Free Ranging – For Parents Who Want to Be Left Alone

There are a la46e34602bffb6354d7217da6ff675c2ot of parenting styles. Some have catchy names like attachment, mindful or slow parenting (which to me conjures up images of children being put in a crock pot. It’s a very unsettling visual). My favorite is the free-range parent. This type of child rearing has been in the news a lot recently when a Maryland couple was cited by Child Protective Services for letting their 10 and 6-year-old walk to and from a park that was a mile away from their home.

The parents reasoning for their free-range approach was that it was how they were brought up and they want to raise independent children.

Really?

Here’s my take on free ranging. It’s lame. In fact, I’ll go so far to say that I think free-ranging is just a cutesy name for lazy except who wants to admit that they’re a lazy parent? Pretty much no one and free range sounds so, I don’t know, Whole Food-sy like it’s all organic and good for you. Plus, it gives you a nifty soapbox to stand on as you puff out your chest and declare that independent child nonsense.

What these moms and dads really should be confessing is that they want to read a book, binge on a Netflix series or get some work done. No scratch that. They could do all that on their iPhone 6 while at the park with their kids.

So, I’ll share my opinion that this kind of parent wants their children to leave them the hell alone thus they call their non parenting free-ranging so they can feel good about foisting their kids off on other parents.

Yeah, that’s right foisting because most free-range kids, not too happy with being left alone, seek out the companionship and security of other families. Any mother who has been with her kids at a park, swimming pool, or even her own neighborhood is acquainted with the free-range kid.

This is the lonely child or children that see a family and come over and ask to play or partake of the snack being handed out. They glue themselves to you until you have to leave and yet you stay as long as possible because you are alarmed these children are by themselves.

At the pool it’s even worse because you fear for their safety without a parent keeping an eye on them while they’re in the water. (Quick note to all parents a lifeguard is not a babysitter.) You even start packing extra snacks for the kids because you know they are being left unattended for hours at a time.

Free-range kids in your neighborhood are a little different story. You know them and you know their parents. You also know on the weekends and in the summer they ring your doorbell at 8:00 am and would stay forever if you would let them. When you casually mention to their mother that her darling is “sure enjoying hanging out with your family for 14 hours a day” the standard reply is “I know. Isn’t it great we live in such a kid friendly neighborhood.”

Yeah, the kid friendly thing is great alright and the whole it takes a village is an awesome concept, but you didn’t sign up to be a free nanny and there are many times your own kids are enough to handle without raising another one.

As for the whole back in the day argument that goes something like this: “We left on our bikes in the morning and didn’t come home till we got hungry at night and look we turned out fine.”

Let me run this hypothesis by you. I would like to propose that the reason parents today are so, let’s say, protective, is because we spent our childhoods scared to death. Seriously, the things I did as a child I would never allow my kids the “freedom” to do. No way. No how. (Let’s see, I played on the train tracks, went off a homemade rope swing into a reservoir of questionable depth by myself because no one else wanted to swim and that’s just on one Saturday morning circa 1976.)

Another flaw in the back in the day scenario is that the world has changed. By letting your child roam you are not doing your part to restore America to the sensibilities of the Andy Griffith show. Aunt Bee is not home cooking pies. She’s running ConAgra.

For sure, I will admit parents today are hovering and helicoptering. We have our kids in a stranglehold that we like to tell ourselves is just a great big hug (or is that just me that does that?). But letting your kid free range is not the answer.

Primarily because childhood is exceedingly short, most especially the days when your kid would love nothing better than going to the park and hang out with you. These moments shouldn’t be shunned, pushed off on others or used as a teachable moment in independence. They should be savored because in a blink they’re gone and soon things like a phone will replace you as your child’s constant and steadfast companion.

*Attcover_1.3-2ention Snarky Friends, I have a brand new book out. It’s the second in the Snarky in the Suburbs series – Snarky in the Suburbs Trouble In Texas. You can buy it for your Kindle or in paperback on Amazon.  It’s also available for the Nook or you can get it for your Kobo reader. Click on a link and give it a test read.  I hope you like it! :)

Ode to My Mother Who Kicked Ass

Parenting gurus like to share the theory that by the time a child reaches the age of 10 mothers lose their place as the primary influencer in their kids’ lives. I was always skeptical of this belief and felt that these so called experts simply enjoyed torturing parents by using this supposition as a sort of scared straight program for hovering moms.

Now, I can tell you that, without a doubt, that the often-repeated parenting claim is not true. Your mother’s influence never ever goes away or loses its impact. I know this because my funny, wise, beautiful and hard-working mother, Gwen Claypool, recently passed away.

I was given the honor of writing her eulogy, which was, I think, a brave choice for my mom to make. She had to have known I would deliver an untraditional tribute.

For sure, some older ladies got a little ticked off when I celebrated my mom’s talent for seriously kicking butt. She was a force to be reckoned with how could I not celebrate that? The fact that she had, during her life, kicked the fannies of some of the ladies present at her service, well sorry (but you know, not really).

The act of writing my mother’s eulogy, of putting on paper everything she had done, and what she meant to me crystallized the fact that what you learn from your mom is steeped into the deepest parts of your brain and soul.

I know my love of reading comes directly from my mother. We would go the library with two laundry hampers, fill them full of books, and spend days just wallowing in the written word.

My mother, descended from Puritans, also valued a work ethic. There was never an excuse to not honor your commitments. Whenever I want to get out of doing something I see her face and it’s giving me the look that says, “I’m disappointed you are even wasting time entertaining this thought.”

She was smart as they come and had no time for “intelligent people doing ignorant things.” This lead to her having zero tolerance for stupidity in any form and if you were being stupid she’d let you know it even if you were a stranger. Of course, being from the South she would put it in such a way that you didn’t really know you were getting the stern scold.

Not being from the South, yet watching my mother’s campaign against idiots, I took up her gauntlet and have attempted to continue this crusade. The problem is I can’t do it with the grace she did. I’ve tried, but I just don’t have her innate charm. (Although, I was sent to charm school, but that’s a story for another day.)

One of the biggest gifts my mom bequeathed me was the freedom to be myself. She was a nonconformist and “felt tremendous sadness” for the herd. This even translated to clothing choices.

When I was a teenager it was the preppy era of fashion. Everyone was wearing $40 Ralph Lauren Polo shirts which back in the early 80’s was pretty pricey. My mother refused to let me buy any Polo garments (even if I was going to use my own money). Her response to my whining was “Why don’t I just let you wear a sandwich board that reads ‘My mother failed because I think a horse on a shirt is important.’”

To this day I can’t buy name brands. Northface, Patagonia, Uggs – never going to happen.

Another wonderful thing about my mom was that she was funny and slyly sarcastic. Someone the other day asked me where I got my signature eye roll. I replied my mother. He laughed and said, “You owe her. It’s a great eye roll.”

She also knew how to hold a grudge and in fact, considered it a character flaw if you didn’t have the “moral fiber to archive dishonesty.” Granted being Southern the grudge was concealed, kind of like pecans in a 10 layered pea salad, but, trust me, it was there.

Sometimes she was very serious in her archival pursuits other times she was joyously silly. For example, she had an encyclopedic memory of who gave me what for a wedding present. And to the woman who gave me a chip and dip platter from Target after she gifted that women’s three daughters with very nice sterling silver all I have to say is since 1984 she’s referred to the woman as “Chip and Dip.”

So, here’s what I have to share with all experts – a parent who has done their job well never loses their influence. In fact, one of the proudest things I will ever say is that I am Gwen Claypool’s daughter.

 

 

Dear Snarky – The Jilted Bride

Dear Snarkymime-attachment1

My daughter recently had to call off her wedding because the groom (with urging, I’m sure, from his mother) decided right after the rehearsal dinner that “he couldn’t go through with it.” You can only imagine the heartbreak and embarrassment, with a capital E, this has caused my daughter.

I want to submit a bill to the groom’s parents for half of the wedding costs since their son called off the wedding and since the mother of the groom kept on insisting she had to invite more family members and friends ballooning the guest list to well over 250 people for a seven course sit down dinner.

Do you think this is the right thing to do? I don’t care about the etiquette of it, I’m way past caring about that. I just want to know if you would do this?

Signed, Mother of the Almost Bride

 Dear M.O.B.

 I say go for it! You will probably not get one penny from the groom or his parents, but if it makes you feel better, is an outlet for your anger, and helps you heal than let them have it. Kick some butt and send them a detailed itemized bill. Or knock yourself out and do an excel spreadsheet and really stick it to them. 

 Just get it all out of your system, then hug your daughter, and count your blessings. It hurts right now, but the emotional cost is far less than what it would have been if your daughter had married a man who wasn’t  worthy enough to be her husband. 

If you have a question for Dear Snarky “21st Century Advice With An Attitude” email me at snarkyinthesuburbs@gmail.com.

I 35 – Satan’s Parking Lot

Traffic-i35_jpg_800x1000_q100The road to hell is I 35. I know this because I’ve had a celestial vision while I was driving to Texas.  Last week an angel, at least I’m pretty sure it was angel, (I’m not ruling out a BBQ sandwich purchased at a gas station messing with my mind) spoke to me and shared this fact.

I can even envision the immediate afterlife. There on a robust cumulus cloud people wait at a transportation depot where some are told to catch a ride on the Pearly Gates Express while others are damned to hell. This means they’re shoved in a car with the Frozen soundtrack on a continuous audio loop and sentenced to an eternity of driving on Interstate 35.

It totally makes sense that hell would be a highway with no exit. Forget about the fire and brimstone nonsense and the whole devil with horns and a tail. Is a little heat and a boss with anger management issues really that big of a deal when compared to being trapped in your car on a freeway, surrounded by swaying 18 wheelers, short-tempered fellow drivers, all while you’re in urgent need of a bathroom?

I 35, most especially in Texas, is more of a parking lot than an actual freeway. Last Wednesday, I spent two hours just sitting in my car waiting for traffic to move in a forward progression. I hadn’t needed to use the bathroom, but as soon as I got trapped on the interstate it was go time.

I suffer from the malady known as panic bladder. That’s when as soon as there is no bathroom available your bladder freaks out and decides it has an emergency situation. I prayed hard that I would not have to resort to using the 54 ounce Quik Trip cup in my car as a de facto restroom because being female how would you even make that work? There would be no lady like way to complete the task. I think I’d sooner wet my pants. Fortunately, just when I thought I really need to start traveling with Depends vehicles started moving again.

To make up for lost time it seemed as if every car and truck was going 90 miles an hour. I’m all good with that if you’re doing the whole hands at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel and eyes focused on the road while making sure to check your rear and side view mirrors every 30 to 45 seconds. But, no it was a distracted driver wonderland. Hello, going over 80 mph and looking down at your phone is not a two-fer anyone should try.

Then there’s people that like to take it to the next level by performing an advanced feat of stupidity like playing hide and seek while operating a two ton vehicle.

There was this driver that at first I thought was texting, but then I figured out he was furiously foraging for something. I had my eureka moment when I saw him eating french fries. My best guess is he was pulling a Lewis and Clark except instead of exploring new lands this guy’s was searching for fries that had landed either crotch adjacent or on his car floorboard.

I’m going take a controversial stand and suggest that the lives of everybody on the road take precedent over crinkle fries with zesty sauce.

An hour later a truck duo decided to do their version of the interstate waltz. Each 18 wheeler got in a lane and kept the same pace thus prohibiting anyone from passing them. I don’t know if this is what truckers do as a highway ha ha, but boy were they ticking people off.

Five minutes of this and cars started heading to the shoulder to pass the truckers. I hoped they were singing Jesus Take the Wheel because it looked like they were all headed for certain doom. I, not trusting my skills in extreme shoulder acceleration, stayed way, way behind the herd. Hey, I’m old enough to remember the adage Stay Alive Drive 55. This, I believe, disqualifies me from engaging in any sort of shoulder stunt work.

Finally, the trucks tired of their I 35 choreography and one peeled off. Again, cars surged ahead only to shortly come to a complete stop. Ugh, road construction. Like everyone else I’m all for updating the nation’s aging highway infrastructure, you know, as long as it doesn’t inconvenience me.

Then it happened. No, I didn’t wet my pants, but a man got out of his car and handle nature’s call not semi discreetly on the side of the road, but instead proudly and with vigor urinated on some traffic cones. Yes, I 35 is indeed hell.

*Attcover_1.3-2ention Snarky Friends, I have a brand new book out. It’s the second in the Snarky in the Suburbs series – Snarky in the Suburbs Trouble In Texas. You can buy it for your Kindle or in paperback on Amazon.  It’s also available for the Nook or you can get it for your Kobo reader. Click on a link and give it a test read.  I hope you like it! :)

A Bus Load of Hate

10430412_10152760545518869_1402370774464832147_nYes, just like you I am sicken by the racist chants made by SAE fraternity members at OU. To see those asses on a party bus doing a sing-song cheer about lynching makes me want to simultaneously hurl and pummel the entire frat.

But that is only the beginning of my gastric and emotional outrage. It was further heightened by comments I saw on my social media feeds from Texas acquaintances not so much defending the sub-human comments made by the Dallas based student but extolling the virtues of his “fine family” and “neighborhood” and “Christian upbringing.”

Umm, here’s the deal, just because you were raised in a privileged environment and have a jumbo house doesn’t make you “fine” or “upstanding.” It just means you have a decent cash flow or are carrying a lot of debt.

And just because you graduated from a religious high school doesn’t mean you have a “good heart” you know “deep down.”

This young man didn’t just go off to college and become an accidental racist. He didn’t just learn the N word. No. Racism is taught in the home. You learn it at an early age from your “fine” family. And for anyone to be comfortable warbling racial epitaphs much less crooning about lynching I think means you must have been brought up in an environment of hate.

Apparently this Texas young man found a surrogate hate family through his college frat.

But even more disturbing to me than the actions of the two men is the go along behavior of the entire bus. Where was the outrage from the sorority girls? Why didn’t other frat members yell shut the hell up or just punch the two guys hard in the face?

We strive to teach our children right and wrong. That all humans are created equal. But are we failing to teach them to take a stand, to speak up, to stop hate in its tracks?

As far as I’m concerned being a bystander or bus rider to racism and saying nothing makes you just as guilty.

Hate permeates. It smothers kindness. If you don’t take a stand it chokes out all the innate goodness the world has to offer.

It’s not enough anymore to teach our kids about equality. We have to empower them to have zero tolerance for racists. Most especially a party bus chocked full of them.

*Attcover_1.3-2ention Snarky Friends, I have a brand new book out. It’s the second in the Snarky in the Suburbs series – Snarky in the Suburbs Trouble In Texas. You can buy it for your Kindle or in paperback on Amazon.  It’s also available for the Nook or you can get it for your Kobo reader. Click on a link and give it a test read.  I hope you like it! :)

Team Crazy

espn_e_elite_576This column ran in the Kansas City Star last week and all I have to say is good thing I was out-of-town because the emails I got were scary. Note to self – don’t ever write about children’s competitive sports because there are a crap ton of parents out there who will want to take you down. Seriously, I’ll be watching my back for days.

Parents where have we gone wrong? How have we convinced ourselves this is normal? Is there something in the low-calorie Gatorade we’ve been guzzling? I’m writing this as a cry for help. Someone please tell me how well-educated, seemingly fully compos mentis, adults have fallen into the youth competitive sports trap.

I’m not passing judgment. For I stand before you as one of those idiot parents who are shelling out thousands of dollars and giving up a large majority of my life so my child can “compete at the elite level.” Whatever the hell that really means.

Okay, I think I know what it means, but I’m afraid to actually be the one to say it. What’s that? You’ve got my back on this. You want me to be the one who blurts out what the rest of us are thinking as we drive 200 miles, use up all of our hotel points, and have redefined our vacation to mean squeezing in a “fun something” during a tournament?

You really think it’s wise for me to come clean that our kitchens will never get remodeled and our retirement funds aren’t what they could be because our kids partake of something with intangible monikers like “select,” “elite” or “competitive” attached to it?

Alright, I’m just going to come out and do it. I’m throwing caution to the wind here people. Here you go. I being of sound mind and disposing memory and not acting under duress or undue influence admit and/or confess that I believe children “competing at the elite level” or participating in “select” sports means that a child has an interest in an extracurricular activity and by undergoing a “try out” will be placed in a level that allows them to enjoy said activity with their peers regardless of whether or not they exhibit or posses an even slightly above average aptitude for it.

Furthermore, I believe that parents are dummies, seduced by the thought that their children are extra special and holding onto hope that maybe all the money, time (and did I mention money), being invested will someday (please dear Lord, I beseech you to make this happen) result in a NCAA scholarship opportunity or on a lesser level make excellent college resume fodder.

Never mind that a kid getting a “full ride” at college is like seeing Sasquatch. You hear about it, some people swear it’s real and have known someone who has “seen it,” but you doubt you’ll ever run into one on the plains of Kansas.

To continue this conversation further let’s just throw out the obvious pros of having a child do competitive sports. Yes, our kids enjoy it. Yes, it’s good for them to be active. Yes, on the whole team building, friendships, life lessons etc.

Now, that that’s out of the way let’s refocuses our energy on the insanity.

Am I the only one old enough to remember when “competing at the elite level” meant an athlete was training to make an Olympic team? Because now it also means a family is spending their weekend in scenic Omaha and probably dropping close to a $1,000 (at least $250 of that in entry fees) so their 11-year-old can play volleyball in a junior high gym with 750 other “elite” sixth graders.

Since we’re all aboard the way back train who else can recollect when being a starting player on a high school team was the pinnacle of your athletic career?

Now some of the best athletes don’t even play high school sports. There’s either conflicts in their “competitive” playing schedule or their “elite” coach has told them they could pick up bad habits, put themselves at a risk for injury or heaven forbid, if the high school team isn’t that great they don’t want to “be associated with losing.”

Last year I tried to start a coup. I was talking to other parents about all of us banding together and clawing even perhaps chewing off the competitive sports shackles, but none of us were brave enough to make the break.

One parent even reluctantly shared that she couldn’t leave because “this was her life.” Not her child’s life, but hers. A majority of this woman’s existence was wrapped up in her kid’s team sport. It was her community. These were her “peeps.”

I totally understood what she was talking about.

This competitive sports thing has a lot in common with religious cults. You’ve got a charismatic leader, whose attention you crave, in the form of a coach. Add in long hours spent in confined spaces (i.e. the bleachers) and families being expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities and volia you’ve got yourselves all the makings of cult mania.

Maybe that’s what we all need – a cult deprogrammer because common sense sure isn’t working.

*Attcover_1.3-2ention Snarky Friends, I have a brand new book out. It’s the second in the Snarky in the Suburbs series – Snarky in the Suburbs Trouble In Texas. You can buy it for your Kindle or in paperback on Amazon.  It’s also available for the Nook or you can get it for your Kobo reader. Click on a link and give it a test read.  I hope you like it! :)

Dear Haters

folderofshame(I write a weekly column for the Kansas City Star newspaper and this is the column I wrote this week in response to the “you suck” emails I have received.)

People hate me. Okay, maybe hate is too strong of a word so let’s change that to some people have a fervent dislike of what I write. And you know what? That’s okay. I believe if you dish it out you have to be able to take it. And let’s be real here, sometimes I don’t just dish it out. It’s more like I use a bulldozer.

Subtlety has never been my strong suit and I don’t see that as a character flaw. I’m the youngest of four children. Trust me, subtlety would have gotten me nowhere in my boisterous family. To be subtle pretty much would have equaled being ignored. And have you ever known a baby in the family that likes getting zero attention? I didn’t think so.

In fact, this may seem perverse, but I welcome (on most days) emails from readers telling me how much I suck. It means, hopefully, I’ve made people think and I don’t believe that’s ever a bad thing. That said, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that every Wednesday when my column comes out I approach my email with a little bit of apprehension.

Some weeks my inbox stays friendly other times it’s chock-full of cascading comments about what an idiot I am. I know I’m in trouble when the email is over one paragraph.

In my experience if someone wants to write you a “hey, I loved your column” they’re not going to type more than a couple of sentences. That’s why the dual paragraph is a sign of doom and damnation. Apparently, not liking something or someone makes people very prolific. The puzzling thing is I’m always surprised by what’s going to tick people off. Usually it’s something I wrote that I thought was fairly innocuous.

In the one year I’ve been writing this column the angriest emails I received were about school community service hours (click here for that column). Okay, to be fair I did mention that I thought some parents might be overstating, just a tad, how many “hours” their children volunteered.

For example, how does picking up the neighbor’s newspaper and placing it on a doorstep equal “volunteering”? Isn’t that just basic manners?

My crucial mistake in writing that column was asking people to please NOT send me emails sharing how wonderful their children are and how many community service hours they had logged.

Oh my, what was I thinking? Because that’s exactly what I got.

Email after email (some in all caps) from angry parents lambasting me for daring to suggest that the whole keeping a log of being a decent human being is somehow wrong.

Worse, oh so much worse, was that half of these parents then proceeded to list their children’s volunteer accomplishments. At least three of the emails had attachments. Parents had scanned their kid’s community service logs!

I’d like to take this moment and give a shout out to the Prairie Star Elementary School student who was getting community service for walking the family dog. I was surprised I didn’t see licking cookie dough off the KitchenAid mixer beater listed as a “volunteer” line item.

Yeah, that’s right I read every last one of them. And congratulations you helped me make my point.

The community service log outrage proves my theory that if I really want to get folks fired up all I need to write about is anything pertaining to school and/or parenting. The one exception is when I wrote about paying for things with change. Okay, just wow on the number of people who hate quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies. I stand by my statement that it is still legal tender.

As for my school/parenting columns they usually trigger emails from mothers who began their correspondence extolling the virtues of not only their children, but also their parenting prowess. The emails then proceed to point out either my failure at all the of above or a series of tips on how I can improve myself usually in the form of suggesting I get more involved in my children’s lives. (Because yes, you can gauge a person’s long-term parental involvement based on an 800-world column.)

More than a few have hinted that I’m a “bad mother” and some emailers have actually stated, “they feel sorry for my children.”

As for the feeling sorry for my children statements. All I can say is yes, sometimes I also feel sorry for my children. Like right now, I feel sorry for my daughter because she’s about to get the mother of all groundings for “living like an animal.” (Translation her room is a nightmare.)

In terms of me being a bad mother. Yeah, for sure, some days I’m bad at mothering. But, a bad mother, not so much. And what is it about the bad mother name calling? Why is that the go to for attempting to get women to feel bad about themselves? It’s the junior high equivalent of telling a girl she’s fat and just as lame.

So don’t worry about hurting my feelings. Go ahead and keep sending those emails. I can take it. I look at it this way – it all just gives me something else to write about.

*Attcover_1.3-2ention Snarky Friends, I have a brand new book out. It’s the second in the Snarky in the Suburbs series – Snarky in the Suburbs Trouble In Texas. You can buy it for your Kindle or in paperback on Amazon.  It’s also available for the Nook or you can get it for your Kobo reader. Click on a link and give it a test read.  I hope you like it! :)

L.A. Story

la-postcardAs you watch the Oscars tonight and are seduced by the gowns, glam, and greatness of the So Cal life I offer you this peek into my recent foray into the heart of L.A. – the mall.

Is there anything more overrated than Los Angeles? Well, there’s yoga pants. Those are so overrated. Not that I don’t enjoy the wonder and forgiving qualities of an elastic waistband, but come on women get to know how to work a zipper again. In fact, now that I’m thinking of it L.A. is a lot like those Lululemon stretch pants – obscenely over priced, all about the label, and geared towards people with deep-seated self-esteem issues.

I can say all this because I’ve recently spent quality time in Los Angeles and years ago I called it home. But nothing brought out the overratedness of L.A. like being there with my 14 year-old-daughter, Isabella, several months ago. When she got off the plane she was like Bambi (you know if Bambi wore flip-flops) all starry-eyed, fresh-faced and agog at exploring the entertainment capital of the world. My excitement level was at zero because I was girding my loins in preparation of driving in the hellacious traffic.

Her first Los Angeles based query was “where are the pretty parts?” This is when I had to break her heart and tell her that L.A. was basically all freeway and the pretty parts were hidden, like the Lost City of Atlantis, to keep people like us away.

But my daughter, God bless her youthful optimism, wasn’t ready to believe me. She suggested we go The Grove, an upscale shopping center where younger celebrities are known to hang out. I tried to explain to her that The Grove has almost exactly the same stores as our mall back home, but like most teenage girls she was very persuasive so off to The Grove we went.

The first Grove gauntlet we had to run through was mastering the mall’s parking garage. You know you’re not in Kansas anymore when you have to pay more to park your car than you do for a sweater at Nordstrom’s. The second was not getting lost in the vast sea of Range Rovers that seemed to dominate the parking garage creating a feeling you were being held hostage in multi-leveled car dealership. The Rover has to be the official car of Los Angeles. Basically, if you want to pretend you’re special you need a Rover that costs six figures and has Ugg fleeced lined seats with Patagonia floor mats (okay, those last two things I just made up, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist somewhere).

This whole driving an expensive car thing in L.A. confuses me and speaks to the larger issue of the intelligence level of people who live here. Why in God’s name would you buy, lease, borrow or, whatever, a car that costs double what my first home did when you know that it’s just going to get banged up, keyed, crushed, and have other assorted acts of abuse perpetrated on it? The most popular pastime in L.A., besides hair removal, has to be taking your car in to be repaired.

What’s that? You’re confused about my hair removal remark. Well, let me explain. Los Angeles is the land of shiny people and they’re not shiny because they’re stars or any other such nonsense. The people of L.A. shine because they’re in a perpetual state of having any hair that isn’t a scalp follicle waxed thus giving their faces, arms, backs, legs, and other much more delicate parts a “I’ve just had hair forcibly ripped off my skin” sheen. How do you know you’ve made it in L.A.? When you have a certified, fair trade, organic waxing specialist that travels with you.

Two things I knew for certain when we hit the epicenter of The Grove. I weighed more than most of the people shopping plus I had the thickest eyebrows and that’s including the men. Nothing says I’m from Los Angeles like a middle-aged man with brows that look like Elsa’s from the movie Frozen.

Another thing that was wrong with me was my handbag. It wasn’t designer. Your bag is your calling card. It sets your pecking order and the bigger the better. L.A. is a land of horizontally challenged women schlepping around, what amounts to suitcases, on their wrists and shoulders. My daughter and I began playing a game I called “Price that Purse.” We took turns guessing how much each woman’s purse cost and then used our phones to Google the exact amount. The high dollar winner was an almost $8,000 Hermes bag that I thought looked exactly like a Dooney & Bourke purse I had recently seen on clearance at a Nordstrom Rack.

“It doesn’t even look that pretty? My daughter wondered out loud. “Why would someone spend that much money on it?”

“I don’t know,” I answered. “Maybe it matches her Range Rover.”

Finally, after we had our fill of people watching, we hit the Cheesecake Factory for lunch. (Yes, life is just one big chain restaurant.) After we placed our order I noticed a group of mothers were sitting with their children and as their kids ate they were drinking some God awful looking moss-green, foamy, potion, in a glass bottle. I asked a mom sitting close to us, who looked like an even skinnier version of Tori Spelling (FYI Los Angeles is comprised of women who look like Tori Spelling. If there is ever a missing persons report filed on Tori half of the female population of L.A. County would meet the physical description) what it was and she enthusiastically shared she was sipping a “handcrafted juice cleanse comprised of kale, spinach, romaine, chard and cucumber.” Apparently, it was “life changing” and she had “pretty much given up solid food.”

I wondered to myself if she had given up on life. Who voluntarily surrenders their right to chew? Is this going to be some sort of new movement – the Non Chewers? Are we soon going to be judged and regulated to “loser” status if we choose to chew? Oh, go ahead and think I’m crazy, but ten years ago would you have predicted that a large percentage of women would stop wearing pants with zippers and buttons?

In fact, those women not chewing made me want to chew harder. I plowed through my Chinese Chicken salad with gusto really chomping on the crispy wontons. My daughter asked me what my problem was I told her I was pro chewing and not afraid to show it. She gave me one of those specials looks 14-year-olds save just for their mothers. The one that says, “Ugh. Why am I stuck here with her?”

Before she had a chance to follow-up that look with an eye roll we had our first celebrity sighting. A  sit-com star was in the Cheesecake Factory. My daughter whispered to me, “He looks so, I don’t know,  not like he does on TV.  It’s kind of disappointing. ”

I knew exactly what she was talking about. Los Angeles is all about artifice. Under a blanket of smog that looks like the area is being smothered with a dirty Snuggie everyone is pretending to be someone they’re not and worse they’re scared of all the not important things in life like hair, handbags and chewing.

“This right here,” I tell her while gesturing with my fork, “is why being average rules.”

“Huh?” she answers not getting my point.

“Average folks can chew with wild abandon.  It means we’re okay with who we are.”

“So. Not. Following.”

“You don’t have to understand me. Just know this. Never lose your sense of self.  You know, being okay with who you are. It’s your common sense compass in a world of directionless goobers that are easily distracted and get lost by taking the bright and shiny exit. Oh, and one more thing, never relinquish your right to solid food.”

 

*Attcover_1.3-2ention Snarky Friends, I have a brand new book out. It’s the second in the Snarky in the Suburbs series – Snarky in the Suburbs Trouble In Texas. You can buy it for your Kindle or in paperback on Amazon.  It’s also available for the Nook or you can get it for your Kobo reader. Click on a link and give it a test read.  I hope you like it! :)

 

 

Eyebrows

if-you-tell-the-truth-you-dont-have-to-remember-anything-truth-quoteEyebrows are why I quit my job in television news.

A little over a decade ago I was the anchor of a morning news program and to be honest I was weary of being at work at 4 a.m. and was already having thoughts of taking my career in another direction when the “eyebrow incident” occurred.

As some of you may know many TV stations use consultants to come in and critique their newscasts, anchors and reporters. All of this is done supposedly to create the best quality journalism product. Most of us who worked in the newsroom saw it as a huge waste of time and a special two-fer of insults and humiliation.

This is because our writing was never the real focus of the various consultants alleged wisdom. No, it was our appearance from the blazer that was perceived as being too “shiny”  to earrings that “signaled political intent.” While working at a station in Austin, Texas in the late 1980’s I was told by one consultant that the pearl earrings I was wearing on air were “too Barbara Bush” and I needed to select jewelry that was “apolitical.”

That’s nothing compared to the hair critiques I received over the years. Consultants remarks ranged from too flat, too long, too short, too straight, too blonde, and not blonde enough. My personal favorite was when I was told my shoulder length bob haircut made me look “overly smart” and “not approachable.”

It was suggested I grow my hair out and consider more blonde highlights so I would be “grocery store friendly.” Confused, I asked for more information about the whole elusive “grocery store friendly” thing. I was tersely informed that I needed to “look like someone people would feel comfortable talking to in the produce section.”

I suffered through all these indignities by offering up the standard issue anchor fake smile. (It’s the one I used every morning when I tossed to the Action-News-Storm-Tracker-Your-Home-for-Severe-Weather meteorologist for the school bus forecast.) It wasn’t until a consultant delivered a 45-minute passionate and scathing soliloquy about my eyebrows that I decided to say, “see ya” to television news.

Unbeknownst to me I have “angry, undisciplined, eyebrows.” These eyebrows of mine must also be incredibly gifted because the consultant said they had a “personality all of their own” and “competed not only with the rest of my face but also with the news I was reading.”

Breaking News: I was in need of an “eyebrow enhancement expert.”

Live at Five: My eyebrows were declared a state of emergency

Breaking News Update: I quit. My eyebrows and I decided it was time for a new employment adventure.

My broadcast career being determined by my eyebrows is why I didn’t even so much as raise an angry one over the whole NBC news anchor Brian William’s debacle. The man has very nice, let’s call them happy, brows that complement the words coming out of his mouth. Therefore it doesn’t matter that some of those words are great big whopping fibs.

I came of age in broadcast journalism when it was still all about getting the story right. I had a news director that loved sharing the time-worn bon mot that “Creditability is like your virginity. Once you lose it you can’t get it back.”

Reporters were trained that being accurate with a story trumped being first. We lived in fear of getting our facts wrong because we knew that not only would it get us fired, but also end our careers as journalists. And no one wanted to be jettisoned into that former news reporter employment graveyard known as hospital media relations coordinator.

We also had our feet held to the fire to never interject our personality into a story. It was Dragnet reporting – just the facts.

Slowly, reporting sensibilities changed and with the advent of social media that change exploded creating what I think of as a nuclear winter for television news.

I can’t be the only one that cringes when I see reporters doing live shots that consist of them reading their Twitter feeds. I want to shout at them, “do some legwork, make some phone calls, have an established network of sources so you can tell us timely, factual, information not what @hotnewshound419 is tweeting about.”

Oh, and if the information they reported turns out be wrong. No big deal. You get an “Oops, my bad” and that’s supposed to excuse any egregious factual errors.

As for Brian Williams and his love of the tall tale all I have to say is he violated the two fundamental rules of journalism and perhaps even of being an adult. He lost his creditability and he made it all about him. His hubris in thinking no one would ever call him out on his fabrications makes it even worse.

He needs to go away and maybe if he’s very, very lucky someday he’ll be able to land a job as a media relations coordinator.

*Attcover_1.3-2ention Snarky Friends, I have a brand new book out. It’s the second in the Snarky in the Suburbs series – Snarky in the Suburbs Trouble In Texas. You can buy it for your Kindle or in paperback on Amazon.  It’s also available for the Nook or you can get it for your Kobo reader. Click on a link and give it a test read.  I hope you like it! :)

 

Dear Snarky – I Hate Throwing Birthday Parties

One odear_snarky_logo-1f the more common themes from letters I get are about children’s birthday parties. It can be nerve-racking to throw an awesome celebration and yet not drop some major coin to make it happen. Here’s an example of some of the letters I have received.

Dear Snarky,

I can’t afford a big blow out for my son’s 9th birthday, but I’m afraid he’ll be disappointed if we don’t have a big party like his other friends have had.

OR

Dear Snarky,

I’m so mad I spent what I thought was a fortune on a party for my twins at a Go Kart track and kids were complaining that they were bored!

Oh moms, I so feel your pain.  With a party for six children at an American Girl Doll store costing more than $300 or a trampoline park celebration bouncing up and over the $500 mark it can make you starry-eyed for the days of a Duncan Hines cake mix and a couple of presents from mom and dad.

My suggestion to alleviate all this party anxiety and cost is to embrace the birthday festivities of yesteryear and kick it old school.

Here’s the deal.  Our kids are jaded.  Not kidding about this – one month my daughter went to 3 American Girl parties.  If you really want to throw a bash that will be remembered and not break the bank do something unexpected that speaks to a child’s sense of silly fun.Scan 3

One year I had a party for my son that  featured flour fights in the backyard.  I’m talking baking flouScan 7r. I filled up wheelbarrows with the white stuff and the kids went crazy. It was hilarious.

Another year for my daughter we had a goofy face paint party where the girls did each other’s “make up” and then put on a show.

All of it was very, very low-cost and fun. Primarily, I think because it was different, a little bit unstructured and they were allowed to make a mess. In fact, my son is 18 and he has one friend that to this day, still talks about the “awesome flour fight.”

So relax and don’t over think it and most importantly do not try to keep up, one up or use your kid’s birthday as a I way to impress other parents. That’s not a party. It’s a competition and there’s nothing fun about that.