Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Open hate letter to hand sanitizer

Dear hand sanitizer,

Lots of people love you, so you don’t need my love.  Well, good.  Because I think you suck.  Why are you everywhere?  I hated you long before I had kids, but with only a mild loathing.   You were easy to avoid back then.  Just bypass those little canisters on the wall and go actually wash my hands.  Like, with soap and hot water.  You know, so that they get clean.  Unlike what you do, which is make a new film on top of the dirt that for some reason, people have agreed to call clean.

You have your place.  Like at the petting zoo when I run out of the sanitizing wipes I keep in my purse instead of you, and one of my friends has a handy bottle of you to squirt on my kids’ hands after they feed goats.  But you know what? Even after my friend squirts my kids’ hands with you, I STILL don’t want them putting their hands in their mouths, because I don’t trust you, f**ker.  I think you are a big fat lie perpetrated on society.  So basically your purpose in that situation is to make it socially acceptable for my children to eat and rub their eyes and stuff, even though they still have goat saliva on their hands covered in a layer of stinky goo.  (That stinky goo is you, hand sanitizer, in case you are as dumb as you seem.)

We’ll start simple.  Why do you smell so bad?  You are, as I understand it, rubbing alcohol in goo form.  Rubbing alcohol smells like alcohol, but it doesn’t smell gross like you do.  Why do you smell like weeds mixed with cheap candles?  You give me a headache. 

But the bigger issue is this: Why do people think that you make them clean?  You do not remove particles of anything.  OK, let me give you an example.  If, say, my child wiped their own butt after dropping a deuce, and accidentally wound up with crap all over their hand.  And then they rubbed you on there and mixed you with the crap to make a crap-goo paste that now covered both of their hands, would you say their hands were clean?  NO!  They have just created a crap emulsion and rubbed it into every crevice on their hands.  That is gross!  That is what you do, hand sanitizer.  You do not remove the goat saliva, or fecal matter, or whatever gross thing we are skeeved enough by to squirt you onto our children.  You just move it around and make it smell like the back room at Yankee Candle.

And you. are. everywhere.  At every child’s birthday party, the guests are made to line up and rub you on their hands before they are allowed to have cake.  You know what that is, hand sanitizer?  That’s f**king extortion.  The first few times my kids went through the birthday cake shakedown line, they didn’t even know what you were.  I was so proud when they rubbed you on their hands and then looked around for a sink, assuming you were soap.  Because that’s what you should be, sanitizer.  You should be soap.  And hot water.  Because that’s how hands get clean.

OK, I understand you want to justify your own misguided existence, but think about this.  When surgeons go in to operate, do they just squirt a little of you on their hands and call it done?  NO!  They use soap and water, because that is how people get clean. 

But you have even insinuated your deceiving little ass into the medical field.  To get into the NICU to see my preemie daughter, I had to scrub my hands with a nail brush at a sink hooked up to a timer.  I had to scrub for three minutes.  It doesn’t seem that long, but let me tell you, my hands were good and clean after a minute or so.  But no, I had to clean them again and again just to get in the door.  But the nurses in there?  They change some other baby’s crap-load diaper, and then come over to my baby.  And do they do a three-minute scrub?  NO!  They effing squirt you onto their hands, make a crap-emulsion, and then use their crap-emulsified hands to adjust my not-quite-five-pound baby’s IV.  That’s bullshit right there, hand sanitizer.  Bullshit and baby shit, both.  

You know why everyone loves you so much?  You are convenient.  That’s it.  You are a convenient lie, like “ketchup and pizza are vegetables.”  They’re not vegetables.  They’re not even made of vegetables.  I mean, even if you’re talking about the tomatoes, tomatoes are a fruit.  WTF?  And just like pizza is not a vegetable, hand sanitizer, you do not make our hands clean.  You make our dirty hands smell funny and give us a false sense of security.

Except me, sanitizer.  I’m onto you.  So suck it.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Good mom, bad mom

I read this post on BlogHer today, in which a mom overhears her kids talking about what makes a good mom.  Curious, I asked my two.  Here are some of the answers:

A good mom hugs us, kisses us, snuggles us all day, does whatever we say, and lets us watch TV all day long even when we have a bad night-night time.

Sweet, no?  Hug us, kiss us, and do whatever the hell we say.  Not so far off from the mom they have, really, so awesome.  And every time I take away TV and Wii as a punishment for an insane bedtime, I regret it.  It sucks for me.  I usually give it back later in the day as a contingency for some other behavior.  Like, "eat your dinner without getting up from the table 427 times, and maybe I'll let you watch some TV before bed." Every two or three months, I make the "If I hear one more word from this bedroom, no TV or Wii tomorrow" mistake.  I hear the words coming out of my mouth, and I want to take them back.  I much prefer the "no treats or snacks" consequence.  Not that I won't give them a snack between meals—I will of course—but "snacks" in our house is a category meaning salty junk food.  The "no treats or snacks" consequence is very effective, and I have no trouble sticking to it on the very rare occasions when they continue to screw around at bedtime after that threat comes out.

When we were done discussing the ways in which I could accommodate their every whim, I asked what makes a bad mom.  Here is what they said:

A bad mom yells very loudly, punches us in the face, makes plastic food for dinner, or poo-poo for dinner.  It degenerated from there into the various unappetizing things I could make for dinner, and the conversation was clearly over.

So, I'm doing OK on the not being a bad mom front.  No feces on their plates, awesome. And I have yet to punch them in the face, so I win!  Oh, yelling.  Well, yeah, kids.  No one's perfect.

The sweetest part of this, though, is that they really believe I'm a good mom.  When I do something questionable, like let them eat nothing but Doritos for lunch at a party because I want to hang with my friends rather than police their food consumption, I sometimes jokingly say that I'm a bad mom.  And every single time they have overheard me saying that, they remind me, "No mommy, you're a good mom."

Of course, if their standard is that I don't punch them or give them poo-poo for dinner, I guess that's a pretty low bar.

Friday, April 20, 2012

When I grow up

Sorry about that lean month there. I started 5 or 6 blog entries, but none of them quite came together. I guess I was waiting to have something more real to say.

 So here's real. I’m thirty-eight and I have no earthly clue what I want to be when I grow up. I always wanted to be a novelist. From as far back as I can remember, writing was my passion. I was an English major in college, and had grand plans of writing… no, not the great American novel… but maybe some great American smut. In college, I needed a job, and I found one working as a research assistant in a Psychology lab. It was interesting work, research on alcoholism and marriage. I mainly did grunt work, translating “a case of beer” or “half a bottle of vodka” into standard drink units (24 and 8.5 standard drinks, respectively). I did data entry. I filed questionnaires. I learned some rudimentary statistics and sat in meetings and listened and learned.

 My college boyfriend was a musician, so as things started to get serious, I started thinking about careers more practical than writing. You know, the kind of careers that come with health insurance and a paycheck. I figured one of the two of us might need those things if we were going to make a go of it. I added Psychology as a second major. My bosses in the Psychology lab assumed I would go to grad school, so I applied to a bunch of schools. I got into Stanford. There was no soul searching involved. Grad school was just the next thing you do if you’re doing Psychology research. So that’s what I did.

 A few years in, I started questioning whether Psychology research was the career for me. I was no longer dating a musician. I was living in Silicon Valley in the dot-com boom. People were dropping out of grad school to join start-ups. Google was hiring. Ebay. Friends were becoming millionaires (on paper). It was very tempting. But other friends convinced me to stay. I was 24, and three years into a five-year PhD program. “You’re almost done!” they lied. I stayed.

 Seven years it took me to get my PhD. I also left Stanford with a Masters in Statistics. Why? I don’t know. Because I am a procrastinator, and time spent in Stats classes was time I didn’t have to think about the glacial pace of my dissertation research. Because numbers were a problem I could solve, unlike the amorphous and slippery “finish your dissertation.” Because I still lacked direction, and Stats seemed practical. I was 28, armed with a PhD and two Masters degrees from one of the top universities in the world.

 No damn clue. None.

 I married my husband less than a week after turning in my dissertation, and fell into a job as a Statistics consultant in the department where he worked at Stanford. I cranked out numbers for a bunch of radiologists, and became an expert in some very specific branches of statistics used by people in that field. I helped write NIH grants and co-authored papers on important things like detecting cancer and heart disease. There wasn’t really anywhere to go in that job. But it was a good job. It had flexible hours, paid very well, and I could do it easily. I put some money into a 403b. I learned to belly dance. I did lots of TaKeTiNa and meditation. I went to Burning Man.

 No clue.

 My husband applied for a job at Johns Hopkins and got it. We moved to Maryland. I continued to telecommute and do my old job at Stanford while they looked for my replacement. I was 32. They found a replacement for me eventually, and by then, we were trying to get pregnant. I did some freelance consulting with a couple of autism researchers—statistics, writing, editing, whatever they needed—because it felt dishonest to look for a “real job” when I knew I’d be leaving to have and stay home with a baby. I wrote half a novel, and filed the paperwork for a jewelry design business. I went into a three-year training to learn to lead TaKeTiNa workshops. And then, at 34, I got pregnant with twins.

 When they were born, for the first time, I knew what I was supposed to be. I was meant to be a mom. That role clicked into a place inside me that I would never have predicted. I was never a baby person. I had thought I wanted “one or none.” But those two little people came into my life and filled in spaces in my heart I didn’t know existed. I didn’t and don’t love the mommy job every minute of every day, but overall I have loved the full-time job of caring for them, teaching them, nourishing them. Best gig ever. Shitty pay. Shitty hours. No sick leave. But still, best gig ever. I feel incredibly lucky to have had the luxury of staying home with them for these years.

 But see, they’re turning five this summer. They’re starting kindergarten in the fall. Five full days a week. It’s kind of time for that whole paycheck, retirement savings, paying down debt thing to start happening. Maybe time for me to wear something other than jeans on the bottom half of my body. And maybe, you know, time to start showering more often. And, like, start wearing actual shoes.

God, it sounds awful.

 So what happens now? I have been out of the job market completely for five years, and out of it in any serious way for even longer. I (perhaps naively) think I could probably find a job of some kind. But… but this feels like a clean slate. If there’s a time to make a career change, this is it! So great, let’s do that! Except that I never did the work to figure out what I wanted to be. I just went with the flow, did the next thing, went to school a lot, found work that seemed reasonable, and made some babies. I still don’t know what I want to be, do, accomplish.

 I’m almost f**king forty. When did that happen? HOW did that happen? I was in college five minutes ago. Where did seventeen years of my life go? Well, seven in grad school plus four as a statistician plus two as a consultant plus five as a stay-at-home mama. Crap, that’s 18. Faulty math. Damn, I really AM rusty. Maybe I’m 39? No, I’m pretty sure I’m 38. Plus or minus one. Whatever. Old. Old to not know. Old to be thinking about careers that start with unpaid internships. Old to be wondering about the colors of parachutes and making lists of experiences that have made me feel competent and joyful. Old to be this clueless, this uncertain, this scared.

 I don’t know how to end this entry, which is maybe why it’s so long. I can’t wrap this up in a neat bow with a joke or a witty tie-back to the first paragraph. It’s raw, and real, and scary. I’m between trapeze bars, and I have no idea what’s next.