Saturday, August 14, 2010


Twitter introduced the “#FF” and we tweeters know that stands for “Follow Fridays”.  In Twitter world, #FF is a way to recommend new friends to like-minded followers and discover new and exciting people to follow.  But in my world, FF stands for something else.   In my world, FF stands for Filter Free (or “FFF”, as in Filter Free Fridays).

The term “filter free” was originated by Child One and is oft-times accompanied by an emphatic gesture – her hand waving up and down in front of her mouth as she looks at her father and says, “Daddy!  Filter!!!”  Because sometimes, Sig Other says something out loud that perhaps he should not.  Sometimes, Sig Other says things that we may all think but only he gives voice to.  Sometimes, Sig Other struggles to adhere to the constraints of polite society. 

It isn’t that he’s impolite, exactly.  It’s just that he mostly says what he means.  And mostly he manages to do so in a way that is not terribly offensive.  Mostly.  To be specific, Sig Other’s filter – the one that thoughts usually pass through before coming out his mouth – is more porous than some.  He was raised, the son of a diplomat, in embassies all over the world, and so the filter engages fully at cocktail parties and in boardrooms and in ways which allow him to function most days quite successfully.

But something happens on Fridays.  Some diabolical demon of destruction comes and lays waste to whatever thin membrane exists between every waking thought in that big brain and the impulse to express them.  The breakdown begins at sunset and often carries through the weekend.  And hence we dubbed these lapses “Filter Free Fridays”. 

As Filter Free Fridays coincide with the Sabbath, witnesses are most often family and closest friends.  Sig Other lets loose at the dinner table and, depending on mood and amount of sleep, can continue his Filter Free state through an entire weekend.  There is Filter Free Frankness, known to most as inappropriately naked candor.  And Filter Free Fun, which is often a song, a limerick, or loud scatological freestyling.    Filter Free Fridays can manifest in public as well as in private.  This can be as slight as a naughty joke or as massive as a loud outburst in the middle of a crowded restaurant.  Mostly, Filter Free Fridays are entertaining.  At worst they are embarrassing.  Very rarely they are offensive. 

On the rare occasion that the triple F manifests at the outward edge of acceptable, I consider becoming a Monday through Thursday wife.  Why, I wonder, must I accept my role as wife of a part-time victim of temporary Tourettes?  But along with the pain brought by lack of filter, there is also and quite often, great joy.  Hilarious, uproarious hijinx are born of the filter free zone.  And laughter accompanies Friday nights in as great measure as pain.  On the rare occasion that I miss the filter, I remind myself that my vows were not “in politeness and in health”, they were not “until unbridled truth do you part”.  And I knew about the Triple F long before we married.   So I carry on and wait for the adventure ahead.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Brother, can you spare a dime?

Sig Other is diligent about the Jewish custom of “tzedakah”.  He gives generously to organizations both religious and political.  He’s sort of a softy for someone who presents so tough and he can be moved to tears (though he would deny it) by the plight of the oppressed.  And he will always, always give money to those in need on the street.  There is always an extra dollar in his pocket, always an extra few in the car. 

But recently, Sig Other has decided that isn’t quite enough.  Recently, Sig Other has been moved by something else: bad messaging.  It all started when we saw a young man sitting at the freeway entrance holding a sign reading: ILL – PLEASE HELP.  “That’s bad branding,” said Sig Other, spritzing with Purell after handing the young man some cash.  “I could help that guy.  If he just changed his brand, he’d do a lot better.  No one wants to get close to a guy who is sick.”  Admittedly, not everyone processes tzedakah through the lens of a self-professed germaphobe, but I had to admit, I could see his point. 

Later that same day we saw an older gentleman with two signs.  One said: HUNGRY.  The other: MEG WHITMAN DEVIL GOLDMAN SACHS EVIL DESTROYERERS OF THE WORLD.  With the first sign, Sig Other could find no flaw.  Simple, to the point.  The second sign?  Bad messaging.  Meg Whitman might be the devil and Goldman Sachs may be responsible for the end of the world but that doesn’t make the sign a good fundraising tool.  California, as Sig Other pointed out, is the state that vetoed gay marriage the first time around and voted the Terminator into office.  So there’s a damn good chance at least half the hungry guy’s audience who may have been sympathetic to his digestive plight was just turned off by his political dogma and rolled their stuffy windows back up.

And then came the last straw.  Then came the day that Sig Other walked down a street in Vancouver, Canada and saw a man holding a sign that said, “Hungry???”  The man was eating a sandwich.  This was, without question, a clear case of poor advertising.  Sig Other could stop himself no longer.  He offered a dollar.  And then he offered more.  “This,” he said to the sandwich-eater, “is a bad sign.  I’m confused by your messaging.  Are you asking if I’m hungry?  Or are you suggesting that being hungry is something to question?  And if you are trying to sell your hunger in order to get money, don’t you think it’s a bad idea to be eating a sandwich at the same time that you are holding the sign?  Is it that you are offering ME the sandwich?   Do you see what I’m saying?”  Of course the man did not see, and in that moment possibly wondered how he had attracted someone so intense and passionate (or perhaps someone so crazy).  He continued to eat his sandwich, looked down at the dollar and said, “American?” 

In spite of (or perhaps because of) this response, Sig Other has made a new pledge.  In addition to giving money to anyone in need, he also now pledges to help build their brand.  He will, for instance, explain to the sick guy that perhaps that “ill” may not be the message to lead with.  Or he may say to the Meg Whitman Hater that he would be better served keeping his political agenda to himself.  In this way, Sig Other feels he is bringing more than just cash to the transaction.  Or, in his words, “I’m giving away my intellectual property.  And that is the most valuable thing I have.”  So now, in addition to checks written and donations logged, Sig Other has found an even better way to fulfilling the mandate of tzedakah – a couple of bucks and a bit of advice.  

Thursday, August 5, 2010

LOST: One Clitoris. Not mine.

Child Two loves the movies.  He loves war movies and sci-fi movies and action movies.  But mostly, he loves comedy.  He’s seen Talledega Nights so many times he can recite Will Farrell’s entire grace monologue on command.  He watches as many comedies as we’ll take him to and I knew he was dying to see “Dinner with Schmucks.”  So what better way to flex my stepmom muscle than to offer him a mid-day movie excursion.  Opening day.  Just the two of us.

Comedy has always proved elusive to me.  What one person may find hilarious, another can find deeply dull or downright stupid.  And often, Child Two finds uproarious 11-year old boy humor in things I find utterly disdainful.  But we were both completely in sync when it came to the brand of humor in this particular movie.  Minute after unfunny minute passed and we hung in there, thinking surely this must pass and surely the comedy would kick in any second. 

Finally, we got to the “dinner” of the “Dinner with Schmucks” and the Schmuck explains why his wife left him.  He lost her clitoris, he explains to a roomful of guests.  He didn’t know what it was and so he didn’t know WHERE it was.  At one point he thought maybe it was under the couch but that turned out to be just a piece of gum.   On and on he goes about the lost bit of anatomy and deeper and deeper I sink into my seat, stealing sideways glances at Child Two and praying that he is not stealing sideways glances at me.  “Please,” I pray silently, “please don’t let him lean over and ask me what a clitoris is.” 

The moment passed and I sat rigid through the remainder of the movie hoping he wouldn’t remember this particular bit of unfunny to bring up as we discussed the myriad unfunny moments throughout the unfunny film.  Thankfully, Child Two let slide this wildly uncomfortable PG-13 moment.  Perhaps he knows what a clitoris is and doesn’t need to ask.  Perhaps he doesn’t know what it is but knows enough to know that asking would yield a wildly uncomfortable conversation better had with his father than his stepmother.  Or perhaps he doesn’t know, didn’t recognize my discomfort and just brushed it off as yet another unfunny moment he didn’t quite get.  Whatever the reason, I escaped unquestioned and deeply grateful. 

Two nights later, I was talking to a friend who sat through the same movie with his nine-year old son.  My friend brought up the same scene, the same twinge of discomfort, the same lack of little boy response.  We laughed about it and I walked away feeling slightly better about what I had assumed to be my failing as a stepmother – my inability to confront questions of sexuality with my stepson.  I had assumed that stepmotherness inhibited my ability to speak frankly with Child Two about the female anatomy.  But it turns out my failing was entirely unrelated to my step-status.  My failing is simply that of the typical adult. 

Sig Other, I’m sure, would scoff at my prudishness and declare it uniquely American.  He would most likely have used the opportunity to launch into a technical discussion of labia and its surrounds that would have mortified Child Two in the moment but fascinated him in the long run.  And I would have simply ducked for cover.   But Sig Other was not at the movie and so Child Two suffers no such embarrassment.  I, however, am left wondering when (if not already) the boy will know that a clitoris is truly not something that looks like a piece of gum under a couch…

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Mirror, Mirror, on the wall...

Our cable isn’t working properly.  If all systems were go, I would have scanned the cable guide and landed on some fabulously mindless reality tv – a lullaby by which to sleep.  But the cable isn’t working so I played roulette with the remote control and landed by pure accident on a movie channel playing a film a worked on early in my career.  It’s sort of famous, really, and though I almost never reference my work in this blog it would be hard to convey the shock of my night without at least pointing out that this particular film was wildly successful and much referenced. 

What was most fascinating was not watching the film for the first time in almost fifteen years – although it has certainly been at least that long since I last saw it in full.  Nor was the most fascinating thing how well the film held up – the technique and story are superior.  Nope.  What was most fascinating was how young the actors looked.  I turned to Sig Other at one point and said, “my God, look how young they are!”  And it occurred to me in that moment that if they looked young – if those men who spent thousands – maybe tens of thousands – on doctors and facialists and treatments and creams to stay young – if those men looked wildly different to me today than they did then, what must I look like?  How old do I look?  Oh my god – am I a hag?  Cuz those guys on the screen, those lovely, smooth skinned men now look really, really old and wrinkly to me.

Sig Other, in his infinite wisdom, assured me that looking the same as I looked fifteen years ago was not necessarily a good thing and in fact, some things look better with age.  And I suppose that is true.  I do stare longingly at my lemon trees wishing they had the stocky trunks and sturdy structure of those more mature.  But I’m hard pressed to think of other great examples of things that are young that I wish to grow old.  Ok, so my lemon trees.  And a bottle or two of wine in my closet.  Sig Other grows more handsome by the day.  But not my dogs, not my children and not me.  Younger is better.  Almost all of the time.