with Lynne and Leslie
Category Archives: friendships

The twins and Dolly wish you a “Hard Candy Christmas”

by SweetMidlife

Merry Christmas! This is Leslie, and behalf on Lynne, our family, humanity, the 1984 Duran Duran fanckub, people who love cheese and Grumpy Cat, we would like to wish you a happy holiday. And we’d like to do it with the help of Miss Dolly, and some sad hookers.

You see, Miss Mona and the former employees of the Chicken Ranch in 1982’s “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” are parting ways, because…well, it’s a long story. And even though they are not a traditional or even legal family (or involved in legal, family things) they are very unhappy to have to leave each other. But Miss Mona, who is Dolly, tells them that sometimes they have to get through things even if it’s hardscrabble, like a Christmas so thread-bare that you only get hard candy for Christmas. You’ll be fine and dandy.

So whether today finds you flush or flushed, hardy or hapless, go hug someone you love. Or call them. You won’t let sorrow bring you way down. Tell ’em Dolly.


Amy Poehler and the myth of being nice

by SweetMidlife

yes please

This is Leslie, and I would like to talk to you about a four-letter word, one I have been sometimes proud to be called, and, at other times, wanted to slap people about the face in a vigorous fashion should it be tossed in my direction.

Nice.

I do not mean the, well, nice definition of nice, which is cordial, courteous and personable. I mean the kind of “nice” that really means “pushover” or “selfless to the point of martyrdom” or “always willing to acquiesce to the requests of others, no matter how last-minute, unreasonable or inconvenient, for fear of people thinking you’re not nice.”

This kind of nice – and if you’re human, and almost certainly if you are a woman, you may have had thrust upon you – is almost a dare, a velvet cudgel that in the most sweetly inescapable way says (always smiling) “Can you do me a favor?” or “I know this is last minute but” or “I hope I’m not putting you out but” and then proceeds to put you out, all the while making it almost impossible for you to say ‘no’ at risk of the asker and other people not liking you anymore.

Amy Poehler has no use for such idiocy, and that attitude is all over the refreshingly blunt “Yes Please,” a combination memoir/life manual where she covers everything from her discovery of improv comedy to her “comedy wife” Tina Fey to the joys of faking inappropriate behavior with Justin Timberlake. But a recurring theme of the book, which I’m almost done listening to on Audible.com, is that you don’t owe anybody your dignity, and if a request is intrusive, unreasonable, presumptive or just something you don’t want to do, you get to say “No” and move on. And screw ’em if that’s not OK.

Poehler is probably most famous for playing ¬†Pawnee, Indiana’s sincere-to-a-fault, people-pleasing public servant Leslie Knope on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation,” and she’s clear that she’s just acting – “I’m not that nice,” she writes candidly. And she’s not talking about being purposely rude as a mission statement, but about not allowing other’s expectations to color her life, in a way that a lot of us – especially, I think, women – have been raised to believe trumps all, even our own plans. You’ve been there, every time you’re asked to be on a church committee you know you don’t have time for, or that sweet last-minute request for bake sale items when you’ve gotta make dinner, or that “quick” favor of an errand that’s really not that quick. And you want to say “No.”

But you’re so nice.

From not accepting screenplays rudely dropped in her lap while she’s sleeping on a train (“It’s called ‘I Don’t Know Because I Threw It Away'”) to just saying “No” when strangers approach her on the street to ask her a question (“Nobody needs to ask me a question”), Poehler writes of the sometimes painful road to realizing that the older you get, the less it matters what other people think of you. And if people thinking you are “nice” is more important than the stuff you gotta do, you’re a sucker.

Poehler doesn’t exonerate herself from her own idiocy and the importance of being nice, as in a good human being, when it’s about owning your own stuff: In a particularly painful passage she talks of inadvertently mocking a real-life disabled woman in a “Saturday Night Live” sketch that she assumed was fictional, because she was busy getting ready for the show and just never checked with her writers to find out. When she gets an emotionally charged letter from Oscar-winning actor Chris Cooper and his wife Marianne, who directed the movie the sketch mocks, that mentions that the young lady was actually watching the sketch live, she attempts to rationalize her behavior by deciding they’re overreacting, that it wasn’t her fault, and then throws the letter away. It’s not until five years later that she attempts to contact the Coopers through mutual friend and director Spike Jonze, and hears back that they were disappointed it took so long and don’t need an apology at this late date, but offer contact info for the young lady she hurt. (She receives a gracious note from her.)

In that case, Poehler needed to have been “nice,” as in be an adult, and she acknowledges it. She even admits that sometimes in her candor, she lets that “niceness” urge put her in unfair situations, like the “creepy guy” producer who, unable to talk her into re-recording an entire speech that the tech crew messed up, asks her for a hug to make him feel better about being wrong, she submits, even though she doesn’t hug back, because it’s easier than saying “No.”

A great man I know named Pastor Dave Pinckney once told me that it is Godly to say no sometimes, meaning that you can’t be of any use to anybody, heavenly or otherwise, if you’re too overbooked to do your job well. Being “nice” or making people think you are isn’t worth screwing it all up. I’ve been there. Amy Poeher’s been there. And we both know that sometimes, the nicest thing, to yourself, is to say “No, please.”


“Let’s Get Together”-itis

by SweetMidlife

Lynne here!

I heard this story recently about this guy who has given himself 3 years to have coffee with everyone of his over- 1000 Facebook friends because he realizes how important it is to have in-person connection. I think this is a fantastic idea too, because I too, have a whole heaping bunch of friends on the Facebook. ¬†Now, some of them are high school classmates who I don’t remember too well, and some are the cousin of somebody that I met once at a wedding. But many of those are people who, even though I haven’t seen them in ages, I actually feel close to because we are in each other’s daily online lives. They pray for me, I pray for them, we share pictures and hope and dreams, and we make each other smile. I don’t know if we will all be getting together in person, although that would be fantastic. And some of these good friends and I often chat on FB, or text, and someone will say, “Hey, we need to get together soon.”

And I am sorry to say, this doesn’t usually happen.

I think that we have good intentions of actually following through. But they don’t always translate into actually putting something on the calendar, and then actually following through with actually hanging out. Sometimes you push through, and you actually see each other. Sometimes, you set dates that keep getting canceled. Other times, unfortunately, the cancellations pile up, or you never schedule in the first place, and you realize that one or both of you has become the dad in “Cats in the Cradle”.

“When we hanging out, Lynne?”

“I don’t know when. But we’ll get together then, friend. I know we’ll have a good time. THEN.”

Whenever that is.

I decided once to stop making quasi-plans with people if I wasn’t going to make actual plans, and it worked for awhile, but I find myself lately quasi-ing again. Things happen that change plans, and I get that. I have been on both sides of that. But I want my friends to know that I actually value that face time, and if we can get it done, even if it is in a few months, we will set the date.

And this has been a good run lately. I hung out with a friend I have had for 20 years and her daughter when they came into town for a family celebration. I am having dinner/lunch with 3 of my best friends in the next few days. Just this morning, I had with a good friend, who I recently texted to say that we should get together and should set a date. I said I would check my calendar. I ran into her at a funeral a few weeks ago and realized that I never wrote her back. And that it had been 4 months since then. I got home that night and sent her dates. And voila, Cracker Barrel, biscuits, and friend time. Good times, that is.

20141030_191238

We brought home pancakes and memories.

So, I am sure that there are people that I really want to see, but that might not happen. But I hope I get to actually put in REAL face time with the people I call friends.

Drop me a line, okay? We will check our calendars.

Really.

 

 

 

 


But did you even read the book?: On Internet comments and derailing

by SweetMidlife
Don't be this guy. Don't derail the train.

Don’t be this guy. Don’t derail the train.

Leslie here!

Say you went to a book club meeting, all ready to discuss the juicy ends and outs of the novel you just read. One or two folks sheepishly admit to having started the book but not finishing it, but assure everyone else that it’s OK to talk about spoilery details because they understand that the discussion is about this particular book, and because they enjoy conversation and also wine and cheesy things.

But then someone new shows up – and this person is often invited by the friend of a cousin of someone who doesn’t usually show up. New Nancy hasn’t read the book. She’s only kind of heard of it. She definitely heard of one with a similar name, and she read a third that kind of relates. Probably. But if you think for a second that Nancy’s utter lack of knowledge on the topic is gonna stop her from jumping in and trying to run the discussion, well, you’ve never been on the Internet, have you? Because Nancy got questions, girl. She needs to know, more than Marc Anthony. Tell her, baby girl, cause she needs to know.

And after the first couple of comments about the book by the people who actually read it, she’s off. Sure, she doesn’t know anything about it, but the plot doesn’t make sense to her. Are you sure that’s what it was about? Really? Well, she doesn’t quite believe you, even though she’s with a roomful of people who have read it, who are holding the book and can show her evidence. In her expert experience as whatever she is, she’s suspicious. OK, maybe you’re right. But can you take time right now, in the middle of the conversation, to break it all down from her, from the beginning? Like, tell her the whole plot, and also the history behind the story, and the writer’s background? Are you sure about that?

So, the people who came because they thought they were having a talk about something they all knew about and were invested in, they have to stop and play Yoda to someone who inserted themselves into the discussion. What really blows is that if Nancy didn’t read the book and seems hostile to anyone who suggests she should..then why is she there?

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how derailing works. It is the word equivalent of Snidley Whiplash tying Nell to the railroad tracks – the train stops and somebody dies. It can happen in conversations, in book clubs and in Bible studies, and most certainly on the Internet. If you’ve ever been on a comment thread on any page, anywhere, you’ve probably seen it – that insistence on either rerouting a conversation you just showed up to in the direction you want it to go, or shutting it down completely just because.

Sometimes derailers truly have a question that they believe people in this particular discussion can answer, assuming them to maybe be experts on the subject – often race, gender, politics and religion. Often they feel so strongly about one piece of what you’re discussing, and only want to discuss that point, and insist that you focus only on their argument because that’s the most important thing. And sometimes, they’re trolls who just like blowing stuff up like railroad tracks in a western. Whatever their motive, they either start fights or chase away anyone who actually wanted to discuss the stated topic. It doesn’t matter how many ways you try to answer the question and move on – they’ve got another one. It doesn’t matter that they can just Google the topic if they have need to know more. You opened a door now, boy, and they’re coming through it with every random thought they’ve ever had even distantly related because THEY GOTTA KNOW RIGHT NOW.

Derailers also fit into the Sweet Midlife’s tried and true BoBo’s Cousin theory of parties, which holds that the person most likely to act afool at your wedding, graduation shindig or book club is the person with the least emotional connection to you. It’s just a party to them, just another opportunity to make sure other people explore the wonder that is them, and they don’t give a crap about your real attachment and investment. They’re just being them.

I’ve run into derailers on message boards and on my own Facebook page. I like a good discussion, as long as it doesn’t get personal. But it’s frustrating when someone insists on either asking side questions they already think they know the answers to, or which aren’t going to be solved in one discussion, or just aren’t what we’re talking about. During threads about Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, some people kept insisting on black-on-black crime. Isn’t that the real problem? Well, it’s a problem, we’d say. But it’s not the problem here, and crimes aren’t interchangeable. But they kept on poking and sometimes we’d just end the thread because it wasn’t going anywhere.

Something similar happened during discussions on my page and others about the New York Times piece that cast “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal” showrunner Shonda Rhimes as the mythical “Angry Black Woman,” a racist trope that is not evidenced in Rhimes’ work. The discussion was about the inaccuracy of this and other parts of the piece, but too many people chimed in to wonder why they’ve never heard of that stereotype, and if it were real, and if we all weren’t just blowing this out of proportion, and could you tell them more about it. Their insistence on being educated on something that couldn’t possibly exist if they didn’t know about it was condescending, insulting and beside the point. I wanted to strangle those people.

Yet…I’ve been them – not maliciously, but I recognize it. I can remember Bible studies where I felt the conversation could benefit from my knowledge and insight about some tangent. I’m sort of embarrassed now to remember how clever I thought all my little brain nuggets where, when I was a big ol’ bore, probably. This isn’t an excuse, but I meant well. I was always plugged into the topic and the conversation and really thought I was adding something to it, even if I was hogging all the air. (Sorry everyone!) But at least my comments were about the book, Biblical or otherwise.

I love discussions, and try to make sure that I am as open to being educated and challenged as I expect others to be. But here are a few things I try to keep in mind when commenting:
– Why am I commenting?
– Does my opinion need to be heard in this situation, or have other people eloquently already said what I was going to say?
– Am I really commenting on the subject, or something adjacent that’s going to take the discussion somewhere only I care about?
– Am I listening?
– Do I know what I am talking about? Have I seen the movie, been to that city? Have I read the book?

And if not…do I really care?


PJs, tacos and and advice: An ode to my friend Chrissy

by SweetMidlife
This lovely lady has some wisdom for you.

This lovely lady has some wisdom for you.

Leslie here! (the one who lives in Florida)

Several months ago my brilliant sister put out a call for guest bloggers for this here Website, and we got an immediate “Heck, yes!” from one Chrissy Benoit, a longtime friend, chef, Food Network-featured restaurateur and dedicated supporter of the communities to which she serves food, laughs and love.

Chrissy wrote about the things that she wished she’d known about getting what you want, a pinnacle she’d seemed to have reached – working for Wolfgang Puck, opening several restaurants in South Florida for herself and others, and a local and national media presence. Her column was a funny, touching reality punch – written by an adult who knows her stuff -about unsolicited advice, the danger of mixing business and friendship and the facet that you might be forever chasing that feeling you thought “making it” would give you. Turns out that “it” is a journey, not a destination, and you never stop the pursuit.

This weekend, Chrissy closes her Boynton Beach restaurant The Little House, a cozy retreat from the ordinary featuring weekend brunches that were discounted if you wore your jammies, savory bread pudding, live music and adoration. She’ll be headed to the Tampa area to put her stamp on an established hospitality company, giving them her energies and ideas. And they’re so frigging lucky, because this is a quality lady. She “gave back” to her community by hiring local kids from that community, by being a role model to women and young people just by being her. She even gave an untested singer a shot to perform on her patio (and paid me in wine.)

Chrissy is testament to the trope that hard work pays off, although you don’t always know what the pay’s going to be. She left Havana Hideout, her successful Lake Worth Latin street food joint, where she cooked out of a food truck before that became the cool thing to do, to open the Little House and inject a bit of old Florida charm and “yumminess,” as she often says, into Boynton. It had a following but not the one it deserved. So she’s moving on, in the most non-bitter and positive way possible. Her biggest concern was not her ego but the staff she was leaving when her doors closed.

And that’s some good humble life advice for myself, who’s always half-joked that if I ever get fired, I’ll dress up in a satin gown like Bette Davis in “All About Eve,” stand on my desk with a martini and tell everyone off. I guess I’m writing this because Chrissy is an example of how you never have to stop wanting what you want, never have to stop working, never stop building on your reputation and never do anything, however temporarily emotional edifying, to mess that up. I’ll miss her. But I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next. Raising a glass to you, my friend.


Five Minute Friday: We “belong”, we belong together

by SweetMidlife

Leslie here!

Go.

I write about music, among other entertainment, for a living, so these “Five Minute Friday” prompts often shake off some automatic lyrical connection in my brain (and believe me, there are a lot of ridiculous ’80s songs living there among the cobwebs).

So this week’s, “belong,” immediately made the Pandora in my brain start singing Pat Benatar’s “We Belong,” a now 30-year-old song that featured a children’s choir in white, shot in a gauzy light, as Pat sang about spiritual, physical and emotional connectedness while wearing a white head wrap and gloves with little holes in them. (Holes=spiritual openness.)

At 13, I imagined that was the ultimate love song, about connecting in ways you haven’t even considered, as if the whole rhythm of the earth and sky had prescribed your meeting, as if you existed in accordance with the beating of the clock. That was something I was looking for, I know. It was also very melodramatic, and 13-year-olds bathe in that stuff.

I always wanted to believe that existed, even in college, when a paranoid and sweetly misguided guy in my Christian fellowship group told me that he’d loved the song until he’d really examined the lyrics and decided it was New Agey and demonic and asked you to belong to the thunder.

He meant well, but that’s not what Pat was talking about. Actually, if I could go back to college I’d tell Steven (I think that was his name) that the song could actually be very Christian – We believe God created the night, the thunder and all the elements Pat sings about, as well as our desire to connect to Him and to each other. He gave us the desire to want to be with other people, as friends and lovers, in a way that echoes the way that he loves us, that’s so natural that it’s like the sound of the thunder.

I am glad to say I’ve found that with my husband person. Pat would be proud.

Stop.


Not sure how to feel about: “Girlfriend Intervention”‘s black fairy godmothers

by SweetMidlife

I’m afraid this “Lifetime” might be wasting mine.

Leslie here!

Because I write about entertainment, pop culture, and various entertaining goings-on and hooha, I have a lot of interest in news about upcoming movies and TV shows, both for professional reasons, and because I like knowing what on the horizon might be worth interrupting my steady stream of “People You Do NOT Want To Meet In An Alley In Any Lighting Situation For Reals” on Investigation Discovery (this is not a real show, but you know you’d watch it. Heck, I would.)

You know what is a real show, or at least is going to be? “Girlfriend Intervention,” Lifetime’s new “Queer Eye For The Straight Guy”-esque deal that substitutes pulled-together, savvy (and likely sassy) black women for the pulled-together, savvy and sassy gay men. This is how the press release describes it:

“Four wise, poised and stylish African-American women, who, in each episode, help a white sister seeking a complete makeover to restore her confidence and inner glow.”

Umm…not so fast there, Lifetime Television For Co-Dependents. On the one hand, it’s nice to see a network that considers black women the go-to for style and refinement, unlike, oh, pretty much every other network. (As the home of the black “Steel Magnolias” remake and the Fantasia movie, it’s clear Lifetime values black women and the women who like them as an audience, without weave-pulling).

And if “Girlfriend” matches “Queer Eye” in tone, any tough love and joshing at expense of those being intervened upon will be worth it at the affectionate and successful reveal. I like encouraging togetherness among women (I’m looking at you, Bravo’s “Real Housewives of Ethno-Cultural-Class Stereotypes and Public Shaming.”)

But…(and you knew that there was one)…I’m not sure how to feel about so much of it, because the premise deals in some mule-tired stereotypes that I’m not sure are a good look on anyone. Even the title makes my teeth start itching, because it reminds me of white strangers who, upon meeting me, suddenly go “How you doin’ girlfriend?,” in some weird Southern/Brooklyn/imagined black person accent when I swear I just heard them speaking in proper English sentences that ended in consonants before they turned to me. Umm, one day I might be your girlfriend, as in your good pal. But let’s start with “Leslie,” OK?

Here’s the other thing – that “girlfriend” stuff opens to the door to an otherness that’s at the root of every other comedian on “Def Jam” – the “black people be like this and white people be like this” thing. And yes, there are some truths in all stereotypes, whose exceptions don’t become apparent if the only people that you encounter from another groups are the ones you see on TV. And continues a really, really lazy trope seen everywhere from “Ghost” to “The Help” – that black women exist mostly to teach you a lesson, make you grow as a person and heal your aching heart, until your soul glows and they get back into their magic Escalade and go off to save some other white people, like Atlanta Mary Poppins.

Then there’s the weird message that white women are somehow obviously more clueless about body image, style and getting-it-togetherness than black women, because I know some dang fine white women who are actually my personal “Girl, what is wrong with your nails?” patrol. Is that OK? And how come these “Girlfriend” folks aren’t helping black women, or Latinas or Asians or Native Americans? Is it assumed that we don’t need any help? (Because I don’t want to get too personal, but if I go too long between pedicures my husband starts making random references to “getting that talon attended to.”)

I have a lot of friends who are black and white and Latin and biracial and Indian and Sri Lankan-Australian and Jewish and atheist and whatever else you’ve got. We all help each other. Some of us have strengths that fit stereotypes, and some of us defy definition. We do for each other not because of some ethnically-defined mission to meddle or swoop in. We are friends. We are not each other’s staffs or acolytes or fairy godmothers with no lives other than the one in which we’re of service.

I am gonna check out “Girlfriend Intervention” because I kinda have to now, don’t I? And also because it could prove me wrong. I thought “Queer Eye” was going to be full of gross stereotypes, and although it sometimes was, it was also bold, sweet and gave the world Carson Kressley and my food boyfriend Ted Allen.

I just wish it didn’t have to be another show about clueless white people and the magic black people who live to help them. Because as my husband – sisters need help sometimes, too.


“Pet Semetary 3: What To Do With Babycat?” or Letting Go Of My Friend

by SweetMidlife

Every breath I take, every move I make, she’ll be watching me. And judging. Always judging.

Leslie here! There is a humor that those of us who have suffered loss – whether that of a parent, a spouse, a pet or a job – employ sometimes as a conscious defense, and sometimes because that’s just the weird space we live in now – that might seem inappropriate to others who expect us to cry, or rage at God, or at least eat something creamy-fried and wallow. I don’t know if you saw “Game of Thrones” this past week, but tiny Arya Stark, who’s lost pretty much her entire family in a series of gruesome, kingdom politics-related events, got all the way to the castle of her aunt after a long bloody journey on foot, during which she kinda became a tiny cross-dressing killing machine (you had to be there).

And when she got there, she was told, “Dude, your aunt, your only living relative maybe, died three days ago.” And instead of bursting into tears, or jumping off a cliff. or just getting stabby, she laughs. It’s a beautiful, frightening “Are you kidding me with this, Fate?” laugh, unhinged and hearty, and anyone who’s ever been backed against a wall and then seen the other wall hurtling right toward you understands that emotion. It’s a grasp of the ludicrousness of the moment, the bitter realization that there’s a hidden trap floor below the bottom you just hit. It’s awful and funny and stupid and cathartic, because what are you gonna do?

And it’s here where I find myself, six days after the death of the esteemed Babycat, my feline companion, good friend, confidante and cat overlord. We have until today to tell the vet staff, who loved her, what we want to do with her remains. I originally told them that I wanted them to just cremate her and keep the remains or do whatever they do with them, because I don’t want them in an urn. I am not an urn person. My husband went to the other extreme, asking me to look into pet cemeteries, headstones and perpetual lights, like the one his mother had erected for their late dog, Lisa.

“That’s a really stupid idea,” I told him, and I know that this sounds judgey and wrong, so for any of you who have perpetual lights on your beloved pets’ graves, I am so sorry to say that. That’s where I was, less than 24 hours after Baby’s death, in the middle of a very stressful week otherwise, and when he started talking about permanent tributes to a cat whose litter box was still my responsibility to dump one last time, I was in a very Arya place, like “So I’ve spent maybe $10,000 in vet bills, cat food, litter I had to scoop, special serums to give her so she would poop the poop I had to scoop when she was backed up, boarding and other stuff, for a being who I loved but who was often disdainful, rude, hairy and poopy, sometimes in a defensive manner all over my place of residence.

And now that I lost her, this fascinating, gorgeous, haughty, mean, loving, snarky little thing, her final gift could be either sitting on my shelf as ashes forever, or in very expensive digs that I will have to pay maintenance fees for, forever. Again, if this is your choice, I’m cool with that choice and you choosing it for you. But I am not about that choice, probably. My husband really wants to, because he’s sweet like that, but he’s left it to me. I am inclined to keep my memories and my love and heartbreak in my soul (because when the heart breaks it bleeds into your soul. Because science.) and let Babycat’s earthly remains recede into the earth or whatever.

What do you think? Am I being cold? Unsentimental? Cheap? Realistic? You tell me.


Stuff I’m learning: My kid-related first judgmental stranger moment

by SweetMidlife

Leslie here! I am an expert on judgment, being a professional columnist, blogger and judge of things. And I expect blowback sometimes, even with the judgement it warranted, because that’s just how it goes. But that’s when it concerns stuff I think or feel, that has to do with my decisions about “American Idol” or Oprah or whether Denzel Washington is the best whatever there ever was (He is.)

Now, I know what it’s like to be judged, by a complete stranger, about a decision I made that, in that judgey stranger’s mind, would endanger a child. And I have been told to expect this, now that we are hanging out with a baby for the time being. But it still made me want to punch somebody.

Let me set the scene. I am standing at the counter of the local outpost of a huge drug store conglomerate, having placed baby wipes, an ear thermometer and a bottle of wine in front of the cash register. The friendly cashier informs me that I could not buy the wine at this time, as Florida laws prohibit the sale of such things before noon on Sunday. OK, I say, happily putting the wine behind me. I’m not a wino, so I don’t go “What?” or try to hide it in my baby bag.

This may have been the start of the judgement – I think it was – because I appear to be a mother buying alcohol while holding a baby. And I admit I thought “Is that weird?” before I went to the counter, but then decided that it didn’t matter. It’s not like I was drinking it there, or that I’d bellied up to the bar at Blue Martini and ordered a Cosmo with the baby on my hip. It’s legal (after noon on Sunday, anyway), they sell it and I was gonna try to buy it. So I couldn’t, so I cheerfully give her my credit card and rewards number, and waited for her to finish up.

And then she judge-slaps me.

“Is Mommy hurting you?”

I have only been hanging out with this kid for a few weeks, so I still take a couple of seconds to remember that people are talking about me when they say “Mommy” and that my own mother didn’t sneak behind me and was not, in this case, sticking me with a straight pin from behind. Then I realize “Oh, snap. She’s talking me….Accusing me.”

“I’m sorry?” I say. But she keeps staring at the baby, who is happily sucking on his pacifier and smiling at her because he likes attention, and addresses him. Although she is clearly addressing me, as the only person who understands English on this side of the counter is me.

“That bracelet,” she coos, in the most chillingly fake-cordial manner, like I’m on idiot. “She looks like she’s hurting you.”

The baby she is “speaking” to continues to stare and smile contentedly, not like someone being hurt. I look down at my bracelet, which looks like metal spikes but is really just cleverly-engineered plastic, that pulls apart, is not sharp, is quite dull and most importantly not hurting the baby only slightly leaning against it. Because this is a talky expressive boy who would not be shy about telling you he was being impaled. Or at all uncomfortable. Or wondering why you’re not sharing whatever is in that bowl with him, like, right now.

“Oh, no! It’s not sharp. It’s plastic. He’s fine, see?” I say, snapping the elastic on it so she sees it’s all a clever fake. And you know what she does? Are you ready for this, y’all?

SHE KEEPS TALKING TO THE BABY.

“Well, it looks sharp,” she says, her voice now condescendingly saccharine and pointed, now full of sour grapes as if I was the person who’d made an assumption about her and her character. “She looks like she’s hurting you.”

And I want to say “Bisnatch, if I was really impaling this child on my arm, I would want you to call 911 or whatever. But I showed you it was plastic and not hurting him, he is telling you it’s not hurting him because he’s smiling like you’re made of Similac and peaches, and you’re being really condescending, so you need to give me my bag that does not have wine in it and instead is full of things that prove I am taking care of this boy rather than stabbing him with fashion, and keep that mess to yourself. Or at least talk to me like an adult and not like a stupid child.”

I do not say that, of course, because I am not crazy, and because she didn’t deserve my dignity. I take my bag and go home. Here is the thing – I have seen parents and guardians do things in public that made me suspicious, and I have wanted to say something, but don’t, because I don’t know that family’s life and unless it is very obvious that they’re pushing the child down the steps, or forcing them to eat paint in the checkout line at Target, I am not getting involved.

I am reminded of my mom’s story about being in the supermarket and telling us, her twin three-year-olds, that Superman could fly “because,” because even though she and my dad were stalwart in always coming up with answers for us about everything, at that moment it was after work, she had two toddlers pestering her about some nonsense, she wanted to go home and she was fresh out of creative, you dig? But a woman in the aisle who was listening frowned at her and said “You never tell those babies ‘Because.’ You give them an answer” as if she knew that my mother was a neglectful stupid person and not a then-current Masters in Social Work candidate who knew all about what to tell her kids. You know why she didn’t know?

Because she didn’t know her. And because it wasn’t her business. My mother wasn’t cursing us out. She wasn’t beating us or impaling us with dangerous accessories. She was just trying to get us to shut up long enough to go home and keep being an awesome mom, because she was and is awesome.

But this stranger saw fit to butt in and assume things about her based on one tiny exchange. I suspect that it may be because she, as I am, is black, and people seem to assume that black women are inclined to be bad mothers unless someone corrects them.

(And before you think I am “bringing race into this,” a phrase which makes me giggle angrily like I WANT people to act like I’m a neglectful wretch in a Lifetime movie, consider this. The day my husband and I flew back with the kid, the nice women who had helped me in the bathroom by finding my wipes to help correct a baby butt explosion saw me a few moments later meeting my husband in the terminal with the baby carrier, because as a man he could not actually come into the bathroom with me. They were visibly shocked that I was not alone. “Oh! You have a helper!” one woman said, only half trying to hide her surprise. Not, “Oh your husband or partner is here! Great!” Nope. “A helper.” Lady. It’s my husband. But we don’t have the same skin color, so he must just be a stranger or, I don’t know, the guy I hired to carry the diaper bag for today. I mean, I’m 42. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a single mother. But I am not one, and I don’t think that at my age, were I not black, that you’d assume that. Also, I have this ring on my finger. It should not surprise you that I am married or partnered. And yet….)

I have told this spiky bracelet story to many mothers, of every race, and all of them have similar stories of nosy people who don’t have a good reason to tell them they are mothering all wrong. Here is the thing. If you see my endangering this or any child in my care, like danger you can prove, do something about it. I know you’re trying to help. But don’t be cute about it. And then don’t get snippy with my when you’re wrong.

And don’t tell the baby about it. He doesn’t speak English yet.

 


How I learned to stop worrying and stop hating Valentine’s Day

by SweetMidlife

Leslie here!

In the film “Valentine’s Day,” starring apparently everyone on director Garry Marshall’s email list, Jessica Biel’s character throws an “I Hate Valentine’s Day party, because she’s single and fed up with the glaring pressure to be coupled up, at least for that evening, and the disgusting displays of happiness and cannoodle-ness of the stupid happy people rubbing their stupid happiness in her face.

I, too, was glaringly single for most of my adulthood, so when this guy from high school I had been hanging out with as friends asked me out for an official first date for that Saturday night, I did some quick math and screwed up my face.

“That’s Valentine’s Day!” I said. “That’s not a good idea. That’s too much pressure for a first date. Can we do it some other day?”

What I didn’t know was that this guy had decided that he was in love with me for months, since we met for a friendly drink and he’d laid eyes on me for the first time in 20 years. He says he knew he was going to marry me in that moment. He also decided to keep all that to himself, aware that this could sound a wee stalkery, and because he correctly identified me as a skittish tiny fawn with a sketchy track record who was just looking for a reason to flee out the back door and run far. Far. Away. He also says he knew that I might balk at having a first day on a such a traditionally loaded date, but took the chance.

And so did I. And now we’re married, so I guess he was right.

Here’s the thing – just because I’m now a wife doesn’t mean I forgot all of those years of being solo on the supposedly most romantic day on the calendar, right up there with the anxiety-inducing New
Year’s Eve and its all-important midnight kiss, and Every Wedding Where The Line For The Bouquet Toss Gets Whittled Down To You And The Bride’s 10-Year-Old Niece. I have tried very hard not to be a so-called “smug married,” as Bridget Jones would say, because I was single way longer than I’ve been married and would never assume that having a ring on my finger qualified me for knowing anything more than my single friends. I hate those people and I’m determined to never, ever be one of them.

I noticed that a bar when I spent about a year as a regular in my single early 30s was having the Jessica Biel special, the anti-Valentine’s Day party. And if they’re going to make a lot of money on it, I wish them well, because times are rough and any occasion that can draw more business to you is awesome. And if you’re single and need an extra special reason to go drink, or a fun night out with single friends who don’t wanna be alone, or don’t want to face the smoochers, I get it.

Then again…I wish that when I was single I had not let some arbitrary day get to me, like it was extra-illegal to be without a partner that day, or the Pathetic Police were gonna show up and cart you out while slapping a scarlet “S” for single, or spinster, or sadsack, on your chest while the villagers mock and laugh. It’s just a day. You were single yesterday. Maybe you’ll be single tomorrow. Maybe you’re good with that, and maybe you rue each day. But rather than allow Hallmark and your coupled friends and your mama make you feel bad, remember that while it may be a bummer not to be included in something that seems to welcome all your friends and their partners, that its better than being thrown into depression, or maybe even talking yourself into some sloppy kissing situation you would have avoided on any other day.

I’m not going to say “Be your own Valentine” or anything like that, because that’s condescending. And I’m not going to say “Just buy something for your cat, or your Grandma,” because while those folks deserve something good, it’s not the same. So just know that you’re awesome, no matter what the date. Focusing hate on a fake holiday doesn’t do anything but make you want to drink and eat chocolate, and possibly hate-dial your Xs. You’re better than that. And tomorrow is another day. Maybe there’s a nice non-stalker around the corner waiting for you. One could always hope.


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