Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Tattoos have become so mainstream that just about anyone under the age of 50 has their someday tattoo in mind even if they don't actually have a tattoo. I realized this last weekend as I ran into a friend at Borders and when she asked what we had planned for the evening and I told her we were going downtown to get Jeff a tattoo she did NOT say, "Really, you know employers frown on that sort of thing," nor did she say, "Do you know how saggy that's going to look some day?" which are both silly things I've heard old people say about tattoos. Instead she said, "Oh, if I ever get a tattoo it will be the iron man symbol and it will go right here," and she showed me the spot on her arm where she would put her someday tattoo. I should point out she is a banker, not a biker.
Jeff has also had a someday tattoo for some time; musical notes on the inside of his forearm that he could see when he looks down the neck of his guitar. I've encouraged him to turn this vision into reality but so far the opportunity to get a tattoo had not presented itself --until last weekend when the bunny shelter that Lilly volunteers at had a fund-raiser at a local tattoo parlor. Yes, for two days, all the proceeds of all tattoos and piercings would go to the shelter. At last, an excuse for Jeff to get his tattoo (that and his 50th birthday is right around the corner and you've got the perfect storm).
Which is why last Saturday night while our two eldest children were otherwise occupied with the annual high school variety show production, Lilly, Jeff, and I drove into the city. We brought Lilly because even though she is only 11 it is after all her charity.

The place was located in a not-so-gentrified part of town. Inside it was well-lit and set up like a Hair Cuttery. There were several 20 and 30-somethings sitting on benches waiting to get inked and most already had some visible tattoos. As the old suburban couple with a child we definitely looked a little out of place. I approached the counter and a Zooey Deschanel (with black hair not blonde like in Elf) look-alike took our information down and assured us that the wait was not too bad--half an hour. Oh goody, plenty of time to people watch. Lilly grinned happily because people watching is one of her favorite hobbies.

We sat and watched the comings and goings. The tattoo artists themselves were working on various body parts in chairs separated by curtains but all the curtains were open so we could watch. There was a woman wincing in one corner as the inkman bent over her back. I caught her eye and it was clear she was in pain. Zooey came and asked Jeff what he wanted done and Jeff showed her the photo he had brought. She asked about size and placement and then went to make a transfer of it. She said Tom would be doing the work. We had already seen Tom and were fascinated with his full-arm tattoo that was basically a colored dark green solid sleeve from wrist to elbow (picture above).
Lilly was wearing one of her bunny t-shirts (she has an extensive collection) so that sparked some conversation with the other customers. It seems that nearly everyone waiting was there to get a tattoo of a bunny or a bunny paw prints. They all talked bunny talk for some time and then Tom approached us holding the transfer. "So, who is this for?" he asked looking at all three of us.

I nodded toward Lilly and dead-panned, "Her."
Tom waited a beat. Blinked. Then said, "Cool."

I laughed and said not really and the others sitting there laughed with relief because really, a tattoo may be mainstream but no one wants to see an eleven year old with her parents getting one on a Saturday night. I mean really. I may TAKE my kid to tattoo parlor but I wouldn't let her GET a tattoo! What kind of mother do you think I am?
Tom had us follow him back to his chair. He put the transfer on Jeff's arm and wet it (think fake tattoos your kids get at birthday parties) and made sure Jeff liked it. He did, so Tom started the tattoo basically filling in where the stencil was. Now for those of you who have never seen a tattoo the way it works it that a little electric needle pokes multiple holes in your skin and the ink goes into the holes. It does not go deep but it IS a needle poking holes in your skin so it smarts a bit. Jeff was stoic and did not cry. He even watched.
I chatted with the girl across the aisle who was getting her 6th tattoo--a rather large memorial to her grandfather on her calf. She was friendly enough and mentioned her mother hated tattoos. I realized I was probably about the same age as her mother but I kept that thought to myself and I showed off my own tattoo (the outline of a heart on my hip which you can only see if I'm in a bikini) and she acted properly impressed.
Turning back to Jeff's tattoo man I noticed he had two certificates posted on the wall above him. One was verifying that he had the proper credentials to ensure no one would get an infectious disease from him and the other was "Best in Bible Verse Memorization for the Neighborhood." I found both certificates impressive and reassuring.
By then Tom was done and carefully put a bandage on Jeff's arm. The whole thing took no more than five minutes. We went and paid Zooey and that was that.
So there you have it. Getting a tattoo is now as mundane as going to the movies or out for dinner and takes less time than a haircut. The people there were friendly. No one was drunk and not one sailer or biker entered the salon the whole time.
Maybe you have a someday tattoo--you know what it would be and where it would go. Maybe you "almost got one" but were talked out of it (yes TJ, I mean you). Now that you know how easy it is maybe it's time you go get one because let me tell you if you get one in an out of way place it will not interfere with your job prospects and if you're worried about a saggy tattoo--well you're going to be saggy some day with or without the tattoo.
How about it? Is today someday?

Thursday, February 11, 2010


"So here I am, up to my ass in papers; permission slips, assignment notebooks, reading logs--I'm making eggs for four kids AND I'm packing four lunches," Coffee Friend 2 is describing her morning,"and BOOM Izzy says it, 'Mooooommmmm, why don't you ever put a note in my lunch like Morgan's mom does?" Coffee Friend 2 looks at me for emphasis, "Can you f**ing believe it? A note. In her goddamn lunch. Like I got time for this shit!"

Her youngest, the five-year-old interjects here, "Mom, I can hear you." Coffee Friend 2 shrugs apologetically.

Sigh. My friend has just fallen victim to the hyper-mom-syndrome. This is what happens when you take a bunch of lawyers and MBAs and they decide to stay home with their kids full time. They take all that go-go-go energy, all that extra-credit and over-time mentality that worked so well for them in college and the career world and apply it to their parenting which really requires a different skill set altogether with the first skill being, reeelaaaxxxx.

It is not enough that they offer their kids every opportunity at every sport and artistic endeavor available. It is not enough that they sit behind me at a restaurant and make Tyler do his multiplication tables while they wait for their macrobiotic meal (mine are coloring and eating mac and cheese). It is not enough that they volunteer for every activity at school and are on every PTA-type board (which reminds me of the recently-stay-at-home bank VP who used to say "vis-a-vis" at nursery school board meetings until I once broke out into a fit of giggles--I mean really we were discussing who would bring the lemonade and she somehow worked "vis-a-vis" into the sentence). No on top of it all they must put love notes into their kids' little lunches.

And that would be all well and good if our own children would just stop looking around and noticing we do not do some of this nicey nice stuff. Who needs that? I'm still recovering from a sleep over that Lilly went to hosted by the nicest mom in the world, Khaki Voss (the same one who has a Christmas party the night of ours and siphons our friends away--she and I are going to have to have a throw down in aisle 4 of the Dominick's if this keeps up). Apparently, Khaki--known as "Ella's Mom" in this story, not only stays up late to check on the girls at sleep overs and offer them timely snacks (I close the basement door and go to bed at 9:00) but she gets up early and makes the girls pancakes! In cute animal shapes! Damn you Khaki Voss and your Mickey Mouse shaped pancakes!

"Do you put notes in the kids' lunches?" CF2 asks me at the end of her rant.

After I finish snorting hot coffee out my nose I answer, "What lunches? They make their own. Actually, Lilly once wrote herself a note and asked me to sign it. Is that wrong?"

CF2 looked relieved. I know how she feels. Sometimes it feels like you're Alice in Wonderland and you're not sure if you're crazy or everyone else is. A wise social worker once told me it's important to seek out parents who share your parenting values so you don't start doubting everything you do.

Which is why I have coffee with that wise social worker once a week. And neither of us puts love notes in our kids lunches every day.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010


Mary grew up in Western Michigan in a small rural town outside of Grand Rapids. Unlike her other siblings (all of whom still live in her hometown) she was subject to wanderlust and managed to get herself to Paris and then Madrid her junior year and that's where I met her--in Madrid. We were instant companions and I was drawn to her dry sense of humor (drier than mine even) and her shocking way of saying exactly what is on her mind to almost anyone at any time. We palled around Madrid that spring, drinking too much beer and following the cast of Conan the Barbarian to parties.

She ended up back in Michigan (as did I for a time) and we've kept in touch over the years. She got married young, had two boys young, and got divorced young. Since her divorce many years ago she has dated off and on but she seems to attract highly undesirable men and her Christmas cards are often filled with hilarious accounts of these men like the monk who liked to be spanked and the DJ who asked her to, well, I can't say what he asked her to do but she politely declined, and the blind date who was wearing tinfoil on his head so he wouldn't hear the voices. She teaches speech therapy (or something like that, she's going to correct me now) for the Flint school district which is as close to working for the Peace Corps as a paid position can be.

In all these years she has never gotten back to Europe. In all these years, she has pretty much given up on finding a nice man to spend her life with.

Laurent is my Dutch friend. I met him in 1986 when he opened the door to the communal dorm kitchen in Eindhoven, The Netherlands to find me standing there blinking in the bright Dutch sun of a June day, jet-lagged, and a little confused having arrived for an internship without anyone to greet me at the airport. I had somehow made my way to the dorm I was to stay in but no one seemed to know I was coming. He smiled and invited me in for tea and cookies. We have been friends ever since. We kept in touch by letters and then the internet. He is passionate about old cars and guitars. He knows more about anything than anyone I know in the world. He speaks Dutch (of course) and English fluently. He is also quite fluent in German and French though he downplays this. He has had little experience with the opposite sex and often wonders about this. As he says, "Charles Manson gets marriage proposals. How is it I can't find a nice girl?" Exactly. I've encouraged him to internet date but that too has had its share of disappointments. He has long ago given up on the idea of finding a nice girl to share his life with.

Then last June I noticed that the two most frequent posters on this blog were Mary and Laurent. I realized they had a lot in common: they are both socialists, they both are very interested in everyone and everything around them, they are both extremely outspoken, frank, and honest, and they are both among the kindest people I know. I knew they would have fun "talking" on the internet and I introduced them to each other then left them to chat in the corner with a drink in each hand (metaphorically speaking--this was all by internet).

A few months later Mary revealed that she really, really liked Laurent but wondered how far things could progress being an ocean apart. I urged Mary to beg, borrow, and steal money to go see Laurent.

So for the first time in nearly 30 years, Mary got out her passport and took a plane across the Atlantic.

The trip was such a success that Laurent is now visiting Mary in Michigan (in February--think about that).

They are both coming to visit us this weekend. Mary apologized for "intruding" on Valentine's Day weekend but really, can you think of anything more romantic than sharing dinner with a couple involved in an overseas romance on Valentine's Day?

Me neither! Happy Valentine's Day everyone and remember love really does come along when you least expect it.

Thursday, February 04, 2010


I am waiting for Atticus to finish up from stage crew, my van idling in a line of other vans with moms waiting for their kids. A lanky teen slouches out from Door O and heads toward the passenger side of the van in front of me. Then there is a brief, non-verbal exchange as the mom slides over. The kid, looking annoyed, reluctantly gets in the driver's side and off they go.

If you are the mother of a 15 or 16 year old, you probably are very familiar with this scene because for some reason, we have just raised a generation of kids who do not want to drive. Yes, you may have the exception, but most of the moms I know report the same thing: whereas we ALL ran to the DMV and got our licenses on our 16th birthdays, this crowd is being pushed, prodded, and pulled there well after their birthdays.

What gives? Why don't the kids want their licenses like we did? Well, there are many theories: one we make it damn hard to get the license. In Illinois (as in many states I'm sure) the kids have to drive with the parents 50 hours before taking their exam. FIFTY HOURS! Do you know how hard it is to get that time in? Well, after having his permit for the past 6 months Atticus has barely made a dent in the 50 hours. At the current rate, he will have his time in when he turns 22.

How many hours do you think we all drove with our parents before getting our license? I have no idea. Maybe ten? I don't think there was a requirement. My mother tells about getting her license (a long time ago). Her dad took her down to the sheriff's. The sheriff said, "Well, can she drive," to which my grandpa said, "Goddamn right she can." The sheriff handed her a license and that was it. Of course, it was so long ago there were only a handful of cars on the road and a lot of horses and buggies (heh heh, just kidding mom)

But times have changed. There's a lot more traffic just about everywhere. I know learning to drive around here is quite different from learning to drive around the sleepy small town I grew up in (which is also no longer sleepy). Pretty much every major road is a four lane nearly highway with all the current perils of geezers turning left when they shouldn't and distracted moms on cell phones not paying attention.

But here's my theory of why they aren't anxious to learn to drive: they don't need to. We chauffeur them everywhere and I blame this on the damn cell phones (and our overindulgent parenting, guilty as charged). That's right. When we were kids if we needed a ride somewhere we actually had to arrange for the ride ahead of time. Imagine the inconvenience of it all! If we needed to get picked up from band practice we had to tell our parents what time and then, we had to actually be there! And band directors, knowing this, somehow managed to finish on time. None of this end when you're good and ready. Yes, sonny, in my day we didn't have a little thing called a cell phone. We didn't just text our mommies and they dropped everything and ran to get us! No! We planned ahead, and then we waited until our moms were good and ready to get us. And sometimes they were late. And sometimes they forgot. And we were unable to call or text them. And we waited. And waited and waited.

And sometimes when we asked for rides they said no. Really. They just said no, we'd already been out twice that weekend and we weren't going out again. They didn't even have somewhere they had to be, they just weren't going to drive us any more.

All of which was a pain in the ass for us which is why we were so eager to get our licenses. I literally got my license on my 16th birthday. Took my mom home, dropped her off, rolled down the window (with a crank window, remember those?) and drove right over to Diane Kleckner's house all by myself. I remember exactly how liberating and awesome it felt: it was the sweet, sweet taste of independence.

Something our children apparently are reluctant to sample.

Oh, I have to go now. I just got texted and Grace needs a ride.