Tuesday, April 21, 2015

In Defense of Being Judgy

Ever comment on someone doing something absurd and have the person you’re with sniff that they don’t believe in saying anything bad about anybody?


As Alice Roosevelt Longworth, daughter of Teddy Roosevelt, said, “If you haven't got anything nice to say about anybody, come sit next to me.”

We are an exquisitely social species. When we coordinated a hunt to bring down some huge animal with sticks and rocks, when, as mothers with helpless infants, we worked out a group babysitting/gathering schedule, we honed our social abilities, including being astute judges of each other. Gossiping may have been the reason why we developed language.

Primatologists devote their lives to mapping the complex web of social interactions our closest relatives weave, but chimpanzees and bonobos can’t hold a candle to what we can do. We can live in huge groups – in cities, in countries – without (usually) killing each other. We develop complex systems of trade and trust.

Gossip has a bad reputation because it can be used maliciously to keep people in line, to punish and compete. Exhibit A: teenaged girls.

That isn’t what I’m talking about.

I have always talked to my kids, from a young age, about the people around them, including adults. (“You’re right; your teacher IS being a jerk.”) First, to pretend otherwise would be really crazy-making for the child. Second, being a good judge of character (i.e., recognizing when someone is being an ass) is a useful skill. Young humans have to learn to deal with such asses and the first, and most important, step in that process is recognizing what you’re dealing with.

Don’t talk about people?

How else are we going to figure them out?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Couch-Potato Kids

Let’s face it: most of us have couch-potato kids.

According to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition, 2 out of 3 kids are not physically active and spend an average of 7 ½ hours per day with screens.

According to the CDC, over 21% of teenagers are obese.

According to an ESPN article, only 30% of girls and 37% of boys play a sport in high school, and by senior year, only 1 out of 4 are physically active.

My son’s an avid computer gamer. We used to refer to the daily chore of getting him out of his room as “airing him out.”

And like many high-school kids (see the stats, above), he felt intimidated by the idea of “going out for” a sport.

Yet, he found one: swimming.

It’s made a world of difference. He looks better, stands taller, moves better, sleeps and eats better, gets better grades, is happier.

How’d we do it? It was about 95% luck. But we did learn a few things:

1.      It might take many attempts before you find something that clicks. With our kids, we tried gymnastics, soccer, tae kwon do, fencing, football, rugby, hiking, biking and swimming.

2.      The one that clicks could surprise you. I’d have never guessed swimming and rugby (my daughter’s sport).

3.      I thought my husband was being a hard-ass when he kept after the kids to move every day. But if only so they didn’t end up at the gym with Mom or on a bike ride with Dad (the horror), they began seriously considering their options.

4.      The best sports are new (rugby, fencing) and/or underdog ones.

5.      And really, the sport doesn’t matter. It’s the coach. If your kids find a warm, supportive coach, they’ve just won big-time.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Not For a Bazillion Dollars

People say never say never, but I am pretty sure about these.

1.Bungee Jump. Nope. Not ever.

(Link: https://youtu.be/e8np2IaTv_s)

2.  Whatever These People are Doing. They are jumping off cliffs and out of helicopters wearing something called wingsuits.

3. Noodling, or Catching Catfish with Your Bare Hands. You do this by letting the catfish try to eat your hand and end up elbow-deep inside the fish. Oh, hell no.

4. Brazilian waxes. I have no idea how this ever became a thing. Keep yourself clean? Sure. Give yourself a little haircut? Fine. Rip out all the hair by its roots from the most sensitive parts of your body? No. Some argue that an adult woman becoming hairless makes her look like a prepubescent child and that's gross enough. But, A, doesn't this practice just scream self-hatred, that you hate how your body looks naturally and you hate yourself enough to subject yourself to such a painful process? And B, those body parts are sensitive and the hair cushions them. In the name of being "sexy," are you dulling the sensitivity of your sex organs by ripping away their protection?

I think you should be nice to your body. Don't hurl it off cliffs. Don't feed it to catfish. Don't subject it to painful and possibly even harmful, alterations in the name of "beauty."

So, that's (the start of ) my list.

What would you never, ever do?

Thursday, April 2, 2015


Doesn’t every family have its own lingo?

Some of ours:

Brockabee: What my nephew called the vegetable when he was little.

Caca Bonk: What my sisters decided to call poop when they were small.

Charo: When I was a kid, my best friends’ mom, from Thailand, had a hard time pronouncing my name. It came out “Charo,” which also happens to be the name of the Spanish comedian/flamenco guitarist. Some people still call me Charo.

Diddy Ya Ya: Dish towel. Because my cousin, now a full-grown man, liked to carry around dish towels and chew on the corners when he was a toddler.

Dupie: All the young children in my family use this, from the Polish “dupa,” for rear-end.

Harry Potter Closet: What we call the closet underneath the stairs.

Helping Lola Be Her Best Self: Taking out the kitchen garbage before we leave the house. Otherwise, Lola the Dog will knock it over and drag the best bits onto the living-room rug.

Man on Horseback Would Never Notice: What we say, because my grandfather did, whenever anyone asks if something, like a stain on a shirt, is noticeable.

Mir: How I pronounced “mirror” when I was small.

Piece of Thit: My same cousin, when our grandmother tried to entice him away from an expensive toy guitar with a cheaper one, declared, with his toddler lisp, “That one’s a piece of thit.”

Pikers: What my daughter used to call popsicles.

Police the Area: Go around the yard, picking up the dog crap.

Take a Wook at It: What we say we’ll do when something’s broken, after my toddler nephew said he would when he learned his grandfather’s car wasn’t working.

Under-The-Pants: This was not from a child but from a friend from the Ukraine.

What does your family say?