Category Archives: Funny

10 Secrets of Keeping a Messy House

Some people might look around my slovenly little loft and think I’m lazy. But no! Withhold judgement. It takes a lot of hard work to keep this place in a state of constant disarray. And while I have many books on the subject of organization, housecleaning and home-making (most gifts from my mother) I haven’t read anything about how to preserve chaos in the home. I’m self-taught. I have outlined, for your instruction, a few basic principles of mess-making and maintaining in the home, laying bare my secrets for the first time.

1. It Helps to Have a Lot of Stuff

I remember once a co-worker delicately told me, “Jennifer, I think you just have too much stuff.” Blink blink. I hear the words you are saying, but I don’t understand them. How can it be “too much” when it is all absolutely necessary? For instance, at the time we had a lot of built in storage. One drawer was devoted to fur collars, cuffs and remnants I had picked up at a garage sale several years earlier. Sure, they were unused and generally unloved, but when would I ever find them again if I needed them? Huh? Never. And you never know when you might need musty fur parts.

Some people devote time to “weeding out” and “sorting” their things. I have even heard of complex sorting systems that involve separate piles for keeping, donating and trashing. I perceive that people enjoy this process, the act of purging. Then they take everything left in the “keep” file and sort and label that. And they enjoy that part too. You know what? I’d rather be writing, or cooking, or laying in the park on the grass looking up at the clouds while I listen to the children play. Or reading a damn book. Or doing other things that increase the mess in my house. So, the only time the act of “purging” seems like fun to me is when the alternative is moving it to another house. Then it’s just moving.

Books are heavy, colorful dust collectors that make you look smart!

2. Collecting Things That Collect Dust

It’s not just having a lot of stuff that counts, it will add to an overall impression of chaos if the stuff you collect is bulky and in need of display. Maybe you collect stamps. That’s very nice, but it’s also orderly, and therefor not a boon to a messy house. Whatever it is you collect, have more of it than you have room to store. For example, I like books. I have bookshelves that are packed, and still, I buy more books, which means I have piles of them everywhere – next to the bed, leaning up against the wall, stacked on top of the bookshelves. To add to the volume, my children have books as well, and they leave them scattered not in stacks, but singly, wherever they feel like it. My daughter has been leaving books on the bathroom floor for years – a resplendently disgusting habit that makes a mother proud. Tchotchkes of all kind are great at collecting dust. I can imagine figurines, antique dolls (creepy!), glass birds, and model airplanes fitting nicely into the mix. Records – as in vinyl record albums for listening on the phonograph player – are especially cunning if you never put them back in the their sleeves, but fan them out all over the floor while you drink box wine and sing Emmylou Harris to no one in particular. That is only a suggestion.

3. The Drug and Alchohol Option

Though I don’t endorse this method, television has taught me that all drug addicts and alcoholics are master slobs. I don’t even think you have to try, it just comes naturally.

4. Confessions of a Clotheshorse

If all my clothes were clean at one time (a purely hypothetical condition) there is absolutely no way  I could

These clean clothes are bound to put themselves away. Child included for scale.

fit them in my full sized closet and two Ikea dressers. Laundry is an ever present threat at our house, with baskets and hampers looming large at all times. Dirty clothes dub as wall-to-wall carpeting and clean clothes remain in baskets, sometimes folded, but rifled through and overspilling. Three key factors contribute to high volume of garments in our house. 1. Kids grow. Any parent knows that at all times, at least a third of the clothes in your kids drawers are too small, and up to one-fifth are too big. 2. The Wild Fluctuations in Weight of the Average American Woman paired with the optimistic belief that It Will Fit Again. And 3. Clothes aren’t for covering the body, but costumes that convey the character and personality of the person wearing them. if you have more than three alter-egos, you’re going to have a lot of clothes.

5. Children: Not Necessary But Exponentially Advantageous

I’m not going to say my kids are responsible for my messy house, because truth be told, I was an expert slob long before they came along. However, the character of filth that children add to the mix cannot be understated. Children are disgusting. They excrete a trail of discarded food, broken toys and bodily fluids wherever they go. They think nothing of stashing a crust of toast behind the drapes, or leaving a soiled kleenex at the top of the stairs where you are sure to step on it. And of-course, there are the toys, with all their SMALL PIECES. Legos are the exemplar. You can try to keep them sorted and in bins all you want, but eventually, you will wake up with one under your pillow at two in the morning. Another tip about children: don’t look under their beds. Why would you do that? You don’t want to know what is under there. That is why the monsters live there, because it is a naturally terrifying habitat. Once a year, give your six year-old a gas mask and a garbage bag and lock the door.

6. Pets: The Perpetual Polluters

Pets are a non-stop generator of messes. Dogs and cats that shed are recommended, especially when paired with hardwood floors and an aversion to brooms. Dogs that like to chew and destroy things are superb, as are cats who scratch the shit out of furniture. I had some finches once, and they left a daily spray of husked bird-seed shells in a three-foot radius around their cage, which invariably stank. Yes, pets add that special olfactory element that is the pièce de rèsistance to a messy home.

Just because it is contained doesn’t mean it has to be organized!

7. The Artist’s Way

I think artist’s really do have an unfair advantage in creating a cluttered, disorderly space. Some artists have to keep a neat studio because their materials are particularly hazardous and require vigilant supervision. And if the artist has a separate studio, then they may be inclined to keep a tidy home. But the economy sucks and real-estate is outrageous, so it is likely many artists must work from home. Here are some really good mediums for making a mess:

  • Painting of any kind (requires water, or toxic chemicals, or both)
  • Sculpture (especially from found objects, and especially if you work at a scrap yard, ahem)
  • Collage (scraps of paper everywhere, paired with adhesives of various sorts)
  • Charcoal drawing (charcoal, when combined with dust-bunnies, makes little poofy dust bombs)
  • Sewing (this seemingly benign domestic “craft” creates the biggest shitstorm of mess imaginable)
  • Printmaking (wood or linoleum shavings and effusive output!)
8. Don’t Look at Magazines
Don’t ever even look at Real Simple, Martha Stewart Living, Dwell or any other Clean House Porn. Next thing you know you’re headed to the Container Store, buying a label maker and losing sleep over how to organize your tupperware drawer. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. However you can buy these magazines and leave them laying around the house. That’s okay.
9. No Tresspassing
Entertaining is great fun, but you will feel inclined to create the illusion of order within your home. Avoid it. If you must (as in the case of a children’s birthday party) don’t worry, you can just shove stuff in closets and under beds for the time being, thereby creating a secondary mess to savor at another time.
10 The Power to Avoid
There are people who find it impossible to concentrate on anything else while their surroundings are in disarray. I suffer from this condition in the kitchen, though to a lesser degree. On the whole, I have developed the ability to blur my vision so as to obscure stacks of dishes, mounds of clothes and piles of paperwork. This is a lifetime skill, and if you don’t care to cultivate it, that’s ok, because there is an alternative: just leave. In this way, over-scheduling and social obligations can be a huge asset. Lack of time is one of the easiest and most fool-proof ways to ensure a very messy house. Sure, you might not have time to create more messes, but eating and changing clothes without taking the time to do the dishes or laundry adds up fast. When you come home from a day packed with appointments, running errands and visiting friends you will undoubtedly collapse without another thought. Those dishes can wait until tomorrow!

Re-post This

It is a Facebook policy I have. I won’t do any of those re-post things about Cancer, Domestic Abuse, ♥
SISTERS ♥, or any other cause. You know, “If you know someone who fought cancer and won, or fought cancer and died, or someone who is still fighting please add this to your status for 1 hour as a mark of respect and in remembrance. Only some of you will do it, and I know who you are. ♥”

It isn’t that I don’t care – I do, I swear! But early on it seemed to me if I couldn’t make a distinction about what was worthy of re-posting – Alzheimer’s or bullying? – I had to go with all or nothing. So I opted for nothing. Plus, to re-post something that asks to be re-posted puts the onus on all my “friends” to make the same decision. Too much responsibility! So I just don’t do it. Just like I don’t do e-mail chain letters or put bumper-stickers on my car.

However, if I were to post these types of Status Updates, they would be aimed at dispelling the Facebook Myth, perpetuated by myself, that I am a sane, happy and well-adjusted person. I know that personally and professionally one has to keep up appearances, but sometimes I just want to cut the bullshit, you know?

“I am a terrible mother. I just swore at my kids and threw a toy across the room in a fit of rage. My only hope is that the psychological damage I cause today will provide fodder for a heart-wrenching memoir about growing up with a terrible mother. Re-post this for 5 seconds and delete it immediately out of shame if you feel like a piece of crap. I know one of you will!”

“It is 11:49 and I have drajnk six glasses of wiine and am likely to say something rude, offensive or non-sewnsical in response to your sdtatus right now. I’m read what you all alll are all are saying out there, so I know some of you are drunpk too. Re-post this as your stus if you can manage the fine motor skills required,. Remove it in the the morning firthst thng after you take youe ibuprifn. I know the ones who will!!!! I seeeeee you…”

“Existential doubt and self-loathing are natural conditions of human existence. If you wake in the night seized by unfathomable fear, you are alone. Utterly. Re-post this if you are alone. You are.”

“Single moms need sex too. If you know a single mom who never has any sex, re-post this along with her contact info and a list of potential suitors as your status for just one week! Please!! I hope I’m right about the ones who will, because I’ve been stalking your Facebook friends!”

“I deeply resent the fact that you will not hit the “like” button on my blog posts, comment on my witticisms or share the multitudes of brilliant links I post. In fact, I suspect you have hidden me from your news feed. So, screw you mister. Re-post this if you, like me, are so insecure that you invest your self-esteem in something as frivilous as Facebook interaction, or you’re just having a shitty day. I know the ones that won’t – assholes!♥”

Please re-post.

Music for Root Canals

The pain on the right side of my mouth began, with a dull ache, on the ride from Door County back to my mother’s house in Central Wisconsin. By the time I left her house  for home 36 hours later, I was dosing myself with ibuprofen and acetaminophen in two hour rotations. The pain peaked while I was hauling ass down highway 29, heading towards St Paul with the kids in the backseat. I’ll spare you the gory details except to say that I passed through what I believe to be a Gate of Hell, screaming and clutching my cheek on the side of the road while my kids stared in silent disbelief through the back windows.  Ivan was a ten pound baby I delivered without drugs; this was worse. After I may or may not have ripped the root out my tooth, the pain decreased to a manageable throb. We drove on.

It’s not that I don’t want to go to the dentist, it’s just that I am afraid to go. Not so much because of the pain, but because I fear the truth. I can’t handle the truth about my mouth. Or the resulting invoice. I considered many extreme and insane options involving the procurement of street drugs and power tools before I called the dentist. But finally I did.

I told the nurse my story – I did not spare her the details. “I think you should come in right away.” she said, “Today.”

“Yeah, thing is, I can’t really pay for any major work today, I need to wait to get paid next week.”

“Oh, yeah, you would need to pay for it. Let’s get you in soon then.” So we schedule an appointment and I take up a variety of home remedies and hippie medicine. I take garlic and astragalus pills for immunity, and swish with water and peroxide or tea tree oil to fight infection. I take a lot of Aleve. In my spare time, I read horror stories about tooth decay on the internet and drink Jameson for the pain. Everyone I tell about my ordeal has a story to share; exploding abscesses, broken teeth at sea, emergency extractions paid for with cash after hours. It crosses cultural and socioeconomic bounds, and seems to depend on one thing: the person’s ability to withstand pain while remaining in complete denial. Here I excel.

Tuesday morning I get a high-tech x-ray in a room that looks like a Stanley Kubrik set. “This will give us a good picture of your whole jaw, so we can see if you will die of cancer in three months,” the dental tech said – more or less. After I spent two intense minutes accepting my imminent, tragic demise, the dentist assured me I had “many sound teeth”, which came as a total shock since I was mentally prepared for a full set of dentures.

OK, so it isn’t so bad. I need two root canals. It shows how warped my sense of “not so bad” is that I feel this. I call a friend and tell him the ‘good news’, and he says “Whatever you do, don’t listen to Rush. I listened to Hemispheres when I had mine done in the eighties and it was absolute hell.” Duly noted. It reminded me of my first psychedelic experience.

I was nine and needed several cavities filled. It was a new novelty to offer a cassette Walkman to listen to while you had work done. The Hygienist flipped through some cassettes mumbling “Not much here for kids…” and held up Urban Chipmunk. “How about this?” I had Chipmunk Punk at home, so I figured “Why not?”. Then they put on the Green Nose with it’s cool, nitrous hiss. So, you know, I’m high on nitrous, listening to The Devil Went Down To Georgia as sung by Alvin and the Chipmunks. I was only nine but I knew that shit was fucked UP.

Tuesday evening, I settle into the chair for my Pulpectomy – I swear they call it that – armed with headphones. By the time they have six instruments crammed into my mouth, I’m listening to Cat Stevens’, “On the Road to Find Out” and I feel like I am in a Wes Anderson movie.

The scene opens on an empty instrument tray shown from above. A blue gloved hand slowly loads up the tray with instruments one-by-one while Cat is picking the through the intro. The next shot is close up of my face from above, mouth pried open wide and eyes darting in terror while my Dentist (played by Bill Murray) and the Dental Tech (played by anyone but Gwyneth Paltrow) jam instruments into my mouth. The subplot is that the Bill Murray character is my real father, only I don’t know it… yet. The dental scene alternates scenes of my lover (Owen Wilson, duh) pawning his priceless collection of antique thimbles to pay for my root canals. That is how strong our love is. Feel it.

Next comes “Love in Vain” by the Rolling Stones, which is a lovely enough song to enjoy anytime, even while a woman who is not Gwenyth Paltrow wrenches a metal band around your tooth. After that comes “End of The Line” by Roxy Music, with it’s crooning Bryan Ferry and swelling guitars. A bit much, but not worth hitting skip. “Sheena is A Punk Rocker”? Not in the dentist’s chair she’s not. Then “Rory Rides Me Raw” by the Vaselines comes on, and I feel sexually uncomfortable listening to it while two other people are leaning over me. Vampire Weekend? That’s like Rush circa 20o8: no. Finally, just as “It’s Alright Ma, I’m Only Bleeding” (HA!) begins, they start removing the hardware from my cheeks. I tongue my fat Novacaine lips and head to reception.

I stop to schedule the first of the two root canals on my way out. “How long does the procedure take?” I ask. “About eighty minutes.” Duly noted. My appointment is two weeks away, but I have already composed my playlist. I can’t take any chances.

For Immediate Release

Chintzeys Return Triumphantly to the Living Room
May 30, 2011

Spyco Records; Saint Cloud, Minnesota — The skies cleared from stormy to partly cloudy in a symbolic gesture Saturday afternoon as the St Cloud based new-wave art-rock band known to 24 fans as The Chintzeys returned to the “studio”.

The Chintzeys: the most dangerous band in the living room. At the time that this photo was taken.

The Chintzeys skyrocketed to number #77,547 on facebook in 2010 – a meaningless measure of anything to be sure. Though they have not technically “sold” any copies of their debut album “This Aint No Holocaust”, they have managed to give several copies away. After two unsuccessful attempts at a second album, The Chintzeys surprised no one more than themselves by putting together a Christmas album. Their beloved rendition of the classic “Fum, Fum, Fum” was roundly lauded as one of the most haunting- yet-dismal Christmas songs ever recorded.

The first half of 2011 was quiet for the Chintzeys. Jennifer, the less talented half of the band, took time off to record a solo EP with Producer Douglas, also in the Chintzeys. The project, known as Daycamp, features Jennifer stretching her musical arms to embrace several new instruments – namely trumpet and bass. More of hug than an embrace. A very tight hug that is almost like being strangled. The Daycamp CD features very lovely album art and two songs which may or may not be heard by human ears.

Meanwhile, Chintzey frontman Doug returned to the studio to explore numerous other projects, with musicians who actually write and play music, unlike the eclectic Jennifer who mostly offers opinions and drinks beers. Rumors indicated that the pair would never record again after quitting smoking. Smoke-free or puffing away, the world may never know. But we can all rest easy knowing that the we haven’t heard the last of this heartfelt, wacky trio. Yes, they are a trio. Horn man Pete has not been seen, but is believed to bealive and living in the Twin Cities metro.

Chintzey frontman Doug was not available for comment at the time of this release, due to heartburn, and the extraordinary laziness of the reporter. Jennifer paused on her way to the studio to give this brief statement: “I don’t remember anything and I don’t know what you’re talking about. Can you please let me through? This beer is getting warm, and it’s heavy.”

For additional information on The Chintzeys, whisper into the wind. Then wait.


Pushing 40 in a Polyester Skirt

I’m thirty-eight now. For my sister, fifteen years older, this bit of news hit hard. It seemed more upsetting to her than when she herself turned fifty, a milestone she passed with trademark grace. “But I was thirty-seven for a whole year, and that didn’t seem old.” I pleaded. “No.” She stood her ground, “You’re old now.”

And so I am, quite suddenly, old. At my birthday party, I felt punchy, liberated even, as I developed for myself the catch-phrase: “I’m pushing forty! I do the fuck I want!” It turns out this catch-phrase is limited in both application and enduring charm. But it does express a certain sense of relief I feel having made it to middle age. Cause let’s face it, given certain lifestyle choices on my behalf, I’m definitely there.

Sometimes people wait until they are actually elderly to stop caring what other people think. Since I’ve only ever marginally given a crap, it’s just taken the tiniest nudge to push me into all-out apathy. One of the things I don’t care about because I’m so fucking old is certainly what the fuck I wear.

Again, this has never truly been something I worry too much about in terms of “public opinion”. But let me clarify:  I care very much about my appearance when it comes to prospective employers, prospective boyfriends, friends who are more hip than me, and the parents of my children’s friends. The rest of you all can suck it. To whit: I just went to the corner grocery store in pajama pants, a tank top that highlights my mooshy mid-section, a scarf that is part of a child’s pirate costume worn as a do-rag and a men’s cardigan from 1984. (acrylic, navy) And you know what? The clerk who works six days a week because he is single (wink), and doesn’t have anything else to do anyway as he kindly informed me, kind of hit on me.

Throughout my life, like many misguided women of my generation, fashion has played a major role in defining my identity. Just in case you’ve only known me for two weeks, let me offer you a brief history of some of the highs and lows along the way:

K-8: She’s so unusual
My mother not only let me dress myself, but never even offered an opinion on the whack shit I left my house in. I wore fake leather pants in fourth grade for God’s sake. And because I lived in an insanely homogeneous small town with no mean rich girls to make fun of me, I really had no idea what a freak show I was becoming. In my defense, it was the eighties. My fashion idols were, duh, Madonna and Cyndi Lauper. Having no access to clothing stores or the money to use at them, I raided my mom’s closet hand-me-downs, and a trunk of dress up clothes in the basement. The result was a midget-sized cross between Murphy Brown and Shelia E.

Highschool: Every day is Halloween
A crucial event between eighth grade and my freshman year was Art Camp. I smoked my first cigarette, met a boy who skateboarded and was introduced to Suicidal Tendencies. Also I met punk rockers from Madison.  I had packed every Forenza t-shirt and Esprit bermuda shorts in my collection, only to meet girls with shaved heads and combat boots who knew how to use blow torches. I returned to Hartford with a new bad habit and a head full of bad fashion ideas. Like torn  tights worn under jean cut-offs, or worse yet, long underwear under boxer shorts.

Thankfully I was delivered via Angie, my goth friend with access to and knowledge of the Army Surplus store on Wisconsin Avenue, and Sweet Doomed Angel, a vintage boutique on the East side of Milwaukee. Then there was Chris, my then-closeted gay friend, who became my own personal Tim Gunn. He could be cruel to be kind. He took me shopping for my prom dress, and actually blushed when I came out of the dressing room with decoletage, God Bless his queer heart.

I was, in fact, surrounded by like-minded, equally daring dressers. Each of us had our own signature – Jenny for example, favored hats neatly propped behind a massive wall of blonde bangs. Danielle did this thing with safety pins and the collars of men’s shirts… it’s hard to explain. But it looked cool! One thing we all had in common, as girls growing up in the eighties, was: at all costs obscure your killer bod. Giant, David Byrne like suits or men’s vintage shirts would mask any semblance of a breast. Youth, again, wasted on the young.

Personally, I settled into a new wave thing for most of high-school. I had a platinum bob and my style was not unlike Winona Ryder in Heathers. Lots of colored tights. It held until senior year, when I began to smoke pot, or at least pretend I did, and decided to become a hippie, or something. Things went downhill fast.

College: Rings on her fingers and bells on her shoes
Once I realized that head shops not only sold drug paraphernalia but also clothes and jewelry, it was over. So over, my friends. I wore Birkenstocks to the exclusion of all other footwear. Flannels, Guatemalan pants, and t-shirts ordered from the Wireless catalog – all at the SAME TIME. And weight gain. Dark times for this Little Wing. Thankfully I remember almost none of it. Except for my very expensive education which has been invaluable in too many ways to mention, Mom.

Twenties: Ballad of a ladyman
The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. The second step is to make a past-time out of shopping at the myriad kick-ass thrift stores of St Paul. Throughout my twenties I careened between ‘actually-sort-of-hip’ to ‘trying-a-little-too-hard’ to ‘what-the-hell-is-she-wearing-now?’ This was when I first heard people say to me: “I could never pull that off.” to which I might have answered “What? The cat-eye glasses, platform shoes or lavender pedal pushers?” I’m not joking. Look up tragically hip in the dictionary and I am cited. I had black hair with short bangs bla bla bla. Google Sleater Kinney. Next!

Thirties: Crossroads Blues
When I speak of the Crossroads, I speak not of the fabled place where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the Devil, but rather the horrible Crossroads Mall in St Cloud Minnesota. Shudder. Three important things happened during my thirties, fashion wise:

  1. I had kids. For at least a year I really didn’t care what I was wearing as long as it was washable. My kids spit up so much I thought I’d never wear black again. Then, when I started to wake from the newborn-induced coma, I realized I hadn’t gone shopping in two years. Which leads to number 2.
  2. I lived in St Cloud. The best dressed women in St Cloud shop by mail order, or drive to the cities. The shopping mecca of St Cloud is the Crossroads Mall, which is peppered with overpriced stores that cater to the tween and/or slut set. So instead I culled a weird wardrobe from the insane clearance racks at Herberger’s and the local Savers which is unparalleled, in my opinion.
  3. I got a professional job. This job required me to appear, well, professional. Since I was a “Creative” (yes, that passes for a noun) I could get away with more than you might expect. Like pigtails. But sometimes they let the Creatives (monkeys) out of the cage and we had to go meet clients. It turns out I look like a midget when I wear a suit. Wrap dresses for every season ladies! Also I wore neck-ties because they are, and will always be, sexy on women.

Forties: Black to the Future?
In my late twenties, out of boredom, I formulated a plan that when I turned forty I would wear only black for a decade. I think I was trying to be original, or funny, or maybe I just am really that weird. In any case, the closer I get, the more my closet is trending in that direction and I think it isn’t a half bad idea. Except that I actually like color. But at least I no longer try to get away with pigtails (very often) or child barettes (hardly ever) or costume jewelry (only for parties and sometimes the gay bar). And I almost never wear age-inappropriate retro t-shirts or vintage skirts that look A&W uniforms. But when I do, I rock it, because you know why? That’s right: I’m pushing forty, I do the fuck I want! See it is catchy!

Author’s note: I’m forty one. I let my hair go grey, and I look more and more like David Lynch (in a dress) every day. Perfect. 

Oh How I’ve Missed (Torturing) You

If you’ve recently spent time away from someone you care about and are worried about an impending reunion, perhaps you’d like some pointers from Veronica and Ivan. My children, separated for four days, have mapped out this approach:

1. Immediately launch into stories of all the marvelous things that have happened to you in the last three days. As soon as the other person finishes talking say, “Oh I wouldn’t even like that. But guess what I did?” You can include really banal things, as long as you are enthusiastic. “Well, I stayed up until 10:00 and ate pudding.” “I don’t even like pudding. I had a CRAZY COOKIE and hurt my foot.” You get the idea.

2. Since you haven’t spent any time together, you’ll want to argue about what to do as soon as you can. In fact, it’s advisable to demand that your reunitee do something they find absolutely boring. Then, when they won’t, say you want to play alone anyway. Point out how bossy they are. You don’t have to say “I haven’t missed you either!” in order to get that point across. During this time employ foot stomping and shouting right into each others ears. Very effective.

3. Choose a common enemy. Nothing unites old chums like a mission of ill will. If you are children, your mother will be a perfect target. Perhaps she has spent 5 hours in the car and has stopped using her nicotine patches. Easy target. While she lies in wait on her bed begging for a moment’s peace, you should poke her, make horrible, nasty faces and laugh hysterically while she tries to read a book. It is important to be resolute in your intentions to irritate her.

4. Finally, with the dragon slayed (or storming around the kitchen making dinner) you can settle in to playing. Plan and host a party for an imaginary friend. Rehearse and perform a concert. Put on your pajamas and spend a lot of time tickling each other, beacuse above all what you have missed is having someone so sit on and tickle until they cry ‘Uncle”.

By now you should be fully re-acclimated. And your parent or guardian, used to caring for only one child, will be thoroughly exhausted. Which means he or she is probably ripe to give you whatever you want. Can you have a popsicle? Yes, of-course. A sleep over in your sister’s room? We’ll see.


Games for Boys and Girls

The following are illustrations from Games for Boys and Girls, E.O. Harbin, 1951.* The fifties certainly were a different time!

Game: Cat’s Meow
What You Need
: Chair, pillow, a subserviant boy, a mouthless girl
How to Play: Boy kneels on a pillow and mews plaintively until girl scratches boy’s head, signaling that humiliation is complete.
Everybody wins.

Game: Jawbreaker!
What You Need: Blindfold, brute strength
How to play: Blinfolded boy or girl “The Breaker” tenderly holds the face of “The Jaw”. The Jaw taunts the breaker until, filled with rage, The Breaker twists the Jaw’s head sharply clockwise. The other players yell “Jawbreaker!” and medical help, if necessary, is administered.

Game: Fetal Ball
What You Need: Fifth of whiskey
How to play: Pass around a fifth of whiskey until one of the players starts to cry. All players should hug their knees to signal fear. The player with the highest tolerance for alcohol stands and gently rocks the crying player until he or she tips over. Remaining players continue to pass whiskey until everyone is curled up like a fetal ball.
Game: Huff and Puff
What You Need: Paper bags, paint thinner
How to Play: Do not play.

Game: Sit and Spin and Barf
What You Need: One chair, one blindfold, barf bucket (not pictured).
How to Play: Isolate one player “Sitter” in a chair and ignore them. Choose a player with no empathy to be “The Spinner”. Blindfold  “The Barfer”. The Spinner turns the The Barfer while the other players scream, dance and taunt them. The Sitter calls out “What about me? Hey guys! I think he’s going to be sick!” Game is over when Barfer vomits. Game: Charades, Urban Dictionary Edition
What You Need: Internet connection, a willingness to experiment (optional: Box of Franzia White Zinfandel)
How to Play: I think you get the picture.

* For the record, the above illustrations are taken directly from the book referenced above; the descriptions that follow are conceived entirely by me. Except for the name “Cat’s Meow” which is the name of an actual gamebut, oddly, corresponds to a different illustration in the book.


They look like they like each other. It is late February on Mars, and the atmosphere around here is tense, at best. The children are bored with their Christmas toys, mommy is broke and crabby, and the regular onslaught of snow and bitter cold continues. Worst of all, Ivan and Veronica alternate between fighting and fits of giggly hysteria, both of which drive me crazy.

Time for a playdate.

I do not like arranging for these meetings, because it is too much like real dating in that I tend towards becoming an insecure, anxious mess. So far, Ivan has been stood up twice by Jack, his friend from Montessori school. In both cases, Jack was sick, and in both cases, Ivan was absolutely heartbroken. This week it looks hopeful.

I am nervous because the playdate is here. Jack lives in Arden Hills (which sounds like a women’s perfume) or Falcon Heights (which sounds like a men’s cologne). We live in Frogtown (which if it were a perfume, you would not want to smell) in an “artist’s co-operative.” Our neighbors are the Hmong marketplace, and a crumbing green house with a very suspicious looking trailer parked on the lawn. I find these details delightful, but I worry that Jack’s mother, wreathed in the fragrant aura of the suburbs, will not. I can only hope that Jack returns home to say, “And they have a bike in the living room.” and not, “Ivan’s mom only smokes outside and only when she gets really upset.”

As for Veronica, I tried to make a playdate with her friend from school who, like all of my daughter’s school friends, has a name I can neither spell nor pronounce. It sounded to me like Ellipses, but that can’t be right. Veronica brought home a post-it note with her friend’s phone number, written in her seven-year old scrawl. I left a tentative message,

“Hello, this is Jennifer, Veronica’s mom, and I was calling to see if Ellipses would like to play this weekend. If this is, in fact, Elleepsies mom (and here I change the pronunciation slightly, in hopes I will eventually nail it), which I hope it is (nervous laugh). Okay, then, just call me, Veronica would love to see Ulllisspes.” Following this call, Veronica by turns harassed me and checked my phone for messages until I called and left another message, and finally, another on Saturday morning.

Elipses mom called me back around eleven on the Saturday of the would-be playdate.

“Hi!” Elipses mom brightly said, “Obviously a playdate isn’t going to work out today!!” Obviously? I wonder if she understands the meaning of the word, “Oh? That’s too bad.”

“Yes, well, we volunteer on weekends, so that’s probably not going to work out.” I’m impressed by this information, particularly that she cajoles a seven year old to spend all weekend volunteering.

“Weeknights are a little too hectic, I suppose.” I say, thinking of V’s wriggly little handwriting and hand-wringing.

“No, it will probably have to wait til summer.” Ellipses mom says definitively. “But we both really appreciate the offer!” I am pretty sure I am being snubbed, but can’t fathom why. How can my reputation preceed me at this school? How can anyone snub my adorable girl? I mouth the words ‘fuck off’ into the receiver, “Hmmkay, let’s touch base then.” I hang up and yell to Veronica, “You need to find a different friend at school for your playdate. Ellipses isn’t going to work out!”

I decide to plan a playdate for her and I while Jack is visiting. We will make cookies so the house will smell like vanilla when Jack’s mom comes to pick him up, and he will tell his mom, “Ivan’s mom makes the best cookies!” Volunteer that.

I Saw You

I guess I must have a stalker, or maybe even a gang of stalkers, because the other day I checked the “Missed Connections” ads on craigslist, and half the ads on there were about me!

Roseville Library – m4w – 25

You: baggy wool pants with something sticky on the butt and a filthy white winter coat with no buttons. Me: standing behind you in line when you argued down your sixty cent fine. The way your hair clung to your head after you took off your pink stocking cap stopped me in my tracks. Do you always smell like red wine and pizza in the morning? Call me!

Number 16 University Avenue – m4w – 55

Tuesday afternoon. You were headed east on University with your two adorable children, who you appeared to be screaming at, but no sound was coming out of your mouth, despite gesticulating wildly with your hands. Is there something wrong with your vocal chords? You should get it checked out. And also, you seem like a bad mom.

Shopping at Cosettas – m4w – 41

You spent 40 minutes deciding on a $4.99 bag of pasta. You picked up a wedge of cheese, and put it down again, then picked it up and put it back, like about 100 times. You must have picked up and set down everything in the store. I think your indecision is really cute! Are you even crazier once a person gets to know you? I can’t wait to find out.

Lex and Larp – m4w – 5

Idling at the corner of Lexington and Larpenteur, a projectile hit you in the back of the head. I did it. Love, Ivan.

Shmexy Shmoker – m4w – 49

I saw you standing on a fire escape smoking a cigarette at 11:30 a.m. wearing sweatpants, a kimono, pig-tails, a do-rag and obviously no bra. I was the guy rocking from foot to foot hugging a bottle in a paper bag who asked you if you wanted to party. How come you said no? I think we are soul mates.