Thursday, August 31, 2006

Be my brain

Those of you who have been reading here for a while—do you recall if I ever posted my birth (from conception to NICU) story? I tried Googling the answer to that question, and it didn't dig up anything. If I did write up my story, I don't want to repeat myself, but if I didn't, I feel I ought to. Anyone know if I've posted that already?

Edited to add this: Okay, I've only written a little summary. I'll get moving on the full version one of these months. Basic outline:

Conception and Infertility: How I conceived a baby while my husband was away at work. I swear it's his!

Pregnancy: The First Trimester: Migraines and holiday hospitalization.

Pregnancy: The Next 1 1/3 Trimesters: Culminating in preeclampsia.

Party in Labor & Delivery: Rubber glove, ice cubes, groin. Need I elaborate?

Postpartum Woes, Chapter 1: The ICU Edition.

Postpartum Woes, Chapter 2: Spinal Headache Special Edition.

Postpartum Woes, Chapter 3: Lactation or Non?

Postpartum Woes, Chapter 4: The NICU Edition, including the baby shower.

The epic battle: sudoku vs. crosswords

(Cross-posted at Bitch Ph.D.; a few edits made here.)

When you see someone engrossed in a sudoku puzzle, I encourage you to look on them with pity. And when you witness someone solving a crossword, please smile, nod appreciatively, and flirt.

Sudoku puzzles serve their purpose, yes: they pass the time (I admit to doing them on occasion—haven't I said I am a procrastinator?). But don't kid yourself. You're not learning anything, and you're not making yourself any smarter by doing them. It's the same logical challenge every time. It's not as if you've learned something essential about the number 4 and can now unlock the mysteries of the universe.

Now, crossword puzzles are a different story. Every one is different, the good ones have some funny clues, you stretch your brain when you have to think flexibly to interpret tricky clues, and you learn an awful lot of trivia (which can expand your horizons a little—think of all the 70-year-old women who now know the names of a few rappers because they appeared in the New York Times crossword).

If you've grown fond of sudoku, is it because you "can't do crosswords"? Nonsense. You may think you can't do crosswords, but really, you can. Just start with the easy ones. There are plenty of books of NYT and other crosswords specifically labeled "easy" (or even "easy, breezy"), and the Monday NYT puzzle has become easier of late. Start with the easy ones (and go for the easiest clues first—generally fill-in-the-blank clues, or anything asking for a name you know), and check the solutions in the back of the book for any answers you don't know. Don't just fill them in—reread the clue and figure out how the answer goes with it. Over time, you'll learn the ropes and become more adept, and then you can move along to tougher puzzles.

If you thought crosswords were stodgy things for boring old folks, think again. Even the Onion (the Onion!) will start running a crossword in a few weeks. See? So not stodgy. This is not your grandmother's crossword puzzle any more. But sudoku? Stodgy by nature. You can tart it up with different twists, but it remains the same logical task for your brain, over and over. All the cool kids are moving to crosswords.

If you've ever wondered how crosswords are made, don't miss Patrick Creadon's entertaining crossword documentary, Wordplay; it's still playing in selected theaters, and the DVD is due out in early November. Be sure to save it in your Netflix queue, because it's a good movie, some of my crossword-geek friends star in it, and I cameo in it—watch for the curtsy by the woman in lime green. Jon Stewart and Bill Clinton are among the famous crossword fans featured in the movie, and they ain't stodgy. See the movie, catch crossword fever. (And don't hold your breath for a sudoku movie.)

There are some impassioned defenses of sudoku in the comments at Bitch Ph.D. I find them unpersuasive, of course. Not only do crosswords give me an ego boost because I'm good at them, they also landed me in a movie. Can't beat that.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Life chafes, bras shouldn't

(Cross-posted over yonder at Bitch Ph.D.; a few edits added here.)

It's been a long and irritating summer for me, with turning thirty-ten, assorted pain-in-the-ass ailments (figuratively speaking), still waiting for a book contract to be sent, and I-love-my-kid-but-four-weeks-between-the-end-of-day-camp-and-the-start-of-school-is-too-much (Chicago public school kids don't start till next Tuesday). And yesterday, my mom took Ben off my hands for a grammy-kid outing downtown—but this plastic shield thingy on the underside of the front of my car—turns out it's called an engine shield—cracked open and I drove on Lake Shore Drive with plastic scraping the roadway, and then when I got home, I was too ill-tempered to be productive (See? Procrastinators always have excuses.) and had to spend a half hour on the phone with the car insurance guy (if you or your partner has a US military connection and a hookup with USAA, omigod is their customer service fantastic. The guy asked before he put me on hold each time and always told me how long it would be. "Is it okay if I put you on hold for 30 seconds?" What a dreamboat! I wish USAA could provide my phone service, because my local phone service is a little iffy and their customer service avoidance techniques suck ass. Speaking of insurance companies, all you renters who are on a tight budget should really make sure you have renter's insurance, because the premiums are so much cheaper than what it would cost you to replace everything if you had a fire, water damage, or a break-in. Really.) And thanks to my high deductible, the $453 repair costs for the car (including a new spoiler thingy, the bottom part of the front bumper) will be out of pocket.

There have been bright spots in Irritating Summer, to be sure: I have a great husband, a sweet and funny almost-first-grader, a reasonably easy life, and I even got off my ass and started using that health club membership three months ago. (Although I haven't gone in over two weeks—see "assorted ailments," above.)

But my brain is on hiatus right now. And it's guest-posting Wednesday! So I'll tack up a few unserious, unrelated small posts. First up, bras:

Thanks to working out at the aforementioned health club, my bra band size increased (muscles!) so I needed new bras. (I'll hold onto the wardrobe of Wacoals in the no-longer-right-size in case I reshape my bosom again.) I went to Bloomingdales, which just so happened to provide an excellent illustration of why Nordstrom's has a better reputation in lingerie sales. (The sad part is that the same shopping center also had a Nordy's, but it was a long walk to that end of the shopstravaganza, and one of my recent ailments involved my foot.) Anyway, while the customer service was dreadful, the Wacoal inventory was great. I found out the funky iBra doesn't fit me, but I bought this one in an adorable pink (why didn't I know that pink bras don't show through white shirts? I love pink!), and it's perfectly smooth under a tee (but I remember trying it on in my previous size, and it didn't work for me at all then); and I bought this more supportive one for less jiggly days.

The point? Dr. B, she knows bras. I know a lot of you won't pay more than $15 for a bra, but don't think your boobs are thanking you for that. You should at least try on some good bras (like Wacoal, which run roughly $38 to $62). And make sure you're wearing the right size: this site, this one, and this site recommended by a Bitch Ph.D. commenter are helpful. Many women actually need a smaller band size (use the loosest hook when the bra's new) and larger cup size (that Nordstrom's link has photos that illustrate when the cups are too big or too small for you).

For more wisdom from the Professor of Brassiere and Shoe Studies (she's tenured and holds an endowed chair in the department), check out the bra links in the Bitch Ph.D. sidebar.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Lazy list of search queries

Lately, my douchebag and what is a douchebag hits have gone way down. But not to worry—plenty of other oddball search queries have lured people to this very blog.

The #1 query is funky words, which I wrote about one time. I have no idea if those were the words these people are looking for, or if they were disappointed not to discover a whole 'nother category or funkalicious words here. Second is orange tangerine, naturally enough. Third, swim ware. Guess what? There probably aren't a ton of sites that spell it that way, but I'll bet the poor spellers don't stick around here when they see that I actually make fun of spellings like "swim ware." (It's like really wet software, no?) There's also swimwere sperm, swimming ware, and men wearing womans swimwere (a cross-dresser and a poor speller).

Next on the list are some product names: Hemorr-Ice, which may offer sweet, cold relief to those suffering from 'roids, and Space Food Sticks, which I loved in the '70s, but the replica being made today is nasty. Possibly it tastes identical to the snack I loved so much when I was a kid—who knows? But don't give in to the temptation. You'll be disappointed.

I don't know what the bum hole and snot sex folks thought they'd find here, but I suspect they moved along quickly, utterly let down by this blog. I have no idea what number five orange might mean. As for erectionphotos, that was mentioned by Esquire magazine many moons ago, and I mentioned it in a post, but didn't even link to the site, which is exactly what it sounds like. And still, Orange Tangerine comes up in search engines when people look for that. Go figure.

Queries like orange bras and tangerine tits seem to go together, no? I don't know about cheese bra, though. (I'd have to advise against using Swiss cheese.) And grilled velveeta—listen, don't burn your breasts with that, okay? And very ample breasts makes me wonder whether that summons up the same sites that a search for "ginormous boobies" would. Does the more sophisticated wording elevate the caliber of breasts depicted? The query sexy photos girls boobies that only grownups could see smacks of a curious 13-year-old boy.

Then there's how to be chic. Wouldn't you like to meet the person who aspires to be chic, and goes online to find out how to pull that off? Good luck to ya. Can't say I've got much advice for you here. Maybe check out the links for the woman farting in the car search? And of course, you can't go wrong with crossword puzzles. Très chic.

Even more alarming than that are queries like swallowed petrol (can't the British call Poison Control, too?), barbed wire toilet seat (ouch), sadnesses and horrifying poems (aww...), orange balls in ejaculation (!), lysol douche (No! Don't do it! This is so wrong!), mormon bdsm (hope you find what you're looking for, dear), how to put holes in jeans (No! Don't do it! This is so wrong!), masturbating with an orange (How?? Now I'm curious. How is this done?), women have penis's (That's so wrong! The plural is penises, no apostrophe.), wife never orgasm small penis (Dude, you got hands? A mouth? Sex toys? Use 'em.), what does my poo mean (can't be sure, but I suspect it has something to do with eating, digestion, and elimination), vomit boobs (sexy!), true confessions grandma sex, tripe green throwover (no idea what that means, but it can't be good), sticky balls disease (first step: try washing), people eat spiders in their sleep (ack!), orange up the butt (Don't do it! Oranges lack handy pull-strings for retrieval.), orange pieces in ejaculation (call your doctor, man), margarine eater contest (eww...), coffee tastes like someone threw up in it (make a new pot already), big assy sex (what?), and—most alarming of all—american girl doll matching outfits.

Then we have the confessions: i use public toilet and piss on the seat (knock it off!) i love menopausal butts (good for you!), i hump my cat (hey, pick on someone your own size! and species), and can count the number of guys i've slept with on one hand (me too!)

Most mysterious of all is orange road images erotic thumbs access free. What??

Apparently I'm not the only one who dreams of taking the elevator sideways. (I recommend it highly!)

A couple animal-related queries caught my eye: what does squirrel poo look like? Hey! I know that now. Sadly. When a squirrel is freaked out because it doesn't know how to get out of your house, the poop is dark brown to greenish, soft, roughly the size of a sunflower seed without its shell. Whether calm squirrels have different poop, I can't say. Then there's orang jeans. Did Clint Eastwood's orangutan costar in those old movies wear pants? I don't know what's going on with gorilla zoo la leche league.

I'm guessing that most regular readers originally came to Orange Tangerine via another blog, where they followed a link in a blogroll or comment. (That's how I found most of the blogs I read.) But if you actually came here because of a search query and decided to pop in from time to time, leave a comment and say hello. I'm curious to know whether any of those Google hits end up sticking.

Friday, August 25, 2006

My subconscious keeps ripping me off

The other day, I had a dream in which I was apparently still living in my parents' old house, and I had a man in my bed. All we did was cuddle and talk, but he scrupulously kept his fully-clothed bits away from my body. This morning, I awoke from a dream in which I was at the library with a different man, near closing time, in a dark section of the stacks, but we only got as far as some hugging. Then I woke up to pee, and when I fell back to sleep, I was plunged into a vivid thriller. The kind of thriller in which nothing makes sense, nobody will help me, and I'm fighting for my life against assorted baddies. That dream felt like it went on for hours. The library hugger? That felt like maybe 10, 15 minutes of real time. Listen, I don't even much like to watch or read thrillers, and my life certainly doesn't entail the sort of peril this dream featured. My life also doesn't include much in the way of cuddling with men other than my husband, but come on, now! Why can't I wake up from an abbreviated thriller of a dream, and drift back into hours of dreamland passion? It's just not fair.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Oy, is it Wednesday again?

(Guest post at Bitch Ph.D..)

This guest-blogging thing is killing me. No Nym makes it look easy, spending the rest of the week cooking up posts so he can spoil us on Tuesday. But dammit, I have two other blogs to maintain (my low-key original blog, which I encourage you to visit if you have anti-squirrel suggestions because one of those gnarly varmints chewed through my screen door to steal my wheat bread, and my crossword blog—yeah, that's right, I'm a crossword geek. Wanna make something of it?), and here it is, mid-morning on my assigned day, and I haven't got anything drafted.

So the natural topic is procrastination. I am a procrastinator. I always have been. Hell, a few years ago I came across one of my report cards from first grade, and the teacher said something about my not always finishing my assignments. I was certainly capable of doing so, but apparently I've just been a procrastinator since my early years. Here's a sample of what I've been procrastinating on lately:

• Editing manuscripts.

• Writing a book.

• Ordering a new toilet.

• Taking the car for an oil change.

• Paying some bills.

• Purging unloved clothes from my wardrobe and donating them to the Brown Elephant.

• Clearing up a crapload of clutter and papers.

• Reading a zillion books.

• Running errands.

• Sending thank-you notes.

• Sending out photos of my kid, family, and friends.

• Returning a Netflix movie.

• Doing laundry, sorting clean laundry, and the worst part—putting everything away.

• Cooking frozen vegetables before they shrivel up in the freezer.

• Writing up condo meeting minutes.

This is just a sampling of what's on my mental to-do list but sits undone. We've been in need of a new toilet for a year now, and all I have to do is go to a store (or just call them), ask them to order this or that model number, and hire a plumber to install it. A year! Objectively, my daily schedule is incredibly cushy and I have ample time to accomplish all these things and more, but I'm far too busy procrastinating to be productive.

It's confession time: What's are you procrastinating on, and why don't you just do it already? Do you have an explanation? Because I don't have a good way to rationalize my own procrastination, and I could use some excuses.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Why I am drinking a beer

If you don't care for profanity, please move on to another post. This one's going to be a doozy.

Ohmyfuckinggod, a goddamned squirrel chewed a motherfucking hole through my kitchen door's screen, a good four feet or more off the ground, and it came into my house, and it had no way to get back out that little hole because it's a stupid pea-brained little nasty rodent. (Or whatever order or family of mammal it may be. Frankly, at this point, a hearty city rat isn't looking bad by comparison.)

This squirrel—or perhaps one of its vile brethren—first attempted to break on through to the other side by shredding the screen in the bottom half of the kitchen door, where there were two panes of glass in its way. So it scampered higher up the screen and, working without a net, chewed its way into my house.

I learned of the invasion when Ben, self-starter that he is, heard a noise and went to investigate it. He trotted back to the living room and said, "Mom, I think there's a squirrel in our dining room. And I'm about to cry."

No shit! I went to investigate it myself, and the sight of an animal skittering around near the top of one's dining room window or curtains, making unearthly noises, is indeed alarming. I shrieked my way back to the living room. Tried calling Mr. Tangerine at work—no answer. Gah! Called my sister while changing clothes into more squirrel-resistant denim. Grabbed my keys and my kid, went out in the building hallway, knocked on the next door, and fortunately my neighbor was home. He offered to come in (to my horribly, embarrassingly cluttered end of the condo, but who cares about that when there is vermin that needs shooing?) and help. The squirrel hid out beneath a table full of computer equipment while I propped open the kitchen door. We cleared the way, and the bushy-tailed rat-beast raced out of the house.

A half hour later, I am finishing a beer. My heart rate may be drifting back down toward its baseline. And my eyes have largely stopped tearing up.

But holy shit! As soon as Mr. Tangerine gets home, we'll tackle the kitchen and dining room reconnaissance mission. Throw away any nibbled food, right the objects that the beast knocked over, check for chewed wires and furniture, wipe up the squirrel poo (for the curious: small turds that almost look like sunflower seeds without the shells, only darker brown to greenish, and mushy. Eww!), and sanitize all the surfaces, especially in the kitchen. My kitchen! Despoiled by the vile creature.

The initial findings are as follows: Chewed on my wheat bread (gnawing through the plastic bag), but had only a bite. (Now, was all the trauma worth it, you little bastard? I hope you learned your lesson.) Did not touch the Hawaiian bread or the pumpernickel bagels. Toppled a computer speaker. Knocked a travel mug onto the floor. I'm sure plenty of unhappy surprises await.

I'm not starting the cleanup process alone because I want some company in there. (Ben concurs with my current opinion of squirrels: He says he hates them, and they're cute only in pictures. Did you know those fuckers have been flossing their teeth on my car? Yes, the hard plastic parts where the windshield meets the wipers and the corner of the hood have been gnawed through, too. And they've chewed up the wooden porch railings belonging to my upstairs neighbors, as well as going through the screen into the third-floor unit a couple years ago. Fucking bastards. (The varmints, not the neighbors.)

But I am ready to move forward with other practical squirrel-related matters. Any suggestions? My sister recommended replacing the kitchen screens with dog-proof screens, but I'd need to make sure that squirrel teeth and claws can't break through the screens that resist dog and cat claws. And I wonder whether these are like the Sopranos of squirreldom. Do they just expect us to pay tribute in the form of a birdfeeder kept stocked with birdseed? I'd rather feed them out in the back yard than in my kitchen, but if you negotiate with squirrels, then the terrorists have won. Do you have any other ideas? I'm listening. Listening, and hoping to never hear the sound of a freaked-out squirrel tearing through my house and chittering like a demented alien.

I am feeling rather angsty and violated by all of motherfucking squirreldom. It may be time for another beer.

(If you're in the mood to read about other ways in which squirrels violate the compact we thought they had with humans, read Flea's write-up of Alex's birthday party two years ago—quite by coincidence, I discovered that the mom of the kid whose party Ben was invited to was actually a blogger I'd been reading for months. But the squirrels at that party, they were some psychotic bastards, no lie.)

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The old battle-ax

Ben was watching a cartoon this morning, and one character said, "I've got my battle-ready armor on!"

Now, some evenings when I'm watching TV (last night, Mr. Tangerine and I watched the ridiculous White Noise and the entertaining Sideways) or otherwise hanging around at home, I may reach a point at which a bra suddenly becomes the most uncomfortable thing in the world. So I'll extricate the bra and toss it on the back of the couch. My lightest and laciest underwire remained there this morning.

Ben draped it across his bare chest and said, "Mom, look! I've got my battle-ready armor!" Ha.

So of course, I didn't want to waste a teaching moment, and immediately showed him the difference between the most and least armored brassiere styles.

No, I didn't. Just kidding.

But now, I feel ready for the day in a whole new way. I'm dressed and properly armored, ready for what battles may come. Charge!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Fear and Loathing of SUVs

How do I loathe SUVs? Let me count the ways.

They use a lot of gas, which (1) exhausts the world’s dwindling oil supplies faster and (2) pollutes the air, thereby (3) contributing to the acceleration of global warming.

When I’m waiting to turn left at an intersection, there’s often an SUV in the lane across from me. (4) I can’t see through the fucker to know if there’s traffic coming from behind it, so I’m stuck waiting until the SUV turns or the light changes.

When I’m on the highway, (5) I can’t see the road ahead of me if I’m following an SUV. I’ll speed and change lanes less carefully than I should just to get past an SUV so I can see the road ahead. It’s not safe to drive at highway speeds when you can’t see any potential hazards or slowdowns you’re approaching.

When I want to turn out of a parking lot in the city, (6) if there’s an SUV parked to the left of the driveway, I have no visibility and can’t see if it’s safe to pull out. I nearly got hit by a minivan when inching out from the McDonald’s lot last week because of a stinkin’ SUV parked there.

Not only are (7) SUVs taller than cars, they also (8) usually seem to have tinted windows. WTF? Why do they need tinted windows? If they’re not hiding the pope or Brangelina in there, I think they could make do with clear windows so other drivers’ ability to see hazards isn’t obliterated.

And when I go into a crowded parking garage, you know what fills up the row of "small car only" spots? That’s right: (9) An SUV will take up two small spots rather than driving up a few more levels to find a ful-sized parking space that’s open. Doesn’t that just smack of (10) yuppie entitlement, taking up two parking spaces because you choose to drive something that’s ridiculously oversized for a congested city?

Now, I’m a reasonable woman. If you live in the snowy mountains, you can make an argument for driving a rugged SUV rather than a car (though a sporty station wagon with good tires might serve your purposes). A Hummer, though? Nobody needs a Hummer. You’ve got a muddy dog? Then you can get a small SUV like the Honda Element, or the boxy little Scion xB, or a sporty wagon. You don’t need an Explorer or Navigator.

If you need to transport a lot of kids in the suburbs, a minivan makes a lot more sense than an SUV. They generally accommodate passengers better and get better gas mileage.

You need to move a lot of cargo? Guess what—you can often fit far more into a minivan than an SUV. The athletic folks I know who need to schlep lots of bulky gear drive minivans.

You say you feel safer up high in an SUV than in a regular car? Well, knock it off! You’re making it harder for all the people driving those regular cars to safely see where they’re going, and the sheer size of your SUV poses more risk to car passengers when the two vehicles collide.

I’m not done ranting yet. Have you seen the latest way McDonald’s has sold its hollow soul to the corporate crossover devil? The current Happy Meal promotion is Polly Pocket dolls for girls (heavy on the pink, of course*) and toy Hummers for boys. I can’t believe General Motors passed up the chance to make pink flowered Hummers for little girls, to double the number of children lobbying their parents to buy a cool Hummer (as my son’s been doing this past week). But then, if Hummers weren’t so blatantly manly-man, the guys wouldn’t be so keen on them, and they’d buy fewer of these giant metal penises on wheels, so GM can’t risk diluting the brand by pinkifying it for the girls who get Happy Meals. No, the girls will have to be content with their dolls.

Now, I’ve been fine with past Hot Wheels Happy Meal promotions. Cars are fun. We all like to play with toy cars, don’t we? Smasho-bango! Zoom-zoom! But McDonald’s and GM have crossed the line by foisting Hummers on little kids in a naked attempt to build brand loyalty early and enlist children into GM’s marketing army.

Looking on the bright side, the Happy Meal Hummers are all made of plastic, so if I should happen to crush one (of the three that have entered our house) by stepping on it like mighty Godzilla…

* My son often reports his favorite color to be purple (though he’s fickle sometimes). We have several pairs of these clothespin chopsticks (which are great for kids and other beginning chopstick wielders). I asked Ben which color he wanted today, and he opted for purple. I might do a whole post on boys, purple, and pink, in fact. Maybe next week…

Guest-posted at Bitch Ph.D..

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

On helmets, pit bulls, feet, and age

First: If you ride a motorcycle, please, please, please always wear a helmet. A friend of mine just lost her brother-in-law (whom I'd met and liked a lot) to a bike crash last weekend, and a couple summers ago, my sister-in-law lost a dear friend who was riding to Sturgis. It might be fun to ride without a helmet sometimes, but you never know when you'll hit a rock or a patch of oil, or when a car will come out of nowhere and collide with you. It is never fun to plan a young person's funeral or help someone cope with traumatic brain damage. Don't wear the helmet for yourself or for the law—wear it for the people who love you. They'll be heartbroken if you crash without a helmet.

Second: A lot of folks object strenuously when the subject of banning pit bulls is raised. If you're one of them, please read the Chicago Tribune series (free registration required) about a boy who was mauled by three neighborhood pit bulls he'd played with. The dogs in question were family pets, not fighting dogs, and yet they turned on their owner, innocent children, and the neighbors who came to their aid. The first part of the series is where the attack is detailed—it's gruesome, so don't read it if you're too squeamish. It's a tremendously moving and terrifying series of articles, and now that I've read it, I do support a ban on the breed.

Third: My feet hurt. Especially when I'm trying to sleep at night. (You'd think one V1codin would be enough, but no.) I know only one other person who's had sesamoiditis, and—what are the odds of this?—it's Mr. Tangerine. I feel terrible for having minimized his complaints in the past, because crikey! It really does hurt. And since he knows what it feels like, he's been incredibly helpful in fetching me ice packs, painkillers, and food and drink. He really is a sweetheart in so many ways. I do believe I'll keep him. (And no, he's not available on loan. Mine, mine! All mine!)

Fourth: Sesamoiditis is mucking up my birthday plans. Yes, today is my birthday, and one might say it's a milestone if one were not in a fair degree of denial. I may have just turned [that number], but dang it, I feel 80 instead! And that's not a good thing.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Analysis of the Joe Francis mystique

Over at Bitch Ph.D., a commenter alerted us to LA Times reporter Claire Hoffman's remarkable profile of "Girls Gone Wild" honcho Joe Francis. He's truly repellent, possibly sociopathic, and definitely making a fortune off sexism and porn.

I wasn't quite sure how to write about the many issues raised by the article, by the "Girls Gone Wild" phenomenon, by the success of a creep like Joe Francis. Fortunately, ding found a couple approaches, here and (with a tie-in to military crimes) here. And, following ding's links, there's also Pandagon and Feministe for more on the topic.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Not guilty as charged

Cross-posted at Bitch Ph.D.

I almost feel guilty about faking the date and time stamp on this post. I was enlisted into the Bitch Army for a Wednesday gig, but I'm kinda busy this Wednesday, so I'm horning in on No Nym's Tuesday. The topic at hand is guilt, and I excel at rationalization, guilt.

My son, Ben, recently asked me why I take trips away from home without him and my husband. I’ve had five such trips in his six years, ranging from a three-day weekend to a week’s vacation. Every last one of them was completely optional and recreational, so it’s not as if I were traveling for business (I’m a stay-at-home mom and freelance editor) or for family obligations. Faced with a questioning child, I suspect that many women would instinctively feel that much-ballyhooed female/maternal guilt about taking time for themselves.

But that guilt thing is not my cup o’ tea. My friend DoctorMama recently blogged about feeling guilty, and the comments thread indicates that she’s far from alone. There was just one commenter who spoke my language: “I don’t think I ever feel too guilty about things I have or have not done. I'm pretty good at justifying my reasoning. I just look at everything as one step at a time and that there's no point in getting worked up over things you can't change.” Turns out that particular commenter is a man. Of course! What woman would think that way? Oh, right—me.

Now, I drafted this post before discovering that he wasn’t a she, which leads me in an entirely different direction. It doesn’t seem to me that men struggle as much with this ilk of guilt—what say you, gentlemen? Do the tropes of Catholic guilt and Jewish guilt weigh equally on men and women, or are women particularly susceptible to berating themselves? Is it just that women are more comfortable openly expressing their regrets, while men subsume their guilty feelings? Or is the patriarchy to blame for encouraging women to blame themselves for this, that, and the other thing? (Discuss.)

In addition to having traveled like a (modestly) footloose single woman, I also exhibit a stark degree of parental slackitude on evenings and weekends when my husband is home from work. A full day (or five of them) in close proximity to a small child, while rewarding, can grow wearying.

But I don’t feel guilty about taking these vacations and daily breathers. By getting to wallow in “me time,” I recharge my drained batteries and lessen the amount of time I sit around feeling put upon by childrearing/household/freelance responsibilities. Goodness, I’d have plenty to feel guilty about if I never got a break—feeling oppressed by a pretty decent life that just didn’t happen to spoil me rotten? I might feel guilty about that. But I feel much more content knowing that I can get a breather when I need one, that my own interests and interior life are deemed important by my spouse.

I can also rationalize the “me time” thus: My husband’s a fabulous dad who finds 24-hours-a-day one-on-one time with the kid to be much less draining than I do, as he doesn’t have to do it all the time and he’s innately far more patient than I. Ben really does seem to depend on his mom and dad equally—when he’s injured or scared, he evinces no preference for one parent over the other. What better grounding can you give a child than a close relationship with two loving adults? Plus, one of those loving adults would tend to be crankier if she didn’t get to nourish her inner self along the way. (As you see, I am adept at piling justifications upon rationalizations as needed.)

So maybe I’m just a selfish bitch who doesn’t have enough heart to dedicate her all to her child and spouse. But in a person who is essentially good and decent (i.e., this doesn’t apply to that scumbag Joe Francis), I think guilt is nothing but a tremendous energy suck. I encourage you all to take a couple of the things you feel guilty about and rationalize away the guilt. Go ahead—we’ll wait. Did you do it? Do you feel the burden lightening? I hope you do.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

He knows not what he says

Ben and I lunched at IHOP today, and much hilarity ensued. When my Diet Coke and his ice water were delivered to the table, the boy said, "Let's have a drinking contest!" I demurred, given that (a) my glass was larger than his, so it wouldn't be a fair match-up, (b) I wanted to sip my beverage during my meal, (c) chugging 16 ounces of pop would surely lead to monstrous eructation, and (d) what the hell? This isn't college. (I confess we did compete later on, when his water glass and his milk glass were equally full and I wanted to motivate him to finish his milk. Worked like a charm. This kid likes to compete. He always wants to win the getting-dressed contest, which is not a fair fight because he doesn't wear a bra and never has to slow down to apply a pantyliner.)

Ben also prodded my funny bone in the relish with which he approached a link of breakfast sausage. "Yummm! Sausage is tasty!" He pleaded for more sausage, so we got a side order and he devoured those links, too. Then he came around to my side of the booth and stood beside me to share his sausage fantasies: "You know what I want? A giant sausage that lays on the floor [gesturing down the aisle to indicate, say, a three-foot-wide, twenty-foot-long pork sausage]. And everyone would eat it. No! I'll eat it all myself!"

I swear he's not learning this stuff from us, and has no clue why his desire for a "man-sized" cucumber or a "giant sausage" rouse such amusement among adults.

Oh! He was asking about my C-section before bed tonight. I explained the anesthetic set-up, and also disclosed that most babies aren't born via C-section. I swear he's a scientific genius—he instinctively grasped the process of childbirth and likened it to pooping, which pretty much entails the same physical mechanisms, no?

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Updates on the last two posts

1. This afternoon, Ben bounced his head off my abdomen. "It's bouncier!" he said. Yes, that's right—the muscles beneath the flab have more spring to them than the previous flab beneath the flab offered. Folks, you can't argue with results like that.

2. The Big Gay Weekend wrapped up in fine style at Northalsted Market Days, the annual street fair. We walked down the center of the street, surrounded by booths selling beer and frozen bellinis, funnel cakes and lemonade, BBQ and Asian food, or dispensing information about the gay Mormon community or LGBT health centers, or selling merchandise (we bought a miniature Gay Games basketball and a tie-dye tee for Ben), or running promotional contests. And it occurred to me, seeing the carnival food, that Ben's been to more city street fairs than plain ol' summer carnivals. (Works for me!) Some folks were sporting nipple-ring stickers—a sticker that looked like a hairy nipple with a ring in it. (It just doesn't look quite right on a woman, the hairy chest.) Got a couple free pens and, courtesy of the local bathhouse, a packet with a condom and lube. Ben, of course, remains utterly oblivious to the nonstandardness of attire like mesh undies worn out of doors, or military drag (fishnet stockings, a camouflage miniskirt, etc.). On the way home, I stopped at the bookstore and bought Out magazine's August issue, which features what is possibly the gayest crossword ever (really, how much competition does Wordplay's Trip Payne have in the category of gay-themed crosswords?). I bet the puzzle's orders of magnitude easier than his NYT crossword today.

3. Before the bookstore, I stopped at the Gap and tried on some bras in the size that the tape measure says I have shriveled to. That tape measure is bullshit! My cups runneth over in the four sizes I tried, so perhaps I've merely dropped a single cup size. (I feel better.)

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Unintended consequences

So, I've been going to the health club for over two months, after years of lassitude. I'm not doing as much cardio as I should because I have precious little self-discipline, and getting enough cardio exercise would entail going to the gym in between sessions with my trainer.

The trainer, however, puts me through my paces with all the weight machines and assorted crunches and small free weights. The results are great. I've got some muscle tone for pretty much the first time in my life, I'm feeling stronger and more energetic, and I no longer make those horrible groaning sounds when I get up from sitting on the floor. I've lost some excess flab, which is good because I need to take better care of my health. (I've got enough health conditions going on without jacking up my risk of heart disease with belly flab.)

But! The all-important "but." While fat is being replaced with muscle, it turns out that some body parts merely lose fat without then bulking up with toned muscles. To wit, my boobs are shrinking. I took some measurements this morning, and it appears that while my band size is the same or bigger (hello, chest and back muscles!), the cup size has plummeted by two to three letters. I haven't totally flattened out or anything, but sheesh! Three cup sizes? I wasn't expecting that.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

My Big Gay Week

(The title's a minor homage to the South Park character Big Gay Al.)

Does it count as a blogger meet-up if it's a meeting between a blogger and a non-blogging commenter? I say yes. Hence, I can say I had another blogger meet-up this weekend, with a guy named Dave, who's become a friend since he started loitering at my crossword blog. Dave and his husband, Gary, were in town visiting their friend, Ed (hello, Ed! thanks for reading!), so Mr. Tangerine, Ben, and I met them for dinner at Café 28, a local Cuban-Mexican restaurant with a particularly attractive corps of waiters. Great restaurant, good food, but their air conditioning wasn't quite working. At least it was in keeping with the tropical vibe—a 90° restaurant serving, say, Swedish cuisine would just be wrong.

After dinner, Mr. Tangerine and Ben left to get ice cream on the way home (Ben can only sit still and behave nicely for so long), and the fellas and I had dessert there. (Ample discussion of the size of the balls...of sorbet.) Then it was time to go out for drinks.

Mind you, Mr. Tangerine and I have been living within a few blocks of the zone called Boystown, part of Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood, since 1990. We rarely miss the Pride Parade each June (Ben has seen the Pride Parade more times than he's seen a standard suburban throw-lots-of-cheap-candy parade, which is great because he doesn't demand to rot his teeth at a parade), we've shopped at plenty of gay-owned businesses, we donate our cast-off possessions to the Brown Elephant (a resale shop that supports a GLBT health center), love the Northalsted Market Days street fair that's coming up this weekend—plenty of gayness around, have a good girlfriend whose partner is a woman. And yet! I had never set foot inside a gay bar until this past Saturday.

Dave, Gary, Ed, and I cabbed it to Sidetrack, which is basically six bars in one. Like a miniature gay-bar version of Epcot Center. We opted for the nonsmoking room (in a city where bars are not yet required to be nonsmoking, this is a terrific asset), but first toured the regular smoky bar downstairs and the upstairs and rooftop areas, each with its own place to order drinks. (Look how adorable it is!) The TV screens were playing assorted '80s videos, which is an unimpeachable choice. Ed told us that the bar was voted the best gay bar in the country, so I popped my gay-bar cherry at the pinnacle. (Ed, by the way, is a hottie. He's in his 40s but could pass for late 20s. And he's single! I don't understand how this can be. He looks a leetle bit like Henry Rollins, only blonder, not so bull-necked, and not tattooed.)

I was far from the only woman at the bar, and not every man there was hot, but the view was lovely indeed. It's not as if I want to sleep with them, but who doesn't appreciate nice aesthetics? I'm married, not blind, after all.

I hibernated in the air conditioning on Sunday and did some writing. The Big Gay Week resumed on Monday—a lunch date with a man who tracked me down via e-mail after the crossword tournament because we're both in Chicago. He works in the neighborhood, and we'd hoped to eat at La Creperie, where I love the chicken curry crepes and, of course, the dessert crepes—but alas, they're one of the few places in the area that are actually closed on Mondays. (Great place to eat before or after catching a movie across the street at the Landmark Century Centre Cinema.) So instead we went to a Thai place, Joy's Noodles, which has decent food and a couple strikingly androgynous servers. (And the air conditioning was working there, fortunately–it was about 100° outside.) Best line from our conversation: "Growing up Jewish in Texas was great training for being gay—you're surrounded by people who are wrong when you're right."

This weekend's weather should be more like standard August weather, so I'm hoping to round out the Big Gay Week with a visit to Northalsted Market Days, where you're shoulder to shoulder with the sweaty shirtless masses, towered over by drag queens in heels, and able to buy hot, greasy food and cold beer. What could be finer?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

I'm so disappointed

The phone rang a few minutes ago, and the caller ID indicated a Florida number. Thought it might be a relative's cell phone or something, so I picked up:

Orange: Hello?
Florida: Buenas noches.
Orange: [excitedly] Could you hold on a second please? [covers phone, approaches husband] Hey, they said "Buenas noches." I think you should take this call!
Mr. Tangerine: Buenas noches!
Florida: [click]

Aw, drat. Finally, an anonymous Spanish-language survey person was speaking directly to Mr. Tangerine's heart, but she wouldn't speak to his head. That could've been fun, though.