Of all the questions I get asked concerning my column, probably the one that I hear most frequently is: but how do your kids feel about it? My answer–as it so often is when it comes to children–is: it depends. For instance, my son, Clyde, is totally nonchalant about the whole thing: in his “I love everybody/everybody loves me” world, there really is no such thing as bad publicity–it’s all good. And then again, there’s the fact that, he is, after all, a guy; in other words, he just doesn’t notice it.
Clementine, on the other hand–being a girl–is much more cognizant of what’s going on; not only does she recognize that I write this column every week, but she is also savvy enough to realize when I am on the lookout for column fodder. When she decided to trim off her eyebrows to Bob Geldof, (The Wall) levels, the first thing she asked me was not how long would it take for them to grow back, but rather how long before I wrote about it. (The answer? About three months–for both).
Sometimes, of course, people don’t just ask me what my kids think about this column; they ask me how I can do that to them. To these people I always tell them one of three things: one, that I had the chance to meet Erma Bombeck’s children a few years ago in Dayton, Ohio, and that they were all completely normal and well-adjusted, (and, in the case of the youngest son, downright HOT); two, that at least I don’t turn my kids into creepy little Hallmark ads haunted by dead Grandpa the way that Bil Keane does; and three, that if my kids don’t like it they can always get their revenge a la Mommy Dearest. As my favorite writing teacher used to say: writing well is the best revenge.
In the case of number three, however; while I might say that they are welcome to get their revenge in their own writing, the truth is that I’ve always believed that I would have years and years to prepare myself before those literary chickens came home to roost–years until the unflattering biographies started coming out. After all, I figured they would at least have to learn the basics of a five paragraph essay before they could pillory me in print, or even how to successfully use spell check. Unfortunately, though, I forgot about one thing: the song. I forgot that you don’t have to know how to spell to write a song.
That’s why it caught me off guard when Clementine wrote her first angsty rock song about me. It’s about my supposed cleaning “fetish,” and it’s called “Put It Away.” In it, I come across as some sort of neurotic neat freak. In other words, it is spot on.
It kicks off with a sort of primal scream, which, as Clementine delights in telling her audience, is the sound I make whenever I walk in the front door and find the living room knee-deep in books, shoes, toys, and teetering glasses of sticky lemonade. Then it launches into the chorus:
Put your things away/ before I throw them in the trash/and if I find them out again/I will kick you in the [electric keyboard bleep]. (That last part is actually an improvement over my usual vocabulary; I don’t often carry around a keyboard so that I can bleep myself, although I probably should.)
Although this is only her first foray into song-writing revenge, something tells me that it won’t be her last. That is, if she can only start remembering to put her amp and bass away when she’s done with them. They’re both rentals, so I can’t really “throw it in the trash.” I can, however, still kick her in the [electric keyboard bleep].