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Just Be A Normal Boy!

My kid’s complete obsession with princesses has not been a phase. It’s grown exponentially since he was 2. Anything with girls and pink and sparkles grabs his attention…from Strawberry Shortcake (shoot me, now) to My Little Pony (trample me, now.)

Is this a genetic thing for kids (boys and girls)? An as-yet-undiscovered “pink frills” gene?

And my kid’s passionate expression is impressively creative: blankies become boas, sweat pants are inverted around his head to become two braids cascading down his shoulders, skirts turn into a fierce blow-out.

My son is Little Edie with a skirt-turned-turban on his damn head.

Sometimes I want to shout “Just Be A Normal Boy!”

(Don’t worry. I stop myself.)

Instead, I vent to you, here; and the monstrosity of my intolerant thoughts becomes abundantly clear…for the entire internet, instead of just for my kid. I’m sure there’ll be no repercussions, whatsoever.

But I realize my problem with his choices is my own latent self-loathing.

The truth is: he’s doing what I wanted to do as a kid…twirl in beach towels-as-dresses. If I’d been creative enough to put t-shirts on my head, I’d have absolutely done so. (As it was, using a hooded jacket as a pony-tail sufficed.)

My parents were great and supportive and never chastised me for my interests. However, I knew pretty young that they were not cool with me portraying “Princess Leia” or “Daisy Duke”.

If I heard once, I heard a million times: “Someday people won’t be laughing with you, they’ll be laughing at you.”

But their words didn’t deter me from wanting to be “Princess Leia”; I just hid it from them.

So I watch my son perpetually casting himself as “Princess Tiana” or “Scarlett Overkill” (from Minions), or Batgirl and I seethe…with self-loathing. Sometimes I sneer and roll my eyes to myself. I twist a dishtowel until my hands turn white and I grit my teeth and pump my arms in excruciating frustration.

But I say nothing. I never shame him for his choices.

I’ve let the occasional “Strawberry Shortcake is stupid” accidentally slip from my muttering lips. But gawd bless my little son for pushing back and saying, “No! Don’t yuck my yum! Strawberry Shortcake IS. NOT. STUPID.

He schools me.

I deserve it.

Let the paranoia and shame go. So what? You liked being Princess Leia in 1982. And it proved rough for the next, oh…twenty hears. Yeah, my parents were right: people did laugh. And that fostered within me a paranoia that someone ANYONE EVERYONE would know it and mock me.

I had no tools to own it, defend myself, or fight back, because I’d always been taught that eventually my choices would come back to haunt me. Not: be your best self and let’s celebrate expression! Instead: this isn’t ok for the world. So let’s stop.

My paranoia propelled me to flee anything remotely gay. I tried desperately to distract friends, roommates, co-performers, rowing teammates, fraternity brothers (it was just a brief few months, don’t judge) that I never wanted to pretend to be a girl. Nope. Not me. Maybe that other kid. But I hate girly stuff. Hate it. Girl stuff is stupid.

(Ironically, I was a musical theatre actor the entire time. Thank goodness I didn’t run from that. Because Mom supported it. So I felt safe.)

As I’ve “come out” in previous posts, I don’t think I’m 100% gay, nor do I think I was technically closeted. What I definitely was, was paranoid…all the time. Because I didn’t feel safe being me.

As an adult, it feels good to let that go. (Sorta? Hopefully?)

But that paranoia of outside judgment still informs how I protect my kid.

So I want to scream, “Just be a normal boy!”

But I don’t.

And he’s dealing with it better than I am. Frankly, there’s nothing to “deal” with. He knows that boys can wear dresses and there might be some people who think it’s strange but who cares? He likes it. So be it.

Daddy needs to CTFD.

“Go for it, buddy. You use that disgusting dog pull toy as an ‘Elsa’ braid. I love it and I love you for it.”

Disney Poisons My Kid

How I miss Thomas the Train.I never imagined typing those words. 

To quote my older son: “I’m excessed with Disney princesses.”

Truer words, son. Truer words. 

I loathe those princesses. 

To clarify: I’m totally fine with the veritable pu-pu platter of princess dolls he received for his birthday.

What drives me ape-shit crazy is the inane conversations about dresses and hair accompanying this excession. 

The princessification of our lives began with those damn YouTube videos featuring grown-ass women playing with princess “magic clips”. Seriously: they manipulate impressionable minds by opening toys shipped direct from Mattel and make videos. They’re the “Saturday morning cartoon ads” of the 2010’s. (Notice the above video has 84 million views. She must be loaded and I’m chiding her. Who’s the idiot?)

It’s free advertising for Disney and (apparently) these grown-ups gain self-respect based upon their “likes” and “views” playing with toys.

Worst of all, their dialogue consists of nothing more than:

“Look what a beautiful dress Cinderella is wearing.”

“Ooh, isn’t Anna wearing a beautiful dress?”

What this woman is doing merits a head exam. Regardless her uncreative, greedy reasons, my son desperately wants to watch these stupid-ass videos of Disney toys. 

And he enacts the same conversations with his dolls. “Oh, Rapunzel, you have such a beautiful dress.” “Cinderella, you look beautiful wearing Elsa’s dress.”

And my son imitates it! These loathsome videos rob me of money and my son of imagination. There’s no story arc. There’s no hero journey, no problem-solving or growth. 

And then I find myself sounding like an absurd knee-jerk liberal when I manipulate the conversations thusly:

Him: (as Rapunzel) “Hello, Cinderella. Do you like my very long hair?”

Me (as Cinderella), “Meh. It’s fine. But what’s cooler is your medical degree. I actually hurt my arm while I was out rock-climbing. Could you take a look at my arm and fix me? Then we can still go do our volunteer work after you fix it. I love helping others.”

I couldn’t help myself. Girls shouldn’t be content to just talk hair and dresses; nor should boys. 

 (I finally put the kai-bash on these videos when he stumbled on a video where two girls acted out a “mean girl” fight between Elsa and Anna dolls. My son later quoted them, verbatim, and I have taken YouTube off our iPads.)

And my son immediately made Rapunzel go to work fixing Cindy’s arm (for two minutes. Then it was back to hair.). 

Hey, he was game to make it a game. But thusfar, he doesn’t proactively make a scenario. It’s still just dresses and hair.

Insert suicidal emoji, here. 

Anyway. 

Before my own kids, I heard other parents complain about Disney shackling girls with dreams of being saved by a prince and getting married. I thought my friends were ridiculous.

But this morning, my son asked, “Are you married yet? Like Rapunzel? When are you getting married?”

I had an OMG moment, realizing he’s put Disney values on me and applied them to his life. 

One day, as he walked around speaking in 3rd person in the role of “Rapunzel” with three blankets tied to his head, I said, “Buddy? Should I just throw away all your other toys since you don’t play with them anymore?”

“Fine. Except my princesses. Because they’re beautiful.”

🙄

I Tried, Donald. I Really Did.

Hi, Mr. Trump.

I’ve given up on you, already, and I’m a really patient person. I gave you the benefit of the doubt by trusting your word that you’d be a president for all Americans.

I thought you really wanted to #draintheswamp.

I thought you really wanted to change how Washington operated.

And I thought you might be interested in hearing from the more than 50% of Americans who did not vote for you, but whose interests you’d still like to serve.

But when you fill the already-acrid swamp with Washington’s least-qualified, blatantly corrupt and most entrench operators, my world-wide movement (with 3 followers and 2 independent postings-besides my own) feels pointless.

You used to brag about being a mover and shaker who controlled politicians. Now you’re becoming their pawn.

You’re filling cabinet spots with people who divide instead of unite.

I thought you’d care about being well-rounded and serving all interests.

But nope, you’ve continued to be the hateful, tone-deaf caricature of a cartoon politician…just like in the election.

So I don’t care about flattering you with witty pleas to your business “acumen”.

I won’t cater to your perpetual hard-on for making money.

And I’m done with your fragile ego. You should’ve grown beyond that, by now. You’re over 70.

You’ve proven you don’t care about the rest of us who didn’t vote for you. So I no longer care about communicating with you. I’m just gonna yell at you. Because, frankly, that feels better.

I guess that’s why you do it, all the time; indulging childish instincts is easier than thinking things through.

Good luck.

I’m not giving up. I’m still hoping you’ll get in a twitter war with me. But until you prove NOT to be “just another politician”, I’ll take a harder approach.

So, still: #HearMeTrump. Don’t be deaf and dumb.

Election 2016: Less about Hate, More about J.Lo

Oops. I’m a dumbass. And so’s the Democratic Party.

We both forgot the immortal wisdom of J.Lo – to be “Jenny from the block.”

For my entire adult life, I’ve stated that I’m a Democrat because I believe the powerful will always take advantage of the people.

Traditionally, the Democrats represented the people, the Republicans the powerful.

As I’ve reflected on the election (for every waking moment since Tuesday at 11pm), I’ve gone through familiar stages of political maturation:

  • How could so many people be so hateful and stupid?
  • Maybe this will be good cuz the Dems will come roaring back in 4 yrs
  • Maybe, just maybe, this will be OK cuz Trump has been pretending to be a dipshit.
  • Oops, nope. He’s recruiting the most insider-y of insiders to form his administration.
  • Wait, why did so many people switch from Obama to Trump?
  • The economy’s really strong, right?
  • Oh, wait a minute. Economy’s strong, people are unhappy. What’s up?

And then I remembered: it’s the economy, stupid. Jobs. Jobs. Jobs.

Economic indicators indicate that manufacturing is at an all-time high in the US. But it’s driven by robots, not workers.

Also, unemployment is at record lows. But people are working minimum wage jobs.

So where’s quality of life?

That’s what Hillary and the Dems failed to target.

And that’s why Trump won – because through his blustery bloviating, he inspired people to dream of quality-of-life under his administration.

Oops.

As I was raking four million pounds of leaves, this weekend, (per Garrison Keillor’s prediction that Dems will get a lot of housework done, this week) I thought:

If the under-employed middle-class wonders why their lives aren’t as prosperous as the Kardashians and they listen to Mika Brzezinski looking fabulous while insulting Trump supporters with her big city ways and they’re made to think “you don’t get me at all” and Trump comes in and says “brown people are taking your jobs” and you work 2 jobs and still can only afford generic food at Super WalMart then YES you are going to be pissed that Clinton DIDN’T EVEN VISIT THE STATE OF WISCONSIN IN THE GENERAL ELECTION AND YOU’RE OBVIOUSLY GOING TO GALVANIZED BY SOMEONE WHO PROMISES TO RAISE YOUR QUALITY OF LIFE (even if Trump doesn’t know shit about creating jobs…only stiffing his own employees and contractors and making empty promises about magically reviving a dead coal plant.)

Pardon that run-on sentence. I’m a coastal elitist. I should know better.

Anyway.

I’ve come to realize this election was about “Love Trumps Hate” only for the Democrats.

For the critical sliver of Trump voters (who were expected to vote for Hillary), it was about quality of life. (I’m not talking about blatant bigots or country club Repubs who unpatriotically don’t want to pay taxes. Calm down.)

We have a really cheap, good quality of life, compared to the rest of the world. Goods are cheap, gas is cheap, food is really, really cheap.But this is a result of our unquenchable desire for cheap clothes from Bangladesh, cheap electronics from China, and harvesting cheap food on the backs of migrant workers.

We coastal elitists scream about civil rights and Roe v. Wade (with due reason, of course). But we forgot about the other branch of the Democratic base philosophy: quality of life.

I like to think I have a pretty good grasp of world economics. I know that globalization has brought countries together, binding them inextricably through consumerism, lowering prices and de-incentivizing war. It’s all resulted in factory mobility and lowering of prices…thanks to lowered wages.

And those jobs aren’t coming back to the US unless we commit to buying things made in America and corporate bosses take bonuses in the low millions, not the high millions.

And that costs more.

Because we like our cheap shit.

And we come back to the people vs. the powerful.

It’s a long-term view. The powerful want satisfaction NOW. They don’t want to think about the future (environment), they don’t want to be responsible NOW (regulation) and they don’t want to share their wealth (taxes).

The Democrats are long-term. They see consequences of environmental degradation, of worker exploitation, and of the need to lift everyone up.

And this is where Bernie was right and Hillary was wrong. Bernie spoke to workers and the down-trodden and the Democratic base.

Hillary, for all her experience and magnificent qualities, is part of the Clinton corporation that sold the Democratic base down the river in 1992 in the interest of triangulation. Bill Clinton helped the Democrats become the part of big money…and globalization…and lowering prices…and sending manufacturing to Mexico and China…and feeding our desire for cheap plastic products.

And THAT left the working class behind and drove them into the arms of Donald Trump, someone who inexplicably spoke the language of workers’ frustration.

The Democratic Party forgot one of its main pillars: workers. Yes: abortion rights, civil rights, the environment, gay rights, healthcare are integral to our progress and peace.

So I get it, now…how the don won.

Because we got dazzled by the rocks that we got.

We forgot to be Jenny from the Block.

* On another note, my last posting was about moving past our anger and trying our best to get our voices to the President-elect with a mini-movement labeled #HearMeTrump. Snap a selfie about what’s important and tweet it to the tweeter, Trump.

Trump. My President.

Yesterday was my grief day. I pledged I’d be back on my feet, today.

Don’t get me wrong…everything that Donald Trump embodies is what I teach my children to avoid. I hate him.

And all of the hateful violence and harassment we’ve seen against people of color, immigrants, gays or people of different political stripes is un-American.

(Also: I hope between now and January that Trump is convicted of all the crimes for which he’s accused and ends up in jail. Then again, Pence would also be a nightmare. C’mon Electoral College reflect the majority vote, stage an electoral coup and elect Hillary Clinton. Please.)

But today, I’m moving forward. Because Trump won the most (Electoral College) votes. He is going to be President. So let’s figure some things out:

I might be fooling myself, but I do have hope. He is educated (I didn’t say smart), he grew up in a city of diversity (c’mon Omarosa, minorities need your out-spokenness, now), and let’s hope he returns to his (formerly eschewed) “New York values” (assuming that means a “live-and-let-live-don’t-bother-me” attitude, as opposed to hate.)

Calm down. I’m not giving him a pass.

I have hope. And a LOT of worries.

But if Donald Trump wants to be a President for all of America, as he claims, then that means we have a voice. There are two months before he is sworn in, so we have two months to make sure he knows our values and priorities.

As Hillary Clinton said in her concession speech (where she displayed the grace and humility of a President), Trump hasn’t begun to govern, but he deserves a chance.

So I’m starting my own campaign, today: #HearMeTrump. I’m using my first free speech to reach right to reach out to Donald Trump and let him know my concerns.

Please join me (and my political exploitation of my children) and snap selfies with what you’re desperately hoping he will consider.

I’ll be protesting and speaking out as much as possible for the next four years.

But I’m employing hope, too…hope that this man born in New York City will somehow employ his big city roots to know the fabric of American life is not about hatred or bullying, but about diversity and teamwork…so that America remains as great as it has always been.

Label-less and Limit-less

Over the last year I’ve had several conversations about sexual identity and gender orientation, a topic difficult for anyone to grasp, let alone our black-and-white culture.

It usually begins, “It’s great you’re letting your son wear a dress.”

And ends, “Do you think he’s gay?”

And then I go in a mental tailspin. “What does it mean that my son wants to wear a dress? Does it mean he’s gay/transgendered/confused/abnormal? No. It’ doesn’t mean anything. He wants to wear a dress. In the end, maybe he will be one of these things, and maybe not. But why label or limit him, now? He’s 5, for Chrissake.”

I try to shrug it off and be Zen. Many parents in the U.S. have already tread this path….evidenced in blogs/news/facebook/life. A boy in a dress is not that big a deal.

Aaaaaaand…it still scares the shit out of me.

I don’t want him to be teased.

I want him to feel safe.

And confident.

And supported.

And un-boxed-in.

And this all comes from my own experiences.

I came to my current “sexual definition” later in life. After a youth of romance with the ladies, I unexpectedly fell deeply in love with a man (he with whom I share my life and family, right now.) Without going into great detail (you can read about that in my as-yet-not-at-all-conceived book), my greatest struggle “coming out of the closet” at age 28 was the fact that I didn’t feel like I had a closet to come out of.

I was just suddenly in love with a man.

Until then, I had never felt confused. I loved getting it on with women.

No, it’s not shocking that I found myself with a man – I was never the boilerplate macho meathead spewing virility. I was teased for being “gay” as a kid, though I wasn’t…technically. But I didn’t lie awake during my teens and 20’s thinking I was doing the wrong thing with the wrong gender.

And reconciling this at age 28 was difficult because I didn’t want to be painted into a corner.

Why did I need to be labeled a completely different person because of the person I suddenly loved?

Plenty of my friends condescendingly said, “Mm-hmm. Sure,” in response to me feeling label-less.

One friend said, “Bisexuality is just a rest stop on the one-way road to gayville.” Another Another screamed, “You’re gay! Get over it!” And one particularly sweet friend rolled her eyes at me when she condescendingly mocked me, “Right. You don’t want to be labeled.”

Right. Is that so hard?

I wasn’t trying to eek from one orientation to the other through the “clichéd-by-the-media-or-whatever” path from straight to bi to gay.

I just…was.

I just…chose to be.

That choice was really difficult. Why? Because of social fucking constraints.

I’m not saying I reserve(d) the right to go back to heterosexual knockin’ boots. By current social convention, “jumping back and forth” is virtually impossible.

But why must it be so?

Isn’t sexuality and identity more fluid than just black and white?

Isn’t there more depth to human connection than what moral (or church or government or repressed political) convention allows for?

When we allow ourselves to ponder our place in the world; when we reflect on what makes us deeply happy; when we meditate on something more than making and spending money; when we’re really allowed to ponder our place, our identity, and our desires, aren’t there hundreds of ways we relate to each other that would be interpreted as “gay” but are actually just different dimensions of human relationships?

I digress. Greatly.

So when someone asks me now, “Do you think your son is gay?” I refrain from snarling or barking. But I do want to scream, “How childish are YOU for needing to label my 5-year-old son? He just wants to wear a dress! Can’t he just have that without being defined for the rest of his life? YOU need to grow up.”

But instead, I usually just respond, “I don’t know. He’s 5.”

Here’s to a label-less and limit-less society.

 

 

 

My Son Wore a Dress for a Month. Nothing Happened.

So my son wore a dress for a month in France.

Nothing happened.

(Why we were in France for a month is explained, here.)

I anticipated my older son (he of the “anything-princess” persuasion) would want to don frocks the entire time. So I let him.

Some Americans might think of France as a bunch of WWII-losing philosophical wimps who eat cheese and are lax in the morality department (ergo they’re “kinda gay”). But in reality, theirs is a traditional, macho culture where men are men and women are objects of beauty.

In some ways, the French lag behind the US in terms of sexual equality and gender identity. Gay couples can marry, but only since 2013. They do have parenting rights, but surrogacy is absolutely interdit. And little boys in dresses? That’s something you see even less in France than in the US.

Further, it’s a land of conformity where people avoid bothering others. Don’t speak too loudly in restaurants, don’t touch anything in stores, don’t color outside social lines, and make sure you dress appropriately all the time; because if you don’t, you’re bothering other people.

At a reunion with some old friends, I wanted not to address the dress. I wanted to be above being defensive. But I couldn’t help myself. They are “salt of the earth” and more macho than philosophical. I couldn’t contain addressing the elephant in the room: “And he dressed up in a skirt for you, today!”

To my relief, they said, “And so he should! It’s a very nice skirt. And Gavin, that poses no problem for us!”

Phew.

In cases where I refrained from addressing the dress, friends asked behind my back, “Is this normal? Wearing a dress?”

My close friend responded, “Sure. It’s normal for him.”

That was the equivalent of a French face slap. And case closed.

Of course he’s only 4 years old, so strangers probably didn’t notice. I’m sure there were many more stares than the few I noticed. But did it matter? My son was thrilled to twirl and fluff his dress.

On a few occasions, I convinced him that “shirt and shorts” were in order. I fully admit these were more so I could have a few pictures that weren’t in shabby hand-me-down dresses. Just in case there’s a day he doesn’t want to associate the entire getaway with being in dresses. OK, OK. I admit. And so that I can have some frame-able pictures of him in the cute shorts and shirts I’d packed and had gone completely un-touched. (Don’t worry. I’m not a monster. Plenty of dress pictures are already in frames around the apartment.)

But on those shorts days, the second we returned from our outing, back on went the dress. And while he hadn’t shown any anxiety in shorts, the second my son could twirl in a dress, again, he breathed more fully.

During one exchange with a cashier at a store, I happened to refer to both of my kids in the third-person masculine ils (they).

(I know. Your heads just exploded from the flash-back to 7th grade French, didn’t it? When referring to 99 women and 1 man, you still use the masculine ils and not feminine elles. Again: ancient linguistic macho rules.)

The store clerk then said, “Your son and daughter,” but then corrected herself saying, “Or is it sons?”

I smirked. “Actually, yes, it’s he. He knows who he is and what he wants.”

The lovely woman smiled and said, “Well good for him. And good for you.”

I arrived in France worrying what my friends might say about my son in a dress (and that I would gain fifty pounds eating my weight in bread, cheese and wine every single day.)

Ultimately, no one cared (and I gained weight.) So that was a great lesson.

During many discussions of his wardrobe choices, several times I heard, “Yes, but there’s society, Gavin.”

Yep. There’s society.

But when defending him, I’m quick to add: “What does it matter?””

What I know is that societal convention is bullshit compared with feeling comfortable in your skin and following your passions.

I know what’s most important is not to get hung up on society. That would be the worst thing of all. Self-repression and conformity do not breed happiness.

(Note to self.)

But it’s easy enough when my son’s only four and when he’s in another country. Someday (soon?) it’ll be different.

Or maybe not? Again: I’m making the issue, aren’t I? My son’s fine with it.

I don’t know the right way to go about letting him express his personal style in school. In France, he was anonymous. But we all know “boys-in-dresses” aren’t seen the same as “girls-as-tomboys”. At our neighborhood playgrounds, there are peers who won’t forget that he wore a dress last Thursday.

But, my partner and I are allowing him to do so. So I suppose we’re dipping our toes in this pool. And there’s been no fall-out.

Still, for now we’re saying no dresses at school.

I keep coming back to a very smart blog posting by a dear friend who wrote, “From Fear to Fuck It.” As far as supporting my son and creating the safe space for him to thrive, I know I need to live these words. Don’t be afraid. Fuck it…for his sake.

I can’t let my own fears about his social adjustment overshadow his passionate feelings and creativity.

Yes: there will (soon) come a time when social pressures will be hurtful.

Or not? It ain’t the Eisenhower years, anymore. Thank God. And we live in a pretty liberal neighborhood.

But perhaps he will be stronger than I ever would have been in letting criticism run off his back.

What I know for sure: he won’t feel confident if I’m not supportive.

As always: the social constraints are something I need to deal with.

Cuz my son’s perfectly fine with himself.

I need to be.

French Summer, Part Deux

I should make the follow-up disclaimer to my last posting: the trip to France was (of course) fantastic.

Aaaaaand…I took a leap of faith that all my relationships would survive the American invasion.

There’s the saying, “House guests and fish: after three days, they start to smell.”

And I went there for a month.

We spent most of our time between two idyllic houses in extreme-rural Normandy. One house inhabited by two 70 year olds and one house inhabited by a young family with a 3 yo. Chickens and cats ruled both roosts.We were barely in cities, at all. So there was no time for Daddy to sit around in cafes sipping coffee, smoking cigarettes and pretending to be intellectually literary. Instead, I spent my days nagging: “Stop running through the house,” “Don’t chase the chickens,” “The cat doesn’t want to be picked up,” “Don’t touch the flowers,” “Don’t jump against the safety net on the trampoline,” and “No. You may not trap the cat on the trampoline, zip yourselves up with her, and traumatize her by jumping.”

Yeah, that last one was a doozy.

In addition to learning respect for chickens and not hating me for all my badgering, my kids got to live surrounded by a culture that values long lunches more than strict bedtimes. (At least I got to sleep til 8, most days.) I did my utmost to address them in French, (usually followed up with an English translation.) I accomplished that about 30% of the time. After 3 weeks, my youngest son understood a LOT. (That, or he mastered the placement of oui and non so that he seemed to understand.) And my oldest was the enthusiastic speaker who wanted to use his French. It was thrilling.

We weren’t “on the go” as tourists for any of the trip (except a last three seemingly-obligatory, yet utterly frustrating, days in Paris.)

We just lived France.

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A goat dairy where they make milk and cheese. It cracks me up when my kid plugs his nose by shoving his fingers up his nostrils. And lots of the stinky French cheese he tried smelled way worse than a bunch of milking goats.

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A manor house built in the 1500’s where they’ve made cider for 500 years. They had a “pigeonerie” – a round house meant for housing hundreds of pigeons (yep – for food). The kid who gave us a tour explained in very-broken English that the pigeon nests are made of pigeon “shit”, which made me guffaw. I let him know that, while in French it’s perfectly acceptable to say merde in any company, that shit might not be the best word for anglophone tourists.

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A cheese factory where they make the essence of stinky cheeses: Camembert, Pont L’Eveque, and Livarot (that which made my youngest son gag and nearly throw up during the tasting session).

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Beaches in Trouville and Benerville. It’s low tide. Obviously. Somewhere out there you can see the ocean.

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Walks around gorgeous Honfleur with obligatory stops for ice cream.

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And just walked around some tiny Normand villages that have enchanted me for twenty years since I was an exchange student (and met the family that welcomed us.)

What Was I Thinking? (Summer edition)

So I’ve been radio-silent because I went to France for a month.

With my two sons.

Where I was the only one who spoke English.

In a house occupied by two 70-year-old people whose only tolerance for children has been one freakishly-calm French granddaughter for maybe 36 hours at a time.

And I’m bringing two American boys, accustomed to burning a path of destruction everywhere they go. They break shit just to break it.

Did I mention this was for a month?

In a place where children are to be seen and not heard?

On Instagram (that frustrating filter of fabulosity), I see big ol’ bloggers who must have been sponsored to take their families to the Italian lake district and sit around taking precious pictures of their perfect lives. This, that was not.

I took my kids to the rural cousin’s house to be Daddy-Day-Camp-Counselor in order to avoid being Daddy-Day-Camp-Counselor at our own home.

In the weeks before our departure, I started to panic: What have I done? What grown adult chooses to go stay with his mother for a month?

Last February, a fellow parent asked me with desperate bug-eyes “We finally signed Jimmy up for camp. What are you doing?”

“Um, it’s February,” I replied.

“I know. We were lucky they still had spots.”

I almost got a migraine from repressing my eye-roll. ‘This is ridiculous,” I thought. “I hate playing this Type-A frenetic parenting game of shipping kids off to camp in the summer.”

But hell, now that I’m accustomed to school schedules, I don’t want to be stuck with two kids in an apt all summer, either.

So I developed the brilliant idea of taking my kids to visit relatives in France.

Even though money’s tight (TV casting directors: I’m still available!), I had enough airline miles to take my boys and me for “free” (plus $1,000 in taxes and fees. Buzz kill.) So it all seemed justifiable.

(My still-employed…thank goodness…partner joined us for the last of the four weeks.)

As the trip grew closer, my acting auditions increased. I figured the “right gig” would justify canceling the trip.

And with every audition, I weighed which was more important – making the trip or getting the job?

As if the decision was up to me. Ah, the ego with which I’m blessed.

I never had to make the decision. I didn’t get the jobs (except for a nice one-day gig on J.Lo’s Shades of Blue…look for me in the second episode of second season as a poorly-dressed child custody attorney.)

Anyway, days ticked by and I started to panic.

Was this the stupidest thing I’ve ever planned?

What adult thinks to himself, “I’ll go spend a month at my mother’s house?” except it’s not my mother, so I don’t even have the luxury of reverting back to my own petulant inner-child who becomes lazy and lets his mom take care of the kids. Plus, I’m the only one who speaks the two languages, plus they’re not used to having two rambunctious American boys running around an immaculate garden where even the grass is supposed to be admired and respected, not played on?”

WHAT WAS I THINKING?

 

To be continued…

#letsbebetter

I’m embarrassed to have remained Facebook-silent about the tragedies in Baton Rouge and St Paul and Dallas when I’m frequently outspoken about other issues.

It took me a few days to formulate my thoughts in the hurricane of disgust and depression we all feel.

My simple thought is this: why are we so damn afraid?

FDR had it right declaring fear the only thing we have to fear. But from the most recent tragic shootings in the forefront of our minds to the all-but-forgotten massacre in Orlando, our society is just so afraid.

And of what?

We Americans are literally inventing reasons to kill each other.

Yes, there’s the 1%ers and climate change and job loss and globalization and economic downturns and cancellations of The Good Wife. But we are the country of shining cities on a hill and streets paved with gold. We are the emulation of the entire world.

Everyone wants to be us.*

And yet we are so very afraid.

Whites are afraid of Blacks.

Southerners are afraid of “Northern aggression”.

Northerners are afraid of country music.

Everyone is afraid of NYC Elmos in Times Square (Justifiably. Ew. Bedbugs.)

Blacks are afraid of cops.

And Republicans are afraid of everything.

What is there to fear?

From our national roots, we were a country of opportunity, openness and freedoms; and we all claim to hold such truths to be self-evident.

But are our actions mirroring our philosophy?

No.

Because fear rules.

The media thrives on fear…because it sells ads. “What’s lurking in your toilet bowl? Look who’s stealing your identity, now? Immigrants are taking your jobs! TERRORISTS EVERYWHERE!”

The NRA thrives on fear…because it sells guns. “You never know. Home intruders, the revocation of my rights, stray clay pigeons. YOU NEVER KNOW.”

Parents thrive on fear. “What if my kid falls/chokes/screams/barfs/embarrasses/doesn’t-prove-himself-gifted?”

Republicans thrive on fear. “Let’s go back to the 1950’s because: Happy Days.”

Donald Trump thrives on fear because: votes.

We think we are the country of optimism. “Just Do It.” “We the People.” Disney.

And yet we are So. Damn. Afraid.

And so often, it comes down to guns. Why the FUCK do we need to be so gun crazy that normal citizens think they need to have guns to protect themselves in the streets, that gangsters have to bastardize our freedoms by shooting the shit out of each other to maintain turf, that cops have to be paranoid that any random person (read: Black person) has a gun on themselves, and that people keep killing each other over…what? What the hell do we have to kill each other for? What is so damn important to take another’s life? Does anyone think about consequences, anymore?

We are spoiled toddlers stomping our feet when we don’t get our way and pout and hit and push and shoot each other with reckless abandon.

NOBODY ELSE DOES THIS (except for completely lawless places like fucking Darfur.)

And, yo, Americans: THIS AIN’T THE CONGO.

We aren’t the land of opportunity, we’re the land of fear.

And aren’t we better than that? More evolved, educated, privileged, blessed and better than that?

I ask you: fearful cops, fearful gang leaders, fearful NRA corporate execs, fearful anything-corporate execs, fearful news companies, fearful politicians? Aren’t we better than this?

Why do we have to be afraid of ___________? (Fill in the blank…Blacks, gays, Muslims, Republicans, Mexicans, cops.)

We are not toddlers fearing darkened closets.

We are better than fear.

FDR was right.

Yo, Mr. Media: Stop blowing everything out of proportion. 900 refugees dying in a blow-up raft is terrible. But one gang shooting in Brooklyn does not a national panic justify.

Yo, Americans: STOP WATCHING 24 HOUR NEWS. It’s perverse to watch so much negativity. It’s fucking with your minds. TURN IT OFF. For the news, all you need is this, maybe twice a day.

Ban guns. Just get rid of them. I can’t talk about it anymore. Yeah, they’ll always be there, but just: enough. They’re an unnecessary, paranoid, perverse fixation. Keep shooting deer. Fine. But the rest just foments paranoia. (What good did all those gun-toters do in Dallas? And fine, while I’m at it, do more for mental health. But guess what?…that requires more social assistance. So vote Hillary. Bye.)

And, most important: BAN SPECIAL INTERESTS. They pollute our political system and make politicians the whores of corporate interests.

So, yeah. I’m coming back to CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM. Seems trite morphing the murder of innocents into a political pipe-dream, doesn’t it?

But if we got money out of politics, there’d be less fear to exploit.

(There’d still be the media fanning the fires of fear, but still…)

It’s tough to manage a monstrosity of a diverse culture.

But fear needn’t be our fuel.

Let’s be better.

 

* I know, I know. Plenty do NOT want to be us. But still…even the most hardened of snobby (French) critics kinda wants to live in Ross & Rachel land. AmIright?