Month: January 2016

The Real Reason Women Dread the Man Cold

 

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***

If you’re female, you’ve probably rolled your eyes along with other women at some point in reference to the dreaded Man Cold. This can look bitter or mean to those who haven’t dealt with this phenomenon, and can understandably make men feel mocked.

For this reason I would like to announce right now to all men that we’re not picking on you. I promise. We aren’t even really making fun of you: it’s more like we’re making fun of our society. Hate the game, not the player.

I’ll explain.

Although there is a growing trend of men being the primary caretakers of the children in families, this duty quite often falls on the shoulders of the woman. The mother. So please reverse everything I’m about to say if you are reading this as a stay-at-home dad. My husband and I decided whoever makes the most money will do so, and the other will take care of our child only because it made financial sense: we are not bound by traditional gender roles.

My fella can make more money than me. So that makes me the stay-at-home parent in our situation. Not because I’m female, but because we like being able to afford food and bills and stuff.

***

My husband works in a crowded office environment, and often finds himself surrounded by sick people who inexplicably refuse to use their sick leave for its intended purpose— to lessen the spread of productivity-lowering contagion.

When this happens—when his coworkers ignore management’s pleas to stay home when ill to instead share their misery with the workforce—my husband will eventually catch the illness. He then brings it home to our family, where our son and I usually catch it.

Because I have calcifications all over my lungs from either a fungal infection or multiple untreated past pneumonias during my “no health care” minimum wage job days, I inevitably end up on antibiotics for pneumonia. (The last virus was so brutal, my husband ended up with a secondary infection that morphed into pneumonia, and on antibiotics as well.)

This makes us angry because the inconsiderate coworker who came to work and shared the virus with us has now destroyed our quality of life for at least a month while we all take turns being sick. They’ve disrupted our child’s schedule and activities, cost us money in doctor visits and medications, and stolen precious sleep from two adults with a child who has fought sleep since he was in utero. We don’t take loss of sleep lightly at this point. Do not fuck with our sleep.

This also means that if the person who didn’t stay away from work while sick is a young, child-free person who got over it in a few days, with the luxury of resting when needed, rather than taking care of a child/children while feeling like ass, yet has no idea how deeply and adversely they’ve impacted our family and finances… I want to drive to my husband’s job and punch them in the face every day until our entire family is finally over the stinking virus they decided they could “tough it out” and work through.

Because hey, guess what, people who come to work with contagious illnesses? Nobody thinks you’re tough. They think you’re an inconsiderate asshole. Your bosses resent you because you’ve now infected a large portion of the other people who make money for their company, and your coworkers resent you because of the month-of-sickness spiral into which you’ve now sent their families spinning.*

It’s not cool, bro.

***

This week, my husband caught what my girlfriends and I not-so-affectionately refer to as the Man Cold. When we call it that, we are sometimes referring to the guys who say things like, “I must have caught a stronger version of this virus than you,” to us, or emotionally regress back to an age before they had grass on the field when ill. But really, most men aren’t wimpy about colds. This isn’t what makes us angry.

What makes us angry enough to label it the Man Cold is that the primary caretaker of the children (not always the mother, obviously, but true in my case) doesn’t get to be sick. We don’t get to stop preparing the children for school, doing laundry, making meals, bathing them, helping with homework, driving them to and from everywhere; and if they have caught the illness, we take care of them. All while being sick ourselves.

(And no, it’s not a “weaker version than your virus,” it’s the fact that women are inherently strong as fuck. Did you not see us grow a human with our body and deliver it into the world? Are you new?)

Who takes care of the mother with a Woman Cold you might ask? Well I’m glad you did, because that right there is the source of our sneering and eye-rolling about the Man Cold. Because the answer is nobody.

Nobody takes care of the Woman Cold.

The Woman Cold must be ignored while the equally-sick female in the relationship is required to continue life as usual.

And here comes our Good Will Hunting moment, you guys. Brace yourselves. Maybe grab a tissue.

It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault.

Okay, stop fighting me and come in for the hug now. It’s okay to cry. This is a safe space.

***

My husband has currently been sick for days, and because he also believes sharing contagious illnesses with coworkers is a shitty thing to do, he’s been using his sick days, lying in the master bedroom while closed off to protect our son and me from his wicked respiratory virus.

We have no doubt we will catch it eventually because we all live together and touch the same surfaces; all we can hope is that we manage to stagger the onset of my symptoms and our child’s symptoms so there might be one person strong enough to help the others at any given point in the next month while we deal.

He’s been sick, and I’ve been performing most of the duties we normally share. His feeling crummy makes me feel sorry for him, of course, but a wee bit resentful, even though I know he needs to rest, sleep, watch television, and read. I get it. I’m not a jerk, I swear.

The Man Cold resentment breeds only because past history has shown once my husband is well enough to go back to work, I will most likely be the next one to fall ill.

Having used his sick days as intended, this means I will not be able to retreat with my Mom Cold to rest, sleep, watch television, and read. I don’t ever get an uninterrupted week-long break to be sick. I will still have to perform all of my house chores and childcare duties, no matter how awful I feel. And I don’t like them apples. There is no such thing as the Mom Cold, and for this reason, we have grown resentful.

(Obviously exchange “Mom Cold” with “Dad Cold” and “Man Cold” with “Woman Cold” if you’re a stay-at-home dad. And use both genders if in a same-sex marriage. Like contagious viruses, I don’t discriminate.)

So you see, guys… in a perfect world (or in a more evolved country), after taking your week to heal from the wretched virus, you would then have enough sick days leftover to give your now-sick partners the same chance to rest and rebuild you had. But we don’t live in a perfect world, and in this one, we got the short end of the “sick stick.” So… Man Cold, we sneer. Don’t take it personally. We’re not actually mad at you: we’re mad at a country that doesn’t give employees ample time off, the dumbest part being that productivity increases drastically in well-rested, healthy people with good quality of life.

Short version: Man Cold actually means the system sucks, and damn it, primary caretakers of children really wish they could simply be allowed to be sick, rather than miserably slogging through after the now-healthy partner in the relationship must go back to work.

Unless you’re a whiny baby about minor illnesses, of course. Then yes, we’re mocking you personally. Woman up.

Huge shout-out to single parents who must be both bearer of Man Cold and Female Cold and Mom Cold and Dad Cold, by the way. Universal Colds. I bow down at your eternally exhausted feet in awe as I fearfully take zinc and vitamin C supplements, waiting for my dance with the latest respiratory virus.

 

*Those who work jobs without sick leave are exempt from this rant. Been there, done that, and I know when people complain about your being at work sick, you want to scream, “Well then are YOU going to pay my fucking rent? No? Then SHUT UP.” Because of course you don’t want to have to work while you’re sick. Duh. And employers who don’t give paid sick leave: you suck. You really, truly do. Stop it.

 

 

 

 

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My LA. Neighbors

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***

A few years ago, before we moved to the Midwest, my husband and I lived in a decrepit apartment building just off Hollywood Boulevard. We were mere blocks away from Grauman’s Chinese Theater and a music school.

Because of the location, our building was filled with mostly transgendered individuals and musicians. Aspiring women and aspiring rock stars. It was an always interesting and sometimes annoying combination.

The transgendered folks were often coming home from a late night as I left for the 5 a.m. to noon grocery store shift that paid my bills. The the elevator would reek of cheap perfume and cigarettes, with partially finished beers sitting on the stained carpet. I much preferred the pretty ladies with great legs and large feet to my musician neighbors.

Perplexing to those who know that I am a musician myself? Probably. Let me explain by quoting a passage from my Musician’s Handbook for you.

“Musician Manners 101:

First Rule: You DO NOT have band practice where you live, if you live in an apartment building or a house that is in close proximity to neighbors. Firstly: it is rude. Secondly: they will call the cops on you.”

Duh, right? This seems obvious to me.

The entire time I lived in Los Angeles, I played music in bands. There are many places that allow a band to rent a practice room by the hour, usually in the $15 to $30 range. (The cheapest places were in North Hollywood, but there was a costly place just down the street from me, in West Hollywood, that we’d use in a pinch.)

When you split the rental fee amongst band members, it is quite bearable. A small price to pay to rock freely and loudly as you’d like. Many of these places even have a drum set already waiting in each practice room, amplifiers available for the guitar players and a P.A. system complete with microphones for vocals. I thought it was a great deal and enjoyed the “not having to lug a bunch of musical gear around” factor. Just show up, play your music, pay and leave. Painless.

For some reason, maybe because they knew they were a majority, the musicians in our apartment building played loud, amplified guitars and sang constantly in their tiny apartments. The building was old, the walls were thin. It was like being at a rock show if someone a wall over, under or above decided to play. Pretty much any time of day, there was somebody being really loud somewhere nearby. It sucked.

The people below us often played wanky guitar licks with fuzzy, obnoxious distortion and would have sing-along parties late into the night. These parties usually ended with the couple who lived there having one of their late-night drunken, screaming, slamming doors, 20-something fights. With a 4 a.m. daily wake-up call for my aforementioned job, you can imagine that these parties thrilled me pieces.

Pieces of angry, exhausted, 30-something rage.

Once, when my husband went downstairs to ask them to turn the amplifier down, he was rebuffed with, “But dude, I just got a new amp.”

Oh… sorry. Well in that case, pleeeease turn it UP and play that Coldplay song you’ve been playing over and over again for the last hour at least sixty more times. Sorry we bothered you… dude.

This brings me to another problem I had with my fellow musicians/apartment dwellers: their musical taste. If you’re going to play other people’s music constantly, can I at least CHOOSE the songs? The guy below us had a nineties mayonnaise alterna-drivel boner that nearly beiged me to death, and the guy whose balcony was directly across from our balcony loved to butcher cheesy eighties songs.

I sang in an eighties cover band for awhile. It was a blast, I made good money, but I’ve heard those songs played the way they were supposed to be played- by excellent musicians. This guy did not even come close.

The cheesy eighties songs guy was what prompted me to write this, actually. I was reminded of him when Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” came on our car radio this morning. My husband and I both immediately said, “I wonder where that guy’s getting stoned and singing off-key now?”

We used to hear him smoking up through the screen of our balcony. The tap-tap-tap as he cleaned out his pipe on the edge of the ashtray. The scratchy click! of the lighter. Next, the smell would come wafting across the way. The Official Smell of the Unmotivated. The Smell of Rock Concerts Past. The Smell of You’re Not Going to Sleep Until I’m Done, Neighbors. We learned his routine, and knew that if we heard the pot smoking, off-key singing accompanying a poorly-played guitar would soon follow.

“Time After Time” was a favorite of this guy, but not his long-suffering neighbors. He didn’t even come close to hitting the right notes, and often we’d sing along loudly across the balcony air in his direction, trying to alert him to this fact. “If you’re lost you can look and you will find me! Time after time!” we’d scream together across the way. Sometimes we tried to harmonize with him.

My husband went over to tell him to knock it off many times, the last time being when the guy finally snapped at him: “Go ahead! Call the police! I don’t care,” probably because the police would be an improvement over the 6’5″ neighbor with “no verbal filter” as my husband will sometimes apologetically explain. (He’s a say-what-he-means, no bullshit sort of guy. I deeply love this about him.)

My husband replied, “Okay, I will… and I’ll be sure to mention that I smell pot every time you open your door as well.”

So he called the police. He also mentioned the interesting smell. After making us deal with his caterwauling for a year, the guy moved out within two weeks. We never saw him again.

That Time I Watched Live Football and ESPN Filmed Me

(Writing from 2009.)

***

My husband David and I left our son with his beloved grandparents yesterday, and made the road trip to Norman, Oklahoma to watch OU play Texas Tech. The husband graduated from OU, so Boomer Sooner! is oft-chanted around these parts.

We got to walk around his old college stomping grounds. He was awash in nostalgia but kept his promise to not tell me about every sandwich he ate with whom at this place and that, like he does since we moved from Los Angeles.

(We now reside in his home town, and because he grew up here, he has memories. Oh, so many memories. After about six months of, “And that used to be a field,” I found myself sarcastically thinking, “Okay, Grandpa Dave. A lot has changed and you did a lot of different things here way back when. I get it.” It has become a personal joke of ours—he starts talking about some experience from twenty-plus years before, and this is my cue to mock him with some sort of, “And then you ate a sandwich right there, under that tree, with your old friends Dick Tickle and Randy McNuttlicker,” type of comment.) (He doesn’t regret marrying a smart-ass. Not at all.) (No, really.)

The campus was swarming with people carrying beers; anticipation and cigarette smoke filled the air. This was a huge game, as undefeated Texas Tech was number two, and beating them would no doubt raise number five OU in the college football rankings. A victory would be very, very good.

It was really crowded, and after receiving about five shoulder bumps from strangers, I made it clear to David that I would really like to have one of those bottles of tranquilizer everyone seemed to be holding, please. I’m high-strung (you say neurotic, I say tomato… juice with vodka, damn it) and a bit jumpy, so I don’t do well in large gatherings.

To satisfy my thirst for liquid courage, we stopped at Brothers, a bar my husband frequented in college. It was a dark little place with drawing paper on every table, artwork crafted by past students attached to the yellowed ceiling tiles. The one above us was drawn by some military fellows and featured Gumby riding a missile with a poem about getting that bad guy Khadafi.

There were also collages all over the walls featuring thousands of tiny photographed drunken twenty-something faces. My husband pointed to an area by some booths and said, “The picture of my friend and me is over there somewhere,” and I showed amazing restraint, refraining from making my tired sandwich-eating joke. We contemplated walking over to ask the people in the crowded booths if we could look for my husband in the pictures, but decided not to be those people. He went to the bar and bought a shirt instead.

Here we are at Brothers:

I’m already drunk in this picture. The smirk is your first clue.

 

Two beers and some fries later, I was feeling really good. The booze eased me directly into going-with-the-flow mode and my social anxiety was gone. Thank you, beer, for your years of service. I don’t know what I’d do without you (besides sweat and startle constantly in public with crazed eyes, searching for an escape route or potential weapon, I mean).

We meandered through the other drunks. I only occasionally worried about my child when I saw little boys in the crowd to remind me of him. If you have one, think back on the first few times you’ve left your kid for an entire day and night, and you will understand. (Those of you without children, just know that having a child means you will never have your brain to yourself again for more than little half-hour chunks at a time. Their well-being and present place in the world consumes you. Forever. It’s pretty heavy.)

We found the Billy Simms statue on campus that stands where my husband’s college rental party house once stood and took his picture next to it. (At least it didn’t used to be a fucking field, right? Yawn.) The statue is so gigantic it dwarfed my 6’5″ husband.

See how it dwarfs him? Dwarfs, I tell you:

Dwarfs. I really just wanted to say it one more time.

 

David’s cell phone rang and it was one of his buddies, also in town for the game. He invited us to join them at the “Sig Ep Tailgate Party,” so off we went.

The party was actually on campus under a tent near the Sig Ep house. I wasn’t Greek in college and have no idea what Sig Ep is short for, so I’m just going to keep calling it that, okay? (Sigma Epsilon?) (Signaling Epilepsy?) (Significant Episiotomy?) There was food, beer and every type of liquor imaginable. People were doing shots. They offered shots to me and I laughed out loud. I am of the Shots Are For Young, Childless People mindset, but thanks.

My husband’s friend pointed out the vegetarian chili to me, but just coming off the carbo-bloat of two beers and some fries, I declined. I did help myself to a beer from the beer trough, however. Yes, beer trough. The big metal containers intended for providing water to livestock. We had them on our farm. I always get a kick out of seeing them used in other ways.

I had two beers and trotted my teeny little bladder over to the nearby Sig Ep house to pee twice. It felt just like college, sans date rape. I later regretted the decision to skip food for more alcohol, as I have the tolerance of an Amish eight-year-old, but soon it was time to head for the stadium. We bundled up in the warm things we’d brought and started our walk.

I walked behind my husband and the neighbor; his lifelong friend had an arm around me as we followed them. It was very sweet. I adore every one of his friends. If you can judge a person by their friends, I chose my mate wisely. My husband has kept the same group of guy buddies from childhood, and I think it is the most amazing, precious thing. I honestly don’t remember what we talked about, but spirits were high and we were giggling like buzzed teenagers when we parted for our separate seating areas.

David decided to use the restroom once we got in the stadium. I berated him for not using the line-free Sig Ep bathroom before we walked and he whined about “maximizing his pee removal” by waiting until the very last minute to go. Sigh. He got in line and I waited against a cement pillar by the entrance.

His bathroom journey allowed me fifteen minutes alone to be hit on by a guy in a brown fringed leather jacket.

“Do they pay you to stand here and look pretty during the games?” he asked.

“Are you calling me a WHORE?” I spat in reply, right before I punched him in the trachea. He fell to the ground, coughing and clutching at his throat.

Okay, that last part didn’t happen. But he did hit me up with that cheesy line. My actual reaction was to repay him for his cheesiness with the frozen smile of polite terror that I seem to have perfected in this lifetime, and he walked away. It’s a living.

The husband came back and I told him Bon Jovi just tried to pick me up. He laughed at me and my good fortune. We headed to our seats, which were only eight rows up from the field. Cool. We watched the players come running onto the field. The crowd absolutely roared. And I’m not just using fun words to describe noise; it was insanely loud in the stadium last night.

The OU coach, Bob Stoops, issued a challenge by stating to the press that he didn’t think OU fans could be loud enough to affect this game. That was a really smart move on his part. The “Oh no he didn’t just say that” factor can really motivate the masses sometimes. Nothing makes us want to do something like being told we can’t; it’s human nature. (This is why playing hard to get totally works. Give it a try sometime and watch them fall under your spell.)

It was amazing, the energy in the place. All those people cheering for the same thing. Oh, if we humans could only unite over other issues facing us the way we do over sports. But I don’t care if it was “just” football, I have to say it, I had goosebumps all night long. It was so exciting to be a part of it.

The team coming onto the field:

Do you feel it?

 

Then the ass-kicking began. Poor previously undefeated Texas Tech didn’t stand a chance. The raucous crowd of nearly 86,000 was obviously getting to them psychologically. They played “Jump Around” and we jumped around. They said “Make some noise!” and we did. I gave myself a headache, screaming so long and hard. (You are allowed to giggle whenever I type “long and hard” by the way. It’s okay. We’re all friends here.)

There was a Texas Tech player, a big guy with tattoos on his arms and major face paint, who was taunting the OU fans at one point and trying to get his own team ready for battle. The OU fans purposefully drowned him out with shouting and yelling. “Shut up, Braveheart,” I commented dryly to my husband. The angry player soon pulled the helmet over his colorful head and gave up.

We saw Brian Bosworth walking along the sidelines. My husband did a loud Will Ferrell as Harry Carey voice, “Hey! I just saw the BOZ,” and all of the males in the vicinity turned and laughed at him. He’s a bit of a ham, the husband.

The BOZ:

That’s the back of Brian Bosworth’s head, between the long-haired girl and the dude in yellow. He walked with arrogant purpose. Cocky. It made me dislike him instantly.

 

We also saw the stoner kid from American Idol, (Jason Castro, I want to call him? I’ll Google it.) (Okay I Googled, and I guess he’s from Texas, so maybe that’s why he was here? We thought he might be hanging out with David Cook.) He was standing on the sidelines and they put him on the big screen for a second. We found him in real life on the sideline, walking with a girl. They were holding hands. She wore a brown messenger bag. Probably not full of weed or anything. Nope.

I am often fascinated by the little worlds within worlds; the subcultures of which we are unaware unless we are immersed in them. The cheerleaders got my attention this time. I found myself watching them between plays, wondering if the boys were dating the girls, or maybe dating the boys, and studying their interactions with each other.

One cheerleader seemed sad, and she was the only one without the big fake clown smile plastered on constantly. She already had multiple worry lines furrowed across her forehead, even though she looked to be about fourteen. I named her Sad Cheerleader in my head and wanted to hug her. I wondered what could make such an adorable person so miserable. Maybe the cute jeans she wanted only came in a humongous size two? Did she get assigned the wrong cheerleader boy to lift her and throw her about? Maybe the one she had a crush on was tossing another girl into the air?

I watched Insecure Cheerleader, a blond who wasn’t quite as anorectic as the others; she self-consciously flipped the waistband of her pants down to minimize her belly as she was being lifted into the air. She fidgeted with her waistband constantly. I thought “Wow, I would think you’d have bigger things to worry about as you are being chucked into the atmosphere,” But then I realized that the maneuver was probably like brushing her teeth, she’s done it so much.

There were two cheerleaders that I am sure were sleeping together, Flirty Cheerleader and Straight Boy Cheerleader. They kept bumping into each other and other such grade school grab-assery. It was entertaining to watch. I decided that cheerleaders probably have fantastic sex, what with all the gymnastic training and flexibility.

The Game Day guys from ESPN were at the game, and we saw them filming on the sidelines. We also got on television, if you were watching early in the game, when the cameras scanned the crowd. Luckily we record every game, so we found the exact moment and took pictures of the television to send to our relatives. I’ll post those at the end of this blog. I’m wearing my new black parka. Try to contain yourselves. I’ve wanted a parka for around nine years now, and finally realized this dream in time for the OU game. I know, I know. Congratulations are in order. Right after you check out my sweet parka goodness.

The Game Day guys, filming:

Yeah, um, dude in the blue stocking cap? Vincent Gallo called. He wants his sneer back. Thanks.

 

The game was an absolute blow-out, in case you don’t follow college football—Oklahoma 65, Texas Tech 21. Just brutal. Afterwards, Coach Stoops walked over to the student section and bowed, then gave them a game ball. He was quoted in the paper as saying, “That’s the way fans should be. I’ve always envisioned a loud and raucous crowd to influence a game, and they sure did tonight.”

The scoreboard from hell, or heaven, depending on your allegiance:

‘Nuff said.

 

We got home around 1:30 a.m. so my husband is taking a nap right now along with my son. We had a really great time, so I wanted to share my latest “sports from a female perspective” story. I haven’t done this since the PGA tournament last year, so it was high time. (Somewhere out there, Jason Castro’s ears just perked up and he doesn’t know why. “High time? Wait… what? Get your messenger bag, babe.”) I hope you had a wonderful weekend as well, my friends.

I’m the average-looking redhead in the really incredible parka with the faux fur hood. My husband is next to me in white. He refused to stop watching the game to ham it up for the camera. He also asked me to clarify that he does not weigh 275 pounds as it appears, he is merely wearing four layers of clothing for warmth.

 

Note: the lady to the left of me. She was sitting a row down from me, but hopped up to wave her arms in front of me for the camera. That smile on my face is the carefully disguised rage of a woman whose shining moment is in danger of being usurped. Do not usurp my shining moment, bitch!

 

Don’t you wish your parka was hot like mine?

 

Hey, look at my mom, the Attention Whore! Isn’t she funny?

Something Shimmering and White

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***

It was one of those transitional periods on the Timeline of Me. I was unhappily exploring the post-divorce state of flux through which 60% of all married people must statistically travel. Unoriginally as the thousands of country music songs on the subject might imply, I was using alcohol as my navigational system.

Having failed at what trendy writers would flippantly dub my starter marriage, I was looking for something; the next good thing. I didn’t really know what it was yet, so I hoped I’d know it when I found it, and wouldn’t be too drunk to say hello.

There was a party house in our smaller college town that my friends and I often called home. It was one of those lovely, interesting-but-crumbling Victorians with high ceilings and windows full of old glass that seemed thicker at the bottom, time-melted over the view of the past.

The homeowner was an older musician with a free spirit and a lot of weed. There was a steady river of alcohol moving through the house, along with the streams of young, searching girls, trying to find themselves by getting lost. In simpler words; I fit in perfectly.

On this night, a large group of us had watched a touring band play their music at a local bar. The band came back to the party house with us to drink and be merry. Cigarettes were smoked, music was turned up, neighbors were tolerant. I found myself sitting in a corner with the guitar player of the band, drinking beer and effortlessly talking. We were clicking as intellectually as slobbering drunks might click, and he seemed like a really nice guy.

While we chatted, we got on the subject of music. He asked me if I liked a band called The Church, and agreed when I enthusiastically told him that their song Under the Milky Way was one of my top ten songs ever. It is a wistful, moody, gorgeous song that I still love to this day.

This was mentioned in passing, one topic in a series of many, and we didn’t dwell. Conversation moved onward, and soon, he did too. Someone joined our discussion, and under the guise of getting another beer, the guitar player I’d been talking with left the party. His sudden disappearance registered briefly, but I kept drinking, and like most coherent thoughts, the event was washed away in the tide of alcohol.

The party wound down. The owner of the house had extra beds, and being in no shape to drive, I was offered one. I gratefully accepted and stumbled to the spare room.

I had just settled under the covers to pass out when I heard a knock at the door. I sleepily asked who was there as the guitar player from earlier poked his head in the room. He was holding an acoustic guitar and asked to come in. I said that would be okay, and he walked in, sitting down on the edge of my bed. I sat up against my pillow, the wall behind me nobly bearing my beer-relaxed muscles and hothouse flower demeanor.

It was one of those very moonlit nights when the world feels like daytime soaked in honey, and I could see his face clearly. He noticed my curious glance at the acoustic guitar and explained that after we talked, he had gone to the band van and learned a song for me. I somewhat numbly took in what he was saying, not really comprehending what was happening. He stopped talking and started playing the guitar softly.

Sometimes when this place gets kind of empty, sound of their breath fades with the light, I think about the loveless fascination, under the Milky Way tonight,” he sang quietly.

It was the song I had mentioned earlier; the pretty song I loved by The Church—now a lullaby for a lonely, drunken girl. The lyrics couldn’t have been more appropriate for me at that place in time; feeling small, meaningless and alone as one does standing under an endless night sky, wishing I knew what I was looking for, like the chorus repeated.

The subtle performance was a heart-wrenchingly earnest auditory hug. It didn’t feel like a flashy musician’s attempt to dazzle his way into my pants, it felt like an offering; like a little, hopeful flicker of candle light to hold inside when I was feeling dark.

After he finished, I slurred that it was absolutely beautiful. He smiled, tucked me back under the covers and told me to sleep well. He then left the room without attempting so much as a goodnight kiss, preserving the moment as something I would always remember fondly, rather than becoming just another groping stranger I would try to forget.

The next day we all woke up hung-over and rumpled to have coffee, with the friendly morning banter of people bonded through vices of the night before. Before the guitar player got in the band van to drive to the next town on tour, he handed me a CD of his band’s music. We hugged in silence, and they drove away.

I later opened the CD to find he’d written a message. It said, “You have the most amazing aura I’ve ever seen.” It made me cry, because at that point in my young, dysfunctional life, I couldn’t believe someone would say something so sweet to me without ulterior motive; with nothing to gain.

He had achieved the nearly impossible; he’d made a sad, insecure girl feel special and appreciated as a human being. This stranger I’d known one night had managed to do something more romantic, thoughtful and selfless than the guy I was drinking to forget had ever done in the years we were together.

I have kept the CD as a reminder of the worthiness of my soul all these years, occasionally pulling it out during moves to open, read, and carefully pack into my nostalgic belongings. I never spoke to the guitar player who gave it to me again, but when I think about that night, I smile, and sincerely hope he has had a wonderful life.

 

*The video for Under the Milky Way, by The Church:

 

***
(Photo credit: “Milky Way Road” by Landolfi… please contact me for removal, or to share a link to this talented photographer. I think this picture is gorgeous.)

Open Letters to Other Drivers

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***

Dear Truck Driving Lady,

You came roaring up the on-ramp and shot wildly across the four lanes of traffic, only to settle into the far left lane and slow down to 5 under the 65 MPH speed limit. I am still wondering why you did this. It was really weird. Was someone chasing you? Are you just really stupid?

Seriously, what was that all about?

In case you are wondering, I was driving one of the cars you narrowly avoided sideswiping, only because I noticed your erratic movement and anticipated your trajectory of vehicular insanity. I slowed from the 73 MPH I was doing in a middle lane and stayed back until you completed your pointlessly dangerous maneuver.

You’re welcome,

Tawni
***
Dear Truck Driving Man,

Just because you throw garbage in the back of your truck while it is parked, thereby forcing the highway winds to suck it out as you speed along, piece by wretched, flapping-back-to-smack-my-car’s-windshield piece, it does not absolve you of the crime. You’re still littering.

Dickhead.

You’re trash,

Tawni
***
Dear Other Drivers,

Please pull up into the empty twenty feet of space you are leaving in front of your car as you sit, waiting for the light to turn green. You’re totally freaking me out.

It is not only weird to leave this big space in front of your car; it is inconsiderate to the cars further down the line behind you. They might not make the light once it turns green because you inexplicably decided you needed to keep a football field’s length between you and the next car.

More than being angry at you for being rude, I am perplexed to the point of bewilderment by your strange behavior.

If I am waiting next to you in the left turning lane as you sit in the straight lane, I sometimes stare at you, then at the large gap of space you aren’t pulling into, then back at you. Sometimes I hold up my hands in a questioning manner. This is my way of trying to say: “What the fuck?

(I thought that I should probably explain that to you, since you are obviously oblivious to the most kindergartenly, bare basics of concepts, such as forming a line.)

The next time you leave a huge space in front of your car, I am going to get out of my own car, leap spastically into the giant space you are not pulling up into with your vehicle, and dance around like a maniac. I might also simulate swimming around in the large area in front of your car before I flip you off, and get back into my car before the light turns green.

My husband thinks I should pretend to parallel park a car into the space in front of your car. That’s pretty funny; I might go with that one. I haven’t yet decided. I’ll surprise you.

Curmudgeonly yours,

Tawni

Open Letter to My Trashy Neighbors

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Dear Trashy Neighbors,

Thank you for inviting my son and me to your child’s birthday party. The water slide was really fun for the kids. Great idea.

I noticed all of the men drinking beers, so when you offered me a drink, assuming I’d drink kiddie punch with the other mothers, I chose beer. I’d think you wouldn’t judge me for this, as it was a beverage being offered and I’m an adult, but I felt like you did.

As I drank the forbidden Female Beer, I felt the disapproving stares of the women. I hope you ladies didn’t mind my uppity display of Fuck the Boys Club, but I don’t have much patience for gender stereotypes, or the holier-than-thou crowd.

Father of the birthday girl: When you said to me, “We should party sometime,” I had a hard time not laughing at you. Are we teenagers in the seventies or something? Is your daughter’s birthday party theme Dazed and Confused? Are we going to smoke a doob behind the bouncy house? Was it the beer thing that made you think I want to “party” with you? I mean really—who says things like that?

Mother of the birthday girl: Your husband is gross. And I am tired of listening to your arguments as to why I should spank my son, while my well-behaved child who has never been hit in his life is shoved around by your poorly-behaved, constantly-beaten children. They’re learning directly from you that we hit people with whom we disagree, and this horrible life lesson is making them the most violent and least fun kids on the playground. My son doesn’t even want to come over anymore because your kids are so shitty and pushy.

So, hey, here’s a little clue: It’s not working. If it did, you’d only have to hit them once, right? And guess what else? Your children don’t respect you—they fucking hate you. By hitting them constantly, you’ve completely desensitized them to all discipline. In stoner terms—for your husband—you started with the discipline knob on 11, and you have nowhere to go but up (i.e. more violence).

When your creepy pro-kid-hitting husband leeringly told me I needed to “smack that ass” when I mentioned that my son doesn’t take naps, not only did I know that you two have discussed my non-spanking beliefs, but I was completely grossed out by the way your icky husband said “smack that ass.” Sexual innuendos and children do not mix. Learn it, live it.

Also: When you hit your 3-year-old daughter in the head like that, I want to steal her away from you forever. She’s a sweet little kid and I hope she puts you in a nursing home that smells like piss and desperation someday for all of the times you’ve smacked her around.

In short: I think you are fucking carnie freaks and I am never coming to another birthday party or play date at your house again.

Honestly,

Tawni

P.S. You sent me a link to your family blog and I do read it, but only to make fun of your atrocious spelling and grammar blunders. And when you listed “shoot my first buck” as one of your New Year’s Resolutions, I nearly peed myself laughing.

Grocery Store Martyrs and Love Removal Machines

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(Writing from 2008.)

I just dropped the boy off at preschool. He goes two days a week. It’s called a Mother’s Day Out program at the church. I usually call it “Oh My God Is It Tuesday Or Thursday Yet?”

I live for those two little chunks of Me Time. I’ve tiled and grouted a kitchen sink backsplash in the last week. Next I’m going to paint another wall blue. Go me.

***

Today I stopped at the grocery store for a few things on the way home. A whiny fit-free shopping experience is the height of my pleasure these days.

(What? I can take my time and read ingredients and not spend the trip wrestling things from my toddler before he drops them on the floor? I am living in the lap of luxury. Lap of luxury, I tell you!)

When he was younger and I was more of a rookie, he once dropped an entire carton of eggs on the grocery store floor. I was looking at nuts. (Looking at nuts! AHHAHA.) Reading the cans. I wanted unsalted. As usual, the healthier version of anything existing in the Midwest was proving elusive.

I heard the whump of the Styrofoam container hitting the ground, with the thick, wet crackle of eggs breaking. Shit.

“Uh-oh Mommy,” he said in his cute little elfin voice. “I dwopped the eggs!”

Yes. Mommy is painfully aware that you dwopped the eggs. Thanks.

I have worked in a grocery store and never understood people who just run away from spills, leaving them for other unsuspecting customers to roll their carts through. It spreads the mess everywhere and irritates the employee stuck cleaning it all up.

(As that employee, when you hear the sickening crash of a product hitting the floor somewhere in the grocery store, you just pray for solid. Something dry. Or you think: “Not syrup, not syrup, not syrup, please not syrup…”)

So I rushed to the front of the store, spotted an employee, and asked her if she could get me some paper towels. I was happy to clean it up myself.

She rolled her eyes, grabbed the roll of paper towels and huffed over to the egg mess with me. My son was trying to say hi and introduce himself in the rabidly friendly way he greets all strangers, much to my shy dismay. She completely ignored him.

“Hi, I’m Miles! What’s your name? I’m two!” he chirped, holding up two fingers in a desperate attempt to engage this new person who wouldn’t even look at him.

(This is a huge pet peeve of mine. If a two-year-old is saying hi to you, is it so fucking hard to say hi back, maybe even smile? I know that all children are going to eventually learn that the world isn’t always a friendly place, and everybody isn’t always happy, but how about not at two? How about you give the two-year-olds a few more years of bliss before you slap them in their innocent little faces with your jaded asshole demeanor, you grumpy bastards? Is that so much to ask?)

She continued to ignore my sweet kid, while acting completely stressed out, telling me that she was supposed to be on the way to her lunch break right now. Total bitchy guilt trip. Like she’s never dropped anything.

I told her to just give me the towels; I really didn’t mind cleaning it up.

“Go eat your lunch. I can clean it up. I don’t mind at all,” I said.

She implied with a put-upon look and a dismissive hand gesture that I wouldn’t be able to do it right, and continued with the wiping and heavy sighing. She seemed to really be missing her cross and crown of thorns that day.

She made me wish I’d been the asshole who just left the mess on the floor and walked away.

As the employee, I was always the opposite with clumsy customers. I would say things to make them feel better, like “Oh, everybody drops things, it’s no big deal, happens all the time.” I’d also tell them we really appreciated that they told someone about the spill so we could clean it up quickly. I’m all about the positive reinforcement.

My first instinct is always to make anyone uncomfortable feel better, so people who seem to enjoy the embarrassment or unhappiness of others completely freak me out. For this reason, in the face of poor treatment, I never react the way I later wish I had. My brain can’t even process it. The behavior is just that foreign to me. I’m bewildered. Dumbstruck.

My husband is the opposite. He’s lightning fast and super smooth. He’s very outgoing, with a theater degree and years of audition and improv experience. Quick-thinking. I completely covet this quality.

It’s pretty amazing to watch as he processes the rude behavior and comes up with the best witty comeback possible, which he delivers perfectly every time. Oh, how I love to live through him.

There’s a Seinfeld where George Costanza comes up with what he thinks is the perfect response to a rude comment long after the moment is over, that response being: “Oh yeah? Well, the Jerk Store called, and they’re all out of YOU!”

So sometimes I have this Costanza Moment, because, like George, I never think up the good response in time.

I seethe later, of course, once I am no longer in my shocked stupor, and it hits me that someone was mean to me. We’ll even mockingly quote the Jerk Store line in my honor. But my husband never has a Costanza Moment. It’s impressive.

***

Driving home from the grocery store, the Cult came on my iPod. I like the Cult. Their song Love Removal Machine came on and I remembered that one of the first bands I was in (The Glitter Kicks) covered it. I had forgotten.

We were an original band, but we worked up a cover song every once in a while for fun. 867-5309/Jenny by Tommy Tutone. Voices Carry by ‘Til Tuesday. Roxanne by the Police. The Wait by the Pretenders. There was talk of Fugazi’s Waiting Room, but that never came to fruition. Would have been cool.

We played Love Removal Machine for the first time live at a weird show we’d booked in which we were the only pop band in a line-up of metal bands.

Two really hard, loud metal bands played; then it was our turn. We were nervous.

The crowd was dressed in black, lots of long hair, and we were pretty sure our band would not receive a warm reception. We started the set, and were correct in that assumption. Then we pulled out Love Removal Machine.

I watched angry faces light up in recognition. Yeahs! were yelled. Fists were pumped. The crowd sang along with me. We had them, if only for a moment.

Because it wasn’t a movie, I didn’t get carried across the bar in a celebratory crowd surf, as the worlds of melody and metal came together in a loving musical hug or anything like that. I’m sure they still thought we were a flimsy pop rock band. But it seemed like the animosity was gone after that.

Whew. Thank you, ironically named Cult song.

***

I’m going to go work out now while I have the chance, maybe paint a wall or organize something. It’s an exciting life I lead, I know. Don’t be jealous. Don’t be a hater. Just go ahead and have a beautiful day anyhow, my friends.

 

A Vagina Full of Peeps and Other Touching Easter Tales

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(Originally posted after Easter 2009.)

Yesterday, I made my husband pull the car over so I could grab a large pink Easter egg off the side of the road. He was annoyed and mildly repulsed by my impulse.

“I’m going to see you walking along the side of the road pushing a shopping cart someday, aren’t I?” he later asked me.

We spotted the egg on the way to his parents’ house for an Easter dinner gathering. Big, at least seven inches long, and pastel pink. I said, “I want to go back and get that egg!” He refused to stop the car.

I obsessed on the way into his parents’ house, “It might have had money inside, or a severed hand or something cool!” He rolled his eyes and we went in to greet his family, my son running ahead to assume doorbell pushing duties.

Hours later, when we left, I decided that if the egg was still there, I had to grab it. My curious brain would be going full-blast for the rest of the week if I didn’t find out if there was anything inside.

***

I do this a lot. It’s one of the more irritating facets of my personal brand of crazy; most of the time, I have endless questions galloping through my brain that must be answered. Must. Be. Answered.

I can’t merely observe life; my mind has to take it to the next level every time. I have to know why and how and who and when and where and the sociological implications of such, no matter how trivial the subject might seem. I have been told that I missed my calling as a forensic scientist. (Usually by someone trying to tell me in a very kind way that they want me to shut the hell up. But still. It counts.)

For these reasons, Google is one of the best things ever invented, as far as I’m concerned. I call it the “SEE? I’m not crazy!” engine. (Example: “There WAS a television show in the seventies called ‘Lucan’ about a guy raised by wolves! It ran for one year. SEE? I’m not crazy!”)

***

We pulled up to the stop sign turning out of the neighborhood, and across the street sat the egg, nestled on the muddy embankment. Waiting for me. Why did the crazy lady cross the road? Such jokes whispered themselves mockingly inside my head.

“It’s probably just an old, deflated balloon,” sneered my husband.

“I saw seams! It’s not an old balloon, it’s plastic! I SAW SEAMS,” I snapped back.

I had to run in the rain, across a busy-ish street to get it, but I waited until all cars had passed and sprinted. I grabbed the big pink egg and raced back to the dry car.

Inside was a note that said: “Way to risk your safety and well-being for a stupid plastic egg, you moron.” I looked around for the cameras in anger.

Okay, no, just kidding. I thought that might be more exciting than the truth, but I cannot tell a lie. It was indeed a plastic egg, but not the kind that opens, the kind you might place in your front yard as an Easter decoration. Like, next to the plastic goose statue you change into festive holiday outfits. I was disappointed, of course, but at least there wasn’t a severed hand inside, right?

My husband said, “You probably just stole the calling card left behind by the Easter Killer.”

I laughed and replied in my best police officer voice, “Yeah, Sarge. We found this body in the woods near the side of the road… oh, the humanity. But we have no idea why the vagina was stuffed full of Peeps? Odd, that.”

Which might have been a little bit funny in a dark humor sort of way if I hadn’t spelled out the word vagina. Spelling out words kind of takes the punch out of a punchline, I have noticed since having a child.

But my son was in the back seat and I didn’t feel like trying to answer the “What is a vagina, Mommy?” question just yet. He immediately asked, “What are Peeps, Mommy?” so it was a good call.

We got home and put our son to bed, sweating, twitching and riding a sugar high that kept him up chattering and singing in his room for hours after we tucked him in. Ahhhh, holidays. Why are they all synonymous with sugar?

I scrubbed and disinfected the giant pink egg. I gave it to my son to play with this morning. He wasn’t very excited about it. I probably should have rolled it in candy.

I hope you had a hoppy Easter, my friends.

 

(Just deal with it. I will never call it anything but “Hoppy Easter” no matter what you say or how much you groan. It is so ridiculous, cute and awful to say this, that it circles back around to awesome in my head.)

(Speaking of bad puns, a girl in sixth grade who hated my guts often wore a shirt with bunnies on it that said: “You’re no bunny ‘til some bunny loves you!” and it haunts me to this day.)

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Open Letter to Kraft Macaroni & Cheese

Dear Kraft Macaroni & Cheese,

Oh, we are such grand old friends. You and your delightfully versatile pal Ramen Noodles were there for me in college, and I will never forget the way you kept me alive during the more financially bereft phases of my existence. Never.

We even endured the English boyfriend together, and his irritating way of referring to you as “Kraft Dinner” instead of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. We mocked him by saying “Kroooffft Dinn-ahhhh” when he left the room while rolling our eyes at each other conspiratorially because he was nearly 30, yet couldn’t drive a car. And remember how we laughed when he bragged about his accent like it was some sort of girl magnet, when really, he’d been in the states for over a decade and was obviously trying so hard? Poor insecure little man. Oh, we had fun making fun of the “Brit-iot,” didn’t we?

But the honeymoon is over, I’m sorry to say. I broke up with the loser who mispronounced your name mostly because I was tired of chauffeuring a large man-child around Los Angeles, as pushing a stop pedal and a go pedal were apparently beyond his skill set. Now I am also breaking up with you, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. I do feel worse about dumping you than I do for leaving the aforementioned ex-boyfriend, in case that helps.

The first reason I must bid you goodbye is that I have a child now; a child who would eat you for every single meal, if allowed. I cook you so often that I am ridiculously sick of smelling your hot, milky cheese and starch smell. I am nauseated right now just thinking about you. “Hot Dairy” would make a great band name or lactation fetish pornography title, but I’m pretty sure there will never be a Scentsy© candle.

The second reason is that since giving birth, simple carbohydrates seem to make me instantly gain weight. It’s a bit horrifying. I merely look at your bloated, white pasta-ness and poof! There go the thighs again. It’s like my ass and thighs are in some sort of middle-aged expansion competition, and I can’t pick a winner.

So as you can see, it’s just not working out between us anymore, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, but thanks for the years of service and loyalty. You were there when I needed you most, and I’ll never forget that. It’s not you, it’s me. I swear.

Also, tell bread to call me… we need to talk.

-Tawni

I’m Tired of Naming Bands

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Hi, friends.

After creating eleventy-bazillion different blogs, both free and purchased, it finally occurred to me that I am once again doing that thing all musicians loathe: I am naming bands.

Blogs are the new bands.

I’ll explain.

Once upon a time, I was in many different rock bands, and one of the most annoying things one must do upon flocking together with other musicians to play shows in public is choose a band name.

This means that not only will the group of you have to think up something cool, you will all have to agree that it is the best name.

Then, you will search online, find out some other group of musicians is already using your clever name idea, and be totally bummed out.

Repeat this process again and again until you finally settle on something kind of dumb that none of you really loves, but at least you don’t all hate it.

I’ve never really liked the name of any of my bands.

I had a child, stopped playing music live, and started writing to fill the “I need a creative outlet or I’ll go completely insane” hole in my new life.

And I’ve been scattering my writing across the Internet for years under various blog names, each an attempt to finally own that elusive-yet-perfect band name I could never grasp.

After many years of thinking up a new band name every time the talented musicians kind enough to make my songs sound better would leave or change, I finally called the playing of the songs I’d written The Tawni Freeland Four because I was so incredibly tired of trying to be clever.

It probably looked like a total ego move from the outside, but I can assure you, as an entirely insecure chick from way back, it was a purely exhaustion-based decision.

I was so tired of trying to think up original band names. So I said, “The Tawni Freeland Four. DONE.”

This blog is my new The Tawni Freeland Four, except I got married, so my name is Tawni Crider, and I feel like nobody takes a ‘Tawni’ seriously in this world unless she’s on a pole and taking their money, so I’m going to go ahead and keep it simple.

T. L. Crider.com. DONE.

Thanks for reading.

xoxo.