Saturday, April 30, 2011

Men With Candy

“Are you talking about The Creepers” she said in an off-handed way that suggested this was all old news to her.

We all know them. Something a little off or, as my sister used to say, “charm oozing from every pore.” At my age I need only scan a room once to tell exactly who The Creepers are. Sometimes The Creepers are friends of the family or relatives who have married into the family. I can still remember my mother warning us—“girls, uncle Bob is nice, but a little icky—so decline any invitation to sit on his lap. “

Sometimes Creepers are friends of friends—Ms. Filmmaker and I were reminiscing the other day about the parties my parents’ friend used to throw. They were full of artists from the city, wine flowing freely, dishes of flaming French concoctions and, of course, Andre—a little French Creeper.

Andre had spotted us—young and pretty, and of course, Ms. Filmmaker had her newly acquired big boobs. He introduced himself with his French accent clearly annunciated. He stood just a little too close…granted he was European and they do stand closer than Americans, but something was definitely predatory. The host of the party seeing Andre staring intently at The Boobs wandered over and said to us. “Hello girls! How are you finding your FIRST year of high school? How old are you now? 14? In FOUR more years you will be 18 and adults. Imagine that FOUR MORE years.” He said looking pointedly at Andre. Andre excused himself to get a drink and never returned to complete our conversation on art and Paris.

Some of the Beast Friends still have the look of little girls, but more and more of the girls are looking like women—beautiful women who do not know how beautiful they are. This innocent beauty draws Creepers like flies to honey.

I see the man on the bench outside the library of our little downtown as the Beast and her Friends stride away from me with their new found freedom of teenage-hood. And I see the man…The Man With Candy—his face lights up as he stalks with his eyes the glossy bouncing hair, the big boobs, the long legs, the happy chatter. A salacious smile spreads across his face—“Hello girls!” he says. The girls look at one another and laugh and keep on walking--Ms. Church Lady’s daughter’s, The Bulldozer, says in stage whisper—“ That’s weird—he is like my grandfather’s age.” Thank god for The Bulldozer and The Beast’s band of women warriors—smart and strong and confident.

Ms. Filmmaker and I were just beginning to learn about the world full of Creepers at 14. The Sharks, The Icky Types, The Play on Your Sympathy Jerks---there are a number of varieties, but they are all just Men with Candy….waiting, hoping, seeking an unguarded moment when they can sleaze their way into your life. I talk to The Beast about Men with Candy, to be on the lookout for them and not to be fooled into a bad situation because they play on your sympathy or your need to feel older. Her eyes glaze over—“I know what I am doing.” She says.

“I know, I know beautiful girl that you are smart and thoughtful, but humor me and listen. “ She is a good girl—so she did listen and I hope my voice will be in her head when the high school dropout ten years her senior attempts a pick-up line on her or an older artist suggests going to his loft to see his etchings…

Always be aware of Men with Candy.

Monday, April 25, 2011

What We Hope For & What We Dread

None of them look back.

We are there on the balcony of the departure area of JFK at 6 a.m. on a Sunday morning watching our children rush happily towards their gate for international flights below. We, a tired crew of parents, stand there scanning the group of kids for any sign of slight hesitation…any hint of fear, of home sickness, of missing us, but of course, there is none of that. Not even a look back or a wave.

This is what we strive for— brave, bold children who are unafraid of the world. Yet the look on the parents’ faces is not satisfaction for a job well done, but heartbreak. It all really does go so quickly from the tearful pre-school drop off to the sudden interest in international travel…without us.

I look over at a dad—barely holding it together. “She is just like her older sister—she never looked back. But there is something about the baby leaving…it is harder…” his sentence trailed off. I look to The Man, hoping he would have something comforting to say, but I could tell…he was close to the edge too.

“Buck-up” I finally said, “It is not college. They will be home in 9 days, go home, go hug your dog.”

And that is what we do— we go back home, pet the cats and wait.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Harem

I peer in the large window next to the front door as I wait for someone to answer the door bell. It looks like a harem scene from some Technicolor movie set in ancient Bagdad not a girls’ sleep-over party. Young females in brightly colored loose pajama pants and tight little tee shirts lounging around on couches and rugs while one girl plays the guitar. Their eyes highly painted, their toenails vibrant with nail polish…I see The Beast skipping in with her mane of black curly hair and ancient Egyptian eye makeup—all smiles with an armful of board games.

These early teenage years are full of odd contrasts. There is something so utterly gorgeous about these girls that it just takes your breath away and at the same time they seem to totally lack awareness of this beauty. This is what I find both comforting and scary.

I am standing outside the house because although normally I am cautious, sometimes I forget. An hour ago I dropped The Beast off at this sleep-over party house and drove away. Although not an old friend of the Beast, the girl host seems like a smart, confident child and The Man and I had gone to high school with her mother.

BUT…I heard the girl had a slightly older brother…and what exactly did the parents do? The last time I saw the parents they were at a Halloween Party… dressed a little oddly and I assumed they were in custom for the holiday. Yet, in this artsy-fartsy town, you should really never assume that type of thing. It was actually the older brother factor that was nagging at me…that and the fact that I had not seen parents at the drop off. I did, however, see a dog.

“The dog is my friend.” I thought---he is a means to get back into the house. I call The Beast on her cellphone—“You forgot allergy medicine and they have dog. I am going to drop some off.” I said nonchalantly so as not to tip her off to my real purpose for returning to the house—to spy.

Waiting for the door to open I take in everything like a film noir detective—nice house—older house and not too big, Toyotas in the driveway not BMWs or Audis, bookshelves full of books in the living room and then the best thing I see—the mother coming to answer the door.

What can I say—I am not perfect, but I am persistent.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Freshman Orientation

“I swear to god if you make this meeting a second longer than it has to be by raising your hand, I WILL slap you.” I whisper at Ms. Music Teacher. This is where it gets ugly and a husband has to intervene. Ultimately I win this battle, but only to lose the war because there is a woman with even more esoteric questions sitting just outside my slap zone.

This was parents’ orientation to the high school set in the high schools’ uninspired lunch room.

I am listening to a seemingly endless presentation as I sit with the supermoms. Ms. Music Teacher, decides she wants to ask a question. It is not that I am against questions, but really, why not use a phone or e-mail. “ Let’s be honest—HOW many people have a kid in orchestrate AND band and who also want to sing in the choir—stick a cork in it Ms. Mozart. It is not like you are going to get class participation points.” I tell her in my own sensitive way.
“No…I really feel it is an important question and there may be other parents who have the same question and are afraid to ask.” she insists.

“You should be afraid” I threaten.

Thanks to The Beast and her non-clique personal philosophy—I am familiar with a number of the moms— the artsy, work from home type moms who are writing books or jetting off to photograph a dying population of pray rug weavers in the Himalayas. And also the super moms who are my favorite clique to hang with. They are busy, focused on their careers. I am, of course, not a supermom, but these are my people. These are people who work on the major scientific problems of the day and still have time to remind me to sign The Beast up for kindergarten. These are people who can get 400 kids under the age of ten to sing in-tune and still volunteer, these are people who run Brownie troops and then jet off to Japan for business. And it is not JUST the moms—these are women who managed to balance the art of having a career AND a life. They organize their lives for maximum satisfaction and they get their husbands on board faster than a conductor on a German train.

And these are the moms who ask the questions…lots of questions and I just have to deal with it.