The Alex P. Keaton Effect: or how, by trying to teach equality, it appears I’m accidentally raising an anti-feminist

Here's a thing for you to mull over on this Monday afternoon… the 12 yo boy and I are having a disagreement about Beyonce. He *loathes* her song, Run the World (girls). When it comes on, he rolls his eyes, makes heaving sighing noises, and shows a really discouraging amount of simmering grouchiness. And it's not because he's hit his Smiths phase (he hasn't, but I know it's coming). It's because the lyrics make him crazy.

He says if the song had the same lyrics, but was about boys, everyone would say it's sexist. My answer? "You are correct, sir." And so begins the argument. He doesn't understand why girl power songs are OK. Ultimately, I think he doesn't understand why girl power itself is OK. He is truly, honestly, offended. 

This is a kid who has been to more than one protest at the Texas Capitol. He and I engage in women's rights-centered political discussions all the time. He enjoyed several detentions this past school year for opening his big mouth to talk about Big Things in a variety of classrooms where it was not the time or place for opening one's big mouth. He stayed up with me, watching Wendy Davis and Leticia van de Putte eviscerate hypocritical politicians.

And yet, he thinks girl power is kind of bullshit. It makes him angry. He thinks it's unfair. He completely doesn't understand Title IX and why it's important. I know he's only 12, but I can't help feel I'm about to have my Progressive Parent Card revoked unequivocally. 

I've been trying to explain glass ceilings, and elbowing your way out of second class citizenry, and hidden patriarchal norms, and #yesallwomen, and various feminist viewpoints, but he is not.buying.what.I.am.selling. He sees his best friends going off to schools that are only for girls. He is not allowed in girls-only book clubs. He had a huge misunderstanding with his school about lacrosse and why only the girls had a team (that turned out to not be true, but he was livid for a few weeks). He is getting this perception that girls get special treatment, while boys are left to sink or swim. I've tried explaining that really everyone is left to sink or swim, and that, while some things have changed and are still changing, it's still a man's world, and it's OK for females to rise up against this so that they can have an equivalent shot at success*. 

I've been trying to explain to him it's not that girls don't get a fair shake (though they often don't), it's that girls get a different shake. A lot of times (in fact, I could argue the majority of the time) that unfairness, that differentness, isn't even ON PURPOSE. It's built into society. So, giving girls a safe place is not unfair, it's not anti-male, it's a way to build them up so that when the world starts to knock them down they have more airspace for falling and righting themselves. It's equivocating the shake.

He doesn't see it, though. He is a white, middle-class male, who is growing up feeling slighted and undervalued when his mom and sister shout Beyonce lyrics in the car.

This is when I start to wonder, is he feeling this way because he has been brought up to believe the sexes are equal? Does he not understand girl power because to him, girls and boys have equal rights and opportunities? When I argue my own point, am I actually, in a horribly ironic, 180-degree flip trick, teaching him that women are second class citizens?

Obviously, I don't want him to start thinking that women really are second class citizens and THAT'S why Beyonce and Sara Bareilles and Katy Perry sing the songs they do (side note: GOD, don't get me started on the confusing conversations I have with my 8-year-daughter about the words in these songs versus the perception of mainstream beauty, jesus christ). 

But also, if my 12-year-old accepts the status quo, he'll never realize he's been swallowed up by the social norms that dictate so much of women's lives (in obvious ways and in ways we, ourselves, don't even realize sometimes**). I'm damned if I do, I'm damned if I don't, and I'm afraid I've damned myself for even trying. 

What's a mama to do? I don't want to be raising the anti-feminist version of Alex P. Keaton. I don't want to discount the progress made by the feminist movement. I don't want to downplay all the maddening anti-woman bullshit that is still out there, and frankly, getting worse everyday. But most of all, I don't want my son to grow into a man who resents women because he thinks they have had unfair advantages. I want him to understand he is part of a generation that can work to change all of this, but that nothing will change if he resents Beyonce and girls-only book clubs.

I fully admit to him that nothing is fair, for anyone. But how can I make him see that even this unfairness is unequal?

It's hard out here for a mom, y'all. And it's even harder out here for a kid. Or maybe just for my kid. Sigh.

 

 

* The argument that it's unfair for boys to be expected to just drift about and figure shit out on their own is valid and definitely worthy of a blog post/discussion of its own.

** For example: the term "middle-aged". This was a mini-rant I had on Facebook. For me, this term is one more thing that gets slung around at women like locks in socks. It is pervasive. It's used by women and men. It is almost always meant in a disparaging way, or if not disparaging, then dismissive. "Middle-age" is presented as something we have to overcome. "Wow! She's 45 and she looks amazing. You'd never guess she's middle-aged!" BARF, y'all.

Now, I'm willing to entertain the idea that women can embrace the term, turn it into something they own, but, honestly, that still makes me feel squicky. "Middle-age" as a descriptor – particularly when referring to women – is almost always used as a negative assessment or backhanded compliment. And it's bullshit. Grown-ass women are fucking owning their shit. They give zero fucks. So I guess maybe they don't care about the term, and I am just being over sensitive.

BUT ANYWAY, my larger argument is that girls who are in their teens and early 20s*** (can I have an asterisk within an asterisk? I JUST DID), who loudly proclaim their feminism, they are the worst culprits when it comes to calling women middle-aged. I hate it. I really do. They don't even know they're buying into bullshit patriarchal language, and that steams me even more — not at them, but at The Way Things Are.

This can clearly be an argument that goes a variety of ways, and I'm not saying my opinion is right, I'm just saying, to me, teenagers fawning over how beautiful and smart "middle-aged" women can be is one of those examples of how certain kinds of sexist notions are embedded within our society, and thus become an unquestioned social norm. 

*** This could spawn a huge rant about Tumblr, but it would spiral into some kind of tornadic rantsplosion and I would have a stroke. We'll save that for another day.

in which I rant about being self-absorbed

Hi, blog. It's been awhile. There are a lot of reasons, mostly having to do with finishing two manuscripts, the end of the school year, spending some time in Cincinnati with Ike-a-saurus, trying to avoid all news and poltics in order to save my dwindling sanity, going to writing conferences, etc.

But here I am and I'm ready to gripe. You must be thrilled.

So I'm reading a book right now, which isn't shocking because I'm reading books all the time, BUT I just broke a sacred rule and I read a review of said book. Now, I know, reviews are incredibly subjective, which is usually why I avoid them – especially before or while I'm reading a book. I like to form my own opinions that aren't accidentally or overtly clouded by other people's opinions. But this review was tiny and popped up at me before I really even realized what I was reading.

Now FIRE is shooting from my EARS – and not just because the review was about this particular book (which I happen to be really enjoying), but because the main complaint about the book is something I've heard before, ad nauseum.

Ready?

Female main character…
works outside the home…
worries about her job…
worries about her kids….
worries about her husband…
wonders if  she's made the right decisions in her life….  

Seems familiar and reasonable? Right? It's nothing new, it's not earth-shattering, but it's familiar and these are all things millions of women grapple with everyday. It's not a "message" book. It's not dealing with crises of world-ending proportions (unless you're the main character and you're watching your marriage dissolve, in which case, yes, world fucking ending).

So why am I riled up? Why am I just at the edge of seething?

Because the reviewer calls the main character "self-absorbed".

I'm sorry. WHAT?

Self-absorbed? Because the book is about her inner feelings? About her struggles trying to balance everything? About her guilt that she's not pulling equal weight in her marriage? Because it's third person limited so we only see what's going on in her head? Are those the reasons why she's self-absorbed? Or is she perceived as self-absorbed because she dares to question her life? She has the audacity to take a week to step outside of her Sisyphean daily tasks and think, "wait a minute, what the fuck is happening here?"

Self-absorbed.

It's so fucking "you're damned if you do, you're damned if you don't" it makes my nostrils flare. Let's talk about women who have it all – oh no wait, we can't do that because IT'S A FUCKING MYTH. OK, then, let's talk about women who are trying to have it all and then suddenly realize they don't know who they are anymore – oh no wait, we can't do that because it's self-absorbed. OK. Well, let's talk about women who want to have it all, but realize they can't, so they settle for what they can have, but always wonder about what they could have, or don't have, or want to have. Oh wait? Self-absorbed AND whiny. Shit.

It just really climbs all the way up my craw that a confident woman with a stable, successful career, who has the audacity to take time to question her personal decisions, is immediately labeled self-absorbed. When a woman is the main wage-earner in a family, when her husband stays home with the kids, when she misses dinners because of meetings, when she feels guilty for having to work over holidays, when she takes the time to recognize these things and wonder about them, and  - wait for it – NOT want to quit her job – she is clearly a horrible, self-absorbed, unlikeable character.

That is straight up bullshit, y'all.

And this issue isn't singular to this book. I know it's not. I know this argument, and my rage-y feeling, isn't new. (Just ask Wendy Davis.) I know this is a rant other people have had before me, and people will continue to have for ages to come. But seriously. This idea that a woman who has been trying to "have it all," who realizes that's actually pretty impossible, and who takes a moment think "oh, shit, now what" is a selfish person… it's getting really, really old.

Really fucking old.

You know what, world? Women can sometimes put themselves first. They can sometimes worry about their sanity without it being a humor piece. They can dissect their lives and try to figure out where things started twisting off into some kind of Volvulus of Necrotized Having It All. They can do things and it doesn't fucking make them self-absorbed. It doesn't make them "unlikeable" characters. It makes them humans. Actual human beings. Human beings who try hard, and who don't always hit the right mark. They're not whiners. They're not bitches. They're not actively trying to irritate people or ruin anyone's life, or even seek attention. They're just trying to figure shit out.

So if a book about a mother – a successful, career-driven woman – who is trying to figure out what her life means after having been married for almost half of her life, is a treatise on self-absorption, then I wonder what everyone thinks when a man writes a book about about the same… oh wait. That's right.  Those books win the Pulitzer prize.

Sigh.

I don't really know how to end this rant, but in a kind of perfect way, my life is ending the rant for me. Lunch is boiling over. The kids are not wearing pants. We have an appointment in 40 minutes and at least a 30 minute drive to get there. My brain is fogged from PMS and from a hundred new writing projects I'm trying to sort and rate and prioritize. I'm missing friends who are far away. I'm wondering when I will ever get out of the house – alone – again. I am thinking about whether I can sneak in a vacation before the next editorial letter arrives.

But I'm not going to blog about any of that.

I wouldn't want you to think I'm self-absorbed.

 

in which I overthink my dirty mouth

I was on my very best behavior last week. I had an ENTIRE DINNER with STRANGERS and SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE and I didn't say fuck or goddamn one time. I also didn't sweat through my skirt or fling my steak across the table as I was trying to cut it. I was a motherfucking adult, doing motherfucking adult things, and I even DRANK AN ENTIRE GLASS OF WINE while doing all of those things.

I KNOW.

But now, the fallout is here, my friends. Last night I was dicing beets (as one does) and one of them slipped off the kitchen counter, bounced off my leg and hit the floor where it was met with delight by my beet-loving dog.

"SHIT," I exclaimed. "GODDAMN BEET. Stupidfuckingdog."

My kids looked up, non-plussed, and then went back to their screens homework.

I woke up this morning and the very first words out of my mouth with each stretch? "[deep sigh] goddamn… motherfucker… shitballs… ahhhh…."

Emoji

I know there's a school of thought that people should not swear. It isn't a classy thing. It is ruinous to the ears of our precious youth. It is dirty and inappropriate in almost every scenario. It's not ladylike, blah, blah.

But the worst criticism? The one that really stabs me through my heart? That it's lazy.

I've tried to use the lazy thing before, with my oldest son. I tried to explain to him that swearing is a tool for people who don't have a good descriptive vocabulary. It's a crutch for humor. It's settling for an easy laugh, or an easy exclamation. Why swear when you can exercise your creativity?

The look on his face during this lecture was clear: "This is bullshit and you know it."

I did know it. I had to stop half-way through my diatribe and admit that I didn't really believe anything I was saying. I mean, swearing can be lazy, but it's not always lazy. It's just like anything, really. You have to learn nuance and timing. You have to figure out the unspoken rules so that you can then break them with relish. Swearing is an art. It can be poetry.

I admitted to my son I was giving him the "Swearing is Laziness" lecture as a duty to Motherhood In General, a kind of check mark next to the Tell Your Children Not To Say Bad Words box on the list of everything you have to tell your children.

Really, though, I don't think swearing is lazy. If done right, I think it's poetically emphatic. Do I want my children calling each other fuckfaces? Hell no. Am I am going to punish one of them for yelling SHIT when they stub their toe? Hell no. The trick is, teaching them the intricacies of when swearing is OK and when it's not. Why will it earn you a detention in school but only an eyeroll at home? Why should I keep the fucknards and asshats to a minimum while having a professional dinner?

Can you teach nuance? Appropriateness? The feel of a room? I don't know. I think much of that is just plain sense. And teaching kids to use sense is a bit of a fruitless endeavor. You learn from doing. You learn from fucking up. I might be fucking up by writing this very blog post! And I certainly have encountered adults who have never learned anything about intricacies or nuances. Letting loose with a string of epithets in the middle of Toys R Us? Not cool, bro.  Letting loose with a string of epithets while describing the Toys R Us guy to your friends? Better.

So what am I getting at? I don't really know. I mean, I guess the over all thing I think about when I think about my foul mouth is "know your audience." Is that teachable? I think it is. But it's also flexible and testable. I don't need to be the mom with the 5-year-old yelling GODDAMN IT every time he falls off the tire swing, but on the other hand, I'm OK with being the mom of the five-year-old who is learning comic timing by inserting the word fart into surprising moments of conversation. Do we talk about how that's OK at home, but probably not OK at school? Yes. Do we talk about why? Yes. Do I laugh just as hard as he does? Yes. Do I pat him on the back and call him a clever fuckface? No. See? I know my audience.

At the end of the professional dinner wherein I drank wine and still managed to keep my conversation mostly pertinent and lacking in cocksuckery, the night wrapped with someone telling a funny story that included a punchline expletive. It was a surprise and we all had a genuine laugh. The storyteller tested the waters, let loose, and it was OK. And so now I'm left to wonder… did my dinner manners hide something about me from my counterparts?  Was I  a disingenuous dinner guest for not revealing this part of myself? Or was I right to have a protective instinct? Perhaps my audience at dinner was a different audience than the storyteller's, even though we were sitting with the same people. Knowing your audience is just as intricate and nuanced as the swearing itself.

Anyway.

Just something I've been thinking about as I spend my day looking at my to-do list, yelling, "Shit!" and then continuing to procrastinate.

It's hard to be a motherfucking adult, isn't it? Damn.

I know, I know…

Worst blogger ever. But I have a good excuse! A GREAT excuse actually. And it's not that I've learned to spend more time outside, or that I've decided to give up technology, or that I've taken up classical French cooking or any of that. It's because I've procured myself a job. (I mean, other than being a mama and writing books.) 

WHAT.

I KNOW.

I've been working on writing samples and applications for a few months now. I've done some quick, secret trips out of town for interviews. I've searched my soul, tortured myself over whether or not this would be a good choice for me professionally, agonized over whether it will be a good choice for my family – whether it will be a good choice for The Future. And after two months of a constant upset stomach and sleepless nights I've finally committed myself. 

You are now reading the (private and un-affiliated) blog of the Deputy Message Coordinator (aka: speechwriter) for Leticia Van de Putte's campaign for Lieutenant Governor. 

!!!

I'll be traveling with the whole team, criss-crossing Texas, working on speeches, emails and blog posts, and trying to inject some humor and no-bullshit talking points into campaign rhetoric. Leticia and I have met several times, and while I had to promise to keep my language PG (or maybe PG-13 every now and then) we both knew right away that we're absolutely on the same wavelength.

I can see you sitting there, going, "Whoa! She's joked about being a speechwriter before, but I never thought she'd actually do it!" And… well… you're right. I haven't actually done it. April Fool's, nerds. (But, man, wouldn't that be a cool job? So cool.)

Oscars Live-uh-Facebook!

Tonight I'm doing an experiment. Instead of just going minute-by-minute and adding stuff here, I'm going to create an Oscars Omnibus Comment Thread on Facebook so that we can all be witty TOGETHER.

It should be fun!

And if it's not, then it's back to the liveblog for subsequent awards shows.

(Or, if I get lonely for the blog I'll add stuff here tonight. Or steal stuff from you guys. Or post a wrap-up. I don't know, IT'S A BIG EXPERIMENT.)

*** UPDATE ***

Here's the aftermath:

OscarFB14

This is Sunday

It's a beautiful Sunday morning. The word beautiful doesn't even do it justice. Glorious is maybe a better descriptor. The sky is blueblueblue, the breeze is just cool enough, the sun just warm enough, the wasps just distant enough, the birds just tweety enough. Everything is in sync. This, I think, is what many people find in church on a Sunday morning… this harmony, this feeling of belonging.

The air is the pulpit, offering a message of traveling cars, childhood screeches, buzzing insects, music off in the distance, neighbors chatting through too-close fences – all the inherent pieces of a story that doesn't have to be told because everyone knows it so well. And yet, hearing the tale again is not an annoyance, but a reminder of things easily forgotten, things always known, things that get lost in the everyday.

So this is, obviously, me getting a little crazy as I sit on my back porch, pretending it's spring, pretending my husband isn't in the house on a cleaning rampage, pretending I have nothing else I should be doing. This is me hatching big plans that will probably fade away by the routine of the evening. This is me dreaming big dreams that will get written on scraps of paper that will then get swept off the kitchen counter in a frenzy of Seventh Generation sprays and gels.

This is me hoping I'm wrong about the sweeping away of the big plans and big dreams. Hoping that something sneaks through the shining gloriousness and makes its way into the fog of everyday. Like capturing fireflies in a mason jar to light up your room at night, I wish I could capture 12:19 pm on a Sunday in early Texas springtime. Just keep it on my desk, in my purse, in my pocket, around my neck, a little bit of loveliness always there to brighten everything else. 

Update

Remember the neighbor thing? Yeah. Not going to forget that any time soon.

Well, several weeks ago, I was ambushed at the big hive mailbox at the end of our street – by my neighbor's mother and stepfather. Ambushed is probably too strong of a word, but they did follow me slowly in their car and then leap out and surround me when I was trying to gather my mail and leave. (Note to self: this is why, in the future, you might bother with putting on a bra and shoes before going to the mailbox.) So there I was, barefoot, pretty much in my jammies, answering questions about why letters from court were coming to their house, what happened that night, and so much more. It was hard core, y'all. This girl's mother had NO IDEA  the extent to which things spiraled into hell that night. No idea of the police and the ambulances… she knew nothing except that something bad happened and that her daughter wouldn't talk about it. (I learned that since that night, the mother and step-father have moved into the house with the girl and the boyfriend and the baby.)

I was faced with this spontaneous, weird sort of confusion and guilt. Obviously, the young woman didn't want her mother to know what happened. Obviously, I know nothing about their family dynamic. But on the other hand, a code of silence didn't seem like a good idea. Does it protect her to say nothing? Or does it further insulate her from getting help?

Her mother told me about the boyfriend and the things in his past and present that terrify her. She cried and hugged me while her tiny grandson slept in the car. I was just sort of bewildered. We were having a moment – a big, emotional, movie-worthy moment – two strangers, right in front of the mailboxes, in the middle of the morning, on a random weekday.

I didn't keep quiet. I told her the whole sordid story. I gave her all the Safe Place information. And let me just say, telling a mom the details of how her daughter had the shit beat out of her is not on the top of my list of favorite things to do. But I did it. I don't know if it was right to do it. But I did it.

So… fast forward a few months.

Since The Great Mailbox Debriefing/Cryfest I've had no contact with anyone next door other than a few furtive nanoseconds of eye contact between me and the young woman, and a smile or two shared from the stepfather. The boyfriend has been skulking around, but I don't see him a lot. I've seen the girl's mother once, getting out of her car. 

A few days ago, a friend of mine was over and as she got in her car to leave the young woman next door came over and started to talk about that night – mistaking my friend for me (the plight of the short, curly-haired woman). I was inside going to the bathroom (of course) and my friend was like, "Ah! No! I'm not her!" trying to convince the girl to come over and talk. But my neighbor wasn't having it. My friend said she seemd to kind of lose her cool after the mistaken identity – and I haven't seen her since. But I did see that somone has moved out of the house. I don't think it was her, because I've seen the baby. But maybe? I don't know. Hopefully, they finally got that awful boyfriend out of there.

None of it is my business, and I worry for them all, but I'm glad she tried to reach out. I'll still be here when she works up the nerve again. 

 

Golden Globes live blog!

OK, nerds, the Golden Globes start in exactly almost an hour – or at least NBC coverage starts in exactly almost an hour. So. Go find some snacks and drinks, and then go find some muzzles for the small people in your house. Let's show Tina and Amy we know how to do this RIGHT. (And by RIGHT, I mean making increasingly incoherent snarky comments while watching a really long awards show from our couches, all alone, on a Sunday night, wearing pajama pants with lobsters on them, and nursing a headache that is centered exactly one inch above our collective left eyeball.)

LET'S DO THIS.

6:42: It's been so long since I've watched actual TV, I just mistook Matt Lauer for a shrunken James Cameron.

6:55: I'm having trouble with the leaf antenna. YES, I'M CALLING YOU OUT, LEAF. About every third word anyone says is garbled. Even though I'm pissed that this expensive antenna works A BILLION TIMES WORSE than the $20 Radio Shack job we just took to Goodwill, I will preservere. It will be like watching Golden Globes Mad Libs! Hooray! (*shakes fist at Leaf*)

7:00: 71st annual Golden Globes! This is also the 71st year I've been liveblogging the Golden Globes!

7:05: Look at the stage – there are slides! Please, please have the accountant people arrive on stage by zooming down those slides as they frantically clutch their briefcases.

7:06: Wait. Are there accountants for the Golden Globes? Is that just an Oscar thing? Do we care?

7:07: No.

7:09: Wolf of Wall Street used the word fuck – or a derivation of the word fuck – 586 times in three hours. I am about to do the exact same thing with this live blog! 

7:11: Can I just take a moment to say HELLO, TINA FEY HAIR PORN. I mean, WHAT. *fans self*

7:13: Jennifer Lawrence just said, "Oh shit!" as she tripped over a chair. I do that 700 times a day, which means I am super excited to become America's anti-sweetheart someday. Wooooooo.

7:15: Jacqueline Bisset wins a Golden Globe for Dancing on the Edge. Not for her portrayal of Maura's mother on the TNT show Rizzoli & Isles. Just in case you were confused. Which you weren't. I'm just clarifying for you while we all wait for her to get on stage which is taking one thousand hundred years because she got lost, wandered around the block and then staggered on stage from the wings.

7:16: They just did the 5-second delay beep before the actual bad word. Now the poor sound grip has to get in his Delorean, fight some terrorists, dodge a lightning bolt and fix his mistake. Otherwise THE WHOLE WORLD will have heard Jacqeuline Bisset say shit on TV and that will cause the universe to just buckle in on itself. Go sound grip, go! You're our only hope!

7:23: Behind the Candlabra [I can't fucking spell that word] wins for mini-series or TV movie. Camera cuts to Lorne Michaels who's like, "Oh, hey. I have zero things to do with this movie, but thumbs up!" 

7:27: Elizabeth Moss is wearing a dress made of the sparkling carbon spawn that would crack out of a scaly egg if Tron and the Matrix were sentient beings that could make a scaly egg together.

7:29: Tom Hanks looks like a dried carrot that has been turned into a candle.

7:30: And by that I mean he is orange, but waxy, but lit from within. 

7:34: BEGIN FUN FACT: The girl in the orange juice commercial with Jane Krakowski? The one who was on Arrested Development? The one whose name I can't remember? I have met her twice, both times before she was moderately famous, one time with pizza and (and ZZ Top in the elevator) involved, one time with a wedding involved, neither time with me saying more than "Uh, hello," involved. END FUN FACT.

7:35: Aw, nuts, the president of the Hollywood Foreign Press slid down ZERO SLIDES to get on stage. womp womp.

7:39: If Claus Oldenberg made a sculpture of small intestine villi, it would actually be this woman's dress. 

7:42: Just think, this one night is probably responsible for earning the creator of Spanx enough money to buy a small private island. [complicated joke full of innuendo about small private islands and "small private islands" goes here]

7:45: I don't really want anything for my EYES that's called Miracle Blur. Thanks, but no thanks, brilliant marketing people.

7:47: OH FUCK. TAXES. Thanks for harshing my boner, turbotax commerical. Uuuuuuugh.

7:52: I am not a fan of the Russell Brand School Of Hairstyling favored by freaky hipster boys these days. Also, zip it, Sean Combs. YOU ARE NOT KANYE, EVERY MICROPHONE IS NOT YOUR MICROPHONE.

7:55: I know I say this every time, and I know you're tired of hearing me say it, but seriously you guys. For real. Nicole Kidman + giraffe = Taylor Swift. YOU KNOW IT'S TRUE. DO NOT EVEN FRONT.

7:57: Hey there, The Edge. I want you to know that even though most people hated Zooropa, I liked it. And I liked your song the best. So there. (Also, good job with this Mandela song.)

8:01: Also, did everyone notice how Bono's body language was like FUCK YOU, DUDE, GET AWAY FROM ME, when Sean Combs tried to kiss him. Yep. Bono was totally like, "No means no, man." And then he squirmed away like a magician.

8:03: Rob Lowe is sporting KD Lang's hair from 1993. 

8:06: I love that Olivia Wilde is rocking the "very sexy snake who has swallowed an egg" look.

8:10: Amy Adams is a fantastic actress and I thought she was amazing in American Hustle, but you guys, I loved Greta Gerwig in Frances Ha. Loved, loved, loved her. Loved her. Loved.

8:11: Loved.

8:14: I just speed-ate a plate of potatoes. (which I first typed as potaters)

8:17: "I hate you! Jacqeuline Bisset hates you, too!" Haha. Oh, Amy Poehler. You make me laugh.

8:19: I knew it was going to be Robin Wright! I knew it. Claire Underwood is one complicated lady. She would have figured out – in five minutes – how to get someone to make her a pair of wax wings so she could fly up to the stage.

8:23: Jared Leto. Again with the Russell Brand School of Hairstyling. If he would lean on a wall, though, I would forgive him.

8:24: I would also like to take a moment to appreciate Jared Leto's eyelashes. Dear God.

8:29: Emma Thompson wins the Golden Globes, ladies and gentlemen. All of them.

8:31: It would be awesome if there were those vacuum chutes on stage. You know the ones they use at the bank or at the pharmacy? Only instead of money or drugs being sucked up into the tubes, the drunk and delirious actors and actresses are sucked into the chutes after they win their awards. Then they don't have to always walk the wrong way to try in vain to leave the stage. And we get to hear that awesome WHOOSH THUNK noise over and over again.

8:35: Paratroopers drop from the ceiling, lift Andy Samberg into the air, and drop him on the stage.

8:36: Just kidding. It's three days later and he's still trapped behind the American Hustle table. 

8:42: Uh-oh, it's a surprise win from a foreign language film. These guys are going to have to call a cab, take the subway, hitch a ride with a trucker, ride a donkey into and out of a ravine, and then take a people mover to get to the stage.

8:46: Michael Douglas: who I won't call Colonel Angus. But who I really, really want to call Colonel Angus, but who who I won't, because that would be so tacky.

8:50: Hey! The accountants! Did anyone see if they came in on the slides? I was too busy yelling at my kids to go to sleep already, because jesus god school starts early and WHY ARE THEY STILL AWAKE AND PLEASE STOP TALKING.

8:52: "asymmetric wand that instantly volumizes from the root." Yeah, l'oreal. That's what he said. 

8:56: Frances McDormand and Joel Cohen look like super hip and unamused parents sitting through an epic dance recital. "Well you said this would be well-rounding for the kids," "And YOU said it would only last two hours." "Do you have any of those organic dried fruits in your purse?" "No, I don't keep food in my bag anymore."

9:00: Labor Day: The Bridges of Madison County, but with Kate Winslet and a jailbreak.

9:05: I really, really need to see Blue Jasmine. And I really, really need to watch Annie Hall again.  

9:07: Diane Keaton. And her suits. Let's take a moment and appreciate this continuity over the decades. 

9:11: And now we all remember that we've been in love with Diane Keaton for as long as she's been in love with suits.

9:17: Pretty sure the announcer just said "Ben Aflac." 

9:20: Alfonso Cuaron wins for Best Director, Motion Picture. And Sandra Bullock wins for Most Beautiful Trying Not To Cry-er. Side note: I read this great interview with Mr. Cuaron about all the  movies he's directed and how different they are and how he's been told that's maybe not the smartest way to navigate his career. But for him it *is* the smartest way, because he's always looking for a new challenge and he's always mastering new things. As a writer who likes to write drastically different things I really respect this and I'd like to shake his hand.

9:26: I would also like to shake the guy's hand who just thanked his two-year-old "even though he's a nightmare."

9:27: Leo wins for Wolf of Wall Street. How do I feel about this? I feel like Christian Bale and his hairpiece and his belly totally smoked Leo's "I AM ON DRUUUUGS AND AM FUUUUCKED UPPPP" character. Totally smoked him. So. Hmph.

9:30: Reese. Witherspoon. Is. Talking. Really. Fast. Like. A. Robot. Who. Can. Read. Really. Well. But. Who. Has. No. Emotion. Please. Get. Me. Off. This. Stage. So. That. I. Can. Rifle. Throught. My. Gift. Bag. And. Drink. This. Wine. K. Thanks. Bye.

9:35: I get the actors who play Thor and Captain America confused. This guy is Thor, right? Does it matter? I will just gaze at his jawline for a little while. Nature, I respect you.

9:39: American Hustle win for Best Comedy or Musical. I loved it. Anything about science ovens is going to be tops with me.

9:41: Also: "First of all, I'd like to thank the Aca-Hollywood Foreign Press" They should just change their name to "the Aca-Hollywood Foreign Press" it would save everyone an awkward pause.

9:45: Leo was so busy being a dick about his movie being nominated as a "comedy" he forgot to thank all of his fellow actors. OOPS.

9:48: Cate Blanchett looks very elegant as she talks about vodka and barbituates. I would have a drink with her. But maybe not barbituates.

9:49: Jessica Chastain's hair. What is happening? Bacon grease-based hair gel? Dislike.

9:51: Mr. McConaughey. I would have a drink with you, too. And I would buy you a cheeseburger. Dude needs a cheeseburger.

9:56: I probably should have warned you before I started this live blog: I've spent the past three days in a cabin in the woods writing my face off. So pretty much, my brain is broken. It's amazing any of these sentences are even moderately complete.

9:58: Twelve Years a Slave wins for best motion picture – drama. Director Steve McQueen thanks his wife for finding the book. I want to thank her, too. I want to thank everyone who reads a book and loves it so much that they show it to other people – even if the other people aren't movie directors. It doesn't matter. Reading books and loving books and sharing books makes wonderful things happen.

10:00: I accidentally ended on a bit of an emotional note. Shoot.

10:01: Farts. Poop. Cocksucker.

10:02: There. That's better. Good night, y'all.

When does the non-essential become essential and vice versa, OR how I spent five days in San Francisco and only took 8 pictures

I was sitting in a diner on Haight Street, right by the famed intersection of Haight and Ashbury, and I slurped chicken noodle soup while some friends and I talked shop about publishing and children's literature. We hadn't seen each other in months, but when we sat together to eat and chat it was as if we'd never been apart. And in a way, we never had been apart, thanks to Facebook and Twitter and message boards and the like. This is the beauty of social media – you can live half a country away from friends and still know everything about their day-to-day lives.

Except… this isn't really true. You know everything they're willing to share. They know everything you're willing to share. So you keep in contact, and you laugh together, you cry together, everything is better than Cats, but you still miss out on essential things. Like facial expressions. Arm squeezes. Hugs. Body language. Embarrassed glances. True guffaws.

You and your friends (and "friends") are familiar with every intimate detail of each others' lives (or the shared intimate details), but the true intimacies are lost. It's strange how, these days, knowing what someone has had for dinner or what pithy statement their child has come up with has become the essential knowledge needed to propagate a friendship.  Maybe the one line movie reviews and the onslaught of smiley faces actually are the intimacies now – they actually are the essential connections – that create the peristalsis a relationship needs to stay alive and moving forward through infinite intersections of wires and tubes and technological webbing.

On some days – the days when you feel particularly isolated or glum – those dopamine hits you get from making people "like" you over and over again, they can be lifesavers. Suddenly, the non-essential information, the shared cat gifs, the rant about the grocery store, these things become essential. And not just essential to keeping the momentum of a friendship in full (or even medium or low) gear, but essential in knowing that you're not alone in a wild and wicked world.

Living in a world where no one is physically present and yet everyone is omnipresent is strangely isolating and strangely liberating all in one heartbeat.

When I was walking through San Francisco last week I was struck by the humanity of the city. It sounds ridiculous to say that out loud, but being surrounded by teeming masses when you've spent days and weeks and months mostly isolated — it can be shocking. And it's not like I've been locked in a dark basement or chained to a kitchen radiator. I do manage to get out of the house here and there. I see friends around town. But everything is 90% routine. There is no getting lost in the center of the city. There is no navigating public transportation for the first time. There is no four-mile trek through the center of town to get to a bar on a Tuesday night. My trekking is usually of the Star variety, or the treadmill variety. Being let loose in a big city I've never been to before opened my eyes in a variety of ways.

The faces I saw were not profile pictures clearly crafted to look attractive, or to send a message, or to be funny, or to show off. They were pink-cheeked and windblown and starry-eyed and angry and dirty and leering and confused and focused. The conversations I overheard weren't tips on cooking a good pot roast or advice on how to get a toddler to sleep, they were bits and pieces of dialogue, "Oh you do not even want me to say what…." "He just think I'm this…." "The meeting was pushed back to…."

I was so busy watching the humanity around me, I forgot to tell humanity that I was there. My presence in real life created a void online. I rarely remembered to "check-in" anywhere. I completely forgot to take pictures when I was with friends. I'd post a little update of what I was up to, and then forget to check to see what my friends had to say about it. I guess my dopamine receptors were full of cityscapes and fresh air and mint tea and human interaction and so that constant quest for online interaction was dulled. Or maybe, at the end of every day, I was just too tired from moving and talking to sit in front of a screen.

Over five days I saw how what I had seen as essential parts of my day – getting on Facebook, tooling around Twitter, lurking on message boards, were maybe not as essential as I thought. I don't remember the name of the diner my friends and I ate at, because I didn't carve it into social media stone. And yet I vividly remember the conversation we had – even though I wrote none of it down.

The conflict I feel, though, is that without the daily perusal of social media I wouldn't have felt so close to the friends I was able to hang out with, not just that day at the diner, but other friends I saw, too… friends I hadn't been in physical contact with for over a decade. I wouldn't have even been able to make plans with some of them, because our only contact is through social media. My relationships with friends I've known for years, and with friends I've known for decades are both deeper and more nuanced because of the details we know about each other's lives. And we wouldn't know this detail without our constant contact. Non-essential information has become essential. And, arguably, essential information (the feel of someone's arms around you, the warmth of a borrowed coat) is often non-essential to the maintenance of a relationship.

It's a conflict, isn't it? And what to do about the friends I have who live in my own town, who I "see" everyday online, but who I hardly ever see in real life? Is it better that we're able to keep in contact like this, or is this contact keeping us from feeling the compulsion to see each other face-to-pink-cheeked-face? When does the essential/non-essential pendulum shift? How can I talk to you everyday and still miss you so much?

I don't think any of these questions are new. I know I'm not the first one to raise them. But this internal conversation was a big takeaway for me, after spending a week catching up with old friends, and, really, catching up with myself.

When was the last time you plunked yourself down in the middle of a strange new city and had to navigate your way through? I'd say it was transformative, but if I'm truly honest I have to admit that even being plunked down in the middle of the city, everything was informed by social media and technology. I might not have thought to "check-in" everywhere and take a ton of pictures, but I went on the trip laden with restaurant suggestions from friends. I was led to and fro by a magical map held in my hand. I could text people at any time to keep in constant contact. So it's not like I was really, truly on my own.

But in times like these? Compared to my usual technology tether? It really was like being dropped into the center of a strange and compelling universe. I was liberated even as I disappeared from the freedom of the ubiquitous and infinite feed.

That, I think, is something to contemplate.

Full Circle

For the past few years, my friend Jote has encouraged people to take the month of December and find something to be grateful for every single day. I'm never very good at keeping up, and I'm sure that I won't be good at keeping up this year, either. But today… today is sunny and quiet. Today I have three healthy children who are all at school with friends they love. Today I have a glass of iced cold brew (with some Hershey's special dark chocolate blended in). Today I have excellent music playing loud and clear through the whole house. Today I have the morning to enjoy all of these things while I work on my newest book that's under contract.

I'm ridiculously grateful for these things. Almost unspeakably grateful. Breathtakingly grateful.

And yet… there's more.

This book that I'm working on – agonizing over, really – is about a boy who has a baby brother with a trach. A few days ago I got the first part of the advance for this book. It went directly into the bank. I stared at the statement. It's not a ton of money. Not even a half a ton. But compared to a few years ago, it's a megaton. Compared to the years when the baby with a trach was in my living room and not in my book, it's a bit of a miracle. And even more miraculous, I don't have to immediately take the money out of the bank to pay a doctor or to pay for medical supplies or to pay for travel expenses to see our Team of Superhero Doctors. I don't have to count every penny of it to make sure groceries and the mortgage are covered. Our Lone Star card is gone now. WIC is in our rear view mirror. Charitable Care programs no longer mean "programs to keep the Haiku of the Day family afloat."

So this morning – this beautiful December morning – I took some of that money and I made a donation to the hospital where my son had life-saving airway reconstruction surgery. Then I made a donation to the local PICU that saved his life – with some extra funds designated for the NICU that kept him breathing for his first 8 weeks. And I'm going to continue our monthly donation to the milk bank that, through its charitable care program, provided life-saving donor milk for nearly 18 months.  

The idea of coming full circle has always seemed like an abstract ideal, until now. For many years, things were good. For many more years, things were not good. For the past couple of years, things have been on the upswing again. I'm grateful for all of these experiences. I'm grateful for the perspective and the pain and this stunningly wonderful and awful ability to truly understand what it's like to be swallowed by emotion. I'm grateful to be able to give back, even if it's not a lot, and even if it doesn't feel like I could ever give enough to truly say thank-you. I'm grateful that an abstract ideal now has a concrete definition. 

Full circle. 

Here we are.

It feels like it's not enough to be grateful. But I am. For everything.

For everything.