Sunday, October 21, 2012

Things I Don’t Get Part One- Competition

                I don’t get competition. Seriously. The struggle to become number one never seemed worth the confrontation on the road to get there. I hated color war as a kid. They dragged me out of my bed half-blind with sleep in the middle of the night to “WRITE POEMS! PAINT BANNERS!” If that’s not a war crime, what is?  I avoid confrontation at absolutely all costs. My   daughter’s babysitter was literally handing me the wrong child at the end of the day (I counted myself lucky if the kid was female. Score!) and I still haven’t told her I’m using someone else now.  She still calls every now and then. It has been a month.
Babysitter: “Oh hello! Premonition- I ah-miss you! I ah-miss Shmooshy- oh Shmooshy is so cute. She’s so cute. Are you bringing her again soon?
Me:  ::noncommittal grunt::
Babysitter: So you leave me? But I  ahLOVE you, I ahLOVE Shmooshy! Oh I ahLOVE you both! (did she love us so much when she accidentally fed my child someone else’s food for a week then absconded to the dentist an hour before pickup without telling me? I think these things but remain silent. Confront her? Be  honest? HECK NO!)
Me: (seeing an opening for flattery) Oh we love you too Mrs. Babysitter!!!  (as long as all Shmooshy ate was formula and she didn’t move. At all. Things were cool)
Me: (sensing another opening) YES! She acts like a baby ALL the time!! I mean, what a complete PAIN right? Babies! Pshhh!!
Babysitter: Okay- so she still very very hard baby. Very hard.  Always crying when I leave her all alone in an unfamiliar place- like my basement? ::clicking tongue noises:: Very hard baby!! Okay- so when she good baby again. Call me yes? I hear from you soon? When she good baby again?
Me: somewhat louder noncommittal grunt.
Well…I’m off the hook for another week right? I’m so afraid of confrontation I simply DO NOT get people who relish it. Who seek it out.  On a daily basis. This is extra  ironic, since I’m from a family of competitive maniacs and my hubbie is so  competitive he doesn’t even REALIZE he’s being competitive. OF COURSE it’s normal to see who can brush their teeth faster. Why?
  I got a full does of this exciting family trait spending some time with my then 3 year old (freakishly genius, precocious in a cute and sometimes scary way) niece.
Me: Let’s color!
Chani: Okay!
Me: (seeing an opportunity to teach a prodigy about the joy and freedom of art) See- art is about feelings- we can use the crayons to show what’s inside our heart. Since it’s what’s inside our heart- there’s no right or wrong way to make art- just like nobody can tell you how to feel- nobody can tell you how to make your art! That’s what makes art so gosh darn….
Chani: ::holding up paper with crayon scribbled on both sides:: I WIN!
Me: !?!?!? WHAT??? You can’t WIN at coloring!
Chani ::holding up a second page efficiently coated in scribbles”: I WIN AGAIN!!! YOU’RE  TOO SLOW!
Apparently- most of Chani’s feelings involved crushing the inferior aunt (ant?) creature in front of her. Art is free expression right? Chani freely expressed her competitive nature!  Needless to say I forfeited. Competitive people can even win at ART! Nothing says free spirited, unhindered human expression like “I WIN!”. The funniest part is that the very need to compete, to win- to prove wit, strength, capability- is so easily overcome by the less-than-winning attitude of “meh”. If one is a noncompetitive ketzela among a pride of competitive big cats- the “meh” is key to survival (not to winning of course- just to surviving- thanks goodness!)  Nothing gets a competitive person going like “Yup. You win. I lose. All done!” The shock on their faces is priceless. But- what? Wait! Huh? It’s fun to see the bewilderment cross their faces. Of course competitiveness- and  the ability to confront- have their place. People who are competitive are also assertive. This is ESSENTIAL for LONG TERM SURVIVAL (and, sure for winning too) They can always say what needs to be said and not get kicked in the face. Eg: Tell that lousy babysitter/guy who cut you in line/boss who wont give you benefits/ nosy neighbor/ mean frenemy- exactly what’s on your mind. In cool, logical terms- assertive people say  “I left you a month ago- you are not fit to care for children/ I was here first. Please go back to the end of the line/ I bring in x number of clients. You can’t bill for them without me. I’m a desirable employee. Give me benefits or I’m out/ No, sorry where I went ISNT your business/ I’m sorry- I don’t really like you and don’t want  to have anything to do with you anymore frenemy. Thanks.”  So , I guess competitiveness has its place. But I still don’t get it.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Meditation on Ironing

                I don’t like housework. I’m somewhat insecure about my housekeeping skills. Some people are natural home makers. I like a clean space as much as anyone but the cleaning gene isn’t expressed in my DNA and Lysol does not  run through my veins. (but how cool would that be? Ha ha infection! Take THAT!) Dishes are the bane of my existence. I have one sink- so if the dairy dishes aren’t clean by noon they inevitably wind up lined up on the kitchen window sill like a row of greasy porcelain duckies. Quack. Sad but true:  I’ve been known to hide dirty coffee mugs behind the toaster oven before guests visit on Shabbos afternoon.  Every frum woman finds herself keeping house sooner or later. You can run for a while but that pile of dirty laundry always catches up with you.  I’m writing at 9:45 pm surrounded by strewn magazines, a pile of randomness litters my dining room table(the iron out of baby’s reach, a box of clothes to be returned to banana republic, two folded tablecloths, sukkah decorations)  and the ironing board is open- ready for G-d knows what- since I don’t have the slightest intention of ironing. But I do iron. Every week, I iron leggings ,jeggings and leopard print onesies.  I’m probably one of the five people on earth who still irons. The big joke is- I’m not even good at it! I think it’s the symbolism of the act of ironing- my house may be a mortal wreck, but if I iron- then I’m geshikt. My mother isn’t known for her housekeeping but she can iron. That she can do. And she stresses it.  It’s a way for her to show love. I grew up in Brooklyn- and in my school in Brooklyn, in the 1990s  everyone was starched. Everyone had creases running down their uniform sleeves and collars that stood up. You could cut your finger on those pleated plaid skirts.  The under-ironed girls were also the under-brushed ones, the under-washed ones- and it stood to reason- the under-loved ones.  That’’s why I iron my daughter’s onesies. It’s why I dressed her in a fresh outfit and meticulously cleaned her face before I took her to the JCC babysitter for the first time. I do this because I love her. And I want everyone to know when they see her: This is a loved child. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

At Home Workouts

Who has the motivation to work out consistently at home? Not me. Although I do find the array of at home workout videos both fascinating and hilarious. Fascinating in the sense that you suddenly realize you’re now a member of the suburban “mom” demographic targeted by late night infomercials-  It’s fascinating in the sense that what you used to roll your eyes and change the channel at, you now seek out on the internet. “slimmer buns and thighs?” “abs of steel?” oooooh sign me up! Your single self would laugh heartily at claims like “who needs a gym! Have the body you’ve always dreamed of with only a floor and some spandex!” Old me would’ve said “Uh huh- who falls for this garbage!? Hit the gym! Take a run! Some crunches on the floor in some spandex aint gonna get rid of THAT flab!!” But now that I’m a “suburban mom” I realize these ads aren’t kitschy or ridiculous- they are just aired for a specific demographic. They play on the hopes and vulnerabilities of the “stay-at-home” set.  When you realize that bouncing a stroller down 3 flights of stairs doesn’t count as a workout, your’e saved by the precious info-mercial on youtube. Wow! I can somehow become slimmer and healthier without leaving home!  Floor? Check! Spandex?(embarrassingly)  Check! Whoo hoo! I will now be a slimmer, hotter me!!!
                I find the workout videos hilarious because they almost always take themselves a little too seriously and are so silly to look at! I’m convinced that half of the workout benefits come from the side-splitting laughter these videos induce. It isn’t unusual for my husband to come home and find me convulsing with laughter as I attempt to “shake my booty shake shake” in time to the music. I indeed appear to be having some sort of involuntary spasm as I laugh and try to be coordinated at the same time. At first he was alarmed. Now he shrugs it off. “women”. He thinks. You also can’t help laughing at a very effeminate Brazilian man, oiled from head to toe, lit by glaring fluorescent lights, shaking his tuchus for all its worth, to some cheesy imitation pop music, while a bunch of plastic surgery dolls dance woodenly behind him in neon spandex. I crack up just thinking about it! At least the dance themed exercise videos slate themselves as “fun” and “a party”, so they do hint at a little bit of self awareness about their silliness.  But the more fitness oriented videos? THOSE really get me going. Pilates-meets boxing meets tai chi meets ballet! All at home with no equipment! Nobody smiles. Nobody shakes their booties (intentionally anyways) this is serious business. You think you look like Mohamed Ali with a touch of Balanchine. What you really look like is a drunk and delusional 4 year old fighting off imaginary villains. In spandex. I haven’t seen results from these videos- mainly because they’re really just my daily dose of comic relief. I’ve seen most of the “episodes” already- so the “jokes” aren’t funny to me anymore. How many times can I laugh at Pele dance “hip hop”? Or Allison punching the air like she’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer on steroids? The novelty has worn off. The time has come to (really) get serious. I’m off to join the gym next week! Wish me luck!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Having it all- the injustice we've put on ourselves

The lie of having it all is the greatest crime of inequality committed against women- and ironically by women in the last 50 years. It has been nearly 50 years since Betty Freidan’s  The Feminine Mystique  was published- and there are still plenty of glass ceilings that need some shattering. Women still  don’t earn equal pay for equal work. Women make up a little over half of the population. Women hold 90, or 16.8%, of the 535 seats in the 112th US Congress.  Although it is hailed as a monumental number- there are only (yes only) 18 women at the helm of Fortune 500 companies. These injustices can rile any thinking woman. It has been 50 years after all- but the greatest injustice against women, we foisted on ourselves by trying to be what is humanly impossible. Feminism touted the glory of “having it all”, of not sacrificing your womanhood to your career. In the feminist’s ideal world- a woman can have it all. I’ve always considered myself a neo-feminist. I believe women can do everything men can. (and they do. every day. ) But in my limited experience I do not believe that any woman can truly  have it all. Any endeavor of worth requires time, energy and a single minded devotion.  There are only so many hours in the day.  According to a recent NY times article, ( working mothers are less likely to be hired because of the simple fact that compared to single women, they have so much less time and energy to devote to their jobs. An unmarried woman will never have to cut out of work early for a bout of her child’s chicken pox.  Work takes priority in her life and that makes her an attractive prospective employee.
  Motherhood requires an endless amount of time, energy and single minded devotion. It does distract a woman while she’s at work. A truly devoted, ambitious employee cannot be a truly devoted mother.  An employee who stays overtime,  who brainstorms solutions on the weekend, who rises early and with energy to devote to her job, who volunteers for extra projects, who spearheads committees, who brings in new clients and spends hours on her meticulous, professional reports and memos has no energy for story time when she (finally) returns home.  The opposite is true- a truly devoted mother, one who takes her kids on chol hamoed trips, is home at four to do homework, serves dinner, reads stories  bathes and tucks into bed, a mother who is present to wipe tears and tushies (MOMMY!!!! CAN YOU WIPE ME??) and build lego castles does not have the energy to attend meetings and spearhead committees all day long. She cannot assume both roles. No human being can. It is not physically possible. And it’s so grossly unfair that it is even remotely expected of women.  A woman may be able to have a serious career after her children are grown (a ‘la Hillary Clinton) or if she has a husband/partner who is willing to assume to role of primary caregiver. I commend any individual who assumes the mantle of parenthood in the full sense- kudos to all dads out there wiping tears and tushies.  A woman may be an awesome mom but then she’s most probably a lackluster employee. An incredible employee is most probably a sub-par mom. I do believe mothers can work (and I do!) but I don’t think that women can attain high positions in the business world without sacrificing the quality of their parenting.  In my opinion- Marissa Mayer CEO of Yahoo- did all women a disservice by publicly forfeiting her maternity leave.  She is denying the needs of her body and her child to make a statement of “I can have it all!”  Working mothers are already held to ridiculous standards in this country (see Sweden for how it should be done!) and Mayer does us no favors with her  statements of sacrifice. Equality will come when all human beings (men and women) are expected to choose either the role of caregiver or provider- and then devote everything they have to the role they choose.