The Bizarre Morality of Hair Color on Game of Thrones (SPOILERS!)

Has anyone else noticed the bizarre relationship between hair color and evil on Game of Thrones?

Blondes

betty-veronica-art-2
They look EXACTLY THE SAME, apart from the hair

It’s a simple, if troubling, old concept: light = good, and dark = bad. The good guy wears a white hat and the bad guy a black. Blondness typically means innocence.

Not so much on GoT, however.

The Lannister family, known for flaxen hair, are the evil, rich overlords of the show. Not only are they blonde and evil, but you can determine just how evil they are by how blonde they are.

Tyrion, the “black sheep” of the family, is the only one with brown hair and easily its most principled, likabable member.

jaime
I’m not as blond as you think

Jamie is probably its next best member: capable of great evil, yet not without redeeming qualities. He’s blond, but his hair is dark enough to be considered light brown.

 

Joffrey, on the other hand, is a raving lunatic, so evil that he’s not even calculating about it. His family may be willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead, but even they think Joffrey gets out of line. He’s just cruel for kicks and his hair is almost white.

joffrey
Platinum lunacy

House Targaryen, the other blonde family, aren’t much better. King Aerys II wanted to burn down a entire city of innocent people and his heir, Viserys, pimped out his sister to a horde of rampaging horse-worshippers just to get his hands on some warriors.

 

That sister, Daenerys, is the only exception to the show’s blonde=evil pattern that I can think of, with her platinum locks and benevolent nature.  She does have black eyebrows.

And there’s also Lady Brienne, who seems honorable. But they do make a big point about her “mannish” appearance.

Brondes

Bronde= brunette + blonde, the hair color often sought by women who want the best of both worlds.

It’s a color that can’t quite decide it’s own category, a color of ambiguity. Much like the moral ambiguity of the brondes on GoT.

jaqen-hghar-game-of-thrones-theory
You can’t pin down my motives any more than my hair color

I’d argue that the Faceless Men are brondes. Jaqen has brown hair with blonde highlights and is a difficult character to pin down. He saves Arya, then trains her, but also tortures her and ultimately calls for her execution. Still, he wants it done painlessly and only because it’s demanded by his belief system.

 

The Waif sometimes looks blonde, sometimes brunette, depending on the lighting she’s in. She definitely unlikeable, reveling a little too much in beating blind Arya with a stick, but she was only following orders. She’d probably be considered Lawful Neutral by the old Dungeons and Dragons alignment system, which is about as morally ambiguous an alignment can be. Same for Jaqen.

And Margaery Tyrell? She’s definitely something between blonde and brunette and we’re not sure of her morality either. It’s hinted that she’s not nearly as chaste as she presented herself to King Renly. She was willing to marry sociopathic Joffrey when it was politically expedient, barely breaking step after his murder to ingratiate herself to the next heir.

margary
Be wary of highlights

Margaery seems sympathetic to the poor, but as she told the High Sparrow, her sympathies were always very public, more about winning approval than genuine.

Was this true, or was she just telling the High Sparrow what he wanted to hear? We don’t know. Whether her machinations are Machiavellian or purely meant to protect herself and her loved ones is unclear.

Like her hair color.

Gray Hair

Gray hair usually denotes wisdom or fragility, but in Game of Thrones, no one fragile sticks around.

So maybe that’s why its gray-haired characters are among the most evil.  You have to be pretty ruthless to last long enough for your hair to turn gray in a land where you win or you die.

The long-surviving set includes Tywin Lannister, the godfather of the Lannisters, who was once blond. While you can’t help but admire his cunning, he’s undeniably one of the most evil characters in the show, which takes real dedication. He won’t hesitate to force his own children into miserable, unfulfilling lives if it’s politically advantageous.

walter.jpg
Why are you so nervous? I just said we should do brunch sometime

Neither will Walder Frey, host of the Great Red Wedding massacre, who considers his child brides replaceable, calls his sons weak and his daughters ugly, and marries off his youngest girl to a man seconds from being thrown into a dungeon.

Or Lord Greyjoy, who lost two sons twenty years ago and had the third taken hostage. His first reaction, upon his long-lost son’s return, was to call him a pansy and make fun of his coat. And THAT was the high-water mark in their relationship…

I’m starting to see a pattern here. Most GoT characters are ruthless against people outside their alliances, but the gray-haired ones aren’t even kind to their own kids.

Lady Olenna is the notable exception. She seems deeply invested in her grandchildren’s happiness, and I’m assuming her hair is gray. We never actually see it, though, from under her headdress. Maybe that’s on purpose.

The gray-hairs without children are even nastier. Littlefinger never had children, after losing Catelyn Stark, and he may be the most Machiavellian character on the show.

Or the High Sparrow, who has no children because he’s a religious fanatic, hellbent on destroying aristocratic sinners. He could arguably be considered a quasi-hero, being the only one capable of making Cersei Lannister answer for her crimes.

But I don’t think so. He’s a reformed lecher and a glorified hypocrite, brutally forcing everyone else into his own spiritual persecutive. He tortures homosexuals. His treatment of Cersei actually made me feel sorry for her.

And anyone who can make me feel sorry for Cersei must be pretty bad.

Brunettes

Brunettes fare pretty well in GoT. Most of the good characters are brunettes.

Ned Stark is brunette, as are Robb Stark and Jon Snow. So are Arya, Gendry, Khal Drogo, Bron, Brann, Dario, Benjen, Missandei, Oberyn Martell, Grey Worm, Meera, Mance, Gilly and Samwell Tarly.

Of course, “good” is a relative concept in this show. It seems to mean only being willing to do the heinous things you have to for survival, without enjoying them too much.

Samwell-Tarly
Not the face of a villain 

No one is entirely pure. Samwell may be the cleanest of the bunch, only having broken his vow of chastity after saving a damsel in distress. Or possibly Bran, who only sacrificed a friend while making his escape in a situation where everyone would’ve otherwise been killed.

Either way, dark hair is highly represented on the good team. We are even finding redeeming qualities in Gregor Clegane, who definitely started off as a bad guy. It feels like he’ll be renouncing the Dark Side in Season 7.

The grand exception to all this is Ramsey Bolten. He had black hair and was possibly the most evil character on the entire show, which was surprising. I didn’t think anyone could beat Joffrey for pure sadism, but I was wrong.

I guess Ramsey is the great outlier in the brunette equation, like Daenerys of the blondes. And both are hair-color extremes: Ramsey’s is black and Daenerys’is white. I wonder if that’s somehow significant.

Redheads

Redheads are represented fairly well in GoT, usually good but flawed. They’d probably get a chaotic good rating by the old DnD alignment system. They are ruled more by their personal consciences than any arbitrary group rules.

You’ve got Ygritt the Wildling, who falls in love with Jon Snow and risks herself to save him. She is kind enough to make Snow sympathetic to the Wildings’ plight (a first for the Knight’s Guard), but angry enough to kill him after he betrays her.

Except she can’t kill him. She’s a marksman who keeps firing arrows into nonlethal parts of his body, maybe so she can rationalize that’s she’s loyal to her Wildling buddies while still not leaving him dead.

wildling
We just want independence from England… umm, we meant Westeros

Or Tormund Giantsbane, with his shock of orange hair and Viking beard. After watching Jon Snow’s mercy-killing of Mance, Tormund decides Snow is alright and helps bring about the Jon Snow/Wildling alliance.

Apart from the Wildlings, there’s redheaded Catelyn Tully. She’s generally a good character, but can be nasty. For example, she was cold and unloving to the bastard infant her husband brought home.  I can understand her being angry at her husband for having an affair, but why be cruel to an innocent baby? At least she felt bad about it, I guess.

And then there’s Sansa Stark.

I’ll admit not being much of a Sansa fan, so far (I’m much fonder of Arya). It all started when she thought her fiancé Joffrey was super awesome.

After the butcher’s boy incident, Sansa has every reason to believe Joffrey is a monster. He bullied a peasant kid and then Sansa’s own kid sister, had the peasant kid murdered and then killed an innocent wolf.

At this point, any reasonable-thinking woman would be freaking out about what she was getting herself into, but no. All Sansa was worried about was whether the smug little sh*t still liked her.

sansa.gifIn fact, she seemed pretty squarely on Team Joffrey until he had her father beheaded then made her stare at his disembodied head while having someone smack her around.

That’s brutal, of course. But I’m wondering if there’s a word for people who have utterly no sympathy for anyone’s else’s problems until they are themselves facing the exact same problems. Sansa never cared about Joffrey’s cruelty until he was specifically focusing it on her.

Sansa goes through an enormous amount of personal suffering while refusing to learn anything from it. After finally escaping Joffrey, she throws a hissyfit about marrying Tyrion because he’s a dwarf.

Despite his kindness and sensitivity. You’d think after seeing how bad things could get with Joffrey, she’d be a little less worried about her new husband’s height than his character, but no. It takes Ramsey Bolten to put things into perspective.

Maybe we can cut her some slack for being so young. She definitely suffers from her foolishness choices and seems to turn around in season six.

Still, I’d argue that redheads in GoT are mostly good, with the exception of Melisandra, the Red Woman. Apparently, there’s a major outlier in every group.

 

So, what do you think? While not applying to every last character, there do seems to be hair color personality patterns on the show.

Is it a coincidence?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Republicans Apparently Hate Game of Thrones

After jumping on the Game of Thrones bandwagon a month ago, my husband and I are now officially caught up. It didn’t take long, because being able to binge-watch a great TV series every night is the best part of showing up late to the party.

The worst, on the other hand, is the loneliness. You have to avoid every article, analysis, fan theory, and even the casual overhearing of anyone else discussing the show. Just in case you end up hearing spoilers.

So I’m now struggling to fill the painful void that new GoT episodes once filled by reading all the articles that I’ve been avoiding. And I came upon something interesting…

E-Poll Market Research put out some fascinating research about a week ago about political affiliation and favorite TV shows. Their monthly E-score tracker analyzes the viewing of over 3000 US television programs, providing detailed research to media and Fortune 1000 companies.

Turns out, Democrats love Game of Thrones and Republicans really don’t.

Now, I’m sure that tons of individual Democrats hate it and particular Republicans love it, but there’s an enormous disparity between the two groups as a whole. GoT came in first place for favorite Democrat shows, but didn’t even make the Republican top ten.

darylandtyrionFirst, for Republicans, was Supernatural… a show I haven’t even heard of. Apparently, both teams love The Walking Dead and The Big Bang Theory.

Interesting… I wonder why Game of Thrones rubs Republicans the wrong way.

Certainly, there’s loads of gratuitous sex and violence. Of course, The Walking Dead isn’t exactly short on gore.

Maybe it’s all the boobies. I don’t know that you can get through a single GoT episode without eventually seeing someone’s boobs flapping around, which isn’t exactly family friendly.

But there are also a lot of nasty villains who eventually get their comeuppance, which seems like it should appeal to Republicans. The researchers found, after all,  that Republicans tend to like shows with storylines heavily focused on good vs. evil.

Of course, “good” is a very relative concept in this show. Extremely good characters, like Ned Stark, tend to lose their heads. Or at least their neck integrity.

Other characters, like the Hound, see so many kind characters slaughtered in their dog-eat-dog world that they conclude that decency is a death sentence. It’s a world of extreme moral relativity, one where survival always wrestles with altruism.

Maybe it’s my Progressive filter talking, but I have to wonder if it has something to do with the nasty, brutish, might-makes-right existence depicted in a world without regulation or relative class parity. Even the good characters must lie, cheat and steal if they want to stay alive, because those are the conditions a truly free market creates.

I’m guessing a Republican might have a different take, though.

It reminds me of the time I suggested that Robin Hood was a good hero for both the left and right: he gives to the poor, but is anti-taxes.

republican robinhoodA good Republican friend of mine, however, claimed that Robin Hood showed the evils of strong government. I pointed out that Robin Hood broke the unfair rules created by people born into an entitled class for the betterment of a strangled underclass. He countered that Robin Hood’s enterprise was stifled by unfair regulation.

socialistheroes

 

It’s fascinating how the same story can be read so differently through different ideological lenses, isn’t it?

I wonder what it is about Game of Thrones that makes Republicans and Democrats react so differently. Any thoughts?

 

Murder, Card Catalogues, and Birthdays

It’s been well over a week’s since I’ve posted and high time I wrote something, before I completely lose momentum…

We’ve been in the depths of home-buying hell lately, scrambling to compete for limited Sacramento inventory while trying to sell our house to folks who don’t want to risk contingencies. Moving from a lower-demand area to a higher one is proving tricky.

Plus, I’m having sporadic  panics about having to clear the evidence of two wild toddlers from our house quickly, so someone can check out our house before it re-explodes: “I said PUT THAT DOWN! Where are your SHOES… Did you just FLING YOGURT ALL OVER THE KITCHEN!?”

Momma is rapidly losing it.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: white carpets are where madness lies. White carpets and white tile and white grout and white painted decks were clearly the brainchild of some bourgeois masochist, hell-bent on providing suburban disciples with a daily atonement exercise.

dori
The carpet, like your soul, is filthy
It’s never clean. None of us are clean. There’s nothing so decaying as the core of Puritanical zealotry. Just keep scrubbing, just keep scrubbing (I’m picturing a wild-eyed Dori in a Thanksgiving hat as I say this).

 

In the midst of all this, however, my husband John surprised me with a three-day trip to Disneyland for my birthday, because he’s awesome like that. I thought we were just gonna hang out at Santa Cruz.

The trip was fantastic and I’ll be writing another post about it with adorable photos. But for now, I’d rather discuss getting older, since birthdays tend to make one reflect.

I don’t want to get too detailed about it, but let’s just say I had kids older than many, but young enough not to need medical help with it. I firmly believe there are different advantages to parenting at various ages, but in my case, this was the right path. I wasn’t financially or emotionally ready at 20.

Besides, the older I get, the more I grasp the grand relativity of age. For instance, I can still vaguely remember sixth graders looking SO grown-up, back when I was seven years old.

Now, many high schoolers look like kids.

In fact, I remember being baffled when my high school teacher parents called them that: “Kids.” Kids were single digit ages, to my way of thinking, who played hopscotch and dragged around dolls. 

High schoolers, on the other hand, could almost vote. Clearly, my folks were delusional.

I can also remember thinking 30 was practically middle-aged, back when I was fourteen or so. Thirty now feels very “young adult,” the soonest a person should be trusted with important decisions. Possibly it sounds infantile to septuagenarians.

 

My recent Sue Grafton mystery novel reading jag has put all this into even greater perspective. I don’t know why I’ve been on a Grafton kick, except that I like mystery novels and read hers years ago, back when I was younger than the main character. Back when I had to check them out of the library and hope someone had brought the next alphabet letter book back.

I have to mention, she really developed an ingenious titling system: A is for Alibi, B is for Burglar, etc. Not only is is easy (she just comes up with a crime-related word for each alphabet letter), but it also activates any Obsessive-Compulsive tendencies within her readers.

longdivision.gif
ABOMINATION
You want to complete the set. You don’t want to be missing “E” or “J” in your beautifully-coordinated book set, because that would be like long division with an outrageously repeating decimal remainder. It’s a missing bicuspid in an otherwise uniform set of teeth.

 

Clever titles aside, it’s been eerie to reread a 80’s saga I once read in my youth. It’s world is forever frozen in the 1980’s of my childhood, with a detective who still uses phone books and card catalogs. A detective who once seemed worldly and mature to me, but is now younger than I am, locked into a world without internet or smart phones.

It’s amazing to think the kids growing up today will see phone booths as antiquated relics, the way my generation saw old-timey 1920’s phones with bells you talk into and little cranks on the side. Phone numbers that included addresses because everyone was on a party line, or something.

Even crazier is the idea that someday, Millennials will be the old farts. Whatever the next generations ends up being called, they’ll eventually be making fun of Millennial music and pants styles, pointing out how dated it is to tattoo your arms and cringing whenever someone born “way back in the 90’s” mangles the current slang.

Sigh… it’s all a big cycle, isn’t it? I’ve never understood the point of fixating on age (you won’t find me posting commiserating “age test” memes on Facebook), since we’re all alive on this planet for one brief lifetime (probably) and better off living our lives than complaining about unchangeable details, but there are a few points I’d like to make after all this reflection…

  1. Every generation, probably since the dawn of time, thinks the next one is going to Hell in a hand basket 

Right now, it’s Generation X complaining about Millennials: they’re entitled, they’re materialistic, they’re lazy, they have bad manners… blah blah blah. But a thousand years ago it was Socrates, saying:

The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.

Funny how everyone seems to think the world happened to reach its greatest potential within their lifetimes.

On everything: common sense, manners, the right amount of technology before people become socially-impaired…

And music, of course. Music just happened to be awesome until right after your college years, whereupon it went straight into the toilet. The world’s collective creative peak just happened to zenith along with you before sliding into another Dark Age.

I don’t know if it’s because we forget the follies of our youth or just resent the world going without us, but I have no doubt the Millennials will be making the same arguments in another 15 years.

2.  We’re all convinced we were tireless gods in our youths, before our bodies betrayed us

“I used to stay up partying all night long, throw back some coffee, get into work early, and keep going like no one’s business. Can’t do it anymore, but boy, I used to be unstoppable.”

animal-house
Sure, this guy passes for early 20’s
That’s roughly what I’ve heard thirty-somethings-or-more say about sixteen billion times. They never used to get tired. They could get by on no sleep and just keep going. They used to get up an hour before they went to bed to run seven miles, hungover, before partying all night long.

 

I don’t know… I don’t remember it quite the same way. I remember having 8 AM classes every morning before doing a work study job then sabre fencing until 2 AM, night after night…

And I also remember being EXTREMELY TIRED.

I was late to that 8 AM class, more often than not, and downing as much caffeine as possible while I dragged myself through my days, sneaking naps whenever I could get one.

I remember eating candy corn and pounding Jolt cola while pulling all-nighters to write fifteen page papers, walking in circles to stay awake and eyeing my bed with incredible longing… How sweet sleep sounded, to just lay down and close my eyes into restful oblivion. I’d get the paper in and come home to pass out for the next ten hours.

I’m not saying we don’t have more energy in our youth, just that it’s not as extreme a difference as people claim. We view our youth through the Golden Good Times filter, much like we view relationships in the first days of their disintegration. Suddenly you’re remembering all the special songs and inside jokes, forgetting all the zits and jealousy.

We were tired back then TOO, we just did it anyway. We didn’t care. We wanted to hang out with our friends and had breaks in-between classes. We weren’t about to to get fired and lose the house.

We’ve grown soft, that’s all. We have cars, regular schedules, and expect more for dinner than microwaved Hot Pockets and creamed corn. We’re tired and bored, because making spreadsheets in a cubicle is way more monotonous than discussing the philosophical implications of Family Guy.

3.  You’ll eventually view your younger self as amazingly attractive, but stupid

meme-birdsI’m exaggerating a little for effect, but this is generally true.

While growing up, you’ll probably have a list of “flaws” you worry about: your chubby thighs, the shape of your nose, your zits or lack of six-pack abs, or whatever.

Ten years later, you’ll probably see an old photo of yourself and be amazed at how much cuter you were than you thought at the time. You may even want to reach through the photo to slap yourself, just for wasting so much time being insecure about nothing.

I think it’s a question of perspective. High schoolers spend most of their time around other high schoolers, so they don’t appreciate all the physical gifts that come so easily then… the fast metabolism (despite eating crap), the shiny thick hair (despite flatirons and bleach), and shadowless skin (despite stress).

They compare themselves to photo-shopped models, expensively-groomed Hollywood actors, and the select set of fresh-faced youths they run around with. Not the real world, the larger world of all times and ages, rush hours and cubicle jobs without exercise.

You’re so much better-looking than you realize. Even now, I look at “before” photos from five years ago and wonder why I felt so fat. Why I thought raspberry lipstick would look any different than fuchsia delight.

What a waste of time.

On the other hand, you’re probably deluded about how smart you are. I mean, you may be very clever, especially for your age, but you haven’t had the life experiences that will end up granting you wisdom over your next few decades. You’re taking things for granted you will end up appreciating later. Opportunities that you’ll wish you still had.

Because you’ll have some regrets. We all do. We all make mistakes and some of them stick with us.

And when you look back on your life, you see yourself heading into those mistakes, over and over again. Like watching Titanic and hoping the boat won’t sink, even though you know it will.

You may wonder how your life might’ve turned out differently if you had only done X or Y, wishing you had a time machine to see how it would’ve all played out. You want to impart this wisdom on another kid, hoping to spare them the consequences of your own idiocy.

titanic
Trust me, there’s no time for this crap. Go find a lifeboat and sit there.
But you can’t, because the story has been written.

So far.

Maybe that frustration is responsible for our tendency to remember the past differently than it really happened, to think we bounced from party to party, without sleep, and never had the irresponsible tendencies kids today seem to display.

I don’t know. But somewhere, faintly, I can hear F is for Fugitive calling my name.

Some things in life are easy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So I had to apologize to my husband yesterday…

For constantly accusing him of cranking up the thermostat.

I was convinced John was getting me back for programming the thermostat in odd numbers. He doesn’t like odd room temperatures, believing proper thermostats always read at 70 or 72.

So of course I couldn’t help setting ours to 71, just to prove the universe wouldn’t blow up. But after waking up sweaty in an 88 degree room enough times, I told him to cut it out, that these thermostat wars had gone on long enough.

He swore he didn’t do it and I wondered what kind of passive-aggressive shenanigans he was playing at, until the morning I walked in on this…

IMG_3707
Dang it

Well, fair is fair. I apologized for all the accusations and feeling vindicated, he tried to blame the kids for putting the toilet seats up and always leaving his clothes in the dryer.

Nice try.

 

 

 

 

 

Midnight at the Emergency Room on the Fourth of July

merica.jpgOur family met at my grandmother’s house for Independence Day celebrations, which was all kinds of fun. Plenty of good food was eaten (including ribs, jalapeño poppers, and potato salad) while the kids played in a wading pool and shot each other with water guns while bouncing on a giant trampoline.

There was also epic consumption of wine and beer, right before breaking out the fireworks. And I know what you’re thinking, since this story ends at the emergency room…

We had already shot off all the dangerous fireworks, the ones banned in Sacramento proper that you can still get away with in the backyard-goat-allowing burbs, when my cousin announced she had a special surprise.

For the past decade, she had been stashing illegal sparklers. The old-fashioned metal kind you can write your name in cursive with and still see it glow for a few seconds in the air. The kind they swapped out for the pathetic safe ones kids now have to use, since we no longer trust kids not to grab the wrong ends of exploding metal sticks.

Yeah, we lit them and had lots of fun remembering how sparklers used to actually be cool, back in the days when you could ride in the back of pickup trucks, shoot BB guns, and walk to the candy store all by yourself. Back when the biggest concern about living off Day-Glo orange popsicles and Kraft macaroni & cheese was staining your clothes (a lot of food used to be orange).

Unfortunately, I forget how hot they remain after going out and got a blister on my finger from holding it wrong. Suddenly, I remembered how we used to throw used sparklers into buckets filled with water and why.

Society used to trust people with higher temperatures, back in the day. Who doesn’t remember losing a paper sheet of skin off the roof of their mouth the day after eating hot pizza?

Probably Millennials, that’s who… And furthermore, you punks need to get the hell off my lawn (shaking cane).

Guess I got soft after manufacturers started making everything stupid-proof. At any rate, we ran out of good sparklers and started firing up the lame modern kind we had left. My cousin accidentally shot one into her hand and burned herself.

Oh the irony… using illegal fireworks without a hitch, then injuring yourself with a regulation sparkler.

I was at home in bed a couple of hours later when she texted me, asking if I could take her to the emergency room. I got dressed, drove to her house and found her holding one arm under the kitchen faucet while finishing up a glass of wine with the other. “It REALLY HURTS,” she kept saying.

I drove her to Kaiser, wondering if they’d put a little lampshade around her wrist, since that’s what they did when I grabbed the stove at age two. I reassured her this was probably a big night for injuries. She said she really hoped she wasn’t the only one.

We made it to the emergency room where my lit cousin walked in and told everyone how she’s burned herself after breaking out illegal fireworks. “You’re the first one tonight!” the guy behind the desk yelled. “At least, the first one who walked into the emergency room.”

I briefly wondered why anyone would schedule a fireworks injury appointment, before we figured out they meant people were coming by ambulance. I thought making an appointment would be funnier though (What’s the reason for this appointment? Well, I’ve got a bunch of illegal fireworks and am planning on drinking a lot. I know myself and figure I’d better be prepared for what-have-you…)

Along the way, my cousin kept regaling the staff with tales of her fireworks adventures and admitting to having more than a little wine. “SHHHH!” I kept telling her. “You want them not to give you any painkillers?”

“I’m just being HONEST!” she said, cause drunk people love to tell you how it is.

The nurse smirked and gave her some Norco. I kept fretting about her drinking talk getting her into hot water, but it apparently amused the hospital staff.

Turns out, she has a second degree burn on her hand. They put ointment on it, bandaged it, and gave her a prescription for painkillers. We went to the pharmacy in the middle of the night, where we overheard a guy explaining he had no identification after his dog “ate his license.”

I kid you not. He claimed his dog ate his driver’s license. I’d always assumed the dog-eating-your-homework deal was a silly cliche that actual kids won’t even use.

We finally got the prescription and I drove my cousin home, just as the painkillers were beginning to kick in. She said she was still in a lot of pain and I told her she was probably lucky she was a bit plastered. We remembered hearing about how people performed operations in the 19th century using nothing but whisky and how you don’t realize, as a child, just how inadequate that really is.

There’s that scene in Gone With the Wind where a guy gets his leg amputated after throwing back a drink… shudder.

My cousin will be okay, thankfully, but it was an interesting lesson. The illegal fireworks were fine, maybe because we knew they were potentially dangerous. Do we let our guards down too much when we expect everything to be regulated? Do we live on the precipice of a world where people will start injuring themselves with Nerf bats?

I hope everyone else had a wonderful Fourth of July! 🙂

 

 

The Day the Drones Never Came

It is the summer of 2012. My husband and I walk into the sunny foyer of a house in Rocklin, California, holding our infant daughter. We are staring at its inside walls, upon which we plan to hang adorable photos. They will detail numerous moments worth remembering in our growing family’s lives.

Sunlight pours in from open wooden shutters surrounding the ground floor, up a level into the white tiled kitchen with a central island, and down into the lowered family room. Sliding glass doors open into the intricately landscaped yard beyond a peaceful, white wooden deck.

The elderly couple who live here glance at our faces, checking for hints. They relax when we smile.

Such nice people, this charming elderly couple, but they can’t manage the stairs anymore. They admit to a faded brown stain in the white dining room carpet that simply refuses to budge.

We shrug. It’s a tiny blemish in an otherwise perfect house.

Now it’s the summer of 2016. My husband and I have spent the last two weeks trying to scrub out four years of family, hoping to erase ourselves before the drones arrive.

The drones are scheduled on Saturday the second, part of a fancy video technique arranged by our real estate agent. They take an ariel view of the premises before zooming through rooms.

She also gave us the number of a good contractor, who has been scrambling in 108 degree weather to help fix up the place. He power-washes the stains and chalk marks that none of our scrubbing could conquer. He fills in the wall divots from clumsily-opened doors.

He fixes the outside devastation that toddlers, chickens, Sacramento heat and the California drought hath wrought. He uproots plant corpses and lays down sod, filling in everything else with black bark.

He works long hours, always chuckling about needing to beat the drones. He brings in a couple of other guys to help.

Meanwhile, we’re dumping and scrubbing like our lives depended on it. We take down photos of our kids in preparation of showing the house. We look past them, for the first time, to all the stains and marks. There are always drips of something red or brown. All over the windowsills, peeking out of the corners, and cresting along the walls.

Some forensic expert could find the point of origin in these splashes (“someone short fell… here… and apple juice sloshed out at a 25 degree angle along this wall), but to us, it’s the most tedious game of Magic Eye imaginable. Look along this bumpy white perpendicular surface and try to find beige patterns that don’t belong. 

Oh! Looks like someone once got ahold of an orange marker. These pumpkin slashes were clearly intentional and spontaneous art.

It never ends, these decaying nooks and crannies. We find imperfections every time we look.

My husband and I were both such tidy people before having children. I detested any superfluous clutter and he spent ages inching furniture back in forth until it was perfectly symmetrical. “An off-kilter angle makes people uncomfortable,” he would tell me, as I watched him in disbelief.

We try… we try so hard, but we’re treading water. We’re swimming in clutter. Kids walk into a room and explode it by the time it takes to follow them. You always find errant Legos and forks. If not with your eyes, then with your vacuum or feet.

messykids.pngWe have baby gates all over the house from attempts to contain the madness. Here’s the one we set up to block the bookcases when our kids were tearing up my books.

Brontë even went though a paper-eating phase. She would tear long vertical strips along the edges of her favorite pages, before stuffing the curly words into her mouth. She made a point of eating Princess Jasmine once.

We childproofed every drawer and every cabinet, but Bridget’s tiny hands could still snake up and around. She would grab lipsticks and eyeliners and grind their pretty colors into the white walls and bathroom carpet in a three foot radius in the time it took for me to get upstairs.

The carpet in the bathroom is white, because EVERYTHING IN THIS ENTIRE HOUSE IS WHITE. White walls, while tile, white grout, white linoleum, white carpet, white railings, and painted white wood. The porch is white. The microwave, oven and refrigerator are white. Doors, electrical outlets, and moulding… all white and all covered in a fine mists of stain.

Whoever thought white carpet in a bathroom was a good idea? This place is a giant petri dish for calculating entropy. What’s the big idea with designing complicated white surburband castles?  It’s like people are TRYING to make everyone’s life a pile of suck.

What’s so bad about a little color? Natural wood is perfectly nice, as is gray grout. White inevitably gets dingy the more you handle it. You find your movements growing more ethereal, as if proper residents would float about the place.

Why do we do this to ourselves? White plastic appliances are terrible. They yellow, no matter what you do. I’m convinced it’s oxidation.

White shirts or tablecloths are alright. You can throw them into the washer with some bleach and they’re good as new. White carpet, though Even adults have trouble with that. You step wrong once and down goes the coffee. Your fumble is now recorded for all time.

But small children? They’re walking time bombs of poor motor skills and no sense of consequences. They constantly move, almost shaking, never fully sitting, fumbling with whatever’s in their hands and forever taking on too much. They’re arms-waving enraged when you try to help them, yet drop practically everything they ever hold.

They never drop it straight down, either. They spray it across the room in an enormous arc like they run around with high-powered fans behind them. Every meal containing rice is shot into a million crevices as efficiently as though it had been loaded into a machine gun.

You try to control it, but it’s impossible without tying your kids to the wall. Toddlers are ingenious. One time, Brontë was taking a bath when she pulled out a giant block of Parmesan and started taking bites.

I have no idea how she got her hands on it or where she kept it stashed.

Saturday, the drones are coming. Thursday, we panic and hire a professional cleaner. There isn’t any more clutter, but we need someone skilled to attack the surfaces and floor.

She works for six hours. We come home and the place looks nice. John takes the day off on Friday to help me tackle anything left. We send our kids to their grandparents’  house to spend the night so we can hurry up and take the pictures the next morning without crazed midgets unraveling all of our hard work.

We move out the cat trees, we out away extra appliances, we clear surfaces and extra furniture, packing everything into the garage. Everywhere we go, we find new drips and splatters and marks. We grab sponges and use the rough sides to circle the blemishes out.

We wake up the next morning to hide out toothbrushes and trash cans in the garage. I work on the dingy fireplace is still dingy. John notices the chalk art on the outside window screens and takes them apart.

The drones are coming at one o’clock.

We don’t eat anything, because we can’t mess up the kitchen. It’s all white.

It’s one thirty and the drones aren’t here. John checks his email history and realizes the appointment was originally scheduled for two o-clock. Maybe there was some miscommunication on their end. We call our real estate agent because we don’t have the drone photographer’s contact number.

Our real estate agent is camping. She doesn’t answer. Maybe she doesn’t even have a signal.

We wait around until two and I’m getting dizzy.

Two passes. It’s 2:15.

We call again, just in case.

It’s two forty-five when we leave a note on our unlocked front door and head out. We need food.

We return later to find our pristine house undisturbed. Quiet. Something is wrong, but we need to pick up our kids.

I put my head in my hands and sigh.

Our house is perfect today.

I don’t know if it will ever look this good again.