Category Archives: Beauty

Love in Darkness

Sometimes, I wish I lived in my five-year-old’s universe. It’s a magical land of unbridled optimism.

Just the other night, she proudly announced that the moon loves her.

“How do you know?” I asked.

“Because it’s always following me,” she said. Pointing to the sky, she hopped up and down with excitement:

“Look, it’s doing it again!”

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5 Ways Having Kids Makes You Fat

Dieting SUCKS, so there’s usually some triggering event that convinces someone to start eating better.

For a friend of mine, it once was getting thrown out of a roller-coaster line by an attendant twice her size. For me, it’s been arguing with my five-year-old about not actually being pregnant. Because she insists that the last time my belly got SO BIG, she ended up with a baby sister.

the-only-honest-people-in-the-world.jpgShe doesn’t mean any harm. It’s just that toddlers are painfully honest without any grasp of the social ramifications. Like how she keeps playing with grandma’s upper arms because they’re so “fun and squishy.” Or like the other day, when my daughter grabbed a handful of my postpartum belly and asked why it looked like that.

“Because you lived there for year,” I told her. “Your sister too, before you’d even taken down all the staples from your posters.”

She was understandably confused, and I’ll admit leaking a twinge of bitterness into my response. Even though I should know better, because kids say ridiculous, rude things all the time.

It touched a nerve, though, because my jeans are indeed getting tight. I can still CLOSE them, thank you very much, but it’s not super comfortable and results in some sideways flare-out. My husband looks mildly panicked every time I frown at my muffin top, because it could mean all the chocolate is about to vacate the house.

The weird thing is, I actually lost the baby weight from both of my pregnancies within six months. You see, I’d grown up hearing countless women talk about how they used to be so skinny and had such fast metabolisms until they had children and then never managed to regain their pre-pregnancy figures again.

Since I didn’t have a fast metabolism to begin with, the threat of permanent explosion seemed imminent. So I hopped right onto a diet and exercise program as soon as I recovered from childbirth. I knew I had to unleash a Tony Horton-style dictatorship onto those rioting hormones before they swallowed me whole.

And I conquered it LIKE A BOSS. Why? Because I was prepared to fight that estrogen-soaked battle of making people, but knew nothing of the parenting lifestyle’s insidious creep.  It turns out, you still can’t let your guard down once pregnancy is over, because having kids makes it really, really easy to put on weight.

So I’ve been thinking about why this is, and have decided to warn prospective parents about what they’ll be up against:

1-  Kids have really small bodies

Once you have children, you’ll never take a normal, grown-up step again.

See, most of your free time is spent in their company. That means if you walk anywhere on foot, you’ll have to take them with you, usually while holding their hand.

And kid bodies are very small, which means their legs are really tiny. They can’t walk at a grown-up pace. If you try to walk like a normal person, the child will trip on the sidewalk, smack their face on the ground, begin screaming and make everyone stare at you in horror like you’re a monster who won’t wait for your kids.

So, you’ll have to start walking at the pace of someone with ten-inch legs. It’s slow, even without accounting for them being mesmerized by the mysteries of sidewalk grooves or the life-freezing eurekas of passing thought, both of which will occur approximately every 15 seconds because kids really don’t care about getting somewhere on time.

Clearly, strollers would seem to be the obvious answer here, except they mean sacrificing the exercise your pent-up toddlers so desperately need. I’ve seen far too many √ľber-fit moms pushing grumpy, pudgy 8-year-olds in strollers to think strollers are a good idea once the kiddos can walk.

2.  Kids take ages to get through everyday activities

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You’ll take seven hours to cross the street and LIKE it!
Things that used to take 30 seconds now take 10 minutes, if not half the morning. Things like just putting on shoes and walking out of the house.

You used to just grab your keys and walk out the door, but now you’ve got to clean up, change someone, and lace their shoes up, assuming that locating shoes doesn’t become it’s own drawn-out detective saga, or that said child isn’t naked, which are both wildly optimistic assumptions when parenting.

Remember how I said kids get mesmerized by sidewalk cracks? Apply that same principle to eating a meal or exiting a vehicle…

You’ve unsnapped their car seats, you’ve opened their door, and  you’re now standing on the side of the car while they stare blankly into space. “Okay sweetie, time to get out of the car,” you say.

So they take a step forward and start messing with the parking brake. Thirty seconds go by and you’re telling them, “Don’t mess with that, sweetheart. It’s time to get out of the car now.”

And then they step onto the doorframe, hold the back of the front seat with one hand, then stare at the ground with all the intensity of someone trying to solve the Palestinian crisis. They just keep standing there, as you look at your watch.

It’s all you can do, at this point, to not scream, “GET OUT OF THE DAMN CAR,”  except you’ve read about how vitally important it is to never, ever rush a child through trying to do something. Because rushing your kid means being impatient, which makes them feel incompetent, eventually destroying their self-esteem and leaving them sobbing in the women’s bathroom a decade from now, right after their pole-shifts, wondering where it all went wrong.

If only frustration burned calories.

3.  Because kids want to eat garbage

Before I had kids, I used to go to the farmer’s market to find fresh, seasonal produce with which to make elaborate meals from scratch. In fact, my insistence on unprocessed food was once a bone of contention with my Hot-pocket-eating boyfriend (later my husband).

I assumed I’d keep my lifestyle up after the kids were born, neither envisioning how much less energy I’d have, nor my frustration at seeing a thousand carefully-prepared meals splatter against the wall.

Or how desperate I’d be to keep the kids from rioting. Ideally, I’d love to feed the kids healthy food, all the time. I do still try, but it’s hard to keep throwing money and time at meals that end up in the garbage when literally every television channel and store display is flashing cartoon utopias of brightly-colored garbage that’s so much easier and cheaper.

You’ll also find yourself in the grocery store with a wound-up kid and a dozen reproachful eyes, just waiting for the looming meltdown, while knowing you could either put a stop to it all with a 50 cent treat, or hold your ground through yet another public episode of overwhelmed-mom-with-the-tantruming kids.

The struggle is real. And sometimes I cave.

4.  Because kids don’t eat much

You know how you finish your lunch because you paid for it and you don’t want to throw your food away, only to get hungry an hour later and have to pay for something else?

Yeah, kids don’t worry about that. They don’t care what you just spent on their dinner when you’re eating out and will push it aside then literally start throwing a fit about being “so hungry,” 20 minutes later.

You’d think a few rounds of “Well, you should’ve eaten your dinner then, because I’m not not getting you any more food” would fix that, but they’re surprisingly stubborn. Because kids always plan roughly five minutes ahead of wherever they are now. They don’t remember how hungry they ended up being last night and won’t apply that lesson to this evening. Sometimes I’m amazed the human race is still around.

Even when they DO eat, it’s frequently only a tiny bit. I’ve watched my daughter suck the chocolate out of a croissant, pick the croutons out of a salad, lick the parmesan off pasta, and pick the Shake-n-bake coating off pork chops before loudly declaring that she was done.

My husband cleans up our kids’ leftovers like a champ. It just sucks too much to spend your hard-earned money on a meal that ends up only two tablespoons lighter, so my husband takes one for the team by polishing off the rest. Problem is, I’ve noticed him pushing the kids to order something he really likes an awful lot.  Which makes sense, because you may as well order something you like if you’re going to end up eating most of it… except it’s a slippery slope from being thrifty to eating an extra, fatty meal because you “have” to.

Most of these meals, I notice, involve a lot of melted cheese. On the plus side, he’s really been leaning on our 3-year-old to practice her silverware, because who wants to polish off a meal someone’s massaged with booger-hands?

5.  Your own habits start to backslide

So… you find yourself ordering increasingly empty-caloried garbage in hopes that your kids will possibly eat it, then polishing off said garbage so you won’t feel like you just set your wallet on fire.

You find yourself keeping a few more boxes of cookies around too, because it’s so helpful to have little rewards handy for when your kids finally pick up all their Legos and use an appropriate receptacle to pee into.

And after a while, that kale & quinoa salad isn’t looking so appetizing to you either. I’m not sure it ever really did, but it’s a lot easier to lie to yourself without all this peer pressure.

You get used to meandering along, taking 45 minutes to do what used to take you 10.

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You’re the reason my pants don’t fit, you little bald monster!
Plus, you may be eating a few more chocolates now, because it’s the only vice you’re still allowed. I mean, after you’ve put all that drinking, swearing, and watching violent movies aside, what else can you do?. Who doesn’t want to stuff their face after 300 hours of Caillou?

Either way, these are some of the health pitfalls to watch out for after you move into a lifestyle with kids.

It’s tough, but I’m sure we can overcome it: start following an exercise program and letting the kids get hungry enough to choke down some well-balanced meals. Remind my husband to stop ordering out for pizza or bringing home fast food before we’re shelling out for whole new wardrobes of pants…

Wish me luck ūüôā

Getting Fat and Dealing With French Condescension

I haven’t been keeping up with my blog for the past few weeks and ho boy, did¬†the comments, postings and emails blow¬†up. It’s like that old episode of I Love Lucy where Lucy lets everything pile up on the chocolate factory, only I wasn’t seeing the chocolates threatening to avalanche because it was all happening in the mystical, invisible¬†land¬†of the internet.

lucy.jpgSo, today I literally tackled 4000 emails. They weren’t entirely my blog’s fault because I also spent half the day unsubscribing from various marketing assembly lines, which was a dragon whose slaying was long overdue.

I mean, what else was going¬†to happen to an openminded, very curious (likely undiagnosed attention-disordered) ¬†woman like myself? SURE, I’d love¬†to learn about the world of cycling and how runners should eat. How about the mysteries of ancient civilizations and Abraham Lincoln’s private letters while we’re at it? Of COURSE, I want to hear about whenever your breakthrough mascaras that will change my life forever go on sale (shockingly perfect¬†eyelashes -> ? -> perfect life!) And WOW, you’ll tell me whether I have a fire, air, earth or water personality¬†with your free quiz if I just enter my email that you promise not to share with anyone? (So weird, because Six Flags over Georgia keeps telling me about their promotions, though I’m almost positive I never asked).

frenchsnob.pngAaaaand on top of that, I started taking a French class with my mom and working out early in the morning, which screws up my powerfully creative middle-of-the-night writing time more than you’d expect. You see, mom and I thought I would be nice to do something together, like take a French film class. Except she’s a retired French teacher and I… well, I learned some French from hearing her speak it when I was little and later studied it in school, but I haven’t used it in quite some time. Picking a class that would neither bore mom¬†to tears nor be ridiculously over my head was a true¬†challenge.

So, I took a placement test and according to the Alliance Francaise, I’m an Advanced Intermediate, but it hardly feels that way when I’m watching French war films from the 60’s, paying extremely close attention to everyone’s body language in the desperate hope¬†¬†of figuring out a gnat’s wing of context, and reading out French dialogues in class while feeling about as ashamed as I’d imagine feeling after¬†just peeing on the public floor. (Why do they have to talk SO FAST!?)

The entire class is in French, including the instructions, and while I understand about 87% of it, I nevertheless¬†have to hear myself answering the teacher in cavewoman grunts while watching her look at me with that pained, patronizing expression that means she’s pretending that I don’t sound like an idiot so I won’t get discouraged. When it’s just too rough, I occasionally break into English again, whereupon she looks mildly startled by my capacity for abstract reasoning, as though she’d assumed¬†my aching attempts at normal French conversation reflected my general aptitude. This must be how blind people feel when others shout at them in slow, simple language. Or immigrants, when natives assume that their fractured grammar represents how¬†their whole brain operates.

Eh, I complain because it’s entertaining, but I’m actually enjoying this class a great deal. I like being forced to learn something new. You see, I spend most of my time around toddlers, and while I love my kids to pieces and cherish the time I spend with them, it’s not exactly an intellectual challenge, right about now. For example, I spent the bulk of¬†today’s¬†afternoon helping my 3-year-old practice writing her name, which consisted of her randomly scribbling on a paper then looking really proud of her alphabet mastery. Essentially, she was me in French class, except she’s blissfully unaware of how far off she is, whereas I can’t help but catch every micro-condescension in my French teacher’s eyes.

But in addition to taking the French class, I’ve also started waking up early to work out. You may be wondering why, given my obvious night-owl tendencies…

You see, I decided to start exercising more and eating better after my five-year-old started asking me if she was going to get a new baby sister.

“No,” I told her. “Daddy and I are happy with two girls. We aren’t going to have another baby.”

“But your belly is sooo…¬†BIG. Like when you were making Bridget.”

Sigh.

“No, I’m not having another baby.”

“But it’s getting BIGGER and BIGGER!”

Frankly, I think she’s being a bit of a weight Nazi, because I’ve only put on around ten pounds or so.

Maybe 15. Okay, maybe it’s 15 and I happen to think 15 pounds from skinniness is a little premature to start asking your mom whether she’s¬†pregnant. Still, I read something about how only yoga pants and toddlers tell the truth and figure if your belly is getting big enough for your kids to notice it, it’s probably time to jump on it before it becomes a larger issue.

And it could be worse, given that¬†she’s also been asking her dad if he’s making her a baby brother, since she assumes¬†women make girls while¬†men make boys. Which makes primitive sense, assuming¬†you don’t fully understand the process.

So, I’ve recently embarked on a P90x exercise routine in the mornings, because doing it anytime later throws off my entire¬†day, as well as a bold attempt at eating better. The whole process has made me reflect on how much easier it is to get fat and out of shape once you have kids.

I plan to talk about it in my next posting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Pink Boxes Made of Ticky-Tacky…

For today’s post, I was inspired to try something different: a freehand comic strip!

The only¬†problem is…¬†I don’t¬†know anything¬†about making panels or drawing on computers, which complicates things.

But was I gonna let my complete ignorance and total incompetence stop me? Hell no!

So here goes… and I swear I’m going to¬†get much better at this.

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Do Bubbles Really Cause Obesity?

Every once in a while, we long-suffering bloggers check our WordPress stats and are thrilled by a sudden explosion of new views or followers.

That’s probably the most awesome thing that can happen to bloggers when checking out our stats,  but a close second has got to be finding out the search terms people used to find our blogs.

Because those can be downright hilarious.

bubbles
Don’t do it, kid! Save yourself!

Like tonight, when someone inadvertently navigated to my site after asking the internet whether bubbles cause obesity.

I just… can’t make heads or tails of this idea.

I mean, I get the logistics of the search results (my blog has “bubbles” in the title and I guess I’ve talked about dieting and obesity a couple of times), but what’s really throwing me is the idea that someone, somewhere, is genuinely wondering whether bubbles may be responsible for their weight problem.

What kind of bubbles are they even envisioning? Spit bubbles? Soap bubbles? The kind of bubbles you played with as a kid?

Is there some kind of granola-hippie nut job  out there suggesting that chemicals in children’s bubble formulas are responsible for the obesity epidemic in America today?

Have you tried losing weight only to watch each diet fail, time and time again? Well, stop torturing yourself, my friend! There’s no need to feel guilty…  you’ve been a victim of the Great Bubble Conspiracy. Once released from the nefarious bubbesphere, you’ll see pounds melt off effortlessly, without changing your lifestyle or spending countless hours at the gym!

I seriously doubt bubbles have anything to do with gaining weight, unless the bubbles in question are the bubbles in bubble tea. Because those have a startling number of calories.

Sheesh, these weight-loss gimmicks are getting weird.

 

 

 

My Toddler Sticks It To Skinny Bitches

We were driving to the pool yesterday when my four-year-old daughter Bront√ę shouted¬†from the back seat: “Change the music, mommy. I NO LIKE IT!”

Oh, COME ON…¬†what’s wrong with the Dropkick Murphys?¬†The wheels on the bus going round and round, one more time, would spiral my eyes into¬†oblivion.

Bunching my eyebrows, I stared back at the 3-foot tyrant with Dora the Explorer sandals dangling off the carseat. “This is the music of your ancestors,” I told her. “And it’s cool.”

“No, it NOT cool, momma. It makes my heart cry. You please play the ‘About Bass’ song instead?”¬†Her light-up shoes blinked¬†in rhythm like a baby-alarm, winding up. Any minute now, this car would explode into piercing shrieks.

Unless I played THAT song.

Again…

Meghan-Trainor
Princess with an edge

Meghan Trainor’s All About that Bass.

I can’t entirely¬†blame her because it’s an awesome song. Upbeat and catchy, yet more complex than your typical kid fare.

It’s also a positive song. The lyrics talk¬†about loving¬†your body type despite social¬†pressures to be ridiculously thin. Part of me wants to play it on a constant loop, in hopes of permanently locking self-acceptance¬†into my little girls’ brains.¬†¬†Like buying emotional insurance for the¬†teen years.

On the other hand, the song also includes¬†cussing and¬†lines¬†about men preferring big butts. And as much as I love watching my girls¬†rock out to lyrics about every inch of them being perfect, from the bottom to the top, I don’t want them dropping S-bombs in mixed company.

Before having kids, I never considered¬†censorship dilemmas in such hair-splitting detail. Where do we draw the line? For example, my girls also became instant fans of Elle King’s Ex’s & Oh’s, after they caught me dancing to it around¬†the living room one morning.

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Toddler dance party

One awesome¬†thing about toddlers is their natural grasp of silly behavior. Most people would’ve laughed at me flailing¬†around the living room, but my kids needed no explanation. They jumped¬†right in and danced their hearts out as the lady sang about¬†dumping clingy boyfriends across the world. Because toddlers think dance parties are a completely reasonable use of one’s time.

I couldn’t bear to break up the fun, but part of me worried about whether¬†the song was appropriate. By content,¬†Ex’s & Oh’s is definitely naughtier than All About That Bass, but at least it doesn’t involve swearing. Swearing tends to shock people, especially from the mouths of babes.

So, which is worse: a song using words that, if repeated, could inspire accusations of being born in a barn, or a song with lots of femme fatale double-entendre?

The latter could¬†be the more dangerous¬†influence on Bront√ę, who is already showing signs of becoming¬†a heartbreaker. Last month, for instance, she informed her father that she would HAVE¬†to marry a boy someday because girls¬†are supposed to marry boys.

Hoping to sidestep any¬†potential identity issues, her dad told her, “You don’t have to marry a boy. You can marry whomever you want.”

Bront√ę paused to consider this for a moment before answering, “Well then, someday I want to marry TWO boys.”

You can see my dilemma.

Of course, when mentioning all this¬†to my family, I watch¬†amused vindication¬†spread across my mother’s face. She smirks while reminding me that¬†I used to know every last lyric to Aldonza’s song in¬†Man of la Mancha, back when I was Bront√ę’s age.

Born on a dungheap to die on a dungheap, a strumpet men use and forget,”¬†she tells me. “You would sing this constantly, at the top of your lungs, when you were THREE YEARS OLD! I didn’t know¬†what to do.”

And I find the story reassuring because it throws me, for a moment, back into my three-year-old perspective…

aldonza
She eats Barbies for breakfast

I can still remember being utterly clueless about what the song meant. I had no idea it was about a 16th century hooker. All I knew was that Sophia Loren was the coolest, most awesome woman my three-year-old eyes had ever seen.

Up until that point, my world of girlness consisted of skinny blonde Barbies with permanent, painted-on smiles. Glittery princesses wearing wedding-cake dresses, eating creampuffs in-between fairy tea parties and unicorn rides. They were pretty and non-threatening, always happy and calm. More perfect than I could ever be.

Then along comes this dark-haired, cat-eyed Italian woman with round hips, messy hair, and tanned boobies swelling out of her ratty clothes. She actually yelled at people, spat on the ground to show her disgust. She was good, but could also be angry, like me. Unlike the gentle flowery  princesses floating around Glittertown.

I was impressed.

I just knew, deep in my three-year-old heart, that I’d seen the face of The Goddess. All the cheerful pink princesses were just her handmaidens in disguise.

None of the darker subtext seeped in because children are innocent. All I saw was a beautiful woman speaking her mind, standing up for herself.

And I’m hoping that’s the part that¬†takes when my girls hear songs like¬†All About That Bass on the radio: a woman who accepts herself will tell anyone who doesn’t think she’s pretty enough to move along.

Or Trainor’s other song, Your Lips Are Moving, that my girls also dance to. It says that a man who treats you badly isn’t worth keeping, even if he sweet-talks you and buys you diamond rings.

Pay attention,¬†girls. There’s gonna be a test.

 

 

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 fianc√© 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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Play With Judgey Apps (So You Don’t Have To)

Sometimes, in rare moments of clarity, I realize that free time is completely wasted on me.

Because as much as I daydream about meditating and getting to all those fabulous books I’ve been meaning to read, my actual free time usually involves a lot of Netflix and internet rabbit holes.

Like yesterday evening, when I spent half the night uploading selfies to figure out whether or not I’m cute.

oldtimephoto
You mean, people will have all the world’s knowledge available for free and they’ll use it to find out what friends ate for lunch?
That’s right, all of humankind’s collected wisdom at my fingertips…  and I choose to watch people injure themselves hilariously or ask robots if they think I’m hot.

 

Hey, don’t judge me. You know you’re curious too, or you wouldn’t still be reading this. Our society puts a premium on youth and beauty, but it can be hard to figure out where you stand. There’s just so much paranoia and social sugarcoating confusing things.

So if you’re wanting a more objective opinion, I’ve found some websites offering fresh, ingenious ways to help you obsess:

This Microsoft app won’t tell you how cute you are, but it will tell you how old you look. They use virtual intelligence to measure whatever factors signal age in your face.

You can either use random photos or upload your own, which is what you’ll obviously do because why would you care how old a computer thinks a random stranger is?

Screen Shot 2016-05-21 at 3.48.56 PM.png
In case those passive-aggressive birthday cards weren’t enough

My take:

This app is interesting, but its answers varied quite a bit. Depending on the angle, it rated me anywhere from 20 to 39. That’s a big spread, just enough to tell me I won’t be talking my way into child or senior citizen discounts anytime soon.

On the one hand, I liked that it usually shaved off some years, but on the other, I now have a weird paranoia about looking ten years older if I hold my head wrong.

For fun, I also ran a photo of my daughter when she was three. It thought she was five.

I figure I’ll be keeping that to myself so she won’t get a complex about her age. I mean, that’s like telling a 21-year-old they look 35.

This soul-crushing nightmare was unleashed by the Swiss researchers of Blinq. It tells you how attractive you are and they created it by infusing an enormous amount of celebrity photos with the personal preferences of their dating site’s members.

I mostly could only pull off a “nice” rating on this thing, which sounds reassuring except there are three levels higher than that. Suddenly, “nice” seems like a kinder way of saying my face won’t instantly make Swiss people throw up.

Maybe it depends on whether the ratings are based on an even-spacing of all of humanity’s cuteness possibilities (where “nice” becomes the midpoint between being gorgeous and vomit-inducing), or whether attractiveness is based more on a pyramid with only a select few at the top (like wealth).

At any rate, the only photo of me to receive a coveted “stunning” rating was from three years ago when my hair was bleached super-blonde. So being the fair-minded, objective person I am,  I instantly declared the application racist and wrote off the rest of the results.

Just let me believe the app is racist, guys. I need this.

My take:

Since ratings are based on user preferences, I figure they measure what’s currently trendy.

After all, preferences change over time as different looks become fashionable. For example,  Mary Pickford was the cat’s pajamas of the 1920’s and while she’d still be considered cute today, she couldn’t work as a supermodel.

For fun, I ran a picture of Mary Pickford and she received the underwhelming “nice” rating too. So there.

marypickfordblinq
Not impressing the Swiss

This is a photo retouching site that rates your attractiveness before and after they work their Photoshop magic. They even give you in-depth, feature-by-feature ratings to let you know how your individual parts stack up.

Since they kept telling me what a goddess I am, I absolutely loved it. It’s just what I needed after Switzerland called me average, at best.

Despite lengthening my chin in the “after “photos, they kept heaping so much praise on me that I finally started wondering what was up.

I decided to establish a control.  I started uploading photos of weird-looking people off the web…. I mean truly weird-looking people, the kind whose photos go viral for running around Walmart looking inbred.

And they were ALL considered cute, confirming my suspicions. Dang it.

Screen Shot 2016-05-21 at 3.56.42 PM.png
Even Emperor Palpatine gets an eight

My take:

This is a great website to help you feel better about yourself, but it’s awfully generous.

This site has you upload your photo then drag markers to various locations around your face. It essentially uses the Golden Ratio to measure their proportions and symmetry, then tells you where you fall on a one-to-ten scale.

It also breaks down what ratios are good and bad, so you can pinpoint exactly what’s jacking up your face. What could go wrong?

I scored solid 8 point somethings across various photos, which I found reassuring. One confounding factor, though, is that ear length is used in many of the measurements and I had a hard time taking a front-facing photo where you could see both the tops and bottoms of my ears.

So my ears are unusually flat against my head. Who knew? I had to keep estimating where my ears ended, which might have thrown off the results.

I also found out my eyes are widely set. Out of all the petty flaws I obsess about, this one was a complete revelation. If it weren’t for Anaface, I might’ve gone the rest of my life without a clue about my eyes being too far apart.

The_Parthenon_in_Athens
My face would make a passable Parthenon

My take:

Since the Golden Ratio has been used to determine beauty in everything from human bodies to architecture for thousands of years, I figure Anaface measures what we call “classic” beauty, the type that stands the test of time but isn’t particularly trendy.

And since Anaface liked me better than Blinq, I’m guessing I would’ve been more popular in Ancient Greece than modern-day Switzerland. At least there are no Ancient Greeks still around to argue with me on this point.

In the end:

There are so many definitions of beauty that it’s impossible to really nail it down. Some experts think it’s all about looking very average, for example, whereas others think it’s about looking like an exaggerated boy or girl.

We don’t even all agree on how cute celebrities are, and those folks make millions off their looks. For every heartthrob out there, there’s a bunch of people who don’t get all the fuss.

Plus, our definitions change over time. Angelina Jolie is considered gorgeous now, but would’ve probably been too “exotic-looking” back in the 1950’s. On the other hand, actresses from the fifties would be considered chunky today.

So while these sites are fun to play with, don’t lose any sleep over them. They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I wholeheartedly agree… even if I did waste half a night trying to find out.

Girl Farts and Water Faucets

According to a mic.com¬†survey recently covered by Glamour¬†and Women’s Health, most people start farting around their significant others sometime between two and six months of dating. About ten percent let it rip from the start.

Reading this reminded me of something a guy friend posted on Facebook. He had seen¬†a female coworker walk into the bathroom with a newspaper and couldn’t get over the shock. Apparently, it was the most horrifying, unfeminine behavior he had ever witnessed.

I couldn’t help but respond: “You know women have to use the bathroom too, right? We have working bodies just like you.”

“Sure, sure,” he said. “But I picture them floating above toilets with yards of fluffy dresses, totally unconnected from what’s happening below. The newspaper makes it all too real.”

“If it makes you feel any better,” I told him, “Sometimes I used to take a book into the bathroom at work when I didn’t even have to go. I just wanted a break.”

It did make him feel better, which was hilarious since¬†he was hardly¬†some teenage boy living in dreamland. He’d been married to his high school sweetheart for fifteen years… how could he still be so touchy?

But then, who was I to talk? I was so shy when my husband and I were first dating that I’d turn the water on whenever I had to go number one. I didn’t want him hearing my pee sounds.

explosion
When women hold in farts

And if I needed to do anything more elaborate, I’d make him take his dog for a walk:¬†“Your Rottweiler just told me she needs to go for a walk around the neighborhood.”

John, bless him, would actually do it. He’d grab the leash with a big smirk on his face because he knew exactly what was going in but found¬†it cute that I went to such lengths to maintain the princess illusion.

He had no such hangups,¬†transitioning¬†into open-farting and walking around in ratty shorts early on. He’d pop¬†one and I’d scowl at him and he’d tell me it was just because¬†¬†he¬†felt comfortable around me now.

“A little too comfortable,” I’d grumble.

girlfartsMy friend Steph thought I was crazy. One evening she took my hand and sat me down, looked deep into my eyes and had a serious talk with me about bodily function acceptance.

“You have needs too,” she said. “You have to pee and fart like everybody else and there’s no call for this amount¬†of shame.”

“I know,” I said. “I just think contorting your¬†body while grunting out farts all the time isn’t good for romance.”

She rolled her eyes but needn’t have worried, because pregnancy would be¬†a game changer. Beyond throwing up left and right, you reach a stage during pregnancy where you have to pee every ten minutes, very urgently and often with little warning. There just isn’t enough time for elaborate preparations, so the faucet-starting subterfuge had to quit.

But that wasn’t all.

I remember distinctly the moment it happened. I was nine months pregnant and John and I were standing in the garage when I felt a fart coming on….

I clenched my butt-cheeks as per normal, but began to panic as I realized it wasn’t going to cut it this time. I felt the tingle of a thousand air bubbles straining my lower intestines as my butt cheeks valiantly struggled to hold back the dam…

But it was no good. I had a ten pound bowling ball collapsing my intestines and realized this fart was about to happen, like it or not.

I tried to let it out slowly, hoping it would pass quietly and inconspicuously , but it began audibly rumbling from the gates. It started with a balloon squeal, then as my muscles faltered, it crescendoed into a growling roar.

It was the longest, most horrible fart I ever farted, beating any night alone after cauliflower and beer. I don’t know if it was the pregnancy hormones or if the baby was farting simultaneously, but the thing just kept on going and going, amplified by garage acoustics.

Echoing throughout the garage, I may as well have had a microphone by my butt, and there was no point in pretending anymore. I started nervously laughing in horrified embarrassment and each flex of my stomach muscles popped the fart noise out louder until it sounded like the fart was laughing too.

I swear this thing lasted at least a minute and a half. It was such a¬†ridiculous fart that you wouldn’t think it was real if you saw it on a slapstick comedy. “That’s just stupid,” you’d think.”No authentic¬†farts could¬†possibly go on for that long. Some special effects guy¬†needs to back off the whoopee cushion.”

Well, pregnancy farts do. Somewhere halfway¬†through mine, my husband John broke into hysterics. His delicate wife who wouldn’t even pee without the faucet on was now farting right in front of him like the champion frat boy of alpha epsilon omega. By the time it was over, John was grabbing his stomach and rolling on the ground with tears pouring out.

The weird thing is, I think the Great Fart made John happy. It meant we were really a couple and could finally let down our guard. He was now the guy I trusted enough to fart around, and once you’ve farted like that, there’s just no going back. The princess illusion is over.

Thank god for that.

Not so for my four-year-old, however, who sees no conflict between farting and princessery. She’ll happily run around in elaborate princess dresses and rip farts whenever she feels like it. She’ll giggle while telling us “my butt said ‘thurp'” before going back to her tea party like she’s the fairy unicorn sorceress¬†of Glitterland.

I’m glad she can fart in peace.