...for a different kind of girl

silent surburban girl releasing her voice, not yet knowing what all she wants to say about her life and the things that make it spin. do you have to be 18 to be here? you'll know when i know.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

i know all there is to know about the crying game

As a parent, there are a few tried and true phrases guaranteed to strike fear in my heart. They include, but are not limited to:
  • "I don't feel so well."
  • "I think I'm gonna puke!"
  • "You are not as cool as you've led me to believe."
  • "Mom? Dad? There's something we need to tell you..."

But the phrase that makes me break out into a cold sweat and want to run away from home, punch a stranger in the face, and claim I never had the pleasure of passing either of my children through my birth canal is the following:

  • "Will you play a game with us?"

I believe this request is a means for Hasbro to test market a new game called "Test Your Mommy's Patience!", the goal of which is to see how long one of my children can go before I explode, throw all my game pieces in the air, and have green ooze seep from every orifice in my head (Fact - games are much cooler when there is ooze involved. Also a fact, but far less cool - moms are often left having to clean it up).

Each time the boys ask to play, I'm reminded of this scene from War Games, the movie (nay, the freakin' fantastic movie, and if you don't believe me, check it out for yourself when it airs Sunday on AMC, then come back immediately and tell me I was right. Woo hoo!) where Matthew Broderick unwittingly starts the countdown to World War III by encouraging his Commodore computer to play global thermonuclear war. I'm reminded of this because not only do my sons' requests sound so very similar to the computer's initially earnest desire, but because I know within moments of setting up the board and counting out the play money, someone will launch the first strike that will inevitably engage the rest of us in battle.

That is not a possibility, my friends. That is a fact. The first hints of war begin as the boys stand in front of the toy cabinet and attempt negotiations over what game to choose, and the first goading missile is launched when the dice are rolled to determine first moves. As a result, gleaming bulbous tears are soon rolling down one of their cheeks, making the paper money a soggy wad of despair. The wailing and thrashing of survivors clinging to a life they once knew then kicks in. It' s because of this drama that I abhor playing board games with my children.

Don't get me wrong. As a rule (and I follow all rules when playing games! Except for my junior year in college where I watched Jeopardy an hour earlier than my friends, absorbed all the answers, then stunned them with my mad skillz an hour later when we'd watch the same episode again. But whatever, that was a television show and not a game. Even though I did insist on being referred to as the Jeopardy Queen while those around me thought Cheater was more appropriate. But again, I say, whatever), I will kick your ass at Trivial Pursuit. You will marvel at my greatness at Catchphrase. You will turn to your spouse or significant other when leaving a party at my house and whisper, "Did you see the ease with which she killed us all at Scattegories?!" There does lie within me a love of the game.

When I was a kid, there was a Parker Brothers factory near my home, and every field trip I ever took meant journeying to this magical land of enchantment. At the conclusion of every tour, the guide would unleash us in a room bursting with products, and encourage us to tear the place apart and fill our heart's desire. It was like Christmas and birthdays rolled into one freakishly fantastic day, and I stocked my closet with the likes of Clue, Pay Day, and Monopoly. By stocking my closet with these items, I absolutely mean they accumulated there for my hoped for future use. My parents weren't big on playing board games with me when I was growing up, either, and now I can understand why. Have you played Monopoly lately? Seriously, Monopoly isn't so much a board game as it is a "Oh, dear God please, can we be done with this game already?! I am so freakin' bored!"

My sons' favorite games are a toss up between Battleship and Sorry!. This is most ironic when you consider every game of Battleship does, in fact, end in a battle the likes of which would send those little plastic war ships cowering to the furthest recesses of the ocean. Additionally, no one is ever sorry around here when we play Sorry!. Instead, there is much goading and poxes placed on future family members. I assume this is why Sorry! is marketed as "The game of sweet revenge." However, I think the game really sells itself more realistically as "Sorry that every game your family plays must end in tears and accusations!"

In the end, there are no real winners at my house when the board games come out. There are only whiners. If my lack of interest in playing games with my boys earns me a 'do not pass go' card in the game of life, that's a risk I'm willing to take, for I figure I've already greased up chutes and ladders path they'll take to therapy one day, anyway.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

i promise to stop before this becomes a nickelback song

In just a little more than three weeks, my oldest son will be a middle school student. If you ask him his opinion of starting sixth grade, you'll get a lackadaisical response about his alleged disdain for school. He doesn't really hate it, of course, but saying you hate school is somewhere in the bylaws of being a 10 year old boy. Probably in Section 8, subcategory C, right after "Laughing at farts is mandatory."

If you were to then turn to me and ask how I'm coping with this new phase in his life, be prepared for the kind of rambling discourse of someone going through the seven stages of grief who hasn't quite yet been rewarded with acceptance and hope. It's hard for me to see a sixth grader under the flop of blond hair atop my son's head (I know. I have no idea where he gets it from, either). I don't feel I've had him long enough to allow this. However, the day after he turns 11, he'll get up and pull on clothes from a pile of new shirts and shorts bought to replace all he outgrew this summer, shovel down a bowl of cereal, endure a first day of school photo shoot, then head off down the street to meet the friends he plans to walk to school with. My hope is he'll continue the tradition he's had since kindergarten of turning around every three or four steps and waving goodbye to me, but I'm already bracing myself for the possibility he won't. I believe this might be part of the denial stage.

He'll be attending the same building where I graduated high school back when the school district was significantly smaller. Just before summer break, I attended a parent's night orientation hosted by school administrators to get of glimpse of what this chapter in his academic story would be like. As I followed the other parents funneling into the gym, I was punched in the nose by the thick, sweaty smell of the room, which made me remember how much I actually hated school when I was a student in this building. Maybe there is something to those bylaws.

Also? Some farts ARE funny.

Walking into that building also made me tear up a little bit. I know. Lame. But not really. Middle school was the introduction of cliques and contests I had no idea how to maneuver, and while my friends kept walking down the path of popularity, I smacked face first into the signpost marked "oddball" because I was too busy gawking at my shoes, and I never veered off. There's nothing wrong with being the oddball, a little fact I'd happily tell the younger version of me I swear I spotted huddled on the bleachers across the room from me that evening. But because I didn't feel that way all those years ago, because I was a junior high gecko attempting to blend into her environment so as not to attract attention of predators, I'm bracing myself for my son's introduction to middle school with a sense of trepidation that is all, it seems, of my own creation.

It's hard to not to laugh smugly and tell him real life school isn't like High School Musical, where the gang all likes each other and breaks out into perfectly in sync dance moves (but how flippin' kick ass would that be, and I am not lying!), but I also don't chime in with tales of my middle school angst when the topic comes up around the house. For all I know, my son may enter middle school on August 20th, and have a completely different experience than the one I had, which, sorry Oddball Me, I kind of hope that's the case.

I've spent this summer watching my son crack open the doors leading to his freedom a little bit wider every day. It's not been easy watching him test the waters of his freedom, but each year that passes makes it more and more inevitable. I suppose this summer was designed as a prep course for me. If I asked him, he'd say, "Actually, Mom, I think it was designed for both of us. Also, I hate school. And did you know farts were funny?" He's a good kid. A smart kid. Letting a bit of him go has allowed me to I let him go, as it were.

But I'm still in the denial phase, and I'm not sure that I won't be out of it before the end of his first semester.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

the post where i'm all 'this is so not really a post...'

When I was a kid, I used to sit under one of the oak trees that grew in our front yard, and I'd write. Every day. For hours. Because I felt the world (aka "no one") ached to read my prose and the occasional retooled General Hospital script featuring more of Dr. Noah Drake making out with a mysterious female character by the name of 'My Real Name,' I'd fend off requests from my friends to go on bike rides, and would curl up in the fetal position to avoid being stepped on when the tree and I'd become second base during impromptu kickball games. I spent so much of my formative teenage years BEING second base that the characters in my Judy Blume-lite stories GOT to second base long before I did.

Never mind I didn't even KNOW what second base was for a long time. A very long time.

I know. Be quiet.

I said I KNOW!

Anyway, I loved those trees because, even though I was perhaps mocking them by bringing a folder of loose-leaf paper out to them every day, they were always there for me, and let me just be. There wasn't a lot of just getting to be in my house when I was growing up. I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I wanted to be out of that house, and believed that maybe my lame ass stories and soap opera love scenes might one day be a way. At the very least, it would get me through some particularly long days.

As stories go, I grew up. The trees grew up. I shunned paper for a computer, and nature, being the real bitch it can be sometimes, refused to provide me an electrical outlet close by in which to plug in my laptop, thus effectively taking me away from the shade of my front yard oak trees. Sure, maybe we didn't call each other every day, but the trees and me? We were connected. I was sure I'd one day have the chance to prove to them that the years I'd spent with the knot at the base of the one's trunk poking into my back had paid off.

How do you prove these kinds of things to trees? I don't know. I always assumed I'd have time to figure that out. Well, damn if that Shel Silverstein wasn't the wise one when he wrote A Giving Tree, eh? Cut to this week. My Mom called to tell me she'd had the trees, well over 40 years old and marred by disease, removed. The yard where I wrote many an untitled epic of lame teenage fiction is now a bare patch of lumpy grass and dirt. I know to most people that's no big deal, but to me, it's kind of hard to believe.

I know, I know. I'm writing about trees, then no trees, and you're wondering when I'm going to get to the good stuff (assuming you come here thinking 'Yeah! Good stuff!', - or 'Whoo! Thanks for the lack of vibrator talk today!' - and if you do, then please let me say thank you a whole bunch of times. Then let me add that the vibrators? They are lovely!), but I really think that the demise of my trees has resulted in wave of writer's block that has come over me this week. Seriously. I am bereft of blog fodder.

It's either that, or it's my sons' raging refusal to do anything adorable this week for me to write about, and/or the lack of customers at the bookstore facing my wrath (the girl who kept saying "offer" rather than "author" notwithstanding). It's probably the latter, but the former sounds more poetic and inspiring, thus, I shall stick with it.

So I beg you, good people of the Internets, come to my aid in the comments. Leave me a query, an idea, a complete stalker fan letter where you offer to make out with me ala Dr. Noah Drake. Whatever you wish. Be my trees, please, and we'll see if I can take something you've given me and run with it in a future post. If you don't, you'll have to hear me go on and on about the vibrators, and at some point, I have got to think you're going to draw the line on that topic.

P.S. I realize this sounds hauntingly like FTN's request to fluff him this week, but it's not. I mean, not really. But so what if it is, OK? He's him, and I'm me (Or are we? Hmmmm...), and there's not an original idea anywhere in the blog world anyway, so if he has a problem with it, he can take it up with me personally. Also, the answers to your first five questions are: I love you, too; Yes, they are; No, that part comes from a box; Why do you care?; and I've done that before, and no, I won't be doing it again.


Monday, July 21, 2008

about as fun as a baseball bat to the crotch

"If you're celebrity and you were going to make a sex tape, wouldn't you already have a place in mind to hide it when you were done before you yelled 'Action'?" my Tool Man asked, pausing briefly between gulps of his Diet Coke to query me.

Now, lest you think Tool Man and I routinely discuss this type of fine art over Subway six-inch grilled chicken sandwiches (I assure you, it's the taste of the sandwich, and not the size...), allow me to clarify that the afternoon's agenda was established by the bantering of two radio dj's, who were running down a laundry list of celebrities who've had their fame (or infamy) stroked by the so-called accidental release of their videotaped exploits.

As we enjoyed our sandwiches devoid of paparazzi snooping us out in our little Midwestern hovel, I reached across the table, grabbed Tool Man's mustardy hand, and told him how thankful I was that my attempt at stardom was snuffed out in the fourth grade when I auditioned for a regional talent program, regardless of how strong my interpretation of ABBA's Fernando was (AND IT WAS!!!), because I simply am not cut out to live the life of a celebrity. Especially one whose grainy, night goggled exploits show up routinely on television and the Internet. Tool Man nodded, assured me once again that my skill with ABBA's catalogue of hits is, indeed, unprecedented, then took another bite from his sandwich before continuing.

"Let's just say if we were to make a sex tape..." Cecille B. DeTool Man threw out to the universe.

"Hold up a minute. Is this about you wanting me to dress up - nay, UNDRESS - like Sheena Easton and hum Sugar Walls while you're doing God knows what where I can't really see you, then making me watch it?" I asked, seeing his eyes light up.

(HOLD UP AGAIN! I just watched that video clip for Sugar Walls and I LOOKED JUST LIKE SHEENA EASTON when I met Tool Man! I'm beginning to think this topic of Sunday conversation was not just some sporadic follow up to "So, your sandwich? Sure is good, huh?").

"I just don't get the desire to see myself after I've done it," I continued, watching his eyes slightly dim. Another bite of his sandwich taken.

"You want to, don't you?!" I asked. Eye? Radiating. Shoulders? Broad and back.

"What if the sex was so good, we both experienced a simultaneous heart attack and died while in the midst of filming, and our loved ones found it, ala "The Blair Witch Project," and watched in horror as we poked, then perished?" I demanded.

"My parents don't know how to operate a VCR..." he responded, formulating a script in his brain while responding.

Now, I do a lot of things to and for Tool Man. A LOT. But I felt the need to right then yell "Cut!" on his plan to rush us home and stage an epic production because the idea of watching parts of myself pop into frame (and probably Tool Man shooting sideways glances and 'thumbs up' signs at the camera - because I believe this is standard protocol for all men who produce and direct a homemade sex tape) would be just too much to bear.

And absolutely too much to bare.

And also? That Sugar Walls song always has annoyed me.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

the anatomy of a really great bookstore shift...

(Dude, I said SHIFT, not doody...)

  • "I'm looking for a book..."

Less than three minutes in! A new high score!

  • Hey! We're playing the Mamma Mia soundtrack! Score!

I love you!

I do, I do, I do, I do, I do!

Brains, brains, brains, brains, brains

Brains, brains, brains, brains, brains, brains, brains

Brains, brains, brains, brains, brains

  • Oh, look! Silly teenage boys, giggling at the pictures of boobies in the sex position books. You so silly, teenage boys! Have fun sharing that first porn magazine!

Who am I kidding? They're getting more at 17 than I even imagined at 27.

  • Did I mention Zombie Haiku?

I can see through you

Literally through your mouth

and out to the street

  • "I'm looking for a book on how to make money as a sex worker."

Let me find that for you as I pull down my minimum wage!

  • Hope you're OK, Lady Who Violently Threw Up in the Bathroom Stall Next To Me.

NOT a highlight of a really great bookstore shift.

In fact, there was, indeed, actually shit, too.

  • Are we really playing "Raindrops Keep Falling On Your Head"?



I bet something like "Close To You" will be next, just to spite me!

Wha? Wait a minute! Is that...




  • Did I mention Zombie Haiku?!

Blood is really warm

It's like drinking hot chocolate

But with more screaming

  • "I'm looking for a book..."

I see you're back.

No wait. You're not the first person I helped!

  • Sure, I'll cover a break in cafe!

Sorry if your iced mocha latte sucked, dude!

  • Mmmmm! Zombie Haiku!

Brains, brains, brains, brains, brains

Brains, brains, brains, brains, brains, brains, brains

Artificial hip?


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

ironic & cruel (or vice versa)...

...the arrival of my new vibrator(s) and my period on the same day.


Saturday, July 12, 2008

awww yeah, baby! this is where the magic happens!

The fantastical Manager Mom put out a call for her fellow bloggers to take a moment this weekend and share with others the place where they find their inspiration to work or write. I typically do the bulk of my writing while at work at the bookstore, but management tends to frown and is all, "We don't pay you to write books, missy, we pay you to sell them," so most of my shifts end with my pockets overflowing with scraps of paper and wadded up Post-It notes laden with phrases and idea fragments that I then pillage when I get home in a feeble attempt to remember my ideas. Usually I fail to recall what was so inspirational about "two guys, nipple, bears - hahahaha," thus, you've not been regaled with that tale.


Anyway, because my inspiration strikes as randomly as the above paragraph, I try to contain the magic to a couple of other locations, like out on my deck during particularly nice days. Notice that light pouring down from the left and directly upon my laptop in the above photo?

Yep. That's God, and he's all, "Spread the good word, FADKOG! May your tales of whimsy, panties, double entendre, BOOBS!, and various adorable things your kids do be the balm that soothes a wounded nation." All props to God, yo, because without him there'd be no ...for a different kind of girl.

Fist to chest, G. Fist to chest.

Sometimes God decides to make it rain or plays tricks on me where it's 99 degrees one day, and then like 74 degrees the next (Ha ha, God, you little prankster!), so I write inside. More often than not, it's while wrapped in the loving arms of the above chair. It's not easy, though, because I believe that chair is stuffed with chloroform and it sneaks up behind me while I'm in the middle of a cohesive thought, places a dirty, soaked rag in front of my face, and knocks me out. I wake up anywhere from three to five hours later, confused, with my hair often cut short, and a man in a mask telling me my new name is Patricia and I'll now do whatever he wants. I cannot stay awake in that chair to save my life.

And by "my life," I mean "Patricia's life."

Blame (or credit) the Narcolepsy Chair for those rare times I write really short posts.

Oh, wait! Do you notice that thing next to my computer up there?

It's a skeleton! You know why that skeleton is there?

Because me, God, and Patricia are giving you people our all when I sit down somewhere to write! Bare bones, straight up writing! Damn that I can't remember why I ache to tell the tale of "two guys, nipple, bears - hahahaha."

(It also means my oldest son doesn't listen when I tell him 23 times to pick his stuff up before I throw it away, because he's looking at me funny and saying, "I don't have to take orders from you, Patricia! You're not my mom!" )


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

got it goin' on like donkey kong. (i wish...)

I like to think that I'm a pretty cool mom.

Note that I like to think that. I really have no clue what my sons think. As far as they're concerned, I might very well be the woman who buys them ice cream bars, yet lifts the box over my head and am all "Not until you do your math homework and complete 30 minutes of reading, bwahahahaha...."

(...and then maybe eats the contents of said ice cream bar box and pretends like I have no idea what they're talking about when they come crying to me for a fake frozen dairy treat coated in waxy chocolate goodness. Whatever, dude. Glass houses.)

Anyway, back to what a cool mom I think I am. I don't have to ask anymore about why Zack and Cody are living in a hotel (sidebar - that really would be a suite life!). I've figured out the difference when Miley is Hannah and vice versa. I say things like "Dat's jus' how we roll," and "It's all good in the 'hood!". I'll make time to play with action figures.

I'll also willingly listen to Crazy Frog butcher Queen's We Are The Champions. OK, maybe not willingly, but it's part of being a cool mom. You listen to the music that those around you find enjoyable. That's what I did when I was stuck in a car for seven hours with my own, cool in her own right Mom this week as we trekked back from the great state of Missouri (kisses, Missouri! do you miss me? No?? Huh. Well...fickle bastard...). My mom likes the country music. I've no beef with country music. I once owned a pair of cowboy boots (they were kick ass black leather with embroidered hearts and swirls on them and I would give a million dollars to have them TODAY! Because I'm cool!). I also dated a humble man with deep country roots, so yeah, you could say I got a little country western in me.

Here's what I forgot about my mom. She likes to sing along with her music. I'm not sure why I forgot this, since it's something I routinely do, too. When Paradise By The Dashboard Lights comes on my iPod, I'll bust out both Meat Loaf's and Ellen Foley's parts for the entire 8 minutes and 27 seconds (you better believe I'm doing it RIGHT NOW). Hell, when Paradise City, or (I've Been To Paradise But) I've Never Been To Me come on, I'm giving everything I have to the music, whether I'm scrubbing toilets or touring in the mini.

(But not Almost Paradise, because I just can't feel the love, Mike Love and Ann Wilson. Sorry.)

So back to the trip home. We're probably hour four into our seven hour tour when Honkeytonk Badonkadonk came on the radio. Mom heard this tribute to curvy posteriors, and she cranked that radio up and unleashed what I imagine rivals those American Idol audition episodes.

(I say I imagine because I may very well be one of the few people on Earth who has never watched a single episode of American Idol, and while that might mean I'm not actually cool, I beg to differ, because how cool am I for at least knowing of AI?!).

I shouldn't be hating on my Mom's vocal abilities, but the woman is bad! So, so, scary bad. She's making up words and she's all over the range. Hell, halfway through, she's singing an entirely differnt song. Most of the time, that is Bob Seger's Old Time Rock and Roll. It is ugly, people.

(and I'm sorry, too, Bob Seger, because dear Lord, I hate that song.)

And then it hit me. If she's cool, yet bad, then I AM, too! Oh, it might be fun to pretend I'm preserving my virtue when Meat Loaf is getting all sweaty on me in the back of the car, but it's never as good to those who must listen to me as I think it sounds performed before a live studio audience. This point was really driven home for me when I looked back at my sons, trapped in the backseat while their grandma was questioning how the female protagonist of said Trace Adkins song was, and I quote, "gettin' them britches on." Their faces were frozen in fear and shock, and those faces spelled out "This is NOT cool!"

And one day, I am going to go from action figure playing, ghetto talkin', Disney Channel viewing Cool Mom to Lame Ass (nay - Badonkadonk!) Mom in one fell swoop, and I predict all it's going to take is one overzealous performance of another tribute to juicy bubbles.

(Which I'm singing along to RIGHT NOW, so let the transformation begin...).

P.S. While I'm shocked Blogger's spell check option doesn't recognize 'Google' as a word, the fact that "Badonkadonk" isn't in the internal dictionary doesn't surprise me in the least. Disappoints me, yes, but shocks me? No. And what the hell? It DOES recognize "Crazy Frog"! Lame.


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

'they were asking if you were around, how you was, where you could be found'

::tap, tap::

Is this thing on? Yeah? Getting a little buzz in my left ear. Can you fix that? Ready?


Have you missed me? Don't lie. It's cute how you play coy, but your eyes always give it away. You missed me. Come 'ere and give me a hug!

What? You want a kiss, too? I might say no, but my eyes give it away.

::whisper:: Get in the back of the line. I got a little something special just for you after I get through all the others, OK?

Just wanted to poke my head in and say "hi" quick, and thank FTN and Backpacking Dad for taking such good care of things while I was away. Charmers, they are. I appreciate every effort they made around here to class the joint up.

(Even if I find half my underpants are missing and none of my more questionable DVDs were put back in the right cases.)

Hopefully inspiration will hit me soon and I'll have a fresh little post up. While I was away, I discovered my propensity for coolness will not carry me through my old age. That's been a hard pill to swallow. Also? No matter how you try, flood waters just aren't that interesting, so stop talking about them already, Mom.

'K. I have a shower to take an some unpacking to do. Thankfully I did laundry at my sister's, so I have some underwear, because seriously, I don't know what you two boys did with all of mine, but you owe me.

And I probably owe you both, too.

Now, about that kiss...

Sunday, July 06, 2008


by Backpacking Dad

I've been thinking about 'whom' a lot lately.

It's an excellent word. And, with both proper and improper usage it bestows upon its target a sheen of nobility; a polish; an in-bred whiff of aristocracy.


Marla (not her real name), known variously as “Different Gal,” “Kind of Girl,” and “FADKOG,” is a very special whom. She's the 'whom' whom is on vacation this week and whom I am writing a guest post for (that's “for whom I am writing a guest post, if you're playing along at whome.) She is a hilarious whom, and I am really flattered that she is letting me mind the shop while she's gone. And I gotta say, it's really roomy in here; a guy can really stretch out. I think she needs the room because of her ginormous rack. (I apologize for the crassness there; those of us whom are guest-whoming have made a promise to mention said rack at least once in our guest posts. So....Marla has big boobs.)

Back to the non-boobish meat of the post...

blog grew out of some regular e-mailing I had been doing: writing to my infant daughter. I was writing so often that I began thinking of the world in its narrative shape, and sometimes stories would reveal themselves, like a statue in marble or the world carved at its joints. And not every one of these stories insisted upon being told to my daughter, so sometimes their legs atrophied before they ran.

I wrote in a Livejournal for a while, but as it said on my bio page there I really only had a Livejournal in the first place so that I could non-anonymously comment on other blogs. But when I began
Backpacking Dad my intent was to really begin opening my trench coat to the world and asking if anyone wanted to buy a letter Q. That is, I was going to participate in the blogging community as a blogger and not just a commenter. I was going to offer myself to the world, not because the world needed my voice, but because I needed to hear voices in cacophony identifying, criticizing, celebrating, and condemning: reacting. I needed a beach where I could leave fresh footprints alongside others' tracks.

But blogging can be a lot like shouting into the wind. I knew that going in, and I expected to languish for a while in obscurity. I didn't even quite know how to go about letting people know that I was out there waiting for readers. I think I started finding some popular blogs and picking off their blog rolls, leaving little comments on blogs that I found interesting. This is probably how most of us do it. And it works.

Suddenly, I had a reader. It was like my birthday, getting that e-mail from Blogger telling me that someone had left a comment on my blog. Someone wanted to engage with something I had written. Vanity, pride, hubris, arrogance....whatever: I was good enough to have a reader! And not just a ghost; an honest-to-goodness reader-slash-commenter.

That's when I began slowly shifting the focus of my writing. The blog began as a dumping ground for stories that I didn't really want to write down in an e-mail to my daughter, but that I needed to write and I wanted other people to read. Sometimes I had my daughter's face in my mind's eye as I wrote, and sometimes I felt like I was writing for my wife. But with a reader, a stranger, I began writing to an audience. I wanted to make this audience laugh, or think about something, or give a shake of the head and wander off thinking “that one was a strange one.”

That I have readers now is, I know, a function of the blog itself: something about it is resonating with people. But the tone of the blog and whatever care I take in writing it is entirely owed to the readers who continue to read. And to my first reader.

My whom.

Yes, I write for my daughter. And of course I write for my wife. And of course they provide both audience and material.

But I am also writing to whom it may concern. And there has always been one whom concerned.

And even though I know her real name, I always think of her as FADKOG.

Blame her for the tone over

So, whom are your whoms? Do you write for whoms? Do you write for yourself? Whom do you imagine when you think of your readers? Is there one reader who stands out for you that you would like to recognize (totally insulting all of your other readers in the process, as I have done here, but don't tell them about it plskthnxbai)?

Friday, July 04, 2008

I'd Give You the Shirt Off My Back

by FTN

I'm not sure I'm prepared to handle the responsibility that goes with blogsitting while Fadkog is away.

Sure, it's nice to have the place to myself, and as she mentioned, it carries the benefit of being able to sift through her drawers while she's gone. But I have to be honest with you -- I'm having some flashbacks back to that time in high school that I was housesitting for my girlfriend while she was on vacation with her family, and I made the mistake of noticing a letter she had on the floor of her bedroom. A letter that I read out of curiosity. A letter she was evidently writing to another guy she had met at camp.

A letter filled with phrases like "I've been thinking about you a lot" and "it's so hot in here as I write this, that I had to take my shirt off."

Yeah. That was totally a good time, finding that letter. So, you know, watching someone's place while they're away doesn't always have the best connotations for me.

But I did want to take this opportunity to write about something near and dear to Fadkog's heart. And I don't mean her boobs. Although she did say that one of the prerequisites for writing on her blog was that I must say nice things about them. I tell ya, the way she talks about those funbags, you'd think a chorus of angels starts to sing every time she takes off her bra.

Which, really, I don't doubt at all. I don't see very many boobs these days apart from my wife's, and I'll admit that I break out in song on occasion when she takes her shirt off. Sometimes I even do a little jig.

Being that it's summer, 4th of July and all, I wanted to write briefly about male shirtlessness. It seems to be a popular theme lately on her blog -- with all the discussion of man pelts and stay-at-home Dads mowing their lawns. Plus, it just so happens I was writing about male body parts on my own blog recently.

I tried out a little experiment last week. Occasionally, I'll be shirtless while mowing my own lawn -- check that, my tiny thatch of weeds couldn't be defined as a lawn, so we'll have to call it a "yard." I generally don't think twice about going shirtless, being the ripping male specimen that I am. But on this occasion, purely for the reason of sociological study, I decided to gauge the reactions of those around me as I mowed. Would hot neighbor chicks with kickass racks be looking on in awe? Would 18-year old girls arriving home after cheerleading practice take a moment to admire my glistening masculinity? Would a group of desperate housewives gather on the front sidewalk?

Alas, it was not to be. Halfway through my mowing, I remembered that there are no kickass racks or desperate housewives or hot cheerleaders that live on my block. Although, to be fair, I did get the attention of the 60-year old woman with the crooked teeth that lives next door. Although she was probably two days into another meth binge, so I didn't bother trying to understand what she was saying over the roar of my Snapper.

I had another occasion for shirtlessness the next day, at our Big Honkin' Church Picnic Shindig. Hundreds and hundreds of families at a large public pool-slash-waterpark that the church reserved for the event. After a dinner of way-too-much food, my family was preparing to jump in the water. After doing my manly duty of blowing up floaties for my 4-year old son's arms, I removed my shirt and waded into the shallow kids section of the pool with my wife and two children.

After about five minutes, I noticed something. I looked around at the other men in the pool and realized that nearly all the men around me had their shirts on. Let me repeat that for a moment: Most of the men in the pool had their shirts on.

Does that strike anyone else as strange?

I'll admit it wasn't the warmest evening on record. It was maybe 75 degrees, and the sun was setting. Plus, at Midwestern church functions such as these, people are just accustomed to being OVERLY modest. You won't find any tiny string bikinis on the women.

But seriously. Shirts in the pool?

I poked fun at a couple of my friends about it. I know when you are a guy over 30 and you've got three or four young kids, you are allowed some leeway on how often you hit the gym. Trying to maintain your body like that of the 18-year old lifeguards just isn't going to happen. Not to mention, some guys really rock the farmer tan, and bright red arms with a pasty white stomach doesn't always impress the ladies.

Why are you guys wearing your shirts?, I said. I mean, seriously. Dude. We're in a pool.

But you've got YOUR shirt off, they said. We definitely can't take our shirts off now.

I thought for a moment they were joking or being sarcastic. But then I realized they were half-serious. Evidently, somehow, they actually thought that MY shirtless chest and stomach was setting the bar too high for them.

This most likely means that I surround myself with out-of-shape friends, because my chest and stomach and arms? Seriously? NOT that high of a bar.

The two of them did manage to take their shirts off shortly after that, and I'll admit they were both rocking the farmer tan and a bit of the Man Boob. As a guy, it's always interesting to see your friends in various stages of undress. Women, of course, are used to it, because we all know that lingerie parties and pillow fights and making out while topless is the norm among hot chicks when they get together. But most guys are just NOT used to seeing each other naked.

My most extreme example is, of course, the locker room at the gym. Seeing hairy naked strange old men in the locker room is no big deal. Emotionally scarring, perhaps, but not surprising. But when you see someone that you KNOW, it's always slightly awkward. Like when I was putting on my shoes a couple of weeks ago, and a friend of mine who also happens to be a pastor at church came out of one of the showers.

Talk about a man pelt. I never would have guessed he was so hairy. It was like having an uncomfortable conversation with a naked sasquatch.

Let's just be honest here. The male naked form can't hold a candle to the naked female. A guy has to do a LOT of work to get his chest and upper body looking good and ripped. A woman, though, just needs to take her shirt off, and (I'm speaking for all heterosexual men here) we're pretty darn impressed. Granted, women have their own share of self-image issues because of society, the media, and all that crap. But having boobs gives them a distinct advantage.

Look at that. A whole post centered around BOOBS! Who would have thought. It's like the circle of life.


Wednesday, July 02, 2008

put me out of my missouri

Later today, I'm going rogue on a Black Ops assignment.

In that very brief sentence, I've probably compromised your safety. If you start to hear clicking on your telephone, or men trying to look nonchalant while ducking behind tree trunks or newspapers every time you turn around to confront them, I apologize. Allow me to start over with (finger quotes) my cover story (finger quotes) so as not to put you in harms way. I suggest you memorize this entry. A paper trail can only put us both in danger.



Tomorrow morning, I'm jumping in a car with my Mom, my two sons, copies of High School Musical I and II on DVD, and embarking on the dream. Seven hours later, we'll find it when we pull in at my sister's house in Missouri*. Over the course of the next five days, I will make 312 1/2 trips to Walmart, 349 trips to Target (it's new since last summer's secret mission!), get in some time playing Barbies with my nieces (excellent!), and cry into my pillow silently at night when I think the rest of the house is asleep because, wow, my Mom and my sister can really work a self esteem number on me.


I assume you'll all miss me, when you're not fearing for your lives and such. Because of this (the missing, not the fearing part), I've arranged to have my doppelganger, FTN, regal you with some guest posts in my absence. I didn't even have to twist his arm to get him to agree. I assume something about the allure of being able to come over here, plop on my couch, and paw through my various drawers while I'm not looking can be pretty captivating for some people, even super anonymous people like Numby, who has come to find out more about me in this past year than some people I actually know in real life. It's amazing what you'll give up after you've been chloroformed and tied up in a basement for a couple days.

I'm extremely delighted to have FTN here. If you've not read him before, please enjoy and give him some love in the comments. As my grandma would say, he's good people.

Actually, she'd say something that is so grossly unfit for print that I'd be embarrassed to repeat it, but he really is good people, and if he were a woman, he'd probably have a rack that rivaled my own in the kick ass department, so that alone makes me crazy for him.

And if he is, in fact, a woman and has kept that detail secret from me for the better part of a year, then he is also a fantastic spinner of the yarns. (p.s. Numby, show me your boobs!)

Will there be any other guest stars here while I'm away? I don't know for sure yet. I've been trying to work my magic on one or two other writers out there, so tune in to see.

For now, though, I must go make sure my (finger quotes) helicopter and weapons cache (finger quotes) are ready, and rest up for my (finger quotes) adventure (finger quotes). If I make it back alive, I look forward to debriefing with all of you when I return.

* P.S. No offense, Missouri. You are home to my alma mater, two of my best friends, one of my sorta best friends, and the burial place of my virginity. We're all good, Missouri. We're all good.