Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Question of Barbie

The look of pure bliss spread across her face as she pulled it from a just acquired hand-me-down little girl purse. There in her pudgy little toddler hand was a very tired Barbie...shirt torn, revealing one plastic boob, hair looking like Ken had roughed her up the night before... My first instinct was to snatch it from her fingers, to deny her this unreal image of womanhood. But I just couldn’t...I could see that in the few seconds she had spent staring into the blank plastic eyes of the doll—there was already a bond.

It was love at first sight.

I know mothers often struggle with the idea of toy guns, but for me it was Barbie. Like a mother whose child has a peanut allergy, I had warned friends and family that we were not a Barbie household...I was always very clear about a no Barbie rule. How could I, a mother who I had spent months choosing a name for my daughter to reflect wisdom, strength and grace, allow this piece of plastic to take over a part of The Beast’s perception of the world? any feminist mother will tell you --Barbies just happen...and as ANY mother will tell you....Barbies also multiply. Soon after the first Barbie incident, two more Barbies found their way into the Beast’s loving hands.

Lingering in my favorite thrift shop one lazy Saturday afternoon The Beast pulled from a lower shelf a large plastic box. The box opened to reveal what can only be described as some 1980’s bordello—flashing disco lights, a two sofas that could be pushed into a round bed and a lighted aquarium that popped up from the flashing multi-colored tile dance floor. On the floor of this disco palace lay two Barbies circa 1980...big hair, short skirts and plastic leather jackets—I have to admit that I was just as enthralled by the whole scene as was my daughter—but for different reasons. While I was scanning the miniature room for signs of tiny single edge razors and rolled hundreds...

My daughter closed the plastic case and clutched it to her chest.

“We are NOT bringing home that Barbie bordello.” I told The Beast is my quiet, but firm mother tone attempting to dislodge garish pink box from her monster grip.

“Barbie Dello! Barbie Dello!” The Beast pleaded.

We were by the check-out desk where two grandmotherly looking volunteers sat watching the scene. “Oh...the little girl wants the Barbie farm.”

“We are on a budget.” I explained

“Nonsense—how about $1?” said one with a warm smile.

“Wonderful.” I said...once again defeated by Barbie.

Of course the Barbie Bordello opened the flood gates--soon there were Barbie presents: the Barbie farm with the pigs with long lashes and blue eye shadow, the Jeeps, the vans, the Barbie jumbo jet, the My Size Barbie....the “marine biologist” Barbie in a bikini...some friend was obviously trying to be nice to me.

It was just a matter of time before the whole house looked like some lesbian prostitution ring had moved in with Barbies lingering in every dark corner in seductive poses with disheveled outfits falling off them.

Barbie had a her hey-day at our house, but she slowly started to vanish to the attic...occasionally a large box of Barbie stuff might be bumped down the attics stairs for a rainy day of play, but she was replaced by the American Girl Doll, Harry Potter, and now Twilight....makes me ALMOST nostalgic for the Barbie days.

Of course, until Ms. PR called last week, flushed with excitement....”Barbie’s 50th Anniversary! Bloomingdales! Let’s go!”

“Helllllo...Remember? I was the mother who did not like Barbies?” Trying to pull Ms. PR out of her girly frenzy.

“ is not just about is the whole cultural subset of society that is being examined with a Marxist filter on consumerism.” she said in her best PR spin. “and all those cute little outfits!” she said unable to contain herself.

Barbie did not win this one.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Passion, Obsession and Martha Stewart

My mother-in-law gave me a subscription to the Martha Stewart magazine when I first married her son. I didn’t take it personally...although in retrospect—perhaps I should have. However, my mother-in-law was always so nice to me...describing recipes, in detail, right down to what the stove looked liked and how to turn it on....I can’t believe the gift was anything more than sharing her passion for cooking with me.

I had never heard of Martha Stewart before....of course, why should I—I didn’t have a TV when I lived in the city and the thought of “housekeeping” or even “housework” never even occurred to me.

But it was love at first sight when I opened the magazine. I was IN LOVE with Martha Stewart. I loved her ideas, I loved her bitchiness, but most of all I loved her obsessions...I guess I am always impressed by people who have an overwhelming matter what that passion is for. Cinemanics ....I totally understand them. Those people in the middle of the country who do crop art . Monks—how much passion must they have to renounce the joys of common everyday life.

My whole family is passionate. My husband has many passions, but he hates when I mention him. Although I have to say his photo series, Sponge Bob in Paris is truly an obsessive and inspired body of work.

The Beast also has many passions--mostly involving scissors, an inordinate amount of paper and LOTS of glue. I came home one day to find that she had cut and stitched her curtains into costumes for her dolls. What can one do? One cannot stifle creativity.

I wonder sometimes about the children who are so scheduled with lessons and sports and playdates—do they have time to tap into their inner passions? Do any of us have time to sit and think and obsess about something that is truly meaningful to us? Something that we are are truly passionate about?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

What Kind of Mother Are You?

There seems to be a fair amount of confusion over the mommy classifications from one of my older posts...and as I mentioned earlier the list is not exhaustive and of course there are degrees and permutations of different mommy types as Ms. PR pointed out...such as the Lazy/Selfish Mom which is a branch of the just plain LazyMom. So here are a few common behaviors of various moms to help you decide YOUR true category.

Telltale Behavior #1--School
  • If you have ever sent a permission slip, homework, test etc back to your kid's school with your signature AND a circular red wine stain on the paper: LazyMom
  • If you have ever covered a circular red wine stain on a permission slip with white-out: SuperMom
  • If you are horrified by the fact that someone could actually get a wine stain on anything: UberMom

Telltale Behavior #2--Vacations
  • If you have ever found yourself booking a family trip to Venice rather than Disneyland because—we can always PhotoShop Mickey into a baby picture and tell her she went to Disneyland..that she just does not remember because she was so young: LazyMom
  • If you have ever gone to Disneyland and have taken some poor neighbor’s child who has never been because she has a LazyMom who prefers Europe: SuperMom
  • If you have a time-share in Disneyland for the next five years so your children can benefit from the joys of American culture: UberMom
Telltale Behavior #3--Health
  • If you have ever dosed your child with cold medicine and sent her off to pre-school because—”please, it is not like you’ll get a refund when your kid is absent due to the sniffles and she probably got it from some snotty nosed kid there anyway.”: LazyMom
  • If you ever noticed your child had a slight fever, called the pre-school to warn other parents and sent out e-mails to all play-dates that week that your child might be coming down with a virus and they should keep an eye on their child for signs of illness...: SuperMom
  • If you ever noticed your child was just not herself, called your holistic pediatrician for some herbal remedy, kept the child home from pre-school and baked cookies with her: UberMom

Telltale Behavior #4—knowledge
  • If your child knows how to pour a glass of wine...perfectly: LazyMom
  • If your child knows Obama’s positions on public education: SuperMom
  • If child knows all her grades will be "As" because you volunteered for every possible event at the school: UberMom

Telltale Behavior #5--Parties
  • If your child’s birthday party always includes a case of wine and a case of beer for the parents: LazyMom
  • If your child’s birthday party always includes an educational theme: SuperMom
  • If your child’s birthday always includes some paid entertainment such as a clown, petting zoo, etc.: UberMom

Telltale Behavior #6— Leisure time
  • If your idea of a good time is a pitcher of Sangria or martinis with your husband in the backyard while the child plays quietly with friends: LazyMom
  • If your idea of a good time is a trip to someplace educational with the family: SuperMom
  • What leisure time? Who has time for leisure?: UberMom

Feel free to add your own behavioral observations...there will be a prize for the best one in each classification and extra points for new variations.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Secret to a Straight A Student...Southern Style

I was attending an obscure, sort of touchy-feely, marketing workshop in the city a few months ago and while waiting for the speaker to arrive I started chatting up another woman who was sitting nearby. She said she lived in the South...

which explained her
  • frosted blond hair
  • shimmering pink nail polish
  • warm, vacant smile

She had come to NYC just for this workshop.

Ms. Perky Southern Belle mentioned that she was a member of the Rotary Club which I have always equated with the Freemasons for some reason. In an attempt to get her off the topic of the MANY joys, and BENEFITS of the Rotary Club--because I was afraid that she might invite me to join and then I would have to wear some funny looking fez (or perhaps that is a Mason thing—or perhaps it is just a Flintstones mocking the Mason thing)--I asked her about her family.

She said that her daughter was an A student in high school and they were looking at colleges and that was actually another reason why she is North of the Mason-Dixon line.

“Oh! Wonderful!—Tell me! How did you managed to motivate your daughter? ” I said, since I am ALWAYS looking for tips on parenting because let’s be honest—we are all clueless..and besides maybe I can make a book out of it... 101 Ways to Get Your Girl to Harvard...Study Your Way to Stanford...Secret Study Methods of the South....

Waiting for the homey answer along the lines of... flash cards from the time her daughter was 3 days old...electric shock for incorrect answers. Or maybe this once blond bombshell married a total science geek and he spent hours with the daughter building competitive killer robots on the weekends ....or maybe she just sent the girl to Harvard Summer School for the cost of a rather nice trip to Europe....every year. Of course all of these ideas did NOT even come close.

“Oh, I promised her a new car when she turned sixteen if she maintained an A average. “ She said with triumph in her voice. “And I just bought her a brand new VW beetle...with cash.”

“Oh—well that is something I really cannot use for bait given my economic situation.” but I queried further not willing to give up on my book idea-- “Do you have any other tips for those of us without $25,000 in our pocket ready to plop down? “

She attempted to toss her helmet of perfectly set hair and smiled that chalky white bleached tooth smile that was enhance by her slightly orange tan... “No.” she said with a giggle. And then she turned to talk to some other jaded New Yorker about the wonders of the Rotary Club...

Well...I guess all that money I have been giving to the tutor and all those piano, horseback riding, dance lessons, etc. should have been going towards a car down payment.

More pearls of wisdom.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Disneyland or Paris--is there really a debate?

It was virtually the same price--financially, but the emotional price I would have had to pay to wallow in the depths of middle America while drowning in the consumerism would have been just too great for my fragile soul. That was the reasoning I set before my carpool buddy, Mr. Attorney, who had been chiding me, for years, for not taking The Beast to Disneyland.

“It is anti-American to deny your child at least one trip to Disneyland.” he said in his best defense attorney voice...playing it up to a jury that was not present.

“Look, I survived quite nicely sans Mickey and Donald.” I said to his flashing wire-rimmed glasses as we merged into the NYC traffic. “I don’t feel like my childhood was scarred by the absence of a Disneyland trip. What is YOUR obsession with Disneyland? Hey! Do you have Disney stock?”


It was Fate—I am sure of it. I was SO CLOSE to pressing the “submit” button on the Disney site. Five nights in some hotel that looked like a pinball machine...pools crawling with kids....grown people dressed as Goofy...large, lumbering families who will all have diabetes in five years all wearing Mickey Mouse ears. It was SO depressing, but I was doing it for the Beast. It was a moment of true selflessness on my part.

Of was JUST a moment and then the fickle finger of Fate pointed the way out. As I sat looking at the “submit” button on my computer screen, an e-mail popped up from a friend, a savior really. “Subject: Wow! Cheap Trip to Paris.”

That night during dinner I announced to The Beast. “Guess What! We are going to Paris—just like the Rugrats!”

She smiled happily and said—”Oh that’s nice, but I was sort of hoping to go to Umbria. “

“Perhaps we can do Italy next year.” I told my wonderful, beautiful, kooky Beast.

Like any true artist, The Beast LOVED Paris
From the Metro

To the Tuileries

To the Eiffel Tower

Just remember--when you are feeling peer pressure to act or do something that goes against your natural inclinations--just say no. Go to Paris instead.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

What is YOUR Reality Show?

It all started with Ms. it often does.... She had actually contemplated writing to Extreme Home Make-Over a few years ago because their wonderful little cottage that overlooked the Hudson River was too small for her six foot something husband and their One Perfect Daughter (they had, at the last minute, decided to try out parenthood because all their friends were doing it...well not JUST doing it...but doing it to have a kid). She felt they had a case— “It is REALLY uncomfortable and so difficult to get intimate because the walls are so thin...and...I am just not ready to explain sex to the child yet.”

“Okay” I said—”you are the PR professional, but just remember your need to scream out in passion will be judge against families who have kids without limbs and skin diseases so serious that they cannot see the sun. Although I am sure some of the judges will be sympathetic to your ‘plight’—they will realize that middle America will probably NOT be.”

Ms. PR canned the idea of going on Extreme Home Makeover, but it got me thinking—what reality show could we be on? The Husband, The Beast and I CAN be charming, if we try, and we are not half bad looking...and we would love a little extra money, a new wardrobe, a trip...So I thought...

The Amazing Race—We love to travel, but we can barely get to the airport when we plan ahead for weeks. And, of course, once there...there is something SO romantic about airport bars—in a cheap, tawdry sort of way—we often get distracted just before the flight...although—we have never missed a flight.

The Biggest Losers—Sometimes I feel the need to diet, but my husband feels he is perfect in every way and why tamper with perfection. Yes—he is somewhat difficult to live with.

Super Nanny—the Beast can get an attitude sometimes—and she even slammed her bedroom door once. Yet, I am not sure if we have enough drama for good TV.

Bridezilla—too late.

What Not to Wear—The Beast and I ALWAYS like the BEFORE picture rather than the AFTER picture....and the Husband cannot believe we are watching such drivel to begin with.

Then there are all those freakishly large family reality shows (to which I credit the recent octuplet birth by the mom who already had six kids—I mean really—what was that poor woman thinking? If she was thinking at all—it was probably fame and fortune on the cable channels.)

Kate and Jon plus Eight— pleasssseee....I could barely handle a pregnancy with one fetus—I was screaming “Induce ME! Induce ME!” at my gynecologist when I was three months away from my delivery date.

The Christian Family that just keeps popping them out one at time--I think they are up to 18 kids know we don’t do religion and we definitely don’t do childREN.

We thought perhaps we should just create our own show—a family travel show for parents who like to drink (a lot) and who enjoy lingering over long European meals. We could have tips:

How to stop that incessant whining by the exhausted child--power bar and cappuccino .
How to keep the child entertained during the 3 hour dinner--i-Touch (worth every penny).
How to leave the child in Piazza San Marco's and go have a bottle of wine with your sweetheart--bag of cracked corn from the local grocery store, outdoor café with a view of the square—sit back and watch while the child is happily attacked by filthy pigeons.

And I know what you you are thinking—there is not enough drama for a reality show—but THERE IS—in Venice we could not find a good restaurant for the life of us. We scoured the city for DAYS. Talk about the HORROR! Thank god for the wine bars....
In Paris we could not believe that restaurants closed SO EARLY....what happened to the idea of the late European meal.

So please write to the cable channels and tell them of your desire for a Lazy Mom Plus Two Travel Show.

What is your reality show?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Whacking-off, Incest and the Mother-Daughter Book Club

“What does ‘whacking-off’ mean?” was the first question. Grabbing the book from my daughter...assuming it was a miss-read...I read the word myself--


Wonderful. Taking a deep breath and thinking---well I guess an explanation is better coming from me than from some precocious pre-teen girl while they are in the school’s bathroom. I started off on my explanation on the joys of the male self-induced ejaculation and several minutes later after some clarification such as “okay—the penis does not ‘explode’ it really ‘erupts’ a volcano” (You have to be SO careful with your words to get the right image) we were back to reading.

It SEEMED like a good idea when The Beast and I decided to join the public library’s Mother-Daughter Book Club. They were reading an award winning young adult book call “How I Live Now” and would be discussing it the first Thursday of the month over pizza and soda in the library’s community room. We checked out the book and later that weekend started to read.

The book was truly transformative for us because no sooner than I elucidated male masturbation to my tween daughter then I had to turn around and TRY to explain incest...followed by war...and war crimes...

I was SO tired by the time we arrived at this said “book club” I could barely think straight. Wondering what bizarre characters must be involved in this book club and bracing for the next book to be something by Hunter S. Thompson or William Burroughs I was completely surprised when we walked into a room full of....wonderful women—both moms and daughters.

Apparently no one reads the books before they are picked for the book club so the incest and war crimes were a big surprise to everyone and the consensus was the book was “truly disturbing,” but very discussion provoking....

I have mentioned the joys of the book club to many of my mom friends, but for some reason they don’t seem to see the benefits.

I view the book club as a way to talk about subjects that are uncomfortable or just very difficult to comprehend for both child and mother. I love our fearless librarian who tries to guide the discussions of this loud, opinionated group of women. And I love the moms who have a wonderful sense of humor about themselves, their daughters and parenting in general. Because REALLY if you have to discuss whacking-off, incest and war crimes—I feel there is safety and comfort in numbers.