Monday, May 24, 2010

Gag me.

I adore this quote. I really do, courtesy of Levine Breaking News:

"My schedule is such that I don't get very much time to eat. But I certainly don't have an eating problem.

A little MDMA [Ecstasy] once in a while never killed anybody, but I really don't do drugs. I don't touch cocaine anymore.

I don't smoke. Well, maybe a single cigarette - with whisky - while I'm working, because it just frees my mind a little bit.

But I care about my voice. The thrill of my voice being healthy on stage is really special.

I take care of myself."

Let's deconstruct that for a second, okay?

Not getting very much time to eat = no eating problem.

Not doing drugs = taking Ecstasy once in a while.

Not smoking = a cigarette with whisky, while on the job.

All of this = freeing your mind + taking care of yourself.

Just two days later, I read this story one on MSN's homepage:

"...she never touches cocaine and that her habit of collapsing may be related to the tests for lupus she's undergoing.

...she also admits to taking prescription medication -- and the occasional hit of ecstasy -- to keep her "tortured" thoughts at bay."


"habit" of collapsing = medical tests

Prescription meds + occasional ecstasy hit = good mental health

The winner of this month's "I want to be Amy Winehouse" award is Lady Gaga.

For God's sake, is this what makes icons these days? Is this what we admire in our "artists?"

Let me admit right here, right now that I have no idea who Lady Gaga is. None. I haven't heard a note of her music - on purpose anyway - nor have I seen her perform, nor have I heard so much as one word of an interview she's given. So yes, maybe that makes this post extremely snotty and judgmental. Maybe it's condescending and ill-informed. I grant you all of that may be true.

So grant me this: she's hardly an admirable person. Nor does she particularly need to be. No one has to hit a certain IQ minimum to get a record contract. No one takes an ethics test in order to become a pop sensation. She doesn't need to be sober, or drug-free, or healthy to gain fame and build an enormous fan base.

I don't expect my favorite performers or musicians or artists to be perfect. But it helps if they seem somewhat centered and solid, at least in terms of their art.

Even that doesn't really work, though, does it? The list of artists who are - sometimes - fatally flawed, is long and eclectic. They've had trouble with alcohol and drug abuse, sex scandals or various other addictions.

It just seems to me - and this is only one theory - that years ago, before a celebrity could start to succumb to the temptations of money and fame, they had to be living a life of money and fame. How is it that these days, the first thing - okay, the second thing - we hear about some celebrities are the demons they're battling? Really? You're there already?

Ugh. It's feels almost like the faster you fall, the bigger you are. And if you spend years atop the mountain, enjoying your fame and building on your success without the drama, the rehab, the arrests, the custody battles, the acting out, the jail terms, the accusations, or the cheating, you're never going to get the money and publicity of the quasi-talented celebrities who command the headlines daily.

But you probably sleep at night. You probably know how to have real relationship with people who aren't part of your entourage. And you'll probably still be working and doing what you love long after these other 'stars' burn out.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Yes, one more scrap of proof that I have issues.

Although in this case, twenty years can't be wrong.

I started watching Law and Order when my first son was born in 1990. I have clear memories of bravely fighting sleep at 10 pm, and making it through the arrest before falling asleep on the loveseat. I don't think I saw anyone prosecuted (10:30 pm - 11 pm) until at least 1995.

I also remember startling myself awake one night to the sound of a baby in distress and starting up the stairs to check on him. My husband stopped me and said, "It's on TV." Ah - Law and Order; got it. This is partly why I could watch the show for years and they were all new. I never saw the second half.

My attraction to the show never faded; in fact I've shared the experience with my boys, who agree that Jack McCoy is fiercesome.

All this to say, it's the end of an era. (Note: a brief but sincere "thanks for trying," to James.) I'm not sure I'll be literally wearing a black arm band on Monday, but I'll want to. As my brief homage, I offer today's Daily Caller column.


Friday, May 14, 2010

Why are you like this? (Don't answer that.)

If someone asked you to describe your children in just a few words, what would you say?

I had a few not so uplifting adjectives occur to me the other night, as we attacked and ultimately subdued the dorm rooms that seem to have exploded in various bedrooms and spilled over into our hallway.

By around midnight, I settled on just the one word that seemed to cover everything.

Today's DC column is attached. For everyone moving someone home, remembering the move home, or dreading that day, enjoy.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

This is mostly just questions. Prompted by SATC and too much Tiger in the news.

In Sex and the City, a movie I’m still not sure I like, married couple Miranda and Steve go through a painful separation after he admits he had sex with another woman. According to Steve, he and Miranda had been through a distant period in their marriage with very little intimacy between them and “it just happened once” with someone else and “it didn’t mean anything.” He also shares these sad, plaintive statements: “Don’t know how I could do that to you.” “It just happened.” “I wasn’t thinking.”

I guess that’s exactly what someone says to the spouse they discover they truly love after straying into warmer arms for a night or two or twenty and then harboring guilt and regret. But here’s the thing. I don’t understand how something like this can “just happen.” It “just happens” only when one partner puts themselves in a situation where it can not only “just happen,” it’s very likely to happen.

I have a lot of friends who are men. Not once did I ever find myself in a compromising position with any of them. (I have no idea if any of them believe the “When Harry Met Sally” theory about men wanting a sexual relationship with just about every woman they know.) For me, I have two reasons I’ve never had an affair:

1. I’m married.

2. I have too much respect for my husband, my male friends – and their wives – to ever risk their friendship over an affair.

Many years ago, a (guy) friend of mine told me something profoundly simple: “The easiest way for a man to never, ever cheat on his wife is to never, ever be alone in a room with any woman other than his mother or his sister for any length of time.” [Needless to say, he was true to his word and he and I were never alone anywhere, anytime.] Did we meet to share a drink occasionally; or a lunch; or have a friendly phone call or even an out of town trip or two over the years? Yes; to all of those things. But don’t misunderstand this: his statement wasn’t protesting too much. I never doubted his commitment to his wife and family.

Maybe he sounds kind of extreme; maybe not. We’ve all heard stories about workday trysts in empty conference rooms or in deserted offices or parking lots, stolen moments in the meeting room, the church basement, or near the soccer field, not to mention in out-of-town hotel rooms. Sounds like a pretty good rule to me, for a married man or married woman.

But you know what line I never understand in this SATC scene between Miranda and Steve in the movie? It’s when Steve tries to comfort the distraught Miranda who is rejecting him and their marriage by saying, “It’s still me.”

Miranda answers in the only way that makes any sense: “Is it?”

I think she has exactly the right response to that odd little notion. I need an explanation of his explanation. “It’s still me?” What does that mean? What’s still him? He’s still the guy who will cheat on his wife if he feels lonely or neglected or – you’ll forgive the vernacular – horny? Or he’s still the guy who loves her and desperately wants his marriage to work but his extra partner just happened while he wasn’t thinking? Which guy is he? A lunkhead who couldn’t help himself, who doesn’t know how he could have done this or is he a loyal husband who was seduced by a temptress?

Maybe he means it’s still him, completely familiar and recognizable to his wife but for this one teeny tiny little thing he did that was so startling: cheating on her. In which case, to me anyway – he’s just a little bit different than she ever imagined him.

I’m not saying this is a deal-breaker. That depends on the couple and their own situation and many other variables I can’t begin to quantify or judge. I have friends whose marriages have endured after an affair. I have others who have ended their marriage for the same reason. Again, not my call and I can honestly say I don’t know what my reaction would be in that situation.

But I am saying I’m not sure how in the movie, Steve can be both men at once: the contrite louse who wants forgiveness and the clueless stag who found a convenient and warm bed, even for just one night, although that appears to be his contention. He confesses his indiscretion, an act he deeply regrets; he loves Miranda and wants her forgiveness. The question is: is cheating on her just part of ‘him being him?’ And she’s supposed to forgive it on that basis?

Let me go on record here with one sort of sidebar thought for any married men reading this. I can pretty much guarantee you that if your wife is out in the workplace, or involved in your children’s school activities or volunteers with the church group or has a weekly bowling night out with her girlfriends, a man has hit on her. Yes, it’s true. Read that again: your wife has in all likelihood had a guy approach her in a sexual / romantic way, flirt with her or in other ways send her signals that he was interested in her. Maybe he was even someone you know.

What’s that? She never told you? No kidding. You know why? Because the idea of having an affair was so nonsensical she couldn’t be bothered to share it. She declines (almost of the time, women do decline) and moves on with a little something she calls reality. Flattering? Maybe. Kind of intriguing? Sure. Tempting? I’m guessing at least sometimes, yes. Something she will act on? Maybe, but unlikely.

Tiger Woods and Ashley notwithstanding, turns out that most men and most women don’t cheat on their spouses. A study by the National Opinion Research Center concluded that a mere 3% of married women and 4% of married men have cheated on their spouses. Alternatively, the “American Sexual Behavior” survey concluded that 22% of married men have cheated and 15% of women. I could go on here but you get the point. Studies are flawed and statistics are skewed. No one knows the real stats behind infidelity. But even with these wide disparities, we’re not finding a majority either way.

Look, I fully acknowledge that some marriages are loveless, distant, cold and unsatisfying to the partners for any number of reasons. I fully acknowledge that there is such a thing as “irreconcilable differences.” I know that some people enjoy the illicit nature of an affair and love the excitement surrounding new love and the romance of it all. This might be easier on everyone if we just acknowledged this: you’ll probably meet some fascinating, interesting, attractive people throughout your life – despite being a happily married adult. Even the most loyal among us have to acknowledge a fleeting “crush” that goes nowhere and then fades.
But when a marriage is broken and irreparable, staying together is pointless and debilitating to everyone in or around the marriage.

What I can’t work out is how one partner can do something hurtful, know that it’s hurtful, and then explain it with something as pathetic as “It’s still me.”

If that’s the case, then maybe you just gave your partner a really good reason to walk away. As they leave you behind, they can honestly say, “It’s still me…just without you.”

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Why is it that the only people who "take responsibility" these days are almost always the bad guys?

In an effort to view the headline landscape surrounding us daily, I did a few quick searches online. Then I remembered something I had written about 5 years ago and was struck by the difference.

Today's Daily Caller column elaborates on the situation. I don't think I'm imagining this. Reading today's headlines feels like a trip down memory lane. They sound exactly like we did when we were kids and wanted to get out of a bad situation, only the details are different. Instead of arguing about Barbie, or taking turns, or not doing something we were supposed to do, it's about Congress, or BP Oil, or political views. "It's not MY fault!" "She started it!" "They did it, not me!"

Good lord, can't we all grow up a bit and move onto solutions? We seem to be stuck on "who did it," not what can be done about it.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

The Merry Month of May

One year ago, the month of May started to take on a new meaning for me. It became “the month college ended and my son would move home.” This year, it has three times as much meaning. It’s the month all three of my sons will end the college year and soon move home. For a little while anyway.

Spending that first school year with my oldest son gone was an adjustment for all of us. My comfort during that time was that my twin sons were still home – but only for one more year before they would graduate. Then they, too, found their way into the college life and now are about to wind up their freshman years.

I find myself wondering who is more different this year: me or them. It was very hard to spend a school year with all my boys gone. It’s not an exaggeration to say that I missed them everyday. Walking by their bedroom doors without entering their rooms and smoothing a bed cover or re-positioning a desk chair that was already squarely in front of a desk, and then eventually walking by with no more than a glance into each room, took me much longer than I expected it would. But I got there, or mostly got there.

Thing is, there’s nothing I want more for them than lives of happy independence. Lives that fulfill them and thrill them. Years ahead where they meet people and travel to places that are full of promise about what might be. So why does it feel like I want to hold on so tightly?

Maybe it’s because I can’t really imagine my role in their lives unless I’m their Mom. I know – that won’t really change except that as the years pass, the definition of ‘Mom’ becomes more and more hazy. When your kids are small, you’re the one who just knows a lot about a lot of stuff. Some of it sort of important, like how to recognize Chicken Pox or “Fifth’s Disease” and some of it trivial, like the names of all the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. When your kids are small, you need to know about cool mist vaporizers and Pedialyte and when to take off the training wheels.

But then one day, you’ve become the smallest person in the house and you wonder: Who are you if you’re not the person who manages and clarifies daily life? Who are you if you’re not the person who asks when they’ll be home and who they’re going out with and where they’re going? Who are you if you’re not the person who worries?

I’ve spent a couple of years now, knowing that they’re leading busy lives, on and off campuses, and not once did I have the opportunity to say “Be careful” as they went out for the evening. I admit to calling each of them during one of this winter’s snow storms and asking them to please stay put and not venture out onto the road. The only thing that makes this mildly amusing is that not one of them had a car on campus.

The truth is, it’s my own fantasy that I’m still in the midst of their lives – when in fact, there are countless decisions – wonderful and terrible decisions - that have been made with exactly no input from me. It appears they have found ways to live among strangers who became friends and strangers who didn’t. I’m guessing they’ve laughed hard and maybe cried hard. They’ve argued and resolved arguments; they’ve forged ahead in some ways and remained stationary in others.

Coincidentally, I’ve spent the last year doing most of that, too. And the only stranger I’ve had to learn to live with was me. I’m no longer the mother of minors, and “responsible” for them in that capacity. I’m the mother of young adults, and we’ve moved beyond some of those “growing up” moments. I don’t listen to the school delays anymore. I don’t listen for car doors late at night.

But that begs the question: what do I listen for these days? That’s hard to say. The good news and the bad; the vague stories with no harm done that don’t get shared in very much detail for everyone’s sake. Phone talk is different than in-person talk but I try to listen “between” the words. The weariness in a voice; the exuberance of a story. The class stories, the dorm stories, the roommate stories. And as I listen, I want to ask: are you happy? Lonely? Frustrated? Tired? Confused? All the things that would be easier to see if I could see you. Everything that would be right there in your eyes if I could look into your eyes.
We don’t ask those things, though, right? “Hi, honey… what’s up? Are you okay?” That’s as close as we get. “Are you okay?”

That may be how I’ve changed. A few years ago, when I asked, “ okay?” I meant just that. Nothing dramatic, nothing more than a simple question of attitude at that particular moment. We had day and nights, weeks and months to get into the details.

These days, “…you okay?” means “Please feel free to tell me everything. Or mostly everything. Or anything you think I can help you with. Or that will make me laugh or smile or even cry. Or anything you just want to get off your chest or say out loud and leave behind. I’ll try to listen carefully and answer you honestly and help you if I can.” This almost feels like the end of ‘The Princess Bride’ when we learn that the phrase “as you wish” really means “I love you.” “Are you okay?” really means, “I’m still here. Just like always. And listening even harder now.”