Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Split Personality

"Who are you? And what have you done with my daughter?"

I was tempted to ask this over the weekend. With the family Thanksgiving done, my tween daughter and I flew to Columbus, Ohio to visit my college roommate and perpetual BFF.

Although our tummies were still uncomfortably full and our flight was uncomfortably early, we were both thrilled to go.

The word "family" has evolved — at least for us — to encompass not just blood relatives (of whom we have many and are exceedingly fond) but to the people we would choose to insert into our family tree if we weren't limited by a higher being. Or DNA.

Our Ohio family includes a mother and a father and a dog and three pretty grownup kids: two in college and one in medical school. These are my daughter's surrogate cousins (if not spiritual sisters and brother). So, the long weekend was a particular bonus for me. Not only could I anticipate many hours of talking and talking and coffee and talking and talking and wine and talking and talking, but I could also benefit from my daughter rubbing shoulders with three excellent role models. If they tell her to work hard and get good grades, she nods enthusiastically, hangs on their every word. If I tell her to work hard and get good grades ... well ... not so much.

Where my tween may welcome advice from the younger generation of our honorary family, I downright seek it from their mother. Bullying, skanky fashions, hormones ... all the angst I encounter as a tween's mom? My friend has been there, done that. Three times! She reassures me that we're doing fine.

And, another interesting thing happens on our visits (which are few and far between, much anticipated, and over too fast). My daughter treats me nicely. Gasp! She doesn't roll her eyes. She doesn't hiss exasperated sound effects. She says "Please" and "Thank you." She sits on my lap. She leans against me on the couch while we watch a movie. She says "I love you too" when we all go to bed.


There's a downside to this. For months on end, my friend lends a sympathetic ear (or email or Facebook message) as I bemoan my lot as an overworked, underappreciated, thoroughly neglected mother. Then, we step off the plane and suddenly Miss Hyde has turned into Miss Manners. My friend, to her credit, has never actually called me a liar, but she's got to wonder.

"Really," I insist, "She's SO not like this at home."

But, despite my protests, I sit back and enjoy it. I'll take the affectionate daughter I remember so well (and love so much) wherever and whenever I can find her. All good weekends come to an end and I know things will be back to normal soon.

Too soon.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Mother's Thanksgiving

I'm the mother of a tween and today I am thankful ...

I'm thankful that you still climb on my lap once in a while. Usually at a really inopportune time, like when I'm at my desk on a conference call. But, I'm still thankful for it.

I'm thankful for your recent report card.

I'm thankful that in fourteen years, we only had to go to the pediatric emergency room once — and we were out again in under an hour.

I'm thankful every time I see you draw or write or hold a fork in your left hand because you remind me of my father. He never got to meet you but I know wherever he is, he's proud of his first granddaughter.

I'm thankful that you clean up so well.

I'm thankful that you defend your friends from cafeteria bullies.

I'm thankful every time I watch you in an equestrian event. I'm thankful when you get a good score on your dressage test. I'm thankful when you get a clean round in stadium jumping. I'm thankful when you perform well cross-country. (Mostly, I'm thankful when you don't fall off the horse.)

I'm thankful that you're kind to younger children.

I'm thankful that you're kind to older grandparents.

I'm thankful that you humor me when I tell you there's a movie that you'll simply love or a book you simply have to read. (I'm especially thankful when you end up agreeing with me.)

I'm thankful that you friended me on Facebook.

I'm thankful that you are growing up in this time in this place. Although there are many things wrong with our country right now, I don't worry about a bomb falling on our house or that you'll die of a preventable disease. I value our freedoms and the protection we are afforded. And, I believe that you and your generation have the power to make the world you're inheriting a better place.

I'm thankful that you sometimes, occasionally, once-in-a-blue-moon, make your bed without my nagging you.

I'm thankful for your pretty hair, your lovely figure, your green eyes, your warm smile. I'm thankful that you're strong and healthy.

I'm thankful for your sensitivity and your sense of justice. I'm thankful that when these qualities cause you to feel a slight more deeply than others do, your sadness is usually short-lived. I'm thankful for your resilience and your optimism.

I'm thankful for your sense of humor. I don't always get it, but I'm thankful for it.

More than anything else, I'm thankful that you chose me. That you came into my life and changed it forever. I honestly don't know who or what or where I'd be without you.

Happy Thanksgiving, my darling daughter. Happy Happy Happy Thanksgiving.

Can you go make your bed now?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Honey, I Get It. Really.

"Enough about me. What do you think about me?"

When you're a fourteen-year-old girl, the universe pretty much revolves around you. Feeling popular, secure and pretty? All is right with the world. Feeling tired, left out and a little bit blemishy? There is a dark shadow over everything and everyone, everywhere. It can feel like an adolescent apocalypse of biblical proportions.

My daughter firmly believes that I don't get it. But, here's a little secret that she doesn't know. I was a fourteen-year-old girl once too. Really.

Now, of course she realizes that I was fourteen at some point; it happened in between the years I was thirteen and fifteen. (Well, duh!) What I mean is that she really, truly, sincerely, honestly does not believe that I was ever in her shoes. That I could possibly understand — and appreciate — all that she has to deal with at that age, in this day and age.

Here are some examples:

She's in eighth grade. She has homework assignments and tests to prepare for. In fact, there are evenings when she has to study for — gasp! — two different quizzes in two different subjects for two different teachers. Apparently, there is no way I can make a suggestion, sympathize, or even relate. Because, apparently, when I was in junior high (way back when), we never had multiple exams on the same day. Hmm. I wish someone had explained that to my teachers.

She sometimes feels left out. Of course, I can't possibly know what that's like. I was never ignored, overlooked or had my feelings hurt. I was never excluded from a birthday party, teased in a gym class. I was never "the last one picked for basketball." Ha, dream on. I only wish my teen years were the halcyon days my daughter seems to think they were.

She worries about fitting in. She desperately needs the clothes, the accessories, the school supplies that all the other eighth graders have. Yours truly wouldn't understand. After all, I never begged my mom to buy me a pair of overpriced Calvin Klein jeans, Frye boots, Adidas sneakers, or a down vest. (That down vest was really really cool, now that I think about it.)

She is living in the minute. This minute, this very specific exact minute. It's hard for her to plan ahead — or to trust me when I promise that things will work out. But, you see, unbeknownst to her, I remember what that's like as well. I did my share of crying myself to sleep over tragic tragedies that became trivial trifles a week later. Patience is not an easily accessible virtue for tweens and teens. "This too shall pass," I tell her. She rolls her swollen eyes.

A few nights ago, we were having a typical family dinner (picture The Waltons, but with iPhones and eating microwaved leftovers and rushing to finish so we could watch the new episode of Glee). The meal fractured as it often does into a father-daughter argument. I can't remember what the dispute was about, but I was struck by something my daughter said ...

"Dad! Stay out of it! You were never a fourteen-year-old girl!"

He couldn't really argue with that one.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Pass the Popcorn — and the Outrage

Women are 51% of the U.S. population.

Women are ...
3% of clout positions in mainstream media
3% of Fortune 500 CEOs
7% of mainstream film directors
16% of film protagonists
17% of Congress

I repeat, women are 51% of the U.S. population. What's wrong with the rest of these numbers?

Yesterday, despite it being a school night, I drove my 14-year old daughter into Boston to see a movie. It wasn't your typical trip to the cinema. We weren't in deep velveteen chairs, munching overpriced popcorn and sipping watered down soda.

Instead, we were on stacking function chairs (you know, the metal ones with padded seats that are supposed to be soft and comfortable but after an hour and a half ... well ... not so much). We were in the library of the Back Bay YWCA, surrounded by smart, edgy, engaged women and a couple of brave men. The documentary we had come to see was running on a laptop, projected on a small portable screen. There was no concession stand, but we did sneak in some leftover Halloween candy.

I, for one, was very happy to be there.

I first learned about Miss Representation several months ago. The trailer was posted on Women's Voices for Change, a fabulous online magazine to which I often contribute cultural pieces. I was mesmerized by it and looked forward to catching the film in its entirety. Unfortunately, that wasn't so easy to do.

Movie distribution is a business, yeah, I get it. Let's take a look at the top grossing titles this year: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Hangover Part II, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Fast Five. These are not woman-centric movies (despite Hermione's best efforts to be one of the Hogwarts' boys, the only other females are bimbos and pirate wenches). These are most certainly not documentaries about how the media depicts women and the consequences thereof.

Without sounding like a conspiracy theorist, I have to point out also that the great majority of the people making decisions about which films are released when, where and in how many theatres are ... men. Despite the fact that women are not actually a minority in this country, women are very much outnumbered in the corner offices at every media conglomerate. Miss Representation's message is demonstrated by its own difficulty getting out there.

Miss Representation was written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, who introduces the topic in a meaningful and personal way. After sharing her own poignant history, she explained that her mission in making the movie was to understand the world into which she was about to bring her new baby daughter. In example after example, Newsom exposes how commercial media — and its pervasive and continued objectification of girls and women — lead undeniably to the under-representation of females in positions of influence and power.

In the course of the 90-minute movie, we heard powerful first-person accounts from politicians, journalists, activists, entertainers and academics, as well as extremely articulate teenage girls. These young women were angry about their own potential in a world that values women (even Presidential and Supreme Court candidates!) based on how they look rather than their intellect and accomplishments.

The movie ended to earnest applause from the small but enthusiastic crowd. Attendees were invited to stay for a discussion, but we had to hit the road (or face an even more grueling wake-up-and-get-to-school routine than usual). This was the moment of truth. Did my daughter think I was preaching? Did she think I was overreacting?

"That was so-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o good!" she told me.

Good? Yes, good. Good as in frightening. Good as in important. Good as in powerful. Good as in every mother and every young woman should get out and watch this movie.

My daughter and I don't always see eye-to-eye. (Is that not the understatement of the year!) But, we agree about this. We encourage you to seek out Miss Representation and see it.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Use Your Words

The first time I ever heard the phrase "Use your words" was probably when I worked as a mother's helper in Amagansett out on Long Island. That was 1976, and I was taking care of a lovely little toddler named Lisa. Like most two-year olds, Lisa was busy building her vocabulary. And (like most two-year olds) Lisa quickly regressed to non-verbal communication whenever she was frustrated, upset or overtired.

"Use your words," her mother reminded her.

Over the years, I heard lots of other mothers say the same thing to their tiny offspring, encouraging them to use language rather than pointing, whining, or throwing their little bodies down on the floor in a heap.

"Use your words." I've always loved the concept of that phrase. Urging the tot to choose from his or her very own collection of words to express whatever needs expressing. It's as though words are valuable assets that they have somehow acquired. Prized possessions; their words, not someone else's. I'm sure I reminded my own toddler daughter to "use her words" more than once or twice myself.

Now that same toddler is a tween. If her report cards are any indication, she has an excellent eighth grade mastery of English. (This despite nearly constant texting, which, as we all know, is the utter demolition of the language.)

And yet, just this afternoon, I found myself wanting to say it again. "Use your words." I was away at a business meeting, and called home when it was over. "How was school?" I asked. (Why, oh why, do I even bother?)

"Enh," she grunted. (Good? Bad? Indifferent? Who knew?)

"Do you have homework?" I asked.

"Arrrrrrem," she groaned. (Again, I couldn't tell whether the sound effect was an affirmative or a negative.)

"I'll be home in about an hour," I told her.

"Hmmmuh," she shrugged. (Yes, we were about 45 miles apart, but I knew she was shrugging. Shrugging as in, "Whatever. Who cares?")

"Okay then. Bye, honey. Love you."


Being the mother of an adolescent ain't always easy. So, I try to be a glass half-full kinda gal. Rather than take my daughter's responses literally, I decided to translate them for myself. Create my own subtitles for our little scene. Here goes ...

Me: "How was school?"

Her: "It was really delightful, mother dear. We learned so many new things and all had such fun together. I'm so fortunate to go to such a good middle school. Thank you for everything you do to make sure I'm getting a fine education."

Me: "Do you have homework?"

Her: "Why yes, thank you for asking, mother dear. I'm already working on it, and plan to get a good jump on the assignments that are due later in the week. I should have it all done in plenty of time to clean my room and then help you in the kitchen later."

Me: "I'll be home in about an hour."

Her: "That's really nice news; I'm so glad. I miss you and look forward to some quality mother-daughter time this evening. Perhaps we can look at some of your old photo albums or watch a Jane Austen movie."

Me: "Okay then. Bye, honey. Love you."

Her: "I love you too. I love you more."

Audible sigh. I think I'll keep this version to myself. After all, my daughter is adept at another form of non-verbal communication. The eye roll.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Dying to be Skinny

"I'm fat."

"My thighs are too big."

"I'd die to be skinny."

Our culture's obsession with weight — or, more accurately, the lack thereof — is really shameful. According to an estimate from the United Nations, there are 925 million undernourished people in the world today. The idea that we have enough food but choose to starve ourselves in order to fit into a smaller pair of jeans or look good on a red carpet is obscene.

The people who are most affected by this emaciation fixation are adolescents and young adults. With bodies changing, hormones raging, and anxiety about what the world (not to mention the cool table in the cafeteria) thinks of them, tween and teen girls are most vulnerable. So, what does the media do? It serves up image after image of sunken-eyed waifs with bones protruding where flesh should be. If a celebrity (a female celebrity, mind you, males aren't under the same scrutiny) gains five pounds, it's front page news. And, not in a good way.

The photos above are from an ad that was recently banned in the U.K. by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). The bikini that the scrawny girl is barely wearing is sold by Drop Dead clothing. An interesting brand name, given that their model looks like she's on her last legs and in desperate need of a last meal. The ASA called the ad "socially irresponsible." Hear, hear!

As the mother of a tween-going-on-teen, I worry about body image and eating disorders. My daughter is not happy with her figure — even though it's pretty perfect. She rides horses, and has for the past eight years, so she has fantastic quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes. And, it's not just her legs, she has great strength in what trainers obnoxiously refer to as "the core." (Really, I could do Pilates from now until doomsday and I wouldn't get close.) But, like all girls her age, she is hypercritical of her body.

Fortunately, she has a very healthy appetite and a pronounced sweet tooth. So, there hasn't been any talk of dieting. At least, not yet.

I remember my own junior high and high school days. Crash diets were all too common. There was the only-cucumbers diet, the only-plain yogurt diet, the only-bran muffins diet, the only-egg drop soup diet. I had friends who smoked to stay thin. I had friends who took laxatives. We all fasted. We all drank Tab, the bitterest diet soda ever invented. And, if there was any question about girls acting healthier once they went to college, all you had to do was visit the ladies room at one of the campus dining halls after a meal. Let's just say that an inordinate number of coeds were worshipping the porcelain god on a regular basis.

Pushing fifty, and dealing with a body that is changing again, I still have to remind myself that happiness and waistline are only related if I choose for them to be. We all know better now, right? Girls (and moms) should be encouraged to be strong, not skinny.

But, as Drop Dead's ad, and countless like it, demonstrates, the fashion and entertainment industry is still saying "Less is more."

Speaking of more ... I'm all for it. As in, more watchdog organizations need to recognize — and regulate — the images that create in our girls doubt at best and anorexia at worst. More advertisers need to accept responsibility for what they broadcast and promote. And, as consumers, more of us can vote with our wallets, boycotting stores or brands that tell our daughters that looking like a cadaver is attractive, sexy and desirable.

Anorexia nervosa is the number one cause of death among young women. In fact, the mortality rate for anorexia is higher than for any other psychological disorder. They say, "You can't be too rich or too thin." Tell that to all the girls who have literally died to be skinny.

Or tell their mothers.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Our Lady of Motherly Miracles

They say that children (tweens and teens in particular) act up at home because, regardless of how very egregious their behavior is (and it can be very very very egregious), they know you still have to love them.

This is good, right? This means that we are raising emotionally healthy, stable, confident kids.

It also means that those of us who are mothers are rarely appreciated and quite often discounted if not downright disrespected. I've come to terms with it. For the most part. I no longer expect a "Thank you" when clothes are clean, beds are made, lunches are packed.

But what about miracles? Honest to goodness miracles? What about the times when disaster is thwarted because — and only because — mother knew best, mother was prepared, or mother moved heaven and Earth to give her cherished offspring the outcome they desire?

We are moms. We work in mysterious ways, our wonders to perform. And still ... we're taken for granted.

Example. Yesterday morning, at 7:22 am, my daughter was leaving the house precisely on time (rather a miracle in itself, but I digress). Suddenly, she stopped. "Oh no," she said, panicking. "I forgot. I need a poster board for science!"

Her mother of miracles sprang into action. "Hang on!" I told her, as I raced up the back stairs, knelt next to her bed and pulled out ... a poster board. Pristine, still in its shrink wrap from Staples. I went down to the kitchen, triumphantly holding my prize. Did she say "Gee, thanks?" Did she say, "Wow, how did you know I'd need one?" Did she say, "What a relief?" Nope.

She said, "Oh no, it's the kind with the grid on it."

Huh? Sure enough, the poster board in question, had a faint, palest of blue, checkerboard grid, designed to help make any middle school writing or drawing or pasting straighter. I probably paid extra for it. And, truly, you had to hold the board up to the light, just so, to even see it.

Hello?!? Did I miss something? It was 7:22 in the morning and I found her a poster board. Science project beggars can't be choosers! As Miss Patty would have said back at Sundance Preschool ... "You get what you get, and you don't get upset." Sheesh!

Back to my story. Disaster averted, miracle performed, my daughter reluctantly decided that the grid-free back side of the board would do. She muttered, "Bye," and rushed out to meet her BFFs and walk to school.

Maybe she's so nonchalant about these motherly miracles because they're nothing new. Been there, done that. Let's see ... there have been elaborate costumes created overnight, complex scheduling conflicts untangled, emotional middle school mine fields negotiated safely.

I tell her, "Trust me, it will all work out." I tell her, "Don't worry, we'll get it done." She tells me, "Thank you so much." Um ... NOT. Well, rarely anyway.

Recently, I found a notebook of poems that my daughter wrote in fourth or fifth grade. There were a wide variety of styles: haiku, limericks, rhymes, shapes. And, she had written acrostics for all of her family members. In honor of my recent poster board miracle, I decided to write my own ...

M is for the MIRACLES, performed on a regular basis

O is for OTHERWISE you, dearest daughter, would be up the proverbial creek

T is for all the TIMES I bailed you out

H is for the HYSTERICS we've averted, barely

E is for EXTRASENSORY perception, which you clearly expect me to have

R is for REALLY, it's my pleasure. No thank you required.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Time It Was, And What A Time It Was

I can't help it. Simon & Garfunkel songs keep playing in my head.

"Can you imagine us years from today,
Sharing a park bench quietly.
How terribly strange to be seventy.
Old friends ..."

Seventy. Wow. Right now, I can relate to that number.

No, I haven't aged twenty years (twenty years and five months and eight days, to be exact) overnight. But, those lyrics keep repeating themselves. I just returned from a quick trip to New York to attend the seventieth anniversary celebration of my elementary school.

What a time it was!

Trips like these are best made alone. Would I enjoy showing my old school to my husband and tween daughter? Yes, very much! Would they enjoy it? No, not so much. So, they stayed home and I journeyed south by myself.

Most of us remember our grade school years with fondness. Best friends, favorite teachers, recess. My memories include all of these things, of course, but my school itself was unusual. It was established (seventy years ago, if you've been paying attention) as a teaching lab for college students. Although it is not a private school, it has always been part of New York's higher education system rather than part of the public school system. Over the years this has created challenges as the City has struggled with budgets. We were evicted from three floors of Hunter College back in 1971, spent a spooky year in an old convent, relocated to the U.N. School's former building, and finally found a permanent home in an armory on Park Avenue. I clearly remember my mother and all of the mothers of my friends marching down to City Hall with handmade signs and banners. "S.O.S. Save Our School!" we chanted.

Many years later, a handful of my fellow protesters and I reconnected to celebrate what made our school so special in the 60s and 70s.

After a quick tour led by an extremely articulate fourth grader, we attended an assembly. Emceed by three sixth graders, the program included songs in both English and Spanish. We joined in to sing the Alma Mater that we remembered, and some guests from earlier classes taught us a couple of lost versions. Throughout the day, young students were happy to share their space with a bunch of sentimental old folks. They seemed truly delighted to meet us. Later, we gathered at the historic home of Eleanor Roosevelt for a reception and a presentation honoring several distinguished alumni.

Our class produced a respectable turnout. Although as far as I remember there were equal numbers of boys and girls in our grade, only women attended from the "Class of '74." (I confess I had to look at my name tag every time anyone asked my year — I'm used to referring to my high school or college graduation, not sixth grade.) There were decades to catch up on: careers, marriages, divorces, where we went to college or graduate school, where we live now.

As we talked, years melted away. So, you might not recognize someone at first, but within minutes, you could see them exactly as they were at ten years old. "Oh, there you are!"

We talked a great deal between Friday's program at the school, the reception that night, and brunch the next day. And what topic did we talk about most (and return to again and again and again)? Our children.

My best friend from first grade has an only child as do I (her son is the same age as my daughter — we agreed that these years are tough although there are definitely pros and cons of each gender). Another dear friend has two daughters who look so much like the girl I remember that I catch my breath when I see their pictures. One brought her sixteen year-old with her — and, either she is an extraordinary actress or the young woman was genuinely interested in all of us. (Either way, she was delightful.) Some people had grown children; some were navigating college applications. And, the classmate who wins the "family-life-most-likely-to-be-made-into-a-movie" prize was my beloved BFF from fourth grade (we wrote a book together that year and produced many wild theatricals). She has recently remarried, merging her four children with her new husband's eight. That's like two Brady bunches in one household! (Where's Alice when you need her?)

Regardless of the size of each of our families, they became an instant reconnection for us. We compared notes about our children, their schools, their after-school activities, what the older ones were doing for a living or majoring in. When we ran out of shared second grade memories, we could count on the common ground that came with guiding a next generation through its own trials and tribulations. (Dodge ball, anyone? It was the bane of my elementary school existence. I still shudder when I think about it.)

The anniversary event ended too quickly and we scattered back to our grownup lives. But, I will treasure the pictures I took and the new memories we made.

Maybe you can't go home again. But, sometimes, you can visit for a little while.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Coming To Your Emoticon Rescue

We're all so wired (and so wireless) these days, more and more of our communications takes place over email. Efficient? Yes. Effective? Yes. Nuanced? Well, not so much.

By and large, email messages don't have a tone of voice. EXCEPT FOR THE ONES THAT ARE IN ALL CAPS WITH MULTIPLE EXCLAMATION POINTS!!! (Sorry for shouting at you there.) Email misunderstandings, understandably, are pretty common. Sometimes a person sounds angry when they're simply rushed. Or, a typo can send the recipient off in the wrong direction — auto correct typos can be particularly confusing. Sarcasm doesn't come across at all. And jokes fall flat more often than not.

In cyberspace, no one can hear you laugh.

Many years ago, in 1982 which was the dawn of time by Internet standards, a Carnegie Mellon researcher named Scott Fahlman recognized that the other geeks in his computer science lab were trying to infuse humor into an innately humorless medium. He suggested using punctuation marks to denote jokes. (-:

And the emoticon was born!

BTW, how cool is it that an actual person came up with something as ubiquitous as the smiley emoticon? How cool is it that there's a record, proof positive, of his invention? Twenty years after his brainstorm, researchers were able to find his original email in the university's computer department back-up tapes. Pretty cool, Scott! Pretty cool.

Moving on.

If you have a tween or a teen, you're always struggling to keep up with their friendships, fads, and fashion. You're also usually a step behind when it comes to technology, media and how your daughter or son communicates with her or his peers. Kids are adept at adopting the newest, fastest ways to talk amongst themselves.

Here is a quick glossary of the most basic emoticons that can help you the next time you're checking emails or text messages ... um, with their permission, of course. (-;

Smiling (or joking)





Tongue sticking out

Straight face/no reaction

The range of facial expressions can also be executed with a pair of shades using the character 8. This might mean that the person is a nerd. Or it might mean that the person is cool. (Or, it might just mean that your tween wears glasses.)


Once you've mastered the basics, you can move on to elaborate emoticon pictograms. These include:

Dazed and confused


Listening with headphones

And, I love cats (well, why not?)

Other cultures have developed their own dialects of emoticons. Here, for example, is an Asian symbol that means "typical American ..." Hmmmm.
| ̄ ̄|
( ´_⊃`)

This list is by no means complete. Like any modern language, Emoticonalese is always evolving. Just when you think you know enough to converse with your tween, he or she will have moved on. Maybe this is one of those life-long learning opportunities. For example, I recently learned a valuable new symbol that I plan to use as often as I can afford to.

Bye for now. I'm on my way to *$$$. Get it? ;-)