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Fine, Mom: You Were Right

It’s becoming quite clear to me, as these things do.

You told me it would — that one day I’d understand why you did the things you did when I was a kid.

Remember our clashes over curfews, battles about boyfriends, and disputes over driving? Back then your motivation was opaque to me — not mysterious, just whack. We seemed so wildly different: Me a gangly, new-wave, camo-clad poet. You a petite ex-hippie breadwinner with a Motown jones.

We wanted such different things. For example, I wanted to be with my boyfriend at every moment, and you wanted me to occasionally eat, bathe, sleep …

But the enlightenment you predicted has finally arrived. Having kids now myself, I often find myself walking a mile in your strappy stilettos. And I’ll be honest: My feet hurt.

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I Was a Flash Mob Virgin

You’ve seen it on YouTube and Modern Family. Swarms of inconspicuous passersby break into a seemingly spontaneous dance routine in a train station or the food court of a mall. Known as a flash mob, it’s a surprise public performance à la guerrilla theater, sans the buzzkilling political message.

Flash mobs create order out of chaos. In aiming solely to bewilder — and then delight — unsuspecting onlookers, they wind up doing much more: They celebrate the exuberant and unpredictable art of performance itself.

When I learned a New York choreographer was organizing a flash mob here in Santa Barbara, I signed on. I have no dance experience, but I can rock stretch pants and tie a do-rag on my head, so I figured I could fake “hip, urban hoofer” if necessary.

There were 120 people at the first rehearsal. Within a week, the number had dropped to 65 community members of literally every shape and size. Little girls. Old men. Giggling moms. In only five hours — and with just a little bloodshed — we learned the keys to conjuring order from chaos: Frustration. Repetition. Sense of humor. Motown.

“I’m Doug, and I’m a recovering choreographer,” said our “mob” boss Doug Elkins, in town for a residency with Santa Barbara’s esteemed DANCEworks program. He started us off with fancy arm work in our Lobero Theatre seats, and soon had us up onstage adding fast footwork. Elkins knew it wouldn’t be easy: “If it gets confounding or frustrating” (it did), “just go with your favorite curse” (we did).

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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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