Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Letter To My Daughter

It's no secret that I love social media. I really do. I've reconnected with dozens of friends — from high school, college, various old jobs, the theatre company I was in back in the 1970s. And, I've made some new friends too. One of the greatest joys of my life is getting a second chance with people. Someone I barely knew who turns out to be so special — or merely so much like me.

I'm by no means as adept at navigating the etherweb as my teenage daughter, but I do make an effort in my limited middle-aged mom way. I post updates, I hit "like," I share, and I check my newsfeed. Most days, this brings a smile to my face.

Today, it made my eyes well up as I moaned to myself a simple "No."

Dr. Maya Angelou, American poet laureate, has died.

We read I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings when I was in ninth grade (I think). Having read novels mostly about white girls (written by white women or often white men), I found it eye-opening. Here was a world so alien and yet so achingly familiar. Angelou had a wondrous ability (skill? talent? magic power?) to cut directly to what is human about all of us.

Just the titles of her books and poems are enough to inspire me to write (and make me despair of ever being able to craft anything remotely worthy): 

Wouldn't Take Nothing For My Journey Now
All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes
A Cradle To Hold Me
Even The Stars Look Lonesome
And Still I Rise

In 2008, Dr. Angelou published a collection of essays, Letter to My Daughter. As she explained,

“I gave birth to one child, a son, but I have thousands of daughters. You are Black and White, Jewish and Muslim, Asian, Spanish speaking, Native Americans and Aleut. You are fat and thin and pretty and plain, gay and straight, educated and unlettered, and I am speaking to you all. Here is my offering to you.”

The book is filled with the author's remarkable reminiscences as well as profound advice for young women. From brief truths:

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” 

“A friend may be waiting behind a stranger's face.” 

“The human heart ... tells us that we are more alike than we are unalike.” 

“Make every effort to change things you do not like. If you cannot make a change, change the way you have been thinking.” 

“Never whine. Whining lets a brute know that a victim is in the neighborhood.” 

To more thoughtful meditations:

“Let's tell the truth to people. When people ask, 'How are you?' have the nerve sometimes to answer truthfully. You must know, however, that people will start avoiding you because, they, too, have knees that pain them and heads that hurt and they don't want to know about yours. But think of it this way: If people avoid you, you will have more time to meditate and do fine research on a cure for whatever truly afflicts you.” 

“I believe that one can never leave home. I believe that one carries the shadows, the dreams, the fears and the dragons of home under one's skin, at the extreme corners of one's eyes and possibly in the gristle of the earlobe.” 

“The charitable say in effect, 'I seem to have more than I need and you seem to have less than you need. I would like to share my excess with you.' Fine, if my excess is tangible, money or goods, and fine if not, for I learned that to be charitable with gestures and words can bring enormous joy and repair injured feelings.” 

“I am convinced that most people do not grow up. We find parking spaces and honor our credit cards. We marry and dare to have children and call that growing up. I think what we do is mostly grow old. We carry accumulation of years in our bodies and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are still innocent and shy as magnolias ... We may act sophisticated and worldly but I believe we feel safest when we go inside ourselves and find home, a place where we belong and maybe the only place we really do.” 

I just ordered a copy of the book for my daughter.

Rest in peace, Maya Angelou. And, from the bottom of my heart, as a woman, as a mother and as a human being, thank you.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Best Time Everrrrrrrrrr

Best time everrrrrrr

That's the text (one of five) I received from my teenage daughter yesterday. She and a bestie were spending the day at Government Center for Boston Calling 2014. (She and her bestie and 20,000 of their closest friends.)

Boston Calling is a huge outdoor music festival, featuring such contemporary bands as Magic Man, Walk Off the Earth, Bastille and Death Cab for Cutie. I don't know how long ago we ordered the tickets (I should, my daughter had to borrow my AmEx to secure them), but Boston Calling has been on our radar for ages. I think it's one of the things that got her through the AP World History test.

Each day, bands play at two stages from 1:00 pm to 11:00 pm. The gates open at noon, but the girls decided to get there by 9:00 am each day so they could get front row seats (except, of course, there are no seats — it's all standing room only). This necessitated early morning parent-enabled commutes.

At one point I suggested that I might rent a hotel room in the Back Bay in order to minimize the late night/early morning drives in and out of the city. My daughter was elated.

I told her, "So, maybe I'll get a theatre ticket for Saturday night and then meet you girls somewhere after the last band plays."

"Oh," she said, going immediately from elated to deflated, "You'd be there too?" Apparently she thought I was going to book a downtown Boston hotel for her and her friend without me. Um ...

I. Don't. Think. So.

One thing led to another and I never did get that hotel room. But, my husband, generously, offered to do the morning drives. The other girl's father chose the pick-ups.

I was only mildly daunted by the idea of my little girl at an enormous outdoor music festival. A great believer in preparation, I ran through the usual instructions, "Don't talk to strangers. Send me updates. Make sure your cell phone is fully charged." In honor of Boston Calling, I added, "Stay hydrated. But, don't drink anything anyone gives you. Watch your wallet. Stay together. Avoid the porta-potties if you can."

And, she was off.

'Not sure why I still worry so much. At sixteen, I pretty much had free rein of Manhattan. As did my younger sister and brother in their turn.

And, at sixteen, I definitely knew what it was to be so passionate about something. A theatre geek, I had just started my love affair with The Rocky Horror Picture Show. My drama friends and I went every Saturday at midnight. Every. Single. Saturday. We dressed up. We threw rice. We ignored our parents when they disapproved.

Hmmmm. Where might my daughter get her predisposition for obsessive behavior from?

Now, at 52, I don't really have that kind of all-consuming, 14-hour-day-on-my-feet passion for anything. I love the theatre, so I go when I can. Thanks to the wonders of Netflix, On Demand and DVDs, I can watch my favorite movies (yes, including Rocky Horror) whenever I like. I have some favorite musicians, but even as a grownup, able to buy decent seats, I rarely go to concerts. 

All in all, life is a lot calmer than it was.

But, not as exciting.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Broken Record

A couple of years ago, when my now teen daughter was younger, she used to say "Don't tell me you love me so much." Apparently, I was a big, bad, broken record of maternal affection.

She doesn't complain about that anymore (I'm sure she still thinks it though). In fairness, I try not to hug her as much, kiss her as much, stroke her hair, rub her back ... y'know, any of those oh-so-offensive gestures. And, I limit my "Love you's" too.

But, I'm still a broken record. 

If "I love you" made her roll her eyes, how must my daughter feel about the things I say these days? Here's a sample, by no means complete, of the endless litany of nags she puts up with:

"Don't leave dirty dishes in your room."
"Put your laundry in the hamper."
"Get off your phone."
"Make your bed."
"Bring the dirty dishes down from your room."
"Hang up your jacket."
"Have you finished your homework?"
"Don't stay up too late."
"Eat your green beans."
"Put on a scarf."
"Puh-lease take the dirty dishes down from your room."
"Take your backpack upstairs."
"Take your shoes off the couch."
"Take your vitamin."

Take, take, take ... take me away. Now. When did I become this person? Do I even say "Please?" I hope so. Sometimes. Maybe. 

I don't know.

When your children are little, you have high hopes for them — and for yourself too. You vow never to be unreasonable, never to say "Because I said so." Never to nag.

Never say never.

I have an excuse; my daughter doesn't listen. Period. We can say the same things over and over (believe me, we do) and they don't sink in. How many times have I asked her not to leave ice cream bowls on her desk? That would be ... um ... a thousand! We have rules about cell phone use. Does she adhere to them? In a word, no. Does that make me nag? 

In a word, YES.

Then again, why should she listen to me when I never seem to say anything of consequence? Same old, same old. Even fairly benign questions must get irritating when she hears them day after day after day after day:

"How was school today?"

The thing is, most of my nagging isn't about anything important. (But, I do — and will continue to — say "Drive carefully" every time she gets behind the wheel of a car.) Really, what am I afraid of? That she'll flunk out of school and live a life of poverty and despair? That her laundry will take over her bathroom and I'll lose her in it? That the dirty dishes on her desk will attract a variety of vermin and we'll all catch the bubonic plague? 

Well, yes. I mean, no. Maybe. I digress.

There are many keys to good parenting and one that I've always believed in is: "Choose your battles." In honesty, I was a lot better at it when my daughter was younger, compliant and worshipped me. It's tougher now. Somehow it feels as though I can't stop because if and when I do stop it will mean I've given up. Given up on my immaculate house, given up on my compulsive organization. Or, here's the rub, given up on any semblance of authority.

I have a very good kid. My nagging has never included anything remotely like:

"Don't do intravenous drugs before dinner; you'll spoil your appetite."


"Did you remember to take your birth control pill?"


"Have you finished that community service the judge ordered?"

I know I'm lucky. My daughter is a smart, funny, talented young person with a big heart. She puts up with my incessant nagging at least as graciously as any other 16-year old. I'll try to hold my tongue next time. I really will.

But, I wish she'd take the dirty dishes out of her room.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Daughters and Duct Tape

The other morning, a Saturday, a well-deserved-after-a-week-from-hell kind of Saturday, I drove my teenage daughter to the stable. It was 7:30 am. She works there on the weekends, kind of a dream job if you happen to be obsessed with all things equine.

Anyway, I didn't mind offering up the early morning chauffeurial services. First of all, I'm not a sleep-in gal even under the best of circumstances. I had a lot of work to do, including prep for a really big new business presentation. I was also hoping to get to the Y for a Zumba class. Our garden needed attention. And, we were having company on Sunday which necessitated some shopping and cooking.

But, most of all, with my daughter still very much in the honeymoon phase with her new driver's license, my trips to the stable have been few and far between. Now, that's something I never imagined I would say! After years of driving her to and from, I suddenly have a lot of time on my hands. And a lot less time to talk with her.

Sure enough, we spent about twenty minutes catching up. Then, she announced that she needed black and white duct tape for a horse show the following day. It's a long distance event and teams typically dress in coordinated outfits. At the last minute (well, technically the day before, but trust me, it felt like the last minute), she and her two partners decided that they would wear white breeches, black polos, and decorate their horses' "boots" (protective ankle-wraps — expensive protective ankle wraps) with stripes of black and white tape.

Guess how many hardware stores are open in our area at 7:30? Um, that would be none.

She was already running about ten minutes late for work. And to top things off, she and the rest of the team from her stable were planning a big sleepover at her trainer's house. We wouldn't see her again until Sunday morning at the cross-country field.

An experienced problem-solver, I made suggestions:

"Why can't one of the other girls get the duct tape?"

"How about if Dad and I bring the duct tape with us in the morning and you do it there?"

Both ideas were met with blank stares. 

I started doing math.

If I could drop her at 8:10, then drive to the hardware store two towns over, score some duct tape, drive back to the stable, drop off the tape, boogey back to our town and the Y, would I make it to Zumba?

Not on your life.

Let the record show that there are many mothers out there who actually value their own time and effort and activity, who would not sacrifice their much needed workout for such an errand. There are also many mothers who would accept the situation and embrace it as a learning experience. "See, honey, next time you'll plan ahead."

I am not one of these mothers. I went and got the duct tape.

The thing is, I can't help myself. If it's in my power to make my daughter happy, I do it. Don't get me wrong; I definitely draw the line at anything illegal or immoral. But, duct tape is neither. 

Sometimes I wonder if all these last-minute miracles, these crises averted will be remembered. Probably not. But, I do hope that my putting her first will help her understand how much she means to me. And how much I'll always be willing to do for her.

Someday very soon she'll be living elsewhere. I like to think that if and when she's ever in real trouble — not just duct tape trouble — I'll be the first person she calls.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The F-Word

What do we want for our daughters?

I think most mothers of teens would agree that we want our daughters to be happy and smart and kind and successful. I think, if we're honest, we'd also say that we want them to be beautiful and lucky in love. (Despite our best efforts, that Disney-princess "happy ever after" thing is hard to get away from.)

In my case, I'd also add that I want my daughter to be a feminist. (I recently wrote an essay for Women's Voices for Change on that very subject.) Every time my daughter stands up for herself, notices an inequity or admires another woman for all the right reasons, my pride is palpable.

That's one reason I've been happy with some of the contemporary books she chooses to read. (Would I be happier if she reached for Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë or Louis May Alcott? Well ... um ... YES. I may be a feminist mother but I was also an English major.) Today's popular YA (young adult) dystopian genre includes some fairly kick-ass heroines.

One of these is Tris from Veronica Roth's Divergent series. Even though she's a little too swoony when it comes to her hunky trainer Four, the girl is one tough cookie. Leaping from moving trains, climbing abandoned ferris wheels, hand-to-hand combat (with boys, no less!), this is not a girl who sits at home waiting for the phone to ring while her manicure dries.

When the movie version was released a few months ago, I was happy that Hollywood resisted the urge to take Tris and glam her up for the big screen. Sure, young star Shailene Woodley looks super sultry on the poster, but in the film itself, she is strong and seemingly make-up free. Both Divergent and its precursor The Hunger Games depict future societies in which women live and work (and, apparently, fight to the death) alongside men.

(And the fictional heroines aren't the only inspiration for our teens. Both bestselling novels were written by, you guessed it, women. You go, girls!)

You'd think all this girl power would rub off on the young actress lucky enough to star in Divergent. Earlier this month, TIME magazine asked Woodley if she was a feminist. But, her answer surprised me. Surprised and, frankly, disappointed.

"No because I love men, and I think the idea of ‘raise women to power, take the men away from the power’ is never going to work out because you need balance. With myself, I’m very in touch with my masculine side. And I’m 50 percent feminine and 50 percent masculine, same as I think a lot of us are. And I think that is important to note. And also I think that if men went down and women rose to power, that wouldn’t work either. We have to have a fine balance.

My biggest thing is really sisterhood more than feminism. I don’t know how we as women expect men to respect us because we don’t even seem to respect each other. There’s so much jealousy, so much comparison and envy. And “This girl did this to me and that girl did that to me.” And it’s just so silly and heartbreaking in a way."

So, according to Woodley, sisterhood and feminism have nothing to do with each other. Oh, and you can't be a feminist and love a man. (This will be unhappy news for my husband.)

Shailene, honey, here's the deal ...

Let's start with the F-word itself. Who better to turn to for an official definition than the movement's mother superior, Gloria Steinem?

"A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men." 

Even without the last two words, Steinem doesn't say anything about taking away anybody's power. You would think the word "equality" would be inarguable.

What have feminists fought for? Freedom. Respect. True citizenship. Women's rights to make choices, to work outside the home, to be represented in government, to have access to healthcare.

Girlfriend, don't bite the hand that feeds you.

Shailene, the next time you vote or earn a half a million dollars for a movie (or speak your mind in a national magazine), thank your real sisters. 

The feminists.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Brought To You By ...

The other day, I was driving back from a client meeting when I had to stop at a red light. In the lane next to me was a post office truck. Not just any truck, but a brand new Spider-Man one. 

Along with the familiar red, white and blue graphics, there was an enormous picture of the infamous webslinger himself ready to deliver a Priority Mail envelope (and fight crime too, we have to assume). 

I've made a living in the direct mail business for nearly three decades. Not quite since the time of the pony express; it just feels like it. I have good friends at the USPS. I've spoken at their conferences. They advise on the creative packages I do for my clients (yes, that's right, direct mail can be creative). Many (many, many) years ago, I actually collected stamps.

But ... I'm confused. 

Is Spidey delivering the mail now? What happened to all those nice letter carriers? Y'know ...

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

I get it. Mailmen and women are super heroes. Indeed, living in New England, there are definitely winter days when I don't envy them their jobs. But, I was still surprised to see Spider-Man on a mail truck.

'Turns out, it's all a promotion for the new movie The AMAZING Spider-Man 2.

My teenage daughter is growing up in a world that is inundated with marketing messages. Promotions and sponsorships are everywhere. From the tallest buildings to the backs of public restroom stall doors. Everything you do, see, buy, eat, drink and breathe is "brought to you by" somebody. (Okay, maybe not the "breathe" part — not yet.)

Remember when stadiums, theatres and performance halls were named after famous people, mythical characters or simply the city they were in? Not so much anymore. My daughter's going to a concert soon and I asked where it was going to be.

"Blue Hills Bank Pavilion," she said.

Say what?

"I think it was Bank of America Pavilion back in your days." Actually, it was Harbor Lights, a lovely outdoor arena on the shore of Boston Harbor. The name meant something. It described the experience; it added to the allure. Naming it after a bank makes no sense — except that it reminds me of how expensive concert tickets have become. Money, not music. That's okay, I guess. The only connection the venue has with either eponymous bank is a financial one.

Suddenly everything is underwritten by some company or product. Still Spider-Man (not just any old Spider-Man, mind you, but The AMAZING Spider-Man 2) doesn't feel quite kosher. I mean, isn't the USPS a federal government agency? Shouldn't that mean they stay above the commercial fray?

What's next anyway? The Department of Transportation, brought to you by Hyundai? The CIA, brought to you by 24: Live Another Day? The Food & Drug Administration, brought to you by the makers of Viagra?

Then again, if everyone else is doing it, maybe I should too. In that spirit, sponsorships of Lovin' the Alien are now available. I am particularly interested in inquiries from the following:

Vineyards and Fine Wine Distributors
Gourmet Chocolate Companies
Designer Handbags and Luxury Leather Goods
Personal Electronics
Spa Getaways


Jimmy Choo.

Feel free to pay for your sponsorships in trade. Your support will be gratefully acknowledged.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mother's Day

Allow me a quick fantasy. 

It's Mother's Day. I sleep late and wake to those soft chirping sounds you find in a Disney Princess feature-length cartoon. My daughter and husband slip into the master bedroom, quietly in case I'm still sleeping. As they see that I'm up, they present an elaborate breakfast-in-bed: fresh flaky croissant, steaming café au lait (apparently they got the tray in Paris or something), a single flower with petals like velvet. Once I've eaten, my devoted family suggests a marvelous afternoon of activities, each chosen to suit my tastes and preferences: a trip to a local art gallery, a musical theatre matinee, an early evening picnic on the beach. Although, I've told them I don't need presents, they surprise me with some romantic art nouveau estate jewelry. Nothing too grand. Diamonds are always appropriate.

All right. We're done.

Here's how my Mother's Day really went.

I set my alarm for 4:45 am. This means that I was up pretty much every half hour since midnight, counting down. "Oh, I still have three hours." "Oh, I still have two hours." "Oh, I still have forty-six minutes." "Oh, WTF, I might as well get up."

After splashing some water on my face, I went to check on my teenage daughter. Wonder of wonders (miracle of miracles), she was already up. My child getting herself up at oh-god-o'clock can only mean one thing ...

Horse show.

Yes, a big fat USEA recognized three-phase event on Mother's Day. To make it even more special, it wasn't local. No, that would be too easy. It was out in Western Mass. Two hours and forty minutes from our stable, which is thirty minutes from our house, where my daughter had to spend forty-five minutes grooming her pony and loading the trailer.

Do the math if you like. I'm too tired.

My husband, meanwhile, had to prepare for a business trip and look at a new (new, used) car, so I was flying solo. Well, not solo, exactly. I was flying with three very excited teenagers and their trainer.

It was unseasonably warm (after being unseasonably cold for the past two months or more). The event was packed. Hundreds of young women (and the tiniest handful of young men) were there to compete in dressage, stadium jumping and cross-country.

My role at these events is critical. In addition to driving, I do hair (a tight bun in a black net with a smart velvet bow). I pack a lunch and nag my daughter to drink water and eat something. ("Something with a little protein in it, please.") I locate lost articles (a single glove, a collar pin, a hoof pick).

And, I hold my breath while my daughter does her course. That and pray a little.

I'm fairly certain this helps.

On Mother's Day, with my husband otherwise occupied, I also had to use my daughter's fancy-schmancy camera to capture action shots. The directions were clear and to the point. "Get every jump," she told me. Pressure much? But, I succeeded and, in all honesty, I was so nervous about taking the pictures that I forgot to be nervous about my darling daughter and her beloved steed flying over jumps.

At one point, my daughter came up and said "Let's get a picture of the two of us together." It was a nice (and unusual) request, but something interrupted and we never managed to do it.

When we got home that evening, I learned why she had asked.

There, on Facebook was a picture of the two of us from an earlier show this season. My daughter had posted it with the following message:

Late to the game...but happy mothers day to the best (horse show) mom there is! Thank you so much for sacrificing your day today and going to my event! You were and always are so helpful thanks for everything love you

Then there was a little emoji smiley face.

It wasn't breakfast in bed (that's ok, we grabbed Dunkin' Donuts on the road). It wasn't a museum or a matinee.

But, it felt a lot like diamonds to me.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Unlimited Data

A week ago, I attended a reception where I met a very successful, very driven, professional woman. She had a cup of coffee in one hand and a smart phone plus an iPad stacked in the other. As we talked, she bemoaned the fact that she never seems to be able to disconnect. Her colleagues and clients send her emails 24/7. And, if she doesn't immediately respond, they call to see if she's all right. For better or worse, this bright young thing has been so responsive for so long that she can never take a break.

Or, as my best friend's Nana Mimi would have said, "She made her bed."

I can't relate to this. Granted, there was a time when I was unfailingly conscientious too. But, at 52 with myriad middle-aged commitments, priorities and responsibilities ... um ... not so much anymore. Send me an email and I will certainly get back to you. But please, dearest, don't hold your breath.

To top it off, my new pal told me how much she hates her smart phone. "But, I can't switch providers," she shrugged defeatedly, "I'm grandfathered into unlimited data."

Now that, I can relate to.

When my now teenage daughter first got an iPhone, we shared a family plan that had all these complicated categories of calls and rollover minutes and a pool of shared data. It wasn't the most expensive plan we could get, but it certainly wasn't the cheapest. The guy at the phone store was courteous and helpful and tried to dumb it down for me ... 

May I stop here, please, and assure you that I am many things, but "dumb" isn't one of them. I'm happy to forward my high school — or university — transcript if you have your doubts. I run a business that actually involves complex marketing analytics (as well as lots of pretty pictures). Dumb, am not I.

I was, however, at least twice the guy's age, so he probably assumed I had already lost whatever cognitive abilities I had once had.

But, I digress.

We left the store with a plan in hand and all was well. Until it wasn't.

My daughter (with a September birthday and an overindulgent mother) was one of the earlier kids to get a smart phone. As more and more of her friends caught up, guess what happened to our data usage? It went up. And, guess what happened to our cell phone bill? It went up.

Through. The. Roof.

I called, frantic, and tried to get to the bottom of the sudden $100+ increase. The customer service rep offered to remove the overage (yes, they can do that!) if I changed plans. He recommended some options — none of which I understood. They all sounded good until the part when he'd say "... then if your daughter exceeds her data limit ..." 

"Just make it go away," I told him.

"Well," he hesitated, "You could upgrade to unlimited data, but it might not be the most cost-effective ..."

I interrupted him. "Just make it go away. Please." And he did.

The bottom line is that we pay a fairly high monthly bill. It's always the same (within about 50 cents, due to variable taxes, which I will never understand). It's predictable. I don't have to check line items of mysterious charges. Or nag my daughter about how much she's texting and what it's costing.

I have nothing against moms who choose to go another direction. In fact, I admire them. But right now, I have neither the bandwidth, nor the patience, to deal with à la carte mobile phone charges. I want the all-you-can-eat buffet. I want the one-size-fits-all. I want to set-it-and-forget-it.

Alas, my carrier has discontinued unlimited data options. We, however, like my harried new acquaintance, are grandfathered in.


Changing plans is absolutely not in my plans.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at   

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Miss Match

Today, in addition to closing a new piece of business, participating in a conference call about a client's website, writing and editing (and editing and editing) advertising copy, and working on a big proposal, I did laundry.

I know, I know. You're thinking, 'Wow, what a glamorous life she leads.' Admit it.

One of the great things about running an agency from a home office is that you can multitask. 

So, there I am, brainstorming headlines for an ad campaign and sorting the whites. It had been a few weeks (in this house, the colored hamper fills up much quicker), so I had eighteen or twenty pairs of athletic socks. They are identical except for the Nike logo at the ankle; the familiar swoosh is in three different colors: hot pink, turquoise and black.

As I was grouping them together, it occurred to me that this was a fairly unnecessary task. As I mentioned, the socks are exactly the same, fit the same, feel the same. When I walk or go to the gym, you can't see the logos because I wear long yoga pants. So no one would know if they were mismatched, right?

Wrong. I would know.

That's me, I am a rule follower. Always have been. Always will be. In fact, one of the things that really intrigued me when I started dating my now husband was his disregard for any rules that precluded him from having fun. The first, last and only time I ever played hooky from work was with him. I called in sick on a Friday morning, but was really already en route to Montreal for the weekend. It was exhilarating and liberating and terrifying. I never did it again.

At any rate, I'm sure I would feel the same way if I wore odd socks to Zumba.

One of my favorite instructors, interestingly enough, always has mismatched socks. She laughs about it, shrugging. Her life, with multiple teaching gigs and multiple kids, is just too hectic. 

My daughter, on the other hand, decided a few years ago that mismatched socks would be one of her (many) signature looks. It wasn't that she was busy or lazy, she actually thought it was cool. She's partial to colorful ankle socks, and particularly likes to wear two different holiday themes (say, Jack o' Lanterns on the right, Santas on the left) when the holidays themselves are months away. 

I used to sort her socks, taking the time to match each one to its mate (tracking down all the missing ones too), then rolling the clean pairs into neat little balls. These would be placed gently in her sock drawer, the drawer that she would later turn upside down and inside out, undoing the rolled sock pairs to find the perfect odd couple. I finally gave up.

So, I wonder if anyone has conducted a research study to align different personality types with their approach to matched or mismatched footwear. How do I, my instructor and my daughter differ in our approach to life, the universe and other items of clothing? And, is there a chicken-or-egg element to this? Do my socks match because I'm a rigid rule follower? Or am I a rigid rule follower because my socks match?

Can we ever really change who we are inside?

If I just threw all my socks in a basket and randomly pulled out any two each day, would I be more relaxed?

Hell, no. I'd be stressed out because my socks wouldn't match.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at   

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Yik Yak Talk-Back

As parents of teenagers, we hold these truths to be self-evident:

a. Our children are desperate to fit in, to be admired and popular
b. Our children have not developed what one might call "filters" 
c. Our children don't quite grasp the concept of "consequences" yet

None of this is really news. In fact, if you had gathered a group of moms and dads together in the 70s, back when I was a teen, they might have said the same thing. But add another, more contemporary observation:

d. Our children are addicted to technology — social media and cell phones, especially

Things get very interesting. Interesting and disturbing.

Enter a harmless little app called Yik Yak. Anonymous local posting. What could possibly go wrong?

Yik Yak was founded last fall by two fraternity brothers (why does this not surprise me?). Brooks Buffington and Tyler Droll (purportedly, those are their real names) developed it as a social hub "to enable people to be really connected with the people around you, even if you don't know them ... a hyper-local version of Twitter where people can use it to post information and everyone in the area can see it." 

Yik Yak was never meant to be used by high school students. In fact, you have to confirm that you're over 17 to log on. So there shouldn't be any problem, right? After all, identity verification is fool-proof on the web. 

And, teenagers would never lie.

Here's how Yik Yak promotes itself:

Yik Yak acts like a local bulletin board for your area by showing the most recent posts from other users around you. It allows anyone to connect and share information with others without having to know them.

News, funny experiences, shout outs, and jokes spread faster than ever through Yik Yak’s tight-knit community.

Here's how I, as a mother (and a marketing copywriter) might edit this description in order to promote truth in advertising:

Yik Yak acts like a bathroom stall door, a public bulletin board where you can take a magic marker and write hateful and obscene things about your ex, your rivals and your enemies. It allows anyone to say anything about anyone, without having to face them in real life.

Insults, cruelty and bullying spread faster than ever through Yik Yak’s tight-knit community, which — since the app is free and delivered via the Internet — is pretty much everybody.

Sadly, given an opportunity to be mean, a lot of young people rise to the occasion. Fat-shaming, for example, is now easier and more effective than ever:

"Can someone tell whats-her-name that yoga pants are a privilege, not a right?"

The sad thing, though, is that in the world of Yik Yak, whats-her-name is, indeed, named. And what will she do later, after everyone at school has seen the anonymous post and weighed in on it (no pun intended)? Cry, purge, cut. Or something worse.

In its defense, the company has assisted high schools in blocking the app and even tracked down kids who break the law, like in the recent bomb threat we had here. (Guess what, people? Thanks to a little thing called your "IP address," anonymity online ain't a sure thing. Uh-oh.)

My daughter informs me that Yik Yak is already old news. Indeed, kids will move on to something else — fast — if they haven't already. It isn't the app itself that's the problem. There will always be a way to ostracize a peer if that's what someone wants to do. I know plenty of adults who judge others by how they look, what they wear, the kind of car they drive. Rather than ban a particular channel, we need to teach our kids compassion. 

And we need to do so by example. 

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at