Monday, June 29, 2009

Ten Commandments for Girlfriends



ONE: I am your girlfriend. Thou shalt have other girlfriends before me and after me.

Friendship is not monogamous; it is magnanimous. It is wise enough to understand that increasing its quantity does not decrease its quality. If your girlfriend comes to you with someone new, greet her with open arms, not a closed mind. If your friend sees something of worth in her, chances are you will, too.*

Note: While this commandment was created with girlfriends in mind, it can be applied to husbands and significant others. Big Love is not just a good idea for HBO, especially on laundry day.

TWO: Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven images of me and post them on Facebook, unless I look hot.

Sure, we call them "friends," but we all know our Facebook pages are rife with bitter exes, catty colleagues, and pretty cheerleaders from high school who we still, pathetically, want to impress. Our hairdressers are even there for godsake, and don't think those mos aren't raising a perfectly arched eyebrow if you made the mistake of getting caught on a bad hair day. Think hard before clicking insert photo. Even if you came out the spitting image of Jessica Alba, if the image of your girlfriend won't make her ex sigh with remorse, delete.**

THREE: Thou shalt not take the name of thy girlfriend's husband in vain.

Here's the drill: I can say my ass is fat, you can't. I can say my kid's a brat, not you. And we all know the rule about black people and the n-word. Same general principle. No matter what smack your girlfriend is talking about her man, you give her a shoulder, an ear, a margarita and a Snickers. But girl, do not give her ammunition to use against you the day after they kiss and make up. Which they will. But you won't.***

FOUR: Thou shalt not covet thy girlfriend's husband's ass.

Even more dangerous than dissing her man is coming across as even remotely wanting him. Suggesting that, say, in the event of her untimely death or sudden divorce you'd be willing to queue up as relief wife is a bad idea. While it slips out your mouth as an innocent, funny little compliment, it will mutate midair and arrive in her ear as a full-fledged threat. Don't give her any crazy thoughts to worry about, or him any dangerous ones to wonder about.****

FIVE: Honor thy playdates and Girls' Nights.

If you've made plans with your girlfriends, please don't be a big putz and ditch them at the last minute for some guy. Because he'll probably turn out to be an even bigger putz and ditch you for some girl. And you know what, you totally had that coming.

Note: This commandment is somewhat subjective. Like, if the guy's Hugh Jackman and only in town for the night. But at least have the decency to call your girls and let them know so they can get busy drinking your share of the wine and bad-mouthing you behind your back.*****

SIX: Thou shalt not kill the party's mojo by hijacking every freaking conversation and making it all about you. Or your blog.

We love your funny stories and graphic reenactments of that Thanksgiving in Germany when your brother-in-law tried to feel you up in the kitchen with the wishbone. But damn, girl, hand over the talking stick already. Have you ever heard of asking a question? You know, one that starts with something other than Did I tell you about the time . . . ?******

SEVEN: Thou shalt not commit adultery and expect your girlfriends to cover for your sorry lying ass.

Okay, we all know about temptation. Sometimes marriage can feel like being trapped in a Krispy Kreme on the Atkins Diet. Sometimes, you just need a cruller, or an Argentinian. So we won't judge you if you falter. (Oh, hell yeah, we totally will.) But if you do falter? You betta don't stoop to using your girlfriends as a cover story while you're out getting some strange. Because when your husband calls, I'm totally saying, "No, I don't know where Rose is. Maybe she's out getting some donuts, at the Motel Six."*******

EIGHT: Thou shalt not steal thy girlfriend's babysitter.

She'll give you the Spanx off her ass, the Jimmy Choos off her feet, and the PIN off her VISA. But her babysitter? Don't go there. If you can't find a sitter, just lock your kids in their room with the Wii and a bag of Doritos. That'll buy you a good 8-12 hours before they notice you left. Toss in a box of Pop-Tarts and a Capri Sun or two, you're good for the weekend.

NINE: Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy girlfriend.

Somewhere between brutal honesty and fabricated flattery is a sweet spot. It's a soft, cozy place, with pink lightbulbs, an ambient temperature of 69 degrees, and Enya on a loop. This is the place where good girlfriends take your social blunders and quietly hold a pillow over their faces. Whatever the faux pas, from pesto in your teeth to toilet paper on your shoe, your girlfriends will take it here and painlessly dispatch it. They will be honest, but gentle. Like a mirror, in a really dim room.

TEN: Remember thy girlfriend's birthday, and keep it happy.

Here's a quiz. Which one of the following will guarantee your girlfriend's birthday happiness:

  1. Renting a beach house for a week
  2. Throwing a big fancy party with fabulous food and drinks and guests
  3. Finding the perfect spared-no-expense present
  4. All of the above
  5. None of the above

The correct answer is choice 4, of course. Wouldn't that be awesome? But unfortunately, the role of Gayle King has already been filled. For the rest of us mortals, all we really need to be happy on our birthday is the knowledge that our girls have us on their minds and in their hearts. Some years, you do it up: kill a few lobsters and a bottle of Grand Marnier. Other years, a sappy serenade by phone fills the bill. Point is, it doesn't much matter how you remember her, just remember her. If she's lucky enough to have girlfriends living by The Commandments, I bet she's pretty damn happy already. I know I am.

*Sorry, Susan. Sorry, Paulette.

**Sorry, Melanie.

***Sorry, Shannon.

****Sorry, Karen.

*****Sorry, Beth.

******Sorry, everyone I know.

*******Sorry, Rose.

Damn I had to piss off a lot of girlfriends to get that list. Hope you appreciate it.


Friday, June 19, 2009

A Happier Marriage, In Three Easy Steps


Step One ~

Step Two ~

Step Three ~

Voila, asshole.

You're welcome, America.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Practically Perfect In Every Way

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Picture me: reclined in a sleek black leather chair, a sea of cool limestone under my bare feet, a uniform of faded blue jeans and frayed tee so comfy it makes feety pajamas pine for simpler days. The temperature is precisely one degree above chilly. To my right, ice cubes clink lazily in a tall glass of coffee, a whisper of Starbucks liqueur camouflaged beneath the surface. To my left, a wall of plate glass stands sentry against noise, granting access only to the occasional chirp of a passing finch. A silver-gray sky diffuses the sun so gently even my pupils kick back and put up their feet.

Just beyond the glass wall, a Japanese Maple quivers and sways in the still spring air, its limbs stirred by six hidden arms and as many legs, rising and descending tirelessly. My five-year-old and his two best friends since birth are climbing a tree. And the meter is running.

An hour ago, my three amigos gathered around the kitchen island to make chocolate chip cookies, alternately stirring and licking, stirring and licking. And the meter ran. Before that, a trip to the park, or the pool, or even my own house, where my only child is endlessly entertained by his newfound brothers. And the meter? Ka-ching, ka-chang, ka-chung. My official title is nanny, but I can't shake the feeling that I'm more of a grifter, conning nice people into paying me to take my kid on playdates, all day, every day, all summer long.

. . . .

To understand just how over the moon I am about this arrangement, you need a bit of background. I've wanted to be a mom since I was 12, but apparently, God lost His copy of the itinerary. When my fourth decade got under way having produced little more than a steady stream of Mr. Wrongs and a couple of tragic miscarriages, a seemingly simple dream began to feel frighteningly elusive. Teaching seemed a logical Plan B. That way, at least I'd have kids in my life. And if motherhood finally did mosey along, I'd have the perfect schedule to maximize the mommy/child time ratio. Now, after taking the scenic route to motherhood, I intend to loiter as long as he'll have me. And so far, he wants me around as much as I want him.

Picture my five-year-old: waking up in his mommy's arms; tagging along with her as she heads to work; sharing breakfast, lunch and dinner; playing and wrestling and swimming and running in the sprinklers with boys he would have hand selected given the choice, all with his mama just a "Watch me!" away. If we lived at Disney, I don't think he could be any happier. And all the while, amazingly, the meter runs.

If you aren't convinced yet that this is just short of miraculous, consider the folks on the other end of the time clock, the nice people with challenging jobs that don't mesh so well with noisy boys and endless summer activity. Astonishingly enough, they seem just as thrilled at their end of the bargain. Some days, I swear I can see a wisp of smoke as they sprint past me in the driveway on their way to grown up endeavors that involve gleaming laptops and steaming coffee rather than soggy swim trunks and melting popsicles. You've never seen a person so tickled to write a fat check.

It almost makes me feel guilty. Don't they know?

I'd do it for this.
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Saturday, June 6, 2009

What Not to Wear (in Pre-K)

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School uniforms give me pause. I can see the (alleged) merits of kids dressing for success. Uniforms may lead to a slight increase in standardized test scores. They may increase student focus on academics. They may decrease gang activity. They may alleviate issues of jealousy and competition. They may be cost effective for parents. They may be the out a parent needs when her little princess discovers her inner ho (as a few of my Pre-K students already have). So, okay, I'll bite: school uniforms might be a good idea. Bill Clinton, who is so smart he may actually have two brains, said, “If it means . . . that our young people will learn to evaluate themselves by what they are on the inside, instead of what they’re wearing on the outside, then our public schools should be able to require their students to wear uniforms.” Hard for a yellow dog like myself to disagree with Bill. But standardized testing is bad enough. Do we really have to standardize dressing? I've taught in schools with uniform policies and haven't met a polo yet with magical powers. Even with Bill's seal of approval, I'm still not sold.

In theory, I do like the idea of suiting up for the task at hand, like a full body string around the finger. When I go to work, I put on teacher-y clothes: a modest skirt, flats, pearls. Nothing like a little Ann Taylor to give my brain a sharp nudge: Hey, you're the teacher; quit screwing around. But when I get home, I leave a smoking trail of discarded clothes and jewelry from the front door to the heap on the floor where I left my boxers and wife beater the night before closet. If my husband's home, I'll yell mid-transformation, "See, I'm cute." Then, poof, Cinderella at 12:01. An evening of hard liquor and heavy Facebooking has a uniform all its own.

But Pre-K? Their job description is pretty much: play, pick your nose, play some more, tattle 27 times, take a nap. What's the proper uniform for that? Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of conformity in the classroom. I lovingly explain my expectations. I want my students to behave. I give gentle reminders about the rules. I am a complete control freak. But even though I require a nice goose-step down the hall, I don't see any reason why it can't be done in some cute Gymboree.

Even in Pre-K, the seeds of fashion sense are germinating. Most kids have a style. Sometimes it reflects the parent's taste, but usually it's the kid's. Like my five-year-old, who just recently decreed all shirts without hideous commercial characters or garish text "boring." I blame the world around him, where ugly is the new black. Don't take my word for it. Take a peek at a random day on my playground . . .




Sweet fancy Jesus. My eyeballs are vomiting.

Thank God, I have medicine. My daily dose of Christina . . .

Ahhhh . . . I love that kid. Stacy London would, too. Tragically, she's moving to a new school for Kindergarten. A new school . . . with a uniform policy. I hope she doesn't read my blog, because I would not want to be the one to break that news. The poor child, this quite possibly could kill her. Great idea, Bill.

So, where do you weigh in on the uniform debate? Inquiring bloggers want to know..
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