My Curated Life. (curation courtesy of Amelia Bedelia)

In the unending assault on our regular-people lives, I’ve noticed that we are now expected to find the time, money, energy, creativity, and ideal lighting to lead not just a happy and full life, or even an organized life, but a curated life.

The goal of a curated life is beautiful simplicity – the reward of having been carefully intentional about who, and what we’ve allowed into the space we occupy. Everything is just so in the curated life; it’s clean and tidy, pastel and breezy, and somehow always in soft focus, with just the right amount of whimsy. Raspberry lemonade is served there.

Sure I’ve been sucked in to wanting this too. I would love to wrap myself in a cashmere blanket and drink Oprah’s new chai tea latte, and read the latest book club selection while bathed in the most flattering lighting that would make me look young, yet wise… pretty, yet approachable… smart and worldly, and the teensiest bit carefree. That moment’s the goal, man, it is. But alas, it’s just a moment. Eventually I would have to bring in the mail and clean the bathroom.

I flip through my photos, and they don’t look like the gauzy, aspirational snapshots that aim to demonstrate what a curated life looks like.  My photos make my life look like it has been curated by Amelia Bedelia.

No matter what filter I put on the pictures of my life, there are extra people in the background, or stacks of books and papers and wayward shoes, and the vacuum propped up in the corner. My kids’ clothes are wrinkled, or my neighborhood is stubbornly showing its dreary fog. My hair is messy, and my billowy top combined with the unflattering lighting, and weird slouchy way I’m standing makes me look five months pregnant. We’re not just talking basic photography mistakes – these images have captured the moments of what my life is really like. The people I love, in the place that I am, surrounded by everything else.

My husband John took this photo of our family walking down the street on a regular evening. Yes, my youngest is dressed like Indiana Jones, and as we noticed later,  “mob life” is written permanently in the concrete:

 


mob life

Here’s the photo I took of John and I at a beautifully scenic beach, before I thought to turn the camera around and include the ocean and Golden Gate Bridge:

beach

If you have somehow managed to curate out your long and boring commute to work, the cereal boxes from the top of the fridge, the stomach flu, and the pets who shed, congrats. Maybe you’ve placated your child with a charming handmade rag doll instead of 1000 pink plastic unsightly toys. Maybe you’ve somehow stopped accumulating mail, church bulletins, school newsletters, and annoying neighbors and family members. But probably not.

We all want the perfect moments, but let’s try to remember they are perfect, in part, because they are fleeting. Those Instagrammable vignettes are strung together by gooey, messy life stuff; stuff that is simply uncurateable, whether you are rich or not, glamorous or not, parent or not, lifestyle brand guru, or not.

Some days are loud and messy and packed with people, graffiti, and circumstances and surroundings we can’t style, or control. Those are the days that give us wisdom, and experience, and fun stories for cocktail parties. (Trust me, nobody wants to hear about that time you read a book and drank tea while looking amazing.) You will be thankful for the messy days, because when you’ve put them all together, they will have accounted for almost the entirety of your life, and realize we’re all closer to achieving the mob life, than the curated life.

 

In case you’ve forgotten, or haven’t stumbled on this gem from the 70’s, Amelia Bedelia is the hapless maid and star of the Peggy Parish children’s books of the same name. Amelia makes sponge cake from sponges, and serves corn kernals to Mr. and Mrs. Rogers as their “chicken dinner.” She is both hilarious and frustrating, but even after 40 years, her butterscotch cake still looks delicious.

Find more of my mob life phots on Instagram, @colleenweems, and on twitter @fulcrumchron

How to Amp Up Your Decision Making: The Regular Person Draft & Upfronts

A common question you might be hearing from sports enthusiast friends or cohabitants over the last couple of days might be  “who’s on the clock?” Or, maybe you’re wondering about the outcome of that petition you and seven like-minded enthusiasts signed to save that critically acclaimed and brilliant but under-appreciated TV show. (Not nerds… enthusiasts!)

Amidst the flurry of the overlapping NFL Draft, and the television Network Upfonts that have kept me on the edge of my narrow seat, there are currently anonymous people making very public decisions about things that I perceive to have a bigger impact on me than they actually do. You know what? We all make decisions every single day that impact more parts of our lives, than whether or not The Goldbergs got renewed (which, thank God, it did. That show is genius.). Perhaps, we just need to look at how our typical days unfold with a new dynamic perspective – one that adds the excitement and suspense our days so richly deserve.

I present the “Regular Person Activity Draft & Upfronts” based on the big decisions I, a regular person, had to make on a regular day.

A coffee stop after dropping the boys at school?

Cancelled. I did not adequately prepare, and could not be seen in a San Francisco coffee shop in my morning commute pajamas clothes.

 What’s for lunch? Soup? Or a hodgepodge of weird things from the fridge?

I think we all saw where this was going. With the second pick on this typical 2014 day, Colleen selects…. The Hodgepodge of mis-matched finger foods. I was able to create my own KFC Double Down with just sliced salami and swiss cheese. I found half an iced tea I didn’t finish last night. There was exactly one scoop left of peanut butter in the jar anyway, and that banana had about 45 more minutes left before it would have to go into the freezer bag of “smoothie bananas.” (A Pinterest idea I actually use.)

Take a walk or do the laundry?

Coming as a complete shock to everybody, Colleen selects….. Take a Walk. I have new Nikes, and if that’s what it takes me to get to want to take a walk, so be it. Also, my walk takes me here:

walk

 

Let the teenager take the bus with his friends after school? Or pick him up?

Again, in a surprise turn, Colleen…….. provides the .75 fare and the kid takes the bus. I would have had him live Tweet his ride home for me if I didn’t want his phone stowed for the duration of the ride – as the recorded bus guy wisely reminds riders, “keep your eyes up and your phone down.”

Cleaning the closets?

Cancelled. This process is more effective when the kids are around so they can tell me which pants they outgrew overnight.

Sorting recipes?

Cleaning the desk?

Taking care of overdue calls and emails?

Cancelled! Axed from the lineup, all of them!

Sitting in front of the computer and glumly staring at pages and pages of false starts of writing projects?

Renewed.  It had been a while since I’ve done this soul crushing activity, and I was just starting to feel too good about myself anyway.

Nail color: Berry Naughty? A list? Right Said Red?

Colleen selects…… Berry Naughty. Despite the dumb name that was almost too embarrassing to type here, the beautiful color is just dark enough. Too early to tell if I’ll make a strategic trade for Right Said Red.

reds

 

Fifteen minutes to kill: Magazine or Book?

Colleen selects….. Magazine – New York Magazine, the December 2, 2013 Gift List issue, to be exact. This is the year I WILL get caught up on the magazine basket. Two days ago I finished the 2013 Time 100 issue, shortly after the 2014 Time 100 issue arrived, so I’m well on my way.

The day’s terrible distraction – Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter?

All outstanding choices, but Colleen selects……… Twitter, to fill the need for real-time updates about the fate “on the bubble” comedies and dramas that have spots reserved on the DVR.

T-shirt or sweater

Colleen selects……..with sad face and a sigh…….sweater, almost always sweater.

(For those of you who have better stuff to do, which is just about anything, the Upfronts are when the networks present their fall lineups to advertisers, often canceling beloved shows, infuriating rabid fans everywhere. And just in case you have all the stuff in the world to do and you didn’t know, the NFL draft is when football teams select new players, and then you furiously Google the kids your team picks. Welcome to San Francisco Jimmie Ward!)

Find me on Instagram @ColleenWeems, and on Twitter @FulcrumChron

Words to Live By: Quoting our Way to Confusion

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We all need a little inspiration sometimes. We crave encouragement and reminders that everything’s going to be ok.

Facebook and Pinterest are ripe with quotes and sayings scrawled out in all the coolest fonts, like old timey typewriter, and ransom note squares, and curly cursive. The backgrounds are stark white, or beautiful sunsets; maybe you’ll find the silhouettes of a couple enjoying a Ferris Wheel, best friends talking on a pier, or a deep-thinking cat sitting in front of a rainy window.

Thanks to Pinterest, I’ve been able to hoard these gems, or “Words to Live By,” as I’ve unoriginally named my hoarding place. Other people call their collections “Quotes” or “Inspiration.” Maybe we save them because we need a kick in the pants, a giggle, and a gentle or not-so gentle reminder right now, or because we know we’ll need that stuff later. I share them because I can’t possibly be the only one who needs to hear this stuff, and because they balance out the 45 chicken recipes and cat jokes I’ve also just shared.

As thoughtful adults we contemplate and fret about all sorts of things: faith, love, friendship, exercise, prayer, joy, fear, determination, worry, hope, style, jerks, humor, loneliness, failure, success, perfection, perfectionism, action, inaction, creativity, dreams, forgiveness, competition, adventure, and kindness. And a lot of interesting people have said a lot of interesting things on every one of these subjects.

What I realized in perusing the collection of quotes I’ve amassed is that if we were to sit in a room with Walt Disney, Abraham Lincoln, Solomon, Dr. Seuss, Elizabeth Taylor, Paolo Coelho (whose work I’m now afraid to read because it might just overwhelm me with my how inadequate I’ve been in making the most of every day), Rumi, Marilyn Monroe, Unknown, Anonymous, Henry Ford, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Coco Chanel, we’d walk out knowing this, more or less:

We’re going to be ok, and we’re better than we think we are. We’re not imagining things, there really are legions of people out there trying to hold us down and tell us that we’re not good enough; but with a little gumption, we will prevail. Karma’s coming for our jealous, and surely wounded naysayers.

It’s paramount to care what other people feel, as long as we don’t care what they think, but really nobody’s thinking about us that much anyway.  

Don’t ever be afraid to fail, or speak your mind, as long as it’s kind, so be sensitive, but not too sensitive. Don’t be so hard on yourself, even though your mild laziness, self-doubt, and fear of the unknown are keeping you from realizing your dreams, which makes you your own worst enemy. Rectify that immediately because when it comes down to it, we’re in competition with ourselves, and with everybody, while at the same time nobody, because we all have our own path and should blaze our own trail, and maintain a healthy independence while keeping in mind that we are part of the delicate interdependence that is humanity.

Stuff is not important, though it’s possible for us to be best friends with jewelry. Outward appearances mean nothing, and style counts for a lot.

Time is short, so hurry up and slow down.

Don’t give up, but surrendering is ok, because that’s letting go. Take a nap, go for a run, smell the roses, climb a mountain, swim in the sea, clean the office, but leave it messy because that’s good for creativity. Pet a dog, encourage a child, have faith, and tell everybody you love them while you have the chance. Love freely, but protect your heart, and for goodness’ sake, get out of your comfort zone, because that’s where the magic happens.

Now go out there and show the world who’s boss…who’s a boss that is willing to be a cooperative, supportive, and equally important member of the team!

 

 

You can find me on Instragram@ colleenweems, and on Twitter, @FulcrumChron.

And just for fun, here’s a good one: “Everything’s going to be okay in the end; if it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” — Paulo Coelho

sounds even better now

When you become a person of a certain age – no longer a freewheeling 37, but not yet a contemplative 39 – you might find yourself in a curious spot. You are continuously being propelled deeper into adulthood by health, family, bills, career, and a waning metabolism. At the same time, you are still tethered to your youth… maybe by your family, your hometown, memories of your old metabolism, and quite possibly by something very simple – your music.

And when you are of that certain age, the bands that shaped your adolescence are also of a certain age – older than they used to be – but still performing. You buy tickets to their show, maybe at a county fair, or a casino, or a vineyard instead of the huge arena where you couldn’t find your mom’s car in the parking lot, and you felt lost and panicky, wishing for the invention of some kind of portable telephone you could carry with you.

As an adult, you arrive at the vineyard, prepared to defend yourself from the mobs of pushing teens you remember having to navigate as a scrawny concert-going kid. Then you see those unruly teens have grown up too, and they’ve spread their picnic blanket next to yours, and they are kicked back on the lawn ready to reminisce with a glass of chardonnay and their spouse of 10 years.  You are chagrined to see that your-now-middle-age-teen-idol still insists on not wearing a shirt to perform, and that you will not get to say to your fellow revelers, “Stop stepping on me with your giant Doc Martens!” Or “You kicked me in the face with your giant Doc Marten when you were crowd surfing. Not cool man…not cool.”

My suburban high school sat geographically equidistant from the surprisingly urbane streets of Sacramento and the rolling countryside of the Sierra foothills. We had rap kids and country kids. We had wannabe Rastafarians and punks and metal heads and teenyboppers and kids who undulated between all of the above, simply because they could. (Kids in my high school also loved Jimmy Buffett, RUSH, the Grateful Dead, Journey, Van Halen and The Steve Miller Band – and I don’t know what to say to them, because those bands were already old way back then.)

Like most high schools since the advent of music, and I guess since the advent of high schools, social divisions could easily be drawn by musical tastes, that is until Seattle based grunge exploded, which happened my senior year. It didn’t matter where your musical allegiance had been – you still turned up “Smells Like Teen Spirit” when it came on the radio.

Not to worry, I’m not stuck in my high school years; I’ve picked up new bands along the way. I don’t wear my once favorite Edie Brickell, OMD, or EMF shirts to the gym. (Even if I went the to gym, I wouldn’t wear them).

I do feel like I’ve been lucky enough to have some of my favorite bands stick around to provide new soundtracks for my adulthood. Depeche Mode and Duran Duran are still together, and touring. The Cure, as far as I can tell, is still together. REM broke up the same day Facebook launched a redesign, sending Gen Xers everywhere into a collective tizzy. We sadly lost MCA of the Beastie Boys to cancer. Last year, I had to block Erasure from my Facebook feed, because the frequency of their posts was simply out of control. Somewhere along the way, I lost They Might Be Giants to children’s music, perhaps when they started having children themselves. The Smiths, of course, had already been long broken up by the time I got around to appreciating them. Now after, 35 years, INXS has officially called it quits.

INXS was special. The car ride to Oregon with my childhood friend Jenni and her unfailingly patient parents was defined by repeated playing of our Kick cassette. Kick was the first tape I wore out, listening over and over until the perfect voice of Michael Hutchence was left warped and  garbled.

My mother’s own unfailing patience allowed me to go to the INXS concert the night before my huge junior year project was due. I was hoarse from screaming “I love you Michael,” and delirious from seats so close to the stage that Michael Hutchence had surely heard me. I was home by midnight to finish the paper, and asleep by 4:00 am, my mother by my side the whole time. I love her.

Someone stole my “Welcome to Wherever You Are” CD during a party in our freshman dorm suite, even though Michael, Tim, Jon, Garry, Andrew and Kirk (my second favorite) watched protectively from the poster on the wall, and the guys of The Cure kept vigil from their spot, one poster over.

I surely wasn’t the only young adult to cry when Michael suddenly died in 1997.

The band’s televised quest for a new lead singer, “Rock Star: INXS” played in the delivery room, a happy distraction in between contractions as John and I waited for the birth of our second son in 2005. Oh, how I am not kidding at all.

But you grow up a little, and you don’t buy the new albums, but you go back to the songs you sang in the car with your friends. You go back to the song you listened to with your boyfriend, only to find out he was mostly tolerating INXS because you liked them so much, which apparently was a good idea, because you married him. And when you read the headline telling you your special band broke up, you feel a little guilty, like if you had been a better fan, they could have made it. And you feel guilty because the way you found out they were still together, is by hearing they had broken up.

I’ve used these photos before – but I love them. That up there is my sophomore dorm, and my INXS poster. Down here? Freshman dorm…and the guys from INXS, though you can’t see their noggins.

organization overload: getting it together is making us lose it

Let’s start with a quick quiz, shall we?

  1. Have you purchased a storage container for an item you did not yet have? “My new baskets will be perfect for those cashmere throws….I aspire to own one day.”
  2. Do you need a mild sedative upon entering/leaving The Container Store?
  3. Do you have a visceral reaction when you see those catalog pictures of well-stocked, organized pantries? You know the ones –the unseen homeowner has 16 bottles of Pellegrino, pasta sorted and stowed in airtight containers, and giant cans of Italian tomatoes, all perfectly aligned with nary a Ritz Cracker or Fruit Roll-Up in sight?
  4. Do you now, or have you ever, owned a ribbon caddy? Yes, a caddy for ribbons.  Or a caddy for anything, for that matter.

I get it.

If you looked at my room this very moment, you might not think that I get it. But underneath all that laundry, and the castoff sports stuff, you would find a baseline level of organization; so yeah, I kinda sorta get it.

I have the ribbon caddy, a recipe system, and a jar for cotton balls. My photos and movies are in order, and my kids know where to find the LEGOs. Well, one of them does.

Five years ago, that was fine.

It’s 2012 and suddenly, fine doesn’t cut it anymore.

Organized is the new rich. Or tan. Or maybe the new skinny. However you look at it, we want to be organized, and we want it bad. We’re no longer satisfied with knowing where stuff is, we’re looking for a new level of in-your-face, extreme organization that will make us the envy of our friends. We want our clutter so creatively and lovingly contained it ceases to be junk, and become treasure. We want every last possession in a basket, a tub, a bin, a repurposed bucket, or a mason jar, and there should be no rest until it is done.

We are a people out of control.

I especially get caught up in this after reading any article with “five easy steps to decluttering your way to a carefree life.” (Or worse, If I visit the house of someone who read the article, and is actually making it happen.) If I really wanted to be clever, says the Associate Editor of Clutter Control, I’d store my pony tail holders on a toilet paper tube. Heaven forbid, I just set the rubber band on my dresser, where I can pick it up again when I need it. “It needs to be on a TUBE!”

So this is how it goes: I get inspired and show the boys that their LEGO guys with heads still attached go here, and without heads go over there.  Movies with horses go in this box, and movies with aliens go in that one. They nod, knowing it will only be a week until I return to being satisfied with just keeping everyone in clean socks and underwear, until the next time I read an article and try to find a new system for storing paper clips in a beautiful way.

But then something happened to turn that happy cycle on its ear…Pinterest.

I asked my friend at work how she liked the booming site. “It’s a great way to collect everything you want to do or try or buy, or cook. But it’s depressing. I’ll never make that stuff.”

“Hmph, well I don’t want any of that,” I told her. The last thing I needed was to try to organize the Internet.

Two days later, I asked her to send me an invite.

Part of any organized person’s strategy is the list keeping. Through the years I’ve kept track of to-dos, to-buys, and to-think-abouts. When I was a kid I had lists of Esprit clothes I owned, people I knew, and states that I could remember without looking at a map. (Dang it, Delaware, how did I keep forgetting you?)

Now, with Pinterest, the list making is visual and easy, and there’s the fun social aspect of sharing ideas with your friends and glue gun toting strangers. It’s also immediately and dangerously addictive. It will likely suck you in and spit you out, bleary eyed and overwhelmed by clothes you don’t have, projects you won’t do, recipes you won’t make, houses you will never live in and organization systems you will fail at. It’s also by far the most convenient way I’ve found to combine sloth AND envy.

“What is THAT?” asked John as he looked over my shoulder to find three photos of braided hairstyles, two of cupcakes, two pretty necklaces, six pieces of furniture, a quiche, a DIY Easter Wreath, a DIY confetti lantern, a pair of boots, and a romantic black and white photo of New York City.

“Pinterest. It’s a way to organize projects, recipes, design ideas…”

“Um.”

“See, what you do is create your pin boards, then you categorize them, so you can organize your….”

“Colleen.”

“Wait, see, this one is just for hairstyles. This one’s dedicated just to mid century modern design, this one’s for appetizers, this one’s for jewelry,”

“Colleen, I love you, but I can’t even pretend to be interested in this.”

We’ve been married for 15 years so he can say that. I sure hope he can say that, because that’s what I say when we pull into the parking lot of an electronics store and I announce I’m waiting in the car.

My lazy Internet research revealed that 80% of Pinterest users are women (thanks ignitesocialmedia.com!). Over at Google +, they are running close to that equivalent, male.

I suggested he look into Google +.

Keep in mind, this is the same guy who, when I am in an organizing frenzy, comes up with this sage advice:

“How about we just have less stuff?”

  

*the label maker is fun to use! And The Dewey Decimal System doesn’t hold a candle to our video organization with categories such as “chick flicks,” “high brow,” “spies!” and “classics” where you’ll find anything starring Will Ferrell, Steve Carell or Adam Sandler.

further thoughts on robots

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Other than the self-diagnosed situational agoraphobia, I think I would do ok in space.

Not a spaceship as much as a space colony, after they’ve had a chance to work out the kinks. If it’s a space colony, I suppose we’re thinking about the future. And not a dystopian Hunger Games future where we’d all have to work together to snare rabbits for survival and overthrow an oppressive and evil government with nothing but our wits and a map. I was thinking more of a Jetsons set-up — pellet food, space mall, low-profile furniture – pretty much anywhere there’s a robot lady who can help me navigate the day.

“Do you have Siri?” I ask anyone with a new phone, hopeful I can have a chat with the intriguing electronic personal assistant.

“Naaaah,” some say.

Or “I do, but I don’t use it,” which is worse.

How are you not using it? Have you SEEN those commercials?

Many mornings I wake and grab my non-Siri phone and talk into it without lifting my head from my pillow.

“What’s my day look like?” I say to the phone.

“Pre-tty cra-ppy…you have ele-ven mee-tings,” I say back to myself in my best robot voice.

John laughed the first few times.

Today, I had a few minutes with Siri’s electronic sister when I called the bank. Because I had forgotten my password, we got to spend  a few minutes chatting. She’d ask me something, and I would slowly reply. She’d tell that was wrong, and to try again.

When she mis-heard me and I had to repeat myself, she said “Sor-ry, my fault,” and I felt bad. I wanted to tell her that it was indeed my fault because I mumbled, but that’s too many words and I didn’t want to blow her robot lady mind, and be forced to start over.

I know technically, it’s more accurate and PC (ba-dum-dum) to say “computer lady,” but my imagination always puts a robot with the disembodied voice. Keep in mind, I still do not understand the technology that makes a fax machine work.

Just like when Morgan Freeman is the spokesperson for anything, I find I accept what the robot lady says without question. Not every robot lady, but most. Our GPS offered us two voice options when we set it up. The first was a little too breathy and adult. I felt uncomfortable having her talk in front of the children. So we went with the English accent. Sure, she gets annoyed when I miss a turn, but with an implied sage wisdom, she redirects me just like Mary Poppins would, and we are on our way.

The reigning queen of the robot ladies though, is the one who’s in charge of the airport.

If one were actually flying to space, there is no way that it could feel as much like going to space, as Terminal 2 of San Francisco International Airport. The robot lady tells you which shuttle to board, reminds you to hold on, carefully disembark, and not to forget your belongings.

I think she’s the one who talked me into the tofu and shitake spring roll (basically a tofu-packed space food pellet), with a coconut water. I found myself sitting in an egg shaped chair at an egg shaped table, eating it out of a plastic box, when there was a perfectly good cheeseburger available 7 feet away.

Female robots have been an integral part of our cultural landscape for decades. Kudos to my personal favorites, Rosie the Robot (so full of sass!) and  The Bionic Woman, Jaime Sommers (full disclosure, she was like, half robot). I was a proud owner of the Bionic Woman doll, with the roll up arm skin and removable face that revealed her circuitry. Don’t even get me started on what would happen if Barbie and Jaime were to get in a street fight. But sadly, more often than not, female robots are depicted negatively – from the Stepford Wives (spoiler alert!) to the Fembots, whose you-know-whats double as machine guns.

We’re looking to you Siri, to turn this around, and when I finally get you, maybe you also can remind me to hold on, grab my suitcase, get to my meeting, and hydrate.

How I’m ok with the robot lady when mannequins give me the uber creeps, I shall never know.

*The photo above is another favorite robot, R2-D2. Is a Droid a robot? Am I going to hear from all the Star Wars fanatics that an R2 unit is NOT a robot? He IS s guarding the LEGO White House, so relax, he’s a hero. I have plenty of Transformers, and Star Wars guys in my house of boys, but no lady robots, so R2 will have to do as my visual aid.

speaking….and other ways to embarrass a middle schooler

We are hot wing loving people, and we drove a good 20 miles this day to get them. We said, “Let’s celebrate Labor Day! And the end of a great summer! Tonight….we feast!” We didn’t say the feast part out loud, but I sure thought it.

With one week of middle school under his belt, Jake plopped down next to me at the restaurant table. Instead of getting to talk to my older kid’s face, however, I was granted access only to the back of his head. We were surrounded by no fewer than 30 televisions covering every possible surface in the new chain restaurant. I looked nervously at the giant projection screen hanging precariously above my head. Baseball, football, college football, high school football, what looked like Dr. Oz, and even America’s Funniest Home Videos blurred soundlessly together while music played in the background.

I didn’t harp on the boys about watching the TVs, there were just too many to ignore. I couldn’t help but watch either, just like everybody else in the crowded dining room. When you have that many people together staring at TVs from every possible angle – weird eye contact will inevitably happen. I was sure the guy with the ZZ Top Beard was looking at me because he assumed I was staring at his beard, which I was for a minute. But really, he was probably just watching whatever game was above our table, or at the very least, waiting for the screen to fall on me before my wings arrived.

A girl across the restaurant with a 60’s beehive also seemed to be looking at us. Either that or she was watching the same thing as ZZ, which seemed highly unlikely. No, she was definitely looking at me, and my utter lack of a beehive hairdo, for which I was now very self-conscious.

“Focus, people, focus.” John used his natural leadership skills to bring us all back to the task at hand – ordering wings. The menu was six pages long with an insert. There was a chart, and a graphic of a giant bottle of hot sauce with what looked to be dozens of different wing ordering variables.  There was the sauce side and the dry rub side. There was sweet on one end of the heat spectrum, a picture of flames on the other. We settled on a big platter of very exotic “medium.”

Exhausted from the hardest thinking I’d done all day, I settled back, and my ears perked up. I knew this song. I loved this song. “It’s Dead or Alive!” I yelped, “I don’t feel right saying the name of the song, because it’s not entirely appropriate… but it’s Dead or Alive…the band!” I girly clapped for unnecessary emphasis.

They all nodded.

“Eeeeee.”

“What?”

“Depeche Mode! It’s Depeche Mode.” I girly clapped again, because now it was a terrible habit.

The TVs may have been silent zombie-creating light boxes, but the stereo system was loud and clear, and apparently set to “80’s Stun.”

John took the little one to the restroom as I tried to explain to Jake the significance of Pat Benetar; “60% of her awesomeness must have been her haircut,” I said earnestly. I waved my hands around my head trying to pantomime the swoopiness of her feathering. He nodded again, and I took to my phone to find a picture.

When the guys returned to the table, I was flipping though my results from Googling “Pat Benatar Hair” images. I’ve Googled some stupid things, many of them twice, but this search was a first.

Jake looked at the photos, and then back to the bank of TVs, immediately guffawing at AFHV (when you are a fiercely loyal fan of crotch kicking, wedding-dance-gone-wrong, annoyed animal videos, you may also unapologetically call America’s Funniest Home Videos, AFHV), “Look at that cat. How does it do that?” he said, mystified. I looked around to find the screen with the crazy cat, and sucked in my breath when I spotted something awesome. I nudged Jake. “The woman directly behind you, has Pat Benatar’s exact haircut,” I whispered. He slyly looked over his shoulder, then looked to me, nodding in polite acknowledgement.

Another song came on that I recognized. I’d listened to it on my boombox in my room as a kid. “Catch Me I’m Falling.”  Who sang this? Who. Sang. This? I squirmed in my seat, uncomfortable in my not knowing.

My darling husband has many gifts, one of my favorites being his awe inspiring ability to immediately recognize and name the title and artist of songs; and not just any dumb ol’ songs, but 1980’s adult contemporary classics. The more obscure, the better. His childhood weekends were spent with Casey Kasem and the American Top 40. It’s obviously one of the top 3 reasons why I agreed to marry him.

“I can’t remember who sang this,” he admitted. Now he looked uncomfortable too.

“Stacey Q?” I guessed. Wait, she couldn’t have possibly had another song other than “Two of Hearts.” Back in the day, my friend Jenni and I preferred to call it, “Two Pop Tarts.” Hilarious.

John, sounding like Sherlock Homes, began his process of deduction, “This song was out at the same time as a Taylor Dayne song.”

“Is it Taylor Dayne?”

He looked at me like I was asking if he was Taylor Dayne.

“Um, no.”

“Ok, so most definitely not Taylor Dayne, and not Jody Watley…right?” I was grasping now.

The wings were here and my hands were saucy, but it was worth the risk.

“I’m so sorry everybody, I hate to do this, but I have to do this.” I took my phone out again and quickly found what I was looking for. “Pretty Poison? What? I’ve never heard of them.”

“Pretty Poison,” John said nodding solemnly, “Yup, that’s it. Man, I knew that.”

Jake looked at me expectantly, perhaps waiting to hear what the singer’s hair looked like, or where I was when I first heard that song, or maybe how Pretty Poison was the best band in the history of music and a major influence on artists he listens to, like B.o.B and One Republic.

I had nothing, so he quickly turned away in his seat, going back to his wings and AFHV.

Oh no. Was he….embarrassed? Annoyed? Both? It didn’t matter that nobody in this place, whether they had a Pat Benatar haircut or a ZZ Top beard, was paying attention to us. Well, beehive girl was, but I knew that nobody need be present for a tween to be embarrassed. He was a sweet kid, and was doing his best to humor me as I waxed poetic about the old timey music I grew up with. I scrapped my plans to use photos of my freshman dorm to illustrate the lesson One Hit Wonders: 90’s edition.

Alas, he is in middle school, and I now hold more potential for annoyance and embarrassment than I did just a week ago – a milestone for us both. I would let him eat his wings and watch his falling down videos in peace. Just wait ’til the day though, he’s eating medium wings with his kids and he gets excited for the Black Eyed Peas on the classic hits station, and he really wants them to appreciate how the lady at the next table looks exactly like Lady Gaga.

VISUAL AIDES

*The photo at the top is not the most flattering of me by any means, but somehow, I’m delighted by how delighted I look to be there.

*The middle photo is my freshman dorm room that I shared with my roommate Heidi. We actually SLEPT in there, in the midst of the chaos.Please note the EMF poster.

*The bottom photo is my far more refined sophomore room that I shared with Liane. No EMF poster, but I do see a poster for Ned’s Atomic Dustbin and L.A. Style, and that Johnny Depp movie they screened on campus, Benny & Joon. There is a rack of cassettes and cassingles AND a rack of CDs. Everything else, I would put up again today, Pearl Jam, The Cure, Depeche Mode, INXS, and the 34,000 photos I ripped out of magazines like Spin.

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