Tuesday, January 29, 2013

"It's Nice to See You So Happy" Plus Soak it Up

There's something I'd like to get off my chest. I recently saw a woman I knew years ago, when I was a single girl. I had not seen her in at least a decade, probably longer. After we chatted and she met my kids, and we were saying goodbye, she said, "It's nice to see you so happy."

Am I the only person in the world who would take this statement "the wrong way"? I felt weirdly judged and evaluated. What was her point? Was it that back in the day I was a miserable person? I do recall a lot of crying jags and bouts of unrequited love, to which she may have been privy. Or was her point, simply, "it's nice to see you so happy"?

Saying "it's nice to see you are so happy" to a glass-half-empty person like ME is just hilarious. Happy? Moi? I am, after all, taking what was (possibly) a well-meaning statement "the wrong way." Clearly she has not been reading this blog (where anything is cause for lamentation), and I hope to God she doesn't start with this post.

I am now abruptly changing the subject, and if this were a magazine or a newspaper, there would be a subhead. Pretend there is one here that says: Soak It Up. I'm perpetually obsessed with how quickly my kids are growing up. I know the previous statement is a cliche, but that's what we fantastically boring bloggers traffic in.

When my son Dale was born in 2000, my husband's stepfather Martin gave us a piece of wisdom which we did not fully appreciate: "You will turn around and he will be graduating from high school." I was skeptical, buried as I was in round the clock on-demand breast feeding, co-sleeping and never-ending diaper changes. "It's going to happen just like that," Martin affirmed. And he was right.

Ten years ago my boy would run to me shrieking with joy the minute I came home, and I would scoop him up and squeeze and kiss him to his great delight. "Soak it up," my husband would say. "Soak it up." All that unconditional toddler adoration. Now, if my son sees me on the street, he will raise an eyebrow if I am lucky. He will also remain silent when a kid asks "who was that weird lady who said hello to you?" It hurts way more than the other kind of unrequited love, even though I know that under all the surliness, the love is still there. Buried. 

Today on the way to the post office I saw a woman with a baby in a stroller and I had this strong desire to stop her and tell her, "I know you don't believe this right now, you with the baby spit up drying on your shirt, but this is a blip in your life that will be over before you know it. SOAK IT UP. Don't make the same mistake I did."

That's what I will do in exactly one hour when I collect my daughter from the school bus, because she still acknowledges me in public (although forbids me to dance in public), and she will snuggle on the couch and talk and talk.

My mother has a framed childhood picture of me and my brother. It's the only professional picture of the two of us, black and white with a clean white backdrop. He is maybe two, wearing a sailor suit and smiling happily. I am in a sleeveless dress, 2 1/2 years older, with my hands on my knees, eager to please. Once, years ago, my mother saw me looking at the picture. "It was so nice then," she said wistfully. "And I didn't appreciate what I had."

Does anyone?

Friday, January 11, 2013

In which I leave the house, blinking and confused

I went to the fancy Girls premiere party in Manhattan on Wednesday night. My husband works at Entertainment Weekly, so he was invited. I rarely attend media events anymore, but I did in my old life as a magazine editor. In fact, though I live a mere 12 miles west of Manhattan, I hardly ever go into the city.  I am so entrenched in my routine as concierge to two children and three ill-behaved cats, that it's logistically difficult. An evening in Manhattan has come to seem as impossible as a weekend in Paris.

But we, as a couple, have resolved to be more adventurous, and, also, 15 of my Facebook friends encouraged me to go to the party. After a day of indecision, I located a willing yet trustworthy babysitter (not so easy) and got on the train. The screening was at NYU, just a few blocks away from my loved old apartment at One University Place, where I lived for ten years and once thought I would never leave. At dinner a block away, I wondered, what if we hadn't moved? What would our lives have been like? How would our kids have been different?

A tented red carpet was set up in front of the building where three episodes would be shown. Posing in front of the Girls wall were celebrities such as Rosanna Arquette, who will play someone's mother this season, and "celebrities" such as Chrisian Siriano. The wall reminded me of the time at a ym party, where I was editor-in-chief, when paparazzi yelled at me to get off the red carpet at my own event. I can't remember what b-list tv stars they wanted a shot of, but I obeyed, feeling idiotic. Or did that happen at ELLEgirl? It's all a blur.

Anyway, there were a LOT of famous people there. People don't believe me when I say I don't care about seeing stars, but it's absolutely true. I am immune to the excitement. There are very few that would get my attention. Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, the Obamas: that about covers it.

Dalton and I were not seated together. I was sitting next to a guy from The New York Post, so that kind of put a damper on the date-night aspect of the proceedings. The Post writer asked me if I am "a member of the media." To which I answered: "I used to be," though I  am, in theory, a freelance writer. He then informed me that he calls The Good Wife "The Good Wig," because Alicia wear a wig; I guess I am the last to know.

Lena Dunham spoke briefly, and she was very charming in her black strapless jumpsuit and real hair. I had already watched the episodes that they showed, but I liked seeing them again. I am enjoying this season more than last season. I think it is funnier, and while I was a little disturbed by some of last season's content, I am used to it now. I've stopped watching it as a parent terrified about the world her daughter will grow up and live in. So while I definitely watch Downton first, I enjoy Girls. And I admire Lena Dunham's matter-of-fact comfort in her own body, which is the kind of body that most women have. It gives the rest of us reason to believe that we are just fine as is.

Furthermore, I have recovered from the $3.5 million book deal. When I heard about it on NPR while washing dishes, I felt like such a loser that I had to go and sit on the couch. If I ever finish my two not-nearly completed books (highly unlikely), I will not be getting a $3.5 million advance. My husband spotted me brooding and asked, "What's wrong?" I told him. "Is that all?" he said. "You look like a relative has died."

 By the time the screening was over, we had only an hour left before we would have to get home for the sitter, a high school student. We boarded one of the buses HBO was running to the party at Capitale. I felt like a kid at a Bar Mitzvah being ferried from the shul to the catering hall. Capitale is in an old bank on the corner of Bowery and Grand. The building has hugely high vaulted ceilings. I remember another club in a similar building a couple of decades back--the Kingfisher, maybe?

Dalton went to college with Jenni Konner, the executive producer, and she spotted him as we walked away from the bar with our drinks. She was very nice. It turns out that she was a Sassy fan, a compliment I tend to receive with mixed emotions. I feel conspicuous and invisible at the same time.

Before we had to head out, I saw an old friend who was super friendly for two minutes, then vanished once I told him that I am a stay-at-home mom in Montclair (though I am, theoretically, let's not forget, a freelance writer). I didn't really blame him for bailing, because the place was crawling with influential people.

At the entrance to the Holland Tunnel, there was an obnoxious ad for a storage company.  "The suburbs have bigger closets," it said. "Perfect for you to hide your dreams in." I was kind of obsessed with the placement. What was the point? Would it be good for business to insult a customer base you have already lost?

The ad also reminded me of a conversation I had with my therapist as we were buying our house 11 years ago. I was fretting that my life would be conventional, now that I was leaving the city. "That's a fantasy," she said in a sharper voice than she had ever used with me. Your location does not determine who you are.

And so I snapped out of it. I left. But I will tell you this: It wasn't because of the closets. My apartment on University Place had three awesome, big closets, much better than the dinky ones in our 1897 house. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Inside My Mother's Brain

Sometimes a game can be a window into another person's mind. For Christmas, my son received Catch Phrase, a Scrabble branded device. As words and phrases come up on the little screenlet, one player describes the word/phrase while another guesses what it could be. It is a good time passer on a car ride. On New Year's Day, we played with my mom.

My mother has a very consistent world view. She's all about unions and the working man. She is extremely suspicious of anyone who has money or privilege, which will become apparent in a minute.

Her first word was "pharmacist." If you needed to describe this word, you would probably say "you go to this person when you need a prescription filled." My mother said: "CVS owes these people a big thanks." That's right, they better pay them a living wage, or they will have Mary Kelly to answer to.

Next up, she had "Big Business." This one was right up her alley. Her clue: "The Republicans are working for these people, I mean REALLY working for them." The kids were flummoxed. I knew what she was talking about, after 50 years of listening to her, but I guessed "The One Percent" and "Big Shots" before I hit on the right answer.

Another phrase came up on the screen. "You would never trust a person like this," she said ominously. "They are definitely going to cheat you." Republican? No. CEO? Nope. Thief? Nah. The answer? "Used Car Salesman."

That one was a little off-message, mom. But thanks for playing. I know I owe you a big thanks.