Saturday, August 31, 2013

Much Ado About Miley

Right now, Google "Miley Cyrus VMA." 

I'll wait.

Nearly a week after her ... um ... controversial performance at the MTV Video Music Awards, the search pulls up 389,000,000 results. 

That's right. 389 m-i-l-l-i-o-n.

I've been writing Lovin' the Alien for about two and a half years now. And, if I do say so myself, I have the greatest fans in the world. Not only do they read and share and "like" my posts, but often they suggest new topics for me. 

"Did you hear about the push-up bras at Abercrombie Kids?"

"What are you going to say about Corey Monteith?" 

This past week, the requests have had a common theme: one former Hannah Montana.

"When are you going to write about Miley Cyrus?"

" 'Can't wait to read what you have to say about Miley Cyrus!"

"What do you think about Miley Cyrus?"

Here's exactly what I think ...

All the media brouhaha surrounding Miley Cyrus is much ado about nothing. Why do I say so? Let me count the ways ...

1. This is nothing new. 

MTV's raison d'être is to push the proverbial envelope. They've been doing it since I was in college. (And we all know how long ago that was.) A provocative sexy performance on the MTV Video Music Awards? Ooooh, stop the press! Call the cops!

Puh-lease! It's MTV. What do you expect?

2. Ms. Cyrus is not a child.

The girl may have been in the public eye since she was a tiny tween, but she's technically a grown-up now. If she wants to get up in front of bazillions of viewers and shake, shake (SHAKE!) her booty, that's her business.

Do I think she's made consistently good decisions? Well, no. But we don't want her to stay a child star forever, do we? I mean, haven't you seen Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

3. It wasn't even that sexy.

For heaven's sake, she was wearing granny panties!

And, if it was too sexy for your youngsters, why are you letting them watch MTV?

4. All of this attention is just drawing more attention.

In a way, I have to laugh. They say 'the only bad publicity is no publicity.' So basically every person who raises his or her voice about this sorry spectacle is just raising the volume. To all of you outraged parents ... have we learned nothing from raising toddlers? If a two-year old is acting insane and you give them more attention, what will they do? Continue to act insane.

The best way to stop this particular insanity would have been to ignore it.

5. The act wasn't even good.

Let's face it, if there's any reason to criticize Miley, it's because her little performance was ridiculous. It began like a Build-A-Bear Workshop on crack. And what was with the tongue? I thought her father was Billy Ray Cyrus, not Gene Simmons.

As for those "shocking" moves? Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't a skinny white girl twerking kind of defeat the purpose?

The entire thing was cringe-worthy. But maybe that isn't the point.

Right about now, Ms. Cyrus is cringing all the way to the bank. This may prove to be a most brilliant career move. 

And, if Miley does regret it, she needn't worry. Something equally stupid will take this story's place before too long.

Because if there's one thing we can count on even more than our society's obsession with the lewd ...

it's our collective attention deficit disorder.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

This Or That?

I'm a notoriously bad sleeper. If there is any iota of stress in my life (and, believe me, there always is and it's always significantly more than an iota, whatever an iota is), I wake up and worry. 

2:00 am, 3:00 am, 4:00 am.

"Go back to sleep ..." my husband has been known to chant. "Worrying won't help."

As if recognizing that oh-so-obvious fact makes an iota of difference. As if.

At any rate, this morning I rose before dawn and went up to my office to get some work done. Pretty much business as usual, except that I had a good reason that even my well-meaning (if annoyingly sound-sleeping) spouse couldn't argue with. I had to get things done because at 8:45, I'd be putting on yet another of the many hats moms everywhere wear.

Wife. Mother. Advertising Executive. Writer ...


Somehow or other, I had once again been volunteered (convinced? coerced? drafted?) into driving my teenage daughter and her friends to Canobie Lake, an amusement park in southern New Hampshire. (Uh-oh. Does this mean I was transporting minors across state lines? Maybe I need permission slips or something. I should probably check next time.)

The kids were looking at the day as summer's final fling. I was looking at it as yet another task on my already filled-to-the-brim calendar. I also, nearly sixteen years into this mom thing, always imagine that these acts of selflessness will win me favor with my child. And they do. For like an hour. Or until the next time she "needs, wants, can't live without" something that I have to say "No" to.

But, I digress.

Right on time, we trawled around town, picking up her sleepy friends: another girl and two boys (but "Ohmigod, Mom. They're not boyfriends!"). Then, we were on our way. They were all very polite and actually expressed some appreciation. And I thought, "I love these kids."

Soon they seemed to forget I was even in the car. This gave me an excellent opportunity to eavesdrop and collect anecdotes for you, dear reader.

Early on, we saw a bicyclist struggling ahead of us. The poor man was a bit overweight (and a bit big for the bike). As we got closer, we realized that he was a police officer. This was just too much for my passengers.

"Oh, dude! Poor guy."

"Being a bike cop would suck."

"How would he ever catch anyone?"

"What if he does? Like, 'Hey, you're under arrest. Get in the basket, please.'"

Needless to say, the bike cop humor cracked everyone up and continued for at least a few more miles after we passed the unfortunate fellow.

On the highway, my daughter's friend read from a page of teen posts on Tumblr. Some were silly. Some were clever. Most of them were a blend of silly and clever:

"Forever 21 clothes are cute! Too bad you can only wear them twice before they get ruined in the washer."

"It's ridiculous that celebrities can spend a year of my college tuition on like, a necklace like it's nothing and I can't afford a taco."

"Legend has it the "M" in MTV once stood for music."

"Yeah, dating is cool, but have you ever had stuffed crust pizza."

Some bright young bulb had even Tumblred (or is that "tumbled?"):

"Here's to the kids who know the difference between they're, there and their."

I certainly appreciated that one. My own group not only got it and laughed, but immediately began to debate that it's and its are misleading because the possessive of it should actually have an apostrophe. And I thought, "I love these kids."

Next up was the "either/or" game. Someone offered a choice and the others responded. There wasn't much of a pattern, but here's what I remember:

"Concrete or Brick?"

"Walrus or Penguin?"

"Monkey or Penguin?"

"Bieber or One Direction?"

"Peanut Butter or Nutella?"

Then, the either/or got a little more complicated and — shall we say — adult:

"Would you rather wake up naked next to Burger King who says, 'You had it your way,' or wake up naked next to Ronald McDonald who says, 'You were lovin' it.'"

As they snickered and prepared to answer, I interrupted ...

"People, you seem to have forgotten that there's an old person in the car."

"Where?" asked my daughter's friends.

And I thought, "I love these kids."

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Driven to Distraction

Earlier this summer (much earlier this summer), we received a postcard for the "New Driver" at our address. It promoted a local driving school where "eligible students 15 3/4 years old" could enroll for the state mandated 30 hours of classroom instruction prior to getting a junior operator's license. In addition, this rather crowded card promised a 2-hour parents' class, 12 hours of road instruction and 6 hours of observation.

Is your head spinning? Mine was.

When we received the card, I checked the date. My daughter was 15 3/4 that very day. 

Impressive target marketing.

We live in a small town up the coast from Boston. There are beaches, shops, frozen yogurt and pizza within walking distance. But my daughter has to bum a ride for anything farther away: her stable, the mall, her stable, the cineplex, her stable ... you get the idea. Of course, she's eager for the autonomy a license promises.

Meanwhile, I promised to call the driving school and set her up. But, between events both happy (a riding clinic in Vermont, a visitor from Spain) and very sad (a beloved grandparent passing away), here we are with the summer almost over and no closer to her license.

Massachusetts has strict guidelines about driver education. This is a very good thing (even if it's making my life more complicated right now). Still, I'm a little unclear on what the 2-hour parents' test is all about. Hello? I've been driving for 23 years. (Yes, for those of you who bother to do the math, I didn't get a driver's license until I was 28. Three words: New York City.)

My daughter can take the test for her learner's permit on her 16th birthday — although she's quick to point out that the universe is terribly unfair; her birthday falls on a Sunday so she'll have to wait an entire extra day. Then we have six months for her to learn how to operate a 4,000 pound piece of machinery, and negotiate an obsolete highway system filled with stupid at best (maniacal at worst) road warriors. 

And that's not the half of it.

The biggest challenge will be to impress upon her that her cell phone and texts and Instagram and Vine and FaceTime and Skype and ... and .. and ... have to take a back seat now. Literally. We're already talking about strategies.

She came up with the idea of locking her phone in the glove compartment. Great! (I'm not being sarcastic, for a change; I really think this is great.) But, she plans to leave the volume on so she can hear when she gets a new message or a voicemail. Then, she asserts, she'll pull over and check. Not so great. I don't like the idea of my tiny teen pulling over every five minutes. Not only does this seem less than safe, but at the rate she gets texts she'll never reach her destination! So, we're still discussing this. And, I won't hesitate to pull rank.

At least she seems to understand the inherent danger of staying connected while in motion.

I also worry about the bad habits she may have picked up from her loving mother. Anticipating my baby behind the wheel, it seems to me that the most important thing you can do to stay safe driving is to focus. Focus on your driving, your vehicle, the road, other drivers. This is easier said than done.

Here's what my daughter has seen me do behind the wheel:

- Apply makeup (yes, really, I'm sorry)
- Drink coffee
- Eat a bagel or a muffin or a Zone bar
- Search for a specific CD
- Search for change that fell between the seat and the center console
- Fish printed directions out of my briefcase
- Read said printed directions
- Make phone calls
- Get phone calls
- Participate in conference calls
- Lead conference calls
- Listen to voicemail
- Read text and Facebook messages — but only at red lights, I promise

Fear not. With my daughter's license looming, I am already changing my wicked ways. Funny how much easier it is to break bad habits for the sake of someone else's safety. Especially when that someone is still your baby.

I guess I need that parents' class after all.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Once Upon A First Trip To New York

When teenagers in other countries think about visiting America, chances are their thoughts tend more toward "bright lights, big city" than "main streets and backroads." 

So, when my daughter's Facebook friend from Barcelona confirmed her visit, I knew I'd be taking them down to New York.

I asked our young guest what she wanted to see in the Big Apple. She mentioned all of the famous landmarks: the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Abercrombie & Fitch. 

I decided that a Broadway musical was also de rigueur.

Having recently watched the Tony Awards, I was eager to see Matilda and Kinky Boots. So, apparently, was everybody else. The shows were sold out, with tickets available through secondary market agencies at sky-high prices. I don't care how old or arguably successful I am ... I refuse to pay $200 or $300 a ticket!

My first Broadway show was Raisin, a musical adaptation of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun. I went with my sixth grade class in 1974 and I'm assuming we got a group rate. My second was Pippin. I took my best friend to see it for her birthday and I paid for the tickets myself. Balcony seats: $7.50 each. Given that I was earning $1 an hour babysitting at that time, this was a significant investment. (And, Pippin remains one of my all-time favorite shows. The tickets for Broadway's current production are a little more ... but worth it!)

I decided I would do what savvy New Yorkers have done for the past four decades. I'd stand in line at TKTS. Run by the Theatre Development Fund, the TKTS booth offers same-day tickets at 20%-50% off. They don't typically have the latest and hottest titles, but there are plenty of options. The trick is to go with an open mind and have a list of several choices. For this trip, I was looking at Newsies, Jersey Boys, Mamma Mia! and Once. My daughter surprised me by asking that I add Phantom of the Opera as well. She's seen it with her grandmother, and I've seen it too (oh, about twelve times). But, she argued that as penultimate Broadway musicals go, well, Phantom is way up there. Truth.

As I joined the snaking line around Father Duffy Square, the girls headed off to Forever 21. But, just as they left me, they added one more show and advised me that it was actually their first choice.

Rogers and Hammerstein's Cinderella.

Really? Here I had tried to focus on grownup fare (no Annie, thank you very much, I'd rather drink Drano), and they were suggesting the musical I might have taken them to if they were five rather than fifteen. Really? Turns out they had heard great things about it from another teen with whom we'd had lunch earlier in the week. 

Frankly, I was surprised.

Frankly, I was thrilled.

So, that evening, we went to Cinderella. Our (discounted — yay) seats were terrific and the show was absolutely magical. The music was wonderfully familiar, but the costumes, sets and even some of the major story lines had been reimagined. For example, did you know that Cinderella doesn't leave her shoe on the stairs after the ball? Nope, first she brings both shoes home, befriends one of her stepsisters, helps advocate on behalf of the kingdom's 99%, resolves a revolution, and only then drops the shoe. Truth.

We left the theatre bedazzled, singing and dancing all the way to 57th Street's Brooklyn Diner for late-night caesar salads.

You see, all modernization and social commentary aside, Cinderella and her Prince Charming still lived happily ever after.

And that magical night in New York, my daughter and our new friend did too.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Nothin' But Drugstore Lovin'

Being pregnant is like nothing else you will ever experience. 

Sixteen years ago (omg), I was "great with child" through an extremely hot and uncomfortable summer. All the things you expect when you're expecting happened to me. Coworkers, with whom I was not exactly touch-feely, reached out and rubbed my belly. Uninvited. Diners at the next table audibly tsk-tsked over my apparent drinking problem. (Hello! It was ginger ale, people!) Older mothers sighed with envy and wistfully wished me well. Younger mothers regaled me with stories of 18-hour, pitocin-induced, episiotomy-required labor.

And, every, every, everyone had some snippet of wisdom to share. All of it well-meaning. Some of it valuable. Oddly enough, the one observation that my husband and I both remember as being the truest thing we heard was this ...

"From now on, every trip to CVS will cost you $50."

It did!

There were disposable diapers, baths and lotions and ointments, bottles, formula, pacifiers, bibs, thermometers, powders and creams. The nice young clerk would ring us up and — BINGO — $50.

As many other advisors promised, the baby time went by too fast. And with it, went our need for all of the above. Soon we were buying art supplies, chewable vitamins, and detangling spray. (Any of you with long-locked girls (or boys), take note. Suave makes a great product in a green bottle with a friendly octopus on it.)

CVS has also come in handy when a teacher springs something at the last minute. "Bring in poster boards tomorrow." Or, "You'll need 100 index cards by Tuesday." Before I trek over to Staples or Target (both an inconvenient drive away), I always check CVS.

Now, with a daughter who is about to turn sixteen (I repeat, the baby time went by too fast), we have new requests that take us to CVS. Suddenly, we are going through more shampoo and conditioner. Suddenly, there is a need for skin cleanser and scented body wash. Suddenly, we have to look into each and every product advertised in the gospel according to Seventeen.

At least it seems that way to me.

I was never a big drugstore girl myself. I've had short, short hair nearly my entire life (there was an ill-advised experiment growing it out when I was in my mid-thirties, but I've burned most of the photos). I wear very little make-up. And, I am notoriously cheap when it comes to health and beauty aids. I realize, of course, that my daughter isn't necessarily going to follow in my footsteps in this department. A lot of young women don't.

In my senior year of college, I went down to "Spring Break" in Florida with three other girls. En route, we stopped at a supersized drugstore somewhere South of the Mason-Dixon line. I don't know why my travel companions felt compelled to buy so much, but suffice it to say that there went two hours I'll never get back.

Like so many other aspects of mothering a teenage girl, when it comes to drugstore lovin', you either laugh or cry. On our most recent trip to CVS, I had to laugh. Shampoo and conditioner and astringent and cleanser and Cover Girl pressed powder and strawberry gum and ...

BINGO. $50.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

La Méchante Reine

School starts again in less than three weeks. Tenth grade, sophomore year. My daughter is not exactly happy about it. And, when I say 'not exactly happy,' what I really mean is miserable. Yes, she's miserable. Mis-er-a-ble. Think of the little urchin on the Les Misérables poster. 

You get the picture.

Anticipating another year would be bad enough. Mais non, our smug suburban overachieving little high school has to add insult to injury by assigning beaucoup de summer homework. My daughter has assignments (long, tough, "b-o-r-i-n-g" assignments) for three of her eight courses, all of which will be tested on the first day of class. 

Sacré bleu!

This means that my own summer is officially over. Fini! I've put away the sundresses, shorts and tank tops, flip flops and floppy hats. It's time to pull out my long hooded cape, bejeweled crown and eye liner. Time, once again, to become ... the evil queen.

I wish I had one of those teenagers who dove into her work with nary a nudge. Alas, I do not. Very quickly all my hinting becomes requesting becomes nagging becomes shrieking on the order of a classic Disney villainess. 

The first order of business is her packet for Honors French 3. And while doing the work is not negotiable, I have to admit (at least here, if not to her) that it's très stupide. She has spent the last two evenings conjugating verbs — 70 so far and counting. If you ask moi, this rote task seems pretty ... well ... rote. The goal is to learn a language, n'est-ce pas? Not to make endless lists.

How is this going to help her in real life? What if she gets helicoptered in to moderate a peace talk at the United Nations? Or she has to order a croissant on the Rue Rivoli? Je ne comprends pas! Why don't they teach them any really important things, things they might need if they actually go to France, things like how to say ...

"Où est la maison de Johnny Depp?"

"Puis-je obtenir à prix réduit de l'année dernière de Chanel?"

Or "Un autre verre de vin blanc, s'il vous plaît."

Nevertheless, mine is not to reason why. My job is to enforce the rules and convince my reluctant student to study even though she would rather be doing pretty much anything else. At the rate she's going, the French packet should be fini this weekend. And then all we have to worry about is a 30-page chapter for AP World History and the novel Dracula.

Mon dieu. Un autre verre de vin blanc, s'il vous plait!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


The past three weeks, our family had a young visitor from Barcelona staying with us. For her, it was a chance to practice her (already muy excelente) English and experience another culture. For my husband and me, it was a chance to share so many great things about our town, our state and our country with an enthusiastic audience. 

For my teenage daughter, it was a chance to feel like she had a sister.

My daughter is an only child which comes with pros and cons. On the upside, she has more stuff (jeans from Abercrombie & Fitch, her own bedroom, a horse). On the downside, she is stuck with an elderly dog and two middle-aged humans an inordinate amount of the time. 

Even with a bit of a language barrier, it must have felt great to have a live-in peer.

My own sister and I walked a rather rocky road when we were that age. We were just two years apart and had been thick as juvenile thieves when we were younger. But once we reached high school, we became the teenage equivalent of The Odd Couple

I was Felix; she was Oscar.
I was neat; she was ... not.
I was the control freak; she was the free spirit.
I was the short-haired brunette; she, the long-haired blonde.
I was a bit of a nerd; she was cool and popular.

At least that's how I perceived it.

At one point, I asked my parents if I could split the master bedroom of the apartment into two long vertical rooms, one for each of us. Later, I asked if I could turn one of the walk-in closets into my own room. They said, "No," and "No."

But time passed and we both went our separate ways. Then something very nice happened. We came back together again. Turns out, we got along much better when we weren't cohabitating. And over the years, we've come to appreciate each other's strengths (and pay less attention to the weaknesses); focus on the similarities (and ignore some of the differences).

No matter what happens, I know my seester is there for me.

So today, I'm very happy to share an interview my sister recently did with my favorite online magazine Women's Voices for Change (full disclosure: I'm one of their contributors but I think I'd love it anyway). I invite you to read it and see how a free-spirited teenager has evolved into a wise and wonderful woman.

And, if the current state of my own teenager's bedroom floor is any indication, she may have inherited something from my sister too.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Lady Is A Punk

My teenage daughter and I spent the last several days showing our guest from Barcelona around my hometown, New York, New York. The city so nice, they named it twice.

What fun! The weather was gorgeous and we were able to do all the fabulous touristy things that native New Yorkers rarely bother to. 

Empire State Building? Check. Statue of Liberty? Check. Times Square, Greenwich Village, Central Park? Check, check, check. Shopping? 

Hello, I had two fifteen year old girls with me. Do you even have to ask?

Let's see ... we hit Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister, American Eagle Outfitters, H&M, Forever 21, American Apparel. (Don't get me started on the mall-ification of America, puh-lease.) Whenever possible, I suggested smaller, independent retailers, or at the very least, venerable New York institutions like Tiffany's, Henri Bendel and Saks. 

I was outnumbered.

So on our last morning, having seen the sights (and shopped the shops), I pulled parental rank and insisted that we visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Besides being one of my favorite places in NYC (or anywhere, for that matter), I was desperate to see Punk: Chaos to Couture.

The new Costume Institute exhibit displays about 100 outrageous ensembles, clearly inspired by the punk rock scenes in London and New York about four decades ago. The concept basically is that the world of haute couture (then but to some degree now) owes a lot to do-it-yourself — and "f*ck the establishment" — street fashion. Music and video enhanced the experience as we wandered through room after room. 

It was outrageous, yes, but also familiar. Bittersweetly so.

I may be a middle-age mom now, but I'm no stranger to mohawks and safety pins. C'mon, I lived in the East Village in the mid-80s. And while my look then was certainly one of the tamer ones in the neighborhood, I went to clubs in jumpsuits and high tops, ripped shirts and rubber jewelry.

At one point in the exhibit, I turned to my sister who had joined us, and bemoaned my current life. Where was my downtown loft? My asymmetrical hair? My edgy punk couture? "I live in a preppy town in a tiny antique house," I wailed, "I buy clothes at Talbots!"

This is the second time I've felt this way in just about as many months. At a young friend's graduation this spring, I met rock legend Jim Steinman. If you don't know the name, you most surely know his work. He wrote Bat Out of Hell (1 and 2) and singlehandedly created the bigger-than-life persona of Meatloaf. I was thrilled to talk with him after his rather unconventional commencement speech. He was wearing a leather jacket with spikes; I was wearing embroidered capris. 


I wanted to say, "Don't look at me. This isn't how I normally dress." But, sadly, it is.

One of the many places we visited in New York was Urban Outfitters. While my daughter and her friend looked through the sale area, I was drawn to another part of the store. There, I saw tank tops with embroidered skulls, lace-up combat boots, ripped and pinned shirts, baggy cargo pants. A young salesgirl eyed me curiously.

I wanted to say, "Don't look at me. I wore these clothes before you did. I wore these clothes before you were even born."

Because, I did.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Teens Value Unplugging? YYSSW

My ad agency does creative work for a number of colleges, designing campaigns to lure prospective students away from the competition and toward our clients' schools. Our target audience (current high school sophomores, juniors and seniors) is known as the "young millenials" or "Generation Z."

When we present concepts for ads, we always have to remind everyone in the conference room that we (agency and clients alike) are not the people we are talking to. Our audience lives online. (We don't.) They have no interest in turning off or tuning out. (We do.) They are digital slackers. (We aren't — or, at least, if we are, we know it's a really very super bad thing.)

As of today, I stand corrected.

MTV recently released the results of a new study, comparing teens aged 14-17 (at 15 going on 16, my own daughter fits right in there), Generation Y (18-25 years old), Generation X, and Baby Boomers. The surprising conclusion?

The younger millenials are poised to surpass their older demographic siblings in terms of focus and eventual success. They not only see the error of their cyber ways, they are actively seeking analog alternatives.

Get a load of some of this data ...

According to MTV's study (and contrary to the opinion of most parents I know), Generation Z is not living in a fool's paradise. 

60% believe that "my generation will be worse off than my parents' generation."

The same 60% claim that they are "very stressed about getting into a good high school or college."

69% are trying to take control of this bleak forecast. "I put more pressure on myself than others put on me."

How does this affect their online habits? If you're like me (especially if you're like me and have a fifteen year old daughter who appears to be surgically attached to her iPhone), you may be surprised.

80% of this younger teen group say that "sometimes I just need to unplug and enjoy the simple things."

82% "prefer to focus on one task at a time." Whoa. And to think, they've built a reputation for attention span deficiency.

(As an aside, guess what I'm doing even as I write this post? Multitasking! Checking emails, fielding phone calls, planning next week's trip to New York, and brainstorming some alternative headlines for an ad. Note to self: be very careful not to throw stones.)

Here's what I say: YYSSW. (Your teen can tell you that this means "Yeah, yeah, sure, sure, whatever.")

You see, all the studies in the world can be meaningless (from a personal perspective) when they don't jibe with actual experience (from a personal perspective).

From a personal perspective ... I just don't see it.

At any given time, my daughter engages in at least a half dozen different activities at once. She can quite comfortably text, listen to music, browse Facebook, eat a bag of Sun Chips, post to Instagram, and tackle the toughest homework assignment. For the record, the only time she unplugs to "enjoy the simple things" is when her father or I (or both) insists that she does. And, let the record also state, there ain't a whole lot of enjoyment going on when that happens.

Yesterday, my daughter and I brought our new friend, the exchange student who's staying with us this summer, into Cambridge. We treated ourselves to fancy coffee drinks (apparently Frappucinos are an international phenomenon), toured Harvard's historic campus, shopped and shopped and shopped, then went into Boston for dinner and a show. It was a great day, a long day, an analog day. So, what was my daughter doing each and every time the conversation lagged?


Don't get me wrong. She wasn't rude or unkind. I think she's been a terrific host, actually. But, there are always natural silences and these proved to be irresistible opportunities to check the phone. After many evil eyes (on my part) and many exasperated shrugs (on her part), I finally gave up on the drive back at the end of the night.

"Here, you can use mine," I told our lovely guest and handed her my phone. She was just as happy as my daughter would have been had someone else's mother done this for her.

New friends, the two girls sat together, fingers skipping across their digital screens, quite happily, the rest of the way home.