Thursday, March 28, 2013

Whose Bright Future Was It Anyway?

Sometimes, you have to be serious.

When I started Lovin' the Alien (two years and one week ago, exactly), I wanted it to be funny. I was going through this wild ride as my daughter evolved from a child into a tween, and I had this real sense that if I could laugh about it, things would be easier. 

Now, 244 posts later, I've addressed some pretty serious topics, like the sexification of underage girls, eating disorders, gender and race and sexuality discrimination, domestic violence. MENOPAUSE!

For the past couple of weeks, I've avoided writing about the Steubenville rape trial. (Although, if any of my readers are friends with me on Facebook, they've already heard some of my — fairly vocal — views.) After all, what could I say that wasn't already being said? The outrageous crime perpetrated by the two "promising" young men was compounded again and again by the media and organizations like the NAACP, whose former chapter president said today that the "alleged victim" was "drunk and willing."

Enough already!

Before sitting down to write this, I wanted to learn a bit more about rape shield laws, those that are supposed to keep the focus on the decisions and behavior of the accused rapists rather than the raped. Here's a telling piece of cyber trivia for you. When I Googled "law prohibiting victim trial rape," the first (paid) listing was for a Boston Sex Crimes Law Firm, that offers to represent individuals charged with a variety of crimes, ranging from "date rape" to "child pornography," "molestation" to "solicitation of a minor." The firm promises that "Our legal team includes former police officers with a thorough knowledge of what police are allowed to do, and what they are not as far as evidence is concerned."

Yes, of course, under our system of government, one is innocent until proven guilty. Yes, of course, everyone deserves legal representation and their day in court. 

But pardon me if the website made me feel a little queasy.

No more discussion, please, about whether the girl was drinking. Whether she had a crush on one of the athletes. What she was wearing. Who she was dating. For the record, I'll just repeat what every feminist, progressive, humanist voice has said already. Rape victims are victims. End. Of. Story.

I was thrilled when two important men in my life (one of my business partners and my husband) forwarded this video. It was created by college sophomore Samantha Stendahl (supposedly while she should have been studying for finals, but we'll give her a pass this once). 

Right now, Samantha's video has about 1.7 million hits on YouTube. That's 300,000 more than the "Leaked Steubenville Big Red Rape Video" with teenage boys debating the pros and cons of raping a dead girl as they laugh about the actual rape going on in the next room. Apparently the "She's deader than ..." jokes prevented any of the snickering boys from calling 911.

(The star of that excruciating 12-minute video, by the way, is a scholarship student at Ohio State. His own attorney defended him by calling him "young and stupid." In my book, that doesn't begin to cover it!) 

For the sake of my teenage daughter (and all of us), I hope that the future of YouTube will include a lot more videos like Samantha's. 

And, maybe someday, no more of the other kind.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Bet We Don't Know Lilo

It's a Lilo, Lilo, Lilo world.

Lindsay Lohan is everywhere today. She's in my news feed not once, not twice, but three times. (And, believe me, it isn't as though I've requested Lohan alerts or anything.) She may not have had a hit role lately, but she hasn't exactly faded from view.

First of all, there's the story about whether she will indeed do jail time for her latest infraction. As part of a plea bargain, she was supposed to spend 90 days in a rehab "lock-down," but logistical issues may make that impossible. (As some media are reporting, the so-called logistical issues may be that the locked-down program she proposed to attend doesn't actually exist. As in, she may have lied. As in, to a judge. As in, "Oh Lindsay!")

The second story is in some ways more complimentary, but goes salaciously downhill almost immediately. Supposedly, Lindsay was very professional on the set of Charlie Sheen's Anger Management, on which she was guest starring. She knew her lines, she arrived on time. (Apparently, this is newsworthy.) Of course, the two tidbits that reporters really jumped on were a prison scene (her character was doing community service there), and a scene in bed with her hot-headed costar Sheen.

Yikes. What a combination!

The third story involves James Franco — not exactly the poster boy for sane behavior, himself (did anyone catch his strung-out, missing-in-action evening as Oscars host?). In a recent interview with shock-jock and all-around pig Howard Stern, Franco confessed that Lohan had tried unsuccessfully to lure him into bed.

As my teenage daughter would text: "TMI" (that's "too much information").

Clearly the girl has issues.

Lindsay Lohan's story makes me sad, as a mother and as a consumer of Hollywood. The first roles I ever saw Lilo in were the two twins in an ill-advised remake of The Parent Trap. The movie was a snore, but the little Lohans were (both) adorable. My daughter watched it many times although even at the age of five or six she knew enough to prefer the 1961 original with Haley Mills. Still the fault didn't lie with Lindsay. She held her own (with herself, but also with Dennis Quaid and Natasha Richardson). She was doubly adorable.

The next time I sat up and noticed her was in Freaky Friday. She did an incredible job channeling Jamie Lee Curtis when an enchanted fortune cookie made them change bodies. The following year, she had the lead role in another better-than-your-average teen film, Tina Fey's Mean Girls. Many moons later, my daughter and her friends still quote these movies and one BFF uses "Regina George" as her text avatar.

Here are a couple of things you probably don't know about Lilo.

She's actually smart. In fact, she was a straight A student as a child. You can still see her intelligence — when she's not shoplifting or driving drunk, of course — as a guest host on SNL.

She may be just 25 years old, but she's had a longer career in front of the camera than most. She was a Ford model at the tender age of 3.

And, she's a solid actress. But, don't take my word for it. Meryl Streep is a fan too. When they worked together on Prairie Home Companion, La Streep had this to say: 

“She’s in command of the art form. Whatever acting is — I don’t know what it is — she’s in command of it. I think she could do anything she puts her mind to.”

I hope Meryl is right, because here's what I'd really like to see in my newsfeed one day soon: "Lohan Getting Critical Acclaim for Latest Role ...

... After Getting Life in Order."

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Skinny on Skinny

In Sex and the City (episode seven, season six, not that we're keeping score or anything), Miranda celebrates a milestone moment. An event of life-affirming, unbridled joy. It's one that women everywhere can relate to. 

She fit into her "skinny jeans."

Charlotte: How'd you do it?

Miranda: Well, I got pregnant, became a single mother, and stopped having any time to eat.

Samantha: Oh, that's a diet I won't be trying.

What is it about skinny jeans? Let's start at the beginning. We live in a culture where the word "skinny" doesn't just mean slim. It means beautiful, desirable. It connotes self-control, righteous discipline. If I am skinny and you are not, I am somehow more worthy than you. If you are skinny and I am not, I will hate you — or, at least, avoid you until you put on a few. 

And, what is it about jeans? They are supposed to be comfortable. They are supposed to be casual. But, deep down inside, we all envy the emaciated starlet who can get away with skin-tight denim (paired with stilettos and a lamé top) on the red carpet. She doesn't need a fabulous gown because she herself is so fabulous.

We sneer at her.

We want to be her.

The night before our recent vacation to New Orleans, I was packing and on a sudden urge, I pulled out my favorite pair of jeans. Did I dare try them on? The last time I did, it was not very pretty. But, I'd been on a strict diet and exercise regime since New Year's, and I knew I had lost some pounds. Would the jeans fit? If they did, I would be ecstatic. All my hard work would have paid off and I would be ecstatic. The jeans would go with us to Louisiana, and I would be ecstatic. (Did I mention I would be ecstatic?) If they still didn't fit, I would fall into a deep despair and probably drown my sorrows in a bottle of pinot grigio and a pint of Ben & Jerry's, thereby undoing a month and a half of progress. It was a risk I was willing to take. Lo and behold, they not only zipped but there was room to spare! I could breathe and walk and shake my money maker. With great happiness, I dropped them into the suitcase, anticipating an even sweeter week off now that my skinny jeans and I were happily reunited. 

At this point, I should probably mention that there was a time when these skinny jeans were not skinny jeans. They were just my regular jeans. In fact, I have two other pairs of skinny jeans (skinnier and skinniest) that haven't been out of the closet for years. And, that's where they will most likely stay, short of my contracting an intestinal infection or having my hip bones surgically removed.

The other day, my teenage daughter and I were at the mall exchanging some shirts at Forever 21 and looking at bathing suits. "There's one more thing I need," she told me. "New jeans."

I had been a good sport (and muchos generous mom) all afternoon, but there was a line to draw here. "No way," I told her. "You have a million pairs of jeans." Of course, I was exaggerating a bit. She doesn't really have a million, but she has about a dozen. How do I know this? Because every couple of weeks, I can't take it anymore and clean her room. Finding, folding and hanging her vast assortment of denim is no quick or easy task.  

She pouted and begged and cajoled and bargained, and I finally agreed to let her spend her own money on the coveted  distressed skinny jeggings. In truth, I am a sucker mom of the first order — and more than a little in awe of anyone who can get away with jeggings. (Heck, it's three weeks later and I'm still ecstatic (ecstatic!) about squeezing into my size 10 Liz Claiborne mom jeans.)

At least she didn't ask me for the latest in skinny skinny, recently launched by American Eagle Outfitters. These are a study in minimalist casual, pants that are (exactly) as unique as you are, jeans that truly let you be you (for all the world to see).

The campaign stresses that the skinny skinny is available in limited quantities, and when you try to order these one-size-fits-all jeans in a can, you learn that they're sold out. But, American Eagle, smart marketers as well as adept practical jokers, asks for your email address. 

The funniest thing about the promotion, however, isn't the video or the copy ("contoured through the thigh, knee and ankle, they fit like a second skin") or the product shots ("two signature washes"). It's how many people apparently bought the idea and would have bought the products had they actually existed. Really.

Because, when it comes to jeans, less is most definitely more. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I Got The Music In Me

It's March 19th in New England and we have yet another snow day. After sleeping in and grumbling a bit, my teenage daughter settled herself on the TV room couch. My husband is (yet again) shoveling and I'm working in my home office. 

But, my teen is not exactly alone; she has her iPhone and my iPad.

These days, it seems like the age-old divide between adolescents and their parents can be measured in personal electronic devices. Yes, I own as many as my daughter does, but they are not my lifelines (or more like additional limbs) as they seem to be for her.

When I was fifteen, the only new-fangled technology I owned was a Sony Walkman and a Texas Instruments calculator — both of which I cherished, BTW. If I wanted to watch something, I used my parents' TV. If I wanted to listen to music, I did so via cassette tapes and vinyl records, just like my mom and dad did. But that's where the common ground stopped.

At fifteen, music plays a critical role in helping us define who we are. In a recent New York Magazine story (Why You Truly Never Leave High School), Laurence Steinberg, a Temple University developmental psychologist and expert on adolescence, explained it this way:

“... no matter how old you are, the music you listen to for the rest of your life is probably what you listened to when you were an adolescent.” 

Puberty and adolescence are the periods when our brains sort us into the categories that determine the type of person we are. "I'm the type of person who does this. I'm the sort of person who likes that." And then it follow us ever after. As Steinberg relates to himself, “There’s no reason why, at the age of 60, I should still be listening to the Allman Brothers.” But, at an earlier, impressionable, formative age, he determined that he was "the type of person who likes the Allman Brothers." And the rest, as they say, is history.

These days, my daughter is all about Imagine Dragons. This morning, she approached me with great excitement because the band has published (online, of course) its upcoming concert schedule. This summer at Boston University, but not open to the public. ("Arrrrrrrgh! Mom! Dad! Who do we know at B.U.?") December in Columbus, Ohio. (Errr ... no, despite the presence of our best friends there, we are not going to spend $1,000 on airfare to see a concert on a school night.) And, some future date that I can't remember in Paris. (Okay, that one I might consider ... Not.)

I asked her, reasonably enough, if they are her favorites now because she got to see them live a few weeks ago. She said they would be her favorites anyway. 

Her love runs deep.

Mine does not. 

Frankly, like countless mothers before me, I don't get it. I know — I'm vaguely aware of, would be a more appropriate choice of words — some of their songs. "It's Time" was covered on Glee, and "Radioactive" has a bizarre video with a gangster Lou Diamond Philips and a bunch of Muppets on crack. I am by no means an expert.

But, that's okay. 

Frankly, I don't have to like her music. Just like my parents didn't have to like mine (although, in truth, my mom and dad were way cooler than the average moms and dads back then). I don't get the music, but I do get the feeling. And that feeling will stay with my teenager long past her teen years. Just like Steinberg, I'm a focus group of one that proves this.

What's in my car right now?

Eagles: The Very Best Of
Janis Ian Between the Lines
Billy Joel, Greatest Hits Volume I and II
Elvis Costello, My Aim is True
Carly Simon Hotcakes
The Best of the Commodores
Changes 1 Bowie

And, as always, a lot of Elton John.

This selection is more a snapshot of a moment in time than loyalty to a particular genre, artist or style. Most of these CDs would not please either my husband or my child. But, when I'm alone and I hit "Play," I am instantly transported to my teens — an emotional period, certainly, but one that was filled with hopes and dreams and expectations that have faded over the past 35 years.

Until, that is, I hit "Play."

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Words, Words, Words

This morning, when I blew my top because my teenage daughter had been awake for fifteen minutes but wasn't actually getting up (or dressed or organized), I was treated to one of my all-time least favorite phrases.

"Mo-o-om, it's covered."

Clearly, it wasn't. The only thing covered was the carpet — covered with dirty clothes, discarded gum wrappers, textbooks, homework, hair accessories, and a cruddy bowl from last night's brownie sundae. She was tired, yeah, I get that.

But, I was tired too. Sick and tired of the disconcerting, dismissive, disrespectful words that so frequently come out of her mouth. (Let's face it, the girl disses me altogether too much.)

People tell me that my daughter is a good kid. And, somewhere beneath the early-morning frustration, I know this, of course. When it comes to the things she says to me, I'm aware that there are much (much, much) worse words I could hear ...

"Can you pick me up at the police station?"

"My period's late."

"I have to repeat Biology next year."

"Is there any more vodka?"

Even so, there are some words that I no longer want to hear. From now on, they are orsum non gratis. This new rule (which will, no doubt, be oh so strictly adhered to — as are all the rules in our house — ha!) is not limited to the specific words themselves. I am outlawing all utterances that share their general purpose and intent. 

Here are four categories of conversation taboo. I suggest that the teenager study this closely:

1. "It's covered."
The underlying tone is "Chillax, Mom. You are making a big deal out of nothing. I do not need your advice or your guidance. I am in control — and you are not. I am in charge — and you are not. I'm a calm, cool, and collected individual — and you are not." 

Sorry sweetheart, it ain't covered till the fat lady sings so. I'm the fat lady — and you are not.

2. "But, everybody else ..."
This excuse is used when I am disappointed in some action or behavior or result. If, for example, my daughter gets an 87 on a World Cultures test (which by the way, when I had nagged her the night before, she told me was "covered"), the response is "But, everybody else got a 75." Sorry, the class's mediocre average does not make me happy with a B. No way, no how.

If everyone else jumped off a bridge ...?

3. But, no one else ..."
A variation on the above is used when my daughter is bemoaning her fate as the most pitiable child since Charles Dickens wrote Little Dorrit. "But, no one else has parental controls on their computer." "But, no one else has to go to bed at 10." "But, no one else has to call their mother after school." "But, no one else has to make their bed."

Who are these people — and where are their parents?

4. "Nothing."
The last and arguably most common (and perhaps most irritating) is the verbal answer that evades actually answering by saying ... well ... nothing. This is used as a response to myriad queries:

"What are you doing on your phone?" "Nothing."
"What did you learn in school today?" "Nothing."
"What did you guys do this afternoon?" "Nothing."

Its close relative is another one-word reply: "Stuff," as in:

"What are you texting about?" "Stuff."

When our kids are little and just starting to speak, we often tell them, "Use your words." For example, when your toddler is pointing to a cookie and going, "Eeeeeeeeeeeeyyyyy," like a juvenile cast member from a remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. "Use your words," we remind them, gently.

This post is my not so gentle reminder to my teen. Use your words, yes, just not these particular words anymore.

'Nuff said.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Daylight Savings Time Blues

Over the weekend, all of my Facebook friends were buzzing about daylight saving time. Most people were looking forward to the change, planning to enjoy those extra hours of afternoon sun, and thinking of it as the first step toward longer days and warmer weather ahead.

I was in a distinct minority. As far as I was concerned, we could have left things just the way they were.

Don't get me wrong, I like sunshine too. But I like it in the morning. In fact, I hate getting up in the dark. And that's exactly what I'll be doing for the next several weeks. Thanks a lot, daylight saving time!

I always assumed that daylight saving time was a throw-back to a more agricultural era. (No wonder I never appreciated it. For the record, there's nothing agricultural about my life except when I go to Whole Foods and pay too much for organic produce.) However, thanks to a little resource called Wikipedia (a.k.a. "If it's on the Internet, it must be true"), I now know that daylight saving time was proposed in 1895 and implemented for the first time during World War I. An early objective was to limit usage of incandescent lighting. With modern energy systems, this is no longer necessary.

So why do I have to wake up in the dark?

I am now and have always been a morning person. Call me crazy, but I like my mornings to look like ... well ... mornings. Plus, I have a particularly good reason to bemoan setting the clock forward this year. 

You see, I am the mother of a teenager.

Like every teenager I've ever met, my daughter is perpetually sleep-deprived. Between hours of homework, hours of horseback riding, and hours (and hours and hours and hours) of texting, she is always tired. Under the best possible morning circumstances (a carefree vacation day, bright skies, bacon frying downstairs in the kitchen), my daughter has a hard time getting up. Prying her out of bed before the sun has even risen? 

Can you say, "mission impossible?"

Here is our typical morning ...

6:15 am Her first alarm goes off

6:16 am She hits "snooze"

6:30 am Her second alarm goes off

6:31 am She emerges from her room and moans, "Mo-o-o-om, I'm so-o-o-o-o-o tired. Can I have five more minutes?" I answer, "No." She moans louder and shuffles back to her room, where she will stare blankly for several minutes before finally getting dressed, finally (kinda sorta) making her bed, and finally coming downstairs for breakfast and a ride to school. Often there are last minute emergencies and firedrills — a ripped sweater, a misplaced permission slip, money needed for a rendezvous at Orange Leaf. If she can be ready by 7:00, my husband can take her. Otherwise, I have to.

Daylight saving time won't change much about this little ritual, except that it will be that much darker; she will be that much more tired.

So, I Googled "teens and daylight saving time" to find some advice. Here's what I found:

Tip 1: In preparation for changing the clocks Sunday, don't let your teen sleep in on Saturday. Get her/him up by 8:00 am.

Ha ha ha.

Tip 2: Encourage your teen to try relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha.

Tip 3: Insist that your teen turn off all electronics (mobile phone, PC, TV) thirty minutes before bedtime.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

Sorry, but I'm laughing too hard to type now. Good night!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Teen Pregnancy: If the Ad Fits ...

When I'm not mothering a teen or writing about mothering a teen, I create advertising. So, a recent story in the ad industry trades resonated with me on multiple levels.

The New York City Human Resources Administration/Department of Social Services is spending almost half a million dollars on a program designed to educate teens — and dissuade them from prematurely making babies.

Creatively, the campaign puts words in babies' mouths. The little ones featured on the NYC transit ads upbraid their moms (and in one case, dads) for making the wrong decision. Or the right decision several years too soon. 

Here's what the little ones have to say ...

"Got a good job? I cost thousands of dollars each year."

"Honestly, Mom ... chances are he won't stay with you. What happens to me?"

"I'm twice as likely not to graduate high school because you had me as a teen."

"Dad, you'll be paying to support me for the next 20 years."

Most of the ads end with the line "Think being a teen parent won't cost you?"

The idea being ... "Think again."

They are invasive, a little bit irreverent, and most importantly sobering. That is no doubt the objective. But, not everyone agrees with the approach.

Planned Parenthood, an organization that I support 100%, has issues with the campaign and is being very vocal about them. According to Vice President of Education and Training Haydee Morales. "Hurting and shaming communities is not what’s going to bring teen pregnancy rates down." She insists that the campaign "creates stigma, hostility and negative public opinions about teen pregnancy and parenthood rather than offering alternative aspirations for young people"

"The city's money would be better spent helping teens access health care, birth control and high-quality sexual and reproductive health education, not on an ad campaign intended to create shock value."

In response, the mayor's office defended the campaign and its ability to "send a strong message that teen pregnancy has consequences — and those consequences are extremely negative, life-altering and most often disproportionately borne by young women." 

I'm torn. As an advertising creative director, I love the campaign. As a woman who waited to have a baby until she was thirty-five, I'm nodding in agreement. Even at that (according to my OB-GYN records) "advanced maternal age" and with a good career and a husband, raising a baby was no picnic. As the mother of a teen, I want us to get these messages into my daughter's head in any and every way we can.

And yet, of course, the issues are not so black and white. As Morales points out, often "It’s not teen pregnancies that cause poverty, but poverty that causes teen pregnancy." 

In the end, I think we have to judge the campaign by a couple of factors: who is the target audience and what are the current market conditions? In other words, what messages are already out there on this subject, how have they been received, and how do we effectively reinforce the good — and counter the bad.

It's called fighting fire with fire.

Let's start with the teens. They are generationally the poster children for attention deficit disorder. You better deliver your key points STAT or you lose them. These ads, which Planned Parenthood, described as "shocking," do that. Second, other than well-meaning but apparently ineffectual advice from parents, clergy or (if allowed) high school health ed teachers, these teens get their information from the media. Shows like "Secret Life of the American Teenager," 16 and Pregnant," and "Teen Mom" tend to glamorize the condition even as they dramatize the issues. Then there are the celebrities like Bristol Palin, Jamie Lynn Spears, Solange Knowles. No matter what goes on behind closed doors, they always look pretty happy on the cover of People magazine. "Having a baby was the best thing I ever did." Blah blah blah.

The thing is, if you aren't a pop princess before you get pregnant at sixteen, you won't be one afterwards either. Sorry.

So, I'm all for this campaign which delivers such important information out of the mouths of babes. 

From their lips to teens' ears.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The New National Pastime?

Toward the end of our drive home from Vermont yesterday, we found ourselves on Route 128, the beltway that circles Boston to the North, West and South (the Atlantic Ocean is to the East). We passed the site of a new mall in the neighboring town of Wakefield. It's going to be a huge, upscale shopping center, and there are billboards out already, trying to generate excitement even though the grand opening is many months away.

The thing is, this new shopping center is located about halfway between two others, both of which have recently become bigger and more upscale with the addition of a Nordstrom. All in all, we will now have three major malls within one sixteen-mile stretch.

This seems a little unnecessary.

Really, how many malls do we need? More importantly, how much shopping do we need to do?

Apparently the answer is "a lot."

Shopping has become the national pastime. Especially for those of us with teenage daughters. I think there are several factors involved, none of them particularly positive.

Most of our friends don't go to church (or temple or mosque) together on any kind of regular basis. In fact, clergy joke about people attending church for just three occasions now: baptisms, weddings and funerals — or, more poetically, to "hatch, match and dispatch." This is definitely true for our nuclear family. So, while our forefathers and mothers might have spent Sunday at church, followed maybe by a multigenerational family dinner, we don't. Instead, we have more free time ... and less ways to fill it. 

Where do we go? To malls. And, even that isn't a family activity necessarily. These days, I tend to do a drive by, dropping the teen and friends at the shopping center and then picking them up later.

What happened to hobbies?

What happened to ballgames, bike riding, field trips?

What happened to time spent together, a cohesive family, playing a game or relaxing in front of a roaring fire?

All of this togetherness has been replaced by hunts for the perfect blue jeans, amassing collections of tank tops, shorts or sandals, loading up on costume jewelry, cosmetics and bikini briefs from Victoria's Secret. I worry about my daughter growing up in such a culture of conspicuous consumption. 

Believe me, she has plenty of clothes! She would argue that it only seems like it because her closet is so small. Be that as it may, she is not exactly needy. Or naked.

So, we continue to worship at the altar of Abercrombie's, Hollister, Aeropostale, American Eagle, H&M, and Delia's.

But shopping stimulates our economy, you may say. I beg to differ. Nearly everything for sale at the soon-to-be three malls in our immediate vicinity was manufactured in Asia. So we're supporting off-shoring and questionable labor practices. And, many of the customers buying these sweatshop imports are doing so with credit cards, paying exorbitant interest rates for goods that they don't need and that will probably be out of style before they are paid off.

This isn't true for every shopper, of course. But, I fear that it is for many.

And what do we do with all that stuff anyway? We rent outside space because we run out of room at home. Really, the self-storage industry is one of only a handful that not only weathered the recession but grew faster than inflation.

What's wrong with this picture?

I'm just as guilty as any other mom. Yes, I confess that I have bribed my daughter with shopping trips. I have paid for her affection on more than one occasion. (Way more than one. Way, way, way more.) All of this went through my mind as we drove by yet another mall. I would have discussed it with my daughter, maybe used these observations as a teachable moment. But she was in her own world, earbuds in place, listening to Pandora on her iPhone in the back seat.

Needless to say, we did not stop at any shopping centers on our way back from Vermont. Instead, we unloaded the car and my husband made a nice fire. My daughter studied for her theatre arts quiz and I finished a novel I'd started over the weekend.

Once her test preparation was complete, my daughter brought my iPad over and snuggled up next to me.

"Can we order that shirt from Forever 21 now?" she asked in the sweetest possible voice. She has an assumptive way of making these little requests sound like ultra-natural foregone conclusions. She still had credit on a gift card she received for Christmas. It would be a shame to waste it. Right?

So, at the end of the day, there we were, a cohesive family in front of a roaring fire ... shopping.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Concert

Dearest reader, if you have been following "Lovin' the Alien" for a while, you already know that I am a heavyweight contender for the Mother of the Year Award. 

Let's see ... there was the pilgrimage to New York, through a blizzard and with three tweens in tow, to worship at the altar of Glee's Darren Criss. (Audible sigh.) There were early morning horse shows and late nights of homework. Countless trips to the mall. Perpetual backbends to provide my daughter with the latest technology and gigantic, costly, time-consuming pets. 

All while trying to maintain my sense of humor — and my sanity.

Well, this week I added another selfless act of martyred mommy to my list. Let me set the stage so you can fully appreciate my generous — dare I say, saintly — parental spirit.

We spent February break down in New Orleans. A fantastic vacation, but not exactly a restful one. Too much food (too much wonderful food!), miles of walking through the French Quarter, Garden District and along the mighty Mississippi, lots of excitement. Thanks to a couple of delayed flights, we got home after one a.m. on Friday night (or, Saturday morning, I guess). Less than twelve hours later, I headed down to New York to see my actress sister in a play. The next night, I had to stay up through the bitter end of The Oscars, then a bus back to Boston, laptop in hand, multitasking all the way.

I was pooped. (We've already established that I'm no spring chicken.)

What would I have liked to do that evening? A warm bath, a cozy chair and a book in front of the fire. A chance to regroup, recoup, get ready for the truncated week ahead.

Hell to the no. Instead, I was stuck in Boston for another six hours while my teenage daughter went to her first ... wait for it ... CONCERT!

"Imagine Dragons" at the House of Blues on Lansdowne Street. OMG!

Here's what my daughter did: took the T into town with her BFF, had a burrito at Q'doba, stood online with hundreds of other excited teens until the doors opened at the House of Blues, rushed for some real estate close to the stage, screamed and danced and took iPhone pictures and videos of two opening acts and then did the same again for the stars of the night: Imagine Dragons. When it was all over, she bought a tee shirt and got a ride home.

Here's what her father and I did: chauffered said daughter and friend from T stop to Kenmore Square, killed an hour in the B.U. bookstore, met sympathetic friends for dinner at an Irish pub (thank you thank you thank you!), hung out in a by now deserted sports bar, watched the exodus of tired, near-deaf yet strangely elated teenagers, finally spotted our own and took them home.

As so often happens, I was reminded of my own concert days. I think my first was Elton John at Madison Square Garden. And, I was probably about my daughter's age. That initial show was followed by others: Fleetwood Mac, John Denver, Chicago, KISS (really). Because it was New York though, I could travel to the shows via public transportation and take a taxi home. Also, tickets were something like $16. And we weren't allowed to use cameras or "recording devices." Of course, we didn't care because there was no Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.

Times have changed.

The next morning, my daughter was still flying high. She had been duly warned that any attitude would result in a "No concerts ever again!" edict. So, despite an almost total lack of sleep on a school night, things were very pleasant. 

Two days later was another story. But I'll save that for ... another story.