Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My Mom Is Awesomer Than Your Mom

The top 5 reasons my mom is awesomer than your mom:
1.       My mom never allowed me to get Sea Monkeys. Are you familiar with these creatures? They’re brine shrimp, marketed as itty bitty merpeople, that swim around all day – upside down, no less – in a tiny clear container, eating their sea monkey food and having random, anonymous “encounters” with other brine shrimp. (I say anonymous because I seriously doubt that even they can tell each other apart.) When I was a child, I was a comic book junkie. Archie. Teen Titans. Starfire. Richie Rich. Dark Wing. And every comic book had that one big ad, the bane of all parents, selling Sea Monkeys. Countless times I begged my mom to let me secure a colony of these creatures. And countless times I was crushed when she refused. Well, as luck would have it, my husband bought Sea Monkeys for my kids this Christmas. And as it turns out, my mom was right. They’re irritating, boring little buggers.
2.       My mom not only babysits my children, but she asks to spend time with them. It is such a relief, when I go out of town, to know that my mom is not only willing but happy to help my husband take care of the kids. And I go out of town regularly for work. Plus, she offers to give my husband and me date night breaks and time to take care of household stuff here and there on weekends. Pretty great, eh? Now, to be fair, she’s not terribly fond of watching newborns. These offers started coming in regularly only after the kids became a bit older and more self-sufficient. So if you have a newborn and a mom who loves taking care of newborns, for now your mom may be better than my mom on this point. For you. But in a few years, my mom will win this point again. Hands down.
3.       When I was in my late teens and early twenties, mom allowed me the freedom to gain independence and experience. When I was in high school, she allowed me to go to Europe on class trips. Twice. Without her tagging along as chaperone. Without bombarding me with warnings and rules and fear. She told me to go and have a wonderful experience and to tell her all about it when I got home. Later, she encouraged me to attend college several hours from home, at minimum, so I would be forced not to come home on weekends, forced to create my own life on my own terms. And when I moved to the other side of the country after graduation, she never expressed doubt or concern or sadness, but instead she helped me learn how to set myself up and stand on my own two feet. My mom way trumps yours on that count. Unless you are my friend Nana, in which case your mom is on par with mine on this point.
4.       When I was a child, my mom totally looked like a cross between Sandy Duncan and Olivia Newton-John. Depending on your age, you almost certainly know who Olivia Newton-John is, between her singing career and her roles in Grease (classic for all time) and Xanadu (just awful, but addictive music). But you may have no idea who is this Sandy Duncan person. She was only one of the cutest little blonde stars of the ‘70s! She was Peter Pan on Broadway.  In the musical. She got to sing and fly and fight Captain Hook and lead a group of Lost Boys. And even cooler, she guest starred on both Bionic Woman and the Six Million Dollar Man. So essentially, when I was growing up, my mom was a blend of Sandy Olsen and Peter Pan. Minus the crazy frizz “You’re the One That I Want” hairdo. And she couldn’t fly. As far as you know.
Fantastic Sandy Duncan image thanks to
5.       My mom taught me proper use of the English language. She wasn’t harsh about it when I was a child, but she did make sure I read a lot (not like that was a struggle… reading is my drug of choice). She gently corrected me when I used poor grammar, even when I was very young. And when I wanted to know the definition of a word, she made me look it up so I would know not just what it meant but how it was spelled. Now, I know summa youz might not think grammer or speling is importint. And with all of today’s LOLing & WTFing & OMGing, I often SMH and wonder if today’s kids will B able 2 do more than TXT. 4 realz. But as an English major whose career was built on the use and manipulation of the English language, I can assert unequivocally that English mastery is not only beneficial but exceedingly advantageous. At the very least, if you use proper spelling and grammar, you remove a distraction; if you speak and write properly, people will be more likely to focus on what you say and less likely to nitpick the errors in how you said it. At least so my mom says. And my mama knows grammar…
Right now, she’s probably cringing that I used the word “awesomer” in this post.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Love Notes and Lunch Bags

This month officially is Women’s History Month, so it seems a strange time to do a two-part series on men.  However, I feel compelled this month to express how a few very special men helped this little woman learn to have faith in the male species.

A little over a week ago, I wrote a post about my debt ofgratitude for gay men and how they helped me believe in mens’ ability to love. Tonight, I’d like to pay homage to three men in my life who regularly shore up my faith in the generally larger and hairier gender.  They have nothing particularly identifiable in common other than that they are married and that I know them; and yes, I’m aware that the latter commonality has nothing to do with these men’s awesomeness.

The first two of these fine gentlemen is a childhood friend with whom I reconnected 2 years or so ago, and the second is a former coworker from up in the northeastern corner of the country. Both are around my age (approaching/stepping over "the hill"), both have young children and both have demanding jobs. In other words, they’re in the prime “mid-life crisis” time of life. And both clearly, without question, adore their wives, a fact that’s identifiable simply through what they note on Facebook.

It may sound trite to measure a man’s adoration of his wife by what he posts on Facebook. But give a listen... They don’t gush. They don’t fawn. They don’t overkill it. It’s not about them looking for attention from their Friends about how sweet they are to their wives (not sure why Facebook Friends are capitalized, but go with it).

But here and there, they brag about the simple joys of being married to their spouses. They post cheerfully that it’s date night. They proudly announce the arrival of a new anniversary. They state how much love they feel on the date of their better half’s birthday. It’s as if they revel in the little things so much – the simple moments which serve as proof that they get to share a life with these lovely women – that they have to share their joy with whoever will listen.

The third man, however, is on a level all his own. I won’t share his name, but he is the husband of a former coworker of mine. And he epitomizes true, unadulterated, pure adoration. He is love personified when it comes to his wife. So who is this amazing wife, and what does this gentleman do that is so amazing? Well, the wife is funny, creative, astonishingly smart and feisty, and she will regale anyone who will listen to her about what a challenge she is to live with (about which I can only take her at her word).

And him? He leaves her little love notes around the house. Nothing fancy or overdone, but little reminders that he is thinking about her. Often. When she’s working, he makes her lunch in the morning and writes and draws on the lunch bag – hearts, sweet comments, funny remarks, quirky sketches. Every day. No exaggeration. Every. Single. Day. And he drops everything when he knows she needs him, even a little bit. 

This is not someone seeking praise or attention. He’s very friendly and kind but also generally low key. He doesn’t announce what he does or ask if anyone has noticed. He does what he does simply because he feels compelled to let his wife know, every day, that he adores her.  To me – and maybe I’m alone in this – this man alone proves to me every day that men have the capacity to love right to their very core.

These aren’t the only three men I know, of course, who do things for their wives that would just make you melt as well as make you a believer. There are other examples I could give. But these men are the three whose actions – and their incredible consistency over time – most resonate with me. So through this simply little post, I wanted to give them a little thank-you for giving me that boost of faith.

How about you? What actions strike you and make you believe in love?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Man Series, Part 1: Ode to Gay Men

This month officially is Women’s History Month, so it seems a strange time to do a two-part series on men.  However, I feel compelled this month to express how a few very special men helped this little lady learn to have faith in the male species.

Let me start at the very beginning (I hear it's a very good place to start)… When I was a young girl, my parents had “the talk” with me – several of them, in fact, oh joy – that many parents have with their budding young daughters who are about to embark on their first romantic encounters.  My mom and stepdad filled me in on the ins and outs, as it were, of male-female interactions, both the clinical aspects – in waaay too much depth, thank you very much – and the more nuanced, interpersonal interactions. Many of these discussions focused on how teenage boys “want just one thing” from girls. Some of you may recall this post, and now you know what prompted it.

The result of all of this was that by the time I approached adulthood, I was fairly certain that men had a very limited capacity for love. Lust? Yes. Desire? Absolutely. Possessiveness? For sure. But love? Not really. I was convinced that what approximated love in men was really a combination of desire and possessiveness that aligned nicely with women’s longing to love and be loved.

Let me explain my thinking back then... Man wants woman, woman wants man. Check. Man desires woman, woman desires man. Check. Woman’s broad focus and driving force is love and an instinctive yearning to adore one man, thus making a relationship and marriage palatable and even desirable. Man’s broad focus and driving force is lust and possession, thus making a relationship and marriage palatable… maybe not ideal, but the best way to get what they want based on what women want. Check…?

In my head, at that time, I figured that men essentially went along with this whole “love” and “marriage” thing because it allowed them access to their end goal – consistent access to sex with less drama and challenge than they’d deal with by pursuing their real, but less realistic, dream of fleeting physical encounters with woman after woman after woman.  I had it in my head that it was sort of a male conspiracy. They knew the truth about one another, but they veiled it for us ladies and put it into our terms when interacting with us: "I love you." In other words, I gave men a lot of credit for their ability to be highly manipulative. You men may thank me for that another time.

Don’t get me wrong. The men I dated during and after college were wonderful. Kind. Respectful. Loving. I didn’t doubt that they cared for me. I simply doubted, at that time, their capacity for love and adoration. I didn’t hold it against them, though, because I figured they couldn’t be expected to go against their nature.

My breakthrough came in the mid 1990s, just after an argument a heated discussion at work about whether or not being gay was a choice. This is a topic that is very dear to my heart. Many of my close friends, a few of whom I’ve known since my earliest childhood, are gay. I’ve watched several of them struggle with acknowledging this aspect of themselves to themselves, in some cases well into adulthood. I remember years ago when one friend of mine almost formally “informed” me that her roommate was more than a roommate; she was blushing and trembling and had a look on her face of such wariness… and while I didn’t say it at the time, part of me was incredibly angry at the world for creating a situation where she had to worry that I might reject her as a friend for simply being herself, mad at the world for creating a situation where she felt she had to make a formal announcement to me about the gender of her partner. As if that should matter.

But I digress.  So we had this argument discussion at work, and I went home and stewed for a while and came up with fantastic come-backs to things said to me hours earlier. Don’t you hate that, when your wit and sarcasm take a few hours to catch up?  Again, I digress. I remember suddenly coming up short as a thought came into my head about something that I, myself, had said. My adversary coworker had implied, several times, that “gay” was all about sex. Nothing about love. Just a choice about a sexual encounter. I had argued back that many gay couples and lesbian couples remain in committed relationships for years or for a lifetime.

Do you get where I’m going with this?  You see, when I made that argument, it flew in the face of my notions about men. If men stayed in committed relationships and marriages with women solely because it was what women expected, then why in heaven would men, in the world as I believed it to be, have committed relationships with other men, who shared those same innate lust-desire-possession drives but a limited capacity for actual love?  If my assumptions about men’s feelings held true, it didn't stand to reason that gay men would feel obligated to commit to one another or to put on the whole “I love you” act. 

But in reality, rather than shun or devalue commitment, they muddle through the typical range of challenges in their relationships to try to make them work and they fight for the right to marry their partners. And they do this amid so much hatred that is flung at them at times by those who feel they have some right to judge. How many straight couples would be able to find the will and the love to stay together under such circumstances? 

That was my breakthrough moment, my friends. I remember it very clearly. It was one of those rare times in life when you have a real, all-at-once revelation. It took me some time to get through it all in my head, but the long and short is that because of gay men who share committed relationships, I regained my faith in men in general. Because of them, I decided to give men the credit that they deserve for their capacity to love. And from what I’ve seen since I had this revelation, that capacity is immense.

I pay attention now in a whole new way to the men in my life. I don’t observe through a veil of distrust. I think I’m kinder to and more appreciative of men than I once was. And I’ve gotten so much joy in return. So thank you to the gay men in my life. This one is for you. 
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