Guys & Dolls

    

Is it nature or is it nurture?  The debate on why little boys and little girls are so different from each other has raged since the beginning of time.  I have solved this debate, at least for myself, because I am here to tell you, it is definitely nature in this house.  When my kids were little, I eavesdropped a-plenty, sometimes wittingly, sometimes not, during playtimes with their friends.  I remember Alex, my middle child, and a younger boy, Jared, who rode in our carpool, on the drive to preschool.  At that age (about 4), they were definitely not social geniuses…they were, after all, boys.  Their chief pasttime in the car on the way to preschool was telling jokes.  Jokes like this …and then the firetruck went down the street and ran into a house … HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA … and then the firetruck ran into a store … HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA … and then it jumped up on top of a house and crashed into the ground … HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA … and on and on, all the way to preschool.  It was one of those moments that make you say, HUH???  So this is what it is to be a little boy?  I did not grow up with boys and had no idea their jokes were this bad.

I first realized how innate “man genes” were shortly after Daniel was born.  Alex was 4, and I asked him to sit by Daniel to keep him happy while I cooked dinner (dinnertime was what I referred to then as the bewitching hour, when all babies get mad as hell and you’re trying to get dinner on the table).  They were watching tv and Daniel started screaming.  After several failed attempts with the pacifier, Alex gave up, reached over and cranked up the volume on the tv.  It struck me then what I was in for with all these “men” in the house.

In Alex’s world, action figures did not appeal to him.  He preferred to be the action figure.  Oh, we bought the latest Power Ranger or whatever character was hot at the moment, and he spent about two minutes trying to figure out what to do with it, then ditched it for something better.  These figures were, as my brother-in-law once pointed out, dolls.  Really ugly dolls, but dolls nonetheless.  Alex didn’t play with dolls, even ugly ones, so we finally learned to stop wasting our money on them and save it for the important things, like trucks (particularly firetrucks) and cars and car tracks, and about two billion Legos.  He was, in fact, a most accomplished Lego-maniac, building adeptly by diagram or freestyle.  Oh, and I can’t forget the guns, swords and ninja things.  He and his friends donned ninja garb and, well, did ninja things.     

Prior to this time, I did not know much about little boys.   My experience was with little girls, little girls who WERE social genuises, or at least master manipulators.  My daughter, Sara, and her friends lived in a world of make-believe.  Their encounters were reenactions of real-life drama, and the sparring was more subtle.  My daughter, accustomed to having her way in pretend-land at home, occasionally encoutered resistance from like-minded little girls also accustomed to having their way in pretend-land at their homes.  The interaction went mostly like this:  One of them would say I’ll be the mommy (or the teacher), and you will be the baby, or doggy, or whatever character they deemed had significantly less status than the mommy or the teacher.  (In my daughter’s world, no one had more social status than a mother or teacher!  I am dang sure missing those days!!!)  Anyway, sometimes the girls all played along, and sometimes the real drama would begin.  One of Sara’s friends, Jordan, quite frequently became angry and stood stockstill, with her back to everyone, refusing to play until she got her way … only rarely did she get her way, as my daughter can dig her heels in with the best of them (still!).  It mostly depended on how bad Sara wanted to play.  If she wanted to, she gave in, and the play would continue.  If she didn’t, Jordan got tired of imitating a statue and stomped home.  (See 2nd sentence, this paragraph, re master manipulators…).

Sara also loved the Barbies.  She had many, many Barbies.  Her little friends would bring over their Barbies, and before you knew it, buxomous Barbies were scattered everywhere, and little Barbie clothes, and eensy weensy Barbie shoes (much like Sara’s room today, only it’s her clothes and shoes everywhere).  The same kind of scenario would take place … whose Barbie got to be the mommy or the teacher would precede the play.  It was a while before they graduated to thinking about dating and going out with Ken.  In fact, Ken was never really big at my house.  I mean, come on, the guy had plastic hair, and they were just too young to care about his rock-hard abs… 

I used to encourage my husband to play with Sara.  He also doesn’t get the doll thing, but of course, Sara wanted to play Barbies.  I walked into Sara’s room one day, where Dad’s Barbie was repeatedly diving off the bed, bashing her head into the floor and making man-screaming noises.  Not pretty, but Daddy was trying! 

Then, along came Daniel.  He, like his brother, was a doll hater and car/truck lover, but unlike his brother, he did not/does not care about Legos, and in fact, Alex always built the Lego sets Daniel received as gifts when he was younger.  Whether he just wasn’t as dextrous, or had Sara’s master manipulator skills and didn’t want to do it, either way the new Lego sets would always get built by Alex.  Daniel liked weaponry also.  His first little friend was Chad.  They tried to kill each other with plastic weapons all through preschool and kindergarten.  A funny unrelated note, at Chad’s house, Daniel tried it all, especially vegetables.  He always said he had already tried all the foods he hated at Chad’s house, and that’s how he knew he didn’t like them … Daniel occasionally fiddled with the truth, ahem, still fiddles with the truth, but we’re all over that one.  It’s still a running joke around here that yeah, we know, you tried it at Chad’s house.  He hasn’t seen Chad in five or six years!

Daniel still plays war games, both physically and online.  A few years ago, Daniel and a huge horde of kids roamed the neighborhood with plastic semi-automatic rifles, splitting into teams and building forts as their safe zones.  He’s 12 now and has recently discovered air soft guns, so apparently, just the weaponry has changed.  The network of kids online playing war games is amazing.  I’m forever asking him who he’s talking to and trying to maim online.  I’m convinced that pretend violence is just what boys do, as it’s certainly nothing I ever taught my boys.  If I forbade them to play with the plastic variety, they would only fashion weapons out of things around the house … cardboard swords, pea launchers, you’d be surprised what can become a weapon or an instrument of pretend violence.  They don’t outgrow this.  See comment in paragraph 6 re Daddy’s attempt to play Barbies with his daughter.  While he wasn’t actively seeking to kill Barbie, he doomed her to jump headfirst off bed-cliffs, destined for death over and over again, as that is infinitely preferable in his eyes to playing dress the Barbie with designer clothing and eensy stilettos… 

While I’m picking on my boys (especially Johnny, my husband) … their penchant for gratuitious violence on television and in movies astounds me.  Apparently, they can’t watch too many things get beat up, shot up or blown up.   I seriously don’t get it, because my boys and my husband are mild-mannered people.  Never would any of them ever hurt anyone in real life, but the primeval manly urge to watch or participate in pretend mayhem is just out of their control.  Johnny says it is mindless entertainment, that comedies are just too much work.  He has such a stressful existence that when he can relax and watch people bludgeon and kill each other, somehow it soothes him.  I repeat, HUH???  I guess going to strip joints is mindless entertainment also, which thankfully, Johnny prefers watching pretend violence over the shimmying and shaking of real life nubile extroverts.  What is it about men and mindless entertainment???  What’s wrong with getting a few brain cells involved???

So, there you have it.  Guys and dolls at play.  Thankfully, our real lives aren’t nearly so simple, or complicated, or at least not so manipulative and violent … and the jokes have gotten much better!!!

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Pee-yews & Better News

I laughed out loud today when I read about the skunk that got on a plane in Miami yesterday and let ‘er rip!  Too funny, but I’m glad I wasn’t on that plane!!!  I think he was in the cargo hold, but when workers tried to remove him, Pepe let ’em have it.  He let the whole plane have it.  How different it would have been if the plane had been in the air.  “Good afternoon, and thank you for flying American Airlines today.  We know you have other choices, and, by damn, you should have chosen differently today.  We will be deplaning before we land on this flight, so please find your parachute located…oh hell, we don’t have parachutes…but we’ve got to get the hell off this plane…”  You know, my last post was about a skunk, sort of.  What is that supposed to mean??? This blog stinks, I guess.

Just to prove I’m not all stinky, I read a beautiful article today in Texas Monthly (my favorite magazine) about a couple that has been married 80 years…to each other.  Their key to success – they just never thought about ending it.   Hard work and fishing were their mainstays.  Both blessed with good health, he is 101, she is 100.  How awesome is that?

See, I’m not all stinky…

Fritz, Pepe, Bo & Dudley

Work has sapped the blogging right out of me.  So, this is random.  I’ll just spew forth on the page…whatever I think of I will type…ooooh dangerous!  Thank goodness for editing features.  Like I could ever write something without editing.  I’m a constant editor in that I can barely finish a sentence before I start messing with it.  I’m making a conscious effort now not to change anything until I’m finished with this, but you can bet your sweet bippy (remember that phrase, all you older than 40ish people?) I will be changing something before it’s over.  Yep, already did!  

I wish I could sneak away and get my camera right now, but if I do, the Kodak moment will be gone.  My dog, Fritz, is lying on his tummy froggy-style, with his back two legs splayed out as if he has not a bone in them.  If he was a person, you would call this position “the splits.”  Maybe he’s a doggie gymnast when I’m not at home.  After all, he’s agile, flexible, speedy, and somewhat graceful.  If only he could nail the mount and dismount.  Poor little guy does try on occasion.  Apparently, the “surgery” worked nicely on him, because he’s only amorous when Zoe (my other dog) has been in the pool.  Something about Zoe’s wet fur turns him into a spotted Pepe Le Pew (another dated reference), but without the fumes.  He chases her relentlessly when she steps out of the pool.  “Mmmmmm, Zoe, vous êtes un chien très sexy… permettez-moi de “sniffer” de votre queue… Je tiens à ma pratique la gymnastique …”   Tis the language of love, or lust in Pepe’s, er Fritz’s, case.

 

To put it in human terms, Fritz must envision Zoe in this way as she steps out of the pool:  

 

You could also say Fritz resembles the irresistible Dudley as he first lays eyes on Bo in the movie “10.”  I’m picturing Fritz, er Dudley, jumping from towel to towel across the molten sand to get closer to Zoe, er Bo (my absolute favorite scene).  If you’re under 40, you probably don’t even know these people…

My, how far I’ve digressed!

 

Too Close to the Falls by Catherine Gildiner – A Memoir

By her own admission, Catherine Gildiner admits that if she had been born decades later, she would have been labeled ADD.  Reflecting on this book, it seems to me that ADHD is the more correct term.   She was an only child of atypical parents, especially by 1950s standards.  Her father was a work-a-holic pharmacist, and her mother involved herself with civic duties, and had a willingness to let Catherine experience life on her own terms.  Catherine’s mother never cooked or cleaned, and didn’t do any of the things you would expect from a housewife of that era.  In fact, Catherine notes that her mother was “sent by central casting to play the role of the fifties housewife.  She could just have easily been given the role of a spy exploiting her remarkable talent for fitting in while not buying in.”  Catherine ate every meal in a restaurant as a child, and was slow to realize that other people actually cooked and ate meals at home.  Even with her unusual upbringing, Catherine had a close relationship with her parents, particularly her mother. 

Catherine grew up in Lewiston, New York, a small town on the Canadian border, close to Niagra Falls.  The Falls are referred to periodically and figure prominently towards the end of the story.  Catherine was the ultimate tomboy, and had little patience with girls her own age until she became a teenager.  She played with boys in her neighborhood, but her best friend was Roy, the delivery man at her father’s pharmacy.  To deal with her perpetual motion, and on the advice of a doctor, Catherine’s parents put her to work at the age of four at her father’s pharmacy.  She spent most of her formative years with Roy.  They played games and bet their wages on made-up contests while they drove the streets of Lewiston delivering prescriptions to the townspeople, and on one occasion to Marilyn Monroe.  Catherine was uniquely innocent and worldly at once.  It wasn’t until Roy took her to a restaurant while making deliveries that she discovered he was black.  She was amazed to see so many people that looked like Roy, with the same skin and hair style, that she assumed they were all Roy’s relatives.  Throughout their years together, Catherine took her problems to Roy and he shared his wisdom with her.  They were allies as well as friends for almost a decade.  Catherine and Roy knew everyone in town, from a mentally deranged Indian on the reservation, to an arthritic former lady of the night, to a maligned and disfigured woman who ran the town dump, and shared both tragic and poignant moments with them all.  

School was a philosophical quest for Catherine, and a stifling box in which she suffocated at times.  She attended a strict Catholic school, and routinely questioned matters of faith from a young age.  This put her at odds with Mother Agnese and Father Flanagan and others entrusted foremost with her religious education.  As a child she was confident and outspoken.  When she was confronted with a bully and no one believed her, she stabbed the unsuspecting kid in the hand with a compass to finally keep him at bay.  As a teen, she befriended Miranda, whose rebellious nature Catherine admired, and whose behavior she decided to emulate.  Together they reached a plateau of rebelliousness, including spiking the holy water and embarrassing a young priest.  Her relationship with Miranda was the catalyst that opened her eyes to the baser side of human nature, and to a realization that a world outside of Lewiston existed. 

I rarely read memoirs, but Catherine Gildiner had such a unique childhood, that her story did not read like a memoir.  The author’s writing is humorous and witty, but her story is also moving and thought-provoking.  It’s a story of an innocent child, a child whose imagination had no boundaries, but one who experienced such adult situations that she suddenly seemed more grown up than anyone else.  The story ends as she’s entering her teen years.  She hints that her family later moved away from Lewiston, and that her parents died young.  I only wish that the story had not ended where it did, as I was left wondering what happened to her later.  I enjoyed reading this book…I hope she wrote a sequel!

Just Weirdness

Any dream experts out there?  I go days without remembering any dreams, and then I’ll have a doozie that doesn’t make any sense.  Most of these dreams don’t have story lines that I can remember, just snippets of weirdness, like the following scene from last night’s dream.  I’m sitting in my car with a stack of clothes in the passenger seat that presumably needs to go to the cleaners.  I’m parked by a curb on a busy street in a busy city (maybe Dallas) between a couple of skyscrapers, and it’s dark.  Here’s the weird part.  I’m pulling out of my parking space, and see something out of the corner of my eye – a spotted mouse scurrying across my floorboard on the passenger side.   I remember thinking, “Oh shoot, there’s the mouse,” like I’ve crossed paths with this particular mouse before.  That was the entire dream as I remember it.  Now, both of my dogs are spotted, and I have a special affinity for spotted creatures.   My kids used to keep hamsters and guinea pigs, never mice.   I worked for many years in downtown Dallas.  I do take clothes to the cleaners on occasion.  These are things that I’m familiar with, but why my brain throws them all together in some weird scenario, I do not know.  Just weirdness!

Life in Between

This writing thing is hard.  I’ve always wanted to write, and now here I am writing and what I’ve written pops up on the screen for people to read.  Although few (and I do mean a miniscule few!) people are reading what I’ve written, and I’m not writing for money, it doesn’t matter, I’m suddenly a writer.  It has become addictive.  I constantly think about it, but figuring out something to write about frustrates me at times.  I know, and I’ve read, that the inspiration is out there everywhere you turn.  I do believe you have to get in the habit of noticing life, and stop barreling through to get to your next appointment, for in between is where the inspiration is.  I’m trying to do that, but old habits are hard to break.

Now, saying I’m a writer does not mean that if someone asks me, “Why, what do you do, my dear Carla?” that I would say I’m a writer.  I would definitely not say that!  I’ve written before, but not lately, so this blog thing is a new-ish journey of self-discovery for me.  I could never claim to be a writer in the way that people who write as a profession do.  I met a writer, meaning someone who has had her work published, a while back.  Not to wax political, but I met her at the Democratic caucus.  If you remember, thousands of people showed up unexpectedly at the polls and chaos was the only order.  We were standing squished together competing for oxygen in a small and stifling church foyer waiting for the magical moment when the regular voting was complete and the caucus voting would begin.  Normally when I stand that close to strangers, I feel a little uncomfortable, that whole invasion of space thing, but we had no choice but to bump cheeks (and I’m not talking about the ones on our faces).  We naturally fell into conversation.  One person on one side of me said to the person on my other side, “I think I know you, aren’t you the writer that lives in my neighborhood?”  Writer?  My ears perked up and I followed their conversation for a moment, much like following a tennis match.  After a bit, I piped in and asked her what she writes.  Her name, well I forget her real name, but her pen name is Adele Ashworth, and she writes historical romances.  Somebody deems her writing good enough that she gets paid to write books.  Nevermind that I rarely read from the romance genre, she gained instant celebrity status in my eyes. 

We talked about how she became a writer, and I won’t go into our discussion here, but I left with a feeling that I had met an interesting and incredibly self-motivating person.  I imagined what it would be like to see your work in print and bound, to fill in “writer” on the occupation line of all the mundane forms you have to fill out from time to time, to knock about the house every day in slippers from the coffee pot to your desk, and to be able to make your living by writing stories.  While not a glamourous vision, it does sound appealing and satisfying.

I know that a writer is someone who writes.  You can still be a writer even though it’s not your occupation.  I also know from talking with Adele Ashworth that as a writer she has a life not unlike my own, in that she lives in a similar neighborhood, same community, has a family, and is obviously concerned about the nation.  I’m just intrigued by how she and others like her make their living.  Now that I’ve started this blog, I have more respect for writers.  Just keeping up with this blog is a challenge for me.  Meeting Adele Ashworth was a coincidence, and a moment of inspiration for me.  I am now on the lookout for inspiration in all its forms…if I can just train myself to notice all the life that occurs between appointments!