Thursday, February 28, 2013

"We saw your ruse"

Why is everyone criticizing Seth MacFarlane as if his jokes at the Academy Awards are single handedly setting the feminist movement back to the middle ages? In one article I read, the author called his performance "dehumanizing and humiliating" to women and ranted about how women were being degraded throughout the night. You know what, I like Seth MacFarlane. I enjoyed most of the Academy Awards (come on, it's never 100% entertaining). I laughed at most of the jokes on Sunday night. Despite my amusement during the show, and like many of MacFarlane's critics, I woke up Monday morning feeling a little sad for women.

There is, in fact, something that is "alienating, excluding, and debasing women," but it is not the host of the Oscars(tm). No, it is not the comedian who was hired for his successful ability to parody the blatant sexism, racism and stereotypes that exist in the world in an attempt to identify how ridiculous (not accurate) they are. The most dehumanizing and humiliating thing to happen to women is women... namely the women who are perpetuating the unwelcome new reality that growing old naturally is a bad thing and that surgery to look younger, often at the expense of looking like yourself anymore, is a good thing.

Far more demeaning to women than the humorous, if slightly misogynistic, jokes of Seth MacFarlane is the widespread acceptance of altering your appearance and eliminating unwanted (or any) signs of aging. I think several of these famous women would actually sell their souls for some sort of Benjamin Button situation, if you could inject it into their creases. However, I believe the suggestion that women must look younger than they actually are, in some cases by decades, is far more damaging to women's equality than a song about seeing their boobs. Which, might I remind everyone, those women did willingly and got paid for.

Can anyone age gracefully anymore? I must have missed the week when it was thoroughly explained in the news why looking your age and having wrinkles is no longer acceptable. Will someone please explain to me, why are wrinkles such a bad thing? Why is natural beauty rarely celebrated and often despised in the public eye? And why in the world does it matter so much to Carrot Top?

High Definition television has not been kind to the aging actresses and actors. I get that. Apparently getting work is more difficult as they show signs of their age. The objection I have is that they are contributing to redefining the standards of beauty for the rest of us. I find this a whole lot more offensive than a joke about getting the stomach flu to fit into a dress. And let's face it, I've heard of stranger stories coming from that bunch of how they manage to quickly drop a few for their "art." 

Celebrities can spend countless hours in the gym each week to achieve a certain look/size/shape, and this is necessary for their job, or so I hear. I can personally acknowledge that that level of dedication to looking a certain way is not for me. I happily trade hours at the gym for hours of sleep every week, and I accept the body shape (and jiggle) that comes with it. 

Botox, fillers, injections and surgery that prevent visible signs of aging are easier than ever to come by, but that doesn't mean they are good things. In many, if not most instances, this "non-aging" is an even more obvious sign of aging. Of course I am referring to the numerous actresses I saw on display throughout the recent awards season, but I am also referring to ladies of a certain age that feel the need to disguise said age in a very bold yet sad attempt to look years younger. And gentlemen- sorry Barry Manilow, I LOVE you and your music, but you and Joan Rivers are going to be indistinguishable soon. The result of these procedures, inevitably, is the same. The users have a familiar, common look of smoothness and indifference that is a bigger tell than if they had just left the gauze taped to their forehead.

Let's be honest: Demi Moore, Catherine Zeta Jones, Helen Hunt, John Travolta; your foreheads no longer move when you talk, which is disturbing to see on anyone, but surely should be career-altering for an "actor" who is essentially paid to show emotions on their face? We know how long you have been around, and no matter how bad our math skills are, we can approximate your age. So when you show up to talk shows or award shows looking like parts of your face are half the age of your neck, hands and our memories of you, it is concerning, confusing and just plain awkward to play along with.

Maybe I am lucky enough to have a mother who is aging gracefully, beautifully, and as nature intended. Of course, I know she would disagree. If she didn't have a mortal fear of needles and pain, she may have even attempted one of the methods referenced above. But I think my mother is and has always been gorgeous. Looking her age is something that makes her unique among her peers, but she has always been unique among her peers, for her beauty. I actually think it is crazy how good she looks  after that many years of sun-worshipping and my teenage years. I can personally claim responsibility for several of her wrinkles. Years of dealing with me as a horrible, moody teenager would certainly take its toll. I know she doesn't believe us when we tell her and why would she, when this new generic face is emerging of what people her age look like these days.

Women have a choice to get plastic surgery and conform to these new standards of beauty as much as they have a choice whether or not to show their boobs in a film. But when my mother, a stunning 66 year old, could somehow feel less attractive than she truly is because she chooses to not endure the pain of plastic surgery, I wonder who the true offenders of women are in Hollywood. I don't blame the white alpha male. I blame Melanie Griffith, Lisa Rinna, most of the "Real" Housewives... even you Carrot Top. 

By no means "au naturel"

This is a much bigger problem for women than jokes about how old you have to be to date George Clooney, or the FACT that Rihanna is with someone that abused her.

I laughed along with MacFarlane that night. The next day I read the article explaining why I should be offended. And while I do understand that public acceptance of those types of misogynistic thoughts is damaging to women's senses of value and equality, I am not offended by his jokes. I chose to extract the humor from his material and leave the demeaning for those who chose to be offended. Hurray! Women still have a choice! I will save my objections for the people who say this stuff that are not trying to be funny.

But back to my rant of the day. It is time for these ladies to face the truth (pun intended). Not every character is 26, so not every actor need look like they are 26. When people use these "anti-aging" tricks too much they end up looking like a strange alien hybrid of their old self... well, their young self, but actually not looking like themselves at all in the end. Not everyone has gone too far, and I know there are lots of people that have had work done and I have no idea. Unfortunately, as soon as I can detect it, it is already too late. They have passed the unwrinkled point of no return.

[insert picture collage of un-gracefully aging actresses here]
Seriously, with so many to choose from, where would I begin?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Validation and acceptance

We have been accepted. We received our validation as parents in the form of acceptance to a preschool for our daughter. The school informed us that we have been accepted to pay thousands of dollars to allow our child the privilege of going to a preschool space for two mornings a week to play/learn. We have been selected to send our two year old (well she isn't yet, but she will be by September) to a magnificent school facility for six hours a week for approximately three times what normal childcare costs. And somehow, according to everyone we know that has gone through the preschool process in New York City, this is something we should be excited about.

To be honest, I am excited. I am very excited. This is the quickest way to feel like a superstar parent, short of becoming a famous mommy blogger and diving head first into the world of parental/peer validation. We have been accepted. Out of a lot of people (I assume). And we were the best (or among those chosen). And now we get to give them a sh!tload of money (Fact). Joy!

In all honesty, I started this process not at all concerned about what we would do, because I genuinely never thought we had a shot of getting accepted. Applying to preschool in New York City is the subject of an entertaining, if slightly concerning, documentary as well as many an urban legend. We applied to four schools. Two of them wouldn't even accept our application. Seriously. One sent back our check, the other never even gave us an application to submit. So my introduction to the process was that it was exclusive, elusive and highly competitive. The remaining two preschools we actually got to visit and see just how amazing they are. And they are amazing. And then we got the good news.

Except I didn't think we would get in and had mentally planned accordingly. Maybe I was managing my own expectations, maybe I was expecting the worst while hoping for the best. Maybe I just didn't think we were unique, alternative or cool enough to be selected. But I figured we would get some experience under our belts and next year we would know exactly how the strange process works and how best to select the most amazing place for our little lovely to spend these spongey, formative years.

Now we are faced with a decision and I wish we had something concrete pulling us one way or another, not just the reality of spending money for preschool education versus not. Somehow I had compartmentalized it in my head that I was not fazed spending that type of money once she turns three. But it just seems like a lot for when she's two. Not sure how I make these distinctions. Basically the act of not sh!tting her pants somehow makes her more worthy of thousands of dollars towards "education." Because who am I kidding, I know it's all really just play time to her anyway.

I love everything about both schools we applied to and yet they couldn't be more different from each other. I love the programs, the facilities, the staff and the positive effect it will ultimately have on not only our daughter, but on us, I am sure. My indecision makes me think we may just have to defer until next year and pray that they don't put a black mark next to our name for when we apply again. I don't fully understand the process. And if it is as horrible as some people say, I may be totally screwing us. But we have to make a decision that we will be comfortable living with no matter where we end up.

Oh, and did I mention we only have three days to make our decision? It's a pretty big thing to only have 72 hours to debate. Of course it wouldn't be the first time I have regretted a decision that seemed like such a great idea at the time.

Wow! Just look at all those pieces!
I was sold on this particular set of play food because it was such a great value. 125 pieces for under $20. Amazing! And then we opened it. I immediately realized my mistake. In case you can't make out the specifics in the picture above, there are eight hot dogs. Eight! And 12 french fries. In addition to the two packets of "fries" there are 12 individual crinkle cut french fries. The reason I am aware of these specific quantities is because when you are picking up 125 pieces of play food every single night, you get to know the items pretty well.

Wow... Just look at all those pieces.
But back to the kid and the school... should we or shouldn't we? I think I may just get suckered into it off the back of everyone else telling us we should. If everyone else that has more experience in this whole process is saying it's a good idea to just suck it up and do it, isn't it? Yes, in case you're wondering, I would jump off a bridge if there were enough people doing it. I actually have done this, and in certain instances it's kind of fun. Unless my daughter is one day reading this, in which case it's a stupid thing to do and don't even think about it. There are better ways to find acceptance... remember preschool?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Mommy blah-g

Life is about discoveries. A recent discovery of mine: the world of mommy blogs. I am not referring to the specific individual blogs written by mothers. I am referring to the entire subculture that belongs to mommy bloggers. They write blogs. They read each other’s blogs. They write on each other’s blogs to let each other know they’ve read them. They have sites dedicated to the content of their blogs and the unique perspective of the mommy. They have awards based on the sites that show the blogs that give these unique perspectives, and so on. 

I am a mother. I have a blog. And yet, I never really considered myself a mommy blogger. This is partially because I was not tuned into this network of mothers, and partially because the content of my blog is not necessarily from the perspective of me: the mother, it's from me: the lady constantly baffled and befluxed by society, who also happens to be a mother.

There are some mom blogs I read and I genuinely think, “wait, did I lose consciousness and write this and then post it under someone else's name? This is exactly what I am thinking/feeling/going through.” Some mom blog voices are so well developed and successful that I follow them and eagerly read each new addition when they pop up like a little cyber treat on my reading list. I am just not necessarily that motivated to duplicate their success. Admittedly, I am not that motivated in general. We don’t have an album from our wedding over three years ago because I just can’t be bothered to go back and put it all together. I’ll be on the couch yelling at the Bachelor if you need me. But regarding the mom blogs, my take is this: if someone is writing something exactly like, or WAY better than I can, why bother, right?

To be clear, I am a fan of the mommy blog world. It is a highly developed network of like-minded (well, sometimes dissenting) mothers sharing their experiences, humor and advice with one another. I just know I can’t possibly sustain a relationship with these mothers when I can’t even find a moment to meet up with the mom down the hall. Um, just so we’re clear, we don’t have a strange older woman living in our spare bedroom, I live in an apartment building in New York City... definitely no spare rooms here. 

The way I see it, mothers, and by extension their respective blogs, tend to fall into two categories **unnecessary generalization alert!!**

Type As boast of the perfect creatures they are lovingly nurturing and exposing to this magnificent world that they truly believe they can help improve. They give us healthy recipes of how to cook each organic meal from scratch. They also give out great advice on dealing with tantrums in the most peaceful, supportive way possible; keeping your partner happy; and keeping fresh cupcakes (also organic, no doubt) on the table, when it's not being used for intricate art projects. 

And the Type Bs let us all off the hook by telling or showing us how terrible we can all be at the job. 

Sometimes Type Bs make pictures featuring their children in HILARIOUS and semi-inappropriate scenarios

I know both, I read both, I identify with both. If I were a mommy blogger, I could be both. I would inevitably be a Type B because I think we all secretly like the Type Bs more. In fact, when I think about it, the Type B equivalent in any group are infinitely more likable. With their self-deprecating confessions of half assed attempts and mistakes, they make us feel good for being just alright at anything and everything. 

On occasion I do things that I am incredibly proud of.  But I am also more than happy to show off why I am a worse mother than you. Type B moms don't make you feel bad for your shortcomings by showing you all the things you don't do, they commiserate and give examples of sh!tty parenting we can empathize with. Like feeding our kids food off the floor (every day), or teaching them to say “SUCK” after anyone says the words “Red Sox.” Technically I did that with my nephew before I was a parent, but my sister and brother-in-law totally laughed, so that’s on them.

Type A and Type B duke it out in my head and my heart daily. I know I could be better, but I could also definitely be worse. This means I am good. And good is good enough. And even if it wasn't, I could easily find another mommy out there who isn't quite as good to make me feel better about myself. Which is why this whole mommy blog network thing is brilliant and so amazing. Every job should have this type of network of commiserators/supporters. Oh wait, is that what that whole water cooler culture is about? Oh the things you miss out on when you work in a tiny space with your mom and sister.

As for this blog, I am still finding and honing my voice. I believe I can be a lot of things at once. I will continue to blog about things that have nothing to do with being a mommy. And I will also blog about my kid and my husband, because they are a part of my life as much as annoying tourists, dog poo and traffic cops. Arguably more, but they frustrate me WAY less! 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

For better or best

I love my husband. Right around this time of year, with the stores all bedecked in pink and red confections, and also around his birthday, I am reminded that not every relationship is as easy as ours.

The people at Hallmark and whatever card companies CVS and Rite Aid carry make it abundantly clear that many marriages are full of bad moments. It is incredibly difficult to find a card that tells my husband how much I love him without mentioning something like "it's not always easy" or "I don't tell you this often enough" or "through the laughter and the tears" or "sorry I'm such a huge pain in the a$$, but you're no walk in the park either, you stupid jerk." The fact that I'm buying a card means I am trying to spread some love. If we agree to write in all the sh!tty stuff, can the card companies agree to put happy, positive cards out there to spread the love with? Thanks.

So, today being Groundhog Day and all, it seemed like a great day to say all the things I actually do make a point of saying on a regular basis. (Can you hear that? That's the sound of me patting myself on the back). In honor of the cinematic treasure starring a younger but equally beguiling Bill Murray, I am suggesting we act like it's that version of Groundhog Day every day. Everything except pulling a prickly little creature out of his home in the early hours of the morning. We should make the most of each day. Be the best version of yourself and try to make those around you happy. Live life to the fullest. And when the days all start to seem the same, seek out those you love and tell them so.

I love my husband. He knows this. Now you do too. Here are a few reasons why:

He kisses me goodbye every morning while I'm asleep, which usually wakes me up, but in the nicest way possible. When he wakes up the kid, however, it's quite a different story.

He cooks a mean Sunday roast.

He is not only smart, but witty and hysterically funny. He definitely makes me up my game.

He thinks I am funny. I know this because he giggles like a little girl when I make him really laugh.  I wouldn't be doing this if it wasn't for him telling me I'm funny, like that scene in Goodfellas. Incidentally, Joe Pesci and I have very similar tempers, but I am a little taller, little taller.

He shares my love for good bad food. (That would be food that tastes good, but may not be that good for you)

He is simply the best father I have ever known and I know one little nugget that agrees wholeheartedly.

He is the support network behind everything I do. So if you don't like something you read here, feel free to address your complaints to him.

He gets Maine. He has a genuine love for it that warms my heart. I mean, it's Maine, the way life should be. If he didn't like it, I would have seriously questioned his sanity.

He rented a castle to propose to me. Seriously, a castle. And not even a crappy one. Anne Boleyn's house. See...

It's raining cause it's England. Well, where would you go for a nice castle?

He is patient when I go crazy, which is sometimes. Just kidding. I'm always sane and balanced and rational and right. No, but really, I am always right... at least in my own mind.

He is the only person that can half-listen to a long-winded speech of mine and totally understand what I said. This happened the second time we ever hung out. Everyone else looked around uncomfortably, having no idea what I was talking about. (Talking sh!t is one of my more under-appreciated talents). He gave me a look that said, I got it. The look also said, Maybe don't say anything for a few minutes to give the others a chance to forget the fog you just left them in. Clearly we understand each other.

He kicks me in his sleep (not lightly!) and refuses to apologize because he scored an amazing goal.

He is confident enough to acknowledge that he may not be talented enough to play professional soccer. Hence why I have to let him score goals in his sleep.

He regularly thanks me for introducing him to challah bread and forcing him to like pickles on a burger. I've given up on making him like olives.

He devotedly follows a food store he's never been to on Facebook. Partially because it's named for/near his football team's old stadium;
store: Piebury Corner, stadium: Highbury Corner (clever!), and also because they post regular pictures of their savoury pies... His version of porn. They do look pretty good though:

He pointed out one of the female performers on the Disney Jr. channel as being too sexy. Thankfully she was one of the grown up performers on that channel, not one of the kids.

He spent an hour giggling into his iPad only to then show me this picture, which is f$&@ing hilarious.

Sorry ladies, he's spoken for

I never knew what a snail would sound like until he started doing a snail voice for one of our daughter's bath toys and seriously, he nailed it. Or did he s-nail it???

He is mortified on a regular basis when I somehow find a way to have an awkward exchange with anyone I share an elevator ride with, anywhere. Awkward being the key word here... but I think secretly he loves it.

Every present he has ever given me has been amazingly perfect, starting right after the first one. It was a candle. It's message was "maybe we should just be friends." I respectfully declined that offer and now we are the best of friends... with benefits. And the same last name. And a kid.

I was privy to a few too many tragic losses last year. It left me with an overwhelming belief that you have to tell the people you love that you love them. My husband and I tell each other we love each other regularly. Not just a quick love ya as we get off the phone, but moments of genuine recognition of our good fortune at having found lasting true love with each other. I know I am lucky, my daughter is lucky, my family is lucky to have such an amazing man in our lives.

So while Hallmark has neither perfected the Groundhog Day card nor the card for someone that really loves their spouse, I thought today would be the perfect day to say it all over again. Please find someone you love and tell them you love them today, tomorrow, the day after, and the day after, etc.

As an early Valentine, I end with a little gem from the Genesis vault. In typical Phil Collins fashion, he s-nails it. I should note that as it was 1978, he is not referring to Twitter or blogs or anything more than a groovy kind of love. Though it would be a few years before he recorded his version of Groovy Kind of Love. Enjoy.