Your baby is totally flirting with me

Rants are all the rage in the blogging world. From “open letters” to pet peevish posts punctuated with angry bullet points, these writers are fuming, and it’s something you are doing wrong. Of course, a proper rant is as satisfying as a Snickers® if you’re nodding right along with the writer. To wit, in honor of Pink-tober, Lisa Boncheck Adams reissued her angry plea to end kitschy Facebook postings that annoy us in the name of “awareness.” (The 99% who won’t repost are my kind of people.) Because my feathers don’t ruffle easily, I want this style to be wicked funny (better yet, satirical), or I read only whiny, self-indulgent, holier-than-thou foolishness.

If you are a ravenous reader of rants, you’ve noticed that the Internet has hijacked the word “feminism” in order to write angry essays about all sorts of things. When a 24-year-old Australian blogger took a crack at Feminism, and his young, thoughtful female readers chimed in with “I’m not a feminist, but…” comments, I couldn’t keep my meddling fingers from the keyboard. Doesn’t everyone know that the definition of feminism is a belief in the equality of the sexes? That’s it. Full stop. If you think women and men deserve equal rights and pay and access and accountability, then you are a feminist. (Yup, that’s you. Go get your bumper stickers.) All sensible and caring humans are feminists.

But after reading a ridiculous rant today, I see a glimmer of why sensible and caring people might shy away from the term instead of embracing it with pride. Occasionally, “feminist culture” has one too many Chardonnays and permits a dogged McCarthyism to unearth slights and inequalities in innocuous settings. Tagged with feminism! and gender this was published today on the always entertaining Belle Jar. A proud, but irritated mother of three absurdly attractive children doesn’t want you to compliment them. Seriously. She wants none of your inappropriate cooing about her diapered “heartbreaker.” She doesn’t want you to “warn” her that her son won’t be able to fight off the ladies. And when her Disney cute child aims a gassy grin your way, she doesn’t want to hear “he’s flirting!” Because apparently babies aren’t sexual creatures designed to seduce. Aaargh! I’M SO MAD THAT MY CHILDREN ARE BEAUTIFUL AND YOU ONLY HAVE COMPLIMENTS FROM 1965!

Taking offense at well-intentioned grandma praises is almost as silly as writing an essay about the downsides of financial security. I’m assuming future guest posts will tackle injustices against the naturally thin. Blessed with gorgeous, healthy children this mom can only suffer the right brand of compliments? A thread of supportive comments suggests there are plenty of sensitive moms who don’t think this is as silly as I do, but instead are aghast when someone wants to nibble Matty’s fat little toes. I imagine all of them sewing small burqas to shield gorgeous children from gender-role stifling compliments of evil anti-feminists. But telling someone in the checkout line that her baby is “delicious” is lovely, goddamit. There is NO OTHER WAY to receive this aside from, “thank you” or “I know, right? I just want to bite him!” The compliment may be trite or old-fashioned, but it’s a kindness from a stranger and should be paid forward with something much, much better than a rant about how not to say nice things about a baby.

And sure, we know what she’s getting at… after all, we’re all feminists (see paragraph 2). And language used thoughtlessly can certainly feed all sorts of stereotypes we would like to obliterate. But, if your children elicit these responses regularly enough to rally a rant against them, then you are throwing that cute baby out with the politically incorrect bathwater. Have the self-awareness to realize the world’s appreciation for your stunning children might not be knicker-bunch-worthy. Acknowledge a sincere kindness–hell, even a passing and corny kindness– as just that. And when we recognize the beauty of a child, this is not a willful neglect of his other traits, or a condemnation of all un-pretty babies (which do not exist, anyway).

Me, I’m much more concerned about why Suzie won’t be encouraged to pursue astrophysics. And if you want to compliment my boys on their cuteness and future prom date fitness, fire away. I’m going to thank you, and agree with you, and pour you a Prosecco.

My boys when little... big time flirts

My boys when little… big time flirts

Calm Down

I am extremely nice. My internal dialogue is occasionally brutal, often politically incorrect, and sometimes super judge-y. But outwardly, I am nice nice nice. I’m waving you into my lane. I don’t care if you go back for frozen waffles and then bananas and then pay with a check. I’ll hold your baby, the elevator, and even my composure if you get grabby. I spent the better part of this morning tracking down an air conditioning repair quote that is one month overdue, apologizing for calling so often with inquiries. It’s officially autumn now… so, really… take your time.

Today, with my usual “these things aren’t that important” breezy attitude I made the umpteenth call to Verizon. I ring them every few months, or years, to ask the current staff if someone could get rid of this for me.

Ain't it purdy?

This looks safe, right?

Last spring I made a huge breakthrough as Verizon admitted the pole was theirs, even confirming its exact location in my yard as it continues to wrap its (scary) wires around a rhododendron. They promised someone would come check it out very soon. I didn’t believe them. In fact, I might have even joked about not believing them… but in a nice nice nice way. So today, when I realized that “very soon” was six months ago, I made another call.

I usually dive right into my unwanted-pole-and-wires spiel peppered with factoids proving these (hopefully inert) wires are certainly theirs. Since I’ve been requesting pole removal for seven years, I know their deflecting questions and have ready answers. Occasionally, I’ll ask if they have any record of my prior requests. They never do. The whole dance is ridiculous and funny and a solid example of the complete customer service incompetence that exacerbates most of us daily; but the Verizon repair staff on the phone never, ever sees the humor in a mom trying for seven years to remove a wired pole from where the soccer ball always lands. It goes like this:

“I’m calling… again… see there’s this pole and blah blah blah and can you believe I’ve been calling for seven years? But now there’s this tree sort of leaning into it and the yard guys, understandably, won’t touch it until someone removes the pole and wires, and no one ever comes and, well… I’m just calling… again.”

Today, after my twee rant, the Verizon lady told me to “calm down.” I think tolerating a potentially electrified eyesore in the landscape for an entire dog year makes me the Zen Goddess of consumer complaint. She was probably reacting to my coffee-fueled pressured speech, but I certainly wasn’t angry or agitated… just overly effusive about my persistent pole situation. I’m calling about a POLE in the YARD, not a snake in the house, or fire in the attic, or tumor in the breast. Perspective and patience I have in spades, but nothing makes the blood boil faster than this couplet of words. But instead of indulging my inner meanie, I swallowed my spleen, apologized for interrupting her, and gave her the gift of silence… which she filled with a little harrumph that tells me this pole isn’t going anywhere fast.


(Over the years I have repeatedly offered a $100 reward to anyone who can make the men with chainsaws materialize. Apparently no one is so desperate for cash that he would willingly engage with vile Verizon staff.)

I think anyone who tells another (who isn’t aflame, or being chased by bees, or a smallish child) to “calm down” is afflicted with an incurable bad mood impervious to civility or bribery. And anyone who tells a sane person to “calm down” must know they’re inviting the opposite. But today, I resisted all desires to spew vitriol and landed myself Repair Request Order MAAT03D1Y2. Honey and flies and all of that. But if you wanted to call… like every single day… with not-calm-at-all inquiries about the status of Repair Request Order MAAT03D1Y2, I would urge you to Carry On.


Simple Things Are Hard for Me

It’s not that I’m especially stupid, or even terribly averse to new technologies, but I’ll never be that cool girl all jazzed about a new iThing. I’m the girl who inadvertently turns off the phone while it’s in GPS mode and we’re circling an unfamiliar city block with he-touched-me-stop-looking-at-me-are-we-there-yet boys in the backseat. I’m the girl who doesn’t know which icon to tap, or why the screen is black again, or why all queries lead back to iTunes. I’m the girl who asks the 8 year old how to take a screen shot and email the picture… exasperating said 8 year old in the process. So when my (first generation, I-hate-change) iPhone began to act all wonky, I attempted to hide it from the husband for as long as possible.

Him: What’s wrong with your phone?

Me: Um, it just kind of turns black if I send too many texts. Or check email.

Him: Is it the battery?

Me: (blank stare)

Him: You need a new phone.

Me: (crestfallen)

I’m assuming most people tear open a box from the Apple store rather immediately. Not me. Because I know that whatever is in there isn’t going to work. Well, it’s not going to work right away, or for me, or without a lot of cursing from the husband.

Him: Was the phone delivered yet?

Me: I think so.

Him: Did you look at it?

Me: I looked at the box.

Him: Go plug it in and follow the screen prompts to activate it.

Me: (radio silence)

Poor Bernie. After ten solid hours of surgery, husband returns to home and hearth and the ineffectual phone upgrade attempts by blonde wife. It was no surprise to either of us that my old phone did not appear anywhere on the computer after 45 minutes of spinning icon. I’ll never know where I sent all of my phone numbers, and funny texts, and fuzzy (first generation!) pictures of report cards and lost teeth. But kind, exhausted husband doesn’t balk at this, and does something with a Cloud and now the new phone looks like a shinier version of the old one and so, yay!, new phone, right?

Him: Now, just follow the instructions on the screen to activate the phone.

Me: It won’t let me type letters.

Him: There aren’t any letters in the activation code.

Me: There’s a “K.”

Him: Oh my God.

Ultimately letter-free codes are found and new phone is all spinny icon and the computer promises me that it will send me a chipper email when it’s all done. Alas, no email. After 8 hours the shiny phone is still all spinny icon. Husband, racing for airport in the wee hours, tells me to I’ll have to talk to customer service people. Because current strategies of haphazard icon clicking and magical thinking aren’t working. Dread. Customer service people have questions I cannot answer. I know how it’s going to go already.

Them: Hi, how can I help you?

Me: The new phone looks like the old phone, but it’s still all spinny icon and I didn’t get the email.

Them: Let’s start with your order number.

Me: The one that starts with a “K?”

Them: Could you put your husband on the phone?

They start fielding calls from dolts like me in fifteen minutes. I feel bad for them already.

Fantasizing about bygone days and corded electronics that don't make me feel stupid... but glamorous.

Fantasizing about bygone days and corded electronics that don’t make me feel stupid… but glamorous.


*weekly writing challenge