Sunday, July 31, 2005

Ice Ice Baby

The strange thing is not that my freezer is full. The strange thing is that it is full of things which are not edible.

For example, the batteries. Am I the only person with six months of dead batteries in her freezer? My freezer is where dead batteries go to wait out Hazardous Waste Recycling, an event which takes place monthly, but usually at the furthest point from me in Los Angeles County. So I wait, as patient as a spider, for them to land somewhere nearby. When this day finally arrives, I will drive several miles to the recycling center, thereby negating any environmental benefit proper battery disposal accrues. Once at the recycling place, I’ll take my place in line amid commercial vans with six years’ worth of hazardous building materials and 18-wheelers piled with every half-empty paint can in Los Angeles. When I roll down my window and hand the attendant two saggy shopping bags of dead batteries, they look like the lumpy plastic sacks one sees at the end of a dog-walk, assuming the dog-walker is a conscientious type. This might explain the odd looks I get from the recycling people. I like to think they are squinting at the sun, and not sneering at me. But until this magical day, the batteries sit uncomplainingly in my freezer, confusing anyone searching for ice.

The last time I made the recycling run, I came back, opened the freezer and basked in the empty space. Within the hour, I tried unsuccessfully to use the TV remote.

Daughter observed “I think the battery is dead”.

I said firmly, “I’m going to forget you said that. Let’s pretend we’re in ‘Little House on the Prairie’ and walk up to the TV to change the channels for a few weeks.”

In my freezer, there is also half a Popsicle. Why half? Because some time ago, Daughter ate half a Popsicle and claimed she was full. I had been spending entirely too much time that week eating up her remnants like a raccoon, and declined her offer to share. I instead put in the freezer for “Later”. Immediately thereafter, Daughter declared this particular brand of Popsicles weird and has refused to eat a single one. So, at least once a week, I open the freezer (usually to put in a dead battery), and I stare at the Popsicle, lying sticky and unloved in a plastic Zip-lock bag.

“When my hands aren’t full, I should just throw that away,” I think virtuously.

I then shut the freezer door and forget all about it.

But the bulk of our freezer is taken up with…cheese blintzes. Didn’t expect that one did you? Frankly, neither did I. For about six months, every time Consort went to the store, he would traipse through the Frozen Foods section and apparently think, “Wow! Blintzes! I was just thinking of blintzes!”

Of course, what he should have been thinking was, “Quinn whines whenever she sees me cramming more boxes of dough-covered cream cheese into the freezer. I must stop buying blintzes.”

It’s not like he’s Jewish and I am depriving him his culinary heritage. It’s not even like he eats them. I’ve known this man for a decade and I have seem him eat blintzes once. I have seen him eat venison more often than blintzes. I should be grateful he doesn’t have a side of Bambi in there.

I suspect some vestigial hunter/gatherer instinct is at work. A persistent urge emanates from somewhere in his lower brain-stem which translates into: “Bring down slow-moving dairy product and drag it home!” The consequence is me staring bleakly into the freezer and thinking, “I really want to create some room in this freezer. We’re either getting blintzes or AA batteries for dinner.”

I pulled out the box with the lightest freezer burn and said hopefully “We’re having a treat tonight!”

Daughter, knowing my ways, looked suspicious, thinking I had found some new way to slide kale on to her plate.

“It’s dinner. But you get to put jelly on it!”

Yeah, I know. This was a new low.

I scraped a bit of ice off the blintzes and popped them into the oven. A half-hour later, I looked in on them and saw they had turned a pleasing light brown. This was a hopeful sign. I’m a Los Angeles native, and we firmly believe appearance is everything. I slid two out on to a plate, garnished liberally with strawberry jelly, and served them to Daughter. I then went to get us drinks. When I returned, Daughter had a spoonful of jelly with an atom of something whitish-yellow on top.

“Please eat some blintz as well.”

“I did,” she insisted, gesturing to the dot, which she had returned to the blintz untouched. “But I don’t like it. It tastes like hot cheese.”

Well, there’s really no arguing with that.

“Also,” she added thoughtfully, “it tastes like dust.”

I don’t know how she determined that without ever letting a bite pass her lips, but I tasted my dinner, and dust was the best way to describe it. There were abundantly inedible.

I made her some edamame and considered my options. These were the least elderly of the blintz boxes, so it wasn’t as if the others would be better. And yet, some part of me cannot throw food away. I understand intellectually that the victims of civil war in the Sudan neither need nor want frozen cheese blintzes in dented cartons, but somehow my hand will not release the boxes over the trash can.

Suddenly, I had an inspiration. Not everyone has blintzes, but I bet nearly every person over a certain age has something in their freezer they would just like to see…leave.

Perhaps one winter Sunday afternoon you cooked a vegetable soup which was supposed to make two quarts but actually made twelve gallons, and you froze it thinking you’d eat it some rainy night, but the recipe turned out to be really gross and, unless you were on Fear Factor, you wouldn’t eat it again?

Perhaps your sister brought a honey-baked ham to your house for Easter even though you told her several times that you had everything made, and she said “Oh, just freeze it for all the other times you don’t cook”, and you can’t thaw it and eat it, because it would prove your smug, Martha-Stewart-wannabe sister right?

Maybe you have seven pounds of chicken parts because you had convinced yourself you’re going to make stock, which is so economical and much more tasty than the canned stuff, but you need to buy a stock pot and the one you like is eighty dollars and half the size of your stove?

Schadenfreude is a German word meaning, approximately, “Delight in another’s misery”: I am now introducing Schadenfreezerfreude: delight in the miserable contents of another person’s refrigerator. Of course, this would require a certain degree of public exposure, something most freezer failures typically lack.

To this end, I propose we create a common trading floor for unloved freezer food. Here’s a sample trade: a turkey leg from Thanksgiving, 2003 for two pints of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey with debilitating frost issues. Since no sane person would actually eat the food they got, it would be for novelty purposes only, to see something new in the back corner. Also, since the new owner would have no long-lasting emotional relationship with the food (and I use that word loosely), they would be far more inclined to accept the inevitable and actually throw the benighted object away.

Who knows, with all the extra room in the freezer, I could start storing something useful in there.

Like vodka and boo-boo bunnies.

P.S. If you need it, here is the hazardous waste recycling schedule for Los Angeles (

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Idol Gossip

It is a truth generally acknowledged that if you think of something—say, Volkswagen beetles—you will generally see several of them within the day. The minute you know you’re pregnant, the world is populated by women partaking freely of jeans with a stretch panel in the front. I know the conventional wisdom is that they were always there, but your consciousness just got raised, but on the off chance that your very words create the objects, I am now going to say MANATEE. I’ll let you know if anything interesting happens.

What brought this to mind was that after last week’s blog about fortune’s weird sister, fame, I’ve had several chances to meditate on fame. For example, I was drifting through a website where we at Hiphugger were thinking about placing some ads. It is a website dedicated to looking at pictures of celebrities and their babies (although they will, on occasion, publish wedding information on a celebrity, if only to speculate about when this couple might breed). It is, for the most part, harmless: the woman who runs it refuses to publish any nasty comments, so it tends to stay pretty civil (you know, she might be on to something). But I happened to come across an entry about an actress who has apparently said in an article that she has no intention of releasing her infant son’s name. There seemed to be an inordinate amount of comments under that, so I took a look.

The comments were, without exception, along the lines of “Why, that terrible person, depriving me of what I rightly deserve… She must think she’s famous, but she’s not. B-list people don’t get to make a choice like that…He’s such a cute baby, I should know his name!” To be fair, one comment did point out that this woman hadn’t made a statement coming out as a lesbian, or announcing her lover’s pregnancy, or one announcing the birth, so not announcing the baby’s name was not out of character; but even that comment had an aggrieved tone.

Keep in mind, the photograph accompanying the entry was not a staged publicity shot of mother and child; it was clearly taken from a great distance, by someone who hadn’t made his presence known.

Now, clearly, this isn’t a representative sample of the population: these are people who are more than happy to speculate for hours over why Jennifer Lopez wore a sweater over her dress (“I bet she’s pregnant, that’s how my sister’s breasts looked when she was in her first trimester”). But I think the sense of entitlement is pretty par for the course. If a person is out in public, a certain section of the population thinks they are always fair game. If they are with their children, or getting a sick parent to the Doctor’s office, or wrestling a recalcitrant cat into the groomer, that just makes them more interesting. It’s like getting a double-word score. For a celebrity, no matter how minor, to refuse to open the social kimono every second of the day is to be labeled a poor sport.

“That’s what they’re paid for,” I’ve heard and read more times than I can count. Actually, no. An increasingly small group of superstars are paid to get butts into movie seats, where these butts fill up on overpriced Diet Coke. The rest of the acting population makes less each year for fewer jobs. [A good friend got paid $55,000.00 for a ten-week job but didn’t work again for two years. Does that sound like the high life to you? Run the math.] Of course, as the acting world is contracting, the celebrity world is doubling something like every six hours: the flu virus has nothing on the celebrity virus. Anyone with a camera phone and animal cunning can have their own gossip website and devoted followers who can giggle about how the fifth lead on a sitcom that lasted one season in the mid-nineties is now working at the Torrance Gap. It’s meanness for its own sake. It’s also unnecessary, and so high school I could scream.

Which leads me neatly to Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes or as the gossips would have them, TomKat. Or, as I like to call them, IDontCare. These are two people who, before this, I have thought of in total for maybe one hour. Since this whole dating cavalcade has blown up, I have not bought a single magazine (Long story short: while walking a friend’s dog recently, I lost the dog. I promised any gods and saints who might be listening that I would give up stupid magazines if I could find the dog. Found dog, lost magazines until December). I don’t watch any of the entertainment shows. So could someone please explain how, this morning, I suddenly realized that I knew nearly everything about their relationship and nearly nothing about how the G-8 summit turned out? This is wrong. One thing will potentially affect my daughter and any grandchildren I have, and one of them is COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT.

Mr. Cruise and Ms. Holmes are either in a real relationship, or they are not. I am totally indifferent to either reality. She isn’t my sister. He isn’t my ward of the court. I don’t have a single thing invested in this coupling. And yet, I know they first showed themselves to the press (the third part of this duo) in Italy, and that he proposed in Paris. This is the other side of the sense of entitlement some people feel towards celebrities: the sense some stars have that everything they do is inherently more interesting because the star is doing it with a handler and a stylist in tow. Of course, we continue to encourage this kind of idiotic thinking by buying the magazines, speculating on the websites, bidding for their old love letters.

I am not saying this from a point of perfection: I stand waiting at the check-out line and power-read with the best of them. I have ascribed motivations to people I didn’t know at all, simply because I read an article about them. But, I need to change.

Think of it as a bedroom window. If someone doesn’t want you peeking in his or her bedroom window, you owe it to that person not to. If that same person wants you to look in the bedroom window, you owe it to yourself not to.

Monday, July 25, 2005

It Takes Two.

Consort and I had settled in to watch “Rescue Me”, a new favorite show in our house and one of the few times both of us end up staring at the TV at the same time. As the teaser ended, and the theme song blasted off, Consort observed “This sounds like Duran Duran”.

I stared at him in disbelief.

“It does not,” I said, jumping knee-deep into moral certainty.

“Yes, it does,” he insisted, “if Duran Duran was making music now.”

“They are. I mean, I haven’t heard it, and clearly neither have you. But they are.”

“All right,” he allowed. “It sounds like what Duran Duran was doing in the eighties, only with new equipment.”

“But the singer sounds totally different.”

“I don’t think so.”

“He sounds nothing like Simon LeBon.”

Please note that by this time, the theme song was over and we were into commercials, and yet we continued. Consort held his ground.

“Okay, the lead singer sounds a little different. But only a little, like his voice aged. But they still sound like Duran Duran.”

“So you’re saying that if Duran Duran had a different singer and different instruments, they would sound like this.”



Mercifully, the show started, and we were captivated by Vicodin-addicted firefighters making extremely poor dating choices, but in that three-minute commercial break, we had participated in what I can only imagine is the second-oldest cohabitation ritual: the Pointless Spousal Discussion. I imagine our ancestors, plodding across endless sheets of ice, the male saying to the female “I have asked you a thousand times to tan the hides I wear just a little longer. You have no idea how many places I’m chafing.” And she answering, “And as I keep telling you, if you bring home more yak urine, I’ll tan the hides until the wooly mammoths come home”.

The requirements of a Pointless Spousal Discussion are simple:

1) It cannot be anything of consequence, nor can it be completely without weight. No one should ever contemplate divorce over a PSD, but each participant must have enough invested in order to keep it lively. This also means that there cannot be a happy medium where you can both be right. It either sounds like Duran Duran, or it does not.

2) Topics must be, ultimately, unanswerable. If you each are sure you know the capital of Lichtenstein, you are one quick trip to the Britannica away from solving it, and where’s the fun in that? Good PSD topics are things like
a) Your nephew did get drunk at our wedding, that wasn’t food poisoning making him puke in the hedge;
b) I was wearing my blue sweater when we met. Yes, I was. Yes, I was. I have never owned a purple camisole, I have no idea who you might be thinking of;
c) That guy at the coffee house always wears the same shirt.

Note: Words like “Always” and “Never” make for frisky conversations.

3) It’s nice if the conversation is hinged on some outer event (“Rescue Me”, getting on a particular freeway entrance, 8:35 on a Friday night), so that you can leap in without having to do any dreary ramp-up. Part of the fun comes from just seeing a jar of Gulden’s mustard, looking at your spouse and having them say “Oh, don’t start”.

The PSD can, sadly, lead to bickering. How bickering is different from the Pointless Spousal Discussion is range and rage. If the sight of iceberg lettuce being put onto a sandwich results in a four-minute conversation between spouses (one likes it and swears it has a flavor and is healthy, the other thinks it tastes like wet packing material and is utterly useless) which then leads painlessly into a conversation about picking up eyeglasses from the optometrist, that’s a PSD. The same head of lettuce in the hands of a bickering couple can devolve into an three-hour conversation about how one person perversely insists upon eating the inedible and this has something to do with buying a Home Depot gift certificate as an anniversary present.

A single person might ask, why do this at all? What’s the Darwinian imperative?

I really have no idea. A psychiatrist might say it’s about keeping a healthy sense of individuality: you don’t become the person who has to quiz your partner in order to remember basic facts about yourself (“Do I like salmon?”). Maybe the mental-health professional would tell me it’s a normal way of working off aggression without letting it fester into something truly life-threatening (“No, I don’t know where your car keys are, but I certainly know where the carving knife is!”). Or maybe it’s some weird way of establishing yet another tie to one another; I promise to love your forever, but I don’t want you to ever forget that I know you put the toilet roll in the wrong way.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Fame (Baby, Remember My Name)

Some times, I want big credit for the things I didn’t do. For example, today I didn’t hit a woman. Had the judges been there, I would have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for that.

Daughter and I were hanging out in a friend’s book store. It’s tiny, with a wonderful little alcove for the children’s books and a thoughtful selection of adult fare. My friend is also fairly liberal with her air-conditioning. In short, our needs were being met in every possible way. Daughter tucked into a dead end of books and pillows and I was at the counter paging through an expensive art book, idly chatting with my friend, who was behind the counter. A woman walked in, asking long questions of the sales woman, so I took my book and moved over towards Daughter.

After a few minutes, the woman who had walked in after us came over to me.

“Pardon me,” she asked in a simpering tone “but weren’t you on television?”

The questions about being a child actor are never a favorite part of my life, but I closed the book of Vermeer paintings and smiled pleasantly.

“Yes, when I was a child” I said in a tone which I hoped implied “That should be it, right?”

She squeaked excitedly “I knew it! What show was it?” She leaned in towards me and, by extension, Daughter, who was now boxed in.

“Family” I said politely.

“I loved that show!”

“I’m really glad to hear it” I said sincerely. I mean, I don’t actually care on some basic level, but if something I did made someone happy, that’s better than finding out that something I did caused an epidemic of ear infections.

She leaned over and stared into Daughter’s face. Her voice moved up into a range usually only achieved by finches.

“Is this your daughter? Ooh, she’s so cute.”

I tried moving between them.

“Thank you. She’s reading right now.”

Apparently, that was too subtle a hint, because this woman developed a terrier-like tenacity to engage in conversation with my kid.

“Did you know that your Mommy is famous? Did you know that your Mommy used to be on TV? I used to watch her all the time, she was so cute. You’re such a cutie yourself! Did you know about your Mommy being famous? Do you know what famous means?”

The woman caught my eye, which was fairly easy as, under the guise of moving some books back into place, I was trying to create a barrier between my kid and Former-Celebrity Vampire. She giggled to me, “It’s hard to explain fame to little children”.

I thought, “Perhaps that’s because it’s not your job to explain anything to my kid. In fact, if you talk to her again, I’ll punch your nose so hard that when you inhale, you’ll breathe brain”.

But what I said was, “Yes. Well, don’t let us keep you”.

Mercifully, at that moment she happened to see someone else she wanted to annoy and scurried away. I leaned over to Daughter, who had picked up her book again, and spoke softly.

“Long story short, sweetie…I was on television when I was a kid, but older than you are. I pretended to be different people. I had fun, and I don’t do it anymore”

Daughter blinked.

“What did you look like?”

“Mostly, me.”

She went back to reading. I went back to seething.

This certainly isn’t the first time someone has said something thoughtless to me in a public place. I think one of the side-effects of having come in to people’s houses on a television is that people forget that you actually exist and might have feelings about what they say. You can say something hurtful and stupid about an end table without worrying about the end table, why should you have to stop to consider what someone who lived inside your television might think?

You want a couple of examples? Like most of my friends, I had retail jobs when I was a teenager. This provided us with pocket money and employee discounts. I remember the woman who leaned over the counter during the peak of Saturday afternoon rush, grabbed my wrist and said with faux sympathy “Are you working here because you need the money? Did you spend it all on drugs? Or did your parents use it up?” How about the woman who waited until I had finished bagging her stuff and then said to her husband in ringing tones “Can you imagine. From stardom to having to work in a place like this”. I wanted to say, “Hey, lady, you just shopped in a place like this!” But I didn’t. Mean stupid people seem to live for those moments. I am just grateful there weren’t camera cell phones and the Internet during my public career in retail. A nice, blurry camera-phone snapshot of me re-stocking the shelves at The Limited making the rounds of gossip blogs would have compounded my aggravation.

But I believe the unwritten rule which says my brief moment in the sun requires me to be eternally available and pleasant to strangers, no matter how private the moment of their intrusion, does not extend to my child. So, the question becomes: does this make me a hypocrite? I write a blog about my life, and she is a huge part of my life so she is included. Her privacy is thus compromised, but readers who are spread out all over the world, which should keep her protected to some degree. It still dazzles me that people read this in Dubai and Katmandu, but the odds of these folks seeing us while I order a soy latte at the neighborhood café are fairly slim.

I worried this particular bone for quite a while before starting the QC Report, and was prepared to live with Walt Whitman’s take on the matter:

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes).

As a motto, it works. But one of the multitudes I contain is a mother who is prepared to propel a stranger’s sinus bone four inches backwards to defend my child’s right to read a book without being bothered. I need to figure out whether I can remain true to the writer in the multitude as well as the protective parent.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

It's not the heat, it's the stupidity

For some people, blazing heat combined with stifling humidity frizzes their hair. For others, it disturbs their sleep. I’m lucky. The weather we’ve been having this week just makes my brain dribble out of my ears and collect in pools in my clavicle. If I get any more stupid, I’ll forget to breathe.

Example 1: Today was street-cleaning day, so Consort moved both of our cars to the correct side, one behind the other [Do you not have a garage? I hear you asking. Well, yes, we do. But Consort has a home-improvement project in there which might be compromised by parking cars in the garage. He swears it will be finished momentarily. I hope our great-grandchildren will someday be able to park their hovercraft in there]. Daughter and I went to a kids program this morning and when we returned a car had parked in the space I had occupied this morning, directly behind Consort’s car. The car now filling this space happened to be identical to mine: exact same make, exact same color, exact same interior. I idled staring at this car for a full minute, convinced I had somehow driven off in someone else’s car. Finally, using my most casual tone, I asked Daughter “Doesn’t that look like our car?” She glanced up for just a moment and replied, “No, there isn’t a dent in the back.” Only then was I finally able to park.

Example 2
[Actually, Examples 2 through 7 because I have repeated this one several times]: I’ll be puttering in the kitchen and will take some dry dishes from the dishwasher to the cupboard. Mid-room, I will notice out of the corner of my eye something on the stove which should be on the counter. I will pivot one quarter-turn to pick it up only to glance down and realize my hands are full and pivot back one-quarter turn to put the dishes away. I will start to move forward, only to see the exact same object in the corner of my eye -- the object I still have no room to hold -- and pivot back towards it again. Repeat the above dance step several more times to fully appreciate how stupid I have become. Someone peering in the window might safely assume one of my heels is nailed to the floor.

Example 3: Consort and I were unloading groceries while the world’s largest moth bounded around the kitchen, careening off the walls, creating a breeze and generally mocking us. The thing was the size of a grapefruit. It was impossible to continue a conversation with this oscillating B52 flapping around so I looked down on the counter and carefully chose something with which to whack it. I chose box of light bulbs. It wasn’t bad enough that a box of light bulbs weighs, at most, three ounces. The real problem is that …THEY ARE MADE OF GLASS. Apparently, my cunning plan was that the moth would look up and think “Man, she’s prepared to shove glass shards into her own tendons. This broad is nuts. I’d better get out of here!”

Luckily, the weather seems to affect a few other people this way as well. As I mentioned, Daughter and I went to a kid’s program this morning. It was a show where trained professionals brought out different mammals and talked about them. After the talk, the kids would get to ask questions.

I am not making fun of small children. I am not. I heard some of these kids asking their parents very logical and complicated questions on the way in to the show. Granted, most of these questions involved what was going to be playing on the car DVD player for the ride home, but I could not have phrased these requests any more cogently myself. However, once these children were in a warm outdoor environment and the trainer asked if there were any questions, their hands shot up while their brains scuttled away.

TRAINER: This is Bonky. He’s a North American gray fox. He’s about six months old. He likes to eat mice and insects. The reason he’s so quiet right now is that he’s nocturnal. Can you all say that? ‘Nocturnal’ means he comes out at night. Does anyone have any questions?

(First child flings herself on to the stage, gasping with the effort of trying to be chosen)

TRAINER: OK, you have a question?

(There is a pause. Clearly, the child hadn’t planned this far in advance.)

CHILD #1: …. What’s his name?

TRAINER: Bonky. Anyone else?

(Children rush the stage. Trainer picks a child who is tearing at the trainer’s pant leg.)


CHILD #2: Hi.



TRAINER: Do you have a question?

CHILD #2: I have a kitty-cat.

TRAINER: That’s great. Does anyone have a question? Yes, you?

(He points to slightly older child, clearly in hope of getting a question.)

CHILD #3: Yeah, uh. How old is she?

TRAINER: He’s about six months old. Anyone else?

(A child is holding one arm up with the other arm. The arm in the air is flailing with life-or-death urgency.)

TRAINER: Yes, do you have a question?

CHILD #4: I have a cat, too.

TRAINER: Does anyone else have a question?

(The crowd roils. The arms wave.)

TRAINER: A question that isn’t about your own pet?

(The crowd shifts a little bit. Two hands remain up. The trainer picks one of the two.)

TRAINER: Yes, what would you like to know about the fox?

CHILD #5: How old is she?

TRAINER: He’s six months old.

CHILD #5: My cat is three years old. Her name is Bumpers.

And they had nine more animals to show us.

Today, maybe a brain would have been redundant.

Monday, July 18, 2005

I Love the Nightlife.

As I write this, it is 9:52 PM. The dog is asleep. The cat is asleep. I wish to be asleep. Daughter is agitating to play Animal Habitat Bingo. She has been out of school and off a schedule for only three weeks, and yet she has effortlessly developed the sleeping hours of a club promoter. I’m surprised she hasn’t asked for blackout curtains for her room.

Her schedule has never gone to Hell so thoroughly before. On the other hand, she has never had a schedule as densely packed as she had this past school year, so maybe that’s how it goes. Perhaps, after her first year at medical school, Daughter will spend the entire summer hooked up to a feeding tube watching The Facts of Life re-runs. We’ll move her regularly to keep her from getting bedsores.

Her room is wall-to-wall unfinished projects right now, but I’ve given up the pleasure of a clean bedroom for two months so she can have the pleasure of working on things over days. Not demanding an end-of-day cleanup is a first for me; clutter brings up welts on my arms and I have a real talent for cramming things into our dollhouse-sized closets. [I once wondered aloud why people in 1920 didn’t have more closet space. Consort looked at me pityingly and said, “Because they didn’t have so much stuff”. Only, he didn’t use the word “stuff”.]

As for her meals, better I should walk you through today. It was slightly worse than usual, but not much.

8:30 am: Woke up, went to the kitchen and got herself a yogurt.

9:30 am: When I came home from an appointment, she and Consort were having breakfast cereal. She was also eating a lollipop, which Consort couldn’t adequately explain.

12:00pm: Started agitating for lunch; had a grilled-cheese sandwich.

1:00 pm: Agitated for lunch and suggested a grilled-cheese sandwich. Reminded that she had, in fact, eaten lunch she agitated for exactly the same food only now called it a snack. Was given carrots.

3:00pm: Found eating another container of yogurt.

4:30pm: While at the grocery store with me, she suggested that unless she ate some of the dried blueberries I had just bought, she might possibly faint before reaching the car. I paid for them first, and gave her the bag, which she consumed in its entirety.

6:00pm-9:00pm: She consumed, in no particular order, a bag of frozen soy beans (still frozen), baked broccoli nuggets, graham crackers, more dried blueberries, tabouli, and mango slices. Just now, reading what she ate, I realize this is a meal to thrill a bonobo monkey.

I’m not sure cutlery was ever involved in today’s rations. It’s getting a little feral around here. If the summer vacation lasted a month longer we’d probably be handing her a slingshot, sending her outside and wishing her luck.

Of course, on the other side of the whole Wendy And The Lost Boys summer theme is Quinn The Highly Organized. With Daughter out of school, I am trying to get all the routine check-ups out of the way so I’m not obliged to pull her out of school for half a day in October just to find out her eyesight is perfect. We had a routine check-up today, in fact. As I was supervising seat belt buckling, I tried to look at my daughter as a stranger would. She’s been experimenting with mixing patterns lately, which is why she was sporting leaf-patterned shorts, a plaid shirt and butterfly anklets: this outfit would have triggered an epileptic seizure in one susceptible to such things if it wasn’t covered in dust, food and poster paint. Her hairdo was five small ponytails of varying heights and thicknesses scattered over her head like deranged oil derricks. It’s a look which says “Crop Circles” to all but the most inner circle of her family. Thanks to a run-in with a friends’ scooter last night, she is also sporting a very noticeable black eye. Stick-on sparkly earrings from a princess-party goody-bag completed the look.

Yeah, I took her to the doctor’s office looking like that. I figured that by the time anybody from Social Services answered the call from a concerned nurse, Daughter and I would be long gone.

So, the question is, are we having fun? Well, yeah. I mean, it’s not all smiles and squalor. I still thwart her at least once a day when she wants to do something completely reasonable like back the car out of the garage, and she can walk around in the same shorts for three days, but I need teeth to be brushed, please. Having her home, and not at camp, means I haven’t seen the gym very often: turns out, walking on the treadmill is part of what keeps me pleasant. Who knew? At least once a day I say in increasingly plangent tones “Please stop braiding my hair, I need five minutes to myself and you need to find something to do in your room

But, all in all, if I had to send a postcard from this summer, it would read:

Having a great time.

Glad I’m here.


p.s. Send dried blueberries.

Poet's Corner.

Insignifica, the Muse of blog writing, is not with me today, so I am going to offer you one of my favorite poems.

Remorse for Intemperate Speech, by William Butler Yeats

I RANTED to the knave and fool,
But outgrew that school,
Would transform the part,
Fit audience found,
but cannot rule
My fanatic heart.

I sought my betters:
though in each
Fine manners,
liberal speech,
Turn hatred into sport,
Nothing said or done can reach
My fanatic heart,

Out of Ireland have we come.
Great hatred, little room,
Maimed us at the start.
I carry from my mother's womb
A fanatic heart.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Toys in the Attic

Sometimes, I simply must dump out the files in the old head. None of these merit their own column, but until I write about them, I won’t have enough storage space up there to think of anything new. I’d work harder at trying to create a single cohesive entry, but I made a bad choice and have to conserve my energy for the night ahead. Disgusting anecdote to follow:

I had an early dinner tonight. Some sort of pre-made grocery store salad. I offered it to Daughter first, who turned up her nose at it. I sat down and ate about half of it right out of the small container, thinking “This really isn’t very tasty, but I could use the vegetables”. Only after my indifferent palate finally sent up a sluggish message along the lines of This Is No Longer Food! did I finally look at the “Sell By” date.

And screamed.

I feel fine so far. Still, I have no reason to hope my stomach will let this stand, no pun intended. We’ll be orienting the TV so I can glimpse it from the bathroom.

And now, on to the random Head Nuggets.

1. Like many females in Los Angeles, my dog is exceptionally attractive, has a strange relationship with food, and is hugely stupid. However, I am excited to tell you about an event which happened a few nights ago. She barked to be let out. I let her out and watched her trot purposefully toward the dog run, only to get to the edge of the yard, turn and trot equally purposefully back to the house. After a second, the hedge where she had turned started to wiggle a bit, and a skunk walked out, tail in high readiness. I am hesitant to give it a name, but I think the dog might have actually…learned something.

Or she remembered that she hadn’t eaten a roll of toilet paper yet that day.

2.I don’t want to brag or anything, but I am staggeringly powerful. I can be sitting in the kitchen and think “Daughter hasn’t played with those finger puppets in ages. I can probably safely give them away.” Within a minute, Daughter will walk from the living room [where she was attempting to put earrings on the cat] into her room and bring down the finger puppets. She will strew them all over her room and insist on bringing one to sit next to her at dinner. My power, though, is not long-lasting: she will play with the formerly forgotten toy only until I take the bag of outgrown toys to the homeless shelter, thereby assuring us the finger puppets will be with us for another six months, until I make the run again.

3.I had a clothes dryer issue this week. Long story short: the dryer produced air, but not hot air. The odds were good that the dryer was already walking towards the light, being as it came with the house and the people who owned the house before me specialized in buying the cheapest appliances on Earth, preferably with dents. I could bring in the appliance guy, and find out for sixty-five dollars that the dryer was dead. Or I could just assume it was dead and put that money towards buying another one, but be forever haunted by whether I let it go too soon. But what is too soon? The dryer is at least eight years old, maybe much older, and appears to have been manufactured in Tajikistan. Was I being some mindless consuming machine to think about owning a dryer which had English words on it? Or was I being shortsighted and just setting myself up for a year of small yet expensive repairs before I finally pulled the plug, as it were?

I worried this bone for three days before finally having the guy come today. The thermometer had broken, which is expensive, but still slightly less than replacement. As luck would have it, the repairman was from the former USSR, and thus, familiar with my dryer. He did seem impressed, though, to see one of them not serving a collective apartment block back in the old country. Apparently, with just a little tinkering, I could get the dryer to let me know when it was done drying our clothes by playing the “Internationale”.

4.When I was 16, and drove my new (to me) car away from the house for the first time, I felt a pure shot of freedom directly to the brain stem. I’m lucky I didn’t keel over. No more waiting for someone to drive me, no accounting for mindless activities, no having to find consensus with my mother over the radio selection. In that Honda, it was Planet Quinn, sister, and all hail the Queen!

Two decades on, I planned all of today around “I refuse to get into that (expletive deleted) thing”. Daughter and I did all sorts of silly things around the house, biked to our errands, and never once did I hear the sound of an engine starting under my feet. I feel some adult version of the teenager’s giddy exhilaration at having gotten away from the thing which constrains me, tempered with an adult’s sober knowledge that unless I plan to convert to Amish or move to a city with an effective public transportation system, I’m back in that car soon.

Don’t even get me started on the “freedom” of the cell phone. I’m off to eat a few Alka-Seltzer right out of the bottle and hope my show has very few food commercials. See you soon.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

QC (Book) Report, Part Two.

I was thinking about blurting out another book review, but when I was deciding which book to crow about, I realized that all of my recent favorites have come from the same place.

That place would be the New York Review of Books Children’s Collection (, look up Children’s Collection on the right-hand side of the screen), as marvelous and idiosyncratic a book publisher as you could ever want. These are books which, to quote the website, “...have fallen out of print, or simply out of sight, in recent years”. I have found these books to be highly entertaining for parents and child, a rare trick. [Daughter enjoyed “Walter the Farting Dog” but I felt strongly that the subject didn’t require a whole book, let alone a sequel].

Not only do they have the charming and timeless “Jenny and the Cat Club”, they have several other books about Jenny being reprinted this fall. I don’t know whether Daughter or I are more excited about this.

They also have the lunatic “The Magic Pudding”, a book which made Consort walk out of Daughter’s room shaking his head mumbling “That’s a weird one!" -- this from a man who attended art school and is uniquely qualified to discuss weird. Daughter adored it.

On the off chance you are buying books for a girl who likes to read about girls and cats, preferably cats who can talk, may I suggest “Carbonel”?

Wander over, take a look. And, while you’re already parked, browse the adult store as well.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Food Chain of Fools.

I have been to the food court.

No, it needs a more accurate name.

How about “Retail Adjacent Grease Trap”?

If they insist on including the word food and want to keep the law-and-order theme, might I suggest “Food Jail”?

I avoid a food court at the mall assiduously. I don’t need any beverage which requires its own wheeled cart. But yesterday, I had to do a stupid errand at Verizon, and when I was finally done (Was getting the ear-piece replaced for free really worth an hour of my time?), I realized:

A) Daughter, who was at a play-date ten minutes from the mall, had to be picked up in half an hour, and
B) I was about to fall down from hunger.

I headed towards the food court fearfully.

Something to notice the next time you’re toying with getting a Cinnabun: color theory. It has been proven in multiple studies that certain colors affect us in certain ways.

Looking at the color pink decreases bad moods and hostility, which is why it is being used in prisons (I think the Strawberry Shortcake sheet sets for the prisoners is a bit much, though).

A yellow room speeds metabolism, but makes people edgy (Cranky, but thin. I could accept that).

The color red makes a person hungry. Many restaurants use it as their main color. Unfortunately, it can also make people aggressive and emotional.

I thought about that as I chewed on my bean-and-cheese burrito at the Food Court. This area wasn’t just accented with red, it was setting the industry standard for red. What wasn’t painted red was neon red; it was as if I was eating inside a stomach designed by Caesar’s Palace. I didn’t notice feeling any hungrier than usual. On the other hand, the burrito was the length of my forearm, and I did a fair amount of damage to it before pushing it away in disgust.

Aggression was another story. Everywhere I looked, people were clearly one word away from finding out what a plastic spork could do if jammed in the throat of their lunch companion.

Seated next to me were a mother and daughter of about fourteen. Admittedly, for the better part of my lunch they were quiet, but it was a poisonous quiet, a toxic quiet.

A reloading quiet.

The girl broke the silence.

“I’ll only wear the top on the weekends, and not to school, and I’ll wear the shorts with a big shirt”

“No. They’re too revealing” her mother said firmly, stirring her coffee with a bit more agitation than it might have required.

Her daughter launched directly into the outer orbit of whining.

“This is, like, so unfair,” she wailed while fishing around for a Boba tapioca ball. “You’re, like, treating me like I can’t take care of myself.”

I watched with a certain interest and divided loyalties. I have been the whining teenager and soon enough I will be that mother, taking something from a pillbox in her purse and swallowing it with a practiced, furtive gulp.

The mother breathed in and out, and said, “You have your whole life to walk around with your butt hanging out of your shorts. The shorts I buy you will cover the tops of your thighs”

“You’re just jealous that I can wear them and you can’t!” the daughter shrieked.

Ow, that’s going on her permanent record. Even in the red din of the food court, several nearby eaters looked up. Her mother grabbed her purse with one hand and several items from the table with the other. Her daughter wailed in anguish.

“You can walk home,” she said, and walked briskly towards the doors to the parking lot. The daughter flung herself after the departing figure. I’d like to think it was to apologize to the woman who gave her life. But more likely, it was because her mother grabbed the girl’s IPod and cell phone.

Taking my lunch flotsam to the trash, I watched a woman with what I imagine were her two children, being as they all shared small piggy eyes and builds that led me to believe they enjoy…um… let's just say more sedentary activities. I must admit, though, for a big gal she moved with remarkable speed and grace, grabbing the boy as he attempted to whack his sister over the head with a tray.

“Grayson...!” she roared, thumping his melon head with one meaty hand while with the other grabbing her daughter who, taking advantage of her brother's moment of distraction, was about to dump a soda on his head. “...You’re working my last nerve.”

“Breanna ate the last fry,” he whined. Then he took off his trucker's hat -- emblazoned with the words “Federal Breast Inspector” -- and started flailing at whatever part of his sister he could reach behind his mother.

The mother narrowed already tiny eyes and snagged both of their t-shirts, briefly holding them at bay.

“Y’all keep this up,” she bellowed, “and nobody gets fries for the rest of the day!”

A nearly identical expression of mute horror crossed their faces. Clearly, this was a woman who knew her audience. I dumped my trash and headed away from yet another happy family, checking my watch.

I had ten minutes before I had to leave and a new Vogue burning a hole in my purse. The food court was loud and pulsating with saturated fat, but it was still cooler than sitting in my car. I took an available seat. There were two women sitting behind me, facing one another. Because of a trick of acoustics, I could hear nothing of what the woman behind me was saying, but every breath uttered by the woman across from her. It went like this:

WOMAN 1: Mumble mumble, mumble, mumble.

WOMAN 2: Oh no, she di’nt!

WOMAN 1: MUMBLE, mumblemumblemumble. Mumble (laugh) MUMBLE

WOMAN 2: Oh no, she di’nt!

WOMAN 1: MUMBLE (slurp) mumblemumblemumblemumble. Mumble.

WOMAN 2: Oh no, she di’nt!

WOMAN 1: (silence)

WOMAN 2: Oh no, she di’nt!

Clearly now, the color red was starting to have the secondary effect upon me, because all I wanted to do was stand up, walk to their table and say, “Apparently, she did. And I’m just thinking out loud now, but maybe you could say even ONE OTHER PHRASE!.”

What this food court really needs is a liquor license.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Whenever I Call You Friend.

Consort and I were shopping, and he peeled off to get some carnivorous things for himself. When he came back, he found me waist-deep in conversation with a woman tending to a full grocery cart and two small children.

“…but this one here,” she said, gesturing to the toddler currently trying to climb her pants, “still nurses at least three times a day”

“Are you going to wean him?”

“He’ll go to day-care part-time in September; I think it might happen naturally then”

As Consort read the back of the Pirate’s Booty bag, she and I discussed our mutual dislike of a certain playground mother (You know her -- whatever snack you bring out, no matter how wholesome, she wrinkles her nose and says “Oh, you let her eat that?”). We segued into our longings to have a pedicure and what we heard of a local summer camp program. Finally, we wound down.

“This was great,” I said sincerely. “I guess I’ll see you around.”

“Yeah, take care” she said as she peeled her children off the box of fruit popsicles.

“You, too. Good luck with your son’s night terrors.”

Consort and I walked in one direction, she in another. After a second, Consort asked me “Do you know her from the park?”

“No, we know people in common, but we’ve never met there.”

“Is her son in our school?”

“No, she’s thinking a progressive, child-led educational model”

Consort waited a beat. I thought about what kind of soup to get. He finally said, “So how do you know her?”

I looked puzzled.

“I just met her. We were going for the same juice boxes.”

The Grocery Store Friend: a phenomenon of the parents of small children.

Actually, that might not be entirely accurate. Perhaps when I am eighty, I will engage in long conversations with elderly strangers I meet in the pharmacy. But before having a child, I had never experienced a brief yet highly pleasurable social interaction based on both people needing an Ariel toothbrush and toothpaste which squeezes out in the shape of a crown. In my twenties, rushing into a store after work to buy cat food, cat litter, a Harper’s Bazaar and a Lean Cuisine, it never would have occurred to me to say to another single woman “I notice you’re going for the Purina Premium Plate”.

But there is something disarmingly intimate about shopping with your kid. Your own relatives might not know your kid can talk you into opening the pretzel bag in the store with one well-pitched “Mommeeeee”, but everyone in your aisle now does. You might be able to convince your sister that your kid eats her vegetables just for the sheer joy of building bone and muscle mass: the people around you in the grocery store know you’ve held up a broccoli head in one hand and a box of Oreos in the other and said, “I see you eat one, you get the other. Capisce?” You see another mother with a small child and a hunted expression at which point you’re likely to say anything.

If you don’t have your child with you, it’s a little trickier. In order to bond with the Grocery Store Friend, you must let them know you have one of those charming creatures yourself much in the way guys manage to indicate to each other they’re Mets fans or own Porsches. Most mothers would find a woman without a child who is interested in talking about thrush to be somewhat unsettling. I try to work Daughter into conversation subtly.

SCENE: Quinn and woman with infant in bucket seat are waiting for cheese counter guy to come back from wherever he grates Parmesan. Quinn smiles at the woman, who smiles politely back. Quinn glances at baby.

QUINN: What a lovely…baby (Baby is wearing yellow. Stick with gender neutralities). Look how alert the baby is!

(The baby is alert. The baby also has a hairline which resembles a beret which has slid nearly to its eyebrows, but only on one side. Quinn dearly hopes this child has a grandparent who does laser hair removal.)

MOTHER: (Proudly) Yes, very alert.

(The conversation stops. The cheese man cometh, but only to tell us the grater is stuck, and to give him a minute. He leaves again. Silence reigns. I decide, in a discreet way, to bring Daughter into the conversation. I scan the child frantically.

QUINN: What wonderful…socks the baby is wearing. My daughter had socks like that.

MOTHER: How old is your daughter?

Okay, it wasn’t a graceful leap into the conversational abyss, but when Cheese Guy finally came back, we were discussing breast pumps and her ambivalence about going back to work at the end of her maternity leave. I had also determined, much to my relief, that the child was a boy.

So, you may ask, why work so hard? Why can’t I just enjoy the silence of my own head while remembering whether I need to buy peanut butter? Because I like these interactions. If you’re lucky, you hear an interesting story and get a lead on cheap school shoes. If you’re not lucky and it turns out that, even though you have exactly the same items in your baskets, you couldn’t have less in common and find each other confusing and irritating…So what? You dip your toe in, you dip your toe out, and you pick up a pound of apples.

There are a million stories in the produce section.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

A Favor.

I have been asked to give a few QC reports to someone. Obviously, I would like them to be entertaining. The thing is, I cannot seem to tease out which are the most worthy of printing and handing to someone: in my eyes, all of my children are pretty in their own way.

At the risk of sounding supremely snotty, would anyone like to give me a hint as to what to send?

I thank you sincerely.

Signs of Life.

This weekend, I found a glimpse of humanity in the most unlikely place. I speak, of course, of Rite-Aid.

Daughter spends Sunday mornings with my mother. Yesterday, after dropping her off, I chose to go wild and buy buttons and thread to make a hand-me-down viable as a dress for Daughter and not just an apron. This, like so many stupid errands, sucked up all available time without leaving any satisfaction in its wake.

The two fabric stores near my mother were closed (What? Does no one need to buy Halloween-themed quilting fabric on the day of rest?), and the Target parking lot was unsettlingly full. Between parking, locating thread and waiting forever to check out, I was going to spend an hour buying two dollars worth of goods. Or, more likely, I was going to spend two hours, one hundred dollars, and fill my trunk with Pepperidge Farm goldfish crackers, a new cordless phone and tube socks which were on sale. I needed someplace less distracting.

As if in a dream, the illuminated Rite-Aid sign shone through the fog (Actually, it was blazingly sunny and smoggy, but “shone through the exhaust” is sort of depressing). An all-purpose pharmacy! Yes, they will have buttons and thread! The thread won’t match the dress, but Daughter moves quickly, and no one will be able to see the color of the thread. Most important, I don’t need diabetes blood-testers or lawn chairs, so the chance of spending serious bills in Rite-Aid was pretty small. I pulled into the parking lot.

Did you know that only one person actually works at each Rite-Aid? She (and it’s always a woman) is up at check-out, and answers any question about where a product would be located with “That’s on Aisle 7, near the back”. I made my way to Aisle 7 and found four other people looking blank and asking one another “Do you see barbeque mitts?” “No, is that dental floss next to your hand?” This was, apparently, the holding pen. Before they bundled us into a truck and took us to the stockyards, I made my way out and starting scouring the aisles for buttons and thread.

I made my way to Aisle 8, and gazed up at the hanging sign, the one indicating what was on that aisle. Since I doubt most people wake up one morning and think “It’s all ashes unless I can make my favorite shirt a button-down again!” I assumed sewing notions weren’t going to be popular enough to merit a position on a sign. I would have to find the sewing stuff because it was near a related item. I glanced at the sign:


Probably not. Couldn’t hurt to walk down the aisle, though. No buttons, but I marveled at the range of weights of motor oil.

Next aisle:


I stopped to consider this. Really, potpourri from a store where you can get hemorrhoid pads? Admittedly, scented things are pretty much lost on me. But don’t you just know that if you opened four different fragrances and blindfolded someone, they would describe each scent as “Newly cleaned bus station bathroom”? One had a picture of a kitten on the box. I love a cute kitten as much as the next person, but I don’t think I’ve ever wanted a room to smell like one.

I walked to the next aisle:


I nodded approvingly. Clearly, whoever decides where things go has a pet. Probably a dog. Possibly a dog with separation anxiety issues. You get toilet paper for the small messes and paper towels for when the dog gets anxious and eats a seventeen-pound ham and vomits in every room in the house. Twice in the closets.

I had to see what the next aisle offered:


Success! But, I simply must contemplate what my store-designing friend was aiming for here. It was painfully clear to me that this person was the one at high-school raves putting coasters under the Rolling Rocks. Clearly, this sweet person was trying to suggest gently “It’s easy to keep your house clean while having a party! It can be fun! Look, plastic trash bags with self-ties, you don’t even need to keep those twisty things in your pocket!” But why keep the sewing stuff on this aisle? In a flash, I saw it. The end of the party, bodies and bottles strewn everywhere, the host in custody, and my new friend sitting on the last unbroken chair, frantically whip-stitching the torn hem of a friend’s skirt.

Sadly, the selection offered me nothing I could use. I might have left, but departing without finishing the Walking Tour of Signs was impossible.

I happily walked on and saw:


This was taking a melancholy turn; my friend had wanted to be a poet, but due to family obligations had gone to work at the Rite-Aid organization with only these signs as a heartbreaking reminder of a talent for alliteration. I admired the use of the word “Cookie” twice. Was this a commentary on the American overwhelming need to consume? Did anyone in the organization question putting the condiments on what was obviously the fast food aisle? Was the sign- maker forced to defend his or her right to express what might have been the last gasp of creative spirit? Or was Rite-Aid just happy to find someone who could work with the word “Condiments” without giggling?

I took a breath and continued:


Now, that’s just mean. No man will ever be convinced to pick up baby stuff if he thinks he’s less than five feet from a product that promises “Meadow Freshness” and has a picture of a kitten on the box…wait a minute; this is the same box they use for potpourri. There’s a second place I don’t think needs that scent. And having it next to the end-cap of Christmas lights in slightly dented boxes seemed incongruous. Perhaps placing it there was some kind of coded warning. Perhaps the Sign Maker was trying to save us all from oddly-scented products…or faulty wiring.

No wonder my friend got so bitter. I imagined him locked in a small office in the back of the store, endlessly eyeing the security monitors, watching people walk by his handiwork day after day, taking no more than a second to see if the aisle had what they needed before moving on. Well, Sign Maker, I saw it all.

For once, you were among friends.

I raised a fist in solidarity towards the first hidden camera I could find, and headed out to pick up my kid.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Everybody Do the Jerk

First of all, I would like to say that I hate having a cold in the summer. It’s not like I say “Hooray! The days are getting shorter and my nose is running!” when I get a cold in November, but at least soup and warm blankets don’t sound like an abomination. You are not supposed to buy Ny-Quil while wearing shorts. How can I prove that a summer cold defies the natural order of things? It’s called a summer cold. Do you call it a winter cold? You do not, because a cold is supposed to plague you in the winter. I couldn’t feel any more incongruous if I was basting a turkey and making cranberry relish this week.


Veronica flounced in to our lunch date just as I was toying with my second slice of bread. She hit the ground running.

“What do you do when a close friend has married a jackass?”

I asked, “Are we talking Consort? Is this an intervention?”

She shook her head decisively and grabbed a breadstick.

“No, he’s adorable. My family just got back from a week at Lake Arrowhead. We stayed at the house of my best friend from college and her husband.”

I said sympathetically, “Bad?”

“Bad?” she snorted. “Finding out you owe three years of back taxes is bad. This guy is a nightmare.”

“Was he always this bad?”

“Actually, yes, but I didn't see enough of him to know this was his personality.” she said thoughtfully. “We’ve had dinner with them a bunch of times, and I always walked away thinking he was a jackass, but I blamed it on wine. But he’s not drinking now and, if anything, he was worse.”

“Like how?”

“Okay. You know how much he paid for their vacation house? Because I do! I also know how much it has appreciated, and that another partner at his firm paid twice what he paid for a house not as nice as his. He also paid fifteen thousand dollars for the carpet in their vacation house, if you care. Because I didn’t care. And I cared even less every single time he told me.”

“So, it’s money.”

“Oh, no. Just money would be almost tolerable. At one point, I went down to the dock to relax and read a book. After about ten minutes, he plopped down next to me and informed me of the personal details of his recent divorce clients.”

“Isn’t that illegal?”

“The way he does it, yeah. I toyed with the idea of telling him I recognized the husband with the fetish for online livestock porn and the founders’ stock in Yahoo. But that would have required talking to him, so I decided not to.”

I winced sympathetically.

“He’s a loudmouth with a wallet for a brain. Ouch”

“He also likes to tell my friend, Amelia, how she’s gaining weight and can’t cook and can’t get pregnant. Only, of course, he does it as a joke so she’s supposed to laugh. Of course, it’s a completely unfunny joke, so he’s braying and smirking while she kind of laughs along, but she looks completely miserable,” she said, stabbing fiercely at a tomato. “I seriously thought about drowning him. Only, I’m short and he works out six times a week, which happens to be another of his favorite topics.”

I chewed and thought.

“Does your friend see any of this?”

“I think she does. There were points when he was running his mouth about something where I would look at her and she would just seem…” Victoria thought for a second.

“Sad and embarrassed?” I volunteered.

“Yeah,” she sighed.

We both stared at our entrées and ruminated. It was time to change the subject, so we did.


Every decade or so, all women get to confront the great issue of what to do with a friend who is dating a jerk. In your teens, it becomes just one more marvelous ingredient for the Drama Stew you are all simmering in (“…He’s totally cheating on her, but what am I supposed to do? And do you have the notes for the French midterm, because I am totally going to fail unless you help me!...”)

In your twenties, you have enough dating scar tissue to know that:

A) Men are temporary, but anything you say about a temporary boyfriend is permanent; and,

B) If you get too judgmental about your girlfriend’s choice in men, you will be fated to date a drummer before Thanksgiving.

In short, you give your friends room when they date the extremely irritating, and welcome them back into the fold when they jettison the idiot.

Even into your thirties, you can support a friend dating a fool. Granted, it ends up being a lot of lunches where she cries and you offer things you recall from an article you read in Self magazine “…You have to ask yourself, are you a better person for dating him? Are you happier? Are you remembering to contract your abs during the height of the crunch...Oh, sorry, wrong article.”

Even the worst-case scenario is manageable. She can marry a nitwit in her late twenties or early thirties, and you can wear your bridesmaid dress with a certain confident knowledge she’ll come to her senses. Eventually. Then she’ll move in with you and you can share the waffle iron you just gave her as a wedding gift.

But marry a jerk in your late thirties or forties, and your friends will avert their gaze. They are going to assume the woman they know and love, the woman who was smart enough to get her and her friends through Italy on a two-week bicycling trip without knowing a word of Italian, knows what she has gotten into. That, due either to a fear of growing old alone and developing a need to rescue cats (which eventually eat her still-warm flesh when she dies alone in her bathroom), or the mistaken conviction that this is all she deserves, she has taken on the Prince of Pompous.

Our job is to watch our beloved friends fade away a little more each year, drink a little more wine, stay on the Vicodin after surgery longer than medically necessary, and mourn the happiness they gave away.

That, and hope devoutly that the husband’s heart fails on the back nine while he’s telling a friend about the deal he just got on a condo in Palm Springs.