In Her Shell
Another Theory to Help You with Your Life
Tuesday is the worst day of the week.
Tuesday is worse than Monday, because:
1. Tuesday is not Hump Day. It is almost as far from the weekend as Monday is. But
2. Everyone commiserates about Monday. If you are grumbling, "Ugh, it's Tuesday again," you are grumbling alone.
3. Tuesday is the February of the week, and the Ringo.
And, slightly more controversial, but no less true:
Thursday is the best day of the week! Because:
1. It is in the home stretch to the weekend, but
2. It is not as distracting as Friday, so it can still be a productive day, and
3. It is a day of anticipation. 3 whole weekend days ahead! Anything could happen! It is the June, and the John!
What I Am Looking For
Someone who, when the lights go off on a NJ Transit train for a few seconds, then go on again, will exclaim, "My diamond necklace!" Or at least laugh when I say it.
Another Theory to Help You with Your Life
A person's favorite season corresponds to his or her personality type.Spring People are:
childlike, optimistic, sweetSummer People are:
fun, exuberant, loudFall People are:
intellectual, melancholy, pensiveWinter People are:
presumably big fans of snow sports
E. said, "If your favorite season is winter, you'd better have a good excuse." She saw winter people as standoffish--cold, if you will. E. and I came up with this theory together while she blew pot smoke into a toilet paper roll stuffed with toilet paper pointed toward a fan, which pointed out the window. It helped with her MS. I haven't heard from E. in a long time. I miss her.
Off With Her Head
This week my boss tried to tell me that what no one realizes about Henry VIII is that he was a hopeless romantic.
"He didn't want to have a mistress," he told me proudly, having just read this in a bit of historical fiction. As if killing his wives because they didn't bear boys was just a footnote in dashing Hal's romantic history.
"He wanted to be in love!" So crowed my boss.
I did not point out that historical sources say Henry was shtupping Anne Boleyn's sister while married to first wife Katherine, and would have gladly bedded Anne on the side as well, had she not wisely (or unwisely, hindsight being what it is) refused him. I didn't point this out because I was busy edging toward the door.
And on that subject: "He was betrothed to Katherine when he was only 15, and by the time they were married, she was over 30 and very cold." "Uh huh," even though Henry got a papal dispensation to marry his brother's widow, technically his sister, which he conveniently remembered and repented when time came to ask popey for a divorce. "He put up with her until he met Anne Boleyn, of course..."
As if I would sympathize with a man who abused his power to manipulate those weaker than he. As if I would sympathize with Henry VIII, either.
Kids act out because they feel like they must make a mark, anywhere.
When I was in fourth grade, I unscrewed the lid on our cafeteria table's ketchup squirt bottle. I left it sitting on top of the bottle, as if it were attached, but anyone picking it up and turning it over would not get the bit of ketchup they were expecting, but a huge blob of ketchup, all over their tater tots. I did this every day.
I did this at the end of the lunch period; I didn't want any of my friends to suffer an unwanted mess of ketchup, so I would unscrew the lid right before we went outside for recess. I never got to see the fruits of my actions, but took a wicked glee in imagining their consequences.
A few months into that year, the squirt bottles disappeared from individual tables, replaced by gigantic squirt bottles, the kind with the pump tops, on a table near the cashier.
I couldn't have been the only kid unscrewing lids on the sly. But still, I felt proud. At least partly due to my actions, something had tangibly changed in my world.
My students who lash out want the same thing: to make an impact, any impact. To make a teacher angry or upset is an indication that they have some power. Vandalize a wall, tear down a poster, get drunk. You have created
something, even if it is but chaos. Proof that I WUZ HERE.
Curriculum needs to address this, particularly for kids whose subverted energy turns to destruction. Publishing their work for real audiences and community-based pedagogy are two options that are typically offered only to the academic elite. These are students who may initially seem more open to such unconventional projects, but they need them a little less. They already have experience in making
things--prom decorations, Eagle Scout projects, other people proud.
The Customer is Always Right
Listening to R. describe an uncomfortable conference with a megalomaniac parent, I recognized her feeling that it was completely inappropriate to defend herself with any vigor. As the parent sat in judgement and ranted, R., our supervisor, and the student's guidance counselor had to sit and listen. Their responses had to be measured, cautious, deferential.
It suddenly struck me: this parent thinks she is the customer, and we at the school are the service providers. Somehow, we have agreed to this arrangement.
The students think of themselves as consumers too. In a recent discussion with a few of them about whether teachers or students should use the more convenient parking lot, their logic was, "Employees always park further away; customer parking is always the closest to the building!"
What the students don't realize is that in our increasingly corporate-based culture, with No Child Left Behind a cornerstone of the movement to privatize public education, and teachers in corporate-controlled Abbott districts teaching from scripts with no variation allowed, the students are not the customers at all.
They are the products.
Standardized testing fashions students as widgets and schools as the factories that produce them. Teachers are no longer venerated civil servants, but merely assembly line workers.
Unreasonable improvement standards, punishment but no rewards, and unfunded mandates would never fly in the classroom, (or at a parent-teacher conference), but they have been wielded at the federal level to force public education to fail, and to present privatization--a profitable system--in its place.
Clearly, the way has already been paved. The corporate model that kowtows to the "customer" at the expense of professional dignity is certainly thriving in our district. Business buzzwords have replaced the language of learning. And creativity, initiative, and individuality are withering, replaced by "efficiency," "productivity," and "results," on both sides of the teacher's desk.
Things That Irritated Me Today
#1 The commercial for Venus razors that said, "Inside every woman is a goddess waiting to be discovered." Read: "You are ugly right now, but someone (male) might discover you if you shave that dirty hair off your legs, hippie."
#2 The article about kitchen countertop materials in Money
magazine (which, inexplicably, keeps being delivered to my apartment) that suggested that you "search your soul" before deciding which type of countertop is best for you. Search your soul? I hope there is something else there besides f*ing countertop.
#3 Vans. I decided today that I don't like vans because:
a) people in vans drive slowly
b) vans carry things like prisoners, college athletes, and children
c) the Libyans in Back to the Future
drove a van--Run for it, Marty!
d) Van Wilder
e) Lucy Van Pelt was mean
f) James Van Der Beek looks like a lion
g) even though I really like "Moondance," I always get Van Morrison confused with Jim Morrison. This is not really his fault.
h) Van Gogh--OK. The ear thing--no.
i) Joran Van Der Sloot. The dude's name comes up every time Natalie Holloway's parents start banging their pots and pans again.
j) Martin Van Buren, our 8th President, called "the Little Magician" but sent the country into a depression. If I had a nickel for every so-called "little magician" that ended up depressing me, I'd certainly have more nickels than I have right now.
Another Theory to Help You with Your Life
Everyone is fundamentally more canine or feline.Canine people are generally
: open, goofy, friendly, laid-back, irrepressibleFeline people are
: mysterious, sarcastic, introverted, focused, sage
There is no pattern of astrology-like compatibility between the two personality types, though a canine couple can become as overwhelming as two puppies in the house, and feline people can shut you out as effectively as a cat turning its back.
A match of the two can balance each other out, although canines can push felines to use their claws. Metaphorically. You got that, right?
From my very limited research, I've also found that each personality type tends to prefer their corresponding animal as a pet.
Think of this as The Law & Order Game
for people you know.
You know when you are asleep but you have to pee/are too hot/are sleeping on your hand, and your body sends you some kind of unpleasant dream to wake you up? Mine are almost always about cats.
I live my life in piles. Behind me is the pile of clothing to be hung up in the closet, partially obscuring the pile of books and movies that I have borrowed and am ready to return to their owners. Next to my keyboard is the pile of mail that needs to be dealt with--bills and invitations. To my right is the pile of Christmas card envelopes, waiting for their return addresses to be entered into my new address book.
To my left is the pile of things I brought in from the living room but haven't put away.
The pile of books I'm currently reading is on my bedside table. The pile of CDs that don't fit in the CD tower is on top of my chest of drawers. On top of the TV is the pile of DVDs that I may want to watch sometime in the next... while. Through the open closet door, I can see the pile of casual shoes that don't fit on the shoe rack: flip-flops, Chucks, Tevas, slippers.
In my family's home, "straightening up" meant putting things into neat piles. Not to be confused with "cleaning up," which involved actually going through the piles, and dusting beneath them, the Straightening of the Piles happened only when company was coming over on short notice. At other times, the piles were slovenly, relaxed across tables, lounging in wicker baskets. Such is the status of my adult piles now.
The piles are comforting and suggest, at least to me, a sense of order within which exists great disorder. They reveal my deal-with-that-later laziness, but also, I hope, my good intentions to deal with things at all. If things do not find a home in a pile, they are apt to become lost things. But many of the great discoveries in my many rooms have happened while I searched for something else.
In spite of my casual approach to organization in my own space, I recoil at overt sloppiness in other people's homes. But it is possible that amidst the detrius of others' lives, I just don't recognize their piles.
The Law & Order Game
Sitting in the airport waiting for my delayed flight to Kentucky for L.'s wedding, I made up a new game. It is called The Law & Order Game.
To play The Law & Order Game, you look at the people passing by, and decide which type of Law & Order
character they most fit. The categories are:
-Friend/Relative of the Victim
-Friend/Relative of the Defendant
-Witness (this includes anyone interviewed during the investigation, although A. suggested the sub-category of Expert Witness)
-Wrongfully Accused, also known as The Red Herring*
The Law & Order Game is intense in an airport, with the flow of people creating a sort of ongoing Lightning Round. I entertained myself with this for some time, and played throughout the weekend whenever there was a lull in the action. I also got several other members of the wedding party in on the game. Mostly we agreed upon the categorizations, and quickly realized that when we were stumped, we had to tag someone as Defense Counsel, an admission of defeat.
The best (or worst) moment came when I was by myself, passing the time while eating breakfast in the hotel atrium. A boy walked by--about 10 years old, skinny with hiked-up jeans, a plaid shirt buttoned up to the collar and tucked into the jeans, and big wire-frame glasses--and I immediately thought "Defendant." My next feeling was guilt, followed by regret that no other players were there to verify my assessment.*The Red Herring label could also be applied to another L&O favorite: the guilty party who is not revealed as guilty until the last 5 minutes of the program (frequently the wife of the defendant). This advanced category is not recommended for casual viewers.
McCoy sizes people up all the time.
One of my students, responding to a question in a Graded Seminar about Frankenstein
's subtitle (The Modern Prometheus)
, described an alternate version of the Prometheus story in which human beings are described as "seeds of heaven." The image that flashed before me was a giant but kindly hand, reaching down from the clouds to sprinkle little seeds across a vast green pasture.
The idea of a spark of divinity within each of us is appealing. It resonates with the idea that people falling in love are seeing that in each other, and the unexpected feeling of recognition when you meet someone who becomes a dear friend.
Religion, clearly, is not a necessary prerequisite for subscription to this theory. Scientists
, and poets
write of this with startling synchronicity, almost a meta-proof of the theory. Personally, I like this image of us, as little god seedlings, unfurling our leaves to brush against one another.
Wonderturtle Stuns Even Herself
Coming home after a Seeds of Peace meeting at the Unitarian Church I have recently started attending, I pondered the good nature of my soul. While at the meeting, I volunteered to help organize a local "peace conference," expressed sincere interest in an upcoming Cindy Sheehan event
, and met the organizer of the Prison Ministry group, whom I set up with info about teaching in the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility
, and who gave me great props for having done so in the past.
"Gosh," I thought to myself, as I sat on the couch watching The Real Housewives of Orange County
and eating my 5th Entenmann's Apple Puff this week, "can one OD on virtue?"
I need not have worried. Stomping across the parking deck at yet another mall today, in my endless pursuit of the elusive size 11 mint-green shoe for B.'s wedding, blood sugar low and wiped from work, I found myself completely out of sorts, and out of danger.
As I approached the doors to the mall, I noted a woman out of the corner of my eye. She was pushing a stroller and had two small children in tow. I immediately quickened my pace, suddenly desperate to reach the doors well ahead of them.
This struck me as odd, even as I was doing it, but I didn't slow down. Why, I wondered, was it so important for me to get away from them? And then the answer came, before I could screen and stop it from bubbling to the surface, clear into my mind:
"I am going to have to hold the door for those f*ers."
So much for drowning in my own humanitarian instincts.
Something You Might Want To Do
Thank Stephen Colbert
. Or you could be like hapabukbuk and just beg him for a job
. Whatever floats your boat, because he certainly floats mine.
Shame and Things
Things I Like But Am Somewhat Ashamed To Like As Much As I Do:
Instant mashed potatoes, Jennifer Lopez, looking at wedding magazines, Starbucks, the Gap, Entertainment Weekly
, my car, sleep, watching General Hospital
with my roommates, gaucho pants, arrogant menThings I Should Probably Be Somewhat Ashamed To Like, But Am Not:Buffy the Vampire Slayer,
Lionel Ritchie's Can't Slow Down
album, Who's That Girl
(the movie and the album), Peeps (the candy), old school Billy Joel, Owen and Luke Wilson, The Wedding SingerThings Other People Like That I Cannot Get Into:
(the guy and the show), actually getting married, shopping, the Flaming Lips, talking on the phone, "reality television," pink (the color, not the singer), movies by James Cameron, cheeseThings I Think We Can Agree On:Law & Order
marathons, hot showers, Netflix, crispy salads with lots of good junk on them, black & white photography, peeps (the people), the Jackson Five, outside weddings, hybrid cars, cowboy boots, Thursday
Last night in the city I saw two famous people: Ana Gasteyer
and That Guy (see picture). Ana Gasteyer was standing outside a beauty salon on 49th Street, talking on a cell phone and looking pissed. She's a lot shorter than I thought she was, which means Maya Rudolph
must be really short. That Guy was coming out of the Longacre Theatre
, where we had both just seen Well
, which was fascinating and very strange.
If this had happened in high school, I would have asked around to my most obscure pop culture knowledge having friends, ambiguously describing That Guy and the movies I had seen him in until someone satisfied my curiosity. Since it happened last night, this morning I went searching IMDB for "Julia Stiles" until I found that crappy movie she was in with Freddie Prinze Jr.,
looked at the cast list, and discovered that That Guy is Zak Orth
I'm periodically fascinated by the fact that this wacky Internet can give me That Guy's name in such a short period of time. Granted, my curiosity was satisfied, but I did not have to talk to anyone. I'm not sure whether something has been saved, or lost. So I've posted this, included way too many links, and passed on the time wasting to you.
My childhood best friend, Roni, tells me I was bossy. I believe this to be true. I tormented her by trying to get her to consume things she did not want to eat, like Luden's Cherry Cough Drops and a soup made out of everything in the refrigerator, including chocolate ice cream and cheese.
We passive-aggressively pecked at each other the way only little girls can. Once when we had a fight, I told her to go home (she lived across the street), but she stayed for an hour on our sun porch, flipping lazily through an Archie comic. Walking up the hill from the bus stop, she dramatically ended an argument with me by revoking my nickname privileges: turning, she thundered, "And don't ever call me 'Roni' AGAIN!" Of course I followed her to her driveway, chanting "RoniRoniRoniRoni..."
But often I was the architect of our diversions, and of her subordination. Though she was a month older, she still ended up singing the latter half of a song I made up: "I'm nincom," "I'm poop!" (Then together:) "Together we make: nincompoop!" I also always got to be Jo when we played "The Facts of Life" and the girlfriend of the leader of the pack when we played "1950s." It goes without saying that I was the teacher when we played School, and the child when we played House (every kid knows that's the role with more power). I was the DJ when we played Radio and in charge of the PA when we played Mall (we used my walkie-talkies to announce sales and lost children). When we played Barbies, I always got to be the black-haired one with the almond-shaped eyes, which was always, inexplicably, named Michelle.
How does a girl get to be the bossy one? Was I louder? Or more aggressive? Did I intimidate her, or was I just more persistent? Maybe my status as the only child in the house made me more used to getting my way than hers did as the youngest of six. Or perhaps my ideas were more dynamic, more creative, and she really liked them. When the bossy girl talks, people listen.
I don't remember the reason why, but I did notice tonight, spending the evening with my mother, that she often demurs to my suggestions still. I do remember that she has always done this, even when I was a child: always listened to me. I still expect to be listened to. I don't have to speak as loudly, because I am taller now. I don't think anyone would call me "bossy" now. "Assertive," they might say, or "independent." I've learned some grace, I suppose.
But I think at heart I am still bossy. I like things the way I like them and I relish my independence like a luxury. I don't need anyone else to eat my blender concoctions now to prove that I have control over my life. I think this is a good thing, though I worry sometimes it will make me into a curmudgeon, or lonely. My mother says it's a good thing that I am not constantly trying to please other people. In society's eyes, it makes me a little eccentric.
"Bossy" is not a word used for boys. Even now, boys assume the role of boss; girls presume it. Roni and I can laugh at ourselves and our early struggles for power, can laugh at me and my small empire on the sun porch. But I still want that empire, even if it only extends to the ends of my fingertips, and the sound of my voice.
e.e. cummings undermines english teachers everywhere, but in such a charming way
since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;
wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world
my blood approves,
and kisses are a better fate
lady i swear by all flowers. Don't cry
--the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids' flutter which says
we are for each other: then
laugh, while leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph
And death i think is no parenthesis
In the laundromat, on the train, you cannot be productive. You can read, or sleep, people-watch, or slip into a waking dream. But you must sit still, and you must wait. In a state of suspended animation, rocked by the wheels on the tracks or the steady roll and hum of the washing machines and dryers, you are forced to simply stop. Stop working, stop stalling, stop feeling guilty or frantic or fretful. It's warm and, if you are lucky, quiet. It's a gift, this time, and one of the things I miss most about life in a city.
A Good Moment
I had to call several parents this week, to report that their children had not handed in research papers that were due 2 weeks ago.
L. is in my Advanced class, and kind of a tough girl. When I called L.'s mom, we talked about how uncharacteristic it is for L. to simply not hand something in, yet this was the second major assignment that she had seemingly flaked on in recent weeks.
The next day in class, I asked L. about her paper. She said, haltingly:
"I'll have it for you tomorrow. But... I wanted to talk you about that. I'm kind of glad you called. Last night when I got home, my mom asked me about it, and we sat down and just talked. About everything. So... I guess I want to say thank you."
So I thanked her back.