Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Woman in her Thirties is her Mother

My mother is equal parts kind, giving, and hilarious. The stories I have to tell about her are so numerous that I am considering compiling a book called My Mother Rules. Please don't steal that idea.

One of the things my mother does that absolutely kills me happens when she is in the greeting card aisle in a drugstore. She will agonize over the perfect card for the occasion, read the inscription over and over again, and choose one that absolutely drips with sweet mixed metaphors about love and clouds and puppies.

'This one is perfect!' she will cry out, holding her card up like an Olympic trophy. To be honest, it usually is.

Here comes the hilarious part: instead of reaching behind the stack of cards for the corresponding envelope to match, she will browse every envelope in the entire aisle with the same feverish intensity she used for choosing the greeting card itself. She is simply looking for the prettiest envelope for the card she's just found. The problem often is that the beautiful fuchsia 4x9 envelope she ultimately chooses is far too large for the dainty yellow 3x6 card she's already chosen.

'Oh, it doesn't matter,' she'll say, clutching her mismatched card and envelope and heading for the cashier. I can't tell you how many beautiful greeting cards I've received from my mother over the years that swim inside equally pretty, but too-large envelopes.

Today I was in the greeting card aisle looking for a card for a good friend. This friend is irreplaceable to me--the Bert to my Ernie. I, like my mother, spent ten minutes finding the most perfect one, and when I did I smiled and clutched it to my chest triumphantly. I reached behind it for the corresponding envelope and found the one provided was a brown/khaki color that would look great on a couch but not so great with the gift I'm getting her.

This won't do, I thought to myself, and without even thinking about it I was rummaging through the other envelopes in the aisle for the prettiest one. In the end, I found a pink one that fit. But the irony was not lost on me.

I was thinking about it on my walk back to my apartment, the years of my young life I spent trying to find out who I am. I, like so many young women, wanted to identify myself as anyone but the woman who gave me life. I didn't appreciate my mother for her giving spirit, her unconditional kindness, and yes, her hilarious quirks. Now that I'm older I realize that she and I are on parallel journeys-- she's just just a few years ahead of me and a few years wiser for the wear. I am lucky to be growing into her.

A woman in her thirties becomes all that she loves about her mother. Just like Hallmark said she would.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Woman in her Thirties is a Happy Nerd

It's hard to say what the nerdiest thing is about me, given there are so many options. While my collection of comfortable shoes, my obsessive compulsive oral hygiene, and my strict 10:00 bedtime are viable contenders, I must say that my affinity for audiobooks wins the prize.

I started listening to audiobooks after reading Stephen King's On Writing. That guy is a nut job, but man, he's a voracious reader and writer, and doesn't believe anyone could say they don't have time to read a book. I think the line in his memoir goes, 'There are only so many times you can listen to Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer" before you realize you've just wasted hours of your life in the car.' So I went out and bought Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris, a fluke really, because I'd never heard of him before. The book gods were smiling upon me that day, and from that point on I have never minded a long drive by myself.

Being the cheapskate I am, I generally refuse to buy audiobooks. I have an extensive library card collection (hey, now that might be the nerdiest thing about me) and have gotten lucky at times. But in the last few months I've pretty much tapped out the collection of good audiobooks at my downtown library. This last trip, it was either Paint it Black, by Janet Finch, a book I tried to read in Thailand before realizing it was the worst book ever published ever, or Firstlight by Sue Monk Kidd. I grimaced and chose the latter, because even though The Secret Life of Bees was fabulous in every way, her second book, The Mermaid Chair, was gag-me-with-a-spoon awful.

Today I am on the second in a four-disc series, and it's okay. She's a little preachy for my liking, but what can I do? It's either that or get the crap scared out of me on KGO with all this swine flu nonsense.

I rolled down the window while sitting at a stoplight and realized that the person in the car next to me (also with his window rolled down) could probably hear the book being read to me in my car. That would explain why he was looking at me like my head was twisted on backwards.

In my twenties, I would have quickly flushed with humiliation and rolled up my window, but after checking my woman-in-her-thirties meter I realized there was no need to be embarassed. This woman in her thirties is finally happy in her nerdiness. She knows all the words of 'Livin' on a Prayer' anyway.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Woman in her Thirties Covers Up

Spring is a time when women everywhere lament their bodies, and I am no exception. I remember when I was a kid and swam on a swim team-- it was Speedo swimwear and nothing else. No questions were asked about our preferences. No options were discussed that might hide our tummys. No ordering and returning to the Victoria's Secret catalog after insanely rationalizing that a cup size smaller must offer more support for the large busted. That's right. I actually thought that one time.

Last summer, fresh into my new decade, I told H, 'A woman in her thirties has a one-piece bathing suit'. One of the things I love about H is that she agrees with me with her words but not with her eyes. So while she said, 'There are lots of cute one pieces at Macys right now', her eyes said, 'Snooze'.

Today I had my opportunity because it was teacher discount day at Old Navy (only in the peninsula, apparently, and wow, that sounded really lame the way I just said it). I took several options into the fitting room and tried them on. As H's eyes had suggested, I was sad as I stripped down, thinking about how many Sundays were spent in ill-fitting bikinis, my stomach bulging with Bud Light. Those were the days of being irresponsible and young-- days that are long gone. In the last few years I've avoided swimming altogther, convincing myself that I'd rather be hot and sweaty on the beach than exposed and open for criticism in the water.

'This is it,' I told myself as I slipped each suit on. 'You're officially an old lady.'

Then something amazing happened: I looked in the mirror and saw that this tankini was cute. Really cute. Cute in a 'What cellulite?' kind of way. Cute in an 'I'd wear this around my in-laws' kind of way. But mostly cute in an 'I might actually enjoy swimming this year' kind of way. I was in and out of there in ten minutes flat, and I didn't have to make a bargain with myself to not eat bread for the next month.

I suppose a woman in her thirties doesn't have to wear a one piece. She doesn't even have to wear a tankini. She does, however, have to put away her nonsensical hangups about her body. Life's too long of a swim to talk yourself out of the game in the dressing room.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Woman in her Thirties Abides by the Girl Code

Once upon a time there was a ladybug named Lady T. Lady T was a sad ladybug, very insecure and unsure of herself, and those feelings manifested in horrible ways. She was rude and standoffish to other ladybugs and never made an effort to be kind.

One day, when she was still young, she met a greasy black beetle named Ugly C. Ugly C was a dirty, stinky beetle who could dress up nice from time to time but really was a cheating used car salesman at heart.

Lady T and Ugly C were quite a pair. They got married and started having baby beetle bugs and spent the majority of their time telling the other bugs how much better they were than everyone else. That kept them happy for awhile, but it wasn't long before they had no friends left and they only had each other to hate.

Ugly C began looking for other ladybugs to hang out with, and his reputation caused quite a whisper in the garden. Soon, everyone except Lady T knew that he was nothing but a lying, disgusting beetle who didn't care about anyone but himself.

There were quite a few ladybugs who were tempted to go to Lady T and tell her what they knew, eager to see her antennae, which were constantly pointed high in the air, wilt to the ground in humiliation. They wanted to expose Ugly C for the fraud he was and put him and his ladybug wife in their place once and for all.

But an older, wiser ladybug stepped in and said, 'It doesn't matter that Lady T is spoiled and rude. She is a ladybug, just like us, and doesn't deserve to be treated the way that Ugly C is treating her. Try to imagine what it must be like to be Lady T, in a marriage with a beetle she can't trust; in a miserable existence. It's not our place to ruin her life.'

And with that, the other ladybugs stopped whispering about Lady T and Ugly C. They let them go on with their own lives and tried not to judge. They flew around the garden and kept other ladybugs away from Ugly C. They smiled when Lady T tried to show off around them, because they knew that the smile they gave her was the only happiness she had in her life.

A woman in her thirties protects her ladybugs.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Woman in her Thirties Needs a Sweet Ride

This one's going to be quick because I've still got one more day on our 'To Move or Not to Move' adventure in the midwest. But I must share the beauty and awesomeness that is L's Dad's new car.

I've always had Hondas... 1989 Honda Civic hatchback named Jack (RIP, Jack), 2000 Honda Civic (stolen in a hotel parking lot so soon after I got it that I don't even remember the name), 2001 Honda Accord named Jeffe (safe in the hands of Momma), and now a 2003 Honda Accord named Anne Gavin. The message here is that my cars have always been practical. The loudest bell (or would it be whistle?) is in my current car in the form of seat warmers, which I have used on more than one warm day just because I can.

L's Dad just bought a 2010 Lexus RX350, otherwise known as 'The Car L. Shanna Must Make Her Very Own'. The awesomeness of this car is boundless. GPS? Um, yeah, and controlled with a mouse on the center console. Keyless entry? The key never needs to be taken out of my purse for any reason. Looks good? Only if midnight blue, tinted windows, and gray leather interior are appealing to you.

I got to drive it the other day, and let's just say the experience was unlike any I've gotten from my Hondas. I felt so legitimate in that car, so mature and entitled that I forgot that the place the GPS was taking us was Dairy Queen. I giggled like a schoolgirl the whole way.

More on this adventure later...

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A Woman in her Thirties Takes a Compliment

I not ashamed to say I am the queen of being able to explain away a compliment. Tell me I have nice teeth, and I will tell you about the years of painful orthodontia it took to get them. Notice I might have lost a few, and I will tell you all about the hours upon hours of spin class it took to make it happen. Compliment me on something I'm not prepared with a sarcastic remark for, and I will nullify your nice words with a simple, 'you're nice, but you don't know what you're talking about'.

Yesterday we had an assembly honoring the smart kids in the school, and during the ceremony the student body president announced the winners of the 'Teacher of the Year' poll that the kids had taken a few weeks back. There were ten teachers' names announced, and mine was one of them. I really couldn't believe my ears at first because I'm new to the school and thought I didn't know enough students to really have had a chance at it, not to mention the cacophony of groans I am greeted with pretty much every day I say the words 'take out your English notebooks'.

I climbed through the crowd of teenagers saying, 'Cool teacher coming through', and took my seat among the other teachers in the middle of the gym. The art teacher won the most votes (of course-- art teachers are always the coolest) and took an actual trophy back to his classroom, and the rest of us got Starbucks gift certificates and a round of applause. I must say, after a very long, long, looooooong and difficult school year, the recognition was nice. I spent the next hour or so thinking that in a school with a billion students and a million teachers, I must be doing something right.

Then the self-doubt set in. Maybe I was only voted for because my kids think I'm a pushover. Maybe I was only voted for because only a handful of students voted anyway, the rest of them throwing away their ballots because they didn't think any of their teachers deserved the honor. Maybe I would be hated among the veteran teachers at my school, resented for taking away an award they thought they deserved over me.

I went to my mailbox and found the stack of ballots the kids had cast for me. Not only had they written my name (some of them even spelled it correctly), but they all wrote a few words saying why I was their teacher of the year. Here are some of the highlights:

She's nice and doesn't yell at us unless she's really mad
She made my writing sound better
I don't want to fall asleep in her class
If I have a problem I can go to her and she will help me
and the holy grail of teaching compliments... the equivalent of angels singing from on high:
She makes learning fun

Sometimes a woman in her thirties needs to stop making excuses for her accomplishments. Sometimes she gets to sit back, sip her Nonfat Grande Chai Latte, and agree with the masses.

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Woman in her Thirties Still Hates Geometry

I'm taking part in a study with four other teachers with a nearby university, focusing on strategies to engage students in the classroom. It's as exciting as it sounds, and includes a videotaped lesson of yours truly which I will refer to for the rest of my career as 'How It's Done'.

Today I had to choose a student to shadow so I could get a glimpse of what his life is like on any given day. We were supposed to choose an at risk student, and I chose a 10th grader who is sweet and hard working, but struggles.

First period biology-- easy. They were studying a family tree and deciding whether or not the child of 'X' and 'Y' would be born with attached earlobes. I thought of L and me, and how he has attached earlobes and I don't, and how smart I was for remembering how basic genetics work.

Then came second period-- geometry. My only memories of high school geometry are of writing long notes to K that I would pass to her between classes. By 10th grade I had mastered the art of tuning out during any math class. Today, I thought, I would be able to prove to myself once and for all that I'm not a complete math dummy. I was going to sit through the lesson and figure it out, just like I should have done all those years ago.

Unfortunately, as soon as the teacher began referring to 'pi' (and not the banana cream kind), I found myself reverting back to the same frustrated kid I used to be. Even the student I was focusing on, the one I previously referred to as a struggler, understood how to find the area of the circle on the board. I left the class defeated and wishing I had a friend to pass a note to on my way out.

Despite such setbacks, a woman in her thirties knows she must focus on the good things about herself. Sure, I might have forgotten my multiplication tables (shh), but I choose to believe that all those notes to K about boys might have been precursors to this blog. And this blog will someday make me rich and famous, and I don't need a protractor to figure out that will be awesome.

So thanks, Geometry teacher, whatever-your-name-was. You must have been as frustrated with me as I have been with the student I shadowed today, but you cut me a break. Thanks for passing me with a B because I tried most of the time, and thanks for realizing that I would eventually be defined by more than base times height. This teacher intends on returning the favor.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

A Woman in her Thirties has a Washer/Dryer of her Own

When I was a kid I honestly thought that by the time one reached the ripe old age of thirty, one would have figured out all the rules of common decency. Talking during a movie, interrupting someone who is talking, chewing with one's mouth open... all of these were activities for ignorant teenagers and selfish twenty-somethings. How wrong I was.

I am fresh from returning from the laundry room downstairs, and I am blood-bubbling-in-my-ears angry. Yet again, some jackass has left his laundry in the dryer all morning long, ruining my perfectly planned laundry ritual for the day. Four washers and four dryers for an entire apartment building-- it doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out that leaving your shit in the dryer all day might cause a bit of inconvenience for the rest of the building. And yet, every time I go downstairs with a load, I seem to run into the same problem.

L's response is simple: 'Just take it out,' he says. A good idea in theory, but every time I've been tempted to do that I get freaked out by the idea of putting my hands on a stranger's chonies, no matter how freshly washed they may be. Besides, I always reason, I would be pretty pissed if I just spent a dollar drying my clothes and found them in a wrinkled heap on the table.

This morning, however, I'd had it. I held my breath (not sure why), reached into the dryer, and pulled out someone else's gym socks and tidy whities. Gross. I left them crumpled next to the laundry bag sitting in the room and got to work on my own stuff, afraid the person who owned the clothes would choose that moment to come downstairs and collect his things. He didn't, so before I left I crumpled them one last time for good measure.

I realize this will probably not teach this person any sort of lessons about common courtesy. If anything, he probably won't even realize he left a load of laundry in the dryer for days. He will come downstairs and say, 'Cool, someone took my stuff out for me,' and all my wasted passive aggressive energy will be for naught.

Did I get this angry at rude people in my twenties? I don't remember. I guess a woman knows she's in her thirties when something like laundry can consume her with such rage.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Woman in her Thirties Shouts Out

If you are a man that owns a pair of Ed Hardy designer jeans with a sequins skull and flower chain running down the right butt cheek (or know of a man that owns them), please do not read on.

I was having dinner with M (and a positively ethereal experience with a tiny dutch oven of mac and cheese), when a man walked by in these jeans. Okay, not exactly. His had more sequins. I can't find them myself, but this picture should put the image in your mind. This, to us women in our thirties, was not okay. M and I had a long conversation about how that is just so... what's the word... gay? Lame? Pretentious? Silly? Maybe all of the above.

That was supposed to be the end of this post: A woman in her thirties does not allow her husband to wear jeans that have glitter and/or sequins running down the legs.

But as we were leaving, M turned to me and said 'I think it's time for a new purse.'

My purse is not four months old, and (sniff sniff, S) designer.

'You don't like it?' I asked.

'No', she said. 'I don't know... it's so old lady.'

M obviously did not know how I agonized over the purse Santa (L) was going to get me for Christmas last year. My purse requirements as stringent as they are specific, and the one I have is the only one that fit all necessary criteria.

'Really?' I asked, holding my purse to me like a newborn baby, shielding it from her judgment.

'Really,' she said. I promised she was going to get it and she didn't even know it. I'm not sure what it is yet, but it's going to be something crazy awesome.

When I got in my car to drive home I realized something. Maybe a woman in her thirties is supposed to learn from the guy who rocks sequined pants. I think it's something about showing restraint when throwing designer rocks from designer glass houses.