Thursday, January 31, 2008

Radio Rage

Every couple of years, a popular song comes along and strikes every irrational nerve in my body. In some cases, the song is actually objectionable — take Guy's "Piece of My Love" or anything ever written by Richard Marx. However, I've been thrown into blind rage by tunes as innocuous as John Mayer's "Daughters." And I like John Mayer, but that song makes me want to fight someone. Yes, I know. They make pills for that.

The latest culprit is Hinder's "Lips of an Angel," a song that normally wouldn't be on my radar screen since I rarely listen to the radio. But my iPod was out of juice the other day, and I commute with children who don't like NPR. I thought it was going to be your standard, growly rock ballad (Daughtry? Nickelback?) , but as always, I made the mistake of listening the lyrics.

Few things are worse than "sensitive" songs that make the singer seem like an asshole. In this case, the singer gets a late-night call from an ex-girlfriend who is upset and probably drunk dialing. OK, fine. It happens. Except that his current girlfriend is there. And instead of telling the psycho ex to call back at a decent hour or send an e-mail, he declares:

Well, my girl's in the next room
Sometimes I wish she was you
I guess we never really moved on
It's really good to hear your voice saying my name
It sounds so sweet
Coming from the lips of an angel
Hearing those words it makes me weak

It's always an ego boost to hear from an old lover, but he's essentially admitting that his heart's not really in the relationship he's currently conducting. Worse, the duplicitous bastard is still carrying a torch for some chick who is making it "hard to be faithful" with her wee hour come-ons.

Bored by long-term monogamy? Welcome to adulthood, bro. But if you're cooing with ex-girlfriends while the woman who is probably equally bored by your ass keeps the bed warm, maybe you should re-evaluate this fidelity thing. You're not doing her any favors by sticking around, so go have a tearful reunion with your hooked-on-drama ex, who is doubtlessly your soul mate. Good luck with that.

And in the future, I'll stick to NPR and less infuriating topics, like the war in Iraq or our broken health-care system.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

No Children Required

My best friend and I live polar opposite lifestyles. I’m a married, suburban mom in a mid-sized town. She’s a single woman with no kids in a big city. I always bring her up when someone (usually a parent) claims that, once you settle down and start breeding, you inevitably drift away from your single, childless friends. Really?

I treasure my closest mom friends, the ones I can call when I’m about to break down out of frustration or bursting with motherly pride and/or amusement. They understand my life in a way that few others can. But I’m no less grateful for my friends without kids – the ones who remind me of life’s many child-free pleasures. Things like an uninterrupted conversation (with wine!) in a restaurant that doesn’t have chicken tenders on the menu. Or a home where no one takes every single one of your CDs out of their cases, just for kicks.

It’s not that my non-parent friends aren’t interested in my children. But they create a special, if tiny, place in my life where I don’t have to discuss sleep schedules, playdates, reward charts and summer enrichment camps. Instead, we spend most of our time together discussing books, music, travel, sex, relationships – anything but children, including mine. They validate the parts of me that, frankly, have nothing to do with being a mother. In turn, I think they appreciate that having kids has not turned me into the type of person who sees a life without progeny as aberrant or “without purpose.” I have met these people, and they are to be avoided at all costs.

Without question, my kids are a huge part of my life. But thank God for that small, tidy corner where the adult discussion flows uninterrupted and the CDs stay put.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Confessions of a Former Sorority Girl

One of the interesting things about living in the town where I went to college is that I'm constantly faced with images of a former self. Sometimes it's the fresh-faced couple holding hands in Target, reminding me of all the nice things about young romance. Often, it's the fit young woman running down the street near my office, reminding me of the freedom — and the free time! — to work out in the middle of the day. And then, there is the sorority girl.

Some of my friends who only know me in my current incarnation have a hard time believing I was in a sorority. (And if they're not black, I generally have to explain that black sororities are a different animal than their white counterparts, but that's another story.) I'm certainly no flaming rebel, but I don't have the kind of qualities that scream "former sorority chick." I am a nerd to the core. Yet, when I see a certain type of girl around town, I feel an instant, if distant, sense of connection.

I usually see them in groups, and they are beautiful in the effortless way that 20-year-old women are. Their hair is perfect. Their makeup is perfect. They're impeccably dressed, even if they're casual. They radiate confidence and optimism, and they wear their Greek paraphernalia like plumage. It was no different when I arrived at college almost 20 years ago, and as a chubby, awkward bookworm with glasses, I wanted to be that girl. I latched onto that goal with my trademark obsessiveness, as if my life depended on it. When I made it, I felt like Cinderella.

In some ways, pledging turned out to be good for me. It forced me to overcome a host of fears, gave me an instant social life and marked the beginning of my "Doesn't Suck" phase at college. In looking back, though, I realize that I was attempting to bury my real self — the geek — and adopt a more glamorous persona. Except I wasn't glamorous or particularly cool, and I really didn't have much in common with most of the other girls. Toward the end of college, it began to feel like a whirlwind marriage that wasn't quite working, but I stayed out of duty.

I wonder how I'll feel about all of this when and if my daughter expresses an interest in a sorority. After all, both her grandmothers, her mother and a beloved aunt pledged the same sorority at different colleges. My mother remains active, as do several family friends. Shouldn't I want to pass this legacy on to her? On the other hand, do I want her to be a joiner, or worse, a hazing victim?

If she asks, I won't sugarcoat my experience — but I won't deny that, for a brief time, anyway, it was fun to belong.

Friday, January 11, 2008

A Princess Who Kicks Ass

As the mother of a 3-year-old girl, I'm the middle of an all-out Princess Attack, as is every woman I know with a daughter under the age of five. I'm not in the Death to Princesses camp, though. After all, princesses are pretty; they wear sparkly gowns and are frequently attended to by friendly woodland creatures. I can see the appeal. But what does bother me is how homogenous and frequently pathetic they seem to be. My daughter is enthralled by Barbie's "Twelve Dancing Princesses," and the least nauseating character is the black-hearted cousin, which one of my friends (the father of a 4-year-old), referred to as "an evil, thieving, lying bitch." Is it wrong that I prefer that to "simpering, twirling, naive tool"?

Anyway, having a 7-year-old brother and comics-loving parents means that my daughter is regularly exposed to things that aren't colored pink. Things like Wonder Woman, a princess who regularly kicks ass. My daughter loves her — so much so that instead of asking for the requisite princess costume at Halloween, she went as Themyscira's finest. She seems to have Wonder Woman and Supergirl a little mixed up, but that's OK. The important thing is that she identified with a character who is beautiful, wise AND strong. The costume got rave reviews, and one fellow parent expressed surprise that a 21st Century kid even knew who Wonder Woman was.

So let Cinderella, Belle and Snow White wait for their prince to come. Wonder Woman's too busy saving the cartoon world.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

It's That Guy.

Maybe it's just me, but That Guy seems to be taking over the world. I've encountered him multiple times in the last six months, in bookstores, restaurants and the grocery store. And as usual, he (it's almost always a he) is oblivious to his That Guy-ness.

You know him. He's the chap strutting through Publix in a muscle shirt and tight, sweaty shorts while talking on a Bluetooth. (For the record, talking on a Bluetooth anywhere outside of your car makes you That Guy, even if you're a woman.) Or maybe he's like the dude a friend and I endured at a too-trendy-for-its-own-good restaurant in Vegas. In between gulps of sushi (which he declared "orgasmic") and hitting on the waitress, he spent the night regaling no one in particular about blowing "Thirty Gs" or so while gambling. You know, no big deal. And I'm inclined to believe him, since most Bruce Wayne types favor stonewashed jeans and shirts purchased at Casual Male.

That Guy knows no class or racial boundaries. Take the kid I saw ambling the aisles of Borders bookstore a few weeks ago. He was elegant in his beret (yes, really), overcoat and scarf — positively French. But the pretentious factor was kicked up a thousand notches by the "Oh, my God, Carlos is insane!"-type bleating he did on his cell phone for the better part of 20 minutes. I'd bet good money that he never dreamed of being That Guy and has had more than a few hearty laughs at That Guy's expense. I don't doubt that it was a wild night at the coffeehouse poetry slam, but perhaps Carlos didn't anticipate his business being broadcast at such high decibels in Borders on a weeknight.

Then there was the kid holding court at Steak & Shake with what appeared to be the entire Leon High drama club. You've seen this version of That Guy: He's the smart but obnoxious kid who is always, always performing, even when no one but his friends wants tickets to the show. And because he is a teenage male with girls in the audience, his act comes with a side order of Annoying. This particular specimen was so loud and full of endless sub-"Will & Grace" quips that even my 7-year-old — no slouch himself in the attention-courting department — turned to stare at the commotion. I half expected him to turn to me and say, "Mom, is he That Guy?"

Yes, dear, he is. Be afraid.