What To Say When You’ve Got Nothing Good to Say

Trish of Survivor says a thick skin is all it takes -- abs of steel probably help, too

Trish of Survivor says a thick skin is all it takes — abs of steel probably help, too

Last week I got one of those phone calls that you never want to get — the kind that tosses you out of bed, forces you to pull on the nearest thing laying on the ground, and sends you flying out the door at top speed.

Hours later, relieved that all was well and crisis was averted, I took a few minutes to splash water on my face and grab a cup of coffee. As I headed back towards the doors marked, “Emergency,” I heard a little voice say, “You shouldn’t be wearing that here.”

Sadly, the little voice wasn’t my internal fashion police — it belonged to a woman who was some sort of self-appointed gatekeeper. I paused and, against my better judgment, engaged with her: “Excuse me?”

Louder now she pointed at my chest and growled, “You really shouldn’t wear that here. It’s not appropriate. What’s wrong with you?”

You would have thought I was Miley having a nip slip in church. Granted, it was a religious-based hospital, and also granted, the tiny skull and crossbones emblem on my chest was one of the more leering in my collection of Dia de Los Muertoes-inspired clothing, but who the hell did that woman think she was? Or I was — did I look like Cher with 17 convenient wardrobe changes in my car?

I would like to say that I ignored her, or had a snappy retort along the lines of what I just said, but of course I didn’t. Instead I apologized and blamed my unfortunately blasphemous clothing choice on accidentally grabbing my daughter’s sweatshirt on my way out the door.

(Apologies to my daughter — especially since I know she’d never be caught anywhere in my clothing.)

I spent the rest of the time sulking around; covering my chest, and praying I didn’t bump back into the gatekeeper.

It’s been a while since I was on the receiving end of such a pointed diss. Actually, it may come as a shock to my bitches (!) that I’m often on the other side, speaking my mind and occasionally poking at someone or something just a little too hard. Living with teens means that practically everything I say about their clothing choices, personal hygiene, and even choice of socks is taken as a mortal stab.

Still, I’ve never been one to go out of my way to take down a stranger. And yet, in the age of 140 characters and extreme everything, the veil of polite society has been lifted. The entire point of reality programs is to goad people into saying the nastiest shit to each other, and have it broadcast to millions of people over and over again.

Case in point: Survivor. I haven’t watched the show in years, but my kids love it. We tuned into the first episode, and lo and behold, one of the contestants was sporting a Boston-strong accent. Upon closer inspection, I realized that was a woman that I went to high school withTrish Hegarty! Immediately I remembered her as big-hearted, funny gal with a great smile and a contagious laugh.

On Survivor, however, from the minute she got off the boat, she was called old, and then a lot worse, aimed particularly at some of what are actually her best attributes (her aforementioned smile and laugh). Several episodes in, during a titillating turn of events, one of her tribe mates, Lindsey Ogle, actually quit the show and said that she left before she physically had to harm Trish.

In my opinion, she’d already done her damage with this outburst to Trish: “”You disgust me… everything about you is annoying – your laugh, your teeth, your face. I think you’re terrible. I think you may be the most horrific person I ever met in my entire life!”

And the animals at home gnash their own teeth, enjoy the virtual scent of blood and jonesin’ for it to get a lot worse.

Trish laughs the barbs off, saying that she knew up front that one of the biggest requirements to compete on Survivor would be a thick skin. Considering the fact that as of this post she’s still on the show (one of just eight left!), I assume she’s wearing a pelt of nails.

But I can’t help but wonder about a world where being able to weather the shit storm makes you a bonafide survivor.

Over now to middle school, a place more notorious for public shaming than even one of Survivor’s islands. As much as things change, it so remains the same. I heard through the mommy grapevine that the latest hormonally charged tormentor recently went on a pre-spring break bender of nasty and left everyone reeling (thank goodness for spring break!). This kind of crappy behavior remains just as disheartening now as it was back in the day when Trish and I were junior high schoolers. (Remember when it was called “junior high school?” Don’t tell the children on Survivor…)

Strangely enough, out of the poisonous brew rises a stink blossom of hope. The current anti-bullying trend, which rose from lower schools and has begun to permeate our society is working. At least in my daughter’s school, the collective response from the kids was not to push back and bully the bully, but instead to let her know in no uncertain terms that her crappy behavior was not welcome.

So if you see me struggling for something to say, just know that I’m going to give it at least 140 characters-worth of thought before I speak. And I hope you’ll join me on the bully pulpit and remind the world that if you’ve got nothing good to say…. then, my bitches, just don’t say it!

PS: Hats off to Kim Novak — did you read about her response to the crappy treatment she received at the Oscars yet?

Ask Bitch’in Suburbia: Youth Sports Edition

Hopefully that little boy in the poem didn't strike out... if he knows what's good for him!

Hopefully that little boy in the poem didn’t strike out… if he knows what’s good for him!

Self-appointed youth sports “expert” and general baller, Bitch’in Suburbia, takes your questions and tackles your problems with slam-dunk, gut-checking, hardball advice.

Dear Bitch’in Suburbia:

I’m pregnant, and as a gift, my husband fully decked out the nursery… all with a baseball theme! First off, we don’t even know if it’s a boy or a girl yet, and secondly, although I know he played Little League as a kid, other than watching baseball on TV, I had no idea he was such a baseball nut! Should I be concerned?

Signed, In a Pickle

Dear Pickle:

Concerned? You should be GRATEFUL! No pesky choices once junior is three about what direction to take: if it’s a boy, it’s baseball, and if it’s a girl, it’s softball. Womb to tomb, the key to lifelong success nowadays is to specialize from the starting gates, so good for you and your fetus! I’ll bet your man had the foresight to knock you up in the April too, giving your child a January birthday, so that by the time the kid is in his/her last year of Little League/12-U, s/he can be the oldest kid for in the age group — giving him/her size/strength advantage! (Double-check his math with this league age calculator.) By the way, that timing might be different for girls, but since softball isn’t even an Olympic sport anymore, never mind have a pro league of their own, who really cares?

Dear Bitch’in Suburbia:

My 9 year old wants to dance, play soccer and maybe a couple of other things too–with occasional time to see a friend. But her dance teachers and soccer couches get so pissed every time there is a conflict — it’s ridiculous! I mean, she’s not going to be a professional, but enjoys each.

Signed, Full Dance Card

Dear Dance Card:

I’m sorry… did you just say SHE’S NOT GOING TO BE A PROFESSIONAL? What is wrong with you, woman? If you can’t visualize her performing in the New York City Ballet or playing in the World Cup, or better yet, both, then who is she, and what kind of parent are you? Toughen up, pop open a few Red Bulls for you and the kid, and get that child ready to roll from activity to activity. And forget friends — that’s what teammates are for. Sure they’ll vie for your kid’s spot or position, and their parents will stab your child in the back over being top of the pyramid (hullo, have we learned nothing from Dance Moms?), but in the end, it’s all about sacrifice. Do everything ’til it hurts — that’s why G-d invented Bengay and graces you with the ability to take out a line of credit on your house so that you can afford the elite level of everything for your precious baby.

Dear Bitch’in Suburbia:

My daughter was a superstar on our rec league team, but now that she’s playing club, the coach never puts her in! Her confidence is at an all-time low, and I’m not seeing anyone out there that’s any better than her. I’m debating have a heart-to-heart with the coach, but I’m concerned that might backfire. What should I do?

Signed, Bench Warmer Baby

Dear Bench Warmer:

Never, EVER question a coach! That’s rule #1 in youth sports. Rule #2 is …. never, EVER question a coach! They know exactly what they’re doing, clearly — and everyone knows that the best way to build self-confidence is to weather grueling schedules, suffer through multiple indignities, and learn that your voice is insignificant. Works well for cults, too. Now, don’t you feel better?

Dear Bitch’in Suburbia:

I am in deep turmoil — my son is the goalie on his hockey team, and in the last second of the last game of the season, the other team scored, won, and dashed our chances at play-offs. It was an impossible save, and yet I still overheard several grown men calling my son names he should NEVER be called, and at least three moms were sobbing. I wanted to console my child, but it was hard to do in the wake of such an emotional outburst, so instead I found myself apologizing to the other parents and to my son’s teammates. Now, days later, I’m still deeply ashamed of myself and can’t even look at my son in the eyes. Help!

Signed, Pucked Up in Poughkeepsie

Dear Pucked Up:

Put on some sunglasses, grab your kid by the scruff, and get his butt to off-season coaching with the nearest retired NHL goalie. Be sure to pay him extra, and consider having him escort your child to try-outs in the fall to send the message loud and clear that you have made the necessary adjustments and investment so that your kid won’t puck up… ever again!

Dear Bitch’in Suburbia:

My kids’ sports schedules are absolutely insane. From pre-dawn skating to late nights on the field, they are working their buns off while I’m freezing mine off waiting and watching them. The children are exhausted, and I’m right there with them, but I also know if they miss practice, they will be penalized. Any thoughts on how we can get some relief? Their schedules are driving me crazy!

Signed, Running on Empty

Dear Running,

What’s crazy is that you clearly haven’t discovered 5-Hour Energy shots yet — what, you’ve never nuked a 7-Eleven breakfast sandwich (the breakfast of champions) or a bean and cheese burrito (the dinner of winners) on the way to/from practice? If you still need relief, you can chase it all with the little roll of Tums that you should be sure to grab as you checkout. That should do it!

Dear Bitch’in Suburbia:

I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such earth-shattering highs and soul crushing lows as when I watch my child compete. The agony and the ecstasy are almost unbearable — how will I ever survive this roller coaster of emotions?

Signed, On the Bleachers’ Edge

Dear Bleachers:

Good news — you are closer to Youth Sports Nirvana than you realize! Just re-read what you said — it’s all about you! Not your child, but YOU, the parent. Once you fully embrace this core concept of youth sports, you’ve won!

So if you see me sitting in the stands, wagging a giant #1 foam middle finger at the crowd, just know that winners never quit, quitters never win, and the difference between the two is the stamina, willpower, and sheer brute force of a loving parent.

Please note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are satirical, just in case you couldn’t tell, and also just in case my kids’ coaches are reading this. (Just kidding! Not really… )

For more on youth sports from Bitch’in Suburbia, check out Go for the Gold and Parental Misguidance.

The Joy of Worry

Worry explodes like so many watermelons

Worry explodes like so many watermelons

I’m in the checkout line at Trader Joe’s (when am I NOT in the checkout line at Trader Joe’s?), and I suddenly realize I’ve left my cell phone in the car. Struck by the lack of distraction, I do something that I don’t do nearly enough: I let my mind wander.

My eyes alight on the kids’ soccer ball-sized seedless watermelon in my cart, which is snuggled in between a bag of mini sweet peppers and a box of organic mixed medley cherry tomatoes. Nothing is in season, and yet everything looks amazingly cute, sweet, and perfect.

This realization fills me with panic and possibly a small existential crisis. Once I have my trusty phone back in hand, I’ll easily confirm my worst fears — that no good can come of tiny, off-season, hybrid produce. (Spoiler Alert: Survey says, True Dat on the tomatoes, and the rest I’ll leave you to worry about.)

Still in the checkout line, I am now acutely aware that when I get back to the car, my phone will likely be lit up with texts, emails, and voicemails — so now I worry, what if my kids need me? They could be home alone when an earthquake hits (that did happen), injured at practice, or just generally in need of assistance on their race to nowhere. And here I am daydreaming about GMOs and global warming

Remember when we didn’t have these tiny handheld devices of the future? The things that drive us to distraction (and did you know that April is distracted driving month?), possibly cause cancer, and generally lead us to live a life of constant disruption and real-world disconnection?

Of course smart phones are just a gateway drug to the much more insidious Big Brother shenanigans that are about to explode. (Google glass, anyone?) Not like every single move I make isn’t already being tracked, up to and including my sadly predictable trips to the grocery store. I have no doubt that my purchases are routinely recorded, analyzed, and used to forecast future behaviors — perhaps nefariously so. Death by 100-calorie, 70% Dark Chocolate Bars now seems possible.

Now that I think about it, do I have too many “healthy” junk food snacks in my cart? I make a mental note to pop on goop when I get home for a good recipe for Detox Teriyaki Chicken but then again, I’ll run the risk of having to see that bittersweet sun-drenched Instragram of Gwyneth and Chris consciously uncoupling again.

Frankly, I don’t know if my soul can bear it.

Nor am I doing so well now that I realize that I’m a lazy, sack of shit working mom. (Ah, Gwenny, you were on a roll this past week, that’s for sure!) A wave of shame sweeps over me as I recognize that at 48 years old, my chances of being “discovered” are slim. How then can I ever understand true sacrifice if I don’t become an international film star?

And then there’s this: Will I ever be Upworthy?

I mean, I’m super tone deaf and I’m not a Mexican artist that does amazing things with decommissioned guns, so my rendition of John Lennon’s Imagine will never be this good, my Nelson Mandela tribute was mediocre at best, and if the Dalai Lama ever smelled my farts, it would not be filed under “Inspirational,” believe you me.

Would anyone mind if I crack open the Tito’s Handmade vodka and take a belt right here and now?

Don’t answer that — I know it’s not time to “take the edge off,” plus all those statistics about drinking and driving. And forget booze — just the other day my son’s high school called, reminding me of a parent meeting to discuss children and substance abuse, including a list of new drugs that nobody over 18 has heard of yet. Molly’s so 2013 (well, and 2012, 2011, 2009…); DXM and Sally-D anyone? Yeah, I don’t know either; I just did a little internet research, which only served to reassure me that I’m definitely one of those clueless parents.

And yet… so what if I am? Isn’t ignorance bliss?

OMG, remember bliss?

As if on cue, Trader Joe’s soundtrack starts playing, “You Make My Dreams Come True.” I take a deep breath and with the brute strength of John Oates’ mustache, I begin to consciously uncouple my fears and relax.

Thank you, Fearless Flyer for reminding me that there’s nothing to fear but fear itself… well, that and maybe tiny seedless watermelons…

So if you see me checking out at Trader Joe’s with a dumb look on my face, just know that worry is a wasted emotion, and death by 100-calorie, 70% dark chocolate is not so bad when you really think about it.

Now, check out this video (thank you, Sandra Grando!) — what you, worry? Screw that Existential Bummer and listen to filmmaker Jason Silva by trying your hardest to live life to its fullest instead — oh yeah baby, it’s awe-some and Upworthy, alright!

Legalize It, Criticize It: One Mom’s Opinion About Pot

Legalize it, criticize it

Legalize it, criticize it

Last week Colorado mom Kiri Westby’s piece in the Huffington Post, “Confessions of a Pothead Mom,” sparked controversy and blazed bright across the internets and all the way to my lil’ bitch’in corner of the world.

A BBF posted the piece on Facebook and wanted to know what I thought about it and the question of pothead moms in general — particularly with a couple of teens in the house. The truth is that I don’t smoke weed, and that was a personal choice I made decades ago when I realized that marijuana and anxiety go together as well as the munchies and an empty pantry. So no worries that a babysitter would find anything of real interest should she rifle through my underwear draw as Kiri did when she was a young weed-snatcher. All a sitter would find is what’s left of my panty collection post-closet unfucking.

Still, unlike Kiri, who is worried that people might judge her for being a pothead, I’m uncomfortable with being judged as an uptight, self-righteous, anti-drug person. Because that’s not who I am at all — I am all for personal freedoms, and I would be a hypocrite if I said I don’t use alcohol to alter my consciousness on occasion… because I do.

Therein lies what I think is most interesting about this conversation, as eloquently expressed in a comment on my BBF’s post about Kiri’s article:

“I think the biggest question we adults should be asking is for what purpose are we using alcohol and pot. Typically it is used to escape that feeling of discomfort that comes with being human. My hope for my kids is that they can learn to weather the psychic storms without a crutch before they imbibe. I have also heard of an Australian study that showed early pot use on the developing brain results in a significant drop in IQ. I am sober, so my point of view is from that of one who has used and found both substances mentioned more harmful than helpful to my goal of feeling comfortable in my own skin.”

I know exactly what she means about the discomfort that comes with being human, particularly since I weathered a pretty awful anxiety disorder in my early 20s. At that time, my doctor told me that “taking the edge off” with anything that altered my brain chemistry — even caffeine! — was a bad idea, and so I learned how to navigate rough waters with cognitive behavioral techniques that have now served me well for decades.

At some point, I relaxed a bit and went back to having a cup of coffee in the morning and an occasional drink at night. It’s all about moderation. Plus the older I get, the more interested I am in being fully present, alert, and aware at all times. Time flies, and a hazy dazed stupor seems to me to be a waste of precious moments.

Also as a parent, I’ve realized Murphy’s Law is always at work — the more I imbibe, the more likely it is someone will need a ride, have a crisis, or generally need me to be focused at unusual times or when I’m theoretically “off duty.” As if there were such a thing.

Back to the reality of today’s world where in my neighborhood, alongside all the liquor stores and grocery stores with aisles stocked with booze, there are now dozens of green crosses indicating medical marijuana dispensaries with names that are all about being “green,” “natural,” “organic,” and of course, good for your health cuz it’s, you know, medicine.

While I’m not saying that marijuana doesn’t have some significant medicinal applications, because it does, selling weed on every street corner under the guise of its curative properties is a slippery slope. It’s a drug, period. And much more potent, available, and tempting than ever before.

So personally, I’m not digging this in-between place that marks the beginning of the end of pot prohibition. In my opinion, there are too many mixed messages that open up a world of ambiguity and confusion.

My recommendations? First off legalize it. Make it just like booze — if weed is going to be readily available, then label it and make sure the different grades, like alcohol’s proof, is evident. Then tax the shit out of it, as they are doing in Colorado, and take all that additional money (i.e., Colorado’s projected $40 million annually) and do something constructive, like alleviate crushing budget cuts for public schools or finance better systems of mental health care so that people who need help coping have somewhere besides medical marijuana and other legal drugs to turn to for help.

And then, criticize it. Well, at least stop minimizing the true damage that can occur when you’re in a self-inflicted altered state of mind. Stop with the giggles like you’re in high school yourself, and be the parent. Have honest and frank conversations — and don’t worry, I’m not talking smooth-brained propaganda like Reefer Madness, Scared Straight, or Nancy Reagan’s Just Say No crap.  That’s the stuff that makes rebellion a must.

While I have no interest in illustrating my point from my personal history, as I believe when you relate your own shit to your kids you inadvertently give them license to ill, I do talk to my children about what it means to have lowered inhibitions and impaired perception. We openly discuss addiction and its devastating effects on families. I don’t sugarcoat that in particular because some of the very same slap-happy stoners I knew back in the day have now done tours of rehabs and suffered pretty horrendous consequences of “being a partier.”

As Kiri says in her post, “There has to be a happy medium. Just as we can’t protest the presence of kitchen knives because they could cut off a finger, we can’t fight the weed tide that is rolling into our lives. We have to accept that marijuana is making its way out of the back alleys and into our homes, right next to the whiskey and the painkillers, and we have to prepare our kids accordingly.”

I agree full-heartedly on this note, and act accordingly, from the vantage point of a non-sober individual.

But then again, when Kiri ends her piece on the pathetic, plaintive note of begging her family to still love her (especially her mother-in-law), it bums me out. Asking others to support your habit is not constructive. Ultimately, I don’t condone altering consciousness, nor do I ask anyone else to love me any extra when I choose to skew my own reality.

What I do promote is taking responsibility for actions. Period. And then holding others, particularly our children, responsible for their actions.

So if you see me with a sober look on my face, don’t worry that I’m judging… but I’m not sharing a conspiratory chortle either. I just think it’s high time we all dropped the pretense and deal with the end of pot prohibition in the way that works best for our families and ourselves.

Now, check out this interview with Kiri Westby from the Huffington Post:


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