Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Straight? Gay? Bi? Or Complicated?

Growing up in middle America, a lot of my contemporaries didn't know any gay people until they were adults. (Well, realistically, they almost certainly did know some but, in the 1960s and 70s, people were a lot more careful about who they shared their secrets with.) I'm from New York City, Manhattan specifically, so I was exposed to more diversity in general. My parents were both in the theatre, and I followed in their footsteps for a few years. Suffice it to say, I had a lot of gay friends.

Still, there were shocking moments for even the most enlightened of us. I remember when my preteen idol Elton John came out — I didn't really care that he loved boys; I was just disappointed that he wasn't going to love one particular girl ... me. A few years later, the AIDS epidemic and its celebrity victims cast a spotlight on how many of our heroes were leading double lives. After all, if Father of the Year Mike Brady was a pansy, was anyone really safe?

Times have definitely changed. But, I have to remind myself that I've lived in a fairly rarefied set of circumstances all along. From show business to publishing, advertising and graphic design, and always on the more liberal east coast. By and large, my gay friends have been creative and confident. If they felt misunderstood or victimized at home, they left that behind when they moved to Greenwich Village or the South End. Or so it seemed to me. I'm still caught off guard sometimes when I hear a friend tell me about family members who won't see her anymore or another one getting beat up with his boyfriend on a weekend away.

I have to remind myself that no matter how nice their shoes are, I can't really relate until I've walked in them.

My daughter spent the early years of her childhood with all our friends — never distinguishing between the straight couples and the gay couples. In fact, one of our favorite stories is from 2004, shortly after Massachusetts became the first state to legally recognize gay marriage. She was asked to serve as a junior usher in the seaside wedding of two dear old friends of ours. She was thrilled and the day was absolutely glorious. When her daycare provider saw her again on Monday, she asked "Was the bride beautiful?" Our daughter stopped and thought for a minute, then said, "I don't think there was a bride."

Clearly, we made it a point to instill an open mind in our little daughter. But now, as she heads into her senior year of high school, I'm happy to report that her entire class seems to feel the same way. There are several "out" gay couples, who didn't seem intimidated at all about bringing the date of their choice (and of their sex) to prom.

It's great to see so much less "to do" being made. I don't feel compelled to discuss it with my daughter because she takes it all completely in stride. In fact, she recently educated me on some of the nuances — and vocabulary — that surround the LGBT community. We were in the car (what else is new?) and she mentioned a girl who was in the year ahead of hers.

"She's gender queer," she told me.

Say what?

She tried to explain and I found myself trying to relate it to the definitions I already felt so comfortable with. 

"So she's bi?" I asked. 


"So she's asexual?" I asked.


After a few fruitless minutes, she did what any self-respecting teenager would do. She pulled out her iPhone and quickly found an infograhic to help me understand. 'Turns out it isn't simply "straight," "gay," and "bi." There are actually four different elements of a person's sexuality. These usually work together in a fairly traditional way (a woman who sees herself as feminine, has a female body, and is attracted to men), but — in reality — they can also present discretely from each other. So, with three defined positions for each element, there can be 81 different combinations. And, to make the whole concept a little more complicated (because it isn't complicated enough already, right?), each element is a continuum.


My daughter patiently described the diagram to me. The different elements or attributes are:

Gender Identity
This is how you think of yourself, how you interpret who you are — regardless of hardware or sexual desire. (Watch "I Am Cait" on E! or the even better "I Am Jazz" on TLC if you need help understanding this.) You can identify as a Woman, a Man or Genderqueer. (Ah ha!)

Gender Expression
This is how you choose to gift wrap the package that is you. How do you act, behave, dress and groom? You can express yourself as Feminine, Masculine or Androgynous. (Just think of all those glam rock stars we grew up and it'll be more clear.)

Biological Sex
These are the parts you were born with: your organs, hormones and chromosomes themselves. As we used to say at work sometimes, "It is what it is." You were born Female, Male or Intersex.You have no say over this piece of the puzzle. Unless you turn to surgery and hormone therapy.

Sexual Orientation
This is the simplest part of all of this because it's the part most of our society adjusted to a couple of decades ago. What turns you on? You can be Homosexual (same sex arousal), Heterosexual (opposite sex arousal) or Bisexual (either/or is fine by you).

But, as I explained before, there are myriad shades of grey in these characteristics. The possibilities may not be endless, but clearly this isn't a situation of one size fits all. And what impressed me most was how my daughter and many of her cohorts take it all in stride.

I was also struck (and not for the first time) by how the tables have turned. I had my chance to teach my daughter about the world.

Now, she's teaching me.

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

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Lookin' Good Mom

In many households, weekends mean that an overworked, underpaid and utterly unappreciated maternal type such as myself might sleep in. 

But, no. Not in our house. 

You see, summertime Saturdays often mean equestrian events which often mean crack-of-dawn mornings at the stable, packing, tacking and trailering. I'm happy to report that I have nothing to do with any of that. But, I do get up for less horsey tasks: making lunch, for example. Or ensuring that my young champion hasn't hit the snooze button one or two (or six) times too many.

Yesterday was just such a Saturday. I was up at six. I fed the dog, I pulled out a lunchbox and a cooler. I was about to go up and begin my morning nag ritual, but I heard my drowsy daughter in the bathroom.

It never ceases to amaze me how she manages to get herself up for horse shows when a load of dynamite under her bed wouldn't wake her on a school day.

But, I digress.

No one in our house has had time to grocery shop lately, so pulling together a traveling lunch was tricky. (Lately, I've sent the offspring off to work with ramen noodles — I know, I know, FLOTUS would be appalled. But, alas, even this option was out of the question; no microwaves at the showgrounds.) Luckily, I found a leftover piece of chicken which I shredded, added some cheese and rolled the whole thing (with a little extra barbecue sauce for good measure) in a spinach wrap. Voila! I figured she would either love it or it (should I say "I?") would suck. But, it was pretty much the only option. I added chips, some not as fresh as-it-once-was fruit, Goldfish crackers and a strange Oreo line extension dessert, a little package of chocolate wafer sticks with a small cup of white frosting filling to dip them into (the last time I actually did go to the grocery store, my daughter insisted that she "needed" said item). I also packed six bottles of water though, so at least I get good mommy points in the hydration department.

Meanwhile, the teen came downstairs, looking neat as a pin in clean riding breeches, tall black boots and a "Got Schmidt?" tee shirt from her favorite show New Girl. She would change into a blouse, stock tie and jacket before the competition. Her hair was pulled back in a tight pony tail (which I would change into a pristine bun before the competition).

"Can you juggle cars with me?" she asked. I'll explain.

We live in a neighborhood that was built around the same time the colonies were transforming themselves into a more perfect union. Suffice it to say, our founding fathers and mothers didn't really plan ahead for parking. We are very fortunate here in "olde town" that our property actually accommodates three cars. But, it's a bit of a jigsaw puzzle. My Miata (24 years old and counting; really, we can get "antique" plates next year) is her vehicle of choice, naturally. But, her father's sedan was blocking it in. Thus, the need for the aforementioned juggling.

So, remember two paragraphs ago when I bragged about how crisp my daughter looked? Let's now contrast that with her ever-loving mamacita. I was wearing a night shirt, one of those oversized tees, faded, stretched out of shape, and embellished with a huge dachshund that wraps front to back with the words "I long to be around you." My hair was standing pretty much straight up. My makeup from the night before, which apparently I hadn't removed despite some lovely skincare products my mother has given me over the years, was smudged around my eyes. And I was barefoot. So, to facilitate car-juggling — and to complete my lovely ensemble — I grabbed a pair of black Uggs from the coat closet.

This last addition was of great interest to our new puppy. I could practically hear him thinking "Wow! Mom put two chew toys on her feet! Far out!" He nipped and tugged all the way to the back door, where I grabbed keys and headed out in all my glory. To my daughter's credit, my appearance was rewarded with only the slightest of eye rolls.

I consoled myself with the thought that no one could actually see me as long as I was behind the wheel of the car. Unfortunately though, as soon as my daughter drove off, I had to pull back into our property and shut the gate. Naturally, two neighbors chose to walk by just at that moment, as did the sweet man who bags groceries at the store that I haven't managed to get to lately. He usually hands me my purchases with a charming "Lovely to see you as always."

Yesterday morning, despite a rather reluctant and embarrassed wave from me, he said nothing.

Hmmmm ... wonder why?

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

Monday, July 20, 2015

What's Really Going On in Their Heads? A Lot!

If you're the parent of a teenager, you may sometimes (often? always?) find yourself rolling your eyes, shaking your head and resisting (or not) the urge to ask "What is going on in your head?" 

With all due respect to Dorothy's Scarecrow, some days (with most teens) it's hard to remember that there's a brain in there at all.

Our daughters and sons start looking like adults as they hit puberty and adolescence. At this point, my own "little" girl is almost as tall as I am. They want us to stop treating them like babies. They beg us for freedom, respect and independence (when they don't need our credit cards or a ride somewhere). And their own feelings of grownuppiness are reinforced by a string of societal privileges. My daughter started driving last year. She's now eligible to enlist in the military. This fall, she'll be able to vote and buy cigarettes (I'm hoping she'll take advantage of the first and not the second).

It's no wonder we get so frustrated when these seeming adults act like children.

Or worse.

Like brainless soul-sucking monsters. (Harsh? Maybe, but let's face it, we've all thought it.)

We assume our teens are lazy, melodramatic, stubborn, selfish. (I'm sure there are countless more adjectives we could add.) We wonder where we went wrong raising such heartless, brainless, careless creatures. But, science has shown that their behavior is more about nature than nurture. Specifically, it's about anatomy and development. Their brains are quite literally works-in-progress.

Compare two important parts of the brain: the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. (No, I wasn't a science major — "As if!" — but I'm a wicked good Googler.) These develop at two different rates; the amygdala tends to mature more quickly, while the prefrontal cortex isn't finished evolving until about age 24. The fully-functioning amygdala governs instinct, aggression and emotion. The not-fully-baked-yet prefrontal cortex is responsible for
paying attention, regulating mood, impulse control, and the abilities to plan ahead and understand the consequences of your behavior.

So where does that leave teenagers (and their parents)? Emotion-a-palooza without the balancing benefits of rational self-control.

Sounds a lot like a teenager to me.

Layered on to all of this is the individuality of each teen's growth process. Some kids may seem particularly immature, but that's most likely out of their control. Each brain — like each body — develops at its own rate. You can't condemn a teen girl for being a late brain bloomer any more than you can blame her for being a late boob bloomer.

Older generations always bemoan younger ones. "Things were different when we were kids," they insist. "We were more responsible, more selfless, more mature." I'm sure they believe what they're saying.

But, science — and parenting experience — say otherwise.

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

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Playing Dress-Up

My daughter never cared much about dressing up dolls, paper or otherwise. We went through an early phase with Barbies and their "sweeties," little Kelly dolls. She had a collection of Madame Alexanders on shelves in her room. And, since she was a middle-class child of the early aughts, we had lots and lots of American Girls and even more of their outfits. 

But, acquisition is one thing (one thing that my daughter has always been quite good at). Actually playing, dressing and undressing, is another.

I, on the other hand, loved dolls. Especially paper dolls. I had a vast collection of Betsy McCalls (a new one arrived in my mother's magazine every month). They went to "boarding school" in a long shoebox and each lived in her own "room," a plain white envelope that contained each Betsy, her two outfits plus various possessions I cut out of my grandmother's Sears and Spiegel catalogs each summer.

In keeping with my true packrat (I prefer "archivist") ways, I still have them. My daughter has never shown any interest whatsoever. Not. One. Iota.

For a while, having a baby girl was sort of like having a wonderful, living, breathing paper doll. She was a little on the small size when she was born (probably all that booze and all those cigarettes while I was pregnant ... kidding!). So, the first couple of weeks, she wore preemie pajamas and onesies donated by the generous mother of twin boys. They were blue and green and since my daughter was rather hair-challenged (try completely bald), the young lady was constantly mistaken for a young gentlemen. Soon enough though, she grew some hair and grew into the countless pink ensembles various friends and family had showered us with from the moment they heard "It's a girl." I was fortunate that she wasn't much of a blurper. Her clothes stayed crisp and clean and sweet and p-i-n-k.

Once she had a mind of her own, she took the pinkness even further. There were about two years of preschool when she would only wear pink and she would only wear dresses. Basically, if I was at Marshalls or the Gap or the Children's Place or pretty much anywhere and I saw a pink dress on sale, I bought it. She paired these feminine frocks with red sparkle Mary Janes (think Dorothy after she landed in Oz) from Target. They only sold them during the holidays so I tended to buy up a good stock in her current size and a size or two up. (All that glitter made them particularly scuffable.)

There was a brief period in elementary school when she wanted horses on all her clothes (you'd be amazed how many My Little Pony options there are). Then, as if all that dressing up was just a dream, it was over.
Don't get me wrong, my now teenage daughter still puts a lot of thought and effort (and my money) into her wardrobe. It's just that, at this point, I have very little say about it. There also seems to be an aversion to anything that's new looking ... well ... new. Tee shirts are pre-faded; jeans are pre-ripped. I had a bit of luck on the sale page of Urban Outfitter's website last Christmas. But, most of the time, I let her make clothing decisions for herself.

Nevertheless, I think she and I would agree that a new site launched to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Clueless could make the whole dressing up (or down) thing a lot more fun. If you remember that iconic movie, Cher Horowitz (the ditzy and adorable Alicia Silverstone) had a special closet interface that allowed her to mix and match outfits until she found the perfect fit. It was kind of Betsy McCall meets Steve Jobs. Today, a company called Metail has created a virtual fitting room called "CherWears." You put in your height, weight (you'll need to convert it to "stone"), select a head and start trying on. There are outfiits inspired by the movie's main characters, as well as categories called Glamour, Stand Out and Wedding.

Cherwears is a great way for teens (and, let's face it, moms) to try some wardrobe additions in a no-risk way. And, as I sit at my desk — with deadlines looming — it's also proving to be fun.

Almost as fun as my Betsy McCalls.

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

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Sports Equipment and Other Best Friends

I spent this past weekend with my daughter and her horse. This isn't exactly news — I spend most weekends with my daughter and her horse. Unless it's the dead of winter, in which case she spends the weekend with her horse and I watch old movies under "the best blanket in the world," a huge and cozy patchwork fleece made by my talented sister-in-law.

On Saturday, I drove about two and a half hours out to the Berkshires, then another 45 minutes or so down to Connecticut. It was a gorgeous day, but a long ride. On the way, I had to pick up day-glo orange duct tape and a box of Apple Jacks. Apparently, the cereal is our horse's new favorite snack. (He also likes Wheat Thins and Parmesan Goldfish.)

The show was enormous and our stable was well-represented. We stayed with another rider and mom in an eclectic "inn" that looked like a plain old motel on the outside but decorated by Holly Hobbie on the inside. (Would you like some calico with your calico?) There was a pizza and burger place down the road and millions of fireflies.

Sunday morning was sunny and very very hot. The girls left early with their trainer, and the parents followed soon after. The horses had spent the night in a gorgeous stable a few miles from the event grounds. There were hundreds of riders and it promised to be a very long day.

My daughter's dressage test was scheduled earlier than the other girls', and she carefully groomed her pony before just as carefully grooming herself. Dressage is all about precision and appearance is important. To this day, I laugh that the woman who has had short hair all her life (that would be me) has become absolutely expert at constructing and securing perfect buns. Really, I could be on Dance Moms

But, I digress.

Dressage went extremely well and we were encouraged. After lunch, my daughter and her trusty steed would compete in stadium jumping and then on a cross-country course made up of logs and ditches, various types of fences and water obstacles. Typically, this is where they do their best (and have the most fun). 

But, as soon as they started warming up, my daughter could tell that something was wrong. Her horse didn't feel like himself. He was sluggish and resisted her commands. He also seemed to be dehydrated although, try as she might, she couldn't get him to drink. Nevertheless, they had a double clear stadium round (no faults, no time penalty) and with her trainer's encouragement, they headed to cross-country.

The trouble started early. The horse refused two jumps (something that never happens), then stopped dead in his tracks when they got to the water. Disappointed of course, but also genuinely worried, my daughter "retired" from the event and from the overall competition. 

As I watched her sponge him down and encourage him to eat and — especially — drink, I thought about how different equine eventing is from other sports. Like many athletes, my daughter relies on her equipment: thousands of dollars worth of saddles and tack, and most importantly, her horse. But, if a champion tennis player isn't satisfied with her racquet, she can get a new one. If a NASCAR driver wrecks her car, she can get a new one. 

In theory, I guess, an equestrienne can get a new one too.

But, my daughter never would. 

Tennis racquets and racecars (and sailboats and lacrosse sticks and ice skates and football helmets) are not living, breathing animals. They don't have feelings. They don't experience pain. For my daughter (and countless other riders), the horse is a combination of athletic equipment and beloved pet.

He's also her dearest friend.

Whenever we attend events, I see riders who push their horses too far. I've seen jumpers whip their ponies to make them go faster and leap higher. We know some who've happily traded up, buying better trained and more accomplished mounts (and assuring more ribbons and trophies in doing so).

If we had the money, I'm sure my daughter would love to have an elite Class 1 horse. But, it would be in addition to her current one, not as a replacement.

She was very sad to leave the Connecticut show without a ribbon, but she was far more concerned about her horse. She felt bad that she had pushed him when he wasn't feeling up to his usual self. She was sorry if his loyalty to her had kept him going past his comfort zone.

It looks like he's on the mend now. We had to scratch from an upcoming event (even bigger, even farther away, and probably even hotter), but — with our vet's approval — my daughter should be back in the saddle by the end of the month.

Being a fine horsewoman isn't just about winning. And, this particular stable mom couldn't be prouder.

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

Friday, July 10, 2015

Theatre Manners Matter

I've been writing Lovin' the Alien posts for more than four years now. The question I hear most often is "What does your daughter say about it?" The answer is ... not much. 

But, it's a legitimate query. After all, I'm comparing her to an extraterrestrial right in the title. And, most posts are the blogging equivalent of wringing my hands. As she is ever quick to point out, my daughter is one of the good kids. But teenagers, any teenagers, are easy targets.

So, I think I'll take this particular opportunity to praise an attribute of hers of which I am very proud.

My daughter has excellent theatre manners.

We began seeing shows together when she was a toddler. These were short, silly affairs, full of rhymes and puppets (or rhyming puppets). When she was about three, we graduated to 45-minute versions of classic fairy tales: Pinocchio, Cinderella, The Three Bears. We were lucky to have a regional theatre nearby and every summer they hosted a children's musical series.

For my daughter's first Broadway show, my mother took us to see Beauty and the Beast. We sat in the first row of the mezzanine and my daughter was mesmerized. About a year later, we went to Lion King. I can't count how many shows we've seen together since. 

From the earliest age, my daughter knew not to talk or leave her seat or rattle candy wrappers. And, to this day, theatres are among the few places (very few places) where she knows better than to take out her phone. No selfies, no texting, no tweeting, no Snapchat, no Facebook. Live performance affords more respect than that. And, that's true whether we're at a comped event or we've paid through the nose.

I wish I could say that all audience members were as etiquette-abiding. Even today's so-called "grownups" seem to put the urgency of their mobile lives ahead of the business we call show.

Take, for example, a recent incident on the great white way. At a July 2nd performance of Hand of God, actors and audience members alike were rendered speechless when a theatregoer crawled up onstage to plug his phone in. Not only was his behavior inappropriate, it was ineffective. The outlet wasn't real. Duh.

Just a few days later, Broadway diva Patti Lupone made her feelings about in-theatre cell phone use abundantly clear. She actually stopped a scene and snatched a phone out of the hands of a texting patron. She issued a statement, explaining:
“We work hard on stage to create a world that is being totally destroyed by a few, rude, self-absorbed and inconsiderate audience members who are controlled by their phones. They cannot put them down. When a phone goes off or when a LED screen can be seen in the dark, it ruins the experience for everyone else — the majority of the audience at that performance and the actors on stage.”

The guy with the phone isn't the only audience member Lupone has called out. Just ask the person who once tried to take pictures during a performance of Gypsy. Basically, you don't want to cross Patti. (Didn't any of these people see Evita? Sheesh!)

Grande dames on the other side of the pond have been known to throw theatrical hissy fits as well. In the West End, Helen Mirren left a performance of The Audience to scold people who were drumming outside the theatre. We have to assume her outrage and arguments were even more convincing sine she was still in costume as HRM Elizabeth Regina.

Younger artists can be just as (justifiably) intolerant when faced with theatre rudeness. The amazing Lin-Manuel Miranda noticed a famous audience member (the material girl herself) texting during an off-Broadway performance of Hamilton this past spring. He left word that she was not welcome backstage after the show. 

And, he tweeted about it to his 65,000 followers.

I just hope none of them were in the audience when they read it.

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

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Fight Club

Any intelligent person (well, any intelligent person who's actually been there) will tell you that parenthood ain't easy. Some people say it's "the toughest job you'll ever love." 


But, when my now teenage daughter was a toddler, I was pretty smug about the whole thing. Basically, I thought I had nailed it. After all, the "terrible twos" weren't terrible at all. My sweet little girl was compliant, agreeable, bright, and a pure pleasure to be with. As far as I could foresee, things would never change. I would always be her best friend.

Oy vey, was I naive!

These days, I can't even tell you what half of our fights are about. Everything seems fine and then suddenly we're sparring. This morning, for instance, I went in to wake her up (yesterday's experiment letting her get her own sweet self out of bed was a non-starter, literally) and she turned away from me, rather abruptly, which was when I noticed that she hadn't in fact washed her hair last night as she had promised to do.

"I didn't have tiiiiiiiiime," she whined. 

I was tempted to berate her, to make ultimatums, to express my very real frustration. 

Instead, I walked away.

Before you think this is me shirking my responsibilities, let me explain how far I've come. Just the fact that I can vacate the premises, exit stage left as Snagglepuss used to say, when a full-fledged fight is brewing is a huge step forward. Huge, huge, huge. (Did I mention that it's huge?)

And, besides, is the world really going to come to an end if she goes to the stable with dirty hair? I mean, isn't it going to get dirty there pretty damn quickly anyway?

I admit, the stakes are low in this particular case, right? But, that doesn't ever seem to matter. In fact, we tend to fight more about stupid things like dirty hair or dirty laundry, texting and too much cookie dough than anything of substance. I suppose I should be grateful for that.

Last week, The Wall Street Journal ran a story called "Why Mothers and Teen Daughters Fight."  With comments from several experts, it boiled the issue down to two opposing objectives: moms want their daughters to stay close and daughters want to break away and be themselves. In a way, the story was encouraging. I'm not alone, this is all normal developmental stuff, and (apparently) there's not much I can do about it.

On the other hand, it was a bit depressing. You see, despite the fact that I'm not alone and this is all normal developmental stuff ... THERE'S NOT MUCH I CAN DO ABOUT IT!

My resolve for the summer and the coming (senior, omg!) year is to choose my battles. This isn't always (or ever?) in my control though. So, I'll just have to practice walking away.

I'm already getting better at it.

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

Sunday, July 5, 2015

It's So Alarming

School's out and you might think our morning routine would be a little less stressful. 

Mais non, mes amis. 

We still go through the same dance of the alarms. Just an hour or so later. 

I'm one of those people who doesn't really need an alarm clock. Generally, I'm awake several minutes (or, in times of stress, several hours) before any alarm goes off. I've always been a morning person, relishing the quiet hours before the rest of the world wakes, enjoying long walks or quiet time to write or read.

My teenage daughter? Not so much.

This past week was the first real week of summer, as in no more classes, no more final exams. My daughter has a job at the stable where she trains and boards her horse; she's one of the counselors of the daycamp they run for junior riders. She also takes care of one of these eager young equestriennes before and after camp hours. She has to be at the stable by 8:30, which means she needs to leave our house by 8:00.

Her first alarm goes off at 7:00. If I'm near the door to her room, I can hear the incessant beeping, followed after several minutes by some moans, tired feet shuffling across the carpet and a determined click. The next alarm goes off at 7:20 and she repeats the process. A different alarm clock closer to her bed goes off at 7:30. At this point, she leans over and hits the snooze button affording herself another ten minutes.

And, if you've been doing the math (as I do each day), you can see that we're tempting trouble as the time passes. She insists that it only takes fifteen minutes to get dressed, wolf down some fruit and a muffin, and get out of the house. (I've already made her lunch and packed a cooler with bottled water — after all, I've been up listening to alarms for quite some time by now.) To her credit, her daily beauty routine is spare and efficient and, in theory, she could be on her way that quickly. The trouble is there's always something she has to check or forgot to do.

Like her cell phone. Apparently major world events happen every night between the time she shuts off Netflix episodes of The Office or Dance Moms and the time she finally succumbs to the cacophony of alarm clocks. She has to catch up on Facebook posts, Snapchats, Tumblr and tweets.

Meanwhile, her laptop is either streaming music or uploading videos or streaming music and uploading videos. It also takes an extra few minutes to find whatever she's planning to wear under the piles of clothing that she isn't planning to wear.

I've learned my lesson over the years, and I try to stay clear of her through all of this. A few minutes before 8:00, I can't help myself. I yell up the stairs — in as friendly a voice as I can muster — with a reminder that she needs to leave. "I KNOW!" she typically yells back, frustrated that (a) I'm nagging her, (b) I'm right, and (c) I exist.

As she rushes through the kitchen, toward one of the cars parked out back, I tell her to have a good day, drive safe and text me when she gets there.

Her irritation is palpable.

And, with my offspring finally off, I can start my own day. 

Just a little later than I might have liked. 

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

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Personal Space

I have a thing about personal space. It's very important to me, which is a bit ironic since I grew up in New York City. In NYC — unless you're a Vanderbilt, a Rockefeller or a Rothschild — personal space is hard to come by. From a real estate perspective, that is. 

It's even harder to negotiate on public transportation at rush hour.

Prior to my recent high school reunion, some of my classmates posted their favorite (and especially not-so-favorite) memories. Many of them commuted into Manhattan each day from one of the other boroughs. Most of us remember the perverts on the 1970s subways who used the crowded cars as an excuse to crowd their private parts up against high school student bodies. In seventh grade health ed, one of the first things we learned was how to stay safe. One particular teacher explained that all the inappropriate touching masked a deep desire for anonymity. These creeps counted on our doing and saying nothing to draw attention to them. Her suggestion? If we found a man's hand suddenly groping our ass, we should grab it, hold it high and loudly ask "Whose hand is this?" She assured us the man — and his hand — would soon slink away.

Thankfully, I never had to resort to that tactic. But, I certainly had my share of close encounters in those days.

These days, as an adult who can control her environment most of the time, I cherish my space. If you're a friend or family, a colleague or classmate, I will very happily hug and kiss you. But, if you're some stranger in a sweaty subway car, please please please keep your distance. Please.

So you can imagine how happy I was to find myself on the floor of the TD Bank Garden last night. When we arrived at 7:30, there was still a semblance of breathing room. By the time the headlining band started at 9:30, not so much. Very soon we were packed like proverbial sardines. There wasn't any groping going on (at least none that I noticed and certainly none aimed at me — not a surprise, really, since I was about 25-30 years older than the average concert goer).

But, there were other indignities.

Let me back up for a moment and explain how I happened to be there. My daughter had plans to see Imagine Dragons (a favorite) with a bestie. However, said bestie had a conflict and suddenly my daughter was stuck with two general admission tickets. She texted everyone she could think of, but no one was available at such short notice. So, she came to me with Plan A.

"I could go by myself," she said. "I'd be safe."

My immediate answer was no. She immediately transitioned to Plan B.

"Would you go with me?"

As countless people have observed, I'm just a mom who can't say no. We ate a quick dinner, fed the dog, and headed to Boston.

Which leads me to the aforementioned other indignities.

Over-the-Top Parking — One we got into town, we passed a lot a couple of blocks from the Garden. I pulled in, thinking it would be a deal. "$40, thank you," said the young attendant. "$40? No thank you!" said I. My daughter shot me the first of many 'Please don't embarrass me' looks. We ended up under the Garden for $45, which was slightly more convenient. In addition to paying the additional $5 though, it probably took us an extra 40 minutes to negotiate the traffic around the venue after the show. Ugh.

The Special General Admission Entrance — Once we parked, we had to leave the Garden to go back into the Garden through a special entrance. We then walked up 5 or 6 flights of stairs (which felt like 7 or 8) to get our wristbands. "How are you tonight?" asked the jovial wristband guy. "Winded," I quipped. "There's oxygen on the next level," he quipped back. Our little exchange earned me another look.

Warm-Up Bands — My daughter was very excited to see the first of the two opening acts: Halsey. And, she was really very impressive. But, the second band was less so. Actually, that's not entirely true. I was impressed with the way the lead singer seemed to channel a howling chihuahua.

(I don't think I was the target audience. But, in my defense, I was also not the only middle-aged mother there.)

Sticky Floors — Neither my daughter nor I bought so much as a soda, but I think we carried an entire keg home on the soles of our shoes.

Weapons of Facial Destruction, a.k.a. Hair — This was truly the most annoying part of an evening that (let's face it) wouldn't have been my first choice (or second or third). A young woman next to me had her pretty blond hair in a high ponytail. That's her business, right? It's a free country, right? The problem was that every time she turned to look at the stage or the crowd or a friend or ... well ... pretty much anything, that ponytail whipped across my face. 

In all fairness, Imagine Dragons were terrific! They put on an excellent show and were genuinely happy to be there. Such nice, appreciative boys, I have to give them credit even if my feet were killing me by the time they got to the handful of hits I recognized. We left about 11:00 and rolled sleepily into our already sleeping town at about 12:15 a.m.

As I've said, it wouldn't have been at the top of my list, but I survived. Like Imagine Dragons, I found myself feeling appreciation too.

I may not have been at the top of my daughter's list, but I enjoyed (most of) my time in her personal space.

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