Follow Me on Twitter

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Eye of The Beholder

I spent Hurricane Sandy largely cut off from the outside world. From our perch near the ocean in southern Maine, we were touched by the storm but not tormented by it. We did, however, lose connectivity. Our cable was out, our Internet down, our phone lines cut.

For 24 hours I knew that havoc was being wreaked to our south, in cities where my husband and I had once lived and cities where friends and family still lived. One of my sisters texted from downtown Manhattan, including a picture of a neighboring apartment building whose entire facade was torn off by the wind. Another sister waited - and still waits - with her in-laws to figure out the full extent of damage to their summer retreat on the Jersey Shore.

At 9:15 last night, our cable box came back to life. I immediately turned to the news and watched in numbed sadness as the images came at me. Hoboken, NJ, where my husband and I lived our first year out of law school: totally submerged in water, with 20,000 residents trapped in their homes. The neighborhood in Queens flattened by fire. The seaside delights washed into or away from the ocean that had previously been their greatest benefactor.

The interviews with and the pictures of the men and women, old and young, looking out at the new reality that now replaces the memory of what once was.

I crawled back through my Twitter feed and saw messages of good luck, good cheer, good God what is happening.

And I saw messages saying, "Hey, since you're stuck inside, why not watch the new episode of my show! Or buy my book! Or check out my new tour dates!" Perhaps these were meant to be funny, seeing as they were directed at people with no power and much more pressing concerns than where to find the link to your Kindle download?

But I don't want to dwell on the off-putting, and I don't want to suss out the administrative failures or the media hysterics.

I am too busy thinking about being lucky.

Like beauty, I think "luck," or feeling "lucky," is often in the eye of the beholder.

I will admit that, at certain moments over the course of my 24 hours of isolation, I felt things other than lucky, or it's close cousin, grateful.

Sometimes I felt plain scared. Strong wind scares me - always has - and so does not knowing. I did not like not having clear answers to what was going to happen, how bad it was going to be, and when it was going to end. For me, and for everyone in the storm's path.

Sometimes I felt annoyed. I didn't like losing the conveniences of Internet access and cable news. I didn't like that I had to monitor my phone battery in case the power went out for a long stretch. I didn't like being thrown off our routine with my daughter's school being canceled.

Then I felt ashamed. Even though I couldn't see the pictures or hear the news from New Jersey and New York and Connecticut, I knew that what I was experiencing was nothing, in the grand scheme of things generally and in the grand scheme of Sandy specifically. Buck up, grow up, shut up, I told myself.

Then I turned on the television last night and saw families who had lost everything but the cement foundation of their home grit through their tears and say how lucky they felt because they were physically unharmed. I heard Newark mayor Cory Booker profess the luck of his city, even as the camera panned over devastated streets that reportedly smell of raw sewage, because power was being restored. I saw a mother who was shuttled down 8 dark flights of hospital stairs while she was in labor exclaim at how lucky she was to have a healthy newborn in her arms.

And I had spent that time complaining about not being able to check email?

It is an unfortunate but perhaps natural fact that we don't appreciate what we've got until it's gone or until we're reminded by an extremity that what we do have ain't all that bad.

It should not take a tragedy to remind me that I am lucky that the only fear I had to assuage in my daughter was the sound of our creaking house, and not the sight of our house burning to the ground. It should not take a tragedy to remind me that an inconvenience is nothing compared to an inundation. It should not take a tragedy to remind me that a stretch of electricity cables being downed is far preferable to an entire shoreline or a line of subways being drowned.

I am humbled to say that it did.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo insists that his state has to see this storm as not just a devastation, but also as an opportunity. An opportunity to rebuild the affected parts of the city in better, stronger, smarter ways. It is that kind of resilience, just as much as any other attraction or trait, that makes New York City a hallmark of our country: honor what was lost by finding what can be better.

On a laughably smaller scale, in the much more trivial jurisdiction of my life, I am going to take New York's lead, and the lead of the Jersey Shore and the Connecticut coast. I didn't lose anything from Sandy other than some points off my moral character. But I have been given an opportunity to improve myself, and I will take it.

I will work harder at training my eye to find the luck and to feel the lucky. I will address the bad but behold the good. I will still analyze and criticize and snark-icize, but then I will hope.

I hope you and yours are safe and dry.
I hope you can get where you need to go.
I hope if you have to rebuild, you can.
I hope you have hope.

Image courtesy of Huffington Post

Monday, October 29, 2012

Your Idea Superstore

Well, hello there.

Pretty quiet little Monday for everyone, right?

Hahahahahaha! NOT! Psych! It's opposites day! I'm rubber, you're glue, I'm stuck in the 1980s, now you are too!

We all know the eastern seaboard is being subjected to a full frontal assault from Mother Nature and Father Cable News. Based on what I'm now hearing, I'm going to die an early death unless I (a) evacuate to Canada; or (b) raid my Mormon neighbors' "secret" Judgment Day food supply.

I say phooey. I know my little house, built in 1894 (give or take a telephone switchboard), will withstand whatever wind, rain and storm surge Sandy wants to throw at it. I mean, just yesterday my husband cleaned ALL the leaves out of our gutters. We're set!

So I've been spending my time day-dreaming about Halloween costumes. Because when you have young children, Halloween oozes its way into every orifice of your consciousness. We could be facing a nuclear winter, and still the most pressing thing in my world would be making sure I don't lose the mounds of plastic crap my daughter is accumulating during dozens of sugar-fueled parties for people who are still scared of anything resembling "the dark."

Suffice it to say, Halloween's at the forefront of my addled brain these days. And when Sandy loosens her grip on the throat of your existence, you will be gobsmacked when you look at the calendar and realize "Oh sweet heavens, tomorrow is Wednesday, and I don't have a single piece of highly-flammable polyester in my house! Whatever shall I drape myself in tomorrow night?!?"

Never fear, dear reader. As you huddle up with a bottle of tequila and a flashlight, using the last 1% of your battery life to read these words, take comfort in the pleasure of preparedness I'm about to bestow upon you.

Here, in all their glory, are my top ideas for Costumes of Halloween 2012:

  1. Justin Timberlake. Not just any JT. A before-and-after JT. One half of your body should be JT pre-wedding. This part should be wearing some hip attire, a big smile, and a scantily-clad woman dangling off the shoulder. The other half of your body should be JT post-wedding. This part should be wearing a sweater vest, a grimace, and a Jessica Biel peering over the shoulder. Also, this part's fingers should be crossed behind this part's back.
  2. A head-scratcher. For this costume, you'll need to dress up like an old, white man with a Bible sticking out of one back pocket and money sticking out of the other. You will also need to carry a blow horn, because you will spend the entire night yelling as loudly as possible that women's reproductive systems are vessels of God's will, such that women must birth the fruit of a man's loins, regardless of whether those loins were forced upon her, without her invitation and against her will. (For those that tire of proclaiming God's will relatively quickly, just make a button that says "The manner of conception don't matter, 'cause really it's God who had her.")
  3. Big Bird. Might as well get it in now. Those costumes might not be available next year.
  4. A cleaning service. For this, go dressed as any member of the San Francisco Giants, and carry a broom.
  5. If you're looking to keep it traditional, go with:
    1. Ann Coulter (a witch)
    2. Sean Payton ( a ghost)
    3. Chris Christie (a pumpkin)
    4. Lance Armstrong (a devil)
  6. And of course no list would be complete without Hurricane Sandy. To get this look, you need a stale perm, acrylic nails, and a pack of Pall Malls. Then you need to attend a party you weren't invited to, WAY overstay your (non-)welcome, and do everything in your power to ruin everyone else's fun. Then send the host a bill for $5 billion.
Trick or treat!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Dear Abby: Lance A Lot

Did Lance Armstrong not pay attention to Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, or Pinocchio?

How about Enron, Bernie Madoff, or Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men?

Apparently not.

He thought he was better, faster, stronger. Smarter, more cunning, more lawyered-up. That he could pedal himself away from the truth.

Of course he couldn't. Of course the truth eventually caught up with him and bit him in the padded Lycra of his behind. Of course he's now the most famous name in biking, but in the exact opposite light he lied so long to achieve.

A reader asked for my thoughts on the whole scandal. I suppose the above about sums it up.

But there's more.

I knew all along that Lance was a plain old liar. No, I haven't yet been contacted by Dateline or Barbara Walters or Donald Trump. I've been keeping my insider's knowledge to myself so that I could share it first with you, my loyal readers.

I know why the yellow jersey bird sings. I know what he did those summers. I know this much is true.

  1. When I was studying abroad in France in 2000, I bumped into Lance after an early morning training run. Over a couple of pains au chocolat, we chatted about everything we missed back in the good 'ol U.S. of A. I listed things like real bathrooms and take-out coffee. He listed things like overnight needle delivery and on-line pharmacies. At the time, I was confused. I didn't dwell on it, though, because then he began prattling on about how much he appreciated life abroad because it allowed him to perfect his French. I encouraged him to demonstrate his proficiency. At which point he donned a beret, held a cigarette in his hand, and said "bonjour" over and over again, simply changing his inflections, as if he was saying things other than the exact same word.
  2. Just before my college graduation in 2001, I walked up to a table set up on our quad to inquire about the credit cards being peddled. Imagine my surprise when Lance looked up from a pile of card applications and began his sales pitch. He talked about how I would get a 0% interest rate during the time it took me to fill out the forms, and that as soon as I got an actual card, that rate would jump to a friendly 43%. Not to worry, he said. That rate would never kick in because I (a) looked like someone who would pay on time; and (b) the lady that works the billing system is usually drunk. "Trust me," he kept saying. "Trust me...."
  3. During law school, I got an email from some guy "in Africa" begging me to transfer $20,000 to his bank account so that he could save his family from the hum of vuvuzelas. For some reason, I decided to respond with a polite decline. Then HE responded and really turned up the heat, calling me an ugly pariah with an embarrassing BMI. He signed the email "Lanceobubu Armngalastrong." I just sighed and hit delete.
  4. When we were living in Washington, D.C., I decided to take my daughter to the Air & Space Museum one afternoon. I noticed a crowd gathering by the Apollo 11 command module. There was a skinny guy standing in the middle of the throng, and he kept referring to himself as "Mr. Armstrong." He talked about how he, "Mr. Armstrong," had taken one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind, and joked about how much of a pain lunar dust is to brush off. His audience was kind of jazzed up about about getting a first-hand account of history. But I noticed a bike propped up nearby, a LIVESTRONG bracelet on his bony wrist, and Sheryl Crow songs on a loop on his iPod. I shook my head and towed my daughter to The Spirit of St. Louis exhibit.
  5. Last Christmas, I took my kids to the mall to see Santa. We had to wait in line FOREVER. Not because there were a lot of other kids in line. But because mall Santa was engaged in a heated argument with Lance, who kept insisting "I am the real Santa! I bring gifts to children of all ages all over the world! I can ride my bike from the North Pole to the South Pole in one night! I can! Seriously! I AM SANTA!!!!" Which prompted a really awkward conversation between my kids and I.
So there you have it.

Out of the view of this picture, a fortune teller is holding her pointer finger in a horizontal line, so the true shot reads "negative 7."

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Monday Night Threesome

Monday night featured the final presidential debate. It's topic was billed as foreign policy.

I also heard that there was some football game airing at the same time, and something about a baseball game grazed my consciousness. But I don't think any of those sporting events really distracted me, the rest of the American electorate, or the presidential candidates. We were all glued in to the riveting, highly-illuminating verbal smackdown between the Republican Guy and the Democrat Guy.

In case you were at church or flying back from Justin Timberlake's wedding in Italy, here's what you missed from the debate.

Mitt Romney opened with an early lead. His flag pin was bigger, he had more product in his hair, and his Pleasant Smile was in rare form.

His lead didn't last long.

Obama had a plan hidden up his sleeve. The Marshall Plan. During his first drive, he conjured images of riding piggy-back as Brandon Marshall caught a 7-yard touchdown pass. Just like that, the Marshall plan allowed for a 7-point differential.

As his victory dance, Obama referred to Romney's comment that Russia was the United States' "number 1 geopolitical foe" with the following line:

"The 1980s called, they want their foreign policy back."

Ba-ZING! It's like the guy knows the real moderator of the debate is the Twitterverse. Thank you, POTUS! That one's a beaut! Slightly modifying for irony and subtle counter-references and....sending! #thankyou!

Romney wasn't scared off one bit. He's been on the brink of elimination before, and the man has proven he knows how to stage a comeback. He'd clinched before, and he was throwing some of his best stuff to clinch again. "I CAIN do it, I CAIN do it," you could hear him thinking to himself.

So Romney just started agreeing with everything Obama has done, is thinking about doing, or has ever said about foreign policy. Sometimes he just said it louder, sometimes he just said it more. For example, Romney reiterated that he really, REALLY loves Israel, that he really REALLY thinks America should take a leadership role in the world, and really REALLY thinks terrorists are a threat we should not invite to birthday parties. He said it all while ignoring that a single strand of his hair had defied the physics of his MegaFirm gel and was slowly creeping down his forehead.

It was as if he were part of a demoralizing 5-run 3rd inning, complete with a double that looked like it shouldn't be a double but was a double because the ball was hit twice by a bat that broke on contact.

Obama's defense was primed, though. "This is my field, baby! You don't come on MY field and tell me how to Command-in-Chief!" And so in the face of a man many have accused of being robotic and without humanity - a Megatron, you might say - Obama went all Charles Tillman and allowed no room for separation.

To wit: Romney barked about our navy being the smallest it's been since 1916. How did our Prez tackle that one? He wrapped his arms around Romney's waist, dragged him to the turf, and shouted "We also have fewer horses and bayonets!" in Romney's grimacing face.

And there was much rejoicing, as Twitter made room on the mantelpiece for a big 'ol bayonet next to Big Bird and the Binders.

Romney tried to turn the tides, and so he leveled Obama with a hit to the ribs that was meant to take him out of the game. "We're four years closer to a nuclear Iran!" he bleeted. Obama looked kind of dazed and Bob Schieffer offered to let Michelle come up and answer a few questions while Obama got his breath. But the President hung tight and, after a few deep inhales, returned to action. It wasn't quite the same Obama as the Obama that showed up in the first half, but it was still a serviceable Obama.

(Some have since questioned the fairness of Romney's remark, calling it at least a bit "SUHspicious" since technically, we're 4 years closer to everything that hasn't happened yet, what with the normal workings of the passage of time and all. But Obama has calmly noted that debating is a tough sport, and you've just got to shake those things off and keep going for your team.)

When Romney saw Obama wasn't down for the count, he knew it was time to reach for his nail-in-the-coffin. And so he stepped up to the plate, looked out at the empty bases, and he swung for the fences.

He started talking about the economy. The domestic economy. Even though it was a debate on foreign policy.

But he wanted to hit at the economy. So he did. And he cemented his come-back with a solo home run as the game came to a close.

Finally, after 90 minutes of essentially agreeing with each other on everything except the parts where Romney was misremembering things or Obama was skidding away from engaging on the domestic economy, time was called. The two sides shook hands, the ref kind of stood there awkwardly, and then the fans took the field. Obama head-bumped Michelle, and Romney was lifted onto the shoulders of his wife, many sons, and dozens of grandchildren bizarrely in attendance.

Then someone reported that the Bears had won and that the Giants had blown out the Cardinals, and everyone was like, "Oh yeah! There were some games on television tonight, too."

And out of that mist of bayonets, bears, and blow-outs, someone thought they'd seen 6-6-6. The devil was summoned, and he tapped the shoulder of Ann Coulter. She heeded the call, and took to Twitter.

A Monday night threesome: the debate, the football, and the baseball.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Inside My Husband's Closet

Inside My Husband's Closet
By My Husband's Wife (Me)
Inside my husband's closet there are clothes for all occasions:
Work and play and sports and even lawnmower invasions.
Two rows for the items that need hanging and an iron,
And shelves for the stuff that can be folded and then piled on.
Sweaters he has owned for years and socks that need some darning,
White t-shirts in numbers that I count until I'm yawning.
Dress shirts in every color of the most splendid corporate rainbow,
Ties and belts that could attach to one holy dressed-up halo.
There's the t-shirt he bought in law school, at that bar he once went to!
Hey, I found a hunting vest stuffed in my dad's old shoe!
Did L.L. Bean decide to dump its extra vests right over here?
Why does Wal-Mart only sell him clothing decorated with a beer?
I spy with my little eye some neon he wore on a run last year.
Now I'm drowning in a pile of boxers - my voice can you hear?
What's a toolbox doing next to that picture of him as a kid?
Is there any better use for that discarded plastic lid?
All this stuff is just exploding into every open space.
A metal wire has just scratched a deep gash in my face.
A closet needs order and rules for where everything belongs,
The confusion that reigns right now is wrong, very wrong.
I wash and fold the laundry and I'd like to put it away,
But I open the door to that closet and I am kept at bay.
I cannot fight the riot in the undergarments section,
And the pile of his pants is something I would rather not now mention.
I'm at the end of my rope, the camel's back is broken.
If that closet's not cleaned up the kids and I are moving to Hoboken.
The problem's more than laundry and looks,  oh don't you see?
Because worst of all, that closet he's destroyed....
He shares it with me.
Every time I need a dress or a sweatshirt 'cause it's cold,
I have to push aside those shorts for gardening, or so I'm told.
I would be fine with some added fortune and a bit of fame,
But a featured spot on Hoarders is not how I want to spread my name.
Inside my husband's closet resides my closet too.
Inside my husband's closet there's a mess, that's nothing new.
Inside my husband's closet there's a project of huge proportions.
Inside my husband's closet is the germ of this extortion.
Ignore my requests to clean it, go ahead, keep ignoring.
I'll draft a poem in my head while beside me you are snoring.
I will publish that ditty on my blog for all to read.
Now your dirty laundry's public, what other motivation do you need?


Friday, October 19, 2012

Dear Abby: Binders and Kitchens

Did you hear there was another presidential debate on Tuesday night?

Did you hear that Mitt Romney used the phrase "binders full of women" during that debate?

Did you hear that Mr. Romney also said he accommodated his chief of staff -- a woman -- so that she could leave work early enough to go home and cook dinner for her family?

There are only two responses to these questions:

  1. Yes. You've heard all of this. You've heard it so much that you can't even bring yourself to go into a Staples or near a cooktop stove.
  2. No. You haven't heard any of this. Because you're being held hostage in a sound proof box somewhere near Narnia and for whatever reason, your only access to the outside world is this blog. Weird.
Paid pundits and will-work-for-retweets social media contributors are exploiting these two comments by Mr. Romney for all that they are worth. There's a "binders full of women" tumblr page, memes galore, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account. MSNBC now goes by the acronym BFOW. And I guarantee you that the most popular Halloween costume for women this year will not be "sexy nurse" or "sexy devil," it will be "sexy Trapper Keeper."

Those who are up in arms say that they are up in arms because the comments show that Mr. Romney does not value women, harbors a "keep 'em barefoot and pregnant" view of their rightful place in society, and fails to grasp what is important to them. They contrast that with what they say is the President's much stronger position "on women," pointing to the first piece of legislation that he signed, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which makes it easier for women to bring a lawsuit claiming discrimination in their pay.

A reader asked me to chime in on all of this. Here is what I think.

I think the entire focus of the brouhaha is misplaced.

This is a sensitive issue, and a lot of women whose opinions I value and often agree with differ from mine here. I respect the fact that that this triggers an emotional response from a lot of people. So I will try to tread carefully.

I think that Mr. Romney has a problematic stance on certain "women's issues." He has stated that he wouldn't have signed the Lilly Ledbetter legislation, and I think that's pretty outrageous; women should receive equal pay for equal work, and should be able to access the courts when they are being denied that equal treatment. I disagree with his sometimes-stated support of the Blunt Amendment, which would have allowed any employer with "moral objections" to providing insurance coverage for birth control to refuse to do so. And I distrust his position on abortion, which I think is a position that depends on who he is talking to and what he is trying to accomplish. (The views of his running mate on abortion, "forcible rape," and a "personhood" amendment to the Constitution outright scare me.)

His "binders full of women" comment was problematic for three reasons. One, it was part of an answer that wasn't true. He was trying to champion himself as a guy who tries to put women in positions of leadership, when in fact a non-profit group had taken the initiative to provide then-Governor Romney with a stack of resumes (presented in binders) of women qualified for various positions on his staff. Two, the context in which he used the phrase made it sound like it's really hard to find a woman suited for a high-power post -- like she needs to be rustled up, diamond-in-the-rough like. Third, "binders full of women" just sounds bad, and makes for an easy sound bite to twist for a variety of purposes, ranging from the comic to the antagonistic. Just like what's happening now.

What Mr. Romney should have said was that when he was Governor, his Lieutenant Governor was a woman, and that his chief of staff was, too. What he should have said is that any job -- one in an administration of his or anywhere else -- should be available to qualified applicants, a pool which will necessarily always include women (and minorities and public school grads and people who love Michael Jackson). What he should have said is that, given all the qualified men and women in the country, we should have more jobs to occupy them all.

I find nothing wrong with Mr. Romney's remark -- viewed solely in the context of the remark -- that his chief of staff ended her days at 5PM to get home to her family. The spin that's been spun -- that he "accommodated" her so that she could scurry back to her rightful place as the dinnertime chef -- is completely off-base. His said SHE asked for her schedule to allow for that departure because SHE placed a priority on being home for the early evening. If anything, I believe Mr. Romney deserves credit for acknowledging that she could fulfill her duties as chief of staff while still fulfilling her role -- as SHE defined it -- as a mother.

The powder-keg here is how women straddle the work-life divide, and if they should even be asked to straddle that divide at all. It is no secret that the vast majority of working-age men who can get work do indeed go off to work. It is also no secret that the vast majority of women with children who have the luxury of a choice between working full-time at home or working some-time outside the home have to wrestle with the child care demands to a greater degree than their partner. Whatever unfairness remains in that construct, it is not Mitt Romney's fault (directly) that it does. And whatever answer to righting that balance is a complex one, with one possible solution being "accommodating" a mother's schedule so that she can both have the job and some time at home when her children are awake.

And to paint Mitt Romney as some misogynistic pig for mere fact that he recognized out loud that working-outside-the-home women are also defined by the "work" inside the home is hypocritical. Many of those who consider themselves indignant over his comments turn around and laugh at jokes about Bill Clinton also having "binders full of women" (wink, wink). So it's highly insulting that Mr. Romney would have to comb through stacks of women's resumes, but it's hilarious to insinuate that Clinton's Little Black Book needed a three-hole punch? Mika Brzezinski, co-host of Morning Joe, has been totally apoplectic over these comments from Mr. Romney. Yet as she criticized him for them, she declared that "what women care about in this election is the economy and their family." So she can condemn Mitt Romney for his supposedly binary view of women, but then take the same view herself in the very next sentence?

But most supremely, look at the President and Mrs. Obama. On the one hand, President Obama has an arguably poor track record with how he has treated the women in his administration. Yes, Hillary Clinton is Secretary of State and yes, Valerie Jarrett sits on his right shoulder. But read about his administration's handling of the economic crisis, and you will hear countless stories about how he, with or through his top (male) dogs, marginalized the women who dotted his economic team. (Women who were put there after public complaints that there were no women on the team.) Larry Summers, Rahm Emanuel, and Tim Geithner were allowed to totally dominate and ignore women like Sheila Bair of the FDIC. In fact, the side-lined women formed an ad hoc support group after they voiced their frustrations to the President and he did nothing to change the dynamics. Some of those women went so far as to say their time in the White House was a hostile work environment.

And just last month, Michelle Obama -- of whom I am and so many are a big fan -- took the stage at the DNC and said, during her primetime address, that her most important role and title is...Mom In Chief. She is a military advocate, public health crusader, and an accomplished attorney in her own right, but ranks as her number one job that of mother.

Whether that's right or wrong is besides the point. The point is that the role and position of women in our society is still a work in progress. No one has figured out the right balance to strike in familial responsibilities or in workplace "accommodations" -- for both men and women, mothers and fathers. Many women themselves feel conflicted and unresolved, as the "having it all" debate rages on.

The fundamental truths are these: Women, like every other segment of society, should have every opportunity to do, achieve, decide and succeed. Women, like every other segment of society, should be allowed to go as far as their motivation and effort direct. Women, like every other segment of society, should be afforded the chance to triumph above circumstance and push beyond artificial limitations.

And this: we have a long way to go before we make those conditional statements declarative ones. But to miss the point and/or misrepresent Mr. Romney's comments from the other night as a short-hand way of crystallizing this continued climb -- and to blame Mr. Romney for the remaining ascent -- pushes the conversation off an unhelpful cliff.

Ha ha ha! See how this kind of makes me seem like property that can be put somewhere by a guy? Now that's funny and kind of hot, because I'd let Ryan put me anywhere. But that Romney guy who wants to employ me but let me leave by dinner-time?!? JERK!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Thousand Words

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Which is good, because today all of my words have to be focused on a contract I've been negotiating for the past three weeks that needs to be finalized today in time for me to take my daughter to piano lessons.

I'd started drafting a huge, prosaic piece on How I Survived The Maine Earthquake (which occurred last night at 7:12PM). Picture Ben Affleck circa Pearl Harbor and Jennifer Lawrence circa The Hunger Games and you'd have a sense of the scenes I painted with words. Scenes that involved my husband and I staring at each other, confused, as our house shook, and then running to the living room door frame to huddle there while our daughter stared at us, even more confused, from the couch where she was watching Fresh Beat Band. It was gripping, chill-inducing stuff that showcased The Diazes for the heroes we are.

Alas, that page turner (or mouse scroller, as it were) will not see the light of today. I need to focus on third-party beneficiary clauses and the scope of the definition of "services." Equally gripping. I know.

So instead, I give you the picture that will summarize for you the experience I survived with my Maine brethren and sistren.


I am pretty sure we have Annie Leibovitz to thank for this picture.
Or Facebook.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Womp, Womp, Woommmpppp

So remember that HelloGiggles gig you inspired and I was all excited about? No? Read this.

And remember how I told you that they gave me some push-back for being "too snarky," and I had to figure out how to live in a brain with no snark? Not ringing bells here, either? Go here.

Well, turns out that I'm not going to be able to thread that needle. Turns out I can't decode what is "too snarky" and what is simply lovingly sarcastic. Also turns out HelloGiggles editors are friends with enough people that I'd otherwise want to be writing about that it just became too uncomfortable.

The good news is that HelloGiggles isn't entirely bothered by me yet, and has given me a chance to try to pitch new "series" ideas to them. I've just pitched one that I, personally, am pretty excited about and that I think is a much better needle-threader. Fingers crossed it will work out, and of course you will be the first to know if it does!

And that post that I wrote last week and that never got published on Friday? Well, now it's below, in all its glory. Hail to The Snark!

P.S. HelloGiggles only had issues with certain of these prompts. As a fun parlor game this evening, gather up some friends and try to guess which ones were the offenders!
  • Now this: Paparazzi have snapped a picture of Jennifer Aniston's engagement ring. So we can expect that somewhere, a list has been narrowed down to “Big Foot,” “Donald Trump’s Real Hair” and “Kristen Stewart’s smile.”
  • Now this: Guy Ritchie is engaged to his pregnant girlfriend, model Jacqui Ainsley. So we can expect that his camp will leak a pre-nuptial agreement including terms that forbid Jacqui from speaking in an accent other than her native one, restrict any weight lifting equipment or yoga mats from entering their home, and insist that she never, ever, under any circumstances bedazzle outerwear with the insignia "Mrs. Ritchie."
  • Now this: Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman are separating after 30 years of marriage. So we can expect that Rhea will be spotted buying the highest pair of heels Jimmy Choo will sell her.
  • Now this: A very skinny Sarah Palin has announced that she is writing a fitness book. So we can expect that lots of readers will demand their money back when they open the book to find chapters on “Stretching The Truth,” “Don’t Sweat The Facts,” “Exercise Your Imagination” and “Wag Your Tongue, Point Your Finger.”
  • Now this: Lena Dunham, creatress of the HBO hit Girls, has signed a $3.5 million dollar book deal. So we can expect that the acknowledgements page will simply be a list of all the Starbucks that allowed Ms. Dunham unlimited Wi-Fi access and ignored the fact that she was writing in the nude.
  • Now this: Gangnam Style singer Psy has announced that his next single will be in English. So we can expect that Macarena singers Los del Río are somewhere in the middle of Mexico performing at a quinceñera and mumbling to each other, as the birthday girl pauses the party to find her lost retainer, that Psy should take it easy, enjoy the ride while it lasts, and not get ahead of himself.
  • Now this: During the first presidential debate, Mitt Romney stated that one way he'd reduce the national debt would be to cut government funding of PBS. So we can expect that Big Bird will be the first muppet to headline a Super PAC, which he will call Flock to Freedom and whose funds he will deposit directly into Sasha and Malia Obama’s allowances.
  • Now this: Gene Simmons' daughter made it through a round of auditions on The X Factor. So we can expect that her therapy bill this week will be especially steep, as she will have to explore her disappointment at “having to work at it like everyone else” since her father refuses to make her famous the old-fashioned way: by getting her a television show or giving her the lead in his remake of Cats.
  • Now this: Beyonce has dropped out of Clint Eastwood's A Star Is Born, leaving Mr. Eastwood without a leading actor or actress for the film. So we can expect that Mr. Eastwood will tell his crew to carry on with the production schedule, seeing as they've got plenty of chairs sitting around that will do just fine in the roles.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Dear Abby: How About Those Understudies?

Last week, I wrote about my thoughts on the first presidential debate. This week, I'm taking requested aim at the debate between the two guys who want the "one heartbeat away" job.

There was a frothy, frenzied firestorm of fired-uppedness after the presidential debate. Love him or hate him, everyone was agog with emotion after Mitt Romney stood on stage and managed to avoid shoving his foot in his mouth up to his knee cap.

This morning, people who care seem generally split right down the (probably partisan) line regarding who emerged last night as the "victor." There is a lot of talk about VP Biden's LOLs and emoticons. Many are curious about what kind of power bar Congressman Ryan slammed before his 90 minutes of verbal cardio.


I think last night's debate perfectly encapsulated why politics is such a pain in the assumptions.

You would think that the people who have made it to a position of national leadership would know how to say things that are, you know, true. You would think they could avoid hypocrisy more often than not. You would also think they could answer a direct question.

Oh, you silly little voter!

The more I pay attention to politics and politicians, the more I realize that what a politician says is completely irrelevant. The tangled web on which a political actor stands is a criss-cross of tit-for-tats, money mongering, cronyism and backroom handshakes. Their bully pulpit is inscribed with the words "Remember Who Is Financing Your Re-election Campaign," and their teleprompters' screen saver reads "Just Say Whatever It Takes."

To really understand what "your guy" or "your gal" stands for, you have to rely on his or her actual record, your gut, and your fear of the other guy or other gal. Or you just have to decide which party is your horse, and bet on it regardless of which jockey is saddling up.

Here's how last night confirmed this dismal assessment:

  • Many pundits have been saying that the best way to evaluate these debate performances is to put your television on mute and just watch the men's demeanor. That's right, the best way to decide who to vote for is to TUNE OUT WHATEVER THEY ARE SAYING. Indeed, this morning I heard Howard Dean (former candidate for prez and former chair of the DNC) say that he thought VP Biden looked most "like a leader" during an exchange last night about Libya. Mind you, VP Biden bumbled this particular part of the debate (saying the administration had no idea the Libyan embassy wanted more security, when all evidence points to the fact the ambassadors were begging for more marines). But, Mr. Dean says, if you had your volume off and weren't LISTENING to the inaccuracies, boy, did VP Biden look like a guy we should want to vote for.
  • Fact-checking is the fastest growing industry in the United States. It appears both sides really do care about job creation, because they are sacrificing truth-telling so that armies of civilians with Internet connections can publish columns and blog posts that list all the things each candidate said wrong last night or yesterday or one second ago. If you submit yourself to listening to a debate or a speech or an interview, you must then sign yourself up for at least five minutes of reading the fact-checkers so that you can know what noise to pull out from your reeling frontal lobe. The politicians aren't the ones telling you the data points you need to make an informed decision. Some guy who goes to work in his pajamas and whose biggest decision each day is "Google or Bing?" is.
  • At the end of the debate, moderator Martha Raddatz asked each candidate whether they were disappointed in the nasty tone of the campaign. VP Biden acknowledged that both sides probably regretted certain accusations that were levied (although he did pass the buck and put that blame on the shoulders of the Super PACs). Congressman Ryan responded by ticking through his list of all the things Obama has done wrong as president. And....thankyouverymuch.
That non-answer was the one time over ninety minutes that Ms. Raddatz did not call Mr. Ryan on his non-answer. Probably because he'd eaten up all remaining time with his non-answer.

While the candidates shared moments of dull glimmering last night, Ms. Raddatz positively glowed. She moved the men from topic to topic, cut them off and stared them down. She pushed each man with questions directed at a particular weakness, and noted - out loud - when they hadn't responded to the question. My favorite part was when Congressman Ryan condescendingly asked her "oh, so you want to move to defense," and she stared directly back at him and said, "Yes." And he did.

So there is another lesson from last night. A more positive one. And it is this:

If you want to move the political discussion forward, ask a woman to do it.

"You're lucky I'm a gentleman and there are all those cameras over there. Because otherwise I'd have slammed you in the solar plexus so hard, you'd be gasping for air. Do you know how many push ups I did this morning alone?"

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Mile Stoning

This weekend, I attended a dear friend's wedding. I happen to be a big fan of weddings. They tend to be hugely celebratory and entirely cheerful. I would go so far as to say that optimism never reigns so supreme, and happiness is never so guileless, as at a wedding. It truly seems as if the rose-petaled path the bride saunters down extends, for the newly-minted couple, all the way to the grave.

It's the kind of escapism that is legal, pure, and rejuvenating. Watching a couple enjoy a room full of their favorite people, all there to shower love and good cheer in the exclusive direction of the betrothed, is enough to plaster a stupid grin on my face for hours. Hearing proclamations of love, fidelity, and the good times to come puts a little spring in my step.

It doesn't hurt that the whole thing comes packaged with food, drink and music.

The underbelly to these tidings is the not-quite-so-pretty flipside of reality. The euphoria of the wedding day eventually fades, and real life sets in. Your daily concerns evolve beyond table settings, your hair and make-up lean towards disheveled, and no one feeds you cake. There is work to do, bills to pay, chores to divide, and arguments over thermostat settings and tones of voice to get into.

Milestones often seem to follow this pattern. You work hard to arrive at a certain point of life, you celebrate that arrival, and then you begin slogging through the next phase, with a new milestone as your destination. The milestone, then, is sandwiched between work.

Which is perhaps why milestones are so worthy of celebration. They are the break from life's work. The occasion is an occasion because it's the summit before the next ascent.

Why, then, do people standing in the audience of a milestone feel the need to cut short the celebration, and to insist on leaping into the next phase of work required to reach the next milestone?

At the wedding this weekend, soon after we arrived at the reception venue, the toasts started. The first two toasts were centered on exhortations that the couple cement their wedded having babies. Congratulations on your decades of looking for The One, your years of dating, your months of planning this whole shindig, NOW DUST YOURSELVES OFF AND GET ON TO THE BUSINESS OF PROCREATION!

Hey, here's an idea...why not enjoy the married state you'd wondered about and/or pined after for the better part of your adult life? Figure out who you are as a Mr. & Mrs. before you start worrying about who you are as a Dad and Mom. Send out the thank-you notes for all the silver picture frames you just hauled in before you start picking birth announcements.

It's not like marriage-to-baby is the first time a person experiences life whiplash. Think of it. When you meet someone who seems special, the questions immediately start pouring in: What's your "status"? Have you had "the talk"? Are you exclusive?

Then you do start dating, and everyone wants to know if you keep toothbrushes at each other's place or if you're planning on moving in together. Enough time goes by, and people start wondering aloud when you'll give/receive an engagement ring. People start humming Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)" whenever you're around.

So you get engaged. Yippee!  Champagne! Calls to all your loved ones!

When's the wedding? Local or destination? Big wedding party or small? Buffet or sit-down? Band or DJ? Pre-nup or fingers crossed?

But I just....!! I'm still....!! Why are you wrestling me into my grandmother's wedding gown at 6:30 on a Tuesday morning?

Excel spreadsheets are created, to-do lists are laminated, bank accounts are drained and friendships are threatened. The deed finally gets done, though, and there you are, raising your glass....

Just in time for someone to sucker-punch you with a request for a grandchild or a niece or a wingman.

I'm guilty of having gotten caught up in the constantly forward-looking perspective. I admit that I did not take enough time to smell the roses of my own milestones. Maybe it was because "YOLO" was only a twinkle in Twitter's eye. Or maybe it was because I suffered from over-exposure to Buddhist philosophies, figuring that if I didn't relish something enough the first time around, I'd make up for it in the next life.

Whatever the cause, I know now that friends and family who are a few milestones back should feel in no rush. They should not press blindly on into the next phase of life's work.

Because, let me tell you, after you have "the talk," the butterflies of anticipation don't visit as often; and after you start dating, "because I want to" isn't a guiding principle as much; and after you get engaged, you start having conversations about combined bank accounts and rotating holidays; and after you get married, you hear yourself complain about socks being left on the floor and the refrigerator being too crowded; and after you have children, you have a vague memory of once upon a time being a person that was attractive enough in looks and personality to be desired by another person, but you don't really remember all the details because HANDS DO NOT GO IN TOILET BOWLS AND YES, YOU ARE EATING THOSE CARROTS!

To my newly-married friends, and to all those who are T-minus X milestone, I say unto you:

LTML (Let The Milestone Linger)

There's no rush. The next one isn't going anywhere.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Dear Abby: Debate the Debate

On Wednesday night, President Obama and Candidate Romney squared off in their first of three debates. I watched the entire thing, which is a first for me. A reader asked for my reaction. She shall receive it, and so shall you.

Before I offer up my opinion, I feel the need to convince you of the bona fides of my dispassionate eye. I think this is because it grates on me when I am reading political commentary and it immediately becomes worthless to me, as I can see that it is nothing more than an expression of the writer's clear political bent. As a person who cares about politics but isn't a great fan of politicians, I don't want to consume Kool-Aid. I want to consume the bitter, acid elixir of facts and balanced analysis.

I think my cynicism regarding the political process is pretty clear. Because of the opinion I am about to offer up, it's also important for me to remind you that I think Mitt Romney has had some terrible missteps in this campaign. I also lean Democrat when it comes to issues of social policy. All that said, if I were forced to choose a party to align myself with, I'd choose a birthday party.

With that, and for whatever it's worth, here's my reaction to Wednesday night's debate.

The Candidates

As a matter of pure performance and delivery over the course of the 90 minutes of the debate, I think Mitt Romney "won" handily. I thought his tone was conversational but strong, his thoughts were organized, and his entire demeanor was assured and confident. So many pundits going into the debate were saying that this was Mr. Romney's chance to "look presidential," and I think that is exactly what he did.

Our actual president, on the other hand, looked removed, tired, and maybe even confused. I thought he stumbled right out of the starting gate when he tried to make a corny and jokey reference to the fact that he and Michelle were celebrating their wedding anniversary at the debate. (Mr. Romney acknowledged the unfortunate timing in his own opening statement, and he did a better job than President Obama on even that topic as well.) I thought every answer had a long and unnecessary wind-up, he at times seemed to be searching for words, and his "closing statement" seemed like a deflated apology. The man who finds his greatest strength in his power to "tell a story" played right into the hands of those who contend he can't talk unless he's reading from a teleprompter.

I think both men missed opportunities to make points that would really press their adversary. It's amazing, for example, that President Obama never even mentioned Mr. Romney's 47% comment. And if I were Mr. Romney, I would have challenged the President's references to his "reforms" of Wall Street by arguing that you can't call it "reform" if the banks continue to do business in the same way they were doing it when we got into the economic mess we got into/are in.

Mr. Romney needed to win that debate. His weeks-long gaffes pile-up threatened to derail his entire campaign, and the momentum seemed clearly on the President's side. Now the Republican machine is re-energized. That means the party and the candidate will be flush with confidence and with cash, and this whole thing starts to look like a real competition again.

The Voters

I think the only voting contingent that "won" after Debate #1 was moderate Republicans. Part of what made Mr. Romney so successful Wednesday night was that he seemed to be saying things he actually believed. And those things were not the conservative messages he tried to adopt to win the Republican nomination. They were the middle-of-the-road statements that allowed him to lead the state of Massachusetts. In fact, some of Mr. Romney's best moments were when he swatted down President Obama's repeated references to Mr. Romney's plan to reduce taxes by $5 trillion for the rich by squeezing the middle class, which Mr. Romney repeatedly insisted was not his plan at all.

The conservative Republicans that begrudgingly rallied around Mr. Romney were losers Wednesday night. While it seems they're caught up in the euphoria of his strong performance, they are probably quietly afraid that their worst fears are proving true: he doesn't actually side with them on the issues. He talked about strengthening the middle class, preserving some aspects of Obamacare, the importance of clear business regulations, and the like. He also talked about eliminating mortgage and charitable deductions.

The problem for all Republicans, then -- even the moderate ones I think "won" on Wednesday -- is that they don't really know who their candidate really is. The one from Wednesday night, or the one from the leaked video and months of campaigning? The latter was useful for winning the primaries, the former is the better candidate for the general election, but which one would show up at the White House? That's a scary gamble for all shades of Republicans.

I'd list the biggest losers to be undecided voters. Mr. Romney looked like an appealing choice for independents who think perhaps we need a fresh start, but in theory he could prove to be an extremist. President Obama in theory is an intelligent man and a poised leader, but he looked like he didn't know what he was doing on that stage, much less in the most important office in our country. I'd wager, then, that Debate #1 did nothing to help resolve the undecided votes.

The Result

At most, this debate simply made this a race again. How long it remains a race is anyone's guess. Just as the campaign seemed to turn on a dime Wednesday night, it can turn again, several times, between today and election day.

The people who will be most affected by these debates are the aforementioned undecided voters. If there is one thing Wednesday night confirmed, it is that people who are already loyal to a party, and therefore that party's candidate, will remain so, regardless of whatever happens on the debate stage.

Indeed, as I watched the debate, I also was following my Twitter feed. The reaction of those who are solidly, decidedly, blindingly in the camp of President Obama was amusing and telling. I watched them tweet things like "oh, shazzam!" after President Obama made a clunky joke, or complain about how Mr. Romney was "interrupting" the non-talking Jim Lehrer. They criticized Mr. Romney for things he didn't actually say, and kept on making jokes about how he has enough money to buy PBS or something. It's like they were watching the debate on mute.

Non-conservative Republicans criticize Fox News all the time for being the ultimate spin laboratory. I agree with those criticisms. It is always amusing, though, to watch how easily the shoe fits on the other foot. Even members of President Obama's administration have strained to explain, much less rejoice over, President Obama's debate performance. And the "liberal media" is unanimous in declaring round one to Mr. Romney. But if you followed the debate solely through my Twitter feed, you would have thought Mr. Romney spent the entire 90 minutes snarling, throwing stacks of money at the audience, or firing the help.

The debates aren't going to change the minds of those who have already made up their mind. Maybe they will help undecided voters make a decision. Those undecided voters likely care about more than taxes, though -- which is what Wednesday night predominantly focused on. If Mr. Romney wants to get those voters in his camp, all he did Wednesday night was make a step forward.  He isn't all the way there yet.

Maybe he's just, like, 47% of the way there.

This picture captures one of the rare moments from the debate when President Obama looked up from his notes.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Bit 'o This, Bit 'o That

Last week, my first post for HelloGiggles was published. I hope you read it and enjoyed it. If you didn't already read it, go do so now. Don't forget to enjoy it while you read it.

If you were paying attention, you know that it came out a week later than advertised. Here's why.

I submitted a few ideas for a series to HelloGiggles. One of them was a continuation of the Now That post I did here. My sample for them continued in the snarky, jokey vein that predominates this blog and certainly the idea behind Now That.

Well, that was the sample they picked, and that was the series they wanted me to run with. And so I drafted up another post for them to run a couple weeks ago, sticking with my charming mix of ridiculous/kind of mean/get over yourself Hollywood humor.

Of the ten jokes in the draft I submitted, HG was only comfortable with 3. The other 7 had to be reworked to "take the snark out."

At first, I didn't think I would be able to do it. My snark runneth over. I wasn't sure I could contain it or direct it with careful precision. I felt like I was Monet being asked to paint without a paintbrush.

Yes, yes indeed. I = Monet, my blog posts = San Giorgio Maggiore at Dusk. This is a very apt comparison.

Moving on.

After getting some counseling from my husband, sisters, and friends, I decided to keep trying and to strike the balance the HG editors were looking for. I guess it worked, because the 7 bits I revised were included in the post they ran last week. We'll see if I can make it work again this week. I'm not promising anything.

The sad thing, for me, is that I still like the 7 that HG scratched. If only I had some other place to share them with the world....

Oh, hello blog! It's me! Abby Monet.

So here, my lucky, loyal blog readers, are the 7 amazing pieces of now-dated news that I turned into jokes that would never see the light of day were it not for your wonderful eyes.

Hope you enjoy.

  • Now that manuscripts have been uncovered linking Jesus to a Mrs. Jesus, we can expect Kim Kardashian to tweet that she has yet one more thing in common with the water-into-wine guy: relationships they’d rather everyone forget about.   
  • Now that Eva Longoria is dating Mark Sanchez, we can expect Ms. Longoria to start dressing in nothing but white, green and pigskin and for Mr. Sanchez to explore his options with the Mexican Football League.  He will be sorely disappointed when he learns that Mexican Football is Mexican fútbol and is played with feet, not hands.  (Kind of like American soccer.)
  • Now that Amanda Bynes has insisted that she is “doing amazing,” we can expect Honey Boo Boo to moderate a press junket in three European languages, Miley Cyrus to write a self-help book on how to stay grounded in Hollywood, and Dina Lohan to appear on Dr. Drew’s Celebrity Rehab to proudly announce that she’s “9,453 days stone-cold sober.”
  • Now that Lindsay Lohan has been arrested for a hit-and-run in New York City, we can expect her to blame the entire thing on the fender of her car, which has been jealous of her success forever and is totally out to get her.  She will insist that she was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.  To wit: behind the wheel of the car (known to many as “driving”) and clipping pedestrians without stopping to check if she killed or maimed anyone.  Because the club was about to close!  GawwwwdddddddD!
  • Now that Shakira has announced that she is pregnant, we can expect her to give birth to an adorable hula hoop, which she will name Ganó Aceptación.  Roughly translated?  Cross-Over Appeal.
  • Now that Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart have been not-so-secretly rendez-vous’ing, we can expect them to be kind of stand-offish about their stardom, begrudge the fact of their fame, and act churlish when asked any question by any person in any setting.  So everything will be back to normal and we can stop spending our nights at candlelight vigils around a stack of the Twilight books.
  • Now that your computer is turned on and you’re hungry but can’t decide what to eat, we can expect for you to read or hear or see Mindy Kaling remind you that, apropos of nothing, she’s got a new show about to air on Fox.  Called The Mindy Project.  Created and co-produced by Mindy.  Starring Mindy.  Mindy. Kaling. Mindy Kaling.

Monday, October 1, 2012

There Are No Trick Questions Here

I think we can all agree that restaurants are pretty user-friendly places. In terms of the procedure for how to use them, once you’ve been to one, you’ve kind of been to them all. You:

  • Enter;
  • Sit down at a spot used for sitting in front of a spot used for eating, assuming those spots are not occupied by another eater or the food that eater would like to eat;
  • Observe water being poured into a cup for you;
  • Receive paper reporting the options for consumption in the establishment you have selected to patronize;
  • To the extent you enjoy the gift of literacy, peruse said paper;
  • Relish in the dictatorial delight of selecting and summoning whatever it is your little heart desires from the page(s);
  • Sit and wait for someone to do the work of preparing your selection and delivering it underneath your chin; and
  • Engage in the business of consumption.
The whole drill is fundamentally enjoyable. Get something you want without having to do the getting. Sit still until you have to feed yourself. It’s a real thrill.

For restaurant patrons, very little of the business of going to a restaurant should be described as “challenging” or “surprising.” Maybe you have a hard time making conversation with your dining companions. Okay, that’s tough. Maybe your jerky boyfriend has decided to resign as your jerky boyfriend in a public dining room. Ouch. Nevertheless, the degree of difficulty associated with the basic logistics of dining out should register somewhere north of lying down and south of walking in a straight line.

Then you go out to eat with my husband. And you realize that they should include “ordering” on standardized tests.

My husband is a smart fellow. He is a lawyer for a public utility and he says things like “bridge loan” and “bond redemption” with his serious face on. He recently fixed our bathroom sink after YouTubing instructional videos on how to do it. He has caught two skunks in a trap and didn’t get sprayed by either one when he let them go. The man knows his way around tight situations.

But put him in a seated position with a laminated menu in front of a friendly waitress, and he loses the capacities for decision-making, speech, and closed-mouth thinking. Not necessarily in that order.

I have seen this man order a sausage appetizer followed by the exact same thing in the entree size. I have seen a waitress ask him what he would like and watch him respond by staring desperately at me, as if I am transmitting the answer to him via eye-rolls. Every time he asks what kind of beer the place has on draft, I observe him “listen” to the waitress rattle off the list. I take note as his brain freezes, his eyebrows panic, and his lips repeat the last three words the waitress said, whatever they were. Then I explain that when he says “Light Amstel Light,” it just means he wants an Amstel Light. And could she also bring two paper bags. One for him to breathe into, and one for me to put over my head.

I don’t know why ordering, at a restaurant, throws him for such a loop. It’s not like we end up there after a serious spell of sleep-walking. And we’ve never done hallucinogenic drugs. Whenever we alight upon a restaurant, it is the product of some discussion and advance planning. He has always had some warning that the restaurant is our destination. You would think he’d use the time to put his game face on.

Instead, he consistently confronts the situation from a position of unpreparedness. That means that neither of us can really relax and settle into our dining experience until the waitress has walked away confused and we’ve reconsidered some form of therapy. Perhaps we should be considering ordering in more.

Or perhaps we should only go out to eat when we have taken hallucinogenic drugs. They would probably help loosen my husband’s tongue and stimulate his brain into some form of activity. They would also allow me to pretend that I’m not at the table with him when he tries to order.

This does not look like a setting for a horror movie. Unless you are my husband.