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Date archive for: September 2011

Uptight Texter

I’m no stickler for rules — at least, not most of them. I’ve always favored whimsy, irreverence, and originality over propriety, decorum, and tradition. I’m the mom who lets my kids run naked in the front yard, sneaks massive snack sacks into movie theaters under my shirt, and is proud to demonstrate my belching skills at the dinner table. As I type this, I’m staring at a recent moving-violation ticket for rolling through a stop sign (I’m sorry, but some rules just beg to be broken).

Why, then, do I find myself stiffly — stubbornly — adhering to fusty old spelling and grammar rules when I’m texting my tech-savvy 8th grader?

I can’t fire off a “Heads up: I’m running a few minutes late,” or bang out a “How did you do on today’s geometry test?” without spelling out every word in its inconvenient entirety, and punctuating each trivial missive impeccably. Regardless of the rush I’m in — or my hair-tearing frustration over the diabolically obscured tilde and discriminatory lack of an em dash on my phone’s treacherously tiny keypad — I’m incapable of embracing the medium’s abbreviated style and typing “c u \@home in 10”.

Not to my son.

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Sex Strikes

Sometimes you just have to use what you’ve got. When Liberia’s 14-year civil war tore her family and native country apart, mother-of-six Leymah Gbowee organized a women’s peace movement. She led sit-ins. She led pickets. And when all else failed, she launched a sex strike.

“What does it take to make those who fight listen to reason?” she asks in her new memoir, Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War. “As a woman, you have the power to deny a man something he wants until the other men stop what they are doing.”

Widowed and raped and too often ignored by war, women have the highest stake in it, argues Gbowee, who’ll discuss her book at a free event Sunday, October 2, at 4 p.m. at UCSB’s Campbell Hall.

It’s fascinating to view political unrest from the explicit point of view of mothers, daughters, wives, and lovers. The juxtaposition of the battlefield and the marital bed is startling (one pictures pent-up heads of state imploring stubborn sweatpants-sporting wives for sump’n sump’n). But if tenderness is the opposite of violence, then perhaps shutting down the ole shag factory is a reasonable whack at peace.

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Avoiding the Custody Shuffle

My parents split up when I was a toddler, and I’ve always felt lucky that I was too young to feel the full sting of my “normal” being torn in two.

While divorce alleviates the intolerable tensions of a sour marriage, the children of divorcing couples rarely feel the same relief. Mom and dad’s breakup rocks their notion of “family,” and ping-ponging between dual residences upends their sense of “home.”

That’s why more and more divorcing couples are opting to let their kids remain in the family home while the parents rotate in and out instead. Dubbed “bird-nesting” (in some species of birds, both parents share in the feeding and protection of their young), the practice tends to be tricky for mom and dad, but easier on kids.

Santa Barbara dad Maddox Rees and his wife have been bird-nesting from their family home since they separated two years ago. When one is at home with their sons — ages 10, 9, and 4 — the other stays at a one-bedroom apartment that they also share.

Weird? A little. But it made the most sense for them at the time.

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I’m Gluten-Free Vegan-Intolerant

If you really are what you eat, then everyone I know is nuts. You can’t lob a legume through a restaurant these days without hitting someone on a fussy — and fairly freaky — diet.

Gluten-free. Dairy-free. Sugar-free. Wheatless and meatless, pescetarian and Paleolithic, macrobiotic and Master Cleansed. And for heat’s sake, raw.

As nutritionists analyze our diets to bits, as they break down every edible ounce into shockingly potent micro-ingredients, ascribing common ailments and valorous remedies to each (“These cause bloating, these fight cancer, these are linked to erectile dysfunction, these thwart nuclear radiation”), our eating has gone from absurd to exasperating.

Do you have legitimate medical and/or moral reasons for your odd eating, or rather, non-eating, habits? Yes, I’m certain that you do. Does it make you any less irritating to the rest of us? No. No, it doesn’t.

The line between “conscientious” and “pain-in-the-ass persnickety” is invisible to the naked eye. You say, “I avoid foods with a high glycemic index.” We hear, “I only eat miso and millet, tempeh and tofu, quinoa and kale. And only when it’s organic and seasonal. On Tuesdays. When the tide is low. And the Redskins are ahead.”

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What If My Kid’s Gay?

It’s probably unwise to wonder this aloud, but that’s never stopped me before: What if you suspect your child is gay? Or — you know — will be gay eventually?

My own boys seem humdrumly hetero thus far, but I’ve known lots of kids who bucked traditional gender stereotypes to the extent that I wondered if they were gays-in-the-making.

A person’s sexual orientation can be neither truly discovered nor fully revealed until said person is, well, sexual. And yet there are those kids …

“My daughter has always wanted boy toys and boy clothes and her best buddies are boys. I’d say she was a possible future Chaz,” says a friend of mine, only half-jokingly. “But it’s hard to say. Boy clothes really are more comfortable, and boy games more fun. Ever play Pretty Pretty Princess?!”

Another friend suspects her kindergartner may wave a rainbow flag one day. “He loves to play beauty shop, has known the difference between mascara and eyeliner since he was three, and will always comment on a new haircut or dress. He’s obsessed with drawing hearts and rainbows and has told me that he’d like to marry boys,” she says. “Perhaps this is all typical 5-year-old boy stuff … but my guess is that it isn’t so much.”

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My columns are collected in three lovely books, which make a SPLENDID gift for wives, friends, book clubs, hostesses, and anyone who likes to laugh!
Keep Your Skirt On
Wife on the Edge
Broad Assumptions
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