Sunday, November 30, 2014

We Need To Talk About DJ Lance... And Other Petty But Very Specific Complaints About Children's Television

Watch enough TV with a young child and a few troubling lifestyle changes will occur.

First, you will learn all of the words to all of the songs, indelibly and against your will. You’ll find yourself humming them during idle moments and then rush to the bathroom, staring intently at your bedraggled reflection in the mirror as The Map's voice from Dora the Explorer rings in your ears and you begin to really identify, on a deep level, with pretty much all of the characters from The Shining.

Danny's not here, Mrs. Torrance. This is Caillou.
Next, you'll develop strong attachments to some shows and passionate antagonistic relationships with others. This may result in a serious throw-down with a friend who thinks Steve from Blue's Clues is "a creepy eunuch," or rolls her eyes when you call out James and Gordon for being "the Assholes of Sodor."

Finally, you will begin to watch with the gimlet eye of the jaded adult you are, and thus will amass enough material for at least three senior college theses about gender roles in Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, or Daniel Tiger's maddening inconsistency with regards to wearing pants.

I realize that no one's hang-ups are the same, just as all snowflakes are unique and all Yo Gabba Gabba! songs are tuneless earsores, and so I can only speak for myself. With that said, here is a list of personal grievances, based on Sam's most beloved shows:

Yo Gabba Gabba!

Yo! So can we just all agree, from the outset, that DJ Lance Rock is in some kind of home for the mentally ill? I mean, he walks out into a blank white--possibly wall-padded--abyss with his “magical boombox” and then proceeds to anthropomorphize a tribe of tiny, plastic neo-Teletubbies for his own amusement day after day. He probably could have been a subplot on American Horror Story: Asylum if he wore more muted colors (and if you ask me, that big white crying dildo Gooble is way scarier than Chloe Sevigny with no legs).

I won't go into my issues with the characters' random genetic mutations, because I have discussed vented about that at length. Nor will I attempt to decipher the reasons why my child is terrified of the drawing segments in which Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh pretends to be Bob Ross, or why all of Biz Markie's Beats of the Day mostly sound like him straining to climb a flight of stairs. I'll just count myself lucky that Sam has recently jettisoned the Gabba gang in favor of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, who are much more violent but not prone to speaking in falsetto.

Thomas and Friends

On the Island of Sodor, ruled by the aristocratic, conspicuously earless blowhard Sir Topham Hatt, if you are a train and you are not "useful," then you might as well blow your own boiler out and end your, and everyone else's, misery.

OK, fine, I get it, they are trains. They're machines and they're supposed to work tirelessly without emotion. But in the world of the show they also have feeble, human-like brains that yearn to be chosen for a "special special," which they then invariably fuck up by not following the rules to the letter. This drives home the takeaway lesson from Thomas and Friends, which is: You are only special if you are useful, and you are only useful if you do not question authority.

Dora The Explorer

Hola, Dora! Hola, Boots! Time for another treacherous jungle adventure while your absent parents bake culturally relevant desserts?

No, kidding, actually I kind of love this show, even with its flaws. Like, the fact that the Map song is literally just him braying "I'M THE MAP I'M THE MAP I'M THE MAP I'M THE MAP" over and over. Or that Dora's adversary, Swiper the Fox, essentially teaches children that their primary concern in life should be that someone will try to steal your shit. But good news: You can just be all, "NO SWIPING" in a loud and authoritative voice and then they'll slink off, vanquished, so that you can continue on your way with the aid of any number of tools from your backpack, which--given the fact that at any moment it may be carrying four sets of snowshoes, rollerskates, bongo drums, or a trumpet--likely weighs twice as much as you do.

We made it out alive again! Excelente!

Blue’s Clues

I have complicated sexual feelings about Steve*, and I also legitimately think this show does a good job at simple, nonpatronizing toddler education, so I will admit to a bias. However I have trouble with the fact that a bedside table and bar of soap can talk, and yet the titular character, who is a mammal, and therefore at least possessed of vocal chords, cannot. You know, I could even deal with the soap thing except for the fact that the NEIGHBOR CAT CAN TALK, TOO. That is some Goofy/Pluto shit that I cannot and will not abide.

*The main complication is that I am married and he exists in 1996. 

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood

Since I'm already on the subject, let's talk about inconsistencies, Daniel Tiger. Let's talk about the fact that while you joyride that trolley around the Land of Make-Believe, doling out helpful and developmentally-appropriate behavioral tips, you wear no pants.

Shoes, check. Pants, meh.
Now, I am not a pearl-clutcher when it comes to nudity. One of my mother's favorite stories revolves around me, at age three, streaking past my Catholic grandmother and pretending to take a dump on the hardwood floor, just to freak her out.

Also, it should be noted, Daniel's pantslessness seems to be an inherited genetic trait:

Apparently it only affects the Y chromosome.
No. My issue with Daniel's drafty fashion choice has to do with what he wears to sleep at night. And yes, I realize I'm giving this way too much thought, but how--HOW--can you look at this:

...and not go blind from irrational rage?

He's wearing PAJAMA PANTS.

....but why?


The only time my mom told me to not wear underwear was when I slept. She told me my vagina "needed to breathe." (This nugget of wisdom, as you may imagine, was confusing for a nine year-old. Did that mean my tie-dyed long johns were suffocating my nether regions? And was that somehow worse than potentially being bare-assed in front of fire marshals in the unlikely but still totally possible event that my poster of Jonathan Knight from New Kids on the Block posing with a shetland pony combusted from sheer sexual energy and caught our house on fire? But I digress.)

Daniel, I think Mr. Rogers would agree that we need to teach children that--if there must be a choice--pants should be worn during daylight hours.

Also, please tell Katerina Kittycat to stop saying "meow meow" after every third word out of her mouth. We get it, she's a fucking cat.

To be continued... probably.

Friday, November 7, 2014

My Fupa, Myself

Whenever possible, I like to post my holiday roundups at least a week later when no one cares.

Or, maybe I just didn't want anyone to see my Fupa.

You see, "Fupa"--in addition to being the acronym for Fat Upper Pubic/Penile/Orange is the New Black's Poussey Area--is what my son calls the pink, beflowered, butt plug-shaped member of the Yo Gabba Gabba Gang:

She also has a FUPA, if we're being honest.

Months and months ago, Sam decided that he wanted to be Muno, the character I often describe to friends as "the big red dildo cyclops." It's possible that I have a psychological problem in which I can only see children's television characters as they relate to sex toys, but seriously, you tell me:

Let us not speak of the bumps.

It was fine. After all, I grew up in a family that said "partner" instead of "husband," lest I be poisoned by heteronormative sexuality as a toddler. If my kid wanted to dress like one of the extras from the Disney ride version of the Caligula orgy scene, he was free to be you and me.

But then I made the mistake of asking, "What should mommy be?" I guess I was hoping he'd cock an eyebrow, think for a minute, and then answer, "a young Karen Allen." But instead... well, you know how this ends.

This costume doubles as the adult-sized onesie I'll be wearing for the next six months.
I have to hand it to Sam, this was actually the most comfortable costume I've ever worn, hands down, and the pockets were deep enough for the nips of whiskey I needed to consume on our trick-or-treating trail in order to maintain some semblance of dignity.

Happy Halloween, from my Fupa to yours.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Hall to the Ween

I'm not a big Halloween person. Even though it's a holiday that celebrates candy, my favorite food group, I don't particularly like going out of the house in costume. Yes, I live in New York, where you're likely to run into pantsless people wearing fright wigs even when it's not October 31, but I've always liked to walk the streets anonymously; despite what my social media accounts might suggest I really don't like drawing attention to myself, in the flesh, in public. Hence some recent "costumes" that could be normal clothes, like my Around the Way Girl of 2009, or even my pregnant hillbilly of 2006 (in retrospect, it could also have been Kate Gosselin):

When I was wearing a coat, I just looked like a hugely pregnant person with bad hair.

It wasn't always this way. I used to go whole hog. When I was five, I was the only girl in my kindergarten class to cross hetero-normative lines when I cross-dressed as Peter Pan:

In 1992, I was a kind of Medusa-lite witch, only to be upstaged by my sister, in what now seems like offensive brownface, as a Hershey's Kiss:

Even when I was fifteen, and arguably far too old to be trick-or-treating, my BFF Adri and I went as undead Ernie and Bert (note the homage to my former unibrow):

Looking through some old photos to find these memories of Halloweens past, I also discovered that I often found myself in accidental costume throughout my youth.

For instance, I was amazingly ahead of the trends when I went as Lily from Modern Family just months after my birth:

Kidding, I don't have two dads--the one on the left is my uncle.

Or how about my risque take on Teen Mom at age six?

Or my political statement when I recruited some friends to go as the Symbionese Liberation Army that same year? (I will also accept: young Sarah Palin.)

At my friend Betsy's wedding in 2008, she and our third Butlerette Ellaree helped me achieve my look as a cast member of Little People, Big World.

And one night after a few too many glasses of wine while watching ANTM, my friend Beth and I raided Jeff's and my wig collection to create an imaginary Simon and Garfunkle-esque duo composed of Aileen Wuornos and Clara Bow.

Even right now, typing this, I'm basically dressed as Randy Quaid in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, unwashed and grizzly, wearing a robe and knee socks. (All I need to complete my costume is to yell, "Shitter was full!")

Hmmm. Maybe I don't need Halloween, after all. Maybe I am one of those people I inch away from on the subway. The More You Know.

P.S. At Sam's request, we are going as Yo Gabba Gabba characters this year. Pray for me. Photos to come!

Monday, September 29, 2014

A-holes on a Train

Amtrak is many things. It is expensive. It is usually late. It is pretty much the only option if you wish to travel in the Northeast by rail and also not be accosted by drunk people on their way back from the beach. But first and foremost, it is a hotbed for assholes.


On a relatively recent summer Sunday evening I was on my way back from a book reading in the Hudson Valley. My train was scheduled to depart at 6:29, but shortly before it was due, the station manager came on the intercom to announce that it had "pulled over to let another train pass" and would be 25 minutes late. The train originated in Montreal, so I tweeted something jokingly detrimental about Canadians. Then I took a series of failed selfies with some meaningful graffiti:

But the train came eventually. It was fine; it was a Sunday night. I mean, we were all just going home to drink the dregs of some past-its-prime rosé and then binge-watch Inside Amy Schumer, right?

Apparently not.

A little before 9 pm, almost to Penn Station, our train stopped north of the George Washington Bridge. due to "police activity." It took about three minutes before the man sitting next to me began intermittently groaning. I wondered at first if he was in labor; the contractions seemed evenly spaced at about two-minute intervals:

Fine, fine, fine--
Nothing, nothing, nothing--

He didn't look more than about four months along, but I didn't want to make any assumptions.

Soon, someone started saying that there was a jumper. As in, a human being who had leapt to their death from a great height.

The immediate reaction was annoyance.

"I don't see anything on Twitter!" the woman sitting in front of me, who I could not see but who I quickly judged to look like some hybrid of Cruella DeVille and Judge Judy, said defensively. "Plus, isn't this like the third one this month?" She was clearly taking points off for creativity.

"Why can't we move?" someone else chimed in. "I mean, the dead body's in the water, right?"

"How long does it even take to move a body?" Cruella DeJudy demanded.

The man seated next to me advanced to transition and began cradling his scalp in his hands.

Within about ten minutes, when the Amtrak conductors could not offer details on the police activity, a man sitting across the aisle took it upon himself to call the police.

"Yeah, I'm sitting on a stalled Amtrak train," he began, in a tone that suggested the train was also located on the Gaza Strip. "They say it's because of police activity, but I want to know exactly what's going on that the train can't move."

Somewhere, I imagined gunshot victims and elderly neighbors collapsing from the July heat waiting on hold, keeping the faith that their call would be answered in order of priority.

"Yeah... yeah... OK. OH. OK, that makes sense," the man across from me said. He hung up and reported to the car, "The body is on the train tracks."

"How is that even possible?" Cruella demanded. "I don't see how that's physically possible."

"That's what they said," the man shrugged.


"Give me the number," Cruella demanded in her raspy voice. "I'm going to put on my bitchface." Something told me it was already firmly secured.

"Yeah, HI," she said brusquely when she reached the police headquarters. "I'M ON A STOPPED AMTRAK TRAIN." The officer, it seemed, was not grasping the urgency of the situation. "Someone told us there was a body on the tracks.... yeah. Right. So what I need to know is, why can't they just move the body?"

Why can't they just move the body? I know that's the first question I jump to when someone has the gall to expire directly in my path.

"Yeah, but how long does it take?" she asked impatiently. She laughed bitterly and hung up. "One to two hours," she reported. "I mean, seriously."

Just then, the conductor walked into the car. "We're going ahead to Penn Station," she said. "No one was hurt."

One might think this news would bring jubilation, or, at the very least, reluctant optimism. But my fellow passengers only grew more disgruntled.

"No one was hurt?" Cruella laughed. "I think jumping off a bridge onto a train track would hurt."

"Yeah, I think you'd probably be dead," the man across the aisle chuckled.

"Nice conversation," the conductor snapped. After she left, the two began loudly conspiring along with my suddenly-recovered seat mate about how to get her fired through a letter-writing campaign.

As I deboarded moments later, expelled into the steamy bowels of Penn Station, I had a few moments, trapped on the escalator behind a herd of enormous wheeled suitcases and their handlers, to reflect on the questionable progress of humanity.

On the one hand, it's possible to ascertain the cause of a transportation delay within minutes through the use of social media and the shameless harassment of law enforcement officials. On the other hand, people are jaded and horrible and we're doomed as a species.

Except for Canadians. They remain, as ever, fucking polite.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

A Letter From My Hair, Re: Live Readings and Other Public Appearances

Because I now occasionally appear in public for reasons other than to purchase toilet paper and expired generic fig bars from the Korean grocery store near my house, my hair and I decided it was time she made a statement. My apologies in advance. 
To Whom It May Concern, i.e. Everyone With Eyes:  
I want to officially state that I regret my appearance at this function. To clarify, I don’t mean that I wish I wasn’t here today--Una cannot pull off bald, no matter what she may envision during her annual, self-pitying, and might I add horrifyingly inappropriate cancer fantasy. I mean that I regret the state I’m in.  
This morning, I was styled by an extremely chatty gentleman named Arturo, who had as much talent with a blow-dryer and he had valuable insights into the state of Gwyneth Paltrow’s "conscious uncoupling." Based on my appearance now, you might think that Una spent the rest of the day taking joyrides through car washes on the back of a Vespa that made a pit-stop at a magical fountain where she wished on an enchanted penny and accidentally exchanged scalps with 1970s-era Frank Zappa.  
I only wish this were true.  
The fact is, her afternoon involved nothing but a box of mini donuts, three back-to-back episodes of a Food Network show about how taffy is made, and a slow but unstoppable follicular downfall that I unwittingly perpetrated. I’d love nothing more than to explain exactly what happened, but honestly I blacked out for most of it. All I know is that one minute I was lying languidly against Una’s neck, curling ever so slightly so as to avoid the donut shrapnel shooting from her lips, and the next thing I knew I was frizzier than Phil Spector dry humping a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon.  
Flawless (I Woke Up Like This)
If Una could pull off a kicky fedora or a hijab, I wouldn’t even be writing this, but seeing as she is genetically hat-challenged, I felt it was important to come out, in public, and accept the blame for what would under kinder circumstances be one of the most Facebook-tagged days of her life. The truth is that I put the “sham” in shampoo, and am a disgrace to my brethren lower down on this surprisingly hirsute body. 
In closing, I am deeply sorry for my betrayal, and I hope that you can look past me, maybe to the fetching neon EXIT sign behind Una’s head, for the remainder of this truly unforgettable evening.

Yours limply,
Una’s hair


Sunday, August 3, 2014

My Writing Process, Expressed in 37 Gifs

On good days, I'm all,

So then I take a few hours days months off to rest.

But on bad days, I'm like,

And I resort to desperate measures.

One day,

The next day,

One day,

The next day,

One day,

The next day,

Most days end like,


My husband is all,

When I leave the house, strangers look at me like,

And I'm all,

Some days my husband finds me like,

And he's all,

Finishing the first draft feels like,

My inner voice is all,

I get drunk and hit send like,

And I picture my editor all,

Until I do some more reflecting...

And realize she could also be like,

I update Facebook all,

But then my self-deprecating sub-Tweets are like,

And then instead of torturing myself waiting for judgment,

I'm just,

In related news, I have a manuscript due at the end of the week. Pray for me.
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