Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Actually, Denise, It's Not That Complicated

In my never-ending quest to relate my life to reality-television stars who, like me, are just trying to make their way in this world, I watched the premiere of Denise Richards' new show last night. Her show's title, Denise Richards: It's Complicated seemed appropriate. Anyone who reads tabloids could argue that Denise Richards: It's Simple would not accurately depict this former-model-turned-bad-actress-turned-Sheen Dynasty-gold-digger-turned-Heather Locklear's-home-wrecker's life. I also thought (mostly to rationalize to my fiance and half-owner of the DVR why I needed to record this show instead of his favorite Discovery Channel show) that since Denise and I are both 30-something women, I could relate. Granted, it would mostly be a "cautionary tale" kind of relate, but still. I think I read once where the the Dalai Lama says we can learn from everyone who comes across our TV Guide.

Ten minutes into It's Complicated, I was suspect. We meet Denise as she is headed to the DMV to change her name from Sheen back to Richards. When her number is called, however, the clerk informs her that her official document does not have a required signature to complete the change. I felt for her because we've all had the unpleasant experience of waiting in the DMV only to be turned away for one bureaucratic reason or another. But, as frustrated as I've been at the DMV at one time or another, I have never said, 'this is F-ing ridiculous!' She asked to see the manager, and then the manager's manager, all of whom told her the same thing. Her final response was that this whole thing was making her 'hot and itchy' and, again, that it was 'f-ing ridiculous.' Seriously, Denise, it's not complicated to understand that if Jesus Christ himself walked into the DMV with insufficient documents he would be turned away. It's also not complicated to show a little decency to others, especially those who are doing their job. Hey Denise, no one cares that you were a Bond Girl!

Throughout the show, she is a complete B-word; an F-ing baby who bleep, bleep, bleepety bleeps her narrative to the camera crew. Sure, we've all had hard days, having to book last minute spray tans for blind dates, finding a boar to impregnate our pet pig, and standing in line at the DMV, but most of us find a way to do it without getting 'hot and itchy.' Good thing she talks about her late mother, because from the way she talks you would think she was raised by wolves. The most complicated part of this show, it seems, is the job the sound editors will have bleeping out all of her expletives. Too bad her little girls have to hear the un-cut version of her narrative. Denise, on behalf of women everywhere, I say to you: "Have some f-ing class, it's really not that complicated."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Woman Without a Cause

About six weeks ago I ordered a "Hillary for President" bumper sticker. On Monday, it finally arrived in my mailbox. I think it is about six weeks too late, as even staunch supporters like myself are beginning the painful process of accepting that her bid is over. I love Hillary, and it's no secret that I also love Bill. So the thought of Hillary and Bill in the White House again? Well, that was just too good! And, no matter who you stand by politically, there is no doubt that at least some portion of this campaign has been about gender. She is an aggressive, powerful woman and that just doesn't sit well with those who don't like to see that in a lady. And I'm not afraid to say that I would have supported pretty much any woman for President besides of course Ann Coulter. Alas, we've waited nearly 220 years for a female President and now it looks like we'll wait at least another four years.

As I sat and stared at my shiny bumper sticker, it seemed as though I was going to be a without a cause, left without a woman behind whom I can rally, support, and place my hope for the future. And then I turned on my television and remembered there were still two women on the national scene that had victory within their reach: DeAnna Papas and Kristi Yamaguchi. For those of you who do not watch reality television, first of all, I'm sorry. You miss so much. But, if you remember, DeAnna was the woman left at the pre-altar-altar on last season's The Bachelor. America (and the producers at ABC), felt sorry for DeAnna, the Greek goddess with a winning smile, and were furious with Brad for leaving her standing there without a rose. Now, she has her chance as the star of The Bachelorette. This time, 25 eligible bachelors will vie for her attention and ultimately her love. During the first rose ceremony, she chose to keep both a snowboarding "dude" who wore a jacket that would make even Joan Cusack in Working Girl cringe and a self-proclaimed 26 year old virgin. These poor choices only make it more interesting to watch, if only for the huge amounts of fodder that judgmental women like me will have for the next eight weeks. And, unlike The Bachelor, we get to see hopeful men drop like flies as DeAnna slowly weeds them out of the running. No super-delegates or popular vote to keep her up at night. She is in control.

ABC also gave women everywhere hope as we watched Kristi Yamaguchi compete in the final episode of Dancing with the Stars. Last night she beat a football player and a soap opera star to win the gold mirror ball trophy. Again, for those of you who don't watch reality television, this was a really big deal because she was the first female champion in five seasons.

Why am I sharing all of this with you? Because sisters need a cause and if we can't get it from the national political scene, I feel it my patriotic duty to remind you that the national television networks have not forgotten us.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Cleaning with the Enemy

I grew up with a father who labeled his dresser drawers with an automatic label-maker, as a "guide" for my mom to put away his clothes in the proper place. My mother ran surveillance on the clutter in our bedroom like a Patriot Act agent, scooping up any idle toys and selling them in the next yard sale. Yes, she sold our idle things. Hmmm....I wonder why I have such a hard time relaxing? Needless to say, I grew up in a clean house. Now, I am an adult who abhors clutter. I don't buy knick knacks because I still feel slightly guilty when I lay on the couch at 4:00 watching Oprah; I certainly don't need some bisque figurine staring at me from the bookshelf, judging me with frozen eyes.

Turns out, I don't need a judgmental tchotchke to make me feel like my bathroom will never be clean enough. I have a fiance for that. I really thought (and my sisters would agree) that my dad was the most meticulous person I'd ever met. And then I met Kyle. I remember going to his apartment for the first time when we started dating. I was impressed with how clean and put-together it was for a bachelor's house. He had art on the walls, hand soap in the bathrooms, and matching towels hanging in the guest bath. And, just as with every other encounter in my life, I failed to see the red flag in all of this. The alarms didn't sound because I was so wrapped up in the "nice, clean guy" idea. If I had only looked closer I might have noticed that the toilet paper rolls were always hung the same way. Or, that the matching towels were never used. Because, as he explained, they are the "pretty towels." Again, not noticing that my new love interest was freakishly clean and ignoring the fact that a 6'4" man used the term 'pretty towels' to describe his bathroom decor, I looked up at him and said, "Wanna play house together?"

I soon learned that my sweet Rain Man craves routine and order. He arranges his toiletries in order of use, from top to bottom, in his shower caddy to "save time." The logic behind the aforementioned toilet paper placement is because "that's how they do it in the hotels and it just looks nicer." He cleans both ears at the same time, a Q-tip in each hand, because it's "more efficient." And the pretty towels, well, let's just say that they are never, under no circumstances, to be used to wipe Great Lash off of one's eyes. Not even in a pinch. That was a long night. Mostly these little quirks and preferences are endearing. Who doesn't want to just pinch the cheeks of a guy that sits frozen on a toilet, unable to wipe his bum, if the toilet paper is upside down? But sometimes, as is the case with housecleaning, it is just plain annoying.

According to Kyle, my version of cleaning is "putting crap away." Kyle approaches cleaning with the ferocity of a meth-addict with a toothbrush. Surface cleaning is for amateurs. We also have very different understandings of what "let's clean the house" means. Just last week we were "cleaning" and I went upstairs to run the vacuum, dust, strip the bed sheets, and turn my nose up at the bathrooms. I came downstairs and found Kyle with his head up the gas fireplace insert in our living room in some sort of weird Sylvia Plath interpretation. I watched as he stood up, replaced the faux wood and screen, turned to me and said, "There! Much better!" Uh...much better than mopping the floor? Apparently, whomever installed the fireplace had placed the faux wood incorrectly and the vents were in sore need of cleaning. Being the ever-encouraging fiance that I am, I said, "wow, what a difference that makes!" He sat on the couch opposite the fireplace, turned the switch and beamed as he saw the gas flames flickering in perfect symmetry, unobstructed by a crooked log. Talk about an inability to relax! I was more than a little concerned.

I left him to warm his neurosis by the fire and started sweeping the floor. He watched me and my half-baked attempt to corral our scum for a few moments before he just couldn't stand it anymore and said, "you're doing it wrong." Uh, what? Last time I checked sweeping consisted of pushing a stick around a room. My first instinct was to unleash a diatribe about what an obsessive-compulsive, chauvinistic jerk he was But in a moment of genius, I looked up at him with a furrowed brow and said, "I know, I just can't do it the way you do," and handed over the broom. I felt like Julia Roberts in Sleeping with the Enemy, when she outwits her psychotic husband by jumping off the boat when she supposedly "didn't know how" to swim. I escaped upstairs, reading magazines, until I heard, "Honey, come look at my shiny clean floor!"

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Book Meme

Book Meme

My sister and friend introduced me to the "Book Meme." My sister, in her usual truth-telling manner, asserted that I would not post just because I haven't updated my blog in, oh, two months or so. Therefore, in my never-ending quest to surprise her by following through, here is my selection. Here's how it works: Pick a favorite book with at least 123 pages. Turn to page 123, find the fifth sentence and then write down the next three.

Many of my most treasured books are packed in boxes in my parents' garage, so I chose a recent favorite instead. Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life is a book mostly about the writing process, but also about learning patience and the sometimes exhausting task of practicing discipline on whatever your craft happens to be. The title of the book comes from a conversation her dad had with her brother one night. Her brother was writing a report on birds that he'd had three months to complete but had waited until the day before. He was sitting at the kitchen table, paralyzed by the huge task at hand. Her father sat down by him and said, "Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird." Being a self-proclaimed procrastinator who, after nearly 10 years of higher education, still sits at my desk paralyzed by huge papers and the fear of failure, this book speaks to me. This particluar passage is about the jealousy that she felt when her writer friends were enjoying success while she struggled:

"You are going to feel awful beyond words. You are going to have a number of days in a row where you hate everyone and don't believe in anything. If you do know the author whose turn it is, he or she will inevitably say that it will be your turn next, which is what the bride always says to you at each successive wedding, while you grow older and more decayed."

And that pretty much sums up what I feel for days on end working through this PhD thing. Mostly I'm plodding along, my piles of books like the young boy's binders full of bird descriptions. But some days I ask myself, "What if there are just too many birds?" And then I look out my window and hear the actual young birds that have built a nest under the eaves of our garage. And I realize that, if they don't chew through our DirectTV cable and ruin my tv life, they are a constant reminder that spring is here and school is out for the summer in just two days.