Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Growing Pains

Zev told me he wants to start seeing other girls.

He thinks
it's nice and all, the way I cater to his every whim. The way I
anticipate his needs so that he doesn't even have to verbalize them
(especially since – unless his needs include a ball or a dog – he can't
verbalize them).

But now, my 15-month-old tells me, it's time
we start seeing other people: Him, nice day care provider and her posse
of two-foot playmates. Me (sigh) judging by his penchant for grabbing
my midsection, I'm apparently to start seeing a yoga instructor.

really didn't see this day coming. We've been virtually inseparable
since the day he was born. I'll let Safta or his baby sitter Gretta
watch him for a few hours here or there. And every weekend he gets one
"Daddy Day." But, mostly, he's stuck with me all 14 of his waking hours
every day.

Apparently, that's simply too much mommy.

warned me that this was going to happen, that a kid as social as Zev
was eventually going to need to test the waters of independence and
make friends without Mommy hovering about. And Abbe told me that one
day I was going to need a little break from the unrelenting job of
motherhood, reminding me that as a freelance writer, "You are a working

I didn't quite believe either of them. I love the hard
work, and Zev and I have so much fun together. Wasn't I the one who
nibbled the first giggle out of him a year ago? Wasn't I the one to
slide him into a swing for the first time at 5 months? Who turns up the
Stevie Wonder and dances with him all over his room? Me, that's who.

Zev has recently started to notice other kids, chasing them, giggling
as they touch his face, even kissing his buddy, Aidan. Whenever we go
to a park or to synagogue, Zev darts off in search of adventure, only
occasionally checking over his shoulder to make sure I'm there. As fun
as Mommy is, she's no toddler.

We're in a Mommy and Me class, a
swim class and a music class, all of which Zev adores. But each of
these takes an hour or less. Zev could use more toddler time. 

frankly, I could use a little less. Zev's naps have grown shorter right
as my freelance assignments have grown more abundant. And I experience
this weird phantom-limb feeling whenever I walk outside without a

Still, I quit my job to stay at home with him, so what am I doing signing him up for day care? 

can't shake the question out of my head as I trudge over to Day Care
Lady's place to drop off the deposit. Day Care Lady is wonderful. She's
got good credentials, a calm demeanor; her record is clean and she's
walking distance from my house. But she won't take kids for fewer than
14 hours a week – about seven more than I'd like. And, most
importantly, she's not me. She's very understanding of my
indecisiveness and agrees to let me try it out for a month.

"What happens when he likes it, but you miss him?" she asks. 

"I don't know."

gives her a big smile as we leave and head to the park, where I slip
him into a swing between two 2-year-olds being pushed by their nannies.

used to being the only parent in a park full of nannies, but today I
feel self-conscious about it. Maybe the nannies can sense this.
Unsolicited, they tell me about all the successes they've had with
children in their care, the way the parents had 4-year-olds in diapers
until Nanny came along. The way Nanny eased bottles out of
rotten-toothed mouths and coaxed bed-wetters into waking up dry.

of the nannies starts meowing at her charge, inspiring giggles from the
child and an astonished look from Zev. Zev's heard Hubby and me meow at
him before, but something about Nanny's meow captures him differently. 

"Mmm," he starts tentatively. "Meow."

"Oh!" Nanny says, "He knows how to meow."

Well, he does now.

The world is full of people who aren't me. People who Zev will meet and learn from. 

As hard as it may be, I know I have to let go a bit and let him.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Book Club Blows My Cover

I  had long ago set a few rules for myself: 

1. No Diet Coke.
2. No Brazilian bikini waxes.
3. No book clubs.

once got thirsty and broke the first rule, I won't comment on the
second and the third, well, the third rule had been untested for at
least two years, when last I was asked (and declined) to join a book
club. But last week, Ande sent me a message over MySpace asking me to
join a group she's starting for "non-flaky types." 

She said she wants to read "Everything Is Illuminated," and like many women my age, she would rather not do so alone.


only recently met Ande, and I liked her right away. Hubby was meeting
me at a museum where I had taken Zev for the afternoon, and he
surprised me by bringing her with him. I was in a bad mood that day and
a little resentful of being forced to meet someone new while covered in
sweat and baby food. But within 15 minutes, I invited her over for

Still, that's not enough to break a cardinal rule. I
wrote her back, explaining that my problem with authority extends to
assigned readings. 

But the truth is I'm an embarrassingly slow reader.

I mean, really, really slow.

summer, I read "Lincoln's Melancholy," by Joshua Wolf Shenk. That's it.
Just "Lincoln's Melancholy." It's not a particularly long book, but it
took me all summer to read it. Before that, I read Tom Robbins'
"Jitterbug Perfume." Started it in February. Finished it in June. At
this moment, I'm not reading anything – I've got to recuperate from the
intense reading schedule of the last seven months.

Hubby makes
fun of my snail's pace ("I think you're the only person I know who
writes faster than she reads.") but he's also the first to come to my
defense ("You read constantly – magazines, newspapers. That's why it
takes you so long to get through books.").

It's sweet of him to
say, but he reads as many magazines and newspapers as I do – and he
still manages to plow through books like nothin'.

My painful
pace has been a point of shame my whole life – a deficiency I have
tried hard to cover up, with varying degrees of success.

my senior year of high school, Ben Glassman sat kitty-corner behind me
in English class. One day, when we were doing "silent reading" at our
desks, he passed me a note.

"Timed you as you read that last page. Took you 20 minutes."

that point on, I bowed out of study groups, shied away from borrowing
friends' books and, of course, declined all invitations to join book
clubs. Why call attention to this embarrassing shortcoming?

Ande's invitation isn't easy to avoid. For one, she's Israeli, and
Israelis can be powerfully persuasive. And two, after becoming a mom, I
seem to have lost my social life along with my waistline. I've promised
myself I'd meet new, interesting people and do something that's just
for me. I was going to start playing on a softball team that someone
had invited me to join, but I run even slower than I read.

I told Ande I'd join. She seemed genuinely happy and asked me to
suggest some books for the group to read before the first meeting in a
few weeks.

How about "Lincoln's Melancholy?" Either that or "Jitterbug Perfume."

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Too Dull To Die

I am totally depressed about this Crocodile Hunter thing.

not his death that gets me. The only time I saw Steve Irwin on
television, he was dangling his toddler in front of a crocodile or
something. I was no fan. No, it's what Irwin's death represents to me
that has me so down.

Don't get me wrong; it's terrible that a
young man with young children should meet an untimely fate. But the guy
wrestled crocodiles. His death wasn't an accident. It was inevitable.

And – if you stop to think about it – it was also kind of cool. Which is why I'm so depressed.

died doing what he loves – getting way too close to deadly animals. I'm
guessing that a stingray barb to the chest is a painful way to go, but
you can imagine that just before the barb went in him, Irwin was
grinning like a child. He loved that stuff.

Which got me
thinking: I don't have a cool way that I want to die. There's nothing I
could be doing that – should I give up the ghost halfway through –
would make my friends say, "Well, at least she died doing what she

I don't do anything that I love, dangerous or otherwise.
It's dismal. I'm sure I'm not alone in living a passionless life devoid
of crocodiles and life-threatening humanitarian work. And I'm perfectly
content to waste the days allotted me contributing absolutely nothing
to this world; I'm American. But I'd really like my death to be more
spectacular than all that.

The day before Irwin died, Jeff
e-mailed me from Africa to say he'd been accosted by a baboon. The
baboon demanded Jeff's apple. Jeff complied, and all went well. But if
it hadn't … well, I love Jeff dearly, but getting killed by a baboon is
pretty awesome. For the rest of his friends' lives, he wouldn't be
"Jeff," he'd be "Jeff, my friend who was killed by a baboon."

I don't see baboons. I don't swim with stingrays. Today I went crazy, hitting the mall and the supermarket.

Irwin's death made me realize that the headline to my obituary will likely read: "Mayrav Saar did nothing, continues same."

figured my angst was universal. There is only one Steve Irwin, after
all. Other people, normal people, probably aren't so self-actualized as
to know how they'd prefer to die, right? Wrong.

"I imagine I'll
die drinking, hopefully halfway through telling a story," Steve says.
He doesn't even have to pause before answering. This is something he'd
thought of before. Maybe years ago. That truly is what he loves doing,
and what he'd love to be doing when he kicks it.

Kevin says he's
actually seen someone die the way he wants to go. A few years back, he
saw a man collapse after Northwestern University's football team beat
Ohio State. The victory was totally unexpected, and the fans went nuts.
Kevin, a die-hard Wildcat, felt terrible for the man's family, but
realized that shedding your mortal coil in the midst of wild jubilation
is a fantastic way to die.

I don't have anything like that. I
don't drink much. I don't follow sports. I have no hobbies or skills.
This is terrible. Am I too boring to die?

No, Steve assures me.
Death isn't going to pass me over because I've never been to Africa.
I'll die just like everyone else. Not to worry.

Kevin adds that
most of us – no matter what romantic notions we have about death –
usually meet our end in a sterile hospital room, anyway. No interesting
life stories required for admission.

That does make me feel a
little better: I guess I can stop pitying myself for not being a dead
crocodile hunter and just to go bed. And if I should die before I wake
… well, those are the breaks.

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Office Ick

If you're reading this at work, look around you.

Do you see
the woman who pops her chewing gum? Or the guy who blows his nose so
often, it's like a continuous loop of mucus Muzak? Do you spy the nail
biter with Band-Aids on all her fingers? What about the dandruff snow
blower who leaves little flakes everywhere he goes?

office has a disgusting co-worker. And if you don't see something gross
on the other side of the cubicle wall, then you, my friend, are the
Office Ick.

It's not easy to admit that you're vile. Believe
me. I just realized I was the Office Ick – and I left office life more
than a year ago. But if you think that your habit of picking strange
objects out of your hair goes unnoticed, allow me to do you the favor
of telling you you're wrong. 

No force field of invisibility
shrouds you when you pick your teeth. "Silent" does not equal
"scentless." And just because people turn away when you, ahem, adjust
yourself, doesn't mean they don't notice. They notice. And they send
each other instant messages saying things like, "Is he playing Frogger
down there?"

I decided to write about the Office Ick because
Yvette asked me to. Yvette has spent several years working in a
technology firm taking down furious little mental notes of all the
disgusting things a few of her co-workers do. She does this not because
she's petty, but because she's appalled.

One of her co-workers
(whom she calls Pick-N-Lick, for his habit of picking his zits and then licking
his fingers during meetings), is particularly ripe fodder for a column,
she says.

"I am sure that other people have a co-worker that is some form of Pick-N-Licker. So I'm sure readers can relate," she says.

No doubt.

to have found a forum in which to vent, Yvette offers more examples of
Office Ick behavior: The guy who leaves the kitchen sponge inside a
dirty cup filled with brownish water. And then this e-mail:

I was dialing your number, so I had to take my headphones off. What do
I hear? The guy two cubes down is clipping his fingernails! It drives
me nuts. I only cut my fingernails in the privacy of my home. I think
it is gross. I shouldn't have to listen to it."


my many years as other people's co-worker, I not only clipped my
fingernails at my desk, but my toenails, too. I clipped them directly
into a trash bin. Nice and neat-like. But clip, clip, clip, I did. I
also suffered from terrible allergies and had a kind of snow-covered
mountain of spent Kleenexes on my desk at all times. I removed my shoes
any chance I could, laughed loudly and told dirty jokes. I was, pretty
much, disgusting. And now I'm extremely embarrassed.

I realized
that I owe Lisa Liddane a very huge apology. Register Fitness Goddess
Lisa and I shared a way-too-small cubicle for about four years, during
which time she was the perfect-posture picture of precision focus and I
was … well, I was wiggling my bare toes over a trash can and telling
dirty jokes while blowing my nose.

I write an apology of sorts, calling on Lisa to lash out at me for all the years that I imprisoned her in a lair of revulsion.

don't recall you clipping your nails in all the years we've worked
together, so you must have purposely done that when I wasn't around,"
she e-mails back. "That or the memory of you clipping your toenails was
so traumatic that I had to repress it. LOL."

I am buoyed by Lisa's response. Maybe I wasn't as gross as I thought I was.

Oh no, Maura assures me, I was.

never worked with Maura, but it is her experience that when it comes to
Office Icks, no one likes to talk about it. Lisa's response was just a
kind of coping mechanism that all normal office people use to avoid
confronting the mouth-breathing yeti in the room.

Instead of confronting an offensive person, Maura says, "I just talk behind their backs."


"Conflict sucks."

I guess that's true – so let me handle it. If you've got an Office Ick, clip this column out, and place it on his or her desk.

They'll get the point.

And you'll get a booger-free cubicle.