taking the passive out of passive-aggressive

Sunday, September 26, 2004

It seems like people are having sex less than they used to. I have at least two friends--okay, maybe more--who aren't mating with their mates, and I wonder why. After all, isn't sex everywhere? Aren't we faced with nubile cuties on grocery store magazine racks, in music videos, on billboards? Shouldn't we be all sexed up, all the time? Okay.... maybe the teenagers are having sex, but the adults certainly aren't, and in a culture that's increasingly saturated with porn, it's kind of hard to understand.

As usual, I have a theory about this.

In general, we adults lack sexual stimulation. I know this seems hard to reconcile, at first, with the televised naked abdomens of so many teenage girls, but in fact it makes perfect sense. In the workplace, in our neighborhoods, among our friends, we are increasingly tamped down by a kind of Moral Majority puritanism that infects every interaction. We are not allowed to look, to think, to consider, or to flirt. It would be unbecoming, untoward, impolite.

At the same time, the commodity of sex has become more glossy, and more targeted. As the marketers become better and better at using sex to sell, sex becomes more an more boring and product-oriented. What was the Woody Allen line.... his shrink says "Do you think sex is dirty?" And he says "Only if you're doing it right."

As a culture, we are SO not doing it right. Sex is magazine-clean, shaved, waxed, douched, manicured, and perfumed. I'm sorry, but that's just not that exciting. Where's the adventure in all of that?

This might actually be a side effect of political correctness and feminism, though I hate to admit it. Women's movements have always tended towards the abstentious, from prohibition on. Or maybe it's just unbridled late capitalism. You might have terrific curtains and no sex, or a very civil 50-50 relationship and no sex, but either way, you're not having any sex. Is it worth it?


Friday, September 17, 2004

I've been playing Sims 2 now for about... um, fifteen hours straight. Now, I did get up to feed and play with and change my darling baby, but I must admit I was confused when the Sims baby cried--was that my baby or a simulacrum? Or is my baby the simulacrum and the Sims baby is... oh, shit.

It's not hard to become immersed in a virtual world, especially since the Sims world isn't cluttered with the kinds of complications I find in my "real" world: single socks, vaguely damp diapers, toys with no place to go, bathing suit tops and no bottoms, books I'll never read, mismatched bed linens.

In Sims-land, all curtains fit all windows. There's a money cheat when you can't make ends meet. Everyone is either sort-of-plump or model-skinny. Children entertain themselves, repairmen only cost $50 an hour, you can put the baby on the floor without guilt, and you can make a decent living as a slacker. Decor choices are limited, and most things go with most other things. And when you throw a party, all you have to do is turn on the techno, get in the hot tub, and the place is bumpin'.

I am no stranger to escapism--in fact, escapism has been my best friend for a long, long time. But this game offers me an out which is so clearly wrong, I don't even know what to say about it. It's not that I ignore my family when I'm playing it--I actually forget about them. It seems like the Sims families need me more--and how fucked up is that?


Monday, September 13, 2004

How do you get to be a trophy wife? Do you start out as a stripper and clean yourself up, learn how to speak properly, a la Pygmalion? Or do you start out as a prep-school bunny, maybe not so bright, and go to Tulane and meet an investment banker? Or do you maybe troll the yuppie bars in Canton, looking for someone with a nice watch?

I ask this because at the gym tonight were two women who were so clearly trophy wives, it was like they came from central casting. Blonde, tan, and you could tell they were older than they looked. You could tell that they worked damn hard to look that way--surgery and workouts all day and well-matched gym outfits. I was sweating and doing bicep curls in a fifteen-year-old t-shirt, and they didn't even break a sweat lifting twice the weight.

If they were fifteen years younger, I would have thought they were either sorority girls, strippers, professional volleyball players, or cheerleaders for the Ravens. But these ladies had the unmistakable marks of age on them: the crows' feet you can never really get rid of; a slightly ashy blonde to their highlights that says "covering gray", and artfully applied foundation makeup. These women, then, were protecting their investment--their hotness was their ticket to expensive gym clothes and nice tans.

I have nothing against the trophy wives. I think they work harder than most women do at actual jobs, and for less reward. I guess I think they're suckers, but who am I to judge? Maybe a nice house in Palm Beach and an unlimited clothes budget would turn my head, too. But I do wonder how you go about getting that job and signing that contract. Somehow I think it's not a binding contract, either, which sucks for them--because at the end of the day, who would you rather be? the aging trophy wife or the guy with the wallet?

Sunday, September 12, 2004

I've made a lot of new friends in the past couple of years, and some of them have stuck and some of them haven't. But for each and every one of them I keep wondering "why do they like us?" This is not some self-esteem problem, it's a rational question. What is it about me and my family that people are willing to serve us food, liquor, and put up with us and our children for hours? I am not terribly charming. My husband is generally pissed-off, though in an articulate way. And our daughters, while lovely in every way, tend to go on crying jags at eight o' clock. In fact, I wear too much makeup and I think I might drink too much, and when I throw a party the food always, always sucks, unless I have it catered. I just really think I don't give as good as I get.

Maybe I am better behaved and better groomed than I think, although I seriously doubt it. Maybe people think I need help, generally in the form of food and booze, and they're willing to provide it as a community service. Or maybe I come up with enough bon mots to make it worthwhile--or at least I'm willing to gossip, which, no matter what anyone says, is a valuable friend-trait. As for the husband and kids, well, the kids are really actually delightful, and the husband provides the requisite banter for the other husband (and in fact, ALL the husbands are malcontents who need to barbecue and smoke on the back deck with other men, so I guess mine is not so odd.) Or maybe everyone else is just really bored, and we're willing to show up any time of the week. Maybe showing up really is 90% of the effort you need to make.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

I have figured out how to buy meat cheaply, and stretch it out for days, into meals that are at best, divine, and at worst, palatable. I have learned how to parse time so that days go by quickly, even days spent entirely in the house. And I have begun to understand the house--its voices, its demands--in the way that one understands a baby after a while. Or maybe I have become the house. This might be what is meant by housewife: I am married less to my husband, and more to the house.

It's not the children who have done this to me, or my husband, but myself. At some point it occured to me that my external life was leading me to places I cared nothing for, into interactions with people I hated, into the godforsaken world; and I was too glad to give it up, to surrender to the seemingly simple demands of snacks and gardens and walks. Now I watch the walls, learning every imperfection and possible fault. I listen for mice and watch spiders spin webs across the window frames. I know every step of asphalt between my house and the neighbors, every tree between my house and the grocery store. I have relinquished the whole wide world.

I miss it, in the way that one misses something that was impossible or an illusion to begin with: the man I thought I loved when I was young, or the books I thought I would read. And this too, it's illusory, and when I return to whatever I return to, this life will seem like a dream from many nights ago.

Monday, September 06, 2004

I listen to NPR all the time because I need something to occupy my mind while I'm diapering and doing dishes, and because at the end of the day when my husband comes home it's nice to have something to talk about other than, well, diapering and doing dishes.

But I have to say, as much as I enjoy all the news and shit, their arts coverage is horrible. Horrible and irritating and really queer.

First of all, I have to avoid the radio altogether at 3pm when Terri Gross comes on. She can't even say her own name right, for heaven's sake--"This is Cherry Gross." And she's always asking stupid questions and generally missing the point.

And then on the news shows, they always devote the end of the program to a book or (shudder) music. The music is usually either World Beat, or an earnest singer-songwriter type, or the latest solo album from somebody who was in a famous band in the sixties. They have these dreadfully serious yet supposedly in-the-know commentators to talk about the music, and then they play long snippets of what's usually just dreadful stuff, fit only for the ears of aging baby boomers.

Now, I understand that maybe I'm a little young to be listening to NPR all the time, but really, if they want younger listeners they need to stop being so DORKY. The other thing they do regularly is always make these stupid little jokes--you know, the kind of joke that makes people chuckle but never really laugh? Sometimes they write dorky poems that rhyme, usually about current events, and sometimes--even worse--their listeners write to them with dorky poems that rhyme, and they read them over the radio.

And don't even get me started on Prairie Home Companion. I mean, that guy tells the exact same story over and over again, in that same quiet, simultaneously earnest yet smirky voice. It's so.... heartwarming.

I suppose I should consider this the charm of public radio, but it's starting to get on my nerves. No wonder people don't want to listen to moderate, balanced media coverage, when it's interspersed with such.... dorkiness.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Tonight we went to one of these outdoor concerts where parents can drink and their kids can dance like little maniacs. All the children were blonde and all the dads looked alike--end-of-summer-tans, short hair, khaki shorts. And all the moms fell into one of several categories:

1. Glam mom: This mom wears Britney Spears 70's style sunglasses, has a good tan, long blonde hair straightened with an iron, lipgloss, and a baby bjorn, so you have to kowtow to how fucking in shape she is after six months postpartum. Go, glam mom. (BTW: Glam mom never has kids older than two. Once the kids are older than two, Glam Mom gives up and becomes some other variety of regular Mom.)

2. Flax mom: Flax mom wears long dresses or skirts. If she's got grey hair, it's long and undyed. Often Flax Mom is riding a bicycle with a a baby seat on the back. Flax Mom probably breastfeeds her kid until college. Flax Mom may be older but her kid is young because of all the fertility treatments--or maybe it was that healthy livin' that allowed her to conceive when she was 39. I alwys wonder, with Flax Mom, why, if she's so thin from the vegan diet, she hides her hot bod?

3. Given-up Mom. This mom wears shorts up high around her waist and values comfort above all else. Her husband usually looks disappointed, but it's probably his fault, since one imagines that given-up mom gave up because he wasn't rewarding her properly. Or maybe she gave up a long time ago, at college, and wore sweatpants a lot. It's hard to know. She probably has an advanced degree, regardless, and is well-respected in her field and also smarter than everyone else.

4. Rich mom: She wears the most fashionable flipflops, primarily so you can see that she gets her toes done regularly, and her children are dressed in Lilly Pulitzer. You know her husband is cheating on her, no matter how nicely she keeps her face and the house. But Rich Mom always looks more terrific than everyone else, so you have to give her props.

5. Preppy mom: Preppy mom is always too skinny and wears shapeless tank tops and khaki skirts, but she seems to have a lot of friends who look just like her and have kids the exact same age. She clearly goes to the pool a lot and her husband is always high-fiving other guys, exactly like they were in college.

6. Boho mom: Boho mom has short bangs and hair dyed all one color. In fact, this might have been me at various times in my life, though not now. Anyway, boho mom likes Bettie Page and has a tattoo and her kids are wearing the hippest possible clothes. Boho mom's husband, though, always looks exactly like the other husbands, except with glasses.

I don't know where I fit into the scheme of all this, except that, as always, I feel completely alienated from all of it.