Thursday, August 25, 2011


Yesterday at the Central Park Zoo, a mom was wearing a t-shirt that said: "Well-Behaved Women Rarely Make History." It made me wonder: How do you get your children socialized while wearing a shirt with the opposite message?

And also, do you really have to misbehave to get shit done? This is a concept I have been thinking about since I read a New York Times article about Madelyn Pugh, pictured at left in that awesome chair, on which "Girl Writer" is printed under her name. (I want one like it, even though I'm not a girl anymore.) Madelyn Pugh was a writer for I Love Lucy. According to the author of the article, she was an excellent writer, and she know how to make the show's scripts realistic because she was a woman. She even went beyond her strict job description, trying out stunts to make sure they'd be ok for Lucy to do. It was said that she always behaved like a perfect lady.

Of course, at that time, it was not socially acceptable for women to be anything but ladies. Ladies had to be polite, sugarcoat their overly forceful opinions, and never appear in public without stockings. So Pugh was maybe smart to get her ideas across while conforming to the norms of her time. (On the flip side, this broad at left, lyricist Fran Landesman, was anything but a lady, and she seemed to have a great time, according to her recent obit.)

My mother raised me to behave like a lady, and I usually did. But when I discovered feminism and Ms. Magazine in high school, I decided that being a feminist meant rejecting those restrictions. Sometimes I equated being rude with strength, and I admired icons who seemed to personify that: Badasses, broads, foul-mouthed rules breakers.

That all seems very adolescent to me today, three weeks before I turn 50. In our increasingly vitriolic culture, what I aspire to is a strength that is also civil and respectful. Note: I said aspire to. My husband always says that I am not to be trifled with. Truly, I can be a bitch if the situation calls for it. But I usually regret it.

I hope that my daughter will become some combination of a lady and a badass. I am raising her to stand up for what she believes in. But she can get the point across, and maybe make history, without behaving poorly. At least that's what I wish for her.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Costco. No go.

I had never set foot in a Costco. Buying in bulk freaks me out. I love a sale as much as the next person, but that doesn't mean I want to stock up on 12 boxes of mac and cheese or 4 bottles of ketchup. Such excessive frugality makes me feel like I am suffocating. As if I have no options. Like, what if a delicious new brand of ketchup comes along, but now I can't get it because I have enough Heinz to last until Violet enters middle school? I've already committed to a man, a suburban house, these two kids and their bottomless needs, endless laundry--I need to feel like there are some choices left in my life. Even if they are at the market. Goddamn it.

My husband (immoderate buyer of the sale items pictured) heard good things about the reality show Extreme Couponing, and insisted I watch it whenever it debuted a few months ago. Why? I don't know. I detest reality tv; I detest bulk shopping. Four minutes into this poisonous mix, I felt claustrophobic. The premiere extreme couponer showed off a room in her home filled with shelves and shelves of neatly organized rows of detergent and hand sanitizer and what have you. She had insanely overbought with coupons. She said looking at all these purchases gave her "joy."

I thought of this ecstatic couponer when my husband got a bee in his bonnet about checking out Costco, and we had a family trip there one sweltering Sunday. My daughter clung to my hand as we entered the huge warehouse. People were exiting pushing carts filled with gigantic flats of paper towels, 900-pound bags of rice and towers of soda. I was mildly intrigued by the discounted wine and liquor and the thimble-sized free wine tastes. An area roughly the size of a city block was filled with some off-price men's dress shirts. I don't want to buy my husband's shirts where I get my spaghetti sauce. Gross. Soul crushing. I would go to a separate store for each item if possible. Wine at the wine shop, shoes at the shoe store, cake at the bakery, cheese at the cheese shop, etc.

I found the place post-apocalyptic. It felt like the world had ended and the only thing that survived is Costco, and everyone is grabbing what they can to survive.

"I'm scared, mommy," said my daughter.

Smart girl.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner

People can't stop talking about Dirty Dancing. From a post by my girl Lesley over at xojane, I learned there will be a remake with Lea Michelle cast in the Jennifer Grey role. A red flag, but I'll be first in line when it comes to the Bellevue Theater. I can't help myself. I've seen Dirty Dancing probably twelve times. At Sassy, we used to act out scenes from the movie, and try to force Mike Flaherty to play the Swayze role. (He refused.) I'm pretty sure I could recite the entire film to you right now.

I'm not the only one. In the pilot for the fall series New Girl, the character played by appealing Zooey Deschanel spends her post-breakup days on the couch crying and endlessly watching Dirty Dancing. Dirty Dancing was also referenced in Crazy Stupid Love, which Dalton and I saw last night. (Fun date movie, but Steve Carell gives me the heebie jeebies, so he and cute Ryan Gosling cancel each other out.) Ryan Gosling tells Emma Stone that he always gets girls to sleep with him by executing the lift from the final scene of Dirty Dancing. And then he demonstrates. I asked Dalton if he would do the lift with me. But he said it would throw his back out.

Reading Sunday Styles this am, I found a Dirty Dancing reference in the etiquette column, and a piece about grinding, the dirty dancing that actual teenagers have been doing for a decade.

I couldn't resist any longer. I am not made of stone, you know. So I went to you tube to watch the lift scene. It still give me chills. Swayze in that low cut cropped black shirt, adorable Jennifer Grey, the father seething in the corner. It's all gold.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I'm Not Proud of This

I was in a crabby mood at about 5:45 yesterday evening as we returned from an afternoon at the pool. Unloading bags from the car and picking up chip bags and crumbs from the back seat, muttering about the filth, I heard a female voice say "hello." I ignored it, because I thought it was a passerby answering her cell phone. But when she said my name, I looked up.

It was a woman in an "Environment New Jersey" t-shirt, the same persistent canvasser that inspired me to write the piece that started this blog and eventually made its way into the Complaint Box section of The New York Times. Was I having a nightmare?

"Christina?" she repeated.

"Yes," I said. "And no. No, I'm not interested."

My children were standing right there, horrified. They had spent the morning at our church's Peace Camp, learning to behave more peacefully. As had I.

"We just want to thank you for your past support," she said, a bit of a whine in her voice.

"I don't want to be thanked," I said. "I just want you guys to stop coming."

"We just knock on all the doors in town," she said defensively, marking something on her clipboard. (Maybe: "Insane, potentially perimenopausal, woman at this address.")

"I know you do," I said, slamming the car door. "And it's really annoying."

"Well, that's valid," she said, and went on to harass my neighbor.