Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Evolution of Ladies Fashion

I am 46 years old.

And I love Talbots. (It's not the only place I shop, mind, but I love the store.)

I remember, tenish years ago, when female colleagues of mine, 40-somethings then, would talk about shopping at Talbots.

I would silently, secretly feel confused and a little judgy . . . For the clothes at Talbots were "old lady" clothes.  Those clothes were not for me.

I was young!  Thirty-six!  No, I shopped at Ann Taylor!  I shopped at Banana Republic!

But I realize something, now.

I understand.

Fashion, like our bodies, evolves. 

When people my age were 20-somethings, we shopped at The Gap, we shopped at Old Navy . . . The Limited was big when I was a young adult. (Remember The Limited?  Does The Limited still exist?  I don't go to malls.)

Anyway, I think the youngsters shop at places like Abercrombie & Fitch and Aeropostale.  But what do I know about these kids?  I'm 46: more than half-90, four years short of my AARP card.

Anyway, it hardly matters where they shop or what they wear because, in your 20s, with your amazing bod (though you revile it, sadly), you can wear pretty much anything and get away with it.

That's why Units were so popular back in the day:  "Hey, girl!  Here's a sack and a belt. Ta-daaaaa!  You look fab. Now, put on some Keds and go get a spiral perm."

As we age and we gain and lose and shift weight around, what worked at one age, just doesn't anymore.

So I love Talbots . . . for their slightly higher waistlines, their slightly more generous cut through the hip and thigh, their whimsical sweaters with birds an monkeys and hedgehogs on them, their A-Line skirts. Sure, maybe the vanity sizing there is a little out of control (Only in the Talbots universe would I be a size 6 in jeans...even curvy cut jeans.), but the clothes fit me and they look good. That's the most important thing.  

And so that's why I'm glad that Talbots and its "old lady" clothes exists.

Although, of course, now I know that these are not old lady clothes.

These are middle aged lady clothes . . . until my AARP card arrives

P.S. Who other than Silicon Valley millionaires retires at age 50?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

My Child is Not an Asshole. You are.

I like the parenting community, Scary Mommy. Amusing anecdotes and observations therein lie.

But this one story keeps popping up there that grates every time I see it:

The gist:  Self-important adult, and fellow parent, observes the interactions of parents and young child in public, and judges the behavior of the child by adult standards. As a fun bonus, said adult, based upon the scant evidence gleaned from this brief interaction, blames the parents' lax/neglectful/indulgent parenting for the kid's poor and/or demanding behavior. 

And, finally, said same adult excuses herself by noting in an off-hand way that her kid is, of course, far from perfect...with the subtext that "at least my kid isn't as bad as that kid . . . and at least I'm a way better parent than those jokers."  A paragon of imperfect parenting, this one.

Now, stipulated:  Spoiled brats with indulgent parents do exist in the world. They are a thing, and they have always been a thing.  Too, I fully, completely and totally understand that a parent is the strongest influence on a small child's moral, social, and spiritual development. And you can -- and most likely will in some small or large way -- screw that up.  And, finally, I admit that, yes, I have, in extremis, privately lamented my son's assholery.  I also admit that that was an immature and wrong thing to do.

All these acknowledgements and stipulations being laid out, there are still so many things wrong with a parenting culture that thinks it is funny -- or at any rate, helpful or illustrative -- to call a child an asshole.

Here are five of those things:

1.  It's ignorant, part A.

Obstinance and difficult behavior in small children is developmentally normal.  And it is also normal for parents to want to go out of the house for a family meal or other event before the child hits puberty.  It is not a solution, as the virtuously imperfect parent implies, just not to take the kids out and about.  Indeed, I would suggest that that is not normal behavior, as it fails to provide the child with opportunities to learn how to behave properly in public situations.   

2.  It's ignorant, part B.  

There are many childhood developmental difficulties and/or learning differences that make normal difficult behavior even more difficult:  attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, opposition defiant disorder, conduct disorder, certain sensory disorders, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, autism spectrum, Down Syndrom.  All of these conditions have the potential to turn normal childhood obstinance into difficult to manage defiance.

I'm sure the solution that this particular imperfectly perfect parent would suggest would be to just keep those kids at home so they can't spread their psychological or psychiatric disorders all over the rest of the normal folks in society.

But that's neither practical nor appropriate.  Just like typical kids, these kids are part of society, and being part of society means learning to function in it.  Who teaches that?  Parents.  And parents cannot teach these kids how to handle themselves in public from the privacy of their living rooms.  These kids and their parents are allowed to go out in public.  And in doing so, these kids and their parents, might have some difficulties. It's how a free and open society works. We don't actually hide these kids in asylums anymore, funnily enough, but allow them to be the part of us that they truly are.  And if we are kind and decent humans, we are sympathetic to these parents and, maybe, we offer help. Which brings me to . . . . 

3.  It's unsympathetic. 

"There but for the grace of God go I," should be your parenting motto. Not, "God has blessed me with superior parenting ability to these pathetic losers."

Drop the pretense of imperfect perfection and actually stand in those people's shoes:
  • Could the parents need a hand?
  • Can you sense a subtext to the child's behavior?
  • Do the parents look harried?
  • What could you do to lighten their load?
Instead if sneering and snarking, surely, there is something helpful you could do. Maybe you could distract their child. Maybe you could distract other children who are around so the parent of the misbehaving child can correct the behavior you find noisome.  Maybe all you can give is a sympathetic, half-grin of solidarity and support, accompanied by a moment of meaningful eye contact. Surely, that's better than criticizing them for bringing their ill-bred kid out for a meal.

And, let's be honest:  There's never been a time when you've taken your kid outside of the house and, much to your chagrin, he's behaved abominably?  Never?  Really?  You are a special unicorn.

4.  It's unhelpful. 

No one but your little echo chamber is listening to you. No one is changing their behavior or their parenting techniques based upon your judgy pronouncements. You are preaching to your imperfectly perfect choir. You change no parent's behavior by unsympathetically calling their child an asshole.  See above for actual ways to lend a hand, which might actually give you the opportunity to talk with the offending parent-of-asshole to offer suggestions or understand their point of view.

5.  It's modeling antisocial behavior for your own child.

That's right: When you judge other parents by a single instance and dub their toddler an "asshole," you are demonstrating to your child how to be an antisocial asshole.

There's no need for sympathy.  No need to offer help.  No need to lend a hand or give a sympathetic smile.

Why do that when you can snap-judge these people from your lofty tower?

I mean, after all, if you offered your sympathy, you might understand what these people are all about. You might see that they are doing their best.  Maybe, just maybe, you might learn something about other humans.  You might even learn to understand yourself better.  And you'd probably show your child how to be a decent human . . . instead of, you know, an asshole.

But why do that when you can write a pithy blog post calling a three year old an asshole and laugh about it with your friends?

Wait.  That's what school bullies do, right?

They attack and exploit the vulnerable in an effort to raise themselves up.  What a great lesson to teach your kids:  why give someone a hand up when you can shove them lower. "Hey, kids, watch Mommy shame and deride these parents and their kid for having the temerity to got out for Sunday brunch!"

But maybe you're not the big giant asshole of a bully I've envisioned you to be.  Maybe you've just used extreme and crass language to describe kid behavior in order to get attention.  Maybe it's "clickbait."

Might there be a better way, though, to get attention for your view that the world is going to hell in a hand basket because some parents (for reasons unknown to you) chose not to eat at a particular restaurant because the restaurant didn't serve food that they knew their child would eat?

I think, maybe, there might be.  In short, even if you're not an asshole, stop acting like one.

Tiny Things Matter

A little over three weeks ago, I broke the pinkie toe on my right foot. I did it in the usual way (if there is a usual way to do such things):  I clumsily walked into a chair leg while barefoot.

Incidentally, I typically don't walk around barefoot because I've done this sort of thing before. So I, at a minimum, wear socks. But often I'm wearing house shoes or Crocs around the house so I do not, e.g., catch my toe on a chair leg.  I actually feel nervous with bare feet, worried that I will once again break a toe in a moment of carelessness.  And, well . . . so I'm not wrong to worry, it turns out.

Often, it's the littlest things that make the difference. You barely think of them, but little things matter.  The missed moment three and a half weeks ago when I did not slip my feet into the Crocs at my bedside mattered.  It was, probably, the moment that meant I would hobble around in Bass Oxfords for six to eighth weeks instead of, you know, not doing that. Tiny moment. A tiny slip of the mind, a tiny distraction, set the series of events in motion that led to a careless swing of my leg as I walked, which led to a popping sound as toe hit chair leg, and, finally, which led to a me flowing to my seat on the floor in pain saying, "Ow, ow, ow, ow" (or possibly some slightly stronger vocabulary), tears welling into my eyes.

By the next morning, my foot had turned blue across the top from beneath the little toe to just beneath the middle toe.  This seemed worse bruising than in prior years when I'd broken a toe. (Indeed, it looked worse than my husband's foot looked a few months ago when he broke his toe.)  And I was in considerable pain. It nearly made me sick to put weight on it, most shoes were intolerable, and walking was a farcical series of limps and hops. 

Nevertheless, that Monday, that morning, was my son's first day of kindergarten. I couldn't miss that. So I painfully slipped an Oxford onto my foot, took the maximum amount of Advil advisable, and hobbled the two-tenths of a mile from our house to the school while he rode his bike up ahead with his dad walking next to him.  Little thing, the first day of school, maybe, but a milestone, and I wasn't going to miss escorting my boy in for his first big day.

Later that morning, I went to the doctor to get the foot checked out. No physician could see me, but the PA could. She examined my foot and X-rayed it. Initially, she didn't see a fracture, told me it was probably a weird sprain or strain -- hence, the weird bruising. Two to three weeks to heal, she said.  Take Advil and stay off of it for a couple of weeks.

A few days later, however, she called and left me a voice message to call her back.  So I did:  my internist had read the X-Ray and saw a tiny hairline fracture in the second phalange in my pinkie toe.  The tiny break would take 6 to 8 weeks to heal. And meanwhile, I should treat it with care -- tape it to the next toe, if I wanted -- and take Advil for the pain, or they could prescribe something stronger.

So here I am three weeks from the minuscule break and, still, the only shoes I can really tolerate are the Oxfords, a pair of Keen hiking shoes, and a pair of running shoes.  For someone who likes crazy (if sensible) shoes, this is not an ideal set of circumstances.  You can imagine, then, how I have tired of working variations on the theme of this look . . . .

 Starting the fourth week of my broken toe-ness, I thought I'd try some block heeled Mary Janes.  They have a fairly ample toe box, and aren't THAT, high.  They're sensible shoes!  These should be fine, I thought.  I could ditch the Oxfords.

I felt fine in them until about half way between my parking garage and the office. That's when my not-yet-healed toe started to throb a bit.  By the end of the day I was discreetly hobbling, and cursing my shoe maven vanity.  So it was back to the Oxfords for the rest of my recovery.  Small thing, maybe, the choice of shoe, except when it's not. 

And that brings me to yoga.  The broken toe had kept me from attending yoga class for two weeks.  Too painful for a down dog!  But this past weekend, I thought I'd give it a go.  I missed going to yoga:  good for the body, good for the mind, good for the spirit.  I missed the stretch and the strength and the balance.

It was great to be back.  I felt refreshed.  I could painlessly do almost every pose and move I was asked to do, except I couldn't balance on my right side.  The first time I tried to balance on the right, pain shot up the right side of my leg from my pinkie toe to my knee.

See?  You use your pinkie toe to balance.  Even in your shoes, you grip down with that toe (and the other toes too) to give you a more secure balancing surface.  This is why in yoga you sometimes hear the instructor tell you to lift your toes up and spread them back down before you attempt a balancing pose.  It's meant to really activate those toes to help you balance.  And when I did that very thing this past Saturday, I learned that I could not grip the floor with my broken toe.  So, without the participation of that one small part of my body, I could not keep the rest of my body from tipping to one side or the other.  Balancing on the left, I was all grace and zen.  Balancing on the right, I was a little like Jerry Lewis doing a pratfall.

The tiniest things matter.  Tiny mistakes, tiny decisions, tiny moments, tiny bones.  It's hard to remember sometimes that, as the trite old saying goes, "The little things mean a lot."  But they do.  Sometimes the littlest things mean the difference between standing tall and gracefully, or falling flat on your face.

I'll be glad when I can balance on the right side again.

But, for now, as my toe continues to heal, I will appreciate the small consolation that I can at least balance on the left.  And I will draw what good I can from a painful and annoying bone break that has limited my sartorial choices:  This broken toe has taught me to be a little more mindful of all of the small things in my world and, I hope, made me a better person by hobbling me first.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Return of the Mommy Blogger

I had a lot to say in my first few years of motherhood -- about feminism, about the mommy wars, about sewing, about cooking, about working motherhood, about motherhood, full stop.  And, as it turns out, I had a lot of time (little did I perceive it) to write all of those thoughts, and feelings, and opinions, and occasional silliness or vitriol down.

I've slowed down.  But I'm still thinking.  I still have opinions, thoughts.

Perhaps, I've settled in.

I just spent some time -- just now before starting to compose this post -- scrolling through my rather impressive library of past blog posts.  I was trying to come up with an idea for today's post.

Maybe there's an unfinished post (and there are a few), I thought, that I could dust off, revise and complete, and then post.  Voila!  I'd be back at it.

But the thing is, even this one post I'd written back in May 2016 about the whole transpersons in the bathroom controversy seems stale now.  It's nearly complete, that post -- I just needed to add a couple of links and a photo of Chaz Bono.  Maybe I could go ahead and post it as a nostalgia-for-the-beginning-of-the-summer-of-2016 post . . . .  Maybe . . . .  I need to find a good picture of Chaz Bono.

I've felt guilty about not writing.  What have I been doing?

Oh, a little bit of this:

A little bit of that:

Certainly, I write a lot at work.  It's 90% of my job.  But, you know, it's not "fun writing."  It's not for me.  It's important, sure, and I need to do it well (and I do, I flatter myself), but it's not self-expression.  (Though, occasionally, even legal writing can be creative.)

It's not exactly that I have writer's block.  But that I, oh, I don't know . . . .

And, I guess that's it, I don't know.

In the halcyon days of my early 40s, so young and brash, I knew things, and I wrote them down for you good people to read.  As I age, I feel more confident in myself and less confident in the world and how it works or should work.

And I certainly care far less about what others think of me and what I do.  And I care less about what others do too as long as they (a) don't bother me and (b) are not harming others.  With those caveats, if you want to make your own red food coloring out of beets rather than buy it at the store -- even though that sounds like a soul sucking vortex of wasted time and effort for little appreciation and only a vaguely red product -- I have no real beef with that.  More power to you.  Who am I to judge?  But please don't make me do it with you.  I'll just go to the Kroger and pick up some McCormick's gel food coloring and be done with it, thank you very much.

I think I've been focusing more on changing myself than changing opinions or the world.  I meditate in the morning.  I work out more.  I do yoga.  And yet I write less.  But that's no good.  Writing is part of that personal change process too . . . or so I am given to understand.

Anyway . . . .  My kid has gotten older.  And raising him becomes more and more fun and more and more difficult.  Because . . . . see?, when I started this blog, he didn't have opinions, not real ones, not considered ones. He was a cute blob of giggling potential.  Slowly, he grew, in brain and body.

And now:  now, he has opinions.  He can debate -- not argue, debate.  My five year old child can form a coherent argument and respond with retorts so pointed, factual, profound and biting that it can set his parents on their heels.  And we're lawyers.  Being rhetorically bested by a five year old when between yourself and your spouse there are 40 years of legal experience is humbling and perspective giving.

Still, having a kid with seriously great verbal skills means that talking to him is tremendous fun (when you're not at loggerheads).  He's funny and quick and tells interesting and creative stories.  (I've always said that I like little kids better than babies because you can have amazing conversations with little kids, and I stand by that opinion.)

And he has interests and real talents -- he's no longer a ball of potential.  He is a ball of accomplishments and potential.  I look at him and I see the baby, and I see the little boy, and I see the projection of the college freshman.  This kid is interesting.  His interests have rekindled long-forgotten interests of my own.  Rather than writing about being his mother, I find that I just want to be his mother.  Less reflection, less contemplation, more in the moment.  Less meta, more physical.

And yet, I do like to write.

But what should I write about?  I don't know.  See?  That's where my head is, now, "I don't know."

But I'm going to try to come back to this blog, fresh, and back to writing.  I'm not sure what I'll write, but I think I should write.  It's a thing that I like to do.  Some days it may be about momming, I'm sure. I suspect many times, it will just be whatever the heck I might be thinking when I sit down to write.  So, maybe, sometimes, there could be scary monsters here.  I can't tell . . . because I don't know.

This isn't a promise of regularity, but an aspiration, an intention.  I promise myself (and you, if you need that from me) that I will try.

At any rate, welcome back to my blog, if you've not visited in awhile.

Or welcome, new visitor, if you have stumbled in here for the first time.  I've got a few years of essays for you to peruse if you're bored.  Or not . . . just start here.  I don't mind.  I'll just write.

Now, I need to go find a photograph of Chaz Bono so I can very belatedly publish that post about bathrooms . . . maybe.

Blogger Time Warp: OMG, There's a Y Chromosome in the Potty!

[This post was originally composed on May 1, 2016 when all we could talk about was the potty.]

Holy crap, people, will you calm down about the bathroom?

Transwomen -- that is, people with Y chromosomes who identify as women -- are not dressing as women and going into ladies' rooms in order to molest grown women or little girls. They are going in there to pee.  They want out of there as quickly as you and I do.

Oh, sure, some perverts/aggressive men may dress in women's weeds and pretend to be trans in order to molest women, but my gut tells me that the percentage of rapist who do this is a small one.  My sense is that a true predictor on the prowl and looking for a lone and vulnerable victim is going to enter a ladies room to nab their prey with or without a dress on.

Nevertheless, there's been a disturbing trend based upon this bathroom transphobia:  Y chromosome persons identifying as men, real He-Men men, have been entering ladies rooms to stop actual women from going to the ladies room because these women didn't look feminine enough for these protectors of the social order, these bathroom gender conformity vigilantes.

So ladies who do not look lady enough in the estimation of random strangers have to prove that they are in-fact lady enough to use the ladies room?

How does that work?

Do they drop trou?

Do they flash a boob?

Do they carry around a copy of their birth certificate?

What about this guy?

This guy is Chaz Bono. He was born Chastity Bono. Two X chromosomes.

It's okay for him to use the ladies room, right?  I mean, it's mandatory, right?, because two X chromosomes, and all.

You see the problem here?

Well, maybe you see the obvious problem, but what about the feminist angle?

The feminist angle, Working Mom?  What do you mean?  This is a trans/transphobic issue, not a feminist issue.

No, there's where you are wrong:  Because implicit in all of this is an argument about what it means to be a woman and what a REAL woman looks like.

If you're kind of a butch chick, or a little bit of an old fashion 1970s tomboy, you are, apparently, de facto suspect.

No.  Guys like the ding-dongs who try to eject not-feminine-enough-by-their-subjective-standards women from the ladies room want women to look a certain way. They want us to be properly and traditionally feminine. And if we aren't, well, we should expect to be followed into the ladies room by (irony abounds) some man wanting you to prove your right to be in there.

Meanwhile, certain states want to pass laws (and have in some instances) to bar this person from the WC with the stick figure in a skirt:

(That's Laverne Cox, transwoman and star of Orange is the New Black, a television show of some sort that I am barely aware of.)

Look, I am traditionally feminine-looking most of the time (but, hey, weekends: baggy jeans, ball cap, baggy sweatshirt and I may become gender-not-so-clear), but I have friends who are not feminine looking ladies. And they deserve to use the potty in peace same as anyone, without having to prove their bona fides as an actual owner of Two Xs in order earn the right to pee in the room with a stick figure in a skirt on the door.

In short:  People need to CFTD about bathrooms.  Go to the bathroom.  Do your business.  And keep your nose out of the business of anyone else who may have entered that bathroom in proximate time with you to do their business.  Chances are things will be just fine. Because, chances are, they're not interested in your shit either.