Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.

I don’t know how fast you all read. Well, probably you read at varying speeds, since there are more than one of you. I took a reading speed test online, and it said I read about 450 words per minute. I don’t know how accurate this is. I tried to read carefully because I was reading for comprehension as well as speed. I don’t know if I would have had a comparable level of comprehension at a higher speed, and I don’t know if I would have gotten much farther if I hadn’t had mouse and paging-down issues. It doesn’t matter. I decided it would be more useful to look up how fast the average person reads, which is supposedly 250-300 words per minute. I think my gentle readers are above average, so let’s say you read 350-400 words per minute. Then let’s say that you don’t feel like reading very quickly today because if you only read 300 words per minute, I only have to write 1,200 words for today’s entry.

OR–you can set a timer for four minutes and see how far you get.

I was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1971. I moved around a lot as a child because my dad was in and out of school, in and out of the army (he was drafted, but served stateside), and in and out of jobs. And also, we were in and out of houses. I went to four different elementary schools, but only one middle school and one high school, although though my parents didn’t settle in one place until I was about 16. I stopped trying to make friends around age 11, which is interesting, because that’s when I finally stopped switching schools and having to leave people. I socialized with people at school and at church, but I didn’t really have actual friends–like the kind you would have over to your house–again until I was 16. It didn’t have anything to do with my parents buying a house and me feeling like it was safe to put down roots. (Actually, my new home didn’t feel very permanent, as it was a condo and there were seven of us. I got the feeling my parents were trying to squeeze us out.) It just sort of happened, like most friendships do. I’ve not had a lot of experience with friendships that were deliberately cultivated. In my observation, that sort of thing almost never works out.

As I said, there were seven of us. I was the second of five children–four girls and one baby brother. I was five years younger than my older sister and ten years older than my brother; my two younger sisters were pretty close together in age, so I was closer to them. At least we played together the most. I shared a room with each of my siblings at one point–even my brother, when he was a baby. (Not recommended, by the way, putting the baby in with a ten-year-old–he woke me up a lot, and any hope my parents had of letting him cry it out was dashed when I started crying along with him. Poor Mom.) I have fond memories of sharing a room with bythelbs–we laughed a lot. We used to get in trouble for being too loud at night, when everyone else was trying to sleep. I remember one night, Mom had already been in to warn us once or twice, and I didn’t want to get in trouble again, but bythelbs was making me laugh so hard that I couldn’t think of the words we need to be quiet or Mom will come, so I slapped her across the face. That stopped the laughter right quick. (I bet foo4luv is grateful our stint as roommates was less raucous.)

I got an inter-district transfer to finish high school where I started it. I’m not sure if I would have wanted to, had I known that the school district my new home was in only required two years of PE, whereas my high school required three. Maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t know this, as I did make very good friends my junior and senior years; I stayed in touch with all of them long after high school, but not much in the last ten years. I do still talk to one of them on the phone semi-annually. I used to be a great correspondent. Ironically, this went out the window when we got internet in our home. Sad, but true.

I was a good student, and I graduated somewhere in the top 20 (you know, the part that wasn’t the top 10), but I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life and the thought of going to school four more years depressed me, so I decided to take a year off and see what happened. I got a temporary secretarial job at a hospital in the instrumentation department. I pretty much hated it. That’s when I decided I should probably go to college after all. I wanted to establish some independence, though, so after my temp job ended, I moved several hundred miles away to live on my own in Portland. It was about 20% fun and 80% lonely and scary. I also had difficulty finding work. I finally got a job at one of those scandalous savings and loans, but after a couple months I was let go and couldn’t find anything else, so I decided to go back home until college started that fall.

I enrolled in a small Baptist college in Virginia because they gave me a scholarship. My family was still in Southern California. One of my professors told me I’d gotten it backwards; I should have grown up in this crappy Virginia town and gone to college in California. I don’t regret my decision, though. I had a great college experience. I was the only Mormon in the place, and that’s the only time in my life I’ve ever been special. I majored in English, which was dumb, but at least I did well. Initially I planned to be a teacher, but that plan didn’t survive the first semester. When it was time to graduate, I still didn’t have a plan, although I toyed with entering a library science program. I ended up going home to California and getting another crappy temp job.

Several crappy temp jobs, actually, but at some point I decided I should get my MFA in creative writing, so I applied to graduate schools, and I got into one back east (although I can’t remember which one) and two in California. I was leaning toward one in Fresno, but at this point I had made a lot of good friends through church, and I was reluctant to pick up and leave again, so I decided to attend one that was closer to home. Unfortunately, it was impossible for me to get the classes I needed, so after spending one semester earning 3 credits and facing another semester when I could enroll in 0 credits, I decided it was time to change plans again. When one of my friends asked me to get an apartment with her, I said sure, decided that an MFA was impractical anyway and maybe it was time I became a teacher after all. I got into a certification program at a local college and lasted about two weeks before realizing that there was a reason I’d decided against teaching the first time. That’s when I got a temp job as an editorial assistant at the newspaper.

The temp job turned into a permanent job. My department produced the lifestyle section for three area newspapers; my job was about half administrative and half writing. This was when I finally learned how to talk on the phone, although I never learned to like it. In those days people were very impressed with my organization and efficiency. I was still young and childless then. I met my husband through friends at church, and six months after our first date, we were married. He had just finished his sophomore year of college. A couple months after the wedding, I discovered I was pregnant. In those days doctors were less clear about the effect anti-depressants had on birth control pills. I forgot to mention that I’d been on anti-depressants since my sophomore year of college. So I had Princess Zurg and quit my job, and thus my husband became Sugar Daddy. He worked two jobs while finishing his senior year. I didn’t see much of him until we moved to Oregon and he started graduate school. We lived on his stipend. (It wasn’t pretty.)

We lived in Eugene, Oregon, for nine months, and then SD got a paid internship at the Big Satan, so we moved to Portland for nine months, during which time I had Mister Bubby. The paid internship was a blessing because I didn’t want to say anything, but we were kind of starving. When it was over, we moved back to Eugene and settled in for the long haul, except a year later SD was offered another paid internship in Portland, this time for four months. After that, we came back to Eugene (again) and I had the most miserable pregnancy of my life starring Elvis. This was around the time Princess Zurg was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Shortly after Elvis was born, SD finished his dissertation, got his Ph.D. and was offered a permanent position at the Big Satan, so we moved up to Portland again.

And I’m at 1,500 words and eleven years ago. Suffice it to say, we bought a house six months later, and that’s when we got the internet and I started this blog, so if you want to know the rest of the story, you can consult the archives. Thank you, and goodnight.

If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?

This is another one of those hard questions. It’s like asking me about my regrets. I don’t like to think about my regrets because there’s nothing I can do about my regrets. Regrets make me feel guilty and/or unhappy, and I try to avoid unpleasant emotions whenever possible. Because that is the sort of weakling I am.

I can’t imagine how I should have been raised differently than I was. My parents did all right. They were about the right amount of strict vs. permissive. I think the circumstances under which they were working were fine, too. (I mean, there was indoor plumbing and everything.) I guess I am curious, though, about how I would have turned out if I’d been raised without television.

Actually, our parents tried (briefly) to raise us without television. I mean, my parents had a television, as most folks did by the 1970s, but at some point they were inspired to take the TV away and see what happened. I think maybe our cousins or some friends were TV-free, and my parents thought, “Hey, good idea,” so they decided to give it a whirl. Unfortunately, instead of getting rid of the TV, they just put it out in the garage. And my siblings and I found it and we would plug it in and watch it out there in the cold, huddled up in our blankets. So my parents decided to just bring the TV back inside.

I do have memories of watching TV out in the garage, but I didn’t know until I was much older that this was my parents’ experiment with the TV-free lifestyle. I would mock them for their efforts–if you were serious, why didn’t you just get rid of the TV?–but considering my own experiments with trying to direct my children’s free will, that would be ridiculous. So this is no slight against my parents, and I did turn out non-psychotic, if I do say so myself. But I do wonder occasionally if my desires and aspirations–not to mention my attention span–would have been different had I grown up without TV at all.

It’s not that I watched TV constantly as a kid. I had two siblings very close to my age, so we played together a lot, and unlike a lot of kids, I also enjoyed being by myself. But I did watch quite a bit of television, and the television was almost always on. We didn’t even have cable most of the time I was growing up. We had it for about a year, maybe, when I was 10, but we dropped it when my father lost his job, and we never had it again. We still watched a crapload of TV. I don’t know what would have happened if we’d had the internet in those days. Nothing good, surely.

When my husband and I got married, we lived in an area where we couldn’t get TV reception; you couldn’t watch any TV unless you had cable, and we couldn’t afford cable, so we didn’t watch TV. We had a TV, and a VCR as well, so we could watch movies, which we did most weekends. When Princess Zurg was a toddler, I let her watch Richard Scarry videos and Fantasia. I don’t think we had anything else that was suitable. But by the time Mister Bubby came along, we had a pretty good variety of children’s videos. Back in those days I was very optimistic about limiting the children’s TV time. I started off with a half-hour, but that proved to be too exhausting for me, so I bumped it up to a whole hour. Ninety minutes or two hours, tops, if I was having a hard day. I actually did pretty well most of the time. But it was a daily struggle. Not because the kids demanded TV, but because they demanded me. TV was my respite babysitter.

I would often wonder what caregivers did before there was television, and of course I know what they did–they put the children in play pens and let them cry a lot. I mean, before there was television, housewives had a lot of work to do; they couldn’t be taking all day to bond with their kids and provide them with stimulating activities and also supervise them. I suppose if I had grown up on a farm in another century or something, my character would have been a lot better and I in turn would have done a much better job raising my kids, but it’s too late for that, I guess.

The big problem with television is that it makes people addicted to visual stimulation. So while you’re plunking your kid down in front of the TV because you can’t handle entertaining them all day, you’re just encouraging their habit of being entertained and their need to be entertained. It’s really a horrible, horrible thing, television. If only it weren’t so darn entertaining.

Our family never has had cable, so we’ve never had a constant stream of television programming coming into our house, the way I did when I was growing up. This has given us a little more control over what our kids watch, and it does mean that they watch a little less television than their peers do, but as far as total screen time goes, they still have way too much. In my day (cue Grumpy Old Man voice) we didn’t have video games or the internet, so we just watched TV. Unless there was nothing good on, in which case we did something else. My kids, on the other hand, have way too many choices. If they want to watch a show, they’ve got Netflix and Amazon Instant Video offering hundreds of selections. There’s always something good on, or something good can always be turned on.

But Girlfriend’s the only one who really enjoys watching TV shows. The boys prefer video games and PZ prefers the internet. PZ is on the internet so much, I can hardly use it myself. On the one hand, it’s a problem. On the other hand, it’s one of the few social outlets she has, so who am I to begrudge her? Indeed, the internet is one of the few social outlets I have, so should understand. People often talk about how online life has become a substitute for real life, but what if your real life was non-existent before? I mean, I remember the days before the internet. They were a drag. I don’t blame my mother for watching soap operas. At least that was only two hours a day. (Two and a half hours, I guess, before The Doctors was canceled.)

I’ve gotten a little off track. I meant to talk about how my life would have been different without TV, but I guess I’m afraid to face that alternate universe. Too fraught with regret! That, or years of watching television as a kid and being on the internet as an adult has made it impossible for me to stick to the subject without getting distracted. I guess we’ll never know.

What would you change about the way you were raised?

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

It’s hard for me to choose what I feel most grateful for. Part of me thinks I should be most grateful for my family, or more specifically for my husband, or whatever. But I think what I feel most grateful for is that I’ve had a relatively easy life. I was born in an affluent, western democracy. I was raised by both my parents, who stayed married to each other until my mother died, and I didn’t want for any of life’s basic necessities. I got to go to college. I found someone I wanted to marry who also wanted to marry me, and it was not difficult for me to get pregnant and have kids. We did not have to spend many years worrying about money; our worst-case scenario never included the possibility of being thrown out on the streets. We’ve never gone through a period where both of us were unemployed. I’ve always been able to get the health care I need, and so have my children. I have a much easier life than I probably deserve.

Is it cheating to talk about all of these things as though it is just one thing to be grateful for? It’s just that I can chalk all of these things up to my own dumb luck. I am very grateful for my dumb luck, and I suppose it is the thing I’m most grateful for, because it’s the thing I’m most afraid of losing (or running out of). Because there’s nothing I can do to keep being lucky or prevent myself from being unlucky. I am grateful that I have been mostly very lucky in life–certainly luckier than about 90% or maybe even 95% of the rest of the world–because I really wouldn’t like that to change.

Possibly I shouldn’t be so grateful for my great gobs of luck. Maybe if I’d been less lucky in life, I’d have better character. But I’m not silly enough to wish for opportunities to develop greater character. I think I’ll just take them randomly, as fate wills.

But if I need to be more specific, I suppose I would say I’m most grateful for indoor plumbing. Indoor plumbing is pretty much the best thing ever. It’s hard to come up with something I like better.

Does anyone “get” the reference in this post title? Who remembers the Tom Hanks-Jackie Gleason movie Nothing in Common, let alone the Thompson Twins song that ran over the end credits of said film? I remember really liking the movie, although I also remember it being a critical failure, despite the fact that Tom Hanks is brilliant in it. This was before Tom Hanks had won any Oscars, so to say Tom Hanks was brilliant in anything back then should be considered retroactively prescient and hipster-ish. (“He was all right in Cast Away, but I preferred him in Bosom Buddies.”) The Thompson Twins song is very Thompson Twins-y. Here’s a link for your edification and bemusement.

This is a convoluted introduction into today’s question designed to make you fall in love with me: Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.

Since these questions were written for people getting to know one another, I should answer as though I were talking about what I have in common with you, gentle reader, as opposed to what I have in common with my actual life partner (who’s already fallen in love with me). This poses somewhat of a problem because I can’t be sure who’s reading this blog on any given day. Some of you may be complete strangers visiting my blog for the very first time. (Question for you first-timers: Are you falling in love yet? Wait, don’t answer that.) On the other hand, what do you care what my husband and I have in common?

Here are three things Sugar Daddy and I appeared to have in common when we first met:

1. We were both Mormons.

2. We were friends with some of the same people.

3. We both played the piano.

I suppose we were also around the same height, but I wasn’t particularly aware of that, since all I noticed was that he was shorter than I was, and I was afraid that would make dating him awkward. In truth, he is only about an inch shorter than I am, when we’re both in our bare feet. (Or stockinged feet, if you want to keep it G-rated for the kids.) Of course, back then I saw him mostly at church, where I usually wore heels, which made me a few inches taller than he was. I had much more anxiety about this at the time than seems reasonable, in retrospect. But this story is boring.

Now, of course, my husband and I have lots of things in common. Kids, for example. That’s a pretty big one. We also enjoy spending obscene amounts of money eating out at restaurants. Those two things are pretty much the basis of our relationship. Just kidding. But really, it’s not a bad beginning.

So let’s move on to you, gentle readers. I know that many of you are mothers. We have that in common. Some of you are Mormons. We have that in common. Some of you are writers. We have that in common too. More specifically, most of you have blogs. Yet another thing that we have in common.

Let me tell you some other fun facts about myself and among these things, see if there are three you have in common with me.

* I hate olives.

* I love peanut butter.

* I have excellent blood pressure.

* I have Restless Leg Syndrome.

* Being outside at night kind of gives me the creeps.

* I have a low tolerance, physically, for sunlight, despite the fact that I find sunlight very cheering emotionally.

* I read a lot of books.

* Reality TV repulses me.

* I really don’t care how my home is decorated. It’s possibly because I have no taste.

* I am an alto, but I can also sing tenor sometimes, provided it doesn’t go below the E below middle C.

* I have a B.A. in English.

* I don’t have a Pinterest account.

* I have an irrational fear of Cheerios.

* I also have an irrational fear of buttons. I just barely tolerate them on clothes–one has to be practical, after all–but buttons just loose, by themselves? I have a horror of them. The smaller the button, the more horrifying it is to me. Truth be told, I’m not crazy about the word button. Too triggering.

* I prefer games of chance to games of strategy.

* I have Rick Astley on my iPod. In related news, I am not easily embarrassed.

* I love eating, but hate cooking.

* I didn’t think Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead was really such an amazing book. I thought it was a beautifully written, okay book. I kind of feel like this makes me morally deficient in some way.

* As a teenager, I had a huge crush on Sam Harris, the grand champion male vocalist of the first season of Star Search. I guess every girl has to fall in love with a gay man at least once in her life.

* When I was in the fourth grade, I was the best tetherball player at my elementary school. That was the last time I was ever the best at anything.

* I hate running.

* I love dancing, although my ability in this area is best described as “relatively competent.” But everything is relative, isn’t it?

* I have never been to Mexico.

* Part of me would like to go to Europe someday, but another part of me is afraid of feeling like an ugly American. I felt like a very ugly American when I went to Japan. I can’t say I was super comfortable during my brief stay in Canada, either. I’m pretty sensitive about my American-ness.

* But I actually really like being American, so screw all those other countries. Just kidding. (Maybe.)

* I’m a night person. I would sleep until 1 p.m. if people didn’t wake me up. But I don’t like sleeping until 1 p.m. because it makes me feel guilty. Therefore, when I sleep in, I try to be sure to get out of bed before 10 a.m. Or at least before 10:30. Or 11.

* Wind gives me a headache.

* I am allergic to bee venom, but I don’t remember what kind. I’ve only been stung once. I don’t have any other allergies.

* I have hypothyroidism.

* I’ve never had a broken bone.

* I can’t whistle.

* I can’t drive a stick shift.

* I find recycling a pain in the neck, and sometimes I feel like Mother Earth can just kiss my big toe.

This post is now long enough that I think it’s time to stop. Gentle readers, what do we have in common?

Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?

Answer: Not really. I kind of assume that I will die of cancer, because that seems to me a pretty common cause of dying. It’s pretty common in my family. We don’t have any heart disease or anything like that. It’s pretty much just cancer and old age killing us. Whether I die of old age or cancer, the odds are pretty much equal, I think.

My mother died at 53 (and a half). If I live as long as she did, that means I have about 10 years left. That’s a sobering thought. Of course, I expect to live longer than my mother did. No particular reason, except that it seems like a reasonable expectation. I don’t have a “hunch” about it or anything. When I was a kid, I assumed that I would not live to see 30. I can’t really explain why I thought this, except that it was probably the perfect storm of growing up Mormon during the Cold War. Also, kids don’t know anything about reasonable expectations. I can see, in retrospect, that my belief the world would end before I did was completely unreasonable. Narcissistic, even. (But what do you expect from a kid?) Obviously, the world did not come to an end, Jesus did not show up, and I lived to see 30 and 40. I imagine I will also see 50, and I have no reason to believe I won’t see 60. Beyond 60 is a little ambitious for my sights. Even though my childish expectations turned out to be both false and somewhat ridiculous, it’s really only been within the last few years that I’ve been able to wrap my head around the possibility that I will someday have grandchildren because Armageddon won’t have happened yet. In the deep recesses of my psyche, I’m still not sure I buy it.

Of course I would rather die of old age than of cancer. I’m pretty sure. I mean, I don’t look forward to old age. As I said in my last post (what, half a month ago?), old age tends to bring with it a host of problems. Cancer, on the other hand, plainly sucks. Would I rather die of cancer than spend years slowly dying of old age? What if I spend years dying of cancer? This is why I would not want to make the choice about how I die.

But I think I would not want to die suddenly, without warning. Say, in an accident or something. I would want the chance to say goodbye to people. Unless everyone I knew was already dead, in which case a sudden accident would be fine, I guess. We can’t choose whether or not we get a warning, which is why we should always live each day to its fullest and tell people we love them now and make arrangements for our burials and write our wills and whatnot. I have not written a will yet. I don’t really have anything to bequeath, so it seems kind of pointless at this juncture. My husband and I did decide at one point who we wanted to raise our children, in the event we both died simultaneously in some horrible event, but I can’t remember now who it was. It’s probably best if we just keep living for the time being, for everyone’s sake.

I read an interview with Eddie Murphy once–the interview was with Eddie Murphy, he wasn’t reading along with me–and I guess (meaning “as best as I can recall”) he was asked how he wanted to die, and he said he’d like to die in his sleep when he was old, and then he said, “But nobody says, ‘I want to go young–dancing!'” I don’t know why that’s stuck with me all these years (because this had to have been 25 years ago, at least), except that it struck me funny. But if I keep with the clogging, maybe I’ll still be performing in my old age, and I can go old, dancing. That would be a good way to go. Except it would be unexpected. I mean, not for me–when I’m old, I’ll consider myself warned. But the audience might find it traumatic. Unless it were a gig at a retirement home, in which case it would just be Thursday. Ha ha, that was an insensitive joke. But I still think it beats cancer.

If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?

I think this question is very easy. If I’m going to live to the age of 90, I definitely want the body of a 30-year-old. This is assuming, of course, that it’s a healthy 30-year-old. I don’t want to live to the age of 90 with the body of an arthritic 30-year-old, or a 30-year-old with multiple sclerosis. But a 30-year-old with no chronic health problems? Sign me up, I’m there.

Of course, having the body of a 30-year-old woman would mean I’d be menstruating until the age of 90, but I could always have my uterus removed surgically, so there you go, problem solved.

It’s true that an aging mind is no picnic. You forget stuff, and…you forget stuff, mostly. I just read a book about a woman with Alzheimer’s who’s suspected of murder. (Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante. It’s good.) I think Alzheimer’s must be one of the worst things on earth, and of course you can get that long before you turn 90. But does Alzheimer’s count as a normal mind-aging thing? I think not. Even so, regular old getting-old-and-losing-your-memory is bad enough. I’ve known a few 90-year-olds in my day. They had varying degrees of mental functioning. My 90-year-old mind could end up like my grandmother, who hardly remembers who’s who from one minute to the next, or I could end up like my uncle, who’s still sharp as a tack. It’s a crapshoot, of course.

But if I had a 30-year-old body, I could still walk up and down stairs. I could still tap dance. I’d probably be able to tap dance better, since I’d have 30-year-old knees. I could still ride a bike. (Not that I ride a bike now, but I could, if I wanted to.) I’d still be able to see. I wouldn’t even have to wear glasses. I’d be safe to drive myself places. I’d still be able to hear. I could listen to music. I wouldn’t have to ask people to repeat themselves three or four times before I understood what they were saying. That means people wouldn’t shout at me and treat me like I was an idiot just because I couldn’t hear them (like they do now). I wouldn’t have to dye my hair. (I might, just to keep things interesting, but I wouldn’t have to, if I got sick of it, which I kind of am these days.) I wouldn’t have wrinkles (except for that line between my eyebrows that I’ve probably had since I was five). My breasts would stay perky indefinitely.

I think I would enjoy all of those things, even if I couldn’t remember who my kids were.

One does tend to get wiser as one gets older. I know I’m gambling with my 90-year-old mind, but I think it’s worth it, on the off chance that I get 90-year-old wisdom to go with my 30-year-old body. I mean, what’s my alternative? Thirty-year-old wisdom with a 90-year-old body? What fun is that?

Of course, I could always have an accident and lose the use of one or more of my 30-year-old limbs. Maybe then I would wish I’d opted for the 30-year-old mind. But there are risks any way you slice it. That’s why I’d just as soon live to be 90 with my 90-year-old body and 90-year-old mind to match, considering that this deal, knowing my luck, would probably turn out to be a Monkey’s Paw thing. I opt for the 30-year-old body and end up a paraplegic with dementia anyway. That’s what I get for trying to cheat Father Time. No, I’ll just stick with my own stupid destiny, whatever it is.

I only answered this question because I had nothing to else to write about.

When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?

The answer to both of these questions is “probably this morning.” I sing to myself pretty much daily, and when my kids ask me to stop, I sing to them instead. That’s pretty much routine in the Madhousehold.

What’s funny about this is that I didn’t always like to sing. I don’t know if I can honestly say that I like to sing now. I do sing, but I think it’s due mostly to me not being able to help myself. It just happens. So what’s funny–in the sense of curious–is that I used to not have this particular compulsion. Quite the opposite, in fact. When I was a kid, I hated to sing, and nothing could get me to do it. This was one of the reasons church was so hard for me–too much singing. (Now, of course, I think there is not nearly enough singing at church. I would much rather sing for three hours that spend those same three hours listening to other people talk. But that’s another story.) I don’t know what it’s like elsewhere, but in my church, when I was growing up, a kid couldn’t just refuse to sing and expect other people to mind their own business. Grown-ups were always telling me I had to sing and hassling me for not singing. Eventually I just started mouthing the words to get them off my case. (It worked.)

You might wonder what repulsed me so much about singing. I wonder too because I really don’t know. I have a couple of theories, though.

Theory #1: I was a quiet child, just as I am a quiet adult. I don’t and didn’t very much like talking, particularly not when I think people might be listening. Of course, not liking attention, it is curious that I preferred to draw attention to myself by not singing rather than just suck it up and sing along with the group. Of course, I fixed that attention-getting thing by pretending to sing, which shows that I really just hated singing that much. But why? This theory does not explain very much at all.

Theory #2: I didn’t like being told what to do and when to do it. I suppose this might make sense, considering how few things one has control over as a child. If I could get away without singing when I didn’t want to, it’s really no wonder why I refused to do it when asked. But I hated singing all the time, not just when I was supposed to be singing, so that theory isn’t helpful either.

But then there’s always Theory #3: Who knows why I do anything? Maybe I just like to be difficult.

So my youthful hatred of singing remains a mystery, but that shouldn’t keep us from moving on. You might wonder what it was that changed my mind–or heart–about singing. I certainly don’t have a problem with singing anymore. I’d pretty much stopped having a problem with singing by the time I was an adult. Well, certainly by the time I was 25. What changed? I don’t know. I don’t remember when I started singing at church, but it was well before I had children, which was when I started singing a lot.

I guess there’s just something about babies that makes you want to sing to them. It might be the fact that they cry and won’t go to sleep and you’d do just about anything, up to and including selling your own mother, to get them to shut up and leave you alone. Since my mother had already passed on by the time I had my first child, that left me with singing. I sang all of my children to sleep as babies and well into their toddlerhoods. Princess Zurg, in fact, insisted on being sung to every night until she was maybe four or five. There was a whole catalog of songs we had to go through before she would go to sleep, and she would throw a fit if we tried to leave any of them out. We learned to sing them very quickly. She was okay with that. It was the routine she cared about.

Ironically, PZ is the kid who has the lowest tolerance for my singing now. I guess once she leaves a routine behind, she really leaves it behind.

Not that any of the other kids care for my singing either. Actually, one of Mister Bubby’s first complete sentences was “Don’t sing.” Since he mustered up the energy to say this while he was hooked up to an IV in the ER while suffering from stomach flu, I tend to think he felt strongly about it. You might wonder what I was doing, singing in an ER. Well, it’s not like there was anything else to do. (In other words, I don’t know the answer to that question either.)

So my two oldest children hate my singing. That’s fine, actually. Just another weapon in my arsenal. Heh heh heh.

My two younger children are less virulent in their opposition. That is, I’ve never heard either of them say, “No offense, Mom, but you’re not the best singer.” (It’s true. I’m not. On the other hand, I’m not the worst singer either. I think, gun to the head, even the kids would admit it.) Elvis objects to my singing only when he’s trying to concentrate on something else. Girlfriend only objects to my singing when it’s a song she doesn’t like, i.e. one that’s not about dogs. But no one’s making requests, if that’s what you’re wondering.

My mother liked to sing, but I don’t remember her singing a lot around the house. She was more of a whistler. I can’t whistle. Maybe if I could whistle, I’d sing less. Yes, I think I would.

My father, on the other hand, sang a lot. I have many fond memories of all the songs he used to sing. Among his favorites were Arlo Guthrie’s “Motorcycle Song” and “The Story of Alice” by the Chad Mitchell Trio. He also sang a musical version of the A.A. Milne poem “Disobedience,” but I can’t find the version he sang on the YouTube. (I can find other versions, but none of them is right.) But my father was known to alter songs to suit his own purposes. It was years before I realized that it was “Springtime in the Rockies” and not “Bath time in the Rockies.” Boy, did I feel silly.

When I stop to think about it, it’s really curious that I sing as much as I do. It’s not like I’m a Disney princess or anything. I’m actually kind of gruff and aloof. Well, I know that I come off that way to other people. I know that because other people have told me so. True, none of these people has ever caught me singing “When Doves Cry” in the canned vegetable aisle of the grocery store. Maybe if they did, they’d rethink their impressions of me.

“So she isn’t rude and unfriendly. She’s just a complete nutter.”

Well, time for me to go pick up my daughter from school. I will probably be singing in the car.

What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?

What a thing to ask. How many shots does one get at a perfect day? How can I possibly get it right?

I think the perfect day, for me, would have to be a day where no one expected me to do anything. I wouldn’t have to do any housework or run any errands or answer any phones or cook any food or drive anywhere. I would probably just spend the day in one place, unless I felt like taking a walk. Which I might, if weather permitted. So I would want the weather to be just right. Sunny, but no more than 74 degrees Farenheit, I think. Maybe 76, but that might be pushing it. I think 74 would be just about perfect.

I would definitely take a nice, long walk in 74 degree weather.

On a “perfect” day I would get a lot of writing done and most of it would not suck.

But I would also do some reading because I like to read. I read plenty on imperfect days, of course, but I am not happy on days that I read not at all. But on a perfect day I would only read a really good book. Maybe I would re-read one that I already knew I liked.

I would not need a nap.

I would eat out for all my meals so I wouldn’t have to prepare any food or clean up afterward.

Do other people figure into my perfect day at all? I have a handful of friends–well, maybe not a handful, but three specific friends I can think of whom I haven’t seen or talked to for a long time, and I would like to be able to spend a few hours talking with any one of them. But not all day because if it were all day, I’d probably get performance anxiety and worry that I was never going to be able to entertain them for that long.

At the end of my perfect day I would have my family back and I could tuck all of my kids in without having to watch them brush their teeth first or comb anyone’s hair or stay up while they finish the homework they forgot to do, and I could hug my son goodnight and then let go instead of wrestling with him for ten minutes before he agrees to release me. Then I’d spend time with my husband and fall asleep and never wake up again because every day after this one would suck in comparison.

Just kidding!

I forgot to mention that also on my perfect day, all the problems in the world would be solved and I wouldn’t have to feel guilty for having a perfect day while millions of other people were suffering. Did you know my narcissism ran that deep? Well, it does.

Today’s question:

Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?

I pretty much always do this, except in rare circumstances when I’m going to call my sister or a very good friend–you know, someone who won’t judge me for sounding like a moron and forgetting what I called to say. Certainly for business calls I rehearse, but since most telephone calls I make to social acquaintances are kind of business-like–in that they are not made for the primary purpose of socializing–I end up rehearsing for most of those too. Not out loud or anything. I’d be too embarrassed to rehearse out loud, even if I were all alone. Which I usually am. I don’t like to make phone calls in front of other people. For one thing, other people are distracting. For another thing, if I end up making an idiot of myself on the phone, I don’t want an audience. But back to the point, which is that I only rehearse in my mind. I may rehearse in my mind about a dozen times, depending on what sort of phone call it is. It usually works pretty well, i.e. most of the phone calls I make are not entirely disasters.

The trouble is when I can’t rehearse for a phone call because I really don’t know what I can say that won’t make me sound like an idiot. This is usually the case with business calls, especially those that have to do with health insurance. Health insurance problems are usually very complex, and it’s hard to know where to start and what one can safely leave out. This is why I hate automated customer service systems that use voice recognition. “Briefly tell what you are calling about.” But I can’t tell it briefly! It’s a very complicated problem and I don’t even know what general category it falls under! Can’t you give me a list of options and make me push buttons until I can talk to a real person, who can then transfer me to another real person, who can then transfer me to another real person and put me on hold and talk to her supervisor? I’d much rather do that.

You see, I don’t even like to sound like an idiot in front of a computer.

But it’s worse when I sound like an idiot in front of a real person who doesn’t have the first idea what I’m talking about. They just sit there waiting for me to make sense. That can be excruciating. But I digress.

It’s funny to think that I once worked at a job that required me to make phone calls all the time. You can’t really be a newspaper reporter and not make phone calls. Obviously, I used to rehearse then too. I had to psych myself up for each call. I got better at it as time went on, which led to me being more comfortable, but not to not needing to rehearse anymore. I have always had to rehearse, and I expect I always will. I did get extremely good at leaving messages on answering machines. I know some people hate answering machines–or voice mail, I guess it is now. Does anyone use an answering machine anymore? Anyway. Some people hate talking to voice mail, but I used to actually prefer voice mail. I could say everything I’d rehearsed without being interrupted, and I wouldn’t have to deal with any unexpected responses I hadn’t rehearsed for. The ideal thing was to have an entire conversation conducted entirely through voice mail. That didn’t happen often, just in case you’re wondering.

Tangentially-related aside: There are rules for voice mail, and I still get annoyed when people don’t follow them. I don’t necessarily mind long, detailed messages on my voice mail. What I do mind is when people give long, detailed messages on the voice mail without following this very important rule: Always say your name and phone number (clearly!) at the beginning and repeat them at the end. This way, if the person listening to the voice mail doesn’t catch the name and/or number the first time (or wants to double-check that they got it right), they don’t have to listen to the whole stupid five-minute-long voice mail again just to get your stupid name and/or number. Always repeat your name and number! (Unless it’s your mom or something, and she already knows your name and number.) Rehearse it if necessary.

So I’ve explained how I usually (not just “ever”) rehearse before making phone calls. Have I not made it clear why? Have I not made it clear that it’s because I have crippling social anxiety that is for some reason aggravated by the telephone? I don’t think I have the same level of anxiety if I have to talk to someone in person. Probably because I figure that in person I can come off as a slightly odd but not insane individual, whereas over the phone there are no visual cues the other person can use to determine that I am not drunk.

I don’t have a lot of purely social telephone calls anymore. Probably because of the internet and e-mail and the Facebook and whatnot. I used to be capable of very long telephone conversations with close friends or my sisters or my mother (when she was alive–I haven’t talked to her since that stopped being the case). I can’t have long telephone conversations with my father, who I think expects me to do all of the talking, or my brother, who is just like my dad. But I don’t have extended phone conversations with my husband either, even when he’s out of town. Sometimes he goes out of town for a few days and we don’t talk at all until he comes back. Some people think that’s weird. But my limited sample has led me to believe that most men just don’t see the point of talking on the phone beyond whatever business must necessarily be conducted upon it. I don’t care if he doesn’t call me while he’s gone, as long as he lets me know when to expect him for dinner.

Do you ever rehearse what you’re going to say on the phone?

I have readers in Canada and England, or at least I used to, so I think that qualifies me as international. However, am I truly the last? No, of course not. I was just engaging in some wordplay, Liz Lemon, because of today’s question:

Would you like to be famous? In what way?

Answer: Not really. I mean, I wouldn’t mind being a little bit famous, I guess, in the sense that some people who have never met me would know who I was–in which case, I guess, the internet has already made me and many others that famous–but I wouldn’t like to be famous in the sense that people would recognize me everywhere I went and take pictures of me and love me and hate me and make memes of me. That would be uncomfortable. I would rather be a famous recluse, except that then people would always be trying to draw me out of my shell, and that would be tedious as well. I think it is better if I just remain un-famous.

I don’t really have much interest in famous people. I used to, a long time ago. When I was a teenager and maybe a very young adult, I was somewhat fascinated by celebrity and thought it would be cool to meet a celebrity and that proximity to a celebrity made one cooler, although I doubt I would have admitted that I felt that way. I also probably wanted to be famous myself back then. But only loved, gentle readers, never hated! But that’s the problem with celebrity and fame–one cannot control it. Once you are famous, you pretty much don’t belong to yourself anymore. That’s kind of frightening, actually. So even though I think most celebrities are probably douchebags, and I understand that they signed up for being famous and they’re richly compensated for their troubles, blah blah, I do feel some pity for their peculiar sufferings. But not in any particularly heart-felt way because I haven’t been personally interested in any celebrities in a really long time.

Yesterday’s question about who I would want to have as a dinner guest reminded me that I don’t really care to meet any famous people. For one thing, what if they turned out to be big disappointments? What if the famous person I admired turned out to be a jerk in real life? I wouldn’t care to be disillusioned that way. Also, I don’t care about any famous people. There are entertainers that I enjoy being entertained by, but I don’t have any desire to meet them. What would I say to them? As I pointed out in yesterday’s post, given my social deficits, such a meeting could only be awkward for all concerned. Longtime readers with super-good memories might recall that a few years ago my husband purchased VIP tickets for Rhapsody of Fire, so we got to hang out with them before and after the show. That was my big brush with celebrity, and yes, it was awkward (mostly for me). Fortunately, my husband is good at making small talk with complete strangers. He is my social lubricant, in the same sense that alcohol is other people’s social lubricant. (That sounds vaguely filthy, but I’m sure he appreciates it, so I’ll let it stand.) I don’t ever drink alcohol, so I don’t know what would happen if I did, if it would help me socially or not. I suspect not, because the social awkwardness runs deep in my bones. Do things run deep in one’s bones? Am I mixing metaphors? Either way, I’m not keen to try the experiment. I’ll stick to hiding behind more socially-adept people’s skirts. (That is a metaphor. You are not to infer that my husband wears skirts. Not that he couldn’t pull that look if he wanted to. Well, probably he couldn’t. But he doesn’t want to. It doesn’t matter. I just don’t want you to get a mental picture you can’t unsee. Maybe I should be more careful with my metaphors in the future.)

Other brushes with celebrity I have had:

* A few years ago I went to a play with my dad at a theater in the Los Angeles area that I can’t remember the name of, and Garry Marshall was sitting a few seats down from us. I recognized his voice. I may not have recognized him by looks if he hadn’t been talking. I don’t really care that I was that close to Garry Marshall, and I don’t reckon anyone else does either.

* A few months ago my husband and I were eating dinner at Beast and we looked out the window and saw Carrie Brownstein walking down the street. At least we’re pretty sure it was Carrie Brownstein. If it wasn’t Carrie Brownstein, it was someone trying to look exactly like her and succeeding. It’s not important that I saw Carrie Brownstein walking down the street, although I think she is very funny and I enjoy watching her show.

That’s pretty much it.

I can’t think of any famous people I would like to meet. I can’t even think of any famous dead people I would want to meet. I suppose I prefer to keep my celebrities larger than life. They would not fit in my life.

So I turn the comments section over to you, gentle readers. Would you like to be famous?


March 2015
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