Friday, July 17, 2009

Thanks, Kenny B

So my old friend Ken Baker of E!, who I helped get his job at People magazine way back in the mesozoic era of journalism -- pre-Facebook, pre-Google, pre-Blackberries, and not quite but almost pre-e-mail, gave me a shout out on Twitter today. (Remember when "Ask Jeeves" seemed like the coolest thing ever? And your cell phone weighed about 14 pounds?)

If you're one of Ken's tweeps stopping by, hey! Thanks for visiting. And while you're at it, follow me on Twitter, won't ya? I'm only 14,094 followers behind!

Oh, and tell him I love him, even if he does look just like Murray the Red Wiggle.

Some gratuitous Friday fun

So do you think this is a statement about my less-than-stellar housekeeping, or about his undying love for Sesame Street? ;-)

Monday, July 6, 2009


I've never been much of a conspiracy theorist.

Moon landing? Totally happened. 9/11? Bin Laden and Al Queda, plain and simple. And I don't lose any sleep at night thinking that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.

But lately I have to confess that I'm becoming increasingly gripped with paranoia that a nefarious force is at work in my life. Don't tell anyone, ok? But it's got to be...gremlins.

How else to explain the regularity with which items in my life disappear, as if swallowed up by black holes? Where else could Ethan's "Touchdown" pajamas be? Where in God's name is that years-old Tiffany's gift card, which managed to vanish right after I was (shockingly) actually able to locate it and send Tiffany's a form confirming that I did, in fact, still have it? And why is that when I search and search for the missing cap to a marker, the very moment I finally locate the cap I can no longer find the marker itself??

I'm disorganized. Horribly. Pathologically. I know that. I spend ridiculous amounts of time looking for things. But there's a whimsical quality to my searches, one that has me believing someone is watching and laughing. It's different from the way, that, say, my husband misplaces his wallet and car keys all the time. How, you ask?

Well, I once was determined to reprogram my universal remote. You know, where you do that godawful thing where you try all the different codes to make it actually turn the tv on and off? But I ended up unwittingly acting out what must have looked like an Abbott and Costello routine. As soon as I put my hands on the long lost remote instructions, I swear to God that the remote itself was then nowhere to be found. And as soon as I put my finger on the remote, the instructions would mysteriously vaporize into thin air. This went on for a truly unreasonable period of time. I started to wonder if I were on Candid Camera.

Yesterday, en route to my in-laws' house, I became convinced I had left my sunglass clip at the pool. It's custom-made to fit my glasses; losing it would be a serious pain in the ass. So, upon arriving at their house, I nervously popped the trunk and scrounged through the pool bag. I was so relieved to find it that I did what any normal person would do: I put it in a pocket inside my purse, so I wouldn't misplace it again.

And now I have absolutely no idea where it is. Turned the bag inside out. It's just...gone.

And that's why I think it's gremlins. They saw my concern, the ensuing relief, and...laughed. They mocked my attempt to be pre-emptively organized.

To wit: A few weeks ago, I wanted to return a shirt to Macy's. I was so proud of myself because I actually located the Macy's receipt, no small feat in my world. Or so I thought. Because only after I zoomed up to Macy's during the one 20 minute window I had free that day, and then waited in line at the register, did I realize that I was holding the receipt for something else, and that I'd wasted precious babysitter time on a useless errand. Take that, Miss "I'm Actually Going to File My Receipts So I Can Locate Them."

And here's where the Gremlins come in.

Because the very next day -- the very next day! -- I put on a pair of shorts and felt something in the pocket. And wouldn't you know, it was the receipt for that damned shirt. The weird part, though, is that the receipt was dated February 15. When I think I can pretty safely assume I wasn't wearing those shorts. How did it get in there? I have no earthly idea.

But I think he might.

Go on, laugh. I dare you. But then don't expect to find your car keys.

Friday, July 3, 2009

From the Mouths of Babes

Yesterday I had one of those moments at the playground.

A chatty little munchkin plopped himself next to me as I sat watching my boys play in the sandbox.

He told me he was four.

And then he said, apropos of nothing, "I know a rhyme!"

What followed was a true Hallmark moment: an impossibly adorable impromptu rhyme slam between the two of us.

He did cat and bat. I did shoe and blue.

Ladida ladida. Aren't little kids just sooooooo creative and delightful, I thought dreamily.

Until it was his turn. And he came up with "digger" and, well, a word that rhymes with it starting with n.

I froze. Literally. About a million things went through my head at once. Was it my place to tell him that that wasn't a nice word? Should I tell his mother? Or was his mother was the one who taught him that word? You know, when you're sitting at home teaching your four-year-old words that rhyme with digger?

In the end, I just decided to believe that it was an unfortunate accident, and that he could have just as easily said "wigger" or "zigger." Because nobody actually sends their four-year-old out into the world anymore thinking it's ok to use that word in public, right??


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Where's the Love?

So maybe you heard the story that was circulating a couple of weeks ago?

A woman named Danielle Smith, a mommy blogger from Saint Louis, had gotten an unnerving message from a college friend now living in the Czech Republic. Did Danielle know, he asked, that a family photo of hers he'd seen on Facebook -- the Smiths' holiday card photo, actually -- was being used as an advertisement on the front of a local grocery store? Well, no, actually. Danielle didn't know that.

Quite naturally, Danielle blogged about this strange turn of events. And as sometimes happens, her story grew legs and went viral. Thousands of people visited her blog and weighed in on the saga of the stolen Christmas card picture and how she and her family unwittingly ended up shilling for cereal, half a world away. Hundreds of media outlets the world over told her story.

But this post is not about Danielle's photo, per se. What I found even more fascinating is that in the aftermath of her initial post about the stolen photo escapade, Danielle felt obligated to write another post. This one was about the incredible amount of vitriol directed at her. Writing about the quirky little photo caper opened Danielle up to the cesspool of vipers. You know, the anonymous online hordes who spend their time looking to say cruel things about anyone they can? They came to Danielle's blog to tell her that her family was ugly. They belittled Danielle and those who defended her as "soccer moms....clearly bewildered on Bisquick and oven cleaner." They haughtily scoffed at her stupidity for posting photos of her family on her blog or Facebook. Because clearly everybody who does something so supremely idiotic should just sit back and wait for those photos to be plastered on grocery store windows in foreign countries. "Get over yourself," a commenter calling himself "Brighteyedangel" wrote.

Ironically, Danielle herself had marveled just weeks earlier at the depths of hatred online, reeling from a comment on the uber-popular mommy blogger Heather Armstrong's site, Armstrong, who was then 35 weeks pregnant, wrote about an unexpected ultrasound. And this is what she heard in return:

162. Anonymous

Too bad. I am still hoping something horrible happens to that troll fetus inside of you. What is it like having such a hideous daughter? I wonder what she’s going to do when all the kids start picking on her for being ugly? Ugh. It’s so disgusting you are bringing another creature into the world. Don’t end up in the looney bin this time. LOL

Anyone who's ever written anything online, whether it be a column, a blog, or a message board posting, inevitably sees it happen. I've seen mothers on a parenting message board ridicule someone else's child as ugly. Years ago, when I wrote a humor column for Slate -- a humor column! -- my work would occasionally be teased on the MSN homepage. Whenever that happened, scores of people who were clearly not regular Slate readers would click on the link. And then they would proceed to leave comments.

What would they say about my lighthearted humor column, you ask? Oh, you know, that I was a stupid f*cking worthless bitch who didn't deserve to live. That I was a moron who had no right to have a column. That sort of thing. I can't even remember all the names and epithets that were hurled at me. For something as innocuous as writing funny columns about the supermarket tabloids. It floored me, seriously. The level of hostility out there is beyond terrifying.

But now I know for certain that no one, and no subject, is immune from this kind of spewing. Blogger Heather Spohr posted yesterday about the ongoing agony she feels as she grieves the unexpected loss of her 17 month old daughter, Maddie.

And look what some peach of a chick named "Kelly" chose to share with her:

I don't want to put too fine a point on it, and I hesitated whether it was even worth drawing further attention to, but just try to imagine, if you will, sitting down at your computer, composing the above and hitting "post" on the blog of a woman whose baby died not quite three months ago. Who are these people? And what in God's name is wrong with them? (Full disclosure: I have left comments on Heather's blog that I later regretted may have come off differently than I intended; it's sometimes hard to say the right thing to someone in pain. But I can say with absolute certainty I was never this far off base.)

And it doesn't stop there. I just came across this terrifying New York Times Magazine article about online trolls. Trolls who make a sport of, say, ridiculing the families of children who've killed themselves. You know, that sort of thing. Lord knows I am no purveyor of puppy dogs and rainbows. I'm as cynical and jaded a former New Yorker as they come. But this makes me feel incredibly naive. And honestly frightened.

What terrifies me is that this can't be just an Internet phenomenon. Anonymous and Brighteyedangel and Kelly aren't just screennames. They're people, with arms and legs and hearts (well, not really.) They work in the cubicle next to us. They serve us fries and a shake. They're our cousin's next door neighbor. They're the mom with three kids we held the door for at Target. And they are so clearly seething with hatred and loathing. Must it bubble up in their real lives as well, or does the Internet simply provide an effortless outlet for them to spew without real consequence?

I'm not sure. And I'm not sure I want to find out.