The Situation Is Out Of Control

I take great pride in my taste in movies. I usually limit my movie choices to those with intelligent scripts, quick (preferably cerebral) humor and impeccable acting. I wouldn’t be caught dead in line for an action flick, and I’m proud to say I’ve never seen any of the American Pie movies. I’m a bit of a movielitist, if you will.

My television taste, on the other hand, has taken an unfortunate nosedive in recent years.

I have always watched entirely too much television. In the past, my television taste was in line with my movie taste. Dramas like Thirty Something, Law & Order and The West Wing held me captive. Comedies like Cheers, Seinfeld, Frazier and Friends could brighten any day. I was a full-blown TV junkie and I was proud of it because of my impeccable taste.

Until Jersey Shore stumbled into my living room and vomited all over my dignity.

I’m not sure how it happened. I’ve never been a fan of MTV. I’ve always found them to be incredibly irresponsible with their programming (ahem…back when I had standards, that is.) I’ve always believed that it was borderline criminal to have practically unfettered access to the hearts and minds of the demographic that is hardest to reach – to have that kind of power over kids at an age where a true difference could be made in the path they choose to take – and squander it on depictions of practically naked women gyrating their thonged asses in the faces of rap stars as they sing songs with lyrics that denigrate women. I mean, seriously? What kind of pigs do they have working in their programming department?!? Who ARE these ‘people’?!?!

No, seriously. I’d like to know so I can thank them for the joy that is Jersey Shore.

I saw the first episode and fell in love. You know that boyfriend you had in high school? The one your parents hated? The one that led you down the wrong path? Jersey Shore is television’s version of him. Their mannerisms, their fights, their clothes, their rituals and their language (not the obscenities, of which there are many, but the words and phrases they use) have me hypnotized.

My husband saw about a minute of one scene of the first episode and walked out of the room disgusted. The following week I convinced him to watch an entire episode and he’s been hooked ever since. We tune in every week and have discussions about how much we hate Sammi (the fun sponge) and Ronnie (who we ALL know is going to cheat on her again…and who could blame him??), who’s funnier – Snooki or Pauly, whether JWoww should be wearing that outfit (no) and how stupid Angelina was for leaving the show (very, but we really don’t miss her because we love the Snookalike, Deena.)

I should be ashamed of myself. I should be watching it with the curtains drawn and the lights turned low. If it comes up in conversation, I should pretend I’m completely unfamiliar with the show.

But, no. No. That’s not what happens.

Mention Jersey Shore in my presence and I will come alive with opinions and predictions like I’m a 14-year old girl (see above.)  So, next time I mock you for having bad taste in music or movies or…well, anything…gently remind me that I spend a deliciously distasteful hour each week with the trashiest people television has had to offer since the Bundy family.  Then pull up a chair and tell me how many more times you think Sammi is going to break up with Ronnie before the season ends.


The Unfortunate Leash Incident

My husband and I have long believed that there was a switch in the hospital when our son was born. While we’re both relatively bright people, Mat’s intellect is off-the-charts. We joke that there’s a biophysicist somewhere scratching his head as he watches his redneck son desperately try to free his index fingers from dollar-store Chinese handcuffs.

Take this morning, for instance. I walked into the living room anxious to watch the season premier of Teen Mom 2 that has been patiently waiting in my DVR and found him there on his laptop.

Me: Hi! What are you doing?
Mat: Listening to Carl Sagan.
Me: Seriously?
Mat: Yeah. I love him. Why do you think he’s my profile picture?
Me: Oh. Is that who that is? I thought it was someone from Sesame Street.
Mat: …

See what I mean?

Even though we don’t connect intellectually, we do have some things in common. I think.

Me: Mat, what do we have in common?
Mat: 99% of our genetics.

Maybe not.

Mat makes me laugh. He’s quick-witted and entertaining, he’s a great storyteller and he could give Meryl Streep a run for her money with his hilarious accents. Perhaps the most (unintentionally) entertaining aspect of Mat’s personality, however, is his lack of coordination. He’s 6’3″ and lanky, so it’s not unusual for him to stumble or trip from time to time. Those moments bring me unspeakable joy.

[This might be a good time to admit to a horrible personality flaw. I have a terrible tendency to laugh uncontrollably at inappropriate times. Like when people fall or bang their head or walk into clean sliding doors (which, of course, would NEVER happen at my house.) I am not proud of this. I have tried to stifle my laughter to no avail. My family accepts that I am this way and loves me in spite of it. For this, I am eternally grateful.]

One of Mat’s favorite ‘horrible mother’ stories is the Unfortunate Leash Incident. It happened a few years ago. I had asked Mat to walk the dogs with me and he graciously agreed. It was winter and there was some snow and (perhaps) a bit of ice on the ground.

Side note: I believe Mat wore dress shoes. No joke.

We took a lovely walk around the neighborhood and had a lively discussion about something that escapes me now (probably not politics, though, because those discussions are less ‘lively’ and more ‘hostile’.) When we got home, Mat slipped on some ice at the end of the driveway and totally wiped out. I was about 15 feet ahead of him and crippled with laughter as he lay on the ground, groaning.

[Before you judge me, a) he wasn’t seriously hurt – just kind of…stunned, and b) it gets worse.]

The dog he was walking was on a retractable leash and she had continued to walk with me. Without thinking, I unhooked the leash from her collar and watched in horror as it retracted all the way down the driveway and directly into Mat’s forehead. That was all she wrote. My cackling could be heard ’round the neighborhood. I was laughing so hard I could barely breathe.

Mat: WTF is WRONG with you?!?!

My maternal instinct? Gone. On the inside I wanted to run to him so I could help him off the ground. On the outside I couldn’t move because I was trying so hard not to pee. Instead, I hobbled into the house so he would at least be spared the sound of my laughter as he staggered up the driveway.

Commence judging.

Dr. Phil My Coffers

Back in my Oprah-loving days, I used to genuinely enjoy the episodes that featured Dr. Phil.  His frank, common-sense approach to relationship issues was a refreshing change from her usual parade of psychologists peddling their latest self-help book.  As much as I enjoyed his appearances, I was skeptical when Oprah waived her magic prosperity wand over his head and granted him his own show.  Some things – like boy bands, creme brulee, lobster ravioli and…Dr. Phil – should be consumed in moderation so as not to cross the very fine boundary between really awesome and really awful.  Not surprisingly, Dr. Phil crushed that boundary almost immediately.
Not since Don King have we seen this level of self-promotion.  His narcissism has no bounds.  Every show is a shameless commercial for one of either his or his painfully vapid family members’ latest books.  Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of his show is his inability to conduct an intervention interview without pulling his plastic wife, Robin, into the conversation so she can give viewers a glimpse into their incredible relationship, sons and/or home life.  Because, after all, the show is not about the guests; it’s about the McGraw family.
The only Dr. Phil episode I’ve successfully watched from beginning to end aired while we were on vacation last September.  The entire show revolved around an extravagant surprise 60th birthday party that Robin organized for him (though he is alleged to have planned the party himself, going as far as to practice looking surprised) – from the venue (The Beverly Hills Hilton) to the ice sculptures to the expensive menu to the music (a private Seal concert) – they spared no expense rubbing their wealth into the noses of what is likely an audience of downtrodden housewives and unemployed factory workers struggling to get by.
As disturbing as the planning scenes were, they definitely saved worst for last.  The show culminated in an awkward behind-the-scenes look at Robin’s sessions with a band and choreographer who helped her reenact…wait for it…wait for it…Shania Twain’s “Man, I Feel Like A Woman” video as a gift to her husband.  Take that in for a minute.  Robin Not-As-Sexy-As-She-Thinks-She-Is McGraw dressed herself up in a teddy, fishnets and stilettos, donned a top hat and danced around in a music video that, though better-suited for viewing in the privacy of the McGraw bedroom, was broadcast both at the party and on national television.  I still have flashbacks.
Throughout the entire episode I was all, “Jack, are you watching this?  Can you believe this??  Oh. My. GOD!  JAAACK!  No, seriously! ARE YOU WATCHING THIS?!?!”  Why would I stay glued to such a shameless display of self-promotion? For the same reason I, and many others, watch the Real Housewives of New Jersey – like a moth to a flame, I couldn’t turn away.  And those images will forever be burned into my brain.

The Social (Media) Butterfly

Oh, how I love Facebook!  It’s the perfect amount of communication with friends and family.  I get to keep up with everyone’s lives, have a few laughs, get into (occasionally heated) political debates and feel the sting of humiliation when I’m tagged in a particularly unflattering picture – without ever having to see anyone in person.  It’s like a dream come true!  If I could just convince my mother to get on Facebook, my life would be complete!

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I like people.  I really do. I love talking to them and asking them a hundred questions about their lives and meeting their families and seeing their homes.  I just don’t like having them in my house.  Not because I don’t enjoy seeing my family and friends – I have the greatest family and the coolest friends on the planet.  I’d probably invite everyone over every weekend…if I wasn’t such a slob.

Yes, it’s true.  My house is a mess.  There’s clutter everywhere.  No flat surface is safe.  Also, it has that ‘not so fresh’ feeling.  You know when there’s a faint smell of funk in the air?  The kind that’s not enough to make you gag, but enough to make you try to find the source, if only to satisfy your curiosity?  Yeah, that’s what my house smells like all the time.  It’s kind of like a mix of dog and stale air and whatever I cooked last night.

This would probably be a good time to thank the makers of Yankee Candle for creating a product that at least temporarily masks the funk when I have no choice but to open the door and allow people in.

So, there’s my dirty little secret.  Literally.   I hope we can still be (Facebook) friends.

The Idiot Girl’s Guide to Costco Shopping

Against my better judgment, I decided to go to Costco.  On a Sunday.  Again.

When will I learn?  It’s like Chinese food. Every time I eat it, I swear it’ll never happen again.  Three weeks later, I’m shoveling General Tso’s Chicken into my face with the urgency of someone who’s discovered the last plate of food after a nuclear holocaust…and someone’s trying to take it from her.  Ugh.

After surviving the trauma of my Costco expedition, I thought it might be helpful to provide an overview of how to achieve what I like to call Costco Nerve-ana.

Step 1:

Spend 30 minutes mentally perusing your refrigerator, pantry, kitchen cabinets, laundry room, closets, bathroom cabinets, basement, garage, yard and shed to determine items you may need lots of.  Make list of items.  Include toilet paper regardless of your current stock.

Step 2:

Leave list on coffee table and drive to Costco. Enter Costco parking lot behind the slowest-moving minivan on the planet.  Crawl through parking lot behind minivan looking for an available space.  Stop near front door to allow 17 shoppers with overflowing carts to inch toward their cars (and freedom).  Glance at 44 empty handicapped parking spaces.  Breathe deeply.  Proceed to parking space approximately one mile from Costco entrance.  Curse the parking gods.  Look frantically around your purse, the passenger seat, the floorboard and the glove compartment (yes, the glove compartment) for your list.  Curse.  Convince yourself that you will remember items on list as you shop.  Proceed to Costco entrance.

Step 3:

Obtain shopping cart and fumble through your wallet for your Costco membership card.  Curse. Swear that you will clean your purse TODAY.  Find card.  Jockey around slow-moving shoppers exiting store.  Breathe deeply.  Display Costco membership card to front door guard.  Wonder briefly why this is necessary, but immediately stop caring as you walk through the warm, stupid-dust infused blast of air.  Gaze lovingly at 60-inch HDTV and question – just for a second – why you had children.

Step 4:

Proceed slowly through main aisle.  Stop behind confused woman who can’t decide which way to go.  Attempt not to become enraged at woman directly to her left who has stopped in the middle of the aisle to catch up with her neighbor who is directly to her left, thus blocking the entire aisle.  Breathe deeply.  Inch past seven aisles of housewares and auto supplies because, really?  Head to bakery section.  Resist temptation to purchase 10-lb bag of Fritos, giant cheesecake, 5lb bag of oatmeal raisin cookies and 24-pack of muffins.  Curse metabolism gods.

Step 5:

Walk toward gourmet cheese and meats aisles.  Stand in line with four other people making small talk with Costco employee while waiting for microwave to finish cooking chorizo.  Taste morsel of chorizo seasoned only with air. Note that it is the most delicious thing you’ve ever tasted.  Place 5lb package of chorizo into your cart.  Inch toward next aisle.  Elbow past unsupervised children to grab last piece of melba toast slathered with Boursin.  Place 4-pack of Boursin in cart.

Step 6:

Walk past healthy produce section and head for paper aisle.  Place case of water on bottom of cart.  Take a second to catch your breath. Swear that you will get in shape. Consider purchasing case of Frappucino, but decide against it (not because you’ve sworn to get in shape, but because it’s too expensive).  Locate toilet paper and paper towels.  Briefly consider purchasing Scott toilet paper, but decide to purchase Charmin instead…because you deserve it.  Place toilet paper and paper towels in cart.  Consider space issue.  Crouch down and wiggle/heave case of water toward the back of the bottom of the cart.  Take a second to catch your breath.  Place toilet paper at the front of the bottom of the cart.  Curse.

Step 7:

Walk toward refrigerated/frozen food aisles.  Wait in line with seven other people for Costco employee to finish cooking frozen spinach-ricotta ravioli seasoned only with Pam.  Taste ravioli.  Decide it’s the most delicious thing you’ve ever tasted.  Place $11.99 bag of frozen spinach-ricotta ravioli in your cart.  Proceed down aisle.  Place 24-pack of Light and Fit yogurt in your cart (for the diet).  Place 40-pack of ice cream sandwiches in cart.

Step 8:

Proceed to cereal aisle.  Place giant box of Special K (with berries!) in your cart (for the diet).  Briefly consider jumbo pack of Pop Tarts.  Decide against it (not because you’ve sworn to get in shape, but because you don’t like the brown sugar flavored ones). Proceed to end of aisle.  Wait while woman in front of you waits for an opportunity to turn onto main aisle.  Breathe deeply.  Do not become enraged when she starts talking to her 2-year old and misses break in traffic.  Curse.  Turn cart around and exit through other end of aisle.

Step 9:

Proceed to pasta aisle.  Stop in front of tomato products.  Try to remember whether you need tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes.  Place both in cart just to be sure.  Briefly consider whole grain pasta, but place 8-pack of thin spaghetti in your cart instead (because it says ‘thin’).  Place 32oz jar of capers in your cart because it’s only $6.99.  Ignore the fact that you use an average of two tablespoons of capers per year.

Step 10:

Proceed to cleaning/laundry products aisle. Place 3-pack of Pledge, gallon of Pine Sol and 120-load jug of Tide in your cart.  Rearrange items in cart to accommodate new items.  Take a moment to catch your breath.  Wait for crowd at end of aisle to move into main aisle that is crowded with check-out line overflow.  Curse.  Turn cart around to exit through other end of aisle.

Step 11:

Proceed to vitamin/pain reliever aisle.  Spend 20 minutes desperately searching for 150-count bottle of Midol. Realize that it’s only available at the pharmacy.  Wonder why.  Curse.  Proceed to pharmacy.  Notice that it’s closed.  Curse.  Proceed toward Tampax aisle.  Note that Tampax products have been replaced by diapers.  Curse.  Stomp through aisles to find Tampax products.  Note that selection of Tampax items has been changed and no longer includes your favorite.  Curse.  Place lesser product into cart because it’s still a good deal.  Wipe sweat from brow.  Breathe deeply.

Step 12:

Proceed to check-out lanes.  Quickly scan lanes for shoppers with fewer items in their carts.  Secure spot in line.  Wait.  Realize that you’re thirsty.  Really thirsty.  Read sign above café.  Consider $1.50 hot dog and drink deal.  Notice line for café. Curse.  Load products onto conveyor belt while woman in front of you writes a check.  Hand cashier your membership card.  Run to other end of register and frantically place scanned items into cart as she scans them so as not to hold up line.  Ask cashier to repeat the total amount spent.  Try to hide flash of horror. Breathe deeply.  Shove receipt into purse and inch away from register thinking of justifications for amount spent.

Step 13:

Proceed toward exit.  Get behind at least one customer with a flatbed cart, one with ADD and one with at least three children in tow.  Curse the café customers who have left their carts in the middle of the aisle while they enjoy their $1.50 hot dog and drink deal.  Breathe deeply.  Proceed past carpet and hardwood flooring samples.  Wonder who buys those products.  Inch toward Costco exit door guard.  Realize (when it’s finally your turn) that you’ve shoved your receipt into your purse.  Fumble through purse desperately trying to find receipt.  Swear that you’re going to clean your purse TODAY.  Hand crumpled receipt to Costco exit door guard.  Wonder if he thinks you believe he’s actually making a note of what’s in your cart.  Roll eyes.  Wait for Costo exit door guard to run marker down your receipt and set you free.  Proceed to car.  Defy laws of physics and squeeze items into trunk.  Get into car.  Take a moment to catch your breath.

Step 14:

Drive home.  Unload items onto kitchen floor in 35 trips.  Put items away.  Realize that you already have at least 17 of 40% of the items you’ve purchased.  Curse.  Sit on sofa to rest a moment.  Notice shopping list on coffee table.  Realize that you forgot to purchase 35% of it.  Curse.

Step 15:

Locate vodka.  Prepare cocktail.  Drink cocktail.  Nap.  Wake up disoriented.  Decide it’s too late to cook dinner.  Order take-out.