Monday, July 30, 2012

The Difference Between How Children and Grown-ups Think

Child: When is my skateboard going to be here?
Grown-up:  I’m not sure.  It’s coming by UPS.
Child: What time does UPS come?
Grown-up: UPS usually delivers around 10 in the morning or around 4 in the afternoon.  So, expect it to come around 4.
Child: Why 4?
Grown-up: Because then if it comes at 10 you’ll be really happy.
Child:  If I expect it to come at 10 and it comes at 10 I’ll be really happy.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Everything I Believe About Shopping (In A Single Sentence)

I was recently asked whether I prefer to shop for clothes online than in stores and in some ways I do because clothes shopping seems like a completely frivolous activity that I never have time for (even though I regularly need clothes, and they do need to somehow be acquired) so if I’m looking for something in particular, I might go online and check out several different sources for the single item, or, like my recent Zappos experience, where I thought it would be more efficient to find a pair of summer sandals by ordering 40 pair of shoes in varying sizes and colors and having them spread out all over my living room (a phenomenon my husband described as a shoegasm) so I could walk around the house in them and try them on with some of my clothes and get the opinions of visiting friends (one of whom needed to return multiple times because my head was reeling with too many shoe choices and I was beginning to have an identity crisis), and then send back whatever I didn’t want (which was all but one pair – shoes that changed my life for a few weeks but that now feel a little too stretched out and which I may send back as well), a process that, at it’s completion, proved to be wholly inefficient and stressful in a different way than shopping in a store, where, yes, you can touch things and see true colors in real time, but where you also have the opportunity to be struck by a certain something that you may not have been looking for at all, a prospect that scares me because I spend so little of my life browsing that the sheer act of visually taking in all that’s available in the world sends me into a kind of manic state and I end up buying far more than what I was looking for – far more than what I need – and, like any kind of mania, leaves me feeling exhausted and blue after the climax has passed, so that, for me, any in-store clothes shopping is best accomplished the way I did it yesterday, which was like this: I wandered into a clothing boutique at the Jersey Shore (looking for something more interesting to wear over my bathing suit than the cargo shorts I currently had on) and quickly eyed all the racks for a starting point, landing on a long, flowy, blue-and-green batik slipover dress that was cut in a way that would accentuate my lean torso and de-accentuate my child-bearing-hips; I pulled it off the rack, took it into the dressing room, slipped off my shorts, slid the dress over my bathing suit, looked in the mirror, stepped out of the dressing room to look in another mirror and also to give a sales clerk or another customer the opportunity to see me in the dress and spontaneously offer that it was the perfect dress for me (which no one did), returned to the dressing room and into my regular clothes and headed for the cashier, dress over arm, quickly scanning the rest of the store, not so much to find a different dress, but in the way that some old philosopher I’d once read (Sartre? Kierkegaard?) described the act of looking for a friend in a coffee shop – how you see everyone’s face not for what it is, but only to determine that it’s not who you’re looking for – and then, after that brief 30-second scan, satisfied that there were no other contenders, I paid for the dress and left the store, the whole process taking under five minutes, and had only a slight amount of buyer’s remorse as I walked up the boardwalk, remorse that completely dissipated later when I put the dress on and my husband told me how awesome I looked, which is really all we’re looking for as the fruit of our shopping sprees – aren’t we – someone to think that we’re awesome.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Letting Go

I’m wondering why, on my morning walk, I even started thinking about a certain exclusive pre-school that sat atop a certain bluff in a certain riverfront town.  A preschool that, 14 years ago, decided that my then-three-year-old wasn’t advanced enough to join all of his friends that September in their hand-picked, crunchy granola classroom and benefit from the finest progressive pre-k education a co-op could offer.  I hadn’t thought about that school, or that incident, in over a decade – I had certainly stopped ruminating about it long before that.  But this morning, as I leaned down to pick up some discarded frozen yogurt cups on the corner – cups that I’d noticed on my walk the day before and now realized were not going to get into a trash container any other way – I felt very sorry for myself because it was so hard for me to bend forward to retrieve them. 

My stiff midsection made me think about calling my friend Suzanne, who happens to live in that certain riverfront town, and tell her about my body woes, because she is a massage therapist and acupuncturist and also because she understands my particular lot in life, which is that I hold my emotions so tightly in check that they wreck havoc on my musculoskeletal system.  If I called Suzanne, I would have told her about the woman I’ve been seeing who does “energy work” and how, after two sessions with her, having embarked on a process of (in her words) unfurling all the tension and stress within, I can now barely bend forward and do not feel in the least bit unfurled, but rather achy and stiff, as if I’ve aged 15 years in the last four weeks. 

But as I continued to walk, my mind quickly jumped from that Suzanne to a different Suzanne, one who also lives in that certain riverfront town, and whom I happened to run into a few weeks ago on a train ride into Manhattan.  I hadn’t seen This Other Suzanne for almost as long as the preschool incident, because her daughter was one of my son’s friends who did get accepted to that certain exclusive pre-school and not long after that, we moved.  This Other Suzanne’s daughter just finished her senior year in high school and was off to college somewhere, I forget where, but I’m sure it’s someplace fabulous, because This Other Suzanne’s daughter was fluent in two languages by age three and has a rather unusual name (after the wife of a famous painter), but most importantly, she attended a certain very exclusive preschool. 

I didn’t spend a minute of my walk trying to remember the name of the daughter’s college or the name of the painter for whose wife she was named, but instead turned my attention quickly to a certain exclusive college that The Teenager wants to apply to Early Decision, in the hopes that it might better the chance of his acceptance from under 10% to perhaps 12 or 13 percent.  This is exactly the type of college I have not wanted The Teenager to apply to at all because I have developed, over the years, a reverse prejudice about Schools Like That, and have deemed them, in my mind, haughty and elitist and basically just institutions that manufacture assholes.  I hold this opinion strongly and deeply, even though many, many of my close friends went to Schools Like That and not a one of them is an asshole. 

Yet, on my walk, I began to have a fantasy of The Teenager receiving an acceptance letter from a certain exclusive college and rather than worrying about whether or not he would turn into an asshole, I immediately imagined taking a picture of that acceptance letter and mailing it to a certain exclusive preschool along with a simple handwritten note containing only a certain vulgar two-word phrase that is meant to convey both disdain and superiority. 

And the prospect of that made me smile.

As I was replaying my fantasy over and over, imagining my note being read by the self-same woman who, 14 years ago, thought it was reasonable to judge three-year-old children on their “potential,” I found myself becoming really excited by the prospect of The Teenager getting into that certain exclusive college, largely so I could thumb my nose at a woman whose name I will never remember and whose face I wouldn’t recognize in a million years. 

And then I wondered whether, maybe, just maybe, the Energy Healer’s work isn’t working because I have a tendency to hold on so tightly to old resentments and wrongdoings.  Whether I can’t bend forward because there are too many things my muscles won’t let go of; that perhaps they’re forever tethered by my every longstanding rebuff. 

I had to wonder whether the frozen yogurt cups were left on my corner for A Reason.  Whether some cosmic force knew I would lean down to pick them up and they would remind me how easy it is to get rid of garbage that’s not your own, and how it really shouldn’t be any harder to get rid of your own garbage, but, damn, it sure is.

And how letting go of something that’s been a part of you for a long time, even something that you know doesn’t belong there anymore, feels a little like being broken.