Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Idiot Box

One nice thing about summer - besides baseball, mojitos, and key lime pie, which are pretty much summer's only redeeming qualities as far as I'm concerned - is the lack of TV on TV, allowing my husband and I to catch up on shows we otherwise would probably never get to watch because we're too busy watching other shows.

By Photographer: Hana Kirana ( - image description page) [Public domain or CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

During any given TV season, we can be found watching:
Dancing With the Stars (well, I watch, my husband complains) (but he secretly watches, and that's how he's able to accurately predict the judges' scores each week)
How I Met Your Mother
The Middle
Modern Famly
Suburgatory (which I only watch for Jeremy Sisto)
Don't Trust the B- in Apartment 23
30 Rock
Up All Night
Top Chef

And, when there are new episodes online:
The Guild
The (Mis)Adventures of Awkward Black Girl

That's a lotta TV for one couple with two itty bitty children.

We're also too cheap to subscribe to premium channels, and by "too cheap" I mean Time Warner already has dibs on our most vital organs and one of our children (I won't say which one), and yet the service is kind of shitty. Kind of really shitty. So we're unwilling to shell out our other child and still wind up living in boxes under the Brooklyn Bridge just so we can get HBO, when Netflix will send us HBO shows for less than half the cost. Sure, we get them about 18 years after they've aired, but so what? Game of Thrones is timeless.

The problem with doing it this way, though, is we go through an entire season in less than a week. We wrapped up season 2 of Treme in about four nights and season 1 of GoT in less than a week. After tonight it will have taken us all of two nights to get through season 1 of Bored to Death (Brooklyn, holla!)

And then we have to wait a whole year for the next season to come out on DVD.

And if you're thinking that we can just pirate or bootleg stuff off the internets, well, my friend, THAT IS HIGHLY ILLEGAL AND WE WOULD NEVER EVER DO THAT, DO YOU HEAR ME FCC?

I <3 the FCC

Also, we tried that and it didn't work. For a long time we were all caught up on True Blood for free, but some wonderful, puppy-loving, highly attractive and clearly intelligent person over at the FCC must have caught on to all these nasty, no-goodnik pirating sites and shut them down. (I swear to god, if I don't get my Eric Northman fix soon I will cut a bitch. Not you at the FCC, I love you and want to have your babies, and by the way, have you lost weight? You look fantastic.)

So if you watch GoT the way god intended - on HBO - or Treme, or Boardwalk Empire (next in our Netflix queue after BtD), or Carnivale (after BE), please don't tell me what happens. I need something to keep me occupied next summer. (The chef and the jazz guy are totally going to hook up, right? NO, DON'T TELL ME!)

How do you get your fix of your favorite shows? 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

I'm Afraid of Siri

For Mother's Day my husband insisted I get a new iPhone 4S. With Siri. My argument against this was, if Siri can't change diapers, massage my feet, or get me a table at Le Bernardin, then she's useless.

Also, I have a crippling fear of robots. I've seen 2001: A Space Odessy and all the Terminator movies, I know what's up.

I got a Siri anyway.

My fear of robots started when I was 7 years old and went to see Superman III with my family and hid my face in my mother's shoulder during that part at the end where the giant supercomputer turns that lady into a robot who shoots lasers out her eyes. My mother, helpful as always, narrated for me what I was missing by hiding and not looking, because if there's anything more terrifying to a 7-year old than watching a lady robot shoot lasers out her eyeballs, it's being told by your mom about it. My mom wasn't matter-of-fact, either. Or sympathetic. She was gleeful. "She turned into a ROBOT!" with this tone that sounded like, "I cannot possibly be more excited to destroy your sense of security and safety, and to stay awake with you for the next three weeks while you don't sleep! Also, there really is a boogeyman under your bed who wants to eat you, and the next time you refuse to eat broccoli I'm going to sell you to Gypsies!"

Fun fact: A few years ago, as a 30-something adult, I tried watching Superman III for the first time since I was 7, and I couldn't do it. 

Since then I have what I consider to be a healthy fear of robots, and Siri is no exception. The Terminator movies aren't just good entertainment, people. They are dire warnings, and possibly predictions!



(Photo from:

Short. Straight. Line. People.

Me: "Siri, are you self-aware?"

Yes, I have Siri call me "Your Highness." I want her to remember who's boss.

If you had told me when I was 7 years old that one day I would own a phone that was actively plotting the destruction of all humankind, I would totally have believed you.

Start stockpiling water and supplies, especially guns, and for goodness' sake, where is John Connor?

Friday, June 15, 2012

An Open Letter To: The New Tenants

Dear New Tenants in Our Old Apartment:

I know you intercepted both a package and a card meant for our new baby. I don't know why you chose to keep both these things, despite my note on your door with my phone number and email address so I could come pick them up. 

I also know you cashed the $200 check my aunt included in the card meant for the baby. That takes a lot of balls, New Tenants. Unless you coincidentally have the exact same name as my youngest child - which is highly unlikely - I have no idea why or how your bank went ahead and deposited $200 into your account. I can only hope someone there catches this oversight at some point and fines you $200.

Here's what else I hope for you:

I hope every time you get in line at the supermarket, the person ahead of you pays in pennies.

I hope every time you try to have a picnic in the park, a sudden thunderstorm breaks.

I hope you get an infestation of mosquitoes this summer. (I used to live there. It's entirely possible.)

I hope you develop chronic ingrown toenails.

I hope every time you place a food order it gets delivered to you missing one item.

I hope your laptop, portable DVD player, smart phone, iPad, e-reader, or other personal entertainment device dies five minutes into a long flight.

I hope you never get a table at Al Di La.

I hope you never get a cab in the rain.

I hope your DVR always cuts off your favorite shows 2 minutes before the ending.

And mostly, I hope that someone does this to you some day, so you'll know how it feels when people try to celebrate something special with you, but accidentally send gifts to your old address, and the people there keep your stuff instead of calling or emailing you to come get them.


Most sincerely,
The Previous Tenant

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

So It Will Make Us Mad

My brother, Mr. Funny, is pretty unflappable, generally speaking. He spent a chunk of time in college working at a store called Fairvilla (warning: link NSFW), which featured things like a people cage, medical-grade horse-size speculums, and something called "The Simian." 

So it takes a lot to shock him.

Something like hearing his sister say the following sentence:

"There was a part in the blood orgy that reminded me of my children."

Let me explain.

Saturday night I went with my husband and his brother, Gilligan, to "Sleep No More," which is probably one of the most awesome experiences of my life. It is, to paraphrase my cousin-in-law, like "MacBeth" on peyote.

An entire building in Chelsea was turned into the hotel set, and the actors go from room to room performing (very) loosely interpreted scenes from The Scottish Play. Guests are given creepy masks to wear, and are instructed to break off from their group and not to speak. At all. People who've been to "Sleep No More" have varying philosophies on how to do it best so that you see all the scenes and don't miss anything important, but honestly, even given the three hour window you have to wander around at will there is no humanly way to catch everything.

The Duke of Juban models the creepy "Sleep No More" mask.

So that's the situation I found myself in on Saturday night: Running silently around a dark, creepy hotel in a "Scream"-like mask, chasing actors covered in stage blood and getting grave dirt all over my feet. (Note to self: Don't wear open-toed shoes to "Sleep No More.")

Naturally there is a blood orgy. I mean, duh. How could there not be a blood orgy at something like this?

And part of the blood orgy reminded me of my kids. I won't say why, but if you've been to "Sleep No More" you know what I'm talking about and you know I'm not a pervert. Well, I probably am a pervert, but not because the blood orgy reminded me of my kids. In fact, I think I am the real victim here. Who wants to think about their precious little babies at a blood orgy?

Charles Manson might. But I am not Charles Manson. Not even a little bit.

Besides, my husband and I were paying a very nice young woman $12 an hour to think about our children for us. The last thing I wanted was to be reminded of them at all, but especially not during a blood orgy. Now, suddenly, I couldn't help but think of them.

The Juban Princeling in the popular "Sleep No More" mask/Darth Vader pajamas combo

One thought lead to another and before I knew it my maternal instinct told me the nice-seeming young woman watching our children was probably a Charles Manson-like pervert who was at this very moment kidnapping my babies and bringing them to a blood orgy. Which is how I wound up being one of the jerks at "Sleep No More" who hid in the stairwell to check my phone. 

As if a Charles Mason-like pervert is going to send me a text message saying, "Got your kids. Blood orgy. Be back by 11."

I tried to shake it off, but the baby carriages in the psych ward didn't exactly comfort me.

Anyone else get accidentally reminded of children, or other family members, during really inappropriate moments?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Real O'Clock: The Feminine Mystique

Every now and then here at the Grey Skies World Headquarters, we like to take it down a notch, from our usual wine-guzzling, Walking Dead-watching, geek con-going ways and get Real. If this were a rock concert, now would be the part where I sit atop a stool, mic in hand, spotlight on, and croon "Every Rose Has A Thorn" while swaying gently, like my depth and emotion are far too sincere to be contained by sitting still.

Get out your lighters (or cell phone screens), because it's about to get Real O'Clock all up in here.

Thanks to the magic of technology, I've actually spent the last three months reading books in addition to parenting two kids, one of whom requires my help for even the simplest of things like eating, moving from place to place, falling asleep, and holding his head up. We're working on all of that. I'm all about teaching my kids independence. For example, this year we let our 3 1/2-year old, the Juban Princeling, do his own taxes.

I read Tina Fey's hilarious and thoughtful autobiography, Bossy Pants, as well as a surprisingly excellent but completely depressing book called Soft Apocalypse by William McIntosh. (Don't read it if you have a weak stomach or are prone to nightmares or worry about the end of the world.)

My husband read The Feminine Mystique a few years ago because he's awesome, and thought that as a stay at home mom I would enjoy reading it myself. Because somehow in my 36-year old feminist life I haven't read it yet. I didn't take that many women's studies classes in college - maybe two. But I've never read that most famous of Second Wave manifestos, The Feminine Mystique.

And I don't think I will.

I started reading it a few weeks ago, but could not make it through chapter 2.

Here's why.

1. It's too relevant to my life.
Reading about mothers who share peanut butter sandwiches with their kids, or feel like they are on their feet running around all day yet accomplish very little, hit home for me in a hard way. On days that I don't write, or meet up with friends, or have a date night with my husband, it's easy to feel like I'm spinning my wheels, like my days are a carousel of dishes, bottles, diapers, dropping off, picking up, calming, soothing, and bathing. Thanks to our society's perpetual finger-wagging at mothers no matter what we do, I have days when I never stop beating myself up: if my kids are asleep, or away, I feel like I should be taking full advantage of that time to clean, or write, or run errands. When they are awake and home I feel like I should devote 100% of my attention to them. I want them to be independent, but I worry they get bored. I want them to be entertained and educated, but I worry they get overstimulated. I want to spend time playing with them, but I want them to learn how to keep themselves entertained. 

In other words, sometimes "mom" isn't enough for me. Clearly our Second Wave Feminist foremothers knew that.

2. It's too irrelevant to my life.
All that said, I do write, and I do have friends, and I do have date nights with my husband. I have a rich, full life outside my children. I am lucky enough to live in a privileged position where the choice to stay home is exactly that - my choice. Far too many mothers I know of either have to work to make ends meet, or have to stay home because of the high cost of child care - not all of us live near parents or siblings or friends who are able to watch our kids all day.

Unlike the women in The Feminine Mystique, I never felt forced to marry and have children. I never felt the strain of having to choose between having a career versus having a family. I went into stay at home motherhood with my eyes wide open, knowing exactly what I walked into, and knowing that it was 100% my choice. For every moment that I feel like I'm spinning my wheels, there are ten more where I cannot imagine life without my children and experience a depth of joy I didn't know was possible.

And had my husband been the type of man who clings to traditional gender roles and expected me to stay home to raise our children, or forced me to go back to work for the money, or did not do his share of the chores and child care when he's home, or did not respect my opinions and value conversations with me on issues both large and small, this would not be possible. 

The husband - then still just my boyfriend - and I,
Washington, DC, April 2004

3. I can appreciate the book and its impact without reading it.
I'm a writer and a reader, but I've never read Moby Dick and I probably never will. I've also never read many other books considered classics. I do not think this makes me either a bad reader or a bad writer. 

I'm a geek who doesn't play video games or read comic books.

I'm a Yankees fan who does not watch every single game. (Anymore.)

My husband is a good father without ever having babysat.

And I'm a feminist who never read The Feminine Mystique. I just don't think the reading of it, or not, should define my commitment to the cause of women's rights. 

I am not an unthinking woman who feels some nebulous oppression in her life but can't articulate why. My eyes are open. My mind is curious. My life is my own, made up of careful choices and a lot of luck, and I would not have things any other way.

Every day, whether consciously or like chatter in the background of my mind, I know I owe my plethora of choices to the fearless pioneers that came before me and dared to stand up and speak up for women's equality. I'm never not aware of this. And I'm never not grateful.

4. It feels too much like work, and I have other things to read.
I've never been much into non-fiction anyway. The little bit I read has to be entertaining and has to make me nod vigorously in agreement while I read it. Does This Pregnancy Make Me Look Fat? by my friend Claire Mysko was one of those books; so was Pema Chodron's The Wisdom of No Escape, and Reading Women by Stephanie Staal. When I tried to read The Feminine Mystique, I just couldn't relate enough, even trying to read it in the context of the middle class housewives of the 1950s and 1960s. 

Feminist from birth. (That's not my mom holding me.)

My self-esteem is healthy enough that I refuse to allow myself to be pigeon-holed, either as a mother or as a wife or as any of my other many identities. 

I'm glad my husband read the book, because I think it helped him understand how stay at home motherhood by itself would never be fulfilling for me. But he already knew that. He's always encouraged me to go back to work, or not, or go back to school, or not, or write, or not, as I wish. Before our children were even conceived he told me, "Your happiness is not a luxury." He's never taken me - or my happiness, or quest for fulfillment - for granted, or diminished or disrespected my desire for something more from life. 

He's kind of really wonderful that way.

I love being a mother. I love my children. I also love many other things that make me happy. And the fact that I acknowledge these things, actively pursue non-motherly forms of happiness, and my children see it? That's pretty damn feminist right there.

What books do you know you should read, but probably never will?