me. Search parties were formed to look high and low. This had absolutely no effect. I initially tried a diplomatic solution to the problem. I tried this for several days. hoping to send a message. I put the game in the top of a closet.
Finally. For two long weeks. I searched. 185 . 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 even mad at myself.Trivial Pursuit think a precious gem was missing. And then. after leaving him in agony for a few hours. 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. my man actually got some of the chores done. I suddenly remembered—after hearing someone on the radio use the phrase trivial pursuit—where I’d put those blasted pieces of plastic. I’ve promised to never again pull such a stunt. You’d think I was missing. I was the one in agony because everyone in the family was mad at me for ruining TV time. I forgot where I’d put the remotes. assuming Funny Man would look as fervently for me as he looked for those remotes. And after suffering a few days of acute remote withdrawal. But I think I made my point. But before the cable guy could come. 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. I confessed to hiding the things.
Unfortunately. Now though. Texas tea for those who were only marginally witty. 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). it is the best of times and the worst of times.Hard Times for Humor I n the ﬁeld of funny. Everybody could use a good laugh these days. It’s the best of times because demand for real. Mirthful material used to practically fall from the trees like leaves in autumn. rib-tickling humor has never been higher. unless we can develop new sources for our laugh lodes. It used to come bubbling up from the ground like oil—black gold for even the borderline funny. it is also the worst of times because the supply of high-caliber comic relief is getting harder to come by. Soon. And we’re having to dig much deeper for our jokes. only the most committed pun providers remain in the ﬁeld. 186 . professional humorists like me will have to drill for droll in places no comedian has gone before. Anybody could be a humorist.
however. Guffaws garner an additional charge. heaven forbid. Additional fees are incurred by any reader who fails to realize my column is not to be taken seriously. I felt an obligation to mothers of said boys to continue to provide this service. 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. I have to do any reading or. however. Slightly more sophisticated humor. If. Not even OPEC seems to want it. Kind of like the airlines and the phone companies have been doing. Besides. And those charges are doubled on readers who believe I can offer valid advice on 187 . deep thinking in order to produce a column. Ditto for any humorous bits about my dogs. It’s practically lying around on the ground. now requires a surcharge based on the amount of work I have to do to deliver it. I was forced a couple of years ago to do the same. Being a civic-minded person. this stuff is easy to get. Readers who wish to challenge these fees have to provide proof that they did not so much as snicker. and anything that causes genuine belly laughs is assessed at the very highest rates. And if I have to leave my house. my readers are nickel-and-dimed to death. charges go up dramatically. especially in business attire. I had to impose a new fee schedule on my column. A fee is levied for every laugh-out-loud line provided in one my columns. Stories about my kids still come relatively cheaply as my offspring provide plenty of material.Hard Times for Humor Therefore. just as many industries have been passing on skyrocketing energy costs to their customers. who are grateful for the attention.
my friend. 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.Days of Derangement their personal lives. If you’ve read this far in the book. This type of reader has to pay me the same hourly rate charged by real therapists. 188 . you’ll realize that you’ve already racked up some serious charges. Any reader who praises me lavishly to friends or even strangers on the street receives a Laugh Offset Loan (LOL) that can be used against future levies. You’ll be glad to know that I do offer some discounts to help with these humor delivery charges. And any reader who tells all their friends about me and uses terms to describe me such as “genius” and “should receive a Pulitzer Prize” gets a year’s worth of free laughs. I accept cash or credit cards.
Hard Times for Humor 189 .
We are going to eat up the miles on our minivan migration. packed for every possible contingency. loaded to within an inch of our axles. We begin late. when I realize we’ll have to hit the drive-thru for coffee. despite my best intentions. I am determined. I will have planned meticulously. —Dave Barry E very summer. It provides you with experiences that will remain locked forever in the scar tissue of your mind.Drive-Thru Dilemma And that’s the wonderful thing about family travel. that wonderful elixir of life for mothers and road warriors alike. That resolution lasts about ﬁve minutes into the trip. 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. naturally. our family’s road trips are always more calorie-laden than I’d envisioned. As we 190 . and ward off any additional weight gain.
followed shortly thereafter by several high-pitched volleys of He’s Touching Me and an equal number of the obligatory Am Nots. Then. despite the silence-inducing wonders of DVDs and iPods. in a slightly less ﬁrm tone. and all my carefully prepared provisions have already assumed a tepid room temperature. I resort to burger bribery. and chaos descends. I assure my brood that we will probably not be doing the drive-thru run again. In a desperate attempt to preserve the peace. That resolution lasts about two hours. until the inevitable accusations of secretly unleashed ﬂatulence began to swirl through the charged atmosphere. 191 . As we pull back onto the road with a heavenly smelling bag of grease cleverly camouﬂaged as a snack.Drive-Thru Dilemma pull back onto the road with a heavenly smelling bag of grease disguised as breakfast. I again warn my crew. Snarling from stress. I’m proud to say. the ﬁrst dreaded Are We There Yet? is launched. That resolution lasts about three hours. that we will deﬁnitely not be doing that again. At that point. That resolution usually lasts about three hours. until we discover that someone (usually me) has forgotten to add ice to the cooler. 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. gathering discarded french fries and spitball-delivering straws to use as weapons. Grievances are aired in violent fashion. I command my husband to pull into the nearest drive-thru and order everything on the menu. my children typically gird themselves for war.
When we ﬁnally reach our destination. Drive-thru dilemma resolved. I say nothing. 192 . we buy bathing suits in larger sizes and ditch the cooler. just stuff every wonderful morsel into my mouth. weighed down with bag after bag of grease.Days of Derangement As we get back on the road.
like an unsuccessful literary man. loaded down with camping gear. The ﬁrst part of my research took place one summer while I was hiking a part of the Colorado Trail (in Colorado. The llama was having none of it. This man was pulling on the reins. trying to get the llama to cross a log bridge. with an indolent expression and an undulating throat. as I haven’t personally communicated with all the world’s llamas. That may be a slight exaggeration.Llama Drama The llama is a woolly sort of ﬂeecy hairy goat. but based on my own expert research. was engaged in a strenuous tug of war with a man who looked like he’d rather be undergoing a root canal. oddly enough) with my father. —Hilaire Belloc T he llamas are spitting mad. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch. We came across a very annoyed llama. 193 . The llama. and they’re not going to take it anymore.
and I understood this to mean “Yeah. “This was all her idea. Her husband. He abruptly threw up the reins and announced he was heading home. 194 . thrusting his head in his wife’s direction. right!” The man. Although my experience with llamas has been limited to watching them in Disney movies. giving another tug on the reins and adding. had obviously shifted into the Wife Interpretation and Management Phase (WIMP) and was nodding at her vigorously while totally ignoring what she said. He explained the couple had come from Maryland and rented the llama to carry the gear as they communed with nature for several days.” he whispered to my grinning dad.” The llama issued another “SNORRRBAH!” which this time sounded liked “No kidding!” and again dug in its heels. but being subjected to a double dose of wife advice must have been too much for him.Days of Derangement Although I’ve had no formal training in llama language. “This is only our ﬁrst day. He ignored me as well. I offered my suggestions to the llama-challenged man before me. “and we don’t know anything about llamas. who stood next to him on the trail. Because my husband was fortunate enough not to be there. did not speak llama. who was now sweating profusely. I couldn’t help transitioning into sympathetic Wife Advisory Mode. She was in full Wife Advisory Mode (WAM). and he continued to tug on the reins.” he moaned. He was assisted in this effort by his wife. pointing out what he was doing wrong and what he should do to successfully lead the llama. I clearly heard the cranky creature spit out “SNORRRBAH!” as it dug in its heels. unnecessarily. however.
“SNORRRBAH?” it asked. has apparently been around since the early days of the Internet (the 1990s). doing the tango across the Web in its birthday suit while offering advice and running for President. and we all knew what that meant. Millions have followed the antics of this virtual camel’s cousin. We wished the couple (and the llama) well with the rest of their camping trip and continued down the trail. 195 . The NDL. self-respecting llama would ever run for President. It’s even worse to have all these humans believe any live llama would parade around without its fur. This intriguing encounter led me to the second part of my research. When I returned to civilization (meaning to a computer). Well no wonder the llamas are livid. My dad is still laughing about it. however. But it must be intolerable to have anyone think a sane. That’s when I discovered I have somehow missed a major part of our culture—the Naked Dancing Llama. It’s bad enough having to bear the burdens of camping city slickers.Llama Drama The llama looked confused at this sudden capitulation. I typed the word llama into Google. There’s only one thing to say about that: “SNORRRBAH!” And we all know what that means. my dad—a farm boy who has a way with animals—quickly led it across the bridge. Before the llama could make a break for it. as it is known.
Days of Derangement 196 .
One chair. 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. That was only for the estimate. The hairdresser is an authority ﬁgure. You enter it ugly.Beauty Shop Dropout She was at the beauty shop for two hours. One customer at a 197 . Most are. cleverly colored and skillfully styled. I’ve been to a fair number of beauty shops in my day. The hairdresser is not to be questioned. like high school. with a bed head that looks like it got tangled in a spinning ceiling fan. I hate these women. You leave it looking good—cleanly cut. —Henny Youngman T he salon is a sacred place for many women. sources of instant intimidation—at least to me—too often populated by women with great hair and prominent cheekbones. a sorcerer with scissors who can make us feel a little prettier. a little younger. So I thought I’d found the ideal solution when I started going to a hairdresser who works solo. a little more self-assured.
To bring out my inner blonde. she insisted on using The Cap.Days of Derangement time. Soon. Then my hairdresser would take a crochet hook. except that I was far less attractive than Pig Pen. dig through the circles and pull a few strands of hair—those destined to be plied with peroxide—through the cap. Or at least I was until the day when I was once again in the styling chair. This wouldn’t have bothered me too much except for the fact that this neighbor has the audacity to be a man. but my hairdresser was adamant that The Cap was still the best. the stinky character from the Charlie Brown comic. I know there are other ways to lighten my locks. No one to see my transformation from drowned. If I was single and allowed to notice such things. The problem is that this hairdresser still operates in the styling stone age. I’d tell you that this neighbor is a ﬁne-looking man. was tied around my head. wishful thinking on my part). you are wishing I would just stop whining because—as every female knows—it is better to look good than to feel good. you are wondering why on earth I would put up with such torment. with very nice hair 198 . This is a tool that could have been found in a medieval torture chamber. I resembled Pig Pen. which is covered with small colored circles. hair standing straight out and basting in bleach. If you are a woman. graying rat to frosted blond bombshell (OK. with sprouts of hair sticking up all over and a stinging scalp. The plastic cap. 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. Men should not be permitted to walk into salons when women are there being beautiﬁed. and in walks one of my neighbors. If you are a man.
As I’m happily married (and my husband may be reading this). I considered going natural. My handsome neighbor is probably still trying to recover from what he saw that day. But that didn’t happen.Beauty Shop Dropout that was apparently in need of a cut. 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. 199 . forsaking my quest to be comely and giving Pig Pen a run for his money. I found a new hairdresser. I haven’t been able to look him in the eye since then.
The Rock and the Hard Place Love: a wildly misunderstood although highly desirable malfunction of the heart which weakens the brain. cheeks to glow. all the rules remain pretty much the same. this is a nightmare. For men. And if they are 200 . causes eyes to sparkle. this convoluted courting process is no problem. Except for the ones that really have changed. where all the rules have seemingly changed. especially the young ones. for example. blood pressure to rise and the lips to pucker. 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. hard-wired for complexity. simple creatures who can’t faithfully follow a grocery list. Take the dilemma of dating. These befuddled beings are caught. but in truth. like the typically bafﬂed Homer Simpson. For women. those just on the cusp of the real world who don’t have a clue what they’re getting themselves into. between a rock and a hard place.
” he said crankily. yanking the covers off the bed.The Rock and the Hard Place newbies in the land of love and utterly unfamiliar with the world of women. My young Vulcan got quite emotional.” I told him. though. And when the girlfriend’s birthday rolled around a couple of weeks after that. “Why would I need to buy some stupid ﬂower?” “She’s probably going to spend several hours getting ready for the dance. Rousting him out of bed that Saturday morning at the ungodly hour of 11. harmless little relationship. I knew we were in trouble. That’s how it was when Funny Boy had a girlfriend for the ﬁrst time. they would often probably like to dive under that rock and pull the hard place down like a fortress around them. the guy is usually still expected to pay on dates. I asked him what color corsage he’d ordered for his sweetheart. when suddenly faced with the harsh reality that. “I already bought her ticket. full of furtive phone calls and ﬁerce feelings. For a kid whose only income was a weekly allowance (assuming he did his chores). even in the 21st century. Spock from the ﬁrst Star Trek series. And it was dangerous territory for a boy who once spent a week impersonating the ultra-logical and emotionless Mr. this was a harsh reality indeed. I wondered if the bloom would soon fall off this romantic rose. pulling the covers over his head. “She needs a corsage that matches her dress. What color is her dress?” When “Huh?” was his only response. I waited until the day before her birthday to 201 . a Scrooge-like youngster who once gave a set of eight coasters as Christmas gifts to eight different people (one coaster per person). The ﬁrst time it hit him upside the head was on the morning of his high school’s Homecoming Dance. It was a sweet.
The next day. I found him lying on his bed.” 202 . a smile that collapsed like a house of cards when I brought him crashing back to earth. where he dithered at the entrance for many minutes. “Can’t you go in and get it for me. 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. I ordered him to accompany me to the mall. I heard the store clerk offer to help. 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. Funny Boy survived the birthday and came out undeservedly smelling like that proverbial rose. “Better save your money. and I’ll pay you back?” he pleaded.” I said. thanks to me. But he ﬁnally emerged with an acceptable gift. I had to actually push my reluctant Romeo into the shop. I refused. “Christmas is right around the corner. When he groaned as if he were in real pain. So. kiddo. Finally. his answer (“As little as possible”) made me pity his poor girlfriend. When she asked him how much he wanted to spend. gazing up at the ceiling with a self-satisﬁed smile on his face.
You suddenly notice that even your knees have wrinkles.Got Flax? I’m happy to report that my inner child is still ageless. you have plenty of reliable medical research to validate all your worries. she smites you with self-doubt. And as bad as your body looks on the outside. Groups of white-smocked scientists 203 . that your thighs seem to be swimming in cellulite. So. if you’re a woman. that your tummy seems terminally tubby and. Ma Nature. decides that your middle-aged self no longer has any business thinking like a jaunty juvenile. using forces like gravity and your love of things like gravy. you begin to worry even more about what’s going on among your rapidly aging innards. being a crotchety old lady with creaking joints. —James Broughton O ne of life’s little ironies is that at the same time you are sharing a house with people who think they will live forever—people otherwise known as teenagers—Mother Nature begins to help you realize you might not even make it into next week. Fortunately.
I blended it with some blueberries and yogurt until it looked like something my dog might regurgitate in the yard after chewing her way through the trash.Days of Derangement get together regularly and publish studies that advise you to be afraid. but besides writing witty columns about canine regurgitation. went right into a meeting with other business types who had probably stuffed themselves that morning with deathinducing donuts. It’s time. That’s just what I did. You may not have realized it (and you may not believe it). at this point you will morph into an overnight convert to the church of the changed diet. business-type ofﬁce. All that heavenly tasting junk that you’ve eaten for years has now. and growing giddy over whole grains and vegetables. Then I. So I started preparing a ﬂaxseed smoothie every morning. a hard-charging and healthy professional fueled by ﬂaxseed. I often put on business attire and go out into the world pretending to be a very busy. to pay the piper of the palate. at least according to those sadistic science types. I rebuilt my personal food pyramid. which combines the ﬂavors of sawdust and straw with the piquant aftertaste of sand. coagulated into globs of deadly goop in your arteries. If you’re like me. I also developed a friendship with ﬂaxseed. And that’s just what I did one morning not long after I’d begun drinking my smoothies. business-type person. turning into a fan of ﬁber and fruit. But ﬂaxseed is supposed to be good for you. very afraid. according to noted medical researchers. you realize. Not that I like the taste of ﬂaxseed. I should have had the upper hand. Because I was running late. the others seemed to be snickering under their 204 . But for some reason. I brought my smoothie in the car with me and drank it while I was driving to my very busy.
I was annoyed and wondered why she didn’t put some ointment on that lip. There. red-faced. Then I went in search of some donuts. blueberry-colored. I looked like one of those celebrities in the Got Milk? ads. where I gazed into the mirror. a dim light began to burn. 205 . to my meeting. One woman kept rubbing her ﬁnger across her upper lip while staring urgently at me. above my busy. except that I looked like a complete idiot. somewhere in the recesses of my busy business brain. I wiped off my mustache and went back. ﬂaxseed-speckled mustache. And then. I excused myself and went to the restroom.Got Flax? collective breath. business-type mouth. lay a thick.
the patter of pint-sized feet. this remote control gadget sends a signal to two little buds that users stick in their ears. But as those precious bundles of joy get older and somehow morph into little nuggets of noise with dirt on them. when 206 . that will allow annoying noises to be switched off. emanating from one of my children. We’d still be able to savor a baby’s comforting coos. we’d still need to hear certain things. usually in response to some disturbing sound. sweet silence. simply tune them out. All you do is point The Mute at the reason for the racket and voila!—sweet. though. verbal or otherwise. Recently. the priceless peals of our children’s laughter. Sure. we could. I am very excited about this. soon to be available. But do we always need to perceive the blare of sibling bickering? Say. Called The Mute. Consider how it could revolutionize the often high-pitched job of parenting.Silence is Golden T ell me I didn’t just hear that… I used to ﬁnd myself saying that just about every day. from the awesome (“I love you” coming from a grateful child) to the alarming (“Watch me ﬂy” coming from the roof). for instance. I read about a new device. on occasion.
Silence is Golden a worrisome set of crashes. This could have profound philosophical and ﬁnancial implications. 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. click…serenity now. I could act quickly. It’s easy if you try. 207 . The marvelous Mute would become even more valuable as our children reach adolescence and develop the desire to torment us acoustically. Mute.” followed by a frantically whispered “Don’t tell Mom” (even worse when it is preceded by the sound of a toilet ﬂushing). cover up their cacophony. I could just point and click Mr. ignorance is bliss. living life in peace. and silence is golden. stiﬂe their sounds. And I could sure do without that ubiquitous (at least at my house) phrase “Uh oh. Point. did it really happen? Or if no one notices when an eternally hungry teenage boy stands in front of an open refrigerator stuffed with $300 worth of food and complains loudly “There’s nothing to eat in this house!”. Or when the ﬁrst sound waves of shattering glass resulting from a baseball thrown into a whirling ceiling fan begin to lap against my auditory antennae. Because sometimes. thumps and bangs reverberates through my walls as fratricidal force is deployed over access to an Xbox. but I’m planning to have The Mute surgically implanted in my ears as soon as it’s available. If a teenage girl slams a door and screams “I hate you!” and her parents don’t hear it. You may say I’m a dreamer. Imagine all the parents.
Who knew? I naively assumed my husband was the only person crazy enough to buy this theory.The Five-Second Rule The Five-Second Rule has many variations. 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. You know. 208 . I discovered that he seemed to have been born knowing the ﬁve-second rule. including The Three-Second Rule. because I somehow managed to get through almost three decades of life without knowing about the ﬁve-second rule. It certainly comes in handy for an enthusiastic eater with butter ﬁngers like my boy. but I found out later that a lot of people (oddly enough. all of them men) also believe in mannerly microorganisms. And when I had a son. I must have led a very sheltered—or at least a very clean— existence before I got married. 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.
he added “It’s the last one!” as he lunged toward the hairy Twinkie and tried to grab it back. “What do you think you’re doing?” I asked in a horriﬁed tone.The Five-Second Rule Now I have to say that I still have no faith in the ﬁve-second rule. but it nearly happened one day with a Twinkie. 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 just can’t believe you!” I don’t know how the kid would survive without me. “Mom. How anyone could stick such an item in his mouth is beyond my comprehension. where dropped food items usually resemble those Troll dolls with hair sticking out in all directions when you pick them up. 209 . you are so mean! A little dog hair’s not going to hurt anybody. He was not appreciative.” he said. I had to drop the delectable little cake down the garbage disposal to prevent my Troll eater from inhaling it. “Five-second rule. Mom. dog hair and all. It was the last Twinkie in the package. Then. as if explaining the obvious to an idiot. toward his mouth when I grabbed it. He was actually moving it. now enhanced by a whole colony of dog hair. especially in our two-dog household.
There is also a game app that lets you score points by licking your phone’s screen. I can’t imagine any circumstance under which I would want to do this. but that’s beside the point. 210 . but apparently many people have downloaded this particular app. which I suppose would come in handy were you trying to communicate with our bovine brethren. I happen to know that an ‘app’ (short for application) is a nifty little cell-phone program you can use to do things you wouldn’t even have thought of doing if there weren’t an app to make it possible. there is an app to let you go around making cow sounds.There Should Be an App for That Lo! Men have become the tools of their tools. For example. I also like to think I look like Angelina Jolie. I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know any of those people. —Henry David Thoreau I like to think I am technologically savvy. Being technologically savvy.
and there’s an app for that. there will no doubt be a dozen more. And I would have loved to have had a Chore Completion Assistant app that at my command would disable all the electronic devices that always seemed to prevent my kids from doing their chores. I’d also like to have a Bug Zapper app that could send out some kind of radioactive signal that would fry every creepy crawly or ﬂying insect in my vicinity. impossible-to-ignore sound into the ears of certain adolescents who regularly claimed not to have heard me tell them something. And for those of us who are frequently late for work and in need of a convincing excuse. but. For instance. 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). There’s also an app that teaches you how to say dirty words in a variety of languages. and developers are working feverishly every day to create even more. And I wouldn’t mind 211 . This program would automatically shoot a high-pitched. This app magniﬁes the sound so that people will think you have serious gastrointestinal issues. Hundreds of thousands of apps already exist. But I can think of a few other apps that someone should invent right away. when my kids were growing up. there is even an excuse generator app. hey. Why anyone would want people to think such a thing is beyond me. I could certainly have used a Teenager Tune Out Terminator app.There Should Be an App for That Another hugely popular app lets you emit loud bodily noises normally considered unacceptable in polite society. it’s a free country.
Days of Derangement having an app that would talk sense into me when I’m about to try on a bathing suit.” I’d call that my Girlfriend App. 212 . I could take a picture of the suit with my phone. Get Real. which would usually sound something like this: “Honey. There should deﬁnitely be an app for that. and then my app would give me an honest assessment.
Oh. to be honest. But a couple of weeks into our relationship. my SUV-inspired chic hadn’t sunk in with them yet. they assumed. We traded it in for a mid-sized SUV. After I explained that my liberation from the mom-mobile had transformed me into a groovier parent—a cool and deﬁnitely with-it individual—they ordered me. to never leave the driveway. Apparently. spotless. I’d said “hippier” and suggested I cut back on the carbs.Minivan Mentality Y ou can take the mom out of the minivan. But you can’t always take the minivan mentality out of the mom. At ﬁrst. she began to remind me of my mother. I ﬁnally stopped driving a family truckster. And. After 15 years. and I immediately felt hipper. 213 . always slightly disapproving of my driving even after I’d morphed into a mother myself. it was rather pleasant to have Nancy telling me—in her disembodied voice—where to go. in horror. When I told my children that. for a few days. She was even equipped with a state-of-the-art navigational system that I nicknamed Nancy. my new vehicle was sleek and. for some reason. I was having a hard time with it myself.
the dents and scratches made by a wide assortment of balls and even a couple of bicycles. she sounded a bit snippy. stale milk in sippy cups lodged under the seats. The new auto. “I am recalculating the route. the congealed essence of childhood. Nancy was really starting to get on my nerves. And I 214 . I think I actually missed the old. 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. clean carpet and unmarked exterior. a handle on the back of the driver’s seat. I also missed the way the minivan smelled— that bouquet of old french fries. and all mingling with the nauseating odor of dog vomit that we never could completely eliminate. maybe Nancy didn’t say those words speciﬁcally. a variety of stains inside courtesy of every colorful. rotten bananas. with its factory-fresh scent. sugary drink known to mankind.Days of Derangement “You missed the turn! You’re driving too fast! You’re going to get us killed!” OK. And it wasn’t just the Nazi-like navigational system. but that’s what my mind heard. Believe it or not. non-talking minivan. the van still retained its distinct aroma.” 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. all left to heat up year after year in the sun. Nancy’s turn-by-turn instructions took on a nagging quality. sweaty soccer cleats and fetid football jerseys. 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 missed all of those things. Even when everything was cleaned out.
You’ll always know where you’re going. (They’ve probably got the windows open. I want to remember where I’ve been. someone else is hurtling down the highway right now with a minivan full of my memories. you can have Nancy and the stylish SUV that encases her. Somewhere. In exchange.) Whoever you are. 215 .Minivan Mentality thoughtlessly gave it away. I want those memories and that cruddy old minivan back.
unable to keep up. 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.The Trail Ahead A few years ago. Grandpa remembers a pair of osprey that 216 . and accept his high school diploma with a brilliant smile. One of us recalls stumbling into an ice-cold stream and then walking for hours in wet shoes. 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 been hiking the same stretch since my children were preschoolers. We’ve hiked that trail so many times now that certain trees. I have pictures of both kids being carried on the shoulders of their dad and grandpa. Another remembers eating lunch on the trunk of a fallen pine tree until an attack by ravenous ants. I’m sure all the other parents were as stunned as I to suddenly be standing at the closing bookend of childhood. and every family member remembers details the rest of us have forgotten. mortarboard perched precariously on his head. I watched my oldest child cross a stage. streams and boulders are infused with memories. In fact.
My daughter remembers our yearly pilgrimage to the grave of a beloved dog who was buried just off the trail. The ﬁrst time each of our kids clambered across that bridge unassisted was a momentous event. My husband and I share a favorite location—a log bridge over a rushing stream. I snapped the shot. he’ll understand why. This year. I am not. I stopped to take a picture of the bridge. My son’s favorite hiking story is about the time that I. eager voices. though. not realizing my chosen spot could be seen from another part of the trail.The Trail Ahead nested in a tree overlooking a beautiful mountain lake. talking over each other as they competed to give Sid’s life the juiciest details. crossed ahead of me. as I always do. captured in pictures. We lay back on a large. curving out of sight. sunny rock. then had to sit down on a rock to compose myself. 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. then turned to look back. watching the birds swoop down to catch ﬁsh for their hungry offspring. Sadly. Funny Boy. the trail with its unseen destination stretching ahead of him. 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. all grown up and soon headed off to college. 217 . Grandma is an expert at picking out secluded spots. The trail from the bridge leads off into dense woods. Someday. Grandma’s memories of the trail center on which boulders and tree trunks provided the most privacy for the inevitable call of nature. exposed my backside to a group of college students. I can still clearly hear my kids’ high.
I just think it’s kind of like false advertising. She prefers the Kick ‘Em While They’re Down parenting philosophy popular during the rough-and-tumble pioneer days. I’ve noticed that your picture hasn’t changed in several years. I happened to mention this email to my mother. I hope you don’t mind me saying this. 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. 218 . Don’t you think it’s time to update your photo?” Then thoughtful John added the coup de grace: “P.Picture Perfect Pictures must not be too picturesque.” Mind. I’m thrilled that you were paying such close attention to the status of my photo. But my mom is old school. I am. —Ralph Waldo Emerson I once received an email from an eagle-eyed reader named John who apparently had nothing better to do with his time than send me the following message: “As a longtime reader of your columns.S. Really. John? MIND?? Of course not.
was I happy. and I haven’t changed a bit since it was taken. “That picture is at least six years old. 219 . dear. they throw up all their little camera parts in disgust when they are pointed in my direction. Cameras not only don’t love me. and every camera in existence has conspired to exaggerate those features. For some reason. How rude.” Ouch. Through the magic of modern technology that included hours and hours of state-of-the-art retouching techniques. my rotten editors did not believe I look just like Angelina Jolie. thanks a million for taking the time to notice that my picture is obsolete. I really appreciate it. I’ll also have you know that it has always been very difﬁcult to get a decent photo of myself. So anyway. Boy. So when I started writing a humor column. I ﬁnally got a picture that did not cause people to cover their eyes in horror. It really is false advertising. I engaged the services of a highly skilled professional photographer. They demanded an actual photo of my actual face. I have a long face and small beady eyes. I’ll have you know my picture is no more than ﬁve years old (give or take a year or two). I sent my editors a really gorgeous picture. though. Out of desperation. making me look like Eeyore with Winnie the Pooh eyes. that’s my picture. It is not a pretty sight. OK.” she said. it wasn’t actually a picture of me. I hate those people. Now.Picture Perfect “He’s right. sweet John. But by golly. but I ﬁgured no one needed to know that. what I’m trying to say here is this: Thanks. You know how the camera is said to love some people? Well. and I’m sticking to it. I faced the terrible prospect of having to provide a photo of myself to go with my columns.
head and shoulders above any other kid in the school or any other kid in the world for that matter. he’d clutched his favorite toy. and we were driving home—I got to thinking about his ﬁrst day of preschool. On the short drive to the school that day. “It makes Malcolm feel better. He didn’t look convinced.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. I think it probably made my little man feel better too. something he did often to comfort the rather emotional rabbit. Funny Boy got out of the 220 . Maybe I was a little biased. a stuffed bunny he’d inexplicably named Malcolm. “You’re going to have a wonderful time!” I remember saying too cheerfully. He kept rubbing his ﬁnger across Malcolm’s head. and tried to be very brave.” he’d once explained to me. When we arrived at the preschool. So did I. But only a little. 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.
as he lovingly strapped the little rabbit into the car seat. The top of his head is bare in several places. I rubbed his head several times. stroking the bunny’s head one last time. sounding again like Mister Rogers. then placed the rabbit back in the car. and pulled out an old stuffed bunny. through my own brimming tears. Rogers. 221 . I promised to take good care of him. For a moment. I still remember watching. I’ll be back soon. The bunny’s ears are frayed now.” I said. You’ll be OK.” When we got home after dropping him off at college. I sounded like Mr.Of Boys and Bunnies car with Malcolm tucked under his arm. way back behind the boxes of video games and soccer trophies. I reminded him that Malcolm would have to stay with me. worn down to the fabric by a little boy’s ﬁngers. those blue eyes brimmed with tears. and his fur looks matted. He rubbed Malcolm’s head several times to reassure him. I went into his room and reached into the top of his closet. “Long time no see!” I sat down on Funny Boy’s bed and just stared at Malcolm for a while. “Hi Malcolm. I think it made him feel better.” he said. “You stay here. “Only people can go to school. the seams in his body are visible. way too cheerful. “He’ll be right here waiting for you when I pick you up. Malcolm.” I said.
together. was mounted above. The bench and its fence were secured to one of my daughter’s bedroom walls. We used stencils to paint dainty ﬂowers on the pink walls. —Christopher Morley he called it her garden room. we painted the whole structure white and added more stenciled ﬂowers—red roses this time—all over the bench. stenciled edges. I nailed a small wooden bench to a section of picket fencing. they’ve all grown up. Some of her work went outside the lines. We wove fake ivy and silk ﬂowers along the fencing to complete the look.The Garden Room We’ve had bad luck with our kids. She held the brush and proudly created a few of them all by herself. We decided to leave it that way. Colorful smudges took the place of the intended clean. bordered with glued-on ivy and still more silk ﬂowers. and the ﬂoral theme in her ﬁrst “big-girl” bedroom delighted her. and a mirror. S 222 . So did some of mine. as if the ﬂowers on the wall were blowing in a gentle breeze. Then. We painted the walls pink and hung lacy little curtains at the window. She was four years old then.
The Garden Room Funny Girl would sit on that bench in her garden room. These were formal affairs at which I was expected to wear a pretty hat and conduct myself in a manner beﬁtting my lovely surroundings. And she plastered the walls with posters of young male actors and rock stars who look like they could use an attitude 223 . I walked in to ﬁnd her breathing deeply. wearing a lovely hat adorned. My ﬂower child grew into a willowy teenager. Sometimes I succeeded at this. she’d play dress-up in front of the mirror. I was invited in for tea parties. Sadly or not—depending on your perspective—the garden room is no more. Once. We painted the room lime green—yes. I’d ﬁnd her curled up on the bench asleep. after I’d excused myself and rushed out. cuddling her crew of stuffed animals. At that moment. Later. but often—too often—I was so preoccupied with the day’s must-do tasks that I failed to fully enjoy the garden party. Occasionally. We removed the prettily painted shelf with its daisy-shaped knobs underneath that held trophies and ribbons and other childhood memorabilia. “I’m just smelling all of my ﬂowers. Mommy. functional-looking furniture with nary a ﬂower to be found. fuzzy friends. Many days. lime green—because that’s the color desired by the girl whose legs were now longer than the quaint bench she used to nap on.” she said simply. and she would pretend she was in a real garden. So we ﬁnally updated it. She also wanted black. with ﬂowers. her head resting on them. We took down the bench and its fencing and put them in the garage. she would carry on the party with her faithful. naturally. I could smell them too. a Mary Quite Contrary who had long been embarrassed by her blooming bedroom. Some days.
symbol now of a line crossed in the inevitable journey out of childhood.Days of Derangement adjustment. And what amuses me is that I’m OK with that. she informed me I’d turned into an old fuddy duddy. When I told her that I preferred ﬂowers on the walls. She was right. a journey that seemed to have passed in the blink of an eye. The day we ﬁnished the room makeover. 224 . What I wouldn’t give to attend one more tea party. I stood in the garage and stared at the still-beautiful little bench.
Even when he was in his ninth decade. with fading eyesight. delivered at just the right moment. weaving from one side of the road to the other. Local residents knew to steer clear when they saw Old Man Gibson coming. my father procured my mother’s hand in marriage for the price of a couple of hogs. he’d insist on driving his battered pickup along the dirt roads near his home. the two men had fought 225 . Over the years. He tells it with great ﬂourish. in a more simple time. My parents grew up on farms several miles apart in southeastern Oklahoma. he’s perfected a series of coy pauses and soft smiles. It’s a tale of how. my granddad had been feuding—Hatﬁeld-McCoy style—with his nearest neighbor.The Pig Story E ver since I can recall. renowned for his ornery ways. my dad has been telling The Pig Story. For as long as anyone around there could remember. that make its oration a work of art. much younger wife. I’ve heard The Pig Story so many times that I could recite it in my sleep. born when her father was in his 70s and married to his third. (And this was before Viagra!) My grandfather was a local legend. Over the years. My mother was the youngest of 10 of my grandpa’s children.
cursing his enemy and expressing great surprise that anyone could commit such a vile act. if still rancorous. When he thought he’d spotted the neighbor’s porkers trampling his plants underfoot. rowdier days. the pigs would tire of the game and make their way home. announcing loudly to the trespassing pigs that they would soon draw their last breaths. even. over a defunct moonshine still tucked way back in the woods that each man claimed to have operated in his younger. my granddad would do the same. park his pickup under a couple of sweeping oak trees at the edge of the pasture and start ﬁring wildly in the pigs’ direction. One day my father. One summer. he’d swear up and down. watching for signs of porcine invasion. chicken-thieving dogs. waking occasionally to ﬁre a random shot before resuming his nap. the old man would fall asleep in the truck with the shotgun slung across his lap.Days of Derangement over property lines. the neighbor started releasing his pigs into the ﬁelds where my grandpa still grew corn and cotton. stray cattle. for bragging rights. But by the time they were each around 90. happened to be driving by during one of the scattershot 226 . And eventually. Then he’d grab his shotgun. who was a high school senior at the time. unable with his poor vision to actually hit anything. Invariably. and late in the afternoon. For several mornings in a row. the two old warriors had settled into a fairly harmless. He’d stay there awhile. the pigs didn’t seem to take him too seriously. routine. my grandpa would look out over his crops. But as my grandpa was unable to chase them down or shoot them. Both men had spent short spells in jail when things got too heated and the sheriff wanted to calm them down.
When told of the situation. They’ve been living high on the hog ever since. 227 . my dad quickly caught the pigs and put them in the back of the old pickup.The Pig Story shooting sessions. The rest. They were married a year later and recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. he introduced him to his 16-year-old daughter. as my dad always adds to universal groans. is hogstory. He stopped and asked my grandpa if he needed help. My grandpa was so pleased at this unexpected triumph over his nemesis that he invited my dad to come over that night for supper and there. They would provide quite a few tasty meals for the family.
An NFL event is a reassuring example of the strength of our capitalist system. I wanted to be part of this patriotic process. So I begged my family to let me come along. —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. Because I brought a book to the last professional sporting event I attended (a hockey game) and embarrassed my children. You get to invest extraordinary amounts of your personal capital in things like tickets. I was forced to undergo 228 . Not just any football game: an NFL (Not For Low-incomers) game. hot dogs and soft drinks while having the pleasure of watching hefty. well-paid men run around chasing a piece of pigskin. Despite the fact I wouldn’t know a touchdown from a hoe down. And the NFL realizes a handsome proﬁt in the bargain.Pirates and Packers The reason women don’t play football is because 11 of them would never wear the same outﬁt in public. It’s a win-win situation all around.
That made it even more special. Because the stadium is thoughtfully crammed with more seats than one would think possible. which was named after men who once packed meat into little cans. especially the ones directly behind me who showed their support by combining loud. This seemed to me like a good omen for the home team. there was plenty to capture my attention. the home team was named after a group of plundering pirates called buccaneers. and it’s hard to be churlish with cheese. And it didn’t much matter that I don’t understand the ﬁrst thing about football. but the cheese head was charmingly apologetic. I had an upclose encounter with one of these chunks of cheese when its bearer bent over to pick up something. The ﬁrst thing I noticed was that many fans were sporting large yellow pieces of synthetic cheese on their heads. I was sitting among fans of the home team. Unlike the visiting team. 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. Pirates could surely beat Packers. pirate-like bellows (Aargh!) with beer-propelled belches worthy of the most fearsome buccaneer. So I got another drink and took my seat just as the game began. But surprisingly. I was a little upset. I was joined in this belief by many Buccaneer fans. The 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 so I arrived at the game betting on being bored.Pirates and Packers an airport-style security screening before we left home. I could actually feel these belches on the back of my neck. The paperback I’d hidden under my shirt was conﬁscated. I could smell them too.
and even the cheese heads didn’t seem too upset. I felt so sorry for the ladies who were denied such an honor. the Buccaneers did indeed beat the Packers. Maybe that’s because cheese does for them what chocolate does for me—makes everything better. I was amazed to realize that I had a great time. and debated which ones should be given the privilege of dating the manly men behind me. These guys really helped me grasp the ﬁner points of the game. except that pirate patches cover more skin. in their outside voices. I didn’t even miss my book. the cheerleaders wore outﬁts that looked just like pirate eye patches. The Bucs fans happily went home singing yo-ho songs. 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!”). Even the performance of the referees was analyzed (“Are you kidding me?!”). During breaks in the action on the ﬁeld. 230 . In keeping with the team theme. In the end. the beer boys would discuss. My fellow fans rated each cheerleader on whether she was “hot” or merely lukewarm.
Pirates and Packers 231 .
That means not much has changed for me since high school. and you are the last.Cooler Online I’m so much cooler online. Then you begin to amass your Facebook friends list. you also post truthful information in your proﬁle. and after much effort. you post an actual photo of yourself rather than someone far more attractive that you try to pass off as yourself. I’m cooler online. You send messages to others on the site asking them to be your friend. I managed to accumulate 10 online friends. you look at each other’s pages and post comments. except that now I have a few more friends. Just in case I am the next-to-last person in the world to join Facebook. In theory. —Brad Paisley song I joined Facebook a while back. If they agree. let me tell you how it works: You sign up and create your personal page with photos and a proﬁle. You also can announce what you are doing at any given moment and send it out through cyberspace for all your friends 232 . In theory. Yeah. which my charming children pointed out ofﬁcially made me a loser.
You can even send them an online hug. you also can poke your friends. which I suspect is not quite as good as the real thing that involves actual arms. I’ll have so many friend requests. I can’t take the humiliation.Cooler Online to see. you can “super” poke them. I’ll 233 . virtual hot cocoa. This has left me feeling like a voodoo doll. In this brave new world of social networking. in cold weather. of course. and I’ve been tempted to “de-friend” these people. you can even spank your friends or throw thongs at them. “Jackie is clipping her toenails. My 10 friends will be so impressed with my literary ﬂair that they will tell all their other friends about me. I can type in something like. I have a couple of Facebook friends who regularly send me super pokes. I would never do this to one of my friends. and so on and so on. But that would mean my friends list wouldn’t even reach double digits. So. But then. if you’re one of those people who likes to live on the edge. and those friends will tell still other friends. you can deliver a virtual slap or bite. You can send your friends truly useful things like a virtual glass of wine or. This is what I’m going to do. let me assure you it has true social value.” and all 10 of my friends will feel better knowing this. You also can show off your intellectual bent by recommending books and pretending you’ve actually read these books. But it gets even better. Or. If one of your cyber friends has stepped out of line. If you are the kinky kind. I only have 10 of them. You can join online groups and causes and invite friends to come along. Lest you think Facebook is just a frivolous way to fritter away time keeping your friends updated on routine bodily maintenance activities. Soon.
you’d get to hear all about it. Maybe I’ll even start a Facebook fan club for myself. I have to go now and clip my toenails. 234 .Days of Derangement have to start screening people. If you were my friend.
I’ve actually lifted one weight. and I’ve got ﬂabby arms and a pelican neck. but what difference does that make anyway because everything in my life sucks. and no one loves me. OK. and I raised my arms to lift something from an upper shelf. and all my house plants are dead. I’m actually just hoping to avoid inadvertently taking ﬂight in a strong gust of wind. You may think I’m hoping to be considered a sleek and sexy cougar on the prowl for a younger man. shifting it from one hand to the other. But you’d be wrong. You may think I’m lifting weights for cosmetic reasons. my friend. That’s because I’ve apparently grown wings. kitchen-type S 235 . This is a normal. —Laurie Metcalf o I’ve started lifting weights. wings. Yes. in an effort to look cut and ripped or some other painful-sounding adjective. I didn’t even know I possessed bird-like qualities until one day when I was standing in my kitchen. Lifting two weights at the same time was a little too ambitious for my longdelayed return to ﬁtness.Beware the Bingo Wings I’m 36 years old. So I’m starting out slowly.
Now I know what she meant.” “Bingo wings?” I asked. put down your arms. I beg your pardon. I got a ﬁgurative punch in the gut from my own children who. I’m pretty sure my bingo wings won’t lift me off the ground. as my grandma used to sing to me. were sitting nearby eating food prepared for them by the person they were about to insult. especially women who play Bingo?” “Older women? Arm fat? Bingo?!” I sputtered. “Yea. Well. careworn arms that could be used as cleaning implements by a school janitor.” Funny Boy chimed in. “But you could clean off a chalkboard with those bingo wings of yours.” You carry them through nine months of pregnancy. And as long as I hold on to this weight. So. uh.” said Funny Girl. You sacriﬁce time you would undoubtedly have spent doing pushups if you weren’t driving them from one activity to another. I’ve started lifting weight. I never promised you a rose garden. “Whoa. covering her eyes as if she couldn’t bear to look at me. 236 . But I may soon send those kids of mine airborne. older women get. You labor in agony to bring them forth into the world. and you watch the ingrates snicker at you behind their hands. I’d like to point out. Mom. This weight weighs a whole 10 pounds. you know that arm fat that. I’ve started lifting weights. as I said. Mom. And then you stand in your kitchen with ﬂabby. You pay for their college tuition.Days of Derangement activity that I’ve done many times before. “You’ve got some serious bingo wings there. But this time. “Nothing personal. You lose sleep for years worrying over every aspect of their lives. I can lift it into the air and then bring it back down.
I can feel it. Naturally. While I’ve greatly enjoyed my years in cyberspace. I blame Al Gore. I’m pretty sure that my online time has shrunk my attention span to the size of a mosquito’s. The problem is that I just can’t seem to focus anymore. people have been bemoaning the negative consequences of technology for a long time. as he invented the darn thing. down where complex thinking and unhurried contemplation still reside (at least I hope they still do). My brain skims along life’s surface.Adios Internet My mind is going. reprogramming my memory. this has not been an easy decision. But it’s deﬁnitely for my own good. Believe me. rarely diving into the depths of the sea of information. I have the uncomfortable sense that the Internet is tinkering with my neural circuitry. Socrates started what may have been the ﬁrst technology scare. lamenting the I 237 . possibly even sabotaging my soul. —Supercomputer HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey ’ve reluctantly decided that I need to resign from the Internet. In fact. Granted. and that might be an insult to the mosquito.
And let’s not even talk about the detrimental effects of television on our minds. By the end of the 19th century. I am convinced the Internet has been even worse. When the printing press came along. We fritter away vast amounts of time on Twitter. now that I think about it. assuming I don’t fall asleep ﬁrst. there were those who complained that it ruined the eyes and made the ﬁngers ache. we waste the day away on eBay. Actually. From now on. the cast of Jersey Shore. I’m going to give up television as well. 238 . I’m also going to spend tons of time sitting around thinking deep thoughts. update our Facebook status and check out our friends’ statuses.Days of Derangement invention of books. encouraging us to incessantly peek at our email. Imagine how much smarter we would be if we’d never sat around watching the antics of all those Californiabased Kardashians or their high-IQ counterparts on the East Coast. I’m pretty sure Socrates would be deeply impressed. constantly craving the ﬂeeting pleasure of new information without ever digesting the old stuff. 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). And we lurch from site to site. So I am walking away from the Web. which he thought ruined the memory. But as bad as TV has been for our mental fortitude. Imagine what the old guy would think of Twitter. the invention of the telegram was blamed for triggering an outbreak of mental illness. The Web makes it so easy to interrupt ourselves.
—Dorothy Parker A s you might imagine. so I’d like to take you behind the scenes for a look at how I write a column. that the making of humor columns resembles the making of laws and sausage—it’s not always a pretty sight. which typically goes something like this: “Dear Jackie. My witty and brilliant brain is always on alert for possible topics. I often receive email from adoring fans. however. The ﬁrst step in the process is to come up with a topic. But occasionally. Sometimes topics are so plentiful—like when I go to a class reunion or listen 239 . I get genuine fan mail. 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. 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. OK.Column Creation I hate writing. Let me warn you. I love having written. especially when a family member or friend does something I can ridicule (this is why I spend a lot of time alone).
sleep-induced topic. I haven’t gone quite that far. So I left the economy in the hands of the ﬁnancial geniuses who’ve been running it so far. To be the very best humorist I can be. I have a ﬂexible ofﬁce space that moves around to meet my needs. DC to try to ﬁx the economy. but I have been known to pluck stray chin hairs while I wait for my creative muse to strike. It is essential I keep up with events in case I am called to participate in them. That’s when. endeavor.Days of Derangement to a presidential debate—that they practically hit me upside the head. even with a killer. Like many a great artist. Other times. for example. Writing can be a grueling. Van Gogh. I am often driven to the edge of madness in my quest for perfection. I awaken and head to my home ofﬁce to begin writing. but my deprived fans soon demanded I resume writing witty and brilliant columns. So I spend some time considering my physical imperfections. I was forced to suspend my column-creation campaign and ﬂy to Washington. even painful. though. as you’ll recall. and I returned to my easy chair. I invest a lot of time in sleeping. A prime focus lately has been the unwanted hair that’s suddenly appearing in places no hair had 240 . The best such research occurs while I’m asleep. I have to conduct in-depth topic research. cut off part of his own ear. When I’ve slept enough to come up with a humdinger of a topic. Those needs are usually best met in my favorite chair. Not long ago. I gave it my best shot. Being a columnist on the cutting edge of the whole work/life balance thing (as all your best columnists are). and sometimes she doesn’t show up. I can’t quite begin writing. which is conveniently placed in front of the TV to allow me to keep up with world events. My muse is fairly ﬁckle.
It’s tough to be witty and brilliant when faced with such a problem.Column Creation gone before. Maybe I could write a column about that. That’s probably why Van Gogh cut off his ear. 241 . he saw hair growing out of it.
with no danger of the dreaded pretzel twist.Couch Potato Confessions I ’m ashamed to admit that I’m a couch potato. First. there are other essential ingredients. Couches should be soft and wide enough so you do not feel as if you’re going to fall off. high-energy people who never play potato. I’ve spent many lazy hours catching Zs (while pretending to be doing something productive) on a variety of couches. And I’m not just your ordinary. I’ve got that in spades. While the main accessory for being a couch potato is. The best receptacles for couch-potato champions like me are long enough to accommodate the entire body in a horizontal position. just in case you’re living with one of those fanatic. of course. you need the right kind of personality: starchy. a couch. 242 . vegged-out and prone to napping. they should be positioned so they are not visible from other rooms of the house. And ideally. run-of-the-mill sofa spud. I’m a connoisseur of couch-potato technique.
That’s why you need to use a blanketlike device such as small coverlets or those granny-knitted afghans—the ones that often smell like mothballs—to cover yourself during surreptitious naps. Other accessories are also helpful in attaining the ultimate in couch-potato comfort. you can quickly sit up. wipe the drool off your chin and nod intently at the educational TV program you were obviously using to enhance your brain power. That would indicate a premeditated intention to spend disgraceful periods of time as a potato person. naturally.Couch Potato Confessions Next. But blankets. being actual bed accessories. if someone stumbles upon your spudly snooze. (Just remember to hurriedly smooth your tell-tale bed head. I can pretend to be improving my mind while indulging my lazy body. a sofa-spud spouse can legitimately claim to be watching a very important (and very long) game. I prefer. You need pillows. But you don’t want to use your regular bed pillows. Then. you can at least appear to be doing something when you’re in horizontal heaven.) 243 . you need a TV. you can casually throw your covering across the arm of the couch as a decorative accent. to have educational TV programs playing on the set. Many men like to have sports playing on the television while they snooze away the hours in non-productive loaﬁng. and no one will be the wiser. That way. You need those cute little decorated sofa pillows that are designed to stay on the couch. That way. if someone unexpectedly interrupts your snoozing. are a dead giveaway. A blanket is also an essential element of today’s successful lounge lizard. If someone—say a man’s wife—asks him to do something annoying such as take out the trash. however. Then.
I often come up with great column ideas during my couchpotato periods. 244 . Actually. 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. Pass me that afghan. you may think I have too much time on my hands.
this means I also spend quite a bit of time in the ladies room. legs are crossed and eyeballs beginning to ﬂoat before we even make it to the restroom door. where there was no line. To wash down all the junk food I’m eating. I like to kill time when I’m there by making frequent trips to the concession stand. Most of us. In some cases. however. Where there is never a line. I spend time standing in a line of women waiting to get into our designated comfort station. As someone who would almost rather undergo a root canal than attend such events (I said almost). Not surprisingly. Actually. I drink more than a few beverages. We had to watch dozens of males stroll in without encountering any delay in doing their business. That’s the place where the team owner charges almost as much for cellulite-friendly food as my dentist charges for a root canal. We waiting women began to glare at the men and seethe at the injustice of it all. 245 .Ladies Room Rebel I was recently compelled to attend yet another professional sporting event. That’s how it was when I was in an unusually long line that snaked past the men’s room. are none too comfortable.
All we needed was a leader. “spend a penny. But still. lining our lips and talking about feelings and other things I cannot disclose here. who probably never had to wait for a toilet stall. “Yeah!” we shouted in agreement. So much for revolution. And suddenly. as the British say. one lady posed aloud the question we’d all been asking ourselves.” And due to certain personality differences.” She strode purposefully into the male inner sanctum as we gasped in admiration. we also need extra time in the loo (another British term) to stand around powdering our noses. “Bigger bathrooms! Yeah!” So must have begun the American experiment with democracy when the Founding Fathers. was fortunate enough to have followers to back up his brave bid for freedom. “I’m not waiting in this line any longer. Our ladies’ room rebel had to enter the arena alone. The rest of us—ladylike lemmings afraid of the sight of urinals—continued to toe the line. “I’m using the men’s room. I sensed that revolution was in the air. conﬁdent-looking woman in stylish boots. She stepped forward. men need far less space than women to. “Why isn’t the women’s bathroom twice as big as the men’s?” Why indeed. 246 . as the line inched forward only slightly. That’s why we need much larger public restrooms.Days of Derangement Finally. Due to certain anatomical differences. standing outside the ladies’ lounge with my legs crossed. we had one. Washington. expressed similar outrage over inequality.” she announced. It was like watching George Washington crossing the Delaware River. a tall. however. They might have been a little more eloquent about it than we were.
especially if you are a researcher studying topics crucial to the well-being of humanity. they really did spend serious scientiﬁc time studying this. who will undoubtedly need to do follow-up studies. we are not becoming a nation of idiots because half of us don’t realize the other half have faces. You might also be surprised to ﬁnd out these two studies are not linked. 247 . Yes. —Pete Lindstrom I t’s good to be a researcher. these experts discovered that a majority of men do indeed gaze at the girls when they ﬁrst meet a woman. 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. There’s too much fun going on out there on the Internet. 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. Apparently. for example. I feel really good knowing that such scientiﬁc knowledge is out there to assist future researchers.Fake Brain The lesson here is you can’t expect users to learn. Take. and shockingly.
at least. But I can tell that my once sponge-like mind has been marred by my Internet habit. 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. You remember books. 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. Smart people used to put worthwhile information in them before all those smart people were recruited to conduct research on boob boys. If everyone else is like me. I’m especially interested in this. Or maybe I should store all the stupid stuff in my real 248 . because I have recently embarked on an experiment in which I try to read a book for one hour each day. 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. My mind wanders after a few minutes of sustained reading. such as checking out the latest in silly scientiﬁc studies or reading the newest SPAM email in my inbox. I don’t know whether reading for an hour a day is making me smarter. pre-Internet people. I had missed the leisurely experience of immersing myself in a book. and I feel a strong urge to ﬂip over to something else.Days of Derangement It’s because of all the time we spend online. Now. folks. but most of my reading has been done in little snippets of time I would steal here and there for the printed page. I’d never actually given up reading books altogether. I’m ﬁnding it very difﬁcult to concentrate and absorb all the knowledge so painstakingly amassed by those primitive. but it is at least relaxing. we could be in real trouble.
249 . if I get a fake brain. Then I wouldn’t have to worry about what my face looks like. which is probably past repair anyway. Of course. I might as well install other fake body parts as well.Fake Brain brain. and turn over all important thinking to the fake brain.
Actually. you undoubtedly spend your fall weekends in front of the television. for the sake of discussion.) If you are such a woman. concerns such as spreading cellulite.) 250 . like any average middle-age American woman. middle-of-the-night victim of a toilet seat that was left in an upright position. Because I am such a woman (except that I don’t have even a smidgen of cellulite). and his rowdy friends a little sick of the sport. I’ve spent several years wallowing each autumn in every minute of televised football I can get my eyes on. I have no cellulite). And say that. you absolutely love football. you are an average middle-age woman with the everyday concerns typical of your kind.Football Goes Feminine S uppose. having been an average middle-age woman for quite some time now (except. a shrinking bank account and the possibility you will be the soggy. (Time to change the pan. that’s exactly what I do during football season. (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. let me remind you.
you—the average middle-age woman—were starting to feel left out. followed by more beer commercials. It wasn’t that long ago that football commercials pushed only two products: beer and pickup trucks. which protected them so well they did not need padding. 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. and by this point. 251 . 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. You’d have several minutes of football. as well as one pushing sandwiches with organic roasted vegetables and one for a credit card featuring people buying theater tickets. very manly men drive very large. The advertisers are targeting you. for a change of pace. you’d have several more pickup commercials. I counted a gourmet coffee commercial. The beer commercials tout drinkability and a reduction in calories. Then the TV would cut to a commercial for a pickup truck. during which very large. But all that has changed. The commercials are going coed. very manly pickups. average middle-age woman. Next. That’s right. 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. and you’d watch very large. like grill burgers or leer at women in bikinis or scratch themselves in public. Fully clothed women and children ran amuck in these commercials.Football Goes Feminine And I’ve noticed something interesting.
there will no doubt be half-time commercials promising to wipe away cellulite. Soon. at least a bit metrosexual.Days of Derangement And the only men to be seen were older and much smaller men who looked thrilled to be offered medicine to lower their cholesterol and conquer those enlarging prostates. 252 . if not feminine. Not that I’ll need it. Football would appear to be going.
M 253 . And I’ve done this while adhering to my spouse’s terribly unfair weighing system. I don’t need to bribe the judge. You would think this would mean that we’d be very supportive of each other. y husband and I regularly try to lose weight. As everyone knows.Weighty Matters My body is a temple. with ample parking in the back. waxing ecstatic over every lost pound. We’re actually in a cutthroat competition to see who can get svelte (or maybe just slightly less lumpy) the quickest. however. presided over by an impartial judge who is supposed to record our weight each morning and ensure there is no cheating. That means we have to have a daily weigh-in. Naah. As we are short of impartial judges willing to come into our bathroom. Funny Man has actually resorted to attempted judicial bribery. I’m usually winning the weight competition. celebrating every time a stalk of celery took the place of a plate of cookies or bag of chips. because. we’ve had to settle for whichever one of our children needs to get on the parental good side. there is only one Right Way to Weigh Yourself.
2. grip the towel bar tightly. fails to notice that you have not yet let go of the towel bar. 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). and this judge. Let go of the towel bar very. Or. including your underwear. Every ounce counts. When the ﬁrst foot is in place. the overage will increase exponentially with every pound. who is late getting ready for school. Look down at the dial and note your weight. 6. so much the better. 254 . 7. if you have an impartial judge there to write down your weight. being careful not to swallow any water. Exhale. 8. lift the other foot and put it ever so gently on the scale as well. 5. If it is even one hair’s breadth above the zero. If you need support during this transition. Wake up. Brush the crud off your teeth. It is OK. Take off all of your clothes. 3. 4.Days of Derangement a highly sophisticated method that has worked beautifully for generations of women. Place one foot on the scale and slowly transfer your weight from the ﬂoor in a calm but deliberate movement. Go to the bathroom. very slowly. This weigh-in procedure consists of the following steps: 1. however. Calibrate the scale. 9.
Note your weight. 255 . medical ofﬁces and other places in which women hate to be weighed. This dangerous way to weigh has been known to startle a scale into adding ﬁve or 10 pounds to a woman’s real weight. an imprudent process practiced at health clubs. 2. my man adheres to The Wrong Way to Weigh Yourself. Get on the scale.Weighty Matters Unfortunately. This foolish procedure consists of only two wildly risky steps: 1. And I sure don’t need that.
You arrive at the resort fully clothed. only the people who were there that day would have the pleasure of seeing you in such a predicament. as most skiers do. Unfortunately. causing you to slide through a gap between the seat and the chair back. Before we all became entangled in the Web. you decide to go skiing. If you can sit happy with embarrassment. —Christian Bale T he Internet has changed everything. leaving you—bare-bottomed—dangling helplessly upside down. Say. As you slide. for example. your pants are pulled down. it malfunctions. while your boot and ski simultaneously become lodged in the lift.The Big Wee But I learned that there’s a certain character that can be built from embarrassing yourself endlessly. and you hop aboard the chairlift. thanks to technology. those people would take pictures of you with their cell phones (assuming they could stop laughing long enough). there’s not much else that can really get to you. But now. and the pictures 256 .
And having my dangling derriere gracing websites worldwide would not be a pretty picture. And when I agreed to take a ski lesson. Then everyone on the planet would have a chance to chortle at your chapped cheeks. So I was quite concerned as I walked in my unfamiliar skis—like a bowlegged cowboy—from the ski shop to the “bunny slope” where I would begin my lesson. and he was 80—80!— years old.The Big Wee would appear online before you’d even had time to warm up your freezing rear end. I kept thinking about this unfortunate fellow. I could only creep along like a crab. This actually happened a couple of years ago to a man in Colorado. those sane individuals who’ve never before put long. pronounced it “Wee. I know this because he kept reminding us as he clambered like a kid up the gentle incline of the bunny slope and then encouraged us to follow him. But I hadn’t gotten there yet. That’s because I consider myself an embarrassment magnet. I looked nervously at the chairlift that was taking people to the mountaintop. it could deﬁnitely happen to me. I was part of the “never ever” class. Although I’m about half Sven’s age. being Swedish. a hale and hearty man named Sven. But Sven. ﬂat devices on their feet and attempted to slide down a mountain on top of massive amounts of snow.” 257 . If the chairlift butt exposure incident could happen to someone else. Sven showed us how to stop by pointing the tips of our skis in a V. On the way. Sven was originally from Sweden. I was the oldest one in the class except for the instructor. I didn’t see anybody dangling upside down with bared buttocks.
safely in place. 258 . I’d giggle some more. You’ll be pleased to know I made it to the top of the mountain with my pants. Eventually. This caused me to childishly giggle. trembling. and my dignity.Days of Derangement “Just make a big wee. The Internet is certainly better for it.” he kept shouting as I continually chose an alternative method of stopping—falling over. to the chairlift. I was sufﬁciently adept at making a big wee that I was taken. Each time Sven said it. 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.
when the living is easy (that would make a great song lyric). conferring with the ﬂowers. I sometimes have the privilege of going on vacation with my friend Kathy and her family. consulting with the rain. at least until they bite you. is that it gives you the opportunity to get away from it all and reconnect with family and friends.) Getting away from it all is just what I like to do in a cabin in rural North Carolina. Kathy and I have been pals since our children were babies. which is about as friendly a place as you’ll ﬁnd on this earth. even the insects seem friendly. you can while away the hours.My BFF Lots of your friends want to ride with you in the limo. In modern parlance. but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down. for those of you who still speak 259 . I’d turn that into a catchy tune. —Oprah Winfrey W hat’s nice about the summertime. In North Carolina. we are BFFs (best friends forever. In the sweet summertime. (If I only had a brain.
Kathy suddenly nudged me and pointed ﬁrst at her bare legs and then at mine.Days of Derangement actual English). 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. complete with a power outage and warnings of a nearby tornado. we got even closer to Mama Earth when she brought a raging thunderstorm our way. and we had a great time conferring with Mother Nature. “They’ve fallen down past my knees. and we spent another half hour lamenting the increasing force of gravity on our various body parts. “I’ve discovered something I still like about my body. I noticed on the drive up here that they’ve gotten very wrinkly. We found ourselves taking shelter in the basement of some friendly neighbors. holding out her arms for me to see. My wrists still look great! Notice how young and skinny my wrists are!” And lo and behold. How did that happen?” I nodded gravely. That night. Kathy made a heartwarming discovery. I noticed that my own wrists still looked pretty darn attractive as well.” she said excitedly. On the walk. Before we got too depressed. “I absolutely hate my thighs. who didn’t even seem to notice that we’re all getting older. As we sat there in the ﬂickering candlelight. When we get together. listening to the storm above us and clutching our loved ones close. I suggested we go for a walk in the woods. 260 . “Hey. And speaking of my knees.” Kathy said glumly the last time we got together. Kathy and I—being BFFs who know pretty much everything there is to know about each other—can dispense with the usual pleasantries and get right down to talking about what truly matters while sitting in a couple of rocking chairs on the front porch.
” she said.My BFF “Hey. I’ll still want to share a front porch with my friend Kathy. when even our wrists no longer look young. our thighs look really good. That’s why. “Down here in the dark. She’ll always help you look on the bright side. 261 .” That’s what is so wonderful about a good BFF.
When I watched the show as a child. —Miranda Ingram I saw Aunt Bea go a little bonkers. far more reliable than a man. and she could cook up a storm. Love is a substitute for chocolate. As everyone over a certain age knows. let’s face it. She was warm. OK. comforting and pillowy soft. a community that proudly 262 . the real Aunt Bea and Opie were. The world was a sweet. it gave you a nice feeling all over. On the show. simple place in Mayberry USA. Chocolate is. Watching that program as a kid was about as good as eating warm-out-of-the-oven cookies washed down with cold milk. I always wanted to climb up in her lap. so it wasn’t the real Aunt Bea or the real Opie. well. The make-believe Mayberry was based on Grifﬁth’s reallife hometown of Mount Airy. And there was no person sweeter in Mayberry than Aunt Bea. And it was all Opie’s fault. Aunt Bea was Sheriff Andy Taylor’s aunt. NC.Aunt Bea Goes Bonkers It’s not that chocolates are a substitute for love. ﬁctional TV characters on that beloved old sitcom The Andy Grifﬁth Show.
Opie’s also has many different kinds of chocolate. a particular form of chocolate is wrapped up in our minds with a special memory. And often. a relative newcomer to the street. 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. where the real Andy got his hair cut before he moved to Hollywood and had to pay a lot more for it.Aunt Bea Goes Bonkers promotes its favorite son. Right beside Floyd’s is Opie’s Candy Store. warm smile and pillowy soft frame. Squirrel Nut Zippers and Big Hunk candy bars. Fortunately. This is a good thing for children. you can visit Snappy Lunch and eat the same famous pork chop sandwich that Andy ate as a boy. Chocolate is to women what beer is to men. Next door. I came to my senses before I ended up in the Mayberry jail guarded by Barney. I have many of my own special memories bound up in chocolate. and it’s an even better thing for women. Chocolate is life. I had a childlike urge to climb into her lap. Along Main Street in Mount Airy. So I completely understood when an Aunt Bea look-alike walked into Opie’s Candy Store while I was there one day and. when denied her nostalgic nourishment. She really did look like Andy’s aunt—upswept hair. had a chocolate-triggered meltdown. I am quite fond of the cocoa bean. chocolate sings. For a moment. As you might have guessed. you can get a trim and shave (assuming you are a man or a very hairy woman) in the real Floyd’s Barber Shop. Chocolate single-handedly sustains the vital control-top panty industry. Chocolate is nature’s Midol. While money talks. 263 .
Days of Derangement Aunt Bea’s clone looked around the store several times. shockingly.” The clerk. a young man apparently unaware of the dangers of depriving a woman of her desired form of chocolate. Her face took on a crazed. to sweat profusely. beaming. “And I’m in menopause!” The clerk looked bewildered. “I came speciﬁcally from Florida for Opie’s chocolate-covered caramels!” she said loudly. distinctly non-Aunt Beaish look. 264 . she said it yet again. empty-handed. “I’ve never forgotten how good they tasted. Aunt Bea began to tremble and. She ordered the clerk to check in the back for more caramels. Then she said it again. The real Aunt Bea would have done no less. Then she added the kicker. but the other female customers gently guided our suffering sister out the door. “I had them years ago when I was here with my children” she told him. And again. “I came speciﬁcally from Florida for them!” she told everyone in the room. giving her an understanding pat on the arm. her voice forlorn. then approached the clerk and asked where to ﬁnd the chocolatecovered caramels. The other customers clutched their candy closer. kindly informed her the store was temporarily out of that item. When he returned.
Aunt Bea Goes Bonkers 265 .
It was a moving experience. “We must all hang together. We had an enthusiastic National Park Service guide who gave us all the salient historical details and then threw in some interesting tidbits. The guide also reminded us of Franklin’s stirring comment as he added his signature and anticipated all the Fourth of July barbecues to come. I made that last part up. “Give me good potato salad or give me death!” OK. we shall all hang separately.Turbulence I had the honor of being in Philadelphia at Independence Hall one July Fourth not too long ago.” Franklin famously said “or. Franklin actually reminded his fellow signers that the cantankerous King George III would not be happy with their declaration. most assuredly. always throwing a wet blanket on the festivities. like the fact that the youngest signer of the Declaration of Independence was 26 and the oldest—acclaimed kite-ﬂyer Ben Franklin—was 70.” Good old Ben. 266 .
he made his own little declaration of independence. Before we even boarded the ﬂight. we took a horse-drawn carriage ride around historic Philadelphia. Standing in the hallowed room where that document and the United States Constitution were signed. shortly into the ﬂight. but as she walked away. “Turbulence!” he yelled happily. “Turbulence!” I turned around and gave him my most severe maternal look. His tired-looking mother tried to shush him. Our horse was 267 . waving his ﬂag and shouting every sentence. the ﬂight attendant came by and admonished him. pointing excitedly at the airplanes. he did it again. After several more outbursts. He grinned appealingly at her and nodded as if he would comply. He was about eight years old and dressed in patriotic garb. “Turbulence!” After touring Independence Hall. I kept thinking about a boy who’d been on our ﬂight into Philadelphia the day before. everyone was aware of this child because he was loud and boisterous. which he ignored just like my own children always did. I was tired that day and feeling about as cranky as the king. he exploded. but a few minutes later. Sure enough. He carried a small American ﬂag and wore a plastic derby hat festooned with stars and stripes.Turbulence Our guide described the turmoil swirling around Philadelphia in July of 1776 as the Continental Congress debated the Declaration. making everyone jump in their seats. so I was royally perturbed when this young ﬁrecracker sat directly behind me on the plane.
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. and our driver was Ben. who even in old age was apparently quite a ﬁrecracker himself. Anyway.Days of Derangement named Spot. Spot had a bag placed strategically below his business end. Naturally. Ben the driver regaled us with the exploits of Ben Franklin. there was only one thing to say as we passed him. “Turbulence!” Franklin would probably have loved that kid. 268 . still wearing his hat and waving the ﬂag. and Ben pointed out this innovation was not in use in Revolutionary times. who should arrive for the next ride but the brash boy from the ﬂight. As we ended our ride and got out of the carriage.
They are highly civilized. as well. the Brits have a chance to pick off yet another descendent of those ill-mannered colonists. rich in culture and history. the Queen’s loyal subjects will then do their best to make you loopy with their lingo. England has apparently failed to develop along appropriate linguistic lines. If you manage to survive this drive-by assassination attempt. as one member or another of my family did repeatedly. Spelling is handled haphazardly. Every time one of us Yanks looks the wrong way when crossing a road over there and steps into oncoming trafﬁc. It labels what is clearly a cookie as a biscuit and what is brazenly a biscuit as a scone.Hail Britannia I ’m a big fan of the English. and I’m sorry to report that her inhabitants still insist on driving on the left side of the road. Despite having been native English speakers for quite some time. This is their way of paying America back for that little matter of a tea-party tantrum. It calls potato chips crisps and French fries chips. with the letter u added to words—like colour and honour—that have no 269 . they’d be a perfect people. If only they’d learn to drive correctly and speak the language properly. 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. But I assured my crew that. of queens who lost their heads. Then there is the bizarre nature of British food. Our mouths fell open with wonder as we checked out the crown jewels and marveled at the majesty. the ubiquitous Brown Sauce. kings (like a certain multi-wived Henry and the cranky. And an extra e is sprinkled into all sorts of words that would be far better off without it. We went to palaces and castles. No wonder these poor people tried to colonize the world in earlier times. We gazed upon statues. They were simply seeking more tasty cuisine. popularly known as a Beefeater. colony-losing George III) with too much power and ravens who even today rule the roost on the Tower grounds. while re is used to spell words that everyone knows need an er. 270 . as my children took to calling it. We heard exciting tales of monarchy and mayhem. We trembled with terror at the thousand-year-old Tower of London as we listened to stories of long-ago torture in the dungeons. almost spoiled our appetite for exploring the Sceptre’d Isle. we each bravely ate a dark. in spite of a few foibles.Days of Derangement business with a u. circular breakfast item deceptively named Black Pudding. paintings and sculpture far older than our own country. the English are a lovely and lively bunch. Turns out. A colorfully dressed Yeoman Guard at the tower. museums and galleries. Black Pudding is a sausage made by cooking pig’s blood with a ﬁller until it is thick enough to congeal when cooled. This was served with what is apparently used to ﬂavor all food in England. The Pig’s Blood Affair. On our ﬁrst morning in London. And so we set out to savor the civilization that produced both Shakespeare and the Spice Girls.
But maybe we just need to give them some more time. If she could only give up the Black Pudding. This explains their legendary jolliness and also explains why they haven’t gotten around to correcting their driving or spelling systems.Hail Britannia cheerfully reminded the uncouth Americans in the crowd that if we’d simply paid our taxes. And Britannia may yet rule the waves. very strong beer in pubs with names that start with Ye. after all. We also paid a call to that most iconic of English institutions. You’ve got to love the British. Rome. the pub. The English spend a great deal of time drinking very dark. 271 . wasn’t built in a day. all the culture and history at which we were agog could still be ours.
I searched through dozens of costumes. I promised them. Or maybe I’d reprise my polyester princess phase. Little Red Riding Hood. and the princesses are parading more than their tiaras. was deﬁnitely not headed to her grandmother’s house. The witches were wearing very little. There were naughty nurses with uniforms so low-cut they could induce heart failure. 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.The Scariest Costume O ne year when my kids were still young enough to care. sporting thigh-highs. and a deviant housewife ensemble that seemed ill-suited for mopping ﬂoors. with her plunging neckline and platform 272 . I found that the hags have turned to hoochies. But when I went costume shopping with my family. with a few adult modiﬁcations. Maybe. all of them offering a shrink-wrapped style that ranged from sexy to slutty to skanky. I thought. that I’d dress up for Halloween. after much begging on their part. And Goldilocks.
for laughs. But my vixen vanished when I saw the looks of horror on the faces of my children. along with one labeled Law and Order 24/7. There’d be a Full-time Football button and a Constant Cartoons knob. or perhaps soothing and sweet. something funny and familiar. 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. 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. So. But not salacious. still in need of a disguise. in a way. It was all more strip club than storybook. I realized that. Mom in a minidress was too monstrous an idea. I wear a disguise every day. I went with something very simple. the kind of eye candy that would spark my gang’s gratitude. actually mulled over the suggestion on the package of one costume that I channel my inner vixen. Every morning. looked ready to sleep in everyone’s bed. And. with pieces of dirty clothing dangling from clothespins. I could dress up as one of the most important items in our house—the remote control—with custom buttons designed to appeal to each member of my family. Or I could pose as a giant red spoon with Betty Crocker scrawled across my forehead. I could cover myself with foil marked as leftovers. I could remind them of all that I do. I could cut a circle out of a laundry basket and insert it over my body. In the end. My Halloween attire would have to be homemade. Or. I considered buying one of these outﬁts. For the briefest of moments. I am 273 . or maybe even slightly scary. I pondered my predicament.The Scariest Costume heels.
and I ﬁx my hair. I paint my face. And my kids thought that was the scariest costume of all.Days of Derangement transformed from a bleary-eyed creature straight out of Night of the Living Dead into something resembling an attractive human being. I get dressed up in slimming garb designed to trick people into thinking I’m a treat. 274 . So I decided to skip that step and stroll the streets as myself.
you have a deep. 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. And like me. a craft-impaired individual who was not told before becoming a parent that part of the job entailed coming up with homemade Halloween costumes. 275 . your children will spend years in expensive therapy that you’ll have to pay for!” Maybe the announcer doesn’t say exactly those words. but that’s what you hear because you are like me.Costumes for the Craft-Challenged O ne of the good things about watching your children grow into teenagers who are too old to trick or treat is that you no longer have a panic attack when you hear someone on one of those morning television shows say something like this: “Halloween is coming! It’s time for all you good parents to make fun and creative costumes for your kids. Otherwise.
You’ll have lots of choices. But do not think that you’re done. For little girls you’ll have a selection of highly realistic occupational costumes (my personal favorite: the ‘Major Trouble’ military outﬁt complete with camouﬂage short skirt and heels) or some version of Barbie or the perennial favorite princess. and all the Martha clones will want to be your friend.Days of Derangement This resentment is so deep that it’s in one of those places that people don’t talk about at parties. you costume-defective parent. and when you hear those words on television. 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. But no one will feel sorry for you. You’ve got to take your store-bought outﬁt to a seamstress who can personalize it so much that everyone will think that you actually made it yourself. Parenting has become a competitive sport (soon to be an event in the Olympics). For little boys. 276 . Then you’ll be a hero to your child. So get yourself down to the mall and buy your child a fun and creative costume made in a factory in China. Buy the costume and hustle on out of the mall. but it’s deﬁnitely there. the way your parents did. my friend. and you’re going to have to do better than that. so stop whining about your heartburn and focus on the task at hand. No. 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. streamers of this resentment shoot up and cause considerable heartburn.
277 .Costumes for the Craft-Challenged Then you’ll be invited to those parties where people don’t talk about your festering resentments. There’s no need to thank me for this valuable advice. I’m glad I could help. which will no longer cause you heartburn because everyone will consider you to be cool and crafty.
Gone will be the snickers brought on by past disasters. Order will prevail in my world of good things and gracious living. my mother-in-law will eat crow along with the succulent turkey I place on her plate. There will be no chaos this year. the green beans and sweet potatoes dressed up for the occasion. I envision a holiday season infused with peace. and I will bask in the awe accorded domestic doyennes such as Martha and me. We’ll gather before a table tastefully turned out and groaning with good food. The cranberries will be expertly jelled. Martha Stewart will be proud of me. no crush of time bearing down on us like a frenetic freight train. I ﬁnd myself vowing. saturated with a spirit of thankfulness and goodwill. goes my fantasy. and the pies mighty with meringue. I harvest a new crop of hope that’s been watered by an abundance of denial. —Martha Stewart E very year at the beginning of November.Of Mice and Martha I invented ‘It’s a good thing’ before you were even born. We’ll be giddy with gratitude at Thanksgiving. 278 .
but I prefer to think of it as eternal optimism. and hearts will radiate good cheer and glad tidings. Failure will not be an option. The gifts I have purchased will be hidden away so well that they are forgotten. I’ll be walking on the dark side. a stylishly dressed angel of ambiance. will spurt ice-cold juices from the depths of his still-frozen interior. By December. whispering in my ear. My in-laws will leave with empty stomachs and wagging tongues. the rolls run amok with assistance from my brawling brats. Psychiatrists have another term for such delusions. I’ll burn the cookies and scald the eggnog. those for whom the best-laid plans of mice and Martha almost always go awry. My hopeful harvest will soon begin to wither. however.Of Mice and Martha At Christmas time. when pierced. others. there’ll be parties for hosting in my immaculately clean house. like me. consulting her books for guidance. the meringue meander. It will truly be the most wonderful time of the year. under the heat of seasonal expectations. She will perch on my shoulder. Thanksgiving Day will dawn as gray and gelatinous as my gravy. are dreamers. There’ll be cookie baking and eggnog making. marshmallows for toasting and chestnuts for roasting. The piecrusts will pucker. 279 . and the beans and potatoes lie limp. Loved ones will gather near. Some people excel at execution. I’ll turn to Martha for help. My mistakes will be of the classic variety: the cranberries will quiver. If tradition holds. The dogs will manage to knock over the Christmas tree almost every day. And old Tom Turkey. My joyfully jingle-belling children will make delightful decorations.
and breathless voices full of wonder from children who didn’t care that I wasn’t the queen of homemaking. I will crumple under her pressure like ill-conceived origami. “it’s Christmas!” And suddenly. And that’s a good thing. she’ll want more. wondering how I can be so disgustingly disorganized. “Mom. 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. Peace and calm will give way to panic. My Christmas spirit will spring a leak. on Christmas Day. Martha. 280 . promising her the world. I’ll remember young and eager ﬁngers that used to tickle me awake. somewhere in the midst of all the un-Martha-like mayhem. I will suddenly have a much better understanding of the Grinch. nothing else mattered. and old Ebenezer Scrooge won’t seem like such a bad guy.Days of Derangement and I will hurry out to buy more. Yet. And still.” they’d whisper.
a calamitously clogged commode and enough tension to earn a spot on the Jerry Springer Show. When all was ready. We salivated at the smell as we offered up our thanks. The men did what men do on such occasions.Plunging into Thanksgiving W hat do you get when you take a dozen family members of varying ages and degrees of regularity. to feast and frolic. hands and feet ﬂying. we gathered before a table groaning with good food. The women scurried about preparing the meal. Everything began beautifully. This is what happened to my family one Thanksgiving. We headed to the woods like modern-day Pilgrims. noses running. they stood around waiting to begin the traditional male holiday jobs of eating and sleeping. The children sprinted around outside. cold air and give thanks for all our blessings. of course. And 281 . 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. to drink in the clear. We were giddy with gratitude. delirious with the joy of being out of school and unsupervised.
When we eventually arrived. Grandpa. 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. we gathered soberly around the overworked toilet. Today’s children. History will record the ‘90s as the decade of the bum rap. The men began the task of conquering the cranky commode. As it often does. as the patriarch. The trouble began in the magic hour when men assume their positions on the couch to catch the kickoffs. the rolling. sloshing way every creature dragging more than a ton would scramble. He pumped vigorously with the plunger.5 gallons that swirled through our childhoods. we ate some more. and overworked digestive systems begin the Herculean task of breaking down all that food. And ate. every corpuscle groaning from the gluttony. “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. when Congress mandated that toilets should ﬂush with a measly 1. small voice. The youngest child emerged from the bathroom shouting excitedly. and bladders threatened to burst.Days of Derangement then we ate. We scrambled toward the bathroom to assess the situation. deprived of the 3. then gave a strong pull that sent him ﬂying across the room and left the kids helpless with laughter.6 gallons of water. Tempers rose. And when we were bloated like beached whales. headed up the attack. I mean the sea lion’s scramble. the terrible news came from a single. 282 . are far too well-acquainted with the plunger. By scrambled.
and we headed for the nearest service station. daughters cast aspersions on mothers. That’s when Grandma stepped in. The family was falling apart. The latrine gurgled and grunted. and sanitary practices questioned. and eyeballs appeared to be ﬂoating. but. slights delivered years ago. Sweating and muttering curses.Plunging into Thanksgiving Each football-deprived man then took his turn as a toilet tamer. sadly. but would not back down. we attempted to assign blame. Brooking no dissent. where the call of nature got a grateful reply. did what moms do best. Old insults and resentments. Legs and expressions were crossed. The women. 283 . and in-laws were made to feel like outsiders. resurfaced as brother betrayed brother. each wielded it like a samurai sword as he took his turn in battle. The children eagerly took part in our vicious ﬁnger pointing designed to identify the guilty clogger. watching all their hard work laid waste. The men began to bicker over possession of the plunger. she ordered everyone into their vehicles. the effort was ﬂush with failure. Accusations of tissue overuse were hurled.
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.Things For Which I Am Thank ful A round Thanksgiving. Elastic hides 284 . forgiving elastic like the kind that seems to increasingly be found in the waistbands of my clothes. This skill makes it impossible for me to decipher my kids’ text messages. This grammatical giftedness is a result of my education. another thing for which I am truly thankful. I am also most thankful for ﬂexible. and for this I am again most thankful. low-tech items called books. however. I am not immune. 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. to the beneﬁts of technology. Speaking of loose and comfy PJs. I am very thankful for the Internet. I am thankful for my memory. which taught me a quaint skill called spelling. I like to consider the things for which I am thankful. My education relied heavily on old-fashioned.
Things For Which I Am Thank ful a multitude of ﬂaws and is surely one of man’s greatest inventions. Perhaps then my life wouldn’t be as strained as this goofy metaphor I’m beating into the ground here. I am grateful for gravy. This is a much more profound statement than you realize. Just about the only thing I’ll have to do is show up wearing my elastic pants. gelatinous mess in desperate need of a sanity strainer. Gravy is actually a symbol for my life. while I am deﬁnitely not appreciative of cellulite. those people will be going to her house instead of mine. 285 . Anyway. I am thankful for those tasty substances that cause it. Perhaps you haven’t been paying attention. Other times. It doesn’t get the gratitude that it deserves. I am thankful for my mother. And every Thanksgiving. Perhaps when my life gets lumpy. luscious sauce that coats my taste buds and then goes on to coat my hips. during the holidays. It doesn’t get much better than that. Speaking of a multitude of ﬂaws. a rich. who is a gravy grand master. Sometimes my life ﬂows along smoothly. Perhaps I’ve said “perhaps” once too often. a fact for which I am deeply thankful as it means I won’t have to clean my house. ﬂavorful stream of goodness. it turns into a lumpy. But I’ve come to realize lately that gravy is much more than that. In particular. Perhaps you’re wondering what on earth I’m talking about. that warm. People come from miles around to sample my mother’s gravy. I should sift it with thankfulness the same way my grandma used to strain her gravy. speaking of gravy. I am certainly thankful for the surface glories of good gravy.
‘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. My children nestle each night. with my hair in a cap. Not a gift has been bought. 286 . and I’m feeling like a louse. I tripped over last year’s toys to see what was the matter. I’m hoping St. And me in my stained sweatpants. Nick will drop her off on some beach. snug in their beds While dozens of toy commercials dance in their heads. When out near my lawn. So sweet of her to do that… ‘Tis a few weeks ‘til Christmas and all through my house. she just had to call to check on his welfare. I’m too seasonally stressed for even a short winter’s nap. The dog chewed the stockings I left in her reach. there arose such a clatter. After the poem appeared in the hometown newspaper of one of Funny Man’s old girlfriends.
and a bad attitude. at my bidding. When I whistled and shouted and called them by name.‘Tis a Few Weeks ‘Til Christmas Down hard on the ﬂoor. As I rushed outside and was turning around. my husband came with a bound. I knew in a moment our Yuletide décor needed a kick. But a bundle of lights he still held on his back And he looked ready to kill when he gave me that sack. Slightly more rapid than turtles. But a miniature plastic sleigh with eight phony reindeer. Gave a luster of true tackiness to my fake falling snow. And then. in a twinkling. I fell with a crash. in a manner so lively and quick. When they rush to the stores. Tore a hole in those sweatpants. 287 . Now his clothes were tarnished with leaves and a root. ‘til I felt very wary. my children they came. The moon on the tops of inﬂatable decorations below. more lights on the walls! We must impress the neighbors—now dash away all! As dry leaves that before the manic shoppers’ eyes ﬂy. awkward hoof. from his head to his foot. my husband he ﬂew To the housetop with more lights. He was dressed in his grubbies. on my leg was a gash. When what to my weary eyes should appear. Sliding off the roof. So the next day. I heard on the roof The prancing and pawing of his big. His eyes. how they glared at me. 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. Put up by my neighbor.
if I valued myself.” 288 . usually a jolly old elf. A stray piece of grass he picked out of his teeth. He brushed off the leaves circling his head like a wreath. it surely would blow. up to our bedroom he rose.Days of Derangement His cheeks. I started to speak. It shook when he moaned like a bowl full of jelly. he turned with a jerk. to the dog gave a whistle And the children scattered. they were burning as red as a cherry. He had a mad face and his little round belly. With a hand on his sore back. He’s a bit chubby and plump. “Poor Dad! He’s not going to have a good night. but he pointed his ﬁnger at my nose And shaking his head. like the down of a thistle. He spoke not a word. But I heard them exclaim as they dove out of sight. But I didn’t dare laugh at him then. His not-so-droll mouth told me his anger I did sow And I feared that his temper. The frown on his face and the twist of his head Soon gave me to know I had something to dread. He fell into bed. he’d given up on this work.
I need to clean my house. Santa. but it should beg to be exercised). I need to write out Christmas cards and bake cookies and do my holiday shopping. judging by the way I tip the scales lately. even the more-than-ample middle-age version of me can’t quite seem to ﬁll the bill. 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. One dog usually needs to go out. The laundry cries out to be laundered. One child typically needs a little lifting up. But alas. I need to go to work.All I Want for Christmas Is Me D ear Robustly Round Man in the Unﬂattering Outﬁt (formally known as Mr. You would think. and the other child a little 289 . Claus): All I want for Christmas is more of me. That way. Actually. and the other dog needs to come in. This is not as egotistical as it sounds. that part is not true. You see. My body begs to be exercised. I need a clone. During the holiday season. (OK. I need four or ﬁve clones. that there would be plenty of me to go around.
Sweet Saint Nick.Days of Derangement dressing down. with plenty of time for joyful jingle-belling. is more of me. They would leave me free to enjoy the holidays. They could wash the clothes. My mother-in-law is always mad at me. So. you right jolly old elf. and I am often missing a shoe. I sure don’t need another household appliance. leave me a few clones on Christmas morning. So get right on that. cookie-baking and eggnogmaking. bathe the dogs. My car sometimes won’t start. But don’t let me catch one of my clones kissing you under the tree. and ﬁnally give my mother-in-law a well-deserved piece of my mind. I don’t think it’s too much to ask. My clones could cook and clean. Santa. And that is only one day. I don’t need another set of frilly pajamas or a soft new sweater. That really would make it the most wonderful time of the year. And my Mister Coffee gives up the ghost and leaves me uncaffeinated and in need of a strait jacket. forget the fruitcake. So next Christmas. if you would. My mother is sometimes mad at me. I might even ﬁnd time for marshmallow toasting and chestnut roasting. 290 . They could smooth things over with my mother. Don’t bring me bon-bons or baubles. I’ll have to tell Mrs. My husband can’t ﬁnd any clean socks (due to that crying laundry). as well as go to work and hit the gym (better them than me). The phone is always ringing. answer the phone and water the plants. Claus. The plants are usually wilting. What I need.
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. We ate and we ate. we needed drinks to wash down all that “free” food. Despite having inhaled enough calories during the holidays to keep Paris Hilton alive into the next millennium. And when we were bloated and seemingly unable to cram in one more bite. in tonnage. So we must have been on a mission from God. Naturally. there were always smiling attendants nearby to bring us round after round of beverages that were deﬁnitely not free. we fell to eating as if we were famine victims. as the boat we came in on. Then we poured more money into the cruise line coffers 291 . we ate some more.Cruise Control I f the Good Lord had wanted us to eat sensibly right after the holidays. We certainly didn’t choose to arrive home after our gluttonous voyage weighing about the same. It’s not that we wanted to sail around the sea for a few days eating everything in sight. The human psyche is a funny thing. when presented with limitless amounts of food on board ship. He wouldn’t have invented the cruise ship. Fortunately.
That night. After a few hours. every hair bristling with excitement. not a makeover. That’s when the cruise director began to look for the “lucky” woman who would be required to select the best bushy chest. a dashing and slender man who gazed upon us the way I imagine Captain Ahab must have looked at his prey. many of which are accompanied by bald heads and very round bellies. Luck was certainly not a lady to me that day. you are bound to discover that quite a few of these friends are sporting furry chests. When you are cruising with thousands of your closest friends. we stuffed our bodies into bathing suits and rolled on to the deck. I “won” the right to judge the shaggy strivers before me. wriggling and jiggling his chest and various other body parts for my enjoyment. 292 . just when we were beginning to feel hunger pangs. But I managed to select a winner. and then my family and I headed back to the buffet. An astonishing number of these. we donned formal wear—leaving the zippers open—and went to meet the captain. where we sunned our globular ﬂesh. The next day. after a hearty breakfast. sure enough. It was almost enough to ruin my appetite. we’d worked up enough of an appetite to devour platefuls of food at the midnight buffet. er. Each man was encouraged to strut his stuff. the ship’s staff roused us for a hairy chest contest. I never win anything—not the lottery. careful not to fall overboard lest we be mistaken for well-fed sea lions.Days of Derangement by visiting the casino and the onboard shopping mall. But. the great white whale in Moby Dick. not even at bingo. hunks took the stage for the contest. and by that time.
Once we got home. he got to sleep on the couch. speaking between clenched teeth and glaring at my highly amused husband. for some reason. I must point out. who. 293 . not only because I was mad at him but because.Cruise Control Then—surprise. I needed a larger portion of the bed. we had pictures taken to commemorate our nautical adventure. surprise—we sat down to a sumptuous dinner and shortly thereafter. When we visited the ship’s portrait gallery the next day to order copies. the young man who waited on us referred more than once to the picture of “you and your son.” Each time. is six months OLDER than I am. Funny Man foolishly took to calling me “Mom” for the rest of the cruise. I corrected him.
decide to translate the goofy New Year’s resolutions of my two dogs. I wasn’t going to be out there on the paving crew with the rest of you. as my dogs are still trying to achieve them: 294 . I resolved to be realistic. thinkers (with an apparent appetite for alliteration). here are the Papandrew Pups’ Rover Resolutions. they are fairly eloquent. —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. So one January. if limited. I know just how they think. buoyed by research that shows that onethird of these well-meaning intentions don’t even last a month. So without further ado. I did.Rover Resolutions Life is a series of dogs. however. These resolutions stay the same year after year. and I didn’t make any resolutions. Surprisingly. Having lived with them for quite some time. And he was right.
We will become more sophisticated combatants in the war of the noses. We will not attempt to smell the private parts of the crotchety human named Grandma. the neighborhood cat who prances spitefully on our front porch right before our eyes. leaving the humans to look at us as if we’re stupid. The repercussions just aren’t worth it. We will win the war of the noses. we’ll do our trash trolling in the presence of the wonderfully clueless biped called Funny Boy. the clever cat seems to vanish into thin air.Rover Resolutions 1. Better to stick to the malodorous males. Instead. We will emulate the enemy. 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. that delectable repository of delight the humans call The Trash. No longer will we openly 295 . Grandma’s bouquet is very boring. We will learn to imitate the subtlety of our foe. We will never cease and desist. So we will borrow a page from the kitty playbook and cover our tracks so we don’t get caught. He doesn’t seem to mind if we get into The Trash. When we justiﬁably launch a blistering volley of barking designed to alert our family to this brazen intrusion. We’ll devise a way to stick our snouts into areas requiring snifﬁng without being swatted. This includes the canine Holy Grail. 2. and. due to excessive use of a nasty people product apparently called soap. and he doesn’t appear at all upset if we smell interesting areas on his body.
We will do a better job of walking the man. This would not be necessary if our human was in better shape and could run with us. Maybe that should be one of his New Year’s resolutions. though. We will take pity on the inferior joints of the somewhat heavy human known as Dad and go easy on him during our walks. she howls like our wolf ancestors and kicks us out of the house for unreasonable periods of time. But when Mom sees us doing this. This is a perfectly normal act that is very effective in scratching annoying anal itches. 296 . a cat or. if we get a whiff of another dog. a fragrant splotch of road kill. We’ll let him know. a squirrel. best of all.Days of Derangement drag our backsides across the carpet. We will think like a cat and be more subtle. All bets are off. And ﬁnally: 3. 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.
and. 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. but it takes real lovers to be silly. is no exception. 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 .Holiday of the Heart Anyone can be passionate. My husband. women have to begin the arduous process of focusing their men’s attention on something far more important: Valentine’s Day. God love him. —Rose Franken E very year when football season is ﬁnally over. There’s a reason Cupid’s commemoration comes so soon after the Super Bowl. 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. a light will begin to dawn. As he steps out. dripping wet. sadly. It’s an obvious test of the depth of men’s romantic tendencies. it’s a test they fail more often than a Cosmo magazine relationship quiz.
Designed for the smaller Asian woman. I’ve also received my share of ego-shattering lingerie. he brought home a cylinder head from a World War II-era airplane (if you don’t know what this looks like. One year. Under his name. he gave me two sample-size bottles of the same perfume worn by his mother for the past ﬁve decades. little bits of ﬂuff that would barely ﬁt the anorexic hips of a Victoria’s Secret model. always been so fortunate. One year. big mistake. I haven’t. just after Funny Girl was born. in a bid to impress me with his thoughtfulness. But the worst was a pair of silk pajamas—size XL—that Funny Man brought back from a business trip to China. consider yourself lucky) and created a lovely lamp that added a certain je ne 298 . however. Funny Man has also tried to be sweet with scent. This was accompanied by a box of Christmas candy with a 75 percent-off sticker and a card (sans envelope) featuring two kissing chimps. I received a bottle of stretchmark-treating cocoa butter clearly purchased last minute at the nearest 24-hour drugstore. In an attempt to personalize the card.Days of Derangement collection of hotel toiletries. those damned PJs wouldn’t go past my knees. Another time. Big. Funny Man had tenderly tried his hand at poetry. I can tell you. he’d written: Roses are red Violets are blue You want my body I know you do. nothing gets a wife in the mood for love more than struggling to ﬁt into anything marked XL.
my man will have progressed to the point where he’ll ﬁll a vase with a single rose and a diamond necklace.Holiday of the Heart sais quoi to our living room décor. It took me weeks to arrange an accident that sent this romantic piece of wreckage back to the junkyard. I’ll try not to lose heart. 299 . I’m hoping that by our 30th or possibly 40th anniversary. or maybe the keys to a new Mercedes. In the meantime.
I want that sweater back.Survivor for Sweethearts A round the end of February.) 300 . for example. wherever you are. There are probably no couples who sail through every Valentine’s Day with their relationship unscathed. those things just don’t bother me anymore. 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. with a girlfriend. (Joe. The poor creatures are still mourning the end of football season. And to add insult to injury. I start to feel sorry for men. they’ve just had to endure another Valentine’s Day. Take my son. As a result. I’m mellower in these matters now. When he was in high school. many of them are in the proverbial dog house. he’d feel the holiday of the heart bearing down on him like a freight train. Really. We women can be particularly hard on our men at this time of year.
) That’s because men tend to see Feb. quiver. believe that what happens on Valentine’s Day will be an indication of how the rest of their relationship will play out for eternity. you’re miserable. “I hate Valentine’s Day!” he groaned. If you don’t have a girl. Unlike the million-dollar winner on the real Survivor show. the little ﬂying man with the bow and arrow manages to make fully half of our species quiver with fear. (Get it—bow and arrow. “Every guy hates Valentine’s Day. it’s just expected. But just like that hopeless romantic Sigmund Freud. even though he apparently has never been able to get out of diapers. on the other hand.” he said. Funny Boy often found himself asking the age-old question: What do women want? And like Freud. he didn’t have a clue. however. not to mention broke. 301 . Cupid must be pretty smart. Kind of like a Survivor for Sweethearts reality show. he really wanted (I think) to make his lady happy. staring forlornly into his dog-eared wallet.Survivor for Sweethearts So my heart hurt a little as I watched my boy trying to navigate the treacherous rapids of romance. Cupid is so stupid!” Actually. you’re miserable. Like most males.” Many women. Just before V-Day one year. And if you do have a girl. In February. “Like paying your mortgage or showing up for work. At least that’s what a married (and male) friend of mine told me. I found him sitting on his bed. 14 as a trial-by-ﬁre day during which they try to stay out of trouble while not forking over too much money. “You don’t get credit for going to a nice restaurant or buying jewelry. the most a man who makes it through Valentine’s Day can hope for is a wash.
ladies. I suggest that we cut them some slack and allow them to come out of their canine quarters. 302 . Freud could do that.Days of Derangement That’s a lot of pressure we’re putting on our men. Not even the brilliant Dr. We really can’t expect them to be able to read our minds.
it is time to also throw out our New Year’s resolutions—those giddy. glamorous goals made when the year was young. Who are we kidding? Our midyear resolution will be to merely have the intention of exercising and eating right. after all. 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. the whole ridiculous weight-loss resolution absolutely must be on the midyear chopping block. 1 pledge on most people’s lists. middle-aged adult with love handles. So I always start with that diabolical duo of duties— exercise and eating right—that each of us swears to embrace in January. the thought that counts. Speaking of love handles. And as we’ve all really wanted to do those things 303 . It is. and we were possibly inﬂuenced by too much champagne. overly optimistic infant aspirations need to be trimmed accordingly. and it simply has to go. our annual.Midyear Resolutions W hen the ﬁrst half of the year has been safely swept into the dustbin of history. That’s the No.
The nice thing about slimming down our resolution roster in the summer is that we can add to it things we’ve already accomplished. lest I regret eating all those donuts. done that. Here. Next on our midyear list should be a resolution to ignore our previous New Year’s Resolutions. We can ﬁt pretty much anything inside them. for example. Midyear declarations—like middle-aged muscles—tend to be a little loose and ﬂabby. even when I have to then dash naked and wet through the house in search of a clean towel.Days of Derangement for months. I will faithfully doze off when I am supposed to be writing inspiring works of great literary merit. we can check that one off our list right away. when I wake up with drool running down my chin and realize I’m running out of time. I will faithfully not look in any mirrors as I’m doing this. This gives us a deﬁnite sense of purpose. Then I will faithfully spill coffee on my list. rendering it illegible and making it impossible for me to do anything on that list. resolving to begin actual exercise very soon. I will faithfully (and frantically) throw 304 . 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. They were utterly unrealistic anyway. Check. Been there. and that’s the only real reason to have resolutions in the ﬁrst place. I will be a master of multitasking. I will faithfully take a shower every day. faithfully writing out a to-do list each day as I watch exercise videos while enjoying coffee and donuts. Then.
As you can see. 305 .Midyear Resolutions together a humor column about something stupid like midyear resolutions. it is easy to escape the tyranny of all those New Year’s resolutions that never give us a moment’s peace. You too. Just make sure you have clean towels in the house ﬁrst. my friend. can live a productive and satisfying life by simply resolving to do what you’re already doing.
irreplaceable gifts made by eager young hands: decorated pencil holders. So I began to use a subtle system of reminders.” 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 just can’t believe Mother’s Day is coming up so soon. starting in April. in which I’d sigh heavily and say to no one in particular. the I Love You Mommy mug.Mother’s Day Manifesto E ven though Mother’s Day is ﬁxed on the calendar. 306 . I’ve received my share of those wonderful. 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. It wasn’t always this way. 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 laminated footprints of a ﬁve-year-old. I remember the ﬂowered.
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. lots of it. Realizing a more direct approach was required. had ignored it. actually read. but never. I wrote a list cleverly titled What I Want for Mother’s Day and put it on the refrigerator for everyone to see. 307 . but I bravely persisted: What I Want for Mother’s Day No. Bring me chocolate in every form known to woman. Not thick as Mississippi Mud like you made for me last year or the weaker-than-water stuff I got the year before. The holiday was conveniently forgotten until the last minute. I took matters into my own hands. when childlike sweetness sours a bit and honoring your mother can seem about as cool as elevator music. after determining that it was not edible. stepped on. and I’d end up holding a wilted bunch of hastilypurchased ﬂowers and eating a pancake dinner at IHOP. I gathered my loved ones around me—actually. as far as I could tell. So one year. The coffee should be of the traditional strength and consistency. my well of homemade wonders suddenly ran dry. used to blot a spilled spot of jelly. I had to speak loudly to drown out the catcalls and boos coming from the crowd. I stood in front of the TV they were watching—and began to recite from my mom’s manifesto. the list was knocked off. Even the dogs. 1: I want coffee brought to me in bed the moment I awaken. And with the coffee. Begin practicing now. I want chocolate. Naturally.
Days of Derangement No. And not a single word about bodily processes. one that requires an advance reservation and has no child’s menu. THE TV. No eating with your ﬁngers. 5: After dinner. No. No surreptitious text messages may be sent to friends. I will be watching every movie Brad Pitt ever made. During the meal. no chewing with your mouth open. I want to have control of the television. There will be no Victoria ’s Secret Specials. I’d like us all to go through family pictures together and reminisce about old times. Not once during this glorious bath will anyone interrupt me with “Hey Mom. I’d like my offspring to conduct themselves admirably. No. where’s the sugar?” or “Did I mention I have a science project due tomorrow?” No.” and you have to mean it. no toy repair. 308 . 3: After my bath. That 52-inch high-deﬁnition behemoth in the living room. You are required to look pleasant and appear to be having fun. No ESPN will appear on the TV that day. no breaking up knock-downdrag-out ﬁghts. 4: I’d like to be taken to dinner at a nice restaurant. 2: I want a temporary cessation of all maternal responsibilities. No cleaning. I’ll probably also eat some more chocolate. no kicking a sibling under the table. no toilet unclogging. not even any stuck-zipper zapping. And I will allow myself the luxury of using a brand-new bar of soap. no cooking. I plan to take a very hot bath and read a very long book. And each of you has to say “I love you. Mom. Not even one teenage eye may roll in disgust.
” 309 . ain’t nobody happy.Mother’s Day Manifesto At that. “If Mamma ain’t happy. “Just remember. several groans went up. I folded the paper and ﬁnished with something my Grandma used to say.” I told my gang. something ungrammatical but undeniable.
311 . She’s won a Neal Award from American Business Media.to/XVNYdi DAYS OF DERANGEMENT IS AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK... Jackie is a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.IF YOU ENJOY THIS BOOK. including the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. The Tampa Tribune and The Oklahoman.com. To ﬁnd out more. About Jackie Papandrew J ackie’s humor writing has been featured in several books. VISIT FUNNYJACKIE.COM FOR DETAILS. as well as awards from the Oklahoma Press Association. PLEASE POST A REVIEW AT AMAZON. as well as in newspapers such as The Cleveland Plain Dealer. Parenting Publications of America. visit FunnyJackie. America’s Funniest Humor Press and the Florida Freelance Writers Association.COM: http://amzn. KINDLE AND NOOK FORMATS.
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