Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sports Bras and Other Traditions

I just wrote yet another check to my daughter's high school. Honestly, given that it's a public school, they do seem to get us coming and going. This time, it wasn't for a field trip, or PTA dues or PSAT registration. Instead, it was for a tank top and sweatpants. The official, de rigeur — and also default — uniform for the annual "powder puff football" game. 

I say "default" because, until last year, the girls wore sweatpants and sports bras.

Our new principal in all his (often hotly contested) wisdom, recently declared a ban on the bras. And, while I'm no fan of censorship and find most dress codes to be misogynistic and an impotent form of slut-shaming, I had to agree with him. Kind of. Sort of. Which has made me not-too-popular with my teen daughter and her friends.

Parents had complained about the revealing outfits. Apparently, some girls were self-conscious about their bodies and didn't attend. Others drastically dieted, no doubt fueling any existing body image and eating disorders. Anything that keeps a girl from starving herself or putting her finger down her throat is ok by me. Plus, it's a school event, and since baring midriffs is against policy anyway, it probably isn't appropriate.

"But, it's tradition ..." everyone whined. And I mean everyone.

If, like me, you grew up in a big city or some other place bereft of this storied tradition, let me fill you in on the sacred ritual of "powder puff football."

Typically, it takes place as a warm-up, a morale booster, a week or so before the big Thanksgiving game. The teams are girls (in our school, senior girls play while junior girls cheer — thus the need for sports bras). And the game is supposed to be the kinder, gentler version: touch football. Official rules state: It is not meant to be a physical, pushing and pounding game. Just like boys football, right? Not! So essentially, "powder puff" provides the best of both worlds. Competition with a soft side. 

Oooh, look! The girls are playing football! Isn't that so cute!

Am I the only one who finds the concept condescending? (Then again, I have an issue with cheerleaders too. But, we'll save that for another post.)

Title IX became a law in 1972. "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance." This portion of the United States Education Amendments is supposed to assure that girls get the same opportunities as boys. Although not specifically cited, athletics became a major focus in how this law was interpreted. In other words, they should have equal access to organized sports, coaches, teams, equipment and facilities.

Champions of Title IX can point to definitive progress in the growth of sports programs for women. In 2006, a study revealed that the number of women in high school sports had increased by 900%, while the number of women in college sports had increased by more than 450%.

Yet, the "powder puff" lives on. In our town, at least. For now. In fairness, some schools have retired the event. I hope our town will do so soon.

My daughter will be there — in her tank top — and she'll cheer on the girls from her school. But, I hope she realizes that this silly show is just that, silly. Meanwhile, she herself is an athlete. My daughter harnesses the power of a 1,000-pound animal. She rides him in tough competition, jumping fences and logs, hedges, ditches and water obstacles. She is a serious equestrienne. She is strong. She is fearless. 

She doesn't own a powder puff.

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

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Lovin' the Alien in the News

Guess what? I'm in the September issue of Vogue!

Not really.

But, I am in the October issue of Boston Parents.

Yes, really. My essay "Tweens and Halloween: Sexy Penguin Anyone?" appears on page 10.

If you happen to live in the greater Boston area, you can pick up a copy. Or, thanks to the wonderful world of the web, you can take a look at the issue here. Finally, for your convenience — not to mention your reading pleasure — I've included the essay below:

Halloween is trickier than it used to be. Like everything else, the upcoming holiday becomes a bit more complicated when your little girl becomes a little woman. A catsuit on a 4-year old is adorable. A catsuit on a 14-year old is suddenly a little too tight, a little too curvy, a little too much.

In our household (like so many I know), everything we do is last minute. So, there I was last year, the Saturday before Halloween, at a costume shop in a neighboring town. 

Trying to get in and out of a Halloween store the weekend before that holiday is easier said than done. It took me less than five minutes to choose some masks we needed. It took me another 35 to get through the long line that snaked along the perimeter of the shop. I went by an aisle of adorable baby costumes (bees, lady bugs, pumpkins), by another filled with creepy decorations and animated lawn ornaments. Then, I hit trick or treat pay dirt. 

The aisle of Halloween hoochies.

I had arrived at the tweens and teens section, a land where less is truly more. As in: less fabric, more skin. The typical costume included a bare-midriff or corset top; a short, short skirt; and some combination of fishnet stockings, long gloves, garters, a headpiece and/or wings. It was like Halloween with The Girls Next Door at the Playboy Mansion. (Every package, btw, featured a pretty, pouting model who looked about 14.)

There were sexy nurses, sexy vampires, sexy fairies, sexy superheroes, sexy gypsies, sexy pirate wenches. Then there were the sexy animals. Some that made sense (in a warped way), like sexy kittens, foxes and bunnies. Some that didn't, like sexy penguins. Sexy penguins???

Last, but not least, there were the sexy inanimate objects. Sexy crayons, sexy beer bottles, sexy pizza slices, and my all-time favorite: sexy candy corn.

Because nothing says “Happy Halloween” like a sexy piece of candy corn. I’d never seen anything quite like it. Sort of a bodacious St. Pauly Girl look, a buxom blonde in an Alpine-inspired (perky bust extending above the shelf of her bodice) dress. Plus, of course, garters, stockings, high heels. But, the strange thing was that the entire sleazy outfit was made to look like a piece of candy corn.

I understand that the whole thrill behind wearing a costume is that it gives you a chance to put on another piece of your personality. But why do so many of the options for young girls feel more like taking off than putting on?

Happily, my own daughter is still more interested in collecting Kit Kat bars and hanging out with her friends than in letting it all hang out. This year, she's either going to be a pirate or a hippie. (And, with a little oversight from her mother, she will not be a slutty pirate wench or a hippie who is tripping on acid at Woodstock and forgot which VW van she left her top in.)

Sometimes, I do wish we could go back to the more innocent days of Teletubbies and Disney princesses. I guess I'll just have to settle for the little ones who come to the door.

Next year? Vogue, for sure.

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

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Pass the (Microwave) Popcorn: Say Anything

A few years ago, my now seventeen-year old daughter and her friends discovered Ferris Bueller's Day Off. They thought it was hi-lar-i-ous. I found a copy on the $5 DVD rack at Target, so we all enjoyed Matthew Broderick and his pals (Mia Sara and Alan Ruck) playing the world's ultimate hooky. Baseball, fancy restaurants, parades, and that "borrowed" red Ferrari. In fact, like so many movies before and after it, we enjoyed it over and over and over.

Great! I thought, and immediately planned a John Hughes film festival. (My daughter will be the first to bemoan my ability to suck the fun out of anything by making it part of a theme or event. What can I say? I was a drama major and work in advertising.) We started with Sixteen Candles, one of my favorites. In it, Samantha (a freckly young Molly Ringwald) negotiates high school, first love, an exchange student (with the unfortunate name Long Duk Dong) and the unwanted attention of a nerd while trying to prepare for her sister's wedding to an "oily variety bohunk" on her birthday (which multiple family generations have forgotten). I love that movie.

My daughter? Not so much.

Okay, not yet discouraged, I found Pretty in Pink. Molly Ringwald again, this time as a creative girl from the wrong side of the tracks, swooning over rich boy Andrew McCarthy.

Verdict? B-o-r-i-n-g.

I had one last shot: The Breakfast Club. This time, my daughter politely declined. She had heard it was pretty sad, and — let's face it — my track record wasn't so hot. So, I put aside the 80s brat pack, and watched (a bit disheartened) as my daughter relished current teen films, like Hunger Games and Divergent.

But, there was still one last hope.

Every once in a while, my husband and I would see John Cusack in something, or we'd drive by a "Gas n Sip," or we'd reach for a pen. We would immediately think of one of our all-time favorite movies. Our daughter was old enough to see it, but did I dare? If she didn't appreciate it, I thought it might break my heart. The movie was (is, and always will be) ...

Say Anything.

That iconic image of Lloyd Dobler defiantly holding up his boom box outside Diane Court's bedroom window. Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes." Graduation. The key master. The pen. So many quotable quotes ...

I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don't want to do that.

Don't be a guy. The world is full of guys. Be a man.

I got a question. If you guys know so much about women, how come you're here at like the Gas 'n' Sip on a Saturday night completely alone drinking beers with no women anywhere? (Answer: Pause ... By choice, man. By choice.)

And, our favorite ...

I gave her my heart, she gave me a pen.

Over the years, we've had multiple (maybe five?) copies of Say Anything first on VHS and then on DVD. Each time, we'd lend it to some poor slob who had never had the opportunity to bask in the glow of Lloyd and Diane's odd couple romance. Typical of us, each time we'd forget who borrowed it and move on, eventually picking up another copy on a half-price table somewhere.

(BTW, if you have one of our copies of Say Anything and you're reading this, you can go ahead and keep it. We've moved on to Netflix on demand; we're all set.)

I thought my daughter would love it. But, I had a tiny nagging suspicion that she might roll her eyes — and dash my hopes. 

I waited.

Just recently, I finally found the nerve to see what my daughter would think of Say Anything. We decided to make it a family movie night (see, there I go with the themes again). We made a big basket of popcorn and settled in on our sectional. I had a couple of moments of panic as I realized just how dated the hair and outfits were. But, a quick glance over and I could tell that my daughter was completely engaged. In a house where the three of us are often found watching three different shows on three different TVs, it was great to be together.

If you haven't watched Say Anything in a while, watch it. If you've never watched Say Anything, watch it. If your teenager hasn't watched Say Anything, tell him or her "Watch it."

That's all I have to say. 

Except for this ... "You're still here? It's over. Go home."

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

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Terrible Twos vs. Terrible Teens

My daughter just turned seventeen, and I'm fairly stunned. We all joke "Where did the years go?" But, I really want to know. 

Where did the years go?

When she was little, we had this marvelous pediatrician. He had a few topics about which he was absolutely passionate. Bicycle helmets, for example — not only was my daughter required to wear one, but my husband and I were supposed to as well. 

I remember one annual check-up when he coached my daughter on what to do if a friend ever offered to show her "Daddy's gun." The solution was to feign a stomach ache and insist on calling Mommy for a ride home. 

The single most useful thing this doctor taught me was to choose my battles. My daughter was about to turn two (as in "terrible ...") and I was warned to "Say 'No' only if you mean it and you're going to stick with it. If that means saying 'Yes' 99 percent of the time, so be it. If you say 'No," and she cries for 45 minutes and then you say 'Yes,' you've just trained her to cry for 45 minutes."


We were really good at it. In fact, we congratulated ourselves fairly frequently about our fabulous parenting finesse. Granted, we did say "Yes" more often than not. But, our daughter never abused that affirmative attitude. She was sweet and compliant. She followed rules: happily took her bath and went to bed on time each night; ate her fruits and vegetables; tidied her room, neatly grouping Barbies ("Mommies"), Kelly dolls ("Sweeties") and a handful of Kens ("Daddies," of course) into brightly covered canvas drawers. Tantrums were blessedly few and far between. 

The only hiccup we had was potty training, and even that resolved itself in fairly short order, once she was ready. A single weekend of M&Ms (hooray for bribery) and we were done.

While she was going through her not-so-terrible twos, I was terribly busy. I commuted into Boston every day and was on the road often, servicing a couple of major ad agency clients out on the West Coast. My terrific toddler took it in stride. Our time together most evenings and on the weekends (Saturday mornings at Gymboree) made up for the hours she was with her nanny.

It was all so easy.

So, my next question (after "Where did the years go?") is this. Do moms of teens have some form of amnesia? Like the way new mothers forget the excruciating pain of labor as soon as that wet little bundle is put into their arms. Was it as easy as I recall or am I looking back through memory's rose-colored glasses. Who knows?

What I do know is that it ain't so easy anymore.

Part of our back-then success was definitely maintaining a routine and setting rules. Neither of these seems remotely possible now. Between high school and two part-time jobs, riding and competing in horse shows, and fulfilling myriad social obligations, my daughter's schedule is anything but routine. Now that she can drive herself (and soon her friends as well, Lord help me!), I have very little control over where she is and when. All I can do is feign some iota of control and authority by insisting "Don't be too late." Or asking "Is all your homework done?"

As far as rules are concerned, there weren't many to begin with and those that were in place are ... well ... pretty much ignored. To my credit (I guess), I do still try to choose my battles. My daughter hasn't been in any trouble (I'll try not to say "Yet"). Her grades are good. She's relatively polite to her elders. Not always to me, maybe, but certainly to her grandmothers and other grownups.

When I bristle at some behavior or feel the need to assert some sort of authority, I have to think about it. Am I pulling rank because she's making a poor choice? Or am I merely trying to recreate a time when I was the only adult in the relationship? 

She has a major goal right now: to achieve independence. I know that, I really do. And, although she would be the last to admit it, I am trying.

It's tough. In fact, at times, it's terrible.

But, I'll look on the bright side. At least she's potty trained.

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

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Pride and Prejudice And The City

There is something to be said for ambient music in restaurants. Last night, we had dinner at our yacht club (and, no, we most certainly do not own a yacht — in our seaside town, there are five yacht clubs, six if you count the children's club; yacht-less families like ours join for the pools and the cookouts and drinks on porches overlooking the harbor). Anyway, they used to have a player piano in the dining room. This provided a nice atmosphere and, to some extent, kept you from hearing the conversations at adjacent tables. If there had been music last night, we wouldn't have had to listen to the slightly inebriated (and more than slightly obnoxious) foursome next door as they recounted their recent world travels.

"Blah blah blah MILAN blah blah blah LONDON blah blah blah PARIS blah blah blah BARCELONA."

Then, somehow, the topic migrated to shoes ...

"You know, those shoes that the girl always wore in Sex and the City."


"Manolo Blahniks."

"Right, the ones with the red soles."

"No, those are Jimmy Choo."

My husband gave me a warning look, a decidedly evil eye that clearly said, "Yes, even I know that they're wrong, but please, don't embarrass us." I held my tongue.

Helllloooooo? If you're going to practically proclaim your in-depth knowledge of European cities, HBO original programming and designer shoes, for pete's sake, get it right!

L-O-U-B-O-U-T-I-N. Christian Louboutin.


Yes, I know much about fashion footwear. And about Carrie Bradshaw and her gal pals. My teenage daughter and I have watched every episode of Sex and the City. (More than once.) We own a fancy gilt and purple suede DVD box set. In fact, I would credit the series with much of my daughter's sex education, a subject which her high school, in all its post-modern wisdom, has chosen not to offer. Apparently, if we don't teach it, they won't do it. 

Say what?

But, I digress.

I was late to the game where Sex is concerned. When it was in its first run, we didn't have HBO. I did have a toddler daughter and a much-more-than-full-time job in Boston. Leisure hours were few and far between. Also, as a native New Yorker, I resented the fact that a television show was purporting to expose everyday life in my hometown. No, the girls I grew up with didn't drink cosmos and pay obscene amounts for sandals. Not often, anyway. "Is that — sigh — what it's really like to live there?" people would ask. Um ... no. (And, in a more modern twist, it ain't like Real Housewives of New York neither.)

Eventually, I stumbled on the show in PG-13 reruns on E! and Style Network. I grew to appreciate it and my then tween daughter came along for the ride.

Last week, we were headed out somewhere (couldn't tell you where though since my memory is shot — too many cosmos, I guess), and my husband needed another fifteen minutes. I was dressed; I had shut down my computer. Nothing to do but pick up the remote and zap. I  landed on Sex and the City, one of the really good ones towards the end. Samantha was losing her hair because of chemo so Smith shaved his adorable head. Miranda was getting used to a new life in Brooklyn. Charlotte was trying to adopt a baby. And our girl Carrie was debating a move to Paris with Baryshnikov (hey, can we really blame her?). 

Commercial break. I switched channels.

Cue the parlor music. Replace the vintage Chanel with an empire waist. Drop the heels by about four inches. Suddenly I was swept away and into the Bingley's ballroom. Pride and Prejudice! I was struck by the similarities. After all, both shows boiled down to this: the timeless hunt for true love. Each focused on a group of sisters (either by birth or by choice) searching for their soul mates. And, despite a two century shift in hemlines (and acceptable after-hours behavior), dresses and shoes were still very much a part of the process. And, btw, Mr. Big doesn't hold a candle to Mr. Darcy.

Commercial break. I switched channels.

About this time, my husband walked through, nearly ready for us to leave. He watched me switch between NYC and the English countryside, and he laughed out loud.

"Pornography for women," he wryly observed.

Guilty as charged.

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

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Sisters Doing It For Themselves

I remember when I had a gigantic poster of Mel Gibson from Lethal Weapon over my desk at work (I worked for a cable television company, so movie posters were nothing special there). The man was truly beautiful — despite a very ugly side to his personality which surfaced years later.

I hate it when a celebrity turns out to be racist or bigoted or misogynistic, or in the case of Cee Lo Green this week, a rapist. That's a strong accusation, but I think it probably fits. He pled no contest to charges of furnishing Ecstacy to a woman at dinner in 2012. She claims to have awakened the next morning, naked, in bed with him. His response after the trial? A series of tweets:

“If someone is passed out they're not even WITH you consciously! so WITH Implies consent." 

(Time out. What does that even mean?)

"People who have really been raped REMEMBER!!!"

Yes and don't forget, they also can't get pregnant because "the body has ways of shutting that whole thing down." 


Between NFL-condoned (or, at least, down-played) domestic violence, rampant campus rape and the continued erosion of our legal and healthcare rights, I have to wonder ... Is it open season on women? 

A good friend's daughter just started college, met several of her male classmates and was invited to some fraternity parties. She didn't have a (girl) friend to go with, so she stayed in her dorm room that night.

My friend's daughter is very smart.

I hate it that one of the most important conversations I'll have to have when my own daughter leaves for college is how to protect herself. But, the problem is too pervasive to ignore. Until violence against women is taken more seriously (in the courts, by the police and at schools), women have to take care of themselves. This is by no means supporting any flavor of "blame the victim" thinking. But, if we can avoid dangerous situations, we have to.

This isn't unique to the U.S. (in fact, it's much worse in many places). So some women around the world have taken the matter into their own entrepreneurial hands. 

In Japan, designer Aya Tsukioka created a skirt that can be transformed into a faux vending machine, effectively camouflaging you until the danger has passed. 

Two women in New York designed rape-proof shorts, yoga pants and tops, featuring rip- and cut-proof fabric and locking waistbands. Convinced there's a market, they raised $52,000 in seed money through online crowd-sourcing.

In India, using a combination of technologies, engineering students Manisha Mohan and Rimpi Tripathy developed rape-proof underwear. "The lingerie with global positioning system, global system for mobile communications and also pressure sensors is capable of sending shock waves of 3,800 kV as well as alerts to parents and police."

And, last but with the sharpest teeth of all, Sonnet Ehlers, a medical technician in South Africa, invented an anti-rape condom. Women were to wear the device internally and if they were violated, sharp "teeth" inside would rip up the offending genitals. The rapist would have to have the device surgically removed, ensuring a greater likelihood of his being caught and prosecuted. For better or worse, this never made it into production. 

But, if things continue this way, perhaps it should. 

Good morning, Mr. Green.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Sleepy Time Teens

Since posting my story "Minefield in the Morning" over the weekend, I've had a number of reader-parents ask for more information about the recent report published by the American Academy of Pediatrics. (Apparently, I'm not the only mother who struggles with an adolescent explosive device on a daily basis.)

You can read the entire report online here, but the abstract highlights the salient points:

Chronic sleep loss and associated sleepiness and daytime impairments in adolescence are a serious threat to the academic success, health, and safety of our nation’s youth and an important public health issue. Understanding the extent and potential short- and long-term repercussions of sleep restriction, as well as the unhealthy sleep practices and environmental factors that contribute to sleep loss in adolescents, is key in setting public policies to mitigate these effects and in counseling patients and families in the clinical setting. This report reviews the current literature on sleep patterns in adolescents, factors contributing to chronic sleep loss (ie, electronic media use, caffeine consumption), and health-related consequences, such as depression, increased obesity risk, and higher rates of drowsy driving accidents. The report also discusses the potential role of later school start times as a means of reducing adolescent sleepiness.

It's this last bit that seems to be in our control — or, at least, in the control of our school boards.

Here are some of the specific findings:

... middle school students with a delayed start time of 1 hour for just 1 week performed better than the earlier-starting comparison group on tests requiring attention.

... delaying school start times in 1 community in Kentucky decreased the average [car] crash rate for teenaged drivers by 16.5%, while the state as a whole increased by 7.8% in the same time period.

Students at later-starting middle schools report later rise times, more total sleep on school nights, less daytime sleepiness, less tardiness, fewer attention/concentration difficulties, and better academic performance compared with middle school students at earlier-starting schools.

A variety of associated factors were cited, including adolescent biology, ingestion of caffeine and use of electronic media. But, the overall take-away is that teenagers need more sleep and need to sleep later into the morning. 

So, if science is so absolutely on the side of altering school hours (and this isn't news, btw), why have we all resisted?

For many working parents (including my husband and myself), a later start time would be inconvenient. As it is, my husband does a quick drive-by drop-off that cuts his own arrival at the office very short.

Then there's that all-American work ethic. Y'know? "Early to bed, early to rise ... etc. etc." Well, suffice it to say, Ben Franklin wasn't parenting a teen in 2014. One of the things the AAP is trying to communicate is that teens sleeping later (and we're talking until 7:30 a.m., not noon) isn't a matter of laziness. It's a matter of biology.

But, the biggest reason behind the resistance is sports. In addition to seven or so hours of class, many students participate in athletic teams and clubs. Do the math and you'd find that making the day start an hour later would push these activities into the evening. 

So in essence, sports, which are supposed to make our teenagers healthier, keep them from getting enough sleep which would, in essence, make them healthier.

What a tangled teenage web we weave. And don't even get me started on how this country abandons all reason (not to mention law and order) to worship at the altar of sports. Trust me (and ask my husband and daughter if you don't believe it), we don't want to go there.

So, despite studies and recommendations, I don't see things changing any time soon. For the next two years (at least), my daughter and I will have to agree that getting up early is simply another necessary evil. Like trips to the dentist. And summer homework. And SAT prep. And kale. 

Nothing to do about it. Nothing to complain about. It's just ...

You'd be tired too, parenting such a tired teen.

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

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Minefields in the Morning

Virtually every morning, I negotiate a minefield. 

If only Princess Diana were here in a clear plastic visor, crisp white shirt and chinos to bring attention to the matter. Joking aside, I'm not trying to diminish the late great Lady Di's important cause. She was brave and beautiful and brought much-needed heart to the British royal family. I was a big fan then (eight and a half months pregnant when she died, I collapsed on the sofa in tears at the news). I'm still a big fan. Sometimes, I stop and wonder what she might have accomplished if she had lived a full life. 

Of course, I can't compare my efforts to hers. But, really, I do tread treacherous territory in my own home each day. And the sometimes ally — but often enemy — I face is my own teen daughter.

On the one hand, I'm yelled at if I enter the room before her alarm. On the other hand, I'm yelled at if I come in between alarms one and two. And on the third hand (because, two hands would never be enough; mothers are like the Hindu goddess Durga) I'm yelled at if she sleeps through both alarms and I didn't somehow realize it and come wake her.

'Can't win.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I'll indulge in a quick paragraph of nostalgia. (Cue Disney music: happy birds singing in the background.) Mornings used to be nice. They used to be special. They used to be precious time together before my sweet little girl went off to preschool or kindergarten or even third grade, and I went off to my office in Boston. She was happy to see me. We snuggled. We talked. We ate together.

Cut! (Cue abrupt scratched record sound effect.)

It's been a while.

These days, assuming that one of her alarms has raised her, my daughter has a whole world of things to do before she leaves for school — things that by-and-large do not include yours truly. First, she has to actually wake up, which is not the same thing as getting up. Often, this entails, sitting on the carpet, staring blankly in the general direction of her dresser. Somehow this helps. I guess.

She's almost seventeen, so she has to check all of her electronica. She has to put great effort into dressing in a way that looks effortless. She half-heartedly makes the bed.

Either my  husband or I bang on the wall of the staircase that leads up to her room. The bang translates, simultaneously, into "breakfast is ready" and "Daddy's leaving." Although he often threatens to, he has never actually left without her. If the stars align (and somehow they always do), she grabs the fruit and muffin off the kitchen counter as she grunts "Bye" and makes it out the door just in time.

Sometimes, I blame myself ("Where did I go wrong?). Sometimes, I blame her ("What happened to my sweet little daughter?"). But, really, it's all about biology. Teens need sleep. Teen biorhythms are such that going to bed late and sleeping in are natural. It isn't poor parenting or teen 'tude; it's science.

Earlier this week (coinciding with the start of the school year in many states), the American Academy of Pediatrics released a recommendation that high schools (and middle schools) delay starting until 8:30 a.m. or later ... 

Doing so will align school schedules to the biological sleep rhythms of adolescents, whose sleep-wake cycles begin to shift up to two hours later at the start of puberty. 

My daughter and many others start their school day almost an hour earlier. That explains it! So this begs the question: if she was able to sleep in an extra hour, would her room still feel like a minefield?

Yes, I'm sure it would. But maybe after an extra hour of sleep (or coffee), I might be a bit more sure-footed myself.

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

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Science Experiments

Before he was a movie star and an awards show host and a bestselling author, Steve Martin was a stand-up comic. I had his record albums (remember record albums?), and there was a particular schtick that was funny then ... and hilarious once I was a mom. It's from his 1978 "A Wild and Crazy Guy."

"I got a great dirty trick you can play on a three-year-old kid. See, kids learn how to talk from listening to their parents (evil laugh). This is a good one. So, what you do is you have a three-year-old kid and you want to play a dirty trick on him, whenever you're around him, talk wrong. So now it's like his first day at school and he raises his hand, 'May I mambo dogface in the banana patch?' Give that kid a special test."

A wise woman told me that "Having a child is the greatest act of faith you can commit." I agree with this. But, they're also our best ever art project. Talk about a blank canvas! Talk about creative opportunity!

Once, when my daughter was about two, we went down to New York to visit my family, and brought my younger brother back with us. So, basically, this thirtyish single man spent five hours in the backseat next to his toddler niece. After a while, he must have gotten bored so he started feeding her pieces of candy and then timing how long it took for the sugar to kick in enough so that she got hyper.

"Stop it!" I scolded from the front seat. "She is not a science experiment! Stop it! Stop it!"

Now, with that same daughter almost-seventeen, we're going through quite an interesting experiment again — one that may blow up in our faces.

Two days ago, my daughter's iPhone seized up. It froze. Not on any usable screen, mind you. It froze on the apple start up screen. Wouldn't synch, wouldn't restart, wouldn't shut down. Dead, dead, dead. Dead as a doornail, Mr. Dickens. 

She was heading to the stable when she informed me of the device's untimely demise. She was somewhat irritated, of course, but simultaneously supernaturally calm. She plugged it into the old car's cigarette lighter (remember cigarette lighters?) and hoped for the best. She arrived a half an hour later and the phone was still ... dead.

What does a concerned parent do in the face of a Macintosh product crisis? Make an appointment at the Genius Bar, of course. Strangely enough, there were no time slots available for three days. This would corroborate my daughter's theory that this was actually the start of a global iPhone armageddon. Nevertheless, I grabbed the first available appointment (and backed up my own iPhone, just in case).

So, here's where the experiment comes in ...

Can my daughter survive — can life itself exist — without texting, browsing through pictures, Facebook-ing, Instagram-ing, Vine-ing or playing solitaire?

What reaction will we get at the Apple Store? Will they give her a new phone? (Unlikely.) Will I buy her a new phone? (Very unlikely.) Will she have to subsist with a disposable flip phone until our AT&T contract is up so we can get a new smart phone at a discount? (Strong possibility.)

As many experiments do, this one has already yielded some surprises. For once, I am somehow not to blame. Whoa! Maybe my daughter is growing up. Maybe she realizes that there are some things out of even my control.

Or maybe she's just glad I didn't teach her to talk wrong.

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

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Junior Year, Here We Go

This morning, per usual, I did a 4-mile fitness walk through our historic "Old Town," down by the harbor, along the beach, up through a pretty wooded neighborhood, and back home. It's hot and muggy now, but with the sun just coming up, it was still fairly cool. (BTW, if this daily walking thing makes me sound too healthy, rest assured I make up for it later in the day with white wine and chocolate. And sometimes cheese.)

About twenty minutes into my walk, I heard car horns and shrieking teenagers. The cacophony was coming from "the Neck," an attached peninsula filled with yacht clubs, private docks, and eensy-weensy ten-bedroom "summer cottages." The noise drifted across the harbor and, although I knew where it was coming from, it sounded like it was right next to me.

Soon, it was.

I stepped into a hedge just as a parade of thirty cars came flying around a corner. Horns blaring, noisemakers, drums, and a couple of fearless (and/or stupid) girls literally hanging out windows. They clapped and waved and yelled "WOOOO HOOOO" when they saw me.

It's the first day of school and these revelers are ... seniors.

My daughter, just a lowly junior, was still asnooze. For a moment, I worried about where she'll be and what she'll be doing (and whose car she'll be in) next year. But, I try to say in the moment. There are plenty of worries to deal with in the here and now. Never mind the there and then.

This year promises to be difficult and dramatic. Supposedly, colleges look at junior year as the best indicator of how a student will do after high school. (I guess freshman and sophomore years are just the warmup, and senior year — if this morning's spectacle is any indication — is a total write-off.) We'll ... I mean, she'll ... I mean we'll be juggling two AP courses, a full workload of honors and college prep, plus horse shows and training, and two part-time jobs. We'll start visiting schools in earnest. And, naturally, her social life will comprise high highs and low lows. Why aim for moderation when you're almost seventeen?

We'll have plenty of late nights of angst, I have no doubt. But, I expect we'll survive. Most families do.

Therefore ... it's a bright and shiny new school year, and I for one am happy to have it arrive already. (This summer was a bit of a bear. House guests and homework and SAT Prep, oh my!)

So, happy new year to all. I wish you good friends in the cafeteria, teachers with a sense of humor, and a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils.

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