Wednesday, June 11, 2008

It Ain't Me, Babe.

I hate disagreeing with well-meaning strangers but when someone says, “Your daughter looks exactly like you!” I am forced to say “No, she doesn’t.” In my defense, I try to say it softly. But then the other person insists, “No, really. She’s the spitting image of you”, at which point I say something conciliatory like “You know, now that you mention it…sure. Okay.”

But she doesn’t resemble me one bit. I say this with only the slightest eye-raising to Heaven, thanking whoever answered my prayers. What she does have are my facial expressions, my muscles under her face so to speak. I don’t own the building but the infrastructure is mine. Sometimes, watching her talk is like watching a very familiar movie with an entirely different cast. It is that combination of the familiar and the alien which is endlessly fascinating to me. Lately, the familiar has been all but overrun by the alien.

Take eggs. Please take them. With respect to eggs, I’m like a child, incapable of eating them if there is any discernible movement of either white or yolk. Any egg I eat must have the consistency of a manhole cover. If another person at the table is having a soft-cooked egg, I have to give myself little pep talks to not run screaming from the room clawing at my eyes. So, of course, I now have a daughter who is experiencing another growth spurt and requires an extra eighty grams of protein a day, She will eat three sunny-side-up eggs for a snack. She breaks the yolk open and lazily dips toast into the horrifying gooey yellowness while I stare intently at my cuticles. She eats the egg, luxuriating in whatever pleasures her sort of people derive from eating food which is still quivering. I closely examine a freckle on my wrist. A fork slides between me and my wrist, holding a bit of white limpness dotted with yellow slime.

“Want some?” she asks innocently, “It’s really good.”

I restrain myself from screaming and say through gritted teeth, “I’m…full. But thanks.”

I look up just in time to see her pop an entire egg yolk into her mouth.

“You’re sweating”, she notes.

“Yeah, I…excuse me” I say, racing from the room clawing at my eyes.

And then there’s Bob Dylan. I understand on an intellectual level that he is one of the great songwriters of the modern age and the reigning poet of his generation. I’ve read some of those lyrics and realize he’s said many important things about love and human existence, more then I ever will. For example, I don’t think he ever ranted about eggs. And how can I not appreciate someone who gave the world “The Mighty Quinn”?

[Actually, I could have done without that.]

But writing is one thing, singing is another. The first time I heard him sing was on Live-Aid. He was among the last performers of the world-wide extravaganza and it was generally understood that we were all to be very excited that Bob Dylan was going to sing for us. I sat at home, full to the eyebrows on Doritos and as keyed-up as a four year-old at Chuck E. Cheese after watching many slender British men being sensitive. And now, DYLAN! I was going to watch BOB DYLAN! And then I was going to UNDERSTAND! And then I would be COOLER! After great fanfare, they cut to what seemed to be a pile of paint-rags. The paint-rags had on a guitar and a harmonica. The paint-rags said something not entirely intelligible and then someone commenced to opening a squeaky door. Slowly. After a minute or so, I understood the paint-rags were, in fact, Bob Dylan and the squeaky door was his singing voice. I was crestfallen but illuminated. Dylan fell into the same category as Bergman films and soccer. I could respect the artistry of Bob Dylan without enjoying Bob Dylan. And barring a few painful weeks when Consort decided I’d like Dylan more if I heard more Dylan, there it was left for nearly two decades.

A few weeks ago, Daughter was avoiding handwriting practice by claiming to need background music. I don’t know why that particular CD drew her attention but the next thing I knew, “Blowing in the Wind” was blowing through my house and the squeaky door which is Bob Dylan has attained hegemony on my daughter's playlist ever since. I’m not exactly complaining, especially since the other option was the Zac Efron oeuvre, but there is something unsettling about such a small girl crooning over the soul-crushing despair of her last breakup. On the other hand maybe anomie, like measles, is less dangerous if contracted early. I do know that Consort, who is right about a great many things, was wrong about this: constant exposire to Dylan is not making me any fonder of Dylan.

Then there are the bookshelves. Rather, there is a lack of bookshelves. When our house was built, people didn’t own anything besides a pair of shoes, a towel and a copy of the Bible. At least, I assume this is true, what with our impressive absence of closet, shelf and book-space. Daughter gets new books but rarely wants to give up any old books and Daughter has the room with the absolute least amount of any kind of storage space. This has led to multiple book-ziggaruts dotting her floor. Some are small enough to step over, some tall enough to create a kind of end-table, upon which yet more books are piled . Fearing the Harry Potter-based landslide which would follow even a minor earthquake, Consort has decided to build floor-to-ceiling bookshelves running the length of one wall, complete with a built-in desk. This involved, among other things, dredging out old issues of Joinery Monthly, American Miter and similar magazines whose covers tempt you with “Seven Ways to Avoid Kerfing” and “What I Did for a Panel Saw”.

I did what I always do when Consort is thinking about using the tools which live in our garage, I said supportive things like “Look at you, touching sharp things and making a lot of noise!” and “Don't forget your protective eyewear.” It never occurred to me that Daughter would want to participate because my people don’t willingly interact with lumber. We either hire people to interact with lumber or we do without the object, creating some stand-in out of rain-soaked paperbacks and hardened cheese. But one of the goals for this spring had been to have father and daughter spend real quantity-time together and what says bonding quite like breaking a drill-bit and having to go to the hardware store for the third time in a single morning? And how else is she going to learn the more arcane obscenities?

As it turns out, she’s not just in it for the Daddy-time and forbidden vocabulary. Daughter loves working with Consort on projects. Measure twice, cut once? Yes, please! Daughter complains heartily when she is denied the chance to use the tool which has another name but I call the Finger-Eater. Daughter has taken to asking about whether there is a kids-camp for contractors. Once again, I am reminded that we are different people. Saturday, when I walked into the kitchen, the plans for the bookshelves were all over the table. Daughter was in her chair, up on her knees, stretched across the table, studying the drawings. She said happily, “I just love building things.” I nodded in a way I hoped indicated that I appreciated her passions without understanding them in the slightest.

Then I noticed what she was eating. Painfully slowly, she lifted a bit of moist egg to her mouth. Rapt in examining the blueprints, she let the fork dangle there in space, her lunch making a moist mockery of me. I needed to stop seeing it.

“Don’t you want to…” I began in a plangent tone and gulped heavily before I could finish, “…eat that?”

Distracted, she popped the shivery yellow glob in her mouth. Somewhere in the house, Bob Dylan complained about something. Daughter glanced away from the plans and smiled at me. Her expression was mine, but the brain behind it was totally hers.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

All we can do is birth 'em. Beyond that, the finished product is really beyond our control.

How else can I explain having a daughter who adores Lily Pulitzer dresses and all things pink and green, whereas I wear mostly black and eschew giant floral prints?

2:49 PM  
Blogger Leta said...

My father likes his eggs the way daughter does, except that he breaks up the toast and breaks the eggs over it. I like mine as you do yours and tend to order them in restaurants thus: "I'd like my eggs over hard, please. Over very hard. No movement. None at all." Which sounds so peculiar that the wait staff make a special note of it and they usually arrive the way I like them

3:20 PM  
Blogger vic said...

I'm totally with you on the eggs. When I was young I liked them runny but now I gag at the thought. I have to order them, at the very least, "over medium" which guarantees nothing is moving inside. Then I eat them quickly before I remember how much they gross me out. I keep getting them, though because I really like how they taste (when they're right). I know it makes no sense.

3:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the laughs!

My husband gets the same magazines and has the same tools. Do you have the Hand-cutter-offer and the eye-putter-outer as well?

3:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nature or nurture? Growing up the gay kid I preferred going to tea at Bullocks Wilshire to watch the trunk shows with my mom. However as an adult I find I am moreso my engineer father able to pull apart a broken clock/electric fan or some other assorted ge-gaw and able to repair it using not much more than intuition.

8:06 PM  
Blogger Maya said...

I know what you mean. I keep a family photo in my wallet despite having been separated from my ex for 5 years, because it's the only way to prove to strangers that my daughter looks nothing like me (yes, I am the sort of person who will wave photos at random people in checkout lines to prove a point). If you were to ask my former mother in law, the only way my genes were involved in her creation were in coming off (get it? genes/jeans? it doesn't work so well in print). After eleven years, I got four things I can claim: smile, boobs, singing voice, and the phrase "I'm just sayin'" when we're trying to help. Otherwise it's like living with a smaller and more feminine version of my ex. Oddly, it's not near as bothersome coming from my own child, who could probably breathe fire over a small Japanese village and I would still crow about how talented she is.

6:54 AM  
Blogger Claire said...

Now I know never to eat an egg in front of you. I like them drippy.

7:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OMG - "slender British men being sensitive" and I immediately flashed back to Spandau Ballet singing "We Are Virgin." Thanks for the memories.

May I suggest listening to some covers of Bob Dylan songs? Hearing his songs sung by people who can actually, you know, sing helps a lot. This trick also works wonders with Leonard Cohen.

11:03 AM  
Blogger BiPolar Wife said...

My 14-year-old daughter is a beautiful creature (currently has a part in a movie being filmed locally) with a huge heart and a soul that reinforces my belief that yes, there is a God and He made this wonderful being. However, with regard to musical tastes, she must have been absent the day God handed out the good sense in this department. She as well likes Bob Dylan probably only because he was unique, which she can relate to since she hands out "Meat is Murder" and "Disect Sentences Not Frogs" stickers in the hallway at school.

11:30 AM  
Blogger  said...

Dylan has a great voice; I mean heck, Dylan only uses the finest poet's names AND the coolest singers (Ramblin' Jack Elliot) voices.

Hey, howz 'bout a wee bit of moi's
"The Times They Ain't A Changin'"

"Pretend you're a sweet Christian
Pretend you're a hurt Jew/
Pretend you're a Buddhist or
Satanist, too/
at end you ain't nothin' but DNA goo..."

And moi gets only the most wee airplay, go figure.

Stay on groovin' safari,
Tor Hershman

12:16 PM  
Blogger  said...

BTW: I just had quintuple heart
by-pass(es), can the funkin' egg yolks.

12:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My nephew's name is Quinn and he was actually named after the song "The Mighty Quinn." Dylan's voice has definitely deteriorated over the years, but he's still a genius IMHO. I can't stand Tom Waits's voice yet I also can't deny that he is also a great songwriter and musician.

9:16 PM  
Blogger berit_k said...

i fell outta my chair at this point: "It never occurred to me that Daughter would want to participate because my people don’t willingly interact with lumber. We either hire people to interact with lumber ..."
thank you for what will undoubtedly be the highlight of my day!

11:13 AM  
Blogger Miss Cavendish said...

A lovely series of vignettes, connected, quite unexpectedly, by runny eggs and Dylan's squeaky voice.

7:40 PM  
Blogger OHN said...

I once had to explain to a dingy waitress what I meant when ordering eggs "scrambled dry". The explanation took longer than it should have.

Oh...and Dylan's voice has always been and will always be horrid. (Much to my chagrin my 19 year old son has an old soul and loves all the songs from the 60's and 70's, Dylan included-yikes.)

1:37 PM  
Blogger Skerrib said...

You might be horrified by this one--I like to cut up my over-easy eggs, put them right in the middle of my stack o' pancakes, then dump on the syrup and eat the whole thing.

On the plus side, once it's assembled you don't see a bit of egg the rest of the meal.

10:40 PM  
Blogger Melodee said...

Eggs = runny = wrong.

On that we agree.

I love your descriptions of your daughter. (Also, where have I been? I haven't been by to read your blog FOREVER! How's the book coming?)

10:55 PM  
Blogger Helen Shearer said...

I, too, can no longer eat runny eggs. As a child, the thought of scorching dysentery brought on by the salmonella in undercooked eggs never crossed my mind, but now that I'm just the other side of forty, I like my eggs firm. If nothing else is firm, at least my eggs can be.

My major problem with eggs though is not the consistency, but rather the two little white bits of jiggly egg snot that hold the yolk in place. They must be removed before cooking. They offend me tremendously.

7:13 PM  
Blogger Lene Andersen said...

I feel so validated. I never got Bob Dylan and it's apparently so heretical that you can't even admit out loud. Not without 47 people swiftly turning towards you and proceeding to lecture ad nauseam about... erm, something? I tend to tune out.

Bergman films, on the other hand, have improved with age. My age. They used to leave my mystified (and bored seneseless) and now, I find them compelling. I think it's his use of silence. Well, and the Ahrt.

11:58 AM  

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