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. Days of Derangement Sidesplitting Stories from a Loopy Life JACKIE PA PA N DRE W .to/XVNYdi DAYS OF DERANGEMENT IS AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK. PLEASE POST A REVIEW AT AMAZON.COM FOR DETAILS. VISIT FUNNYJACKIE.. KINDLE AND NOOK FORMATS.COM: http://amzn.IF YOU ENJOY THIS BOOK.
First Print Edition ISBN 978-0-9839391-5-3 All rights reserved. www. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher.Copyright © 2012 by Jackie Papandrew.com .funnyjackie.
You’ve put up with me all of these years and provided so much great humor material.This book is dedicated to my wonderful family. I love you all. especially because not one of you is planning to sue me…right? .
Where’s My Son? The Loose End and the Laundry The Desperate Dad’s Guide to Getting Some Tips for Tool Men On Top of Spaghetti The Shirt The F Word The Potty Predicament Fruit and Fannies Crime and Punishment True Grit Soapy Situation Stylish Skivvies Chewing on Chores 1 5 9 13 17 22 25 28 30 33 37 40 43 47 50 53 v .Table of Contents Introduction Days of Derangement Dude.
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.Introduction the rowdy folks laughing it up on my Facebook page. Hope to see you there! Thanks for reading! Jackie Papandrew 3 .
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or quite a few years, I had teenagers living in my house. If you are at all familiar with this irrational and often irritating species (homo smartaleckus), you know these creatures are embarrassed by the very existence of their parents. This is perfectly natural. I can remember, as a teen, thinking my parents were utterly clueless idiots. But my folks never provided me with the proof of parental derangement that I regularly bestowed upon my kids when they were growing up. Take the day I managed to humiliate my daughter (hereafter known as Funny Girl), without saying a word. See, I’d read in a magazine about a nifty makeup trick. Apparently, if you take an eyebrow pencil and draw a line down each side of your nose and then blend the lines in with foundation, even the most crooked nozzle takes on a straighter appearance. Having always disliked the shape of my nose, I was eager to try this. So one afternoon, just before I was due to pick up Funny Girl from school, I carefully drew two black lines down my malformed muzzle. Then, before I could cover them up, I was distracted by a phone call. And with a mind withered down by
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motherhood and approaching menopause to only a few functioning memory cells, I naturally forgot all about the artwork adorning my snout and walked right out the door. When you are a teenage girl, simply having your mother appear in public during daylight hours is mortifying. Having to acknowledge a mother sporting what appear to be miniature railroad tracks running down her nose causes chagrin at levels previously unknown to modern adolescence. When she saw me walking amiably toward her, Funny Girl’s face froze in horriﬁed disbelief. She spun around and quickly sprinted away, leaving me to be informed of my error by a guffawing group of her friends. There’s also the time I wore a dress to church and underneath, I wore only pantyhose. If you are a woman, you will instantly recognize my motivation for this. I wished to avoid even the possibility of that dreaded fashion faux pas known as VPL (visible panty lines). If you are a man, no amount of explanation will help you understand the socially disastrous consequences of a VPL manifestation, so never mind. Anyway, midway through the service, I went to the restroom. Unfortunately, I failed to notice upon my return that the back hem of my dress had become entangled in the waistband of my sheer hose. As I made my way toward my family sitting near the front of the sanctuary, the faithful ﬂock got an eyeful of a body part that, especially on me, really should remain covered up. I’m pretty sure I heard several people cry out for divine mercy, probably beseeching the Almighty to wipe the sight from their memories. But I, blind to my bared backside, didn’t realize I was the cause of all the distress until one merciful woman caught up
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to me and whispered in my ear while yanking my hem down. I don’t remember anything that happened the rest of that day. There was also the infamous “mountain pee affair” as my kids still refer to it. We went camping in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. At ﬁrst, things went well. We decided to go hiking. We drank in the beauty of the outdoors as we walked along a trail near our campground. The sun was shining through the trees. The air was crisp, cool and dry. So dry, in fact, that I emptied my water bottle within the ﬁrst couple of hours of the hike. And soon, I felt the need to answer nature’s call. Being a descendent of pioneers, I did not panic, even though we were a long way from the nearest toilet. I explained the situation to my loved ones and then went off to ﬁnd an appropriate place to do my business. Our campground was crowded, and I was concerned about other hikers coming down the trail. Each bush and tree I examined seemed either too short or too thin to provide the necessary coverage. But I ﬁnally found just the right spot, well hidden from the trail, and proceeded to do my business. What I failed to realize was that there was another trail just above me which merged into our trail a little further on. And that I was fully exposed to this other trail. I found that out when, squatting in my secluded spot, I heard a highly amused young voice quip, “Nice view.” And he wasn’t talking about the mountains. I whirled around, yanking my pants up at the same time, and found myself staring at a group of college-age hikers, all of them male and every one of them grinning from ear to ear. Without responding, I ran, absolutely mortiﬁed, toward where my family waited. When I told them what had happened,
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they laughed so hard I thought they were all going to need medical attention. Naturally, I became the butt of many family jokes after this. My children pretty much stopped appearing with me in public. Maybe when they have kids of their own, they’ll understand.
Dude, Where’s My Son?
This story has gotten more reader response than anything else I’ve written. It’s about that heart-wrenching moment you realize the sweet child you gave birth to has morphed into something entirely different. Mother Nature is providential. She gives us 12 years to develop a love for our children before turning them into teenagers.
hen my son (hereafter known as Funny Boy) turned 13, the last traces of that sweet little boy who thought I hung the moon seemed to vanish overnight. In his place stood a strange, slouching creature with a pencil-thin mustache and adolescent angst oozing from every pore. The moody extraterrestrial I once called ﬂesh and blood was suddenly intent on bungee jumping from that rickety bridge connecting a child with adulthood, and he apparently planned to drag his rapidly aging mother along for the ride. A drastic language change was the ﬁrst indication of alien infestation. The rosy-cheeked cherub who used to run to me,
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eyes shining with adoration and shouting “Mommy!”, began to address me (and everyone else) as “Dude.” At 13 months, he was a sponge, joyfully soaking up new words, becoming more communicative every day. At 13 years, the hormones surging through his body had cut a swath through the speech center in his brain; his mouth, when it spoke at all, produced mere shrunken shreds of complete sentences apparently understood only by other members of his species. “S’up” was a perfectly acceptable, all-purpose phrase in an adolescent’s world. “Mom, I love you,” on the other hand, would have burned his monosyllabic lips like acid and permanently corrupted his coolness. Communication with this high-tech yet illiterate generation was fraught with frustration. Funny Boy, who couldn’t utter two intelligible sentences to me, would air his gripes by texting. One day, a message ﬂashed on my cell phone in fractured syntax designed to torture my English-major soul. “i no u h8 me. i try so hard 2 b good. y r u mad @ me?” Cave men scribbling on walls were more eloquent. Then there was the alteration in appearance. While I tried desperately to avoid bags and sags, the long-haired Neanderthal living in my house embraced them as fashion. Wearing gravity-defying pants slung low across his scrawny backside, he looked just like a baby with an overly full diaper. When I helpfully pointed this out, I got the text message equivalent of a scream.
Dude, Where’s My Son?
Adolescent males seem to lose all capacity for living like civilized human beings. My boy constantly raided the refrigerator but couldn’t manage to close a door, took 30-minute showers but could never hang up a wet towel, stuffed freshly laundered clothes back into his hamper rather than putting them away. I’d ﬁnd sticky cereal bowls in his closet because he was too lazy to return them to the kitchen, and the lunchbox he claimed he lost growing whole colonies of bacteria under his bed. I began to understand why some animals eat their young. The child who begged me to read to him daily would roll his eyes in disgust when I suggested we turn off the video games and pick up a book. The angel who proudly showed me off to his kindergarten classmates pretended not to know the deranged woman waving to him in the middle school hallway. My fall from grace, seemingly overnight, left me depressed, bewildered and prone to emotional excess. “You could cut the apron strings without slicing through my heart, you know,” I whimpered in one of my calmer moments. “Mom,” Funny Boy mumbled in that teenage tone of voice, “why can’t you just act normal?” Normal is, of course, a relative term. Someday, he will surely realize I’m not so strange after all. At least I hope so. In the meantime, I’m going to hang on to those severed apron strings. I may need them to strangle him.
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The Loose End and the Laundry
Anybody who watches three games of football in a row should be declared brain dead.
y some strange twist of fate, I gave birth to a football fanatic. My son is one of those creatures whose very DNA, I’m convinced, has a pigskin membrane. Unfortunately for him, he has a mother who wouldn’t know a touchdown from a hoedown. For the life of me, I can’t understand the appeal of the game—a chaotic mix of men pushing, shoving and bellowing, slobber and obscenities ﬂying. And that’s just the fans. But my boy was hooked from an early age, spending countless hours watching, playing and dreaming about football. He consumed whole forests of paper drawing intricate plays marked with Xs and Os. And I grew tearful remembering other Xs and Os my sweet child long ago scribbled on construction-paper cards, right under the words “I Love You Mommy.”
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I tried, occasionally, to ﬁght back. Once, I suggested he end a six-hour football fest and read a book. But Funny Boy has the same regard for reading that I have for cellulite, and his withering response cut me to the quick. “Print is dead, Mom. Nobody reads anymore.” “There is no way,” I wailed, “no way you came from my loins!” He gave me a blank look. “What’s a loin?” By the time he reached adolescence, Funny Boy’s football ﬁxation had reached a fever pitch, and when he made the high school team, his ecstasy knew no bounds. He even ﬁgured out how to combine his pigskin passion with the only other thing that really captured his interest. The kid who could barely ﬁnd time to do his homework or hold a meaningful conversation with his mother nobly volunteered to coach his school’s powder puff football team, a fact that seemed to ﬁll his father with pride. “It is a great way to meet girls,” Funny Man said, his chest expanding. I just shook my head. Realizing it was a losing battle, I decided, reluctantly, to embrace the madness. I boned up on gridiron lingo and proudly spread the word to all my pals about my boy’s performance on the team. Unfortunately, most of my friends don’t know any more about football than I do, and they failed to point out that I’d gotten his position slightly wrong. I found that out when I went to pick him up after a powder puff practice. Approaching a pack of puffs on the sidelines, I smiled warmly. “My son is your coach,” I said. “He’s a loose end, you know, on the school’s team.”
The Loose End and the Laundry
For some reason, the group of girls began to giggle. Bafﬂed, I had to let Funny Boy know that some of his puffs were not the sharpest knives in the drawer. “They were laughing at me for no reason,” I told him. My son’s face acquired a look of dread. “Mom,” he said slowly, between gritted teeth, “what did you say to them?” “I just said you’re a loose end on the team.” He grabbed his head with both hands as if he expected it to explode and wanted to catch the pieces. “I’m a tight end!” he practically screamed. “Not a loose end!” “Tight end, loose end,” I shrugged. “What’s the difference?” He avoided me like the plague for several days after that. To redeem myself, I invited some of his friends over to watch a game on the enormous new television the men in my household had insisted was vital to our existence. I’ve noticed that when you combine big-screen and TV in a sentence, it induces a Pavlovian response in males of any age. Sure enough, my son’s buddies began to salivate at these words, eagerly agreeing to come. I gained some yardage right off by offering snacks. Then, perhaps overconﬁdent, I attempted to lose my rookie status by tossing out lingo I’d learned, words like blitz, ﬁ eld goal and third and long. But then I fumbled by mentioning how attractive I found the teams’ costumes. Funny Boy’s mouth compressed into a scrimmage line of fury. “Mom,” he muttered, “stop it!” Feeling unwelcome, I retreated to another part of the house, where my eye fell on several baskets full of clean clothes in need of folding. Figuring I might as well take advantage of the
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idle hands in my living room, I placed a basket in front of each boy. You’d think, by the looks of horror on their faces, that I was experiencing a Janet Jackson-style wardrobe malfunction right in front of them. “You want us to fold during football?” one gasped as nacho cheese dribbled down his chin. Funny Boy was speechless, emitting only strange noises that made me fear for his sanity. “Never mind,” I sighed, retreating. That’s when I understood that football and I could never be allies; we’d have to remain wary competitors, sharing the love of our loose end. Then I went to fold my laundry.
The Desperate Dad’s Guide to Getting Some
A few years ago, Funny Man and I were talking about sex. Well, he was talking about sex. Actually, he was complaining about a lack of sex. I was talking about cleaning. Actually, I was complaining about a lack of cleaning. In Funny Man’s mind, the two had absolutely nothing to do with each other. In my mind, however, the enthusiastic performance of the one is directly proportional to the enthusiastic performance of the other. If you’re a woman, you know exactly what I mean. If you’re a man, you are in luck, because that discussion inspired me to write a helpful primer, The Desperate Dad’s Guide to Getting Some, that would make the issue clear for my husband and other men. OK, it was actually a humor column. Being a humor columnist, I tend to use everything in my life as material. If you’re a man, you’re feeling sorry for my husband right now. The Desperate Dad’s column prompted a ﬂood of reader responses, including some from men who didn’t quite catch my tongue-in-cheek tone and assumed I was a professional sex therapist. (Boy, did Funny Man laugh at that idea!) Many of
Days of Derangement these men sent me questions of a very, um, personal nature that I was deﬁnitely not qualiﬁed to answer. But I was inspired to write yet another humor column based on Funny Man’s obvious need for enlightenment: Tips for Tool Men. I hope both stories will make you bust a gut. The man who never in his life Has washed the dishes with his wife Or polished up the silver plate He still is largely celibate.
odern moms, it seems, are just not in the mood. Pummeled by children and chores, exhausted by careers and carpools, once hot mamas are now too whupped for whoopee, too crabby to conjugate. I hate to say it, fellas, but at day’s end, we’d often rather curl up in the baggiest pair of granny panties we can ﬁnd and hit the hay without ya. Coincidentally, scientists have been shocked recently to discover that women are much more genetically complex than men. It turns out the female’s double X chromosomes operate on a far deeper molecular level, which explains why we are able to pick up our socks and throw out pizza boxes in a timely manner. Hmm. Could our lack of libido and your genetic simplicity be related? For all you befuddled bearers of the Y chromosome (AKA men), I offer a short Honey Do and Don’t List that just might help you get some X-rated action tonight: DO the windows. And the dishes. Scrub the sink, clean the toilet. Choreplay is foreplay, baby.
No. where we will feel like concrete on the wrong end of a jackhammer. Cheerfully take on home improvement projects. They are being paid to fake it. the one with the price tag still on it. DO take a cuddling class. and walls. and we require a soft stage on which to perform. Do not try this at your home. at least not yet. Forget any grainy videos you may have seen of surgically enhanced women who appear to enjoy having sex under these conditions. If we seem annoyed. DO turn into a tool man. DO let us sleep in.) He calculates every activity so that we are back in the bedroom within the required time frame. 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. (I don’t know where he got this idea. Try not to suggest surfaces for sex that are likely to cause discomfort. Doing so will ensure long cycles of celibacy. Really. are faking it for free. This severely limits our culinary opportunities and makes me mad as a hornet. You have to do more than sling one heavy. on the other hand. This would include ﬂoors. Professional help is available. Do not automatically chalk it up to the vagaries of menstruation. assume it is your fault.The Desperate Dad’s Guide to Getting Some DON’T promote pain. where we are bound to be impaled by an errant toy. This will release passionpromoting endorphins all over our bodies that by nightfall will have us convinced you are Brad Pitt. Corral the children and keep them quiet. Then bring us breakfast in bed. We might even slip into that negligee you bought years ago. A 19 . DON’T blame the hormones. hairy arm across our chests a microsecond before you begin snoring. We. DON’T follow formulas. not that kind of tool.
If you are a victim of coitus interruptus caused by a wandering child and an unlocked door. and will make us think we should post an hourly rate on the back of the door. with no audible obscenities. DON’T make stupid comments. Unlike ebony and ivory. AND FINALLY DON’T threaten the children. 20 . DO remove your socks. And don’t throw anything at the poor tot who wonders why Daddy brought his drill to bed.” This is a wise and undoubtedly well-satisﬁed man. Gracefully ﬂip on your back. Funny Man was once foolish enough to point out that I seemed to be developing a beer belly. (I was obviously temporarily retaining water!) It’s at times like this that I realize God has a wicked sense of humor. avoid yelling at the youngster.Days of Derangement friend of ours built a laundry room for his wife in hopes of “getting some good sex out of it. and swiftly yank up the covers. X and Y shouldn’t even be on the same keyboard. Leaving your socks on feels quick and dirty.
The Desperate Dad’s Guide to Getting Some 21 .
Like those middle-ofthe-night infomercials. bless them. and his 22 . 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 some of my male readers failed to catch the article’s dripping sarcasm. saying he’d done lots and lots of choreplay.Tips for Tool Men Love is blind. My advice was deﬁnitely meant to be tongue-in-cheek. which probably dropped right on to the ﬂoor and made a puddle that their wives had to clean up. These readers took my tips to heart and. but marriage restores its sight. One poor man then wrote me in despair. scrubbing the dishes and vacuuming the rugs— designed to make their wives feel frisky. and that’s how most readers took it. 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.
while on this business trip. So I added this piece of advice: If you turn into a tool man. Fired up with enthusiasm. But I’ve seen the lovely laundry room he built. as he told my husband. as further proof. And never leave town in the middle of it. And then. I could hear in the background glasses clinking in toasts and happy people talking and laughing as they ate real food while the kids and I ate yet another drive-thru dinner. he had the gall to call me from a restaurant where he was being wined and dined by a colleague. Then. one of the things I suggested in the column was that deprived guys should try turning into tool men. “getting some good sex out of it. As we talked. my man announced he had to go out of town on a business trip.Tips for Tool Men wife was still not interested. I began to feel obligated to add to my previous words of wisdom. As proof why this is a bad idea. No. Not the clever laundry-room Lothario. after I wrote that column. be sure to ﬁnish the job. and I believed our neighbor was a wise and well-satisﬁed man. inquire as to the outcome of this venture because it’s none of our (or your) business. I cited the example of a friend of ours who built a laundry room for his wife in the hopes of. As the dinosaur character Rex in Toy Story said. now I have guilt!” I wonder if those infomercial hosts ever feel that way. However.” We did not. I pointed to Exhibit B—my other neighbor. I offered up Exhibit A—my husband. Funny Man decided one year to do some “minor” ﬁxing-up in the kitchen. “Great. When he’d torn apart the kitchen so that it was impossible to actually prepare food there. not that kind of tool. I meant that men should cheerfully take on home improvement projects designed to make life easier for their deserving wives. Anyway. of course. but another 23 .
When this hard-working neighbor called his wife. So those were my tips for tool men. Like the IRS. I should have done an infomercial. 24 . I’d made it as clear as mud how to proceed. who was trying to keep four young children from smearing spackle all over the place. he actually told her to hold on so he could place his drink order.Days of Derangement home-improvement dropout who lives near us and who also left his house (and his wife’s sanity) in shambles and then left town on business. I’m laying odds that she was not in the mood for many nights thereafter.
it’s a time you remember fondly. The Sixties is a historical period. I spent a lot of time puzzling over the logistics of the spaghetti song. practically ancient times. sneeze-propelled meatball. But for many of you old-fogy ﬂower children. W hen I was a kid and apparently had far less to occupy my time than kids do today. What a great song that was. those of you who still have functioning memories remember it fondly. 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. The rest of you are busy searching for your lost meatball.On Top of Spaghetti On top of spaghetti All covered with cheese I lost my poor meatball When somebody sneezed. For a young whippersnapper like me. Well. I used to sing aloud that fanciful ditty from the 1960s—sung to the tune of On Top of Old Smokey—about a mountain of spaghetti and a wayward. full of the groovy gooﬁness that deﬁned The Sixties. Being a very curious child prone to over-analyzing things.
The baby started to cry and once again. It had been a while since I had to entertain a baby. growing meatballs and tomato sauce? I said I was a curious child. I credited the song. The spaghetti song was forgotten. “all covered with cheese…” The baby stopped crying and looked at me in amazement. When my daughter came along. And when they got a little older.” I warbled. I sang it to her. I gave up singing that song and pondering those timeless questions and devoted myself to more worthy pursuits like ﬁguring out how to meet and marry The Fonz. But apparently. until one day when I was taking care of my neighbor’s baby. 26 . Those were good times. And why had I never seen one of the trees described in the song. and they were still innocent and thought I was the greatest thing since sliced bread. it remained somewhere in my head. Unfortunately. It worked wonders on my son.Days of Derangement wondered. but at the time. but I guess it’s like riding a bike. The spaghetti song once again burrowed its way into my memory banks. too. We all laughed at the idea of the stupendous sneeze and the miraculous meatball. my kids turned into teenagers and lost interest in cheesy melodies. springing out of my mouth like a mushy meatball. Whenever I sang it. I started singing the spaghetti song. And when my son was a crying infant. and I was desperate to soothe him. He was probably just stunned at his poor genetic luck in being born to such a weird woman. With the passage of time and my discovery of TV. he would stop crying and gaze at me with rapt attention. the song reappeared one day out of nowhere. I didn’t say I was a smart one. my kids would sing with me. My own kids covered their ears as if they were in pain. “On top of spaghetti. becoming a moss-covered relic of the past.
” Funny Girl tossed her head in disgust. the way only a teenage girl can. “You used to love it. “There is absolutely no way.” Saucy kid.” she said. crestfallen that they didn’t seem to recall those happy days. 27 .On Top of Spaghetti “Mom! What are you doing?” they protested. “that I ever liked a song as stupid as that. “Don’t you remember me singing this song with you?” I asked them. Somebody should have spit in her spaghetti.
The Shirt Trust not the heart of that man for whom old clothes are not venerable. That was on a T-shirt I gave my dad as a gift years ago. all of whom appeared to be having a grand old time. Underneath the words was a picture of a happy-looking man in a ﬂoppy ﬁshing hat. If you stopped by my father’s house unexpectedly. the ﬁsh pretty much disappeared except for a section of tail ﬁn and an alarmed-looking eye. If you happened to visit during one of those two-percent times when the shirt had been wrestled off my 28 . In fact. Fish Fear Me. kind of like what happens in real life. And the shirt’s laughing ladies aged rather dramatically. there would be about a 98-percent chance he would come to the door wearing that shirt. It was washed so many times (at my mother’s insistence) that it eventually ended up being half-shirt and half-hole. holding up a large ﬁsh and surrounded by smiling buxom beauties in bikinis. That shirt became his favorite. their buxom parts stretched out and saggy. —Thomas Carlyle W omen Want Me.
though. Inevitably. but it did the job in a pinch. That would make them roll around on the ﬂoor laughing.The Shirt dad’s body so that it could be washed. how can you even think about throwing this shirt away?!” he yelled. especially the part about women wanting my dad. All of the other gifts I gave him through the years were no doubt appreciated for the thought. sopped up liquids that dripped from his drinks and provided a comforting (if airy) covering when he napped. And the large hole that allowed a certain part of his chest to show through left them shrieking. cradling the beloved bit of apparel with a crazed look in his eye. “Woman. Fish Fear Me shirt spent a great deal of its time pressed up against my dad’s beloved easy chair. He still has it. But nothing was as well-used and well-loved as that shirt. stuck in a drawer. “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. when my dad found it and yanked it out in a rage. 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. lying there crumpled amidst the coffee grounds. The Women Want Me. He says he wants to be buried in it someday. It was once actually in the trash can on garbage day. But I don’t know if I’ll be able to part with it. 29 . The backup shirt only had a few holes and a smattering of stains. My kids used to get a big kick out of the shirt. spent cleaning rags and used tissues. where it caught crumbs falling from his mouth. the shirt decayed to the point that not even my dad wanted to wear it.
I’d say the word in a honeyed. as I had many opportunities to practice it.The F Word E very year when my kids were teenagers and football season was ﬁnally over. no hand-held whatchamacallits of any kind. There was even some weeping and considerable gnashing of teeth. It was Family Time. 30 . I’d announce grandly to my children on our ﬁrst football-free Sunday. I would usually try to enforce in my house a no-screens rule for Sunday afternoons. I saw it as a time for us to bond with one another. no video games. reverent tone to convey its importance: Family with a capital F. 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.” I took great umbrage at this. That meant no TV. The ingrates I gave birth to always responded with great groaning and lamentation. no computer. Taking great umbrage became a specialty of mine over the years. “Oh.
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 . “We had Family Time last year. it used to work quite well. “Mom!” they’d groan impatiently. “I just don’t understand why you don’t want to be around us anymore.The F Word “I can’t believe you refer to Family as the F word. 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. Yes. I would usually pull another arrow out of my maternal quiver and ﬁre off a good helping of guilt.” I’d make my voice tremble. And when my kids were younger. But they were unmoved. While we moms often wallow in guilt. It’s enough!” So I hauled out my ultimate weapon—the threat of public humiliation. we are also pretty darn good at spreading it around when need be. This is not a new technique. I know. You know how all the characters in the Peanuts cartoon only hear the words of adults as “wa wa wa wa?” That’s Charlie Brown cotton. But teenagers seem to develop immunity to parental opinion. and I’m sure that’s what clouded the judgment of my own cast of characters.” I would say with withering disapproval. “It breaks my heart.” Then I’d shake my head sadly. I could lay it on pretty thick. All those raging hormones stuff their heads with what I call Charlie Brown cotton. my face downcast. I’m good at it. The delivery of withering disapproval was another one of those manipulation methods at which I excelled.
So we usually settled on Clue. Most times. Monopoly took too long. But I usually ended up looking forward to the start of another football season. In public. At that point.Days of Derangement the next adolescent mastodon hunt to get them to comply. “Are we having fun yet?” Although our bonding had been a fairly painful experience. we’d have it on Friday night. I would suggest we start off by simply talking to each other. Funny Girl would have pronounced herself bored. Before you knew it. And before we’d even had a chance to ﬁnger Colonel Mustard for the crime. After several moments of awkward silence. Funny Man would give me one of his looks and ask.” and my children would do almost anything to avoid that. Hee hee. and Funny Boy would’ve been caught text-messaging his girlfriend under the table. So I informed my kids that if we didn’t have Sunday afternoon Family Time. This is what my daughter always referred to as “social suicide. 32 . we’d move on to board games. where we wasted time arguing over which game to play. In a place where their friends were sure to see them. Only the locale has changed. and Scrabble seemed too much like school. I would use the F word again the next Sunday. we’d be enjoying some screen-free Sunday Family Time.
The potty’s various parts turned up in the closets. however.The Potty Predicament This is my very ﬁrst attempt at humor writing. I would place the potty in the bathroom. the potty was transformed into a nagging symbol of intergenerational warfare. I started planning how to spend the money I’d save on diapers. Over the next few months. in the backyard sandbox. When I ﬁnally placed it in the bathroom. under my bed. the child seemed delighted. not wanting to place unrealistic expectations on Funny Boy. The ﬁrst skirmish—over positioning—raged throughout the house and left me exhausted and demoralized. was colored on and used to collect 33 . I kept the commode in the closet for a few weeks. deluxe models with removable parts. only to return later to ﬁnd it missing. even once ﬂoating in the birdbath. but he’s still giving me gray hair… I bought a potty for my son before he turned two years old. The boy who inspired it is all grown up now. a front-loading plastic bowl and sure-grip sides. in my husband’s underwear drawer. It was one of the colorful. It served as a playpen for stuffed animals.
One of my well-meaning friends insisted that boys need a target to aim at. Eventually. as if I could create some kind of gravitational force that would pull down his little posterior. His second birthday came and went. I tried literary inducements to get him to sit on the potty. faster and faster. I played my trump 34 . Reluctantly. But it didn’t work. size XXXL. picturing Funny Boy at his high school graduation in Huggies. now looking like a fourth-generation hand-me-down. “Do you want to be the only two-year-old you know who’s still in diapers?” I asked. My voice would careen around the words. First. I won the battle by attrition. I took this as a hopeful sign and launched a campaign to wear down his resistance. the kid was impervious to public opinion. 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.Days of Derangement various toys. The potty. No luck. speaking in an animated tone designed to capture his attention. My son became bored. That’s when I invoked the dreadful specter of peer pressure. even feminine hygiene products carelessly left within reach. But he sure didn’t ﬁll it with anything else. hoping to challenge his competitive instincts. and I began to lose sleep. despite my inadequate strategy. I ventured into singing—his favorite was John. almost weeping at the prospect. Schmidt. Then my boy discovered he could ﬁll the bowl from the bathtub and carry it around. remained in the bathroom. Next. He really liked doing that. so I ﬁlled the potty with water and then dumped in half a bag of Cheerios. Jacob. slowly draining it in a trail of carpet-soaking spots. books. Jingleheimer.
“I pooed. I cried along with him. the fruit of my womb wouldn’t give in. younger children who pranced proudly to the potty. but he. Next I’d hear a series of grunts. quite literally. “Mommy.” I’d let out a heavy. The demon seed I’d previously considered my son started using the toilet as if he’d been doing it all his life.The Potty Predicament card—bribery—promising him candy for each successful use of the potty. Once or twice. I deployed my ﬁnal weapon. ranging 35 . I acted deliriously happy. with a telltale aroma trailing him. I started putting a Pull-Up on him every evening at the same time. but still. He began to have terrible stomachaches because he would not allow himself to have a bowel movement. continued to hold his own. He’d place his hands on the foot of the bed. I became truly depressed about my failure. he’d slip quietly into his room and close the door. pained sigh and shake my head as if he’d just confessed to crimes against humanity. It wasn’t too long before I couldn’t get him out of the bathroom. Despondently. He would have in-depth conversations with himself (or maybe it was an imaginary friend) while he was in there. feet astraddle as if he were water skiing. After all those agonizing months. His eyes gleamed with sweet anticipation. this strategy succeeded in exactly two days. As the three-year mark approached. As soon as it was on. I put away the potty and bought a large supply of Pull-Ups. I peeked through the door to see what he was doing. Worried that he was poisoning his insides.” he’d say. and I saw Funny Boy upstaged by other. In a few minutes. When my son informed me that he needed to be changed. never once even mentioning the toilet and its uses. shame-faced. he’d emerge.
36 . I heard him say. “Would you like to see what a penis looks like?” Dazed. wondering what I’d created. Walking by the bathroom one day.Days of Derangement from a soliloquy on the makeup of the solar system to what sounded like a verbal tour of his more interesting body parts. I continued down the hall.
I was rushing around getting ready for the day.S. Being a marvel of multitasking. 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. it refers to a very intimate female body part. I couldn’t just sit down and eat my breakfast. I don’t need no stinkin’ scientists to tell me that. Let’s just say that in the UK. But to paraphrase a line in that tasteful movie Blazing Saddles. All I have to do is look down into my cereal bowl.Fruit and Fannies After this story was published online. however. So I set my bowl on the kitchen counter and ate standing up while also doing leg lifts AND checking email on my iPhone. Awkward… Multi-tasking: Screwing everything up simultaneously S cientists regularly warn us about the dangers of multitasking. One morning. 37 . readers in the United Kingdom began to contact me to ask if I realized that the word fanny has a different meaning in the UK than it does in the U. It is said to be dumbing us down and driving us crazy.
And when I did that. but have moved up the ofﬁcial Fanny Fruit Scale to the larger Tomato Tush category. 38 . Funny Man. gurgled groan as Cheerios and milk ran down my chin. I accidentally let go of my electronic idol. Horriﬁed. really stupid as he grabbed the phone away from me. I let out a loud. “I dropped the iPhone in my cereal!” Funny Man gave me the kind of look one gives a teenager caught doing something really. I naturally had to twist around to look at my own bottom and try to ﬁgure out what fruit it was shaped like.Days of Derangement I opened an email—with the Subject line YOU’VE GOT TO READ THIS—from a friend and clicked on a link to a news story revealing some earth-shaking news: women’s butts are changing shape. heard the sound and came running naked into the kitchen. Standing there holding my iPhone and with a mouth full of Cheerios. 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. “It’s worse than that!” I gasped. ﬁshing out the phone and cradling it like a drowning victim while I reached frantically for a towel. In compliance with a federal law stating that one out of every 10 news stories must be accompanied by a picture of Kim Kardashian. who was just getting out of the shower. thinking I must be suffering some kind of medical emergency. this article helpfully included a close-up of Kardashian’s famous tomato-shaped derriere. and it splashed right down into the bowl.
39 . On the bright side.” I responded. what fruit would you say my fanny is shaped like?” I can’t print his answer in this family-friendly book. I guess Apple is one fruit in ﬁne shape. “Hey. however. Then I turned so my back was toward him. Let’s just say it was not complimentary. my iPhone survived its milk bath. Unlike my fanny.Fruit and Fannies “Why were you eating breakfast standing up? And why were you holding the phone over the bowl? Why can’t you just do things the way a normal person would?” “That would be boring.
—Stockard Channing E very once in a while when my kids were growing up. bringing a book with me to ward off certain boredom. Call me a dork—my kids still do—but I have never been interested in watching sports unless my children were participating. If you are shaking your head at anyone nerdy enough to bring a book to a hockey game. We went to a hockey game. I arrived at the game knowing only one thing (thanks to that famous joke from Rodney Dangerﬁeld) about hockey—that 40 . contact me later. you know just how my loved ones were feeling. If you are nodding your head in dweebish accord because you feel my pain. I don’t care how cool you are. We dorks need to circle the wagons and stick together. seemingly trivial object. insisted I come along to the hockey game. Such a moment occurred when we gathered to watch a group of males armed with sticks ﬁght over a slippery. So I did. perhaps thinking they could redeem me. I’d realize—in a blinding moment of clarity that fortunately didn’t last long—that they thought I was utterly insane. My family.Crime and Punishment Everyone’s a nerd inside.
enabling everyone to see each act of disorderly conduct in vivid detail. I managed to read for quite a while. my head down. Surprisingly. our team had scored a goal. Crime and Punishment. I was at that time in my Dostoevsky phase. I decided to delve into my book. Hey. As I tried to focus on this great work of literature in the midst of the maelstrom all around me. my beloved book clutched close in case someone tried to snatch it and begin reading.Crime and Punishment it tended to occasionally break out in the midst of a brawl. There was a great deal of pushing and shoving. 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. So I entered the arena primed for violence. Large video screens hung over the rink. the fans started screaming encouragement to their players and heaping insults. losing myself in 19thcentury Russia. When the game began. I looked around at the enthusiastic crowd. most of which involved allegations of insufﬁcient manhood. my shoulders hunched. it could happen. and so I’d brought along the great classic. we made it to our seats without incident. hacking away with their sticks at a tiny black speck (evidently called a puck) on the ice. The men battled each other valiantly. elbows frequently ﬂew into faces. It was exciting stuff. No one else appeared to be holding a book. and bodies were slammed against the sides. Apparently. many of them wearing team jerseys and happily drinking adult beverages. I began to wonder if I’d committed a crime and this was my punishment. It turned out to be a ﬁtting title to be reading at the game. After watching this riveting spectacle for several moments. and the ear-splitting sound was 41 .
not have it spilled all over your seat by runaway Russian literature. you are going to want to drink your adult beverage in celebration. The crime was deﬁnitely worth the punishment. I managed to survive the game. I even got my book back.Days of Derangement necessary to commemorate the event. My family decided then and there that I would no longer be allowed to accompany them to sporting events. Courageously. 42 . and it tumbled from the nosebleed seats down on to a frenzied fan below. The fan grabbed my beer-soaked book off the ﬂoor and looked up in a way that made me think I’d be safer if I was that little black puck on the ice below. I hid behind my husband. Sadly. knocking his beer out of his hand. Somehow. If you are a happy hockey enthusiast whose team has just scored a goal. though. the unexpected jolt caused me to drop my book.
In my dreams. riding at breakneck speed alongside the hero. where Wayne rode tall in the saddle. and they managed to convince my mother to come along. he knows all things. It’s amazing what people will do for their grandchildren. —George Herbert I grew up on John Wayne movies. a rugged symbol of America itself. I was fascinated as a child by the westerns. I had an opportunity. were presented with numerous pages of legalese assuring us that riding a horse is a dangerous activity and that we. my hair streaming out behind me as I raced across the plains. she hadn’t been on a horse in more than 40 years. The only problem was that in real life. as suicidal 43 .True Grit When one is on horseback. to go on a two-hour trail ride. and times being what they are. with my family. as I found out one summer when my kids were preteens. my fantasy fell ﬂat when confronted with actual horse ﬂesh. We arrived at the stables. I’d never even been near a horse. I was a ﬁne rider. My children were excited. Although my mom grew up on a farm. In reality. I wanted to be like the girl in True Grit.
the two young wranglers who would accompany us brought my mother a step stool. you gotta kick him. “we best just get on outta here. therefore. were crazy to want to be placed on hooved hazards for the express purpose of inﬂicting upon ourselves serious injury or. 44 . The stables. The young whippersnapper called me Ma’am. But as a John Wayne devotee. prepared to mount our trusty rides. This appeared to greatly amuse the wranglers. he was already practicing for the time when he assumed room temperature. After I made several clumsy attempts to pull myself up and over what seemed like the world’s tallest horse. “Giddy up. I found myself thinking that John Wayne would never have signed such a statement.” I said to the horse. even the ﬂies on his neck seemingly frozen in place. As soon as the ride started. though.” We signed on the bottom line. This perfectly described the creature. The Duke would have horse-whipped him. I was on a horse named RIP for Rest in Peace. it took both wranglers— who each did an embarrassing amount of grunting as if it was back-breaking work—to shove me into position. RIP refused to move.” he’d have said. “Giddy up. more likely. could not be held responsible.” I repeated. I was sure I could hear tiny ﬂy laughter. “Well. RIP stood perfectly still. Pilgrim.” said one of the cowboys. In deference to her age. they apparently assumed someone of my relatively young years ought to be able to hop right into the saddle. Unfortunately. “Ma’am. Wrong. and having dispensed with the legalities. a slow and painful death. but had no discernible effect on RIP.Days of Derangement idiots. I knew exactly what to do.
Why would anyone in America name a horse Napoleon?” 45 . she got his name wrong. my 5'1" mother was an elementary school teacher who could strike fear into the hearts of misbehaving students with just a glance.” “Mom! Can you just once admit you’re wrong? I am absolutely positive he said Navajo.” “No. as my kids say.True Grit Nervously. “you get yourself back on the trail this minute or you’ll be hearing from me. who was supposed to be following RIP but who kept leaving the trail to munch on grass. “His name is Navajo. and the half-dead horse ever so slowly started down the trail.” “Mom. The wrangler then gave him a resounding whack on the rear. “Now Napoleon. “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 as sometimes happens when teachers meet a student for the ﬁrst time. Being faced with the equine equivalent of a problem pupil. she mustered all her teaching techniques to subdue him. “The guy clearly said his name is Napoleon. Back in the day.” I pointed out.” she said in her strictest schoolmarm tone. he said Navajo. twisting around in the saddle. I gave RIP a few timid kicks.” My mother has an annoying habit of assuming she is always right. Meanwhile.” “Napoleon. a character defect that she fortunately did not pass on to her daughter.” she snapped. jerking on the reins as Navajo/Napoleon moved further away from the trail. my mom had been placed on a more lively horse named Navajo.
Maybe we weren’t up to John Wayne’s standards. 46 . Then she continued to lecture her horse. is true grit. despite my mom’s expert educational methods. happily noshed on every blade of grass within reach. This is how the whole ride went: RIP kept refusing to move in the face of my most gallant giddy ups and Navajo/Napoleon. but I was kind of proud of both myself and my mother. until the wrangler approached. “Serves you right. Our two-hour ride had stretched to three by the time we returned to the stables. of course.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. Pilgrim.” I heard my mother chuckling. But we’d managed to stay astride our stubborn steeds. And that. Navajo/Napoleon completely ignored her. Then he ambled along for about a minute before once again heading for the grass.
I explored the shop in awe. You raise his children.Soapy Situation Marriage means commitment. Of course. Then that person does something that leaves you wondering if you ever really knew him at all. You love him through thick and thin. smelling each handmade concoction and imagining its gentle ingredients caressing my skin. See. Y 47 . and that it needs soap with the same qualities. natural. You spend years sleeping next to him. Now this wasn’t any ordinary bar of soap. 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. listen patiently to all his stories. ou think you know everything there is to know about a person. The sales clerk explained that a woman’s skin is intelligent. honest and pure. And it all started with a bar of soap. pick up his underwear. 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. so does insanity. That’s just what happened to me. You love him for better or worse. I’d discovered a wonderful little soap shop.
I ﬁlled a shopping bag with scented soaps that set me back a pretty penny.” she said. I brought my high-class suds home and promptly took a bath.” he said. Funny Man had the gall to look confused. lathering my suffering skin. Consumed by guilt. shortly after Funny Man had showered. grinning. then grabbed my soap and went in search of my spouse. Instantly. pure. girly soap! The soap I paid big bucks for! The soap that’s going to do wonders for my skin!” “Oh. “No wonder it made my butt feel so soft.” “That was my special. “Did you use my special soap?” I yelled. I carefully re-wrapped my special soap in the pretty paper from the store and put it into a drawer. “What special soap? The bar that was in there was getting too small. The pretty store paper was lying crumpled on the ﬂoor. “If you insult its intelligence. I was horriﬁed to ﬁnd my womanly washing material in the shower. The rest of my special soap is now kept in an undisclosed location. covered with suds. When I’d ﬁnished bathing. I made the kind of growl a mama grizzly makes when her cub is threatened. I just pulled out whatever was in the drawer.Days of Derangement “A woman shouldn’t be using a man’s soap. and I felt tingly all over. I’d been washing it with horrible man soap.” Naturally. looking forward to using it again the next day. your skin will rebel. I had to throw that particular bar in the trash. But when I went into the bathroom the next morning. thrusting the bar at him.” Well no wonder my skin hadn’t been looking too good lately. homemade. 48 . my skin began to look smarter.
I only use it when I’m alone in the house and can enjoy taking an undisturbed bath. 49 . Any day now. my skin will start to look utterly brilliant.Soapy Situation under lock and key.
If you ask the men in my family. one frayed leg hole surrounded by fragments of fabric. And yet. I could hear the Fruit of the Loom guys laughing at me.Stylish Skivvies This morning when I put on my underwear. it almost takes an act of Congress to get my hole-y he-men to go to the store and buy new knickers. —Rodney Dangerﬁeld S tylish men’s skivvies. 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. possibly. They then have the choice of either allowing me to buy for them (not a popular 50 . Victims of this ailment believe that underwear never needs to be replaced. those are words that should be banned—on pain of a slow and torturous death—from being included in the same sentence. They’ll hang on to a pair of drawers until there’s nothing left but an elastic waistband and. I usually have to resort to throwing out all the threadbare boxers and briefs while my husband and son are out of the house. I belong to a family of men suffering from a genetic mutation called the underwear overuse gene. See.
holding up a pair of plaid briefs with buttons—buttons!—in the front. And forget about traditional cotton. mid. And that’s exactly what my men try to do. It’s enough to make a man with the underwear overuse gene cling even more tightly to his decaying derriere covers. going shopping with me or going commando. “I’m not wearing any of these!” Funny Boy will declare. high).” Next to that there’s usually an entire display of enhanced undies promising to further ﬂatter the male physique. 51 . Spandex and various microﬁber synthetics. new boxers or briefs has always been difﬁcult. Getting my men to purchase.Stylish Skivvies option since the time I came home with boxers covered with cute little palm trees). “Whatever happened to good old-fashioned tighty-whities?” my husband always moans. I guess the men are just catching up. colors and patterns. 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. Sounds an awful lot like padded bras to me. But nowadays. That’s how we periodically end up in the men’s section of a nearby department store.” Funny Boy will stare in horror at packages of underwear that claim to “sculpt and support muscular movement. Now there’s also Lycra. In the end. including padded and “proﬁle-enhancing” briefs. “This is an abomination!” Funny Man says. and then actually wear. men’s undies have become a whole new fashion segment. “I can’t buy any of these. They come in a variety of silhouettes and rises (low. “They’re trying to turn men into…into…women!” In order to get the job done. as well as in a cornucopia of ﬁt options (relaxed or slim).
52 . But I doubt it.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.
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. crippling pain in her legs when asked to take out the trash. “They wouldn’t be like regular chores. “There are a lot of chores to do on a farm.Chewing on Chores M y daughter. Well.” This from a kid who always developed sudden. I could feed the chickens. It was organic milk. and the carton depicted blissful-looking cows reading Thoreau.” I watched her shudder at the dreaded word.” I said. displaying a newfound interest in agrarian life. 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 .” she said. chores would be fun. “People have to work hard on a farm. maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. was sitting at the kitchen table eating her favorite brand of sugar-in-a-bowl and reading the back of the milk carton. struggling to get the word out of her mouth. “Why can’t we live on a farm?” Funny Girl asked. “Farm ch… ch…. the one who at age 10 diagnosed herself with a severe allergy to the vacuum cleaner.
And sometimes.Days of Derangement properly. since you like to get up early anyway. much like an organically fed Daisy Mae would chew its cud. I remembered thinking the cows should have to milk themselves when they acted like that.” I distinctly remembered this happening to John Boy and his siblings on many occasions. I informed her that cute little cows like to be milked very early in the morning. I. “I know. having watched endless hours of Little House on the Prairie and The Waltons when I was young. Clearly. “You could milk the cows. at an hour she only saw when she stayed up all night at a sleepover. ecstatic at being able 54 . “It doesn’t work like that. Then she brightened. “I’m sure the cows wouldn’t mind waiting until a more reasonable hour. they even kick over the bucket of milk just when you’ve got it ﬁlled. The conversation got me thinking about children and chores and TV shows that leave me chewing my own ﬁgurative cud.” This from a kid who never willingly picked up her own socks off the ﬂoor. on the other hand.” she said. have long been an expert in farm life. It was so easy for Ma Walton and Ma Ingalls to do everything right. she didn’t understand the reality of life in the country. “The cows can’t wait. I attempted to enlighten my delusional city slicker. I could pick crops and stuff like that.” she countered. Their children did chores happily.” I told her. Funny Girl appeared to chew this revelation over carefully.
and he dangled the carrot in front of the donkey but just out of its reach. maybe I belong on a farm. pick up their dirty clothes.Chewing on Chores to contribute to the family. I initiated elaborate incentive programs that would rival a political candidate’s election platform in complexity (and uselessness). They had so much more time on their hands. take out the trash. My kids wore me down. I was always the donkey. I issued dire threats and made dark predictions about the fate of those who failed to do their chores. That’s a pretty accurate picture of me. I still had to remind them to make their beds. on the other hand. was never very successful at getting her young’uns to cooperate. That’s why my daughter’s vision of picking crops made me laugh. right there on the TV. wash their dishes. No wonder Ma Walton and Ma Ingalls were always smiling and baking and making quilts. As the donkey moved forward to get the carrot. Ma Papandrew. always chasing my TV-created ideal. I offered allowance money and took away privileges. Come to think of it. The boy held a long stick to which a carrot had been tied. I know this was true because I saw it for myself. It’s not like I didn’t try. 55 . it pulled the cart—and the boy—so the carrot always remained just out of reach as the cart moved forward. It so happens that the original carrot-and-stick metaphor referred to a boy sitting on a cart being pulled by a donkey. But my carrot-and-stick approach simply didn’t work. Every day. my children and their chores. I had job charts and task wheels complete with stickers and brightly colored posters.
Days of Derangement 56 .
where my eyes fell upon my very dirty automobile. but then I saw the mop right there next to it and that got me thinking about my hair. I realized I had no clean socks because I failed to ﬁnd the time all week to do laundry. I realized I should get back to the garage to grab that broom. but then I remembered that I sorely needed a pedicure. which reminded me I’d been intending to exercise since sometime before the last millennium and. since there’s no time like the present. and so I thought I’d make an appointment for a haircut. I decided to make my mother proud and embark on a vigorous cleaning program. but when 57 . and speaking of loads. so I went to the garage for a broom and came across my long-neglected bike. I pulled the creaky bike out to the driveway. and speaking of pushing. so I pulled out a hose and began washing it. which lately has had more bad days than good. which reminded me that I really wanted to do some serious shoe shopping. only when I pulled off my socks to examine my foul feet. so I rushed inside to start a load. I suddenly wanted to read the newspaper to ﬁnd out what kind of hooey those humble public servants in Washington are pushing. but this got my sneakers wet.Spring Cleaning O ne ﬁne spring day.
but seeing the tub made me think of the word tubby which made me think of my stomach. I recalled the irate conversation I’d just had with my mother. and I really love to read and thinking about reading caused my brain to take a philosophical turn. I started thinking about how much I like the word squeegee and then I started thinking about how much I like words in general. but then she asked if I’d begun my spring cleaning and so.Days of Derangement I picked up the phone. which reminded me that I’d left the bike in the driveway. and if one likes words as much as I do. which it has a habit of doing whenever cleaning is on the horizon. I hung up the phone and gathered a tub full of cleaning supplies with which to attack the job at hand. and she’s undoubtedly right. but then I was jerked back to reality with the realization that I’ve never actually owned a squeegee and therefore could not properly clean my windows. only to notice the deplorable condition of my windows so I went in search of a squeegee and while I was looking. Mom. so I rushed outside. remembering this. who feels I should call her more often. which is why I decided to lie down for the day and put off cleaning until the next spring. Sorry. any other kind of cleaning is not morally justiﬁable. one naturally loves books as well. and I’m pretty sure that it was Plato who said that if one cannot correctly clean one’s own windows. which often leads to reading. 58 .
No one has time to do anything because we’re all so darn busy. too busy to take our calls when we need service. The riddle is this: if everyone is busy—very. very busy—doesn’t that really mean no one is busy? After all. You’re just pretending to be busy. The problem is that a lot of you are busyness bamboozlers. 59 . —Socrates I have a philosophical riddle for you to ponder. claims to be frantically busy. Even my dog is busy. Busy is the new black. we can’t all be busier than everyone else.Busy. We’re a society bustling with busyness. I would ponder it myself but I’m far too busy with more important things. on the other hand. everyone I read about or hear about. I. Busy Beware the barrenness of a busy life. Even the ﬂeas on my dog are busy. am truly busy. I could see your busyness bet and raise you a bundle. agitated by all our activities. In poker terms. can we? And yet everyone I know. 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.
and most of them are lying. including the very powerful Bureau of Unmotivated 60 . I suggest we appoint the members of Congress. If you are a size 2 and everything automatically looks great. you are deﬁnitely not busy. Does exercise merit a mark on the busy meter? Oh. I do want credit for my superior state of busyness.) There would. We have cholesterol levels and credit scores. to serve on a committee which would establish busyness benchmarks. as our new committee should be called. I’d tell you what I’m doing to make me so busy but it’s not really any of your business anyway. Britney Spears hitting every Starbucks in a 10-mile radius? Not so much. We have numerical tables to tell us if we’re thin or not-so-thin. by a host of special interest groups. have to be safeguards in place to prevent corruption of the high standards of the Busy Brigade. in an age in which everything is measurable. Unless you are—like my daughter—only working out your thumbs through too much text-messaging. A single mom (or dad) working two jobs to make ends meet? Busy. you are deﬁnitely busy. like me. You’ve got people running around all over the place claiming to be busier than everyone else. after all. Of course. who frequently seem to have too much time on their hands. by the way. (And. you have to go from store to store trying to ﬁnd something that makes you look slim. rich or not-so-rich. What about shopping? If. yeah. However. but when it comes to determining who is a bona ﬁde busy person. This must be stopped. tall or height-challenged. We live. I hate you. so I’m proposing a national rating system to separate the truly busy from the bogusly busy. And that’s dangerous. we’d have to engage in a national debate about what exactly counts as being busy. of course.Days of Derangement If I had the time. we’re on our own.
But I honestly believe it would be worth it. Constant complaining or channel surﬁng—regular activities in my household—would not count. and it must be a difﬁcult rank to achieve. 61 . I anticipate years of lobbying and litigation over this issue from the lazy. Busy Men (BUM) to which several members of my own family belong.Busy. Being labeled as ofﬁcially busy must mean something.
which eventually swelled into a swirling. her behavior didn’t follow suit. If you remember your Greek mythology (and who among us doesn’t). That’s what happened in our family. raid the trash cans. tear-fueled Category 5 caterwaul.The Hound from Hades A t some point. but somehow we found ourselves one day at a shelter—an animal shelter that is. It began with a tot’s tiny plea. We tried to resist. It soon became obvious that this Hound from Hades had relocated to my house. you’ll recall that the underworld was said to be guarded by a dog with many heads. almost all parents are expected to enhance the childhood experience with a pet. Unfortunately. a cat—should pass by and require an ear-splitting round of 62 . Whenever my back was turned. which built over time into a full-blown nag. steal food right off people’s plates and maintain an ever-vigilant patrol near the front windows in case another dog—or on really good days. Ebony would use all those heads to simultaneously chew my furniture. My life would never be the same. We picked out an abandoned Labrador mix boringly named Blackie and upgraded her to the more elegant Ebony.
Then. Ebony bolted away from me and raced around the yard. shot through the open back door and began to run circles in my living room. in addition to multiple mouths. to be exact. She’d scratch and whine all night if necessary until I opened it. She’d come lie down next to me on the bare ﬂoor. the task of bathing the furry ﬂea bag also fell to me. she’d 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 Hound from Hades barking. the mutt had a high number of heinies. I even tried shutting my door. There should be a congressional investigation into the millions of phony poo-pickup promises made by generations of dog-desperate kids. where she insisted on sleeping. Then she made a beeline for the house. at the Canine Olympics. She licked like there was no tomorrow. Naturally. if there was such a thing. The dog is a master licker. The ﬁrst time I gave her a bath. frantically rolling her freshly cleaned body in every bit of dirt she could ﬁnd. She could earn a Golden Tongue award. 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. 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. gleefully grinding her grime into my pink (PINK!) carpet. I tried moving her bed to another part of the house. developed an amazing variety of excuses for avoiding the job. It’s a national scandal. when I yelled at her. And did I mention that she started early? Five o’clock in the morning. Eb started every day with a vigorous session of self-licking. 63 .
And while I was retching into the bathroom sink. “Stop it now!” Yes.Days of Derangement Most mornings. and by never taking her eyes off me. She’d start with the stare-down. Being bleary-eyed and cranky and knowing just who to blame for that. After a few quiet minutes and with dastardly doggie daring. psychological ploy. long nap. she’d wake up with a blissful sigh and a sumptuous stretch and move on to the second part of her day. Eb. But that was just a clever. and I used it just like I used my children’s full names when I was communicating my displeasure with them. attempt to subliminally communicate the fact that she wanted to be fed. That’s when she’d move into the next phase. Then. knowing full well that it made a lot of racket. I subliminally communicated the fact that I didn’t care by totally ignoring her. Ebony would place herself right in front of me and. using her full name. would take a nice. “Ebony Joyce Papandrew!” I’d shout. Ebony did her best to ensure I didn’t turn into a lazy slugabed by licking me right in the mouth with the same tongue that she used to lick every part—and I do mean every nasty part—of her body. sometime in the afternoon. bleary-eyed and cranky from lack of sleep. 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 . This was a very effective way to get me out of bed in a hurry. She began pushing her empty metal bowl around the kitchen. and the house would go silent. The bowl momentarily stayed put. she has a full name. which involved getting her bowl ﬁlled up with dog food. I abandoned subliminal communication for something more direct. having successfully completed her morning tasks. There I’d be at my computer.
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. Once. she seemed to know it. she’d instantly appear and place her body against my leg. Ebony would contentedly settle down for another nap. was that from the day we brought her home with us. the very worst thing. following me from room to room. I’d realize the Hound from Hades was actually my best friend. When I sat down somewhere in the house. both literally and ﬁguratively. The thing about Ebony. I’d pet her. she would shudder with delight. She’d place one paw on my knee or on my arm and gaze at me with unconditional love. And when I was feeling depressed or anxious. At times like that. content just to be near me. in a moment of weakness. When. After ﬁlling her stomach. She was nauseatingly needy. 65 . rather than engaging in normal dog activities. muttering curses I wouldn’t want my mother to hear. she’d press her face against the door and whine until I let her in. She might even go out for a walk with her utterly submissive human. even if I didn’t want to admit it. This would propel me out of my chair. straight to the cabinet that held the dog food.The Hound from Hades kitchen tile. When I put her outside. she would devote her evening to catching crumbs of people grub that fell from the counters or perhaps engage in an energetic round of barking at a neighbor’s dog. she showed up as soon as I got out of the shower and proceeded to carefully lick my wounds. she utterly adored me. When she again woke up.
she’s a trophy wife in her off-hours. Mom. young and chipper.” Funny Boy said. baby. seeking to disassociate themselves from my aging body. with a smooth face no one would be tempted to mark with Xs and Os.Gums and Games After 30. This procedure would measure how far my traitorous gums. a body has a mind of its own. She put a cute little bib under my chin and informed me I was overdue for a periodontal workup. “Woa. a whole tic-tac-toe grid under your eyes. Then I arrived at my dentist’s ofﬁce for my regular checkup. you have passed the point of no return.” It was probably just such a remark that led to the creation of boarding schools. have pulled away from their assigned teeth. peering at me closely. —Bette Midler M y midlife crisis was triggered by yet another birthday and inﬂamed by a comment from my teenage son. Undoubtedly. The gums are the middle-aged 66 . and I was ushered in by The Happy Hygienist. “You’ve got. You know the kind of creature I mean. Once you hear the words gums and receding in the same sentence. like.
” she shook her head in grave concern.Gums and Games body’s bellwether. like me. My dental inspector propped open my mouth and began to probe my periodontal pockets. signaling to the other organs when it’s time to start heading for the hills. In a moment of medical masochism common to women my age. This delightful experience was delivered by a close cousin of the hygienist. “Four millimeters…. and I responded in kind with a line of drool that soaked my bib. an insufferably cute girl barely out of her teens (or so it seemed) with a personality that could only be described as perky. stand in front of your open refrigerator. you are a private in the bosom brigade. mangling my mammaries in a most professional way. But if. “Oh.ﬁve millimeters. very good!” She praised me in the exact tone one would use to train a puppy. it’s not pleasant. 67 . oh my…. here’s a three. Then her voice brightened. The well-endowed among us probably don’t have too much of a problem with a mammogram. calling out numbers that identiﬁed the depth of my deterioration. Then ask Hulk Hogan to slam the door as hard as possible and lean on it for good effect. The mammogram was clearly invented by a man. possibly one who spent his youth in a boarding school after saying something stupid to his mother. Miss Perky did her best. too weighed down by my new long-in-the-tooth status to notice that my wallet was considerably lighter. For those who have missed the pleasure. I’d scheduled a mammogram for the same week. an obvious affront to the over-40 crowd. Insert some particularly sensitive part of your body. I departed soon after.
” I added lamely. By the time I got home. caused by dragging one foot that was already in the grave. “He didn’t try anything with me. I’d join the Peace Corps. Desperate times call for desperate measures. who had been trying to tame her aches and pains with massage therapy. If my mother 68 . “I guess you’ve heard that one before. I had a pronounced limp. I decided to ﬁght back. Maybe I’d even turn into a cougar. tackle my tic-tac-toe lines with shots or surgery. Glum over the prospect of a steady slide into decrepitude. My destiny was now determined. trying to add some comic relief to the situation. 25-year-old male masseuse as “gorgeous. Telling stale jokes is. learn to ride a Harley. absolutely gorgeous. Mom?” I couldn’t resist. If I was only 20 years younger…” “Really. apparently. “I haven’t been squeezed like this since I went to the high school prom with a boy named Bubba. “Only 20 years younger?” Suddenly.” “Good. “Don’t worry. She shocked me by describing her new.” I joked through gritted teeth. I paused in my planning to take a call from my mother. My mother pretended not to hear my question. the second symptom of impending geezerdom. because I was deﬁnitely worried about that. I felt all kinds of aches and pains of my own that could deﬁnitely be eased by a hunk’s healing touch.” she assured me in all seriousness.” Sometimes I lay on the sarcasm so thick that it drips right out of my mouth and makes a puddle on the ﬂoor.Days of Derangement compressing each between two cold plastic plates until I felt one of us should propose marriage. She just rolled her eyes. right behind truant gums. I would not go quietly into the night.
” The pole threat is one of her most common.Gums and Games happens to be around. she’ll actually try to make me clean it up. 69 . Mom. “You’ll have to get up on a stool to even reach my knees. Even if he didn’t. for some reason. “I’m going to beat you with a pole the next time I see you. maybe I would have better luck.” I said absent-mindedly. Especially if I kept my game face to the ground. I was still thinking about the manly masseuse. and I responded with one of my standard answers. put the moves on my mother. she has to resort to threats. When we’re not under the same roof.
It didn’t take long for this furry bit of ﬂuff to drive me to the brink of madness. an igloo to sleep in. lush. …How. multilayer habitat with towers and tunnels and a state-of-the-art wheel. vitamin drops and chew sticks. a considerable amount of whining and periodic bouts of pouting. am I mad? —Edgar Allen Poe A fter launching a successful campaign consisting of much begging. she decided that Sunset must surely be a girl. When archaeologists of the future sift through the layers of our lives to try to understand how we lived. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I fully expected Sunset to also 70 .The Tell-Tale Hamster Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I was puzzled by this myself as we drove home with the golden-hued creature Funny Girl affectionately named Sunset. they will undoubtedly be bafﬂed by our penchant for raising rodents. an exercise ball. pine-scented bedding. my daughter talked us into getting a hamster. then. 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.
no doubt enjoying the chaos its presence had caused. She apparently also invested a lot of time and creativity into ﬁguring out how to distribute her waste in as wide an area as possible. Despite living in a spacious Hamster Hilton. howling. Then there was the noise. Sunset liked to party hearty all 71 . 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. there was the mess. went wild—barking. Our dog. and I breathed a sigh of relief. We had to put Ebony in the back yard and were ﬁnally able to coax out the reluctant rodent. But I soon came to wish she’d stayed under the refrigerator. the little lab rat stayed serenely in place. she made a bid for freedom. While the much larger dog worked herself into a frenzy. scampering across the kitchen and under the refrigerator. Someone forgot to remind me that hamsters are nocturnal. Sunset was placed in her cage. you would probably have seen beady black eyes shining with satisfaction. First. Sunset spent most of her time shoving the bedding out of the cage and onto my ﬂoor. If you looked under the fridge. Before we even got the ungrateful creature into her luxurious new digs. who was covered with additional fuzz from the underbelly of the fridge.The Tell-Tale Hamster demand deed restrictions to keep rodent riff-raff out of her neighborhood and a complete schedule of social activities. She must have pressed her furry little bottom right up against the cage and aimed for the walls. Ebony. I found poo pellets in places that no poo pellets have any business being. Pet brain size must be inversely proportional to body size.
I caught the horrible hamster licking it off. this wasn’t a problem. But the rodent lived on and on. my sanity threatened by the incessant squeaking caused by a tell-tale hamster. Initially. I tried putting cooking oil on it. often barely able to climb the ramp from one level to another. 72 . I began to feel sorry for the creature. the squeaking. Sayonara Sunset. My kids had lost interest in her. And squeak. Now the exercise wheel is silent.Days of Derangement night in her exercise wheel. And squeak. I set aside a shoe box to be used for a quick burial and began to look forward to the day the sun would set on our rat-like pet. I swear I can still hear it. as they often lose interest in aging pets and aging parents. I tried moving the cage to another room. I wondered if I faced a similar fate. She was no longer using the exercise wheel and was moving around the Hamster Hilton much more slowly. I’d wake up and hear it squeaking. hearing the high-pitched noise grow louder and louder. We buried our fuzzy family member in the backyard—at sunset. Still. One night. I realized that Sunset had grown old right before our eyes. naturally. In the middle of the night. But then. Until one day. the worthless wheel began to squeak. I guess none of us can ask for more than that. 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. But sometimes in the night. And then she died at a ripe old age.
Never the two should meet. anal-retentive individuals such as my husband who adamantly insist that vehicles must always be left in perfectly straight lines. But I was unaware of the great stock my man placed on parking proﬁciency until we’d passed through the sappy initial phase of matrimony that’s about as realistic as professional wrestling. less linear approach to auto positioning. See. as we simultaneously began having children and exercising our right as Americans to own no means of 73 . But then. If I’d known this many years ago. During that sweet time. It’s so great to ﬁnd that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life. there are those rigid. it would have saved me much marital strife. gentler souls like me who take a more contemplative. —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. Funny Man apparently found my creative car placements rather endearing. much less get married. Then there are kinder.Crimes of Crookedness I love being married.
I managed to put a big dent in the driver’s side mirror. several inches from the wall.” 74 . when I attempted to back out. And suddenly. “All you have to do is park between these lines. I found him angrily painting a heavy black stripe down what he claimed was the center of the garage ﬂoor. It wasn’t my fault that. he complained that I took up too much space in the garage. scraped up the side of his prized pickup. Then he painted another one on the minivan side.” “Did not. Funny Man started to complain. the back end of my van refused to align itself with the front. for some reason.” “Did so.” he told me in the same exasperated tone I had used when house-training our very dense dog. I tried to comply with his unreasonable demands by parking as close to the wall on my side as possible. But even there. continuing to park itself in crooked lines. upon reversing. Again. our marriage entered the sobering Eyes Wide Open phase. I again tried to conform to his ridiculous demands. This led to an almost nightly exchange between my husband and me that went something like this: “You parked crooked. Naturally. I was offended.Days of Derangement transportation smaller than a tank. I can’t even get into the driveway. my van refused to cooperate.” “Did not. But in the interest of family harmony. So then I parked closer to Funny Man’s truck and. First. Not long after that. I was then ordered to abandon the garage and park only in the driveway.
In our case. almost any word can trigger an outburst. Funny Man eventually gave up. Sometimes. sighing heavily as he re-parked my vehicle each night and muttering about the differences between Mars and Venus. Funny Boy came down with a serious addiction to Yo Mama jokes.Crimes of Crookedness Our children came to accept these mature conversations as a routine part of the evening and completely ignored us. Good thing they’re not parked close to each other. he’d say it several more times until he found himself on the receiving end of a wedgy. trying to convince me of the error of my ways. that is. it was driveway. Until. As any parent of a Yo Mama-afﬂicted child knows. knowing I could win by attrition. I’d just shake my head and smile serenely. And sure enough. Upon hearing that word. 75 . dickering in the driveway over my alleged crimes of crookedness. but Funny Man and I continued to provide comic relief to the neighbors for quite some time. he’d pull out a tape measure or a piece of chalk. my son would be compelled to shout: “Yo Mama’s so fat she has to iron her pants in the driveway!” Getting no response. I’d like to say we soon reached a compromise and started acting like adults.
76 . Although we rarely actually did her workout. 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 have fond memories of TV ﬁtness from college. So. I really need to get in shape. I still can’t listen to Jimmy Buffett’s Changes in Latitudes Changes in Attitudes without experiencing a strong urge to do buttocks tucks. Jane. paying the membership fee and buying an adorable workout outﬁt. Apparently. Then I waited for the blubber to be gone. as I discovered when I tried (and failed) to ﬁnd a bathing suit that would render me somewhat more attractive than a whale. 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. Thanks for the memories. unwilling to actually show up at the gym. So I joined a gym to ﬁght the battle of the bulge. though. there’s more to it than that because my body continued to balloon. I turned to televised exercise.
This kind of name conﬁdence impressed me. italicized and gussied up. “There’s only one answer. I was elated. We spent what seemed like an hour on spine-popping stretches. wishing Cath and her fancy e would wear leg warmers and put on some Jimmy Buffet.Boot Camp Being older and wiser now. ready to give it my all. “Are you ready for this?” they’d ask at the beginning of each show. I put down my chocolate. Surely that e stood for exercise. Cath and her e looked pleased. with a tummy in need of more than laughter. and surely this military-style Jane could whip my ﬂaccid form into shape. pumping. Yes. “and that is YES!” Eventually. And I found her in the form of a ﬁtness show called Boot Camp led by a woman in stunningly good shape named Cathe. when 77 . I spent about a week watching Boot Camp from the comfort of my couch. feeling the pressure. pushing and crunching their way to muscular perfection—all to the frenzied beat of some disturbing technosweat music. Then they’d rather arrogantly respond to their own question. thinking I was going to sail through Boot Camp. put on some sweatpants and stood in my living room. jumping. I decided to seek out a new queen of calisthenics to show me the way. never giving me time to think it over. But they stayed clad in teeny.” Cath and her energetic e would chirp. Cath and her e were relentless in urging me to end my inertia. that’s Cath and then an e that is set off from the rest of the name. shoulderknotting arm swings and thigh-cramping knee bends. tiny shorts that wouldn’t go past my knees.
That’s when I decided to dig up that old burn-feeling video and return to Sweet Lady Jane. those faithless ﬂabby regions turned traitor during the ﬁrst cycle. but I assured them that my problem areas and I were united in the cause. 78 .Days of Derangement Cath and her slightly sadistic e announced that the warm-up was over. I decided to try again. but I pressed on. I collapsed on the carpet. Unfortunately. they explained that we’d be doing eight cycles of training designed to strengthen my heart and tone problem areas. Worn out. but seemed willing to give me another chance. By now. making it through an awe-inspiring two cycles before succumbing to exhaustion. My numerous problem areas protested. quivering like mutinous mounds of Jell-O. Cath and her sneering e seemed to threaten a court martial. my children had sensed an opportunity for amusement and gathered around like vultures to watch. After the warm-up. Cath and her drill-instructor e were by now openly dubious. A few days later. Even her buttocks tucks would be better than Boot Camp. I barely survived Cycle Two before my arms and legs went AWOL. If I could just ﬁnd some leg warmers. I gave myself a good week or two to recover before making another attempt. refusing to soldier on. cruelly eating Cheetos and Oreos in my presence and placing bets with each other on how long I could last. Cath and her increasingly annoying e looked skeptical.
who can provide blackmail material to our children. They huddled together for 79 . who know about every youthful transgression. most of the kids were teenagers who looked horriﬁed at just being there. lost the most hair. I’ve determined there are ﬁve phases to the typical family reunion. all a little hesitant. At my last reunion. awash in warm feelings and cold sweat. those who are at our end of the gene pool. But many of us are drawn to cousinly confabs like moths to dysfunctional family ﬂames. who’s driving the nicest car. We like to occasionally get together with our kinfolk. Kinfolk are dangerous individuals who can recite all our embarrassing faults. We all confess astonishment at how fast the kids are growing up. The ﬁrst is the meet and greet phase. trying to gauge who’s gained the most weight.Horses on Porches Every family tree has some sap in it. once we’d grown up and escaped. And based on my attendance at several such events. We subtly assess each other. we would never go near these people again. That’s when everyone is on his or her best behavior. If we were smart. a little shy. F amily reunions are a charming phenomenon.
we consumed a few adult beverages. It’s always the best part of our reunions. I remember experiencing agony myself at earlier reunions. He’s the one we all cluck our tongues and shake our heads over. And he’s still rebelling. many reunions degenerate into a third phase: church-state squabbling. At our last reunion. and things got heated. The oldest generation—the grandparents.Days of Derangement protection with their smart phones out. from-scratch dishes made by grandmas who still remember how to cook. 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. frantically sending text messages to their friends. This is the phase that causes the teens to actually writhe in agony. quickly getting down to discussing pressing physical matters involving hemorrhoids and heartburn. but now I enjoy the Remember Whens. First names of presidential candidates were tossed around as weapons and then someone brought the Good Lord into it. even a couple of great-grandparents—huddled together too. we moved into the Remember When phase. 80 . begging to be rescued. 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. but secretly admire. At this point. And with the food.” That set off a merry round of Joe-centered Remember Whens in which my crazy cousin denied doing what we all knew he’d done. my cousin Joe. True to form. Many of our most colorful memories include the family rebel. my family began discussing religion and politics. You gotta love Joe. and as everyone started to relax. Joe’s simple explanation: “I didn’t do what he said I did.
The ladies. She described a problem she was having with one of their horses. This happens at every reunion I’ve ever attended.” Wisely. she gets an eyeful of an equine end zone. “You need all the help you can get.” said one on the right side of the political spectrum to one on the left. At our last reunion. though. Although most of us no longer live in the 81 . and my cousin had the gall to be upset with his wife. and usually. we allowed Joe’s long-suffering wife to go ﬁrst. we were all instantly sympathetic to her. 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. and then they move on to something more important like sports or ﬁshing. The men go one way and the women go the other. Unfortunately. will devote hours to dissecting the failings of their men.Horses on Porches “I’ll pray for you. One of them sighs heavily. unable to coax the horse off the porch. on the other hand. only lasts about 30 seconds. one of the rocks bounced up and shattered the front window. the groups start out by complaining about each other. apparently sensing a soul mate in this rebellious horse. The men’s conversation. before things really got out of hand. My cousin. has refused to discourage its behavior. instead of being able to see the glories of nature. So his wife. shrugs his shoulders and says a single word weighted with all the necessary meaning: “Women. When the women at the reunion heard this story. started gently (or not) pitching rocks at its feet to encourage it to comply. segregation of the sexes. we moved into the fourth phase.” All of the other men nod their heads in agreement.
Soon. I’m probably doomed to repeat it. I won’t talk about hemorrhoids. given my family history. Hopefully. 82 . and I’ll be one of the old fogies. the teens will be the middle-agers.Days of Derangement country. the reunions will become part of our Remember Whens. But. Before we know it. The ﬁnal phase comes when we are emotionally waterlogged from swimming in the gene pool and—our family ties strengthened—we say our goodbyes. we all have our own version of the marital horse on the porch.
I wanted them to savor their summer before it slipped away like a melting scoop of ice cream. in the calm quiet of my house before my kids got home from school. I envisioned euphoric days where my children. Coyote. perhaps dip into Tolkien or even Tolstoy (it could happen). lying in tall grass deﬂowering dandelions. an unstructured one spent running through sprinklers. You know the kind of summer I mean. watching the Road Runner never fail to foil Wile E. I decided that my little darlings needed a slacker summer. would write their own plays.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. “They’re going back!” the announcer tells us. gleefully tossing in school supplies as his dejected children follow glumly behind and The Most Wonderful Time of the Year plays in the background. 83 . rediscover the innocence of youth. Sweeter words were never spoken. One year. I made a stupid decision. their imaginations ﬁred by boundless freedom.
my children were deﬁnitely slothful. I congratulated him on his staunch adherence to his faith. managing—while still lying down—to punch. kick and bite each other without ever assuming a vertical position. And they showed some true creativity there.Days of Derangement That was in May. They argued over the color of the sky or which one of them was 84 . With school out. My husband. then stirred themselves just enough to move to the couch. our family bond had been bolstered to such an extent that it felt like an iron collar around our necks. By the end of the month. went back to work. By the time August came around. his face wearing the liberated look of an escaped convict. recommitted myself to giving my kids a season of sloth. but they did read the words on Popsicle wrappers before tossing them on the table. Oh. we went on vacation. where they somehow summoned the energy to ﬁght over the TV remote. 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. Even our Labrador seemed nearly comatose in those dog days. banal bickering. when I clearly had too much time on my hands and would appear to have been smoking something. But I. They slept until noon. In June. I was determined that my fantasy of summertime fun and creativity. Only it didn’t quite go as I planned. enjoying round-the-clock togetherness as we attempted to bolster our family bonds while simultaneously blowing our budget. My kids became deeply involved in endless. would come to pass. unencumbered by a schedule. the lazy days of summer had begun to really drive me crazy. They didn’t dip into either Tolkien or Tolstoy. still deeply in a delusional phase. the bloom came off the rose just a bit.
They went back to school. fortunately. where they had actually become part of the furniture and needed dusting. “Mom!” they’d wail from the living room. 85 . poor things. And the next summer.The Most Wonderful Time of the Year the biggest brat (dead even. all the annoying inertia came to an end. they went to camp. They became hibernating bears. apparently storing up fat for the winter by barely moving. They were too weak. “We’re hungry! Can you bring us food?” Finally. to even feed themselves. I’d say) or whether Mom or Dad had more wrinkles (wisely. they chose Dad).
86 . drinking in the well-organized ambiance of everyday economics. my careening cart festooned with some rowdy rug rats. unencumbered by children. I was a-tingle with excitement. when I could walk alone through those beckoning doors. On an ordinary day. I gave my slumbering husband a kiss and a whispered lie about returning soon and headed out the door. rather than a squirming child. I’d be racing down the aisles like a NASCAR driver. I started out slowly. I pulled out a shopping cart and savored the sensation of placing my purse. There are times in the often frenzied life of modern motherhood when we could all use a little retail therapy. In my case. one of those crammed occasions when I’d meet myself coming and going.Shopping Shangri-La The quickest way to know a woman is to go shopping with her. in the seat. making a beeline for the big red bull’s eye. —Marcelene Cox E arly on a Saturday morning when my kids were young. As I pulled into the parking lot of my local Target store. I felt like I’d hit the big-box bonanza.
I ignored it. I spent almost half an hour mulling which shade of eye shadow to buy. I explored every kitchen appliance. I even got up the nerve to check out the bathing suits and spent precious moments pretending I’d soon be losing weight. Next. 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. delicious intervals which ones to purchase.” had been buzzing every ﬁve minutes. Next. feeling drunk with pleasure. I received 87 . I ambled over to the craft area. Although my cell phone. just because I could. everything a woman might need to feel smooth and sexy. which I’d set to “vibrate. Hesitantly. the ﬂoodgates open. After a while. if over budget. debating for long. I moved to the shoe department. Then. Finally. ensuring I would be well-coiffed. I grabbed a scarlet shade of lipstick that would likely win my mother’s disapproval. I sauntered with sweet anticipation to my favorite part of the store—personal care products. There. hiding like an adolescent playing hooky from a truant ofﬁcer. I strolled to the clothing section and moved among the racks like a famine victim suddenly given a steak dinner. feeling free and festive. empowered in this emporium to ﬁnd that deﬁnitive pair of panties. Soon. where I grew weepy at the opportunity to sift at a snail’s pace through scrapbook supplies. I went to lingerie and frittered away the day among slinky silks and polyester imposters.Shopping Shangri-La But now. where my toes touched dozens of shoes. I selected a sea of hair products. Eventually. I waxed ecstatic over dishes in bright shades sure to soothe my soul. The bedding aisles claimed what felt like a wonderful eternity as I considered different designs. I put dozens of items in my cart.
ingeniously designed with a curved handle and biodegradable cloths and so environmentally friendly even Al Gore would use it. Soon. I breathlessly spent several minutes admiring it.Days of Derangement a series of text messages from my husband. My cell phone had by now been buzzing so much that it had nudged my purse from one side of the cart to the other. I’d have to go home to face the music. 88 . It was a wet/ dry mop. “Really NOT funny!!!!” “how can u do this 2 me?” “AAAARRRGGGHHHH!!!!!!!” At checkout. determined to make the most of my temporary status as a lady of leisure. 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. I unhurriedly unloaded my cart with a consequences-be-damned attitude. 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. But my shopping Shangri La had been well worth it.
that’s the scenario that popped into my head not long after the movie came out. 89 . when I was faced with a situation perhaps not as lethal. after all. But using my extraordinary powers of perception. Oh. Who invented slumber parties anyway? It’s difﬁcult enough to get your own kids to go to bed. But I went along with what my daughter wanted. I knew she’d probably want to have a slumber party. her birthday. I get the gist of the plot. I’m a veteran of those wrongly named events where very little actual slumber occurs. it was. For some reason. that a bunch of snakes invade a plane and cause bedlam in the skies. If I did. 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.Teens in a Tree I ’ve never actually seen the 2006 movie Snakes on a Plane. I’m fairly sure I would never get on an airplane again. And I knew I could survive it. namely. but still scary—a slither of shrieking teenage girls stuck in one of my trees. It wasn’t exactly the way I expected to celebrate my daughter’s 14th birthday.
Then several other girls decided the tree would make a good hiding place. One girl got a boost from another and scrambled up into the tree. trying to suppress their giggles as the “hunter” began looking for them. the slumber party ran its expected course. and the music now came courtesy of an iPod rather than an LP. makeup application and hair braiding. despite the fact that it was well past dark and cold outside. the girls decided to go out and play manhunt. up in that tree. all accompanied by intense discussions of the attributes and faults of various boys the girls knew. They were stuck. Naturally. and sigh-ﬁlled talk about celebrity males they wished they knew. like so many oversized kittens. It was all pretty standard slumber-party stuff that could have happened when I was a teenager. The giggles turned to screams. 90 . There were numerous rounds of nail painting. spreading oak tree. the whole neighborhood was reverberating with the sound of a manhunt gone manic. Soon. each girl then decided she could not come down the way she’d gone up. They inched higher and higher in the tree. They headed across the front yard toward a large. But then. No amount of persuasion from me could get them down. except that the obligatory crank calls were now made by cell phones instead of antiquated land lines. each scream building exponentially on the others. the wind picked up about this time and something—maybe a bird or a squirrel—stirred up there in the dark.Days of Derangement At ﬁrst. Unfortunately. Teenage girls tend to shriek in tandem. There were secretive sessions of Truth or Dare which would mysteriously cease the moment Mom walked in the room.
He arrived. and immediately fetched a ladder. giving me one of those “why can’t you handle this?” looks. Climbing up into the tree. to hang out with other men and do whatever it is men do at such places. I was able to summon him home to play ﬁreman. Jackson. 91 .Teens in a Tree It was probably Eve who ﬁrst asked the question we women have been asking ever since: Why is it there’s never a man around when you need one? The males in my family had made themselves scarce that evening. I doubt Samuel L. he gently coaxed each girl down to safety. Funny Man had retreated to a local sports bar. battling all those hissing serpents on the plane. But thanks to the magic of cell phones. But I’ll bet the snakes were quieter than our teens in the tree. was any more heroic.
created equal. indeed. there comes a moment when she realizes that all men are. thinking their guys are different. she must face the fact that every male in her life is a walking testament to testosterone. Then along came a wellendowed woman in a low-cut blouse. years ago. I gazed fondly at these two men in my life. From the time the ﬁrst man-like creature crawled out of the primordial muck and used his newly developed hands to grab the remote and put up the toilet seat. and I loved them both. Like it or not. These creatures unable to pick up socks or discard over-used underwear are doomed to forever repeat hormonal history.Testosterone Trouble or every woman. my men’s heads whipped around in identical fashion and all four ogling eyeballs locked like missile radar on the ta-ta F 92 . They were polar opposites in personality. In a conspiracy of silence designed to ensure the survival of the species. they allow girls to grow up blissfully ignorant. But mothers don’t tell this to daughters. That’s what I thought. when I found myself in a restaurant with my father and my new husband. it’s been the same. As she walked past our table.
I got a call from the middle school principal. best hope. who told me that the Neanderthal to whom I’d given birth was sitting in detention and whimpering about the agony in his nasal passages. When my son was born. He decided. a lifetime bond cemented by a set of knockers. “That woman could be a nuclear physicist. “If she’s a nuclear physicist. then run screaming through the halls swatting at his inﬂamed nose. I was convinced that I could reverse the macho march of his life with my humanizing inﬂuence. This intelligent activity is apparently the highlight of a movie called Jackass. Take my husband. ﬁnally kicking them under the table. high-ﬁving and breaking into loud. I was determined to go on. Shocked and angry. which I think pretty much says it all. crime and Paris Hilton.” Without missing a beat. adolescent behavior in the human male extends far beyond the teen years. I’d like to see her reactors. for example. for all you know. it seemed to be working. Although disillusioned. he had snorted wasabi sauce. But when he turned 13. Women have clearly failed in their duty to humankind. On a dare. At ﬁrst. my own dear father cracked. and apparently trying to impress a nearby group of girls. after a mere 10 years of consideration.Testosterone Trouble target. obnoxious guffaws. I attempted to get their attention.” I said indignantly. 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 . “But you’re treating her like a sex object. Unfortunately.” Then the man I called Daddy and the man I called Darling made complete boobs of themselves. Cleavage may just be the world’s last.
this highly educated doctor would gather the other fathers on the sidelines to exchange jokes about the alteration of my husband’s nether regions. and Funny Man would join right in. assuring him his life as a he-man is history. with far less hullabaloo. all his friends will deliver countless cutting remarks about the expected failure of his masculinity. Women can turn to other women for honest opinion and concerned counsel. The urologist who performed the procedure happened to have a son on the same soccer team as our son. A woman could give birth to triplets.Days of Derangement vasectomy. on the other hand. Funny Man fell right into this pattern. When a man undergoes a vasectomy. It was then I realized testosterone will always triumph. How wrong I was. They’d all slap each other on the back after every goofy gag and double over in laughter. It took a good year before we could get through a game without some reference to the silly snip. take great pleasure in throwing their friends into turmoil with derogatory comments designed to undermine a buddy’s manhood. Women may be the bedrock of society. 94 . but somehow still managed to go under the knife. alone in the woods. Men. Week after week. endlessly amused in the same way that younger males never fail to ﬁnd humor in their own bodily processes. I gave thanks that it was over. but men are the life of the party.
And how do these ungrateful bolts of blotting material repay my hard work? By running rampant in my linen closet. Those rectangular household items seem to have taken over my home. And since every other member of my family denies any responsibility for them. I can only conclude the troublesome towels themselves are trying to stage a takeover. It’s a burden those of us born with greater abilities must bear. As neither my children nor my husband avows any knowledge of how they got there. I give them crisp contours and place them lovingly on their assigned shelves. If I open the closet door. I have to assume the terrible towels are in revolt.Towel Tyranny I ’ve decided I must be the victim of towel tyranny. Towels that earlier were well-behaved are suddenly mingling with sheets and pillowcases on unauthorized shelves. 95 . hanging like hoodlums off the shelf or brazenly bunched up in the corner. I am apparently the only person in our house capable of the feat of folding. I’ll ﬁnd towels in a tumultuous state. So I painstakingly fold the towels right out of the dryer. appearing unfolded all over the place in varying stages of cleanliness.
are the elegant elite—the decorative towels. The towels in my house adhere to a certain hierarchy. I ﬁnd them lying. at the top of the heap. One time. Instead of staying put in the guest bathroom. soaking wet. Then they’ll lie on the ﬂoor for hours. in the ﬂoor or in the sink. have the enviable duty of just looking good. stained fragments of fabric consigned to sopping up spills or drying the dog. they will even ﬂing themselves into closets and under beds where they will be unlikely to be discovered for days. I discovered them disgracefully hiding out on the back patio. 96 . which even get matching. still-presentable cloths assigned to dry the skins of their owners. I have their sworn statements on that. By then. They will leap off the hooks on which they have been faithfully hung (and my family members always hang them up). No one is allowed to soil their softness with actual use. look-but-don’ttouch decorative soaps. So the pretty towels must be acting on their own. The middle class towels are those ordinary. The lowest caste belongs to the torn. Then. they’ll have hardened into crustily creative origami. where they evidently decided to clean a stinking pair of soccer cleats.Days of Derangement There’s also the matter of moisture. Another time. And none of my family members ever does touch them. for some unknown reason. These privileged pieces. amassing smelly spores and funky fungi. they chose to throw themselves over the hamster cage and somehow ended up frayed and chewed. Our towels have a strange mania for mildew. It’s truly diabolical. in serious need of rehab. Sometimes.
But it seemed to tame the towels. Oddly enough.Towel Tyranny At some point. I became so traumatized by the behavior of my traitorous towels that I decided to put them all under lock and key so I could closely monitor their behavior. 97 . my family members did not like this at all.
Allow for room to grow. We can only be persuaded to try on new ones each summer because—as with childbirth—we forget the agony endured during the experience. Look for something you’ll feel comfortable wearing. Every man thinks he looks good in his bathing suit. I too was seeking a supermodel suit. This seasonal amnesia allows us to set out once again on a search for the sublime suit. The rules are the same. When I was younger. having a middle-aged mom midriff untouched by a surgeon’s 98 . Now. I hoped to be considered bodacious in my bathing attire. Almost every woman.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. believes she resembles a Teletubby in her swimsuit. on the other hand. —Erma Bombeck I have to admit I admire men’s indifference to bathing-suit reality. 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.
I found them cowering under my armpits. Unfortunately. The spectacle was even scarier in the lower regions. Why do retailers insist on equipping their ﬁtting rooms with 200-watt ﬂuorescent lighting and three-way fun house mirrors? Don’t they realize if we could view our bodies via candlelight through frosted mirrors (and perhaps after a couple of martinis). On the virtual me. The virtual you maintains her shape even as the real you adds another 10 pounds. we’d likely take out a second mortgage to buy every bathing suit in stock? 99 . The virtual me turned out to be quite a hot mamma and I eagerly anticipated the arrival of my online bathing suit. but I will spare you the details. when I attempted to stuff my real skin into my virtual suit. said appendages seemed to have vanished. My high-tech suit solution having shriveled. Then you can try on computerized bathing suits in the privacy of your home while eating an entire carton of Haagen-Dazs. See. certain appendages intended to nourish babies had provided a pleasingly perky presentation. It doesn’t get any better than that. I thought I’d found the ideal answer with the Virtual Model. On the real me. I was sorely disappointed. I begin my spandex search every spring. 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. So with these modest goals in mind. I wasn’t even warm.Bathing Suit Blues scalpel. Upon further inspection. you can now re-create yourself online by entering your measurements. Not only was I not a hot mamma. I’m content if my beach body fails to cause vomiting or retinal damage.
is bound to bestow a certain sexy je ne sais quoi. I’m going to pay another visit to that vixenish virtual me. The tankini tanked as my ﬂesh oozed out of its assigned areas. none of them met even my humble expectations. The maillot. For a couple of hours. I stood in front of those blasted mirrors under those blinding lights and tried on suit after suit. 100 . so to speak). Sadly. I armed myself with an assortment of the latest in swimwear styles and colors: the tankini. was a deﬁnite non. skirted bathing suits supposedly capable of camouﬂaging cellulite and sarong swim attire meant to minimize the midsection. I’m considering spending my summers in a burlap sack. Nothing made me happy. dubbing my quest a dismal failure. First though. I struggled into a skirted ﬂoral number that made me look frighteningly like Hyacinth the Hippo. just by virtue of having a French name. checked suits and some with polka-dots. I wrapped myself in a striped sarong that was deﬁnitely not right. I left empty-handed. despite its French connections. the maillot.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. In the end. I squeezed into suits both black (which conveniently matched my mood) and colored. Maybe I’ll feed her some Haagen-Dazs. a one-piece that. Now.
Bathing Suit Blues 101 .
When it was past my kids’ bedtimes.To Do or Not To Do O that way. This was a phase in which I’d quote The Bard extensively. I’d say sarcastically as I gagged at the odor wafting from them. madness lies… —William Shakespeare W hen my children look back over their childhoods.” When my daughter was whining about something.” When I had to pick up my son’s stinky sneakers. “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. I’d announce that “the lady doth protest too much. perchance to dream. 102 .” And when my darlings would head out the door to school in the morning. I’d order them “to sleep. I’d call out after them: “Parting is such sweet sorrow!” My children would roll their eyes and groan in the pained yet patient way young people do in the presence of crazy relatives. or as extensively as my Cliff Notes knowledge of him would allow. I hope they’ll forgive me for my Shakespeare phase.
though. where we lie as limp and exhausted as an overworked metaphor. “Be not afraid of greatness. At ﬁrst. After a few days. During my obsession with The Bard. I wrote each of them 103 .” I wrote at the bottom. “Woman. Periodically. thy name is frailty.” I scrawled in large. I decide I no longer want to function like ﬂotsam. It covered an entire page and then spilled over on to a second page. and so I try to establish some habit that will help me tame my time. Some people can properly manage their time. my notes to self became slightly more pessimistic but still poetic. I was deeply annoyed with myself. This gave me the feeling of organization but with a smidgen of rebellion thrown in.” I scribbled encouragingly to myself in the margins. By the end of the week. Sadly for my family members. “Oft expectation fails. I called it my To Do or Not To Do List. I decided to involve them in my time-management activities as well. Others such as me tend to ﬂoat along like ﬂotsam on the sea of time. I couldn’t resist embellishing it with bits of Will’s wisdom. though. In true Shakespearean spirit. my to-do list was grandiose and unrealistic. Naturally. I took to writing a daily to-do list. disgusted letters right across the list. Just what I wanted.To Do or Not To Do My Shakespeare phase coincided with one of my occasional attempts at time management. 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. with my to-do list not even close to being done. when I hadn’t actually accomplished anything on my list.
“Mom. I also got over William and moved on to quoting yet another witty Brit. They ignored me. the timemanagement urge had passed. “If there is anyone here whom I have not insulted. At least he has his own TV show. what light through yonder window breaks? Time to get up!” My kids covered their heads with their pillows and moaned. Simon Cowell. 104 . “Hark. After that. of course.Days of Derangement a to-do list. so I barged into their bedrooms spouting another Bardism. I went happily back to being ﬂoating ﬂotsam. 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 beg his or her pardon” I’d say with true Cowell attitude. you are so weird!” my daughter said. “No one cares about Shakespeare! He didn’t even have his own TV show!” The illogic of this statement left me so stunned I momentarily forgot about the to-do lists. And before I knew it.
the Borg was one giant. Picard’s space-alien-butt-kicking crew would comply.” No matter how daunting the task. Shakespearean baritone. in his rich. I’d send my own crew out with the more humble mission of getting ready for bed with the same command. we’d curl up together on the couch and watch a rerun of Star Trek: The Next Generation. the ﬁrst thing the poor drone would notice would be its own loneliness. When the show was over. my family went through a time of serious Trekkiness. “Make it so. Essentially. souped-up teenager. and the galaxy would be safe for another day. a race of aggressive. Each night. command his crew to “Make it so. delivered in a phony English accent.Resistance is Futile W hen my children were younger. One of our favorite series of Star Trek episodes involved the Borg. When one was cut off from the Collective. That’s the Star Trek show in which the elegant Capt. except that it didn’t slam doors or wear low-slung pants that showed its many pairs of 105 . technologically enhanced beings—part human and part machine—which had a collective consciousness. They were not individuals. Picard would.” I’d say as I sent them to their rooms. and they didn’t want to be.
in virtual rooms where everyone can be anonymous. She could select different frostings and decorations. For days after a Borg episode had aired. in the form of the Internet. with virtual friends. Ah. My daughter saved up her money to buy a computer game that allowed her to “bake” an online cake. Or so I thought until recently. “Resistance is futile. those were good times. willingly shedding our individuality to become one with the great external mind. but no one is autonomous. just like teenagers do. I am an online organism. And we carry it with us at all times. Sometimes. My husband and I make our living by way of the Web. And we adults are just as bad. when I realized that the Borg have secretly stayed among us for quite some time. We are all becoming part of the cyberspace collective. Eventually. What the Borg did was ruthlessly assimilate all other life forms into its Collective. She could whip up a comely 106 . I’m not sure my mate knows where he ends and his Crackberry (Blackberry) begins. “Resistance is futile.Days of Derangement underwear. just to see how many times my name comes up. my children would take on its robotic personality.” I’d intone without mercy each time one of my children tried to avoid going to bed. and I like it. and the Borg went away where no man has gone before.” the Borg would intone without mercy to all its victims. our Trekkie phase passed. and an assimilation battle would rage throughout the house that would continue until someone screamed “I am Borg!” and ﬁnally succumbed to the Borg identity. And I’m not really one to talk. Our children play virtual games. I’ve developed a serious addiction to Googling myself.
no reality. Funny Girl was devoted to the game. Even though there was no taste. no cold glass of milk to wash down this lifeless computer cake. When I asked her to help me make a real cake. And she could share her cake with other online bakers.” I’m pretty sure that resistance is futile. I’m baking. 107 . “Mom. I’m busy right now. she answered impatiently.Resistance is Futile confection with the click of a mouse. We are Borg.
always getting runs in it that throw everything into turmoil and require humans (or half-humans in the case of Mr. three generations bonding over a good meal. we went out to eat one time with my in-laws. who is a little hard of hearing and tends to speak loudly. B eing a recovering Trekkie who once had a serious crush on Captain Kirk. If you’ve watched as much Star Trek as I have. noticed that Funny Girl was eating calamari. And most of the time. I’ve always been attuned to the possibility of a warp in the time-space continuum. See. you know the space-time continuum is about as reliable as a cheap pair of pantyhose. If 108 . our family followed that hallowed tradition. My mother-in-law. For example. It’s been that way since time immemorial.Space Time Turmoil The rate at which a person can mature is directly proportional to the embarrassment he can tolerate. 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.
Except that she didn’t say tentacles. Funny Boy. She used another word that sounds very similar to tentacles but actually describes a very private part of the male anatomy. operated (and still does) on a different timetable than the rest of us. never actually starting the process of getting ready until about ﬁve minutes after he was supposed to be somewhere. not long after that. 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. dressed only in a towel. knowing all was right with the world. walked into my son’s room to lovingly (or not) suggest the kid should get moving. So my mother-in-law innocently made a loud comment about the joys of eating tentacles. What he didn’t know was that Funny Boy had recently installed a webcam and was using it to communicate with his girlfriend. Sometimes. and so she saw my husband walk in. you know that calamari is just squid dressed up with a fancy Italian name and often served fried in little rings. She could also see past him into his room. he could see her and she could see him. My husband and son were getting ready to go out. But I went right on with my meal. Funny Man had already taken a shower. 109 . everything was turned topsy turvy. my husband. 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. unfortunately.Space Time Turmoil you’ve eaten it. you also get fried squid tentacles that look like little spiders ready to scamper right off the plate. Through the miracle of modern technology. As several restaurant patrons turned to look at us. my kids turned a deep shade of red and appeared to be trying to get under the table. However. Knowing this.
110 . Spock is available to ﬁx it. Clearly. something is wrong with that old space-time continuum. I wonder if Mr.Days of Derangement leaving Funny Man standing there with his dignity exposed and our son’s girlfriend probably in need of therapy.
and most of his mania was focused on the University of Oklahoma Sooners. the air was electric with excitement. If they did not do well. and all his rowdy friends could come over and make me appreciate the game. If the Sooners did well. a deathly pall would hang over the house. I doubt even Hank Jr. and my papa and his pals would be bursting with pride. Game days were serious business around our house. and each man would have to 111 . Yet every year. I ﬁnd myself so not ready for another football season. My father was gripped by gridiron giddiness. By the time my dad’s friends arrived to catch the kickoff. —George Will E very fall. of touchdowns and testosterone.The Power of Pigskin Football combines the two worst things about America: it is violence punctuated by committee meetings. I ﬁnd myself deeply embedded in the season of beering and cheering. all would be right with the universe. And I realize all over again how much the power of pigskin has shaped my life. It started. as most psychologically traumatizing things do. if they fumbled and failed. in childhood.
On the day of that granddaddy of all games for the diehard Sooner fan—OU versus Texas—my father and his mates would do a happy little dance around the room every time their team scored. So I foolishly married the man. literature. by some terrible tragedy. and we all know that love is as blind as. unable to contain his outrage at the calamity that had befallen the team. a great number of football referees. art. But if. his face and body painted crimson for the team. you know exactly which song I mean. things would be gloomy. Then I went to college (at OU. judging by fan reaction. But I was in love. I ended up living in a house inundated by pigskin passion. When my skinny son reached high school. We talked about everything under the sun. even football toilet seat covers. we spent our Friday nights watching him in constant danger of being turned into a football version of Flat Stanley 112 . produced a miniature Madden man of my own. and I was shocked one Saturday to ﬁnd this fellow that I’d fallen for screaming shirtless in a stadium. I just didn’t get it. and in time. If you’re a Sooner or a Longhorn. our hopes and dreams. But then came September. football posters on the walls. on a bright August day. We had football bed sheets. and beer would be necessary to drown their Sooner sorrows. If I was smart. I met a handsome. naturally) and there. and they’d sing a mockingly modiﬁed version of the Texas ﬁght song that ended with a rather rude suggestion involving biting and backsides. seemingly normal man.Days of Derangement ﬁnd his own way to deal with his distress. All over a silly game. philosophy. I’d have run away as fast as I could. the loathsome Longhorns won the game. One of my dad’s friends actually once punched a hole in the wall.
It was enough to make me want to throw up.The Power of Pigskin by what looked (to me. the televisions in our house broadcast a perpetual stream of games. 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. The holidays were also hamstrung by this crazy sport. When our extended family gathered to give thanks. During this silliest of seasons. Our living room carpet suffered from football-mouth disease. three generations of football fanatics would genuﬂect before the gridiron god. Or punch a hole in the wall. caused by a constant assault from nacho cheese. 113 . anyway) like giants on the opposing team trying to tackle him. But usually I just grabbed some of my rowdy friends and went shopping. onion dip. interrupted only by endless rounds of neckless men in nice suits discussing those games and the gladiators who play them.
and I am allowed to ask one question. If you have problem hair that just lies slouched across your scalp as sluggish as a teenager in the summertime. I already know what it’s going to be. A HIM does not care about his hair. Those faulty follicles have not been a problem for my father. being a HIM is a real blessing. can be a curse if—like me—you are unfortunate enough to have inherited his calamitous coif. however. on top of that. have not had to live with my father’s follicles. That’s because he is a man and. A HIM spends even less time thinking about his hair than wondering if his jeans make his butt look big.The Hairy Truth W hen I reach the Pearly Gates. Oh Lord. Why. beautiful. did you give me my dad’s hair? This may seem to you like a ridiculously shallow question to be asking at such a moment. You. but 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. Being the daughter of a HIM. And if—like me—you have a mother with thick. my friend. he’s a HIM (HairIndifferent Man). bouncy hair who dropped the genetic ball at your conception and allowed your father’s lackluster gene to beat her 114 .
What they do doesn’t look hard. I’d tasted life as one of the hair fortunate. and my normally limp locks are temporarily looking good.The Hairy Truth good hair gene to the punch. that after my last salon visit. In the meantime. but instead I was melancholy. along with expensive styling products with French names that will surely make my hair look better just by virtue of being French. “Can’t you learn to make it look good yourself?” my HIM husband asked. I patiently tried to explain that hairdressers are like golf players. try it yourself 115 . It was a bitter pill indeed to return to my helmet-hair existence. I plan on skipping the shrink’s couch. even after I’d gone back to my familiar ﬂat-as-a-pancake look. cuts and coloring. I feel like I’ve beaten the genetic odds. If I could. and yet. in fact. and eventually just taking the matter up with the Creator himself. you may have enough Oedipal issues to keep any therapist busy (and wealthy). Whenever I have my hair done at a salon. My co-workers ask if I’ve had a face-lift or maybe some liposuction. It was like getting a glimpse of the Promised Land and then having to go back into the wilderness. That should have made me happy. Strangers on the street treat me with more respect. “No.” I say. though. given my follicular disability. I have to confess I understand why all those wealthy divorcees demand thousands monthly in alimony for personal upkeep. “It’s just that my hair looks decent for once. Personally. I would also need a full-time stylist to ﬁx my “do” every day. The hairy truth is that stylists know things we mortals just don’t know.” So decent. Of course. people were still talking about my hair a week later. I’d spend that much on my hair alone—perms.
dear. I should have been born a HIM. I simply cannot get my hair to look the way it does when my stylist does it. The only solution is to get a divorce and spend every penny of my alimony to keep a hairdresser at my beck and call. Really. of course. I’m just kidding.Days of Derangement and see what happens. Mom. I’m just kidding. Thanks a lot. 116 . Even using the same products and appliances.
I looked forward to my turn as the parent in the passenger seat ever since my own teenage driving debut many years ago.Driving Drill Instructor The best substitute for experience is being 16. Learner’s 117 . So we went to our local Department of Motor Vehicles ofﬁce. I learned to drive in a bright yellow Volkswagen Bug with manual transmission that I affectionately called The Egg Yolk. My parents worked in tandem to instill in me the appropriate levels of fear and loathing necessary for success on the road. But when Funny Boy was old enough to get his learner’s permit. the little car would buck like a bronco. My dad took his place beside me. and my mom sat in the back. and my father would simultaneously yell “Clutch!” This happened over and over until I was a shaking bundle of nerves requiring years of therapy. 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. I was eager to carry on the family tradition. my mother would shriek as if she were in real danger.
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 I gave the government guardian angel a grateful look. and we got into a screaming match over the proper enactment of that rule known as Right on Red. reset all the radio buttons and casually drape his left arm out of the open window. reminding my junior joy rider that his driving destiny legally rested in the hands of his loving parents. Next. “Before you turn 18. We had high-decibel discussions about the meaning of words such as slow and stop.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. Not a good sign. so to speak. “I’ve got an idea. Now that’s a true public servant. he proceeded to check his hair in the mirror. “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. “How about we start out with both hands on the wheel?” It all just went downhill. her warning went in one teenage ear and out the other. When it was time for his ﬁrst lesson. from there. But.” I said sarcastically. My son’s apparent need for speed led me to point out that it wasn’t 118 . my son emerged from the house wearing a T-shirt that said Easily Distracted. You got that?” Funny Boy nodded his head as if in total agreement (he was faking it). alas. The kind soul at the DMV did her best to lay down the law.” she told him sternly.
that he could drive more slowly. But I felt a deep satisfaction knowing I’d fulﬁlled the familial obligation to be a driving drill instructor. 119 . “Oh. of course. Funny Boy will thank me for it. One day.Driving Drill Instructor necessary to always drive the speed limit. I had twice been called a terrible teacher. I know.” Funny Boy responded in all seriousness. I meant. “You can go ﬁve miles over without being stopped by the cops. By the time we returned home.” 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. still miraculously alive.
120 . Your mind picks out a moment when you looked your best. handsome and dashing in a ﬂight suit. with his airplane in the background. dear). Or something like that. sometimes a moment that occurred many moons (and many pounds) ago. The car and the plane are long gone. 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. He keeps a picture of himself—I call it his Top Gun picture—from those days. For my husband.LBD Conspiracy I t’s funny how one’s self-image tends to stay frozen in time. and it goes through some kind of freezing process that crystallizes this warm memory into a mental ice cube tray where you can periodically pull it out of the ﬁgurative freezer of dreams and lick it with the symbolic tongue of delusion just to make sure it’s still there. He’s leaning against that sports car. and the ﬂight suit would require some alternations if he wanted to wear it now (sorry. but I know my Tom Cruise clone still sees himself as that studly single man.
one of the most important items in her wardrobe. I went shopping one holiday season for a new little black dress. I had my daughter and my mother in tow.” Funny Girl said mockingly. began bringing me LBDs in larger sizes. “Oh. as my size-zero. And once a woman has felt beautiful in this essential item of apparel (a la Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s). Someone is sabotaging the LBD. the size that has ﬁt me for years. trying to be helpful. These people have a lot to answer for. Someone. For a woman. I started. the dresses in my size failed to ﬂatter my ﬁgure. It’s a canvas on which she can showcase her stylish self. So with this assumption ﬁrmly in mind and having not worn an LBD for quite a while. I refused to try them on. And I stumbled upon a shocking scandal. one that should have every woman in the country up in arms. with the size that I know ﬁts me. and then annoyed. is removing fabric from the fundamental fashion frock and skewing the sizes. 121 . In fact. probably the same folks adding lead to children’s toys. yet timeless LBD. when I ﬁrst wore a Little Black Dress. soonto-be-disowned daughter snickered and rather cruelly implied that my love for a certain Italian dessert could have contributed to my size shrinkage problem. tiramisu. the LBD is far more than a piece of clothing.LBD Conspiracy My ﬂash-frozen picture of myself occurred about the same time. But for some reason. she tends to assume she will always look good in it. I tried on dress after dress in what I thought would be a quick quest for a trendy. naturally. back in my skinny season. “how could you?” My mom. each terribly tight toga refused to go much past my knees! I was astounded.
pointing to one of the discarded dresses. But I won’t give them that satisfaction. That’s when I realized I was the unwitting victim of a vast LBD conspiracy.Days of Derangement “That’s my size and I’m sticking to it!” I said heatedly. These people are trying to make me look fat and send me into the little black dress doldrums. 122 . I’m calling my congressman. I want my original size back. A warm ﬂush of embarrassment began to spread over my face and threatened to melt that icy illusion in my head.
An interest in ﬁber is a sure sign of impending geezerdom. I used to laugh at my geriatric spouse. long thoughts.” “It’s over!” he lamented. such as youth or life or sanity.” Funny Man moaned when he stood in front of the mirror with his trimmer. He said it again the ﬁrst time he had to buy a nose hair trimmer. —Henry Wadsworth Longfellow F unny Man regularly declares that it’s over. really over. I liked to point out that not a single hair was sticking out of my nose. Being a full six months younger. That’s because I found myself in a long and serious conversation with my dad about the attributes of various high-ﬁber breakfast cereals. “It” is usually something precious and irretrievable once lost.It’s Over And the thoughts of youth are long. and I didn’t even notice it 123 . throwing up his arms melodramatically. He made this declaration the ﬁrst time an attractive young woman called him “Sir. “It’s really. But I stopped laughing after I celebrated yet another birthday on the wrong side of 40.
Not realizing this. I was almost weak with relief when I got out of the car and discovered that my pants were dry. I assumed Father Time had put my bladder on the fast track to incontinence. though. it apparently pressed the seat heater button. we got a new car.) When I placed my purse on the car’s console. but I’d never had them before. Yogi Berra: It ain’t over ’til it’s over. I want to be prepared for the inevitable. At least not yet. (OK. I know they’ve been around a while. the next time my husband announces that it’s over. See. I was alarmed when a warm feeling spread across my backside. It will give him or her a greater appreciation for the ﬂeeting Cap’n Crunch phase of life. Even so. I began to have some of those long. long thoughts of youth mentioned by Longfellow (who seems to have had the perfect name for such nostalgia). to look over the selection of nose hair trimmers.Days of Derangement until I saw the looks on the faces of my children. which was equipped with those new-fangled seat heaters. I’m not quite as long-in-the-tooth as I thought. 124 . I also picked up an anticipatory package of Depends. I did head on into the store. Every teenager should have to sit through a discussion of the digestive delights of eating a cardboard breakfast. I might have forgotten about our ﬁber forum if I hadn’t gotten freaked out when it appeared I needed to add adult diapers to my shopping list. I’m going to quote another great poet. Apparently. As I was driving to the drugstore to get some Depends.
It’s Over 125 .
That golden period used to last about a decade. 126 .Bee’s Knees Always be nice to your children because they are the ones who will choose your rest home. I deﬁnitely can remember thinking my parents were the bee’s knees or. until I was 11 or 12 years old. you can mortify them merely by appearing in public. But tragically. It’s all so unfair. that precious period now has shrunk until it’s as short as a bee’s knee would be (assuming bees actually have knees). The little ingrates start to roll their eyes at our actions almost before they learn to ride a bike. For example. take that wonderful window of time during which your children idolize you and think you’re the bee’s knees. —Phyllis Diller L ife just moves too fast nowadays. the cat’s meow. And when they are teenagers. at the very least. you actually can make them nauseous by using old-fashioned phrases involving insects and their theoretical body parts. Today’s parents only have until their kids are about 6 before they become a source of embarrassment to their offspring. By the time they are on the cusp of adolescence.
as usual. “I wanna rock and roll all night. my eyes closed. I heard the radio start playing Rock and Roll All Nite by that band of upstanding citizens known as KISS. A group of amused-looking teenagers stood behind her. I made up the last one. geriatric name such as The Dove or The Breeze or The Snooze. “And party every day. The radio was tuned. When I was a teenager. In the car line that day before the ﬁnal bell rang. Occasionally. a groovy rock groupie a long way from easy listening.Bee’s Knees I was pondering this great injustice one day while waiting for my daughter in the car line at school. 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. 127 . to a classic rock station that helps me remember I’m still young and hip. I get an unfortunate urge to change the station to one playing easy-listening songs. her face about as white as the makeup the members of KISS used to wear. Funny Girl was standing there. I used to tear around town in my yellow Volkswagen Beetle with my friends.) When I get that disturbing desire to change the dial.” I was lost in the ’70s.” I warbled loudly. Hearing Rock and Roll All Nite brought back a lot of memories. I even started playing a pretty impressive air guitar. I suddenly heard the van’s door being yanked open. (OK. And because the windows were rolled up. even if I usually listen at a much lower volume than I once did. I began to sing along to the music. 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. blasting KISS tunes at unhealthy decibel levels. Halfway through the second stanza. Easy-listening stations generally have a gentle.
a middleaged mom who should probably start acting her age. turning it down. she’ll look back on this incident and laugh. I’d been abruptly thrust back into the 21st century.” I said sheepishly. I just hope when she does I’m still young enough to remember it. get us out of here!” Funny Girl slumped down in the seat. Someday. trying not to be seen.Days of Derangement “Mom! What are you doing?!” “Just listening to music. 128 . “Hurry.
he looked doubtful. but must live with a character. I decided—to wrap up our family visit to Colorado by leaving the kids with their grandparents and sneaking off to a little town nearby. We decided—OK. 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’s quaint and picturesque. 129 . The very phrase bed and breakfast evoked for me soft. one rich in history and character. however. more civilized time. the B and B apparently brought his dear. romantic images of an elegant. It wasn’t exactly the atmosphere I’d envisioned. I couldn’t wait to cuddle up there with my husband.” I pointed out. departed grandmother to mind. When I told my husband where we were going.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. For Funny Man.
“It looks just like my grandmother’s old place. it was deﬁnitely a problem. then added disparagingly. fanning himself. “Oh. but which would be mighty close quarters for two people of our well-fed proportions. In the summer. But I just shook my head as a smiling woman showed us up the creaky stairs to our room at the top of the house. it’s really not so bad.” Wondering if I could possibly get that lucky.” On top of that. the room was very warm. I asked the hostess why I wasn’t told about the heating problem when I reserved the room. “It’s lumpy. 130 .” Funny Man snorted. I was eager to arrive at our lacy love nest. And it was a bed in which Tom Thumb and his wife would have been comfortable.” Funny Man said. Are you sure you wouldn’t rather get a hotel room?” Not on your life. In a Colorado winter.” he said. “It’s as hot in here as my grandma’s house used to be. her smile fading a bit. tucked under the sloping roof. “they probably don’t even have ESPN. Room is a generous word to describe this slightly oversized closet. I was thinking.” she said breezily. this would have been just ﬁne. my man expressed even greater doubts. you unromantic schlub. “Just leave the window and door open. There was barely enough space for a bed.” He gave me one of his obnoxious I-told-you-so looks. Our hostess explained the house had an ancient heating system that unfortunately could not be shut off. lying down on the bed.Days of Derangement “That means old and broken-down. “Just like the beds at Grandma’s house. When we pulled up to the house on a sleepy side street.” “That will make for a very romantic night.
I was too uncomfortable to keep my back up any longer.” he said sorrowfully. but then returned to our stuffy little room and stared at each other across the lumpy bed.” The evening kind of went downhill from there. I am deﬁnitely my mother’s daughter. and my mother would get upset about something. After a while. “There’s not one. my father would say. where we drank champagne and toasted our marriage in an ice-cold room on a king-size bed. I broke down and suggested that we leave. 131 . and we began to unpack our clothes.” Most of the time. We quickly packed our things and headed for a hotel. That’s when my mate realized the situation was even worse than he thought. Finally. We had a nice enough dinner. Isn’t it great?” “Just like Grandma’s house. my dad was the reason for my mom’s spinal contortions. 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. “Your mama’s got her back up.” I told him in a syrupy voice. “if you bring up your grandmother again. The hostess left. “Darling. you’re going to be seeing her much sooner than you expected. “Where’s the TV?” he asked. ESPN never sounded so good.The B and B When I was growing up.
if inserted sensibly. while their cousins—the comely colons—leave me more in love than ever with language. Commas make me jump with joy. You just called me a weenie. I have a thing for punctuation. but most of the things they make it easier to do don’t need to be done. —Andy Rooney A s an English major and therefore (according to my kids) a certiﬁed weenie. (I heard that. It is the insidious infection known as “emoticons. Periods and parentheses provide pure pleasure. I can wax ecstatic over an exclamation mark. Poor little punctuation marks—the workhorses of the written word—are being improperly pressed into service to convey emotion online. Semicolons.” If you’ve spent any time at all on a computer.) That’s why my knickers have long been in a knot over a serious threat to the purity of punctuation.E-nnoyed by Emoticons Computers make it easier to do a lot of things. are beautiful things to behold. you’ve no doubt seen them polluting e-mail and Web sites. 132 .
We may be in real trouble here. beautifully transmitting my feelings without any assistance from stupid symbols. at the 133 . something you never have to do with words. I stopped in horror. a dash is even forced to stand between the “eyes” and the “mouth” to indicate a nose :-). now that I think about it. an English major. just when I was about to hit Send on a routine e-mail to an acquaintance. Of course. didn’t you?) But one day. It’s as if we are moving backward in time. Words are wasting away. But I fear our mother tongue is still in peril. I am. There. not to mention that great author. you have to view it at a 90-degree angle. The most common emoticon is that sickening smiley face made with a colon for eyes and the right parenthesis as the smile : ). folks. hieroglyphics were a lot more sophisticated than the smiley face. My text stood on its own. Until recently. Sometimes. As if words—the medium of artists like Shakespeare and Wordsworth. back to a world where man crudely expressed his thoughts with hieroglyphics. after all.E-nnoyed by Emoticons By combining the words “emotion” and “icon. I thought I was immune to emoticon creep.” some cyber geek has given us this Frankenstein of feelings. to add insult to injury. Actually. (You called me a weenie again. Is there no end to the indignity? I know this blight upon language has been around for a while and that many software programs can now create emoticons—even animated emoticons that move e-nnoyingly around on your computer screen—without sacriﬁcing the lives of priceless punctuation. Snooki—are no longer good enough to express our sentiments. standard spelling is falling out of fashion.
Days of Derangement end of a perfectly adequate sentence—“It was nice seeing you last week”—I had actually typed not one. : ( 134 . Even the word-weenies like me are gradually being worn down. I could only shake my head in disgust. but two obsequious smiley faces. Shakespeare must be rolling in his grave.
every woman and every man should have her and his own bathroom. and was labeled—you guessed it—Women. The ﬁrst picture showed two simple push buttons. The second picture showed dozens of buttons. 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. This would allow the I 135 . See. I think about those pictures every time Funny Man and I have one of our regular conversations about access to the master bathroom. The end. one labeled On and the other Off. levers and gauges in a dizzying and complicated array. knobs. The rule says that women get triple the time and space in the bathroom as men. The caption on this picture: Men. —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. A wise and reasonable man would resign himself to this timeless reality and use another bathroom. The obvious implication was that women are a high-maintenance sector of our species.
The timing between Phase 4 and Phase 5—the all-important hair styling step—is crucial. herbal-infused conditioner and. such as if my husband turns stubborn and stays in the shower. This threatens to stall Phase 4—the application of makeup— and usually leads me to lovingly suggest that my man should exit the premises without further delay. I’ve developed a multi-step system for getting ready every morning. cannot be rushed. Each phase in this process is divided into a series of tasks. Any kind of unexpected setback. A woman’s shower. means that my hair will fail to 136 . and each task is absolutely essential for me to be ﬁt to face the world. It’s usually during this phase that Funny Man. An unwise and unreasonable man. honeysuckle shaving cream. of course. fruity face soap. A man might think this is a simple and quick procedure involving a bar of soap and minimal scrubbing. Phase 1 is taking a shower. sneaks into the bathroom and jumps into the shower. would insist on throwing a monkey wrench into the convoluted process that is necessary to keep his wife looking like her lovely self. Over the years. like the one I married. vitamin-enhanced shampoo.Days of Derangement wife of such an admirable man to enjoy her God-given right to bask in the boudoir. That leads directly into Phase 3. especially my shower. pumice stone. But a woman’s shower ritual requires numerous wash cloths. employing guerilla warfare tactics. when I momentarily leave the bathroom and enter my closet to decide what to wear. rapidly steaming up the place and fogging the mirror. That’s when things get dicey. loofah. Phase 2—the after-shower—includes applying various lotions and oils designed to smooth and perfume my body.
A Bad Hair Day wipes out all of my hard work and leaves me grouchy as a grizzly.High Maintenance Woman achieve its desired fullness. I’ll get it. and I will be cruelly condemned to a Bad Hair Day. Maybe someday. 137 . I’m a high-maintenance mama bear who needs her own bathroom.
for all we knew. But the group has a serious ﬂaw in its screening process. God bless the parents who donate their time and talents to the schools. In a few short months. we brought forth fruits who needed to be educated. That’s when my adventures with the Parent Teacher Association began. But in the fullness of time. a group of relentlessly energetic moms surrounded me. Don’t get me wrong.Pity the PTA S ometimes. And that’s when I realized I’m probably not cut out to be a PTA mom. proven by the fact that it allowed me to join. And so. I inadvertently managed to sock it to my local unit. Back when. We were young and ignorant then. thrusting a sheaf of volunteer sign-up sheets my way. I don’t think the PTA ladies have yet recovered. At open house. I dutifully joined PTA when my oldest child started school. and lo. we sent them to school. we became fruitful and multiplied. It started with the best of intentions. and I obediently scribbled my name on sheet after sheet. 138 . the acronym PTA stood for pizza takeout activities. The PTA is a very worthwhile organization. I cast my memory back to that childless period that my husband calls BK (before kids).
I was eager to prove my maternal mettle. volunteering in the classroom while wearing a school bus sweater in September. Her dismayed eyes swept over my domestic disarray. And the new puppy had just pooped on the ﬂoor. Naturally. I obviously needed to do more. I opened my door to an unexpected visit from the PTA president. a candy corn necklace in October and a turkey broach in November. wrestling with felt and fabric. I put on a saccharine smile and covered myself in cute. I’d been conscripted into her volunteer army. and never the two should meet. holding up the walls while she ran the show. There are those who “pop over” without warning and those who know better. I was assigned to crafts and gamely did my best.Pity the PTA Soon after. By the time she left. But I proved to be severely craft-challenged. but invited her in. I felt my parental conﬁdence ebbing away. and good old guilt setting in. In December. bungling the carefully planned projects and snickering at all the seriousness. I was a walking festival of kitsch. I really did. I cooked a soggy spinach quiche for a teacher breakfast and Kitchen Sink cookies for the ﬁrst PTA meeting. a well-coiffed woman in sensible shoes. anxious to impress. I ﬂushed in embarrassment. So I tried to be a stereotypical PTA mom. I became an aide-de-camp to the homeroom mom. swathed in yuletide apparel. Those treats turned literal when they actually fell into the sink as I tried to juggle a cookie-laden plate and a 139 . glue and glitter. crushed Cheerios adorning the furniture. So I was moved to food. partially folded laundry on the table. She was clearly an uber-parent. bent on marshaling her troops for the task at hand. my house was a disaster: dirty dishes in the sink. but she continued her recruitment speech.
But my lack of enthusiasm must have shown. I was clearly an abomination to the bake sale set. That’s when Madame President transferred me to fundraising. but my cupcakes collapsed into a gooey mess. I discovered that I can be a better mother by marching to my own drum. By Thanksgiving. the Parent Teacher Association and I parted ways. Clumsy and barely competent. I tried to redeem myself at Christmas. My job was to get up at school functions and community events and beg people to join. Madame and her cabal of Super Moms were not amused. I kept nervously touching my pants zipper. instructed to bring turnips (turnips!) to the class Pilgrim feast. I gave it my all. Plus. They were slightly damp. and membership plummeted. (The rash of reported illness among parents the next day was a mere coincidence. but still perfectly edible. 140 . forgetting the spoons for the Chili Cook-off. schlepping shoddy merchandise and tacky trivia in the name of education. I was a round soul trying to ﬁt into a square PTA. And as long as I’m moving away from them. I managed to fall short at every turn.Days of Derangement crying child at the same time. because the sales numbers were lackluster. convinced my ﬂy was open. the patrons of the PTA think that’s just ﬁne. So by mutual agreement. I was a conﬁrmed bottomfeeder. and I began to giggle. Audience members gave each other alarmed glances as they headed for the door. They couldn’t have picked a worse spokesperson: my voice squeaked.) My giant Jell-O monster at Halloween was more funny than frightening. my hands trembled. So I was switched to membership. knocking over a display at the Book Fair and spilling the soda at the Fall Festival.
I’d look around for a seat.Germ Warfare T hey don’t call it a waiting room for nothing. was deceptively bright and cheery. even a few slouching teenagers. We’d amuse ourselves for the ﬁrst ﬁve minutes by staring at everyone else in the room. thinking this doctor must have a strange sense of humor. then settle for a speck of wall next to the magazines. its walls were papered with smiling clowns holding balloons. even a stray copy of Scientiﬁc American. I’d shiver. just a rack of magazines for parents and a few more austere publications like Time. lined on all sides by irritable-looking adults and hordes of (literally) snot-nosed children. curious. Newsweek. I can still remember walking into my pediatrician’s ofﬁce. I remember staring at it. There were no toys or children’s books there to spread infection. two sick toddlers in tow. 141 . scowling to hide their embarrassment. knowing the endurance test that awaited. germladen toddlers strolling about. The room. There were the usual suspects: young mothers with newborns clutched close.
spewing viral droplets all over my kids and then reaching out with the most terrorizing weapon of all: a well-lubricated ﬁnger. The germ warrior would move on to the next victim. 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. 142 . pint-sized germ carrier with a big loopy grin encircled by caked-on mucus. Since my children cultivated ear and sinus infections faster than my yard sprouted weeds. We’d be ushered into another waiting room. I can’t see!” And then he’d say it again and again and AGAIN. Finally. “Mommy.000 times. an outgoing. I’d had the pleasure of seeing it at least 5. At some point while we were waiting. She’d come closer. loudly. Funny Boy would say. “Hi!” this biological time bomb would say. this one with the doctor’s name in a framed picture. There’s one in every pediatrician’s waiting room. each letter formed by those *!&#?$%@*! clowns. Then someone unable to ﬁnd a seat would choose to stand directly in front of the screen. But it did seem to pacify some of the children. It played one animated movie over and over.Days of Derangement The room’s one concession to the amusement of children was directly across from me—a big-screen TV. for the ﬁrst hour. we’d be approached by The Infector. A surreptitious trip? A quick jab in the stomach? But a cold shoulder seemed to sufﬁce. The movie was changed approximately every six months. including my own. the door to the inner sanctum would open and we’d be summoned. “What’s your name?” I’d pull my children close and wonder how I could discreetly repel the threat.
the door opened. See you next time. “Give ‘em plenty of ﬂuids. I’d straighten up. I’d splash water on my face at the sink in the corner. Children’s’ screams echoed up and down the hall. he usually joked. That’s when I would catch sight of THOSE CLOWNS. having atrophied.” And with that he was gone. failed to lift my mouth. 143 . The knob turned. like an ice cube in July. throat. I’d try to smile back. nose. writing something in the chart. 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. Suddenly.” I’d sigh to the kids. seemingly prancing on the walls in spiteful celebration of my plight. Funny Boy and Funny Girl would stop pummeling each other and come to attention. “Come on. They’ll be ﬁne in a few days. But I knew better. but my facial muscles. “Just a cold this time. convinced I’d developed several new wrinkles since I arrived. I’d reel off a list of symptoms and watch as he conducted a quick exam: eyes.” he’d say briskly. I’d console myself with the thought that any serious injuries they inﬂicted on each other would eventually receive medical attention. lungs. we would hear an authoritative voice just outside.Germ Warfare Once inside. extra rest. my kids promptly started to ﬁght over positioning on the examination table. ears. and there he was: THE DOCTOR! “Long time no see”. then stare up into the little mirror over it.
—Bill Kelly A s a professional columnist who writes on matters of national importance. But after I’d calmed down.Pull My Finger After God created the world. “Your columns are too funny. I sometimes have to deal with difﬁcult people. to keep the whole thing from collapsing. it has been scientiﬁcally proven that men and women process “funny” differently. I did a little research on gender differences in the appreciation of humor.” he wrote. He invented humor. One such brazen fellow once contacted me to let me know that he did not believe I actually write my columns. Then. “And women aren’t funny. suggesting I must employ the services of a male ghostwriter. He made man and woman. 144 . Turns out. retrieved my goat and put him (or her) back in my mental barn. These people share a common trait—they openly admit to being men.” This reader’s chauvinistic comments really got my goat.
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. from the perfect armpit fart (which I’ll admit does take some skill) to the loudest burp. it’s a joke. “Oh. But it renders the XY side of our species (AKA men) incapable of appreciating more sophisticated female funnies. That’s why. like making fun of everyone. we occupy different planes of existence. guys.” man laughs because. They like one-liners and sucker punches that come with a sting. and I really do write my own material. I frequently try to think like a man. well. Pull my ﬁnger. Man hears joke. 145 .Pull My Finger Women think a bit more about whether or not they ﬁnd something amusing. I really am a girl. And that is why men don’t think women are funny. man thinks. In the world of wit. on the other hand. you should probably grab a seat because the punch line isn’t coming for a while. he may be skeptical that it was written by a woman. a joke. and they don’t do crude. Men. But in order to further my comedic career and appeal to the widest possible audience. Women laugh more at themselves. Women like sharing narratives that create a bonding moment. It’s also why. Men are humor primitives. We’d never ask someone to pull our ﬁnger. if one of my male readers actually laughs at one of my columns. If a woman has something funny to say. They consider bodily noises an art form. 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. They don’t have the attention span or the desire to wait for the rib-tickling to begin.
Days of Derangement 146 .
of course. about the existence of this book bag.Back pack Black Hole I ndiana Jones has nothing on me. I could block out the evidence of its steady deterioration. overstuffed sack with fraying stitches. however. I had to clean out my son’s backpack. I’d known all year. In May of each year. That’s because it suddenly showed up at my house. the school district would temporarily abandon its attempts to educate my children and deposit them back with me. along with all their educational 147 . I am the one who paid for it after all. never in my house for too long. The intrepid explorer may have had to face a pit of snakes and various other vermin. its various substances emitting sulfurous fumes that are probably banned by international treaty. and I needed a lot more than a whip and a fedora to do it. but that’s child’s play compared to the task that awaited me at the end of every school year. and I didn’t have to travel to Disneyland to experience it. Ignorance is bliss. But Funny Boy always gave me a beginning-of-summer hidden mystery. But as long as it was coming and going daily during the school year. There’s an attraction at Disneyland called the Indiana Jones Summer of Hidden Mysteries. a stinky.
Funny Boy’s backpack. It was festooned with glued-on sequins. naturally. bore only a theoretical resemblance to the device that started out slung over his shoulder way back in the fall. one on its way to being civilized but not quite there yet. a couple of fast-food containers sporting dried-up French fry fragments. by some miracle. It was without a cover. The backpacks were ﬂung joyously into a corner and instantly forgotten. Wearing thick rubber gloves. it did not smell. It was full of funky-smelling and largely unidentiﬁable things. though. an actual book. Indiana Jones would do no less. but then decided to tackle the cleanup on my own. Funny Girl’s book bag still appeared to be an item designed to transport knowledge. on the other hand. This is when the gloves came in handy. It would probably qualify as a toxic Superfund site. things got murkier. perhaps. There were a few stray pieces of paper left inside and a motley collection of school supplies rolling around on the bottom. And. and scribbled on with cutesy messages and smiley faces from her friends. empty water bottles covered with what appeared to be chewing gum. Below that ﬁrst level of compaction. There they sat for several days. Some of the bag’s dignity was lost. The top layer contained still-recognizable items—crumpled up sheets of notebook paper. I considered applying for federal assistance. folders and binders in varying states of decomposition. I felt just like an archeologist digging through the life layers of a primitive group of humans. I reached in and gingerly extracted various moldy objects that might once 148 . but it was still a book. but it was still recognizable. There was even. She’d attached a collection of fancy key chains to it. importantly.Days of Derangement paraphernalia.
but nothing had ever come out of it.Back pack Black Hole have been part of a school lunch but were now deﬁnitely a biological hazard. becoming part of the bag itself. It was clear to me the backpack had become a black hole. Digging deeper into the crud. I wised up and just threw out the bag at the end of the school year without looking inside. On the bottom of the backpack was a thick. I was amazed at how the molecular structure of the slimy material appeared to have changed. Eventually. I should have sold it as an attraction. Come to think of it. solidiﬁed layer of goop that I had to pry off with both hands. 149 . It looked just like that fake vomit you can buy as a gag gift. except that it smelled like the real thing. Things went into it.
busboy and dishwasher) combined.000 steps. I ﬁgure I perform the functions of a couple of custodians and several restaurant workers (cook. Heck. So I eventually got the pedometer out of its box and read the accompanying brochure. while custodians take nearly 13. I obviously need to get the word jewelry tattooed on my forehead as a subtle hint. I’d be content just to pound the pavement enough to allow some guilt-free eating.000 steps a day burns up to 3.000 steps a day doing their jobs. I liked the sound of that. waitress.000 calories a week. The brochure pointed out restaurant employees walk those 10. I’d actually settle for walking myself a little less fat. It claimed walking 10. On most days. Funny Man once gave me a pedometer for Mother’s Day. But at some point. I put it up on a shelf next to the blender I received for Valentine’s Day. That’s a lot of pumpkin pie and Christmas cookies.The Pedometer I n one of those “What was he thinking?” moments that frequently seem to afﬂict men. And it got even better. I realized I was already taking the requisite daily steps and didn’t even need additional 150 . I realized the pedometer might just come in handy in my ongoing quest to walk myself thin.
It landed in the green bean section and then slid toward the back of the freezer. I just needed the knowledge. 151 . Discouraged. To prove it to myself. Or maybe Funny Man had given me a defective device. coming to rest among the corn. I made six separate trips carrying in groceries and logged more steps putting them away. Then I went back to the bedrooms for a second.000 steps that morning. the pedometer was not working properly. slightly less gentle wake up call. Then I dashed to the curb with the garbage that no one else can remember to take out before hurrying back to the bedrooms for a Get Your Rear End Out of Bed Right Now wake up call. where I accidentally knocked the pedometer off my waist while reaching into the frozen foods. The word jewelry would look very nice on my forehead. sure I’d already taken at least 5. At home.The Pedometer exercise. took the dog outside and went to the laundry room in hopes of ﬁnding a clean pair of socks. trotted into the kids’ bedrooms to gently wake them up for school. Other shoppers gave me alarmed looks. Then I collapsed on the couch and checked the pedometer. Maybe it was damaged by its foray into the freezer. Maybe all I need is a tattoo artist. I had to climb almost all the way in to retrieve it. I logged more steps dashing around looking for my car keys. I tossed the pedometer on the couch. Once I ﬁnally got the kids out of the house. Then I went grocery shopping. Sadly. I had not even hit 500. My hips and thighs would melt away under the power of positive thinking. Obviously. I clipped the pedometer to my waistband ﬁrst thing one morning. I walked into the kitchen and made coffee.
nearly dropped my dentures (assuming I had any). to use another colorful phrase from Grandpa.” But I’m convinced there are some things only a man should do. horriﬁed inspection. “a far piece” from our home. happily chewing on what appeared to be the carcass of an animal that had no business being dead on my property. It is risking a fate worse than death for a male in my house to suggest any task is “woman’s work. Ostensibly on a business trip. Upon further. Sure enough. which is. I was going about my highly productive day when I looked out on the back patio and. he went to China.A Man’s Job I ’ll admit I’m a hypocrite when it comes to the division of labor between men and women. But that’s just what Funny Man did a while back. 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. courtesy of our dog. And no man—say. for example. There was Ebony. before the other side of the bed was even cold. I discovered it 152 . I was presented with a doozy of a man-job. as my grandpa would say.
And I woke him up. on the verge of panic. In China. Feeling the time was right. I’ve perfected a series of guilt-inducing sighs. Women are very good at the delivery of sighs. You forget they aren’t just furry. in an incredulous and unnecessarily hostile tone. “You’re not going to make me feel guilty about this. sometimes. Ebony wagged her tail at me. “You called me in China to tell me this? In the middle of the night? In CHINA?!” Over the years. 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. I know you can.A Man’s Job was a rabbit and what remained of its head was actually hanging out of the mouth of our lovable family pet. You forget. Even my man in training was at school and wouldn’t be home for hours. that dogs are not really that far removed from their wolf ancestors. So I took the obvious course of action. each expertly crafted to elicit a certain emotion. and I had no man around to do it.” I told him breathlessly. as if her behavior was perfectly normal. I let out one of my best. “and Eb has already eaten its head!” There was a long pause. staring down at the bloody rabbit bits that remained. I chased her away and stood there. four-legged humans who don’t like baths. the love of my life responded. Finally. Something had to be done right away.” Funny Man said. Here was a major man-job. “You can handle it. But for some reason—probably due to the long distance it had to travel—the sigh did not produce the desired effect. I called my man.” 153 .
a retired gentleman who valiantly disposed of the critter. Grandpa was a ﬁrm believer in gender work separation. And he would have laughed at my squeamishness. I turned to my neighbor. But in the end.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. too. he would have performed the man-job. If my granddad was here. As long as Ebony doesn’t get there ﬁrst. I also brieﬂy considered bribing the UPS man to have the decapitated rabbit delivered to his hotel in China. but that just doesn’t work for me. I guess the truth is I want to have my cake and eat it. It would have been worth the cost. 154 .
So we went to the animal shelter and almost instantly. we fell in love with Rocky. raiding trash cans and sticking her nose into inappropriate places on the human body. She’s also mastered a technique known only to dogs—Bath Aroma Neutralization—whereby she releases smelly secretions all over her skin so that within hours of a bath. For instance. joining old Ebony. Ebony was unable to provide the full canine experience our family apparently needed. But as skilled in doggy tricks as she is. we added another dog to our family. her malodorous mongrel scent is restored. With our new pup. assuming that child is very hairy and spends a lot of time licking itself.Rocky W hen Ebony was about eight years old. we greatly enlarged our family’s canine repertoire to include pretty much every known dog behavior. Ebony is an expert at standard dog activities such as barking for no apparent reason. Rocky. which is very much like adding a new child. 155 . A shepherd-border collie mix with soft. I think she’s always been proud of that particular talent.
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. So we took him home. and Rocky soon began to expose us to those doggy deeds that Ebony had left undone. and together we’ll watch Rocky carry out his daily battle. waiting for the squirrely intruder to appear. but I’m pretty sure it is sadistic.Days of Derangement shiny black fur. And when it begins to saunter across the electric line—clearly enjoying itself—Rocky goes into full attack mode. Ebony. 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 sat calmly in his cage. We also found out that Rocky is a champion digger. We were hooked. I’m pretty sure Rocky will be the one to do it. He barks and snarls. Rocky stands guard. who in human years is old enough to collect Social Security and drive 50 miles with the blinker on. Now. 156 . 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. smiling at us (I swear he was smiling) and waving one paw in the air as if to invite us over. That’s because I’ve watched the squirrel torment my dog. Every day. I don’t have the heart to tell the poor creature the truth. If it’s possible to make it all the way to China. apparently convinced that one day he will actually be able to reach his enemy and rip him or her to satisfying shreds. Sometimes I’ll sit down next to her. He leaps wildly into the air over and over. I don’t know if the squirrel that darts back and forth on the electric line above our fence really is demonic (although Rocky is convinced of it).
Rocky. will drop down next to Ebony and me and go right to sleep. the squirrel will tire of the game and scamper away. We humans should be so lucky. exhausted.Rocky Eventually. 157 . clearly satisﬁed with his efforts for the day.
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.Beautiful People E very year when People magazine comes out with its annual list of the 100 Most Beautiful People. You non-columnists may scoff at such a statement. don’t get above your raisin’. you might even be shaking your head right now and saying—as my grandma often did—“Jackie. It’s my sad duty to let them know. with good old-fashioned country sensibilities. as gently as possible. not the tasty. I often receive email from people who want to know how they too can become columnists.) 158 . that would be raisin’ as in a slang term for upbringing.” (For those of you without country sensibilities. Although it’s not quite as glamorous as being a Beautiful Person. If you were brought up in the country. shriveled snack food. I am shocked to once again not ﬁnd myself on the list. that only an elite few of us possess the skills needed for such a prestigious occupation. being a humor columnist is an important job.
I’m sure lots of people would watch such a show. my children and husband choose to leave. my children. 159 . to turn my life into a reality TV series. the dogs choose to stay. I move to step two. except sometimes in the case of the dogs) and ordering them to “either do something funny I can write about or leave. And generally.” Generally. It’s a sacriﬁce we’re willing to make. That’s why all your top columnists are overweight insomniacs. I will usually have a plethora of brilliant column ideas.Beautiful People But I am not getting above my raisin’. So today. After several hours of intense. But if they don’t. It’s just that I know how difﬁcult writing a humor column can be. Maybe someone will decide. Occasionally. highly caffeinated concentration in my chair. You’d think the ﬁrst step would be to come up with a cute column idea. even if I didn’t regularly make unbelievably stupid comments or ﬂaunt body parts to the whole world that probably should be kept private. I begin early in the day by throwing some breakfast at these distractions (not literally. In my case. though. doing everything in their power to be amusing. husband and our two dogs. like they do on Keeping Up with the Kardashians. putting the dogs in the backyard and settling into a comfortable chair with sure-ﬁre brain fuel: coffee and chocolate. I’d like to give you a behind-the-scenes peek at the laborious process involved in writing witty words. they even succeed. namely. the ﬁrst step is to clear the house of distractions. They could call it Keeping Up With The Comical Columnist or something like that. after reading this. All your top columnists do this.
and I usually have to go inside to get some more sure-ﬁre brain fuel. none of us are part of the beautiful people. The scouring process often ends up in front of my favorite coffee shop. 160 . It’s what all your top columnists do. And for some reason.Days of Derangement If not. which involves actually leaving my house to scour my surroundings for inspiration. I move into the next phase.
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.The Grill General That outdoor grilling is a manly pursuit has long been beyond question. After more than 20 years of marriage. you’d never get grown men to put on those aprons with pictures of dancing wienies…and messages like ‘Come ‘n’ Get It’. the man who promised to love me for better or worse morphs into the General Patton of the barbecue set. Woe to the woman who tries to tell him how to grill. New York Times Magazine D uring grilling season. I usually cannot resist the temptation at the beginning of each summer to rile my king of the 161 . If this wasn’t ﬁrmly understood. a tyrant with tongs who must not be questioned. is a man’s job. I’ve come to expect this annual transformation. Grilling. where only testosterone is allowed to roam free. only one of those brave bearers of the Y chromosome also known as men can possibly tame the open ﬂame. As everyone knows. after all. Even though I know this. —William Geist.
Maybe they were blinded by their beer cans. mentally summoning his forces for the task ahead. “Woman.Days of Derangement crackling cut of meat at least a little bit. and place it on a tray with all the necessary utensils and sauces. I ﬁx a tasty dessert. After this. the act that only a member of the male species can competently pull off: HE PLACES THE MEAT ON THE GRILL! The other men stand by. I usually do this by suggesting that he needs to clean his grill. When he is ready. I go inside to set the table. do not tell me how to manage my grill. something that seems to have escaped the attention of all the grill groupies gathered around the ﬁre.” he grunts in true Patton fashion. Old Blood and Guts receives their adulation as his due reward. I also prepare the meat for cooking. 162 . Whenever we are going to have a barbecue with friends. lavishing him with praise for his efforts. I buy the food. The General performs the most important part of the process. I prepare the salad. Then I take it out to The General. vegetables and baked beans. we fall into an unvarying routine. He is also being counseled by the other beerswilling men in his backyard brigade on the latest in meatsearing strategies. Then I go back outside to inform my boss of broiling that the meat is burning. a beer in hand. who is lounging beside the grill. Meanwhile. his chest swelling with pride.
” “Oh. I can see that for myself. and he nods and grunts at them. Later. he asks me how I enjoyed my “night off. Upon my return with his second beer.” I say. “Maybe you should go clean the grill. again acknowledging their rightful admiration. I enjoyed it very much. “Huh?” “Never mind.” the General growls. after I’ve washed the dishes. commanding me to bring him another beer to drink as he deals with the sizzling situation. General. Then he performs the next amazing feat: HE FLIPS THE BEEF OVER! His fellow ﬁre-conquerors offer oohs and aaahs at his meatturning prowess. The General is congratulated by the other men on a job well done and thanked for all his hard work. he grandly announces the grilling process is complete. During the meal.” 163 . beaming with satisfaction.” I mutter sarcastically.The Grill General “Woman. Then he hands me the charred main dish. I bring all the food to the table and summon everyone to come and eat.
Days of Derangement 164 .
My mother was concerned I’d grow up thinking the perfect woman was 12 inches tall with a four-inch bosom. Eventually. She made little outﬁts for the dolls that matched the ones she made for me. I grew up to dream of having a much larger bust measurement than that.Thanks. I have a picture of myself in that dress. and my mind was never narrowed by doll dimensions. my knobby knees sticking out 165 . my mother stopped worrying and grew quite fond of my Barbies. standing barefoot in the grass. I idolized her. and I’m about to hit that milestone myself. When I was a little girl. The blond bombshell and I have had a roller-coaster relationship. while mine have gone in a different direction. She celebrated her 50th birthday not too long ago. I played with a whole bucket of Barbies. Barbie S o Barbie and I are nearly the same age. But I am apparently more upset about this fact than Mattel’s plastic princess. Not that dreaming about it did me much good. My favorite was a purple sheath mini-dress. even though she will get her AARP card before I get mine. Maybe that’s because all of Barbie’s body parts have remained toned and pleasingly perky through ﬁve decades. But she needn’t have worried.
I would sneer at her various manifestations—doctor. only one of the busty beauties in the photo has a head. astronaut. In the picture. to name just a few. military ofﬁcer and Madame President. The day that picture was taken. I retaliated against my brother’s Barbie butchery by hiding his Legos in my mother’s underwear drawer. 166 . And my son carried on the family tradition of dismemberment. My children have their own Barbie memories. I became embarrassed by the matching outﬁts. just as I did. but it’s too late for that now. My daughter played with dolls of every color and career. and now I have only that picture. with a specialty in head reattachment. I’m holding a purple-sheathed Barbie in each hand. I once found a whole family of my daughter’s dolls hanging naked and legless in one of our trees. 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. In his cootie-fearing mind. and he succeeded often enough that my dad became quite an experienced Barbie surgeon. That’s probably an issue that should have been addressed with Funny Boy in therapy. teacher. My kids have moved on from Barbie. no amount of soap could erase the contamination of female undergarments. After a while. effectively depriving him of the toys forever. That’s because my little brother had a disturbing desire to decapitate Toyland’s most famous female. and my ardor for all things Barbie began to cool.Days of Derangement under the hemline. The purple dresses somehow disappeared. Sadly.
Thanks. I very likely will not be sporting any tattoos or reminding anyone of sexy. And I thank her for the memories. she’s still going strong. I have a new appreciation for the platinum icon. In her own perky way. Barbie Today. I still wish Barbie the best. predatory felines. she was a trailblazer. When I turn 50. 167 . In fact. however. But that’s OK. And in her 50s. she’s sporting tattoos and looking like a cougar.
“It is just way too early in the morning for me to have to deal with your body hair issues. under his arms. who was standing with his arms raised. I dry my hair upside down in the forlorn hope that this will infuse it with volume and leave me with bouncy. As I said.” I said. 168 . OK. 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. so it wasn’t my ﬁnest moment as a supportive spouse. I straightened up. beautiful locks. —Benjamin Disraeli “H ow much underarm hair is too much on a man?” That’s what Funny Man shouted at me one morning as I stood hunched over in the bathroom. Places like his ears and his nose. drying my hair upside down. apparently. it’s a forlorn hope.Body Hair It destroys one’s nerves to be amiable every day to the same human being. staring at himself in the mirror. shut off the dryer and glared at Funny Man. And now.
lowering his arms. In between are some nitty-gritty stages during which you develop a realistic view of your spouse and yourself. “remember when I branded your butt?” I turned the dryer toward him. 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.” 169 . I guess we’re somewhere in one of those stages. “Hey.” I said. “I could do it again. just to take your mind off all that proliferating body hair of yours.” “I know. “I’m getting old. “Would you put your arms down! I don’t need to see it. (He’s still telling people about it. and my husband was shaving in front of the bathroom mirror with a towel wrapped around his torso. and learn to love each other anyway.” A few years ago. leaving a red ring on his butt and prompting him to start telling everyone we knew that I’d tried to brand him. realizing I was running out of time to make my own hair look decent. Playfully. I suddenly remembered a day back in our honeymoon phase when I was again drying my hair upside down.” he sighed.Body Hair “Men are supposed to have hair under their arms. But I pushed it in a little further than I intended.) Funny Man continued to contemplate his armpits while I turned the dryer back on. ranging from the honeymoon phase right on through to that golden phase when you sit happily together in rocking chairs on the front porch. “but lately mine has gotten much bushier. and the dryer’s hot coils scorched his rear end.” I said. I wonder if I should trim it?” He sighed again and added sadly. and you don’t care about where hair might be growing because you can’t see it anyway.
walking out of the bathroom.” he said grumpily.” We’re deﬁnitely out of the honeymoon phase.Days of Derangement “Don’t you dare. 170 . “I’m too old for that.
Was there a precise moment. without even realizing it. I like to think. Often it can only be recognized in retrospect. I have morphed into a fashion frump. One reality gradually turns into another the way ice cream gradually turns into cellulite. I’ve never been a woman on a ﬁrst-name basis with good taste. for goodness sake. one of those people who look like a million bucks just stumbling out of bed. though. Yet somehow. for example.Fashion Forward It’s frightening to wake up one morning and discover that while you were asleep you went out of style. did I fall out of fashion? It’s not like I was ever a true fashionista. that good taste and I were once at least acquainted with each other. I’m far more interested in wearing comfortable clothes than in being fashion forward. I used to wear spandex and leg warmers. when you fell in love? Or fell out of love? So when. I’ve been wondering. Pinpointing the exact moment of transformation can be tricky. 171 . Most of life’s transitions are like that. —Erma Bombeck I am not sure exactly when it happened.
In fact. I’m starting to remind myself of Sophia. great Estelle Getty on that classic TV show.” I heard myself snipe in sour Sophia style about a woman my age who was wearing a mini-skirt. I hate the woman. But I ﬁgured she could help me ﬁx my style shortcomings. things I hadn’t worn for a while. This made me sound hip and trendy. 172 . Before long. “She’s about 20 years too old for that outﬁt. My friend. orthopedic shoes will undoubtedly be more appealing to me than high heels. So I invited her over and started pulling some very fashionable outﬁts out of my closet. curled her lip. she manages to always look stylish and put-together in her size 6 designer jeans. however. I used the word ensembles to describe these outﬁts to my annoyingly fashionable friend. I’ll soon be so far out of the game that being a fashion victim would be a step up. the perpetually cranky character played by the late. And I looked hip and trendy when I tried on my 1980sera outﬁts. I have a friend with a ﬁnely calibrated fashion sense who wouldn’t be caught dead in a pair of mom jeans. Even after having three children. clunky. Polyester dresses with forgiving elastic waists are surely in my future. At least I thought I did.Days of Derangement I just can’t be bothered anymore with being stylish. “Uh. And that is making me feel old. The Golden Girls. how long have you had these clothes?” she asked in the same tone one would use when inquiring about distasteful failures in personal hygiene. 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.
” “No. She clearly doesn’t know what she’s talking about.” I said. hearing a defensiveness in my voice. 173 . I hate the woman. I’m going to start wearing those chic ensembles at the ﬁrst opportunity. I’ve probably got some leg warmers in there somewhere.” Like I said.Fashion Forward “For about 20 years. And I’m going to do a little more exploring in my closet. “But they’re really high-quality clothes. for Pete’s sake! You need to buy some new clothes. they’re not!” she snapped. “They’ve got shoulder pads. and they’re timeless.
That’s how my family camped one summer. This mighty mountain was one of the landmarks seen by settlers as they made their way across the prairie. I mean camping in the civilized way practiced by middle-age city dwellers with tender backsides and uncompromising hygiene standards. there was the peril of parking. Mountains have an annoying lack of level space.Blackberry or Bust Life was much easier when Apple and Blackberry were just fruits. we faced our own challenges on the ﬁrst day. Many of them painted “Pike’s Peak or Bust” on their canvas wagons. For starters. and we were required to back in to our assigned spot. We set out with a similar sense of adventure in our modern-day covered wagon. To accomplish this task. He stayed behind the wheel. renting a recreational vehicle and heading out across Colorado. W hen I talk about camping. 174 . And while early pioneers had to contend with problems such as hunger and disease. gear in reverse and window down. stopping in the shadow of Pike’s Peak. Funny Man and I assumed the traditional vehicle reversal gender roles.
That’s when 175 . My husband saw nothing of the glories of nature until nature took a hand and steered him right into a tree. This cycle was repeated over and over for about an hour. or as I affectionately call it. determined to salvage our recreational experience. barely able to see the trail. “We’re camping!” Reluctantly. baby!”) to dejected (“How can I only have one stinkin’ bar?”) as we followed the trail around the mountain. Then we came to a clearing. calling out the number of bars on the device in moods that ranged from ecstatic (“I’ve got ﬁve beautiful bars. Striding along in the lead. slipping the portable pestilence into the holster on his belt. I thought of pioneer tales I’d read about attacks by packs of ravenous wolves. The terrain grew steeper.Blackberry or Bust while I stood outside ready to guide his efforts. The woods seemed to close in on us. which caused me to screech “Stop!” which caused him to press too hard on the brakes. we prepared to encounter nature. We slathered ourselves in sunscreen and insect repellent. And Funny Man had his Blackberry. which resulted in a series of loud crashes inside the RV. “Why don’t you learn how to drive?” Then. expecting to be bored hiking in the great outdoors. eventually degenerating into an ugly exchange that began with my husband questioning my navigational skills and ended with me snarling. He started obsessively checking his signal strength before we’d even hiked a mile. armed themselves with iPods. “Put that silly thing away!” I snapped as he rubbed his bruised forehead. But he pushed too hard on the gas pedal. and I squinted into the blinding sun. I carried water bottles and ﬁrst aid supplies. his Crackberry. Our teenagers. he complied. dropping off precipitously on one side.
We’d had quite enough nature for one day. too traumatized to speak. with every intention. “Wolf!” I screamed. they inquired about our welfare.uh.Days of Derangement I looked into the furry face of death—a menacing form ahead.” He just shook his head. Just as I was undoubtedly about to be ripped to shreds by razor-sharp teeth. my husband was frantically searching the ground for his fallen Blackberry. I opened one eye and looked down at a friendly German shepherd whose owners were just catching up to him. I’m sure. Then he glared at me. but I could still hear the satisfying sound of a shattering Crackberry. After an appropriate period of mourning and after allowing our children. clutching at his waist. But suddenly. a pair of fangs. Noticing our ashen faces. Abandoned to my fate.” I stuttered. “I’m sorry about your Crack. “Wolf!” And Funny Man scrambled up the trail toward me. to regain their composure. Funny Man didn’t say a word. with pointy ears and. it looked just like a wolf. pointing at the dog now disappearing with his owners down the trail. he stopped and swirled around. who’d collapsed in helpless laughter at their parents’ expense. only stared mournfully down at the broken pieces on the rocks below. I assured them we were ﬁne. So I did what any self-respecting woman would do. of rescuing his damsel in distress. we headed back to our motor home in strained silence. I could have sworn. I closed my eyes. Nervously. “In the sun. 176 . I mean Blackberry. Then I felt a cold nose touch my hand.
I go out and buy something stylish. and I couldn’t be happier.) As soon as I realized my mistake. I inadvertently tried on a pair of those low risers. See. That’s what happened one fall when my son was playing high-school football. (NOT!) Actually.Plumber’s Pants T he plumbers are taking their pants back. the cause of countless sightings of “mufﬁn tops” (that very attractive fat that bulges over the waistline). I just lie down and wait for this unfortunate urge to pass. I follow fashion about as often as a politician tells the truth. But occasionally. I know this because I am an avid follower of fashion. It seems the fashion world has ﬁnally raised its standards just a tad. But occasionally. the kind that only look good on female stick-insects who survive on lettuce. I am seized by a desire to look slightly less frumpy. moving away from low-rise jeans. girl love handles and whale tails (also known as thongs). I should have put back the low risers and gone 177 . (You stick-insects know who you are. Usually. and dozens of people who attended a game are still in therapy trying to get over the sight.
I don’t want to get too personal here. But I was experiencing one of my rare passion-for-fashion moments. and when I looked in the dressing room mirror. 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. Until I had to sit down. If you wear low-rise jeans. the roomy kind with waistlines that almost brush your collarbone. that night. Anyway. I had not yet sat in my trendy trousers. At least I wasn’t going commando. shocked at how far my waistband slid down my fairly broad backside. Hey.Days of Derangement in search of some mom jeans. the poor fans behind me got an eyeful of my less-than-stylish skivvies. I quickly slipped them on just before walking the few blocks to my son’s high school to watch him play in a football game. a woman who looked hot enough to be oh so cool. I like to be comfortable. running late as usual. I popped right back up. you need to wear low-rise undies. See. when I sat down in the stands. Psychiatrists have a medical term for such delusions. Instead. but I’ll tell you that I was sporting my usual. So I bought those jeans and. high-waisted bloomers. but sufﬁce it to say da Nile ain’t just a river in Egypt. 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. Then they would have been exposed to some serious butt cleavage and that might have 178 . When I did sit. I saw a woman who looked pretty darn good standing there in her posh pants. I had failed to consider the underwear issue.
the jeans hung unworn in my closet. I just didn’t want to give up my good ol’ granny panties. 179 . I won’t be wearing any more low risers. telling people I was just too excited about the start of football season to stay seated. (Yeah. As much as I wanted to be fashion forward. for that matter. Or eating mufﬁns. I spent the rest of the game standing along the sidelines. After that. right). Plumber’s pants should only be worn by plumbers.Plumber’s Pants caused mass retinal damage. You’d have probably heard about it on the news.
Days of Derangement 180 .
got a golden ticket to Hollywood based on the votes of the two male judges. I only have to look within my own household for an example. despite having the musical ability of a duck. as I already know the answer. of course. It protects the property without obstructing the view. why did it take eight years for someone to think of auditioning for the show in nothing but a bikini? This is a sure sign our country is on a downward slide. My 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. First. Whatever happened to American ingenuity? This should have happened no later than Season Two. When we go to the beach or any other location likely to attract babes in bikinis.Bikini Babes A bikini is like a barbed-wire fence. —Joey Adams I f you are an American Idol fan. And you’ll remember that Bikini Girl. my husband wears a pair of very dark 181 . you’ll remember a young woman auditioning in Season 8 who showed up wearing nothing but a bikini. This raises a couple of questions in my mind.
the cave men were hairy enough to simply pull part of their eyebrows down and peer out surreptitiously at the B. The good news is that recent research indicates men exhibit improved cognition and creativity after exposure to pictures of good-looking women in bikinis. a poor sap will overdo it and wind up with a severe case of Exhausted Eyeball Syndrome. of course. I think that’s what happened to my man. so they invented sunglasses. Today’s men can’t always count on excessive eyebrow hair to solve this problem (although there are exceptions). Sometimes. Fortunately. 182 . His head seems to be frozen on his neck. You can always tell when a sunglasswearing guy is trying to stare at bikini bodies without getting busted. Some of the more attractive cave women wore well-tailored fur bikinis— just like Raquel Welch in One Million Years B. babes. He’s still trying to pry his eyeballs loose from their respective sockets. his eyes are rolling all over the place behind those glasses. You won’t be surprised to know these researchers were male. Yes. someone actually got paid to conduct this research. Poor Funny Man. This is a classic man trick developed way back when people lived in caves and wore animal skins.C. I think they need a good whack with a mastodon bone.Days of Derangement sunglasses. never moving as he seemingly stares far out to sea.C. Otherwise. He wants you to think he is having profound thoughts about the need for world peace.—and the cave men were forced to invent devious methods of leering at them. In reality. the poor men might get whacked with mastodon bones by their cave wives and girlfriends. trying to take in all the bathing beauties walking by without getting whacked with a bottle of sunscreen by his wife or girlfriend.
it gets worse.Trivial Pursuit Why don’t men do laundry? Cause the washer and dryer don’t run on remote control! ou men reading this. the hiding place I’d chosen for the remotes was so good I forgot where it was. Sadly. You may need to grab hold of a heavy object in case you feel faint. Wars have been waged with lesser cause. Hours can slip by as they wear out the buttons on the hand-held hazards. I once hid all of our televisions’ remote controls. Let me explain myself. I did not take this action lightly. prepare yourselves for what I’m about to tell you. But wait. It was a measure of last resort. And so the beloved remotes were missing in action in our house for two whole weeks. If you’re a woman. unable even to cross the living room to change the channel. ﬂipping through hundreds of channels and pausing only when they spot a show featuring Y 183 . Men whose ancestors tamed the wilderness through backbreaking labor now ensconce themselves on the couch. you already know that remote control reverence has gotten out of hand.
Days of Derangement either a sporting event or scantily clad women (or. I decided to make war on this object of worship. I tried this for several days. You’d 184 . Whenever I passed the living room and saw my man stretched out like a slumbering sea lion. You’d think this would have done the trick. Predictably. hoping to send a message. I’d sigh heavily and shake my head in obvious disgust. 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. 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. Then I tried the Silverware Slam. making my sighs louder and windier each time. both). I slipped all the remotes that run our lives inside a game of Trivial Pursuit that was sitting on the coffee table. Every time I was putting away the clean silverware. I’d loudly slam it into the drawer. I put the game in the top of a closet. First. until I eventually needed an oxygen tank just to keep it up. on really good days. intending to retrieve it after a short time. When they actually want to put the remotes down for a brief period. Thus. I used the standard Sigh And Shake Protocol employed by legions of women before me. Search parties were formed to look high and low. Then. feeling very clever. This had absolutely no effect. but Funny Man simply increased the TV volume. there was a lot of lamentation over the lost devices. So when no one was looking. I was left with little choice. I initially tried a diplomatic solution to the problem. Annoyed by all the undone chores around my house.
after leaving him in agony for a few hours. But I think I made my point.Trivial Pursuit think a precious gem was missing. But because the Trivial Pursuit game was not one of my usual hiding places and because the old memory ain’t what it used to be. But before the cable guy could come. And then. I suddenly remembered—after hearing someone on the radio use the phrase trivial pursuit—where I’d put those blasted pieces of plastic. I searched. I was even mad at myself. 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 forgot where I’d put the remotes. I confessed to hiding the things. You’d think I was missing. For two long weeks. And after suffering a few days of acute remote withdrawal. Finally. assuming Funny Man would look as fervently for me as he looked for those remotes. my man actually got some of the chores done. 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. 185 . I’ve promised to never again pull such a stunt. I was the one in agony because everyone in the family was mad at me for ruining TV time.
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. It’s the best of times because demand for real. Everybody could use a good laugh these days. Soon.Hard Times for Humor I n the ﬁeld of funny. Texas tea for those who were only marginally witty. unless we can develop new sources for our laugh lodes. Now though. Unfortunately. 186 . And we’re having to dig much deeper for our jokes. it is the best of times and the worst of times. Anybody could be a humorist. thanks to society’s rabid appetite for amusement and a restriction of humor supplies by the grumpy but powerful Organization of People Expecting Calamity (OPEC). rib-tickling humor has never been higher. it is also the worst of times because the supply of high-caliber comic relief is getting harder to come by. Mirthful material used to practically fall from the trees like leaves in autumn. It used to come bubbling up from the ground like oil—black gold for even the borderline funny.
It’s practically lying around on the ground. I was forced a couple of years ago to do the same. Low-grade humor consisting mainly of references to bodily functions and Paris Hilton/Lindsay Lohan/Kim Kardashian jokes—the kind necessary to entertain adolescent boys—remains free of charge. If. Stories about my kids still come relatively cheaply as my offspring provide plenty of material. I had to impose a new fee schedule on my column. just as many industries have been passing on skyrocketing energy costs to their customers. heaven forbid. Not even OPEC seems to want it. Kind of like the airlines and the phone companies have been doing. charges go up dramatically. I felt an obligation to mothers of said boys to continue to provide this service.Hard Times for Humor Therefore. And those charges are doubled on readers who believe I can offer valid advice on 187 . who are grateful for the attention. Besides. now requires a surcharge based on the amount of work I have to do to deliver it. my readers are nickel-and-dimed to death. A fee is levied for every laugh-out-loud line provided in one my columns. And if I have to leave my house. however. Ditto for any humorous bits about my dogs. Slightly more sophisticated humor. Being a civic-minded person. this stuff is easy to get. Readers who wish to challenge these fees have to provide proof that they did not so much as snicker. however. Guffaws garner an additional charge. I have to do any reading or. Additional fees are incurred by any reader who fails to realize my column is not to be taken seriously. especially in business attire. deep thinking in order to produce a column. and anything that causes genuine belly laughs is assessed at the very highest rates.
I accept cash or credit cards. 188 . If you’ve read this far in the book. 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. This type of reader has to pay me the same hourly rate charged by real therapists. my friend. 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. 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. Any reader who praises me lavishly to friends or even strangers on the street receives a Laugh Offset Loan (LOL) that can be used against future levies. you’ll realize that you’ve already racked up some serious charges.
Hard Times for Humor 189 .
It provides you with experiences that will remain locked forever in the scar tissue of your mind. loaded to within an inch of our axles. We begin late. I will have planned meticulously. That resolution lasts about ﬁve minutes into the trip. As we 190 . I am determined. —Dave Barry E very summer. packed for every possible contingency. We are going to eat up the miles on our minivan migration. our family’s road trips are always more calorie-laden than I’d envisioned. that wonderful elixir of life for mothers and road warriors alike. and ward off any additional weight gain. naturally. despite my best intentions. Determined to save time and keep down costs—and having usually just seen myself in a new bathing suit—I bring along a cooler full of healthy food and drinks to prevent any drive-thru excursions. when I realize we’ll have to hit the drive-thru for coffee.Drive-Thru Dilemma And that’s the wonderful thing about family travel.
That resolution usually lasts about three hours. gathering discarded french fries and spitball-delivering straws to use as weapons.Drive-Thru Dilemma pull back onto the road with a heavenly smelling bag of grease disguised as breakfast. despite the silence-inducing wonders of DVDs and iPods. That resolution lasts about three hours. and all my carefully prepared provisions have already assumed a tepid room temperature. I’m proud to say. my children typically gird themselves for war. That resolution lasts about two hours. the ﬁrst dreaded Are We There Yet? is launched. I command my husband to pull into the nearest drive-thru and order everything on the menu. I assure my brood that we will probably not be doing the drive-thru run again. At that point. As we pull back onto the road with a heavenly smelling bag of grease disguised now as lunch. Snarling from stress. Grievances are aired in violent fashion. until we discover that someone (usually me) has forgotten to add ice to the cooler. that we will deﬁnitely not be doing that again. 191 . Then. I warn my family in the strictest terms that we absolutely will not be going through another drivethru on the trip. I again warn my crew. in a slightly less ﬁrm tone. I resort to burger bribery. followed shortly thereafter by several high-pitched volleys of He’s Touching Me and an equal number of the obligatory Am Nots. As we pull back onto the road with a heavenly smelling bag of grease cleverly camouﬂaged as a snack. and chaos descends. In a desperate attempt to preserve the peace. until the inevitable accusations of secretly unleashed ﬂatulence began to swirl through the charged atmosphere.
Drive-thru dilemma resolved. 192 .Days of Derangement As we get back on the road. we buy bathing suits in larger sizes and ditch the cooler. When we ﬁnally reach our destination. I say nothing. weighed down with bag after bag of grease. just stuff every wonderful morsel into my mouth.
trying to get the llama to cross a log bridge. This man was pulling on the reins. was engaged in a strenuous tug of war with a man who looked like he’d rather be undergoing a root canal. loaded down with camping gear. 193 . but based on my own expert research. —Hilaire Belloc T he llamas are spitting mad. The llama was having none of it. and they’re not going to take it anymore. That may be a slight exaggeration. like an unsuccessful literary man. The ﬁrst part of my research took place one summer while I was hiking a part of the Colorado Trail (in Colorado. The llama. with an indolent expression and an undulating throat. oddly enough) with my father.Llama Drama The llama is a woolly sort of ﬂeecy hairy goat. We came across a very annoyed llama. as I haven’t personally communicated with all the world’s llamas. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch.
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. thrusting his head in his wife’s direction. had obviously shifted into the Wife Interpretation and Management Phase (WIMP) and was nodding at her vigorously while totally ignoring what she said. He ignored me as well. and he continued to tug on the reins. who was now sweating profusely.Days of Derangement Although I’ve had no formal training in llama language. 194 . pointing out what he was doing wrong and what he should do to successfully lead the llama. unnecessarily. He abruptly threw up the reins and announced he was heading home.” The llama issued another “SNORRRBAH!” which this time sounded liked “No kidding!” and again dug in its heels. He was assisted in this effort by his wife. Although my experience with llamas has been limited to watching them in Disney movies. “This is only our ﬁrst day. “This was all her idea. “and we don’t know anything about llamas. I clearly heard the cranky creature spit out “SNORRRBAH!” as it dug in its heels. however. but being subjected to a double dose of wife advice must have been too much for him. She was in full Wife Advisory Mode (WAM). right!” The man.” he moaned. giving another tug on the reins and adding. did not speak llama. Her husband. I couldn’t help transitioning into sympathetic Wife Advisory Mode.” he whispered to my grinning dad. Because my husband was fortunate enough not to be there. who stood next to him on the trail. I offered my suggestions to the llama-challenged man before me.
It’s bad enough having to bear the burdens of camping city slickers. doing the tango across the Web in its birthday suit while offering advice and running for President. This intriguing encounter led me to the second part of my research. That’s when I discovered I have somehow missed a major part of our culture—the Naked Dancing Llama. Millions have followed the antics of this virtual camel’s cousin. Well no wonder the llamas are livid. has apparently been around since the early days of the Internet (the 1990s). When I returned to civilization (meaning to a computer). 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. Before the llama could make a break for it. self-respecting llama would ever run for President. “SNORRRBAH?” it asked. We wished the couple (and the llama) well with the rest of their camping trip and continued down the trail. The NDL. But it must be intolerable to have anyone think a sane. however. my dad—a farm boy who has a way with animals—quickly led it across the bridge. My dad is still laughing about it.Llama Drama The llama looked confused at this sudden capitulation. and we all knew what that meant. There’s only one thing to say about that: “SNORRRBAH!” And we all know what that means. 195 . as it is known.
Days of Derangement 196 .
with a bed head that looks like it got tangled in a spinning ceiling fan. Most are. These are the women who always seem to be at the salon at the same time that I emerge from the shampoo sink looking like a starved dog after a night in a thunderstorm. The hairdresser is not to be questioned. like high school. sources of instant intimidation—at least to me—too often populated by women with great hair and prominent cheekbones.Beauty Shop Dropout She was at the beauty shop for two hours. You enter it ugly. I’ve been to a fair number of beauty shops in my day. a sorcerer with scissors who can make us feel a little prettier. That was only for the estimate. One customer at a 197 . cleverly colored and skillfully styled. You leave it looking good—cleanly cut. One chair. I hate these women. —Henny Youngman T he salon is a sacred place for many women. The hairdresser is an authority ﬁgure. a little younger. So I thought I’d found the ideal solution when I started going to a hairdresser who works solo. a little more self-assured.
she insisted on using The Cap. dig through the circles and pull a few strands of hair—those destined to be plied with peroxide—through the cap. I resembled Pig Pen. If you are a woman. I’d tell you that this neighbor is a ﬁne-looking man. To bring out my inner blonde.Days of Derangement time. Soon. except that I was far less attractive than Pig Pen. you are wishing I would just stop whining because—as every female knows—it is better to look good than to feel good. you are wondering why on earth I would put up with such torment. Or at least I was until the day when I was once again in the styling chair. graying rat to frosted blond bombshell (OK. was tied around my head. hair standing straight out and basting in bleach. This wouldn’t have bothered me too much except for the fact that this neighbor has the audacity to be a man. wishful thinking on my part). If you are a man. This is a tool that could have been found in a medieval torture chamber. I know there are other ways to lighten my locks. with sprouts of hair sticking up all over and a stinging scalp. The plastic cap. the stinky character from the Charlie Brown comic. If I was single and allowed to notice such things. 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. with very nice hair 198 . No one to see my transformation from drowned. and in walks one of my neighbors. The problem is that this hairdresser still operates in the styling stone age. Men should not be permitted to walk into salons when women are there being beautiﬁed. but my hairdresser was adamant that The Cap was still the best. Then my hairdresser would take a crochet hook. which is covered with small colored circles.
199 . I’ll just tell you that I was beyond mortiﬁed to have this particular person see me looking like Phyllis Diller on acid. forsaking my quest to be comely and giving Pig Pen a run for his money.Beauty Shop Dropout that was apparently in need of a cut. I found a new hairdresser. And for a while. I considered going natural. My handsome neighbor is probably still trying to recover from what he saw that day. But that didn’t happen. I haven’t been able to look him in the eye since then. As I’m happily married (and my husband may be reading this).
like the typically bafﬂed Homer Simpson. this is a nightmare. for example. For women. simple creatures who can’t faithfully follow a grocery list. especially the young ones. These befuddled beings are caught. For men. those just on the cusp of the real world who don’t have a clue what they’re getting themselves into. 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. cheeks to glow. hard-wired for complexity. Take the dilemma of dating. but in truth. blood pressure to rise and the lips to pucker.The Rock and the Hard Place Love: a wildly misunderstood although highly desirable malfunction of the heart which weakens the brain. this convoluted courting process is no problem. Except for the ones that really have changed. causes eyes to sparkle. between a rock and a hard place. all the rules remain pretty much the same. where all the rules have seemingly changed. And if they are 200 .
And when the girlfriend’s birthday rolled around a couple of weeks after that. For a kid whose only income was a weekly allowance (assuming he did his chores). I asked him what color corsage he’d ordered for his sweetheart. And it was dangerous territory for a boy who once spent a week impersonating the ultra-logical and emotionless Mr. they would often probably like to dive under that rock and pull the hard place down like a fortress around them. yanking the covers off the bed. full of furtive phone calls and ﬁerce feelings. The ﬁrst time it hit him upside the head was on the morning of his high school’s Homecoming Dance. “Why would I need to buy some stupid ﬂower?” “She’s probably going to spend several hours getting ready for the dance. Rousting him out of bed that Saturday morning at the ungodly hour of 11.The Rock and the Hard Place newbies in the land of love and utterly unfamiliar with the world of women. That’s how it was when Funny Boy had a girlfriend for the ﬁrst time. even in the 21st century.” he said crankily.” I told him. It was a sweet. “She needs a corsage that matches her dress. Spock from the ﬁrst Star Trek series. harmless little relationship. the guy is usually still expected to pay on dates. “I already bought her ticket. I knew we were in trouble. this was a harsh reality indeed. though. I wondered if the bloom would soon fall off this romantic rose. My young Vulcan got quite emotional. pulling the covers over his head. I waited until the day before her birthday to 201 . when suddenly faced with the harsh reality that. a Scrooge-like youngster who once gave a set of eight coasters as Christmas gifts to eight different people (one coaster per person). What color is her dress?” When “Huh?” was his only response.
I heard the store clerk offer to help. When he groaned as if he were in real pain. I found him lying on his bed. I ordered him to accompany me to the mall. “Christmas is right around the corner. apparently fearing that his mere presence in such a prettiﬁed place would render him unmanly. thanks to me. and I’ll pay you back?” he pleaded. where I pointed out a store full of appealing but inexpensive baubles sure to warm a young girl’s heart. Funny Boy survived the birthday and came out undeservedly smelling like that proverbial rose. kiddo. “Can’t you go in and get it for me. “Better save your money.” I said. It was time for the boy to bite the bullet and enter the arena alone. Finally.” 202 . I had to actually push my reluctant Romeo into the shop. I refused. When she asked him how much he wanted to spend. The next day. gazing up at the ceiling with a self-satisﬁed smile on his face. a smile that collapsed like a house of cards when I brought him crashing back to earth. But he ﬁnally emerged with an acceptable gift. his answer (“As little as possible”) made me pity his poor girlfriend.Days of Derangement ask my son if he’d bought her a gift. So. where he dithered at the entrance for many minutes.
Got Flax? I’m happy to report that my inner child is still ageless. Groups of white-smocked scientists 203 . Fortunately. if you’re a woman. using forces like gravity and your love of things like gravy. You suddenly notice that even your knees have wrinkles. —James Broughton O ne of life’s little ironies is that at the same time you are sharing a house with people who think they will live forever—people otherwise known as teenagers—Mother Nature begins to help you realize you might not even make it into next week. So. that your tummy seems terminally tubby and. decides that your middle-aged self no longer has any business thinking like a jaunty juvenile. you have plenty of reliable medical research to validate all your worries. that your thighs seem to be swimming in cellulite. you begin to worry even more about what’s going on among your rapidly aging innards. Ma Nature. being a crotchety old lady with creaking joints. she smites you with self-doubt. And as bad as your body looks on the outside.
But ﬂaxseed is supposed to be good for you. All that heavenly tasting junk that you’ve eaten for years has now. 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. That’s just what I did. It’s time. I brought my smoothie in the car with me and drank it while I was driving to my very busy. Because I was running late. Then I. I rebuilt my personal food pyramid. I should have had the upper hand. which combines the ﬂavors of sawdust and straw with the piquant aftertaste of sand. very afraid. at this point you will morph into an overnight convert to the church of the changed diet. But for some reason. If you’re like me. You may not have realized it (and you may not believe it). turning into a fan of ﬁber and fruit. and growing giddy over whole grains and vegetables. I often put on business attire and go out into the world pretending to be a very busy. a hard-charging and healthy professional fueled by ﬂaxseed. And that’s just what I did one morning not long after I’d begun drinking my smoothies. business-type person. according to noted medical researchers. business-type ofﬁce. So I started preparing a ﬂaxseed smoothie every morning. coagulated into globs of deadly goop in your arteries. to pay the piper of the palate.Days of Derangement get together regularly and publish studies that advise you to be afraid. I also developed a friendship with ﬂaxseed. you realize. Not that I like the taste of ﬂaxseed. but besides writing witty columns about canine regurgitation. went right into a meeting with other business types who had probably stuffed themselves that morning with deathinducing donuts. the others seemed to be snickering under their 204 . at least according to those sadistic science types.
I excused myself and went to the restroom. ﬂaxseed-speckled mustache. to my meeting. except that I looked like a complete idiot. And then. 205 .Got Flax? collective breath. I was annoyed and wondered why she didn’t put some ointment on that lip. blueberry-colored. lay a thick. a dim light began to burn. red-faced. There. where I gazed into the mirror. Then I went in search of some donuts. One woman kept rubbing her ﬁnger across her upper lip while staring urgently at me. above my busy. business-type mouth. I looked like one of those celebrities in the Got Milk? ads. somewhere in the recesses of my busy business brain. I wiped off my mustache and went back.
the priceless peals of our children’s laughter. we could. sweet silence. emanating from one of my children.Silence is Golden T ell me I didn’t just hear that… I used to ﬁnd myself saying that just about every day. that will allow annoying noises to be switched off. soon to be available. All you do is point The Mute at the reason for the racket and voila!—sweet. when 206 . on occasion. But do we always need to perceive the blare of sibling bickering? Say. from the awesome (“I love you” coming from a grateful child) to the alarming (“Watch me ﬂy” coming from the roof). But as those precious bundles of joy get older and somehow morph into little nuggets of noise with dirt on them. we’d still need to hear certain things. verbal or otherwise. the patter of pint-sized feet. simply tune them out. usually in response to some disturbing sound. Recently. We’d still be able to savor a baby’s comforting coos. though. Consider how it could revolutionize the often high-pitched job of parenting. Called The Mute. I read about a new device. this remote control gadget sends a signal to two little buds that users stick in their ears. for instance. Sure. I am very excited about this.
cover up their cacophony. stiﬂe their sounds.” followed by a frantically whispered “Don’t tell Mom” (even worse when it is preceded by the sound of a toilet ﬂushing). I could just point and click Mr. And I could sure do without that ubiquitous (at least at my house) phrase “Uh oh. thumps and bangs reverberates through my walls as fratricidal force is deployed over access to an Xbox. I could act quickly. Imagine all the parents. ignorance is bliss. Mute. The marvelous Mute would become even more valuable as our children reach adolescence and develop the desire to torment us acoustically. 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. click…serenity now. but I’m planning to have The Mute surgically implanted in my ears as soon as it’s available. Point. and silence is golden. 207 . 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!”. This could have profound philosophical and ﬁnancial implications.Silence is Golden a worrisome set of crashes. 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. It’s easy if you try. You may say I’m a dreamer. If a teenage girl slams a door and screams “I hate you!” and her parents don’t hear it. Because sometimes. living life in peace.
all of them men) also believe in mannerly microorganisms. 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 rule that says it’s OK to eat food dropped on the kitchen ﬂoor as long as you pick it up within ﬁve seconds. but I found out later that a lot of people (oddly enough. 208 . It certainly comes in handy for an enthusiastic eater with butter ﬁngers like my boy. because I somehow managed to get through almost three decades of life without knowing about the ﬁve-second rule. I discovered that he seemed to have been born knowing the ﬁve-second rule. The Seven-Second Rule and the extremely handy and versatile However Long It Takes Me to Pick Up This Food Rule. You know. I must have led a very sheltered—or at least a very clean— existence before I got married. And when I had a son. Turns out that germs are apparently polite enough to count to ﬁve before they attach themselves to goodies.
he added “It’s the last one!” as he lunged toward the hairy Twinkie and tried to grab it back. Mom. dog hair and all. “Five-second rule. 209 . especially in our two-dog household. now enhanced by a whole colony of dog hair. as if explaining the obvious to an idiot. where dropped food items usually resemble those Troll dolls with hair sticking out in all directions when you pick them up.” he said. toward his mouth when I grabbed it. He was not appreciative. It was the last Twinkie in the package. 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. you are so mean! A little dog hair’s not going to hurt anybody. “What do you think you’re doing?” I asked in a horriﬁed tone.The Five-Second Rule Now I have to say that I still have no faith in the ﬁve-second rule. Then. but it nearly happened one day with a Twinkie. How anyone could stick such an item in his mouth is beyond my comprehension. I just can’t believe you!” I don’t know how the kid would survive without me. He was actually moving it. I had to drop the delectable little cake down the garbage disposal to prevent my Troll eater from inhaling it. “Mom.
210 . I happen to know that an ‘app’ (short for application) is a nifty little cell-phone program you can use to do things you wouldn’t even have thought of doing if there weren’t an app to make it possible. I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know any of those people. but apparently many people have downloaded this particular app. which I suppose would come in handy were you trying to communicate with our bovine brethren. I also like to think I look like Angelina Jolie. but that’s beside the point. There is also a game app that lets you score points by licking your phone’s screen. there is an app to let you go around making cow sounds. —Henry David Thoreau I like to think I am technologically savvy. I can’t imagine any circumstance under which I would want to do this. For example.There Should Be an App for That Lo! Men have become the tools of their tools. Being technologically savvy.
Why anyone would want people to think such a thing is beyond me. There’s also an app that teaches you how to say dirty words in a variety of languages. And for those of us who are frequently late for work and in need of a convincing excuse. hey. 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. when my kids were growing up. there will no doubt be a dozen more. Hundreds of thousands of apps already exist. and developers are working feverishly every day to create even more. there is even an excuse generator app. it’s a free country. but. This app magniﬁes the sound so that people will think you have serious gastrointestinal issues. This program would automatically shoot a high-pitched. For instance. Just in the time it takes you to lick your screen a couple of times and try out a few foreign phrases that would make your mother wash your mouth out with soap (if only she knew what you were saying). And I wouldn’t mind 211 .There Should Be an App for That Another hugely popular app lets you emit loud bodily noises normally considered unacceptable in polite society. and there’s an app for that. 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. But I can think of a few other apps that someone should invent right away. I could certainly have used a Teenager Tune Out Terminator app. impossible-to-ignore sound into the ears of certain adolescents who regularly claimed not to have heard me tell them something.
which would usually sound something like this: “Honey. There should deﬁnitely be an app for that.” I’d call that my Girlfriend App.Days of Derangement having an app that would talk sense into me when I’m about to try on a bathing suit. 212 . and then my app would give me an honest assessment. Get Real. I could take a picture of the suit with my phone.
But you can’t always take the minivan mentality out of the mom. to never leave the driveway. my SUV-inspired chic hadn’t sunk in with them yet. she began to remind me of my mother. Apparently. After 15 years. 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. for a few days. to be honest. But a couple of weeks into our relationship. always slightly disapproving of my driving even after I’d morphed into a mother myself. At ﬁrst. for some reason. I was having a hard time with it myself. When I told my children that. Oh. they assumed. We traded it in for a mid-sized SUV.Minivan Mentality Y ou can take the mom out of the minivan. I ﬁnally stopped driving a family truckster. She was even equipped with a state-of-the-art navigational system that I nicknamed Nancy. 213 . and I immediately felt hipper. spotless. And. in horror. it was rather pleasant to have Nancy telling me—in her disembodied voice—where to go. my new vehicle was sleek and. I’d said “hippier” and suggested I cut back on the carbs.
Nancy’s turn-by-turn instructions took on a nagging quality. and all mingling with the nauseating odor of dog vomit that we never could completely eliminate. all left to heat up year after year in the sun. “I am recalculating the route. I missed all of those things. stale milk in sippy cups lodged under the seats.Days of Derangement “You missed the turn! You’re driving too fast! You’re going to get us killed!” OK. 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. a variety of stains inside courtesy of every colorful. sugary drink known to mankind. non-talking minivan. clean carpet and unmarked exterior. And it wasn’t just the Nazi-like navigational system.” 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. with its factory-fresh scent. Believe it or not. Even when everything was cleaned out. the congealed essence of childhood. I think I actually missed the old. but that’s what my mind heard. the van still retained its distinct aroma. she sounded a bit snippy. And I 214 . the dents and scratches made by a wide assortment of balls and even a couple of bicycles. maybe Nancy didn’t say those words speciﬁcally. Nancy was really starting to get on my nerves. The new auto. rotten bananas. sweaty soccer cleats and fetid football jerseys. I also missed the way the minivan smelled— that bouquet of old french fries. hanging on haphazardly after one kid tried to pull it out and use it as a weapon against another. Every time I deviated from her dictatorial directions. a handle on the back of the driver’s seat.
someone else is hurtling down the highway right now with a minivan full of my memories. (They’ve probably got the windows open. you can have Nancy and the stylish SUV that encases her. Somewhere.) Whoever you are.Minivan Mentality thoughtlessly gave it away. I want to remember where I’ve been. In exchange. I want those memories and that cruddy old minivan back. 215 . You’ll always know where you’re going.
The Trail Ahead A few years ago. I watched my oldest child cross a stage. 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. and every family member remembers details the rest of us have forgotten. streams and boulders are infused with memories. In fact. I’m sure all the other parents were as stunned as I to suddenly be standing at the closing bookend of childhood. mortarboard perched precariously on his head. We’ve been hiking the same stretch since my children were preschoolers. We’ve hiked that trail so many times now that certain trees. Another remembers eating lunch on the trunk of a fallen pine tree until an attack by ravenous ants. and accept his high school diploma with a brilliant smile. unable to keep up. I have pictures of both kids being carried on the shoulders of their dad and grandpa. Grandpa remembers a pair of osprey that 216 . One of us recalls stumbling into an ice-cold stream and then walking for hours in wet shoes. But it didn’t really hit me until a few days later when our family began its annual summer hike in the Rocky Mountains.
sunny rock. I can still clearly hear my kids’ high. 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. talking over each other as they competed to give Sid’s life the juiciest details. Grandma is an expert at picking out secluded spots. all grown up and soon headed off to college. crossed ahead of me. as I always do. then turned to look back. I am not. My son’s favorite hiking story is about the time that I. eager voices. then had to sit down on a rock to compose myself.The Trail Ahead nested in a tree overlooking a beautiful mountain lake. watching the birds swoop down to catch ﬁsh for their hungry offspring. 217 . We lay back on a large. I snapped the shot. The trail from the bridge leads off into dense woods. he’ll understand why. captured in pictures. My husband and I share a favorite location—a log bridge over a rushing stream. 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. Sadly. Funny Boy. I stopped to take a picture of the bridge. The ﬁrst time each of our kids clambered across that bridge unassisted was a momentous event. This year. though. My daughter remembers our yearly pilgrimage to the grave of a beloved dog who was buried just off the trail. the trail with its unseen destination stretching ahead of him. not realizing my chosen spot could be seen from another part of the trail. Grandma’s memories of the trail center on which boulders and tree trunks provided the most privacy for the inevitable call of nature. Someday. curving out of sight. exposed my backside to a group of college students.
expecting her to say something soothing to boost my self-esteem the way today’s helicopter parents always strive to do for their children. Don’t you think it’s time to update your photo?” Then thoughtful John added the coup de grace: “P. But my mom is old school. I just think it’s kind of like false advertising. I’m thrilled that you were paying such close attention to the status of my photo.Picture Perfect Pictures must not be too picturesque. I am.” Mind. She prefers the Kick ‘Em While They’re Down parenting philosophy popular during the rough-and-tumble pioneer days. John? MIND?? Of course not. 218 . I happened to mention this email to my mother. I’ve noticed that your picture hasn’t changed in several years. I hope you don’t mind me saying this. It’s nothing personal. Really. —Ralph Waldo Emerson I once received an email from an eagle-eyed reader named John who apparently had nothing better to do with his time than send me the following message: “As a longtime reader of your columns.S.
dear. Boy.” she said. but I ﬁgured no one needed to know that. For some reason. was I happy. my rotten editors did not believe I look just like Angelina Jolie. and I’m sticking to it. Cameras not only don’t love me. OK. “That picture is at least six years old. though. I faced the terrible prospect of having to provide a photo of myself to go with my columns. So anyway. I’ll have you know my picture is no more than ﬁve years old (give or take a year or two). Through the magic of modern technology that included hours and hours of state-of-the-art retouching techniques. I sent my editors a really gorgeous picture. what I’m trying to say here is this: Thanks. So when I started writing a humor column. I hate those people. 219 . How rude. It really is false advertising. thanks a million for taking the time to notice that my picture is obsolete. and every camera in existence has conspired to exaggerate those features. I have a long face and small beady eyes. You know how the camera is said to love some people? Well. making me look like Eeyore with Winnie the Pooh eyes. But by golly. they throw up all their little camera parts in disgust when they are pointed in my direction. Out of desperation. I ﬁnally got a picture that did not cause people to cover their eyes in horror. and I haven’t changed a bit since it was taken.” Ouch.Picture Perfect “He’s right. It is not a pretty sight. sweet John. I really appreciate it. Now. I engaged the services of a highly skilled professional photographer. I’ll also have you know that it has always been very difﬁcult to get a decent photo of myself. that’s my picture. it wasn’t actually a picture of me. They demanded an actual photo of my actual face.
Funny Boy got out of the 220 . He didn’t look convinced. “It makes Malcolm feel better. “You’re going to have a wonderful time!” I remember saying too cheerfully.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. Maybe I was a little biased. So did I. and we were driving home—I got to thinking about his ﬁrst day of preschool. head and shoulders above any other kid in the school or any other kid in the world for that matter. he’d clutched his favorite toy. a stuffed bunny he’d inexplicably named Malcolm. He kept rubbing his ﬁnger across Malcolm’s head. When we arrived at the preschool. and tried to be very brave.” he’d once explained to me. I think it probably made my little man feel better too. But only a little. On the short drive to the school that day. 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. something he did often to comfort the rather emotional rabbit.
” I said. I think it made him feel better. The top of his head is bare in several places.” I said. He rubbed Malcolm’s head several times to reassure him.Of Boys and Bunnies car with Malcolm tucked under his arm. sounding again like Mister Rogers. through my own brimming tears.” he said. The bunny’s ears are frayed now. way back behind the boxes of video games and soccer trophies. For a moment. I’ll be back soon. I reminded him that Malcolm would have to stay with me. 221 . “Long time no see!” I sat down on Funny Boy’s bed and just stared at Malcolm for a while. Rogers. Malcolm. I went into his room and reached into the top of his closet. worn down to the fabric by a little boy’s ﬁngers. I still remember watching. “You stay here. as he lovingly strapped the little rabbit into the car seat. You’ll be OK.” When we got home after dropping him off at college. “Only people can go to school. stroking the bunny’s head one last time. and his fur looks matted. I sounded like Mr. I rubbed his head several times. those blue eyes brimmed with tears. the seams in his body are visible. way too cheerful. “He’ll be right here waiting for you when I pick you up. then placed the rabbit back in the car. “Hi Malcolm. I promised to take good care of him. and pulled out an old stuffed bunny.
Then. —Christopher Morley he called it her garden room. S 222 . we painted the whole structure white and added more stenciled ﬂowers—red roses this time—all over the bench. So did some of mine. We used stencils to paint dainty ﬂowers on the pink walls. The bench and its fence were secured to one of my daughter’s bedroom walls. Colorful smudges took the place of the intended clean. I nailed a small wooden bench to a section of picket fencing. We wove fake ivy and silk ﬂowers along the fencing to complete the look. She held the brush and proudly created a few of them all by herself. as if the ﬂowers on the wall were blowing in a gentle breeze. together. We painted the walls pink and hung lacy little curtains at the window. and a mirror.The Garden Room We’ve had bad luck with our kids. stenciled edges. She was four years old then. bordered with glued-on ivy and still more silk ﬂowers. We decided to leave it that way. they’ve all grown up. and the ﬂoral theme in her ﬁrst “big-girl” bedroom delighted her. Some of her work went outside the lines. was mounted above.
At that moment.The Garden Room Funny Girl would sit on that bench in her garden room. a Mary Quite Contrary who had long been embarrassed by her blooming bedroom. I’d ﬁnd her curled up on the bench asleep. naturally. My ﬂower child grew into a willowy teenager. but often—too often—I was so preoccupied with the day’s must-do tasks that I failed to fully enjoy the garden party. and she would pretend she was in a real garden. her head resting on them.” she said simply. she would carry on the party with her faithful. We took down the bench and its fencing and put them in the garage. with ﬂowers. Some days. “I’m just smelling all of my ﬂowers. cuddling her crew of stuffed animals. And she plastered the walls with posters of young male actors and rock stars who look like they could use an attitude 223 . fuzzy friends. Sadly or not—depending on your perspective—the garden room is no more. functional-looking furniture with nary a ﬂower to be found. So we ﬁnally updated it. Once. She also wanted black. We removed the prettily painted shelf with its daisy-shaped knobs underneath that held trophies and ribbons and other childhood memorabilia. after I’d excused myself and rushed out. Later. lime green—because that’s the color desired by the girl whose legs were now longer than the quaint bench she used to nap on. Occasionally. Sometimes I succeeded at this. she’d play dress-up in front of the mirror. These were formal affairs at which I was expected to wear a pretty hat and conduct myself in a manner beﬁtting my lovely surroundings. I could smell them too. We painted the room lime green—yes. Many days. Mommy. I walked in to ﬁnd her breathing deeply. wearing a lovely hat adorned. I was invited in for tea parties.
She was right. she informed me I’d turned into an old fuddy duddy. 224 . What I wouldn’t give to attend one more tea party. When I told her that I preferred ﬂowers on the walls. I stood in the garage and stared at the still-beautiful little bench. a journey that seemed to have passed in the blink of an eye. And what amuses me is that I’m OK with that.Days of Derangement adjustment. The day we ﬁnished the room makeover. symbol now of a line crossed in the inevitable journey out of childhood.
weaving from one side of the road to the other. renowned for his ornery ways. He tells it with great ﬂourish. in a more simple time.The Pig Story E ver since I can recall. It’s a tale of how. I’ve heard The Pig Story so many times that I could recite it in my sleep. My mother was the youngest of 10 of my grandpa’s children. Over the years. he’s perfected a series of coy pauses and soft smiles. delivered at just the right moment. my father procured my mother’s hand in marriage for the price of a couple of hogs. born when her father was in his 70s and married to his third. my granddad had been feuding—Hatﬁeld-McCoy style—with his nearest neighbor. the two men had fought 225 . he’d insist on driving his battered pickup along the dirt roads near his home. My parents grew up on farms several miles apart in southeastern Oklahoma. (And this was before Viagra!) My grandfather was a local legend. For as long as anyone around there could remember. Even when he was in his ninth decade. Over the years. Local residents knew to steer clear when they saw Old Man Gibson coming. much younger wife. that make its oration a work of art. with fading eyesight. my dad has been telling The Pig Story.
rowdier days. cursing his enemy and expressing great surprise that anyone could commit such a vile act. chicken-thieving dogs. announcing loudly to the trespassing pigs that they would soon draw their last breaths. over a defunct moonshine still tucked way back in the woods that each man claimed to have operated in his younger. the old man would fall asleep in the truck with the shotgun slung across his lap. When he thought he’d spotted the neighbor’s porkers trampling his plants underfoot. for bragging rights. if still rancorous. happened to be driving by during one of the scattershot 226 . One summer. the pigs would tire of the game and make their way home. and late in the afternoon.Days of Derangement over property lines. the pigs didn’t seem to take him too seriously. For several mornings in a row. One day my father. waking occasionally to ﬁre a random shot before resuming his nap. routine. He’d stay there awhile. And eventually. my grandpa would look out over his crops. Both men had spent short spells in jail when things got too heated and the sheriff wanted to calm them down. Then he’d grab his shotgun. Invariably. the two old warriors had settled into a fairly harmless. watching for signs of porcine invasion. park his pickup under a couple of sweeping oak trees at the edge of the pasture and start ﬁring wildly in the pigs’ direction. unable with his poor vision to actually hit anything. even. the neighbor started releasing his pigs into the ﬁelds where my grandpa still grew corn and cotton. who was a high school senior at the time. he’d swear up and down. But by the time they were each around 90. my granddad would do the same. stray cattle. But as my grandpa was unable to chase them down or shoot them.
as my dad always adds to universal groans. When told of the situation. is hogstory. My grandpa was so pleased at this unexpected triumph over his nemesis that he invited my dad to come over that night for supper and there. The rest. They’ve been living high on the hog ever since. 227 . They would provide quite a few tasty meals for the family. They were married a year later and recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. He stopped and asked my grandpa if he needed help. he introduced him to his 16-year-old daughter.The Pig Story shooting sessions. my dad quickly caught the pigs and put them in the back of the old pickup.
I was forced to undergo 228 . An NFL event is a reassuring example of the strength of our capitalist system. —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. You get to invest extraordinary amounts of your personal capital in things like tickets. Because I brought a book to the last professional sporting event I attended (a hockey game) and embarrassed my children. Despite the fact I wouldn’t know a touchdown from a hoe down. well-paid men run around chasing a piece of pigskin. And the NFL realizes a handsome proﬁt in the bargain.Pirates and Packers The reason women don’t play football is because 11 of them would never wear the same outﬁt in public. It’s a win-win situation all around. So I begged my family to let me come along. Not just any football game: an NFL (Not For Low-incomers) game. I wanted to be part of this patriotic process. hot dogs and soft drinks while having the pleasure of watching hefty.
But surprisingly. The fans behind me provided a running commentary on the mental and physical capacity of each player (“You’re an idiot!” or “My grandma can run faster than that!”) 229 . and it’s hard to be churlish with cheese. This seemed to me like a good omen for the home team. there was plenty to capture my attention.Pirates and Packers an airport-style security screening before we left home. Because the stadium is thoughtfully crammed with more seats than one would think possible. and so I arrived at the game betting on being bored. I could smell them too. I was sitting among fans of the home team. I was a little upset. but the cheese head was charmingly apologetic. the home team was named after a group of plundering pirates called buccaneers. That made it even more special. And it didn’t much matter that I don’t understand the ﬁrst thing about football. Unlike the visiting team. I had an upclose encounter with one of these chunks of cheese when its bearer bent over to pick up something. especially the ones directly behind me who showed their support by combining loud. which was named after men who once packed meat into little cans. Pirates could surely beat Packers. I was joined in this belief by many Buccaneer fans. The ﬁrst thing I noticed was that many fans were sporting large yellow pieces of synthetic cheese on their heads. pirate-like bellows (Aargh!) with beer-propelled belches worthy of the most fearsome buccaneer. 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. The paperback I’d hidden under my shirt was conﬁscated. So I got another drink and took my seat just as the game began. I could actually feel these belches on the back of my neck.
the beer boys would discuss. I didn’t even miss my book. and debated which ones should be given the privilege of dating the manly men behind me. the cheerleaders wore outﬁts that looked just like pirate eye patches. the various attributes of the Buccaneer cheerleaders. During breaks in the action on the ﬁeld. In keeping with the team theme. except that pirate patches cover more skin. My fellow fans rated each cheerleader on whether she was “hot” or merely lukewarm. In the end. These guys really helped me grasp the ﬁner points of the game. 230 . and even the cheese heads didn’t seem too upset.Days of Derangement and on the quality of the coaching (“You’d better be ﬁred after this game!”). Maybe that’s because cheese does for them what chocolate does for me—makes everything better. The Bucs fans happily went home singing yo-ho songs. the Buccaneers did indeed beat the Packers. Even the performance of the referees was analyzed (“Are you kidding me?!”). in their outside voices. I felt so sorry for the ladies who were denied such an honor. I was amazed to realize that I had a great time.
Pirates and Packers 231 .
In theory. Yeah.Cooler Online I’m so much cooler online. —Brad Paisley song I joined Facebook a while back. which my charming children pointed out ofﬁcially made me a loser. I’m cooler online. That means not much has changed for me since high school. If they agree. except that now I have a few more friends. Then you begin to amass your Facebook friends list. I managed to accumulate 10 online friends. In theory. you look at each other’s pages and post comments. 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. Just in case I am the next-to-last person in the world to join Facebook. you also post truthful information in your proﬁle. and after much effort. let me tell you how it works: You sign up and create your personal page with photos and a proﬁle. and you are the last. You send messages to others on the site asking them to be your friend.
You can even send them an online hug. But it gets even better. you can “super” poke them. and so on and so on. in cold weather. Soon. You also can show off your intellectual bent by recommending books and pretending you’ve actually read these books. let me assure you it has true social value. This is what I’m going to do. So. and those friends will tell still other friends. My 10 friends will be so impressed with my literary ﬂair that they will tell all their other friends about me. you also can poke your friends. and I’ve been tempted to “de-friend” these people. You can join online groups and causes and invite friends to come along. Or. I can’t take the humiliation. if you’re one of those people who likes to live on the edge. But that would mean my friends list wouldn’t even reach double digits. I can type in something like. “Jackie is clipping her toenails.Cooler Online to see. This has left me feeling like a voodoo doll. I only have 10 of them. Lest you think Facebook is just a frivolous way to fritter away time keeping your friends updated on routine bodily maintenance activities. I’ll have so many friend requests. I would never do this to one of my friends. In this brave new world of social networking. you can deliver a virtual slap or bite. you can even spank your friends or throw thongs at them. I have a couple of Facebook friends who regularly send me super pokes. I’ll 233 . But then. You can send your friends truly useful things like a virtual glass of wine or.” and all 10 of my friends will feel better knowing this. If one of your cyber friends has stepped out of line. which I suspect is not quite as good as the real thing that involves actual arms. If you are the kinky kind. of course. virtual hot cocoa.
Maybe I’ll even start a Facebook fan club for myself. I have to go now and clip my toenails. 234 . you’d get to hear all about it. If you were my friend.Days of Derangement have to start screening people.
This is a normal. and I’ve got ﬂabby arms and a pelican neck. I didn’t even know I possessed bird-like qualities until one day when I was standing in my kitchen. kitchen-type S 235 . But you’d be wrong. I’ve actually lifted one weight. —Laurie Metcalf o I’ve started lifting weights. Yes. and I raised my arms to lift something from an upper shelf. So I’m starting out slowly.Beware the Bingo Wings I’m 36 years old. wings. in an effort to look cut and ripped or some other painful-sounding adjective. That’s because I’ve apparently grown wings. You may think I’m lifting weights for cosmetic reasons. OK. 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 all my house plants are dead. Lifting two weights at the same time was a little too ambitious for my longdelayed return to ﬁtness. and no one loves me. shifting it from one hand to the other. my friend. You may think I’m hoping to be considered a sleek and sexy cougar on the prowl for a younger man.
“But you could clean off a chalkboard with those bingo wings of yours. You sacriﬁce time you would undoubtedly have spent doing pushups if you weren’t driving them from one activity to another. “You’ve got some serious bingo wings there. uh. I’d like to point out.” “Bingo wings?” I asked. careworn arms that could be used as cleaning implements by a school janitor. I’m pretty sure my bingo wings won’t lift me off the ground. I’ve started lifting weight. I beg your pardon. as I said. covering her eyes as if she couldn’t bear to look at me. were sitting nearby eating food prepared for them by the person they were about to insult. You lose sleep for years worrying over every aspect of their lives. And as long as I hold on to this weight. Now I know what she meant.” You carry them through nine months of pregnancy. I’ve started lifting weights. “Yea.” Funny Boy chimed in. Mom. “Nothing personal. as my grandma used to sing to me. I can lift it into the air and then bring it back down. you know that arm fat that. This weight weighs a whole 10 pounds. “Whoa. You labor in agony to bring them forth into the world. I never promised you a rose garden. 236 .” said Funny Girl. put down your arms. and you watch the ingrates snicker at you behind their hands. I got a ﬁgurative punch in the gut from my own children who. But I may soon send those kids of mine airborne. You pay for their college tuition. Well. But this time. Mom. And then you stand in your kitchen with ﬂabby. especially women who play Bingo?” “Older women? Arm fat? Bingo?!” I sputtered. older women get.Days of Derangement activity that I’ve done many times before. So.
as he invented the darn thing. The problem is that I just can’t seem to focus anymore. Granted. people have been bemoaning the negative consequences of technology for a long time. I have the uncomfortable sense that the Internet is tinkering with my neural circuitry. In fact. I can feel it. My brain skims along life’s surface. lamenting the I 237 . reprogramming my memory. down where complex thinking and unhurried contemplation still reside (at least I hope they still do).Adios Internet My mind is going. this has not been an easy decision. While I’ve greatly enjoyed my years in cyberspace. I’m pretty sure that my online time has shrunk my attention span to the size of a mosquito’s. —Supercomputer HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey ’ve reluctantly decided that I need to resign from the Internet. Socrates started what may have been the ﬁrst technology scare. rarely diving into the depths of the sea of information. Naturally. Believe me. I blame Al Gore. possibly even sabotaging my soul. But it’s deﬁnitely for my own good. and that might be an insult to the mosquito.
The Web makes it so easy to interrupt ourselves. I’m going to give up television as well. the cast of Jersey Shore. And let’s not even talk about the detrimental effects of television on our minds. So I am walking away from the Web. assuming I don’t fall asleep ﬁrst. I am convinced the Internet has been even worse. 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 also going to spend tons of time sitting around thinking deep thoughts. When the printing press came along. which he thought ruined the memory. From now on. 238 . the invention of the telegram was blamed for triggering an outbreak of mental illness. constantly craving the ﬂeeting pleasure of new information without ever digesting the old stuff. I’ll be spending my time reading classic novels in pretentious cafes where I’ll be available to discuss them with anyone whose nose is not buried in a laptop (if I can ﬁnd such a person). We fritter away vast amounts of time on Twitter. By the end of the 19th century. now that I think about it. I’m pretty sure Socrates would be deeply impressed. And we lurch from site to site. But as bad as TV has been for our mental fortitude. Imagine what the old guy would think of Twitter. Actually. we waste the day away on eBay. encouraging us to incessantly peek at our email. 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.Days of Derangement invention of books.
—Dorothy Parker A s you might imagine. 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. Sometimes topics are so plentiful—like when I go to a class reunion or listen 239 .Column Creation I hate writing. OK. My witty and brilliant brain is always on alert for possible topics. 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. however. Let me warn you. that the making of humor columns resembles the making of laws and sausage—it’s not always a pretty sight. which typically goes something like this: “Dear Jackie. I get genuine fan mail. especially when a family member or friend does something I can ridicule (this is why I spend a lot of time alone). But occasionally. The ﬁrst step in the process is to come up with a topic. I often receive email from adoring fans. so I’d like to take you behind the scenes for a look at how I write a column. I love having written.
Those needs are usually best met in my favorite chair. I haven’t gone quite that far. as you’ll recall. I have to conduct in-depth topic research. which is conveniently placed in front of the TV to allow me to keep up with world events. Being a columnist on the cutting edge of the whole work/life balance thing (as all your best columnists are). I gave it my best shot. A prime focus lately has been the unwanted hair that’s suddenly appearing in places no hair had 240 . That’s when. for example. I have a ﬂexible ofﬁce space that moves around to meet my needs. The best such research occurs while I’m asleep. I can’t quite begin writing. endeavor.Days of Derangement to a presidential debate—that they practically hit me upside the head. Van Gogh. even painful. I was forced to suspend my column-creation campaign and ﬂy to Washington. Not long ago. It is essential I keep up with events in case I am called to participate in them. When I’ve slept enough to come up with a humdinger of a topic. though. I invest a lot of time in sleeping. DC to try to ﬁx the economy. I awaken and head to my home ofﬁce to begin writing. and sometimes she doesn’t show up. even with a killer. sleep-induced topic. cut off part of his own ear. To be the very best humorist I can be. Other times. So I left the economy in the hands of the ﬁnancial geniuses who’ve been running it so far. Writing can be a grueling. Like many a great artist. My muse is fairly ﬁckle. but my deprived fans soon demanded I resume writing witty and brilliant columns. So I spend some time considering my physical imperfections. and I returned to my easy chair. but I have been known to pluck stray chin hairs while I wait for my creative muse to strike. I am often driven to the edge of madness in my quest for perfection.
241 . That’s probably why Van Gogh cut off his ear.Column Creation gone before. Maybe I could write a column about that. It’s tough to be witty and brilliant when faced with such a problem. he saw hair growing out of it.
Couch Potato Confessions I ’m ashamed to admit that I’m a couch potato. with no danger of the dreaded pretzel twist. there are other essential ingredients. high-energy people who never play potato. And ideally. Couches should be soft and wide enough so you do not feel as if you’re going to fall off. First. you need the right kind of personality: starchy. of course. they should be positioned so they are not visible from other rooms of the house. I’m a connoisseur of couch-potato technique. The best receptacles for couch-potato champions like me are long enough to accommodate the entire body in a horizontal position. just in case you’re living with one of those fanatic. I’ve spent many lazy hours catching Zs (while pretending to be doing something productive) on a variety of couches. And I’m not just your ordinary. I’ve got that in spades. While the main accessory for being a couch potato is. 242 . vegged-out and prone to napping. run-of-the-mill sofa spud. a couch.
Couch Potato Confessions Next. You need those cute little decorated sofa pillows that are designed to stay on the couch. however. you can casually throw your covering across the arm of the couch as a decorative accent. if someone stumbles upon your spudly snooze. You need pillows. Many men like to have sports playing on the television while they snooze away the hours in non-productive loaﬁng.) 243 . I prefer. (Just remember to hurriedly smooth your tell-tale bed head. That way. But blankets. That would indicate a premeditated intention to spend disgraceful periods of time as a potato person. being actual bed accessories. Then. a sofa-spud spouse can legitimately claim to be watching a very important (and very long) game. if someone unexpectedly interrupts your snoozing. and no one will be the wiser. 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. are a dead giveaway. That way. you can at least appear to be doing something when you’re in horizontal heaven. A blanket is also an essential element of today’s successful lounge lizard. you can quickly sit up. wipe the drool off your chin and nod intently at the educational TV program you were obviously using to enhance your brain power. to have educational TV programs playing on the set. you need a TV. I can pretend to be improving my mind while indulging my lazy body. But you don’t want to use your regular bed pillows. If someone—say a man’s wife—asks him to do something annoying such as take out the trash. Other accessories are also helpful in attaining the ultimate in couch-potato comfort. naturally. Then.
Actually. you may think I have too much time on my hands. I’m feeling a bit drowsy right now. I often come up with great column ideas during my couchpotato periods. Pass me that afghan.Days of Derangement Because I know so much about being a couch potato. Not at all! In fact. 244 .
Actually. We waiting women began to glare at the men and seethe at the injustice of it all.Ladies Room Rebel I was recently compelled to attend yet another professional sporting event. I drink more than a few beverages. That’s the place where the team owner charges almost as much for cellulite-friendly food as my dentist charges for a root canal. 245 . Not surprisingly. however. In some cases. where there was no line. are none too comfortable. legs are crossed and eyeballs beginning to ﬂoat before we even make it to the restroom door. Where there is never a line. I spend time standing in a line of women waiting to get into our designated comfort station. I like to kill time when I’m there by making frequent trips to the concession stand. To wash down all the junk food I’m eating. We had to watch dozens of males stroll in without encountering any delay in doing their business. That’s how it was when I was in an unusually long line that snaked past the men’s room. 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.
That’s why we need much larger public restrooms. So much for revolution. we also need extra time in the loo (another British term) to stand around powdering our noses. She stepped forward. It was like watching George Washington crossing the Delaware River. “spend a penny. But still. was fortunate enough to have followers to back up his brave bid for freedom. “Yeah!” we shouted in agreement.” And due to certain personality differences. however. Our ladies’ room rebel had to enter the arena alone.Days of Derangement Finally.” she announced. “Bigger bathrooms! Yeah!” So must have begun the American experiment with democracy when the Founding Fathers. as the British say. Washington. “I’m not waiting in this line any longer. we had one. a tall. “Why isn’t the women’s bathroom twice as big as the men’s?” Why indeed. expressed similar outrage over inequality. The rest of us—ladylike lemmings afraid of the sight of urinals—continued to toe the line. as the line inched forward only slightly. one lady posed aloud the question we’d all been asking ourselves. standing outside the ladies’ lounge with my legs crossed. They might have been a little more eloquent about it than we were. And suddenly. lining our lips and talking about feelings and other things I cannot disclose here. who probably never had to wait for a toilet stall.” She strode purposefully into the male inner sanctum as we gasped in admiration. conﬁdent-looking woman in stylish boots. “I’m using the men’s room. All we needed was a leader. 246 . men need far less space than women to. I sensed that revolution was in the air. Due to certain anatomical differences.
Take. these experts discovered that a majority of men do indeed gaze at the girls when they ﬁrst meet a woman. and shockingly.Fake Brain The lesson here is you can’t expect users to learn. But you may be surprised to ﬁnd out I’m more interested in another recent study which concluded that we’re all becoming a nation of idiots. Apparently. I feel really good knowing that such scientiﬁc knowledge is out there to assist future researchers. 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. especially if you are a researcher studying topics crucial to the well-being of humanity. we are not becoming a nation of idiots because half of us don’t realize the other half have faces. There’s too much fun going on out there on the Internet. 247 . they really did spend serious scientiﬁc time studying this. who will undoubtedly need to do follow-up studies. for example. —Pete Lindstrom I t’s good to be a researcher. Yes. You might also be surprised to ﬁnd out these two studies are not linked.
I had missed the leisurely experience of immersing myself in a book. we could be in real trouble. I’m ﬁnding it very difﬁcult to concentrate and absorb all the knowledge so painstakingly amassed by those primitive. Or maybe I should store all the stupid stuff in my real 248 . 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. But I can tell that my once sponge-like mind has been marred by my Internet habit. but it is at least relaxing. pre-Internet people. I’d never actually given up reading books altogether. such as checking out the latest in silly scientiﬁc studies or reading the newest SPAM email in my inbox. Smart people used to put worthwhile information in them before all those smart people were recruited to conduct research on boob boys. Now. folks. 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. I’m especially interested in this. You remember books. but most of my reading has been done in little snippets of time I would steal here and there for the printed page. and I feel a strong urge to ﬂip over to something else. If everyone else is like me. where we tend to skim through a lot of trivial data instead of actually absorbing worthwhile information.Days of Derangement It’s because of all the time we spend online. I make a concerted effort to sit down with a book. My mind wanders after a few minutes of sustained reading. because I have recently embarked on an experiment in which I try to read a book for one hour each day. at least. I don’t know whether reading for an hour a day is making me smarter.
I might as well install other fake body parts as well. and turn over all important thinking to the fake brain. Of course. 249 . if I get a fake brain. Then I wouldn’t have to worry about what my face looks like. which is probably past repair anyway.Fake Brain brain.
Football Goes Feminine S uppose. and his rowdy friends a little sick of the sport. you undoubtedly spend your fall weekends in front of the television.) If you are such a woman. (Time to change the pan. you are an average middle-age woman with the everyday concerns typical of your kind. having been an average middle-age woman for quite some time now (except. I have no cellulite). (Please insert a pan under this column to catch dripping sarcasm before it makes a mess. middle-of-the-night victim of a toilet seat that was left in an upright position. And say that. that’s exactly what I do during football season. Because I am such a woman (except that I don’t have even a smidgen of cellulite). let me remind you. for the sake of discussion. like any average middle-age American woman.) 250 . I’ve spent several years wallowing each autumn in every minute of televised football I can get my eyes on. you absolutely love football. watching enough football to make even Hank Williams Jr. concerns such as spreading cellulite. a shrinking bank account and the possibility you will be the soggy. Actually.
and by this point. and you’d watch very large. You’d watch another commercial where very manly men (even the ones who weren’t so large) drink beer and stand around doing things only men who drink that particular brand of beer can do. I counted a gourmet coffee commercial. 251 . followed by more beer commercials. It wasn’t that long ago that football commercials pushed only two products: beer and pickup trucks. during which very large. Fully clothed women and children ran amuck in these commercials. 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. 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. average middle-age woman.Football Goes Feminine And I’ve noticed something interesting. The commercials are going coed. You’d have several minutes of football. That’s right. But all that has changed. The advertisers are targeting you. very manly pickups. The beer commercials tout drinkability and a reduction in calories. 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. which protected them so well they did not need padding. as well as one pushing sandwiches with organic roasted vegetables and one for a credit card featuring people buying theater tickets. for a change of pace. Then the TV would cut to a commercial for a pickup truck. very manly men drive very large. Next. you’d have several more pickup commercials.
Not that I’ll need it. at least a bit metrosexual. Soon. Football would appear to be going.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. if not feminine. there will no doubt be half-time commercials promising to wipe away cellulite. 252 .
celebrating every time a stalk of celery took the place of a plate of cookies or bag of chips. M 253 . waxing ecstatic over every lost pound.Weighty Matters My body is a temple. I’m usually winning the weight competition. You would think this would mean that we’d be very supportive of each other. We’re actually in a cutthroat competition to see who can get svelte (or maybe just slightly less lumpy) the quickest. As everyone knows. however. we’ve had to settle for whichever one of our children needs to get on the parental good side. I don’t need to bribe the judge. That means we have to have a daily weigh-in. And I’ve done this while adhering to my spouse’s terribly unfair weighing system. presided over by an impartial judge who is supposed to record our weight each morning and ensure there is no cheating. with ample parking in the back. As we are short of impartial judges willing to come into our bathroom. Naah. there is only one Right Way to Weigh Yourself. because. Funny Man has actually resorted to attempted judicial bribery. y husband and I regularly try to lose weight.
6. 9. 2. Take off all of your clothes. Wake up. Let go of the towel bar very. lift the other foot and put it ever so gently on the scale as well. 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). so much the better. including your underwear. Exhale.Days of Derangement a highly sophisticated method that has worked beautifully for generations of women. Calibrate the scale. who is late getting ready for school. Brush the crud off your teeth. 7. If it is even one hair’s breadth above the zero. This weigh-in procedure consists of the following steps: 1. fails to notice that you have not yet let go of the towel bar. When the ﬁrst foot is in place. if you have an impartial judge there to write down your weight. grip the towel bar tightly. Go to the bathroom. 4. 254 . 3. however. It is OK. being careful not to swallow any water. Look down at the dial and note your weight. Place one foot on the scale and slowly transfer your weight from the ﬂoor in a calm but deliberate movement. 8. If you need support during this transition. 5. the overage will increase exponentially with every pound. Every ounce counts. very slowly. and this judge. Or.
medical ofﬁces and other places in which women hate to be weighed. an imprudent process practiced at health clubs. This dangerous way to weigh has been known to startle a scale into adding ﬁve or 10 pounds to a woman’s real weight.Weighty Matters Unfortunately. 2. And I sure don’t need that. Note your weight. 255 . This foolish procedure consists of only two wildly risky steps: 1. Get on the scale. my man adheres to The Wrong Way to Weigh Yourself.
The Big Wee But I learned that there’s a certain character that can be built from embarrassing yourself endlessly. and you hop aboard the chairlift. and the pictures 256 . it malfunctions. those people would take pictures of you with their cell phones (assuming they could stop laughing long enough). causing you to slide through a gap between the seat and the chair back. leaving you—bare-bottomed—dangling helplessly upside down. Unfortunately. your pants are pulled down. As you slide. Say. Before we all became entangled in the Web. while your boot and ski simultaneously become lodged in the lift. for example. there’s not much else that can really get to you. thanks to technology. as most skiers do. But now. only the people who were there that day would have the pleasure of seeing you in such a predicament. —Christian Bale T he Internet has changed everything. You arrive at the resort fully clothed. you decide to go skiing. If you can sit happy with embarrassment.
it could deﬁnitely happen to me. But Sven. On the way. Sven was originally from Sweden. Then everyone on the planet would have a chance to chortle at your chapped cheeks. I could only creep along like a crab. This actually happened a couple of years ago to a man in Colorado. I kept thinking about this unfortunate fellow. But I hadn’t gotten there yet. being Swedish. I was the oldest one in the class except for the instructor. pronounced it “Wee. a hale and hearty man named Sven. I didn’t see anybody dangling upside down with bared buttocks. Although I’m about half Sven’s age. I was part of the “never ever” class. That’s because I consider myself an embarrassment magnet. And having my dangling derriere gracing websites worldwide would not be a pretty picture. If the chairlift butt exposure incident could happen to someone else. Sven showed us how to stop by pointing the tips of our skis in a V. 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. those sane individuals who’ve never before put long. I looked nervously at the chairlift that was taking people to the mountaintop.The Big Wee would appear online before you’d even had time to warm up your freezing rear end. and he was 80—80!— years old. And when I agreed to take a ski lesson. ﬂat devices on their feet and attempted to slide down a mountain on top of massive amounts of snow. 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.” 257 .
258 . trembling. safely in place. I was sufﬁciently adept at making a big wee that I was taken. to the chairlift. I’d giggle some more. until I—with my middle-age mom’s bladder—was in danger of making a different kind of wee than my instructor intended.” he kept shouting as I continually chose an alternative method of stopping—falling over. Eventually. This caused me to childishly giggle.Days of Derangement “Just make a big wee. and my dignity. You’ll be pleased to know I made it to the top of the mountain with my pants. The Internet is certainly better for it. Each time Sven said it. after many hours of effort.
conferring with the ﬂowers. (If I only had a brain.) Getting away from it all is just what I like to do in a cabin in rural North Carolina. In the sweet summertime. when the living is easy (that would make a great song lyric). we are BFFs (best friends forever. In North Carolina. consulting with the rain. Kathy and I have been pals since our children were babies. at least until they bite you. In modern parlance. for those of you who still speak 259 .My BFF Lots of your friends want to ride with you in the limo. you can while away the hours. but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down. even the insects seem friendly. I’d turn that into a catchy tune. —Oprah Winfrey W hat’s nice about the summertime. is that it gives you the opportunity to get away from it all and reconnect with family and friends. 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.
I noticed on the drive up here that they’ve gotten very wrinkly. and we had a great time conferring with Mother Nature.Days of Derangement actual English). Then we moved on to lesser matters like how quickly our children have grown up and how scary a place the world is getting to be. How did that happen?” I nodded gravely. I noticed that my own wrists still looked pretty darn attractive as well. who didn’t even seem to notice that we’re all getting older.” Kathy said glumly the last time we got together. Kathy and I—being BFFs who know pretty much everything there is to know about each other—can dispense with the usual pleasantries and get right down to talking about what truly matters while sitting in a couple of rocking chairs on the front porch. 260 . We found ourselves taking shelter in the basement of some friendly neighbors. “Hey. My wrists still look great! Notice how young and skinny my wrists are!” And lo and behold. “I’ve discovered something I still like about my body. That night. we got even closer to Mama Earth when she brought a raging thunderstorm our way. “I absolutely hate my thighs. and we spent another half hour lamenting the increasing force of gravity on our various body parts. listening to the storm above us and clutching our loved ones close. When we get together. On the walk. Kathy suddenly nudged me and pointed ﬁrst at her bare legs and then at mine.” she said excitedly. holding out her arms for me to see. Kathy made a heartwarming discovery. complete with a power outage and warnings of a nearby tornado. I suggested we go for a walk in the woods. “They’ve fallen down past my knees. And speaking of my knees. As we sat there in the ﬂickering candlelight. Before we got too depressed.
” she said.” That’s what is so wonderful about a good BFF. when even our wrists no longer look young. 261 . I’ll still want to share a front porch with my friend Kathy. She’ll always help you look on the bright side. “Down here in the dark.My BFF “Hey. our thighs look really good. That’s why.
—Miranda Ingram I saw Aunt Bea go a little bonkers. simple place in Mayberry USA. And it was all Opie’s fault. far more reliable than a man. the real Aunt Bea and Opie were. Chocolate is. Watching that program as a kid was about as good as eating warm-out-of-the-oven cookies washed down with cold milk. As everyone over a certain age knows. OK. well. On the show. She was warm. I always wanted to climb up in her lap. so it wasn’t the real Aunt Bea or the real Opie. The world was a sweet. When I watched the show as a child. it gave you a nice feeling all over. NC. let’s face it. The make-believe Mayberry was based on Grifﬁth’s reallife hometown of Mount Airy. Love is a substitute for chocolate. a community that proudly 262 . comforting and pillowy soft.Aunt Bea Goes Bonkers It’s not that chocolates are a substitute for love. and she could cook up a storm. ﬁctional TV characters on that beloved old sitcom The Andy Grifﬁth Show. And there was no person sweeter in Mayberry than Aunt Bea. Aunt Bea was Sheriff Andy Taylor’s aunt.
and it’s an even better thing for women. Squirrel Nut Zippers and Big Hunk candy bars. I am quite fond of the cocoa bean. Opie’s also has many different kinds of chocolate. 263 . As you might have guessed. where the real Andy got his hair cut before he moved to Hollywood and had to pay a lot more for it. I had a childlike urge to climb into her lap. 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. chocolate sings. Chocolate is life. For a moment. you can get a trim and shave (assuming you are a man or a very hairy woman) in the real Floyd’s Barber Shop. Chocolate single-handedly sustains the vital control-top panty industry. Right beside Floyd’s is Opie’s Candy Store. So I completely understood when an Aunt Bea look-alike walked into Opie’s Candy Store while I was there one day and. a relative newcomer to the street. While money talks. Fortunately. when denied her nostalgic nourishment. had a chocolate-triggered meltdown.Aunt Bea Goes Bonkers promotes its favorite son. Along Main Street in Mount Airy. Chocolate is nature’s Midol. a particular form of chocolate is wrapped up in our minds with a special memory. I came to my senses before I ended up in the Mayberry jail guarded by Barney. warm smile and pillowy soft frame. Chocolate is to women what beer is to men. She really did look like Andy’s aunt—upswept hair. you can visit Snappy Lunch and eat the same famous pork chop sandwich that Andy ate as a boy. I have many of my own special memories bound up in chocolate. Next door. And often. This is a good thing for children.
kindly informed her the store was temporarily out of that item. giving her an understanding pat on the arm. “And I’m in menopause!” The clerk looked bewildered. beaming. 264 . but the other female customers gently guided our suffering sister out the door. a young man apparently unaware of the dangers of depriving a woman of her desired form of chocolate. distinctly non-Aunt Beaish look. “I had them years ago when I was here with my children” she told him. she said it yet again. “I came speciﬁcally from Florida for Opie’s chocolate-covered caramels!” she said loudly. “I’ve never forgotten how good they tasted. Then she added the kicker. And again. her voice forlorn. When he returned.” The clerk. shockingly. empty-handed. The other customers clutched their candy closer.Days of Derangement Aunt Bea’s clone looked around the store several times. then approached the clerk and asked where to ﬁnd the chocolatecovered caramels. She ordered the clerk to check in the back for more caramels. Her face took on a crazed. to sweat profusely. Aunt Bea began to tremble and. “I came speciﬁcally from Florida for them!” she told everyone in the room. Then she said it again. The real Aunt Bea would have done no less.
Aunt Bea Goes Bonkers 265 .
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. like the fact that the youngest signer of the Declaration of Independence was 26 and the oldest—acclaimed kite-ﬂyer Ben Franklin—was 70. most assuredly.Turbulence I had the honor of being in Philadelphia at Independence Hall one July Fourth not too long ago. 266 .” Franklin famously said “or. “Give me good potato salad or give me death!” OK. always throwing a wet blanket on the festivities. We had an enthusiastic National Park Service guide who gave us all the salient historical details and then threw in some interesting tidbits. It was a moving experience. “We must all hang together. Franklin actually reminded his fellow signers that the cantankerous King George III would not be happy with their declaration.” Good old Ben. I made that last part up. we shall all hang separately.
Turbulence Our guide described the turmoil swirling around Philadelphia in July of 1776 as the Continental Congress debated the Declaration. Before we even boarded the ﬂight. everyone was aware of this child because he was loud and boisterous. making everyone jump in their seats. shortly into the ﬂight. waving his ﬂag and shouting every sentence. I was tired that day and feeling about as cranky as the king. he made his own little declaration of independence. Standing in the hallowed room where that document and the United States Constitution were signed. but as she walked away. we took a horse-drawn carriage ride around historic Philadelphia. He grinned appealingly at her and nodded as if he would comply. His tired-looking mother tried to shush him. “Turbulence!” After touring Independence Hall. he exploded. pointing excitedly at the airplanes. but a few minutes later. He carried a small American ﬂag and wore a plastic derby hat festooned with stars and stripes. Sure enough. Our horse was 267 . the ﬂight attendant came by and admonished him. so I was royally perturbed when this young ﬁrecracker sat directly behind me on the plane. which he ignored just like my own children always did. After several more outbursts. I kept thinking about a boy who’d been on our ﬂight into Philadelphia the day before. He was about eight years old and dressed in patriotic garb. “Turbulence!” I turned around and gave him my most severe maternal look. “Turbulence!” he yelled happily. he did it again.
there was only one thing to say as we passed him. 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. Anyway. As we ended our ride and got out of the carriage. who should arrive for the next ride but the brash boy from the ﬂight.Days of Derangement named Spot. “Turbulence!” Franklin would probably have loved that kid. Spot had a bag placed strategically below his business end. Ben the driver regaled us with the exploits of Ben Franklin. Naturally. still wearing his hat and waving the ﬂag. and Ben pointed out this innovation was not in use in Revolutionary times. 268 . and our driver was Ben. who even in old age was apparently quite a ﬁrecracker himself.
Every time one of us Yanks looks the wrong way when crossing a road over there and steps into oncoming trafﬁc. Despite having been native English speakers for quite some time. Spelling is handled haphazardly. My family went on a trip a few years ago to Merry Olde England. England has apparently failed to develop along appropriate linguistic lines. as well. with the letter u added to words—like colour and honour—that have no 269 . rich in culture and history. the Brits have a chance to pick off yet another descendent of those ill-mannered colonists. It calls potato chips crisps and French fries chips. If only they’d learn to drive correctly and speak the language properly. They are highly civilized. This is their way of paying America back for that little matter of a tea-party tantrum. If you manage to survive this drive-by assassination attempt. It labels what is clearly a cookie as a biscuit and what is brazenly a biscuit as a scone. they’d be a perfect people. and I’m sorry to report that her inhabitants still insist on driving on the left side of the road.Hail Britannia I ’m a big fan of the English. the Queen’s loyal subjects will then do their best to make you loopy with their lingo. as one member or another of my family did repeatedly.
of queens who lost their heads.Days of Derangement business with a u. It’s enough to keep an American on the other side of the pond. the ubiquitous Brown Sauce. We went to palaces and castles. museums and galleries. But I assured my crew that. in spite of a few foibles. almost spoiled our appetite for exploring the Sceptre’d Isle. And so we set out to savor the civilization that produced both Shakespeare and the Spice Girls. A colorfully dressed Yeoman Guard at the tower. the English are a lovely and lively bunch. popularly known as a Beefeater. The Pig’s Blood Affair. No wonder these poor people tried to colonize the world in earlier times. paintings and sculpture far older than our own country. And an extra e is sprinkled into all sorts of words that would be far better off without it. circular breakfast item deceptively named Black Pudding. as my children took to calling it. colony-losing George III) with too much power and ravens who even today rule the roost on the Tower grounds. we each bravely ate a dark. Black Pudding is a sausage made by cooking pig’s blood with a ﬁller until it is thick enough to congeal when cooled. This was served with what is apparently used to ﬂavor all food in England. kings (like a certain multi-wived Henry and the cranky. They were simply seeking more tasty cuisine. 270 . We gazed upon statues. Our mouths fell open with wonder as we checked out the crown jewels and marveled at the majesty. Turns out. We heard exciting tales of monarchy and mayhem. Then there is the bizarre nature of British food. We trembled with terror at the thousand-year-old Tower of London as we listened to stories of long-ago torture in the dungeons. On our ﬁrst morning in London. while re is used to spell words that everyone knows need an er.
We also paid a call to that most iconic of English institutions. wasn’t built in a day. If she could only give up the Black Pudding. 271 . the pub. after all. But maybe we just need to give them some more time. This explains their legendary jolliness and also explains why they haven’t gotten around to correcting their driving or spelling systems. Rome. You’ve got to love the British. very strong beer in pubs with names that start with Ye. The English spend a great deal of time drinking very dark. all the culture and history at which we were agog could still be ours. And Britannia may yet rule the waves.Hail Britannia cheerfully reminded the uncouth Americans in the crowd that if we’d simply paid our taxes.
But when I went costume shopping with my family. I thought. was deﬁnitely not headed to her grandmother’s house. There were naughty nurses with uniforms so low-cut they could induce heart failure. I found that the hags have turned to hoochies. And Goldilocks. I promised them. The witches were wearing very little. all of them offering a shrink-wrapped style that ranged from sexy to slutty to skanky. after much begging on their part. sporting thigh-highs. Or maybe I’d reprise my polyester princess phase. with a few adult modiﬁcations. Maybe. I searched through dozens of costumes. with her plunging neckline and platform 272 . and a deviant housewife ensemble that seemed ill-suited for mopping ﬂoors. I’d continue my longtime childhood role of witch—one of those wonderfully hideous hags with a pointy black hat and hooked plastic nose complete with wart. and the princesses are parading more than their tiaras.The Scariest Costume O ne year when my kids were still young enough to care. that I’d dress up for Halloween. Little Red Riding Hood.
I considered buying one of these outﬁts. Or maybe I could stick some toy tires on my arms and legs and masquerade as a minivan. I realized that. looked ready to sleep in everyone’s bed. I am 273 . But not salacious. in a way. But my vixen vanished when I saw the looks of horror on the faces of my children. And. Every morning. something funny and familiar.The Scariest Costume heels. along with one labeled Law and Order 24/7. I could cut a circle out of a laundry basket and insert it over my body. 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. In the end. It was all more strip club than storybook. I wear a disguise every day. I could cover myself with foil marked as leftovers. For the briefest of moments. or maybe even slightly scary. the kind of eye candy that would spark my gang’s gratitude. with pieces of dirty clothing dangling from clothespins. My Halloween attire would have to be homemade. I pondered my predicament. or perhaps soothing and sweet. Or I could pose as a giant red spoon with Betty Crocker scrawled across my forehead. I went with something very simple. I could remind them of all that I do. I could include one they’d ﬁnd highly useful on occasion—Mute Mom. still in need of a disguise. actually mulled over the suggestion on the package of one costume that I channel my inner vixen. Or. for laughs. There’d be a Full-time Football button and a Constant Cartoons knob. Mom in a minidress was too monstrous an idea. So. I could get creative with the cardboard and felt and appeal to the stomach by appearing as a plate of nachos or a tray of chocolate chip cookies.
I paint my face. So I decided to skip that step and stroll the streets as myself. And my kids thought that was the scariest costume of all.Days of Derangement transformed from a bleary-eyed creature straight out of Night of the Living Dead into something resembling an attractive human being. 274 . I get dressed up in slimming garb designed to trick people into thinking I’m a treat. and I ﬁx my hair.
And like me.Costumes for the Craft-Challenged O ne of the good things about watching your children grow into teenagers who are too old to trick or treat is that you no longer have a panic attack when you hear someone on one of those morning television shows say something like this: “Halloween is coming! It’s time for all you good parents to make fun and creative costumes for your kids. Otherwise. your children will spend years in expensive therapy that you’ll have to pay for!” Maybe the announcer doesn’t say exactly those words. a craft-impaired individual who was not told before becoming a parent that part of the job entailed coming up with homemade Halloween costumes. you have a deep. 275 . but that’s what you hear because you are like me. 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.
Days of Derangement This resentment is so deep that it’s in one of those places that people don’t talk about at parties. so stop whining about your heartburn and focus on the task at hand. But no one will feel sorry for you. But do not think that you’re done. and you’re going to have to do better than that. And don’t think you can just throw together some half-baked costume like a bed sheet with a couple of poorly aligned eye holes. and all the Martha clones will want to be your friend. Parenting has become a competitive sport (soon to be an event in the Olympics). streamers of this resentment shoot up and cause considerable heartburn. Then you’ll be a hero to your child. Buy the costume and hustle on out of the mall. No. 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. the way your parents did. but it’s deﬁnitely there. and when you hear those words on television. you costume-defective parent. my friend. 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. 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. 276 . For little boys. So get yourself down to the mall and buy your child a fun and creative costume made in a factory in China. You’ll have lots of choices.
277 . There’s no need to thank me for this valuable advice. I’m glad I could help. which will no longer cause you heartburn because everyone will consider you to be cool and crafty.Costumes for the Craft-Challenged Then you’ll be invited to those parties where people don’t talk about your festering resentments.
Martha Stewart will be proud of me. I harvest a new crop of hope that’s been watered by an abundance of denial. no crush of time bearing down on us like a frenetic freight train. The cranberries will be expertly jelled. saturated with a spirit of thankfulness and goodwill. and the pies mighty with meringue. There will be no chaos this year. I ﬁnd myself vowing. We’ll be giddy with gratitude at Thanksgiving. Gone will be the snickers brought on by past disasters. I envision a holiday season infused with peace. —Martha Stewart E very year at the beginning of November. and I will bask in the awe accorded domestic doyennes such as Martha and me. my mother-in-law will eat crow along with the succulent turkey I place on her plate. 278 . Order will prevail in my world of good things and gracious living. goes my fantasy. the green beans and sweet potatoes dressed up for the occasion. We’ll gather before a table tastefully turned out and groaning with good food.Of Mice and Martha I invented ‘It’s a good thing’ before you were even born.
there’ll be parties for hosting in my immaculately clean house. My in-laws will leave with empty stomachs and wagging tongues. By December. Loved ones will gather near. the meringue meander. I’ll be walking on the dark side. My hopeful harvest will soon begin to wither. however. My mistakes will be of the classic variety: the cranberries will quiver. the rolls run amok with assistance from my brawling brats. will spurt ice-cold juices from the depths of his still-frozen interior. and the beans and potatoes lie limp. She will perch on my shoulder. others. those for whom the best-laid plans of mice and Martha almost always go awry. Thanksgiving Day will dawn as gray and gelatinous as my gravy. If tradition holds. and hearts will radiate good cheer and glad tidings. The piecrusts will pucker. are dreamers. The gifts I have purchased will be hidden away so well that they are forgotten. 279 . marshmallows for toasting and chestnuts for roasting. It will truly be the most wonderful time of the year. like me. Failure will not be an option. under the heat of seasonal expectations. Psychiatrists have another term for such delusions. I’ll turn to Martha for help. when pierced. I’ll burn the cookies and scald the eggnog. There’ll be cookie baking and eggnog making. consulting her books for guidance. whispering in my ear. Some people excel at execution. The dogs will manage to knock over the Christmas tree almost every day. but I prefer to think of it as eternal optimism.Of Mice and Martha At Christmas time. My joyfully jingle-belling children will make delightful decorations. a stylishly dressed angel of ambiance. And old Tom Turkey.
I will crumple under her pressure like ill-conceived origami. “it’s Christmas!” And suddenly. Martha. And still. I’ll remember young and eager ﬁngers that used to tickle me awake. And that’s a good thing. promising her the world. she’ll want more.Days of Derangement and I will hurry out to buy more. on Christmas Day. nothing else mattered. Yet. wondering how I can be so disgustingly disorganized. 280 . and old Ebenezer Scrooge won’t seem like such a bad guy. I will suddenly have a much better understanding of the Grinch. “Mom. My Christmas spirit will spring a leak.” they’d whisper. Peace and calm will give way to panic. 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. and breathless voices full of wonder from children who didn’t care that I wasn’t the queen of homemaking. somewhere in the midst of all the un-Martha-like mayhem.
The women scurried about preparing the meal. The men did what men do on such occasions. And 281 . When all was ready. cold air and give thanks for all our blessings. The children sprinted around outside. they stood around waiting to begin the traditional male holiday jobs of eating and sleeping. put them in the woods in a cabin with one low-ﬂow toilet and then stuff them to the gills with Thanksgiving bounty? You get. to drink in the clear. noses running. to feast and frolic. we gathered before a table groaning with good food. This is what happened to my family one Thanksgiving. delirious with the joy of being out of school and unsupervised. Everything began beautifully. We were giddy with gratitude. We headed to the woods like modern-day Pilgrims. of course. We salivated at the smell as we offered up our thanks. a calamitously clogged commode and enough tension to earn a spot on the Jerry Springer Show. hands and feet ﬂying.Plunging into Thanksgiving W hat do you get when you take a dozen family members of varying ages and degrees of regularity.
I mean the sea lion’s scramble. then gave a strong pull that sent him ﬂying across the room and left the kids helpless with laughter. the rolling. Tempers rose. when Congress mandated that toilets should ﬂush with a measly 1. And ate. Grandpa. and overworked digestive systems begin the Herculean task of breaking down all that food. headed up the attack.5 gallons that swirled through our childhoods.6 gallons of water. As it often does. and bladders threatened to burst. are far too well-acquainted with the plunger. The men began the task of conquering the cranky commode. sloshing way every creature dragging more than a ton would scramble. we gathered soberly around the overworked toilet. “The potty’s exploding!” There are few things less welcome at such a time than the words potty and exploding used in the same sentence. When we eventually arrived. 282 . History will record the ‘90s as the decade of the bum rap. Today’s children. We scrambled toward the bathroom to assess the situation. we ate some more. every corpuscle groaning from the gluttony. deprived of the 3. He pumped vigorously with the plunger. small voice. And when we were bloated like beached whales.Days of Derangement then we ate. The trouble began in the magic hour when men assume their positions on the couch to catch the kickoffs. as the patriarch. The youngest child emerged from the bathroom shouting excitedly. the terrible news came from a single. 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. By scrambled.
each wielded it like a samurai sword as he took his turn in battle. The children eagerly took part in our vicious ﬁnger pointing designed to identify the guilty clogger. but. slights delivered years ago. and sanitary practices questioned. where the call of nature got a grateful reply. and we headed for the nearest service station. resurfaced as brother betrayed brother. did what moms do best. and in-laws were made to feel like outsiders. daughters cast aspersions on mothers. sadly. Legs and expressions were crossed. Brooking no dissent. we attempted to assign blame. The men began to bicker over possession of the plunger. The family was falling apart. she ordered everyone into their vehicles. watching all their hard work laid waste. The women. Accusations of tissue overuse were hurled.Plunging into Thanksgiving Each football-deprived man then took his turn as a toilet tamer. the effort was ﬂush with failure. That’s when Grandma stepped in. but would not back down. Sweating and muttering curses. The latrine gurgled and grunted. 283 . and eyeballs appeared to be ﬂoating. Old insults and resentments.
I am also most thankful for ﬂexible. Elastic hides 284 . and for this I am again most thankful. This grammatical giftedness is a result of my education. low-tech items called books. I am thankful for my memory. I am not immune. another thing for which I am truly thankful. I am very thankful for the Internet. I like to consider the things for which I am thankful. This skill makes it impossible for me to decipher my kids’ text messages. 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. My education relied heavily on old-fashioned. which taught me a quaint skill called spelling. which allows me to do my Black Friday shopping online while I sip a steaming cup of coffee and enjoy wearing my warm and roomy pajamas. however. to the beneﬁts of technology. forgiving elastic like the kind that seems to increasingly be found in the waistbands of my clothes.Things For Which I Am Thank ful A round Thanksgiving.
Other times. In particular. It doesn’t get much better than that. I should sift it with thankfulness the same way my grandma used to strain her gravy. Perhaps I’ve said “perhaps” once too often. gelatinous mess in desperate need of a sanity strainer. I am certainly thankful for the surface glories of good gravy. speaking of gravy. Perhaps then my life wouldn’t be as strained as this goofy metaphor I’m beating into the ground here.Things For Which I Am Thank ful a multitude of ﬂaws and is surely one of man’s greatest inventions. that warm. This is a much more profound statement than you realize. People come from miles around to sample my mother’s gravy. while I am deﬁnitely not appreciative of cellulite. it turns into a lumpy. Speaking of a multitude of ﬂaws. 285 . Sometimes my life ﬂows along smoothly. I am grateful for gravy. ﬂavorful stream of goodness. who is a gravy grand master. And every Thanksgiving. Perhaps you’re wondering what on earth I’m talking about. Just about the only thing I’ll have to do is show up wearing my elastic pants. luscious sauce that coats my taste buds and then goes on to coat my hips. But I’ve come to realize lately that gravy is much more than that. Perhaps when my life gets lumpy. It doesn’t get the gratitude that it deserves. I am thankful for those tasty substances that cause it. a rich. Anyway. Perhaps you haven’t been paying attention. I am thankful for my mother. during the holidays. a fact for which I am deeply thankful as it means I won’t have to clean my house. those people will be going to her house instead of mine. Gravy is actually a symbol for my life.
So sweet of her to do that… ‘Tis a few weeks ‘til Christmas and all through my house. Not a gift has been bought. 286 . I tripped over last year’s toys to see what was the matter. After the poem appeared in the hometown newspaper of one of Funny Man’s old girlfriends. When out near my lawn. with my hair in a cap. I’m hoping St. there arose such a clatter. Nick will drop her off on some beach. And me in my stained sweatpants. snug in their beds While dozens of toy commercials dance in their heads. and I’m feeling like a louse. she just had to call to check on his welfare. My children nestle each night.‘Tis a Few Weeks ‘Til Christmas I wrote this very silly poem after Funny Man had a little mishap trying to satisfy my mania for keeping up with the neighbors in Christmas decorations. The dog chewed the stockings I left in her reach. I’m too seasonally stressed for even a short winter’s nap.
‘Tis a Few Weeks ‘Til Christmas Down hard on the ﬂoor. from his head to his foot. my children they came. Gave a luster of true tackiness to my fake falling snow. in a twinkling. But a miniature plastic sleigh with eight phony reindeer. The moon on the tops of inﬂatable decorations below. 287 . more lights on the walls! We must impress the neighbors—now dash away all! As dry leaves that before the manic shoppers’ eyes ﬂy. ‘til I felt very wary. When I whistled and shouted and called them by name. And then. As I rushed outside and was turning around. my husband came with a bound. When they rush to the stores. Tore a hole in those sweatpants. So the next day. I heard on the roof The prancing and pawing of his big. Sliding off the roof. But a bundle of lights he still held on his back And he looked ready to kill when he gave me that sack. my husband he ﬂew To the housetop with more lights. Put up by my neighbor. When what to my weary eyes should appear. He was dressed in his grubbies. on my leg was a gash. Now his clothes were tarnished with leaves and a root. at my bidding. Now Boy and Girl! Now Bad Dancer and Little Vixen! On Retailers’ Dreams! On Merchandisers’ Minions! Put more lights on the porch. and a bad attitude. Slightly more rapid than turtles. too. I knew in a moment our Yuletide décor needed a kick. how they glared at me. I fell with a crash. His eyes. awkward hoof. panic mounting to the sky. in a manner so lively and quick.
He spoke not a word. But I heard them exclaim as they dove out of sight. usually a jolly old elf. up to our bedroom he rose. The frown on his face and the twist of his head Soon gave me to know I had something to dread. He fell into bed. “Poor Dad! He’s not going to have a good night.” 288 . he turned with a jerk. to the dog gave a whistle And the children scattered. He brushed off the leaves circling his head like a wreath. He’s a bit chubby and plump. But I didn’t dare laugh at him then. His not-so-droll mouth told me his anger I did sow And I feared that his temper. if I valued myself. they were burning as red as a cherry. but he pointed his ﬁnger at my nose And shaking his head. It shook when he moaned like a bowl full of jelly. like the down of a thistle. he’d given up on this work. I started to speak. He had a mad face and his little round belly. A stray piece of grass he picked out of his teeth. With a hand on his sore back.Days of Derangement His cheeks. it surely would blow.
But alas. During the holiday season.All I Want for Christmas Is Me D ear Robustly Round Man in the Unﬂattering Outﬁt (formally known as Mr. Santa. I need to write out Christmas cards and bake cookies and do my holiday shopping. even the more-than-ample middle-age version of me can’t quite seem to ﬁll the bill. My body begs to be exercised. and the other dog needs to come in. One dog usually needs to go out. I need to clean my house. This is not as egotistical as it sounds. judging by the way I tip the scales lately. I need four or ﬁve clones. That way. The laundry cries out to be laundered. I need to go to work. that there would be plenty of me to go around. and the other child a little 289 . You see. Actually. You would think. I need a clone. but it should beg to be exercised). One child typically needs a little lifting up. that part is not true. (OK. 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. Claus): All I want for Christmas is more of me.
I’ll have to tell Mrs. But don’t let me catch one of my clones kissing you under the tree. My husband can’t ﬁnd any clean socks (due to that crying laundry). forget the fruitcake. you right jolly old elf. Don’t bring me bon-bons or baubles. bathe the dogs. I might even ﬁnd time for marshmallow toasting and chestnut roasting. Santa. The plants are usually wilting. My car sometimes won’t start. They would leave me free to enjoy the holidays. and ﬁnally give my mother-in-law a well-deserved piece of my mind. They could smooth things over with my mother. and I am often missing a shoe. My clones could cook and clean. with plenty of time for joyful jingle-belling. Claus.Days of Derangement dressing down. And that is only one day. 290 . My mother-in-law is always mad at me. And my Mister Coffee gives up the ghost and leaves me uncaffeinated and in need of a strait jacket. Sweet Saint Nick. The phone is always ringing. They could wash the clothes. answer the phone and water the plants. My mother is sometimes mad at me. So next Christmas. So. So get right on that. I don’t think it’s too much to ask. leave me a few clones on Christmas morning. I don’t need another set of frilly pajamas or a soft new sweater. What I need. That really would make it the most wonderful time of the year. I sure don’t need another household appliance. as well as go to work and hit the gym (better them than me). if you would. is more of me. cookie-baking and eggnogmaking.
It’s not that we wanted to sail around the sea for a few days eating everything in sight. He wouldn’t have invented the cruise ship. Fortunately. We ate and we ate. we ate some more. Naturally. we needed drinks to wash down all that “free” food. in tonnage.Cruise Control I f the Good Lord had wanted us to eat sensibly right after the holidays. as the boat we came in on. 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 fell to eating as if we were famine victims. there were always smiling attendants nearby to bring us round after round of beverages that were deﬁnitely not free. when presented with limitless amounts of food on board ship. Then we poured more money into the cruise line coffers 291 . And when we were bloated and seemingly unable to cram in one more bite. We certainly didn’t choose to arrive home after our gluttonous voyage weighing about the same. The human psyche is a funny thing. Despite having inhaled enough calories during the holidays to keep Paris Hilton alive into the next millennium. So we must have been on a mission from God.
er. An astonishing number of these. we stuffed our bodies into bathing suits and rolled on to the deck. we’d worked up enough of an appetite to devour platefuls of food at the midnight buffet. we donned formal wear—leaving the zippers open—and went to meet the captain. the great white whale in Moby Dick. not a makeover. just when we were beginning to feel hunger pangs. where we sunned our globular ﬂesh. sure enough. and then my family and I headed back to the buffet. When you are cruising with thousands of your closest friends. and by that time. Luck was certainly not a lady to me that day. every hair bristling with excitement. That’s when the cruise director began to look for the “lucky” woman who would be required to select the best bushy chest. many of which are accompanied by bald heads and very round bellies. Each man was encouraged to strut his stuff. After a few hours. 292 . a dashing and slender man who gazed upon us the way I imagine Captain Ahab must have looked at his prey. But I managed to select a winner.Days of Derangement by visiting the casino and the onboard shopping mall. I “won” the right to judge the shaggy strivers before me. That night. But. the ship’s staff roused us for a hairy chest contest. you are bound to discover that quite a few of these friends are sporting furry chests. hunks took the stage for the contest. careful not to fall overboard lest we be mistaken for well-fed sea lions. I never win anything—not the lottery. after a hearty breakfast. not even at bingo. wriggling and jiggling his chest and various other body parts for my enjoyment. It was almost enough to ruin my appetite. The next day.
Once we got home. he got to sleep on the couch. we had pictures taken to commemorate our nautical adventure. speaking between clenched teeth and glaring at my highly amused husband. surprise—we sat down to a sumptuous dinner and shortly thereafter.” Each time. Funny Man foolishly took to calling me “Mom” for the rest of the cruise. I needed a larger portion of the bed. 293 . who. for some reason. I must point out. is six months OLDER than I am. When we visited the ship’s portrait gallery the next day to order copies. the young man who waited on us referred more than once to the picture of “you and your son. I corrected him. not only because I was mad at him but because.Cruise Control Then—surprise.
Surprisingly. if limited. thinkers (with an apparent appetite for alliteration). as my dogs are still trying to achieve them: 294 . buoyed by research that shows that onethird of these well-meaning intentions don’t even last a month. they are fairly eloquent.Rover Resolutions Life is a series of dogs. So one January. I wasn’t going to be out there on the paving crew with the rest of you. however. These resolutions stay the same year after year. So without further ado. I resolved to be realistic. I know just how they think. and I didn’t make any resolutions. And he was right. —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. here are the Papandrew Pups’ Rover Resolutions. I did. Having lived with them for quite some time. decide to translate the goofy New Year’s resolutions of my two dogs.
we’ll do our trash trolling in the presence of the wonderfully clueless biped called Funny Boy. We’ll devise a way to stick our snouts into areas requiring snifﬁng without being swatted. and he doesn’t appear at all upset if we smell interesting areas on his body. the clever cat seems to vanish into thin air. Instead. We will learn to imitate the subtlety of our foe. No longer will we openly 295 . He doesn’t seem to mind if we get into The Trash. due to excessive use of a nasty people product apparently called soap. When we justiﬁably launch a blistering volley of barking designed to alert our family to this brazen intrusion. We will become more sophisticated combatants in the war of the noses. We will emulate the enemy. but we’ll try to remember not to be caught with our heads in The Trash when the often hysterical human female known as Mom enters the room. This includes the canine Holy Grail. The repercussions just aren’t worth it. We will never cease and desist. and. Better to stick to the malodorous males. leaving the humans to look at us as if we’re stupid. that delectable repository of delight the humans call The Trash. We will not attempt to smell the private parts of the crotchety human named Grandma.Rover Resolutions 1. 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. the neighborhood cat who prances spitefully on our front porch right before our eyes. 2. Grandma’s bouquet is very boring.
296 . if we get a whiff of another dog. We’ll let him know. But when Mom sees us doing this. We will do a better job of walking the man. This is a perfectly normal act that is very effective in scratching annoying anal itches. a squirrel. We will think like a cat and be more subtle. best of all. Maybe that should be one of his New Year’s resolutions. We will take pity on the inferior joints of the somewhat heavy human known as Dad and go easy on him during our walks. All bets are off. And ﬁnally: 3.Days of Derangement drag our backsides across the carpet. This would not be necessary if our human was in better shape and could run with us. a fragrant splotch of road kill. though. Then we will be forced to wrench Dad’s arm out of its socket and twist his knees ’til they tremble as we lunge against our leashes in our attempt to investigate. a cat or. she howls like our wolf ancestors and kicks us out of the house for unreasonable periods of time.
My husband. and ends up on the ﬂoor staring at a full-page ad that mentions Valentine’s Day in a font large enough to be seen by the astronauts on the space station. There’s a reason Cupid’s commemoration comes so soon after the Super Bowl. 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 . God love him. a light will begin to dawn. As he steps out. is no exception. sadly.Holiday of the Heart Anyone can be passionate. women have to begin the arduous process of focusing their men’s attention on something far more important: Valentine’s Day. It’s an obvious test of the depth of men’s romantic tendencies. but it takes real lovers to be silly. and. —Rose Franken E very year when football season is ﬁnally over. it’s a test they fail more often than a Cosmo magazine relationship quiz. dripping wet.
I can tell you. 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. little bits of ﬂuff that would barely ﬁt the anorexic hips of a Victoria’s Secret model. always been so fortunate. he’d written: Roses are red Violets are blue You want my body I know you do. nothing gets a wife in the mood for love more than struggling to ﬁt into anything marked XL. Designed for the smaller Asian woman. he brought home a cylinder head from a World War II-era airplane (if you don’t know what this looks like. Funny Man had tenderly tried his hand at poetry. in a bid to impress me with his thoughtfulness. big mistake. I’ve also received my share of ego-shattering lingerie. In an attempt to personalize the card. This was accompanied by a box of Christmas candy with a 75 percent-off sticker and a card (sans envelope) featuring two kissing chimps. Big. consider yourself lucky) and created a lovely lamp that added a certain je ne 298 . One year. One year. I received a bottle of stretchmark-treating cocoa butter clearly purchased last minute at the nearest 24-hour drugstore. I haven’t. 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. Another time. Under his name.Days of Derangement collection of hotel toiletries. Funny Man has also tried to be sweet with scent.
It took me weeks to arrange an accident that sent this romantic piece of wreckage back to the junkyard. 299 . I’ll try not to lose heart. I’m hoping that by our 30th or possibly 40th anniversary. my man will have progressed to the point where he’ll ﬁll a vase with a single rose and a diamond necklace. or maybe the keys to a new Mercedes. In the meantime.Holiday of the Heart sais quoi to our living room décor.
I want that sweater back. The poor creatures are still mourning the end of football season. he’d feel the holiday of the heart bearing down on him like a freight train. Take my son. As a result. I’m mellower in these matters now.) 300 . Really. those things just don’t bother me anymore. they’ve just had to endure another Valentine’s Day. There are probably no couples who sail through every Valentine’s Day with their relationship unscathed. (Joe. And to add insult to injury. When he was in high school. for example. We women can be particularly hard on our men at this time of year. wherever you are. many of them are in the proverbial dog house. I once labeled a guy I was dating (who happened to be named Joe) “about as emotional as a park bench” when he sheepishly handed me a clip-on teddy bear with the price tag still on it after I’d given him a beautifully wrapped cashmere sweater. with a girlfriend.Survivor for Sweethearts A round the end of February. I start to feel sorry for men.
“Like paying your mortgage or showing up for work. At least that’s what a married (and male) friend of mine told me. you’re miserable.Survivor for Sweethearts So my heart hurt a little as I watched my boy trying to navigate the treacherous rapids of romance. “Every guy hates Valentine’s Day. staring forlornly into his dog-eared wallet. “I hate Valentine’s Day!” he groaned. Unlike the million-dollar winner on the real Survivor show. (Get it—bow and arrow. believe that what happens on Valentine’s Day will be an indication of how the rest of their relationship will play out for eternity. If you don’t have a girl. quiver. the most a man who makes it through Valentine’s Day can hope for is a wash. Cupid must be pretty smart. In February. Just before V-Day one year.” Many women. even though he apparently has never been able to get out of diapers.” he said. Like most males. on the other hand. not to mention broke. Kind of like a Survivor for Sweethearts reality show. however. “You don’t get credit for going to a nice restaurant or buying jewelry. he didn’t have a clue. 301 . he really wanted (I think) to make his lady happy. the little ﬂying man with the bow and arrow manages to make fully half of our species quiver with fear. And if you do have a girl. Funny Boy often found himself asking the age-old question: What do women want? And like Freud. Cupid is so stupid!” Actually. it’s just expected. But just like that hopeless romantic Sigmund Freud. 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.) That’s because men tend to see Feb. you’re miserable.
We really can’t expect them to be able to read our minds. 302 .Days of Derangement That’s a lot of pressure we’re putting on our men. Freud could do that. I suggest that we cut them some slack and allow them to come out of their canine quarters. ladies. Not even the brilliant Dr.
middle-aged adult with love handles. That’s the No. glamorous goals made when the year was young. overly optimistic infant aspirations need to be trimmed accordingly. Once the lean and vigorous New Year’s baby has aged into a less lively. It is. and we were possibly inﬂuenced by too much champagne. It is time to roll out more modest midyear resolutions.Midyear Resolutions W hen the ﬁrst half of the year has been safely swept into the dustbin of history. Speaking of 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. after all. the thought that counts. the whole ridiculous weight-loss resolution absolutely must be on the midyear chopping block. And as we’ve all really wanted to do those things 303 . 1 pledge on most people’s lists. our annual. Who are we kidding? Our midyear resolution will be to merely have the intention of exercising and eating right. and it simply has to go. it is time to also throw out our New Year’s resolutions—those giddy.
I will faithfully not look in any mirrors as I’m doing this. for example. Check. are just some of the accomplishments I’ve been able to add to (and check off) my midyear lists: I will faithfully watch exercise videos each morning as I enjoy my coffee and donuts. done that. I will faithfully (and frantically) throw 304 . They were utterly unrealistic anyway. I will be a master of multitasking. Then. when I wake up with drool running down my chin and realize I’m running out of time. resolving to begin actual exercise very soon. The nice thing about slimming down our resolution roster in the summer is that we can add to it things we’ve already accomplished. faithfully writing out a to-do list each day as I watch exercise videos while enjoying coffee and donuts.Days of Derangement for months. even when I have to then dash naked and wet through the house in search of a clean towel. lest I regret eating all those donuts. we can check that one off our list right away. Next on our midyear list should be a resolution to ignore our previous New Year’s Resolutions. Here. I will faithfully doze off when I am supposed to be writing inspiring works of great literary merit. I will faithfully take a shower every day. Then I will faithfully spill coffee on my list. Been there. We can ﬁt pretty much anything inside them. rendering it illegible and making it impossible for me to do anything on that list. Midyear declarations—like middle-aged muscles—tend to be a little loose and ﬂabby. This gives us a deﬁnite sense of purpose. 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 . As you can see. it is easy to escape the tyranny of all those New Year’s resolutions that never give us a moment’s peace. can live a productive and satisfying life by simply resolving to do what you’re already doing. You too. my friend. Just make sure you have clean towels in the house ﬁrst.
“I just can’t believe Mother’s Day is coming up so soon. the I Love You Mommy mug. irreplaceable gifts made by eager young hands: decorated pencil holders. handmade apron I got one year and the artful collage created with canned food labels that left me guessing at the contents of my cans for weeks. I remember the ﬂowered. the laminated footprints of a ﬁve-year-old. 306 . picture frames studded with colored macaroni. I’ve received my share of those wonderful. starting in April. I began to notice when my kids turned into teenagers that it always seemed to take them (and the man who helped create them) by surprise.Mother’s Day Manifesto E ven though Mother’s Day is ﬁxed on the calendar. It wasn’t always this way. So I began to use a subtle system of reminders.” Yet my family would still get up on that special Sunday and express astonishment—while trying to avoid the ﬂames shooting out of my eyes—that the darn day had snuck up on them again. in which I’d sigh heavily and say to no one in particular.
the list was knocked off. I do not want to have to get up and wake you all up to remind you that it is Mother’s Day. Realizing a more direct approach was required. Bring me chocolate in every form known to woman. I gathered my loved ones around me—actually. And with the coffee. 307 . as far as I could tell. my well of homemade wonders suddenly ran dry. Begin practicing now. I took matters into my own hands. The holiday was conveniently forgotten until the last minute. I had to speak loudly to drown out the catcalls and boos coming from the crowd. I stood in front of the TV they were watching—and began to recite from my mom’s manifesto. Not thick as Mississippi Mud like you made for me last year or the weaker-than-water stuff I got the year before. actually read. The coffee should be of the traditional strength and consistency. used to blot a spilled spot of jelly. but never. I wrote a list cleverly titled What I Want for Mother’s Day and put it on the refrigerator for everyone to see. after determining that it was not edible. Naturally. I want chocolate. but I bravely persisted: What I Want for Mother’s Day No. stepped on. Even the dogs. 1: I want coffee brought to me in bed the moment I awaken. had ignored it. So one year. when childlike sweetness sours a bit and honoring your mother can seem about as cool as elevator music.Mother’s Day Manifesto But with the approach of adolescence. and I’d end up holding a wilted bunch of hastilypurchased ﬂowers and eating a pancake dinner at IHOP. lots of it.
no toilet unclogging. No ESPN will appear on the TV that day. 308 . 2: I want a temporary cessation of all maternal responsibilities. I will be watching every movie Brad Pitt ever made. Not once during this glorious bath will anyone interrupt me with “Hey Mom. no toy repair. I want to have control of the television. I’d like my offspring to conduct themselves admirably. 4: I’d like to be taken to dinner at a nice restaurant. No cleaning. THE TV.Days of Derangement No. I’d like us all to go through family pictures together and reminisce about old times. Not even one teenage eye may roll in disgust. No eating with your ﬁngers. not even any stuck-zipper zapping. No. During the meal. No. That 52-inch high-deﬁnition behemoth in the living room. no kicking a sibling under the table. I’ll probably also eat some more chocolate. I plan to take a very hot bath and read a very long book. No surreptitious text messages may be sent to friends. 5: After dinner. Mom.” and you have to mean it. no chewing with your mouth open. You are required to look pleasant and appear to be having fun. And not a single word about bodily processes. There will be no Victoria ’s Secret Specials. And each of you has to say “I love you. one that requires an advance reservation and has no child’s menu. no cooking. where’s the sugar?” or “Did I mention I have a science project due tomorrow?” No. And I will allow myself the luxury of using a brand-new bar of soap. no breaking up knock-downdrag-out ﬁghts. 3: After my bath.
ain’t nobody happy. “Just remember.Mother’s Day Manifesto At that. something ungrammatical but undeniable.” 309 . several groans went up. “If Mamma ain’t happy. I folded the paper and ﬁnished with something my Grandma used to say.” I told my gang.
Parenting Publications of America.COM: http://amzn. KINDLE AND NOOK FORMATS...to/XVNYdi DAYS OF DERANGEMENT IS AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK. 311 . as well as awards from the Oklahoma Press Association.com. including the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. PLEASE POST A REVIEW AT AMAZON. VISIT FUNNYJACKIE. She’s won a Neal Award from American Business Media. To ﬁnd out more. The Tampa Tribune and The Oklahoman.IF YOU ENJOY THIS BOOK. as well as in newspapers such as The Cleveland Plain Dealer. America’s Funniest Humor Press and the Florida Freelance Writers Association. Jackie is a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. visit FunnyJackie.COM FOR DETAILS. About Jackie Papandrew J ackie’s humor writing has been featured in several books.