Tuesday, July 25, 2006

If He Don't Look Good, I Don't Look Good



Register columnist

I expect that some day my son will come home with hair dyed purple and papier-mâchéd into the shape of a vulture. I will not care. At that point, hormones and a sheltered suburban existence will conspire to make him an entirely unreasonable monkey-thing. Aside from demands for money and food, I doubt, at that point, he'll even be talking to me.

But until then, Zev's hair is my concern. Mine. Not my husband's. Not my mother's. Not "society's." Mine.

Somehow, in these last 13 months I had forgotten that fact. Somehow, I had allowed his tresses to get out of control. Somehow, I let Zev grow a mullet.

It was cute at first, those soft curls kissing the back of his neck. But when the rest of his hair failed to grow at the same rate, he started to look like Billy Ray Cyrus.

Strangers complimented me on my "beautiful daughter." Friends greeted Zev with a pinky-forefinger rocker salute and the exclamation "Business in front; party in back!" A portion of his birthday festivities was taken up with people discussing just, exactly, how hard Zev rocked his mullet.

I was appalled. I was embarrassed. But I was outnumbered.

While I demanded that Zev get a haircut, Mom, Hubby and a host of so-called "friends" told me to leave his hair alone, citing everything from religious superstitions to promises that, honestly, his hockey hair looked cute. I got so many admonitions, I started to develop a Samson complex about it.

Never mind that no one can so much as smile at this kid without first going through me, I had somehow relinquished my control-freak grip on this one aspect of Zev's well-being, and he was stranded in silly hairdo-land as a result of it.

Then came Gretta.

I immediately liked everything about Zev's lovely baby sitter from the moment I interviewed her. She is comfortable with kids. She speaks her mind. She thinks I'm pretty. But something she said stuck in my head – my well-groomed head.

"I love that you cut his hair into a mullet," she said.

In all the comments I'd received about Zev's hair, no one had ever suggested that I fashioned Zev's hair this way on purpose. Is that what people think? That we play trailer-park dress up at home? That I did this to my child?

Now the mullet was making me look bad. It was time to take Zev's hair into my hands.

Well, not my hands. I am a firm believer that I can do anything well – but I'd much rather pay someone else to do it better. So, against Hubby's protests, we whisked Zev over to First Cut at Fashion Island.

Hair salons for children, in general, are minimonuments to the kind of overindulgent parenting that creates spoiled, hateful kids. And this one, with its airplane seats, individual cartoon-spewing televisions and well-stocked toy section is guaranteed to turn your child into a brat.

I loved it.

The place is bright and airy and full of kids. I had one request: I wanted a hot hairdresser. Before you send your angry letters, think about it for a second: Anyone can cut a kid's hair. We were paying good money ($22) for a gimmick, and all I wanted was my money's worth. To me, a hot hairdresser is just part of the show.

That's how we ended up with Kim. With a winning smile and long black fingernails, Kim did an expert job lopping off Zev's locks. She even ignored my husband's demand for Depeche Mode bangs and, instead, followed my request for Ari Gold hair.

Zev came away looking fantastic. And I'll look even better for having a kid with such a great haircut – which is the important thing.

Kim sent us home with one of Zev's curls tucked in an envelope for safekeeping.

When the day comes that Zev sports a Mohawk or shaves his girlfriend's name into his head or dunks his head in Nair, I'll be able to wrap the long curl around my fingers and remember that once – for a short time – I was in charge.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

When go-go becomes "Go!"



Register columnist

The idea seemed cute at first. For Keren's birthday, a group of us conspired to take her out for a good, old-fashioned Girls' Night. Limo. Swanky L.A. club. Bottle service. Dancing.

It would be fun! It would be crazy! It would be a diversion from our humdrum lives of baby-raising! It would, I quickly surmised, be a nightmare.

Debbie gave me the instructions: "Be there by 9, and dress to kill." Dress to kill? I'm a flabby Jewish mother. Dress to kill what? A chicken? Still, I squeezed myself into a little black dress that didn't used to feel so little, strapped on my sexiest shoes and headed out the door.

"You excited?" Hubby asked.

"No," I said. "I'm 150 years old. I'm fat. I'm tired, and I'm about to get eaten alive by high school kids with fake IDs."

"Have fun!" he chirped.

The DJ was terrible, the two-bottle minimum proved more than we could take and the kids across the aisle from us somehow decided we would want to watch them spill Red Bull on each other and simulate sex.

A pretty young thing wearing a shirt – and just a shirt – bopped from knee to knee, giving lap dances without the benefit of underwear and posing for photos we all agreed she'd regret horribly some day.

Watching her, I was suddenly seized with shame. Not for her, but for me. "Wow, was I an idiot when I was 20," I thought. I remembered my own club-scene stunts and shivered. "At least this girl isn't being carried off the dance floor topless."

I looked back at Keren, who was dancing and clearly having a wonderful time. A guy started trying to dance with her, and without missing a beat, she shooed him away with her hand, as if brushing off a fly. He looked shocked.

"Go," she said. And he did.

She kept dancing as if nothing had happened. She is now my hero.

Women don't typically want to meet guys at clubs. Girls' Night is almost always about drinking and dancing with friends. But when you're an idiot 20-year-old, you don't realize that wiggling about without underwear will get you unwanted attention. And once you get this attention, you're too young to understand that it's OK to be rudely direct. Instead, you make up excuses not to dance. You give out wrong phone numbers. You feign illness. Anything to get out of having to talk to whatever worm inched his way toward you.

If you never learn how to tell a guy, simply, "Go," then by the time you're 30, you figure club life is for kids and hang up your stilettos.

The realization was liberating. I started to see the club less as an ordeal to endure than as a big inside joke that only we were in on. I batted away pickup lines like a heckled comic.

"Where do I know you from?" was met with "I think I used to baby-sit you."

I stopped a guy who was trying to drag Aliza and me off to the dance floor by telling him, "Collectively, we're 70."

With my new curmudgeonly old lady outlook, I was able to dance and drink and enjoy myself. At least for a while. By about 2 a.m. the alcohol, the lateness and my advanced age caught up with me. I was starting to nod off in the booth when an eager-faced young man plopped himself down with a bounce.

"You're beautiful," he said.

Ugh. Here we go.

"Thank you," I sighed. "My husband thinks so, too."

"Your husband?" he said, as if the word was foreign.

"Yes," I said. "And so does my son."

"Your son?"


The kid wasn't budging. Clearly he'd heard lines like these before; he had no idea I was telling the truth.

He kept trying to chat me up, dodging his way around my roadblocks like a pro. I gave up trying to be polite. Imitating Keren's brush-wave, I said, simply, "Bye."

"Bye?" he said.

This line was clearly as new to him as it was to me.

"Yep," I said, loving the way the brush-wave felt in my wrist. Reveling in how the word rolled off my tongue. Like a mantra. Like something precious I had earned:


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

It's Not the Heat; It's the Stupidity



Register columnist

I haven't seen the Al Gore movie yet, but I already disagree with its premise. Dying animals, pandemic diseases, the eventual suffocation of all life on this planet. Whatever. The real inconvenient truth about warm weather is that it makes everyone within 20 feet of me exceptionally stupid.

I'm not sure what the correlation is between the tilt of the Earth and everyone else's idiocy, but it's real and it's undeniable, and it has me stricken with the worst case of SAD I've had in years.

It happens when temps hit the high 80s. People start taking too long in line at the supermarket, or they fail to turn left when the light turns yellow, and I get hit hard with SAD: Seasonal Aggressive Disorder.

It starts with sweaty palms, tense muscles and tightened jaws. If left untreated, SAD can progress to an intense disappointment with the human race. SAD sufferers might also experience strange mouth bleeding from all the tongue biting they're doing to keep from getting fired, divorced or arrested.

SAD hits me most when I'm on the road, as the road is a veritable showcase for overheated humanity's stupendous stupidity. A woman earlier this week spent the better part of two minutes veering in and out of a crosswalk in front of my seething Accord, as if trying to decide whether she felt like getting hit by a car that day.

On the Fourth of July, Hubby had to play Freeway Frogger against a man throwing lit sparklers out his car window. Lit sparklers. On the 405. It's no Kim Jong Il fireworks show, but, still. Who does that?

Once I get out of my car, the stupid doesn't stop. It follows me. Like Pascal's red balloon, only stupid.

What congressman can I write, demanding a law that requires summer lockdowns for dumb people? California needs one, man, or else none of us are going to get our burritos. I felt my blood pressure go from mild to muy calientethe other day when a woman in line at Chipotle was stumped by the menu.

The actual conversation:

Woman: "I want a taco. With some chicken."

Worker: "Corn or flour tortilla?"

Woman: "I want it extra crispy. Deep-fried."

Worker: "We don't have that. Corn or flour."

Woman: "You don't have that? You can't make it deep-fried?"

Worker: "No, ma'am. We just have corn or flour."

Woman: "But I want it deep-fried."

Worker: "We don't have that."

Woman (crossing her arms and pouting): "Well, I don't want one, then."

Worker: "What would you like, then."

Woman: "Not one of those tacos."

Worker: "Would you like a burrito?"

Woman: "What's a burrito?"

I have SAD so bad, I'm starting to experience it for other people. Sympathy SAD. A really sweet-looking couple and their adult son sat down near Hubby and me at a bar the other night. They appeared to be having a nice time. Then along comes this obnoxious blowhard who plops himself down next to them and starts regaling the parents with what sounded like failed bits from a comedy routine.

The son looked patient at first. But as the night grew on, and the stranger's stories grew longer, I noticed beads of sweat forming on his brow and his left hand clenching into a fist. I should mention here that Blowhard's victim was wearing a sweater.

At one point, the son turned to me, clearly trying to extricate his family from Blowhard's clutches by entering into a short, alternative conversation. I knew that's what he was doing, but I didn't make eye contact and pretended I couldn't hear him. I wasn't about to bail him out. See, as bad as I felt for him, I knew that getting involved might somehow make Hubby and me vulnerable to Blowhard. And if Blowhard started to sabotage our evening, I could end up in jail.

So I did the only thing a still-sane person with a bad case of SAD could do.

I played dumb.

Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Who's a Good Boy?



Register columnist

I'm so proud I could cry. Zev has reached a new milestone … it's one of those cliché things, I know. Something that every new parent experiences, something that, in the grand scheme of things, is not that big a deal.

But when it finally happens in your family, you are blown away. You giggle. You dance. You blog. You just want to shout it from the rooftops, broadcasting your child's feat for all the world to hear: “He did it!” you yell. “My son is finally smarter than my dog!”

It took a full year, but young Zev now knows more commands (15) than Sketch (nine). He can point to things he wants and has improved upon Sketch's trick of making horrible, un-ignorable sounds when he doesn't get his way. He can drink from a straw, bottle or cup. He can even say a few words.

I knew Zev was on the right track when he first mastered sitting and rolling over without any treats.

He's still not housetrained: He poops himself and chews all our books, something that Sketch has had the good sense never to do. And he still hasn't figured out that going to the doctor means getting a shot – something dogs comprehend innately. But Zev understands countless words and can identify a monkey – be it toy, real or curious. Sketch wouldn't know a monkey from an emu, and it wouldn't matter because the sight of either would leave her quivering beneath the bed.

We used to say that Sketch was smart. Not too many other dogs can dance in a circle or walk backward on two legs. (Neither, for that matter, can Zev – yet). But if there's one thing being a mother has taught me it's that humans so completely rock over dogs.

At a party recently, a woman started talking to me about all the “special” things that her cat, Cinnamon, can do. She yowls when she wants attention. She has some elaborate way of scratching at her litter box. She sits in her owner's lap when the woman is on the toilet.

Those tricks aren't special. Those tricks are lame.

My son puts his hands on his head on command. Can Cinnamon do that? I didn't think so. I didn't want to be rude, and I couldn't think of what to say, so I just offered, “If a person did any of these things, we'd institutionalize them.”

“Oh, she is a person,” the woman answered.


For all my faults, I have never mistaken Sketch for a person. I have never let her eat at the table, sit on the couch or sleep in my bed. But neither had I considered Zev to be much of a person, either. He's too … squishy. He speaks this weird, moon-man language and is given to fits of laughter over mundane things. When he's tired, instead of sleeping, he screams. Same goes when he has to poop. People don't do that.

But I'm coming around in my estimation of him. A few weeks ago, he began putting balls through a tube. And more recently, he learned how to throw. It's a weak throw, and it doesn't always hit its target, but still he'll toss you a ball if you ask. I was blown away at how advanced that was. How agile. How person-like.

“He's so much smarter than Sketch now,” I told Hubby.

Hubby didn't say anything; he just gave me that look that tells me he's trying to remember the number to Child Protective Services. But I don't care. My son is smarter than my dog. Nothing could make me happier.

Now all I have to do is teach Zev to fetch my slippers and pee in the yard, and we'll be set.