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.