Thursday, April 28, 2011

Ooooohh fuuuuuuuuuuuudge!!!!

I don't drop the F-bomb on my blog. Have you noticed? The absence of this Queen Mother of all dirty words probably hasn't occurred to you if you aren't one who frequents biker bars, the visitation room of the county jail or the girls' locker room at your local high school. I'm guessing the average person is watching "Dancing with the Stars" more often than reruns of "Pulp Fiction" on cable, so hearing the F word is probably few and far between...unless, like me, you read Mommy blogs. What? Yeah, in case you didn't know it,  an entire legion of stressed out mommies has declared The F Word to be the new black, which means that once again, I’m the dork who doesn’t fit in with the cool kids.

Now, don't get me wrong. I’m no choir-robe-wearing preacher's wife – far from it, actually. I have been known to use the F-dash-dash-dash word plenty of times in texts and personal e-mails when I'm trying to get my point across with force or make a joke with someone who knows me well. As a person who grew up hating Tipper Gore and her PMRC (a group of patronizing Senators’ wives who blacklisted music with language they deemed inappropriate in the 80’s), I will fight for your right to cuss like a jilted, drunken sailor with an ingrown toenail, but beyond the occasional “hell” and “ass”, I’m just going to pass on the foul language.  Apparently in doing so, that makes me about as edgy and cool as Pat Robertson, but this time I'm willing to be a Mary Ann in a world full of Gingers.

I started reading blogs about the same time I started writing one because I wanted to know who else out there was laboring under the misconception that folks (with brains) were actually interested in reading a stranger’s stories. That is when I discovered there is a sub-culture of women who seem to be on the brink of insanity (or murder) simply by virtue of the fact that they gave birth at some point in their life and are now nearly out of wine.  Maybe I’m just tired of grown women with kids wanting so desperately to seem like they are still the frat house sweetheart, funneling Miller Lite and doing Jell-O shots in a micro mini-skirt skirt that offers up a butt cheek peep show every time she bends over to puke. When did it become all the rage to chat up your neighbor in a language that sounds like it was picked straight off a Chris Rock comedy special?

In today’s Mommy Blogger world, it seems that there are only two categories of Moms: Lame and Badass, and if you aren’t telling your kids to “get the F out of the house so Mommy can get her drink on” through vodka-soaked breath, then you can’t be in the club.  I get that parenting is hard. I get that Moms frequently get no respect for the never-ending work they do, but is it really necessary to announce in front of God and the World Wide Web:  "So f'ing glad it's Friday so I can get totally sh!tfaced and pass out, then sleep late while the little F'ers feed themselves cold cereal"? 

I will openly admit that, in the beginning, I really did think these expletive-laced blog posts were hilarious.  It was comforting to know that I was not the only seriously lacking mother on the planet, but the more I read these stories, the more haggard, boring and completely lacking in imagination they became.  How many ways can you write about getting f'ing drunk and not doing f'ing housework?  And why is everyone who is not on board with the F-bomb Festival called an uptight f**kwad?  To quote a writer friend who has one of the funniest f-bomb-free blogs around, "Cursing does not take the place of decent writing."  Unfortunately, in a world where celebrity skanks are idolized and everyone types in text language, I think we've forgotten what decent writing looks like (not that I think mine is anything to brag over).

I guess I'm destined (doomed?) to be the Bill Cosby of the blogosphere.  I consider it a challenge to figure out how to tell a story that doesn't look like a minefield of F-bombs. Honestly, I'm too tired to care about being edgy, and I never was cool to begin with, so not being a badass mommy will just have to suffice for now.   I do have a bit of advice to the Foul-Mouthed Mommy Bloggers set though: Get a Thesaurus.  

***steps down off the high horse and walks into the sunset...***

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

One Really Stupid Leap of Faith

The forecast for Saturday was mostly miserable to intermittently scary. Living in the South in the springtime, you learn that the weather is a crap shoot at best. You’ll wake up one morning to nearly freezing temperatures, and the next day the thermostat is hovering somewhere in the upper eighties, and you’re digging out your tank top. The storms are nothing to balk at around here either, as the seasons are jockeying for position while spewing tornadoes and hail. With the day sure to be a total wash, I could have opted for curling up on the sofa with a good book, or maybe even settling in with the Lifetime network and their down-on-her-luck-single-mom-finds-love marathon, but I decided that a rainy day would be perfect for changing my daughter’s pink room to purple because sitting in a recliner and resting is so over-rated.

Painting at my house is an exercise in patience for me. My six-year-old daughter was put on this Earth to be Mommy’s Helper. This is so wonderful if you are a good-hearted, nurturing mother who cherishes every moment watching a child undo the entire sink cleaning/laundry folding/floor sweeping you’ve just spent your precious Facebook time finishing. However, if you are a hard-ass control freak who thinks no one can do the job better than you *ahem* -like I am - then you aren’t surprised that I routinely tell her, “Why don’t you run and see if Daddy needs help with anything.” The mere mention that painting was about to commence had her giddy with anticipation, so I left my husband in charge of turning a pink room purple, and dealing with a first grader who would surely make this already cumbersome task an all day event. And, what was my job you ask? I assigned myself to window duty, and, as usual, I sucked at even the most elementary task.

I have this thing about fresh air. I love it. Living in the armpit of America means that our homes are hermetically sealed nine months out of the year to keep the heat and humidity from smothering us all to a slow, painful death. Even though we had storms passing through all day, the temperature was in the sixties with a sustained wind of twenty miles per hour, so that meant each time the rain tapered off, I would dash around to all of our second floor windows and throw them open to let the stiff breeze carry away any left over winter funk and paint fumes. There are a couple of drawbacks, though. We don’t have screens on the front of our house, so bugs are sometimes an issue, but even worse than an insect invading our home is the fact that we have three very stupid dogs who hate us…and who aren’t afraid of heights.

The painting went amazingly well. By late afternoon the room was dry, completely re-assembled, and the storms had moved on to wreak havoc elsewhere. Finally, the sun was shining, the wind was ruffling the curtains, our kids were playing, and I was reveling in the successful delegation of a room makeover and the leftover sweet smell of April rain. Then, there was a knock at the door. My husband opened it to find our neighbor standing there with a dog…OUR dog. My first thought was that the strong wind and storms blew open our gate, enticing this ungrateful, mange-y mutt to run away. But, wait – the dogs hadn’t even been outside because they are diametrically opposed to relieving themselves when the ground is wet and muddy, lest they get their precious paws damp. (Yet, they’ll eat cat poop and drink scummy pond water.) So….huh? How did he get out?

What we didn’t know was that all afternoon, Benji Houdini had been hatching a plan. My daughter’s bedroom is directly over a bay window. To a human, you look out and see a small stretch of roof covering the window below and the unforgiving sidewalk. To a nine-year-old dog with poor eyesight and an insatiable wanderlust, you see a platform for launching the next great doggy adventure. Our neighbor was on his bike in front of our house when he heard a loud scratching sound. He looked up just in time to see an old, brown down flying through the air from two stories up with all four legs outstretched Wile E. Coyote-off-a-cliff-style. Benji managed to cheat death by narrowly missing the concrete driveway and landing haphazardly on a bush. At first I thought he was the most ignorant dog to walk the planet, but then I realized that he picked the only window upstairs that, if you executed the jump correctly, would afford you the benefit of shrubbery to break your fall. Brilliant.

That dog sauntered into the house as if to say, “My plan would have worked if it weren’t for those meddling kids!” (Benji watches way too much “Scooby Doo” with my daughter.) I marched him upstairs for a stern talking to that he didn’t understand a word of, but it made ME feel better. Does he not appreciate that he has a warm, soft place to lay his dumb dog head each night? Shouldn’t he be grateful for regular meals and treats of peanut butter and leftovers from a little girl’s plate? How dare he insinuate that our home isn’t the canine equivalent to the freakin’ Taj Mahal by jumping out of the window? He let out a little sigh, jumped into the recliner and closed his eyes to plan the next great escape. I made sure every window was down and locked while shaking my head and cursing the fact that my silly dogs, like me sometimes, just don’t know how to count their blessings…

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Business of Beauty is Actually Kind of Ugly

As I was making my way through Target last week, I couldn’t help but notice that I was being stalked by a twenty-something woman with a toddler in her shopping cart. It was one of those situations where every time I rounded a corner she was standing there, flashing a smile that, although a little forced, certainly was a testament to her commitment to proper dental care. I gave her a quick once-over and decided that I could take her down should the need arise. She didn’t look like the scrapping type, though. There wasn’t a hair out of place, her make up was expertly applied, and – contrary to my jeans, baseball cap, and flip flops that screamed, “I’m over forty, and I’m not bringing sexy back!” – Ms. Sassy in her precious little sundress could teach Charlie Sheen a thing or two about winning.

While I was perusing the deodorant aisle trying to decide if I wanted to smell like summer rain or Sporty Spice, I could feel someone staring at me from a few feet away. I turned as my cutie-pie stalker walked up to me and said, “Hi! My name is Angie, and I’m a consultant for (insert name of skin care company that may or may not rhyme with Kary May). I have a group of women who meet twice a week, and I was wondering if you might be interested in being a face model for our group.”  Now, before you think I’m blowing my own horn being for fabulous and all, she quickly followed up with, “Because we need all different types of faces to sample the products for the group, including the anti-aging line.” (Oh, no she didn’t….)

I accepted the business card she offered, and through clenched teeth I said, “Hmmm, I’ll think about it.” What I really wanted to do was sit Miss I Don’t Have A Wrinkle Yet down with a stiff drink and give her my dire warning about how pushing skin care on your circle of friends and strangers alike may leave you traumatized for life.

My tale of woe begins five years ago. I was in a very different place in my life than I am today. We had recently moved my ailing mother into our home which meant I was in that “Sandwich Generation”, folks who are taking care of their parents as well as their young children. In addition to my mom, I had a toddler, a first grader, several pets, a job, and a nice little prescription for anxiety medication that made managing it all seem like sunshine and butterflies. Needless to say, hawking over-priced eye cream was the last thing on my mind when presented with the opportunity that summer of 2006.

I should probably state for the record that when I received a sample of this high-end skin care line from a friend, my beauty regimen consisted of giving my face a once over in the shower with whatever bar soap happened to be on sale that week. Maybe that’s why spending some extra time pampering myself made me believe that I could win friends and influence people by sharing these products. I also blame the aforementioned prescription for loosening my inhibitions, causing me to squelch my better judgment and jump blindly into the Deadly Sea of Direct Marketing. This shy, lazy, attention-shunning wallflower had just dropped a wad of money into a business where only the most ambitious, thick-skinned go-getters succeed. I was doomed before one squirt of SPF 15 day crème even left that orange bottle.

I immersed myself in training. I learned the ins and outs of the products and memorized the sales pitch like a champ, reciting it verbatim at our weekly meetings and encouraging others to do the same. I watched as our upline made it look so easy to land other women to work the business and host parties for them. I soon realized that in order to make this “career” take off, I was going to have to do more than just learn how to type an order into the computer. I was going to have to regularly do my least favorite thing in the world: talk to other humans.

I tried. I really did. I noticed, though, that our leaders who seemed to be pulling down the big bucks possessed some very crucial characteristics that I didn’t. They were stylish and attractive, loaded with self-confidence, and their mouths continued to form sentences even when they spoke to people they barely knew or didn’t know at all. I found it impossible to complete a sale if all I could do was barely choke out my name when encountering a new face.

Once I squeezed the life out of my friends and family, I had no choice but to literally ask strangers for help in growing my business. Honestly, I would have rather cut my toe off with a dull butter knife dipped in battery acid than be in the spotlight in a room full of people I have never met, but I did it. What I lacked in personality, well, I also lacked in selling skills. In order to make my monthly quota, I made deals on products that actually took money out of my own pocket. When that didn’t work, I would buy items that I didn’t even need just to boost my bottom line in the hope of advancing. I was pouring the money I earned from my real job into the multi-level marketing abyss, never, ever to be recovered again.

The business itself was brutal. I would meet people who promised to host parties in exchange for gifts, but would take the loot and run. Friends turned the other way when they saw me coming or openly slammed me and my attempt at success in this arena directly to my face. Many times I would spend hours preparing for a party only to be left standing alone when no one showed. Phone calls and e-mails were never returned as if I didn’t exist. And, when it became abundantly clear that I would never succeed in this line of work, my fellow business builders dropped me like a cheap tube of Dollar Store mascara.

I hobbled away from this business deeply humbled, emotionally battered and financially wrecked. They say what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, and in this case, even though I survived, I have a permanent limp. Without sounding too dramatic, I can say without hesitation that I lost all hope for humans as a species. The business of selling beauty in a bottle caused me to lose faith in humanity in a way that even shopping at Wal-Mart on Black Friday couldn’t. I bravely and uncharacteristically put myself out there, and was soundly beaten to a pulp. I had no choice but to collect my half-empty bottles of hand lotion and go home.

So, Miss I’m-Confident-Enough-To-Approach-Total-Strangers-In-Target, I will not be joining your weekly skin care parties. I don’t care how awesome the latest shade of creamy shadow would look in contrast to the dark circles under my eyes. I don’t believe you when you tell me how much money I can make by just working a couple of hours a week. Plus, I would suck as a face model because the mere mention of the words down line, residual income, and comfort zone make me shake so uncontrollably that you’d never even get the lipstick to my lips anyway...but thanks for asking.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Where's the mini skirt made of snakeskin?

In the best interest of my children, I have decided that I will not dress like a Jäger-shooting, twenty-something Hoochie. There appears to be only two options these days: pouring myself into jeggings and undersized, fitted tee shirts in a desperate attempt to look like I just finished my shift at Hollister, or cultivating the Seasoned PTO Mom look with cardigan sweaters, relaxed fit jeans, and shoes that scream, “Here’s hoping my ankles don’t swell!” Since my search for a fashion middle ground has proven to be fruitless, I am covering my dimpled rear-end in my stretchy-est yoga pants and throwing in the towel. Look out, JC Penney, ‘cause here we come!

When I was a kid, if every mother was lined up side by side, you would have a hard time picking out your very own mom from the crowd. The car pool line at the elementary school was awash in polyester pant suits and short hairstyles still perfectly in place from the can of Aqua Net applied three days prior. No one stood out from the crowd because they were all, you know, just Moms. (Well, except for this one kid whose mom was the local psychic and tarot card reader. She was very exotic with her long, dark hair and musky perfume that wafted down the halls on the rare occasion when she would visit. It’s too bad that she didn’t use her future-telling powers to warn us fifth graders of the fashion disasters that would befall our generation as teenagers: mullets, jelly shoes, shoulder pads.) I can say without reservation that there wasn’t a single pre-teen boy fawning over this group of mommies.  And, M.I.L.F.’s during the Carter administration? It was unheard of back then.

I blame Claire Huxtable for starting this I’m Beautiful Even Though I Have A Million Kids And A Busy Career movement. “The Cosby Show” sounded the death knell for all mothers who thought nothing of dropping off the kids at school in a chenille bath robe and curlers. And, how can we forgive forget those Wisteria Lane Hot Moms who gave a new definition to the term “desperate” while we try in vain to emulate their perky, post-breastfeeding cleavage that obviously underwent a more intense reconstruction than the South after Sherman? I hate the whole lot of them. They single-handedly made clothes shopping for us Grown Women Without Pimps nearly impossible, as designers believe we all wear size zero jeans and platform work. They don’t understand that Pamela Anderson, Angelina Jolie, and Jenny McCarthy are only figments of the Hollywood imagination. In the real world, their kind of breast to waist ratio simply does not exist.

My frustration came to a head yesterday as I went shopping for a sassy outfit to wear to my upcoming reunion. I found myself surrounded by thigh-high skirts and skin-tight knit tops. Don't they know that every woman over forty has back fat to some extent? I can see it now: I squeeze my torso into one of these “cute”, fabric-challenged shirts with a sparkly peace sign on it, and all of that extra skin and flab start spilling out over my bra, creating a supplemental set of breasts directly under my shoulder blades. My former classmates behind me in line at the appetizer table just shake their heads and say, “Bless her heart. I thought she was a runner.”

My first grade daughter thought I should try a sundress. She pointed out several of them that had very thickly padded built-in bras, and being helpful she said, “Look! Mommy, this dress shows you exactly where your boobies should sit.” I didn't have the heart to tell her that my boobies haven't been sitting at that altitude since the late eighties, and if I did prop them up on that padded shelf, it would look like I had Jell-O jigglers for breast implants each time I took a step. I give up.

Maybe I should start a grassroots campaign against the fashion industry for making all of us ordinary moms feel like we should look like Paris Hilton – or worse yet, Lindsay Lohan - while grocery shopping. I am sure that I'm not the only mother who doesn't want to risk an indecent exposure charge every time I attend a school meeting. I'm not asking for much. I just want to be moderately stylish while all of my ladies bits are covered. I'm hoping to sit in a chair without fainting from lack of oxygen due to the waistband of my pants cutting me in half. I would love to bend down as I'm shopping and not have my private parts fall out from top and peek out from below. I just want to be a modern-day Grace Kelly. Really, that too much to ask?