Friday, August 27, 2010

Text and the Single Boy

So this teenage boy breaks up with his girlfriend by text. Chaos ensues. And if you were the adult he told this to, the sarcasmic impulse would be really hard to fight down. Really? She was upset? Who would have guessed? There are a million ways to break up these days. And while you can break up by exercising your thumbs, it doesn’t mean you should.

Kids think that adults are being mean and withholding when they’re told they are too young to be in an exclusive relationship. They have all these emotions, why shouldn’t they be able to use them? The key is that relationships are only 50% about emotions. The other 50% is the social skills it takes to deal with somebody else’s 50% of emotions. You not only need the skills it takes to get a person to be interested in being with you, you have to have the skills to actually be in the relationship and get yourself out of it if you are not meant to be together forever and ever. That’s stuff like being open and honest in expressing yourself, being open and honest when listening to someone else, being able to imagine the thoughts and emotions of another human being without projecting your own thoughts and emotions, having the emotional strength to be able deal with someone when they aren’t at their best, having the emotional strength to be able to apologize when someone else has had to deal with you when you weren’t at your best.

I don’t know many 14-year olds who can come close to doing that. I do know a lot of 40-year olds who can’t come close to a stable relationship. And unfortunately, their mothers can’t tell them that they need to slow down, go on group dates and “not date anyone special for awhile” any more.

So how do they develop those skills if they can’t practice on their beloved? Funnily enough, all of those things are things that they should be doing to one extent or another with people that they don’t hope to be French kissing in the dark with. The things that make you a good son, daughter or friend will make you a good romantic partner. The only difference is that being in a romantic relationship is one of the most intense expressions of “relationship” that any person can have. If you haven’t built the basic social skills, you are sunk. And nobody is fully prepared for their first relationship. But if you want to keep that person in the mood the French kiss you, or make sure that she doesn’t make sure no girl at your school will ever even consider allowing your lips to touch hers, it pays to be as close as you can be.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Princess for a Day

My nephew, who is adorable (all my nephews are adorable), had a recent photo session. In princess costumes. The whole ball of wax. Several costume changes. Satin, sequins, feathers, tiaras. And let me state for the record, he looked just darling. And not at all upset about the momentary fudging of his gender identity.

My sister-in-law is pregnant with her third boy, and coping with the fact that this means there will be no girls. She hasn’t had any easy pregnancies, and had decided ahead of time that if this wasn’t a girl, it wasn’t meant to be. She’s a terrific boys’ mom. Steady, tolerant, no-nonsense. But she definitely had wanted that daughter experience.

So, while her second is small enough (a year and a half) to not have any real ideas about what girls do or boys do, she took advantage of a trip to visit the boys’ little friend who has a princess dress-up box, and got him dolled up. And took pictures. Which the whole family has seen. My mother, of course, thinks he looks precious. My father did a very good job of not freaking out about his grandson in toddler drag. My sister and I giggled, but with reservations.

Not that I think this is going to be some precursor to a lifestyle choice. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But, the kid is all boy. I’m guessing they’ll have enough trouble in the future getting him into clean clothes, let alone worrying about him favoring chiffon trapeze dresses and kitten heels. What both my sister and I know, painfully, is that our family has a long, long memory for childhood indiscretions. And he will be catching a ration of crap regularly, at every family reunion, for having once been the belle of the ball. Especially given that there is photographic evidence.

But honestly, why? I’ve never been all that tense about gender identity. In my humble opinion, there would be far fewer guys messed up about their manly-manitude if they were allowed to play around without prejudice as kids. At the very least, I’m sure that dress up time was no harm, no foul. The kid is grinning from ear to ear and playing to the camera. And he’s destined to be the middle child. Something my brother should understand all too well. Let him have his moment in the sun where he’s showered with attention and all eyes are on him, and he’s got his mama all to himself.

And he really did look adorable.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Weird Sh**

Have you ever noticed that some places are just magnets for weird sh**? Like there’s a news story about some unbelievably weird event that goes down, and you are just amazed until you here it happens in _________. And then you think, “Oh, well if that’s where it went down – ‘nuff said.” So, I present my list of Top 5 Places Weird Sh** Happens:

5. Abandoned Mental Hospitals – If you are watching a “reality” ghost show, and they’re on a field trip to an old psych ward, grab the popcorn, cause it’s about to get good. Moving shadows, ominous feelings, foot steps. It will all go down in the Wildwood Hospital for the Mentally Whoopsy. Ghosts? Doubt it. The accumulation of bad energy that sits in that kind of place? Yeah, I’m just hippie enough to go with that. I’m more likely to believe that people will be more open to the weird if they are sitting in the dark in Hannibal Lecter’s old cell.

4. Kingman, Arizona – Cults + survivalists + UFO investigators + lots and lots of desert. You do the math.

3. In Large Vans – Statistically speaking, weird people like vans. Big vans, with small tinted windows. And whether that’s because they have a love of shag carpet and a airbrushed picture of a blue tiger on the side that says “Sex Machine” on the side, or because they snatch women and children off the street for nefarious purposes, ultimately doesn’t matter. The van gives them ample room for their weird to unfurl. Don’t park next to vans, kids. Don’t get in the van. Ever. There’s a reason they’re called Psycho Killer Vans.

2. The Ramada Inn – from murders, to FBI sex & drug ring stings, to Promise Keepers meetings, to alien abductions. If you see a reporter standing in front of this moderately priced hotel chain, call in a friend to watch the “strange news” report with you. People will not believe you unless you have a witness.

1. Florida – you know it’s true. Politics. Crime. Swamp critters. Hillbillies. Drugs. Planned communities designed by Disney. Whatever it is, it will be 296% weirder in Florida. Guaranteed. And I know what you’re thinking, “Hey, wait! You live in TEXAS. Like you have room to talk.” I’ll grant that. But this a Places Weird Sh** Happens list. Not a Places Where Stupid Sh** Happens list. There's a difference. One is where a guy shoots himself in the eye by ricocheting a bullet off of a frying pan that was swallowed by a 9 foot gator. The other is where someone shoots himself in the foot to see what it feels like. Florida. Texas. Weird. Stupid.

A Date with Guy Noir

The big ushering gig for the month was a live performance of Prairie Home Companion touring show “Summer Love”. I had to miss Natalie Merchant the night before, but rumor has it that Natalie may be off her meds – NOT a good show apparently. But PHC was everything I could have hoped for. I’m not a huge fan, but I have listened off and on for over 20 years. And there were huge fans in the audience. A 2,200 strong, sold-out house. Some had even driven in from other states. There’s nothing quite like a “core fan base” crowd. They were ready for every song. In on every joke. And really just stoked to be seeing something they loved.

And even though I’m not a super fan, here’s what I do love about the show. It just shouldn’t work. The host is a gangly guy with semi-dry, yet playful sense of humor, and a fair-to-middling singing voice. He tells loopy stories about his hometown (that doesn’t actually exist). Sing jingles for sponsors like Powder Milk Biscuits (also, imaginary). He’ll take a minute to ruminate about lost loves, or sperm (seriously). They sing songs that are either corny sing-along classics, or obscure folky/tin pan alley chestnuts. They do radio plays. They make NPR jokes, for crissakes. Who does that? Nobody else on the planet. If you took this as a pitch to Hollywood, they would both laugh you out of the room and call security. But, for some reason, it flies.

There was one moment where Fred Newman, one of the PHC Foley guys, walks out with this thing on a piece of rope. He starts to spin it around his head (and if you’ve ever seen Exorcist 2, it looked like the thing that James Earl Jones uses to fight of the horde of locust – how’s that for an obscure reference? Pee Zou Zou!). It makes this sound like wind. Then he starts to do a languid, half-sung, half-spoken word piece about the summer, adding in vocal effects for crickets. It was a tiny tour de force, and completely stunning. Possibly the most absorbing 3 minutes on that stage this year. I’m not ashamed to admit, it was kind of a turn on, too. Can’t speak for anyone else, but I for one was feeling the summer heat by the end.

Anyway. Summer Love. Not an extravaganza. Not a visual stunner. Not a laugh, gasp or cry a minute. Just people performing what they enjoy with quiet, yet consummate, passion. There’s something to be said for it.

And that’s the news from Lake Woebegone.

TIME: Quotes of the Day