Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2009: You're Lookin' Fine!

What is Joan Novark doing for New Year's, you ask?

Well, she's getting Snookums all bundled up to go out in 39-mile-per-hour winds!

And she's going to drive into Manhattan! That's right: the SAME NIGHT EVERY BRIDGE AND TUNNEL PERSON IS DRIVING IN!

Once we pick up Zany Dad at his Dreary Job in the Financial District, it's off to the Upper West Side to visit Zany Dad's zany sister and her rich, eccentric BF!

(Zany Dad once said he hated the Upper West Side so much he could never go there without hurling. I plan to roll down the car windows the minute we cross 59th Street.)

No, seriously, my ultimate destination is a party downtown in the West Village. I plan to leave Zany Dad and Snookums' at Zany Sis's and high tail it out of there for some raw oysters, roasted suckling pig, Prosecco and obscure 80s music.

Things it's not polite to discuss at said parties, but I might anyway (cf: Prosecco, above):

1) The idea of serving a suckling pig. After all, Snookums is still suckling, and when she was really little (and pink) she resembled a piglet. Zany Dad said he couldn't eat a baby pig in good conscience. I suppose I should be more principled, but I'm too friggin' hungry.

2) Did you know you should only drink wine from Italy, Argentina or Brazil? It's true: I read an article about the high levels of heavy metals in wine, especially from Eastern Europe and France. That's why I'm bringing Prosecco and an Italian pinot noir to the party. Eccentric BF, however, apparently went out and bought NINE bottles of wine and Champagne in expectation of our arrival, even though I'm the only one who drinks.

See you next year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Mommy and Me in the Garden of Eden

Last night I went to a party and asked someone I hadn't seen in several months how things were going since her baby was born in March. Her response?

"Things are OK now, but I went through three different episodes of postpartum mania."

It all started exactly three months -- to the day -- after her baby was born, and she took him on a self-designed meditation retreat. In a cabin in the woods in upstate New York, she bonded with her baby when he was awake and meditated or wrote in her journal when he wasn't.

Eventually, she became convinced she could read his every move. Literally. "I thought he was signaling to me with his hand gestures," she told me. When he waved his hand in the air, she thought he was telling her to write in her journal. So she did. In four days, she wrote 143 pages.

"I wrote this whole religious-ecstasy vision thing about how we were in the Garden of Eden together," she said. "I felt very euphoric and peaceful, like everything was perfect."

But just as it did for Adam and Eve, things turned dark. Her husband wasn't bonding enough with the baby, she decided. Her voices or visions told her to "implode," which she took to mean withdraw into herself and meditate more intensely, making her husband take care of the baby. So when she got home, she told her husband to watch him while she meditated.

She put the baby in his bassinet. Pretty soon, he was screaming. She ignored him. So did her husband, who was on a work call. Then she was screaming and not making sense. Her husband called her mother and his sister and they came over. She was delusional for two days, but they finally convinced her to check herself into a psych ward.

"The thing was, I agreed to go and I signed myself in, but I didn't realize they'd take my baby away from me," she said. "The first three days without him were a nightmare. I was screaming, inconsolable." Her doctor tried to put her on antipsychotic drugs but she refused to take them because she wouldn't be able to breastfeed.

After 10 days, she was released. Then, on the day her baby turned four months old -- exactly a month after the first episode -- she had another Garden of Eden vision in which she and her baby were in paradise. She went back to her doctor and agreed to take the antipsychotics, "but after four days I stopped, because they turn you into a zombie."

On the day her baby turned five months, she had the third episode. "The other two times, I felt very positive, very euphoric," she said. "But this time was bad. I was paranoid." She became convinced her baby was the Messiah and that she had to smuggle him out of New York to another state. "I thought my husband was in on it and that he was going to meet us there," she said.

In the middle of the night she snuck out of the house with the baby. "I kept getting into taxicabs and then feeling scared or upset about something the driver said or did," she said. "Finally I realized I was in a fear state and it wasn't a good place to be, so I just went to a friend's house."

Long story short: She took antipsychotics for about two months, which meant she had to stop breastfeeding. But today she's OK and off the medication.

I'm not a shrink, but I play one on the Internet, and my Google search tells me she had postpartum psychosis, an extremely rare illness that only affects one or two women in a thousand.

On the other hand, it's possible she really did have a religious experience. Maybe her baby really is the Messiah. (He's awfully cute.) If the Virgin Mary were around today, wouldn't we put her in the psych ward the minute she said her child was the son of God?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Gratuitous Butt Shot #2

Some of you might remember a story I told a few weeks ago about how I saw one of the people I share office space with retouching a photo of a woman's butt.

Well, today it happened again. Only it was a different guy this time. Who works for a TOTALLY DIFFERENT COMPANY.

I was in the office for only a few minutes today -- just long enough to walk by this guy's office and see a photo of a woman's naked butt up on his computer screen.

The woman in the photo was wearing some sort of sequinned garment that just happened to be open so that her ass was completely exposed. The nudity seemed too out of context for a women's magazine, and the shot wasn't really cheesy enough to be soft-core porn, nor was it artsy enough to be considered, well, artsy. I couldn't figure out where a shot like that would be published.

I would have asked the guy who was working on it, but he was on the phone engaged in what sounded like a very intense conversation. Probably about butts.

Oh, and another thing that's weird about my office: This place is on the second floor.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Great Classic NJ Diners

In my previous job/life, before I had Snookums, I used to travel all over the world. I ate squab in Egypt, fried caterpillars in Mexico, and freshly slaughtered pig (yes, it had been screaming moments before) in Borneo.

Nowadays, if I can spend the weekend discovering some great diner, I'm happy as a clam. Fortunately, New Jersey is famous for its old diners. Here are three of my favorites -- two discovered just this weekend!

1) The White Mana Diner, corner of Tonnelle Ave. and Manhattan Ave., Jersey City.

Launched at the 1939 World's Fair (and it looks every bit its age), the White Mana features a circular layout rather than the typical rectangular, railroad-car design of most diners. Kinda run down and dingy -- both inside and outside -- but the White Castle-style hamburgers are great. And cheap.

2) Summit Diner, 1 Union Place (corner of Summit Ave.), Summit.

This tiny spot (only eight booths and 20 stools) is the place to be in Summit on a Saturday morning. You'll have to wait for your table, but you can amuse yourself eavesdropping on the regulars. Service is, shall we say, indifferent, but the prices can't be beat. Afterwards, you can walk off the food by strolling around Summit's Fifties-style downtown, which even features -- gasp! -- a movie theater.

3) Bendix Diner, 464 Rt. 17, Hasbrouck Heights.

I just went to this place today for the first time and can't believe I didn't know about it. It's a classic American roadside diner that's been featured in umpteen TV commercials and the odd bad movie (Jersey Girl). Built in 1947, it's also in much better shape than Summit or White Mana -- and is sparkling clean, too (even the bathrooms). The service is also a lot better. And while it's not dirt cheap like the other two, you won't go broke eating here either -- I'm still full from the Reuben and fries I chowed down eight hours ago.

Special bonus: The White Mana and the Summit diners are accessible by public transportation.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Eat Your Butt Out

Today Zany Dad and I spent the day at the house of friends in Summit, NJ. The husband, who is from Poland originally, served us this delicious honey-soaked poppyseed cake that's some kind of national delicacy, and Snookums couldn't get enough of it. She kept pointing her tiny finger at it and angry-moaning -- kind of like Donald Sutherland in Invasion of the Body Snatchers -- until I gave her more. And more.

At one point Zany Dad looked down at the black clumps of poppyseeds that were sprinkled all over the chair and floor.

"Oh no -- we are going to have to clean this up!" he said. "It looks as though she is eating it with her butt."

Come again?

"It looks as though she is eating it with her butt," he repeated insistently, as if I were deaf.

Normally Zany Dad speaks near-impeccable English. (His idea of bedtime reading is Nathaniel Hawthorne and Joseph Conrad.) But every once in a while, he slips up.

Like one time he referred to the Beatles as "the Bittles." And another time, he said, "I think our tenant has a crunch on you."

But this time I have NO idea what he's talking about. But it kinda sounds good -- like "talking out of your ass." So I'm going to start using it, and to hell with what it means.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Aloha, Snookums!

Snookums went to a Hawaiian party today. Unfortunately, this had nothing to do with our new president and everything to do with the fact that a member of the mothers' group I belong to is originally from Hawaii. She even plays the ukulele. (That is not her in the photo, by the way.)

So we brought some musical instruments -- a tambourine, a shaker, a squeaky toy -- to the playroom of Malia's apartment building. She played "Itsy Bitsy Spider," "The Hokey Pokey" -- the usual playlist for the one-and-under set -- on the ukulele, and the babies just sort of sat around and stared at each other. That is, when they (meaning Snookums) weren't crawling over and grabbing another baby's stuff, or playing an instrument at a totally inappropriate time, or COMPLETELY IGNORING THE DIRECTIONS (it's your right foot, dammit, not your hand! You put your right foot in and you shake it all about!).

The other babies mostly sat there placidly and smiled while their mothers fed or changed them and chatted. Not Snookums. She didn't stop moving for a second. Finally she found a way to amuse herself by pushing another baby who was sitting on a little car around the room endlessly. Every time she got to the wall, the other baby's mother would turn the car around, and Snookums would run across the room to the opposite wall, pushing the other baby. This went on for a full five minutes -- an eternity in Snookums-time.

Maybe she has a future as a pedi-cab driver.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

All Hail the Baby

This'll probably be seen as sacrilegious, but it's Christmas, and I tend to take things literally, so I can't help thinking that this holiday is all about worshiping a giant baby.

Considering I spent the past year in the thrall of Madame Bossette, that makes me wonder what the Baby Jesus was like.

Was he cranky? Colicky? Did he keep his parents up all night for months on end?

Did he throw his food on the floor?

Did he grab Joseph's nose and pinch it really, really hard, then grin when admonished not to?

Did he point at whatever an adult was eating or drinking and make incessant, angry noises, demanding to be given whatever foodstuff that was -- even if it was a glass of wine or something else children aren't supposed to have?

Did he demand to be breastfed constantly? Did he bite Mary's nipples? Did he rip her blouse open to try to reach the milk?

Oh, no, you'll say. He was a perfect little angel. Well, don't forget: He was a man, too. A man who started out as a baby. One that we all worship. . .

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Snookums: Indifferent to Her Jewish Heritage

On the fourth night of Hanukkah, Joan Novark brings to thee . . .

a Dancing Dreidel bear! Snookums, unfortunately, couldn't care less.

Was anyone besides Joan unaware of the second verse of this song?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

If the Shoe Fits, Sniff It

A friend of mine recently placed an ad on Freecycle listing a bag of women's clothes she was giving away. A few days later, after the bag was already gone, she got the following email:

Any old/used flat heels pumps too? I can take from your hands.

When she replied to say that the clothes had been taken, the person wrote back:

Any other well worn shoes you may have???

"I thought, 'This poor woman has no shoes,' " she told me. So she wrote this response:

"Hi, I don't have many shoes as I tend to wear the same ones forever. I have a pair of black flats from Urban Outfitters I don't want, they were very uncomfortable to me -- I only wore them once. I also have a pair of weird clunky pink shoes with heels that aren't too comfortable either. You can have these if you want but I doubt you would be that comfortable -- though maybe people's feet are different."

The answer?

These are not for use. I only want your oldest/worn/well worn shoes. Only shoes from a nice beautiful lady, worn by her, so I can feel the scent, and really want to kiss her feet, rub them to my face, and become her slave.

I cried for the man who had no shoes, until I met the shoeless man with a shoe fetish.

Monday, December 22, 2008

There Goes My "Retirement"

Today at work we got into a discussion about credit cards and how much interest they charge, etc., and how before you know it, you owe so much money you can't pay it back.

I brought up the example of a friend of mine, who recently declared bankruptcy because her husband, who had a small (and unsuccessful) business, was using their credit cards to pay his employees' salaries.

My boss said something like, "Yeah, when you're not bringing in any income . . . " and trailed off.

A couple of minutes later, after we'd talked about this and that, I, being the kind of tightwad responsible consumer who pays her credit card bill in full every month, said, "Whatever you do, don't charge payroll to your credit card!"

I was thinking my boss would laugh, or say something like, "Of course not, how stupid do you think I am?"

But he didn't do either. He didn't say anything at all.

Which makes me wonder exactly where he's getting the money to pay me.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Do I Look Like a Cow to You?

Last time I checked, I had only two legs, one stomach, and no horns. Yet when Snookums looks at me, all she sees is Big Ol' Bossy (with apologies to one of my favorite bloggers).

Witness this video, in which I chant, "The dairy's closed!" while Snookums is thwarted in her attempts to reach her milk faucets.

p.s. My mother said she'd never seen girl babies act like this before. Does this mean that Snookums is tending towards the, ah, Sapphic persuasion? If so, I hope she gets her own talk show.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Human Pincushion

I'm now on my seventh day of Repronex injections and my second day of Cetrotide, some new hormone thangy the doctor put me on to lengthen my cycle for this round of IUI. I still have to take Repronex and Cetrotide injections every night until Monday, when I'll give myself an injection of Ovidrel to make me ovulate in time for the insemination Tuesday morning. 

I've gotten used to giving myself shots by now, but I'm still not used to having to do two injections instead of one. It's difficult to find two spots on my belly where I'm not going to mind having a big red, sore patch the next day -- especially since Snookums likes to kick me in the stomach while she's nursing. 

Hmmm . . . Maybe I should have called this post "The Human Punching Bag." 

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Why Jersey City Sucks

Dear Jersey City, 

I've been with you since the Clinton Administration -- longer than I've been married to Snookums' dad, even. And I tried to stay faithful. I even bought property here, in a decidedly NOT gentrified neighborhood. 

When New Yorkers put you down, I always defended you. And what did I get in return for my loyalty? Nothing but lies, misdeeds, caddish behavior 
. . . Well, I've had it. They're right. You SUCK. And here's why: 

The other day, I was trying to catch a bus at Journal Square. The first rule of Journal Square is,  no one knows anything. And yet there are so many, many questions! Such as, "Why is EVERY SINGLE ESCALATOR being repaired during rush hour, when you guys just replaced all the escalators only a few months ago?" Or, "Why the hell can't I find a goddamn trash can ANYWHERE in the station?" Or, "Why did you get rid of the one and only mailbox? Was it because you wanted to FORCE me to have to carry my mail to Manhattan before I can send it?"

But on the day in question, I didn't ask those things, because I know better. Rather, I approached a man in a tie and shirtsleeves, who was standing at the bus station with a clipboard in his hand, and simply asked, "Do you know what time the Society Hill bus is coming?" 

"I DON'T KNOW! I DON'T KNOW!" he shrieked, as if he were one of Saddam Hussein's minions being asked, post-invasion, if he'd ever heard of a little something called the Baath Party.  

"Oh, I'm sorry," I said, taken aback. "I thought you worked for the bus company." 

"I DO work for the bus company!" he shrieked. 

"And you don't know when the Society Hill bus is coming?" 


I gestured toward the clipboard in his hand. "Would you maybe let me take a look at that?" 

"NO!" he shouted, snatching it away. 

At this point, another passenger came up to us. "The bus comes every 10 minutes or so,"  she said. 

Thanks, lady! Asked and answered! You'd think a guy who works for the BUS COMPANY would be able to provide that information, wouldn't you? 

Oh, I forgot -- he works for a bus company in JERSEY CITY. 

We've got bus dispatchers who refuse to tell you the bus schedules! We've got city councilmen who pee on the crowds at Grateful Dead tribute concerts! And don't even get me started on our cabdrivers, who tell you where THEY'RE going, rather than the other way around. 

No wonder we're the laughing stock of the nation. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

She Woke Up Screaming

I recently came across some notes I took during a few days when Snookums was about three months old and barely slept. Reading them over, I wonder how I got through that time: 

3/26    3:45 - 6:45 slept. 
             I woke up first; she was v. agitated but still asleep. Changed diaper (wet). She 
            SCREAMED for several minutes. 
             Fed 6:55 - 7:10. 
             Slept 7:20 - 9:20. 
             Nursed 10:00 - 10:20. 
             Slept 10:30 - 1:40. Diaper wet only. 
             Fed 2:00 - 2:15. 
             Slept 4:15 - 4:45. 
     Fed 5:40 - 6:00. 
     Changed diaper 6:45 (dirty). 
     Fussy from 7:00 - 7:30. Put her in Bjorn. 
     Slept 7:30 - 8:00. 
     Slept 9:00 - 9:15. 
     Fed 9:30 - 9:50. Fussed. 
     Slept 11:00 - 11:45. Woke up screaming. 
    Fed 11:50 - 12:00. Tried various sleep strategies: rocking, Snugli, weak Sleepytime tea. 
    Didn't work.
            Breastfed again 12:30 - 12:41. Calmed her down (she had been SCREAMING) & she fell
    asleep but woke up the minute I took her off breast. Gave bottle 12:45. 1:00 - 4:00 Zany
    Dad up with her. Slept 4:00 --  

I'd like to come up with something funny to say about this, but it's late, I'm getting over the flu, and Zany Dad is next to me watching Charlie Rose interview Henry Kissinger. So I have NO sense of humor right now, sorry. 

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ai Yi Yi!

Take a swan and wring its neck. Skin the bird and, under a full moon, lay its skin in a shallow hole with the feathers face-up. Add eggs -- five for every child you want to bear. Atop each egg, place the talon of a blackbird and a black stone. Circle the hole three times, clockwise, then close it with a clod of earth. 

That's an ancient witches' spell to help women become pregnant, from the latest issue of Archaeology magazine

I thought about this today because I'm getting ready for another round of intrauterine insemination (IUI -- or as my mother calls it, "Ai yi yi!"). Only instead of wringing swans' necks and putting blackbird talons and black stones on eggs, I'm taking four vials of Repronex, mixing it with saline solution and injecting myself in the stomach. 

After five days of doing this, I'll go to the doctor for some exams and he'll give me a pre-filled syringe of Ovidrel to take home to inject myself with. Then I'll go back to his office the next day for the insemination. 

I hope it works this time. The injections aren't nearly as bad as I thought they'd be, but the whole thing is expensive -- though cheap compared to IVF -- and I just want it to be over. 

Oh -- the end of the witches' spell goes: 

As soon as you are with child, empty the hole, or terrible things will come to pass. 

Friday, December 12, 2008

Since She Came Out of Her Mother

I've been thinking a lot recently about the day Snookums was born, and it made me remember a funny story that happened to me a few years ago. 

I was waiting on the subway platform on my way home late one Saturday night and got into a conversation with the guy sitting next to me, a kid who was probably about 19 or 20. He started telling me all about his car. And what a car it was. 

For starters, the only person allowed to drive it besides himself was his mother, who had taken it to Atlantic City for the weekend. He told me how much it had cost to have it custom painted, what his monthly car payments were, how he always parked it in shade to protect the finish. 

He also told me how he'd adorned it to celebrate the many aspects of himself. The driver's seat had a customized Italian-flag design to celebrate his Italian heritage, the passenger's seat had an Irish-flag design to celebrate his Irish heritage, he'd had a rainbow painted along the bottom of the car to celebrate his bisexuality and placed a giant decal with his boyfriend's name on the passenger side. 

(Oh, and did I mention he was from New Jersey? Perhaps you've guessed that by now.) 

After listening to this for a few minutes, I realized this was the kind of person who definitely had a name for his car. (I am not such a person, by the way. I loathe driving.)  "What's your car's name?" I asked. 

"Madonna!" he blurted out, almost before I'd finished the sentence.

"Wow, that's cool," I said, mostly just trying to make polite conversation. "You know, I have tickets to her concert this summer at Madison Square Garden." 

"Getouttaheah!" the kid exclaimed. "I been lovin' huh since I came outta my mother practically." 

And that's how I feel about Snookums: I've been loving her since she came out of her mother. 


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Happy Birthday to Snookums!

Snookums turned one today. I spent a lot of time thinking about how tiny she was when she was born and how little sleep I got. She slept in such short stretches I didn't even bother trying to sleep when she slept, the result being I often didn't go to bed until 4 a.m. Then when she woke me up again crying, I'd be so sleep deprived that she looked like just a big head with a pair of tiny waving arms underneath, and no body. 

And she'd be so wide awake I'd think, "Is she on cocaine?" And "Can I have some?"

And our boiler kept breaking down and it was the middle of the winter and the air in our bedroom was so cold and dry that went I picked her up, blue sparks would fly off her blanket. 

And I remembered how she didn't have a typical newborn's face when she was born, such delicate, well-formed little features  -- long lashes and perfect lips, and pretty little hands and feet. 

And how I loved the smell of her little neck. 

But mostly, I remember how at first she suffered from gas pain until she finally discovered how to release it, and in the middle of the night I'd hear these little angry yells from her bassinet, followed by long volleys of farts.  

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Halfy Holidays

This week I realized the value of completely ignoring your husband. 

See, Snookums' dad had been saying that because he's Jewish, he's against Christmas and Santa and he wasn't going to celebrate it and didn't really want his daughter to celebrate it and etc., etc., and no, you couldn't celebrate BOTH Christmas and Hanukkah because it didn't make sense since the religions were opposed to each other and besides, Hanukkah was really just a made-up holiday anyway, to compete with Christmas and blah blah blah. 

I got his point. (Especially after listening to him go on about it for 20 minutes.) But I wasn't looking to have Snookums accept Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior -- it's just that I grew up with Christmas and I wanted her to enjoy it too. (Besides which, it's totally pagan anyway. Christ was born in the spring, not the winter.)

But none of these arguments worked, so at a certain point I decided to just ignore him. I started by buying her a "My First Hanukkah" book, which got him all enthusiastic about getting her a dreidel and lighting the menorah and so on. Then I bought her a Christmas stocking and he didn't object, even thought it was cute. 

THEN, we went to a holiday party held by the mothers' group where we live. There was a Santa in the corner taking pictures with the children sitting in his lap. And suddenly, Zany Dad was all, "Let's get Snookums' picture with Santa!" So we did. 

The next day, I said, "I was really surprised at how enthusiastic you were about getting Snookums' picture with Santa. I thought you were against promoting Christmas." 

And he said, "Look at this way: Imagine we were in Saudi Arabia and there was an old Arab man, and Snookums sat on his lap." 

Whuh? So is he saying it's just some sort of cultural custom you follow because you happen to be there? OK, fine -- except that contradicts all the speeches I heard for months. And also, an old Arab man is not a religious symbol. Now, if Muhammad wanted Snookums to sit in his lap, maybe this argument would make sense. 

But it doesn't make sense. And you know why? BECAUSE SNOOKUMS' DAD IS BATSHIT CRAZY! 

Especially since (as he confessed while placing Snookums on Santa's lap), he had his OWN picture taken sitting on Santa's lap, 40 years ago, in Rio de Janeiro. 

Monday, December 8, 2008

Help, My Husband Is Gay!

I've written previously about Zany Dad's fascination with macho professions -- truck driving, tugboat captaining, buffalo farming (OK, I didn't mention that one, but that was the main reason he wanted to move to Brownsville). 

So when I went upstairs to the computer room the other night, I was quite surprised to find Zany Dad enrapt in an article about Liza Minnelli's new Broadway show

"Can we go? Can we get tickets?" he asked. 

"Oh, I didn't know you were gay," I said. 

Zany Dad insisted that in Brazil, Liza Minnelli is not a gay icon. At least, not exclusively. Well, all-righty then!  

If I look back on this years later and wonder how I couldn't have noticed, um, certain tendencies, I can't claim I wasn't warned. . . 

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Zany Baby Daddy

It occurs to me that I've been neglecting to talk much about Snookums' dad, other than that he hates his New York paralegal job. (That's not him at left, by the way -- it's character actor William Fichtner, who looks like him.) So here are a few more facts about Zany Dad: 

He used to subscribe to American Tugboat Review

For years, he wanted to be a truck driver. Or a tugboat captain. 

If it were up to him, right now we'd all be living in Brownsville, Texas. (This video gives an idea of just how much that would suck.) 

Oh, and he's Brazilian. And Jewish. Oy vey. . . 

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Preacher Feature

(Continued from previous entry.) 

The cemetery seemed to be where this family liked to hang out. When we got there, the girls and I took me on a walk while they pointed out the graves of people they knew. Then we all went up and sat in a little gazebo while the father led the whole family in about 10 minutes of hymn-singing. 

What was supposed to be a spiritual, or at least pleasant, experience just seemed creepy. There was a military flavor to the whole thing -- especially the way they all fell into song in a split second, as if they'd be punished if they didn't. 

Which they would be. Back at the house, while we had lunch and I tried to keep Snookums from crawling out of the high chair and onto the table, "Teresa," the mother (not her real name) explained that they start "disciplining" their children at three months. 

"Whenever they touch something they're not supposed to, you basically give their hands a little flick," she said. She also tried to claim that this didn't hurt them -- but this didn't make sense because she'd just finished saying that they would associate the "sting" with that behavior and therefore not do it again.

"You don't childproof your house," her husband added, "you houseproof your child!" 

As I tried to hold Snookums down so she wouldn't fall off the high chair, she started fussing. Shoki -- a young Indian guy who was hanging out with the family for the weekend -- joked, "Looks like you could use some of Teresa's discipline." 

"It's not Teresa's discipline. It's God's discipline," Rachel said. 

As we were leaving, the family gave us a creepy Amish book about disciplining your kids called To Train Up a Child. It advocates using "switches." 

Now, whenever Snookums misbehaves, I tell her, "If you don't watch out, I'll send you up to Maine for some Amish discipline!"

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

My Stephen King Weekend II

(Continued from the previous entry.)

It took us about 15 minutes to walk to the cemetery, during which time I chatted with "Leah" and "Rachel" (not their real names), who are eight and twelve, respectively. 

As Leah pushed Snookums in the stroller, she confided that she was so glad Snookums was a girl: "If she'd been a boy, I would have been so disappointed." 

Before I even had a chance to ask why, she explained: "In our community, people of the opposite sex who aren't related have to keep at least an arm's length from each other." 

Ohhhh-kay, I thought. From BABIES? 

"Ninety-nine percent of all marriages end after the first year," Leah went on, eerily confident in the way she parroted misinformation. "This is because of all the inappropriate behavior between men and women. You have to keep Snookums away from older men now, so that it doesn't develop into a habit when she's older." 

Uh-huh, I thought. I'll get right on that, sister

By now it was pretty obvious that any question these girls asked me was not innocent, but had an I'm-better-than-you-because-you're-a-Godless-sinner agenda behind it. As in: 

"Do you ever let Snookums wear skirts?" 

"Sure," I said. 

"How much of the time?" 

I mean, what kind of question is that? Am I supposed to say I let her wear them 30 percent of the time? 50 percent of the time? 62 percent of the time? 

"Oh, sometimes," I replied. 

"Are you going to let her wear bangs?" 

Here, I wasn't sure what the right answer was. Were bangs good or bad? Somehow the question implied they were bad -- but why, for Crissake? I answered something noncommittal. 

"Do you know how to sew?" 

"Not really," I said. "I mean, I can sew on a button or mend something if it's torn, but I don't really sew." 

"Well," said Leah, very pleased with herself, "when we get back to the house I'll have to show you the dresses I made, and the quilts, and the sweaters. . . " 

We hadn't even gotten to the cemetery yet, and already I was starting to hate this smug, self-righteous little bitch. 

"How can an eight-year-old be a bitch?" you ask. All I can say is, That's what I used to think