Monthly Archives: January 2014

Kids Take Flight During Birds and Bees Talk

For a society and culture that seems to be obsessed with sexuality — and why does the word sexuality sound so much less dirty than the word sex? — we sure are squeamish when it comes to talking about it.

As the mother of four, I was always squeamish when it came to having The Talk with The Kids.

Girl First and Only was always shy and soft-spoken and would turn red if I even mentioned s-e-x. Son No. 1 , who was four years younger than his sis, would wait until we were at the dinner table and ask matter-of-factly, “What is masturbation?” or “What is oral sex?” while his sister groaned loudly and buried her head in the mashed potatoes and peas.

I would answer Son No. 1’s questions the best I could and sneak into Girl First and Only’s bedroom and leave pamphlets with titles like, “Why does Alexandria’s Changing Body Need Supportive Underwear?”

I think it worked. They both had children after they married.

My two youngest sons were born 16 years after Girl First and Only and were 9 and 11 when I decided we would have The Talk in the middle of an Italian feast I had prepared for the occasion.

I explained that pasta should always be cooked al dente´ and that parmesan was always better when freshly grated while casually peppering the conversation with words like “condiments,” “penal code,” “Uranus,” “hoagie buns,” “gesticulate” and “titmouse.”

Both boys got that panicked-deer-in-the-headlights look, jammed their fingers in their ears, jumped up from the table and ran screaming from the kitchen — just as I was about to embark on a lively debate of the virtues of mascerating versus marinating.

Several times after that, I again tried to have The Talk with the boys, to no avail.

I resorted to leaving copies of books like, “What’s Up With Alexander’s Suddenly Hairy, Pimply Body?” on their unmade bunk beds and hoped for the best.

A few years later, Son No. 2 fell in love (insert tired sigh) and it became obvious that I had missed the window on having The Talk or taking them on those field trips to Intercourse, Pennsylvania and Bangkok, Thailand.

One day, I nonchalantly walked into the living room while Son No. 2 and The Girl were supposedly watching TV.  The Girl – a pretty, coquettish thing – was reclining on the sofa and arranged across my son’s lap like an after-church all-you-can-eat smorgasbord.

My son gave me a sheepish grin.

Remaining very calm, I wedged in next to them, forcing The Girl to sit up.

A few awkward minutes later, they got up and headed for the upstairs.

“Where are you going?” I asked.

“To my room to watch a movie,” Son No. 2 replied.

Visions of tiny, eager swimming sperm and coquettish, seductive eggs that I had seen in a grainy cartoon-version of “Health and Human Reproduction” in tenth grade flashed through my head.

The Baby — aka Son No. 3 — who was standing nearby, snickered.

“I prefer you watch it down here, in the living room,” I said oh-so-sweetly.

“Yeah, not in your BEDroom,” The Baby sang while leering and moving his prepubescent pelvis suggestively.

Son No. 2 punched The Baby, who punched him back while The Girl giggled.

The next weekend The Girl was back. When I peeked into the living room on my every-four-minute-sex-check-watch, they were locked in a lip embrace.

“What are you guys doing?” I asked, because that’s the only thing I could think of to ask.

Girl First and Only and No. 2 Son — unlike Son No. 1 and The Baby — had never quite mastered the art of a well-executed lie.

“Kissing. What did you think?”

Geesh. What did I think?

I thought The Girl’s cute, little belly button was hanging out of her too-short shirt and too-low pants and showing a little too much skin.

I thought that her mother had also missed the window on having The Talk.

I thought that Alexander’s book should have included a warning about young, limber girls who practice yoga in the smorgasbord position.

I thought I should at least pretend to  trust him.

But not too much.

I forced myself to go to another room, but not before slipping The Baby, almost 13, a crisp five-dollar bill with whispered orders that he was to stay in the living room and keep an eye on his brother and The Girl.

Later, The Baby came to update me on The Situation.

“What are they doing?” I asked.

“Just watching TV,” he said, then added, “Boy, is she hot! When they break up, she’s mine.”

That’s when I snatched my five back.

I needed it to pay for anti-anxiety drugs.

.

Getting old sucks neti pots

Funny, I don’t feel old.

But my body dares to differ.

That’s the weird thing about aging – you feel the same, but suddenly it’s impossible to laugh too hard after drinking a Dixie cup of water without dribbling down your chin or legs.

My body hates me and betrays me every chance it gets. We used to love and mutually respect one another. We used to have dinner before sex and cuddle after. Those days are over. We’re broke up. Literally.

In the midst of a conversation with a store clerk when I am perfectly healthy, my nose will suddenly drip with no warning whatsoever.

I’ve put my back out twice just bending over to tie my shoes.

The only place my hair is getting thicker is on my chin.

I can’t relax during yoga class because I’m afraid I might fart.

On the plus side, I’m old enough that I don’t care if I say fart instead of “pass gas.”

And, I can’t use a neti pot from two to four hours before leaving the house. The last presidential election was proof of that.

In a hurry to vote and make it to work on time, I used a neti pot –  which I swear by for avoiding sinus problems – then rushed to the polls.

In a looooong line of people, many of whom I knew and recognized, I was having a lively conversation with one of the poll workers when I bent over to look at the district map that was taped to a table.

Saline water gushed out of my nose onto the map, which was – thankfully – laminated.

No $h!#.

People stared in horror. Some backed away.

It was almost as if I had told them who I was voting for – only much worse.

As I dived for a tissue in my purse, I tried to explain, without success, that it was only saline water from a neti pot.

I might as well have said I was suffering from Ebola hemorrhagic viral fever.

I was caught in a bad Van Gogh dream, looking into the terrified eyes of 80 people clutching their heads and screaming soundlessly with open mouths.

I know what I would have been thinking had I seen someone’s nasal passages spew a tsunami – “Hope that poor hapless sap stays away from me …”

The weird thing is that sometimes when I pour that little pot of water in one nostril, NOTHING comes out of the other nostril.

That’s when I should have a clue not to bend over for the rest of the year.

I mean, where does it go? It’s supposed to flow in one nostril and wash out the sinuses and nasal passages and then flow out the other nostril.

But sometimes … NOTHING.

Is my head a vacuous wasteland of saline water parks where cells dance and frolic?

I’m sure it has to do with aging. Everything does these days.

Maybe the saline packs into the recesses of my head that used to be filled with working brain matter, but are now empty chasms of space filled with meaningless phrases like, “Where did I leave my glasses?” and “Damn! Why did I come in this room?” and “Rutabagas scare me and my intestines.”

As they say, it sucks.

Or does it blow?

I’m just too damn old to know.

Choose the road less traveled, especially with teenagers

Beautiful sunsets make me cry. Newborn babies make me cry. Soldiers in uniform make me cry. Weddings – especially my own – make me cry.

But nothing makes me cry like teenagers.

And nothing makes me sob like teens that drive, except paying the insurance premiums for teens that drive.

I subscribe to the sage advice of two late, great female humorists who said, “The best way to keep teens at home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant, and let the air out of the tires,” (Dorothy Parker); and, “Never lend your car to anyone to whom you have given birth,” (Erma Bombeck).

It turns out I did not have to let the air out of the tires. The high price of petrol took care of that.

My baby boy, 16, ran out of gas on his way to take his driver’s license test at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. It’s been downhill ever since.

A few days later, he was forced to hoof it about two miles after running out of gas.

More recently, I had to drive into the yard to get around his car because it ran out of gas in the middle of the driveway.

Not to make excuses, but he’s a lot like me.

His older 18-year-old brother does not run out of gas, but this is either: a) because he has a minimal amount of on-hand cash; b) because he’s learned the economical art of siphoning; or c) because he spends a lot of time crashing into things.

My fairly frequent and frantic conversations sound something like this:

To the 16-year-old: “No, you are not driving to school. It’s five blocks. I don’t care. Use an umbrella. When I was your age I could not afford gas or a car. Heck, I could not afford a bicycle. I walked several miles to school … Hullo? …  Hullo?”

To the 18-year-old: What? Your brakes failed and you drove over the fence and into the neighbor’s truck? The important thing is you were not hurt and did not run over the neighbor … you did not run over the neighbor, did you? You still have to go to school. Just walk. When I was a teen, I had no car. I had to bounce on a pogo stick all the way to school … Hullo?”

To the police: “That’s it – the Buick on top of the fence with the front end embedded in the neighbor’s truck. No, that bumper was already torn off from a previous fender-bender. And the back widow was already broken out after he locked his keys in the car and could not think of a better way to get inside.”

To the wrecker service: “That’s right, it’s the same Buick as last month. Just get it off of the fence and neighbor’s truck. The start key is broke off in the ignition, but if you jiggle it with a screwdriver, it should start.”

To the neighbor to the south: “They are my sister’s kids.I’m just helping her out.”

To the 16-year-old: “No more money for gas! There’s this thing in America called ‘a job.’ Try walking. When I was your age, I walked throughout the Midwest, planting apple seeds and wearing only a pan on my head. Okay, that was Johnny Appleseed, but you are missing my point.”

To the 18-year-old: “Good grief! Your accelerator stuck? You drove through two neighbors’ yards and crashed into a cement fence post? The same neighbor? OK – different neighbors – that’s good. The important thing is that you are not hurt and no one was sitting on the fence post … no one was sitting on the fence post, right? I’ll take care of it. Yes, go to school. Just walk. Why, when I was your age … Hullo?”

To the wrecker service: “Yes, it’s the Buick – same one, but this time it’s to the north of our house, not the south. Remember how to jiggle the ignition? If you need something in the trunk, go through the back seat, because the latch is broken.”

To the police: “I know, I know. No one is hurt. Another fender-bender. No, I have not considered changing his name from Christopher to Crashtopher.”

To the neighbors to the north: “We are looking at houses in another state. Really.”

To the 16-year-old: “Okay, so far you are a better driver than your brother, but that’s because you never have enough gas to drive more than 25 feet. And no, I won’t reward you with $20.”

With the radio: “All of a sudden, a rod started knockin’, down in the depths, she started a-rockin’ … Well, they arrested me and put me in jail, I called my ma to make my bail and she said, “Son, you’re gonna drive me to drinkin’ if you don’t stop driving that hot – rod – Lincoln.’ ”

Or Buick.

To the insurance agent (in my best Dr. Evil voice): “So two teens plus two wrecks equals one mmeellllyun dollars?”

To the bartender: “Give me another. I’m walking.”

Soothing bubble bath turns into incinerating mambo dance of death

After living 12 years in a home that did not have a tub, only a shower, we moved into a residence a few months ago that – oh my god – had a tub.

But, I usually habitually jumped in the shower and never gave the tub a second thought. I forgot I had a tub, even as I stood in it to take a shower.

Last weekend, while watching a movie where the female lead took a bubble bath surrounded by candles and sipped on a glass of wine as she soaked, I had an epiphany.

“Hey, I’ve got a tub! And I’ve got wine!”

Unfortunately, I also have ADD, which I forget to calculate into any speculative life skills operations.

It’s simple math.

One tub full of sudsy water + 5 lit candles + 3 glasses of wine + polycomposite plastic + ADD = Slippery Brains and Bath on Fire

Anyway, I was so excited at the prospect, I did not notice that the woman in the movie was in a very expensive, spa-type tub with a wide berth of marble enclosing three sides – perfect for setting candles and glasses of wine.

I have a narrow ledge around a polycomposite tub and enclosure with a plastic shower curtain liner hanging in close proximity.

(I’ve been working a long time to work polycomposite into a column.)

I started the water, adding a generous amount of bubbly.

I took a sip of wine.

I lit the candles.

I took off my clothes.

I had another sip of wine.

I took the shower curtain and liner and hung them on the door hook soon after I smelled something strange and the liner appeared extremely warm to the touch.

I took a big swallow of wine.

Wow. Something smelled toxic. I checked the shower curtain again and the toilet and under the sink.

Nothing.

I put cleansing cream on my face.

My white blood cells were dying. What was that smell?

OMG. I was out of wine.

I threw a towel around my torso and traipsed to the kitchen to reload.

I told my husband something stunk as I walked back to the bathroom. He agreed.

Back in the bathroom, I removed the towel.

I took a big gulp of wine.

I looked in the mirror to remove the face cream.

I saw flames a foot high behind me in the mirror.

I screamed.

It was coming from one of the lit candles I had set in the molded tub shelf that was meant for soap and other bath necessities which, I’m assuming, did not mean candles.

A THICK plexiglass bar – meant to hold washcloths – was less than two inches from the burning wick.

As the bar melted and dripped into the burning candle, it created shooting shards of fire. The smell was reminiscent of my childhood when the neighbor used to burn old tires in his back yard and stink up the entire town.

It was in an age before awareness of “carbon footprints.”

But, even then, my mother knew. She would make my brothers and me come into the house and then tell us not to breathe.

I violently smacked the candle into the bubble bath, slopping burning wax all over the tub walls and my BARE limbs.

I flopped around the bathroom, doing the naked, over-the-hill-woman-on-fire dance – painful and unattractive.

The candle was immediately extinguished, although the bar was black and dripping and would be warm to the touch an hour later.

I power-downed the glass of wine.

And then, I took a shower.

And no one is the wiser . . .