magic mike xxl
My Bitches, Pop Culture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

beach ready for summer
Bitch’in Life

7 Ways to Get Yourself Ready for a Kick Ass Summer

Memorial Day is upon us, and if you think preparing for summer is as simple as whipping out your white jeans and stocking up on sunblock, then perhaps Mr. Heat Miser has already gotten to you… melting your brain into a puddle of listless, lazy-hazy-dazy cells.

Once upon a time, summer was a snap, and the only stressors you had to deal with was trying to find a dry swimsuit to wear to the pool or finding a missing flip flop. But as an adult with a day job, offspring (if you’ve got ‘em), a couple of pets (ditto), and about a zillion other 24/7 obligations (ok, we all have THAT), summertime tends to boil down to a hot mess of schedule-shifting chaos.

They call it a break, which unfortunately can be quite literal. As in break your spirit, if you’re not careful.

With that in mind, here are 7 ways to get yourself ready for a kick ass summer:

1) Make yourself a super fun schedule: Why should the children have all the summer excitement? Think back to the joys of camp — one of the best parts was having a boatload of activities to do every single day that kept the routine fresh, enjoyable, and a welcome break from the normal school year grind. So here’s a good idea: be your own camp director, and calendarize activities that you can look forward to. I’m talking about beach days, sailing/waterskiing/boating, going swimming, hiking, doing an art or craft project, playing tennis or other outdoor sport you enjoy, and even taking a nice, phat middle-of-the-day break for general recreation where you can sit on your ass and play jacks if that’s what you want to do. (And OF COURSE that’s what you want to do… that’s what I want to do anyway.)

2) Buy a new swimsuit, now: At least where I live, Memorial Day is late in the season to grab a new suit. Normally I give up at this point, and then inevitably the first day I hit the pool or the beach, I’m bummed about my stretched out, slouchy old suit. Lucky for all of us, shopping online is such a snap — so even if your local store is down to its last picked over selection, you have no real excuse for not getting yourself all dolled up for summer.

3) Take 5 minutes a day to exercise: You heard me — just 5 minutes a day to a rockin’ beach bod! My BBF started a “100 a day” group on Facebook, and last month she asked if I could keep it going. I did… but it meant that I stuck to the regimen of doing 100 sit-ups and 2 minutes of planks per day. It very literally takes 5 minutes, and I’m already seeing buffer arms and a tighter tummy. And while I don’t have any delusions OR really any major desire to have a 6-pack, I’m feeling confident about stripping down to my skivvies and letting it all hang out for summer. (Thanks to both that 5 minutes a day AND the fact that I really am totally positive about my [mom] bod.)

4) Relax the pack: Second only to doing laundry, packing is the bane of my existence. But I’ve been getting the young’uns ready for camp and family vacations long enough to know a little pre-pack goes a long way. I have a stock of labels I use that have my kids’ name on it (from LabelDaddy – this is not a plug, just a tip that worked for me), and so leading up to them going away, I will slap labels on clothing as I fold laundry. That way I’m all set to throw those suckers into a duffle bag when the time comes to get them ready for camp. I also do a pre-summer bathroom cabinet clean out, where I assess old sunblock and bug repellent, and compile a good collection of sample size shampoos, conditioners, body wash, etc., so assembling toiletry bags is a snap. Sure, I have a mild case of housework addiction, but at this time of year, it goes an especially long way.

5) Get tickets now to see live music: From the everything old is new again files, the biggest touring acts this summer sound like summer 1986: AC/DC, Van Halen, NKOTB(!), No Doubt, Def Leppard, Madonna, and of course, Neil Diamond. Not that you have to see an “oldies” acts to enjoy summer tunes — even your local outdoor mall probably has a concert series. Nothing says summer more than listening to music outside on a balmy night.

6) Book it: While this could certainly be code for all that has to be done to get ready for a summer getaway, hopefully that’s all taken care of by now. I mean get your summer reading list together — dust off that stack o’ books, sign up for Kindle Daily Deals if you’re an eBook reader (again, not a plug, just a tip), take a trip to the library, or otherwise stake your reading claim. I have a stack of Vanity Fair mags waiting to go to the beach, and I recently downloaded the entire A Song of Fire and Ice Series (4,272 pages). If you’re looking for great suggestions for what to read this summer, head over to GoodReads and check out their Listopia section. I’m so ready to get lost in screwed up worlds of other people’s making — it’s my favorite summertime “sport.”

7) Take a little staycation to get ready for summer vacation. Planning a full-on summer o’ fun is so draining that it’s likely you’ll need a vacation before you even get started. So clear the decks for an afternoon, pull out those unused gift cards for a massage/pedicure/facial that you have from your birthday… two years ago… and go get rubbed, scrubbed, or otherwise prepped for summer. Then come home and power down your electronic devises and take a nice long nap. Finally, pour yourself a margarita (or two, or more), light a beach-scented candle, and sit back and enjoy the dawn of your summer vacation.

So if you see me kicking back in a hammock, just know that’s the kind of kick I’m talking about to plan a kick ass summer!

Bitch'in Body Positivity
Bitch’in Life, My Bitches

Body Positivity for the Mom Bod

As the days heat up and we all start stripping down for spring and summer, it’s high time to give it up to the Body Positivity Movement, which is all about appreciating yourself from head to toe, and accepting yourself exactly how you are.

Fat, thin, busty, flat, voluptuous, lean… stop labeling, start loving. Screw our crazy cultural norms, and get radical with the whole shebang.

And it’s not just about weight — over at Fuck Yeah Body Positivity, we’re reminded that it’s all about “reclaiming all aspects of our bodies which society has deemed unacceptable. Whether you are skinny or curvy, short or tall, light or dark skinned, clear skinned or pimpled, you are beautiful…”

This from a 22-year-old woman named Katie — I love her blog for all her enthusiasm and support. So when my 14-year-old daughter laments about her “gigantic hips,” I send her in Katie’s direction. Or in Jes Baker’s direction. (Just because I know telling the kid she’s “fat like me doesn’t necessarily help… nor does the ye olde “joys of child-bearing hips” lecture, either.)

And actually, a lot of body activism springs from the mouths of babes, and well it should: every waking second of every single day is documented in this selfie nation of ours.

When the world shines an eternal spotlight, you spend your life trying to adjust the angles to reveal your “best side.”

Which can only mean one thing: you think you have a less best side (or two, or three…).

And that’s where the selfie shaming comes in.

But the kids aren’t the only ones that need a big phat dose of body positivity and all that goes with it like self-love, self-care, self-kindness, self-forgiveness, and self-acceptance. (Now that’s some selfie-action I can get behind!)

Recently I was at a gathering, and as I looked around the room, it felt like pretty much everyone had done something to themselves to combat the ravages of time.

The adjustments ran the gamut from flowing outfits to cover body parts that may have softened, bulged, or otherwise succumbed to, well, life, to heavy makeup, hair extensions, and elaborate color, to either fabulous push-up bras or boob jobs (or both), teeth whitening, Botox and other fillers, nips, tucks, and maybe even more.

Don’t think for a minute I wasn’t counting myself in this view from a broad: I had just gotten my hair dyed and streaked, was wearing a fancy new support bra, a generous sweater, and elaborate jewelry to distract from my softening chin. And I’ve told y’all about getting my teeth whitened, too.

In fact, I almost didn’t go out that night because I’ve been having horrible allergies, and my eyes were red, runny, itchy, and small. Even a pound of cover-up couldn’t hide the dark circles either, and all of that was pretty distressing considering I think of my eyes as my best body part.

Which can only mean one thing: I consider other parts of my body as less attractive.

This is what got me thinking about body positivity, and how we could all use a good dose of it, Bitch’in Suburbia style.

So the next time you are naked, I ask you to go stand in the mirror and give yourself a good, long, loving look. Whether you’re a mom to a kid or a few young’uns, animals, or even a partner, at a certain age we all could use a little self-TLC.  And here are some body positive affirmations for each major area of your gorgeous self that you can recite:

Face: I am positive that my face kicks ass.

Literally, your face is what you put forward in the world. That is unless you are Kim Kardashian, who often leads with her ass. (I guess that’s putting her best face forward?!) We people of a certain age tend to focus on the lines, wrinkles, spots, and bags that come with the aging package. If you’re someone who owns your lines as evidence of your depth of wisdom and celebration of your growth and accomplishments, not to mention your love ‘n worry for your family, then you’re awesome. If you’d rather have some chemical help or surgery to reclaim what once was, then guess what? You’re awesome. Whatever makes you see yourself through those stunning peepers of yours for who you are and how you’re happiest is all good.

Neck: I am positive my neck rules.

While Nora Ephron classically (and most excellently) wrote about feeling bad about her neck, you don’t have to. Think about all the times you’ve stuck out that neck, gone neck and neck for something you’ve badly wanted, rushed around doing things at a breakneck speed, been up to your neck in something or other, or dealt with a pain in your neck. As a metaphor for support, no other body part can compete with your neck. So if it’s softening, wrinkling, or otherwise relaxing, maybe it’s just getting better at all it has to bear and doesn’t have to try so hard anymore.

Chest: I am positive my boobs are the bomb.

Whether they are the center of titillating, sexy sensation, or the perfect meal plan, boobs of all sizes and shapes address all human longing, from needs to wants. And sure, over time they droop and sag, but then they become the perfect lap cushion for pets and other loved ones. Maybe your breasts have been a war zone, and now your chest is a survivor’s badge of courage. Whatever your story, at the heart of the matter is this truth: inside that pretty chest of yours beats the world’s most perfect muscle and the icon for love, which is really all you need.

 Stomach: I am positive my belly is www.theshit.com

My tummy as always been a soft, round, cushy landing spot — much like a typical “dad bod.”  But my mom bod, which has housed two humans, is glorious and victorious with its battle scars (stretch marks, surgical scars from having an ovarian cyst removed, and an oddly shaped belly button thanks to a hernia fix). Plus what mom (again, of kids or pets) doesn’t have a strong stomach? To clean up the excretions, bodily fluids, and other nasty we have to deal with, we are iron clad. And is there no greater waste of time than fretting about your waistline? So take a minute to navel gaze, and give it up to your beloved belly.

Legs: I am positive my limbs are lovely.

Those trunks of yours have gone miles on your behalf; getting you up and over whatever hurdles have come your way. If your joints like mine creak and ache, just think about how much is learned at those mother’s knees of yours. Those veins pump blood and propel you forward; that cellulite is nothing but a cute bunch o’ dimples, and your thighs are perfect exactly how they are — either mind the gap or celebrate the rub.

Buttocks: I am positive my tush rocks the house.

Baby, you got back. Sure, it might be flat, plump, dimpled, or droopy, but no matter how you shake it, it serves a very important purpose. So stop comparing your ass to J Lo’s — yours is just as fabulous as hers in its form… and its function. Don’t take my word for it — just ask Amy Schumer:

So if you see me singing the body electric, just know I’m giving my mom bod — and yours — the props it deserves. And if there’s anything I’m positive about, is your body is beautiful cuz it’s all YOU!

where the time goes
Parenting

Moms, Here’s Where the Time Goes

Where did the time go?

You know what I’m saying — it feels like just yesterday that gorgeous girl who looks like a princess in her strapless prom gown was a toddler playing dress-up. That handsome young dude holding up his driver’s license was last seen playing with trucks on the living room floor. Even the dog who used to have a thick, dark coat that gleamed in the sun when she romped and played is sporting grays and spends hot days napping instead of frolicking.

Where does the time go? is the popular refrain when we look at pictures of our growing, growing, (sniff) gone babies.

As we age especially, time feels like an over-caffeinated bitch, speeding away and laughing at you as it leaves you in the dust desperately trying to figure out where the hell it went.

Neuroscientists like David Eagleman have good explanations for why this is  — beginning with the fact that the passage of time is a perception, not a clear-cut sensory experience like smell, touch, taste, and sight. While these faculties reside in distinct areas in the brain, time is embedded throughout the senses  — for example, in the persistence of a smelly diaper, the eternity of a screaming child’s temper tantrum, or the endless throb of a finger burnt when hurrying to make dinner.

How we perceive time is heavily dependent on how much new stuff we have to process. When you engage in the familiar, time flies. If you want to “slow down time,” experts recommend taking actions to stimulate your brain and give it a bunch of novel information to process.

This is easy enough to pull off when you’re a kid, since almost everything is new to you. As an adult, you have to seek out fresh experiences to give your mind something to wrap itself around in order to slow it down: taking classes, visiting different places, meeting new people, picking up hobbies, getting engrossed in formerly unknown challenges, and making efforts to be spontaneous all help in the battle to ease the march of time.

When you put that in context of raising kids, it makes perfect sense. I have very clear memories of how long the days (and sleepless nights!) felt with my first child, and then just 20 months into it when a second one arrived, the time spent with her was a blur.

In other words, by round two I knew what to expect not just through some terrifying books — which was all I had to go on with the first one —  but from real life experience.

So if time is a bitch that gives the illusion that the days are long but the years are short, and our babies grow up so fast that our heads spin and hearts break, then what’s a mom to do?

In honor of Mother’s Day, I figured I’d just remind you of (some of) how much you do with and for your kids, and approximately how long that takes you to do it.

NOTE: I’m basing my assumptions on my own schedule and also on the hours that salary.com bases its estimates on by surveying 15,000 women annually for its “How Much Moms Are Worth” post. (Most recent stats are from 2014.)  FYI, I took an average amount of hours they cite for “working moms” and “at home” moms; I mean, c’mon, we all work our asses off! So take it with a vat of salt and adjust accordingly for your own lifestyle.

1) Food prep & service: This includes the full gamut: Grocery shopping (2 hours weekly), putting out snacks (1 hour weekly), cooking and serving meals (8 hours weekly).

Time spent over an 18-year period: 10,296 hours

2) Cleaning and tidying: In my house at least, this is constant, daily effort that spans the mundane (sweeping, doing the dishes, making beds, putting all the crap away) to the balls-out cleaning (closets anyone?) Approx. 11 hours/week.

Time spent over an 18-year period: 10,296 hours

3) Teaching our kids: From the time they’re little when we teach them to read, write, do crafts, play sports, etc. to older children whom we help with homework, teach to drive, cook, do their own damn laundry (!) — this takes approx. 10 hours/week. (Maybe it skews more when the kids are little, and less the older they get, but this feels like a good average to me =)

Time spent over an 18-year period: 9,360 hours

Additional: If you are a big time volunteer at school or for your child’s extracurricular activities, that weekly commitment number shoots up. 

4) Basking in the pride of watching your child do that thang s/he does: Whether it’s at a play, concert, recital, game, or any other place your child struts his/her stuff, you’re there. Approx. 8 hours/week (depending)

Time spent over an 18-year period: 7,488 hours

5) Driving: We surrender to the carpool and chauffeur the children to the ends of the Earth and back… or so it seems. Approx. 7 hours/week.

Time spent over an 18-year period: 6,552 hours

Additional: If your kid plays club sports and/or is on a travel team, add about a million hours a year, give or take.

6) Providing emotional support and counseling: Raising a child from infancy to adulthood requires providing a seemingly endless stream of support and when appropriate, intervention. We talk, we text, we email, and we sometimes say nothing at all — just offer a shoulder to cry on, a body to hug, and hand to hold onto. Approx. 7 hours/week.

Time spent over an 18-year period: 6,552 hours

7) Doing laundry: Laundry is outside of general cleaning and tidying, as it’s its own separate hell. Approx. 6 hours/week.

Time spent over an 18-year period: 5,616 hours

8) Taking care of the pets: We’d like to think the children help with this one — the feeding, walking, picking up shit, etc. — but at least in my house, not so much. Approx. 6 hours/week.

Time spent over an 18-year period: 5,616hours

9) Acting as the family “CEO”: Salary.com defines the family “CEO” work as providing “guidance, structure, and chart a course for success.” Plus damage control when things go wrong, and doing what it takes to improve the bottom line. Approx. 3 hours/week.

Time spent over an 18-year period: 2,808 hours

10) Taking care of your kids’ wellness, in sickness and in health: Assuming your child is relatively healthy, they have an average of 1-3 doctor visits a year (4 hours), 1-2 dental visits a year (3 hours), and 1-3 sick days a year (24-72 hours)

Time spent over an 18-year period, 1 child: 1,422 hours… multiplied by the number of children you have.

Additional: If your child has orthodontia, add approx. 9 hours per year. If your child has other conditions that require more care, be sure to add that as well. And if your offspring (or you for that matter) spend time in therapy, crank up that number — no sliding scale here, we’re counting hours!

GRAND TOTAL FOR THE FIRST 18 YEARS: Approx. 66,000 hours…3,960,000 minutes… 237,600,000 seconds… but that’s not accounting for the rest of it…

… the hours, minutes, and seconds we spend sending out love and/or wasting our time worrying. Often both simultaneously.

And it goes on to infinity and beyond, which is both a perception and a reality. Eighteen years is just for starters.

So if you see me hugging my mom on Mother’s Day, just know that I’m thanking her for the time she’s put into raising me from an infant to the adult I am today… not to mention the time she puts in with my children, too.

And if you wonder where the time went, stop counting the minutes and focus instead on the thing that is round the clock and persists through time: a mother’s love.

Because that, my bitches, springs eternal.

From one mutha to anutha, Happy Mother’s Day!

use your illusion
Pop Culture

How to Use Your Illusion

This past week was a banner one in terms of pulling back the curtain of popular culture, and being able to truly see the driving forces behind a couple of gods — one Olympian (Bruce Jenner) and one rock (Kurt Cobain).

Well, at least get a closer look at how mere mortals can use their illusions to not just mask, but also fuel, pretty grand ambitions.

Bruce Jenner’s magic trick was convincing the whole world he was the epitome of manhood when he won Olympic gold for his Decathlon performance in 1976. For a while, he was even able to convince himself that the urge to express himself as a female that started from a very young age could be tamped down and ignored.

While his athletic career clearly wasn’t solely formed by a painful secret, it was, according to Bruce, the driving force that pushed him harder than anyone else and propelled him to become a world champion.

That he pretty much concealed such a gigantic revelation through 425 episodes of Keeping Up With the Kardashians — “The one true story in the family was the one I was hiding and nobody knew about it,” he told Diane Sawyer — was a feat perhaps even more spectacular than his earlier athletic achievements.

Also among his impressive accomplishments? Humanizing Kanye West and making him sympathetic even, as he was the voice of reason to convince Kim that being authentic is the most important thing in the world (“Look it, I can be married to the most beautiful woman in the world, and I am. I can have the most beautiful little daughter in the world. I have that, but I am nothing if I can’t be me, if I can’t be true to myself. They don’t mean anything.”)

While Bruce’s story might just get a happy ending, on the other end of the spectrum is Kurt Cobain, whose inner life is powerfully and intensely revealed in the new documentary Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck. (It only had a super limited theatrical release, so if you missed it, you can catch it on HBO on Monday, May 4th.)

Kurt’s struggles with addiction, chronic pain, and depression are pretty well-documented, but filmmaker Brett Morgen manages to dig deep and paint a portrait of a hyperactive child who, destroyed by the disintegration of his family and rejection of his parents — especially his mom but also his dad and stepmom — became an out of control, angry mess who channeled his dark emotions into art and music.

Like Bruce, Kurt’s ambition was sparked and intensified not by thinking happy thoughts but by deep-seated feelings of shame and self-loathing. And like Kurt, Bruce was at one point during his transition suicidal: “…wouldn’t the easiest thing to do right now is go in the other room, get a gun. Pain is over. Done. Go to a better place.'”

This is where their stories diverge, as curiosity about “how this story ends” was for Bruce Jenner enough to banish those darkest thoughts. While he used his illusion to get to this point, he’s now moving forward without any pretense to live his truth.

Kurt, on the other hand, clung to the idea that misery was his muse. And while the seminal music of a generation spewed out of that heinous well, it landed him a role that he never asked for and totally rejected as a revered mouthpiece for his peers.

“Why are you the good one and I’m the bad one?” Courtney Love teased her husband about how the media portrayed them. “I used my illusion,” Kurt said.

What is so interesting about both Bruce Jenner and Kurt Cobain is how the magic happened through pain and suffering.

This is not to say that is the best and only way as a means to a successful end BUT it’s certainly worth noting.

Especially for GenX.

We are perhaps more devoted than any generation before us to make things “perfect” for our children.

As if they are creatures that grow up because of us, not in spite of us.

Last week I wrote about whether or not we are still in The Breakfast Club, eating our guts out in stony silence, choking on our insecurities, and convinced we are dining alone…  until one day we realize that this is all a part of the human condition.

I think about this stuff a lot when my kids go through something difficult, embarrassing, or upsetting. I’m not saying that I don’t want to comfort them… but I do fight the urge to “fix,” be a smothering caretaker, or otherwise try to shield them from cold, harsh truths.

And while Bruce and Kurt are very extreme examples of how personal problems can drive people to accomplish impossible goals, there is a kernel that relates to all of us.

What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, and all that jazz.

On the flip side, as you stand by and watch hard things happen to people you care about, the only place to go is to unconditional love. And hope, faith, and a lot of letting go.

So if you see me repeating the mantra, all in all is all we are, just know that there’s no need to apologize for using your illusion. As Elizabeth Kubler Ross once said, ‘The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

For some beautiful moments (and horrible, and compelling, and thought-provoking, and a reminder of how damn good Nirvana’s music is), check out the trailer for Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck: