mimi smartypants
Seriously, though: what's with the penguins?

dirty metallic taste of heaven

What is teething? Obviously it is the term used when a young child is getting his or her first teeth, which happens at all kinds of ages and takes a FUCKING LONG TIME. But it also is a catch-all term to explain demented behavior, similar to the terms “PMS,” “nervous breakdown,” “senility,” or “Mimi's on the drink again.” If you believe what baby-rearing advice manuals, well-meaning friends, and the Internet have to say, you will learn that an astoundingly large range of symptoms can be attributed to teething. Fevers, strange poops, crankiness, ear-pulling, drooling, and finger-sucking can all mean teething. In Nora's case, we were not sure if “an entire dinnertime of spitting out each mouthful of food and then trying to re-eat it, only to spit it out again, combined with leaning forward in the highchair and yelling wordlessly at ear-splitting decibels, and then sobbing brokenheartedly when your loved ones have no idea what you want” meant teething or a complete psychotic break. The fact that it got better with Motrin gave us a clue, since Motrin has thus far not shown itself to be effective for the treatment of psychosis.

And what is “teething”? It can be a verb, of course: “Nora is teething.” But then there is this awesome gerundization (okay, that is so not a word, but I am not the first person to use it) that happens when you speak of “teething” as an activity. It is fun to think of other collective nouns turning into verbal nouns. Bestiality Bob? Sheeping is his passion. That daycare teacher? Has spent her life childrening.

I was looking through my archives, something I rarely do, and realized that there have been not a few references lately to Nora being tantrummy or difficult or just plain toddler-esque, by which I mean “acting like a very short but very crazy person.” This seems unfair. I am not sure why I have been emphasizing the negative lately—am I defensive about my frequent textual gushes of mommy-love? Is it simply a more amusing anecdote when the child unleashes her Howl Of The Damned than when she is charming and cute? I would like to take this opportunity to remind myself that Nora is charming and cute, and that she often picks up the check when dining alfresco.

LIST, THEN ELABORATION

1. Pus-drinking nuns

2. Christina Aguilera

3. Starbucks latte

4. Payback for Lionel Richie references

5. Home Depot saturation

6. Misinformation makes me cranky

1. I finally got around to reading that Bynum book about women and food in the Middle Ages, which includes a lot of decent scholarly commentary but also a lot of juicy Lives of the Saints-style details that left me pleasantly agape, such as stories about nuns who worked with lepers and drank their pus. Pus-drinking nuns! A phrase that until now produced no Google-search results, but have no fear! Pus-drinking nuns are now here! You can thank me later.

2. On my Vancouver business trip I watched a lot more real-time television than I normally do (like, 100% more), and I developed an unhealthy fascination with Christina Aguilera. I find her very impressive in her dedication to skankiness. It is easy to be skanky, but it takes a certain something to elevate and exaggerate the skank to amazing cartoon fantasy proportions with the outfits and the Dee-Snyder-esque hair extensions and the false eyelashes. Christina Aguilera has this wonderful “I have hygiene issues” look about her. Christina Aguilera looks like the girl who would inspire a very awkward dorm meeting, to discuss how she never showers and how she leaves used tampons on the bathroom floor.

3. You already know that my caffeine allegiance is pledged to the Tea Crew, to the bag instead of the bean, that Earl Grey is my co-pilot, etc etc. But in Seattle I started drinking coffee, because hey Seattle? Something is wrong with your water. Tea should not be salty. Even worse than my defection to coffee was the fact that I got into the habit of getting it at Starbucks. This is a simple case of Seattle influence, of “when in Rome,” right? Wrong. Since my return I have visited this beyond-ubiquitous corporate coffee store three times, which is not even approaching “clichÉ businesswoman who needs her Starbucks daily” status but is nonetheless worrisome. (And expensive! These Starbucks junkies may as well take up smoking!)

Even more worrisome are the strange dialogues I have with myself as I struggle with my newfound Starbuck's-inspired self-consciousness. There is the standard demon-voice whispering yuppie scum. There is the voice of pragmatism saying, look, I desire coffee, and Starbucks coffee tastes damn good, and it's not like there are acres of hip independent cafes down here near my office anyway. There is my ever-present bullshit detector challenging me to at least try to seek out an alternative, which leads to me paying for a vile, undrinkable, coffee-like beverage in a styrofoam cup, sold by a surly Indian woman at a non-corporate bodega. There is the voice of honesty telling me not even to pretend that I liked that coffee better than Starbucks. Then there is my meta-bullshit detector gently reassuring that I can still believe that the personal is (more or less) the political, can still be on the cranky side about cultural homogenization, and can still drink my tall nonfat latte occasionally without the world turning to shit. Like the universe cares what I drink. Like I matter. Snort. Right? (Note: This seems to be where a lot of my inner dialogues end up.) (Note 2: For more faux-Buddhist conclusions, see point 6.)

4. The other night I was moping around, lying on the bed reading about pus-drinking nuns, and LT came in to lie next to me and talk. At one point I remembered a dream I had and wanted to share so I said, “I had a dream…”

“An awesome dream?” LT interrupted. Although he said it in his normal voice, and not with Lionel Richie's slightly transgendered* inflection or intonation, I knew, I just knew, he was making a reference to the horrific and nonsensical “Say You, Say Me.” I was struck dumb. Every time I tried to speak, to either comment on the interjection of Lionel Richie into this formerly pleasant situation or to continue with my dream-narrative, I started laughing/spluttering as I tried to work through my many emotions about LT's Lionel Richie outburst. I have to think of a way to pay him back for that one.

*What a great business name this could be! Lionel Richie's Slightly Transgendered _____. Fried Clams? Discount Mart? Oil Change?

5. Home Depot is the new Starbucks. Chicago seems to be getting one on every corner, and Home Depot is a weird thing to have on every corner. There is a new one being built at Devon and McCormick, a newish one at Addison and Kimball, and of course the very hooker-friendly 24-hour one at Elston and Leavitt. It made for a ludicrous commute—this morning I went to have a pre-work breakfast with my comrade, thus taking an unusual combination of bus routes that led me past all three of these Home Depots, and there is something askew in the urban-planning department when two buses can get you to three Home Depots. Chicago, take heed before you learn the hard lessons of Frogstar B. (Finnish!)

6. This weblog has an entry (scroll down) where it says that I am self-absorbed (ha!) and that one symptom of this, besides my boring self-absorbed content, is that my email is unreachable and that I don't have comments enabled. First off, I think it is hilarious to call a diary “self-absorbed.” Second, I don't know what happened with this guy's particular email, but I do in fact receive email pertaining to this website, and I make a serious, valiant effort to reply to most of it. I vastly prefer email to weblog-style comments, since I think people are more thoughtful when they have to put keyboard to email client instead of spouting off in a little text box. And the possibility for anonymous comments seems to bring out some people's inner asshole, which I can totally do without.

So the post is misinformed, and hey: no big deal. My mailbox has been kind of full recently, so it is entirely possible that some people are getting bouncebacks. The bigger point I wanted to make is about this comment:


I would certainly characterize her material at this point as self-absorbed. I would think that to grow and improve as an artist, one would need to get beyond talking about one's daughter's bowel movements, one's last toke, one's last public reading, and the like. My concern is that I'm not seeing this, and one reason I'm not is that there's no way to provide feedback — either info on writing that's being done that might match her interests, or even stuff she might improve on her own blog.

1. I am not an artist.

2. As I said, I'm not following the logic that my webpage, which (as I have stressed over and over again) is a DIARY, in the true and classic sense, should “get beyond” being “self-absorbed.” In no way do I think of my diary as a cultural product* that is being produced in order for you to comment on, criticize, purchase, not purchase, or provide feedback on how to improve. (Online diary as writing workshop? Gag me.) Of course, you are free to do so, but to state that I am too big for my britches because I don't “accept feedback” (WHICH I DO), is missing a crucial point. I'm having a conversation. With you. With myself, and the day-to-day shifting incarnations thereof. With the future Google-searchers who might develop an interest in pus-drinking nuns. Weblogs and online diaries can be many things to many people, so blah blah free to be you and me and that is all I want to say on this shopworn subject.

*I know this stance is ALL CRAZY COMPLICATED now that parts of my diary are being sold as a book, but I hope I have explained my thoughts on that by now, and if you are still confused we will have to get together for a whole lot of beer so I can re-explain in person. God.

—mimi smartypants is candy all over.