Monday, March 26, 2007

Night moves.

Sunday, 3 p.m.

Consort said, “As soon as I finish this email, I’m going to start packing.”

Sunday, 5 p.m.

“Could you supervise the kid’s bath? I need to start packing.”

Sunday, 7 p.m.

“…just as soon as ‘Family Guy’ is over, I’ll pack.”

Sunday 10:30 p.m.

“Have you seen the crossword puzzle?”

Sunday, 11:15 p.m.

I said blearily, “I’m going to sleep in her room. Please come wake me when you’re finished.”, which I think was a very gracious thing to say, seeing as he hadn’t started yet. Were it not for these more restrictive security regulations, I believe he would have been standing in the check-in line this morning rolling up socks and bagging the shaving cream. I slept in Daughter’s room because Consort packs by placing every single clothing item he has on the bed and considering his options. Single-breasted suit, double-breasted suit, button-down collars, spread collar, jeans, short-sleeved casual shirts, long-sleeved casual shirts, sport jackets, casual jackets, pith helmet, scuba gear and the odd tuxedo, all must be added to the sartorial horizontal mural of possibilities. I’ve tried sleeping in a bed upon which he is packing, and inevitably some seven-fold necktie starts taking liberties with me and a dress shoe is found days later tucked inside the duvet.

At two a.m., I awoke and padded into the living room. Consort was watching television and polishing some shoes while whistling.

“Are you packed?’

“Pretty much.”

The distinctive Da-DUNG sound let me know “Law and Order” had just begun.

I whined, “Are you coming to bed?”

“Sure!”, he said brightly, “Just as soon as I polish the belts I’m taking with me.” He thought. “I should probably do my briefcase, as long as I have the polish out.”

I scowled and went to bed.

I believe in respecting - - nay, celebrating the differences between people. I don’t think anyone who has read this blog thinks I want everyone to be exactly like me. For one thing, the emergency rooms have enough traffic as it is. Heck, as a small person, I had my very own copy of “Free to Be You and Me”, and I sang along. Everyone should be exactly who and what they are supposed to be. We’re all different and that’s great.

Except Consort, who is a night person just to annoy me and has to stop. I am irrationally convinced he could sleep at night like normal people if he wanted to. I mean, what possible survival benefit could staying up all night have provided his ancestors? We have no hard outer shell, no sharp teeth or nails and the human’s ability to see in the dark is extremely limited; we’re not evolved to roam at night. Whatever first humanoid who wandered out into the dark to look for something to do should have been eaten before creating offspring, leaving the rest of the population with the salutary lesson of “Dark time is dormant time”.

Consort is a remarkably intelligent man, capable understanding technology concepts of such complexity that I have resorted to throwing dollar bills at him to bribe him to stop talking about them, so why can’t he see how much better it is when he sleeps when it’s dark and polishes briefcases when it’s light?

Over the years, I’ve sent him articles about how watching television or a computer screen can re-awaken a fatigued brain, telling it that it’s daytime. On the advice of another article, I’ve removed all diet sodas from the house. I’ve encouraged the snacking of turkey, for the tryptophan (yet another article). Because he loves me and has a great capacity for ignoring me, he has patiently allowed me my ministrations. For all the change it has created, I might as well have been clipping articles and sending them to the ocean about how being salty affects your driving skills.

From what he tells me, being awake before nine o’clock in the morning is physical painful, his nerves both dulled and almost excrutiatingly acute. He can’t remember the mechanics for putting on his socks but the feeling of air on his open eyes is like daggers dipped in acid. The fact that I am lucid and fast-moving during the daytime adds to his Job-ian trials:

Quinn buzzes into the bedroom and starts opening windows. Sitting on the bed to tie her shoes, she pokes Consort affectionately with her elbow. At least, she thinks it’s Consort. It’s completely hidden under the blankets, but it appears to be about six feet tall.

QUINN: Honey, get up. It’s morning.

The blanket lump makes itself smaller and moans. Quinn prods less affectionately.

QUINN: Get. Up.

CONSORT (In a perfectly normal tone): Okay, I’m awake.

Only, see, he’s not. Since he has perversely insisted he is a night person his entire life, he’s developed strategies. One of them is that he can remain sound asleep and speak lucidly. Answer questions, make jokes, the whole nine yards, but he won’t get out of bed, because he’s still sleeping. I fell for that one for several years.

Quinn leaves the room and comes back with her two strongest weapons, Daughter and Lulabelle the cat. Both are disgruntled.

DAUGHTER: Daddy, Mommy won’t let me do a hairdo.

Lulabelle leaps nimbly on the bed and commences the tapdance of a potentially missed meal.


QUINN: I didn’t say you couldn’t do the hairdo. I just said we don’t have time this morning for you to do five tiny buns all over your head.

DAUGHTER: But I had one done.

QUINN: And it took fifteen minutes. At that rate, how many minutes would the next four buns take?

DAUGHTER: You’re trying to make me do math.

The cat walks across the bed and stands on Consort’s shoulder, bellowing in his ear.


QUINN: Sweetie, please go feed Lulabelle before she eats Daddy’s nose.

Daughter takes Lulabelle to the kitchen, kissing Consort on the cheek.

DAUGHTER: Goodbye, Daddy. See you tonight.

They walk out. A second later, Consort’s eyes snap open. Seeing light, he cringes. He starts clawing at his eyes.


QUINN: Morning, sweetie.

CONSORT: …Morning…?



And with that blasphemy, I know he’s finally awake. Then and only then do I perform my celebrated monologue “If only you hadn’t had a Diet Coke/watched television after ten/went on a political website last night and gotten yourself all riled up you’d have gotten enough sleep.” He answers with “I know, I’ll catch up tonight”, because while my delusion is that he’s just one behavior modification away from being a day person, Consort believes that one of these nights the government will add nine extra hours between two and seven a.m.

Just last week, I heard a story on “Marketplace”, a radio show about the business world, about how a group of night people in Denmark is lobbying the business community to respect their different needs. These “B People”, as they describe themselves, make the argument that their work can be just as good as a day person’s work if they are allowed to work from, say, noon until ten in the evening. With an unemployment rate of only four percent, their business leaders are listening and finding ways for these human hamsters to run on their wheels all night long. I just hope their immigration policy is prepared because I know of at least one man who’s going to apply for political amnesty based on day-person persecution.

Monday, March 19, 2007

To live and dye in L.A.

I was sitting in church on Sunday morning, trying to focus on the sermon, which seemed to be on some larger topics, but I kept getting distracted. Two rows before me was a child with the finest head of hair I had seen in recent memory. Had I been a cat and this been a laser beam teasingly moving back and forth I could not have been held any more rapt.

The cut itself was unremarkable, a simple chin-length bob, but it just served to set off the blinding perfection of her hair color. Were I unimaginative or forced to pay by the word for my blog privileges, I could describe it as “Brown”, but this was “Brown” the way Donald Trump is “Self-confident”. Luckily, I don’t pay by the word and I have years of looking at fashion magazines and paint chips to strengthen my color vocabulary. Her hair was a honeyed brown, with wide strips of caramel and butter splashed along the sides. She was competing with the stained-glass windows for illumination and radiance. All I wanted to do was grab this girl of about ten, run to the nearest highly competent colorist, point at her head, then point at my head and scream “That! Now! Do on my head! Shiny! Caramel! Do now!”. Her mother was sitting next to her, and I can only hope she felt really good about having hair the same flat, opaque yellow as Play-Doh. Otherwise, having this Platonic ideal of hair color in your house would really start to wear on a person.

I cannot relate how bored my hair is making me right now. I say I cannot relate it because unless we are having this conversation in person, you don’t know that I’m rolling around on the floor moaning “…so very bored…”. Without that, you might think I have some affection left for this hair. But a year after nearly scalping myself and dealing with the consequences, I am here to say I want a divorce. Not only do my hair and I have nothing left to say to one another, now it’s just getting weird.

Where they did the surgery, I had hair transplants or, as I like to think of them, “Eltons”. As each little Elton has grown in, it grows in straight up. Eventually, it will lie down nicely like every other listless hair on my head but, right now, they are like horrible wee little soldiers up there. Why does this matter? It matters because I have to comb the non-military, lank hair over the spot so people don’t confuse me with Bruce Willis. After six months, I have it pretty much down. A little back-comb, a little hairspray, a headband and boom, it’s the Kennedy Administration on my head and we’re out the door. But thanks to these interlopers, the long hair gets pushed out of the way by the short hairs, leaving me every hour or so with a dreadful breeziness topside. Then it’s a quick trip to the bathroom for another backcomb and spray. I’m getting a beehive, and until these hairs stop trying to lay siege to one another, I’m stuck with it.

Which leaves me with color. For about a year in my twenties I was an intermittent redhead, which didn’t go badly with my pallid, freckled skin and green eyes. Matter of fact, I looked considerably less dead, which was pleasing. But dyed red hair requires only slightly less maintainance than a travelling exhibition of Vermeer paintings. The instant you leave the salon, it starts fading. If you have the temerity to wash it, even with the “Keeps your dyed red hair from fading” shampoo, it fades. Going out in daylight without a hat causes fading. I think having hiccups increases the rate of fade. And let us not forget roots; I lack the particular kind of beauty which is pleasingly offset by bichromal hair. Quinn with a half-inch of roots= people looking at me and thinking “Dear Lord, that poor woman is homeless. And insane. And probably huffs paint.”

But I couldn’t afford to keep going back to the salon to re-up, as it were. I bought bottles of red hair dye and refreshed my natural red at home. The first couple of touch-ups were fine. After that, the previously dyed hair started taking on a pinkish hue, excepting those parts which were bright red, or the exciting interludes of pale orange and coral. Once you added in the green eyes and the dead white skin, I was rainbow sherbert. I dyed the whole mess brown and went back to my roots, and haven’t tried to dye in the decade since.

But I am so bored. And so unappealing. Did I mention that my hair is brown? No paint chip color or homage to De la Renta’s fall 2002 collection on my head. No wisps of amber, no flashes of sienna, no “Chocolate is the new black”. My hair is consistantly, unrelentingly, brown. I guess I should be grateful I’m not yet battling ice, snow, silver, frost, alabaster or chalk.

But I don’t feel like being grateful.

I feel like flicking my hair and not reflexively checking to make sure the hair nursery with all the baby Eltons is covered.

I feel like looking in a mirror at my hair and thinking something besides, “(sigh).”

I feel like chestnut hair with cinnamon highlights and bitter chocolate lowlights.

I want someone to confuse my hair with a dessert.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

American woman

The American Girl doll comes with many accessories. You can get her a scooter. You can get her a rhythmic gymnastics ensemble, complete with hoop and ribbon thingy. You can get her a cat named Licorice, who comes with her very own hairball.

The accessories to Daughter’s American Girl doll were avarice and a soupcon of gluttony. On the asset side, it helped strengthen her independence and also brought an improvement in both Daughter’s math and gardening skills.

It all began two days after Christmas. The American Girl company, in some whimsical belief there was a single parent in the US with some room left on their credit card, sent out a catalogue. I, dazed from a week of declaring divinity fudge a food group, forgot to do the usual routine of spiriting the catalogue away from the mailbox and burying it deep in the recycling bin.

Daughter found it.

At first, I didn’t worry. Daughter has shown virtually no interest in dolls at any price range since the Groovy Girl fake-out. I figured the catalogue would be good for a few minutes and then she’d be back to pestering to watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas” again. For a few minutes, I appeared to actually know what I was talking about. Daughter sat on the couch, looked through the catalogue, stared off into space; what I mistook for waning interest was actually plotting.

“I want an American Girl doll.” she said, jumping off the couch and putting on shoes.

I immediately fell into one of the patented Parenting Low-Crisis Reaction Modes: Stall.

[Some others are: Bribe, Ignore, Threaten and Distract.]

“Well,” I said briskly, searching the kitchen for any divinity which might have slid past my last thorough search, “there’s always your birthday.”

In the interest of protecting my daughter’s privacy, let me just say that suggestion went over fairly badly with her. She made a counter-suggestion, which went over fairly badly with me. Voices were raised, groundless accusations were hurled, formless threats were made. I’m not saying we were a segment on “Cops”, but the WWF would not have found our antics completely unfamiliar. Finally, we agreed. She was to have an allowance. In order to get her allowance, she had to make her bed every morning without being nagged, fold and put away her clean clothes and practice her piano every night without complaint. For this, she would get six dollars a week.

[Just the piano practice without moaning and flailing would be worth twenty-four dollars a month in my book, but let’s not tell her that.]

The figure of six dollars felt high, but a popular parenting website had a neat little program where I punched in what I had received as an allowance at her age and what year that was. Once we all got over laughing about how I was her age during the Reformation, it told me what her allowance would be, adjusted for inflation, to have been the same as mine. The website said six dollars, and I blindly opened my wallet.

She immediately found a piece of paper and a pencil and started computing.

“I have twenty-five dollars for Christmas from Aunt Marge and the money from the tooth fairy. With six dollars a week, I’ll need….”

Her pencil fairly smoked across the page. Note to teacher: Daughter can do any version of mathematics, as long as you put a dollar sign in front of it.

She looked up, dismayed.

“Three months!”

The tone she used indicated three months was how long it took the form the Grand Canyon. I smiled.

“You can earn extra money. There are always extra chores around the house.”

If the thought of money brought out her inner banker, the idea she could make more money helped issue forth her inner day laborer. A couple of days later, I was outside in the yard, weeding. A shadow spread over the grass. It was Daughter behind me.

“Whatcha doing?”

“Weeding. Getting rid of this,” I said, pointing to the some green stems, “so these can grow”, pointing to virtually identical green stems.

“Do you like doing it?”

I thought.

“I kind of like feeling the weed coming out, but mostly it’s just something which has to be done.”

Her eyes glittered.

“Like…a chore?”

Daughter weeded one entire side of the yard. Her little fingers were perfectly suited to grab the smallest and most recalcitrant weeds. Two dollars well spent.

As it turns out this house, while small, is filled with tasks she is more than willing to do for me for a nominal fee.

For example, some might ask if is it worth a dollar to have your daughter crawl under the folding table in the laundry room with the Hand-Vac and get at the dust bunnies?

Oh, yes, I say to you. Oh, yes.

Is it wrong that she doesn’t just want to do these things as a measure of her love for me?

Did I mention that had I crawled under the folding table I would have thrown out my back and done my celebrated imitation of an end table for a week?

Once I got over the whole “My daughter is shaking the couch cushions for change…again” distaste, I decided this was a Good Thing. These dolls are insanely expensive, which meant she was going to have to work for this for months, which promotes goal-setting. Afterwards, we’d have a conversation about Haves and Have-Nots and about donating some of her allowance to a charity of her choice.

As it turned out, along with a Banker and a Day Laborer, there is a Fiscal Conservative dwelling inside my child. All it took was changing the term from “Mommy’s money” to “My money’. We were at a toy store picking up something for a birthday party when Daughter spied something. I could be mistaken, but I believe it was a Polly Pockets Tanning Bed. Immediately, she began the classical composition “Mommy Get it Please, I’ll Play With it All the Time”. Before the allowance, the duet would have gone something like:



QUINN: You don’t need it.


QUINN: No, you want it.

Protracted conversation about the difference between “Need” and “Want” would follow. No toy would be purchased, but everyone would be cross.

Now, however, when the string section took over and Mommy was expected to sing her part, I said instead, “Sure, get it.”

Daughter was cut off mid-lamentation.


“Get it,” I said breezily, “you have enough in your allowance.”

Her mouth turned downward.

“But I’m saving money for the doll.”

“I know,” I said cheerily, patting her shoulder, “and I’m very proud of you. But if this matters to you so much, I guess it’s worth your hard-earned money. It should only put you back about…two weeks.”

“I want it, I just don’t want to spend my money on it.”

“Oh!” I said happily, and said no more. We left the store; Daughter thwarted and puzzled, Quinn quietly gleeful. It’s been over a month and this whole “Pay as you go” financial outlook for Daughter has been wonderful for all of us. She covets a Cinderella coloring book or some junk jewelry? I no longer have to point out how she’ll take all the decorative jewels, paste them to the cat’s collar and ignore the coloring book, or break the jewelry before we even get to the car, because it’s her money. And the minute I remind her that it’s her money buying it, she no longer wants it. It’s glorious.

A few days ago, we were in a bookstore, and Daughter noticed a tripod holding different books from the same series.

“Look! Geronimo Stilton! Sienna loves those!”, she said breathlessly.

“Huh,” I said absently, gazing longingly at knitting books, but she wasn’t be to put off. She grabbed one from the middle.

“She doesn’t have this one.”

“How do you know?” I asked in confusion. Geronimo Stilton book covers are chrome-bright and involve a picture of Mr. Stilton, a mouse, in various fur-raising adventures. To me, they are interchangeable. She clucked her tongue at me.

“It’s the newest one. We were talking about it at lunch.”

She thought.

“I’m going to get it for her!”

I went into my now perfected, “…okay, but you’ll have to use your allowance.”

She said, “All right.”

We stared at one another.

I spoke slowly, to clarify, “You’re okay with spending your allowance money on this?”

“She’s my friend, she likes the books, and I want to get it for her.”

"Oh, okay." I said, pleased. We grinned at one another.

For a second, I toyed with caving to the sweetness and generosity of the moment and saying “…no, no, sweetheart, I’ll pay for this.” But then I thought, she never thought of doing this before she was earning and saving money. She’s proud of herself and if you, Quinn, just step in and pay for it, you’ll just…whatever the female version of emasculate is her.

“Let’s go pay for it”, I said. She went to hand it to me, but I waved it off, and handed her a ten-dollar bill.

“It’s your friend, your purchase, and your money. You can take care of it.”

Shoulders squared, Daughter walked proudly towards the cash register.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Green leafer madness.




Want to…write, but so very…very…sleepy.

And cross.




Also, achy.

For a long time, I would drink a cup of tea in the morning and pour a second one into my lap, and I was fine and only slightly scalded. Slowly, imperceptibly, I began making myself a third cup of tea before noon, which I would actually drink and only spill about a quarter. Then, one magical day, I noticed Daughter’s after-school classes all seemed within walking distance of a Starbucks, and each one of those Starbucks would give me a cup of tea if I gave them about two dollars! It was dazzling to discover how much less bleak and uncomfortable folding chairs are when one is clutching a hot cup of water with some leaves in it.

Things between the tea bag and I were good until they weren’t, and yet I denied, denied, denied I had a problem. It’s green tea, I would think stubbornly, I’m strengthening my tooth enamel and possibly my immune system. What could be more wholesome than that?

I was so unaware of how often I carried a cup that I stopped noticing when I was carrying it in less than traditional places. Luckily, I live in Los Angeles, where it is now socially acceptable to carry a Starbucks cup anywhere including a funeral; I think some people now request their bodies be displayed with one tucked in their hand, so their friends will recognize them.

I was so jacked up on caffeine that, by last week, I was causing static on the car radio. Bed had become the place where I lay in the dark and tried to remember my third grade teacher’s license plate number.

But, as with so many issues in my life, it was vanity which finally brought me to my senses. You can only drink that much caffeine for so long before your skin starts to dry out. Last Thursday, I looked in the mirror with entirely too much daylight streaming in, and I recoiled in horror. While I have never found myself especially cute, I have taken some comfort in looking young for my age. I was the color of a battleship and the first three layers of epidermis were making a break for it. I was no more than twelve hours away from someone complimenting me on my lovely granddaughter.

Fine, I thought grimly, no more tea for me. I’ve done this before. A day or so of unpleasantness and fatigue and I’m back in the game. A few weeks off the stuff, and I can start a cup of tea in the morning again.

I forgot the last time I had given up caffeine was when I found out I was pregnant, which leads to two important facts. One, that was a while ago, and my body isn’t as accepting of change as it was then and two, I was newly pregnant, which meant I was excited, self-sacrificing and already nauseated and tired. Now, I’m suspicious, self-serving, and inclined to avoid things which make me nauseated and tired.

Friday morning, I drank a cup of mint tea, just for that hot-water mouthfeel. By noon, I was working at my desk, clawing at the headband I was wearing, wondering why it was biting into my head so sharply when I remembered, Wait, I’m not wearing a headband. Caffeine withdrawal, right on schedule and nastier than I remembered, holding my skull hostage all afternoon. The elastic band tightened indifferently and inexorably, and grinding exhaustion set in. I abruptly fell asleep on the couch and dreamed about washing down a pound of dark chocolate with a hot-tub full of green tea. I dreamed about going to a rural area of China, plunking myself down in the middle of a field of Camellia sinensis and chewing my way out. I dreamed about George Clooney stopping by in a tuxedo, bringing me a cup of tea, and my drinking it. George asked, eyes crinkling adorably, “Would you like anything else?”, and I screamed miserably, “Yes! More tea!”

“What, Mommy?”

I woke with a start. The headache was, if anything, worse than when I fell asleep. I had been trying to read a magazine when the exhaustion had hit, and I had fallen asleep on it, and sweated so the magazine stuck to me. This meant Katie Holmes was pouting a quarter inch from my eye, which wasn’t helping matters. Daughter was standing next to the couch, staring at me. I was asleep on the couch in the middle of the afternoon, leaving my small daughter to her own devices. She appeared to have made herself a snack of strawberry jam and olives. All this tableau needed was a smoldering Virginia Slims dangling from my lips.

After two daytime naps, I fell asleep at eight p.m. My last thought as I reflexively clawed at the non-existent headband was “This will be better in the morning.”


What it has done is mutated into what I keep thinking must be the beginning of the flu, complete with body aches, lethargy and short-term memory problems. What’s most demoralizing about all of this is if you had asked me to describe my better traits, I might have said something like “…energetic, funny, quick-witted, hard worker.”

Turns out, I am none of those things. Caffeine was using me as a host to express certain character traits, but without my precious green nectar I am no more energetic or witty than tectonic drift, and my appetite for hard work is the same as my appetite for chewing off my own arm. Mostly, I want to partake of my new hobby, which is lying on something yielding and clawing at my eyes.

I saw a friend yesterday who made the mistake of asking me how I was. I responded with something like “…whine, whine, caffeine-free…whine, whine, whine, endless headache…whine, George Clooney tuxedo…whine, whine, lost will to live…”

My friend nodded knowingly.

“Third day?”

I stopped my dirge and mutely nodded.

“It’ll take about a week, and then you’ll feel like a million bucks.”

Forget a million bucks. Right now, I'd take the change my pockets have fed into the couch over the last four days of involuntary naps.