April 2008


I don’t have time to write a regular post right now, mostly because I’ve been partying too much, which if you’re me translates into “entertaining your husband’s visiting high school buddy by going out to pizza dinners and hearing stories about the movie shorts they made as teenagers, Gay Gangsters and Gay Gangsters II, which despite their titles are not porn, but rather adolescent, homoerotic, homophobic noir.” Because of the Gay Gangsters, I haven’t remotely gotten my work done this week, so I am sitting in a coffeeshop drinking something called “Organic Raw Kombucha,” which tastes like apple cider vinegar mixed with grass (Kentucky blue, not Maui Wowie), and which hints that it may just cure all current and future diseases I have. I’m hoping the kombucha will perk me up so that I can answer hundreds of student discussion board posts about Emily Dickinson.

At any rate, Alex, the high school pal of K.’s, and I went a round on the Clinton/Obama issue, which was the same as pretty much every other round I’ve gone with anyone: he argued that Hillary and the Clintons were corrupt, warmongering establishment wonks with no right to still be in a race that Obama “has already won,” I argued that apportioning delegates by population is problematic but the Dems’s stupid rules aren’t Hillary’s fault (I’m still hoping for a nationwide, closed Democratic primary next time, although I guess that will never happen because local vendors would miss out on all the campaign events business — it’s always the economy, stupid) and that she’s the better candidate because of her ideas about health care, gender and race equality, and education, plus the fact that she’s the candidate with the highest percentage of minorities on staff. (Thanks, Weboy.) He said he just hated Hillary and that he “believed” in Obama, I said it was a mistake to assume that Obama is so much better just because we haven’t seen all the private interest and political crony strings attached to his back. I’m getting kind of tired of that conversation because, as I’ve said before, I’m sure there must actually be reasons to support Obama, but every time one of my callow, overprivileged, self-styled egalitarian friends talks to me about it, it becomes a Hillary hatefest.

We didn’t resolve anything, of course, although the conversation ended with Alex saying, “I’m sure you can out-argue me on the actual facts, because I don’t know them, but that’s not really part of why I support Obama.” And with K. leaning down to whisper in my ear, “I love it when you annihilate people, baby. It’s so sexy.” (I would have chosen a different word for it…say, “obliterate.”) Then he took Alex out for a beer and left me to tend the screaming infant rather than sleeping, which sucked because, of course, some people were too tired from their trip to the pub to get up and help with breakfast in the morning.

But I did have a few minutes in between child-minding to try to shed my irritation with that conversation. And I didn’t have any friends to talk to about it because, as I’ve mentioned before, I am the Obama demographic in so many ways that discussing my candidate preferences with friends is like advertising a special on B.L.T.s at the Arby’s in South Williamsburg (the Hasidim are not really down with the B.). So, in a transparent attempt to cash in on the fact that my dad and I agree on something for once, I wrote my dad and told him about it, then asked what his peers were doing.

I include his response because it showed me that even though my dad is a sixtysomething engineer whose first language is not English, he still has the power to delight and surprise me with his command of its subtleties (note: the opinions expressed below do not necessarily reflect those of the management, particularly those on “reverse bias;” try to be charitable and keep in mind that the man has immigrant-must-excel-I’m-not-white-and-I-did-it-so-you-should-too mentality and his perspective on reparative justice is thus skewed). The last line, in particular, is priceless:

Daughter,

I am, of course, peerless.

I am still troubled by the double standard, the fact that black voters are demonstrating reverse bias by going for Obama to the extent of 80%-90%, by the fact that in all this time, Obama has yet to propose anything substantive other than selling “change we can believe in”, and by the fact that Bill’s issues still drag Hillary down. Whatever happens, though it will be cold comfort for her, Hillary is still the most competent candidate with the best intentions and ideas.

I hear Hillary raised $2.5 million just last night so hopefully Barack’s huge bankroll (really no strings, really change we can believe in, really not the same old politics?) won’t prevail.

Of course, these are just words and I am not bitter.

Love,

Dad

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The family I babysat for from age 11 to 19, a stunningly successful power couple with three lovable and reasonably-behaved children, pots of money, and excellent hair (both of them) provided me with an example for marriage that easily outshone my parents’ (not hard, since my parents’ marriage imploded only two years into my tenure as a babysitter). It may have been the way they called each other ten times a day to whisper sweet nothings while she was busy being a perfect, attentive, thoughtful mother dressed in the latest French fashions or the way he manfully bought and sold empires in between squiring her to symphonies, Democratic Party fundraisers, and restaurants with $10 mineral water. She was sensitive, beautiful, artistically inclined, and fluent in French (which made the shopping easier), with a storied past of dating future geniuses and Middle Eastern princes; he was handsome, tall, and just a little bit brooding (or maybe cranky; they looked the same to a teenager), with a taste for German automobiles and a fascinating, immigrant childhood. I never went so far as to wish they were my parents, but that is only because I was an adolescent; I wished I didn’t have parents (especially given the ones I actually had). And I never forgot one thing he said to me, during one of the private chats we always had on the ride home:

“Divorce is not an option. Death is an option.”

It’s a line that echoes in my head to this day. At the time, I interpreted it to mean that he would consider homicide if things got to that point, which they of course would not; it now occurs to me that maybe suicide was in the offing. At any rate, I’ve been thinking about the idea a lot lately as I’ve negotiated the murky waters of year four of a marriage that is as much the result of fate or chance, depending upon what you believe in, as anything else; as I see it, I am in an arranged marriage with the universe as matchmaker. And due to my sino-inscrutability, and the fact that I don’t see anything worse about arranged marriage than any other kind (come on! Look at all these chumps around you arranging their own marriages and then having those marriages die ignominious deaths after six weeks – or months, or days. Don’t you think they should get a professional to do the job?), I’ve been mostly OK with that.

But I have my moments. Moments when I think about how death is an option. Like this morning, when my husband, who promised to take care of the taxes weeks ago, was ignoring Thing One, who has been very high-maintenance lately, like a thoroughbred, needing a lot of currying and brushing and occasional blinders in order to avoid completely losing his shit and trampling his trainers to death. Why was he ignoring our son when I was supposed to be getting time to work? Because he was looking for a bunch of tax forms he lost in his desk in the hopes of making an 8 p.m. appointment with H&R Block tonight so that we could avoid late fees. Because he completely flaked on the taxes for months on end. Because time management is not his strong suit, and so our son is running around the house with no pants on screaming bloody murder and throwing random objects at walls and our daughter is responding by bursting into tears and their father is digging through piles of cut-up Vanity Fairs and letters from old girlfriends hoping he will find the tax forms that he has actually lost due to massive incompetence and carelessness and I am realizing why, in the past, I have always done our taxes: because the man I married has never dealt with his own paperwork, and in fact, when I met him and he was a multiple-offending college dropout his mother routinely filled out the FAFSA for him, and apparently even driving all our forms to H&R Block is too complex a task and my head is echoing with the refrain that death is an option, which is the point where your survival instinct kicks in and you start to understand why so many people pick divorce instead, and you take a deep breath and step back from the abyss you’re staring into, but it’s a close call.

A very close call. And let me just be clear on this: I still think, all things considered, the universe did a decent job tricking me into marrying someone. I mean, look at Britney Spears.

I mean, I love my husband. And come to think of it, he strongly resembles that guy I used to babysit for. He’s kind of cranky, and he has excellent hair. Too bad he’s poor.

Thing One, playing with my Barry Bonds nesting dolls:

“Mama, Barry has a baby in his tummy. It’s going to be born now.”

To all those people who are wondering if Hillary Clinton staying in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination is a good thing, I submit that it is. Here’s why.

Had either of the candidates clinched the nomination early, we might not be seeing one of the highest-profile Democrats in America in a thoughtful and specific (same-sex partnerships and immigration! love it!) interview with a prominent gay paper. I think it’s awesome that this drawn-out contest is forcing la Hillary, as current underdog, to take it to the streets and take some stands that require actual guts. And I think it’s a pity that Obama is continuing to duck and run from gay press and gay issues. But even if he’s the nominee, Clinton’s precedent won’t let him continue to do so…or so I hope.

(Thanks to NYCweboy for bringing it to my attention.)

Sorry posting has been so light. It’s spring break here, which means that I’m trying to fight the inertia that inevitably (and deliciously and deservedly) sets in when I don’t have an immediate laundry list of daily job-related tasks to do. Why fight it, you ask? Oh, because I have to design two new courses by, say, now in order to teach starting next week. Which means any computer time has been spent designing course shells rather than blogging. Plus, I heard Tracey Ullman on “Fresh Air” and (insert snarky, derogatory comment about Terry Gross’s breathless Cult of Personality-mongering here) and she was saying something like this:

“The bloggers! The #@&*^!@!! bloggers! I’ll tell you, Terry, one of these days I’m going to shoot the bloody bloggers. Sitting in their mother’s basements making snarky, derogatory comments about other people’s efforts as if they ever did anything themselves. The !(*@!!! bloggers, I swear!”

This inspired a few moments of soul-searching. I’m not really too thrilled with the blogosphere lately; it is snarky, and petty, and annoying, and I’ve quit spending time places like Bitch, Phd. because I’m tired of the whole “more thoughtful, considerate, and mature than thou” routine B. pulls, such as in this post where she chides people not to take it seriously when she characterizes all Clinton supporters as “old white women” and then tells everyone they lack a sense of humor if they try to discuss it further.

(Yes, the originator of the “silliness” was me. And yes, I think it’s ironic that Bitch is both considerably older and immeasurably whiter than I, so really, she’s slagging herself. But I’m gonna take the high road and not belabor that point.)

Anyhow, the snarkfest has been getting me down, and so, while I’ve gotten attached to blogging as a medium, I’ve been a bit too disenchanted to keep up my normal pace. But enough of that. It’s clear to me, from checking my blog stats, that you, fair reader, are here for one reason, and one reason only:

You love to read about pee.

And boy, am I not going to disappoint you.

Anyone who co-parents has probably had the experience of playing “Good Cop, Bad Cop.” But yesterday’s events brought that routine to new levels.

It was early evening, after an abortive attempt at dinner in which Thing One refused to eat anything but capers picked out the of the pasta/salmon/capers/fennel/avocado dish I’d made after having spent the afternoon — the first sunny, warm afternoon — in exile in a north-facing coffee shop, attempting to work while he and his aunt whooped it up at the local park. Kayo and I inhaled our portions, and then I announced that I had had it up to here with juvenile whining and belligerence, after which I performed the classy move of dumping K.’s wine into mine and taking the whole glass, plus my book, upstairs. I got to enjoy the setting sun and an escape into fiction for at least five minutes before I heard K.’s voice through the floor yelling at Thing One.

This in itself is not that shocking an occurrence; it happens at least once every time they’re alone together. K. is more of the “exhibit your displeasure” type of parent, I’m the “calculate and manipulate, at least until Vesuvius froths over” type. Anyway, even through several layers of plaster and fir I could hear that K. was shaking with rage, that he had never sounded that pissed off at our son, who was wailing hysterically in response.

So I sighed, put down the book, and came downstairs.

Where, gentle reader, what did I find but: 1)Thing One screaming “MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY’ as he clung, limpet-like, to my leg; 2)Thing Two, who is six months old now, placidly getting her head wiped off by a red-faced and furious K.; and 3)A suspicious-looking pool of wetness in the middle of the dining room rug.

My husband explained to me the source of his ire: Thing Two had been peacefully enjoying some “tummy time,” and Thing One had been dancing to “Bodysnatchers” (again, !&@^%%^&!! Radiohead, I am so over In Rainbows), so K. had decided this was an opportune time to go to the bathroom. And because K. is a sensitive, New Age guy who sits down to go, and because our bathroom looks directly into the dining room, he had a front row seat for the ensuing transgression, in which Thing One stood directly over his baby sister…

…and urinated, quite deliberately, straight onto the crown of her head.

Oh, the frustration, the impotence, the paralyzed fury! To be imprisoned by your own stream of urine, as your son wreaks havoc with his!

What to do, what to do. Since K. had clearly taken on the “bad cop” role, I decided it was Natural Consequences time. I calmly asked Thing One to get a towel, which he did, and to wipe up the pee from the rug, which he did. Then I took it outside to hang in the sun (this neutralizes any odor — works for pets, too) on the front porch. Everyone was still sitting there in shell-shocked disbelief, so I asked Thing One to lie down on the floor. He complied. Then I took Thing Two from her father and calmly, methodically, stripped off her diaper and held her over my son.

“No! No! No!” he cried, thrashing.

“Thing Two is going to pee on your head now,” I said calmly.

“No Mama! No! No pee! Noooooooo!” he wailed.

“But I thought you liked it when people pee on your head,” I rejoined.

“Nooooooo! No peeing! Don’t pee on me!” he screamed, feebly pushing at his sister’s bare bottom.

“Oh, you don’t like that?” I inquired. He shook his head, chin trembling. “Oh, okay. Well, you’d better not do it to other people or they might think you like it.”

My infant daughter was very tolerant of this whole little charade. I handed her back to her father, helped up my son, and proceeded with bedtime. And I’m not entirely sure of whether I handled that right. I have fears that I’ve ruined water sports for my children forever — or that I’ve predisposed them to a lifetime of pee fetish. But really, we’ve established that screaming, however necessary in the moment, doesn’t really get your point across.

At least not as effectively as the threat of a faceful of pee.