Because it sure is surreal sometimes

Because it sure is surreal sometimes

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Chatting with a twelve year-old boy, or tightrope walking on acid

Year after year, the relationship between my son and me, his loving mother, grew stronger, deeper and kinder – until he turned eleven. That’s when the previously solid, almost sublime nature of our bond began to show signs of stress fractures. It used to be I could look at him, tilt my head a fraction of an inch, adjust the appearance of my eyes by barely lowering or raising my eyebrows and know what the trouble was. Instantaneously, he would have the answer he needed to whatever dilemma he currently faced. We communicated without words. Not all the time, of course, but when it happened, it was gold.

It works a little differently now. Now, he’s twelve.

Instead of non-verbal cues, I’m barraged with not only too many words, but too many of the wrong kind: pronouns. Our exchanges are anything but silent, thanks to my son’s knack for slaughtering the English language like a blind butcher with a dull knife and a rib roast.

I pepper my responses carefully with mental cusswords before I speak, and then quickly edit out the foul language. Recently, I could not withstand the urge. I knew I was seconds from experiencing my own head popping off and rolling across the kitchen floor with its eyes still blinking, so I said it: “F-word!” No, I mean I really did say the letter “F”, followed by “WORD!”

The feeling was dually satisfying: Great not only because I “cussed”, but because I didn’t actually say the word “fuck.” Had I gone that far, a new era would have dawned. Like the old college adage, “Hold off peeing as long as you can when you’re out drinking, because once you go you’ll have to go all the time,” allowing myself to drop F’ers is a slippery slope I’m not ready to experience. Hell, I just allowed “crap” into the household lexicon, even for my three girls, ages 9, 9, and 11. “Have at it!” I cheered the first time I heard one use it correctly: “Crap! I forgot my backpack at school!” (as opposed to the incorrect use of the word: “What’s this crap on my plate?”) While they seem to have a firm hold on usage, it isn’t necessarily the case with brother.

My son can no longer answer even a yes or no question without mentally straight-jacketing me.

“Do you like this?” I asked while we recently shopped for back-to-school clothes.

“Yeah, but no, yeah, I don’t know,” was his double oxymoronic reply.

“Um, so, you like it, or you don’t. Want me to buy it for you?” I queried calmly.

“I like it,” he said. Not exactly an answer to my question, but in the ballpark. I continued.

“So, I’ll buy it for you?” I said, hopeful we were really getting somewhere.

“Well, it’s just that I don’t know if I’ll wear it,” my son said, as I heard the hiss of the air
escaping from my rainbow balloon.

“I don’t understand. If you like it, why wouldn’t you wear it?” I said, still calm and
carefully obscuring what I was feeling on the inside: utter terror at the direction we were headed, yet again. It’s always the same – I’m on bad acid, he’s on some kind of turbo crack, yielding a complete absence of common ground.

“Mom!” he spat, followed by, “I just can’t know so many things! Your holding stuff up, and I don’t have green shorts!!”

Wow, I thought to myself. I have not felt this weird in twenty-five years. I think I’ll take my lungs out of my body for a second, massage them, and put them back in so I can breathe. There we go. Much better now.

Sometimes, it’s more surreal than terrifying, other times, it’s the opposite. In either case, I remind myself to relax, and enjoy the long, strange trip it is.

A Fantasy of One's Own

I’m sooooo conflicted. There’s a cloud hanging over my head that makes Katrina seem like a fanciful squall. My tortured soul rebounds between moments of clarity one minute and utter confusion the next. It isn’t even a complex issue: I simply hate football, while my husband, on the other hand, thinks the word “football” actually belongs in a sentence containing the word “fantasy.”

Thankfully, he has most of the standard fantasies men have, like those involving Carol Brady, or teeter-totters, and he happily shares them with me. However, the fact remains that the fantasy he logs the most hours with on a weekly basis is Football. Hence, the problem: I just do not get it and I desperately want to. I need to understand.

As I watch my husband watch the television each Sunday, I remind myself to use the word “passion” instead of “obsession.” When I find myself growing irritated at the sound of one man clapping for a bunch of players who cannot hear him, I start mentally checking off all the considerate things my man has done that week. Let’s see, there’s the weeding, just because he likes it and knows I don’t. Then, there’s reading to the kids and helping them with homework. He even vacuums.

When listing his weekly accomplishments doesn’t do the trick, I try a little fantasizing of my own. I tell myself that a forty-two year old man changing jerseys three times in one day in support of a pretend dream team is sexy. Sometimes I follow him up to our closet between games, and he lets me watch. Yeah, baby, the blue one. No, the other blue one. Oh, that’s it, right there, next to your little league uniform. Oh, baby, these thirty-four jerseys taking up valuable real estate in our closet are hot! Yeah, that’s my fantasy.

It’s not like he doesn’t snap right out of it at the end of the evening each Sunday, because he does. Well, right after he does the stats and sends out the newsletter, complete with quippy football comments, while watching Sportscenter. Then, he snaps right back to being the guy I fell in love with, the guy who made me believe in love again, and the guy who continues to hold me after the regular hug has ended. He is this guy six days a week (save for a couple of hours Monday evening), and seven days a week for half the year. Why, then, can I not help rolling my eyes when I overhear him on the phone with one of his fantasy friends, behaving like Ari Gold trying to work a last minute trade with some maniacal producer?

Right now, you might be thinking that I am that spouse – male or female – for which nothing is ever good enough. Well, the truth is, nearly everything is always good enough, and my husband would be the first to say that I never complain. That is because my husband, ironically, is a fantasy husband. He is my best friend. He is the guy who never leaves me hanging, if you know what I mean. He brings it. He is the guy who sees a pile of clean towels in the laundry room and puts them away. Hell, this is the guy who goes into the laundry room! (I know a woman who once hired a hooker to hang out in her laundry room, just to see if her husband could find it. Three days later she sent the lonely whore home.)

Maybe it has nothing to do with my husband. Maybe it’s my dad’s fault for punishing me with the same weekly clapping and yelling for my entire childhood – back when fantasy leaguers didn’t have computers. My dad and his friends had fifteen sheets of binder paper taped together that they scribbled their points down on as they happened. I must be suffering from PTFSD – Post-traumatic Football Stress Disorder.

Perhaps what I need is something to do on Sundays that gets me out of the house and away from the mental triggers. Just so that I can fully relate to my husband, to see things from his perspective, it will be something that never gets boring, and that I won’t know the outcome of until it’s completely finished. It’ll chew up hours and hours of my time, but I’ll have a lot more to show for it at the end of the day than empty beer cans and ranch dip stains on my shirt.

Interestingly enough, it rhymes with “ball.”