Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Other Other-Woman

 

 

Two people toast with red wine at dinner

 

 

Last night I shared a glass of wine with the other woman.  We sat across from each other, not quite knowing how to proceed, not quite certain who should go first, not quite adept at morphing a previously computer-screen-correspondence into a face-to-face conversation.

 

 

 

I could see why the love of my life was drawn to her.  We were eerily similar.  I’d gathered that from our emails.  We sounded alike…on cyber chat .  We reasoned alike.  We held the same values and morals.  Yes, morals.

 

 

 

This was no adulteress.  Oh no, not at all.  This was the woman – the mother – whose home my teenaged son had run away to.

 

 

 

He called it moving out.  But conventional wisdom would argue that throwing some clothes in a duffel bag and heading out the door without an inkling of what’s happening the next day is no such thing.  He had run away.

 

 

 

He had had it with our outrageous rules, our absurd expectations and our irrational belief that teens should be responsible and respectful on their journey to adulthood.  So — without angry fanfare or slamming doors —  my oldest child left our home six days before his high school graduation.

 

 

 

 

 

And now, on the eve of his one-month anniversary date (breathe) of life on an air mattress, his preferred mother and I sat in my home and shared some shrugs.  And Pinot.

 

 

 

 

 

The situation, as an understatement, was hard.  Devastating, in fact.  It was the ultimate in rejection for a mother:  a child that doesn’t want her.

 

 

 

And I didn’t pretend to understand it.

 

 

 

I didn’t understand it because it didn’t follow the script of a Lifetime original movie.  There weren’t any “I hate you”s or abuse or betrayal or Meredith Baxter Birneys.  We’d been navigating the typical insanity that comes with adolescence and (insert back pat here), actually thought we were doing damn good so far.  There were boundaries and consequences and forgiveness and laughter and acne.  Nothing too strict, nothing too lenient.  Having survived our own teenage years in the ‘80s of New York, gawd, if anyone knew about pushing the limits of youth, it was us.  Fully aware of setting standards and precedents for the three kids that followed behind, my husband and I rolled with the teen madness.

 

 

 

Never had we imagined our rolling would come to a screeching halt.

 

 

 

At first we waited.  He’ll be back, we reasoned.  We hadn’t allowed him to take his car – surely he’d have to get back and forth to work.  But no.  He relied on his friends and – we’ll be dammned – they came through.  So far, for an entire month.  Well alrighty then.  Interesting bunch, those teenagers.

 

 

 

The other mother contacted me immediately.

 

 

 

She lived a few blocks away.  I explained to her my son did not get kicked out of our home, that this was all his own doing.  She has two teenaged sons herself.  She understood.  She said she’d keep me posted on events as they occurred and thus our cordial relationship began, allowing me to become privy to more details of my son’s life than I’d even known when he was in my own home.

 

As far as shiteous situations go, I had stumbled into a remarkably awesome one.  This other mother was sharp.  Gave him an early curfew and chores and expectations. Boundaries.  Consequences.  Hmmm.  Weirdly familiar, right?

 

 

 

She admitted she couldn’t come up with a logical excuse for – after four weeks – throwing him out.  He was the consummate house guest:  polite, obedient and respectful.  In truth, she really, really liked him.

 

 

 

Yeah.  We get that.  We do, too.

 

 

 

She talked to him daily about the value of reconnecting with his family and told him she just couldn’t  understand why he wanted to go through this without them.

 

 

 

Yeah.  Same here.

 

 

 

 

 

Still, we put a positive spin on things for the sake of the kids and silently pray that he comes to his senses and (cue in cheek-slap from Cher), snaps out of it.

 

 

 

I haven’t sat idly by, though, hand-wringing and despondent.  With the situation seemingly out of control I did what any other mother in my position would do:  hauled my ass into therapy.

 

 

 

After a full debriefing her assessment was unsurprising:  I was a reasonable person trying to reason with an unreasonable adolescent.  She said that since my son was not relying on me for anything the situation was most definitely out of my control and I should let it go.

 

 

 

Let it go.

 

 

 

Let it go?

 

 

 

Let go of a child?  (He is a high school graduate, she reminded. On paper, an adult.)

 

 

 

But…..but….but…..

 

 

 

But nothing.

 

 

 

I plunked down a few co-payments for a few weeks but eventually started to space out my visits.  She was wonderful but hearing a therapist tell you something you already know is not exactly cost effective.  My girlfriends do it for free.

 

 

 

So there is no happy ending to this cautionary tale, unless one looks at the (okay, almost amazing) relationship I’ve made with the other mother.  We talked for hours – and not just about my son.   It was obvious:  having met under different circumstances, we’d likely be good friends.

 

 

 

 

 

She is giving him a safe environment to straighten out his head and I am giving him the freedom to figure it out.

 

 

 

I am without explanation as to why my son is attempting to assert his maturity in the most immature way imaginable.  And it is unfathomable to me why he needs to go through this – or anything for that matter – without his family around him.  And it is crushing.  I won’t lie:  it is the most crushing and hurtful and indescribable pain I have ever felt as a mother.

 

 

 

But he is a good kid and we are good parents.

 

 

 

I guess I know deep down he’ll be back one day.

 

 

 

I just wish it had been yesterday.

 

*    *   *   *

 

Update:  Somewhere in between the time this author had the courage to write this….

 

 

 

…and print this…..

 

 

 

…her seventeen-year-old returned home.

 

 

 

 

 

It was a long 47 days.

 

 

 

 

 

Ironically – it was also just as long (if not shorter) as this author’s own silent treatment to her own mother…

 

 

 

… when SHE was seventeen years old.

 

Exhale.

 

Because Everybody Loves American Pigs

 

 

juggleMom

 

Every mother has had one of those moments:  the kind where your child informs you at 10pm that two dozen cupcakes are needed at school the next day.  Or that a must-be-a-long-sleeved-crisp-white shirt is needed for the holiday concert in an hour.  Or that a kick-ass present is required for the sleepover that suddenly turned into a birthday party (that you’re already en route to).

 

Had me one of those moments this week, in the form of Third Grade International Day.  Sure, I saw the paper come home requesting culinary delights of the United Nations.  As is typical, I quickly scanned it, decided it was a no-go, and did what every other mom would do (okay, maybe not every but definitely my real friends).   Anyway, when my son asked if he could bring something in denoting our heritage he got my best “Hmmm, we’ll see” response, which of course in parenting always translates to “I hope you’ll forget about this notice as fast as I’ve tossed it.”

 

Curiously, what his eight-year-old ears heard was something along the lines of “Sure, I’m certain if I can find a Greek cooking class in the next three days I’ll be able to bring a killer baklava.”  As if.

 

The matter was quickly dismissed.  By me.  Alone.  Of course it was.

 

The following week he came bounding off the bus with excited stories of pierogies and sour cream sticks and other exotic foods he’d tasted that day.  What?  Oh, right, International Day.  “So what am I bringing in tomorrow?” he asked, eyes shining.

 

Karma being the hilarity it typically is, it was one of those moments in one of those weeks:  I had not even a single egg in the house.  Actually, I was sorta looking forward to seeing which kid would be the victor in the showdown of the final bowl of milk for their cereal dinner.   Yep.  It was the dreaded Food Shopping Eve, the night where resilient families find out just how long a sleeve of Ritz crackers will sustain them.

 

I had nothing and there was no reasoning with him.  He didn’t want to hear about exhaustion, or coupons for the next day’s sale items, or even the slightly lame excuse that – internationally speaking – we were kind of a mutt, so each nationality pretty much canceled the others out.

 

Here’s where creativity saves you.

 

I reasoned that the best way of classifying our Greek-Puerto-Rican-German-Italian-and-Irish heritage was to simply go with an All-American dish.

 

“Brownies?” his tears began drying and I detected a slight smile.

 

No.  Sorry babe, no eggs. Not until tomorrow.

 

“Tacos?” he lifted one brow.  (Funny that he’d think a house without eggs might in fact have beef, cheese and produce at its disposal. Funnier that he sees tacos as All-American.  I like the way this kid thinks….)

 

“Better than that,” I winked.

 

So the next morning he woke early to help me pop open a lone tube of biscuits.  We masterfully rolled and twisted them around the hot dogs we’d sliced into skinny pieces.

 

Together we concocted the most awesomely amazing All-American-Pigs-in-Blankets that third grade class had ever seen.

 

They were devoured before the Pledge of Allegiance.

 

Breakfast of champions.

 

I know the school year’s winding down but I am really going to start paying better attention to letters from school.  Next year.  Really, I promise.

 

 

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A Fleeting Fame

 

 

tradingspaces

Disclaimer:  My experience on a reality television show, while seemingly a lifetime ago, still makes for a good story.  Since there are no surly teenagers nearby me to screech, “Nooooooo….not again, Mom!” I’m going to share it  Yes, it was a loooong time ago, and yes, I believe Paige Davis may have fallen into a black hole since then, but it was at the height of popularity when our “Trading Spaces: $100 Grand!”  two-hour special aired.  And yes, it was (high-pitched-soprano-voice) AWESOME.

 

 

A long time ago in a career far, far away I got into a little skirmish with Geraldo.  I was a publicist, he was, well, Geraldo, and the whole he-said/she-said thing landed on the front page of Daily Variety.  There it was, in black and white:  my name, my title and my quote.  My quote!   Hence, my very first brush with fame.  While it was relatively small-scale (I mean seriously, how many people – especially those of us on the East coast – actually read Variety?), it was a professional feather in my cap that tickled me ridiculously and caused my boss to seethe.  Naturally, I faxed the story to everyone I knew (this being the time when Geraldo was a media presence, of course there was no e-mail), and held onto it for years.

 

Fast-forward a dozen years, and with the help of a little reality-television show, I found myself in the throes of celebrity again, only this time in a brave new world.  Plucked from obscurity, I was given a spotlight of national attention and enough local publicity to humble a politician.  Still, it had never occurred to me that along with my fifteen minutes of fame came a little thing called, ummm,  opinion. Have I mentioned that everybody’s got one – along with a computer?  Had I known that I could evoke such passionate opinions from people I most certainly would have spent a lot less time worrying about the dungaree shorts I chose to wear for the filming of my television stint.

On the show’s website, throughout its wildly popular message boards were beautiful sentiments from virtual strangers: Raves (loved the show!).  Cheers (loved you!). Kudos (congratulations!).  But alas, like the envious boss who didn’t get acknowledgment, sprinkled throughout these well-wishes was an eye-opening array of not-so-happy campers.  At first it was funny. (Okay, at first I didn’t spot my name).  But after continued reading (equate it to picking at dried glue on your fingers – when does one actually stop?) it became mildly horrifying.

“Get off the computer,” my husband pleaded.  I was addicted.

“Did you read what this guy wrote? That is so WRONG!”   He’d simply shake his head.  He knew I had crossed over.

 

According to one eagle-eyed viewer, I was apparently wealthy, therefore rendering me unworthy of the good fortune bestowed on my family.  (This perception usually draws great fits of laughter from my family, close friends and the checkout clerk at the receiving end of my mountain of coupons each week.)  One anonymous viewer called me arrogant.  Arrogant?   I won a big prize, had the ever-present camera catch my gratuitous tears, and nearly died from the excitement of the whole experience.  Good God.  Then there was a woman who ranted to all the other message-board posters that I made her want to barf.  Barf?  In fairness, I was completely aware that the humidity that plagued filming had turned my hair into a Farrah-esque flashback for most my age, but barf?  That was uncalled for.

 

One of the show’s producers warned, “Oh, by the way, don’t go onto the message boards.  Those people are crazy.”  Yeah, we got that.  Too late.

 

My love/hate relationship with fame has left me far more understanding of the price that is paid by bona-fide celebs, and not just the flash-in-the-pan variety like myself.  It makes me realize how often I’ve become part of a heated discussion about one of the delightfully colorful cast of characters on the “Who Wants to Survive the Average Joe Millionaire” shows I tend to gravitate to on any given night.  It is with heavy heart that I think of all the times I purchased a steamy tabloid solely to gobble up the dirt that poor Britney had to endure this past week.  Now that I know how it feels to be utterly slammed, I am, of course, repentant.

“Were you on that show?”  The hairstylist’s grin has me marked as she escorts my daughter to a chair.  My nod is sheepish, but my alert mind is racing:  Oh, the bad press that could come out of this!  Is my hair combed?  Is my holiday-induced weight gain obvious?  How quickly can she call the newspaper to report a bad tip?

 

In the end, the five-dollar tip (for a ten dollar child’s haircut) is hidden in my fist as I go to thank her and depart.

“I loved it,” she giggles, and turns away.

For what it’s worth, I was a pretty good tipper before all this.