time flies when you unplug
Bitch’in Life

6 Smart Ways to Unplug Without Shutting Down

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If you’re reading this (and I so hope you are!), you will be experiencing the modern marvel of unplugging without shutting down.

This summer I’ve moved beyond the normal staycation and done something I’ve been thinking about doing for years: planned a real live vacation.

One where the language is foreign, the terrain unfamiliar, and the urge to be a tourist is stronger than the one where I merely flop on a beach in a rejuvenating coma. While it will be easy enough to find free Wifi, I already know I’d much rather be connected to the people I’m traveling with (our BBFs and my family) than anyone else.

Ditching the digital, however, may not be that simple, as for many of us staying connected isn’t a casual thing — it’s an actual addiction. From the Journal of Behavioral Addictions, Baylor University professor James Roberts found that the average college student uses his/her cellphone nine hours a day and experiences classic symptoms of addiction including (in addition to excessive use) the loss of interest in other activities and painful withdrawal — from mild agitation when an iPhone is out of reach to full-on panic when a battery dies.

Riddle me this: is that JUST college students, or is it ALL of us?

Put your B.S. degree on hold here, and please be honest about your smartphone addiction.

And I’ll tell you the truth, too: While I would like a digital detox and could probably use a virtual Silkwood Scrub, the realities of my traveling companions (teens) and my own life as a blogger, is that it’s unlikely that we’ll fully unplug from the “grid.”

Before you say spoken like a true addict, let me just say that I live my life where anything in moderation goes, so this feels comfortable and realistic to me.

That said, I’m putting a few strategies in place to ensure that the balance is tipped in favor of our tuning in more (to each other) and turn on (our devices) less. I hope you’ll join me whether you’re on vacation in the next few weeks or not:

1) Fly through vacation on airplane mode: This just means that you’re not connected to Wifi. I’d like to thank my age-related memory loss for keeping me safe from manically flipping my phone out of airplane mode when I’m in Wifi-equipped cafes and other hot spots. I’m pretty sure I’ll keep thinking my dang phone doesn’t work and will forget to check my settings.

2) Bring a camera: OMG you guys, remember cameras? Those cute little contraptions that take pictures and then you can get them printed out or just even download them onto your computer later, once you’ve returned home. Reflecting on your journey and sharing the best of times with the whole damn world if you want is then much more appropriate and also much less distracting.

(NOTE: Airplane mode does allow picture taking. Then again, snapping pics with your smartphone is just another gateway drug — you start off taking a cute pic of your kids in front of some fabulous attraction or another, and before you know it you’re running full-stop in a cold sweat to the nearest Wifi to huff filters and shoot those images up on Facebook. My bitches, please — CHECK YOURSELF BEFORE YOU WRECK YOURSELF!)

3) Embrace the pause: This is mindfulness-speak for stopping for one dang second before before taking an action. Zen Habits guru Leo Babauta says, “Addictions are something we often do automatically, without thinking. Start to break this chain of trigger-habit auto-response by wedging a small pause in between them. When you get the urge to check something you’re addicted to, notice this urge, and pause for just one second. During this pause, simply ask yourself, “Do I really want to do this, and why?” You can then go on to do it, no matter what the answer, but the important thing is having at least the briefest pause.” Amen to the Zen!

4) Tell your work peeps that you’re not actually working — for real this time: This includes YOURSELF, people! The smartphone addiction for us “grown-ups” dovetails nicely with our other addiction: workaholicism. It’s so damn easy to respond to emails, check out reports, and generally be available 24/7 that we’ve lost the ability to take a proper siesta. When you make a statement that you’re not available to work, you’re letting people know that you’re not drinking the Kool-Aid anymore. And doesn’t a nice fruity vacation drink sound much better, anyway?

5) Don’t have FOMO – Be the stuff that fuels the FOMO: FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out, is much of what drives our addiction to Facebook and other social channels. Keep in mind that being off the grid is something we all secretly — or even overtly — desire, and there is nothing to fear but fear itself. In other words, you’re not missing anything at all when you’re present in your own life. So admire the view from your own damn feet and forget about what beauty lies beyond (or between) someone else’s toes.

6) Do what comes naturally – it’s the ultimate reboot: Vacations are all about rest and relaxation, and guess what? These two things are EXACTLY what you need to reset your own operating system. Researchers at University of California, San Francisco found that down time allows the brain to process what it’s taking in and convert it to long-term memory. University of Michigan researchers found that people have much better retention after a walk in nature vs. through an urban environment, which supports the idea that the constant barrage of information takes a toll on our ability to learn. Things like sleep, laughter, sex (!), and making face-to-face contact with others all also have loads of research supporting their positive benefits.

So if you see me shutting down my devices — don’t panic! Like pre-writing this here post, I’ve planned ahead to stay connected even when I’m technically logged off. I’m just giving the old motherboard a break, and I hope you’ll  join me trading in some RAM for REM and enjoy some much-deserved downtime!

gender fluidity
Bitch’in Life, Pop Culture

Gender Fluidity for the Rest of Us

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This is the summer of what Time magazine called, “The Transgender Tipping Point.”

I for one am relieved. When Caitlyn Jenner received her ESPY Arthur Ashe Courage Award and at the outset said — “Picking out this outfit — okay, girls, I get it! You got to get the shoes, the hair, the makeup, the whole process. It was exhausting. And next, the fashion police — please be kind on me. I’m new at this.” — it’s like Yaass Caitlyn! Sing it, sister!

Let me just say for the record that Cait looks amazing and is so well put together that I’m both in awe and also jealous. Picking out killer ensembles, rocking, and then walking around in heels, and staying coiffed with perfect makeup is totally overwhelming to me and something I’ve never quite been able to master.

But have always appreciated.

This sentiment is echoed by Jill Soloway, the brilliant creator of Transparent — which if you haven’t watched it yet, don’t walk; run (hopefully not in a pair of stilettos!) and binge on the 11-Emmy-Award-nominee immediately. In an interview with Elle, Soloway said, “How do you figure out what to wear every day? Do you go through feelings of, like, I don’t know how butch to dress, or how femme, or how ladylike, or how much makeup to wear, or how to be fancy?”

Uhm, yes.

My journey to be a “normal” girl started at the very beginning, when someone handed me a doll and as I recall, I recoiled in horror. Ok, that might be an exaggeration, but the only fascination dolls held for me was how they looked stripped down and with their hair hacked really short. One year I got one of those Styling Head Dolls for my birthday, and spent the next year in abject terror, just waiting for disembodied Barbie to eviscerate me for smearing lipstick all over her face, painting her nostrils with bright blue eye shadow, and leaving her once-glorious mane a tangled mess.

While I wasn’t exactly athletic, my jam as a kid was all about running around outside, playing an early version of Survivor as I imagined myself as Mowgli, the boy who was raised by animals in The Jungle Book. This game went over like a lead balloon when I played with one of my friends who had a mom that dressed her like a 1950s porcelain doll, down to the starched white-collared dresses replete with crinolines under her skirt.

Part of me loved the girl’s Happy Days vibe, and the other half of me wanted to smear her with mud and ruin that fancy schmancy bullshit dress of hers.

Guess which side of me won? Is it surprising that was my last play date at that particular classmate’s house?

In my early teens, one summer I took a real shine to a black bowler hat that I snagged from my camp’s drama department. When paired with my Billy Dee Williams’ mustache, I looked a bit like Lando Calrissian-meets-Charlie-Chaplin. It was a fetching look, one that probably scored me the role as Action in West Side Story.

A co-ed production of West Side Story.

The only girl cast as a boy in West Side Story.

Other girls on the precipice of womanhood might have been mortified, but not me. I felt powerful and sexy as the leader of the Jets in a plain pair of Levi’s and a white t-shirt with a fake pack of cigs rolled up in the left sleeve.

I was happy to rock on with my (imaginary) cock on, singing “Gee, Office Krupke” at the top of my lungs, and giving a very heartfelt “Krup You!” to anyone who questioned my masculinity.

When I hear that Angelina Jolie’s daughter Shiloh Jolie-Pitt is being called “John Jolie-Pitt” by Internet trolls, taking a comment her mom made out of context and ignoring the fact that neither the 9 year old nor her parents have yet declared her transgender or anything else besides a kid who likes to play a rousing game of Peter Pan, I have to shake my head.

Back in the day, I clearly considered myself a tomboy, and at this juncture, Shiloh probably does too. A short ‘do and an aversion to wearing dresses — which I had as a kid and pretty much still have — does not necessarily a gender dysmorphic person make.

Gender fluidity, on the other hand, is something I think we all have in some way or another.

It’s the reason that dads are often the best moms, and also why women provide for themselves and their families in a variety of traditionally male ways.

This is not to minimize the struggle of those in the trans community, nor is it to confuse being gender fluid with being transgender. The horrible statistics are real, and I for one can’t begin to imagine the pain of feeling that the body I’m in is nothing but a torturous costume masking my authentic self.

Still, as I listen to Laura Jane Grace from the punk band Against Me! tell her story to Marc Maron on the WTF podcast, I can’t help but think that we are all just stumbling around searching for our truths, and that commonality leads to only one conclusion: we must come to each other with sensitivity, compassion, honesty, curiosity, humor, and love.

From Caitlyn Jenner’s speech, she boils down the universal importance of her being so public with her transition:

“I’m clear with my responsibility going forward, to tell my story the right way, for me, to keep learning, to reshape the landscape of how trans issues are viewed, how trans people are treated. And then more broadly to promote a very simple idea: accepting people for who they are. Accepting people’s differences.”

And again, I think Yaass Caitlyn! Sing it, sister! 

Caitlyn’s words have helped me learn how to accept the beautifully coiffed moms who sit in baseball and softball stands looking as if they just stepped out of a spa and were fluffed by a professional team of stylists and makeup artists. I forgive them for looking so freakin’ MLF-y, just as I forgive myself for being fully unable to go one damn day without spilling coffee or food on my clothes, favoring outfits that have long overstayed their welcome, and not fully mastering the art of hair removal (see: Billy Dee Williams mustache, above).

While I loved what Cait had to say, Laverne Cox has even deeper wisdom to share about the lessons she’s learned from being an outspoken trans advocate and more broadly, as a humanist:

“I love working a photo shoot and creating inspiring images for my fans, for the world and above all for myself. But I also hope that it is my talent, my intelligence, my heart and spirit that most captivate, inspire, move and encourage folks to think more critically about the world around them. Yes, Caitlyn looks amazing and is beautiful but what I think is most beautiful about her is her heart and soul, the ways she has allowed the world into her vulnerabilities. The love and devotion she has for her family and that they have for her. Her courage to move past denial into her truth so publicly. These things are beyond beautiful to me.”

Amen, and one more time: yaass sister!

So if you see me twirling my ‘stache and rocking a ripped tee and old jean shorts, just know that I’m trusting that you can look beyond the gender cues and see straight into my heart. Love is ALWAYS the answer, and it too is trans…

Transcendent.

Here’s to the tipping point that makes us all more beautiful, more authentic, and more comfortable in being fluid — and kinder — in how we view each other — and ourselves.

let go of sentimental clutter
Bitch’in Life, Parenting

Bye, Bye Baby — Letting Go of Sentimental Clutter

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It was 1997, and I was in upstate New York, hanging with my BBFs for a fun and relaxing girls’ weekend.

I was young enough to have not yet experienced the verb “parenting,” but old enough to enjoy an afternoon of the somewhat pretentious verb “antiquing.”

In a dusty little shop all the way in the back, I spied a vintage sideboard. It was a distressed “shabby chic” piece with a modern twist — it had been painted a sweet blue and had grass-green doors with a pair of faded coral flower appliqués on either side.

That would be a really cute changing table, I thought.

Let me just say I was not that baby-crazy girl. I never cradled my dolls as a kid — hell, I didn’t even own dolls because I am afraid of them (along with puppets, clowns, and carnies) — and avoided sitting actual babies like the plague. I didn’t even particularly like caring for little children; my go-to bunks as a camp counselor were any that had kids ages 13 and up.

So the errant thought of buying a piece of baby furniture was exceptionally random for me.

Still, as the afternoon wore on, I couldn’t stop thinking about that piece. And before the day ended, I found myself propelled by a fully out of character whim to plunk down my credit card and pay a small fortune to purchase the sideboard and have it delivered to my small apartment in New York City.

sideboard3

As I recall, I couldn’t even confess to my young husband what my full intentions were for the piece. I don’t think we ever truly discussed having kids — only enough to agree we’d both want a family at some point — but why rush into anything?

Two years later, we’d moved out of our cramped fifth floor walk-up and into a relatively spacious (800 sq. ft.) Park Slope co-op apartment in anticipation of our first child. I am relatively superstitious, so I never had a shower and refused to do any real preparation for the arrival of our baby.

That is except one thing: I emptied the sideboard of the junk it had been holding to that point, figured out how I’d affix a changing table pad to the top of it, and equipped the interior of the cabinet with plastic organizers just the right side to accommodate diapers, tushie cream, and all the other newborn essentials.

And so the antique sideboard began its new journey as baby room furniture, serving its first master for nearly two years before it was handed down to my newborn daughter.

Although the piece was pretty unisex, it was definitely more girly than not, and so the sideboard stayed in my daughter’s room as she grew from living in a closet (the only space left by the time we busted out of our Park Slope co-op), to having her own bedroom once we moved into our first full-on house in California. As she grew, the sideboard evolved along with her — from changing table to bureau to toy chest and finally, to annoyance.

“Mom, do I have to have this thing in my room?” she groaned as a young tween. “It’s so babyish.”

And so I lugged my beloved sideboard, now crammed with old Halloween costumes, scuffed up dolls, worn board games, early reading books, fading school art projects, completed workbooks, and early-grade homework out to our garage-turned-guest room. Much like the Isle of Misfit Toys, the back house was a repository of all the furniture we’d had, loved, and no longer had much use for.

Bit by bit, I sold off the old stuff that had been with us since Brooklyn. And while I had a nostalgic moment here and there, I was happy to unload what no longer worked so I had the space and the funds to replace those things with more modern accouterment that fit our newest stage — life with teens.

Most recently, our renovated garage has undergone a “man cave” update — Mid-Century Modern furniture that gives the place a cool California vibe.

And so the sideboard is now officially in the wrong room, wrong century.

Eight months ago, when my BBF helped me renovate the room, she called the sideboard “clutter.”

More accurately, it’s sentimental clutter.

Which is why the journey to get rid of it has been an active one — much like parenting and antiquing. Initially I thought I’d be mercenary, and so I emptied the sideboard of all her treasures, paired it down to one small box of keepsakes, and tossed or donated the rest. For a minute I convinced myself if it held my office supplies, the sideboard would be a keeper.

But time has progressed and I’m now in the throes of working from home more than ever before, and that precious space the sideboard occupies would be much better served with a desk instead.

Still, I couldn’t help but try to make it work.

First, I pulled up a chair and attempted use the sideboard as a desk, but that was awkward.

Next I tried sitting on the couch and using a lap desk, but that felt impermanent. And I was also worried about the electromagnetic radiation thrown off the computer and directly onto my nether region.

Finally, I scoured every inch of my house, trying to find a place where the piece wouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb. A sore baby’s thumb to be exact.

No dice.

I decided that I needed to make a mental shift about this sentimental scenario. I attempted being Zen about the whole thing, trying to picture the sideboard as the intimate object that it is, and focusing on the idea that the memories of the sideboard are already safe from being lost.

But I’m not Buddhist — I’m neurotic by nature (see electromagnetic radiation and laptops, above) — and the thought of getting rid of the last bastion of babyhood stirred up too much anxiety. And sadness, too.

That was until one day when I brought out snacks to my son and his friends as they were rockin’ the man cave full-tilt, playing video games and blasting tunes. I caught sight of the sideboard and was struck by how ridiculously out of place it was.

Then I had another vision: one where my son moves into the man cave and uses the desk — my desk — to do his own work. Sure I’ll make a fuss as he moves my stuff around, but I won’t care that he uses it to finish high school, returns home for breaks from college, and someday in the way distant future, uses it when he comes for a visit with his own kids.

Rather than a shitty Ikea desk (which is my default place for fairly disposable furniture), I pictured a cool, antique desk that would fit with the chill Cali vibe of the space.

Something that had served another family, was greatly loved and appreciated, and now was ready to move on to our home and become part of our family.

Well, our history, anyways.

And so, I let go of my precious sideboard. Packed it up and gave it to my friend Lady Schneider to sell to just the right person.

So if you see me measuring the top of a Mid-Century Modern desk, just know that I’m pretty handy when it comes to affixing changing tables to regular furniture. Not that I’m ready to be a grandma — I’m not, by a long shot — but there’s never any harm at being prepared to make future happy memories.

bitchin answers to stupid questions
Humor, Parenting

Bitch’in Answers to 10 Stupid Questions

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Have you tried asking Siri what zero divided by zero is yet?

Before you do, please be forewarned that after all these years, Siri is done with stupid questions and has gone to the dark side.

In short, Siri is now a punishing bitch.

While “indeterminate” is her “straight” answer, if you’re lucky, Siri will tell you this:

“Imagine that you have zero cookies and you split them evenly among zero friends. How many cookies does each person get?

See? It doesn’t make sense. And Cookie Monster is sad that there are no cookies. And you are sad that you have no friends.”

Oh, snap, Siri! When this kinda shade is thrown by a disembodied robot voice, it’s somehow even more damning. And endearing.

Which is the perfect combination for an excellent comeback. It’s what Mad magazine’s Al Jaffee perfected with “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions.” (Remember those? I believe your Mad magazine collection is hidden under your shoebox full of Wacky Pack stickers.)

And it’s EXACTLY what you need right now. Because summer, which is lousy with mind-dulling scenarios — vacation, extreme heat, and no school to keep it all in check — is the perfect breeding ground for inane questions.

So the next time someone asks you the following, like Siri and Al Jaffee, you’ll be ready with some bitch’in answers to stupid questions.

1. Question: Is dinner ready?

Bitch’in Answers: 

  • I don’t know – what are you making?
  • Has the smoke alarm gone off yet? If it has, then yes, it’s ready.
  • Good question – what time did you make the reservation for?

2. Question: Can I just finish this game, and then I’ll do it?

Bitch’in Answers: 

  • As long as the fate of this planet depends on it, sure.
  • Of course — while you finish up, I’ll just turn off this pesky green button so you’re not distracted.
  • I’d say yes, but everyone in [name of game] and I took a vote and we’ve all determined you totally suck at this game. You’re much better at [fill in the thing your kid is trying to avoid doing].

3. Question: Are you almost here?

Bitch’in Answers:  

  • Depends on what you mean by “here.” If you mean still at home and about to get in the car, then yes, I’m almost there.
  • Sure. Where did you say you were again?
  • Depends what you mean by “almost.” If that means in 20 minutes after I stop to get a coffee, then yes, I’m almost there.

4. Question: Where are we going?

Bitch’in Answers: 

  • Considering all I do for you, I’m pretty sure I’m going to Heaven. And for asking me where we’re going when I just told you 17 times, well, you can guess where you’re going.
  • This is a test. If you can think back three seconds and remember what I just said, then you’ll win. If you can’t, well, you get to go anyways.
  • If you can’t retain what I just said, then I’d say you’re going nowhere fast. And I’m very worried.

5. Question: Do I have to go to practice?

Bitch’in Answers: 

  • I’m not sure. Why don’t you call your coach and ask him/her that same question?
  • So funny you’d ask. Your coach just sent out an email telling you to please skip practice. She’d/He’d much rather you clean your room today instead.
  • You don’t, but I’m so there. There’s nothing I like better than dropping everything to run to your practice.

6. Question: Can I do it later?

Bitch’in Answers: 

  • Yes, if by later you mean three seconds from now.
  • Actually, later just called in a pre-emptive strike to say that he’d prefer you do it now.
  • Absolutely. I’m sure your new mom/dad will be thrilled when you finally get it done.

7. Question: Are we almost there?

Bitch’in Answers: 

  • If by “almost” you mean another four hours, then yes, we’re almost there.
  • Oh, sorry! You were sleeping when we got there the first time, so just so you wouldn’t miss the exciting drive (flight/train ride/etc.); we turned around and started over.
  • If by “there” you mean the middle of nowhere, then yes, we have arrived. Would you prefer it if I left you here instead of [your destination]?

8. Question: Do you have any gum?

Bitch’in Answers: 

  • I do, but it’s holding my teeth in place at the moment, so I really can’t share.
  • If you look under your seat, you can probably find some — and as a bonus, it’s already conveniently chewed!
  • Totally — go ahead and stick your hand in my purse. There’s some gum in there somewhere, along with that baby alligator you flushed down the toilet, an angry puppet, and a hungry Venus Flytrap.

9. Question: Where did I put my [missing thing]?

Bitch’in Answers: 

  • Let me think back to when I was in my demon form, inhabiting your body… oh yeah, it’s under your bed.
  • I’m not sure — do you remember where you put your eyes? Because I’m betting if you could find those first, you’ll definitely be able to find your [missing thing].
  • If that’s your way of asking me to look for your [missing thing], that’s fine, but just know if I find it first, my fee is $100.00.

10. Question: What are you doing now? (Note: This is always asked when you’re busy, but your kid wants you to drop everything and tend to his/her momentary whim.)

Bitch’in Answers: 

  • I know I look busy, but it’s just a ruse — I’m waiting to do whatever you ask, master…. Just kidding.
  • Teaching myself Mandarin while I [cook dinner, fold laundry, pay bills, answer email — whatever it is you really are doing]. Not to make you feel bad about yourself for being lazy, although all you’re doing right now is asking me what I’m doing. Want me to teach you some Mandarin instead?
  • I was just waiting for you to ask me what I’m doing. Thank you!  I guess my work here is done. (Mime dropping a mic, take a bow, and quickly run away.)

So if you see me asking Siri what the meaning of life is, just know that I’m not really looking for an answer — just taking a lesson in snark from the master. Because as Siri and my old friend Carl Sagan once said, “There are naive questions, tedious questions, ill-phrased questions, questions put after inadequate self-criticism. But every question is a cry to understand the world. There is no such thing as a dumb question.”

And now you have 30 bitch’in answers to questions to address all those naive/tedious/ill-phrased/reflective of inadequate self-criticism questions!

magic mike xxl
My Bitches, Pop Culture

I Saw Magic Mike XXL So You Don’t Have To

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If you went to see the first Magic Mike, you know how torturous the whole experience was.

All that sitting through Matthew McConaughey’s (“Dallas”) hilarious, oily MC’ing, Channing Tatum’s Magic Mike, the stripper with a heart of gold, Joe Manganiello’s “Big Dick” Richie and his penis pump… all that bumping, grinding, greased up abs, screaming women, unlikely romance, guys in g-strings, etc., etc.

Ugh, so tedious.

So when Magic Mike XXL was released, I figured it was my duty to watch the movie for you as your Bitch’in Suburbia and also as a “straight” vagina totin’  American AND as a fag hag who can spot a good scene for her gay boyfriends a mile away.

In a nut-shell: the filmmakers (99% male) thought that injecting a lot more dialog to show us that men are just like women — sharing feelings, gabbing about probiotic fro-yo, yapping about waxing, and then waxing poetic about marriage — was going “big.”

Sorry fellas, trying to hit that spot with your money shot meant too much bro time, not enough show time. (NOTE: This is a direct line uttered by Dallas’ MC replacement, Rome (played by the most excellent Jada Pinkett Smith).

And they’re not just strippers, dammit! They’re male entertainers, with the sole purpose to make all women feel like queens. Exalted, desired, and worshipped.

This is not what I have a problem with, mind you. I agree with all of that 100%.

But the truth about “male entertainers” is that the cheesy cliches — the cops, army men, fire fighters, etc. — are not so much of a turn-on. The times I’ve been face to face (well, more like crotch to face) with a stripper hasn’t offered the candy store approach of the fictional stripper convention that Mike and co. attend in Myrtle Beach, SC. (July 4th fireworks included!)

In real life, I’ve gotten a lap dance from a bored stripper who could barely muster a hip thrust to Prince’s “Darling Nikki” (I mean, seriously?), and hopped across the Canadian border for a bachelorette party that had a counter-climax: a faux circle jerk around the bride-to-be, mimed by a bunch of flabby, flaccid Canucks.

So the reality is that male entertainers come in all shapes and (ahem) sizes, Magic Mike is just a particularly well-manicured fantasy that perhaps we all need.

Lord knows the film makers are banking on it: the first installment cost just $7 million to make, and earned almost $168 million worldwide.

Can you blame the lads for wanting to make it bigger, longer, and more pleasurable?

Another bone(r) I had to pick is their inevitable portrayal of undersexed, pricey wine-drinking cougars. In their search to find somewhere to crash, the crew turns up at the home of a girl one of them was romancing, but instead find the young woman’s mom, rich Southern belle Nancy Davidson (Andi MacDowell), and her sad-sack posse of lonely, “my husband only screws me in the dark” ladies. Of course the dudes turn on the charm, and every X-chromosome in da house — young and old — get to feel the heat.

That is except the one angry chickadee (Amber Heard) who prefers to eat cake by herself in the kitchen… clearly the only person Mike is attracted to. The boy will dance his way into a challenge from any girl with the most cake, regardless of if he’s more of a cookie man himself. Although he does get bonus points from me for his female stripper name (“Clitoria Labia”) vs. the mopey millennial’s (“Dolly Titz”)

The only bow to cougardom I enjoyed was when Richie finally finds his “glass slipper” (aka, giant vagina) and has his one fulfilling sexual romp of the movie with Nancy. Still, did there have to be a Cinderella/fairy tale allusion in that moment, too?

Real women aren’t necessarily obsessed with fairy tales and marriage, or like whipped cream squirted all over their thighs. Just sayin’.

They do, however, enjoy a sexy dance in an unexpected place, set to a Backstreet Boys tune:

We also appreciate the message of female empowerment, which happens when it’s women doing the objectifying. Even if it’s mildly deflated when the objects sing dopey songs, get the ladies wet not just by feigning cunnilingus but also by tossing off a “heartfelt” compliment or two, and have to take drugs to get to their Oprah moment of self-awareness and a you go girl breakthrough to their authentic selves.

Oh, and Channing Tatum can dance the fuck out of anything — literally.

What’s my verdict, then?

Magic Mike got my 15 clams already, and if you don’t feel like driving your taco truck to the theater, you’ll surely be able to enjoy it in the privacy of your own home soon. But if you’d like a fun night out with your girls or boys, it’s a frothy little summer romp that’s far less expensive than say, flying to Vegas for an all-pro revue complete with bottle service.

So if you see me at deep-throating a water bottle (See: Richie “Big Dick” above) and using my iPhone to check if my brows are on fleek, just know that there are some fun lessons to be learned from MMXXL. And while I don’t always love being pandered to, this time I’ll take it… with a side of whipped cream.

100 reasons you'll always be a camper
Bitch’in Life

100 Reasons You’ll Always Be a Camper

4 comments

It’s that time of year again — summer solstice has turned the air soft, sweet, and warm, and kids everywhere are packing up and heading off to camp.

If I could throw myself into a trunk or a duffle bag, believe me, I would. There are many excellent things about being a grown-up, but not spending the lazy, hazy daze with no greater stress than getting yourself to fourth period after rest hour — I mean, c’mon, who doesn’t wish they were back at camp?

This summer my camp celebrates its 65th year, and I’m debating going back for the auspicious occasion. Then again, I’m with Thomas Wolfe — you can’t go home again. And actually, I don’t necessarily need to go anywhere.

Once a camper, always a camper.

Don’t believe me? Here are 100 reasons you’ll always be a camper:

100) When you wake up each morning, a bugle goes off inside your head, ensuring you’re definitely up for the day. Bonus points if it includes a record crackle and someone telling you to “wakey, wakey, wakey!” (Or some equally horrible/excellent early morning greeting.)

99) Lakes infested with water snakes, nasty fish, leeches, and snapping turtles don’t scare you. Chlorinated pools, on the other hand, do.

98) Even if you’re not particularly athletic, you are super competitive. Because you know that a keen sense of trivia, the ability to balance, say, an egg on a spoon, cheering louder than the rest (and losing your voice to prove it) or being really good at charades and other group games is as crucial to winning as anything else.

97) Give you a handful of jacks, and you could keep yourself busy for a solid hour or more.  (Just pass the baby powder if you’re playing on a wooden floor.)

96) You can whip out a French braid in two-minutes flat — on yourself or on a friend. And if you’re a dude, you at least know what a French braid is.

95) You’ve known the excitement of a Color War break, and you sometimes tap into that feeling when you need the power to crush any obstacle in your path for not just yourself, but also for your comrades and perhaps the good of humanity overall.

94) Similarly, when you face a difficult situation, somewhere in the back of your mind you hear, “You can do it, [name here], you can do it. You can do it [name here] nuthin’ to it.” Or whatever pump-you-up cheer you prefer, but it MUST have multiple claps for maximum impact. Bonus points for cheering out loud in every day situations.

93) You know the lyrics to pretty much the entire James Taylor catalog, notably “You’ve Got a Friend.”

92) Showering is optional, especially if there’s a lake nearby.

91) You keep several types of stationary on hand, just in case anyone feels like swapping with you. Bonus points for stationary with rainbows or really cool typography.

90) You can easily rough it, as long as there’s an outlet somewhere for your hairdryer and they don’t take away your donuts on Sunday morning.

89) “Stairway to Heaven” makes you super horny.

88) You still remember your first “real” kiss… and it was in the last five minutes of a social.

87) You can short-sheet a bed. And maybe you do that every so often to your kids’ beds for shits ‘n giggles.

86) You have oddball talents from balancing a spoon on your nose, to singing in a convincing falsetto, lighting your farts on fire, and/or finding a white lifesaver in a plate of whipped cream… with your hands tied behind your back. Bonus points if you do any of the above at least a few times a year.

85) Tie-dying a t-shirt, shorts, a bra/ jock strap, socks, a sheet, a sweatshirt, a scrunchie, or anything you can get your hands on is a snap. You can also wing it with a pack of Kool-Aid if there’s no real tie-dye on hand.

84) Mad-libs are your jam.

83) You can sleep anywhere, although you prefer the top bunk.

82) Give you a handful of string, and you can Cat’s Cradle like a mo’fo.

81) Do you canoe? Oh yes, you do!

80) You lost your virginity at camp… to a wake that road up a touch too high when you were getting up on one ski.

79) You’ve had lice. Or at least thought you did.

78) You’re a hugger. And aren’t afraid to kiss your best friend and say I love you… and mean it.

77) You can rhyme almost any word, and you at times overuse words like pep, zest, and spirit.

76) Pitching a tent is no biggie, although you’d prefer it if your counselor did it.

75) Buses make you feel excited, or alternatively, unspeakably sad.

74) You shove your family members out of the way each day as you race to get the mail. Secretly you suspect today is the day you’ll FINALLY get that care package you’ve been waiting for that includes comic books and Tiger Beat magazines with sticks of gum taped inside of them. Bonus points if you can’t mask your disappointment when the aforementioned care package doesn’t arrive, and the mail doesn’t include any good letters for you. (Bills DEFINITELY don’t count!)

73) After lunch, you need about an hour — a rest hour, to be exact — to recover from the morning’s activities. Sometimes this is a blatant nap time, and other times, like at work, you keep your rest hour to yourself.

72) You have a poster tacked up over your bed. (Shaun Cassidy, Leif Garrett, Scott Baio — pick your poison!)

71) You know all the words to “Summer Lovin.” Well, that and all of the songs from Grease, and a million other classic musicals — whether you acted in them or just used them as songs for Color War, for someone that almost never goes to the theater, you have an amazing repertoire. Bonus points if you whip out a show tune at least once a day, depending on the trigger word. (i.e., “Tonight” from West Side Story, “So Long, Farewell” from The Sound of Music, etc.)

70) You’re a kick ass tennis player or at least have a handful of activities you enjoy doing on a tennis court. (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more…)

69) When your kid has a class project, you can make bubble letters for his/her poster like no tomorrow. And your calligraphy isn’t half-bad, either. Also, you think every poster looks much better with at least one rainbow and/or as many stickers as possible.

68) You get your period at the same time as all of your friends. And you know this because you ask.

67) If you could bottle the smell of pine trees and lake water, you would.

66) You love restaurants that have communal dining tables because it reminds you of the camp mess hall.

65) S’mores are your favorite dessert, and if hard-pressed, you can roast a marshmallow like a champ (brown not black!) over a gas burner.

64) From all those years of star gazing, you can rattle off most of the constellations. Or at least a dirty version of what the constellations might be.

63) You occasionally wear white socks with flip-flops or Birkenstocks. Oh, and you have Birkenstocks.

62) When your parents come to your house, you secretly hope they’ll bring you red pistachio nuts, or at least a can of Pringles.

61) You’re a pro at using Sun-In, Neet, and Jolene Cream Bleach… and now that you think about it, why do you spend so much on your hairdresser and esthetician?

60) You also remember how much Johnson’s Baby Oil or Hawaiian Tropic, SPF-0 that you slathered on yourself and pray that the skin damage was only temporary.

59) You keep a flashlight by your bed, just in case you feel like reading under the covers without waking anyone up.

58) You can still recite from heart certain passages of Forever and Wifey. Or whatever semi-pornographic novel was popular at your camp and/or in your era.

57) You are a master atomic wedgie-giver. You also can throw down a mean titty-twister (regardless of if you’re a male or a female), and know exactly how to make someone wet his or her bed. In other words, you could go work for the CIA without any additional training.

56) You turn pretty much any song into a camp song. (See #94, #77, #71)

55) The call of a loon doesn’t freak you out; in fact, you find it soothing.

54) You only do your laundry once a week, and without fail, you always find yourself wondering where the hell the van is to pick it up today and hope that all will be returned — slightly pink or gray but definitely commercially clean — tomorrow.

53) Your internal clock is set to a countdown that begins in mid-August, and ends in late June. In other words, you live ten months for two.

52) You know what Bug Juice is, and you’re not afraid to drink it. In fact, you have whipped up a batch at home, and realized that a shot of vodka is just what it needs to cut the five pounds of sugar and cloying “tropical” flavor.

51) If you ever feel like you need a good cry, you just channel the last campfire and/or the bus ride home from camp.

50) You can’t really eat watermelon in public because without fail it turns into a seed-spitting contest, and who needs that at a company picnic? (Well, maybe everyone does…!)

49) If you ever see a person wearing clothing with your camp logo on it, you are compelled to immediately engage him/her, do at least one camp cheer with him/her, and give him/her a giant hug when you part ways.

48) Your camp color(s) are your favorite color(s). (NOTE: My camp’s color is pink, which admittedly is a struggle for a punk rock soul. The introduction of purple as its complement has made it easier for my color nostalgia.)

47) You send your kids to camp. Bonus points if it’s the same camp that you went to, so secretly the opportunity to visit the campus and have dinner with old friends is as important to you as giving your children the gift of camp.

46) The smell of fire says campfire to you, always. This is helpful because the smell of fire in real life doesn’t normally come with pleasant feelings.

45) You have a secret costume stash year-round and not just for Halloween… because you never know when you’ll need to dress up or go in drag.

44) You’ve known exactly who you are from a young age because being at camp meant being exactly who you are.

43) There isn’t a ghost story you don’t know — and are secretly a little terrified of. But you’re very good at regaining your composure after your first scream.

42) Whenever you walk down a dirt road, you can’t help but feel nostalgic. Oh, and you seek out dirt roads to walk down, too.

41) Give you the choice between a five-star hotel and a cabin, it’s no contest. You’d stay in the cabin FIRST, and then move to the five-star hotel to take a “real” shower, flush the toilet more than once, and sleep in a bed with a mattress thicker than an infant’s arm.

40) You have a tendency to cheer at mealtimes. And if it’s someone’s birthday… watch out!

39) Speaking of birthdays — your favorite message to send your old camp friends on their special day includes something about kings, or queens, or bishops, too.

38) You got all of your game from camp socials. Or none of it. Either way applies, because camp flings never discriminated.

37) You still have letters from your parents tucked away in a scrapbook or memory box somewhere. And you also might have a note or two from your summer boy/girlfriend, too.

36) You can pick locks like a champ, thanks to your training raiding the camp kitchen and/or canteen.

35) You buy Lipton’s Cup-a-Soup, and prefer to eat it straight from the package.

34) Dining outdoors always transports you to special meals at camp. Now go grill me a damn hotdog, thank you very much.

33) You wear shoes, but then again, you’d rather not.

32) You know how to juggle or rock a hacky sack cuz your favorite counselor taught you all those years ago.

31) Sure you use a toilet, but if you had your druthers, you’d cop a quick squat OR pee on a tree outdoors, and be on your way.

30) You move around in the dark like a Ninja — nobody knows you are there… or gone… until it’s too late.

29) When you’re feeling sad, lonely, trapped, or otherwise bummed, you can close your eyes and think about camp — and let that feeling of pure, unadulterated freedom wash right over you.

28) Before you leave for work in the morning, you tidy the house and pray whoever is inspecting that day doesn’t try to bounce a quarter off your bed. Bonus points if you make your bed. Extra bonus points if you use hospital corners.

27) Your favorite desserts (aside from s’mores) are Whoopie Pies, camp cookies, and for very special occasions, Baked Alaska.

26) Your spirituality involves wearing whites, putting your arms around friends on either side of you, being in nature, hearing a poem that doesn’t exactly rhyme but makes you tear up anyway, listening to the strains of a soft guitar, and singing your heart out.

25) You wish you still had a counselor — to direct you in the day-to-day, be the encouragement you need at just the right time, lend you a shoulder to cry on, or just someone to bring you Dunkin’ Munchkins (or your camp’s equivalent) in the middle of the night.

24) Actually, you wish you could BE a counselor (again if you’ve been one before). Because nobody was cooler, had more fun, or rocked a freakin’ puka shell necklace for a day off like a counselor. Plus is there anything more delicious than a cold beer (or six, or 12) after a long hot day teaching the children how to be better people?

23) There are things you will do for pizza that are incredibly embarrassing but exceptionally memorable at the same time.

22) You are a master of getting busy with your bae in unusual places — in a canoe, under a stage, in a shed, deep in the bushes — you name it, you’ve had to pick twigs out of your hair on more than one occasion.

21) Hiking, even if it’s on your block, makes you feel like you’ve moved mountains… because doing even a quarter mile hike at camp made you feel like you just climbed Mt. Everest.

20) No matter where you are, you can squeeze all you need to survive into four narrow drawers, or better yet, cubbies. Bonus points if the drawers stick. You love the sound of squeaky wood almost as much as the call of a loon (See #55).

19) You dig a person with an exotic accent because the foreigners were the hottest counselors of all. (Thank you, BUNAC!)

18) Whenever there’s a nasty cut, vomiting, a high fever, or basically any ailment to deal with, you secretly wish you could just dump your kid off at the infirmary, steal a cold can of ginger ale from the nurse’s fridge, and be on your way.

17) You also wish you had a maintenance crew, in-house bakers and chefs, and a caretaker for the off-season… at your own house.

16) Rainy days don’t ever get you down. In fact, if you could find a pick-up game of Capture the Flag, you would.

15) You still hide candy in your sock drawer.

14) Sometimes you forget to lock the door of a bathroom stall when you’re out and about because since when do bathroom stalls need locks? At any rate, it’s no biggie if someone accidentally opens the door, as you’re used to getting walked in on during the most embarrassing moments — crapping, changing a tampon, etc.

13) Speaking of bathrooms, toilet paper is by far the most versatile item in your house. It’s perfect for wiping up spills, decorating, wearing as a costume or headband, using as a bookmark, etc.

12) You still find yourself wishing you had a social each and every Saturday night.

11) Whenever you go to a friend’s house, you feel free to help yourself to his/her clothes — even without asking. Sure it’s caused a few awkward situations, but you did finally score that Esprit t-shirt or that Larry Bird jersey you always had your eye on.

10) Laying out in the sun is something you still do, even though it’s not PC or necessarily healthy anymore. A good tan is the sign of a happy camper.

9) Making a fool of yourself is not what scares you — not having a good number for the talent show does. This makes you exceptionally entertaining at company retreats and suburban gatherings.

8) Sisterhood or brotherhood is something you know, love, and live. This is one of the many values that camp taught you that you hold dear. Well, that and the joy of pantsing your most beloved sisters and/or brothers.

7) You know how to fold a flag. And make hospital corners. These two things are not unrelated.

6) You also know how to sail a boat, make gimp/friendship bracelets, shoot an arrow, ride a horse, kick a medicine ball about a mile, and about a million other random leisure activities.

5) You can’t help but sing, “Toooodaaaaayyy is beach day, today is beach day…” every time you go to the shore.

4) Your camp resume is better than your real one — you starred in a play, were the best player on the team, was a Color War captain or co-captain, and/or won awards for your various abilities. You were (and still are) www.thecampshit.com.

3) You have a great deal of Indian lore knowledge — none of it necessarily real — but it sounds convincing, albeit pretty racist when you think about it.

2) While you’re not much of a dancer or a singer, that doesn’t stop you from believing you can choreograph the shit out of any routine and busting one out at the top of your lungs. (See #94, #77, #71, #56, #6, #5)

2 1/2) You still have ALL of your camp yearbooks.

1) Sure you’ve made new friends, but you ALWAYS keep the old. One is silver, and the other’s gold… and you know which one’s which.

So if you see me thanking all of my camp friends for contributing (especially on Facebook — 51 comments and counting!), just know it’s because I’m still connected to them in a profound, life-long way. Because you know, I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain… I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end… I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend… but I’ve always thought that I’d see you again.

And in my camp dreams, I see all of my camp friends — don’t you? Because if you do, then you know for sure you’re a camper.

For more on camp, check out my other camp-lovin’ posts: CAMP!, The Art of Color War: 10 Ways Camp Teaches Us To Be Winners, and You Know You’re a Camper When…

26 essential things dads provide
Bitch’in Life, Parenting

26 Essential Things Dads Provide

2 comments

Once upon a time, what a mother did and what a father did was very clear — moms would hold down the household fort, and dads went off into the world to fight the good fight and provide for the family.

Lucky for GenX, the feminist movement kicked in when we were still in diapers, and that paved the way to lighten (well, at least shift) the load for X- and Y-totin’ humans.

It turns out that moms can bring home the bacon AND fry it up in the pan, and dads often are the best moms.

Cut to today, where tasks according to gender lines are extremely fluid (just ask Caitlyn Jenner, whose kids still call her dad, at least for now!), and it’s all hands on deck for all aspects of the very active verb parenting.

And the verb provide is also a shared responsibility in our über-expensive, über-competitive, über-everything world.

Still, there are some things that dads provide that nobody else can — or will, or can do in the same way, depending on the situation. So whether you are a father or simply have one, in honor of Father’s Day, here’s an alphabetical look at all the many things that dudes supply:

Answers: This is not to say that moms don’t have answers — we certainly do, and usually are more than willing to not just share the answers, but also debate the question — but dads are very good at being short, sweet, and to the point. Anything that requires quick reasoning, logic, or has to do with sports, numbers, or directions somewhere, I point the children to my husband or my dad. Please note what I just wrote sounds totally sexist, and I assure you I could figure that stuff out… but why bother when the Y-chromosome in da house has a knack for that stuff?

Balls: Sure the ladies have balls, but not nearly as literally speaking as the dudes do. Raising children is ultimately an act of courage, and it takes balls to make hard choices, especially when they affect the tiny humans you’ve created. It takes a big brass pair to be a dad in this day and age — or any day or any age. Also, there are the figurative balls, as in sports, and it’s been my experience that fathers often lead the youth sports charge, be it as volunteer coaches and refs, or even just cheering (fuming/muttering under his breath/etc.) in the stands.

Confidence: Dads can bolster confidence like no other. It starts with unconditional love; from there, a father’s stalwart belief in his daughter’s or son’s abilities is the secret ingredient to raising strong, resilient people. This doesn’t just apply to successes; it also extends to the times things aren’t going so well. A dad’s unwavering confidence in a child — no matter how old that kid is! — can be the rudder that helps steer the boat out of rough waters.

Direction: I don’t know about you, but whenever I’m lost, I always call my dad for directions. This is a figurative AND a literal situation.

Encouragement: Encouragement goes hand in hand with confidence. As a mother, I see giving my kids daily words of encouragement as one of the more important things that I do. And I’ve noticed that when it’s my husband doing the encouraging, it somehow sinks in more quickly and perhaps even more deeply. (Maybe that’s just my own perspective — and maybe my dad needs to bolster my confidence in this arena =)

Friendship: While I’m a firm believe that parents aren’t their kids’ friends, there is a buddy element in the relationship that’s undeniable. Just the other day, I came home to find my son and husband watching Pulp Fiction, one of our favorite movies. Later, as the two Googled quotes and watched videos about little-known Pulp Fiction facts (like this one), I couldn’t help but think about what a nice friendship the two have. Like Pumpkin and Honey Bunny. Vincent and Jules. (And NOT Marcellus Wallace and the Gimp!)

Goofiness: This may be more gender stereotyping, but men are goofy. If they weren’t, would we have Homer Simpson, Peter Griffin, Stan Smith, or even Fred Flintstone? Amiright?

Humor: This is a double entendre — like I said above, men are goofy, and many of the dads I know have great senses of humor (you’ve gotta laugh a little to get through some of the more ridiculous aspects of parenting!) But they also can listen to a long, drawn-out story told by children of all ages, and humor them by patiently listening.

Inspiration: I think now more than ever, parents are aware of how much they can be role models to their kids. And while dads have always been a source of inspiration for their children, they are also more accessible in some ways, and share more of their personal pursuits with their families. The result is a big, phat dose of up-close, modeled behavior that the young’uns can draw on as they grow-up.

Justice: When it comes to making punishments fit crimes, nobody’s better at that than a dad. As a part of the Wait Till Your Father Gets Home generation (a precursor of The Simpsons, Family Guy, and American Dad), my perception has always been that somehow a dad’s punishment is the most serious of all. Again, maybe this is some bad ass gender stereotyping, but when a dad turns his sense of justice on say, obnoxious parents talking smack in the stands from a team that’s playing your child’s; a bully trying to get the best of your kid; or a neighbor who’s not being so neighborly… watch out as a dude can go all Dirty Harry in the blink of an eye.

Knowledge: Is it me, or do most men have an extraordinary capacity for a wealth of facts — both useful and obscure? This is why I always enjoy a male partner for Trivial Pursuit, and weep with joy that my dad still can rock the Periodic Table of the Elements and knows by heart every single math formula under the sun… and is an excellent teacher to boot.

Life: While men don’t necessarily get the dramatic birthing stories that us vagina-totin’ peeps do, you gotta give it up to the fertilization they provide that makes all things possible.

Motivation: Dads can be an excellent source of motivation. Take for example my own pop — many years ago, when I was in the funk of early motherhood and my husband was starting up a business, my dad was the one to tell me to get off my ass and help with the family biz (see: Confidence, above). That was a big motivator, but then again, the push comes in all shapes and sizes. So, for example, when I see my husband motivating my kids each morning to get up, get themselves ready, and out the door, I’m grateful.

Nurturing: Traditionally moms have been seen to be the primary nurturers, but in today’s world, it’s really 50/50. Case in point: the number of men hauling kids around in BabyBjörn carriers — and you thought that was just a punch line from The Hangover. (Seriously, just check out BabyBjörn’s Instagram feed.)

Optimism: My dad has a saying: “There’s nothing I can do about it, so I’m not gonna worry about it.” If that’s not the ultimate definition of optimism, I don’t know what is!

Patience: While we can all be impatient at times, the trick to good parenting is to not lose your cool during the waiting game. It’s been my experience that the men in my life are far more willing to patiently help a kid complete a tedious science fair trifold, throw the ball a million times until the child can consistently catch, help a wobbly new bike rider to go up and down a street a zillion times until s/he’s peddling confidently, etc.

Quality of Life: This goes straight to the heart of the impulse to provide; most of the dads I know are hell-bent on giving their kids every opportunity possible, and as nice of a lifestyle as they can. This includes being a hands-on parent, because in the end, the most valuable thing a dad can do to ensure quality of life is to be a consistent part of his family’s day-to-day.

Reason: Again, another double entendre. Dads can explain things like no other with clear, reasonable explanations. And I’ve also found that when a child is being totally unreasonable, fathers have a way of talking the kid down from the ceiling to a calmer state. At least that’s what my dad does for me =)

Strength: This is both physical and emotional — in a lot of ways, dads need to be the toughest mudders of them all…. whether they’re actually participating in one, or just making it through life like the rest of us.

Talk: Dads walk the talk, have talks (including THE TALK), and give pep talks. Kids converse with their dads much differently than their moms; in my experience, I have had really deep talks with my own father in just a few short sentences.

Unconditional love: Of all the things a dad can provide, this is the most important. Because love is the answer, and there’s never any question about that!

Values: One of the more important things a dad provides to his family is a clear picture of what he values. This can be as deep as integrity, virtue, honestly, loyalty, etc., or as light as cooking burgers a certain way, taking time to read a Sunday paper (remember Sunday papers?!), or making a priority of seeing live music on a regular basis.

Wisdom: Wisdom is knowledge’s kissing cousin, but it also includes insight from personal experience. A father’s wisdom is not about sheltering his children from the things that can (and probably will) befall them; instead, it’s about giving them the tools to pick themselves up, brush themselves off, and carry on.

XO: Is there ANYTHING better than a hug and a kiss from your dad? Didn’t think so.

Yumminess: Of course a dad can be yummy in his own right, but I’m talking about those dads who cook or bake, too. Right now I have a Black Forest cake in my fridge that my dad made. Hungry? Jealous? Uh huh – that’s what I thought. Maybe your dad should make you one, too!

Zest: Are all dads zesty? Mine is (especially when he adds lemon zest to a recipe). And my husband is… if yours went to camp, he has zest (and pep and might and spirit, too!). Z is also for zebra, but that doesn’t really fit in with this post (unless you are a baby zebra).

So this Sunday if you see me running through the alphabet and hanging with the dads in my life, just know that unlike the ABC’s, being a super dad that provides so much for his family is never easy. But like motherhood, it’s definitely the toughest job you’ll ever love!

Happy Father’s Day, my bastards in suburbia (and beyond)!

resist the racket
Parenting

How to Resist The Latest Parenting Racket

5 comments

They say that there’s a sucker born every minute, so what does that say about the people that brought that thar sucker into the world?

That’s right — it takes one (or more accurately, two) to make one.

And today’s parents that are so fully devoted to providing our precious offspring with “the perfect life” and getting a do-over for perceived deficiencies in our own upbringings are perhaps the biggest chumps ever created.

Don’t believe me? Let’s review for a minute your childhood vs. your child’s/children’s:

YOU: When you were born, your parents took you home in an outfit provided by the hospital. Later, the blanket you were swaddled in became the perfect rag to clean off your spit-up and sponge down your changing table.

YOUR KID(S): Your child(ren) came home in a photo-shoot-ready coordinated outfit from the Gap or better. Baby’s first blanket was as much a fashion statement as it was a lovey.

YOU: You rode home from the hospital in your mom’s arms. As you grew, you bumped around in the back of the family sedan, or if you were fancy, a station wagon — no seatbelts required. Extra points if mom or dad or both chain-smoked with the windows up and the heat on during the winter. Outside of the car, you were moved from place to place in a simple stroller that you graduated from the second you could walk.

YOUR KID(S): Left the hospital in an infant car seat that required a master’s degree in physics to install properly. As s/he grew, the car seat only got more elaborate, with all sorts of built-in safety features, special padding, cup holders, and more. The booster seat you moved the child(ren)into once they headed into elementary school was a bit less intense — someone with a solid B.S. in engineering could install that puppy properly. Forget a sedan or a station wagon (if that even exists anymore!); you had a mobile playpen/home entertainment center also known as a minivan (or SUV for the “cooler” parents, lol) with all the space necessary to accommodate a car seat or two or more as your family and their friends grew. Outside of the car, their rides —  a whole stable of strollers, from convertible car seats to standard to jogger to lightweight/umbrella — cost almost as much as yours, with extra points for investing in the Beamers of the Baby Set (Bugaboo, Britax, etc.). Why would you have made the kiddies walk when you could push them around in style? My teenagers would still be in their strollers if only I had taken Pilates and the benefits of a rock-solid core more seriously.

YOU: Played with wooden blocks, maybe a Barbie or a G.I. Joe, a bike (that as you grew you tore up the neighborhood with), a dollhouse, toy cars ‘n trucks, and perhaps a pair of roller-skates or a skateboard. And the only “electronics” you ever had was a Lite-Brite and maybe, if you were super lucky, an Atari set with the extra-exciting “video game,” Pong and later, Pac-Man.

YOUR KID(S): From the first black and white mobile guaranteed to stimulate brain development, to tricked out Pack ‘n Plays, rooms full of “must have” toys that refined motor skills, sharpened acuity, and drained your bank account; and to electronic games for infants on up, even playtime was a race to the top (or nowhere, depending on your perspective). If your kid didn’t have a full-sized playhouse, a motorized toy car, and his/her own electronic devices (tablet, video games, etc.) from an early age, then they risked being left in the virtual and real dust. And even if you didn’t get junior his/her own smart phone on principle, I guarantee they took yours all the time (and probably still do, even if they have their own!)

YOU: Had gym class daily and also (free) after school sports, so that might have been enough for you, athletically speaking. Maybe you played soccer, baseball/softball, volleyball, or basketball in your local rec program. Perhaps you took dance or skating lessons, did gymnastics, played tennis, swam, or ran track. Sports had seasons, so you might have played year-round, but it was different activities all the time. And whatever you did, it was mainly about you and your own enjoyment. Parents certainly didn’t hang out to watch you practice, and often times, they didn’t even come to watch your games.

YOUR KID(S): I’m not saying you had your child(ren) in Olympic training (maybe you did? I’m not judging…), but from the toddler years of wee ball and gym programs, through rec league sports on to travel teams, professional-level private coaching, and even school teams where fundraising and fees can run you four digits and more — this is not their mama’s athletics. And forget seasons; if your child isn’t a specialist playing their main sport year-round by they move on from the beginning level, then they are cooling their heels and warming a bench for the rest of their athletic “career.”  You sit with them through practices, games, tournaments, and more; in the rain, cold, beating hot summer days — whatever it takes, your endurance is as crucial as theirs. (See Ask Bitch’in Suburbia: Youth Sports Edition.)

YOU: Went to public school, which only cost your parents what they paid in property tax. Maybe you went to private school, but that was only for the most posh among us. And if your mom volunteered at the school, it was for a very limited situation — a school play or possibly as a field trip chaperone. Your dad only set foot on campus in the evenings if you had some kind of performance.

YOUR KID(S): If they go to public school, you spend a small fortune on fundraisers (gift wrap, cookie dough, magazines, direct donation, etc.)… and this doesn’t include the value of the time you volunteer. By you, I mean you and your husband or partner, your parents if they live near you, maybe an aunt/uncle/cousin/pet if s/he has special skills, because nowadays it’s all hands on deck. And private school is no longer a luxury — in fact, many consider it a necessity. Maybe you weren’t planning on blowing your college savings on kindergarten, but just know that there is a feeding chain that starts in preschool and goes all the way through to grad school. One false academic move, and your kid will be looking at a career slinging Frappuccinos… if s/he’s lucky. (See Ask Bitch’in Suburbia: Back to School Edition.)

This all leads us to the latest scam in the parenting racket — college admission prep.

YOU: Maybe met with your school’s college counselor once or twice in the late spring of your junior year (or early fall, senior year), just to get an idea about the schools you could get into, including available scholarships. If you were super motivated, you might have picked up a brochure or two about a school you wanted to go to, and maybe even went to visit the campus. You took the PSAT once, and the SAT once, possibly twice if you really bombed it the first time. You filled in your own applications, wrote your own essays, and mailed everything off yourself. Your letters of rejection or acceptance came to your house, and that was the moment mom and/or dad jumped in to either join you in celebration, or comfort you, depending on the situation.

YOUR KID(S): College prep started in preschool, and it’s only gotten more competitive since then. Your middle schooler has probably already taken the PSAT, so that gives him/her two more times to take it so by their third time, junior year, they might possibly have the system down enough to get that golden ring (a National Merit Scholarship). That same middle school student may already be signed up for an SAT prep class — or ACT prep, depending. By the time s/he is in 10th grade, this party train better be in high gear or you’re screwed.

Wait, did I say YOU’RE SCREWED? YES I DID!

If you haven’t hired a private college counselor to work with your child ($2,000-$6,000 on average, depending on where you live) by the time 10th grade has ended, then you’re too late. If your kid hasn’t taken a full SAT or ACT yet, you might consider starting to panic. The last SAT that students can take before the Common Core change-over is this coming October — after that, all bets are clearly off because what will the students study from at their test prep centers when it’s a brand new type of test? (OHHHH and did I mention, it’s another few grand for test prep, which is NOT to be confused with college counseling.) And while there are still “free” resources out there (school counselors, online systems like Naviance that your child’s school might use), you will not be competitive because everyone around you is paying the piper for private counselors that advise both on the admissions process AND edit applications, plus the aforementioned test prep.

Wait, did I say YOU again? Sorry, I meant your student.

Fuck it, I meant YOU.

The same person who will be shelling out a small fortune just for applications, never mind college tuition, which is another story.

It feels like another one of those parenting rackets, and I for one am doing my damnedest to resist. This of course means I have to do my homework, so I have a long list of to-do’s that will help me AND my child understand today’s admissions process before I bite any bullets and open up my wallet.

Moreover, this time I’m listening to that little voice in my head that says the same thing that it always says — from strollers through youth sports and school daze — don’t believe the hype.

So if you see me putting down my No. 2 pencil, just know that I’m finally realizing that there are no right or wrong answers in the parenting racket. All you have to do is accept there are multiple choices, and the real test is choosing what’s right for you and yours, without being influenced by them and theirs.

It takes balls to resist the racket, but once you do, you’ll find the playing field is more level than you thought.

graduation
Parenting

Graduation & The End of an Era

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It’s graduation season, and even if you don’t have anyone culminating, you can’t help but feel the bittersweet vibe of moving on. I can get teary-eyed just by looking at pics on social media of other people’s kids tossing caps in the air, posing in their gowns, and holding up diplomas for the world to see.

This year, though, graduation is personal — yesterday, my daughter culminated from her K-8 school, and where we live, the kids will now scatter far and wide, as there is no one neighborhood high school. So for the weeks leading up to this auspicious event, she and her friends have been ramping up for an emotional parting. We’ve had torturous sentimental Adele songs on endless repeat, learned to qualify nearly everything as “the last… [fill in pretty much every daily activity]” and on more than one night, I’ve had to tell her to dry her tears, because her friendships aren’t over — they’ll just morph into a new phase. And assure her that she can always go back and visit her teachers and the ol’ schoolyard.

This doesn’t really help her, and truthfully, she and I both know my lame attempts at comforting her are filled with empty promises and, to put it bluntly, lies. Graduation inherently is all about endings, and the reality is that many of her childhood relationships have already had their heyday and will now quickly fade into distant memory. The classrooms, auditorium, field, and quad where she has spent most of her days since she wore shoes that fastened with Velcro all the way up to the Converse high tops she cruises around in today will never be her stomping grounds ever again.

While this may sound overly dramatic for just a middle school graduation — I mean, c’mon, who wasn’t happy to leave the addled days of junior high behind? — for me, this is now an official end to an era.

The thing about eras is that they don’t really stop abruptly; they tend to fade over time. Nine years ago, when my children started at the school, I was pretty much an at-home mom, eager to help out. I volunteered for committees; dressed up like a turkey for the annual jogathon fundraiser; was the “mystery reader” who burst into tears in front of 20 terrified second graders because I was dumb enough to read them a sentimental poem from Free to Be… You and Me; helped out in their classrooms; baked brownies for endless bake sales; cleaned up after school dances; sat through about a million assemblies and performances; and chaperoned field trips.

(Don’t worry this is some kind of martyr me plea; everyone I know puts in substantial time and effort into their children’s education, be it in the school or at home. This is the reality of today’s public school systems — it’s all hands on deck, because funding relies heavily on parents, and homework’s a bitch in the worst sense of the word — thank you, Common Core!)

Back in those early days, I often heard other elementary school moms complain about how the middle school parents didn’t seem to give a rat’s ass about the school — they would all just bug off and leave the heavy lifting to those with kids in the lower grades. I’d nod my head in agreement, wondering where the hell they all went.

The answer, of course, is that little children need a lot more hand holding, and by the time they’re in middle school, kids and teachers alike want more of a hands-off approach. Not that teens don’t need help navigating everything from studies through to the hormonal jungle, but much of that happens is behind the scenes and off campus.

As the kids get more independent, we grown-ups start to remember what it was to have our own lives, work, ambitions, dreams, projects, desires, and even personalities.

But this all develops gradually, and of course the parenting gig is ongoing, so most signs of the end of an era are easy to miss. For example, when my son graduated middle school, the lead-up was brutal. There was a lot of crying and gnashing of teeth — all me, not him in the least.

And while it was quite poignant, the bittersweet sensation was mitigated by the fact his little sister was still firmly planted on familiar terrain. First times for anything tend to be emotional purges anyways; after I got that out of my system, I was relieved.

So my daughter, who was going into seventh grade at the time, got the benefit of a freer, looser, more relaxed mom for the lion share of her middle school years.

She also got a much bigger dose of independence at an earlier age than my eldest did — sometimes excitedly, willingly, and happily.

Other times, not so much. We’ve both fought back fears and tears as we grew up a little faster than we’d ever imagined.

Yesterday when I stepped on campus, I was hit with the full force of what graduation means: it truly is an ending.

The final chapter of a very sweet time of life.

And although I did shed a few tears, I also felt a growing sense of excitement about all the wonderful things to come.

For my daughter.

For her friends — many of whom I love like my own.

For my friends.

And for myself.

So if you see me wiping away a tear, just know it’s not about being sad or happy — it’s just another salty drop in the ocean of new possibilities that all graduates and their parents set sail on once the last strains of Pomp and Circumstance fade into the horizon.

After all, eras don’t start at the beginning — they begin at the end.

kvell in public
Bitch’in Life, Parenting

How to Kvell in Public

4 comments

There are lots of words that have made their way from Yiddish into the English vernacular that regardless of your denomination, you know what they mean: maven, chutzpah, shtick, nosh, schlep, schmuck — to name a few.

But there’s one word that you might not know, but I can say with 100% certainty, you probably (hopefully) do on a regular basis: kvell.

The Miriam-Webster dictionary defines kvell as “to be extraordinarily proud; rejoice,” and while that’s a good start, it goes a lot deeper than that.

Kvelling, much like its kissing cousins, bragging and boasting, is something that ranges from casual to a high art form. In this age of social media, we all know how that goes. From the people who document every wondrous move their children make starting with breathing, to the humble-braggers that moan about their shin splints from running their third marathon this year, and to the people that over-use the phrase “This happened” or plain old, “This,” to accompany photos they take (i.e., views from a mountain top they just biked/hiked up, fancy meals they’ve “effortlessly” whipped up, shots of themselves or their kids with celebs, etc.) and everyone in between, the ability to publicly tell your stories of all-time highs is at an all-time high.

And this is the time of year to do it, too — what with the end of school year/grades/awards, commencements, recitals, youth sports play-offs, launching of summer travel teams, and grown-up challenges as well (so many marathons/triathlons/other endurance tests, so little time), achievements abound, and there is much to kvell about.

That said, I have to admit that kvelling in public makes me uncomfortable. This is probably in part due the Yiddish corollary – “pu, pu, pu.” This is not a platter full of delicious deep-fried appetizers, but literally, “spit, spit, spit” — the last part of a superstitious utterance that wards off the evil eye that would swoop in and steal your good fortune if you are blabbing about it all over the place.

And of course the other part is that when you kvell in public, you walk a very fine line between being proud and being an insufferable braggart.

With all of this swirling in my brain, I had a moment this past weekend where all my concerns about kvelling in public coalesced around a video my friend sent me of my daughter smacking the shit out of a softball. He shot it in slow-mo, so the ball looked like it travelled for a mile. (Note: In a meta moment, even writing this make me feel simultaneously excited to tell y’all about it AND like a douche for doing so, especially with such hyperbolic prose. Pu, pu, PU!)

Did I have to post this video on Facebook? No… but yes. I mean, how could I not? Isn’t it a parent’s right to brag?

The answer is yes, of course, but there are definitely a few ways to go about kvelling so it tells the story while toeing the line between proud and obnoxious….

1) Share, don’t showboat: When you post something to Facebook, Tweet, snap an Instagram photo, Periscope, etc., the act is called sharing. So how you describe what’s going on in your picture, video, or even just thoughts rolling around your keppie (head in Yiddish) should be tempered by the idea that you are asking others to participate in your experience — so check your intentions at the door. If what you’re sharing is exciting enough to be solidly kvell-worthy, rock on. If it’s something small and mundane that only you or your closest inner circle can truly appreciate, then consider keeping the sharing to an email or text with your significant others.

2) Mind the hashtag: Technically speaking, hashtagging is a way that people can easily aggregate content, not a way to overly enthusiastically describe every single emotion you’ve ever had. So while it’s totally fine to be #blessed or #proud, try to steer clear of #omgcanyoubelievethisicant, #smartestchildever, #allstar4evah, #idontmeantobragbutisodo, and any other super-sized combo platter of bravado. If you need to # (pound) it in, then you know it’s overkill.

3) Pick your pics: Think back to ye olde days when we used to print out pictures and put them in photo albums and scrapbooks. (Maybe you still do this but I am officially out of this loop!) Now think about how likely it was that a casual friend or acquaintance would want to spend hours perusing your photos (not so much). So when you post entire albums with 4,000 shots in them on your Facebook page, or put together 20 Pinterest boards on the same topic (i.e., my frame-by-frame Grand Canyon hike, baby’s first day at the beach, etc.), just know that nobody, save your own mother (and even she doesn’t click through!), wants all that. Or if you think they do, throw it all on an online photo service like Shutterfly, and share that with your inner circle.

4) Be gracious: Once you share your joy with the world, the good people who are your friends or followers will flock to like or favorite your status update and even go that extra mile to comment, retweet, and even share it. Saying thank you or otherwise interacting with those who take the time to kvell along with you is not just the right thing to do, but also the best way to amplify the joy.

5) It’s all about YOU: A lot of times, I like to remind myself and all my bitches that it’s not about you… it’s about your kid/your significant other/your pet/etc. But when it comes to kvelling, it is about sharing your pride and pleasure. So don’t go on about how other people should think or feel, including the person you are kvelling over and/or the audience you are kvelling to, just let the people know how YOU feel. Also, even though it is about you, it doesn’t hurt to ask the person you’re kvelling about if they are down with you doing it for all the world to see.

6) A quick kvell is all you need: Social media usually comes down to 140 characters… which is a good thing. If you can’t cut to the kvell point and tell the world what you’re so damn proud about clearly and concisely, then log off your social media accounts immediately, and call your mom or your BBF. Those are the peeps that want the deets; the rest of the world can private message you if they need to know more.

So if you see me blogging about kvelling, just know that I’m just publicly rejoicing over the fact that there’s so much to be proud of. Keep calm and kvell on!

Thanks to mancards.com for the awesome image for this post!