On calling a spade a spade

This morning, I was trying to find my lightbox. It’s finally raining in California, praise Neptune, and moisture is so welcome I have to hide my fear of all things dark and cloudy.

But I really can’t make it through winter, even winters that are overcast only 10% of the time. I have biochemical needs, y’all, and bread can’t fill all of my seratonin gaps.

And as I pulled all the sheets down to look in the linen closet, my first thought was, “Seriously, woman, why don’t you fold your sheets?”

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My second thought was, “I should really learn how to fold fitted sheets. My grandma can do it, and I’m pretty sure it’s what defines civilized people from uncivilized.”

My third was, “What a bunch of hooey! There is no correlation between civilization and fitted sheets. None. There is no reason I have to fold anything in this linen closet. I am a good person and I absolutely reject the notion that my worth and my family’s happiness revolve around the status of my stupid effing sheets!”

The lies we tell about “should” are increasingly unraveling my thin hold on propriety.

Because here’s the thing. For a long time women were expected to keep house. And there were no floors, but they swept dirt floors. And there was one set of sheets and they washed in the tub (or creek) and scrubbed on the washboard, and they wrung out sheets and banged them against rocks. And they hung their clothes to dry.

And I have no idea what that was like. Maybe I would have folded my sheets.

But now I have an electronic box into which I type my ideas, and buttons to push to get those words sent places, and sometimes someone pays me for those words. And from that box come tales of others in desperate need, forsaken by their government or their employer or their family and pushed into small corners by violence or racism or hatred or hunger or disease.

So you can take your folded fitted sheets and shove them in your linen closet, but I’m fresh out of fucks to give.

I refuse to buy into the bullshit of what I should do. I have never folded my sheets, and though there is something dark inside me telling me I’m wrong and bad and weak for not folding sheets, I absolutely refuse to start now. No way. Folded sheets don’t make me grown up. Making tough choices and doing the best I can and remembering all of every day that I am not the only human trying to make my way on this planet, and that, in fact, many of the rest need help seventeen levels beyond folded goddamned sheets…those are the things that make me a grownup. Holding up friends as they die and bringing dinner to a family whose child is dreadfully ill, that is what makes me a grown-ass, don’t you dare tell me about fitted sheets, woman.

You know what I thought as I defiantly rolled up the sheets and shoved them in the closet after I found my lightbox? I thought, “Eleanor Roosevelt sure as hell wouldn’t want me folding fitted sheets.” What has stuck with me most over the past few days since I finished the biography examining the personal lives of those in the White House during World War II, are two relatively simple concepts: 1) women’s role in society is almost always circumscribed for her by others and 2) really great thinking requires taking long and frequent breaks.

Doris Kearns Goodwin makes very clear that Rosie the Riveter was persona non grata after the war. “Yeah, thanks for the help, but we were kidding about you being important.” Once all the efforts of women on the homefront helped secure peace, years of begging women to sacrifice for the country, of asking them to work as hard as they could, had produced results beyond anyone’s hopes. Women kicked ass in the factories. They owned their work. And they loved doing it. According to Goodwin, 79% of women said after the war that they preferred work to being at home, and 70% of those were married with kids. They preferred being with others doing something meaningful to ironing and folding fitted sheets. Of course they did. So the women wanted to continue to work. But factories fired them without a second thought, telling the women who made the American war effort possible that they weren’t wanted.

And that’s when the propaganda morphed from Rosie the Riveter to Suzy Homemaker. This is the part ringing in my ears a week later…the ads that for years promised automatic dishwashing and automated clothes drying to enable working women were all of a sudden ads for intricate recipes that took all day to prepare. Magazine articles that had urged women to help their men by helping the military-industrial complex became articles about how children whose mothers work grow up to be delinquents and criminals. (All of this is paraphrased, from my faulty memory that is boiling in rage against linen closet manners. This is not my thesis, it represents the tea leaves left in the bottom of my cup by Ms. Goodwin. If you want the exact wording from No Ordinary Time, get it from your library and read for yourself. For now, all you have is me and my seething indignation to go on, so roll with it.)

And so what is the propaganda telling us now, I’ve been mulling this week? Be thin and pretty and submissive, paint yourself perfectly, write the code but don’t criticize what the code depicts or enables, be there for your kids all the time unless you’re a CEO, buy lots of things, have a bucket list, spend time in nature, care about those in need, meditate, do yoga, put away your phone, buy another phone, be fully present every moment of the day, promise to sleep a lot but cheat and barely sleep so you can play the ‘I’m more tired than you are’ game of personal success, and eat only what you’ve grown yourself and spent 48 hours sprouting and 12 hours preparing but then god help you if it’s not raw and exactly as it was hunted by cave people.

Because pancreas. Or something. Spleen? Spleens that you need if you’re freediving, for that burst of oxygen just before you die? Save your freediving spleen with the paleo love of coconut and dates!

Geezus Cheeses on a Cracker. What else are we supposed to do? Please, do give me another list. I’m sure you can tax the limits of human endurance further.

So I see balled up sheets, I begin to tell myself to fold them, and I rage against post-war misogynist propaganda for a while.

Easy enough, right?

Nope. Because the other thing that stuck with me about No Ordinary Time is how much time FDR spent relaxing. And I’m not making any allowances here for his physical pain and exhaustion, and I note that. But I’m not mocking his leisure, so I feel rather free to recap the man’s daily schedule, which included a lot of sleep and entertainment. I’m reiterating what I understood from the book: that his leisure, including copious time spent with good friends over good food and good wine and good games, was integral to his ability to create. That without nightly card games and trips to the islands, he never would have come up with lend-lease. The guy woke late, ate, read, worked a bit, ate, relaxed, worked a bit, and held court in the library every evening. He played cards and spoke with friends and took some time to stare across the yard now and then. And he was a war-time President. I’m guessing he had quite a few things to do. I mean, he didn’t have to submit FSA receipts by the end of this month, or anything, but still.

Still.

He managed to take a break several times a day. We don’t do that. As a culture, we don’t do that enough. There are now articles telling you that it’s important to let your brain rest. To do some dishes and let information sink in so you can really process it. The are gorgeous, moving diatribes against productivity that render me incoherent with longing and sadness and a renewed refusal to fold my sheets.

So what is this bullshit about doing everything and having everything? I can’t do or have or be everything. Can’t. Won’t.

I will not fold my fitted sheets.
I will not do yoga retreats.
I will not make my nutty spreads.
I will not make my family’s beds.
I will not mop the stupid floor.
I will not scrub my muddy door.
I will not put my dear self last.
I will not eat my food so fast.
I will not say yes anymore.
I will not take on tasks galore.

I will not keep a crazy pace.
I will not join your insane race.

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Decembexpectations

Maybe it’s the lack of vitamin D. Maybe it’s the cold, the dark, the crush of humanity in every corner, as though the calendar hits December and millions of residents normally housebound show up and get in my way.

Whatever it is, something has put me in a MOOD.

I don’t much care. I stumble upon moods regularly. They sneak up on me with surprising regularity and it’s only because I am oblivious to the rapid passage of time that I’m shocked. Oh, look!  A rotten mood! Why, it’s been ages, since…oh, well, yeah. That makes sense. My moods are rarely perky or cheerful or celebratory. The best I do is grateful. Grateful and industrious are my two best moods. My worst moods are downright malignant. I don’t think I technically reach down to depressed, but I definitely mood along like a fungus, infecting everything in my path, nurturing morose and disaffected as though they were teeny tiny balls of cynicism and depression in need of snarls and unreasonable reactions to survive their nasty infancies. Oh, how I coddle those moods.

So I readily admit that I get malignantly depressive often enough.  But I believe I save my genuinely misanthropic worst for December.

It’s not my fault. Everyone else’s is culpable for my mood. They‘re the ones driving through parking lots and stopping just because someone else is walking, maybe toward a car, maybe to get in the car, and maybe to leave. That’s a lot of maybes, jackalopes, so drive your stinking car until you see white tail lights.

Everyone else is the problem in part because they feel they have to be out of their dens, forcibly creating merriment and cheer for their own families but in the process obliterating all the joy and peace in my life.  Get out of my way, people. Don’t frown at me. I summoned all my social-expectation training and smiled at you, bastard.  The least you can do is smile back. Or look down. Don’t effing sneer at me or I will break off my own femur at a dangerous angle just so I can use it to CUT YOU!

[Did I tell you the lovely story about New Year’s in Boston? New Year’s Eve morning I’m in California, and walk to the post office. I lamely wait in line until some nice people point out that I can take my stamped letter to the slot over there. I thank them, note embarrassingly that I’ve forgotten to wear my glasses, and drop my mail in the out-of-town slot. On my way out the door, two stop me.  “Since you don’t have your glasses, we can drive you home. It doesn’t seem safe if you can’t see.” Thank you, you delightful people, but I walked. I’ll be fine.
Fast forward fourteen hours and I’m in Boston walking to the T from a performance. Red light, all revelers stop and look around at the magic that is Newbury at 2am the first day of the year. Green light, walk. And I hear someone say, “Why the hell are people smiling? Can’t they look down like the rest of us and get on with their day?” Ah, Boston. Would it kill you to lighten up a bit? Say, for instance, spew grouchiness about the people who don’t smile, as I’m doing so well in this post?]

Everyone else ought to try just a bit harder in December. I’m not talking the poor people working retail and food services. There’s a special place in the Universe full of sunshine and purified Martian water for people who have to work with the public in December. No, when I demand more effort, I mean the jackasses who are barking coffee orders and complaining about stores’ blazing temperature and sneering about tips and generally making humanity look bad. Yeah, I’m talking about that guy, but I’m also talking about all the people around him who ignore that he’s being a jerk.

Look, people, it’s time to step in. When someone’s yelling at a clerk, please, for the sake of all that’s hopeful about December, ask that rude s.o.b. politely if it would help for you to find a manager. When he says, “No, it’s not that big a deal,” please tell him, “Yes, it is, because you’re being abusive and I want to help that poor clerk.” When someone is whining about being in a line, please, for the sake of all of us who have to be in the crush of humanity this time of year, tell that whiner that even though it’s frustrating, everyone else tries their best not to make the situation worse and could she please put a sock in it before you take a poll amongst the other residents in the world’s longest line whether to vote her off the island right now.

I’m so tired of people! I want all them all home, shopping online, giving to charity online, shipping packages online, paying bills online, and socially interacting online. I’d like more of them to consider grocery delivery. And muzzles.

Because seriously, y’all, humanity is working my last nerve this December.

Running on empty

April’s Runner’s World has an article that promises to tell me “Why [and how] a pair of busy mothers make time to train for races and why [and how] you should, too.”

Spouse brought it home for me after he read the issue because he has a) time to read magazines, b) additional time to train several days a week and the resulting endorphins lead to sharing, c) the speed to win half marathons almost every weekend, the endorphins from which also lead to sharing, d) had enough of me complaining about baby weight and no time to exercise, and e) a death wish.

The article consists of the impressions, opinions, and feelings of two moms. They enjoy running. They race. Yay! I should, too.

(To the two moms whose stories are featured in the Runner’s World piece? I’m glad you’re enjoying your running. Really. Keep it up!)

But there are no data points in this article. How do they fit in runs? When? How many? How long do they race compared with their weekly mileage? Who helps with their children when they run? How old are their children? Does current research show that training while you exist on 5 hours of sleep is good or bad for your body? Should moms who are lactating run less, more, or the same as they would normally run? (That last one is answered on http://www.kellymom.com in case you need more than rant-iness in today’s blog surfing. I aim to be a resource even as I snark, yo. Power to the runner mothers.)

Aside from the indignity of claiming to include a “how” and then neglecting to do so, the article also highlights a wildly insulting quiz written, I’m guessing, by a male editor. In assessing what my next race should be, the quiz’s author mentions having “a baby attached to my teat” as though I were a beat of burden not a human. He also mentions the milestone of having a “child extracted from my loins” as though I just laid there and had Roto-Rooter do the job for me.

Putting aside such condescending douchebaggery for just a moment, let’s look at the pathetic options given in their quiz. According to Runner’s World, having multiple children, a fried brain, years of sleep deprivation, intense isolation, poor eating habits, and relative inactivity (all my actual answers to their stupid multiple choice questions), I should run a 5K. Jackalopes, with those qualifications you should be offering me a vacation, not a freaking three-mile race. Don’t make me stick you in my life for a month, dillweeds, to enable your writing a weepy article on how to handle a 5K when your soul is worn down in ways BodyGlide could never ease.

The other quiz results, by the way, are this stupid: go race soon, race longer than you think you can, or try a longer distance. Um, from which third-rate school did you graduate if your choices are “specific distance, unspecific distance, yay, and more”? Anyone teach you “mutually exclusive, completely exhaustive?” Thought not.

Look here, fathermuckers. Stop pandering with covers that proclaim a “Mommy Solution” and cease publishing sub-standard bullshite.

Here’s a real quiz for you.

You have only the following three choices for running:

1. get up at 5am to run before the kids wake. But you go to bed at 1am every night because that’s what business hours require for now.
2. run with the toddler in the jogging stroller when it’s time to go get the kindergartener from school. NB: you’re not a noontime runner, the toddler resists the stroller like I resist compliments, and the way to school always involves a significant uphill stretch that, with a 25-pound stroller plus 25-pound kid kills what little energy you have to run.
3. Run at 8:30 pm, despite being a morning runner; and after being beaten down all day, using all you energy to pretend patience, and binge eating once the kids finally get into the bath.

Tell me, you smug douche canoes who wrote and printed this useless pseudoarticle, which of those three options is the best for a runner who just cancelled payment on the family subscription?

Really? You’re gonna thank them?

I’d like to thank the ants who came charging into the house today. Thank you for finding whatever it was you found in the silverware drawer. I’ve been meaning to take everything out and soak it in hot, soapy, vinegar water. You’ve given me a reason to do it today and for that I am thankful.

I’m also appreciative of the people who stop in parking lots and wait, desperately, for anyone walking by to identify one of the parked cars as theirs. Thank you for holding up the dozens of people behind you. Without you we might have been able to proceed with our days. But because you made parking take almost 30 minutes, I got to hear the wonderful tricks my 4 year old used to keep my screaming infant from blowing an artery. It’s a good thing you didn’t just drive normally until you found a parking space farther away. Then I wouldn’t know how resourceful my son is. I surely am grateful to you.

Thank you, terrible parent in front of me in line at the store today. Because you bought for your child every piece of crap he whined for, my son is starting to doubt our family’s system. Thank you for encouraging his critical thinking skills. Here I had him unquestioningly following the policy that we don’t buy things unless it’s already on our list; and that special purchases like toys have to be on a holiday list from which loved ones may choose to buy or not to buy. Thanks to you, Parent Making Interesting Choices, my son is interrogating our system and querying into our family’s stance on democracy. Lessons on thinking for himself and governing systems in one day. What a thanksgiving blessing. Thank you.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also thank the cat for waking me up almost every hour last night. If it weren’t for you, Cat One, I might have missed the beginning of the baby’s crying. All five times that he woke and raged about something or other. Of course, had you not been thumping around and yowling, the baby might not have woken. But then I wouldn’t be able to practice my catatonic calculations about which soothing technique to use on him. Thanks, kitty, for keeping me sharp. Except for the part where waking me every hour dulls my ability to function or think. That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, Cat One. That’s why you’ll be sleeping in the garage tonight. And for that I am thankful.

Words to the wise

Dear handyman: get off your high horse and lose the attitude. It took you a month to schedule one stinking morning appointment, so if I cancel because of a family emergency (I want to take Peanut to the concert in the park and farmer’s market more than I want the leak in the sink gone, but you don’t know that and you’re not gonna) then that’s my problem. Do you want the work, or don’t you? Don’t act as though you’re losing your home just because I canceled. I gave you 48 hours notice.

Dear printer: stop lying. You’re not out of toner. I just bought you toner. you’ve printed, like, 200  pages. I know you better than this. I raised you, printer. You will shut your paper hole and I will obligingly open every stupid door and drawer, shake the toner cartidge, and put it back in, and we’ll have another 200 pages before you lie again. And I’ll go through the whole bullshit process again, at least twenty more times, and you’ll give me at least 2,000 pages, andIi’ll wonder which is harder: kidgloving my stupid f—ing printer or putting a toddler to bed. Secret answer: I don’t know. Neither is particularly fun or easy, but I have you both down to a science, so whatever. It’s like knowing you have to start your car on a hill. Sucks, but at least you know the drill.

Dear lady outside the Starbucks’ bathroom: stop rattling the g–d—- door knob. Didn’t you figure out the first four times you rattled it that someone is in here? i refuse to holler “someone’s in here” because any idiot can figure that out from the LOCKED DOOR. Also, I refuse to holler “almost done” because I just got in here and I am not almost done. I mean, relative to the guy before me who took half and hour and peed on every square inch of the seat, I’m almost done. But relative to my need not to talk to you, I’m not. You’d think I could pee by myself one freaking time this week. Just for that, I’m washing my hands twice. And checking my pores. And practicing origami on the paper towels, because it’s not like they’ve given me a lot of entertainment options in here.

Dear blogosphere: get back here. Just because I post anti-spanking and anti-segregation instead of lame jokes about how much my kid gets my goat, doesn’t mean you need to stop reading. By half. How the f— do half of you go away just because I talk all serious about stuff? Fickle freaks. What, are you over at the Bloggess listening to her in prison on the Nimitz story? Please. “Oh, look at me, I’m funny and patriotic and not ranting about respecting your kid.”  Fine. I get it. You’re not tough enough to take my brand of genius. Whatever. Your loss.      Wait, I mean, get back here. I’ll try to be funny. I swear. Or not, if that offends you.

Dear so-called medical experts: shut the f— up. You have no idea what you’re talking about. ‘Nuff said.

Ditto you parenting experts, job experts, and Pynchon experts.

Dear lady we saw yesterday: you’re damned right, you should be embarrassed. When you’re walking your first grader home from school, with your iPod blaring, you *should* feel guilty enough to drop the earbuds and listen to your talking kid. Kind of pathetic that it took us running by (not judging you because we didn’t know, until you dropped the buds like they were contraband) to make you listen to your kid. After she’d been in school all day. I’m glad you feel bad.  You totally suck.

Dear advertisers: stop manipulating people.  You suck.

Dear government: would you please get them to disclose what natural flavors they use? You know it’s anchovies, I know it’s anchovies. Would you please make them put anchovies on the label? Cuz otherwise I might someday thing, well, it’s natural, so it couldn’t possibly be ground up carmine bugs, right? Wrong. Trade secrets my ass. The amount of  brown sugar in something is a trade secret. The fact that they’re feeding dead chickens to cows and dead cows to chickens should be on the front of the package. In simple pictographs because nobody reads labels anymore.

Dear neighbor: please don’t call the cops. He was doing that because we’ve had trouble with deer eating our brand new sunflowers, and we thought that the only natural defense we have, since the Ivory everyone else swears by isn’t working,  is human urine, and I know you probably looked the other way when it was a three year old, but he doesn’t have a big enough bladder and the tall guy does. Besides, what are you going to tell the cops? It’s our yard. And our urine.

Okay, let’s get six or seven things straight.

Lady in the magenta cotton cardigan, black leggings, white T-shirt, and black Chucks? The 80s are over. Please get a new wardrobe.

People at Target who branched out from wine in a box to sangria in a box? Nice idea, and I would totally go for it, but the so-called natural flavors within are supposed to be fruit juice, not whatever nasty chemical concoction gave me the terrible hangover this morning. Your ideas suck and your sucky wine sucks you suckers.

Cats? Knock it off. That’s not funny.

Trader Joe’s? Kudos on the vegan products, dudes. LOVE the vegan jell-o. Heaven. Totally forgot how good gelled fruit mushiness could be. But I’m totally let down by the fake beef strip thingamabobbers. Stir fried that beef-less stuff with veggies. Gagged on the texture and picked it all out. Can’t anyone make fake meat that actually tastes and feels like the flesh of a muscle-y critter? No, of course not. Thanks for trying, I guess.

Small person who lives in my house and eats my food and more than necessary pokes me in the eye? Please top the bedtime bullshit. Sure it’s understandable for your age that after a move you’re all topsy-turvy. But see, I have less patience at the end of the day. Try out your nonsense at the beginning of the day and we’ll all get on better. I swear.