The heinous dress kept calling to me. And like a traffic accident, I couldn't stop from sneaking peaks. It was a pink on pink confection, bubblegum on top with matching bows on a fuchsia ballerina skirt. Oh, and did I mention Hello Kitty's puss emblazoned across the bodice? My teeth hurt just looking at it.
I was standing in the checkout line at Macy's buying last minute Christmas gifts when the monstrosity caught my eye. My cynical inner voice couldn't help but query, "What poor Filipino sweat shop kid pieced together that dish rag?" But quashing the cynicism was another voice, one that was more powerful, more resonant, and I'm embarrassed to admit, surprising fey, "Maxie would love it!" Followed immediately by, "And I have a coupon!"
I'm not sure which gave me the fortitude, the possibility of making my daughter deliriously happy or twenty-five percent off the already discounted price, but either way, I grabbed a 5T off the rack and continued towards the register.
My daughter is a girly girl. As much as I try to broaden her palate, she continually leans towards pinks and purples, princesses and fairies, drop waist dresses and heavy eye makeup. As a matter of fact, dresses are a must. She absolutely refuses to wear pants; even leggings are an iffy endeavor. And while my seven year old son is practically sock challenged, my three year old daughter can pull on a pair of tights in record time when fashion dictates.
Last week, Maxie wrapped a scarf around her head, slid on a pair of sunglasses, and proffered a pout that Kim Kardashian would kill for...she was ready for preschool. When we got there, or rather, when Maxie made her entrance, I heard two of the older girls gush, "Ohhh, look at her!"
I'm sure this is wrong, but as I prompted Maxie to say thank you, which she refused to do because her pout had taken on a life of its own, I was filled with an enormous sense of pride. My daughter is going to be a fashion icon. And in Hollywood, that can be a successful career!
Many parents indulge in this type of daydream, but mine has the distinct possibility of becoming reality. I'll prove it. Let me share with you what it's like to be Maxie Pearl: the decisions, the dilemmas, the designer knock-offs.
The dresses in a little girl's closet should be a balance of fantasy and every day. Along with the seven princess dresses (two of them mermaids), two ladybug costumes, four pairs of fairy wings and a silk kimono, are an array of party frocks, which Maxie isn't afraid to wear to school, and sometimes with sneakers. Always a step ahead, that girl.
And speaking of kicks, shoes play an important role in my daughter's aesthetic. Is it a sandal day? Perhaps a saucy strap or a kicky boot? An open toed shoe in the rain? Galoshes in sweltering heat? Why not? Practicality has no say. This is about fashion.
As Betsey Johnston once told my daughter...well, not Betsey Johnson exactly, more like a drag queen impersonating Betsey Johnson, and when I say drag queen, I mean my husband in a cheap wig after a few too many...actually, when it comes right down to it, who uttered the sentient words is not as important as how my daughter heard them... A girl cannot have too many handbags.
Maxie feels it's important to have an assortment: some clutches, some with straps, some to hold little doggies (the stuffed animal of choice), some to sleekly hide an Ariel cell phone or a kiwi lip gloss.
This white papa has learned a thing or two about black girl hair. It's not just about follicle growth. It's an ongoing way of life. The village constantly asks what I put in Maxie's hair. Well, I use any combination of detangling shampoo, leave-in conditioner, scalp conditioner, moisturizing lotion, oil, glossing polish, and hair milk. And it is only with these products that I can brush, comb, twist, braid, puff and pigtail Maxie's hair using her favorite bows, clips, ties, barrettes, headbands, scrunchies, and hair bobs.
Maxie also believes accessories are key. She will tie an ensemble together with jewelry, scarves, eye ware, and sometimes yes...
...just the right tiara.
On Christmas morning she ripped off the dreidel gift wrapping, pulled aside the Kwanzaa tissue paper and as if it was the shroud of Turin she gingerly lifted the Hello Kitty dress from the box. Instantaneous awe. She insisted on taking off her penguin Christmas pajamas and putting on the eyesore right then and there.
Oh God, my mother is going to see it. I'm sure she'll have some snappy quip. Or maybe my feminist-leaning sisters will pipe in, "Why do you always buy Maxie pink dresses?" Couldn't my daughter wait until we get back to LA? To the privacy of our own home? Then if I really hate it, I can dig out the receipt, return it without her knowing and feign ignorance, "I have no idea where the dress went."
Too late. It's over hear head. Right arm. Left arm. Oh God, she's twirling. Maybe no one saw. Maybe...
Hold up. This dress isn't half bad. In fact...
...it's kinda cute.
Holy Mother, my mother is complimenting her. Hallelujah!
Contrary to what my husband might think, the best thing this Christmas wasn't getting a MacBook Pro, it was that Maxie Pearl's dress didn't suck.
Big shout out to the wonderful writers at . Be sure to check them out!
When Michael and I started this having children thing, I was determined to keep our home from looking like day care gone wild. There would be no forts in the living room, no crazy swing set structure taking up the entire back yard and no toys littering every room of the house. I envisioned a Japanese minimalist approach to parenting. "Here's a box, honey. Now go play." And for a while the kids didn't know that a wooden spoon banging on Tupperware wasn't the neatest thing since drinkable yogurt.
The thing is, Michael and I didn't just renovate our house, we gayed the place up big time. Our kitchen is the perfect example of sleek, sexy lines amidst varying textures: polished granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, brushed nickle pulls on blond bamboo-like cabinetry. Thomas the Train and Dora the Explorer simply do not belong on the imported slate floor doing the Watusi.
Likewise, our bathroom is sumptuous. The chestnut wood cozying up to the creamy marble, and the steam shower... How did I survive all these years without a steam shower? At night with candles lit, you can't help but enter our bathroom with a certain reverence. It's like the Library of Congress. Hushed tones are demanded from the ceramic Asian head (pictured above) which imbues a certain intellectual, zenlike quality.
I'm sure you think I'm the most heartless Mommy around, not allowing my little tykes their cherished knickknacks. But before you judge me, you should know that I am fighting a losing battle. Doting aunties insist on doling out Barbies three at a time, and overindulgent friends who have no kids seem to think a toy is only successful if it's earsplittingly loud or the box says "82 moving parts." Needless to say, teeny weeny capri pants and brightly colored plastic pieces that mean nothing without their like parts end up scattered hither and yon. Clutter has become an all too familiar way of life.
Even the kitchen has lost its sleekness having become a repository for the forgotten, the broken, the discarded. Eighteen of the original twenty-six ABC magnets cover the stainless steel dish washer, a plastic microphone is lodged in amongst the cook books, a Doug and Melissa puzzle piece in the shape of an kangaroo cowers on the windowsill waiting to be reunited with his fellow wooden marsupials.
Let's face it, the kitchen has become a junk yard, the living room a princess costume shop, the TV room a Hotwheels parking garage, even my bed, MY BED, holds Pretty Ponies and Yugioh cards. Fine. I get it. The little ones have taken over. But I have asked, I have pleaded, "Can't our bathroom, our beautiful, austere bathroom with full length mirror and ceramic Asian head remain clutter free?"
The answer, my friends. A resounding no. And I'm to blame. I allowed a few toys for bath time: a shark, a rubber duck and snorkeling Sponge Bob. Warning: trying to explain the irony of a sponge with a snorkel, diving mask and swim fins to a three year old might lead to hysteria, even tears. But over the years, much to the ceramic Asian head's chagrin, other toys moved in and took up permanent residence. Added to the original three are two boats, two alligators, two rafts, a second rubber duck, a couple of naked plastic dolls (there seems to be an almost Biblical fanaticism to having two of each), a blue manta ray and a brontosaurus nose. I've given in, my flesh is flayed, but I do insist on one rule. You must pick up the toys after your shower and put them on the ledge.
And this is what I found the other morning...
You have to believe me, neither Michael nor I posed the phallus free boy toys. I know you're crying bullshit. But bitch's honor, I do not lie. So, either the dolls were inadvertently placed in this manner, or one or both of my kids were playing man on man action in the bathtub.
And it's unnervingly accurate, isn't it? Notice White Boy's aggressive stance, his There's Something About Mary hair, his right hand slyly inching towards Black Boy's crotch. Now, contrast that with Black Boy's stiff "not unless you've got a condom" demeanor. It's racially charged, it's top/bottom negotiations, it's afternoon delight at Darby and Ken's Bathhouse.
And what's with Ken's missing head? Was some praying mantis post-coital roll playing involved?
And if my precious innocents are into post-coital role playing, what exactly have they seen? Maybe they're not always asleep when we think they are. Maybe they tiptoe down the hallway and peek into our bedroom while Michael and I are otherwise engaged...
...That's it, we need to start locking our door at night.
Well, it's been awhile my furry friends. It's a new decade, there are ten Oscar nominees for best picture (The Blind Side...really?), New Orleans won the Super Bowl, and Sarah Palin can't seem to keep her yap shut. I'm sure it's seemed as if I buried my head in the sand. Well, yes, all sorts of dithering has gone on in the first six or so weeks of the new year. But on this crisp and clear manic Monday I've set aside the remote, the joystick, the newest Dan Brown novel, for it's time to be present, and maybe, just maybe I will string a word or two together creating these magnificent constructs called sentences.
Twenty-ten hasn't been all mindless avoidance. There have been torrential rains, caffeine free mornings, a tearful goodbye to my close friends carbohydrates, many many triangles of Laughing Cow cheese smeared on stalks of celery, reintroducing myself to the gym, hating the fact I made that reintroduction, a jaunt to Knots Berry Farm, getting cast in a the play Six Degrees of Separation, turning down the role, then finally accepting two roles only to have the playwright, John Guare, pull the plug cancelling the production entirely, and of course, no winter would be complete without a constant barrage of illness...first Maxie's reaction to the H1N1 vaccine, then Sebastian's forty-eight hour virus in response to Maxie's illness, then Maxie's ear infection in response to Sebastian's virus, and the cherry, Michael's kidney and/or intestinal infection thingy. I swallow handfuls of vitamins during the day and spray myself with Armor All at night.
But let's go back to the tail end of 2009... Michael, my tremendously talented and charming husband, is back from his two month sojourn north. Palo Alto mourns his departure. But when mounting a play called Civil War Christmas, one can only assume it's seasonal run will be limited. While he was away, I came to the conclusion that single parenting is more challenging than being Courtney Love's personal assistant. Mommy was left with all the chores and only a fifth of Jameson's to see me through. However, during those two months, I revamped our bill system, redid our daughter's room top to bottom, and planned Sebastian's seventh birthday party, the theme: hot dogs.
The hot dog bar birthday is actually a brilliant concept which came to me in a scotch induced stupor. Michael was given 24 hours leave from the Civil War to come home and barbecue Nathan's hot dogs and Johnsonville brats. I made homemade chili and potato salad, and you better believe we supplied all the fixins: catsup, mustard, sweet relish, dill relish, jalapenos, peccadillos, chopped onions, sauerkraut and a fondue pot of melted Velveeta. Talk about your white trash guilty pleasure. The adults liked it more than the kids.
Then, we all spent Christmas in the Bay Area, touching base occasionally with my family. I had to buy Bash a new sport jacket because we had Christmas Eve dinner at the club. (Yes, I said the club. I can get very WASPy that way. Don't make me pull out my copy of Emily Post. It's right next to The Art of the Cocktail.) Every time I take Michael to the club I feel as if I'm stickin' it to the man. There is not one person as dark as he is in the entire building. Those who come close to his chocolate brown are bartenders and servers with warm caramel colored skin. Possibly quite unfairly, I looked into the very white faces of those I grew up with and tried to detect a glimmer of prejudice in their eyes. But they betrayed nothing. We miraculously escaped another Christmas Eve unscathed.
Christmas over, Civil War and otherwise, we packed ourselves en masse into our no-incident-yet Toyota Highlander like wet, smelly sardines. And with four suitcases and Santa's bounty we headed due south. Michael couldn't wait to catch up on his stories on the DVR and Maxie was demanding her lady bug bed.
It's odd, my time was fully accounted for when Michael was away, and now that he's back relieving some of the parental burden, I have felt purposeless. I've glanced at the computer screen hundreds of times, and like a siren it beckons, "Hey, remember me? You used to spend hours stroking my keys and looking longingly into my screen."
I had to get out of the house. Away from the piles of laundry, sink full of dishes and Phineas and Ferb marathon to write. I've landed at a Russian cafe, eating Greek salad, sipping Moroccan non-caffeinated mint tea, listening to Safety Dance. I scribble in my notebook and hope the pilot light has been reignited.
There've been encouragements from some of you and they have been much appreciated. And with grace and humility (quite unlike Chloe Sevigny verbally bitch slapping the usher who stepped on her ridiculously long train at the Golden Globes) I say to you, I am back.