taking the passive out of passive-aggressive

Monday, February 28, 2005

Remember how snowdays used to feel? Magical and quiet and full of possibility and hot chocolate and freedom?

Not anymore. Now they are a trap.

My child has been out of school for three days. THREE DAYS. Was there any reason for this? Any reason at all? No. The roads were fine Thursday and Friday, and as I speak, I see cars cruising merrily along on the road behind my house. She's bored and so am I. She's drinking endless cups of heated-up Quik and watching lame cartoons, for some reason refusing to call her friend down the street, and generally coming very close to waking the baby with her thumping.I'm finishing the taxes and signing her up for summer camp. Whoopee!

This was supposed to be a vacation week for me, a week for me to do hatever I wanted and needed to do, all the things that had been neglected, including all of my most basic needs. Here it is, though, and I'm sitting around the house trapped by the needs of the children, as usual, watching them destroy the house. Why should I have ever dreamed of some magical world of my own, days of driving around listening to music and getting my nails done? Some world where I could actually be free to take a nap, or take myself to lunch?

I should have known better. Those days are over for good and nothing will bring them back.

And if this fucking wet, messy, useless snow doesn't stop soon, I'm going to have to go sit next to the space heater and weep with unbecoming self-pity.

Wal Mart again, sorry:

Robert Reich makes a good point about Wal Mart in today's Times, namely that when we act in our own self-interest as consumers, we are actually acting against our own self-interest as worker-citizens. We force companies to do everything in thier power to bring us low prices, thereby forcing down wages, which affects all of us--though of course, we don't see it that way when we're looking for the best possible deal on formula.

His solution? Moderate government regulation, stronger labor laws, higher minimum wage, and stronger fair-trade agreements. Gotta love those Clinton Democrats! "Just a LITTLE government regulation, thanks.. not TOO much... a skosh, maybe... oh, no, that's too much!"

I tend to agree on this one, though. Corporations aren't inherently evil--they're simply acting in their own self-interest, as are we all. The problem arises when we define our own self-interest so narrowly that we fail to see the larger ways in which our immediate gain cancels out our long-term well-being. But us little monkeys are notoriously bad at the long view.

That's why I'm going to go smoke a cigarette now.

Friday, February 25, 2005

I almost had a panic attack in the Wal-Mart today. That's how much Wal-Mart freaks me out.

OK, OK--I go to Sam's Club. I know Sam's Club sucks, I know that the Wal-Mart corporation is evil, and yes, I know that Costco is an actual liberal donor. But Costco is in Glen Burnie, which is the ass end of the earth as far as I can tell. And Sam's Club is right off the highway. So when I need formula, printer paper, size 4 pampers, or that weird mozzarella salad that comes in a giant plastic jar, it's Sam's Club for me.

Clearly, I should feel conflicted about this--guilty, maybe, too. But I've realized that I live far less by political principle than maybe I'd like to think. Instead, my guiding values seem to be all about "what's interesting?" And I find Sam's Club kind of interesting. It's this bizarre amalgam of bad service, enormous food, and weird one-off items like huge trampolines and bizarre yard tents. Everyone in Sam's Club seems either desperate or overfed, including me. And the warehouse feeling of it appeals to my minimalist--well, okay, let's face it, CHEAP--sensibilities.

And yet Wal-Mart is a totally different story.

Wal-Mart is attempting to be an actual store, like Target. A place where you might go every few days, or once a week, instead of that quarterly trip to Sam's Club. And yet they have done absolutely nothing--and I mean nothing--to make the experience remotely pleasant, or even navigable.

I only went there because my bank has a branch in the store, and I figured I could get some formula while I was there. And yet the signage was so confusing, and the TVs were blaring all over the place, and the nauseating smell of McDonald's, and the hideous displays and giant smiley faces that reminded me of the blinking emoticons on certain websites I won't name... anyway, it all added up to a constricted feeling in my chest, an inability to breathe.

In this inarticulate, close-to-the-edge state, I approached a blue-vested Wal Mart "associate". I couldn't even begin to think about unions while I talked to him, which is probably part and parcel of their evil and distracting store design. Anyway, this Wal Mart was huge and I'd been wandering around for what seemed like hours, looking for formula. The associate said, "Baby stuff is in the back corner." So I went on a three mile trek only to find CLOTHES, not diapers and formula and whatnot.

By this time I'm approaching full-on freakout, so I decided to cut my losses and head for the hills.

And then tonight I got home and realized that of course, we have no formula. Sheepishly I called my husband up and said, "um, we need formula, honey." He's all, "I'm not getting out of work til ten! Where will I get formula at ten?"

And of course I have to say it.... "Well, Wal Mart's open!"

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Thanks to my ever-more-influential blog, the CDC is now testing a vaccine for the bird flu!

Perhaps we won't all die in a horrible pandemic after all.

Thank you, Charles.

No one seems particularly worried about the avian flu. CNN tells us it's all just fine, and it doesn't seem to be making the front pages.

But this week's New Yorker contains a devastating article on the likliehood of an avian flu pandemic. According to public health officials in Thailand, the question is not if, but when.

In 1918, the flu killed more people worldwide than all of the combat deaths in the entire 20th century combined. This too was an avian flu, and this was BEFORE the advent of globalization and near-instantaneous air travel.

And the Thai strain is even more deadly, killing people within 24 hours.

I don't quite understand why this isn't front-page news, or why the CDC can say they have a "plan" to deal with it when there's no vaccine yet and no one even understands the virus that's causing it. But hey, we have ore important things to worry about, right? Like when am I gonna get me one a 'dem pri-vate social security acounts?

My first child was an extraordinarily calm and placid baby. She spent most of her time observing us, as though we were some kind of fascinating science project or an amusing movie. We never had to childproof the house for her, because she was more verbal than she was active, and seemed content, mostly, to sit in her high chair or saucer and look around.

I used to shake my head at my friends with these babies who seemed to be into everything. "Just tell her no!" I'd say sagely, or "Now why should you have to buy cabinet locks? WE don't need cabinet locks." I thought all children were equally active, and that other parents must be missing some key part of parenting information or technique that somehow my husband and I had effortlessly mastered.

Paybacks are a bitch, aren't they?

When I was pregnant with my second, the Queen Bee, I knew something was up. She jumped around in there like a boxer getting ready for a title fight. When I'd settle down to bed, she'd get moving, and I'd lie there watching her little fists poke against my belly while she kicked me in the sternum.

She was born in a rush, as though she couldn't wait to get out. Her hospital picture shows her face scrunched up and little fists in a ball, as if she's saying "I don't WANNA be a baby." Her early infancy was a study in frustration--she wanted to get moving and didn't know how, and it just made her angrier and angrier.

And now she's happy because she can walk. Oh boy, does she walk.

She walks from the dining room to the kitchen, looking for pennies or catfood to eat. She walks to the stairs and climbs up halfway, turning around in the middle just to give me a heart attack. She walks towards the coffeetable and sways against it. She walks towards her father but tries to run, and falls on her belly. She walks towards the cat and tries to eat his tail.

Her walk is more of an unbalanced waddle, really, like someone on a three-day drunk. She's got big, strong legs and you can hear her coming... thump thump thump thump. She likes to open doors, particularly if there's something dangerous behind them. She thinks to toilet is most fascinating. And given the choice between a $50 baby toy and something completely inappropriate, like a lighter or a sharp knife, she'll go for danger every time.

And when she's thwarted--"no, no, Bee, not for babies"--she sets up a wail as though you've taken away everything important in the world.

This, then, is what other people were talking about. This is what it's like to have an "active" baby. I was so, so wrong! How could I have ever thought that my first was typical!

And who knows what else this one has in store for us? We thought we were veteran parents, wise to the ways of the children. But no. We knew nothing.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Hi, reborners. Welcome to Home of Dismay. Y'all generated a lot of traffic today.

Listen--this blog really doesn't have much readership, it's quite amazingly unimportant in the grand scheme of things, and has no effect on any part of the outside world. My opinion does not matter, at all. I am aware of this, and it's why I go ahead and share my thoughts--good, bad, and indifferent--because it's just singing into the void.

We all have our hobbies and obsessions, okay? You make dolls, I write this blog. It's fine that we don't understand each other. We're all trying to find meaning in a difficult world--and we all do it in different ways.

Finally, I do want to point out that reborners were written up in the New York Times this Sunday, and I think you'll probably end up with FAR much more unwanted attention from the Times than from my little blog! So please. Write to the Times. Their staff is far better equipped to handle the traffic.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Welcome to the mysterious and creepy world of Reborners!

These women (and they are ALL women) tear commercial dolls apart and remake them in the image of the Perfect Newborn. Versimilitude is paramount, so they spend a lot of time with oil paints achieveing that perfect "blue, mottled tone" of babies fresh from the delivery table. For added effect, they stitch human hair onto the dolls' heads, and weight them with birdshot or something, to give that realistic heft. They then take numerous creepy photos of themseles with their "babies," make up fake adoption certificates, and give them trailer-trash names like Skye and Madison.

It's difficult to say whether this phenomenon is merely annoying, like the baby-doll making and scrapbooking habits of Michael's habitues, or incredibly perverse a la Realdoll. Because while there's a craft-y element to the whole thing (finding the perfect materials, obsessively copying some ostensibly objective reality), these women also fetishize passivity and helplessness. Their whole fascination with newborns seems to be built around babies' inability to speak or move independently, allowing them to be dressed up in ridiculous costumes and photographed. Really, what could be more pornographic?

Add to this a somewhat morbid fascination with angels, the color pink, script fonts, and the name "reborners." and it starts to actually look even MORE sinister, like some bizarre, Christian-orented facsimile of snuff films. A way for supposedly ordinary women to indulge their profound need for total control by making a saccharine travesty of innocence.

See also this Times article, which laughed gently but didn't go anywhere near as deep as it should have.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Every single character in my fiction from now on is going to have a spam name. Everything I write will be populated with the likes of Lamar Winston, Pasquale Mackynen, Alfred Rendino, Neil A. McLain, Durham Lupe, Ernie Prophett, Olen Bird, Leonora duHawkins, and Jamar Thigpen. I've always had a hard tie coming up with names, and now I don't need to any more! I can just check my bulk folder every day, keep a list, and dip into it as needed. Thanks, spammers!

Suburban dads, would you like to know what your wives really think? What they're really up to? Because I've gotten an earful over the past couple of years, and so I consider myself somewhat of an expert. And even I continue to be surprised.

(BTW, I'm sure you husband-men are just as weird, but I don't hear about it, thank god--and I suspect your guy friends don't, either. Y'all are a closemouthed lot, mowing your lawns, quietly hanging out in basements and offices, looking at internet porn and keeping your mouths shut. And good for you! That's really the best way to handle things, I think.)

OK--so, guys? stop reading right now if you'd like to keep your illusions intact. Don't blame me. I'm just the messenger. The following items are all true stories I've heard, although I'm disgusing all details to protect the guilty.

1. Lesbians everywhere! Yes, suburban ladies seem to have given up the good old-fashioned pool boy and turned instead to hardcore lesbians from the internet and gay bars, usually the ones sporting short hairdos. (I know you thought your wife, surely, would choose a Lipstick Lesbian, but that's almost never the case.) And, I might add, the more your wife seems to be a perfectly content suburban woman, baking and taking the children to lessons, the MORE likely she is to go this route.
2. Affair-contemplation: You can pretty much bet that if you've been married more than 5 years, your wife is wondering "how can I get me one of them boyfriends?" The reasoning behind this usually goes something like, "I just want a reason to shave my legs, is that so much to ask?"
3. Plastic surgery has become totally de rigeur, hence all the MILFs these days... if you think that the women you see at the pool look like that naturally, please think again. It's kind of become like an extended spa treatment, and it usually starts with either Botox, lipo, or a boob job. It is also always kept secret, but gets out somehow, and all the women talk about it. "Did you see how perky they got? She let me feel them!" Please note that if your wife starts down this road, it might very well be caused by either of the two reasons above.
4. And finally... the divorces begin! I always wondered when this would happen. It seems to occur somewhere between ten and fifteen years of marriage. And it's always the woman making it happen! Growing up, I always thought it was the man, you know, wanting a little something-something on the side. But not any more. Now mommy's got needs, and they're not being met. And mommy's got income too. And so mommy's gonna keep the house AND the lesbian girlfriend, and the pool boy and the Botox and the new perky boobies. And, sorry to say, the men have to go live at the divorced dad apartment complex just up the road!

So, men, if you've gotten this far, please do me a favor. Go buy your wife a bouquet, clean the dishes, and tell your wife she is REALLY, irresistably hot just exactly the way she is. Take her out for dinner and insist she get an appetizer AND an entree. Kiss her once a day, and not just a peck on the lips. Have a conversation about nothing at all. Compliment her ass. Pick up your socks. Call her at work. And most of all, remember: your wife has options.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Just to clarify the previous question, which my husband says is dumb....

Isn't it at least a little bit possible that this giant network of billions upon billions of pieces of data could, theoretically, become conscious, a la Skynet? I mean, what is the brain but a giant network of processors, fed new information constantly? Sure, our brain is attached to a body, which makes it easy to see the result of our consciousness. But without a body, we'd still be aware.

It just seems like there's a critical mass of data, information, and processing power which could be reached at some point, which would tip the balance, suddenly creating a new kind of singularity.

Or, alternately, that the information we receive via the internet (particularly the millions of us who conduct half our lives on it) could subtly change US in such a way that we actually become the body for the giant brain.... the millions of cells it uses to express its conscious needs?

Does no one but me think this possibility is remotely interesting? "Sci-fi, basically"--maybe it's unrealistic but maybe not! For god's sake, if terrorists could possibly blow up a volcano and cause a tsunami, why couldn't the internet be sentient?

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Question of the day, please comment:

Is the interweb sentient yet? If so, what makes you think so? If not, why not? And when will it be, if ever?

Don't be a smartass. I wanna know.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

My husband has managed to commission an entire governmental study on the possibility of bad guys causing a tsunami.

It's true. We received the envelope--a thick envelope, mind you--from the Department of Geological Surveys (part of the Department of the Interior) today. This was in reply to his very frightened inquiry to our state senator, wondering if this volcano in the Canary Islanda could be set off by terrorists, causing a landslide and the subsequent disappearance of the eastern seaboard.

Listen, I lived with the man while he was worrying about this Canary Islands thing. He was obsessed with it. And this was before the Indian Ocean tsunami, which makes me believe in his psychic powers even more.

Anyway, my husband is generally a harmless liberal crank, which I LOVE about him. He sends off letters to politicians about absolutely everything. Generally he takes a break during Lent, when he's forbidden to read news, but for all the rest of the year he's a letter-writing machine. The replies--from senators and representatives and council people and other random Democrats--seem generally to wearily acknowledge his role in the world, that "active constituent" who wants something all the time.

But this was different. This actually got results. There may have even been a panel to debate the matter.

He wrote to our senator's office and attached a CNN article about this volcano, and whether terrorists could cause a natural disaster, and the senator's peeps seemed genuinely dismayed. "Why, we'd never thought of it!" the staffer said.

They promptly sent off a letter to the Department of the Interior, which looked into it thoroughly. We received the full report, with footnotes and correspondance between the department and the congress. Evidently, the answer is "no, terrorists cannot make volcanoes blow up, but thank you all for asking." Still, it was gratifying to see four full pages of scientific data to back it up! PLUS the kind and reassuring words of the Director, who swears up and down that if Bikini Atoll didn't blow the hell up in 1949 or whatever, then the Canary Islands certainly won't explode from some silly dirty bomb.

In any case, he has now proved that he's moved beyond liberal crank into actual agitation, which I respect highly.

the girls


the girls
Originally uploaded by clairerb.
It is good to have sisters, even if what they mostly want to do is hang around in your room and chew on your toys. Because when you're all grown up and you have sisters, you can go have dinner with them and complain about everyone else.

These two are moving all the time. It's impossible to capture them any other way.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

I bought a scratch-off ticket tonight at the liquor store near Marcie's house. She'd paid for my drinks all night, which was just too sweet, and so I felt lucky.

I don't buy these things very often, maybe twice year, and even then I only buy the BINGO scratch-offs, because they require work. (OK, OK, to be perfectly honest, you can just buy a scratch-off and actually not scratch anything off of it, handing it instead to the store clerk to run the barcode through the machine, but that's not fun.) My sister had showed me the glory of scratch-offs when I was twenty, living in her attic, and learning how to be a human being. I dunno why part of the training, in between workouts and dish-doing, included the lottery, but I guess she figured I was entitled to some fun. Anyway, I always won SOMETHING, as long as I didn't buy them very often, and so I started to see scratch-offs as part of that Giant Hand of Fate. You know, the one hovering over me all the time. And I decided that whenever I felt it was the "right time", I would buy me a Bingo scratch-off.

Well, tonight I only won three dollars. But, as usual, I did win. Still, it was nothing compared to the glee I felt one night with Nick, when I bought a scratch-off from the Korean's in the lobby of my office building and won fifty bucks. That night, I met him out somewhere and told him I was buying, because hell, I'd won scratch-offs!

Now, he has always disapproved of this side of me--the redneck side, you know, the side that unironically loves Miller High Lifes and low-rent gambling, the side of me that disdains the idea of free will--but even he was taken in by the idea of free money. So he promptly marches off to the Royal Farms to spend my winnings on more scratch offs because dammit, we were on fire that night! We were lucky! Well, needless to say, we lost a bunch of money, maybe half of the fifty I'd won, and so we learned a hard lesson that even the most seasoned gamblers forget. Kenny Rogers said it best: you gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to run.

Anyway, tonight, inspired by my reckless abandon, as I threw away two dollars on a worthless piece of cardboard, Marcie decided she wanted scratch-offs too. But she didn't want the difficult kind--she bought two of the instantaneous kind, the kind that only require a moment's scratching. And lost. The young man behind the counter, in his Sean John t-shirt, laughed giddily as he threw the scratch offs in the trash. "Losers!" he said. I hope he wasn't talking about us.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Welcome to Valentine's Day, the world's least happy holiday ever!

Evidence:

1. Officemate spends entire day bitching at her BF over long, ranting emails about how he didn't send her flowers, and furthermore that digital camera he bought? which was kind of an unromantic gift anyway? had PICTURES of other PEOPLE on it and therefore must have been in some way used. And the people in the pictures were ugly, to boot.
2. Get email from DC friend that says "Valentine's Day blows chunks." Further investigation reveals that HER officemate received some sort of singing flower bouquet that involved an entire barbershop quartet.
3. Waited all day for a bouquet that never arrived. IMs with best friend made it clear that hers didn't, either. Clearly, somewhere in the world is a warehouse full of these bouquets that mysteriously got lost on their way to their destinations. It's the only explanation.
4. Bought wine from the little gourmet place down the street. Usually this place isn't even open on Mondays but he stayed open today, thinking surely he'd do a booming business among the romantically-minded. The place was deserted. He spent the day cleaning, instead.
5. Valentine's Day balloon I bought to amuse the children made the baby cry and shrink away in horror. I dunno why, I thought a giant Mylar squid holding candy hearts in his tentacles was kinda funny. Clearly I am a terrible mumma.
6. It is six fifteen and I am blogging, alone in my house, waiting for that wonderful moment when he walks through the door with an armful of roses or something and a heart full of love. It'll happen ANY MOMENT now. I swear.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

One of my sisters recently eloped to Jamaica to marry her second husband. Since none of the rest of us were present at the wedding, we felt the need to do something, and so my eldest sister and I decided to plan this after-wedding party for her. Which is all well and good, but somehow I got stuck with the job of Invitations.

This sounds straightforward, yes? Go to Target, buy some invites, mail 'em out. But no. No, no, no. It involved a spreadsheet, and a very long guest list, and handwriting many invitations while watching TLC late into the night, and accepting RSVPs (or lack thereof). I screwed up and didn't include a map to the party location, thinking that people know how to use mapquest, but no, that wasn't good enough for the bride.I don't think my invitations or my handwriting were good enough either, actually.

But worst of all--the consequence I had no idea I'd have to live through--I now have to deal, on a daily basis, with the very extended, very complicated, very crazy family I have spent all these years avoiding.

You see, I come from a "blended" family. I have four sisters and a brother, from three separate marriages. Attendant with all of these siblings are THEIR relatives, who are also crazy. Top that off with the fact that my mother herself has four siblings, from three marriages of my grandmother's, and you're dealing with a complete mishmash of expectations, etiquette, ethnicities, and a verrrry long history. A family, like a corporation, has an institutional memory, and ours is about two hundred years long.

So, I get a call from my Nana today. Nana is indeterminably old--she may have had my mother when she was fourteen, or she may have been twenty, no one knows. She's had numerous facelifts and five hsbands (maybe six, since one Easter dinner in 1986 she said "Don't you all remember Jimmy? My third husband? We were only married for two months." No one did, and he's not been brought up since.) Anyway, Nana calls ostensibly to RSVP but more to talk about how my mother is going down the wrong path, and how she (my nana) has to work the crab truck that weekend of the party, and how her husband is sick, and how this baby of mine sounds an awful lot like how I was as a baby--unreasonably large and not very affectionate, evidently.

Then tonight, I went over my mother's for dinner, and find out that the one sister I had the feud with in 1988 is coming to the party but probably won't call me to RSVP, and that no one knows where my brother is, maybe somewhere in Northern Virginia and most certainly in a giant McMansion but no one has his phone number or address (lucky him), and that my rock-n-roll half-uncle from New York is bringing his twenty-five year old girlfriend if he bothers to show up at all.

And then I come home and get a call from my step-uncle--I think that's what he is, anyway. He's my half-sisters' father's brother, anyway. Since my sisters' father is living in Iraq as a contractor, their uncle seems to be the primary point of contact for that side of the family. He informed me that he'd be at the party, but that his mother (who sends me a crisp five dollar bill on my birthday every year, to this day) couldn't make it, since she's 88 and declining and trying to shake a mad QVC shopping habit.

And so I am faced, yet again, with the endless, intricate chain of my family's interactions, the result of decisions they all made along the way, which brought together approximately 100 people, half of whom aren't related by blood but who are all bound up in each other's lives anayway. And the stories we tell, or don't tell, about each other. A lifetime isn't long at all, but it's long enough to affect a lot of other lifetimes, kind of like the butterfly beating its wings in China. Everything affects everything else.

I just hope the party turns out okay. Otherwise it'll be one of those stories they bring out at Thanksgiving: "Remember the time Claire screwed up the party invitations and we had to drink six pitchers of Mojitos all by ourselves? That was the night I got pregnant...." Ahhhh, fate.

Friday, February 11, 2005

I often wish I had a nice, easy-to-explain job title, like doctor, or mail lady, or teacher, or lawyer. Instead, my poor child has to wrap her head around "advertising account manager," and she's clearly confused. With her dad, she can say (with evident pride) "My dad makes video games!" But with me? She's flummoxed.

I'm sure it doesn't help that since birth, we've inculcated her to be super-critical of advertising. Not that advertising doesn't work on her--oh, quite the contrary. She seems particularly susceptible to direct response, so that my entire house is covered in little slips of paper with 1-800 numbers written on them. In fact, we recently saw a commercial for a special motorized scrubber and we were both enthralled. We stared at the teevee, unbelieving, as the scrubber removed mildew from bathroom tiles and baked-on oven grease. "Mumma!" she exclaimed, "that's what we need!" And I agreed.

And yet on some level she knows that Advertising Is Bad, so that when she hands me a slip of paper with an 800 number on it, she says, "Listen, I know I saw this on an ad, but really, the super hair beader is just amazing. You should really look into it. It's NOT because of the ad!"

So I know she's confused when she asks me, over an over, "So what is it that you do?" When she comes across boards I've left in the car, she'll say "So did you MAKE this ad or what?" It's bad enough that I work in advertising, source of all evil outside of the George W. Bush White House. But what's even more perplexing, I think, is that I don't actually MAKE anything. I merely facilitate.

One day when she asked me this question, about what I do, I said, "Well, you know, I have clients. That's my main job, having clients." And she said, "So what do you do with clients?" I said, "OK, you pretend you're me, and I will be the client. Draw something on the patio with sidewalk chalk, and I'll be your client."

So she drew a little picture of a girl, in purple.

"No! Make it blue," I said, you know, being the Client.

She scowled at me. "Blue? It can't be blue, it's purple."

"I want it blue," I replied. "And I want it blue NOW. And I want it smaller."

"But it can't be smaller, Mumma!" she wailed. "And I hate clients!"

It's entirely possible I delivered a terrible lesson that day, but I don't think so. When I was a kid, my Dad had clients too. And I didn't understand at all what his job was, my mother told me simply "he's an executive vice president." Which made me think he was more important than maybe he actually was. But I also knew that he had Clients, and that they paid for things like dinners out and trips to New York. So I grew up thinking that Clients were benificent creatures, only interested in the well-being of families everywhere, and found myself here, today, tormented by the fickle will of marketing departments.

Far better that she know, now, that it's much simpler to be a firefighter or doctor or lawyer. If you can't describe your job in one word, maybe it's not worth doing.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

My daughter is an expert in the art of passive resistance. Like Ghandi or a martial arts master, she is mystically able to make herself leaden and limp, unmovable.

She used this technique tonight at bedtime, laying down on my office floor and going absolutely still. "Come on!" I cajoled, "Time for bed!" I saw where this whole thing was going but maintained the note of false good cheer in my voice.

She's no fool. She knew I was at the end of my rope and used it for all it was worth.

Silence. Complete silence. A little, three-ton seven-year-old on the floor of my office, and all I wanted was to write a story I'd been thinking about all day. Inside, I'm thinking "GOD! JUST GO TO BED! IT'S NINE!" Instead I tickled her feet. No reaction.

She had honed this technique to a razor's edge by the time she was two. When she wanted uppies, she would lift up her little arms and she was light as a feather. But in a mall, during a temper tantrum, when she was kicking on the floor of a store? She weighed seven hundred pounds. We even tested her on it: "OK," I'd say, "make yourself heavy." It was a fun game, and she could do it instantly. I'd try and pick her up and fail. "OK, make yourslef light." And she wouldn't change in appearance or anything, but suddenly she'd weigh nothing. I could pick her up and swing her around, no problem.

Tonight I was done, fed up, on my last nerve. I said screw it, and picked her up, using every muscle in my body, and dragged her up the stairs. She wailed. The baby woke up and wailed. Everyone was wailing except me--I was wailing on the inside. I could only get her halfway up the stairs and then I said, "All right, I'm getting your father." That sent her into a state, but she did run up and get in bed. I'm not sure why I have no authority and he has so much, but whatever works.

Twenty minutes later, we had a tearful reconciliation. She had had a terrible day, it turned out (fight with best friend, playing capture the flag, she had to be a guard, she didn't know where the flag was, couldn't do her job--sounds like my life). I said, just tell me when you've had a bad day! I can help! I don't want to be your adversary!

But then, none of us ever really know what's wrong til it's too late, do we? We just react. We react and then we regret it. And the way she reacted was to turn into a 1960s style protester, and I, in turn, became the riot police, infuriated and ready to haul her off to the paddy wagon.

I keep trying to remind myself that it is her job to resist me, and my job to resist her resisting. It's all perfectly natural and it will get worse before it gets better. Small comfort, though, isn't it?

Sunday, February 06, 2005

The superbowl is on and I suppose everyone in the world except me is watching it at some lame party where there's a lot of shouting. Some things I hate about the superbowl:

1. People wearing football gear to emulate their favorite players. Gack, I cannot tell you how annoying this is. Especially the purple camo and "Lewis" jerseys of the Ravens fan. I guess I should count my blessings that we're not playing in this godforsaken game this year. Don't people know that football jerseys are uniformly unflattering unless you're a 300 pound linebacker sculpted of pure muscle?
2. The hype about the commercials. Like this is some kind of great cultural event, the airing of the superbowl commecials. What of any value have we gotten from these ads over the years? The pets.com sock monkey? The Budweiser frogs? This is a low moment even for American pop culture, and the fact that people go on and on about these ads is supremely annoying.
3. As part of #2, above: people who say all year that they have no interest in football but watch the superbowl anyway and say it's to see the ads. What is lamer: watching something you hate? watching something you hate so you can see television commercials? watching something you hate and ads you're not even that interested in just so you can fit in? or doing all of the above just for an excuse to drink beer on a Sunday afternoon?

What IS it about football? It's not that interesting of a game. They keep stopping and starting, it's slow and long, it requires more brute force than talent. It lacks the quickness of basketball, the narrative arc of baseball, the violence of ice hockey, the grace of soccer. Its players are often violent criminals. The stadiums are too big, and when you're at a game you can't even see what's going on. So why the obsession that so many peopple seem to have? I'm convinced it's some kind of mob mentlity, the drive for conformity gone out of control. I'm sure there are lots of peopple who, for whatever reason, truly do love football. But for each of them are ten hangers-on, who would never naturally be into it unless they perceived that "loving football" was a survival mechanism of sorts, a way to get through boring conversations at the office, a safe topic for male conversation, a social lubricant. And so superbowl sunday has become a national holiday, bigger than the fourth of july. What a sad, sad culture we've created.

My friends and I went to a new bar last night and I walk in, sidle up for my beer, and who should be bartending but my ex-boyfriend. Now, he's been an ex for over ten years, but he still makes me nervous, because our breakup was not very nice. Well, our relationship was not very nice. It was pretty awful for a solid two years. And yet now, we smile and joke with one another as if we were two mere acquaintances, as though he were merely the bartender I see around town.

His main talents, to this day, appear to be shooting pool and mixing fruity drinks. He now has a whole host of Tom-Cruise-"Cocktail" style moves that make me embarassed to watch, although the other patrons seem to really enjoy them. He's still really skinny only now he's bald as an egg, and I kept thinking "God, Claire, WHY??? WHY did you stick with this guy for two whole years?"

I've thought about this over the years, usually when I run into him at this or that bar, and the only conclusion I can come up with is this: I really, really could not believe that someone could be so silly and one-dimensional, that their entire set of ambitions could involve pool and alcohol, and so I figured he must be the deepest, most mysterious man on earth, if only I could dig deep enough and figure out what he was REALLY about. It was actually a good lesson in Occam's Razor. Because after a while I realized that the obvious solution was really the solution after all. When he said he wanted to be a bartender for the rest of his life, he meant it! When he said that his main ambition was to get really good at pool, he meant it!

It's truly embarassing now to realize that it took me two years to figure this out. I mean, it wasn't that he didn't have his good qualities--he could be charming, and I think he really did love me in some fucked-up way, and we had some good times together (usually involving pool and alcohol, of course). And he did teach me to shoot pool. But still, fully facing my own delusions, personified by this thirty-two year old bald man with a cocktail shaker, can be humbling.

And it makes me wonder, too, how we can be so convinced of something, so totally convinced we're in love with someone, and then when it's gone it's like it never happened. Is all love like that, in the end? Supported by its own weight, propelled by its own delusions, the fantasy life you've created around another human being?

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

This is a "truth" (as in "truth or dare" without the "dare" aspect) question for anyone out there.

What disturbs you the absolutle most, of anything you've heard either recently or over your whole life?

For me, it's bukake (sp?) ,the penis judge (as my officemate has designated the poor, horrible little man), and the evil dentist (WARNING, that one is really bad--content-wise, no visuals, thanks god-- so don't blame me if you click on it).

So, and you?

Tuesday, February 01, 2005


I dunno, I kinda like it.


The guy at home depot was way into helping me pick out a lighting kit once he figured out what I was doing. I said "I make weird little dioramas in boxes" and that was all he needed to hear.


my most recent "art." I'm calling it "Synchronized Swim" because, well, why not.

My neighbors, I've discovered, are a stranger bunch of people than they at first appeared. Throw a party and most of them show up, and it's always amusing to watch people who have nothing in common but proximity try and get their drink on together.

On the left side, we have Tremont and Mary.* Well, we used to have Tremont, but he bailed on his wife and two kids so he could go hang out with his 'ho. At least, that's pretty much how the story goes, whispered behind the azaleas during wine-drinking sessions on the patio. You could tell Tremont was trouble--his car was equipped with a wolf-whistle, and he had the look of a guy who spent too much time playing tennis. His children, Tremont the Third and Trevor, spend a lot of time alone in the house now, bringing pretty young girls in at all hours of the night.

We all liked Tremont and we were sad to see him go. My cat used to sneak into his house overnight, and one morning Tremont told me that he reached down to pet the cat and then thought, "Wait a minute, I don't have a cat!" He also told me a very sad story about how one time, he filed for bankruptcy and had to watch his Jag be towed down the hill. I truly think that was the worst moment of his life.

On the other side, we have another failing relationship, the formerly delightful Lisa and Joe, who used to sit happily on their porch and throw parties where they hand-rolled their sushi. Lisa is a minimalist and so all her clothes and animals are black or white, and her house has a total of three pieces of furniture.

Across the street lives that horrible dog who is let loose to roam free whenever he wants, and who goes into my garbage and tears it apart every morning at 5am. The dog has been lost a number of times (surprise) and every time, the whole street gets into this big dog-hunt-rallying-mode, all verklempt and torn up about the loss of this dog, and I'm all, why? He's a nuisance and menaces all dogs and children who look at him wrong.

Down the road, we have the Over-Improved house, a mansion housing eccentric musicians and their many adopted children. Only no one knows if the children are actually adopted, or who all these teenagers are, hanging out on the sidewalk, changing clothes out of the trunks of their jalopies. The eccentric musicians often hold lavish parties that we all wish we were invited to, but we are left to sit on our decks and look enviously at the BMWs being valet-parked.

We also have several kids on the street. Malcolm is the adopted child of the log cabin republicans. He eats all my food and pronounces it delicious, and I love him for this. (He also admitted that if it were up to him, he'd vote Kerry.) Then there's Michael and Elizabeth, children who belong to our drinking buddies. We often sip expensive wine, chased by Miller Lite, while the children perform little plays that none of us can remember the next day.

However, there's also a very strange little child on the street--he's German or Nordic or something and even though he's the same age as the other children, he's never allowed to come and play. He's often attended by a hot nanny, probably also Nordic. "Oh, little Torvald cannot play with the riff-raff," we imagine they say. "He must study his calculus." Since our children are often out late, setting off firecrackers and dressing up in tutus and pirate outfits, who can blame them?

In the starter house live Angela and Bill. This house can't keep occupants for more than two years, because it's so small. They have a baby and I suspect they got married because it was time to do that. It seems like they do everything on schedule. (Although she did admit to me she doesn't cook or clean. I found this admirable.)

We also have the gay man who pretends he's not gay, the trust-fund guy in the expensive small house (and that Carolyn Bessette clone, damn her), the eccentrically dressed gardeners, the death-metal teenage girl, the uptight guy who sends group letters to the street demanding payment for the snowplow guy, the architects, and the Federal Hill escapees, who keep trying to landscape their yard but can't really get the hang of it, so their pachysandra is in weird little clumps.

However, I think the most telling thing about my street is what the liquor delivery guy said to me when he came to bring me beer. "It's weird," he said as I took my giant case of corona from him. "I haven't been up here in a couple days, and normally I'm up and down this street a couple times a night." Here he paused, as though he wasn't sure he should say this, and then he went ahead. "Y'all are really a drinking bunch up here, aren't you?"

*all names have been changed to protect those who would probably not want to be blogged about