Wednesday, January 28, 2009
So in the meantime, a little levity, borrowed from an email circulating the internet.
For the Best Husband Award, the nominees are:
and of course, the US of A:
But I'd gladly trade places with any of these women if this fine fellow were the alternative:
This prince of a guy says he accidentally shot his wife during . . . sex.
Friday, January 16, 2009
One of the first women I ever worked for was a lawyer I'll call Jerry. She shared me with another lawyer who I'll call Dick and I worked as their legal secretary. Dick was in need of a secretary because his secretary had been promoted to paralegal.
And boy was Dick's paralegal mean. Arrogant, rude, and a total shit-dumper of work. In fact, Dick and Para wanted me to pay his personal bills and balance his household checkbook. No problem, I told them, if he didn't mind a few checks bouncing now and then. Needless to say, the balancing and bill-paying stayed with Para.
Then there was the coffee-making incident. One morning I walked into Dick's office to check his outbox. He was on the phone and waved an empty coffee carafe at me. Huh? He waved it at me again, signalling that I should fill it with coffee. Being young and full of Betty Friedan, I was irked by the coffee command.
When I got to the kitchen there was no coffee so I had to brew an entire pot. Standing there waiting, I started brewing too. I noticed a large butcher block cheese board and some white dishtowels on the counter. When the coffee was finished, I filled up Dick's carafe and put it on the cheese board. Then I draped a white dishcloth over my arm and, in waitress-like fashion, marched down the long hall to Dick's office as I held the carafe aloft on my newly-fashioned tray.
When I got to Dick's office, lo and behold he had a client with him. I set the cheese board down, curtsied, and left.
Immediately I found Jerry and confessed the checkbook and cheese board incidents, certain I'd be fired on the spot. But Jerry finessed the whole thing and whisked me away, explaining to Dick that she simply had too much work to share me with him. Shortly afterwards, mean Para returned to her original post, working as Dick's secretary.
To this day Jerry and I still keep in touch and she never fails to refer her firm's clients to me when they need a criminal defense lawyer.
But I've seen bullying too. A woman judge who doesn't like young women lawyers, for instance, and gives them a hard time in trial. Or a woman prosecutor who refuses to give good plea offers to women defense attorneys. Women jurors can be especially critical towards a woman defendant. I don't see it all the time but the fact is an attractive woman defendant has to dress down, make sure she doesn't make the women jurors mad by being "too attractive."
Of course women who are mean to other women aren't confined to the workplace. A good friend of mine, an attractive petite blond, was completely shunned by the other moms in her daughter's class because she rivaled the moms' "gang leader" in looks. Another friend of mine, Christy Brinkley's clone, ran into trouble when her daughter was "cliqued out" and bullied by a group of girls in her class. When Christy tactfully raised the problem with the girls' moms, she got the cold shoulder and ultimately she had to get the school involved.
So why are women mean to each other? What's going on? Some theories put forward by the NYT writer are that women are hyper-emotional and get resentful when pigeonholed into the nurturing role. Or, women are overly sensitive to criticism and take it personally. Still another is that women haven't played enough competitive sports to have learned how to compete "in a healthy way" at work.
Umm, I don't know about all that. Women are hyper-emotional, overly sensitive? Haven't played enough football? Nah. I don't think it's that complicated. The mean women I see are simply insecure.
Accordingly, when another woman can compete with her in the brains or looks or whatever department, she feels threatened and jealous. And if insecurity is the culprit, we moms can start fixing that little problem at home, right now.
Check out Mom Grind's post about helping children with self-esteem. An especially good suggestion is that we stop doing the "I'm so fat" routine in front of our daughters (or at all, for that matter), picking ourselves apart.
Because it's not about being beautiful or skinny or perfect. It's about being kind and feeling "good enough" as we are. And learning to curtsy, of course.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Of course there are other forms of gloating, too. Remember Sue Ann Nivens on the Mary Tyler Moore show? "Mary, your hair looks great. When did you dye it?" But the worst kind of gloat is what I call mommenfreude. It's when a mom points out your parenting mistakes and acts like she's mother of the year.
These women come in all ages and stages of life. My own mother is a big mommenfreuder. Referring to something Mr. M has done, she'll often say, "Well, when you were that age, you never did that, because I wouldn't let you."
But even my mom cannot compete with the old lady who lives on our street. She mommenfreudes on the other moms constantly. She's always outside, watching everything, cruising the sidewalks for scoop so she can get a leg up. She's worse than the nosey neighbor in Bewitched. And when Gladys is on a mission, she will not be deterred. Like the time Mr. M went missing.
It was a beautiful afternoon and my neighbor Mrs. M and I walked from her house down to mine to see how our renovations were coming along. We left the boys in the front yard to play while we went inside to have a look. When we came back out, 90 seconds later, the boys were gone. Gladys stood in her front yard like a statue, wordlessly watching our crisis unfold.
Braving heart palpitations and bad knees, we staggered up and down the street screaming their names and fearing the worst. When I'd had enough, oh say, after two minutes, I called the law.
An officer came instantly. Damn it, I thought, when he got out of his car. I'd just cross-examined this guy only the week before. Fortunately, he did not remember me. It helped that I was in my fat-mom Amway get-up.
The officer suggested I check my house one more time for the children. Snoop Gladys Kravitz was waiting for me when I got there. "Are you selling your house?" she warbled. "I noticed you've made some renovations. What are you going to ask for it? Why are you moving?"
"Gladys," I said, "you saw the policeman roar up. My and Mrs. M's children are missing. This is just not a good time." Undaunted, she gave chase, hurtling more questions at me.
So intent on getting answers, in fact, she went home and emailed Mrs. M, minutes after our tense exchange, asking if Mrs. M knew of our house intentions. Gladys did not ask whether our children had been recovered.
But her recent email to Mrs. M is over-the-top mommenfreude, even for Gladys. Here is it is, exactly as she wrote it:
Mrs. M, I saw your olest son on the scooter with little brother on the backriding the scooter in the street thought you would like to know,no cars erecoming at that time.Why was nobody out side watching them whem they were outside? I never let my girls out by them alone.Just thought you might like toknow.
---------------*@#$!F#@%! If she'd sent me that email, I'd have said,
But maybe I'm being too harsh. After all, the old girl's figured out how to email without a computer. Which is a lot more than I can say.
I never watch my kids. I'm too busy inside, drinking beer and burning the dinner. Here's the number for Child Protective Services, in case you lost your fridge magnet.
Oh, and your "Good Mother" award.
Monday, January 5, 2009
Indeed these gals made the front page of the Dallas Morning News, on New Year's Day, no less. A few housewives up in Frisco (a suburb north of Dallas) started Real Housewives back in June and it's apparently gone viral.
The writing is raw and raunchy -- an unlikely purple vibrator managed to appear in their Pilates review -- and, presumably, it's true. The blog is an anonymous spill all, if you're into that kind of thing. And a lot of people are.
The buzzing around this suburban blog prompted me to think about mom blogs in general. Which ones are popular, and why? Do you have to tell all to get big in the mom blogging world?
Some of the heavily-followed moms do get awfully personal. Take Heather Armstrong and her blog Dooce.
Did you know Armstrong blogged about her four-day stint in the mental ward where she was treated for severe postpartum depression? That in one phase of her pre-blogging life, she lived as "an unemployed drunk"?
No fooling. But umm, and no judgment, revealing things like these would be over-sharing, at least for me. And I'm already prone to over-sharing, particularly if I've been over-served.
But maybe some over-sharing is necessary if the goal is mom-blog stardom. The judiciously sharing, yet still fame-gaining Stiletto Mom and I talked about this a few weekends ago.
It came up when we talked about why advertisers are now so keen to appear on mom blogs. Stiletto explained that mom blogs are surging in popularity and advertisers are starting to notice. But why the exponential increase in mom blog readership, I wanted to know.
Unlike a column in the New York Times, Stiletto explained, blogs are personal. It's almost like a one-on-one exchange, whether you are writing the post or reading it. And it's that intimacy readers enjoy. Stiletto is insightful and she's also right.
Erma Bombeck, Stiletto pointed out to me, was one of the first "mom bloggers." Granted she wrote a column, not a blog, but she gave readers personal snapshots of real life, her life and their own. Her unvarnished family tales made Bombeck universally beloved. We felt like we really knew her.
This would explain why I adore Prudence Mackintosh. It explains why Oprah can make a book, and why some mom bloggers are becoming king-makers, too. When Armstrong wrote about a particular purse she liked, she plucked a plodding handbag designer out of obscurity.
To write about parenting is, by its very nature, to reveal. The closeness we feel with fellow moms -- because of their revelations -- is the reason for their blogs' exploding popularity. Advertisers want to tap this market.
If you stop to think about it, it's easy to see why. Mom bloggers feel like our friends, and oftentimes they are. When we get a recommendation from a friend, it is independently persuasive, instantly credible.
What to tell, and how and when to tell it, are individual calls each of us have to make. For me, blogging about a trip to the looney bin would be too much, though I still wrestle with finding the right balance. Especially when I'm angry. Like I am right now. With my office landlord.
Hell, I'll just veer off course right here. We had a knock-down drag-out screaming match over the phone, as I sat outside a toy store, virgin ears streaming by.
The guy has been paying my office water bill since my lease started in 2004; I thought nothing of it, figured it came with the rent. Five years later he now says it was my responsibility all along. He just realized he'd been paying it, he'd made a mistake. Except it's a whopping $5,500.00 mistake and he's demanding I pay it all, in full, or . . . else. So, umm, yeah, I'm pretty steamed.
We'd exchanged a few letters about this but we'd not actually spoken until yesterday. I was at Froggie's Five & Dime for kids with Mr. M (he had $11.00 to blow and was covering every agonizing inch of the store) when the inopportune call came.
I stepped outside to talk to him and things rapidly escalated. "Fine," I finally told him, "Or else me," as we exchanged profanities.
Earlier I'd noticed two lawyer chicks in the store doing everything they could to ensure everyone knew they were lawyers, saying things like "mandamus" extra-loud. Please. Playing to a captive audience is pathetic. I never wonder why people hate lawyers.
Anyway, as the lawyer chicks were leaving the store, I was sprawled on the sidewalk gesticulating wildly, my ear piece firmly in place. The fight was at a full crescendo. "It's called ratification. Estoppel. WAIVER!" I screamed at 20 decibels. The lawyer chicks did a double-take. I shot them a bird. They had really bad timing.
Alrighty then. For my next over-sharing foray, maybe I'll write about my adventures with the FDA, the accidental pregnancy I managed to survive because of an experimental drug.
This week, in fact, I'll be in Washington D.C. to argue for its approval and "tell my story" to the FDA. When I get back, maybe I'll fortify myself with a bottle of wine and blog all about it. I figure if I can bare my soul to a government agency, tell them about my death-defying pregnancy, I can share it here, on my itty bitty blog.