I want this car. In red, or maybe silver.
Of course that means my children would have to run along behind, but that isn’t always necessarily a bad thing.
Wonder how it would do in Michigan winters?
I want this car. In red, or maybe silver.
Of course that means my children would have to run along behind, but that isn’t always necessarily a bad thing.
Wonder how it would do in Michigan winters?
This article in the Atlantic describes today’s reality: the tendency of this generation to get as much of their media — music, movies, games, books — for free.
I ask my students, and my children, to pay for that which they use. They scoff, and consider me old-fashioned. But what will become of all of us when the people making the music, and the movies, and the games, and writing the books, can no longer make a living at it?
“Sharing” should not equal stealing. Buy your own stuff.
Hmmm. . .I just downloaded a picture, as I always do, from Google images to headline my blog post. It is my understanding that if I post the link to the source, it’s okay. Any input?
I’ve been in Cleveland for a couple of days visiting 1st son; I have many things going through my mind that I’d like to write about, but it’s been a long day, and 2nd son is lurking on the next bed over in the hotel room waiting to watch a video on my laptop, so this will have to be short and sweet.
1. Why does Walmart insist on consistently inconsistent stocking practices? There are 7 packages of XLG black T shirts, 6 packages of LG black T shirts, and no packages of Med or SM black T shirts. Every single time I’ve been in a Walmart I’ve had to go somewhere else to get one basic item on my list. And I think I may have seen someone wearing one of those pairs of shoes I wrote about a month or so ago (the first pair in the blog, but in silver lamé. I’m not kidding).
2. There was more salt in the biscuits that came with my breakfast at Bob Evans this morning than I usually eat in a week. Is this necessary?
3. Who can be blamed credited for the bizarre unique street design of the Cleveland area? I have never seen so many intersections that consist of 5, 6 or even 7 corners. Then there is the tendency of whatever road you’re on to veer off in one direction or another as a new road springs to life, all in the absence of anything resembling a painted center or shoulder line. And apparently the city of Cleveland does not maintain a completely simpatico working relationship with the GPS satellite systems we have all come to rely on — “Emily” could tell me what road I was on, and what road I wanted next, but was frequently off in her estimation of its relative distance by anywhere from 100 to 400 feet.
4. Does anyone know of a humane way to restrain secure a 9-year-old’s legs in such a way that one can share a regular size hotel bed with her and not be beaten to a pulp by morning?
Secondo is getting (ha!) squirmy. Guess I’ll have to continue in the morning.
Perhaps you’d like to sit down before you read this: It has recently come to the attention of journalists at the NY Times that there may be conflicts of interest inherent in our political system.
I know this may come as a shock to anyone who has spent the past 100 years at the bottom of a mineshaft. But to the rest of us, well, Duh?
As long as our system of campaigning persists, where a massive amount of money is spent for political advertising over extended periods, what hope do we have? Politicians need to make money, lobbyists and powerful corporations want to have their voices heard, and nothing speaks louder than a check for a large sum. Rather than merely paying lip service to the idea of, and assuming we really want a government of, equal representation, (not just on a state level but on an individual one), this part of the process needs to change.
I propose we adopt a Canadian system, which limits the amount of money that can be spent, and which therefore encourages substance, frugality, and efficiency throughout.
I can’t believe I gave up 6 years of my life watching this show, victim of its convoluted story lines and deliberately misleading plot twists, only to have the whole thing reduced to a simple triumph of good-over-evil culminating in a secular version of heaven.
Really? That’s the best they could come up with?
I feel cheated, robbed, and/or manipulated.
I had this whole ending worked out, where each character was given the opportunity to pick which of their two current manifestations they preferred, and allowed to live their lives out in that path.
But no. . .go towards the light! go towards the light!
I’m haunted today by this movie, which I watched for the first time last night.
Derek Vinyard, played with brilliance and subtlety by Ed Norton, is a skinhead, first encouraged in his racism by his father, who is killed by a minority in the line of duty as a fireman; and nurtured in his hatred by a leader of the local skinhead group, creepily portrayed by Stacey Keach. Derek’s intelligence and physical power (Norton supposedly spent a year in the gym bulking up for this role) make him a natural leader, and his younger brother, Danny (also played with beauty and subtlety, in this case by Edward Furlong, John Connor from Terminator II) idolizes, and idealizes him.
Derek brutally murders two black men with whom he has had altercations in the past, principally over the rights to a basketball court in Venice Beach, and who have come to his house at night to terrorize him and his family and/or steal his car (this part of it isn’t very clear, he seems to be being deliberately targeted, but this isn’t carried out in the action necessarily). Danny has witnessed the whole thing, including Derek’s proud defiance as he is taken away by the police.
Because the two men he murdered had come to his house armed, Derek is convicted of a lesser charge, and is imprisoned for 3 years and change. While in prison, Derek undergoes a gradual but dramatic conversion. He begins allying himself with fellow skinheads, but gradually realizes that the leader of this group is doing “business” with everyone, including blacks and hispanics, and Derek feels betrayed by this lack of ideological conviction. At the same time he has built a reluctant friendship with his partner in the laundry room, a gregarious black man who has been imprisoned for 6 years because he, in the process of stealing a TV from a store, accidentally dropped the TV on a policeman’s foot, and has been convicted of assault. When Derek acts on his disillusionment, and “cuts” the skinhead leader in “the yard,” he is targeted for a brutal attack and rape in the showers, and realizes that there is evil, and good, in all races.
When Derek is released, he sees that his younger brother, now 17, has continued on Derek’s path, and he realizes that he has some work to do; not only to help his family recover from their difficult financial and living circumstances, but to help save Danny from a life of prejudice and hate. Meanwhile, Danny is dealing with some race issues of his own at his high school.
I don’t want to spoil anything by giving away the end; I’ll just say that it is a movie that is well-written, well-acted, and simultaneously haunting and uplifting. Many beautiful moments (i.e. when Derek and Danny silently take down the posters and flags of hate from their bedroom walls, and then sit and look at the bare paneling), some really powerful narrative parallels and symbolism, no clichés.
Beverly D’Angelo and Avery Brooks do a great job in their supporting roles.
Put it on your list of must-sees, along with Crash, The Lives of Others, American Beauty and Amelie.
Does it matter that I scoured my kitchen sink out twice and scrubbed the shower this morning? Probably not as much as it matters that I missed my husband so much tonight that I was impatient with my daughter. It probably matters that I worked really hard this past year and have been frugal enough to have set enough money aside that I can afford not to work again until mid-July, but probably not as much as it matters that there are probably people on my street tonight who don’t know how they’re going to pay their mortgage.
My daughter’s Korean, and has faced discrimination from her classmates who tell her she’s “fat” (she’s 4 feet tall and weighs 45 lbs soaking wet) or that she can’t play their sister game because her skin isn’t the right color. That matters. But no one’s telling her she can’t come to their school, or sit in those seats on their bus; no one’s telling her that she has to have clitoral circumcision or be sold into marriage, or that girls aren’t smart enough to be veterinarians. That would definitely matter.
My sons don’t always want to talk to me, or listen to me, but as far as I know they aren’t using illegal drugs and haven’t gotten anyone pregnant. That matters. Does it matter that my oldest isn’t working as hard as I wish he would so he wouldn’t have to borrow so much money for college, or that my 16-year-old gets straight As while barely cracking a book and refusing to take a single AP course because he doesn’t want to work that hard? This is the same boy who would rather eat cereal for dinner than boil tortellini and heat up jarred sauce for dinner because the latter constitutes “too much work.”
I have a mole on the back of my hand that I swear wasn’t there yesterday. Does that matter? Or is it maybe just a burn or a blood blister or a bug bite that I don’t remember “earning”?
I left my house twice today with doors wide open. Does that matter?
In my former marriage life, I was a completely self-sufficient, independent, capable person. Now when my husband’s away for more than 24 hours, especially if he’s doing something more interesting than I am, I continue to function as a productive member of my family and of society, but I feel like a child.
I guess it matters to me. Does that mean it Matters?
My teacher lies on the floor with a bad back
(every pianist I know has a bad back)
off to the side of the piano.
I sit up straight on the stool.
He begins by telling me that every key
is like a different room
and I am a blind man who must learn
to walk through all twelve of them
(he forgot about minor, and dorian, and mixolydian, and pentatonic. . .)
without hitting the furniture.
I feel myself reach for the first doorknob.
He tells me that every scale has a shape
and I have to learn how to hold
each one in my hands.
(this is true; I tell this to my students quite often, and then read this poem to them)
At home I practice with my eyes closed.
C is an open book.
D is a vase with two handles.
G flat is a black boot.
E has the legs of a bird.
He says the scale is the mother of the chords.
I can see her pacing the bedroom floor
waiting for her children to come home.
They are out at nightclubs shading and lighting
all the songs while couples dance slowly
or stare at one another across tables.
This is the way it must be. After all,
just the right chord can bring you to tears
but no one listens to the scales,
no one listens to their mother.
(they don’t; I didn’t; I still don’t, yet wish my children listened to me)
I am doing my scales,
the familiar anthems of childhood.
My fingers climb the ladder of notes
and come back down without turning around.
Anyone walking under this open window
would picture a girl of about ten
sitting at the keyboard with perfect posture,
not me slumped over in my bathrobe, disheveled,
like a white Horace Silver.
I am learning to play
‘It Might As Well Be Spring’
but my left hand would rather be jingling
the change in the darkness of my pocket
or taking a nap on an armrest.
I have to drag him into the music
like a difficult and neglected child.
This is the revenge of the one who never gets
to hold the pen or wave good-bye,
and now, who never gets to play the melody.
Even when I am not playing, I think about the piano.
It is the largest, heaviest,
and most beautiful object in this house.
(it is, really)
I pause in the doorway just to take it all in.
And late at night I picture it downstairs,
this hallucination standing on three legs,
this curious beast with its enormous moonlit smile.
I’ve had this happen to me several times in the past several years, and I become more and more incredulous as 1. the internet takes over an ever increasing portion of retail sales and 2. “local” business complain about #1.
What is “this” you ask?
It’s a situation where I require a minimum of service and/or fair dealing, and am rebuffed.
Some of these situations have been quite minor; for example, the personnel at “my” local yarn store can’t seem to be bothered to help me find a pattern or the appropriate-weight yarn in my desired color. Sometimes they start out helping me, but after just a couple of minutes wander away to tend to their other tasks such as re-organizing the sock-weight, which is apparently much more important than selling something.
Other situations might reflect a worthwhile and carefully thought-out store policy, such as, “Pay no attention to that woman with $1100 of computer equipment in her cart and a questioning look on her face. If she can’t figure out what she needs from the self-serving, enigmatic statements on the box she’s probably not qualified to purchase or properly use the equipment anyway.” (Best Buy, 2001)
One circumstance seemed particularly self-destructive. Local toy store, not part of a chain, has a wooden kitchen sink-and-stove set that I would like to purchase for my daughter for Christmas. I am told by the woman at the cash register that they would be happy to hold it for me for an hour while I investigate one other option. I call, in less than an hour, and ask if I can purchase the sink-and-stove over the phone, promptly giving her my visa number and telling her that someone will be there to pick up the said sink-and-stove promptly at 5:15. A couple of hours later, the owner (yes, really) calls to inform me that it is “against store policy to ‘hold’ items,” despite the fact that I’ve already paid for it. The sink-and-stove has now been resold to a present customer, and I am s.o.l. (Sandcastle, 2004)
And, again, today. I bought over $200 of trees, hanging baskets, perennials, and vegetable plants at a greenhouse (Flowerland) on Saturday (2 days ago). When I got into my car today, I noticed the receipt was still on the front seat, so I opened it up and looked at it, only to realize that I had been overcharged by $20 for the Japanese Maple I had bought. I know how this mistake happened: there were 3 varieties of Japanese Maples in a row, the Queen (becomes quite tall, wide, draping branches), the Prince (a little less tall, but with more of a shrub-y habit) and the Princess (smaller, umbrella-shaped, more narrow). I bought the Princess, with the help and advice of a very friendly employee. When I was putting the tree onto my cart, I noticed there wasn’t a tag, and the helpful, friendly employee bent over and picked one up off the ground, saying “this must be it.” Well, it wasn’t. And yes, I guess this is partially my fault, because I didn’t stand there after receiving my receipt (!) and read each line. In any case, when I stated my case to the woman at Flowerland today, as I stood there with $35 worth of hanging strawberry baskets, she looked at me suspiciously, and then went over and whispered to the nursery manager. Upon her return I was informed that I would need to drive all the way home, take a picture with my cell phone to guarantee that this was in fact the other tree, and return with the corroborating evidence to the store.
Okay, first of all, this tree right now doesn’t look all that different from the other tree. The difference is in what will happen when they grow. They are merely requiring this because they don’t believe that I will bother. Second of all, it was THEIR mistake, so if they want documentation, I think THEY should drive over HERE and take a picture with THEIR phone. The fact remains that I was a satisfied customer of theirs, and now I’m not; they would have earned that $20 back with the plants I was going to purchase today, and didn’t. I was treated with suspicion, which I resent, since I’m the kind of person to take something back to the store that I was not charged for and insist on paying. Now, rather than their greenhouse being the first place I would go, it will be the last.
Wonder what THAT was worth to them. Apparently not much.
In our election-obsessed culture, everything else going on in the world–war, hunger, official brutality, sickness, the violence of everyday life for huge numbers of people–is swept out of the way while the media covers every volley of the candidates. Thus, the superficial crowds out the meaningful, and this is very useful for those who do not want citizens to look beyond the surface of the system. Hidden by the contest of the candidates are real issues of race, class, war, and peace, which the public is not supposed to think about.
from “Tennis on the Titanic”
Agree? or disagree?
Just trying to figure out how all this time has passed, and this is the first I’ve heard of/seen Billy Crudup.
Has someone been keeping this from me deliberately?
But apparently holdouts remain.
Even though women now account for nearly a third of the Church of England’s working priests (more than 2500 altogether), “not everyone is pleased” with the recent decision to remove the last trace of gender discrimination in Anglican canonical law, which would allow women ministers to become bishops.
What exactly are they objecting to? That they have a uterus? Too much empathy? Their ability to fold a fitted sheet?
I just can’t see the problem.
I’m sitting here with my laptop in my lap forming my thoughts for my upcoming blog about whether women are qualified to serve as bishops in the Anglican church and this commercial comes on during the hockey game.
So, the premise is this: 1. younger men are more virile, and therefore more attractive to women; 2. beyond a certain age a completely dark head of hair on a man strains credulity; 3. coloring your hair partway preserves believability while maintaining desirability.
I’d like to conduct an unofficial survey. How many of you are/are involved with men with gray hair who continue to consider yourself/find them virile, attractive, and desirable?
Meanwhile, I hope, someday, to be thus:
It’s to Ani DiFranco’s music; more specifically, the lyrics of her songs.
She’s led a very unconventional life, spending a great deal of adulthood being unapologetically bisexual and pro-abortion rights. Some of the people in my family would know this about her, and write her off completely. They might be willing to offer her a little bit of unnecessary redemption for the fact that she is now married and has a beautiful baby girl; she also spends a lot of time, money, and effort trying to make the world a better place.
She’s outspoken about politics (“I wonder who’s going to be president, Tweedle dum or Tweedle dumber?“), society, how we fail each other (“I remember the first time I saw someone lying on the cold street; I thought, I can’t just walk past him, this just can’t be true. But I learned by example to keep moving my feet; it’s amazing the things we all learn to do.”), she asks things like “What if no one’s watching? What if when we’re dead we are just dead? . . . What if it’s just us down here, what if there are things we need to do, things that need to be said?”
I discovered her by accident, one summer at Interlochen Arts Camp. I was looking at the brochure, deciding which concerts I wanted to attend, thought it would be interesting to go to hear someone I knew nothing about, and the description of her music piqued my interest. Her performance had more integrity, more energy, than anything I had seen in a long time, and the bits of words I could catch here and there really caught my attention, specifically the poem Grand Canyon (I’ll post this link as soon as I can; this part of her website is “under renovation.”) and the song To The Teeth.
I now own almost every one of her “albums” and I continue to discover new words that speak to me in a new way. Despite the dramatic differences between her life and mine, she just seems to “get” me, it; to “get” what it means to be a woman. Two songs in a row from her album Knuckle Down shook me out of the lethargy of 20 years of an unhappy marriage and unsatisfying relationships with my children and “friends.”
The first, “Studying Stones”:
I am out here studying stones/trying to learn to be less alive/using all of my will/to keep very still/still even on the inside . . .You see, numb is an old hat/old as my oldest memory/see that one’s my mother and that one’s my father/and the one in the hat, that’s me/it’s a skill i hoped to abandon/when i got out on the open road/but any more pent-up emotion/i think i’m gonna explode. There’s never been an endeavour so strange/than trying to slow the blood in my veins/to keep my face blank/as the stone that just sank/until not a ripple remains. . .”
and then, “Knuckle Down”:
“And there’s a dusty old dust storm on Mars, they say, so tonight you can’t see it too clear/still i stood in line to look through their telescope/looks like a distant shiplight, seen from a foggy pier/and i know that i was warned, still it was not what i hoped. . . Lecherous old lady wannabe, much too young and shy/flailing her whole life just thinkin’ she can teach herself to fly/vehement romantic, frantic, for forever right now, but forever’s goin’ nowhere tonight/Think i’m done gunnin’ to get closer/to some imagined bliss/gotta knuckle down, and be okay with this.”
The song that’s “speaking to me” the most this week is Imperfectly.
I’m married, now, to “the” man I used to look for, and decided didn’t exist. He’s smart, and sensitive, and complicated; my favorite person to talk to, my favorite person to be with. When we “started” we lived in an imaginary world of ideals and perfections; how happy we would always be, how our devotion and deep, profound friendship would take away all of the pain and disappointment the world had to offer.
As we got to know each other better, and to realize that there are hurts and disappointments and frustrations that our love, no matter how deep and true and profound, can’t make go away, we worried that the resulting “misalignments” (I’m not being coy; we don’t actually, ever, argue) would chip away at this ideal, this perfection that we envisioned, and that we would end up with a derelict, crumbling edifice that didn’t look all that different from our previous marriages.
What I’ve seen this week, as we dealt with the consequences of parking a car in an un-level garage and not applying the parking brake, and the fact that I might have won my first game of Scrabble if G hadn’t “surrendered” first, is that these flaws are part of what cement us together. Besides the fact that we’re getting to know each other better, we’re building something, something that’s stronger where it’s been mended than it was before. Love, life, in three dimensions, imperfectly.
. . .we get a little further from perfection
each year on the road
i think that’s called character
i think that’s just the way it goes
better to be dusty than polished
like some store window mannequin
touch me where i’m rusty
let me stain your hands
when you’re pretty as a picture
they pound down your door
but i’ve been offered love
in two dimensions before
and i know that it’s not all
that it’s made out to be
let’s show them all how it’s done
let’s do it all imperfectly
© 1992 ani difranco / righteous babe music
p.s. To my bff M: hang in; complicated is good, remember?
My husband claims that women/mothers everywhere are neglected and dismissed and taken for granted and that Mother’s Day is the world’s opportunity to appease their guilt through brunches and flowers and gifts.
He might be right, but that’s beside my point.
I have been thinking about all of the “Mothers” that I’ve been so lucky to have.
This starts with my husband, actually, who brings me coffee and encourages me to exercise and loves to listen to me talk, even if I’m saying practically the exact same thing I said yesterday, and is my biggest fan.
Then there’s my bff Jackie, whom I’ve known since grad school, and whom I can call after 6 months and we pick up like we just talked yesterday. And my bff Jill, who helped me through the single most difficult time in my life, which unfortunately lasted for at least a year and I’m sure tried her patience on more than one occasion. And my bff Meghan, who, despite her status as “newb” (based on the fact that she’s 15 years younger than I am), always knows what I mean and why I think it, and is off pursuing the most romantic, exciting dream with her new boyfriend in France.
There’s my teacher A, who taught me not only to listen, but to believe in myself.
And two of my sisters, M and K, who each, in wildly disparate times in my life, tried to open an honest and painful conversation with me when I really needed it.
And my friend and soprano D who reminds me every time we rehearse or perform why I love music, and truly seems to believe that I do have something unique and interesting to say to the world.
And then there’s my mom. I don’t think it is possible to have a more complicated relationship than the one a woman has with her mother. But she has cooked for me and sewn for me and worried about me and ultimately, even when I couldn’t really tell for sure, been on my side.
Happy Mother’s Day, Moms. I love you all.
Now, I’m no fashion expert. I’m writing this in a pair of gray sweatpants that I bought at Target and a CW washable-silk/linen sweatshirt that is older than my oldest child and has more holes in it than swiss cheese, but some of this stuff I just don’t get.
This (click on the link, then on “view print magazine,”), pg. 8 – looks like a lampshade.
I didn’t like the girls on pg 18 in high school and I don’t like them now.
I find it hard to believe that the man is more in love with the handbag than the woman is (pg. 26).
The woman on pg 32 has a very cute face and nice smile, but is one rice cake away from needing an IV.
I’m quite frightened of the woman on pg 39, and wonder how much ozone was damaged in the styling for pg 46.
I like the dress on pg 48, and the leather jacket in the Banana ad. The Hermes ad on pg 10 is just stunning, and has caused me to consider growing my hair.
I really like the idea of “Not My Daughter’s Jeans” but wonder why it’s automatically assumed that we WANT to look a full size smaller. Couldn’t they just fit?
Yesterday was kind of a strange day; feeling a haunting combination of emotions, if that makes sense to anyone. Is it possible that the thing(s) that make one the happiest can also make one sad? Or maybe it’s hormonal, or something I ate.
At one point I’m teaching this girl her piano lesson — she might be talented, but she never practices, so we’re not really sure — and I’m looking out the window watching the light change. It’s been “cloudy with showers” most of the day, with glimpses of glittering sunlight now and then, and the sun is really forcing it’s way into prominence as I watch, and it brings me along with it.
Here’s a picture of a portion of my back yard, although the light isn’t as striking this morning as it was yesterday; despite the lack of motivation on the part of the student, I didn’t really think it would be appropriate to go outside during her lesson and snap a few pictures:
You offer 10 pages of size 8 1/2 thong sandals.
This makes me very sad. Is this really necessary?
But please allow me to continue.
You allow me to sort by the following criteria:
But you do not allow me to limit the selection to those which are not unspeakably ugly, such as:
This wastes my time and your server space. Please do something about this.
Perhaps someone made a mistake?
You may find this hard to believe,
but I was 20 once too
and I, too, believed it would all work out in the end
and some of it did
and some of it didn’t
and some of it was much more difficult than I ever imagined
and some I decided I didn’t really care that much about anyway.
Some seemed like it was going to work out,
and then didn’t,
and then what came after was better than I could have hoped
and some still disappoints
like the cycles of the moon.
And 25 years from now maybe you’ll look
back on your 20-year old self and
wonder how much of that version of you is still in there
and if you could go back,
do it again
if you would even want to,
if you would do it any differently
or if you would do it just
I’m really disturbed by the apparent current belief among many that everything worth doing can be “taught” via a how-to book. This has become so prevalent that if you type “How to. . .” into the Amazon.com search window you actually get 381,110 hits.
Granted, some of these are movies (How to Train Your Dragon; How to Marry a Millionaire), and the first one listed gave me pause (Decency prevents me; click here if you must know.) But if you narrow the selection to Books only there are still 300,776. If you limit it to “. . .for Dummies” it cuts this list all the way down to 10,667. Seriously. Ten thousand, six hundred, and sixty seven “How to . . . for Dummies” titles.
First of all, (and maybe this is just me,) I’m not really all that interested in reading something that has been written by someone who is operating under the assumption that I’m a moron. This cannot be a good experience. Condescension is one thing when delivered by a male colleague, your physician, or your children. It’s something else entirely when you’ve paid for it.
I think what disturbs me most of all is the unsuitability of some of these topics to a How-To manual. Psychology for Dummies, Anatomy and Physiology for Dummies, Sex for Dummies. Yikes. Like it’s a good idea to have random, relatively uneducated strangers analyzing the emotional reasons for the items you’ve placed in your grocery cart, or setting your ankle after a bad fall. The third one is the most disturbing — if you’re both dummies, maybe you just shouldn’t; think of the children!
Many of the topics result in interesting if not downright unfortunate implications: Catholicism for Dummies (is this a different form of Catholicism than the one available to smart people?); Chemistry for Dummies (boom!!!); Twitter for Dummies (seriously? isn’t that the point of twitter? how hard is it really? I mean, if a bird can do it. . .)
Have we forgotten that some of these topics — psychology, medicine, investing and finance (okay, maybe this one not so much), literature — used to be considered worthy of many years of advanced study and hard work? I’ve spent 40 years getting good at playing the piano, through individualized study with qualified, gifted, inspiring teachers and thousands of hours of practice. Are they actually implying that I could have learned everything I need to know from a manual? (Okay, I know they’re not implying that exactly, but what are they implying? And I haven’t even touched on the importance of human interaction in the learning process.)
Richard Bausch writes in the latest Fiction edition of The Atlantic about his experience with the editors of a set of dozens of fiction how-to books. This article includes the description of the result of his eventual agreement, not to write a fiction how-to book, but to write a chapter on the Craft of writing. His closing paragraph of this chapter extols the reader, ergo assumed-to-be-aspiring writer, not to follow step-by-step instructions from a manual, but to read. A lot. That in order to write, massive quantities of good literature must be read, digested, even imitated. Most of this paragraph is surreptitiously cut by the editors, leaving a vague, relatively meaningless paean and no useful information. When it is admitted that the editors are concerned that the author’s “instructions” will result in the drop in sales of their myriad books, and the author is unwilling to omit the paragraph, the entire chapter is dropped from the book.
Everybody wants the short cut. Children: few chores, ample allowance, easy teachers. College students: the best grade with the least possible work, the job that allows them to stay out late on weekends and sleep in. Even adults aren’t above this — after the easy money (lotto, stocks that hit it big and which no one else knew about); the easy job (flex-time, high salary, company car, expense account).
But some things require time. And work. And effort.
And sometimes, it’s the time, and work, and effort, which make it worth it at all.
My husband (7 years older, a fair bit grayer than me, and NOT Tony Randall), my daughter (9), and I are at Lowe’s looking at tile for our kitchen floor. We’re also looking at wood for floors in adjacent rooms, so there’s a fair bit of traveling back and forth between 2 aisles. I’ve laid out several tiles that we like, and G has turned to go to the wood-flooring aisle to select even more differently-colored samples (we apparently do not have enough already) so that we can line them up against the tile and see how well they “go.” Meanwhile, a young man (30?) approaches, pushing his adorable little girl (3? 2 1/2?) in the cart. (Sorry about the number thing; it’s important to the story.)
She watches G walk away, and with a look of grave concern in her eyes turns to me and says, “Your dad went away.”
Now, I enjoy this just a little, repeat it to G when he returns, have a good laugh, etc. etc. (Okay, I’m not proud of it, but it was funny.)
What I realize (much) later is that his apparent departure was probably a source of great distress to her. She’s at the store with her dad, I must be at the store with my dad; if he goes away, she is/I am alone and vulnerable and that’s a scary thing to a child of her age. Instead of laughing I should have reassured her; “It’s okay; he’ll be right back.”
I’ve been thinking about this in terms of our dependence and vulnerability, or at least our perceptions of these things, as we move through childhood and into adulthood. Babies “know” they need something, somebody (if they can be said to “know” anything). Preschool age children want all kinds of independence until you ask them to put on their own shoes or put away their toys, at which point they “can’t do it” and “need help,” but even the most self-reliant are not able to get a job, drive, nor can they cook for themselves as they are not yet allowed to use the stove.
Does this dependence/independence change that much in adolescence? My teenager can drive, but he’s still not comfortable driving on the highway; he’s allowed to use the stove but has certainly never asked if he is “allowed” to pay into the grocery kitty; he doesn’t want me even to talk to him unless he wants to talk to me. Then, even if I’m in the middle of: writing a paragraph, planning a class, a sentence, and can’t acknowledge him immediately, he’s so offended from being “overlooked” that he stomps away in a huff muttering “nobody likes me.” (Maybe it’s a middle-child thing.) You’ve probably all heard of the book, Get Out of My Life But First Can You Drive Me to the Mall? He knows he needs us still, and it probably, at least partially, makes him crazy.
My 20-year old held me at arm’s length for 9 years. He now, fairly regularly, seeks out, and seems to respect, my advice.
Would I not be as sad, as lost, if G “went away” as this girl would be at the loss of her father? Are we all just on a perpetual cycle from one type of dependence to another, the only difference being that as adults we recognize its worth, and call it interdependence? Maybe interdependence is just another word for dependence without vulnerability.
Then again, maybe “dependence” isn’t the right word at all: I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself, even if I do find my whole day feels much better when my husband wakes me by brushing my back with his fingers, makes the coffee (he does make much better coffee than I do don’ttellhimIsaidso) and poaches my egg. I don’t rely on him for my survival (although sometimes it feels that I do); I would know that even without him I could support myself, drive, use the stove; but I’d be alone.
From the September 23, 2002 issue of the New Yorker, in a review of the poet W. H. Auden by Adam Gopnik:
“Being everywhere at once while going nowhere in particular is what poets do, and Auden did it. Where journalists write about what people are arguing about in public, and novelists about what they are talking about in private, only poets seem able to show that what people argue about in public is identical to what they talk about in private, that what we are arguing about is the sum of our own guilts, fears, anxieties, hopes. And only a handful of poets show that what people are talking about in public and what they are talking about in private is always a variant of what they say to themselves when they are alone, and that, Auden knew, is simply ‘I wish I were not.’”
She knew this, that wee little girl in the cart at Lowe’s. And she was only 3.