Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I Love My Hairy Monkey

Leslie wanted to know how I did it. How I could possibly look my
husband in the eye, tell him some horribly insulting thing and still
stay married.

"For instance," she said, "if I were to say to My
Man, 'Your teeth are so small, they look like corn nuggets,' he would
divorce me. But that's something you say to your husband all the time."

I also tell him he has more forehead than face. And, in my more loving moods, I call him my "hairy monkey."

say these things because they are true, because they make me laugh and
because, if I didn't say them – or if I didn't feel as though I had the
space in my marriage to say them – I would lose my mind.

inner workings of other people's relationships will always be shrouded
in mystery. But I honestly can't understand how couples who don'tengage in marital mockery stay together.

So asked one of them.

and Jean not only seem to always be doting on one another (seriously,
it's kinda nauseating), but they draw their swords whenever someone
makes a move to rib the other.

"We've learned that, in public, we
present a united front," Chris explained. "We've done the thing where
you dig at each other in public; it can lead to real ugliness and hurt
feelings, and you don't always know when the other is joking. Plus,
when there is an audience there is always the temptation to play to the

Of course there is! What is marriage, if not a
lifelong contract for your own traveling variety show? I can't tell you
how jealous I was when Brill and Eric figured out a way to parlay their
ball-and-chain bon mots into a weekly podcast (
www.brillandericwatchtv.com). Why didn't we think of that?

Chris assured me that however lovey-dovey their public life was, their private one has a healthy dose of teasing.

have to be able to laugh at your spouse. That's what marriage is for.
They're supposed to point out when you're being an idiot," Chris said.

almost believed him, until he included the qualifier: "But we never do
it in a mean-spirited away. And we're always allowed with each other
and say 'Too mean.' "

Too mean?

When we began dating,
Hubby said, "You know, you could carve both your breasts out of your
butt and still have a butt left over." That, I believe, would qualify
as "too mean" in the Chris-and-Jean household.

me, the insult was both jaw-dropping, and – I'm sorry to say – true.
But it was also an opening salvo to what would become a lifelong battle
of wits.

It's not that we never say nice things to each other.
Hubby has lovely green eyes, and I always compliment his cooking and
parenting skills. He tells me I'm beautiful – even with my
proportionately enormous rear.

But we save some of our kinder
compliments for behind closed doors. (Not for nothing, Kevin once
correctly noted that I only called Hubby "Sweetie" when I am mad at
him.) Instead, we speak in a language of rapid-fire ridicule – some of
which I'd share, if this weren't a family newspaper.

attributes our divergent attitudes to the ways our different
relationships started: "We didn't have the Hepburn-Tracy thing you guys
had when you first started dating."

That's an awfully politic way
of putting it, but I think he does have a point. At the end of the day,
couples who mock each other publicly either 1) not-so-secretly hate
each other, or 2) love nothing more than to make the other person laugh.

still don't know what to make of couples that don't exchange witty
rejoinders; I'm just glad I'm not in one of them. Because, really, when
I tell Hubby that his son looks just like him – except cute – I can
count on that cracking him up.

And nothing brightens my day more than making Hubby smile – and show off those little corn nuggets.

"Sesame Street" Is On The Wrong Side Of Town

Mom asked me if I had heard the news. Of course I had heard the
news. I was just hoping that she hadn't heard the news, because I
really didn't want to talk about it.

In case you haven't
heard: Season One and Two of "Sesame Street," which aired in the early
70s, is now available on DVD – except, it's been deemed unacceptable
for preschool children. That's right: Adults only Muppets.

the censors had second thoughts about exposing toddlers to
misanthropes, over-eaters with weird junky-like tendencies, closeted
couples and 7-foot-tall talking birds who hallucinate about hairy,
earless elephants. Go figure.

Today's "Sesame Street," of which
I'm a regular viewer, stands in sharp contrast to the dingy, chaotic
(and infinitely more interesting) 'hood of my youth. I'm fairly strict
about TV viewing in my home, and so Zev only sees the new, improved
show about once a month. As for the "Seasame Street" I grew up on,
he'll have to wait until he's old enough to watch it on YouTube.

But I didn't really want to get into this with Mom.

yet, there I was. Aghast at the "Adults Only" rating on the old
episodes, Mom wanted to know my opinion. And she was not going to stop
asking until I gave it to her.

"They don't want kids to watch it because Cookie Monster eats cookies? How stupid is that?" Mom asked.

Pretty stupid, I guess. But that's not really what she wanted to know.

discomfort grandparents face in the light of that censors' sticker has
nothing to do with nostalgia or their loyalty to children's
programming. It's about them. And all the ways they profoundly mess us

Because, let's face it, it's not just that our parents
exposed us to one guy who ate cookies all day and another who lived in
a trashcan. It's that these guys – monsters by their own admission –
were called upon to babysit the vast majority of us in those glorious
latchkey times. And now, with our minds molded and personality
(disorders) permanently cemented, our parents are left wondering, "What
was I thinking?"

By some miracle, we have lived long enough to
have survived schoolyard taunts, teenage driving, teenage drinking,
college, early careers and – for some of us – parts of parenthood. And
now, our own parents are looking at the stressed-out, Prozac-popping,
ideologically confused lot of us, and they're trying to figure out what
they did wrong.

I went back to work too soon…. Not soon enough… I didn't pay enough attention to that detail…. I harped on this one….

kick in the gut of review-mirror parenting is a joy I have yet to
experience, but I can only image how many sleepless nights it will

So when some faceless censor tells Mom that today's
parents should know better than to hand over their kids to furry role
models with bad habits (Cookie Monster smokes – and then eats – a pipe
in one regular segment), I'm sure it has to sting a bit.

microwaving our food in melty Tupperware was probably not the best
move. Ditto, handing us Easy-Bake ovens (Ovens! As toys!). And maybe
some of our "children's shows" could have been saved for later years.
(Bambi's mom dies. That was the only thing I remember about my first
movie. Man, that was harsh.)

But if it's any consolation to Mom
and the other grandparents out there, I'm sure all that pales in
comparison to the myriad ways in which we are certainly messing up our
own children.

The evidence is already starting to mount: When
Aqua Dots were pulled off the shelf last month, we learned we were
lacing our kids with date rape drugs in their tainted toys. Take that,
razor-blades-in-our-apples generation!

Our kids are fatter and
more socially awkward than yours were. They are also more entitled and
less critical. Oh, and their parents spend countless hours (and
newspaper column inches) describing all of their current and predicted
shortcomings. So, really, it'll be a wonder if any of them make it to
adulthood without being virtually arrested for carpet bombing Second
Life cities or joining Chinese Lead Paint cults.

But, to answer
your question, Mom. Yes, I heard the news. And, yes, it makes sense to
me to keep Zev and his pals off the pre-Elmo "Seasame Street." But, no,
you weren't a bad mom. You done great. See? I made it. With nary a
single Easy Bake oven burn scar to show for it.

This column was brought to you today by the letters "O," and "K."

Monday, December 10, 2007

I Dress For My Man. My 2-Year-Old Man


I left the house the other
morning in a Thumper thermal under a Hello Kitty T-shirt, shoes bearing
embroidered monkeys and boy shorts covered in pink French poodles that
poked ever-so-slightly out of the top of my jeans. I was – as I realized
way too late – ridiculous-looking.

Ten years ago, when everyone
was dressing like children, with barrettes and Mary Janes, my duds would
have been adorably en vogue. But in this era of elegant circle dresses
and skinny jeans, I looked like an oversized Muppet who had lost her
way. A big doll that had somehow stumbled out of a kid’s playroom
and staggered into the street.

Of course, that’s exactly
what I am.

We women always dress for our
men (or our women, depending on our orientation – but you get the
idea). If the person we’re trying to impress mentions a passing fancy
for purple, we’ll raid a Prince reject sample sale just to supplement
our wardrobe. Tell us we look good in animal prints, and we’ll start
hunting our own pelts.

Unfortunately, the “man”
I’ve been trying to wow with my wardrobe thinks the height of haute
couture is not soiling your Elmo underpants. Consciously and not, I
have built up a wardrobe of cartoon-festooned clothes meant to impress
my toddler.

I have always had a soft spot
for whimsical T’s, but I kept it in check. A newsroom isn’t the
most formal setting in the world, so I could pair a Giant Robot T-shirt
with some wool pants and heels and give the bosses the illusion that
I’m both professional and “quirky,” or whatever.

Once Zev came along – and
I traded office life for Mommy and Me classes – the wool pants got
tossed aside, I kicked off the high heels and expanded my T-shirt collection
to include unicorns, Disney characters and an embarrassing number of

Zev now thinks he is my own
personal Rachel Zoe – vetoing sartorial choices and making bizarre
demands on my wardrobe. Some mornings, when he wakes up on the wrong
side of the crib, he’ll even throw a fit if I’m not wearing the
“right” nightshirt.

“Where is your pink Hello
Kitty shirt?” he sobs, refusing to get out of bed.

“It’s OK, Zev. The sun
still comes out no matter what I’m wearing,” I say – but mentally
I make a note to myself to do the laundry and start the day right tomorrow.

I still have enough adult clothes
in my closet to pull together a kinda grownup ensemble, whenever the
occasion demands it. But I fear “real” clothing is a dying breed,
getting increasingly gobbled up by monkeys. In fact, when I run through
my most recent purchases in my head, I can’t come up with anything
that isn’t emblazoned with simians, dwarves, fairies or robots.

If this continues, I’m going
to end up wearing pediatric nurse smocks with rainbow leggings and clown

I’ve started to notice that
the other moms at Zev’s preschool always look much more primped than
I do. And when I meet Keren for a play date with our sons, she sometimes
wears a dress. I have a dress, too. It’s covered in bright yellow
embroidered flowers. I bought it this summer for Zev’s birthday party.

As I drove to a play date in
my Thumper-Hello-Kitty-Monkey-Poodle ensemble, I started to get a little
down on myself. I never let my husband swallow up my identity; why am
I letting my son?

I got out of the car and carried
a sleeping Zev to Maayan’s front door. She opened it – wearing jeans,
sneakers and a T-shirt bearing the image of Grumpy.

“How are you?” she asked.

“Much, much better,” I
said. “Thank you.”

In Vegas, And All In (The Family)


Mom has tried her best to make
us all feel like a family. We’re a blended mishmash of adults –
children who each lost one parent at too young an age and watched with
tempered happiness as our remaining parent remarried. So it hasn’t
always been an easy fit.

For several years, Mom and
her husband have encouraged all of their children to sit respectfully
at each other’s tables, gathering for religious holidays and all five
of our babies’ birthdays. She has set us up on evenings out together,
encouraged us to seek advice from one another, facilitated the trading
of hand-me-downs. And over time, I have to say, we have gotten to feel
much closer.

Still, when faced with yet
another Thanksgiving crammed into Mom’s dining room with my 16-person
“family,” I contemplated mainlining tryptophan and sleeping through
the whole ordeal.

Thanksgiving was difficult
enough before Mom remarried. For a few years, the traditional turkey
side dishes included tongue. There never seemed to be enough room at
the table, and Mom usually spent more time thinking about the centerpieces
than the actual food.

Last year we got out of Thanksgiving
by spending it with Zev’s best friend, Aidan, and his parents at a
restaurant. No mess. No fuss. No marshmallow yams. This year, we one-upped
ourselves and headed to Vegas.

The plan was simple: Gather
Zev, Aidan and his parents, Mark and Keren, stick the whole lot of us
in a rented minivan and drive out to the desert for turkey and white

We would liberate ourselves
of so-so food and weird family dynamics and spend the weekend showing
Zev all the bizarre sights of Vegas with his best friend in tow. I started
looking forward to the road trip – however difficult I knew it would
be. And I was especially excited to spend Thanksgiving gobbling turkey
without having to do a lick of work. Best of all, we’d be in a small,
controlled group. Just six of us, able to have a conversation and attend
to our kids.

A few weeks before the trip,
Keren told us that she was bringing her nanny. And then that another
couple and their toddler would be joining us at the restaurant for dinner.
OK. Well, that’s a bit bigger than we had initially discussed, but
it’s still great. Hubby made the reservations for 10 people.

If you’ve ever balanced raw
eggs on the tip of a toothpick while trying to suppress a sneeze, then
you have some idea of what eating at a fancy restaurant with three toddlers
is like. At all times, at least one of the boys (usually mine) was being
ushered out into the artificial daylight of the “outdoor” shopping
area to prevent complete meltdowns. I had to spend all my parental capital
before the meal arrived just to ensure that Zev’s dinner didn’t
consist entirely of walnut bread and olive oil. If there were conversations
going on, I didn’t catch any of them.

At 10 p.m., with Zev still
undecided about whether to eat his fistful of turkey or throw it at
Aidan, I called Mom to check in.

“Thanksgiving was nice. It’s
over, though. Everyone left,” she said, sounding relaxed. She told
me some of the highlights and ran down the list of people who came –
a list that was suspiciously short.

“Wait,” I said, “Where
were Galit and Bruce and the twins? And where were Lilac’s parents?”

It seems we weren’t the only
people who thought it best to avoid the madness of the holiday by heading
out of town. Mom told me that the bulk of her usual dinner guests all
fled north this year.

All of us, she said, were in

“Wait,” I said. “They’re
all here?”

I could hear her try not to
laugh over the phone.

I thought only Hubby and I
would think to seek sanctuary in one of the most dizzying places on
Earth. That only we would consider the open-all-night, anything-goes
madhouse that is Las Vegas a suitable place to get a little peace and

Instead, the majority of our
blended clan concocted the identical plan, scheming to avoid being in
the exact same place … by being in the exact same place.

No wonder Mom laughed: It must
run in the family.

Happy Holidays. Here's A Big Box Of Nothing.

Before my birthday one year, my grandmother sent me a brown paper
package containing a present and a note. I can't remember what was in
the package, but I remember the note quite well. In it, she told me
that this would be the last birthday gift I would ever get from her.

was a teenager, too old to be getting birthday presents, she explained.
Besides, she had so many grandkids (and was starting to have
great-grandkids) that it was just no longer reasonable for all of us to
expect lovely brown paper packages each time the Earth spun around the

That's it. Store's closed.

She worded it quite
sensibly, and I didn't take it personally. But I do remember thinking
that I was being penalized for the fact that I had so many cousins –
something that was really beyond my control. Why not just scale down
our presents – scarves instead of sweaters – rather than do away with
them altogether? I didn't get it.

Now I do.

Every year,
through the miracles of births and marriages and new friendships, our
holiday shopping list grows and grows and grows. We're blessed to have
so many people in our lives – particularly so many young children.
Unfortunately, our bank account isn't similarly blessed.

and I wandered into a kids' boutique recently and found some
ridiculously adorable clothes – Harley-Davidson wear for 6-month-old
Louey. A Baby Phat outfit for Zev's little cousin, Natalie. Princess
gear for Noa and Mia. Trucks for Aidan and Jonah (and Zev, of course).
Stuff for the twins and for the other cousins. Plus there are the three
babies who hatched in the last three months – they should probably get
some Hanukkah and Christmas presents. Ah! And I can't forget Will and
Olivia (though I'm at a loss for what to get a 14-year-old boy).

there are the birthdays: My sister's birthday is coming up. As are
Jeff's and Brill's and Hubby's and Yvette's. Sylvia will be turning 1

I walked around the store, arms laden with absolutely
perfect – and perfectly expensive – presents and started to do the
math. I was never good at accounting, but I'm fairly certain you don't
want minus signs in front of your numbers.

I noticed a
toddler-sized Guess outfit. And a dress that was selling for more than
I paid for my shoes. When I spotted a baby-size fur coat that I'm not
entirely sure was faux, I put down everything I had been holding.

"This is not going to happen," I said to myself. I walked out of the store.

have never had a problem with the commercialization of the holiday
season. I'm a Jewish girl from Southern California, so Christmas never
meant much more to me than candy canes with my Hanukkah gelt and
pictures – just pictures, mind you – of snow.

I have always
loved giving (and getting) holiday presents, and prided myself on
finding just the right doodad for every person on my list. But that was
back when my list was much, much smaller.

A few days after my
nonshopping excursion, I talked to a friend who does PR for a major
gaming manufacturer. He said people were buying as many electronics
this year as they ever did before – except everything has been scaled
down: Blenders instead of plasma screen TVs, DVDs instead of DVD

"Scarves instead of sweaters," I thought to myself.

the economy of scaling down doesn't mean much when you're buying in
bulk: Seven $10 presents are still more expensive than one $50. I
thought about baking my holiday presents (that's something my PR friend
has been doing for years – with much success). But I don't bake, and
getting something that came from my oven would be a treat for no one. I
also don't sew, knit, draw or paint.

So this year, to celebrate
the holidays, all the adults in my life can expect the only other thing
I can offer: nothing. Yes, friends and family, your kids will be
getting lovely presents, but you … well, aren't we getting too old for
this whole gift exchange thing?

That's it. Store's closed.

Happy holidays.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Dear Me

Dear Mayrav,

My husband dresses like a schlub and won't listen
to any of my brilliant sartorial advice. How best can I convey that a
stained shirt and ripped jeans is not "an outfit?" – Mayrav, Orange
County, Calif.

Dear Mayrav,

I'm glad you asked. If you're
like me – and I get the distinct feeling you are – you've already tried
buying Hubby some super-hip/ridiculously-great-looking clothing to
supplement that collection of Chewbacca T-shirts he calls his wardrobe.

You've no doubt tried leering at other men when you're out
together in public, saying things like, "Now that guy knows how to

You may have even "donated" some of his more offensive
garments to Goodwill – not that you felt much good will toward them,
even before the ketchup stains.

Supposing all of these efforts
have failed, there is only one thing left you can do: Give birth.
Preferably to a son. Preferably to one that looks like a shrunken-down
version of your husband.

In a few years time, your "little man"
will be able to walk around on his own, smile, talk – and completely
rock a sweater vest with Kenneth Cole dress shoes. Send your boys out
into the world together; next to your spiffy spawn, Hubby will look
like an underpaid "manny."

Fashion Island security guards will
follow slowly behind the pair for several minutes, trying to assess
whether to report a kidnapping. Other dads (at least those wearing Marc
Jacobs) will shrug their shoulders at your spouse, as if to say, "Dude,
didn't you get the memo?" Trust me, dress your child smartly enough and
your man will suit up in no time.

Sure, it's manipulative, but
so is playing "Blister in the Sun" in a room full of Gen Xers just to
watch everyone compulsively clap four times after the intro. And who
hasn't done that?

Having a child might sound like an enormous
length to go just to get your husband to sport a sports jacket. All
those sanctimommies out there will tell you that motherhood completely
changes your life/priorities/sleep patterns/libido/metabolism/financial
security/memory – and a host of other things that I can't remember
right now. They'll tell you that having a child just to pressure your
husband into dressing better is at best "irresponsible," and at worst

But whom are you going to listen to, women who
have given every aspect of child rearing careful, considered thought,
or the woman who gets your man into Kitson?

Still reading? That's what I thought.

Dear Mayrav,

Should I get a second dog? – Mayrav, Orange County, Calif.

Dear Mayrav,

One small dog greeting your guests with violent yapping is annoying.
Two is off-putting. Three is reason enough never to visit.

Dear Mayrav,

But I really want one. – Mayrav, Orange County, Calif.

Dear Mayrav,

Seriously. No.

Dear Mayrav,

am trying to be more eco-friendly and have cut back my consumption of
bottled water. Trouble is, I can't seem to find a reusable water bottle
that is both slender enough to fit my cup holder and large enough not
to require multiple refillings throughout the day. What would you
suggest? – Mayrav, Orange County, Calif.

Dear Mayrav,

you should ask – I've been having a similar problem. You could try
leaving the house with two reusable bottles and keep one in the car.
The trick will be to remember to bring them both back inside at the end
of the day, lest they should get all funky and moldy by the next

If that doesn't work, go back to plastic bottles and
buy yourself some carbon credits. Or a Prius. Better yet, post your
question to readers of a large daily newspaper and see if they offer
any viable options – or a free Prius.

Dear Mayrav,

I'm a
stay-at-home mom who put her career temporarily on hold. How can I tell
if now is the right time to go back to work? – Mayrav, Orange County,

Dear Mayrav,

This is a difficult and extremely
personal decision. One best made by you and your family. But if you
find yourself lonely during the work day – perhaps writing yourself
little letters – now may be the time.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

No Sugar In Your Bowls

I'm not giving you any candy tomorrow.

Don't come to my
darkened door. Don't look for my jack-o'-lantern. You can play all the
"tricks" you want, but there will be no treats to be had at Casa de
Mayrav this All Hollow's Eve.

Store's closed. Goodbye.

quit your whimpering. You had your chance. For years, I bought great,
big Costco bags of candy, rushed home early from work, set up families
of lovingly carved pumpkins on my doorstep and waited. And waited. And

You never came.

I have always loved Halloween – the
pageantry, the costumes, the candy. As a little Jewish girl, I
appreciated any holiday that didn't begin with long hours of prayer and
end with brisket. I could never understand the people who turned the
lights off in their homes and waited out the night without passing out
a single piece of sweet holiday cheer. What kind of witch would
actively avoid a holiday as cool as Halloween?

So when Hubby and
I got our first apartment, I was so excited to give out candy I could
hardly speak. I wanted to dress up as a witch and deliver sweets from a
dry ice-filled caldron. Hubby talked me out of it, but he couldn't
dissuade me from buying three different kinds of mini chocolate bars
and a large orange bowl to hold them.

"No one will come," Hubby
said. Our street was populated by musicians and artists and stray cats.
There were exactly no kids on our block. Plus our wood gate largely
obscured the view of our front door from the street.

"Of course they will come!" I said.

course, you didn't. I was waiting for you, you massive throngs of Darth
Vaders and Dora the Explorers. I had dreamed of adorable little faces
and grabby, sticky little hands. Years after being young enough to go
trick-or-treating myself, I wanted to feel part of this ridiculously
fun holiday. You were supposed to give me a role in all this revelry.
So where were you?

That first year, exactly two kids showed up,
Dracula and his little princess sister. I was so overjoyed to see them,
I gave them each two giant fistfuls of candy and made them pose for a
photo with my stuffed gorilla. The following year, not even they

Since then, I've spent every Halloween like a grown-up Linus, waiting pathetically for the Great Pumpkin to appear.

we moved to our first house, Hubby and I went to a party on Halloween,
but we were careful to leave that big orange bowl full of candy at the
door with a note, saying people should take just one piece.

Either we had very conscientious neighbors, or – more likely – the Halloween Horde failed to show up again.

candy bowl was similarly untouched last year at our apartment. So this
year, when Hubby offered to do the Halloween candy shopping, I told him
not to bother.

I'm sick of snacking on all the Snickers you fail
to claim. Sick of waiting like someone's neglected grandmother for you
to show up at my door.

You had your chance, but now it's too
late. We're not buying any more candy for you – and we always bought
the good stuff, too. None of that candy corn/circus peanuts nonsense.

don't know where you've gone all these years, what pleasant little
cul-de-sac you favored in place of my eager abode, but I hope you're
happy there. Because this year, there will be nary a Butterfinger to be
had around these parts. We're taking Zev (or, as he'll be known that
night, "Chewbacca") to a carnival, and we'll be leaving our front porch
lights off.

That's right. All those years of rejection have
turned me into one of those darkened-home witches who always puzzled me
as a child. So this year, I'm greeting you all with the Halloween
equivalent of "Bah humbug" – namely, a doorbell ring that goes

(Unless, of course, you really are going to be coming
this year … in which case, well, maybe I should buy one little bag of
candy. Or three.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Snoring in the Lap of Luxury

There must be another Mayrav Saar out there, one with a much bigger
petty cash drawer than mine, because I've been getting a ton of
catalogs and e-mails for luxury goods lately.

Every time I open
my inbox, I'm confronted with things I could not possibly afford. A $16
bar of Coco Chanel soap? Seriously? If I don't go to the grocery store
soon, I'll be showering with Windex.

The only reason Coco
Chanel (and Coach, and Louis Vuitton, et al.) is likely targeting me is
because it's banking on my weak constitution and need to be liked.
Surely, if I want to be in the "in crowd," I'm going to seek to wear,
drive and, apparently, bathe in the "in products."

But these
agents of opulence are wasting their time on me: I've evolved beyond
the point of coveting my neighbor's Italian handbags. Right now, all I
aspire to is a good nap.

I'm overworked, stressed out and, I
suspect, not alone in feeling this way. Drive on the freeway at rush
hour and peek through the windshields of the cars behind you. You won't
have to look hard to find the bleary-eyed guy in the Benz yawning into
his Bluetooth.

Every high-end designer on the planet is
clamoring to create "affordable" clothing lines for Target and other
hoi polloi hot spots. But instead of a lifestyle of luxury, what they
really should be marketing is a lifestyle of lounging.

I'd buy it in a second.

months, a furniture store near my house kept a big Moroccan-looking
daybed in its window. And for months, I'd walk by the window and
fantasize about buying it, but I couldn't figure out why. It wouldn't
go with any of the furniture in my house. And, really, it looked a
little cheaply made.

It took me awhile to realize: I don't want
a daybed. I want the time to recline on a daybed. I couldn't envision
the thing in my house, but I could (and did) see myself curled up on
it, a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and a book in the other.

realization served me well for a while. But I recently suffered a
momentary memory lapse (probably due to lack of sleep), forgot all
about my daybed epiphany and impulse-bought a couch. I walked into a
furniture store, saw a big, overstuffed couch. And I bought it.

is not the way I normally make large purchases. But, oh, this couch.
It's so deep my feet barely dangle off the edge of it. I don't really
even need an ottoman (but for an extra $600, I bought one, too). It's
fluffy. It's seductive. It requires its own ZIP code.

I had to
sell our coffee table to make room for it, and its monstrous size means
I'm going to have to buy a larger area rug. But, I told myself, just as
fashionistas make sacrifices for fancy clothes (try walking a mile in
their 5-inch Christian Louboutin heels), so, too, does this comfortista
give up a few things for the sake of something soft to sit on.

is quite pleased with my purchase (which is good, since I told him it
is his anniversary present). Toddler Zev is equally pleased with our
"brand-new, pretty couch." But now that it's in our home, sprawled
across our living room in all its overstuffed glory, I'm having second

It's not that the couch doesn't look great in our room
(well, actually, it doesn't; that will be remedied with the new rug).
It's just that my beloved couch has been in our home for a few weeks
and I have yet to spend a relaxing afternoon cuddled deep into its

In fact, at this very moment, it is sitting there,
eyeing me cruelly while I write this a few feet away. I'm working, but
it's beckoning me to rest.

Come here! Ignore your deadlines, and let me hold you. Why did you buy me if not to snuggle?

a woman pulling a maxed-out credit card from a Gucci wallet, I'm
finding that having the appearance of something – whether it's wealth
or leisure time – isn't enough. I may have the world's best couch
potato couch, but it's doing me no good while I'm in the fryer.

Buying into a lifestyle – whether it's one of luxury or lounging – requires more of a commitment than I was willing to admit.

no, I don't want any of the sparkly, leathery things being advertised
in my stack of catalogs. But I would love to lie on my couch, thumb
through those pages of luxury goods and dream – perchance to sleep.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Facebook: I Don't Get It

I've been be-Friendstered. I've been 'Spaced. I've been Linked In and
Twittered. And now, I guess, I'm Facing yet another social networking

But even as I build up my profile and choose my "friends,"
I know that in a few short months I'll have completely abandoned this
"community" that now occupies so much of my time.

I have joined
Facebook, the social networking site that had previously been available
only to college students. Initially, I ignored all invitations to join
the site, but then Kate started a page for me (thanks, Kate), and so I
ventured online to see what, exactly, I was up to.

Back in the
Stone Ages of Friendster, I was gung-ho about social networking. I saw
it as a natural extension of the increasingly immediate, connected way
people were communicating. Why call someone on the phone when you can
convey a message to a whole swath of people that includes video,
graphics and sound? It's like you're saying to your friends, "Take a
look at the inside of my brain."

But as these sites progress and
morph and compete, I'm finding that the content of my brain has become
dull and stupid – as has everyone else's. A quick run-down of the
Facebook messages I've gotten recently:

"You have one Vampire invitation!"

"Your friend Anne sent you a Hot Potato!"

Victim, you have been bitten by Luke! Click the 'Start Biting the
Chumps" button to become a Werewolf and start biting other chumps! You
can also fight other Zombies, Vampires and Werewolves now!"

Great. Now I'm going to have to show up at a vampire party, looking like a werewolf with potato-seared hands. Thanks, Facebook.

least on MySpace the silly garbage I got came from musicians that I
like a lot. And yet, Facebook is being portrayed as not just the Next
Big Thing, but the Future of All Things.

News stories hail
wunderkind Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg, 23, as the next "Bill
Gates or Steve Jobs." The guy is worth about $3 billion, and says he
expects Facebook to evolve into the biggest database in the world – a
populist spreadsheet of all that is popular.

Kate says she thinks
Facebook is an invaluable tool for a freelance writer – which is why
she signed us both up. And a Wired magazine columnist predicted that
one day your Facebook page will serve as be-all identity document, with
hospitals logging on to check your medical records and the IRS "poking"
you for your 1040s.

It's hard to reckon all this hype with a site that suggests I while away my time posting "graffiti" on a friend's "Super Wall."

Bee may have the best explanation for the current Facebook frenzy:
She's on it because all the young people in her office are on it, and
she doesn't want to seem out of it.

"I work in an office full of
whippersnappers, and many of these people do not have MySpace profiles.
This makes me feel old," she says.

She has a "Facebook tutor," a
twentysomething co-worker, who walks her through the vagaries of Super
Walls and Compare Requests, a woman who wonders why Lisa Bee doesn't
use her real name on her home page.

"It's like, the Internet Igrew
up on? Mean streets, kiddies. Mean streets," she explains. "And
Facebook is all about getting every last piece of information about
you. At least MySpace felt fun."

I contemplated her response
for a long while. When we're pining for the "fun" days of MySpace
(which was all of, like, three months ago), it's clearly time to
declare social networking dead. We're not being social. We're not even
really networking. We're just typing in bits of data about ourselves
that one day will be sold to the highest bidder in a giant
direct-marketing campaign.

But because I feel some kind of
generational obligation, I, like Lisa, will continue to "poke" my
friends and to chug along until it's finally no longer cool to do so.

There are only so many werewolf bites one girl can endure.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Cotton Balls And Vacant Stares

I need cotton balls.

I need cotton balls, and this need has
filled me with such dread I can feel the blood freeze in my veins.
Because needing cotton balls as I do means I need to make a trip to the
corner drugstore. And I'm fairly certain that if I step foot in that
place one more time, I will lose my mind.

I hear there was a time
in American history, when drug stores were hangouts. Places filled with
knowledgeable, friendly folks who were happy to fill a prescription and
fetch you an egg cream.

The only hanging out I've ever done at
drug stores is in the snaking lines at the cash register, waiting in
vain for some counter cud-chewer to comprehend why the 80-year-old
cancer patient at the head of the line does not want to go home with
only half the medications his doctor prescribed.

Now, I make no
claim to brilliance: I volunteered for a life of journalistic poverty.
I still don't know all the state capitals and sometimes I mix up my
right and my left. But I'm not in charge of dispensing life-sustaining
medication to people. And all that I ask, is that the people who are be
smarter than me.

"Um. Yeah," I had one vacant-eyed clerk tell me recently, "they, um, don't make this medicine."

"You mean, the medicine my doctor prescribed?"


telling me you have no record of the medicine my doctor prescribed?
That he just made up the name of a drug, wrote it down and sent me here
as a joke?"

"Oh. Um. No," she said. "It's in the computer, but we don't have it."

"So they do make that medicine," I said.

"Um. Yeah, I guess."

"Mind ordering it?"

"Let me get my manager."

sure not everyone who works at these chains is stupid. There are
probably some future MacArthur fellows populating the drugstore
workforce. And for all I know, I have even interacted with these folks.

I don't remember them. Because, unlike any other service industry,
ineptitude in a drugstore stands out as an affront to humanity. We can
all live with a flighty waiter or a bookstore clerk who has never heard
of Salinger. Or, even, a newspaper columnist who doesn't know Hartfort
from Helena. But we really, really need some bright bulbs at the

Drug stores are all we have when we have nothing – in
the middle of the night, when our health is poor, and for some, when
our lives are in jeopardy. How sad, then, that in our darkest hours, we
are forced to contend with people who pretty much scream, "We Dare You
Not To Have An Aneurism In The Face of Our Stunning Stupidity."

when all I need are a few cotton balls – cotton balls I stupidly forgot
to pick up with the groceries earlier this week – I think: "I can't do
it. I can't go in there." I will shred up an old T-shirt and use the
scraps until the next supermarket trip. I will rearrange my schedule
and go to Target tomorrow. I will…

"Sweetie," I say, throwing my arms around my husband. "Mind heading out to the drugstore? I need cotton balls."

"Sure," he says.

smile. I watch him from the living room window, waving as he disappears
down the street, and I think to myself, "Stupid people aren't all bad."

All I Really Need To Know I Learned From A Yes Chicken

On the slim chance that my son does not one day become president, I
feel a moral obligation to impart to the free world the crux of his
life philosophy. To share his guiding belief, a conviction that can be
summed up in two words: Yes Chicken.

Yes Chicken is the result of
Zev's apparent allergy to any conflict that may arise in a fictional
story. When I read to him, he constantly instructs me to make quick
edits – hence, Goldilocks always fixes the Little Bear's chair and
whips up a new batch of porridge. The Big Bad Wolf eats a sandwich
instead of Little Red Riding Hood's grandma.

Often he commands
that the stories I tell him be made up; he'll say something like, "Tell
a story about Chewbacca riding his bicycle on the moon," and like an
improv comedian, I have to run with it. So the other day, when telling
him a requested tale about a rhinoceros farmer (that's a farmer who is
a rhinoceros, not a human into rhino husbandry), I said that the
hapless hero came across a chicken who refused to give up her eggs. Try
as he might, I told Zev, the rhinoceros could not coax the hen into
giving up the key ingredient for his morning omelet.

"Each morning, the chicken said no," I told him.

of demanding that the characters (or I) solve the problem, Zev sat up
straight in his chair, extended his tiny toddler hand and offered his
own solution.

"I have a Yes Chicken, rhinoceros," he said. "This chicken says yes."

took the imaginary chicken from his hand, and thanked him. It may have
prematurely ended what (I thought, anyway) was a pretty good
made-up-on-the-fly story, but this Yes Chicken gave me so much more.

the face of it, the Yes Chicken is a cop-out – a little deus ex machina
designed to keep the rhino from having to either fail or use force. But
when I think of all the stories we heard growing up – the travails of
good vs. evil – I realize we all could have benefited from an
occasional Yes Chicken.

Too often we come up against No Chickens
and think, "That's that." Either you get that No Chicken to give up her
eggs, or breakfast is ruined. It comes down to win or lose. So rarely
do we stop and think that there has to be another solution. "Maybe I'll
have cornflakes," or "How else can I get eggs?"

So many times in
my life, I've found myself stuck in one way of thinking, unable to
recast problems in anything other than the starkest of black and white.
A lot of the decisions I've made were very No Chicken choices: For
instance, somewhere along the line I probably couldhave worked on a glass submarine in Hawaii for a year without compromising my journalism career.

Zev first presented me with the Yes Chicken a few weeks ago, I haven't
been able to stop thinking about it. Inventing a solution out of thin
air is not just the hopeful provenance of a toddler, but a
wise-beyond-his-age approach to life.

I read an article about
"The Death of Environmentalism," a book that claims the environmental
movement is its own worst enemy by being doomsayer rather than
innovator. And I find myself thinking, "What they need is a Yes

"This chicken creates as much energy as a coal-burning chicken, but without all the emissions."

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spews hateful nonsense, thugs in Darfur
give President Carter a hard time, and I say, "A Yes Chicken would
solve everything!"

(Admittedly, I have no idea how in these cases, but I'm sure it would.)

managed to find its Yes Chicken. While the music industry wonders how
it's going to survive the digital age, the band just released an album
you can buy for whatever price you deem appropriate to pay. Maybe it'll
be a catastrophic failure, or maybe it'll be the chicken that laid the
golden egg.

I'm sure I haven't done justice to Zev's precious
philosophy. Americans will just have to wait until Jan. 20, 2040, to
get it in full. But until then, the next time you're faced with two
evils, don't just pick the lesser. Pick the poultry.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Spoiled Brat

People keep calling Britney Spears a spoiled brat. Well, that just infuriates me. She's not a spoiled brat.

I am.

Get it, world? Me. Me. Me. I am far more spoiled than Britney Spears ever could be.

manager ditched her. Her lawyer quit. Her former bodyguard is
testifying against her. She and her mother are estranged. Her ex wants
greater custody of the kids. And right before that infamously
disastrous MTV performance, her hairdresser walked out.

Oh, yeah,
and that song she "performed" at the Video Music Awards? It was titled
"Gimme More." If she were really a spoiled brat, she wouldn't have to
ask for more. In fact, I have always been given so much that at times
I've had to ask for less. Plead, even.

Please, Mom, give me a
little less attention – like when I was 13 and making out under the
bleachers with Chris Austin and you showed up to intervene. Please,
Dad, a little less hovering at the breakfast table. At 15, I swear, my
hand-eye coordination was developed enough to handle a butter knife.

spoiling continues to this day. Zev is constantly offering me things.
He yelled and yelled and yelled for me the other day, and when I groped
my way into his darkened room in the middle of the night, he held out
his index finger and said, "Take my booger."

I bet Brit's kids don't lavish her with such gifts.

was spoiled from the beginning. At 6, when I declared, "I am a dog," my
parents let me take my meals in a bowl on the floor. I got my own TV
when I was 3 and my own phone line when I turned 12. I like to say I
didn't learn to walk until I was 14. That's when I finally got too
heavy for my father to carry.

Like a true spoiled brat, I still
don't fully appreciate everything they gave me – Chris was pretty cute,
after all. But at least I can say that my parents' overindulgence made
me believe that I was the center of their universe and that no matter
what I did in my life, I'd never be alone. I'd never want for love or
shelter. And I'd never feel the need to shave my head and smack an SUV
with an umbrella.

The same cannot be said for Britney Spears. If
her family had spoiled her, made her think that she was the best thing
ever to walk this planet, she would act like it. She wouldn't flash her
naughty bits. She wouldn't be clubbing at paparazzi-infested
nightclubs. And she probably wouldn't have gotten to the point where
she has to undergo random, twice-weekly drug tests.

I know some
people are still going to hold on to the misguided notion that Britney
is spoiled. That fame and fortune have turned what would have been a
talented woman into a self-destructing cartoon. While these people are
wrong, I have to admit they do have a point about how celebrity helps
ruin (but not spoil) young performers.

I am against allowing
children to perform at all. Just as Shakespearean theater used men in
drag to play women, I think the entertainment industry should use very
young-looking adults to play kids. (Drew Barrymore would be just as
adorable in her "E.T." role now as she was then. And waiting might have
saved her a few trips to rehab.) But even in a world where people can
reach international stardom before they reach puberty, there is a way
to keep the craziness of it all from making them crazy. And that, I
think, is by really, truly spoiling them.

Smother them with
kisses. Give them more love than their arms can carry. Let them know
that they can walk on water – but don't let them go water-skiing
without sunscreen. And a life vest. And parental supervision. And maybe
a Coast Guard escort and an Air Force rescue task force hovering above
in a helicopter.

In fact, don't let them go water-skiing. The
library has great summer programs for kids. And when you're done you
can catch a movie. Maybe "Charlotte's Web," starring Holly Hunter.

you can sit down with your kids, watch the Video Music Awards, hug them
close and tell them, "I am going to spoil you so bad, you're never
going to have to say, 'Gimme More.' "

But that's just me.

Me. Me. Me.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Get To Work, Kids. I'm Trying To Lose Weight

I've finally figured out a way to lose all my post-baby weight: diet and exercise.

not, of course, suggesting that I diet and exercise. No way am I giving
up my sedentary lifestyle and four square meals a day. Instead, I'm
going to shed pounds by watching like a hawk the waistlines of my
closest friends.

According to a recent New York Times article,
"obesity can spread from person to person, much like a virus. … When
one person gains weight, close friends tend to gain weight, too."

article quotes a study that found that once one person became obese,
his or her closest friends had a 171 percent increased chance of
becoming obese, too. The study could explain why Americans have become
fatter – obesity apparently works like MySpace.

Luckily, weight
loss works the same way. The more your friends lose, the more likely
you are to drop all that sympathy weight. Here's where my weight loss
plan comes in.

Most of my friends are in pretty good shape, but I
need to make sure they stay that way. And for those who have gained a
few pounds (Steve), I need to make sure that they (Steve) start
shedding them, or else I'm going to blow up like a blimp (Steve).

not going to start finger-pointing (especially since I think Steve's
weight gain started around the time I got pregnant), but from this day
forward I resolve to make sure all of my friends take much, much better
care of my body.

This is the only body I have. And with my high cholesterol, my friends really can't afford to mess around.

So here's how we're going to break it down:

moving to Virginia this week. I've lived in Virginia. It may be for
lovers, but it's no place for a dieter. Stay away from the hush puppies
and fatback. And keep up with the marathon running – I'm convinced
you've single-handedly kept me in a single-digit dress size.

Leslie:I think you do Pilates. Maybe I'm wrong. If I'm wrong, start doing Pilates.

Lisa B:Congrats on your new job. There will probably be lots of getting-to-know-you lunches with your new co-workers. Avoid those.

Keren:(See Leslie).

Samantha and Lisa M:You're both pregnant. I couldn't be happier for you. Stay the hell away from me.

had mentioned something once about wanting to train for a marathon.
With Rick moving out of the state, now might be the time. In fact, now
is the time. I mean it. Right. Now.

Maayan: You've
been looking great. I don't know what you're doing, but do it more. In
fact, invite me over while you're doing it. You make an awe-inspiring
chocolate cake; I'd love to scarf a slice while you flit about, losing
weight for the two of us.

Steve: Yours
is the toughest assignment. You're apparently having the time of your
life out there in New York, eating big, late dinners and drinking
martinis with friends well until the wee hours of the morn. It sounds
as though you've never been happier. So, stop being so happy.

be a tough sacrifice, I know, but I need you to fall into a little
slump of depression for a while. You tend not to eat much when you're
down, and my disappearing waistline is begging you to shed a few tears.

I wouldn't normally wish unhappiness on a friend, but this is an emergency: I'm this closeto
needing a new pant size. So when you find yourself going for a second
helping of ziti, try thinking about the melting polar ice caps.

better yet, come back to California. It would be nice to see you all
the time again. And, I promise, I would make you miserable.

Marthon Man, My Ass

My husband thinks he's going to run a marathon in March.


not that Hubby doesn't have what it takes to train for and run a
marathon. It's just that I haven't decided yet whether I'm going to let

Marathon training takes a lot of time. Time that he could
spend being ordered around by me, catering to my every whim and just
generally keeping me company when I get bored. It's time I value, and
I'm not sure I want to sacrifice it.

In theory, we all want our
spouses to pursue their dreams and achieve their goals. But in
practice, we'd much rather have them around to take out the trash and
discuss the op/ed pages. Sure, we all need our privacy and our space,
but that's why bathroom doors come with locks.

To have large hunks of defined time when Hubby leaves to go running – when Zev and I are on our own, not being the focus of all of Hubby's attention – well, that's just nonsense.

is going to cook us breakfast on weekend mornings? Who is going to walk
the dog or bring in the paper? (I know what you're going to say, "There
is another person in the house." But Zev is far too young to take on
these tasks.)

I didn't get married so that I can be left at home
on weekend mornings while my husband exercises. I got married so that
someone could watch my child while I grab a glass of wine with my

Unfortunately Hubby hasn't caught on. He really thinks he's going to run a marathon. He bought new shoes and everything.

not the first time that Hubby has been under the delusion of exercise.
Years ago he got pretty far in marathon training, running up to 17
miles for some stretches. But we had just moved in together, and I
eventually convinced him there were better ways to get sweaty on a
weekend morning than running around a track.

He tried to train
again last year, but I responded by getting violently ill for several
months. I even enlisted my son in our own marathon of puking and fever
spiking. There was no way Hubby could leave the house to train. Not
unless he wanted to run with the free weights of unyielding guilt
bearing down on him.

I had thought I'd effectively crushed his
hope of ever running for 26 continuous miles, telling him that if he
wants to be on his feet for five-hour stretches, he can clean out the
garage. But his dream races on. He recently went so far as joining a
running group.

This is unconscionable. People in running groups
eventually become friends in running groups, which means I might one
day find myself at a party filled with healthy, glowing people whose
thighs don't touch and whose definition of stamina isn't "eat through
the pain." I don't want to party with these people. Marathon training
was deplorable before, but this running group business has to stop.

having a hard time understanding this. I moved our alarm clock to my
side of the bed; he programmed the alarm on his cell phone. I signed up
for a Sunday improv class; he joined a running group that meets on

It seemed that at every turn, he's managed to sprint
ahead of me. But I've been reading Hubby's running magazines (yep, he's
buying running magazines), and I think I've figured out the best
strategy yet to quash his marathon dreams once and for all: letting him
go for it.

Nearly all the articles in his magazines discuss
muscle pain, whacked-out digestive systems, bleeding nipples – problems
one doesn't develop by lounging around the house with one's wife.

longer Hubby trains, the more, he's going to feel the panting, pained
letdown after the initial endorphin rush. None of my discouraging
remarks could come close to approaching the cruelty of a chaffed chest.

So if he wants to believe he's going to run a marathon in March,
let him. I'm guessing that at some point during his training, somewhere
around mile 20, when his stomach feels like it's going to slip out of
his body and every electrolyte in his system has given up the ghost, a
tiny, civilized part of his brain will wake up and realize, "Hey, I can
no longer feel my feet."

"Let's go home," it will instruct him. "I bet the wife wants a beer."

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Panic Sisters

Sis called me in a panic. It was midnight, her time, and she wanted
to make sure that I was not dead. More specifically, my mom wanted to
make sure that I was not dead, so she enlisted my sister as a sentry.

"Mom wants to know if you're still alive," Sis said.

Still here," I told her, as I brought my swimsuit in from the balcony
where it had been drying. "Still enjoying our vacation."

Well, why don't you tell Mom? She's worried," Sis implored. "She's
calling me every two seconds, freaking me out, right as I'm falling
asleep from Tylenol PM. Please talk to her."

My mother is in
Israel for two months. She left without leaving me her phone number,
address or any contact information. But she still managed to be mad at
me for not keeping in touch while I was in Oahu and Hurricane Flossie
threatened the Big Island.

This is what Mom does: panic. As Sis
points out, "When she's home all she does is watch Fox News and listen
to bad stories about Israel, and when she's in Israel she just sits
there and hears bad things about here."

It's a charming habit, one that has imbued the Saar Sisters with profound neuroses.

sister is terrified of burglaries – not that she owns anything she'd
actually miss. She won't share food. And she used to worry that if we
walked our dog, he'd get attacked by cats.

I won't drive with
my doors unlocked, and I'll only crack the window open a bit – not
enough to allow, say, a carjacker any access. I stash cash in odd
places around the house, lest the Cossacks suddenly appear on the I-405
and I have to flee.

It doesn't matter how ridiculous we know our
actions to be, Sis and I can't help it: If Mom told us there's a risk,
then there's a risk.

This is especially true when a phone goes
unanswered. Colleagues used to look at me aghast when, in the middle of
an important meeting, I'd answer my cell.

"Sorry," I would explain. "I always pick up if my mom or sister call."

What I never told them is why I
always pick up. In other people's families, an unanswered call usually
elicits a voicemail message. Not so in Casa de Crazy Chicks.

our household, an unanswered phone is an invitation to dial up another
phone. Let that backup phone go to voicemail, and the panic sets in.

you heard from your sister today?" is one of the most common greetings
I get from Mom (It ranks right behind "How is Zev?" and just above
"Hello"). She usually follows that up with, "She's not picking up any
of her phones."

So when I failed to tote my Treo to the beach, my
Flossie-watching mom was beside herself. Never mind that the gusts were
poised to hit an island I wasn't on – Mom had heard disaster was on its
way, and her hurricane of anxiety would not be downgraded to a tropical

News of the hurricane didn't even register as a blip on Sis' radar until Mom called and recruited her into the family panic.

telling me there are 150 mph winds and that it's pouring rain," Sis
told me, when she reached me in my hotel room. She then warned me that
Mom was going to call again, so "please pick up."

When I did, my
mom was relieved, thanking the (still clear) heavens and scolding me
for not immediately answering my phone. She then grilled me about the
discrepancies between what she saw on Israeli TV and what I saw out my
hotel window. Still suspicious of my assurances that, really,
everything was fine, she asked if I'd still be able to fly home, as
scheduled, the next day.

Yes, I told her. Everything we had heard indicated that we'd be fine.

we were. I boarded the plane with a sleepy, lei-wearing toddler and tan
husband in tow, settled Zev into his seat and then got into my own. But
before the plane left the gate, I remembered something and stood up. I
opened the overhead bin, reached into my bag and rooted around for my
cell phone.

Happily, I turned it off.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


I don't get it.

Usually I "get it." I instantly took to instant messaging. I blog. I can type texts on my Treo faster than a 12-year-old girl.

But Twitter makes no sense.

one week deep into a Twitter experiment, a trial to see what my friends
and I can learn about the latest networking craze, and so far the only
thing I've learned is that I don't get Twitter.

To those of you
born before "Tron," Twitter is a social network that functions as a
kind of micro-blog centered around the question, "What are you doing?"
Anyone who "follows you" can see your answers, which you post at
irregular intervals at all hours and for no particular reason.

"Writing an e-mail to Aunt Katie," Leslie writes.

"Thinking about too many things at once. What can I delete from my brain? Nothing," Eric muses.

"Waiting for a burger at Whole Foods. Excited to learn they grill burgers here," Hubby posts.

Twitter I can learn about my friends' most banal thoughts and actions
in real time, as if I were there with them in line at the bank. But
without actually having to schlep with them to the bank.

part of the appeal, I think. Since we can't all be together all the
time, isn't it nice to have technology fool us into thinking that we're

Maybe. I'm all for a false sense of community
germinated in the ever-isolating confines of my lonely home office.
It's why I read blogs. But one of my problems with Twitter is that
people only post their thoughts when nothing is going on.

by following Leslie's Twitters as she looks around her kitchen, I can
get a pretty good snapshot of how her day is going. I might even sense
that she seems indecisive about food and that now might be a good time
to try to grab lunch with her.

Still, she didn't tell me that she is bored and slightly hungry. Instead, she noted, to no one in particular, that she was "mulling homemade falafel."

that doesn't make me closer to her. It doesn't connect us. Instead, it
makes me feel as though I'm spying on her. It's sanctioned spying,
sure, but it's spying nonetheless.

Still, I find myself drawn to
Twitter, checking it every few hours to learn that Chris is
contemplating a car wash and that Eric is having e-mail problems. Is it
just the mental voyeurism? Is it just boredom?

What gives?

contemplate Twittering the question, but opt instead to IM Kevin, one
of the few members of the crew who decided not to join the experiment.
Kevin is no fan of social networking – or of being social, for that
matter. He has nine friends on MySpace, and two of them, he notes, are
inanimate objects.

"Moth/flame," Kevin responds about my vague
fascination. "Next month something else will burn bright, and you'll
head over there to check it out."

He's probably right. I'm just
slack-jawed Drooler Monkey. Still, I don't play "World of Warcraft" and
I've never stepped foot in Second Life. So there has to be something
else at work here.

As I try to figure out what it is, my computer
screen beeps at me. Maayan sends me an IM to tell me about her day.
Then Yvette pops up on my screen to say she's excited to visit her
brother next month. Heather IMs me – I haven't spoken to her in ages –
and we do a quick catching-up before she heads off for bed.

when I realize why I love/hate Twitter: Twitter is wonderful because my
friends are wonderful – I love them, so I love keeping up with them.
But it's awful because I'd much rather exchange mundane nothings with
them directly.

Better yet, I'd like to see them. Last week, Steve
flew in from New York to surprise me for my birthday. We hung out for
most of the weekend, laughing and talking about nothing.

nothing. No Earth-shattering exchanges. No bombs dropped. Just our own
live versions of "mulling homemade falafel," in between sips of coffee
and too much food.

I realize that much of what I say with my
friends can be distilled into Twitters; we're not the deepest bunch.
But it's so much nicer just to be in their company, often not saying
anything at all.

So I post another Twitter to the group: "Get offline and come over."

Twitter as a way of inviting people to hang out in person?

This I get.

Monday, September 17, 2007

I, Robot

I'd make a terrible robot.

I can't multiply or divide. I talk
too much. And I waste a tremendous amount of time. I don't just waste
time; I thrive on wasting time.

If I were a robot, I'd run on procrastination and futzing.

I tell Hubby, at 10 p.m., that I'm exhausted and need to get to bed
early, he can be sure that I'll be starting a load of laundry at
midnight. My weekly column deadline is usually heralded by the
organizing of my closet. I pay all my bills on time – but only because
writing checks is something I can do instead of prepping dinner.

I recently discovered that, were I ever forced to be someone's robot
(I'm looking at you, China), my overlord could easily squeeze me for
every second – simply by reducing the seconds I have to myself.

day care provider surprised parents at the last minute by announcing
she'd be closed an extra week at the end of August. Her three-week
summer vacation was hard, but this fourth week was a killer. I had
already planned my work schedule around her being open, so I had to
plow ahead, writing every minute that Zev slept.

I worked for two
hours during the day, when he napped. And then I started up again at 9
p.m., working until about 2 a.m., when I'd wander to bed in a
bleary-eyed daze.

True, the house was dirtier than normal. And
laundry piled up a little high. And, yes, I didn't return anyone's
calls or e-mails. And my skin turned sallow and my throat hurt all the
time; but other than that, I was amazed at what I was able to
accomplish, simply by cutting sleep and social interaction from my life.

finished some magazine pieces and expanded my client base, all on
virtually no sleep. Plus, I got to spend lots of time with Zev. At one
point, Zev had to pry my eyelids open with his tiny fingers, but at
least we were together.

On the last day of my intense work/Zev
schedule, I found I had become so robotlike in my efficiency, that I
was even able to cook a fairly involved Shabbat dinner. It was my
version of a victory dance – celebrating my ability to essentially work
two full-time jobs at once. Without collapsing.

I could afford to
be gleeful – day care would be opening up again (finally) the following
week, and I would be able to get work done during "normal" business

Then, on Saturday, we got the news: The school was having some staffing issues and would not open until the following week.

called each other in a panic. Some were indignant, some were in tears.
I was just tired. How could I maintain this for another week? On
Sunday, one of the work-at-home dads and I came up with a plan: We'd
both work at my house, taking turn watching the kids, fielding calls
and writing. It wasn't ideal, but at least our children would get some
time with their friends, and we'd get to spend some time on our jobs.

Zev went to bed, I went to work, cleaning the house and planning snacks
for the kids. Then I went to "work," researching and writing until I
couldn't see straight.

The next morning, I got a call from my
would-be co-worker's wife. She had found a day care that was accepting
refugees for the week. I had already heard gushing reviews of this day
care from friends, and so I rushed Zev over, settled him in and left.
Though a voice in my head said, "What am I doing?" Zev knew a lot of
the kids there, and seemed happy to be able to play with his friends.

got home to an eerie silence and my computer waiting for me. How odd to
see the glare of the morning sunlight bounce off my monitor. I finished
off a few small assignments, caught up on some e-mail and was about to
start up on a larger project, when the phone rang.

It was Maayan.
She sounded overheated and overworked. The heat wave hadn't yet broken,
and her kids had been stuck in their air-conditioned house for too many
days in a row. They were all driving each other crazy. Her older
daughter's preschool wouldn't start for a few days, and she still
hadn't found a place for the youngest.

She was sweaty. She was frustrated. She was headed to the mall. Did I want to meet them there?

stared at the blank screen on my computer monitor. Finish my work, or
go to the mall? I could almost hear the little robot in me sputtering
and melting into a pile of broken parts.

"Sure," I said, grabbing my keys. I had all the time in the world.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Road Not Taken -- Maybe For A Reason

I've been thinking about that Robert Frost poem recently, the one
titled "The Road Not Taken," but usually mistakenly referred to on
countless truck-stop keepsakes as "The Road Less Traveled."

end of the poem goes: "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I / I took the
one less traveled by/ And that has made all the difference."

who need to feel better about their poor choices read those words,
probably painted on porcelain plates in their bathrooms, and take
comfort in the illusion that they're living unconventional lives. But
the catch is, Frost doesn't say the outcome of his trip was good. Just
that his decision made all the difference. And that he can't go back
and change it.

That poem sprang to mind when a woman cornered me
at an indoor play area last week. She was my mom's age, and I
mistakenly thought the twin 22-month-olds she toted around were her
grandkids. They were not.

"My husband needed children, so I had
them," she explained, as though she were talking about knitting socks.
Her youngest grandchild is 6. Her oldest son is older than her husband.
Her third husband.

She started in on the Kabalah and how if I
don't send Zev to a religious school he has a "70 percent chance" of
becoming a drug addict. She said I should have many children. She said
I should hire a nanny. She said I should eat less meat (not for health
reasons, but as a budget cut to help pay for the nanny).

"You have a lot of opinions," I said, trying to ease away from her.

"Not opinions," she said, raising her finger in the air. "Experience."

Ah, experience.

Grandmom has taken the road less traveled by. And clearly it has made
all the difference – but why is it that lonely road travelers like her
think I want to retrace their brambly paths and rush toward their

I like the beaten path. It's got fantastic
amenities, good lighting, lots of company. Just think about what the
road less traveled has to offer: nothing. No bathrooms, no Starbucks,
no truck stops from which to buy Frost-inscribed knickknacks. Nothing.

mom is about to discover this. This week she is leaving Israel to
embark on a journey to – I think – Slovenia. The reason I'm not sure is
because she was not entirely sure where she was headed. She just hooked
up with a tour group and "where they are going, that's where we're
going," she said. It's a very romantic way to choose to travel – but so
is hitchhiking on dark, desolate highways, and I wouldn't recommend
that, either.

I know the Frost poem is a metaphor, but it's
kinda a lousy one because if you were ever truly faced with a forked
road, it'd be lunacy to choose the one that veers away from everyone
else. When I was a news reporter, I covered the funeral of a
39-year-old woman who died from exposure. She had gotten lost while
driving in the desert, and decided – so it seemed, anyway – to get out
of her car and die.

Her friends were touchy-feely new age types
who opted to "celebrate," rather than question, the woman's choices,
but I had to wonder how far off the beaten path she must have wandered
that she couldn't find her way back to a main road. Her friends swore
she didn't commit suicide, that she didn't have a reason to, but who
chooses the road that leads to sure death? Or, for that matter,
newborns younger than your grandkids?

Zev wasn't done playing, but Grandmom wasn't done talking – so I packed up our stuff and said goodbye.

"Where are you going?" she asked.

was such an abrupt and impudent question. We hadn't arrived together.
We didn't even exchange names; what business was it of hers where I was

"Not down the path you've taken, I hope,"I said in my head. "I have to go," I said out loud, adding under my breath, "back to planet Earth.''

I'm just doing the same thing everyone else does – using
poetry-turned-pabulum to convince myself that my choices are the right
ones. But I doubt it. If Grandmom's trail is the road less traveled,
she can weather it alone.

I got in my car, and got on the freeway.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

More Belly Achin'

People don't know this, but pregnant women eventually have children.

think they know this. They see a pregnant woman, and they understand,
on some level, that the lumpy protrusion she's carrying around contains
a small human life form. But they don't truly grasp it.

How else
to explain the wild disparity between the way a woman is treated when
she is with child versus the way she's treated when she is with

Oh, I remember the days when my enormous form would
elicit smiles and loving words from total strangers. Women I didn't
know told me I was beautiful. Men stopped me to reminisce about their
wives' or girlfriends' pregnancies.

Now I'm just the motor
behind an unwieldy stroller that bruises people's ankles and terrifies
small dogs. I'm the woman getting looks because I should have known
better than to bring my toddler on an airplane – he's small; couldn't I
have just mailed him to our destination?

I was once a glorious
symbol of human fecundity. Now I'm just some kid's mom, and I'm taking
an awful long time with that squirmy potty-trainer in the bathroom

“I bet I could burst out in a fit of tears right here,
and a crowd of people would surround me, saying, ‘Oh, what's wrong?
What can we do for you? Comped meal?' ” a very pregnant Maura noted
over dinner at a restaurant the other night. “But if he cried,” she
motioned to Zev, “it would be, ‘Shut that damn kid up.' ”

She's right – but why?

kids move erratically and have the ability to leak fluid from every
orifice. They make a lot of noise for no apparent reason, and they
require bizarre and space-consuming gear. They're messy, fussy and not
a little bit gassy.

But so are pregnant women.

Maura and
I were working on a theory as to why this phenomenon occurs, why
society loathes moms but loves mothers-to-be. But when the food
arrived, Maura dove into her plate, Zev demanded to be taken to the
potty and we both lost our train of thought.

Forced to figure
this out on my own, I can only guess that it has something to do with
our national fascination with the Next Big Thing.

We love
expectation – anticipating something that is just outside our grasp.
Camping out in line for the first “Star Wars” film must have exceeded
the joy of actually seeing the film. Would anybody watch “American
Idol” if the buildup to the finale weren't so deliciously orchestrated?

A pregnant woman is like a wrapped present or a furniture
catalog; when we look at her, we can enjoy the idea of something –
which is often more gratifying than the thing itself.

Of course,
the “thing” in this case is a baby. A noisy, inconvenient baby. And
what baffles me is that a pregnant woman is always pregnant with a
baby. What else could be expected of someone who's expecting? Nobody
goes into labor and delivers a unicorn or a rainbow. There's no
mystery. The only mystery, to me, is why baby-haters love gestaters so

People have to know that eventually that pretty pregnant
lady will be flabby and overworked and tired of being judged for her
child-rearing decisions. Now, I'm not suggesting that society stop
bending over backwards for pregnant women. These poor souls have had
their bodies hijacked and have no idea what they're in for – give them
all the adoration you can.

What I'm saying is that there is no
reason the party has to end when the cord is cut. Instead, people
should view pregnancy for what it really is: the first step to a long,
long commitment.

Here's what I propose: Everyone reading this
should adopt one pregnant woman. Pick just one that you know, love her
up the way you already do – get her a mid-afternoon snack, rub her
shoulders, forgive her bizarre emotional outbursts. And then continue
to do this for the next 18 years.

Maybe you'll have to throw in
a few extra snacks for the moppets, and you'll definitely have to hold
off on scolding the woman when her little ones scream on the plane. But
otherwise, it won't be all that different than the way you treated her
before she popped.

If you need me, I'll be at the table with Maura, awaiting my random acts of kindness

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Born At The Right Time

A recent study found that the eldest children in families develop a
higher IQ than their siblings. Since I'm 10 years older than my only
sibling, I gobbled up the research with crow-footed glee. But one thing bugged me:
The study also said younger sibs tended to be more “groundbreaking” and
creative than their older counterparts.

“That hardly seems fair,” I thought to myself. “Why can't I be smarter and more innovative?”

I IM'd Sis for some answers.

Me: So there have been a number of stories in the papers lately about studies linking birth order to IQ and success in life.

Sis: Yes. I heard about it on “The View.”

OK. So you know that they say that firstborns have a better chance at
having a higher IQ, but that younger children are more likely to be
revolutionaries, right?

Yeah, yeah. I think probably in most families that is very true, but
sometimes when the older sibling is really smart and excels at
everything the younger sibling tries to immulate that.

Me: Emulate.

Sis: Hahahaha.

Me: Or, in our case, maybe immolate.

Sis: See! Why is it that you know such good English and you had the same parents as I did?

Me: I read books. What did you think about this whole aspect of the study showing that younger siblings are revolutionaries?

Sis: Well, I think you had more of a bond with our parents than I did so you were perfect and did what they wanted.

Me: Uh-huh. I'm not sensing any resentment or anything.

Sis: I think that's true.

Me: What's true?

That I changed the way things were in the house. Just because you were
first, and had things a certain way didn't mean I was gonna do that
too. And I didn't.

Me: OK,
I guess that's a form of revolution. What about in terms of your
approach to life? You did go into journalism after all – apparently to
immolate me.

Hahahaha. Well I'm both! I tried as hard as I could to be like you the
best I could, but no more than that. No overachieving. Just achieving.
I agreed with the study, but I'm saying that the opposite is true also.

Me: What about the study did you agree with?

Sis: Hold on let me find it somewhere. Send me a link to the study.

Me: [I send a link.] I'd like to point out that you said you were going to find the study and then asked me to send you a link.

Sis: LOL. See!

Me: More telling is that I did it.

Sis: [After
reading it.] OK. So … I would say that the study shows older siblings
have a higher IQ than their younger siblings because of the family
dynamics. And in our case that was definitely true. You were quiet and
dutiful because it was easier for you to be. Being a little kid with a
bunch of older people was harder, and I tried to get attention by doing
not so smart things while you got attention for doing great things and
just being yourself.

Me: Well that's a giant oversimplification of my childhood, but OK. Also "not so smart things" isn't what you did to get attention.

Yes it is. Screaming and acting up, and running around, while you were
quiet and studied. If I had your life, I would be different.

Me: You'd be you, but with a younger sister. We were both essentially only children.

had a much tougher family dynamic than I did. [Our father died when Sis
was 12, after a long battle with cancer.] But that had more to do with
Dad's illness, in my opinion, than birth order.

Sis: No.
I think it's birth order. Birth order determined how we got to live. If
I came first I would have had your life. You would have had to have

Me: Wow. Look at the wording of that ... do we need family counseling?

Sis: Well, it's true. You had delicious hot meals every night [Dad cooked], while I ate Hot Pockets [Mom did not].

Me: Wow.

Sis: What? It's so true.

Me: I know ... it's just ... wow.

It would have been a calmer environment. When I went off to college, I
got straight A's because I could study and do what I want.

Me: You got what?

Sis: I did too. Wanna see my first year report card? All A's.

Me: Are you sure you want to go on record saying you got straight A's through college?

Sis: I got straight A's my first year because …

Me: Because you took that high school-level math class that you'd already taken four times before?

Sis: LOL. Noooo!

Me: Three?

Four. But that's beside the point. Mom's kookiness and everyone else
wasn't there to make me crazy. There was already a method to how the
family was running that YOU helped create ... not me. And it didn't go
well with my personality so I spent more time arguing than studying.

Me: OK. So since leaving the house, do you find yourself more motivated and intellectually curious?

Sis: Yes.

Me: So I can expect great revolutionary things from you?

Sis: Duh.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Earning the Right To Bare Arms

Long before I had a kid, when I still had a waistline, I visited a
private trainer who fancied himself a health guy. He told me he hated,
hated, hated working with clients who said they just wanted to "look
good in a bathing suit." He was interested in helping people improve
their health. So what, he asked me, would I like to work on?

blinked a few times. I was 22 and healthy. I couldn't think of a
reasonable lie, so I told him the truth: "I want arms like TLC."

body was fine – sure, I would have liked bigger boobs, but whatever. My
only aspiration was to have appendages as cut and strong-looking as
then-living singer Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes and the rest of her all-girl
pop band.

The trainer gave me a look. I didn't hire him, and I never did work on those arms.

out, though, I didn't have to. All I had to do was add 10 pounds of
belly flab and a C-section scar to my bod, and – voila – arms so cut
they could scratch glass.

I had no idea that one day a toddler
would become my one and only piece of fitness equipment. But there he
is, all smiles and 25 pounds of him, refusing his stroller, demanding
my arms and – constantly – handing me things.

Whenever Zev finds
a rock or a twig or a scrap of paper that tickles his fancy, he thrusts
it into my hands. I'm asked to carry pebbles, toys, even imaginary
balls. He'll sometimes inexplicably demand, with the utmost
earnestness, that I stop making dinner that very moment, accept one of
his toy trains and "hold it tight."

I think he'd store things in my nose if he could reach that high.

weekend that the Disneyland submarine ride made its triumphant return,
I stood in a two-hour line. In the heat. Without water. Carrying a
couple of rocks in my pocket and my son in my arms.

There was
plenty of time for people-watching, so I took note of the fact that
every parent I saw was holding stuff. Sticky stuff, messy stuff,
ridiculous stuff (the sunburned linebacker-looking-dude holding the
miniature pink Cinderella backpack was my favorite). One common theme
to the stuff: None of it seemed to belong to the parents themselves.
They were all just schlepping their kids' junk.

So when Hubby swung by completely unencumbered, I was furious.

"Where's the backpack?" I hissed at him.

"It's in the stroller," he said, motioning to some far-off corner of the theme park where he'd abandoned it. "It's heavy."

demanded that he go get it. Not only did the backpack contain my
wallet, but it is a backpack – it's supposed to be on our backs. My
first 45 minutes standing in that line confirmed that carrying a bunch
of junk is the whole point of parenthood. So get with the program,
buddy, and start schlepping.

Besides, carrying stuff may be the only thing keeping most parents from expanding at the same rate as the universe.

was in a dressing room at Bloomingdale's recently, trying on swimsuits
and thinking about that personal trainer I never hired. Zev had snagged
a number of bikinis off the low racks and carried them into the
dressing room. As I tried on one of my selections, he kept handing me
his. Without even thinking about it, I took one. Then another. Then a

Before long, I was standing before a full-length mirror,
assessing the horror show that is my body, while holding fistfuls of

"Zev!" I finally said, realizing what I was doing. "Please don't give me any more. I can't hold them."

I wouldn't hold them, Zev reasoned, then he should be allowed to hang
them on the dressing room hooks. So I hoisted him up, and while he
carefully and patience-testingly placed one swimsuit on a hook at a
time, I caught another glimpse of myself in the mirror.

My thighs touched. My belly pooched. But … look at those arms! Unmistakably well-defined triceps. Undeniably strong biceps.

may have a few more pounds – and many more pebbles, twigs and toys – on
me than I'd like. But at least being Zev's living fanny pack has paid
off in one area: I finally have those arms I always wanted. They're cut
like TLC.

Sigh. I have to think that somewhere in the world, a health-conscious fitness trainer is laughing his rock-hard glutes off.