Vanity, Vulcans & Verbicide


I missed the memo about vanity, vulcans, and verbicide.

Let’s just cut to the chase here…I got some bad Botox, folks.  I’m not an habitual Botox-er, but I have a Botox “connection” and with my birthday coming up, I thought I’d indulge in a little facial freshening.  I’d had Botox once before with great results, so I thought, “What could go wrong?”

Wellllllllll….

Because of my freakishly blonde eyebrows, the effect is kind of hard to photograph, but trust me, I look wickety wack.
 
A day after my Botox treatment, I noticed that I was taking on a vaguely Vulcan appearance.  My eyebrows, once basically horizontally oriented on my face, are now more diagonal.  The expression is one of unpleasant surprise, which is appropriate, as this is how I feel.
 
I called up my Botox-er and inquired  about my predicament and she told me that what I am experiencing is called…wait for it…”Spocking”.  No lie…there’s a name for this and that name is awesomely descriptive.  Apparently, I have ridiculously strong forehead muscles which have not completely surrendered to the neurotoxins to which I have subjected them.  They may relent in a day or two, but if not, the “cure” is, you guessed it, more Botox. 
 
When I was researching this phenomenon, which is kind of common apparently, e.g., Nicole Kidman, a lot of the people posting on Botox message boards prefaced their comments by saying:
 
 “I can’t believe I did this to myself.”    
 
Yup.  While I do think I look a little ridiculous,  I’m keeping the hysteria in check by telling myself that this is both temporary and not that big of a deal.  But I am feeling pretty foolish.   I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to look good,  but I’m going to have to think a bit longer and harder about the price of my vanity.   Confronted with the prospect of “just another drop or two” of Botox to correct my extraterrestrial eyebrows, I’m now really conflicted.  If my brows do stay this way, part of me thinks I should just live with them for the next couple of months as a penance for my folly. Oh well, at least my frown lines are gone.
 
And incidentally, when I Googled “spocking”  I got a fantastically filthy surprise from urbandictionary.com. (I was comforted by knowing I was exhibiting an appropriate facial expression while reading this, however.)  Seriously, for any word you can think of,  someone has thought up a truly disgusting and/or hilarious meaning for it.  
 
So there you go.  I’ve learned a lesson in aging gracefully and lots of new dirty words.  Memo received.
 
 
 
 
 
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Us and Them


I missed the memo about “Us” and “Them”. 

Throughout this weekend, I’ve been assiduously avoiding news of the massacre that occurred in Norway on Friday.  I’ve got the selfish luxury of being completely remote from these horrible events, so if I don’t read the stories, then perhaps I can pretend that such things happen only in nightmares.  Alas, the nightmare is real.

The inescapable comparisons between what happened in Norway and the bombing in Oklahoma City in 1995 have already begun.  In both instances, there were early theories about foreign terrorists being behind the atrocities, and in both instances, it was quickly learned that the truth was actually a lot scarier.  Timothy McVeigh was a U.S. citizen, even an army veteran.  And it wasn’t some foreign enemy who murdered all those Norwegian kids; it was one of their own countrymen.

I’m no sociologist, but it probably doesn’t take a Ph.D to appreciate that there’s something close to hard-wired in the mentality of “us” and “them”.  I was a big fan of the show “LOST” and one of the spookiest things in  the very weird plot was the introduction of the idea of “The Others“…in the midst of everything else that the characters were experiencing, the most chilling was the suggestion that there other people on the island who were not like them. They were different.  “The Others” was such a complete description which spoke volumes about the fear and hostility that seem to spontaneously erupt upon the introduction of an “us” and “them” dichotomy.

It’s easier to process the notion of a threat coming from outside.  We expect no loyalty or compassion from “them”.  And when we think of danger coming from without, we can build walls and fences and do all manner of defensive things to keep “them” out.  So when it turns out the terror is coming from inside the country, the grief is compounded by an awful sense of vulnerability.    We can no longer reliably discern “us” from “them” and that’s scary as hell.

The thing that occurs to me is that our concepts of “us” and “them” are so very arbitrary and conditional.  Think of this…in almost every movie which imagines an alien invasion, the people of Earth put aside their differences in order to unite in the fight against the Martians.  Whatever defined “us” and “them” before no longer matters; once the flying saucer starts shooting laser beams, all earthlings are “us” and all non-earthlings are “them”.

There's nothing like the threat of annihilation by aliens to bring a species together..

I’m pretty sure nothing good ever really comes out of something as horrific as what has happened in Norway.  But the meaning I’m starting to distill from the madness is that as the world shrinks, we have to define “us” differently.  Clearly, “us” can’t just be blue-eyed blondes.  “Us” has to everybody who believes that no matter how vehement our disagreement about politics or religion or any other deeply held personal conviction, we don’t kill people as consequence.  “Us” has to be everybody who recognizes that crazy comes in every color in the big box of crayons.  “Us” has to be everyone who’ll denounce the homicidal maniacs who pretend to defend our values, whatever those values might be.

If we define “us” in these ways, then I’d like to think there’s way more of us than there are of “them.”  At least I hope so.  Prayers for Norway and memo received.

Little Boys


I missed the memo about little boys.

This is not my little boy, but my son is also blonde and has a similar appreciation for feminine hygiene products.

When I was pregnant, my husband and I absolutely agreed that we didn’t want to know the baby’s gender before the birth.  But I’ll let you in on a little secret…I really wanted a boy.  Yeah, yeah…healthy baby, blah, blah, blah…I wanted a boy. 

So finally, the midwife got a peek at the goods and cheerfully announced, “It’s a boy!”  And I was tickled, and relieved.   Having been a good, but difficult, daughter to my own mom, I figured a boy had to be easier than a girl, right? Well, kinda. I’ll speculate that the emotional connection between my son and me will be a little less complicated than a mother-daughter relationship. But keeping him alive is a lot harder than I ever expected.

My son’s survival is threatened not only by the crazy, death-defying stuff he’s already doing, but he’s also at risk of being murdered by me on a nearly daily basis.  Well, “murder” is a strong word…I suppose the correct legal term would be “manslaughter” since if I ever kill my son it will unintentional, but in the heat of battle.  You see, my son has no regard for either his own or my cranial or abdominal integrity and thus he has battered me mercilessly in recent months.  He’s not an angry kid, but heavens, he’s rough.  He gleefully performs moves that the WWF would find impressive, just for the sheer joy of feeling his body fly through space and undoubtedly for the amusement of hearing me howl and shriek.  Life with my boy is one long isometric work out as I am always cringing and flinching in anticipation of the next flying elbow drop. 

Envision this leap being taken from atop a brown sofa and you get the idea.

Of course I  coddle, counsel, and scold my son to be more gentle with me.  And there are ridiculously tender moments when he strokes my hair and gives me sweet hugs and sloppy kisses.  After all, this kid loves his mama.  But gentle is really not in his DNA.  He may have the thrill seeking gene, and watching “Jackass” gives me a chilling preview of what’s to come. 

But here’s the thing…though all the rough housing is not exactly my cup of tea and one particularly vicious headbutt was good for two trips to the dentist, I don’t want to discipline the boy-ness out of my boy.  It seems like little girls are celebrated in our culture while little boys get demonized a bit.  I think that typical little girl behavior is just more convenient than typical little boy behavior, and as a consequence there seems to be a tendency to pathologize boy behavior a little too much.  Boys will be boys is kind of trite, but kind of true.  I hope I can let my boy just be a boy.

In guiding my son, I’m hoping  to keep him out of the emergency room and/or jail while ensuring he doesn’t lose the energetic zeal he seems to have for life.   So, Mrs. Knoxville, if you have any advice, please call me.  Fingers crossed and memo received. 

Nostalgia, Shirtlessness & Secondhand Smoke


I missed the memo about nostalgia, shirtlessness, and secondhand smoke.

My husband and I recently had the dubious honor of being the oldest people in attendance at a Unity Tour show featuring Sublime and 311 (Sublime was good, but 311 actually kinda rocked my world…go figure.)   Our niece had some extra tickets so we were invited along to babysit enjoy the show.  I figured since these bands had their heydays more than a decade ago, there would be other old timers there, but the crowd consisted almost entirely of teens and twenty-somethings.  I was kind of freaked out and was eager for the sun to go down so no one could see my crow’s feet.

One thing that seemed to distinguish the whippersnappers from us fossils was the bare skin to clothing ratio.  It was a particularly steamy St. Louis evening and many of our fellow concert-goers were shirtless.  I think I may have passed over some sort of threshold from youth to (early) middle age because the idea of wearing a bikini top anywhere anywhere but the beach just seems like a stylistic non-starter. 

And then there was the pot…even as a younger woman, I’ve always been shockingly square when it comes to drugs.  It’s not that I’m morally opposed to marijuana as I don’t really see what the big difference is between pot and booze  (see, $22 worth of beer depicted below.)  It’s just that pot is illegal, and I’m a goodie-goodie at my core, so until that trip to Amsterdam, no weed for me.  The kiddos around us at the concert had no such inhibition, however.  I settled for the contact high ’cause I’m a dork.

I need to work on my duck face, but I did in fact airbrush out all our wrinkles.

Despite the fact that I was wearing a shirt and was mostly sober, I did actually enjoy myself at this show.  I was experiencing actual 90s nostalgia, and the infants around me were experiencing nostalgia for a decade they could not possibly remember.  Between sets, a DJ was spinning some tunes to keep the crowd pumped up and the playlist included Snoop Dog, Rage Against the Machine, Biz Markie, House of Pain, and Cypress Hill.  I smirked and giggled as the 19-year-olds next to us belted it out,You, you got what I nee-eeeeeed!”   For realz ya’ll, this 22-year-old song is apparently as fresh and funny today as it was back in 1989 and it was delightful to see that the youth of today have developed an appreciation for the classics.

So yeah, I’m kinda sorta getting old. But 30 is the new 50 and apparently 2011 is the new 1991.   Good times and memo received.

Popularity


I missed the memo about popularity.

What's your damage?

If memory serves, I was not particularly popular in high school.  I was one of those passably cute, but nerdy girls who mostly flew under the radar.  I occasionally mixed with the beautiful people, but was not established as a member of the “in” crowd.  I wasn’t prom princess or homecoming queen, but I also wasn’t bullied or tormented.  I mostly just did my own thing and mercifully, my high school years weren’t too terrible.  I did have an occassional pang of envy when I observed all the fun the popular people seemed to be having.  But I have recently come to appreciate that being popular ain’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

Popularity has a  dark side and I’m currently living it.  In a development which I hope is both normal and temporary, my darling son has conferred upon me some serious most favored parent status.  So as to my son, I am extremely popular.  During our recent vacation, he was in full-blown daddy hating mode, so to keep the peace, I was stuck with most of the baths, bedtimes, and butt-wiping and it wore me out.  By any logical calculus, my husband should be the more popular parent, as he is a lot more fun than I am.  Maybe it’s Freudian, but whether it’s Oedipal or otherwise, I’m hoping this little phase is short-lived.

It’s hard to be the center of someone else’s universe, but as a parent, I suppose that’s what I signed on for, so my complaints are actually kind of petty.   But when people are clamoring for your attention, it can make your head a noisy place.  I suppose I’ll miss the noise when my boy is all grown up, but these days, I do sometimes miss the quiet.

And here’s another pernicious thing about popularity…when you’re admired it can mess with your head and make you think you have to be problem-less and perfect.  If you’re adored, you should make yourself worthy of adoration and never complain, right?

Remember reading “Richard Cory” in high school English class?  This Edwin Arlington Robinson poem always just devastates me…

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
“Good-morning,” and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich – yes, richer than a king –
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

For the record, I am not suicidal, but I totally get this poem.  It’s a weird sort of irony that the people we glorify sometimes end up isolated and sad.  I’m no Richard Cory, but I relate in my own small way. 

I’m not sure if I’ve got this memo entirely figured out…I suppose it’s ultimately about figuring out whether the cost of popularity is worth its benefits.  So while I think about it, here’s some Nada Surf.   Memo received.

Perspective, Gratitude & The Miracle of Flight


I missed the memo about perspective, gratitude, and the miracle of flight.

I’ve just returned from a week-long midwestern odyssey with my husband and three-year old son.  While our return trip was nearly perfect, getting there was not half the fun.  In fact, the start of our trip was such an inauspicious beginning that I was nearly in hysterical tears a couple times.

Let’s begin with the flight time…departing out of LAX at 6:00 a.m. is just a gnarly proposition under the best of circumstances…the airport is not fully functional at this ungodly hour, the surly TSA agents are just shuffling in and all your fellow passengers are equally sleep-deprived and harried.  The vibes just aren’t good.  Add to this mix a pre-schooler with an unnatural attachment to his shoes and an understandable unwillingness to walk through that weird metal thing and you can understand why my nerves were already jangled before we even reach the gate.

The nerve jangling continued as we flew on a packed plane, sandwiched between seat kickers and seat recliners.  My darling son, whom I presumed to be potty-trained, went on a toilet strike during the flight and resisted all coaxing to pee in the airplane lavatory.  Lest you think he did not have to go,  he peed his pants promptly upon returning to his seat.  At his age, accidents will happen, but there is nothing so crazy-making as knowing a child has consumed a whole bottle of Odwalla, wrangling his resistant body onto a toilet, engaging in a battle of wills as said child uses all his bodily strength to combat the urge to urinate, and then experiencing the tell-tale warmth on your leg once the child lets fly with a pee in his pants.  Seriously, crazy-making.

Once my darling boy was changed and dry, the early wake up call finally caught up with us, and we all fell asleep with only about a half an hour left in the first leg of our journey.  We were bound for St. Louis with a quick scheduled stop in Dallas.  I figured we’d sleep pretty much straight through.  My rude awakening, literally, came in the form of a flight attendant announcing that St. Louis-bound passengers would have to de-plane because some unscheduled maintenance was going to take a little longer than anticipated.  I’m not proud of this, but as  I angrily staggered off the plane, I gave every American Airlines employee I saw the stink-eye.

What we hoped would be a short stop in Dallas turned into a nearly 2 hour layover.  And guess what?  My darling boy peed his pants, AGAIN.  This time, stripping off his wet shorts and skivvies in the middle of the terminal and scampering around bare-assed.  At this point,  I was out patience and also out of extra clothes, so I was ready to put a diaper on him.   But I didn’t have any diapers, and you can’t buy diapers in an airport.  You can buy true essentials, like Clinique skin care products, from a vending machine no less, but you can’t buy diapers.  Seriously.

Once we got going again, I was nearly at the end of my rope.  But mercifully, my husband reminded me of this gem from Louis C.K.

 

Even though I was still really tired and kind of frustrated with the misadventures we’d experienced, thinking about how amazing it is that we can get across our vast country in a matter of hours does help to keep things in perspective.  With a little perspective, I can appreciate that I have mostly high-quality problems in my life.  And for that, I’m grateful.  So what if my son went commando from Dallas to St. Louis?  When I focus on how lucky I am to have the means to travel at all, and that I had some pretty wonderful people waiting for me on the other end, it gets a lot easier to tolerate the petty inconveniences that accompany the journey.  But next time I’m packing some Pull-Ups in my carry-on. Memo received.