Thursday, September 29, 2005

Confessions of a former goofball

This is my old license plate from when I lived in Missouri.

Yes, you may mock me now.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Dear Jackass, Volume 3

Dear realtors everywhere:

You narcissistic attention-whore. Must you plaster your homely mug on every single flyer, every single ad, every single business card, and even the aluminum signs in front of the homes you sell? Do you really think to yourself, "I've got to get an edge on all the other realtors out there...but how? Wait, I know! If people could only see how hot I am, they would be hypnotized into doing business with me!"

Who cares what you look like? If I don't need to know what my banker or my chef or my auto mechanic looks like, why do I need to know what my realtor looks like? I'm buying a house, not shopping for a mail order bride. Here's the new rule: If you happen to be one of the .001% of the population who is freakishly gorgeous, you are allowed to arbitrarily paper the city with your photo. But you, Realtor, are no supermodel--and no, a tacky Glamour Shot feather boa doesn't help. Adding your frumpy photo to an advertisement is not an extra incentive to a prospective buyer, but more of a puzzle. Now, instead of marveling at the spectacular amenities of this 3 bedroom town home, I'm sidetracked with trying to fathom what your thought process could possibly have been when posting your sad mugshot above the photo of this lovely abode. Please, in the future, save yourself the time and expense of the photo shoot, and save us from the burden of staring at your bad teeth.

Dear parents of seemingly feral children:

How new-age of you to have developed a parenting style in which your children are allowed to express themselves at any moment in any way they choose, even if it includes leaping off a chair and into a potted plant in a hotel lobby, shouting, "I'm Superman!" Everywhere you go, people hate your kids, which is unfortunate since their bad behavior is your fault, not theirs. Back when I waited tables, I remember serving a lovely, well-dressed couple with beautiful twin girls about 6 years old. As the parents calmly questioned me about the wine list and the Caesar salad, they gave no hint if they were aware that the little blue-eyed wildebeests were repeatedly pouring sugar all over the table and licking it up. To those parents, and to all the rest of you who choose to increase your Prozac prescription rather than taking a couple of minutes to teach your kids how to behave in public, I hope your kids grow up and never, ever move out of your house, because you deserve to have to put up with them until your last breath.

Dear nude frolicker in my gym locker room:

I'm minding my own business, changing my clothes, when suddenly, there you are like my flabbiest nightmare. Your belly is charging off to the left while your boobs are scuttling to the right--then suddenly, without warning, both parts change their minds and switch directions. It's like a flesh stampede, with some body parts threatening to trample others to death. I take no issue with your size; the problem is that I shouldn't be so familiar with it. This kind of nudity is something that should be reserved for the privacy of your own home, or perhaps that handy dressing room provided by our gym, not two feet from where you're now practically aerobicising while brushing your hair. I'm no prude--I change clothes out in the open here in the locker room myself--that's what a locker room is for. But I have the decency to do it quickly and without fanfare. You are actually wandering around nude, now strolling into the bathroom stalls, now brushing your teeth. And could you be a little less chatty? You are actually striking up conversations with random locker room occupants, complete with arm-waving and belly laughing, all free from the confines of clothes. Oh God, now you're eating a protein bar. Please, just a pair of panties, that's all I ask. I shouldn't have to see pubic hair and food in the same setting.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

You people have got to be good for something.

Look at you: Back again, ready to be entertained. It's all about you, you, you, isn't it? You take, and you take, and you take, and you never think of giving. Well, today is your chance to give back. I need some ideas for a good Halloween costume.

Let me just say it's never hard to top our previous year's look. Every year Brian and I wait til the last second and then sorrowfully pick through what's left of the crappy costumes in the stores, ending up with whatever cheap, predictable, hokey junk is left that no one else wanted. Last year we went to a party as a cop and a convict--pretty uncreative, but then again I was 4 months pregnant, and was happy just to find something my potbelly fit into. (There are lots of cute ideas out there for pregnant chicks, but they're much funnier if you're really pregnant--say, 8 months or so--not just a mere four months.) Brian, for his part, was happy with his convict costume because it didn't involve anything too degrading or goofy--all he had to do was step into the orange jumpsuit.

But every year I vow to myself that next year I'll put more thought and effort into Halloween costumes. That's where you come in. Surely you've got some ideas for us--preferably something that works for a couple, so that my costume makes sense in light of his, and vice versa. I would love to be Little Bo Peep, for example, but since that would involve dressing Brian up as a sheep, I'm pretty sure I'd have to heavily medicate him first. He would rather not to have to wear lots of makeup or a wig or a huge cardboard thingamajig. I, on the other hand, am willing to degrade myself in any number of ways in order to achieve a funny or cute costume, but naturally I'd prefer if it could be something I looked cute in. Little Bo Peep would great because there lots of ways for a girl to look adorable in that kind of costume. Heck, I could even figure out how to make myself into a reasonably cute sheep, if only I could talk Brian into being the Little Bo Peep. Again, that would involve some kind of sedative, possibly something designed for farm animals and administered with a gun.

I've asked my friends for ideas, but they're no help. I turned to Common Wombat for advice, but was met with his confession that he let his wife Sally dress the two of them up as M&Ms one year. This tells me two things: 1) He loves that woman very, very much, and 2) She does not love him at all. It does sound pretty cute, though, and I toyed with the idea of asking Brian if we could do that this year, but then I remembered that I have a small child to raise, and it's easier to do that in a two-parent home. So I kept my mouth shut.

Now, don't think you won't be rewarded for your help. If I use your idea, here's what you'll get in return:

1) I will put a pox on the enemy of your choice.
2) I will name my 15th child after you.
3) I will vow to never, ever throw a drink in your face in a crowded bar and call you a gutless swine.
4) I will post a picture of us in our costumes, lavishing you with credit and praise. My guess is it will be only a matter of time after that before your name becomes synonymous with Halloween fashion, and soon all the top designers will be knocking down your door, begging to make you rich and famous with your own clothing line. Eventually you will be sleeping with half the stars and/or starlets in Hollywood, and after a few stints in rehab and an illegitimate child or two, you will reemerge as a Hollywood darling again when you star in your own reality show based on your struggles to get your life back on track.

All in all, I think this is a pretty good deal for you, and it will save me a lot of tedious thinking. So get to work, folks, and make me look like a genius this Halloween.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Mockery 101: Your first assignment

Isn't it fun to mock people? There's something so satisfying in imagining that you are so incredibly intelligent, with your ponderously large brain, that the vast majority of the population is simply beneath you. And what better way to make yourself feel smarter than to mock others?

Often, the practice of mocking others involves pretending people are way dumber than they actually are. Let's say someone asks you a question that's a bit silly and uninformed--but in your head (because you'd never have the balls to say it out loud), you get all worked up over it as if it were the world's dumbest question; you make a disproportionately big deal about it, later retelling the story to your friends in such a way as to magnify the supposed stupidity of the person. For example, I once heard a guy say he needed some double-sided transparencies--a silly idea, considering transparencies are TRANSPARENT, and therefore can't be double-sided, because, well, side 1 would show through onto side 2. The silly part was how long it took to convince this guy that it wasn't possible to accomplish this. The guy just didn't get it. Now, I often cite that as an example of a dumb question, but the truth is, that guy probably wasn't really dumb, but just a little confused about the subject. That's a lot of what goes on in the world of mockery--you seize upon the tiniest infraction and exaggerate it to make a person seem way stupider than he probably really is, all in the name of feeling better about yourself for a few heady moments.

But what you really look for are those truly golden opportunities, those super satisfying moments when you find someone to mock who really deserves it, someone who does something really, incredibly dumb, no question about it. Sadly, those opportunities come along fairly rarely, so you're forced to mine the thousands of average, fairly intelligent interactions in your typical week and make do with what you have. Wouldn't you enjoy a good, solid mocking victim right about now? Someone who redefines the word "idiot?" You would? Great, then sit back, because I have a good one for you. This is going to make you feel so smart.

When I was 15, we took a test in one of my school classes in which were called upon to summon all of our knowledge of our own private parts and those of our neighbors. Our teacher provided each of us with a very artful rendering of a pee-pee and a woo-woo, and tasked us with labeling the various bits appropriately. Naturally, there was much snickering among us as the tests were handed out, and a good time was had by all. Well, all except one, for whom the jokes must have gone sailing right over her addled head.

Below you will find my test and hers. Mine is not so incredibly impressive--I scored a mere 87% on the female portion of the test, and a 93% on the male. (Baffling, since one would think I was a shoe-in to do better in identifying the parts I actually possessed in my very own undies--kind of like a cheat sheet in my bloomers.) But to be fair, I hadn't had much interaction with genitals up to that point--hardly any with my own, and certainly none with anyone else's. Still, I didn't do too badly, and was at least very thorough, as you can see from the detailed descriptions of the various and sundry parts, which I fastidiously scribbled on the back side of my test.

But here's where your mocking opportunity comes in. There was a girl in my class who I'll call Brenda. I don't remember how I came into possession of her test, but the moment I laid eyes on it, I knew it was comedy gold. I've kept it lo these many years, perfectly preserved and treasured as though it were the original first draft of our Constitution. I think if my house had caught fire at any point over the years, I would have risked life and limb to run back in and save this important document.

Here are Brenda's slightly misguided answers.

Notice she scored a paltry 12% on the female parts, and a shameful 0% on the male. In case your eyesight isn't so great, let me just point out that the top image, which is clearly the female part, has been labeled with a vas deferens, a penis (which she misspelled), and even a testicle. And the bottom image, which should be quickly noticed to be the male part because of the tell-tale PENIS hanging solemnly off of it, is labeled with two ovaries, a seminal vesicle (which she has renamed the feminine vesticle), a Fallopian tube which she appears to have tried to rename a Phillipino tube, and yes, a vagina. And the very object which should identify this drawing so obviously as a male part--the aforementioned penis--is, in fact, the very part that she labeled a vagina. Also chuckle-worthy is the presence of the urethra, which she renamed the urena, and the epididymis, which she renamed the epicenter.

And here's the back side of her sheet, left blank, as if she felt she had pretty much said it all on the front side of the test.

Now, let me clear up some questions you must surely have. No, this girl was not mentally challenged. She did not attend Special Ed classes and didn't appear to need them. She was strictly a C and D student throughout high school, but she wasn't in need of a spot on the short bus. She looked normal enough and spoke normally enough, although no one would have called her quick witted or loquacious. She was just your average kid--or so I thought until I was confounded with this mystifying test of hers.

Which begs the question: What the hell was in this girl's pants? I have to assume she had one of those hangy-downy things that she labeled a vagina.

I suppose I could ask my ex-boyfriend about it--who, a few years later, actually cheated on me with this sexually confused dimwit possessing ambiguous private parts. Which only goes to show, you don't necessarily have to know one single thing about the male or the female sex organs in order to make use of them in the back seat of a car.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Can't an alcoholic get a goddamn nap anymore?

I always thought I had a good "woke up drunk" story--you know, an entertaining story about a funny place I woke up after a night of drinking. And I do have one--but as usual, my friend Josh makes me look like a lightweight.

First, my sordid story. Many years ago, my friend Becky and I went to Warrensburg (about an hour from home) for a street dance. I don't remember much of the dance, except that it wasn't as much fun as I'd hoped. Okay, perhaps that can be attributed to the fact that I got too drunk to enjoy it. At any rate, what I do remember is waking up in the middle of the night to the feeling of cold rain pelting me in the back. Hmmm--how odd. Was there a leak in my bedroom ceiling? A groggy, cursory inventory of the situation revealed that I had passed out face-down on the sidewalk. In an alley. About a foot from the open door of my car, where my keys were in the ignition and my purse was on the seat. It was 4 AM, there was no sign of Becky in sight, and I had those little bitty sidewalk pebbles permanently lodged into the flesh of my right cheek.

Incredible--could it really be that I was stupider and more careless than I had previously realized? I made a mental note to add this to the tediously long list of things I had done that I would crap myself if my future kids ever thought of doing. (And in case you're wondering, no, I don't drink like that anymore. In fact, that's the only time I ever did anything that stupid.)

But then there's Josh's story, which makes my drunken evening sound like an afternoon spent volunteering at an old folk's home.

One night he was sleeping peacefully when, from the depths of his very sound sleep, he thought he heard some kind of knocking sound. Hoping it was a dream, he tried to ignore it and settle back into his deep slumber. But the knocking sound continued, and as his fuzzy brain floated nearer and nearer to consciousness, the noise got louder, eventually revealing itself to be a very obnoxious banging indeed. Irritated to be yanked out of his lovely sleep, Josh angrily sat up and prepared to locate and punish the maker of the sound. Looking to his left, he quickly spotted the source of the commotion: Someone was rapping on his window. But why? What could be so important that he'd need to be awakened in the middle of the goddamn night? Squinting, he realized it was a cop. What the hell was going on here? And what was that infernal honking sound?

That's when he noticed he was in the back seat of a car.

At a stoplight in Kansas City.

And his brother was passed out in the front seat, with his head on the steering wheel, laying on the horn.

Uh oh.

But while that part of the story is strange indeed, perhaps the strangest part of is that the cop let them go. Somehow Josh convinced him that he was refreshed from his nap and able to handle the driving that his brother had so clearly been unable to. But don't go thinking Josh gets away with everything--he did, after all, get a DUI on a moped once. If I remember correctly, he was only driving the moped because he knew he was too drunk to drive a car, and was hoping to avoid a DUI by driving the moped instead. But as he eventually discovered, the law is no kinder to drunks on mopeds than drunks in cars.

His thinking wasn't totally flawed--in my teeny tiny hometown (about 30 minutes from where he got his two-wheeled DUI) there is an old man with a bit of a drinking problem. He has been in trouble with the local cops so many times for driving drunk that he finally either agreed not to drive his car anymore, or perhaps his family intervened and took it away from him. More likely, he lost his license long ago. At any rate, he no longer careens drunkenly around town in his car. Now he does it on his riding lawn mower. There are seven miles of highway between my hometown and his favorite bar in the nearest teeny neighboring town, and he can often be seen traversing them, at the rate of a crippled turtle, on his riding lawn mower, on his way to happy hour. As far as I know, the cops don't object to this.

What have we learned from this story?

1) An alley is a perfectly safe place to sleep, where your car, your purse, and your virtue will remain safe from pillagers and plunderers.

2) Cops in Kansas City are sympathetic to the plight of the public napper.

3) Drunk on a moped = jail time. Drunk on a lawn mower = quaint slice of small-town life.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

When flies suddenly gather in uncommon numbers, it's rarely just a coincidence

When I was 16, I drove a Chevy Citation for awhile. Not exactly a hot car, what with the hatchback and all, not to mention the bland grey interior to match the bland grey exterior. But hey, when you're 16 you're just glad to be driving. Know what's less hot than a grey Chevy Citation? A grey Chevy Citation full of flies.

I hate bugs. I know, hardly anyone outside of the entomologist population is big fan of them, but you've got to remember, I lived in Alaska til I was 8 years old. In Alaska, there are maybe 5 types of relatively non-scary insects, and other than that, there's just a whole lotta moose and caribou. I had seen mosquitos, ants, a couple flies and some bees--but none of those in any kind of number. I didn't like bugs, but I also just didn't think much about them, since they weren't much of an issue.

Then, owing to the general lack of adult supervision in my life at that time, I saw two horror movies when I was 7 years old which dealt with insects as predator. One was called The Bees, and the other was called The Swarm. Both of these movies, according to, are laughably bad, neither earning even as high as a scant 4 stars out of 10. But in both movies, incredible numbers of insects get together and basically blanket people, feasting on their flesh. There's a scene in one of the movies, I recall, where a frightened couple races to their car to escape the insect horde, and just as they're breathing a sigh of relief, the insects simply blanket the car and enter through the A/C vents and kill them anyway. I think I remember a scene in which insects are hiding inside a toilet--I'm not sure how well that worked since most insects don't do well in the water, but what I know for sure is that I spent the rest of that year lifting toilet seats and checking underneath to be sure there were no surprises before I used them. So there I was, just turning 8 years old, beginning to be a little skeeved out by bugs.

Then I moved to Missouri. In comparison to Alaska, Missouri is one massive insect nest. As an 8-year-old I was shocked upon discovering the vast array and sheer numbers of all the many insects I was apparently surrounded by in that new state. As far as I could tell, the movies I had seen had it right--insects did indeed exist in the kind of voluminous hordes that could consume the human flesh of most of North America. For a couple of months, before we were able to get a house, we stayed in a double-wide trailer belonging to a friend of mom's. I don't know how many of you have spent time in a trailer, but in addition to that one occasion, I also stayed in one many years later for about a month, and I can tell you one thing: Insects LOVE them. That first trailer experience was a fright show. For one thing, crickets were coming up through the drain in the bathtub. We'd kill the crickets, and the next day there'd be a cricket party in the tub again. We took to leaving the bathroom door closed at night to contain them, then drenching the tub with Raid in the morning to get rid of them again. I was aghast--they were coming up through the pipes! Exactly the kind of thing that happened in those movies!

Worse, there was some kind of incredibly stupid, hard-bodied beetle-ish insects that kept sneaking into the trailer and then bumping along the ceiling at night while I was trying to sleep. I'd be laying there in bed and hear them bump bump bumping against the ceiling as they flew around, seemingly trying to get past the ceiling to fly a little higher. It's one thing to know there are insects in the house, but it's just too much to ask that a person tolerate the kind of bugs that create a racket and constantly remind you of their presence. We had noisy crickets chirping merrily in both bathrooms, and the stupid beetle-y things banging themselves methodically against our ceilings. It was enough to drive a person nuts. And trailers are so cheaply made that there is often a ridiculous gap of an inch or more at the bottom of the doors that separate one room from another. Once my bedroom had been cleared of all invaders, I'd stuff a towel in that cavernous gap to help keep them out, then I would lay there in bed with the covers pulled up over my head, hoping that would afford some protection against them.

But enough about my psychosis.

Fast forward to me at age 16, in my bland Chevy Citation. It was summer in Missouri and I got into my car on a particularly hot day and noticed a big, fat fly buzzing around. Ack! Gross. And there's nothing more irritating than trying to driving while a fly is circling your head, so I opened the doors and shooed him out with much arm-waving. Then I went on my way, to a friend's house for a visit. Later, as I got back in my car to return home--another fly. I did that same comical dance, waving my arms and flinging myself over the seat to reach into the back seat, finally ousting the filthy little interloper. Weird--I hadn't left the windows down, but whatever. Flies are sneaky. He must have flown in during that split second that I had the door open to get in. But this went on. The next morning as I got into the car, there were two flies! Again, the windows had been up all night. What a bizarre coincidence! I shooed them out, and went about my business, but the next time I got in the car again, a few hours later...three flies! They were taunting me! I didn't have time to think about it right then, so after a now-routine shooing, off I went, and as you probably predicted, more flies appeared again later that day.

By now I'd had enough. Clearly, as you've gathered by now from the various escapades from my past that I've recounted on this blog, I'm no genius. But even I could see there had to be some explanation for this beyond mere coincidence. In the parking lot of the grocery store, where I happened to be at this most recent fly invasion, I began inspecting my car for clues. Front seat: Clear. Back seat: Nothing particularly suspicious. Hatchback: Seemingly normal. Just a few random things thrown back there and forgotten--a sweater, a pair of tennis shoes, a paper bag...hmmm. What's this in the bag? Mother of God, it's a sack of potatoes...TEEMING WITH MAGGOTS! What the fuck?! Who did this?! I leapt about a foot in the air, braying like a donkey on fire.

Then I remembered--I had gone grocery shopping for mom a couple weeks back. Clearly, I had carelessly left one bag in the car. And now that bag was a carnival of maggots. Why couldn't I have left the bag containing the canned goods? Or the one containing the toilet paper? More importantly, what do you do when your car turns into a breeding ground for flies? I had to somehow drive home in this fuel-efficient mobile nest. Howling dramatically and hopping from side to side, I snatched the bag out of the car and flung it across the parking lot like I was afraid it would bite me. After a quick inspection for leftover maggots (they very politely stayed corraled inside the bag instead of scattering througout my hatchback), I raced off to the carwash to give that car a vigorious, punishing scrubbing akin to what a rape victim probably does to herself immediately after the attack.

So there you have it: Proof that what you see in the movies is often not so far-fetched. The insects are coming for us. Just don't make things worse by storing potatoes in an environment of 100-plus degrees.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Lessons I've learned, Part 8

I should never, ever be allowed to speak.

It would be difficult to convey to you how many times I have opened my big, dumb mouth and said something so retarded, so mortifying, that I lay awake the next several nights wishing for my own death. I'd blog about them so you could get your jollies laughing at my stupidity, but the internet isn't big enough to hold them all. However, one particularly unfortunate boo-boo was so traumatizing to me that it's never far from my mind, in spite of the years that have passed since it occurred. Every once in a while I notice it feels like there's something in my throat, and eventually I realize it's my foot, where it's still permanently lodged after this one particularly heinous faux pas.

I live in Texas, but still have some family and friends in my hometown in Missouri, so I go back from time to time. On one particular visit, I was in the lone drugstore of that incredibly tiny town when a man who looked to be in his seventies spotted me and was very excited to see me. He was so sweet, so kind and so enthusiastic, it was as if seeing me had made his day.

You'd have to understand my hometown; it is very, very small. I can hear some of you now--"I come from a small town, too!" No, you don't. Not like this. There were 38 kids in my senior class in high school. There is one street light in town, and it's on the main street, a flashing yellow. Everyone knows everyone. This is the kind of town where, when a car shows up in town with out-of-state plates, it's news. "Who is that? The car has Idaho plates." " I think it's Kitty's cousin." No, you're wrong--I think Bob has a sister from Idaho, though, it could be her." Etcetera. There's a little old lady in town who has a police scanner in her home, which she sits by all day long, enraptured, as if she's watching TV. The moment anyone gets stopped or arrested, she's on the phone to anyone and everyone she knows to report the news. She actually gossips about what she sees in other peoples' shopping carts at the grocery store, as in, "I guess Jackie's husband is making some good money now, I saw her buying steaks." Growing up, I used to hate the total lack of privacy that comes from small town life. I probably only went to the doctor once a year or less, but still, if I called the only clinic in town to make a doctor's appointment, the office worker who answered the phone would say, "Can I help you?" and I'd say, "I'd like to make an appointment," and she'd say, "Oh, hi, Karla." And this was before our town got caller ID.

There were only a handful of businesses in town--one grocery store, two gas stations, one hardware store, one florist, etc. My mom happened to own one of the two restaurants in town, which made her high profile, as in, everyone knew her. And by extension, it seemed like everyone knew me, even though I didn't necessarily know all of them. I was probably introduced to them all at some point, but forgot lots of names, partly because I was a kid, and partly because I was (and still am) fairly self-absorbed. This is why it came as no surprise to me that this very kind elderly man knew me and knew all about me, while I could not, for the life of me, guess who in hell he might be.

This happens to me a lot when I'm back for a visit, and usually I can play it off because the exchanges are fairly short. Someone will call out, "Hi Karla!" and I will answer as if I know them. We will exchange the briefest of pleasantries, and both be on our way, with the other person naturally assuming I knew exactly who they were. I hoped to be able to pull off the same scam with this man, because the alternative--letting him know I didn't remember him--was out of the question. He was just so glad to see me--how could I tell him that I didn't even remember him? So I played along, hoping his identity would come to me at some point. The thing that haunts me even now is that he gave me an out--he actually said to me at the start of the conversation, "You probably don't remember me, do you?" And God help me, he was just so sweet and cheerful that I didn't have the heart to say no, so I said, "Yeah, of course I do!"

I'm actually a pretty skillful bullshitter, so I thought I could pull this off. Plus, I know that the key to getting away with any kind of lie is to keep the exchange brief, try to make your escape before being caught. With this man, however, it was not so easy to extricate myself from the situation. He wanted details about my life, and asked me very specific questions. "How's your mom? I know her health hasn't been so great lately." "I hear you moved to Texas--what part? Do you like it there?" "What brings you to town? How long are you here for?" This went on and on. This guy was clearly retired, and seemed to be someone who perhaps didn't have a lot to do in his day-to-day life--why else would he be so thrilled to see me, someone who he probably hadn't seen in 10 years? I wanted to turn the conversation back toward him before I blew my cover--plus, it would have been incredibly rude to answer all his questions about me and never ask one about him. So I took the first opportunity to ask, "So what have you been up to?" As he opened his mouth to answer, I was wracking my brain--who IS this guy? I was desperately hoping to mine his responses for clues. Here's the sad saga of how it went down:

Me: So what have you been up to?
Him: Oh, well, not too heard about my wife.
Me: (Nodding solemnly) Yeah, I did.
Him: Yeah, so I'm living by myself now, which is hard.

At this point I was thinking, Ah-ha! His wife left him! This gives me a clue. But he kind of had that hangdog attitude about it, like he'd been dumped by her, so in an effort to put a more positive spin on it, I brightened and said:

Me: Hey, you're back on the market!
Him: Well...I don't know if I'd put it that way...(trails off)

Suddenly, total recall hit me like a bucket of cold water. I knew exactly who this guy was: It was Mr. J, the father of a kid I went to school with, and longtime patron of my mom's restaurant. His wife died about a year before; I remembered my mom mentioning it to me.



Did I just tell a man whose wife died that he's back on the fucking market??!

Can't...breathe....Foot jammed in mouth just past the knee....

I don't remember what happened after that. I have no idea how the conversation ended, or if I was in any way able to recover from that. (Is that possible!?) It's like I blacked out from the mortifying horror I felt. The next thing I remember is practically racing across the street to meet up with Brian, who had been in the grocery store picking up some food. I breathlessly recapped the scene, gushing miserably about what a goddamn idiot I was.

Now, any responsible person would have agreed with me that I was, indeed, a goddamn idiot, or at the very least, that I had stuck my foot in my mouth. (If only I had stuck in in there sooner, before I got a chance to speak.) But my husband loves me a little too much for total honesty, and can't stand to see me in such a fervor. He actually tried to convince me that it wasn't that big a deal, that Mr. J. probably hadn't noticed, etc. In spite of my protests and retelling of the story to be SURE he understood exactly how thoughtless and stupid I had actually been, he stuck to his reassurances that I had behaved in a perfectly acceptable manner. You've got to love a man who will flat-out lie to try make you feel better.

I have to tell you, this story still horrifies me to this day. I managed to surpass even my own expectations of exactly how stupid I'm capable of being. I learned a very important lesson that day: I should never, ever speak unless I'm reading from a script that someone else wrote.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

The Bad Mommy Chronicles, Part I

When I was pregnant with Jake, my husband and I still got invited out to bars on the weekends like we did before the pregnancy--but I rarely went. Sometimes I'd tell Brian to go on without me, other times the two of us would just stay home or go to a restaurant together, but rarely did I fraternize with drunk people. I tried it a few times, early on, and I discovered something very important that many of you may already know: Drunk people are only tolerable when you are also drunk--and the drunker the better. In my pregnant sobriety, I would sit at a table in a bar with my friends for a couple of hours thinking, "Good God, why am I friends with these people?" I learned how very important it is that either all of us be drunk, or none of us be drunk. Pregnancy is tiring and irritating enough without the added tedium of 7 drunk idiots haw-hawing at every unfunny remark made and continuously repeated in a two-hour span.

However, it so happens that I did buy a lot of booze while I was pregnant. I know, I know, this doesn't surprise you, but I promise, it wasn't for me, it was for Christmas gifts. Brian and I spent that Christmas in Corpus Christi visiting his extended family, and there were many people there we rarely see. What kind of gift do you give people whose tastes you don't know well? Booze; always a safe bet. Plus, Brian's mom and dad have been getting more into wine recently, and have been experimenting with different types and reporting their findings to us (because we're big wine whores), so I thought it would be cool to get them 10 bottles of different types of wine. (Plus, while I love to buy gifts and normally spend the months prior to Christmas traipsing through store after store looking for just the right gift for each person on our list, that Christmas I was the size of and relative shape of a Shetland pony, and wished to minimize the traipsing. The liquor store was my answer to a one-stop shop for all the good little boys and girls on my Christmas list.) So with the 10 bottles of wine for the in-laws and the various single bottles I bought for this person or that, I ended up buying probably 20 bottles of wine that Christmas, all while I was 6 months pregnant.

Nothing makes you feel quite so seedy and shameful as shopping for booze while pregnant. Not to mention I wasn't just buying one or two things, but a whole, bulging shopping cart-load--really, it was like that scene in Leaving Las Vegas, where Nicolas Cage, having decided to check into a hotel and drink himself literally to death, is cha-chaing through the liquor store, piling bottle after bottle into his shopping cart, while drunk off his ass. Well--except for the fact that he wasn't pregnant. And I wasn't drunk. As far as you know. But just as I was trying to console myself with the thought that surely bystanders who saw me lumbering along behind my cartload of spirits would know I was buying this for other people and not for myself--the meddling old man who rang me up looked disapprovingly at me over his glasses and actually wagged his finger at me as he said gravely, "None of this for mommy." Yeah jackass, I got the memo that booze isn't recommended by the Surgeon General for fetuses. Man, it's like a pregnant girl can't even be an alcoholic these days without catching some flack. Things sure were a whole lot different when I was in utero. My mom drank, smoked and did God-knows what else while I was incubating. Now, just because a few babies have been born with a third leg or no skin, everyone's all uptight. (Just kidding, of course. I behaved myself very nicely while pregnant--and really haven't drank much since Jake's been born, either. Damnit.)

I didn't set foot into a liquor store again until my son was 6 months old--an unheard of stretch of time, considering most of my adult life I have faithfully frequented those magical places on a regular basis. The liquor store is my Toys R Us. Or was, anyway. Drinking is not as much fun now that I have an infant in the house. Even when he goes to grandma's now and then and we have a night out with friends, I'm always acutely aware that we'll be picking him up soon and he'll be chirping merrily at 7:30 AM, ready for breakfast, so drinking is no longer as fun as God intended it to be. At any rate, recently I had to buy Brian's dad a birthday gift, and he is not easy to buy for. I asked Brian's mom for hints, and she recommended getting him some different imported beers.

Brian's parents are not the alcoholics I'm probably inadvertently making them out to be, and it's not like we buy them booze for gifts on a regular basis. In fact, it's the opposite--they don't drink that much, which is why it made sense to buy them a variety of wines that Christmas, since they haven't drank enough wine in their lives to know just what they like--they're still experimenting to find what appeals to them. Plus, they have a built-in wine rack in their den which has been completely empty all the years I've known them, so I thought it would be cool to fill it. As for the imported beer for the birthday gift, same story--Brian's dad likes imported beer but doesn't drink it often enough to be a connoisseur, so it was a nice idea to get him a few different kinds to experiment with.

(Certain members of my family, on the other hand, know exactly what they like to drink, thanks to many years of dedicated attention to their livers. No experimentation needed there.)

So there I was, one Friday morning, faced with the chore of buying Brian's dad's birthday beer. I also needed to pick up a six-pack for Brian, since that was the night of my friend Vanessa's surprise birthday party, and Brian would not have time to stop at the store before heading to the shindig. I had Jake with me, though, and while I hated to take a baby to the liquor store, from what I understand, it's frowned upon to leave a 6-month-old home alone, even if you lock him in a small room with a bowl of water and a jar of baby food, and no access to lighters or other dangerous items. Bizarre, but whatever. I'm a rule-follower, so I did what's expected of me and took him along with me. To the liquor store.

He was asleep by the time we got there, so instead of just carrying his car seat by the handle and possibly waking him up, I put the car seat in the stroller so he'd have a smoother ride and hopefully get to finish his nap. I felt like a colossal ass pushing my stroller into the liquor store, but I kept my eyes front and didn't check to see if anyone was staring, or possibly grabbing a phone to call Child Protective Services. As I perused the imported beers, Jake woke up and began to fidget and complain, so I picked him up and carried him on my hip as I shopped for the beer. Then I began to calculate how many six-packs I needed to make a decent-sized birthday gift--I decided on four. Plus one for Brian--that's a lot of beer to carry. I needed a shopping cart. But there's no way to push a shopping cart and a stroller both at the baby wasn't even in his stroller at the moment, but chattering happily away in my arms...why not put the beer in the stroller? I'm a common-sense girl. So into the stroller, exactly where Jake would normally sit, I piled 5 six-packs of bottled beer. That made the stroller pretty heavy, so I had to lean my shoulder into it as I struggled to negotiate the various wine displays and aisles of liquor, pushing my combination stroller/booze wagon toward the cash register while balancing my 20-pound baby on my hip.

When I was almost to the register I encountered a tight corner between the bargain schnapps bin and the wine gift bag display, and one of the cashiers cheerfully hustled over to help, pulling my overloaded stroller the rest of the way to the register for me. In all, there were three cashiers gathered around as I hefted 6-pack after 6-pack of beer out of the stroller, like a magician pulling rabbits out of a hat, mumbling lamely about a birthday gift for my father-in-law. Why did I feel like I was lying, when I wasn't? Funny how when you think you look like a criminal, it makes you actually feel guilty, as if you really are doing something wrong. Anyway, no one said what they must have been thinking--that Jake should be removed from my custody as soon as possible--and I paid my tab and left. Along with one of the cashiers, who generously transported my tower of beer to the car for me and loaded it in. Yes, I bought so much beer at the liquor store with my infant that I needed a carry-out.

That's where this episode of The Bad Mommy Chronicles should end, but just yesterday I reached a new low. My friend Brooks recently had a birthday, and would be coming over to my house that evening. I needed to get him a birthday gift...but what do you get for the guy who has...some things? Brooks is a dear friend of mine and I love him. I think you know what that means--I had to get him a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20. Not because I thought he'd actually drink it, but just because the thought of it made me giggle. That would mean yet another mother-son outing to the liquor store.

As we entered the store (a different one this time), a cheerful girl behind a table parked right by the door said, "Hi! Would you like to try a sample of our Vodka Mudshake?" I had seen her through the glass door as I approached the building. This was a liquor store that almost always had someone handing out samples at the door, but I assumed because I had a baby on my hip, she'd let me pass unmolested. I was a little surprised she even asked me, but I laughed and responded, "Right--that wouldn't look wrong or anything, drinking booze with a baby in my arms," and she replied, "Oh, it's just a sip." Damn pushers, they know just how to get you. But she had a point. The little sample cups stacked beside her were the size of thimbles. "Okay, I'll try it." So I took my sip of creamy, chocolatey vodka-stuff, thanked her politely, and then pivoted toward the cashier to ask, "Where's the Mad Dog?"

I've got to hand it to these liquor store employees, they are masters at not acting judgmental when someone does something that the rest of the world would consider wrong. I get the feeling I could smoke a crack pipe while carrying a basket of severed arms around the store, as long as I was on my way to the register to make a purchase. Instead of being shocked that someone would bring an innocent baby into this den of iniquity and then commit the even graver sin of buying the cheapest swill in the store, normally reserved only for people who sleep on sidewalks, the cheerful cashier insisted on holding Jake for me while I selected from the colorful array of Mad Dog flavors. Lime green, bright red, orange, purple...wait, isn't this supposed to be wine? It says so right on the bottle, but to my knowledge, there are no orange or lime-colored grapes. Never mind. I'm an old fashioned girl, so I went for the tried-and-true purple stuff, none of those new-fangled fancy flavors. Brooks would be puking up purple, like decades of Mad Dog drinkers before him. I hadn't seen a bottle of Mad Dog since high school, and I had forgotten how unbelievably cheap it is--$2.99 a bottle! See, it's true--you don't have to spend a lot of money to get a fine bottle of wine. I took my baby back from the helpful cashier and, with my bottle of cheap rot-gut in the other hand, I carried Jake to the cash register. He sat on the counter, grinning and swinging his arms like a madman while I paid, and the sweet, smiling cashier asked me not once but four times if I was sure I didn't need help out to the car. Thanks lady, but like any good mother, I think I can carry an infant and a bottle of booze from the liquor store to my car. My mother did it, my mother's mother did it, my great-great-grandmother's mother did get the picture.

So anyway, it's day 203 of Jake's life, and he has yet to be taken away from me. So far so good!