Monthly Archives: May 2010

My Little Pony

The other morning was a typical day at our house: I brushed Clyde’s rainbow-colored hair, adjusted his purple tutu, picked a small piece of lint off of his skin-tight “Got Funk?” t-shirt and sent him on his way to school. My husband sat back and watched all of this silently: it was only after Clyde was on his skateboard and out the door that he dropped his head in his hands and said, “What are you trying to do to me?”

“What?” I replied.

“You know what. A tutu?”

“It’s Tuesday,” I explained. “At Marshall, everyone wears a tutu on Tuesdays.”

“Everyone?” he pressed.

“Well, almost everyone.”

He wasn’t falling for it. “All of the girls, you mean.”

“Well, yeah,” I admitted. “All of the girls. And Clyde.”

He sighed. “That’s what I thought.”

“Don’t worry about it,” I assured him. “It’ll all work out.”

And it will. True, Clyde does like his tutu and his Rainbow Brite hair. But he also likes his skateboard, BB gun, and post-apocalyptic video games. He’s a demon on the soccer field, merciless in wrestling matches, and fearless on his bike. But he also loves dancing with Ballet Folklorico and playing the violin. His ideal job right now would probably be concert violinist/super hero/pizza tester.

Is he confused? No: he’s eight. When his sister was his age she wanted to be a Princess Veterinarian. (I was never quite sure if that meant she wanted to a veterinarian and a princess, a veterinarian employed by princesses, or a veterinarian for princesses. That last one doesn’t seem so far fetched if you look closely at pictures of the British royal family. Especially Princess Anne: talk about a horse face.)

But then, everything changed: these days she wants to be an anarchist. (Or maybe it’s “the Antichrist.” Either way—anarchist or Antichrist—she’s closer to being that than to being either a princess or a veterinarian.)

Still, despite this proof that all children (or at least ours) come out of their “girly” phases eventually, I can understand my husband’s point, especially as it would seem that Clyde had only just begun his flirtation with the Princess Lifestyle. (The tutu and rainbow-colored hair is a fairly new obsession—before that he was a straight-up jeans and Spiderman t-shirt kind of guy.)

And yet, despite everything, my husband insists that no matter what happens, he’ll be okay with it. Eventually. As he is fond of saying, “I’ll love Clyde no matter how he turns out—I just hope I don’t have to.” His determined acceptance of the whole thing is actually kind of sweet—so much so that I have been putting off telling him the truth about Clyde’s tutu love. This is a little but inexcusable, since I learned the truth myself the very first day after I picked Clyde up from school after Tutu Tuesday. Bracing myself to hear the worst, I asked him how it went—and his answer told me everything I needed to know.

“It was great,” he had replied, grinning from ear to ear.

“Really?” I pushed. “Didn’t the other boys tease you?”

“Maybe a little,” he replied. “But that was okay, because”—and here he gave me a conspiring glance—“you know what?”


“The girls? They loved it.”

I guess my husband can stop worrying now. And I can start.

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Yo Mama

Last year, when I found out that my daughter, Clementine, had a student teacher from Turkey in her class, I was thrilled. Not only would that give her the chance to learn a little bit about other cultures—world peace here we come—but, also (and most importantly) it would give her the chance to learn not to mess with her mother.

Here’s my reasoning: since I have a friend who spent several years teaching in Turkey I was pretty sure that I could learn to say something completely embarrassing in Turkish by the end of the year. (And by embarrassing I mean embarrassing to Clementine; my ability to embarrass my own self is not hampered by little things like linguistic differences.)

He was reluctant at first (“Are you sure you want to say that to someone you don’t know?”), but finally, after much encouragement—and haranguing—I had my Turkish phrase:

Göt chok sijack. Or, in English, “You have a nice ass.”

I didn’t plan on actually using it, you understand: it was just a threat. With the above embarrassing phrase in hand (or rather, mouth), all I had to do for the rest of the year was threaten to use it any time Clementine gave me grief, and voilá, she would rein it in. “That’s fine,” I’d say. “I understand that you don’t want to (clean your room, put away the dishes, stop strangling your brother). You do understand, however, that the next time I go to school I’ll be saying ‘göt chok sijack’ to Mr. Sul, right?”

As far as threats go, it was very effective—her behavior improved significantly over the course of that semester. Right up until the last day of school, when Clementine, obviously having prepared for this all year long, walked up to Mr. Sul and said, “My mom has something she wants to tell you.”
Now I know that, as the older and wiser one, I could have said something like “Thank you for teaching my dreadful child;” “Have a nice summer;” or even “How are you?” But at that moment, confronted with having to say something, my mind drew a blank, and all I was able to stammer out was—you guessed it—“göt chok sijack.”

Of course the joke was on Clementine, because far from being offended Mr. Sul and I ended up laughing about the whole thing; he even introduced me to his American born wife, who supplemented my meagre Turkish with another phrase, “Amana koiyum,” which means, loosely, “I am having an inappropriate relationship with your mother.”

Which, finally, brings me to the real the topic of this column. Your mother. Or rather, yo’ mama.

You remember yo’ mama jokes, don’t you? “Yo’ mama is so fat she has her own zip code.” “Yo’ mama is so ugly that when you was born, the doctor slapped her.” And so on. Well, here’s the thing: they’re back. Or maybe they never left. Maybe, like athlete’s foot fungus, they just hang around middle school locker rooms, waiting for new hosts. And if that’s true, then they’ve found their hosts in this year’s crop of middle schoolers.

“Yo’ mama is so ugly she’s . . .really ugly,” says Clementine’s best friend, to which she replies, “Oh yeah? Well yo’ mama is so ugly that she’s . . . even uglier.” (Okay, they haven’t quite got the hang of it yet, but they’re trying.)

I know that, as a mama (and as someone whose emotional maturity has moved beyond single digits), I should be appalled at these jokes, but somehow I just can’t.

Because, as I learned from Mr. Sul, (and his wife), nothing transcends culture like an inappropriate reference to someone’s ass—or their mother.

It may not quite be the road to world peace, but it’s a beginning.

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The 40 Year-Old Virgin

“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. But when I became a man I put away childish things.” – I Corinthians 13:11.

My son, Clyde, is going to turn nine this summer, and while this doesn’t necessarily mean that it is time for him to “put away childish things,” it does mean that he should probably start giving some serious thought to reining in some of his more overtly “childish” actions. In other words, it means that it’s probably time for him to stop standing naked in front of the TV when his sister is trying to watch “Doctor Who.”

It also might be time for him to stop having long conversations with people when they are on the toilet. And time to stop refusing to flush after he has been on the toilet himself—especially on the grounds that his “product” is just too impressively impressive to flush. (“But look: it’s like a bunch of little people down there. It’s a crowd! A poo-poo crowd!”) I guess that what it really comes down to is that, while it might not quite be time for him to “put away childish things,” it may very well be time for him to stop acting so damn creepy.

The problem is that when he was younger these things didn’t seem all that creepy—at one time they were actually kind of cute. (Disclaimer: to me, they will always be kind of cute. But, then again, I am his mother.) Still, motherly prejudices aside, I realize that what may seem cute in a little boy can easily become creepy in a grown man. And if not exactly creepy, then certainly 40-year-old virgin material. The thing is: how do I convince Clyde of that?

I’ve tried telling him straight out, “Dude, chicks don’t dig it when you talk about your poo-poo,” but this approach doesn’t seem to work. For one thing, he knows very well that “chicks don’t dig it;” his very own test subject—his thirteen-year-old sister, Clementine—lives under the same roof as him. And if that, by some chance, wasn’t enough to tell him exactly what “chicks” do and don’t dig, then her habit of screaming “Get away from me, you perv!” at the slightest provocation would clue him in for sure. (Actually, she shouts it at such a volume that I’m pretty sure everybody in the neighborhood now knows what “chicks” do and don’t dig.)

In fact, that’s probably why he still does it. And while part of me appreciates that there s a certain amount of satisfaction involved in fine-tuning your chick repellant skills to the point where just a mischievous look can send your sister bolting off of the couch and into her room, another part of me is not so sure that this is really a skill you want to bring with you into adolescence.

And so, as much as I’ve enjoyed the show (and who doesn’t appreciate a good game of “Annoy the Older Sister”?) I feel like the time is fast approaching when I may need to think about maybe putting a stop to all of it. Which is why, lately, I’ve been trying to get him to move forward just a wee little bit.

This means that as of now I remind him to flush every time he leaves the bathroom. And it means that I also remind him not to try and engage people in conversations when they are in the bathroom. But most of all it means that I am now constantly reminding him that it is imperative that he “put away his childish things” around his sister. Especially when “Doctor Who” is on.

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Water is Wet

The other day, while I was spelunking through Clementine’s backpack in a futile search for a permission slip that her teacher assured me had already been sent home twice before, I came across a heretofore undiscovered vein of lost permission slips. Pulling out my trusty pick, I fearlessly set to work, and after a few short hours was rewarded with permission slips for not one, not two, but three upcoming field trips. (On a side note: can somebody please explain to me why, when filling out permission slips, I have to put the exact same information on both sides of the paper? Because the only reason I can think of for doing it that way is in case one side of the paper becomes completely illegible due to bloodstains, and, if that’s the case, then no, you don’t have my permission to take my child on your field trip.)

Anyway, when the confetti of the excavation finally cleared I noticed that one of the permission slips was for a trip to the NAU ropes course, which is one of those team-building exercises that emphasize trust, problem-solving, and overcoming your fears. They usually also involve some kind of above-the-ground element like tight-rope walking. I haven’t done the NAU one, but I’ve done others like it, and personally I’ve always thought they were kind of cool. Which means, of course, that to Clementine and her friends, they are completely dull. (“Walking a tightrope twenty feet up in the air? B-o-r-i-n-g.”)

The ironic part is that she and her friends have been creating their very own ropes course ever since the snow started to melt—and, judging from how often they show up at my house soaking wet, creating a spectacularly unsuccessful one.

Blame it on Rio (the Rio de Flag, that is). The normally dry drainage that runs right through the middle of town (and right behind Flagstaff Middle School) is now, thanks to this year’s Snowpocalypse, a raging torrent. (Well, moving at least.) Which means that several of the usual routes to school are now underwater. Which means that my poor daughter, and her equally poor best friend, (already forced to walk nearly half a mile to school—“But why can’t we take the bus?” “Um, because the bus stop is farther away than the school?”) are now forced to walk an additional twenty or so feet out of their way to get to school.

Their only other option is to risk a perilous crossing of the Rio via a series of smaller and decreasingly less stable dry branches balanced precariously over the top of the fast moving water. Hmm: guaranteed safe (and dry) passage via sidewalk, or sketchy high wire crossing via unsafe bridges of unknown origin. I wonder: which way will they choose? (Actually, I already know: the Law of Watery Attraction states that, when given a choice of how to proceed, a child will always choose the wetter of the two options. And, for the purposes of this Law, please note that the term “child” can apply to anyone up until the age of fifty or so.)

So yeah, they’ll go out of their way to walk through fire (or rather, freezing water) to get to school, but put a harness on them and guarantee their safety and suddenly it becomes “boring.”

Who knows: maybe that’s just the price we pay for creating such a litigious society for them to grow up in—already at age thirteen they believe that nothing approved by an adult can possible contain enough real risk to be exciting. So can we really blame them that, when given the choice between a sanctioned “ropes” course and a sketchy DYI course of their own invention, they choose the homemade model?

Actually, as the person in charge of doing laundry, yes, I can.

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