Saturday, August 18, 2012

F*** You, Me First

Are you getting what you deserve in life? I mean, you’re a good person, you work hard, right? You are entitled to a vague, unspecified, completely subjective level of proper treatment from the world. There are certain things you should expect to receive, including, but not limited to, love, respect, hard cash, material goods and convenience. And if you ever perceive, at any time, that your right to these items is being infringed upon then you should complain, loudly and persistently, until the situation has been rectified. Am I right? I know I am. I feel that this is correct, this is The Truth, so therefore, it must be. This is kind of the American Way, I think.

I’ll give you some examples. You recently spent approximately $1,040.20 on a round-trip plane ticket with multiple stops on your travel itinerary. You were willing to spend the extra money because you thought you were purchasing an extra special vacation experience. The day before you are scheduled to leave, one flight is cancelled. On the tail end of the trip, another flight is cancelled. This is an outrage. You paid all that money! You deserve something in return for that money. Do not rest until you achieve a sense of justice, until you feel that the air travel provider has properly compensated you for the inconvenience you’ve just experienced. Don't be deterred by the fact that you will never have any contact with the one person who is directly responsible for your pain and discomfort (if that one person actually exists, which he/she probably does). Take out your anger on the company representative on the telephone. She probably deserves it anyway.

Here’s another example. You are in the market for a new home. You think new construction would be nice but you like the sense of community found in an existing neighborhood filled with all older homes. One such older home is up for sale. It is structurally sound, it has a certain "character," but it is old and the closets are hopelessly small. The price tag is somewhere in the $400,000 range and you are conveniently wealthy. You should buy it, tear it down and build a new, bigger house. Make sure it has a “Master Suite,” complete with a walk-in-sit-down-and-put-your-feet-up-while-you-choose-your-outfit-for-the-day closet and a bathroom with a bathtub and a separate shower and maybe a Jacuzzi and a chandelier. Put a chandelier in the closet, too. You deserve it! You are entitled to live in a manner that provides you with the optimum level of comfort and convenience. Walk down the hall to the bathroom when you want to take a shower or relieve your bladder? Oh my, that is so pedestrian.

On a less material note, don’t forget that you deserve the best treatment from all the people with whom you have relationships in life, be it your spouse, your postal carrier or the lady cashier at the grocery store. You are a good person. Don’t let other people’s unknown personal lives and emotional issues influence your happiness. That is not right. It’s not fair. So what if you are making a personal phone call on your cell phone at the same moment you are paying for your tank of gas. Just because you are on the phone and not making eye contact with or even really paying any attention to the clerk does not mean that they have the right to treat you with any less than the utmost courtesy. Conversely, if you are the teen-aged cashier at a store and you are engaged in a conversation with your co-worker about what you did last night while ringing up a customer’s purchase, just because that customer is smiling politely at you and handing you correct change, don’t let them make you feel guilty for sharing important information with said co-worker. Social interaction is not just important, it is essential to your well-being. Plus, if you don’t tell Kelly about how you twisted your ankle while dancing last night in those platform sandals, she might see that photo on Facebook where you are falling down and then tell all your other friends you were drunk. And that is just not true. You were buzzed, but not wasted. Not at that point in the night, anyway.

Do you see what I’m getting at here? We deserve something in life; something vague and unspecified and completely subjective. It’s called fairness or justice and if it doesn’t really exist it should. I feel that I am entitled to fairness, therefore, it must be right. What about the other guy, you say, or the other side of the issue (or, say, the environment)? Fuck you, me first. That sounds fair to me.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Back to School

I recently returned home from what felt like an epic 2-week vacation. The first week was spent in Long Island visiting my father-in-law (AKA: Grandpa Bob), our standard, annual family vacation. The second week, my daughter and I spent in Maine in a small town on the coast where my niece and nephew spend their annual summer vacation visiting their own Grandpa Bob (my sister’s father-in-law). I knew before I left that it would feel strange to leave town in July, the height of summer, and return home in mid-August as the summer wind-down begins. And I was right.

These last few weeks of August are always jam-packed with breathtakingly poignant reminders that summer is waning and the back-to-school season is nearly upon us. The sound of the cicadas, the ever-so-slight change in the slant of the sun, the way nightfall gently creeps up on you, the obnoxious school supply displays at Target; all of these things are like a deafening clock ticking its way down to the end of the season.

I was talking to my mom on the phone today and she was getting nostalgic about the days when it was her three children returning to school at the end of the summer, ridding the house of our endless yelling, running, asking to be fed, and tv watching. She tells me now, at age 71, that she was always depressed to see summer end because she loved having us home, loved the routine of packing us lunch and heading off to the East Denver YMCA for hours of swimming and sun. She says the house was too quiet come September. This recollection of hers is completely and utterly mystifying to me. Everything about my childhood memories indicates she would have been ecstatic to be rid of us but somehow, this elderly lady my daughter calls Grandma claims it was only with a heavy heart that she wished us all well on the first day of school. Well, I’ll be damned.

My mom’s account just makes me feel guilty because I have never tried to hide the fact that I am beside myself with joy watching my daughter ride away on that bright yellow bus on the first day of school. I start counting down the days til school starts immediately upon arriving home from our New York vacation. My mind races desperately as I review the remaining weeks of the summer break, trying to think of ways to keep Martha busy and create windows of time when I can accomplish something that feels remotely fulfilling. How is it that I have become the evil, wicked mother who can barely tolerate 12 hours of free time with her child whereas my mom is the sweet and benevolent queen of good mothers who adored the sounds and sights of her three children to the point of heartbreak when they returned to their mandatory academic routine?

I’ll tell you how: that woman clearly suffers from some kind of wacky, time-lapse-induced delusion. And I’m pretty sure I am not generally evil or wicked but merely exhausted from my intense, albeit sporadic, efforts to be awesome-super-cool-fun-mom.

And, where I will admit to loving the relaxed pace of the summer and the heat of the sun beating down on my bare skin, I also have to admit that I tire of the song and dance my daughter requires to remain entertained during the summer. That’s part of the heartbreak for me; I do love summer but I also love back-to-school. You gotta take the bad with the good and unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to change with the season.