Saturday, October 29, 2011

the guilt trip

Tonight, barring acts of God, the Sober Husband and I will leave the children at a friend's house and drop by a party for a while. This troubled the children, even though they love the friend in question.

"I just want to get out of the house sometimes," I said. Turning to the Sober Husband, I said, "You spend all day in Mountain View. So when you come home, you like to stay home, because you're not there as much."

The Sober Husband made a face. "I think you are romanticizing my day." Putting on a fake voice, he ridiculed me extensively: "Oh, look, here I am in glamorous Mountain View! It's a magical land, called Mountain View!"

"What I mean is you get out of the house!"

Lola pointed out, "You can get out of the house. Just take us!" The children agreed that this was the optimal way for me to proceed, to never go anywhere without them.

Iris took it further: "By wanting to go out without us, YOU ARE REJECTING US. You are saying you don't enjoy our company!" Building up a head of steam, she continued in that vein for some time.

"We are rejects!" mourned little Lola.

"God, what a guilt trip!" I said. "I have been a stay-at-home parent for OVER TWELVE YEARS, and I have spent more time with you little freaks than any other child has had with its parent!"

Lola took the point. "I apologize for any trips, guilts, tripping guilts, or guilting trips I have given you at any time."

We drove home with relative parent-child peace, until conflict broke out over a certain child reaching across the center of the backseat into the other child's territory. "And you wonder why I want to go out without you!" I said sharply.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

oh! wad some power the giftie gie us to see oursel's as ithers see us

I went out for drinks the other night with Michele, my longest-term friend in San Francisco. We've known each other since the mid-eighties, when we were both hot young punkish things. As we made our way through a number of drinks down at the Rite Spot, the poet Burns' wish to learn how others perceive us came true for me, with the added bonus of seeing how others perceive my chosen mate, the Sober Husband.

Part I.
Michele and I were holding forth in fine fettle, and a man drinking near us remarked to me, with great emphasis, "I like you. You say what people think but are too polite to say."

I was rather nonplussed at that. I always think of myself as polite. But Michele roared. "That's Carole! She's always so brash!"

Part II. Whenever I get intoxicated and get into a long, drawn-out conversation with a hitherto-unknown man, I always talk about the Sober Husband a lot. It's a reflex. It's largely not needed (it's not as if people hit upon me nowadays with the frequency they did a decade ago), but it's a habit I can't get out of.

Somehow this reflex of mine led to Michele describing the Sober Husband to our new found drinking companion. "He's very generous, makes a lot of money, is socially awkward, and has good hair," she said.

"Good hair?" asked our new friend. "French hair or Italian hair?"

"Jewish hair!"

"But in a Jewfro?" Our friend made a face of disgust.

"No, he cuts it really short."

I was silent during this lively exchange about my life companion's hair, due to a bit of shock over "socially awkward." Is that really one of the first things that comes to mind when one thinks about my husband? I usually start with "tall" or "brilliant."

I couldn't deny that there was some truth to it, though. The Sober Husband himself is quick to admit that he often misses the social nuances in any setting. Sometimes that's handy, as often he completely doesn't notice that someone is hitting on him. For example, at a recent dinner party, a single mother was coming onto him strong, having dismissed me entirely as a featherweight loser based upon my stay-at-home-mother status. I however came roaring back, arguing her into submission in a strong debate about the subject she devotes her life and career to, ending with her trying to save face, murmuring "I should talk to you about this more some other time" while the Sober Husband himself, the subject of this little cerebral pissing match, wandered off obliviously into another room. In the car on the way home I explained the nuances to him: "It was like when guys are trying to see who has the biggest dick, but it was women trying to see who has the biggest brain. I have the biggest brain! I have the biggest brain!"

But yet sometimes the man has James Bond-like savoir faire. I will never forget the time when we stumbled into a very nice restaurant on a cold, rainy night, to be confronted with other cold, wet, hungry couples waiting crankily by the maitre d's station. The Sober Husband, with amazing presence, made his way to the maitre d and understatedly said, "My wife and I would like a table," shaking the maitre d's hand in a manly way. To my surprise, within two minutes the maitre d said, "I've found your reservation" and whisked us off to a very good table, leaving behind all the cold, wet people who'd been there for God knows how long. Laughing, my loved one admitted that he'd secretly passed a folded up twenty to the maitre d' when they shook hands.

I've seen that trick play out on other occasions, the suave passing of the hidden twenty, and it never fails to achieve its goal. "Did they teach that to you, growing up in Chicago?" I've asked. It always leaves me weak at the knees.

And then again he has flashes of brilliance in the field of romance. There was the time he wanted to get me a $1,000 gift certificate at my favorite clothing store, but he instead got it for $1,072.50 to account for sales tax. (Everyone who worked at that store wanted to see who the femme fatale was who had inspired a man to get the single biggest gift certificate ever known there, and every one of them looked at me with disbelief when she found out who it was. I suppose they were expecting Angelina Jolie). And again there was the recent time when I was angry and sulking in the shower, and he climbed into the shower, fully dressed, to embrace me. No other suitor has ever equalled these moments of romantic excellence.

So is the man "socially awkward"? I suppose so, but with areas of surprising genius. And am I rude? Perhaps so, perhaps so.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

the eternal mystery surrounding my friend N.

Right before I went to Burning Man with my friend N., the Sober Husband was puzzling over childcare options for my absence. In general I was not helping him figure things out. Besides the fact that I was pretty damn busy with my last-minute Burning Man preparations, my philosophy was that I have covered 99.9% of the childcare to date, and so he's due. Also, I bore a grudge for a couple of years after I had to find childcare for my own hospitalizations and surgeries when I was seriously, severely, on-the-brink-of-death ill. Finally, I felt that he'd appreciate my regular, everyday presence more if he had to scramble to make up for it. However, I did throw him a bone. I suggested that he ask my friend N. if her new au pair would be available while the two of us were off at Burning Man.

The Sober Husband went off to telephone N. I noticed he was speaking loudly and repeating himself frequently. Eventually he came into the room and reported with disgust, "She isn't going to remember a word of that tomorrow. She was high."

When we said our fond farewells the morning I was leaving, the Sober Husband carefully instructed me, "Don't let N. drive if she is high." He looked me sternly in the eye to emphasize this. "If she's smoking, don't let her drive!"

During our long drive to the desert, N. mentioned, "[Sober Husband] was really strange on the phone the other night. He kept repeating himself."

I burst out laughing. "He said you were 'high as a kite'!"

N. was chagrined. "I was sober!"

It turns out this is a recurrent problem for N. The other day we had lunch together, and N. recounted more incidents of people, like the Sober Husband, mistakenly assuming she was high. "Make sure [Sober Husband] doesn't think I'm always high," she instructed me. "I don't know why everyone thinks I"m such a stoner," she mourned. "Is it because I'm so mellow?"

Sunday, October 16, 2011

having a very hard time

I took in a litter of very small foster kittens, just barely three weeks old, and two of them have died. I sat up from two a.m. 'til six a.m. last night, being with the one named "Yertle" as she passed away. I gave her our last-chance-Lazarus kitten treatment, which consists of subcutaneous fluids, a hotpad, and some Karo syrup on her gums (and which really does work at times to pull a little kitten back from the brink of death), but I knew there really was no hope. I stayed by her side until it was all over, in case having me there was comforting. She had loved me, after all.

Lately it seems I can't get along with anyone and I can't keep my kittens alive. I'm having a very hard time focusing on the positive side in life.

I did drag the rest of the family down to the Occupy San Francisco march, as part of the 99% "National Day of Action", but the children, as always, wore their favorite and completely inappropriate footwear (Oprah flipflops for one and tiny, battered shoes long outgrown and replaced but repeatedly fished out of the trash for the other child), leading to multiple complaints of foot pain. The Sober Husband and I squabbled tiresomely about what the goals of the Occupy Wall Street movement are and whether anything was likely to be accomplished, and life seemed so dreary, full of hurting feet and little arguments.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

a rough day, a lousy date

For a variety of reasons, I'm as crabby as all get out today. Last night the Sober Husband and I had one of our semi-occasional date nights. I'd actually planned our favorite date evening-- dinner and a play at one of our favorite small local theatres -- so spirits were running high. However, during the play the Sober Husband got a text message from our babysitter saying that a bug got into the house and that Lola was in hysterics. A later text message said that quite a few bugs were coming into the house, crawling under the door jamb from the backyard.

Up until now this had been a lovely date. The day itself had been dreadful for me (I was stuck at home with Iris, who was running a fever and crabby), and I needed an outing. We'd been revisiting an old plan, to ditch the poor children with some chump and fly off together to Barcelona for a much-needed romantic vacation. We even have enough frequent flier miles for one free ticket to Europe. We'd had a lovely dinner at a place with a lot of romantic significance from our earliest dating days, before the play. But after the text, the Sober Husband immediately became cold, withdrawn, preoccupied, and judgmental. While he was texting during intermission, I bought myself a beer, and he then accused me of drinking too much. "Two and a half beers over four hours?" I said incredulously. "That's too much?" He wanted to get back home to Lola, and I was irked. "It's just a bug. I want to see the end of the play."

Noticing our conflict, a snoopy usher said, in a failure at sotto voce, "She sure is high-strung." I dumped the undrunk beer into the recycling container and stalked off. "Leave me alone!" I hissed at the Sober Husband. "I guess we aren't going to Barcelona, since we can't even get through a three-act Edward Albee play."

At home, I tried to just go to sleep and, as Shakespeare so wisely noted, let sleep knit up the ravell'd sleeve of care, but then the independently wealthy fellow who bought that horrible modern house on our block started up his giant Tesla coil. Evidently the man has hired some Burning Man type to build him a massive Tesla coil, and, being a man of independent means who can sleep whenever he wants, he only enjoys playing with it very late at night, in front of his house (and I happen to know he has a small backyard he could use). On a prior occasion I sent the Sober Husband out to find out the cause of the hellacious racket, only to get the report, "That guy has a giant Tesla coil. It's really cool. We talked about Tesla coils. I told him how I used to build them in college." Last night around midnight I freaked and ran out, in my sushi print pajamas and bare feet, and told my very rich neighbor that "MY ALARM IS GOING OFF IN SIX HOURS" and "DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW MUCH NOISE YOU ARE MAKING??" He, defensively, said, "[Sober Husband] said it was cool] and "[Sober Husband] didn't say it was too noisy." I wanted to say, "FUCK [SOBER HUSBAND]", but refrained. Instead, in the delicate tones which years of law school and litigation taught me, I informed my rich neighbor that it was far too late to be making such a hellish racket when the rest of us have early-morning obligations, and then I stalked off with as much dignity as possible for a middle-aged, barefoot woman wearing flannel pajamas with little pictures of sushi all over them.

And now today, for no reason, events are conspiring to remind me nonstop of my first marriage. At my gym, "Love Will Tear Us Apart" by the Swans was playing, the song which, stupidly enough, my ex said was "our song." Then in the car the Bryan Ferry song played which my ex said was the only thing which could comfort him the first time we broke up. These are both fairly obscure old songs which a person could spend a decade without running across, so the coincidence seemed odd. Then yet another old song with particular sentimental significance from that failed marriage came on the radio. I changed the channel with vehemence, while my own current Tesla-coil loving spouse sat, aloof and unnoticing in the passenger's seat.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

urban life and how it is enhanced by a certain semi-suicidal outlook

Episode I: Not too long ago the Sober Husband, the children and I were walking home from the Castro, when we passed some homeless people on the benches at Harvey Milk plaza. That's a completely normal experience, but what happened next wasn't. One of the street people -- a very unclean and unhappy looking man in his twenties -- got up off the bench and came up to me, pleading. "I really need a hug," he said, fixing me with a really crazed look and ignoring the Sober Husband at my side. I hesitated briefly, and the thought that this guy was going to stab me entered my mind. Ignoring that thought, I opened my arms and let the homeless person hug me. He clung to me gratefully, tearing up and burying his filthy head in my shoulder. After what felt like a very long time I disentangled myself from him. The man said sincerely, 'Thank you! I needed that so much!" and kept calling out his gratitude as we walked away.

"I thought that guy was going to stab you," said the Sober Husband as we walked out of earshot.

"I kinda thought that, too," I said, "but I decided to give him a a chance. After all, I was probably the only maternal figure available to him."

"You're very brave," said the Sober Husband approvingly.

Episode II: Recently I was walking home from working out at the gym, walking up a hilly, quiet, dark residential street. A cab began to follow me, driving slowly up ahead of me, waiting until I got close again, and then jumping ahead a bit. This went on. Obviously the cab wasn't looking for my business, or it would have pulled up next to me and asked if I wanted a cab. It was equally obvious that I was the object of its attention, because there were no other pedestrians on the street. And obviously it wasn't just trolling for business, because just a block over lay a street chock full of restaurants, bars, and cafes which would be full of cab-craving drunks. Clearly something creepy was going on. The prior weekend I'd taken several cabs, and I thought back to that time. I didn't think I'd undertipped or insulted the cabbies or left anything behind (indeed I'd bonded with a Filipino cabby, professing my deep and unswerving love of the Philippines).

During one of the cab's odd leapfrogs of me, a car honked irritably as the cab suddenly stopped to wait for me, without putting on its blinkers. I assessed the situation. I was carrying a largeish, heavy bag, which contained, among other things, a sturdy metal drinking bottle full of water and a large hardback book. I decided that if I swung that bag as hard as I could at either the cab or its driver, the odds were pretty good I could break a side window or a nose, depending. I continued up the hill, holding my bag in a ready position. At the crest of the 17th Street hill, at the big complicated and well-lit intersection, the cab was lying again in wait for me, but as I caught up, heavy bag at the ready, suddenly the cab changed its mind and cut across three lanes of traffic illegally, racing in the opposite direction from me and causing many, many cars to honk crazily in protest. "Huh," I thought. "Changed his mind." I walked down the hill without seeing the cab again.

At home, the Sober Husband was alarmed by this story. "Did you get the cab's number? Let's call the cab company." I hadn't bothered to pay attention to the cab's license plate number; I'd only prepared myself mentally for potential pedestrian-cab violence. The Sober Husband was a little nonplussed at my outlook. I confided, "Urban life is actually easier when you're still just a little bit suicidal."

Sunday, October 02, 2011

just like in the movies

I was upset with the Sober Husband over something he'd said, something rather amazing in its oblivious insensitivity, and I was sulking in the shower. The Sober Husband came in to talk to me around the shower curtain but then realized how upset I was. "I'm coming in," he said, but I refused. "There's not much hot water left, anyhow," I said. "It'll run out by the time you're ready to get in."

He paid no attention to that and, after setting down his iPhone on the sink, climbed into the shower fully dressed and put his arms around me. Of course I couldn't stay upset as he got drenched in his button-down shirt and Levi's.

"It's like something from a rom-com," I said as the shower poured over us and we kissed.

who is the grown-up?

Twelve year-old Iris peered superciliously over my shoulder as I was downloading "Pumped Up Kicks" by Foster the People. "That's a song about shootings at a mall," said Iris judgmentally.

"Actually, it's about school shootings, and I still like it," I said crankily.

Iris sneered.

"I like the song, Iris," I protested, but her disgust was unmoving.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

International Day of the Lola

Unbelievable as it may sound, Lola turns nine today. As the Sober Husband said mournfully, "She's halfway to eighteen."

All praise the Queen of the Passive-Aggressives (as beloved commenter Silliyak once dubbed her)!