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