Wednesday, May 27, 2015

It's A Date

At first I thought my son was joking. 

Big A had a proposition for us, he said. 

To make a long story short, he wanted to use his allowance to take a girl out on "a date".

He's 6.

He suggested going to Carvel.  He outlined that me, his mother, would drive himself and his date but I was to sit at a different table, hidden behind the drink machine so he and his friend could have some privacy.  The plan was that he would order one huge milkshake with 2 straws.

We were in the car and I was biting my lip to stop from laughing. I wasn't laughing with my son, but at him.  My husband began cackling until he looked over at Big A and saw he was quite serious.

What to do?

"Who's the girl?"  I ask him.

"Tulip. She's in my class." he said.  (Her name is not Tulip.  I am merely protecting her identity)

Most of Big A's friends are boys.  He's 6, after all. But there are a couple of girls he has deemed "cool" who have slipped into the friends circle.

"Do you think she's going to want to go out on this...er...date?"

"I think so.  Can you please call her mom now and ask if she can come on the date?"

I wish he would stop calling it a date.  They're 6 for goodness sake. I stalled for time.

"What if she doesn't want a milkshake?" I asked him.

He thought about this.   "That's okay. She can get whatever she wants."

I called Tulip's mother. Tulip's mother asked Tulip, who said that she would like to join Big A for an ice cream social. A time and date were arranged and yesterday I found myself driving towards Tulip's house to pick her up.

"Now when we pull up, you stay here." Big A directed me. "I'm going to walk to the door and get her. And I'll say 'Ready for OUR DATE?' " He grinned goofily.

"Please don't say that," I begged him. "It's just two friends getting ice cream."

"Okay," he concedes.  "I'll say 'Ready to go get ice cream?' but then I'll wink."

Oh good grief.

We picked up Big A's little friend with no incident.  He held the door for her at Carvel and let her order first. She doesn't like milkshakes, it seems, but she got a dish of Mother Earth.  I sat across the ice cream shop pretending to read a book but straining to listen to their conversation.

Apparently Big A had taken it upon himself to come up with some talking points that I'm pretty sure he pulled from an episode of Clarence

"So Tulip, if you were stranded on a dessert island, what three things would you bring?" 

She thought about this for a minute.  "Water, food and a tent."

"I would bring water, food and a laptop so I could watch Minecraft videos."

"So Tulip, if you were being attacked by zombies, what weapons would you want to have?"

And so on.

The rest of the "date" passed pleasantly, the two of them chatting and eating ice cream until we dropped her home 20 minutes later.  I have no idea what came over Big A but he suddenly announced "What if I kissed Tulip?" and started smiling at the sheer madness of such a thing.  He turned to Tulip and said "Did you HEAR what I just said?"  and the wise girl replied, "No" as she got out of the door.

My husband called to find out how the "date" was going.  We thought it was all so charming but the two kids seemed to think it was normal.  Two friends, getting together, having conversation and having a treat.

My husband and I talked last night about how, (even though it's unusual for a first grader) glad we were that Big A came up with this idea to have "a date."  He doesn't see girls as "other", as stupid, covered in slime or not worth his time.  And what about Tulip? I hope this innocent encounter sets the stage for her expectations of dating.  The guy should plan the date, hold the door and pay.  Accept no less, Tulip!

Because soon enough children will age into teenagers and they WILL be dating.   And I hope it's nice. And mutually respectful.  I hope it means conversation and fun.  Not making out at a party and then never speaking to each other again at school. (I know, I know...I'm wishing for miracles here)   But it's never too early to teach out children good ways of interacting with the opposite sex.

"This is what dating should be like"  my husband proclaimed with a definitive nod.  "Doing fun things with different people and getting to know them." 

We brainstormed the idea of letting Big A invite 4 boys over this summer and turning our deck into an Italian restaurant.  The catch?  Each boy would have to invite a girl as his dining partner. Then they could all gather around the same red checked tablecloth, eating spaghetti, drinking grape juice out of wine glasses and having conversation.  After which they would likely run around our yard like maniacs and fight over the tire swing like the 7 year olds there are but, still, the foundation for the future would be set.

Our child won't truly be dating until...what? High school?  But it's nice to shape his perceptions and expectations now.  I still have NO INKLING as to what made Big A come up with this notion of going on an ice cream date with Tulip.  He seems to have reverted back to being a 6 year old kid.  This morning he was focused on his new lego set, latest baseball game and the thrill of back-to-back play dates with two buddies on Friday afternoon.

But when his Grandma asked him how his "date" when yesterday he told her it was "Awesome."

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Tales from a Bike

I'll never forget when my nephew James learned to ride his two-wheeler. An extremely agile and athletic child, he was around 5 years old when he looked hard at his bike, removed the training wheels himself and began riding around the neighborhood a few hours later.

From what I can discern, this is not a typical bike-riding experience.  At least, it wouldn't be normal for my son.

Until about a month ago, my 6 year old had zero interest in learning to ride a two-wheeler.  I'd be like, do you want to help me put away laundry?  Or go outside and ride your two-wheeler with your dad? 

He'd choose to put away socks.

But now riding his two wheeler is all my son thinks about.

Every day when he arrives home from the bus he yells "Can I ride my bike?"

Unfortunately, he's not exactly a natural.

He gets home from school, throws on his helmet and drags me outside, away from doing Very Important Things (AKA my books and my wine) and makes me run up and down the street, in flip flops (okay my fault, not his) holding his seat.

I let go of his seat days ago. He rides all by himself, though it's in a zigzagy sort of way, like you'd ride if you were really drunk.  Then he realizes I'm not holding on, screams like Nathan Lane in The Birdcage and topples to the ground, wailing.

So we go from determination and pride to wailing within the course of 5 minutes. This scene is repeated every afternoon with very little variation.

I lift the bike off him.  He's huddled on the ground in the fetal position, sobbing.

"Mo-OM! You didn't catch me!" he says accusingly.  

(I want to state that Big A actually has a huge bike that's his correct size due to his legs being so long. When he falls, he falls 3 feet into the ground. If I even attempted to catch him, we'd both get injured.)

"Calm down, calm down," I urge him, his shrieks so high-pitched that neighborhood dogs are moaning and covering their ears. "You're fine!"

"I'm NOT!" he yells, cradling his arm as a tiny speck of blood the side of a freckle appears on his elbow.

Now he's lost all confidence. Now he's lost all the excitement of riding his bike.  And my Chardonnay is still being held captive on the kitchen counter.

I walk the bike back to the garage, as he shuffles and moans like a member of the living dead.

I apply expert first aid once we get inside, splashing wine on his boo-boo and letting my 3 year old daughter bandage him with a Hello Kitty Band-Aid and a kiss.  He rolls his eyes "I'm not wearing this band-aid to baseball tonight."

Big A skulks over to the couch and throws himself on it dramatically.

"Mom?"

"Hmm?"

"Promise me that I'll never fall off my bike again."

I laugh. He glares. I stop.

"I can't promise you that.  You will fall off your bike again."

"Promise you'll always catch me when I fall, then" he says.

I sing a few bars of Cyndi Lauper's Time After Time.  "If you fall, I will catch you I'll be waiting!" I sing.

"You will?" he asks, brightening.

"Actually, no."  I admit.  "Your father and I are always here to help you with good advice and support. We'll try to help you get out of jams and pickles and the like, but I can't promise that I'll always catch you if you fall off your bike.  Like today for example."

He looks devastated.

It dawns on me that this could be an opportunity for a life lesson. I recall the Batman Begins reboot with Christian Bale when he falls in to the pit of bats as a child.

"Do you know why we fall?" I ask him, trying to keep a straight face and be earnest.

"Because I can't ride my bike that well." Big A says.

"No!  We fall so that we can learn to pick ourselves up."

"Why don't you just pick me up?"

"Because if I picked you up, you wouldn't learn how to do it yourself.  And you and your bike are incredibly heavy. You're like the largest first grader I know."

"Why don't you just buy me knee pads and elbow pads then?"

"Because those are for sissies. And I'm cheap." I say.

I come closer and wrap him up in my arms.

"Listen, buddy I know that riding your bike is scary and that falling hurts.  But when you came home today you were so excited to try to ride your bike. You were so proud when you did!  Did you know that you actually know how to ride your bike? The whole time I'm running alongside you, I'm not even touching you, did you know that?"

"No...really?"

"Really. It's all mental. And then when you see I'm not holding you, you freak out."

"Mom, we're a whole family of freaker-outers."

"True, but we have passion!  Who wants to be vanilla and calm all the time? Not us.  But the point is, I don't want you to stop doing something you love, because it's scary.  Don't let the fear stop you, okay?"

"Okay."

"And I know that you are capable of picking yourself up, dusting off your scraped elbows and getting back on the bike.  I know it."

"Okay."

"Now do you want to get back on the bike?"

"No, I just want to lay here with my injuries."

His injuries, of course, being the glorified mosquito bite on his elbow.

Big A then stripped off his Hello Kitty band-aid and went to baseball and played with his friends afterwards. 

When he came home, I heard the familiar "Can I ride my bike?"

It was nearly 745 pm and he hadn't had dinner yet or taken a shower.  This defied our nearly sacred be-in-bed-by-8-pm rule. But I was happy he had gotten over his fear so I let him ride up and down the street, once, to show his dad.  

Big A was very proud. 

Until he ate it on the ride back. I was prepared for him to wail so loudly he'd break the sound barrier once again without an airplane.  But there as just silence.

He gets out from under his bike, picks it up, climbs back on and tries again. And again.  Until he falls one final time and we call him in for dinner.

He walks his bike into the garage with his head held high.

"Band-aid?" I offer him since I see a new scrape or two.

"No, thanks.  Did you see me ride my bike?"

"I did!"

He stops.

"Did you see how I fell and I picked myself up all by myself?"

"Yes, Big A, I saw that."

I feel a lump in my throat. Big A has been practicing every day for a month.  Bike riding does not come as easily to my cautious, overthinking boy as it may come to others.  He'll go on any roller coaster and be brave when blood is drawn or teeth are filled but he's nervous about trusting himself. 

I watched him give his bike a little pat, put it back in its spot in the garage and carefully hang his helmet on his handlebars until tomorrow. I know he's going to get the hang of it. And I know the bigger lesson is that just because you keep falling doesn't mean that you shouldn't keep trying.

At that moment I feel a little hand tugging on my skirt and I look down at my 3 year old daughter smiling up at me.  She's managed to put her brother's helmet on her head.

"Can I ride my bike?"

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Pink

A few weeks ago I heard a woman in our town had breast cancer but since her children aren't in the same grade as my children I didn't know who she was. We have some mutual friends which I discovered when I looked her up on Facebook.

Here's what else I discovered.

This mom was really, really pretty.
If her ripped arms were any indication, she works out regularly.
She has lots of friends.

And most impactful, to me:

She is a single mom to three young children.

Breast cancer is not supposed to happen to someone like her. It's supposed to happen to someone else. Someone we all don't know.  Someone who doesn't live a few streets away. Someone who is old. Someone who smokes, per say.  Or eats nothing but pork rinds, guzzles beer all the time and lays around on the couch.  It's certainly not supposed to happen in our small town to an otherwise healthy, young, lovely mother of three.  Didn't God get that memo?  Seriously, W.T.F.?

People started posting pink ribbons as their profile pictures on FB. Photos of her friends in pink shirts started popping up, reminding all of us that no one fights alone.  Her child's class did a special program to let her know of their support and encouragement. 

At times, I hear people criticizing the drawback of living in a small town, where everyone knows your biz. But this closeness is also one of the great advantages -- if people know you have something going on, they can help.  I began keeping this mom in my prayers so I figured I might as well friend her on Facebook.  Friending someone I've never spoke to in real life was a huge step for me, since I've never done that before. Miraculously, I must have looked fairly normal because she accepted my friendship.

A week or two later, I came face-to-face with her at our annual PTO auction by the Platinum prize section and recognized her right away.  I was so happy to meet her.  Luckily I had only had two glasses of wine and could communicate what I wanted to say which was "I don't know you but I'm with you.  I'm praying for you. You're A HUGE inspiration." I hoped it was that cohesive. I may have squealed like I was meeting Taylor Swift.  But she didn't edge away towards the bar so maybe I did okay. What I meant to say was "I'm incredibly sorry this has happened to you. But you are an amazing person and you have brought this town together."  She was so nice. I remember that she listened and spoke to me, (a virtual stranger who approached her to gush) without me worrying she would run off to her friends and go "Who the hec is THAT freak?"  And she mentioned a silver lining: that due to her diagnosis, a number of her friends had made appointments for their first mammograms.

As the weeks passed, I watched her via Facebook trying on wigs with her friends. I watched as she shaved her head and donated her hair, her children close at hand. Maybe 10% of the women in the world have the kind of face and bone structure to pull off a shaved head and still look super gorgeous and she is one of them.  I watched her hooked up for her first chemo appointment a good friend by her side.

I signed up for her meal train but so beloved is she that the first opening is months away.  Thinking she might be sick of all the delicious yet heavy casseroles and zitis surely coming in, I decided to do a French-themed meal with baguettes, cheese, fruits, a salad and napoleons.  I wondered if she could drink wine while she's in recovery and figured I'd throw it in anyway and she'd get to it, eventually.

But even though I barely know this mom or her kids, she is present in my mind and heart.  She's a mom in my town. She could be me. I could be her. She could be any one of us. And if her fight has taught me anything it's that cancer does not discriminate.  And that no one should fight alone.  When I think of moms in the past with illnesses they were made to feel ashamed of, or who suffered in silence and isolation, it makes me want to bake Mark Zuckerberg an entire cake.  God Bless Facebook! 

I cannot imagine what this amazing mom's battle will be like. I cannot imagine the inner-strength this mom warrior will call upon during her fight. But I am sure she will triumph over it.  Hoards of people are in her corner, rooting for her, loving her, supporting her.  What she is going through is terrible but she will not fight alone.

Below is a great way to show your support.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Why I exercise...

I'm going to be very upfront about something.  You won't be seeing a picture of me in a sports bra and boy shorts on social media any time soon. I've noticed this trend popping up lately as everyone shows their before and after pics but I'm pretty modest.  That's not to take away from the people who get a lot of pride and motivation out of posting these pictures but it's just not for me. And there's a context issue. While I'd be comfortable on the beach in my bathing suit with whoever, I just don't want pictures of a scantily dressed me popping up on a Facebook feed next to my cousin's newborn baby and a recipe for gluten-free lasagna.  But these before-and-after pictures are generally posted with an emphasis on working out, weight loss and eating more nutritiously -- all of which are really good things.

Because as much as I wish I could eat mass quantities of Broad Street Dough and NEVER exercise, I think that eating healthily and exercising is really important.  Not just so you whittle yourself away to nothing, but so you're strong, happy and possess an energy level higher than that of a snail.  For the past 4 months, I have been exercising at least four times a week which is massive, considering the number of times I exercised from September to January was ZERO.

And I hate exercising. I mean, I really, REALLY hate it. I hate it more than the NJ Housewives, the wardrobe of Miley Cyrus and Goldschlager combined.

While I'm on a run, I waver between feeling like I'm being tortured and praying that no one is watching me.  It's awful. Like really, really awful.

When I take my weekly karate class, I curse under my breath as I'm made to do squat thrusts, spar guys twice my size who bat me away like a fly and plank for two minutes at a time.  "Why am I DOING THIS to myself?" I wonder angrily, thinking I could be home curled up with a book, a wheel of brie and a box of chocolates from the Red Bank Chocolate Shoppe.

However, as much as I truly HATE AND DESPISE working out, I love having exercised.
  
For realz, after I'm done running around Meadow Ridge, covered in sweat and red faced, gulping water and drooling on myself, I feel like a million bucks. On any given Saturday afternoon after I've finished letting karate masters far superior to me kick me up and down the dojo, my legs sore and my shirt sticking to me, I feel like the goddamn queen of the world.

So as much as I think exercise is cruel and unusual punishment I love the way I feel when I've done it for the day.  I know it has great physical benefits from healthy heart to strength in your muscles to higher energy levels (not to mention sliding into, rather than shoehorning yourself into, your skinny jeans) but the emotional benefits for me are far better. If something was worrying me before I went for a jog, it seems less important.  My mood is elevated and I'm less likely to bite the kids heads off when they spill an entire bottle of grape juice on the couch. I'm a better listener. More likely to smile.  More apt to feel at peace. And did I mention how much better my skinny jeans fit?

A recent New York Time article reveals:

"The sweet spot for exercise benefits, mostly by walking, is 450 minutes per week, or a little more than an hour per day. Those people were 39 percent less likely to die prematurely than people who never exercised. At that point, the benefits plateaued, the researchers found, but they never significantly declined."

So apparently, I'm also going to live forever!  And alls I have to do is walk for over an hour a day.

I used to drive 6 blocks to the park. Now I throw Little D in the stroller and I walk. I never used to play soccer or basketball with my son, content to let his dad handle that I sat nearby as the cheering section. Now I jump right in and let him give me a run for my money. 

For me, exercise is not about making extra weight on my body disappear, although that's a nice fringe benefit. It's about appreciating my body and letting it do what it's capable of. Not hating my body for not being a perfect and skinny size 4, but loving my body for it's beauty, it's speed, it's strength. 

It's about making time to move my body and being grateful, in fact, I am not too old, or too sick or too injured to move my body through running, karate or sometimes dance.

When I get up at 6:10 to get in my jog, my daughter will sometimes get up and ask "Why you goin' JOGGING?" and I tell her that I'm doing it to be healthy and happy.  Because as much as I don't like the feeling of exercising while I'm doing it and as much as I'm a natural bookworm, not a natural athlete, I like how my body and mind feels when I'm through putting my body through its paces.

And not to mention, a little known fact is that the more calories you burn off exercising the more freshly baked cupcakes you can consume without your cholesterol skyrocketing.   

 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Wake-up Call

On Sunday morning I found myself zipping around my house like a ferret on steroids, stuffing my son into a jacket and tie, sticking Mary Janes on my daughter and repeating out loud "Do not forget the christening gifts!" After my umpteenth shrieking request, my husband sauntered out to the driveway and shepherded the kids into the car as I chugged a glass of water, grabbed a lipstick to apply in the car and thankfully, I did not forget the gifts.

But I did forget my cell phone.

I realized this as we were halfway to the church, determined to be on time to dress my godson in his christening finery.  I was alarmed to be without my phone all day.  How would I take pictures at the baptism?  How would I send and return text messages? How would I update my Facebook status with adorable pictures of my niece and nephew?  Way too late it occurred to me, "What if I need to make a phone call?"   I felt as though one of my limbs had fallen off. It was like watching any of the NJ Housewives give an interview...I was in a constant state of bewilderment.

It turned out, being without my phone was pretty awesome. 

It turns out that on any given Sunday, my cell phone is way less necessary than I thought.

Perks:

I didn't have to remember to set it to silent before church began.

Pictures?  My sister, mother of the twins, took oodles of pictures all day and posted them to Facebook that evening.  And I actually got to be in the pictures for once instead of behind the camera.

During the lunch at Char Steakhouse that followed the baptism, I was fully present for the first time, I have to admit, in a long time.  I truly didn't realize how often I dip my hand into my purse to check my phone. And for what? I wasn't expecting an important business call or anything.  Why shouldn't I be completely focused on socializing and eating the vegetarian option on the menu whilst sipping wine with my family?  I didn't realize how much of a slave I am to my phone until I left it at home and realized the sweet freedom and liberation in not having it.

Sure it was mildly bumming when I went to take a picture of my sides to put on Facebook and I realized I was sans phone. However, who's really being hurt by not getting to see my photos of creamed spinach and fluffy mashed potatoes?  Victimless crime.

When I did return to my phone, more than 8 hours after I left it, I had ten missed texts and 3 missed calls.  A couple of play date requests for the upcoming week. A photo of new shoes from a gal pal. A question from a Sunday School parent. A friend had dropped some wine in our mailbox and wanted to inform us it was there. Nothing was critical.  There was nothing that couldn't wait.

When I ended up taking my kids to the park a bit later for some early evening sunshine I intentionally left my phone in the car. It felt good. I felt bad I had missed another parent's calls about directions to the park, but it wasn't Earth shattering. We didn't end up meeting up with them, but we would next week. No biggie.

I shut my phone off completely that night, determined to watch Mad Men Sunday night without its addictive presence.

I am not saying that I want to get rid of my phone of even turn it off all day.  I'm not insane.  My phone is my alarm...if I hadn't turned it back on Sunday night I would have never been awakened for my terrible Monday morning wog (walk/jog).  My phone is my camera. My growing kids aren't going to photograph themselves. My phone holds my calendar of where my family is supposed to be at any given time. My phone is a huge convenience (directions, anyone?), I love texting my friends and it's fun to read articles/ put pictures of baked goods on Facebook. 

But every Sunday, maybe I'll just turn it off all day.  Every night at 8 pm, maybe I'll put my phone to sleep along with the kids for a few hours. Maybe I'll bar my phone from the beach this summer.
 It's very whiny, my phone. Always beeping. Always pinging. Always demanding my attention. And the truth it, when I pay attention to my phone, I'm usually ignoring everyone around me.

So I think I'll be without my phone more often.  It's hard to explain why, but taking long chunks of time away from my phone just plain feels good to me these days. 

It's a bit of a wake-up call to realize how marvelous it feels to be away from something I love so much but I guess distance makes the heart grow fonder.  Ringing off now.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Gossip Girl

It's been a while since I was around gossip of this magnitude. 

I adore my circle of female friends.  ADORE.  And I love stumbling on new friends who speak my language.  Many of them are moms I've met through my kids. While there's sometimes an amazing connection (generally with moms who share my love of books, humor, wine, baked goods and conversation) even the moms I have to make more of an effort to converse with (their discussions center on their diets or home furnishings, neither my forte) are good people who generally don't say unkind things about others and that's why I like them.

Look, I live in a small town and I think, on some level, all of us want to play nice because we realize we're all stuck together (at least through our kids) for the next 13 years. Even more if you have younger children.  But it's been refreshing that the way I've experienced the moms around me has been specifically as "non-gossipy".

We've all gossiped at one time or another, right?  Especially in our 20s, when we were young and irresponsible and perhaps hadn't discovered more enriching subjects about which to chew the fat.  For me, there's always been a high correlation between how insecure about myself I am feeling at the moment and the nasty things that come out of my mouth about others.  It would make me feel better about myself to put someone else down.  But, (and not always) for the most part, that ship sailed many years ago. On my best days, anyway. 

It's been a long time since I've been around nasty dirt-dishing and I only realized it when I was confronted with it the other day.

When I look at my life and my interactions, now, I can see why I was so floored when faced with three other women dragging people we collectively knew through the mud.  The  friends I'm lucky enough to have tend not to be gossip-mongers. Whether intentionally or not they have been selected to fulfill roles in my life. Most of those who adore gossip have been eradicated from my circle, moving away from me and towards those who share their interests.

So when I was in the midst of it, I didn't know how to react. You see, it's been a while.  The three women I was with were going for the jugular as we drank our coffee.  One laughed about a "friend" who hadn't covered her greys in MONTHS!  I gulped, wishing I had worn a hat that day.  Another claimed that the children of her friend were "always acting like brats". 

"She's annoying!" the first affirmed. "She never wants to go anywhere without her husband."

"Oh God, I HATE that!"  I got quieter and quieter until it was obvious that not only had I checked out of the convo, I was sending decidedly judgey vibes towards these women. 

"Oh stop it!" one said "We're scaring Natty."

I wasn't scared but I knew that our blossoming friendship was probably not going to work out.  While they were very nice to me, I felt sure that they would talk about me the moment that I left.  It made me not want to have any more coffee with them. But they're good people. Good people that like to gossip. 

So, I'm not in the club anymore. It's okay, I don't need to be in that club.  I know what I needed to do to be in the club.  Agree!  Exclaim! Make jokes!  Validate our collective superiority by putting others down.

There are so many amazing topics of conversation.  So many events, emotions, ideas and notions worth discussing.  Why talk about how much weight a fellow mom has gained? Maybe she's under incredible stress. We don't know.

I'm not a Little Miss Merry Sunshine.  Realistically, we all have people we don't like.  You can't like everyone. There's a mom I'm acquainted with that I don't like.  It's because she triggers one of my pet peeves.  The way I experience her, she is incredibly rude.  I don't like rude people.  They bother me. Every time I have come in contact with her, she would say something to me and the way I would take it would ruin my day. But I don't drag her name through the mud when she comes up in conversation.  I don't try and enlist others to dislike her also.  I try very hard not to do this, because it's a waste of my time and energy.  I try hard not to do this because I don't want someone who experiences me as rude to try and get others to gang up on me. So, finding this individual rude, I don't hang out with her.  Fullstop. If I bump into her, I'm civil, even friendly (but not familiar). Just because I don't care for her doesn't mean that other people will feel the same way.

I know that it may sound unrealistic to try not to gossip. Everybody does it, right? But it hurts people...and mostly...putting someone else down makes you look bad. It really does.  And from the upcoming election to our fears and hopes for our kids to wallpaper potentially making a comeback to wine to movies...well, there are so many fascinating topics of conversation that won't leave you feeling like you need to wash the ick of your hands because you just dragged someone else through the mud.

Mediocre people talk about other people. Smart people talk about events. Brilliant people talk about ideas.

I'd like to try to be more in touch with my brilliant self.  Thanks to all the wonderful moms surrounding me who seem to feel the same way.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

In the company of men

A few weeks ago, Big G and I were invited to an Irish breakfast on St. Patrick's Day by a friend of ours.  Big G, as is his way, got up early went to work and called me an hour later saying "I FORGOT today was the Irish Breakfast! Arrgh!" 

"Oh well," I responded, "I'll have some bangers for ya, my lad!"

Bangers means sausage.

When I showed up there, it truly was a sausage party. There were 5 dudes.  And me.  But there was also piles of eggs, bacon and coffee so I figured I would stay. I felt awkward for a fraction of a second but then got over it.  All the men present, besides being very nice, were talented musicians. So not only did I have a delicious breakfast cooked for me, I got to witness a truly amazing jam session that was totally awesome.  I was so glad I didn't leave due to my status as the only chick present and I was also happy I didn't just not come at all because my gentleman escort forgot we had plans that morning.  I would have been denying myself great food, terrific music and conversation with other parents who just happened to be male.

See, I am one of the few people who truly believe that women and men can be friends.  Real, actual friends.  I have a number of close male friends, but two particularly come to mind.  One is close friend high school that I've had since I was 14 and another I met in my early twenties at work. Both are amazing men I respect, love and admire and both I consider to be family.  In all of our years together, although I feel their love for me with certainty, neither one of them has ever made a pass at me and if they're even reading this I'd imagine at this point they just fell out of their seats laughing at the awkwardness of such a prospect. 

Thanks a lot guys.

Friendship between men and woman will enrich your life immensely but only if you follow a few guidelines I have discovered along the way.

Your male buddy can only be married if you and the wife adore each other. Fullstop. If she doesn't like you, or even just kind-of-likes you this is not going to work. Because she will get totally jealous and think something untoward is going on when really all you're doing is quoting lines form Arrested Development.  The wife doesn't like you?  The friendship is over.

You cannot be friends with a man who you are attracted to.  I remediate this problem by being friends with men who possess many of the traits I find physically unappealing.  Men who dress better than I do, men who wear jewelry, have long hair, have excessive tattoos or who are overly dramatic make great male friends while also making them sexually unattractive to me. It's a win-win!

By the same token, you cannot be friends with a man who is attracted to you.  Since most men are attracted to everything, even a pumpkin (which I fear I resemble now that I've done all my winter eating) this can be tough. I try to make this easy for my male friends. I tell them in great detail about my child birth, I unload my problems on them demanding advice I likely won't take and I talk constantly about eating. That usually does it.

If that doesn't work, I'll often raise issues about regularity and what works for me.

Example of phone call between male and female friends:

Incorrect:

Male:  Hey. What took you so long to answer?
Female:  I just got out of the shower.

No, this is wrong on many levels. It's flirting. The dude just unwittingly pictured you naked. It's not even his fault.

Correct:

Male: Hey, what took you so long to answer?
Female:  I was picking at an ingrown hair, actually. Then I considered brushing my teeth because it's been days but instead I decided to eat a bag of potato chips while watching Downton Abbey. Do you want to get the kids together?

Viola!  With that statement you have just made any man within 100 mile radius completely unattracted to you and you've likely disgusted some lesbians too.

Male-female friendship doesn't work if said male is waiting, "in vulture position" for your relationship to break up. Ten years ago there was a guy I thought was my friend and one day when we were having a business lunch he busted out with "If you and Big G weren't married, don't you think we'd be an amazing couple?"  I almost choked on my turkey wrap in shock but rather than being flattered I was totally taken aback. 

"Never.  Like never, ever." I admonished him.

"Why?" 

"Why?" I sputtered.  "The way you're gnawing on your pulled pork sandwich is reason enough."

"Please don't tell Big G I said this," he pleaded.

But I had to. I couldn't have a secret with this guy that I would keep from Big G.  That would create intimacy between me and Pulled Pork Sandwich. And it's not like he was friends with Big G. He wasn't even really friends with me, it turned out, or he wouldn't have said something to make me feel so uncomfortable. I never had lunch with him again and stopped taking his calls. Like a canker sore on your upper lip, he eventually went away.

Which brings us to, you cannot be friends with a man that doesn't also love and respect your partner.  When I think of my closest 4 male friends, I will bet you dollars to donuts they would rather hang out with Big G than with me or both of us together. Whether it's because I'm around more during the day or less of an introvert than my spouse, who knows.  But they love and respect my husband and that's what makes me able to be friends with them and often puts them that strange grey area where your friends become so close to you they become family.

And for all of this to work, you have to have a supremely trusting, confident spouse who knows you think the sun rises and sets on him. He has to appreciate that you get things from your male friendships you don't always get from your female friendships. He not only trusts you around all your male friends but trusts all of your male friends around you.

If Big G doesn't like someone, that person is out of our circle of friends. Fullstop.

And I'm glad that Big G is so wonderfully adjusted.  Because when I think of all my friends, both male and female, I sift through the laughter, the tears, the adventures, the sad times and the unbelievable ways in which they've added so much to my life, I feel incredibly lucky to not have just limited myself to one gender. 

You know that famous old saying -- "Female friendship is awesome. Male friendship enables you to base an entire friendship on lines from movies.  Stay away from Pulled Pork Sandwich."   It's so true.