Monday, April 30, 2007

Please Return This Passenger To The Upright And Locked Postition

I've always bristled at the stereotype that women prefer jerks. That
we're drawn, by some reptilian part of our brain, to guys who would be
capable of bashing in our heads with a rock – and then making us clean
up the mess.

Unfortunately, the stereotype is true.

had just boarded a plane the other day, heading from New York to Los
Angeles. A nor'easter threatened to smash the East Coast. Flights were
being canceled, and security lines at the airport pooled hundreds of
damp people in stagnant lines for more than two hours. I nearly cried
when I got on board, so grateful was I to have finally made it on – and
so relieved that I'd be going home.

The stewardess warned us to
turn off "all electronic devices" as the plane started to taxi. But a
young man kept yapping on his cell phone. He was having some kind of
issue with the airline, something about changing the date of his return
trip. I wasn't really listening, but he was three rows in front of me,
and speaking so loudly, it was hard not to hear.

The stewardess walked over to his seat and asked him to get off the phone.

"I'm almost done," he said.

Sir. You're done right now. We can't take off until you turn off your
phone," she said. The stewardess was British and quite a bit older, and
had it been me, I would have listened. But it wasn't me. It was
Obnoxious Man.

"I just need five more minutes," he said.

"You get off the phone, or you're getting off the plane. Is that understood?"

no," I thought. "We're going to have to taxi back to the gate. He'll be
apprehended. By the time things normalize, the nor'easter will have
hit, and I'll be stranded."

The stewardess huffed and puffed,
but ultimately, she let the guy finish his call. When she returned to
her seat, he got up from his.

"Can I just tell you why I was on the phone?" he said, walking toward her seat in the back.

"Sit down!" she said. She was annoyed, but not angry. In fact, was that … amusement I detected in her voice?

escorted him back, returned to her seat and had barely fastened her
seatbelt, when Obnoxious Man popped up out of his chair and headed to
the bathroom.

My jaw dropped.

"What do you think you're doing?" the stewardess asked.

"They made me drink my whole bottle of water at security," he said, shutting the door behind him.

looked around at my fellow passengers, most of whom were women, trying
to catch someone's eye and share a can-you-believe-this-guy moment.
Instead I saw a lot of smiles.

These women thought Obnoxious Man was kinda adorable. They thought he was funny. I thought I was going to lose my mind.

this overindulged man child finally sat down, the plane took off. And
almost immediately, the women around Obnoxious Man started chatting him
up. Where was he from? Where was he going? He ate up the attention, and
the women ate up his brazen cluelessness. Two middle-age women giggled
whenever he spoke to them.

When the captain turned off the
seatbelt sign, a cute teenage girl got up out of her seat and stood in
the aisle to talk to Obnoxious Man, hanging on his every word. I don't
know if he got her phone number. I couldn't watch any longer without
reaching for the airsickness bag.

I turned back to my magazine
and fumed. The guy is congenitally stupid, and now he's got a harem? I
understood then why Adam Sandler is a millionaire. All the women who
spoke with Obnoxious Man had the same look in their eyes – like they
were beholding a precious, silly little puppy. A cute thing they wanted
to take home and nurture.

This, I realized, is the true secret
of the jerk. It's not that women want to be mistreated; it's that all
of us want to coddle helpless men.

Well, almost all of us. When
we landed at LAX, I stood behind Obnoxious Man in the aisle, waiting to
get off the plane. Impatient, he whipped his head around and said,
"There should be doors at the back of these, too … oh, wait! There are
doors …"

"They won't open them," I snapped, so sternly it made the people around us titter. "Not even for you."

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Partying With Mom Is No Day At The Beach

Mom turns 60 at the end of this month, and all she wants is a pony.

she said, several ponies. And a clown. Oooh, and a bounce house, and a
guy who makes balloon animal hats. Maybe a magician, too. 

"I'm going to be 60, but I want to have a party like I'm going to be 6," she told me.

seized on the idea immediately – how adorable! We can have a Barbie
cake and a face-painter. Everyone can get little goodie bags filled
with candy and bubbles. Maybe we'll hire a guy to dress in an Elmo suit
and dance around. It will be perfect! It will be hysterical! It will …
never happen. 

Israelis have one party. It doesn't matter if the
occasion is a bris, a birthday or a bar mitzvah – if my mom's friends
are gathering in celebration of something there will always be obscene
amounts of food, a full bar, live music and, occasionally, a mime (your
guess is as good as mine).

Hubby and I had to hire three bands
to perform at our wedding in order to accommodate our tastes and Mom's
intractable image of a proper party. 

So, I should have known
that no matter how different a party Mom said she wanted, in the end
we'd wind up with lamb skewers and a lady with an accordion.

I held out hope that Mom was going to let us go off script for her
celebration. The whole thing set my imagination afire: Maybe we could
have it at Chuck E. Cheese or American Girl Place! Or maybe make it a
princess party and have Cinderella show up! What about hosting the
whole thing at Disneyland? 

"No," Mom said. "I want it at the beach."

A beach party! OK. We can have a big beach Twister game, maybe get a snow cone machine and a piƱata.   

No. No. And no.

by one, all my ideas were shot down until this party started to
resemble every other party Mom's group has ever thrown and attended –
just with a better view of surfers. 

Her crowd wouldn't go for
face-painting, Mom said. They don't have any use for the Wiggles, and
princesses "just aren't me" (evidence was mounting to the contrary, but
I bit my tongue). Instead, Mom had a list of decoration and food
requests that were more Tutto Mare than "Sesame Street": Grand
Marnier-soaked asparagus spears? Having trouble finding that in a

Mom did commit enough to the little-girl theme to go
with teddy bear invites, but only after a strange exchange in which she
violently rejected my idea of sending out Malibu Barbie invitations. 

"No!" She said, throwing her fist down. "I don't want Barbies! I hate Barbies."

collects Barbies. But that's not the point. The point is, she had
accepted my offer to plan her "little girl party" but hated every one
of my ideas. That's fine. It's her party. But after being shot down at
every turn – the food, the music, the entertainment, the location – I
was at wit's end when the invitations became an issue. 

I know
that Mom gets a little stressed out before a big event. Her temper can
flare. She can get a wee bit bossy (one of my favorite wedding pictures
is a close-up of my Mom's arm, outstretched and ending in a tautly
pointed finger). In the end, I know her control-freakishness will pay
off with a fun party, something she'll embrace and remember. But right
now, it's driving me nuts.

"I don't want Barbies! That's not me!" 

I looked at my soon-to-be 60-year-old mom, my mom who told me that all
she wanted for her party were pony rides and a little-girl theme, and
found myself thinking: "I wish she'd just grow up!"

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Ta Da! Now He's Gone.

No one would tell me why Zev's swim instructor left. One day, a few
months ago, the office staff at the school just said, "He's not here
anymore." And then followed that up with a heavy silence that
suggested, "And you know why."

Thing is, I didn't. 

thought Ta-Da (that's what Zev called him, "Ta-Da!") was a bit of a
diva. From what I could tell, he tried to change his schedule every
week. He insisted on eating his lunch in the pool. He was a bit snippy
with management.

But he was fantastic with the kids, really
able to read them and challenge them in a natural and gentle way. So, I
couldn't imagine what he could possibly have done to get kicked out of
the pool. 

Then a few days ago, a fellow Pool Mom asked me, "Did he ever hit on you?"

were sitting poolside, watching our little swimmers squirm and squiggle
in the water, and she explained, "He hit on all the moms. People
complained about it. That's why he was fired." 

"Seriously?" I said. " That's why he was fired?"

"Yes," she said. "He didn't hit on you?"

guess I have a different definition of being "hit on" than the other
moms. Yes, Ta-Da would often comment on my appearance. But it's not
like he ever asked for my number. Frankly, I thought his attentions
were exaggerated attempts at small talk.

Once, when I showed up
with unwashed hair, glasses and my favorite 17-year-old sweatshirt, he
said, "Damn, girl, you're looking fine." 

I nearly fell over laughing.

"I'm serious," he said. "Did you lose weight?" 

is not the stuff of a sexual predator. This is the stuff of someone who
wants a nice Macy's gift certificate at the end of the school year.

quizzed Pool Mom a bit about her own experience: Had Ta-Da been
aggressive? No. Did he use foul or explicitly sexual language? No. Did
he ever proposition her? No. 

So what was the problem?

"He really intimidated me," she said. 

Ta-Da really did cross a line with someone – I have no way of knowing.
But if just saying stupidly inappropriate things is intimidating, then
I must come across as Andre the Giant.

When fertility
treatments failed me, I told curvaceous Lyn that I was going to start
burning incense at her feet. I compared a buff former NYPD cop friend
to an oak tree, ready to climb. 

If I had to communicate without innuendo for one week, I'd be reduced to shadow puppets by Wednesday.

me, flirtatious banter is the currency of everyday interactions. Maybe
I'm wrong to call a beautiful girlfriend of mine "Gorgeous." Or maybe
complimenting a waiter's smile can be constituted as harassment.   

maybe, just maybe, the complaining Pool Moms had their bikinis in a
bunch over nothing. Maybe Ta-Da wasn't coming on to
people, he was talking to them.

It's been nearly four months
since Zev has seen Ta-Da, but he still talks about him – a testament, I
think to the instructor's gift with kids. Ta-Da earned his nickname
because he taught my son to say "Ta da!" after every impressive
accomplishment – floating on his back, kicking his legs. Zev loved the
encouragement and will now routinely say "Ta da!" when he feels proud
of something he's done. 

I usually clap my hands and repeat the exclamation. But I think I won't just repeat his "Ta da!" anymore.

Now I'll tell him,  "And you looked good doing it."