Sunday, February 16, 2014

I Don’t Like Dresses

Image courtesy of digitalart
On Valentine’s Day, my husband and I both noticed a woman wearing a short, strapless dress and high heels.

We decided she and her companion were on a first date.

“How are they doing?” asked my husband, who couldn’t glance their way as sneakily as I could. (We, old-marrieds, often try to send good vibes to people on awkward first dates in restaurants.)

“She looks super-uncomfortable,” I reported. She hunched over, as if she were trying to fold up on herself, her back exposed, her legs pressed tightly together.

Unlike her date, who wore khakis, she was, my husband pointed out, half-naked and probably cold. She also had a hard time walking in her shoes.

I have always been anti-dress. Yes, I’ll wear one if I have to (to a wedding, for example), but I find dresses and skirts and their accompanying shoes to be uncomfortable and impractical. I wonder about the parochial schools that, to this day, insist that girls wear skirts as part of their uniforms, claiming they are more “modest.” Meanwhile, the girls wear bicycle shorts under those skirts so they don’t have to worry about exposing their underpants.

I was surprised to learn that, according to this Wikipedia entry, it wasn’t until 1972 that it became illegal for public schools to require girls to wear dresses, well within my lifetime.

Sure, once, both genders wore dress-like garments, like togas, but that was because they didn’t have the means to make more complicated clothes. Some point out that dresses made it easier for a woman living in the wilderness to relieve herself, but, I ask you, when was the last time you had to pee outside?

My little-kid self was right: dresses suck.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Valentine's Day for Parents

Our supermarket goes all out.
Many people don’t like Valentine’s Day. I know some people who wear black on the day.

But Valentine’s Day can mean a special kind of bad for parents.

My teenaged daughter would like nothing more in the world than to have a boy give her something on Valentine’s Day. Her preference: a gigantic stuffed animal she can carry around school all day. But candy or flowers would be good, too.

Now, my husband and I could get her a stuffed animal, candy or flowers. There are towering displays of them at our supermarket.

But we can’t, of course. Because the actual gift doesn’t matter. What’s important to her is that it comes from an admirer.
It would actually be super-bad if the one Valentine she got came from her parents.

And telling her that both of us have had plenty of non-event Valentine’s Days is no help whatsoever.

So, all we can do is hope that some teenaged boy thinks to give her something and is brave enough to do it.

Meanwhile, our own teenaged boy, her younger brother, seems to have a crush on a certain girl. Not that he would ever say. We’re not allowed to even mention her.

So, it’s not looking like “She Who Must Not Be Named” is going to be getting any stuffed animals, candy or flowers (at least from our son) either.

I gave my kids, as I have every year since they were small, bags of chocolate kisses to give to whoever they come across: teachers, friends, strangers, maybe even “She Who Must Not Be Named.” And as I am sure they will, they should eat some of those kisses themselves. (Let that chocolate release some feel-good chemicals in their brains.)

It’s all I can do.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Sometimes Silence is Golden, Sometimes Not

For a couple of days, I have not been listening to music in the car.

It’s kind of nice.

I find myself thinking differently than I would if music were playing.

When music is playing, I tend to be thinking about the song, singing along sometimes, but often just imagining singing and playing along (though I don’t actually know how to play any instruments) … which is kind of embarrassing to admit. Interestingly, however, this tendency to imagine yourself doing the thing you are watching or listening to is common and has something to do with the mirror neurons in our brains, which are deeply connected with our emotional response, our drive to socialize and our ability to feel empathy.

Recently, too, through a series of technical ineptitudes on my part, my musical selections have been taken over by my daughter. First, I switched to a car that will play music, via Bluetooth, that is stored on my phone. Yay! No more destroying CDs by playing them on the pot-holed streets of Houston. Except I didn’t have any music stored on my phone. And for some reason, internet radio doesn’t work well on my phone in the car.

So, I do listen to music through my phone. But my iPhone, for reasons I don’t fully understand, shares music with my daughter’s and my son’s iPhones. Whenever they buy music, it shows up on my phone. Which is great, except my daughter is going through a period where she finds music with silly sexual lyrics funny. So, Nelly sings, “It’s getting hot in here, so take off all your clothes,” LMFAO insists, “I am not a whore …I just like doing it” and Jason Derulo wants you to "talk dirty to me."

Sometimes silence is preferable, but sometimes it’s fun to tune in to someone else.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

How Do You Want Your Children To Remember You?

Recently, I saw a tribute on Facebook, written by a man about his mother. She had just died.

In this single paragraph, written, apparently, minutes after his mother died and meant to remember her in the most glowing terms, he wrote:

 “You didn’t spare the ruler or the bar of soap when it was required, you made us do our chores every weekend day before we could go out to play and you made us eat our vegetables (all of them!!) before we left the table ….

Now, I don’t know this man and I didn’t know his mother and I am sorry for his loss.

However, this is not how I want my kids to remember me when I am gone.

I want them to remember being loved, not being ordered about. I want them to remember the hugs and kisses and cuddles and laughter, not being smacked with a ruler. I want them to remember that I listened to them when they were angry (and even taught them about swear words), not that I shut them up by stuffing bars of soap in their mouths. I want them to remember that I inspired a love of good, healthy food and that we had happy dinners together, not that I forced them to choke down food that they hated.

I want them to remember me that way because that’s the kind of person I want to be – and, frankly, that’s the kind of people I'm hoping they become, too.

Monday, February 3, 2014

What Makes A Children’s Picture Book Good?

We had a two-year-old visitor over this weekend. She was as cute as a button.

I got out some of my kids’ old children’s books for her – and they brought back memories.

When my kids were small, we used to visit the library regularly and come back home with armloads of books, just whatever caught my kids’ or my fancy. Reading them to my kids through the week, I’d find that a percentage of them – a small percentage – would just really fascinate my kids. We’d end up reading these particular books over and over, and then I’d order our own copies from Amazon when it was time for the library books to go back.

I started giving copies of these books as birthday presents to my kids’ little friends. To this day, those parents and those kids, now teenagers, tell me how much they loved these books.

What are some of them? Sweet Dream Pie by Audrey Wood, illustrated by Mark Teague. (We liked many things that Audrey Wood and Mark Teague did.) The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman, illustrated by Marla Frazee. My Life with the Wave by Catherine Cowan, illustrated by Mark Buehner. Harvey Potter’s Balloon Farm, also illustrated by Mark Buehner, story by Jerdine Nolen. My Little Sister Ate One Hare by Bill Grossman, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes.

Looking at these books now, I am struck by their detailed plots, fully realized characters, strong elements of fantasy and magic, sophisticated humor, and illustrations that are both beautiful and full of details to pore over. Also, not a single one of them tries to drill children on their letters, numbers or vocabulary, nor do they present heavy-handed moral lessons.

They are appealing but in no way dumbed down. And little kids are drawn to them. Cool.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Still Falling for False Advertising

This brochure came from a rack
near the canes at my local pharmacy.
This model does not need compression hose.
These suits, from Athleta, do not look good
because they have ruffled skirt bottoms.
Look at those toned bodies!

Some people, me among them, are concerned about the effect advertising has on the young – and rightly so.
But all of us – of all ages – are constantly being shown idealized versions of what our bodies "should" look like.
Apparently, we fall for it.
At 49, in my quest for clothes that don’t (to paraphrase Gilda Radner) itch, I have found myself in stores, like J. Jill and Chico’s, that cater to older women. (“Mom!” my daughter will hiss, her eyes rolling with embarrassment. “You’re in an old-lady store again!”)
But have you ever noticed that stores and clothing lines like these use models who haven’t hit 30 yet?
I’ll see some catalog page and think, “Wow, those Mommy jeans actually look pretty good,” before I realize that anything would look good on the 20-something, sylph-like model.