Friday, January 27, 2012

I hope you dance...and other cliches for my daughter


My daughter is seven years old.  I can already tell that she is growing up to be everything I'm not, and that scares the crap out of me.  She's funny, adventurous, popular and a risk-taker. Those characteristics are fine unless you are a mother who is fearful, shy, and an extremely anxious hermit.  With her bubbly personality and penchant for wanting to be the leader of the pack, my husband and I nervously joke that she will either be the President of the United States of America, or the President of a high-end call girl business.  It could go either way.  While I've read the many letters floating around the internet from moms to their daughters, I felt compelled to impart some of my forty-something wisdom to my little girl on the more practical aspects of growing into a woman.

So, without being too sappy, these are some of the truths I want my daughter to know:


1. Don't start wearing eyeliner.  Trust me on this.  Once you start, you can never stop. You'll think you look weird and sleepy without it.  If applied correctly, it looks great. If not, you look like Lindsay Lohan on a bender. Your girlfriends are going to start smearing it on around the age of fourteen because they think it makes them look older.  It does make them look older...like an older slut. If you must use it, for the sake of all that is good in this world, do NOT use blue or purple.

2. Study your math.  I hate math so much, and so does Barbie.  You aren't Barbie, though.  You are smart and strong, and if you want to be an astronaut or a bridge builder, you're going to have to suck it up and show calculus who's the boss.  If you decide that you would rather style hair or teach yoga, that's great, but you still need math, if only for shoe sales.

3. You should never have to work to keep a friend.  We ALL know this friend, the one who makes you work to like them.  The one who never smiles or has a kind word or offers to drive or tells you how happy they are for you when you score a great job.  They sap every ounce of energy, and they'll drink your last Diet Coke. I have two words for "friends" like this: Move on.

4. Stop saying "like" so much.  This is an easy one.  Notice how many times you say the word "like" on any given day, and then say it about 99% less than that.

5. Don't be the mean girl. The truth about the mean girls is that they only get their way for a short while, usually until graduation.  Don't judge people by their clothes or how much money is sitting in their parents' bank account.  That geeky  wallflower that you kick to the corner in junior high school may be quietly taking notes so that she can anonymously slam you on her blog one day.  (Not that I would know anything about that, of course.)

6. Stay away from bad boys.  Yes, they're hot.  Yes, they make you feel like you're hot, too.  I speak from experience when I say that bad boys will break your heart.  While they're breaking your heart, they will also convince you to buy their groceries and pay their car insurance (if they have a car).  Your best bet is to only have a poster of a bad boy in your bedroom and have a good guy in your heart.

7. Don't take naughty pictures of yourself.  This is how it works - if you take a great picture of yourself, it may very well end up on the internet.  If you take X-rated pictures of yourself, they will be on the internet before you get your shirt back on and buttoned.  When that bad boy-boyfriend (that you shouldn't have) tells you that he will keep it to himself, he is defining "himself" as everyone on his friend list. Don't do it.

8.  Don't fall for every fashion fad you see.  I did, and now I have a trunk full of school pictures from the 80's that should be burned.  Jelly shoes, shoulder pads, stirrup pants, asymmetrical haircuts - you name it and I tried it.  Since fashion seems to have a way of repeating itself, please remember this: if someone tries to talk you into wearing rainbow-colored suspenders or a Member's Only Jacket, run!

9. Eat junk while you can.  I hate to break this to you, but the "skinny gene" flew off the diving board and completely missed our gene pool.  Eat what you want now because around the age of twenty-five, you will become very good friends with skim milk, running shoes, and Special K.  Sorry, sweetie.

10. Your brother loves you.  You may not be able to tell it now, but it's true. He thinks you're funny and smart, but he would never tell you that.  Be good to each other because family matters.  Believe me when I say don't EVER let each other drift apart.

One final note...more than anything, Sweet Girl, I want you to know that from the bottom of my heart, I hope you dance....just not around a stripper pole.

Friday, January 20, 2012

They've got the fever...

As I sat in the carpool line at my son’s middle school the other day, I had a startling realization. This country’s tween and teen boys are facing an epidemic that is being largely ignored. I watched as the sea of primarily brown-haired kids poured out of the doors, each looking nearly identical, necks twitching in an almost syncopated rhythm to a beat that we, as adults, can’t seem to hear. I can pick out my son from the crowd thanks to a recessive gene that gave him blond hair, but that doesn’t make this affliction any less damaging. He, too, is a victim. If left unchecked, this syndrome is going to leave a huge chunk of middle-aged men with arthritic necks like no plague in our recorded history.  Not even the methodical head bobbing while stoned and listening to Pink Floyd from a couple of generations back can touch it. I’m talking about the dreaded Bieber Hairdo and the stranglehold it has on our boys, causing them to flip back their bangs every thirty seconds or so, resulting in lasting damage, no doubt, to their developing necks and spines. I’m calling for all parents to take a stand, grabbing your torch and  pitchforks hair clippers to end this madness now.

This is a cause that is close to my heart. When I see my son carefully brushing his way-too-long bangs over to the side, I am reminded of how I fell for the hype of the “celebrity hairdo” as an adolescent. Remember the Shag? Oh yeah, I had that cut. It was less of a style and more of an “Oh My God Is My Hairdresser On Crack” kind of look with its mish-mash of varying layers that seemed to be in no particular pattern. We looked like a legion of young people with perpetual bed head, carefully styled bed head, mind you. Unlike the Bieber ‘do, the Shag was completely gender neutral, affecting boys and girls alike.

To my knowledge there has only been one human to successfully rock the Shag style, and her name is Joan Jett, but this was long after I succumbed to this seventies 'do.
 
 After the shag, I moved on to the harder stuff – the Dorothy Hamill bob. This was a lovely hairstyle for world-class figure skaters possessing extra thick, smooth, shiny hair that was styled in a high-end salon. It was a disaster for a kid like me with thin, limp, lifeless hair that was styled by an older southern lady named Lurlene who was more accustomed to fashioning the beehive up-do for her customers instead of the trendy, shorter cuts. I looked like I had been abandoned by my family and left with nothing but a pair of dull scissors and a comb with missing teeth to style my hair. Of course, my mother did her best to right this massive wrong by giving me a home perm. The hair that didn’t fall out during the processing really did make me look like an orphan – Little Orphan Annie to be exact. The only things missing were a red dress and a loyal dog. I can’t say for sure, but I believe this is when my infatuation with hats began.

My high school years were a blur of bangs and feathered hair and hot rollers. I walked around with a cloud of Aqua Net hairspray following me which may explain the hole in the ozone layer. (Sorry, Al Gore!) I spent the better part of the eighties checking my reflection in any mirror or piece of glass available. The deeper I fell into my addiction, the bigger my hair became. There was seemingly no end to the amount of product and time I would put into my hair to achieve a massive, glowing mane. To this day, I attribute the pain in my right shoulder to Blow Dryer Syndrome caused by the repetitive motion used to create the perfect winged look.  

So, you can see why this cause is so near and dear to my heart. Let’s save our boys. It would break my heart for this generation to grow old with a drawer full of school pictures too embarrassing to look at and a chronic pain in the neck.  And to Justin Bieber I say this: Dude...take care of yourself.  Have you seen Leif Garrett lately?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Don't dream it. Be it.

This is The Book.  It's beautiful, really.  In May of 2011, my husband commissioned an artist to create this one-of-a-kind journal for me.  It's rich.  It's luxurious.  And...it's empty.  I can't touch it.  For the last eight months I have not been able to bring myself to write even one, single letter in it.  Why?  It makes me feel guilty.  It's for a writer, and I never believed that person could be me.  Until today...

It seems as though every other person on Earth and their Grandma have a blog these days, and every other person on Earth who actually writes regularly on their blog will proclaim that they are "working on a book".  I guess I was different.  The only thing that I've been working on is finding a new way to style my hair and to have someone else feed the dogs and clean my house.  Sure, I write my stories but actually visualizing, plotting, and sitting my sorry butt down to write a real book?  Hello?  Who do you think I am, Erma Bombeck?  I happen to really love my couch, and we have a solid date every night of the week.  To quote a favorite song of mine, "Don't expect too much from me, and you might not be let down."

So, I have left this beautiful book made exclusively for my words to sit on the credenza, mocking me, reminding me that other people have higher hopes and aspirations for me than I have for myself.  I touch it only when I dust, telling it to "stop looking at me like there might be a tiny writer inside waiting to get out." (That book is such a bitch sometimes.)

But something has been tugging at my heart brain for a while now.  A story has been slowly unfolding over the last two years that needs to be told. (It isn't about me...shocking, I know!)  I have watched with awe as a family I know took a situation that could have easily torn them apart and turned it into nothing short of an inspiration for anyone who grew up in the South (or anywhere for that matter), proving that skin color is irrelevant when you have unconditional love and faith that is stronger than a rock.

A few days ago I decided to approach my friend and ask if she would allow me to write a story about them for my blog.  She quickly agreed, but I knew in the back of my mind that this was big, too big for one entry.  Maybe two?  Maybe five?  Maybe make it into a saga that would string along for a year?  There was so much to say that one brief article could never do it justice.  Not one to ever work too hard, I kept turning this idea over in my head.  "I can't write a book.  I'm too damn lazy.  Who am I kidding?  I never finish anything."  Then another thought kept pushing its way to the surface, replacing all of the others: "You HAVE to write this book.  People need to know this story." (There was probably another voice in there telling me to stop watching so much TV and to log off of Facebook, but I'm not sure...)

So, I am...writing a book, that is.

My friend, who couldn't get the idea out of her head either, called me this morning, and we knew we were on to something.  This young man and her family have changed the way that I - a Southern child born during the heat of the Civil Rights movement - view race relations in my small hometown.

I'm hoping that once I finish this major feat that may or may be on my bucket list, I will feel like I have earned the right to open this beautiful journal and write.  For now, that book is looking at me and whispering, "Come on, girl...you can do it."