Willing to Suck

I loathe these god-awful “sports visits” at the fancy school. By third grade, all boys are separated into two teams and compete in scored events that count toward some school wide, brag-worthy end. This is all in good fun, promotes sportsmanship and team camaraderie, and teaches the kiddos to swim and skate and run and catch and kick. But the avid athleticism worshipped by the school (and greater society, I suppose) necessitates these wretched “visits” so parents can witness their children compete at three different sports per quarter. For me, this amounts to roughly 32 opportunities to watch my boys trip, fall, miss, finish last, and lose. On Monday, I oscillated between the basketball court and the pool to observe my kids’ athletic suck-ery. After eleven turnovers aided by my elder son, I excused myself to watch the younger trail every other kid by a half-length of pool.

“Did you see me come in last?” asked blue-lipped, holding-back-tears Teddy.

Ugh. I wanted to line them all up for times table, state capital, and animal factoid quizzing. I know it’s important for small children to understand, and even celebrate, their differing strengths. But the “sport visit” is such a public display of comparative failings that, in spite of the never-ending winter in these parts, I’m sort of praying for a weather cancellation. After the visit, I aired my grievances about these events on social media, likening them to emotional dodge ball for parents like me. I think my boys are actually fine with occasional demonstrations that they’re not as coordinated as their friends, but I’d rather be spared my trembling, tearful Teddy losing every event.

I know a lovely skating coach. She has all of patience and faith of Job in her dealings with small children of the picked-last ilk. Her maxim for anxious parents of the athletically challenged is Peer Relevance. Our kids may never be Tom Brady… but we can support them to develop enough skills to keep up with the benchwarmers. To protect their self-esteem, children need only be a middling sort of good. Of course, the parenthetical message here is though it’s ok to suck, just don’t suck the hardest.

But someone has to come in last. Not everyone is going to make the team. And although this is brutal for me as a parent who just wants to wrap Teddy in a warm towel and remind him of how funny and great he is, this is an important life lesson. Wise and lovely Katryna pointed out the joy of the struggle: watching kids persevere despite innate deficiencies is kind of awesome. It’s also Life, and probably all of us could benefit from a class or two on How to Suck Gracefully.

Last night, my pajammied boys–all three of them–were engaged in the Nerf Olympics of basketball trick shots. I found them in fits of giggles trying to sink testicle-grazing, between-the-legs shots (‘tweiners?). As the hour got later, and mean mommy insisted on teeth brushing and calmer bedtime activities, Brodie casually mentioned he’d be trying out for travel basketball again next year.

Ugh. Bernie and I traded nervous did-you-hear-that? glances. But then I remembered what Katryna wrote:

When you have a kid for whom lots of stuff comes easily– like all schoolwork, as I guess it is for your kids– I always think it rocks if they are willing to do things that don’t come easily.

Brodie is willing. He’s willing in spite of previous attempts and failures. He’s willing to try again, to flirt with failure, to try to improve. Ultimately, Brodie is Willing to Suck. Even if that doesn’t lead to team placement, it certainly builds character. And if this dogged determination to exceed “peer relevance” stems from unflappable self-confidence then…well… that rocks, indeed.


Girlfriend, MD… or better reasons you want to date a doc

Recently, the most lukewarm endorsement of female physician data-ability went bloggy viral. I have more than eight reasons why this post is disappointing, and only one is that the author referred to herself and her smart, sassy co-workers as “us female physicians…” who pretend to be dental hygienists or flight attendants to seem more fuckable less intimidating. There are at least eight violations of grammar and style in this ineffectual call for suitors which paints my working sisters-in-scrubs as life-saving multi-taskers with “good personalities.” Blech.

What does a man like more than eight reasons he should date you? Everything. He likes everything more. Admit you’re a surgeon, and buy him a beer. Go on with your Dansko-clogged, low-maintenance bad self and express that financial viability! If a man isn’t dating you because you are a surgeon, that’s not the reason he’s not dating you. It’s more likely the clogs… or your inability to use pronouns correctly.

Smart girls don’t fudge being smart (or make boring lists). The badass, wonderful women physicians in my world could give you a better peek at the perks associated with their company. Just a few listed here… because boys (or girls) you want to date don’t need a long list detailing your awesomeness.

She’s a Portable Emergency Department

Odds are, she has an arsenal of stitch-you-up or glue-that-back tools at her disposal. She has sutures and fine forceps and bandages of every single size. She’s toting Tegaderm in her Tory Burch. When the kids (dads) attempt to pop helium balloons stuck above the foyer using a sharp pencil and the stomp rocket… well, she’s got the instruments to handle the fallout of that sort of genius. She’ll know if Uncle Jason’s chest pain is pepperoni-induced or 911-worthy. She can administer flu shots and read your TB test. She knows if that needs ice or heat or stitches or antibiotics. She’ll save you untold hours wasted in waiting rooms with bleeding strangers, blaring soap operas, and MRSA.

She’s Cool

If your gal has worked the emergency room, she is unfazed by anything oozing from an orifice. She has more than one unlikely-object-stuck-up-a-butt story. She’s heard the basest, unkindest, most unimaginative forms of chauvinism and knows which response will work best (ignore, chastise, mock, or flirt). She’s seen every movie you have because she’s been dating Star Wars-obsessed nerds like you since Organic Chemistry. She honestly doesn’t know anything about Kardashians. And she spends many, many hours with man-crush-worthy big, swinging dick surgeons who think she’s great.

She’s Busy

Your physician girlfriend won’t be texting you at all hours. She’ll totally forget it’s Valentine’s Day. She’s unlikely to insist on cutesy month anniversaries, or apple-picking afternoons, or meeting your family. She’s too exhausted and busy and pre-occupied with life-saving tasks to engage in typical dating misadventures that plague girls with more free time. She doesn’t give a fig if she’s your official, Facebook girlfriend… and wonders who has time for that crap… and can’t remember her password, anyway. She also brings her Type A game to working out, and when she’s not on call, she’s not wondering when you will. She’s running her marathon-training ass all over town.

Don’t you want to date her now? These qualities flourish in the women physicians I know. They’re smart and lovely and busy and cool and competent and so much more than their jobs. I was irritated by their portrayal in a tepid list of eight endorsements that could easily apply to your dad (if your dad knew CPR). Where is the justified bravado of the female physician? She’s earned it, and with enough sleep, she’s too clever to trick you into thinking she’s not. She also recognizes the skill and power and fabulousness of her sisters, especially the dental hygienists and flight attendants who are clearly getting more action than she is.

Now run along and find yourself a Girlfriend, MD. Or tell me I’ve got it all wrong because the female physician you knew quit work right after she had kids and now buys really expensive shoes and makes fun of women doctors who wear pantsuits.

Oh… wait.

She's totally hot underneath that sexy mask.

She’s totally hot underneath that sexy mask.

The Boy I Married

Bernie conveniently acquired swine flu before my 20th high school reunion. Sure, he was pukey-feverish-gray-skin sick; but if he was going to succumb to swine flu anyway, it was opportune that it exempted him from a DJ’ed evening at the Holiday Inn, imagining which boozy men might have molested my teenage boobs and dodging women in compression garments coyly seeking cosmetic surgery consults. Even if he hadn’t been pukey-feverish-gray-skin sick, I still would have given him a bye. Only a handful of people could tolerate an entire evening with strangers attempting to chitchat over Def Leppard.

One of the reasons Bernie enjoys married life is because his wife will talk to anyone. I am his social ping-pong paddle, deflecting chitchat away from him, right and left. When he rallies, my husband is really rather charming. It’s just that his default mood is… couch. I largely share this disposition, but on occasion, embrace excuses to stand in fantastic shoes and interact with things without plugs, to enjoy the ceremony of a fancy meal, to share a sofa-less evening with sentient beings. Because Bernie’s stock reaction to all invitations lands somewhere between not-enough-scotch-on-the-planet and rather-put-hot-sauce-in-my-eye, I spring these on him last minute.

Once we’ve arrived at the destination and drinks are in hand, Bernie morphs from Grumpy Couch Troll into The Boy I Married. As Valentine’s Day nears, as lonely hearts compose snarky tweets, and as unsuccessful attempts at reservations and balking at overpriced blooms take away from the swoony fun of it all, I’m listing silly reasons I fell in love with Bernie. Take note, youngsters… it’s the little things that make a boy irresistible.

·               See any movie at all

Bernie saw Crossroads with me. In the theater. Crossroads! Crossroads… the movie starring Britney Spears. Of course you haven’t seen it—it’s dreadful. But I love Britney, and I was in the mood to see her dance around in her skivvies wondering if she was yet a woman. Bernie didn’t mind. Another (wasted) evening, this lovely man accompanied me and my best friend to Duets. Duets! Duets… the movie starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Huey Lewis. Of course you haven’t seen it–it’s dreadful. But Bernie bought three tickets with untainted enthusiasm: no moaning, no eye rolling, no you-totally-owe-me-lights-on-naughty-stuff. This sort of social sacrifice endeared him to Emily forever, made me even fonder of his general agreeableness, and remains the benchmark for adorable things boys do for girls they love.

Cruisin'. Together.

Cruisin’. Together.

·               Pay attention to other women

I’ve always admired Bernie’s appreciation of women. Perhaps it’s that dorky, skip-a-grade Asian kid lurking inside of him, but Bernie is surprised and genuinely thrilled to be talking to you, pretty girl. He’ll make sure you have a drink, or his place in line, or help with your bags. I love how he’ll deliver my friend’s Sancerre first, that he recognizes all sorts of beauty in all women, discourages you from cosmetic surgery because you don’t need it (and means it), and occasionally is at a loss for words if a woman is particularly Julianne Moore-ish.

Can't really blame him.

Can’t really blame him.

·               Get along with Dad

I knew Bernie was the right boy for me the minute I realized Dad’s approval wouldn’t be a deal breaker. Dad is huge and loud and irreverent and thoughtful and inquisitive: first-time meetings with him can feel like an interrogation. We Stocktons don’t waste time—we want to know (right now!) what makes you do what you do, how you contribute to the universe, why you’re like that, and what you have planned for the future. A bit much for cocktail hour? Well then, go find yourself another cocktail hour. (Ours, however, starts at brunch and continues well past blurry.) All other suitors had been measured by their ability to go toe to toe with Dad. Few navigated this easily: either retreating into stunned silence, or interpreting playful banter as an attack, and many failing to count vodkas and slipping into slurring ridiculousness. It can be a tough room.

But Bernie? He thought Dad was great. More importantly, he thought enough of himself to just be himself, mind the vodka, and enjoy the spectacle. Sure, there was one Thanksgiving Bernie passed out after multiple mimosas, but if you know us well, you’ve probably missed a family meal for being over-served by my father. Today, Bernie plans bucket-list vacations with Dad, Dad’s best friend, and my brother. Although I would have married him even if Dad didn’t recognize Bernie’s quiet humor and confidence, it’s sort of awesome that he does.

When I was young and naive, I was certain Kill All Bugs would be on this list of husband kudos. Alas, my wonderful Bernie’s reaction to a centipede racing across the family room is to curl into a frightened ball of unmanliness. Instead, my husband’s chivalry involves pouring my Prosecco, telling me I’m beautiful, and saving me from a life of beepers and pantsuits by being all talented and whatnot. Occasionally he’ll even stifle his Grumpy Couch Troll reaction to “plans” or “tickets” or “party” for my benefit. But with too generous advance notice, those who prefer evenings holding down furniture to those painting the town conveniently acquire pukey-feverish-gray-skin-sickness. We have reservations for Valentine’s Day… I’ll tell him Thursday.

Happy Valentine’s Day, lovers. Enjoy the little things that make them yours.

Saw it in the theater. Opening night.

Saw it in the theater. Opening night. Was this shirt ever not ridiculous?

Why I Got Cancer

It’s World Cancer Day, so you know, all party party for wig owners everywhere. With entire months of awarenesses do we really need another Day? Me, I’m not one to Stand Up, walk miles, utter expletives, and generally bully the crap out of Cancer as if attitude alone prevents mitosis. But what’s unique about this World Cancer Day, is its aim to debunk common cancer myths. Anyone with an entire drawer of hats has endured the well intentioned, often wackadoodle theories about Cancer from friends and strangers, alike. And if you’re Asian-family immersed or adjacent, your catalogue of “myths” will be too long for a mere 24 hours of debunking. In the early days after my diagnosis, in a much appreciated lighten-the-mood moment, my sister-in-law shared the top theories offered by A-Ma and A-Gong about my rogue cells. Only the Whole-Foodie-Yogi-Pseudoscientists and those Everything-For-A-Reason people can match myths with my in-laws. And not a single one of these angered or irritated me. Nope, they’re sort of hilarious after a justified, really? really? really? reaction. So in honor World Cancer Day, The Top Five Reasons Britt Got Cancer.

·      Unwashed meat.

Pretty certain A-Ma believes my opposition to meat-washing was my biggest risk factor for malignancy. Plenty of people in the previous generation believe our meats need a good scrubbing. Julia Child was forever rinsing the entire bird as if it had spent the day at the water park sharing towels with warty kids. I’ve always clung to the more scientific notion that heat kills microbes; and any Ames-test agents lurking mid-meat won’t surrender to your salmonella-spreading practices at the kitchen sink. I confess that, on occasion, I have faked the chicken-rinsing to avoid this argument.

·      Noodle water.

The first time A-Ma floated this theory, Cancer was something that happened to other people. One funny evening at the stove, she insisted that uncooked noodles could not be added directly to the soup. Why? Because Noodle Water Causes Cancer. Everyone knows this. It’s in the Chinese newspaper (conventional wisdom), and the Pastor said so (ergo, fact). It didn’t matter that Bernie and I have framed diplomas from accredited medical schools on the walls. Noodle Water Causes Cancer. The Chinese newspaper had also published a recipe for egg casserole that you cook in the dishwasher… so, you know, the obvious source for current medical theories.

A few years later, as I stood at the stove under one inch of hair, boiling soup for a full table of relatives, A-Ma re-issued the noodle cancer theory. This time Bernie’s rebuttal was delivered in Taiwanese (approximate translation: really, mom? really? really?) so I wasn’t privy to any new data offered by the Chinese newspaper. With dutiful daughter-in-law deference, I boiled the noodles separately. I’m only too happy to adopt noodle soupy superstitions to thwart metastases, especially if evil pasta broth caused my primary tumor.

·      Energy stuck.

Here’s one myth I support more than mock. If you’ve been an EMB follower since its scary beginning, you know that my father-in-law is magical. He’s a healer, a Xi Gong master, Ruler of Energy, faithful Christian, and just a super nice guy. When I was terrified, cold, shaking, and depleted of my own energy, he and A-Ma gave me some of theirs. But just as the assisted flow of Xi feels warm and lovely, when energy is blocked, pain, illness, even Cancer follows. My in-laws never launched a reason for my energy circuit deficiencies. It probably has something to do with dirty meat. Or noodle water.

·      Everything I eat.

Hey, girl. You’re so cute, all skinny in your yoga pants with your ponytailed hair and uncancered boobs. Thanks for suggesting I ate my way to Breast Cancerland, that my innards are polluted with processed foodstuffs, that my disease was potentially preventable with a weedier diet, and that the cure lives in the denial of everything delicious. I’m thrilled to hear your aunt’s dry cleaner was “cured” by her chiropractor/yoga practice/positive attitude. We’re going to be besties… I just know it!

·      God.

Certainly the Big Guy helped me through the unholy yuck of it all. Though I’m too skeptical (unfaithful) to float the myth that prayer can cure cancer, I won’t deny that it helped me through it. But the “only given what you can handle” and “…for a reason” and the bizarrely unfeeling, “have the grace to succumb instead of interfering with God’s plan” implies a deficiency of strength, courage, faith, or character. It also sounds dismissive and a bit unkind to your bald friend trying to make sense of the “why me?” of it all. These sentiments are also theologically silly. God is the biggest cheerleader for Life. God doesn’t “give” anyone Cancer. It’s not a test. It is neither punishment nor gift, neither spiritual nor personal. Although it feels like shitty luck, it’s really just science: two-hit hypotheses, environmental insults, genetic predispositions, and mutations.

But the kindnesses Cancer provokes, the Faith it re-kindles, the Strength it summons… that’s God. But He was already there, anyway. Cancer just makes you notice.

So happy Debunking Day, friends. Know that the cancered amongst you have probably considered weirder ideas than yours about why this happens to anyone. In place of your queries about oral contraceptives, radon exposure, and stress management skills, offer something that can actually help: love… and salted caramels. And just to be safe, wash your meats and separate your noodles. A-Ma is never wrong.

WCD 2014