It’s 1986 outside… let me grab a jacket

I bought a white jean jacket. Though it is neither spring-like nor 1986 outside, I left the store with this accoutrement of yesteryear, and have worn it every day hence. Although it might be ridiculous, I love it. I love love love it. I love it like I love U2 and Mia flats and that boy in study hall and Darcey’s bangs. And I love it mostly because Mom would never have let me buy it.

A white jean jacket represents all things Mom discouraged during our sartorial schooling. Clothes bought with hard-earned money should be practical, versatile, resilient, and never, ever (gasp) trendy. We wore Shetland sweaters, monogrammed turtlenecks, corduroys, Docksiders, and pearls; no jellies, rubber bracelets, or artfully ripped athletic wear for the Stockton girls. Naturally, during our first years living on our own dollar, my sister and I independently bought verboten clogs. We quickly learned that clogs were everything Mom said, plus a surefire platform for embarrassing falls; but buying banned footwear was a rite of passage into young adulthood for us– exorcizing a bit of our Fancy Lady upbringing.

We begged Mom for these ugly, ugly shoes.

We begged Mom for these ugly, ugly shoes.

Doesn’t every woman have at least one bizarrely nostalgic, outlandishly expensive, immodestly revealing, or otherwise completely inappropriate ensemble in her closet? I’ll never wear tuxedo pants, but at some moment in front of a three way mirror, I thought I could affect a 5 foot 3 Katherine Hepburn. (Nope.) I dressed like Annie Hall for most of sophomore year. Hats and all. The Hervé Léger murmurs, “Je pourrais vous gifler mais non!” every time I rustle his hanger. Even he knows I have no business squeezing into that thing. Many of these impulse purchases and quirky fashion choices–right up to my super fab, white jean jacket—probably represent small rebellions against too many shopping trips with Mom to Talbots.

That’s my theory. It’s also possible I have wretched taste in casual wear.

What’s hiding in your closet?

 

I spent a number of years wanting to look vaguely French and gorgeous like Darcey.

We all wanted to look vaguely French and gorgeous like Darcey with her perfect bangs.

Is There A War on Christmas?

Last year, Steve and I hosted a friendly religious debate here on EMB. The response was overwhelmingly positive because most humans are thoughtful and kind and delightful. We learned that people love to talk about their faith or explain why belief in One Holy Being sounds bonkers. We also confirmed what we suspected: it is possible to discuss religious differences without insult-lobbing or conversion agendas. Steve is no more likely to keep Kosher than I am to demote my Belief for fear of sounding like a zealot. Our aim is for greater understanding, not for change, even though I have the sneaky conviction that discussions about religion are where God is at… and He is rather irresistible.

Recently, a local town included a non-binding referendum in its annual elections to reinstate “Christmas Recess” as the official title of Norwood’s mid-term break, and learned that 76% of the paltry turnout of voters were decidedly pro-Christmas. Two years ago, the town’s School Committee voted to replace “Christmas” with “Winter” for all of the obvious reasons, but not in response to any clear outcry for this change. Our little local town here is bound to make national news as normally sane people take a stance on The War on Christmas, or back a staunch refusal that such a battle exists. Because Steve is hilarious, has oodles of friends, and is a maven of social media, his on-line inquiries lead to long threads of opinions and wisecracks and wisdom. When he asked followers to weigh in on this debate, the time seemed ripe for an Atheist Jew vs. Churchy Jesus Girl reprise.

Steve, quite logically, wants to know why we’re wasting time and dollars and ballot space on this nonsense. I’m not sure he recognizes a War on Christmas and sees the Christian religious defenders to be a bit bullying:

“I’m not Christian. Am I still allowed to say the ‘War on Christmas’ paranoids are fucking crazy? Isn’t demanding that things go your way kind of the opposite of faith?”

For me, the knee jerk reaction to this story was similar to my stance on the Bossy Ban. The politically correct language police irritate me and are largely humorless. I’d love to know what prompted the School Committee to vote out “Christmas” two years ago. Who is opposed to Christmas? Why? Is it necessary to preserve references to Christian holidays on our shared calendars, or are we losing something if we don’t fight for them? Do these semantics constitute a War on Christmas?

Let’s discuss.

ON SEPARTION OF CHURCH AND SCHOOL CALENDARS

Steve: I’m not sure how hilarious I’m going to be on this, but thanks for the buildup. People in Norwood are confused. Nobody is removing “Christmas” from the calendar. All they did was change the name of the vacation that encompasses Christmas and New Year’s (and sometimes Hanukkah) from “Christmas Break” to “Winter Break.” This keeps a consistency in the nomenclature with “Spring Break” and “Summer Break.”

The change to “Winter Break” was done two years ago. For some reason, people got worked up into a frenzy and decided the school needed to change the name back. In a non-binding referendum, the town voted overwhelmingly in favor of reverting back to the “Christmas” name. Towns can do whatever they want. I don’t think there’s a law against naming vacations for the holiday of the majority faith. But I can’t reconcile how the “Keep the government out of our business!” crowd is also the same one that says, “The government should name its vacations for Christian holidays!”

I don’t think this is a matter of political correctness or trivialities. 25% of the country is not Christian. “Merry Christmas” does not offend me and I had a Christmas tree in my house for 20 years. It’s a lovely holiday. But I still don’t understand how having its name on a vacation helps with the education of children.

Britt: It’s that “frenzy” that concerns me the most. We’ve become so polarized, so unable to discuss these things without feeling attacked or invoking referendums. My children attend a Christian school that breaks for “Winter Recess,” and I fully agree with you here that the naming of a school vacation isn’t worthy of the time and money required for this fight. Unfortunately, a handful of zealots and one minivan of voters grab the media attention and now we have another set up for the division of normally lovely human beings into anti-Obama Jesus lovers and left-wing-liberal camps. And Steve, this scares me more than spiders. Why can’t you be hilarious about this? I think we have to be hilarious about exactly this.

Also, I don’t see irony where you do here. Those who are opposed to big government want “officials” to let these things be. They can’t insist the government promote Christianity on its official calendars, but will exert their First Amendment right to make a stink about removing them. Are they right? Wrong? Who cares? They’re allowed to make a stink. I just wish they were less douche-y about it.

IS THERE A WAR ON CHRISTMAS (OR CHRISTIANS)?

Steve: Faith succeeds in spite of governments, not because of them. The argument that a government has the power to destroy one’s religion, especially in America, has neither proof nor a plausible scenario. The American government could decide tomorrow that every mention of religion, from “One nation under God” to saying “Oh Jesus!” during sex should be illegal. Would that, in any way, impact your right to worship? Your faith in God? Your ability to shop for bad sweaters?

The founders of our government thought official state religion was so odious that it banned it as soon as the inkwell arrived to write the first item in the Bill of Rights.

A lot of play goes to the words of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” But note the Free Exercise clause: “…or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Every argument about religion in public places starts and ends here. In short: “We’re not going to have a state religion, and we’re not going to stop you from observing your religion. We cool?” The U.S. can’t stop a religion. But it’s not supposed to promote it, either.

And even if the world were trying to “Take the Christ out of Christmas,” isn’t one’s faith enough to sustain said faith?

Britt: You have a more faith in Faith than the purported faithful, my friend. And a real part of sustaining faith is its presence in our every day. Jesus might frown on us being all polite and hush-hush about it. People of faith in this town of intellectuals often stifle their support of things that might sound “too religious.” Going a few Sundays a year is normal… but every Sunday? Freak. When you spend at least one moment of every day NOT saying you’re at Bible Study, or NOT saying a prayer before eating, or NOT wearing a cross with your outfit for fear of judgment or your friends thinking you’re an idiot, well… you start thinking, “Fuck! Now we can’t even call it Christmas break?”

Steve: You can call it whatever you like. The state, however, has an obligation to use non-denominational labels.

Britt: I do feel like the world is trying to snuff out all traces of God, sometimes, and that saddens me. But you are already RIGHT, Steve. You win with the support of logic, most of your Facebook contacts, and the law of the land. I’ve already agreed with you. But you still sound so huffy. Why?

Steve: Well, I hate to play the Nazi Card here but the world actually DID try to snuff out Judaism, and we managed to carry on. In the darkness of the Nazi death camps, faithful Jews still found a way to secretly observe Shabbat, Hanukkah, Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashana. That’s right-– in a state that was really, really trying to wipe out a religion and its adherents by the millions, the religion kept right on going.

Britt: Nazi trump card. I got nothin’. Except… it is my duty to explain well and without anger why I want a little more God sprinkled through my day (EVEN THOUGH I AM NOT ALLOWED TO ASK THE GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE THAT!). It’s your duty to be funny about everything. My blog. My rules.

Steve: Yeah, I’m being pissy here. Noted.

IS THERE ANY HARM IN BANNING “CHRISTMAS”

Steve: Who’s banning “Christmas?” Sure, Bill O’Reilly makes a lot of money getting people worked up over folks who say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” But THE WAR ON CHRISTMAS IS NOT A REAL THING. Education is. That’s where a school committee’s efforts should lie.

Here’s where I might be going off the rails a little: I think there is kind of a racist undertone to the “War on Christmas” paranoia. Not in everyone. Not even in most. But in some…

“They’re trying to take Christmas from us!”

“Who?”

“The media and the Hollywood elite and the New York Wall Street types and the ACLU and…”

I think it’s clear which people we’re talking about here, and they’re the people busy trying to figure out what they can and can’t eat next week. Hint: We’d support a war on gefilte fish.

I still don’t understand what this has to do with the name of a school break. People are calling for the resignation of the school committee members that don’t support changing the name back. That’s nuts. Suddenly that’s the litmus test of a citizen willing to give their free time to help improve a school system?

Britt: Ahhh… this is the deep well where icky feelings dwell. Those of us who want to stand on soapboxes for Christmas should be able to do this kindly, and without even a hint of anti-Semitism. Sheesh. I mean, Christmas is awesome! Yay! Let’s go buy some ugly sweaters! But why is it more important to argue for this than a better math curriculum or any other thing, and do you really want someone to lose a job over this?

Those who see Bill O’Reilly admonishing liberal culture for their The War on Christmas need to remember that he’s Bill O’Reilly. But they also need to explore the honest motive behind the Christmas break name change in Norwood two years ago. Was there not even a whiff of an atheist agenda there? Those who feel relief or maybe even a bit of smugness when another “Christmas” falls off the calendar… where is that coming from?

I think this was the unwritten undercurrent of your Facebook thread. It’s just Christmas on the calendar, so why is everyone feeling attacked? Unfortunately, the media fuels this fire. How do we put it out? I think it’s done with an open mind, faith that those with differing opinions are also lovely fellow-humans, the refusal to be polarized into a frenzied “war,” and an honest exploration of our pissy feelings. If Christmas is already off the calendar, let it go; but when Robbie Republican fervently wants it changed back, it’s possible that’s coming from a deep passion for preserving a bit of God in the world… hopefully not that he’s an anti-Semite.

Are you Pissy Steve or Believer Britt on this topic? Is there a War? Do we have a responsibility to help end it? Be kind, be thoughtful… be funny.

 

Wouldn't Jesus miss us saying, "Happy Birthday?"

Wouldn’t Jesus miss hearing, “Happy Birthday?”

Feral Children

This couplet of sentences was written in response to a writing challenge limited to 50 words, but also a recent article wondering why we’re denying our kids freedoms we enjoyed. I’d love to read a snapshot of your memories of a less chaperoned youth. Maybe together we can muster enough nostalgia to hazard our kids exploring the world a bit more without us.

 

We raced ten-speeds through three miles of neighborhood streets, screamed down the sledding hill into the flood plains, wove through the horse path leading to more backyards, and pedaled up the hill to find our friends. Mom had no idea where we were, so getting home by dinner was key.

No permission, no helmets, no schedule...

No permission, no helmets, no schedule…

Moist Ointment Crunching… by Steve Safran

A one-word text launched this discussion.

“Misophonia.”

I had no idea why she texted it, or what it meant, but a quick Google search made it clear. I share this strange quirk with a relative, and she found that our mutual desire to pummel you for loud snacking has a name.

Misophonia– literally “hatred of sound”– is a neurological disorder in which negative feelings (anger, flight, hatred, disgust) are triggered by specific sounds. Hearing crunching noises makes me angry. This isn’t mere annoyance; I’m not bothered. I want to hit. Eat all the chips you want, just not near me. I can eat chips. The sound of my own crunching doesn’t bother me, which is odd since, presumably, it’s loudest inside my own head. Misophonia might also mean “irrational asshole.”

We didn’t even know we had misophonia until just a few years ago, when she casually mentioned that the sound of her husband eating nuts made her want to throw them (and presumably him) across the room. Poor guy just wants to have peanuts while he watches baseball.

It’s not quite a psychiatric disorder, at least not according to the DSM-5. And that thing thinks everything is a disorder. Consulting the DSM-5 about a disorder is probably listed as a disorder. This bit of nuttery lives in its own netherworld between normal and “Seek help.” And it’s so obscure, spellcheck continues to insist we have “mesothelioma.” I’ll pass.

Are we rare birds, those of us who want to throttle peanut crunchers? I put it to the crowd, launching the query on Facebook and Twitter about sounds that make people equally as crazy. I was fascinated:

“Crinkling water bottles. I’ll threaten to throw a kid out of class for that,” wrote an otherwise normal friend.

“Other people eating bananas make a very mooshy sound. Ugh,” wrote a woman I’ve known since I was five, around whom I almost certainly ate bananas.

This column could have ended there. But the conversation became even more compelling. People started bringing up certain words that bothered them. I didn’t even know words could make people cringe. I’m not talking about dirty words, words about gross things, or words about naughty bits. I mean words like:

“Moist.” “Squirt.” “Taffeta.” “Shirk.” “Panties.”

Dave, a guy I’ve known since Kindergarten, can’t stand the word “defrocked.” And he’s not even Catholic.

But Debby wins for Most Misophonic. It turns out she’s a self-described Rain Man savant of bothersome words. Just have a gander— a moist, crotchety gander:

“Ointment”

“Secretion”

“Mustard”

“Custard”

“Mayonnaise” (And I’m starting to wonder how she orders lunch…)

“Girdle”

“Mushy”

And also, “Something about ‘envelope’ makes me uncomfortable.” There might be a chapter in the DSM-5 for Debby.

Alice doesn’t like “titillate,” possibly because it starts rudely. Ditto Gina with “crotchety.” It’s probably the same problem Heidi has with “penal.”

Ken is offended by “offended,” but he has no problem offending me. Lindsay wrote: “‘Penetrate’ and ‘Penetration.’ I can’t watch football because of it.” Dan added: “My mother hated ‘buttocks’ for some reason.”

The two threads brought in 165 comments. 165! The only time you even come close to that number is when Facebook forces friends to observe your birthday.

I will carry on in life with my untreated misophonia, giving Dorito-eaters wide berth. And I’m enlightened now about all these unsuspecting trigger words. Around me, do not crunch. Around women, do not bring up “panties.” And around Debby… just don’t speak.

DILBERT

Giant Cock Blocking

Is a tween-age Google search for “big boobs” any more terrifying than a fourth-grader sneaking peeks at Dad’s toilet-perched Playboys? This is the question I’m asking myself after an entire day spent disabling programs, changing passwords, enforcing restrictions, and downloading parental control apps on our too many devices. Attempting to block all inappropriate material from oozing through the interspaces is more exhausting than explaining the pornography they’re going to find, anyway. You win, naughty, naughty Internet… you win. I only hope that when my boys do, inevitably, browse across the filthy stuff… I will already have forced them into embarrassing discussions about the filthy stuff.

Until yesterday morning, we were parents who trusted our children on the Internet. Our kids ask to download things that are free, make compelling arguments for things that are not, are “caught” watching only super nerdy Minecraft videos on YouTube, and groan with wearied patience when I re-iterate don’t-chat-with-strangers edicts. We’ve had more than one discussion about why you should never SnapChat your butt, no matter how hilarious Teddy thinks this would be. But upon awakening, as we learned we were the unwitting owners of untold Clash of Clan riches, we knew it was going to be a long day re-inventing passcodes with one capital letter, a phonic symbol, three numbers, and whatever Prince used to be called. The boys’ answers to direct questioning– “Did you buy this virtual crap?”– were met with guilty, evasive answers and implications of “gliches” and “hacks” that sounded just like the lies I told my parents to justify a missed curfew.

Buying fake gems from a virtual world to buy an army of ogres and a pen of swine wasn’t the most egregious of Internet missteps. But after we ascertained it was inadvertent in-app clicking by our own children, and not our Amex card lifted by dorky thieves, we realized how poorly protected our web-connected lives have become. I took my 10 year old’s phone—programmed, I thought, to permit only PG content—and failed the Jenna Jamison Test, easily browsing right to eager mouth engulfing giant cock. Panic ensued. Will a quick check for bracket standings or Red Sox scores send him directly to Club Jenna due to my history-erasing incompetence? Will future Google searches aim him toward overblown implants traipsing through improbable scenarios involving repairmen? While I have no strong, political or religious opposition to pornography, I think small minds aren’t quite equipped to deal with circus sex of the Jamison variety. These boys still recoil in horror when animated Disney characters kiss. And we probably have a compelling parental duty spare our innocents eager mouths devouring giant cocks… especially since Teddy prefers to ask his unprompted questions loudly, and in public spaces.

Darling Bernie called midday to find me tethered to our devices attempting to disable all of our browsers and install protections that would probably prevent me from ordering a two-piece bathing suit. He suggested these endeavors might be futile, and quite possibly, a huge waste of time. What are we trying to prevent, exactly? Maybe we’re only trying to protect ourselves from talking to our kids about pornography and its utter distinction from sexuality. True. But I still need to prevent other people’s kids from voyaging through Giant Cock Territory in my home, on my watch. I think the only way to do this is to be home.

My friend April initiated a house rule, requiring surrendering of all electronics to the kitchen counter upon play date arrival. Automatic shutoffs at bedtime and restricted use in bedrooms can also curb sneaky peeks into Naughty Land. Because it is impossible to censor the Internet without driving ourselves bonkers, our best tact is to arrange our devices so that children can only Google search in our most public spaces. And then, when they inevitably wander into Jenna’s world of magnified parts and rhythmic gymnastics, we’ll need the talent and courage to explain that.

Recently, the school’s 5th graders viewed the sex education video. Because my younger boys had heard the whispered giggles on the bus and lame jokes in the cafeteria, our dinnertime discussion was all about sex for a couple of evenings. Exasperated and slightly embarrassed by my enthusiasm for the topic, Teddy complained,

“Why don’t you let us learn anything at school first?”

Well, because no one is learning everything from a 90-minute video, because your classmates are going to get it wrong, because this topic should be largely taught at home, because your parents are physicians, because I want you to be as smart about sex as you are about math, and because it’s my job. And if I can instill a few beautiful truths before they are exposed to the titillating confusion of pornography, then I win naughty, naughty Internet… I win.

PARENTAL CONTROL

Bossy

Most women don’t know how to feel about anything until Beyoncé and Mrs. Obama weigh in on the discussion. Certainly no one speaks my thoughts more mind-reading-ly than Sheryl Sandberg, a business genius billionaire and everyone’s best gal pal next door. For me, not a day goes by without WWSSD musings. Add luscious Jennifer Garner and Condoleezza Rice to the conversation, and we’ve reached a quorum of superior X chromosomes to decide what words are suitable to describe little Susie’s insistence that a $500 bill goes under Free Parking or she’s NOT playing. If these ladies are backing a ban on the word “bossy” to advance the betterment of our gender-bashing language, then this word must be a scourge on feminism! Most women–women like you and me–we just don’t get it. Maybe we never suffered the indignity… nay, abuse!.. of being called “bossy.” We don’t see that Susie’s classroom dictatorship is her burgeoning quest for success. Should that be squelched to honor trifling social graces? No! Since they can’t summon a single issue more useful to young girls than to criminalize an innocuous word, nor we.

But, let’s run a crazy little thought experiment here and daydream about what this group of powerful and/or booty-shaking ladies, coupled with the zeal of a Girl Scout army, might be able to accomplish toward a lesser goal. What if they were passionate about something slightly less important than printing tags with snappy, “I’m the Boss!” slogans for social media—something like hunger or expanded science programs or affordable housing or subsidized internships for at-risk youth? Obviously it’s super important that little Susie isn’t marginalized for speaking her mind… but I wonder if maybe her bossiness could be even more effectively encouraged from inside a warmer coat. Or not. Whatever. Like this picture of Beyoncé on Facebook!

Does one need to be Flawless to Be the Boss?

Does one need to be Flawless to Be the Boss?

Obviously, I’m not a celebrity who overcame tween-age adversity to become a mogul. I’ve never been tagged “bossy,” so I was able to obtain multiple degrees in a male-dominated field with all the effortlessness of an agreeable girl. Easy peasy. Meanwhile, those girls who were incessantly called “bossy” (and often stronger adjectives) had to struggle against all prejudice to land jobs where that quality keeps getting them promoted. If I had been bossier, I might still wear a beeper; and if my strong-willed sisters had played nice, they might own fewer pantsuits. Is this how it works? I have no idea. What I do know is that when we tell our kids to stop being bossy, it’s because they’re being assholes. What’s the politically correct word for Susie’s acting like an asshole? Sheryl Sandberg hasn’t told us yet.

Writing as Cranky Britt is super fun. But then, in an email exchange with one of my favorite people on the planet… this.

Remember all the “don’t say Gay when you really mean something is Retarded – I mean don’t say Retarded when you mean something is Lame – I mean don’t say Lame when you mean something is not fashionable!”?   It can be comical– but it makes a difference. (Same with the whole, ahem, “don’t call Asian people Oriental,” Mrs. LEE!) People were all: GIMME A F’ING BREAK WHO CARES? LANGUAGE POLICE!!  Truth is, it matters.

Language is powerful. It infuriates me that women—today, like in 2014– say they are not feminists. Not just girls… but grown ass women. That’s how afraid people are of being labeled a lesbian:  a.k.a. ugly, man-hating, un-marriage-worthy. But a word can define and limit someone, and that instills fear.  Language– especially labels– tells people what they are worth. Some people don’t know they get to decide that for themselves.

So, yeah… that. Some people don’t know they get to decide that for themselves.

Though I haven’t gone 180 degrees on my stance on banning words, I see how the Bossy Label, or any sort of label (blonde, old, fat, hipster, Republican) can affect those who don’t know how to own their own brand. And until all parents are making sure Susie is raising her hand in class, maybe having Beyoncé and Mrs. Obama fill in to encourage her isn’t a terrible thing. However, if we allow a Ban on Bossy instead of encouraging thoughtful language usage, I fear we’re in for an entire roster of Words That Traumatized Celebrities but Prevented Nary a Goal.

Willing to Suck

I loathe these god-awful “sports visits” at the fancy school. By third grade, all boys are separated into two teams and compete in scored events that count toward some school wide, brag-worthy end. This is all in good fun, promotes sportsmanship and team camaraderie, and teaches the kiddos to swim and skate and run and catch and kick. But the avid athleticism worshipped by the school (and greater society, I suppose) necessitates these wretched “visits” so parents can witness their children compete at three different sports per quarter. For me, this amounts to roughly 32 opportunities to watch my boys trip, fall, miss, finish last, and lose. On Monday, I oscillated between the basketball court and the pool to observe my kids’ athletic suck-ery. After eleven turnovers aided by my elder son, I excused myself to watch the younger trail every other kid by a half-length of pool.

“Did you see me come in last?” asked blue-lipped, holding-back-tears Teddy.

Ugh. I wanted to line them all up for times table, state capital, and animal factoid quizzing. I know it’s important for small children to understand, and even celebrate, their differing strengths. But the “sport visit” is such a public display of comparative failings that, in spite of the never-ending winter in these parts, I’m sort of praying for a weather cancellation. After the visit, I aired my grievances about these events on social media, likening them to emotional dodge ball for parents like me. I think my boys are actually fine with occasional demonstrations that they’re not as coordinated as their friends, but I’d rather be spared my trembling, tearful Teddy losing every event.

I know a lovely skating coach. She has all of patience and faith of Job in her dealings with small children of the picked-last ilk. Her maxim for anxious parents of the athletically challenged is Peer Relevance. Our kids may never be Tom Brady… but we can support them to develop enough skills to keep up with the benchwarmers. To protect their self-esteem, children need only be a middling sort of good. Of course, the parenthetical message here is though it’s ok to suck, just don’t suck the hardest.

But someone has to come in last. Not everyone is going to make the team. And although this is brutal for me as a parent who just wants to wrap Teddy in a warm towel and remind him of how funny and great he is, this is an important life lesson. Wise and lovely Katryna pointed out the joy of the struggle: watching kids persevere despite innate deficiencies is kind of awesome. It’s also Life, and probably all of us could benefit from a class or two on How to Suck Gracefully.

Last night, my pajammied boys–all three of them–were engaged in the Nerf Olympics of basketball trick shots. I found them in fits of giggles trying to sink testicle-grazing, between-the-legs shots (‘tweiners?). As the hour got later, and mean mommy insisted on teeth brushing and calmer bedtime activities, Brodie casually mentioned he’d be trying out for travel basketball again next year.

Ugh. Bernie and I traded nervous did-you-hear-that? glances. But then I remembered what Katryna wrote:

When you have a kid for whom lots of stuff comes easily– like all schoolwork, as I guess it is for your kids– I always think it rocks if they are willing to do things that don’t come easily.

Brodie is willing. He’s willing in spite of previous attempts and failures. He’s willing to try again, to flirt with failure, to try to improve. Ultimately, Brodie is Willing to Suck. Even if that doesn’t lead to team placement, it certainly builds character. And if this dogged determination to exceed “peer relevance” stems from unflappable self-confidence then…well… that rocks, indeed.

BBALL

Girlfriend, MD… or better reasons you want to date a doc

Recently, the most lukewarm endorsement of female physician data-ability went bloggy viral. I have more than eight reasons why this post is disappointing, and only one is that the author referred to herself and her smart, sassy co-workers as “us female physicians…” who pretend to be dental hygienists or flight attendants to seem more fuckable less intimidating. There are at least eight violations of grammar and style in this ineffectual call for suitors which paints my working sisters-in-scrubs as life-saving multi-taskers with “good personalities.” Blech.

What does a man like more than eight reasons he should date you? Everything. He likes everything more. Admit you’re a surgeon, and buy him a beer. Go on with your Dansko-clogged, low-maintenance bad self and express that financial viability! If a man isn’t dating you because you are a surgeon, that’s not the reason he’s not dating you. It’s more likely the clogs… or your inability to use pronouns correctly.

Smart girls don’t fudge being smart (or make boring lists). The badass, wonderful women physicians in my world could give you a better peek at the perks associated with their company. Just a few listed here… because boys (or girls) you want to date don’t need a long list detailing your awesomeness.

She’s a Portable Emergency Department

Odds are, she has an arsenal of stitch-you-up or glue-that-back tools at her disposal. She has sutures and fine forceps and bandages of every single size. She’s toting Tegaderm in her Tory Burch. When the kids (dads) attempt to pop helium balloons stuck above the foyer using a sharp pencil and the stomp rocket… well, she’s got the instruments to handle the fallout of that sort of genius. She’ll know if Uncle Jason’s chest pain is pepperoni-induced or 911-worthy. She can administer flu shots and read your TB test. She knows if that needs ice or heat or stitches or antibiotics. She’ll save you untold hours wasted in waiting rooms with bleeding strangers, blaring soap operas, and MRSA.

She’s Cool

If your gal has worked the emergency room, she is unfazed by anything oozing from an orifice. She has more than one unlikely-object-stuck-up-a-butt story. She’s heard the basest, unkindest, most unimaginative forms of chauvinism and knows which response will work best (ignore, chastise, mock, or flirt). She’s seen every movie you have because she’s been dating Star Wars-obsessed nerds like you since Organic Chemistry. She honestly doesn’t know anything about Kardashians. And she spends many, many hours with man-crush-worthy big, swinging dick surgeons who think she’s great.

She’s Busy

Your physician girlfriend won’t be texting you at all hours. She’ll totally forget it’s Valentine’s Day. She’s unlikely to insist on cutesy month anniversaries, or apple-picking afternoons, or meeting your family. She’s too exhausted and busy and pre-occupied with life-saving tasks to engage in typical dating misadventures that plague girls with more free time. She doesn’t give a fig if she’s your official, Facebook girlfriend… and wonders who has time for that crap… and can’t remember her password, anyway. She also brings her Type A game to working out, and when she’s not on call, she’s not wondering when you will. She’s running her marathon-training ass all over town.

Don’t you want to date her now? These qualities flourish in the women physicians I know. They’re smart and lovely and busy and cool and competent and so much more than their jobs. I was irritated by their portrayal in a tepid list of eight endorsements that could easily apply to your dad (if your dad knew CPR). Where is the justified bravado of the female physician? She’s earned it, and with enough sleep, she’s too clever to trick you into thinking she’s not. She also recognizes the skill and power and fabulousness of her sisters, especially the dental hygienists and flight attendants who are clearly getting more action than she is.

Now run along and find yourself a Girlfriend, MD. Or tell me I’ve got it all wrong because the female physician you knew quit work right after she had kids and now buys really expensive shoes and makes fun of women doctors who wear pantsuits.

Oh… wait.

She's totally hot underneath that sexy mask.

She’s totally hot underneath that sexy mask.

The Boy I Married

Bernie conveniently acquired swine flu before my 20th high school reunion. Sure, he was pukey-feverish-gray-skin sick; but if he was going to succumb to swine flu anyway, it was opportune that it exempted him from a DJ’ed evening at the Holiday Inn, imagining which boozy men might have molested my teenage boobs and dodging women in compression garments coyly seeking cosmetic surgery consults. Even if he hadn’t been pukey-feverish-gray-skin sick, I still would have given him a bye. Only a handful of people could tolerate an entire evening with strangers attempting to chitchat over Def Leppard.

One of the reasons Bernie enjoys married life is because his wife will talk to anyone. I am his social ping-pong paddle, deflecting chitchat away from him, right and left. When he rallies, my husband is really rather charming. It’s just that his default mood is… couch. I largely share this disposition, but on occasion, embrace excuses to stand in fantastic shoes and interact with things without plugs, to enjoy the ceremony of a fancy meal, to share a sofa-less evening with sentient beings. Because Bernie’s stock reaction to all invitations lands somewhere between not-enough-scotch-on-the-planet and rather-put-hot-sauce-in-my-eye, I spring these on him last minute.

Once we’ve arrived at the destination and drinks are in hand, Bernie morphs from Grumpy Couch Troll into The Boy I Married. As Valentine’s Day nears, as lonely hearts compose snarky tweets, and as unsuccessful attempts at reservations and balking at overpriced blooms take away from the swoony fun of it all, I’m listing silly reasons I fell in love with Bernie. Take note, youngsters… it’s the little things that make a boy irresistible.

·               See any movie at all

Bernie saw Crossroads with me. In the theater. Crossroads! Crossroads… the movie starring Britney Spears. Of course you haven’t seen it—it’s dreadful. But I love Britney, and I was in the mood to see her dance around in her skivvies wondering if she was yet a woman. Bernie didn’t mind. Another (wasted) evening, this lovely man accompanied me and my best friend to Duets. Duets! Duets… the movie starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Huey Lewis. Of course you haven’t seen it–it’s dreadful. But Bernie bought three tickets with untainted enthusiasm: no moaning, no eye rolling, no you-totally-owe-me-lights-on-naughty-stuff. This sort of social sacrifice endeared him to Emily forever, made me even fonder of his general agreeableness, and remains the benchmark for adorable things boys do for girls they love.

Cruisin'. Together.

Cruisin’. Together.

·               Pay attention to other women

I’ve always admired Bernie’s appreciation of women. Perhaps it’s that dorky, skip-a-grade Asian kid lurking inside of him, but Bernie is surprised and genuinely thrilled to be talking to you, pretty girl. He’ll make sure you have a drink, or his place in line, or help with your bags. I love how he’ll deliver my friend’s Sancerre first, that he recognizes all sorts of beauty in all women, discourages you from cosmetic surgery because you don’t need it (and means it), and occasionally is at a loss for words if a woman is particularly Julianne Moore-ish.

Can't really blame him.

Can’t really blame him.

·               Get along with Dad

I knew Bernie was the right boy for me the minute I realized Dad’s approval wouldn’t be a deal breaker. Dad is huge and loud and irreverent and thoughtful and inquisitive: first-time meetings with him can feel like an interrogation. We Stocktons don’t waste time—we want to know (right now!) what makes you do what you do, how you contribute to the universe, why you’re like that, and what you have planned for the future. A bit much for cocktail hour? Well then, go find yourself another cocktail hour. (Ours, however, starts at brunch and continues well past blurry.) All other suitors had been measured by their ability to go toe to toe with Dad. Few navigated this easily: either retreating into stunned silence, or interpreting playful banter as an attack, and many failing to count vodkas and slipping into slurring ridiculousness. It can be a tough room.

But Bernie? He thought Dad was great. More importantly, he thought enough of himself to just be himself, mind the vodka, and enjoy the spectacle. Sure, there was one Thanksgiving Bernie passed out after multiple mimosas, but if you know us well, you’ve probably missed a family meal for being over-served by my father. Today, Bernie plans bucket-list vacations with Dad, Dad’s best friend, and my brother. Although I would have married him even if Dad didn’t recognize Bernie’s quiet humor and confidence, it’s sort of awesome that he does.

When I was young and naive, I was certain Kill All Bugs would be on this list of husband kudos. Alas, my wonderful Bernie’s reaction to a centipede racing across the family room is to curl into a frightened ball of unmanliness. Instead, my husband’s chivalry involves pouring my Prosecco, telling me I’m beautiful, and saving me from a life of beepers and pantsuits by being all talented and whatnot. Occasionally he’ll even stifle his Grumpy Couch Troll reaction to “plans” or “tickets” or “party” for my benefit. But with too generous advance notice, those who prefer evenings holding down furniture to those painting the town conveniently acquire pukey-feverish-gray-skin-sickness. We have reservations for Valentine’s Day… I’ll tell him Thursday.

Happy Valentine’s Day, lovers. Enjoy the little things that make them yours.

Saw it in the theater. Opening night.

Saw it in the theater. Opening night. Was this shirt ever not ridiculous?

Why I Got Cancer

It’s World Cancer Day, so you know, all party party for wig owners everywhere. With entire months of awarenesses do we really need another Day? Me, I’m not one to Stand Up, walk miles, utter expletives, and generally bully the crap out of Cancer as if attitude alone prevents mitosis. But what’s unique about this World Cancer Day, is its aim to debunk common cancer myths. Anyone with an entire drawer of hats has endured the well intentioned, often wackadoodle theories about Cancer from friends and strangers, alike. And if you’re Asian-family immersed or adjacent, your catalogue of “myths” will be too long for a mere 24 hours of debunking. In the early days after my diagnosis, in a much appreciated lighten-the-mood moment, my sister-in-law shared the top theories offered by A-Ma and A-Gong about my rogue cells. Only the Whole-Foodie-Yogi-Pseudoscientists and those Everything-For-A-Reason people can match myths with my in-laws. And not a single one of these angered or irritated me. Nope, they’re sort of hilarious after a justified, really? really? really? reaction. So in honor World Cancer Day, The Top Five Reasons Britt Got Cancer.

·      Unwashed meat.

Pretty certain A-Ma believes my opposition to meat-washing was my biggest risk factor for malignancy. Plenty of people in the previous generation believe our meats need a good scrubbing. Julia Child was forever rinsing the entire bird as if it had spent the day at the water park sharing towels with warty kids. I’ve always clung to the more scientific notion that heat kills microbes; and any Ames-test agents lurking mid-meat won’t surrender to your salmonella-spreading practices at the kitchen sink. I confess that, on occasion, I have faked the chicken-rinsing to avoid this argument.

·      Noodle water.

The first time A-Ma floated this theory, Cancer was something that happened to other people. One funny evening at the stove, she insisted that uncooked noodles could not be added directly to the soup. Why? Because Noodle Water Causes Cancer. Everyone knows this. It’s in the Chinese newspaper (conventional wisdom), and the Pastor said so (ergo, fact). It didn’t matter that Bernie and I have framed diplomas from accredited medical schools on the walls. Noodle Water Causes Cancer. The Chinese newspaper had also published a recipe for egg casserole that you cook in the dishwasher… so, you know, the obvious source for current medical theories.

A few years later, as I stood at the stove under one inch of hair, boiling soup for a full table of relatives, A-Ma re-issued the noodle cancer theory. This time Bernie’s rebuttal was delivered in Taiwanese (approximate translation: really, mom? really? really?) so I wasn’t privy to any new data offered by the Chinese newspaper. With dutiful daughter-in-law deference, I boiled the noodles separately. I’m only too happy to adopt noodle soupy superstitions to thwart metastases, especially if evil pasta broth caused my primary tumor.

·      Energy stuck.

Here’s one myth I support more than mock. If you’ve been an EMB follower since its scary beginning, you know that my father-in-law is magical. He’s a healer, a Xi Gong master, Ruler of Energy, faithful Christian, and just a super nice guy. When I was terrified, cold, shaking, and depleted of my own energy, he and A-Ma gave me some of theirs. But just as the assisted flow of Xi feels warm and lovely, when energy is blocked, pain, illness, even Cancer follows. My in-laws never launched a reason for my energy circuit deficiencies. It probably has something to do with dirty meat. Or noodle water.

·      Everything I eat.

Hey, girl. You’re so cute, all skinny in your yoga pants with your ponytailed hair and uncancered boobs. Thanks for suggesting I ate my way to Breast Cancerland, that my innards are polluted with processed foodstuffs, that my disease was potentially preventable with a weedier diet, and that the cure lives in the denial of everything delicious. I’m thrilled to hear your aunt’s dry cleaner was “cured” by her chiropractor/yoga practice/positive attitude. We’re going to be besties… I just know it!

·      God.

Certainly the Big Guy helped me through the unholy yuck of it all. Though I’m too skeptical (unfaithful) to float the myth that prayer can cure cancer, I won’t deny that it helped me through it. But the “only given what you can handle” and “…for a reason” and the bizarrely unfeeling, “have the grace to succumb instead of interfering with God’s plan” implies a deficiency of strength, courage, faith, or character. It also sounds dismissive and a bit unkind to your bald friend trying to make sense of the “why me?” of it all. These sentiments are also theologically silly. God is the biggest cheerleader for Life. God doesn’t “give” anyone Cancer. It’s not a test. It is neither punishment nor gift, neither spiritual nor personal. Although it feels like shitty luck, it’s really just science: two-hit hypotheses, environmental insults, genetic predispositions, and mutations.

But the kindnesses Cancer provokes, the Faith it re-kindles, the Strength it summons… that’s God. But He was already there, anyway. Cancer just makes you notice.

So happy Debunking Day, friends. Know that the cancered amongst you have probably considered weirder ideas than yours about why this happens to anyone. In place of your queries about oral contraceptives, radon exposure, and stress management skills, offer something that can actually help: love… and salted caramels. And just to be safe, wash your meats and separate your noodles. A-Ma is never wrong.

WCD 2014