Mean Moms

There’s an epidemic of mean moms in the entertainment I’m watching. Reese Witherspoon is hilarious as the take-no-prisoners Madeline in Big Little Lies: it’s Elle Woods, 10 years out of Harvard with her J.D. degree gathering dust in one of the many hundreds of rooms in her swank, NoCal beach house, polarizing principals, pupils and—most of all—the other moms at her daughter’s school. Debate her big heart versus her “meanness” all you like but, spoiler alert, someone is killed and the killer is not a man (although he deserved her wrath, for sure). 31-big-little-lies.w710.h473.2x

I just finished watching the elliptically named “Gypsy,” a Netflix series starring Naomi Watts as a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist whose cognition and behavior become increasingly suspect. “Boring, boring, boring,” lamented a Newsday reviewer, who complains that even “the city that never sleeps,” the series’ setting, “manages to doze off in the middle of the never-ending torpor that has become her life.” Agreed, but my point is: Watts’ character is attacked by a cadre of sniping and biting mean moms and she bites back.  I also object to her Connecticut home, which somehow has a view of the Tappan Zee Bridge from the backyard.

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And who cares?

Then there’s the shelf full of books about mean moms. A same-named tome written by a daughter “overcoming the legacy of hurt. The comic-book like  “Mean Moms Rule: Why Doing the Hard Stuff Now Creates Good Kids Later” — wow, there’s just so much wrong with this book (including a terrible font) that we will set it aside.

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And apparently, there’s a Jennifer Aniston vehicle called Mean Moms, that’s reported as stuck in development. Just as well, perhaps.

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Earth as One Big Forgiveness School (and other thoughts from Anne Lamott)

 

In her writing, Anne Lamott has a wry and gentle way of pointing me in a good direction. She doesn’t want to be the object of attention, although she garners radical amounts of positivity when she posts. Rather, she is like a signpost that says “try going over there instead.” In her first TED talk, she identifies 12 things she knows to be true, as informed by her 60-plus years on earth (which she celebrates, she says, because she’s glad to know longer be in the death throes of late-middle-age). Here are the truths that mean the most to me:

  1. Insisting on helping people all the time is the sunny side of control. Stop helping so much. Stop getting your helpfulness and goodness all over everybody.

 

  1. Nothing outside of you will fix you. It’s an inside job. (Her parenthetic exception: unless you’re waiting for an organ.)

 

  1. Food: try to do a little better. “I think you know what I mean.”

 

  1. Almost everything will work again if you unplug it in a few minutes, including yourself.

 

  1. Quoting Ram Dass: When all is said and done, we’re really just all walking each other home.

 

  1. Earth is one big forgiveness school. (My parenthetic truth: I’m pretty sure I’m not a star student.)

 

  1. Grace bats last. I read this in an essay and I don’t know what this means. Even so, I hope it’s true.
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“The Slightest Thing To Do to a Baby” (and other family phrases)

Families are just a kind of tribe and, as such, have their own languages. Sometimes we say things to each other, quoting something or someone, and the listener will say: “what’s that from?” Meaning it sounds familiar (or familial) but she can’t place its origin. Even explaining this makes me wonder if it would make sense to anyone outside my family (hello, Janet!) Or, conversely, I’ll use a family-understood phrase, only to baffle my non-family audience. Once I said, apropos of I can’t remember, “I’ll be nappin’ like a baby by lunchtime.” And then to the baffled listener I had to say: “That’s not a thing, I guess?” When I told this story to Lily, she laughed, and understood, but also couldn’t place the phrase. Consider this a lexicon to a tribal language. Perhaps you have your own?

  1. “That’s the slightest thing to do to a baby!” Said anytime you object to something someone has done. Origin: unknown.
  2. “Tired as a person.” Said of dogs, usually. Origin: unknown.
  3. “Although not in my garden…” While this sounds specific to horticulture, it can be used as an all-purpose prevarication. Origin: Block Island, circa 2009, because it came up after many hours of playing Apples to Apples.
  4. Loving or hating something “to bitsies, bodies and bones.” Translation: a lot. Origin: unknown.
  5. “Family dance!” Said when one family member makes a ridiculous suggestion of what the family might do together. Origin: Jamaica, circa 2008, when Steve suggested the four of us dance together at a reggae bar. Teenagers were aghast.
  6. “You gotta get the money!” Said when someone needs to wrangle funds that are rightfully theirs. Origin: Brooklyn, circa 2015, when Lily was ripped off by her Air BnB guests.
  7. “Sick as a pig.” Said when you’re sick. Origin: maybe Lily or Oli as a child, misstating “sick as a dog.” Or maybe it’s a British thing, read in a book.
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The Daily Word

My grandmother had a well-thumbed book of prayers that published one “word” per day, which she would read in the breakfast room. Turns out, it’s still a thing and, inevitably, an online thing: the dailyword.com. Today’s word is this:

But he said to me, “The Lord, before whom I walk, will send his angel with you and make your way successful.”—Genesis 24:40

I understand nothing of this quote—not the syntax, not the odd reference to success, not the nature of the angel. But I bet she would have.

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Two people and a ham

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Ham, also known as eternity

A man by the name of Joe Clark—clever, Southern, a school teacher—says this is the definition of eternity. He was quoting someone, although he didn’t say who. Turns out, it’s Dorothy Parker, as verified by the The Paris Review, which goes on to call baked ham a “professional leftover.” Even better.

“It’s not just that hams are big—they were even more massive in Parker’s day than they are now—or that a little of the salty meat goes a long way. It’s also the fact that a ham goes immediately from a thing of festive beauty (cue pineapple rings, scored surfaces studded with cloves, glistening patina) to a professional leftover. It goes very gentle into that good night. And, because it is cured, and because it can be used in so many ways, and because you can always, always scrape more meat off that bone—well, you’re really never justified in throwing it away. It’s with you for eternity.”  

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Crepuscule

This word means twilight, which is always my focus around the summer solstice. The twilight is the prolonged part of the day, it seems to me, not the morning or afternoon—it’s as if the extra daylight is tacked on from 5 pm on. This is such a lovely time: the blue sky deepens, lavenders and finally dims but so, so slowly. Last night I celebrated the actual solstice with an epic walk home, starting at the World Trade Center and walking through the Hudson River Park all the way to 97th Street. Two and a half hours, maybe five miles (nope just looked it up, 6.7 miles), with so many people doing so many things around me: jogging, doing yoga in bikinis, men boxing (a fight club?), couples smooching, kids acting crazy in a fountain, aggressive bike riding , all of it while the sun sank on the other side of the river.

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I am remembering now a summer solstice long ago, back when I was a teenaged babysitter for a family whose name I am forgetting: the Smalls? They were wild cards, as employers, sometimes not coming home at all and always forgetting to have snacks or even dinner on hand. I remember sleeping on the couch, waking at dawn, still babysitting, and feeling equal parts thrilled and forlorn. Anyway, it was the summer solstice and Mr. Small, if that was his name, told me that every day after this one would be shorter. Obvious, maybe, but that made me feel forlorn as well.

Regardless, I have a category of blog posts called Holidays We Hate, but the solstice is not one of them.

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Dear Southwest Airlines

People like this airlines and the way it accommodates human passengers with free bags and reservation changes and whimsical flight attendants. On my first Southwest flight, I’d offer these gentle criticisms:

  • Your app has short-term memory issues, not recalling me or my flight once I leave it
  • There are zero plugs in the Atlanta terminal (we could blame this on Atlanta, if you like)
  • There are zero plugs on board (this one’s on you, Southwest)
  • This phrase, to announce take-off: “Tug your seatbelt and hug your neighbor, ‘cuz this Boeing is ‘a-going.” (Ouch)
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10 Things I Hate About You (Spellcheck)

Oh Spellcheck and your even pushier cousin Autocorrect. You two are bullies, replacing your words with mine. Spellcheck, you unhelpfully underline words with that jaggedy (oh I guess you think jaggedy isn’t a real thing when it’s totally understood by absolutely everyone) red squiggle. So judgy (also not a word, per you) and wrong-headed—I did not mean “jigged” or “judger.” Autocorrect, you just straight up make changes and if I don’t reread what I’ve written, I’ll have to send one of those *corrections, which are annoying to me and the recipient (green underline here, why?). Eight additional bad things about you two:

  • That bad-grammar jaggedy (sigh) line doesn’t help at all, forcing me to try “that” and then “which” and then commas inserted all over the place and when none of that works, recasting my sentence entirely.
  • Can you be a better guesser when it comes to your suggestions? “Reowned” is not at all what I meant when I misspelled “reknowned.” And now I’m going to have to go with “esteemed” not because it’s a better word but because I know how to spell it.
  • How do you spell reknowned (as in “world reknowned” bass fisherman?) Not one of my things, I just want to know this.
  • Sometimes I use French words, not because I’m pretentious but because…I don’t have to explain myself to you, just be OK with it, OK?
  • Sometimes writers like a two-word sentence. To emphasize. To focus the reader. We do not want them underlined.
  • I don’t like alt spellings for common names (Hey, D’iane) anymore than you do, but it seems really judgy to call them out as wrong.
  • Hah! In that last one, I misused the word “anymore” (s/b any more) and you didn’t catch it!
  • Go away, both of you.
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Where Should We Begin?

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Esther Perel is the unlikely name of an esteemed couples therapist, who made her name with a book called “Mating in Captivity,” about the death of desire in marriages. (Why unlikely as that relates to her name? I read “Perel” as “peril” and Esther as a cognate of “etre” or “to be.” But maybe that’s just me.)

Moving on, she’s got a podcast called “Where Should We Begin?,” which is a really excellent title and a TED Talk called “Rethinking Infidelity.”

(How do I get to have a TED Talk?)

A quote I like, from The New Yorker: “Betrayal may spell the painful end of a chapter in a relationship, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the whole thing is done: Your first marriage is over. Would you like to create a second one together?”

And this one: “it’s never been easier to cheat and it’s never been harder to keep a secret.”

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