Eye Contact *** GUEST POST****

This is a guest post from my wonderful husband Brian, aka Dad in Madtown.  Enjoy!

Lately I’ve been realizing that I have not been making eye contact with people for likely my whole life. Now that I have a son, I am trying to better myself on all fronts, or at the very least, recognize my faults so I can help him avoid those faults in his own life. “Always look eye,” said the late great Mr. Miyagi. In turn, I’ve been trying to work on it. The toughest part is actually just remembering to do it but I guess that’s true with anything. This eye contact thing doesn’t come naturally to me. I understand some of the reasons why it makes sense to look someone in the eye. Namely, it’s a trust thing. If you’re not looking people in the eye they think you’re hiding something. Understandable. What do they think you’re hiding? Well likely that you are a terrible person that is ashamed of their life and can’t even face the 7-11 clerk without having his world of depravity reflected back in the disapproving eyes of those in front of him. Something to that effect I imagine. Fortunately for me, I think it was that my Mom never looks people in they eye and I wasn’t brought up that way so I don’t. Either way, I’m working on it now.

What I’ve started to realize is that perhaps all situations do not call for looking people in the eye. It is very nuanced. The clerk at the Starbucks is probably the easiest place to do it and even that has its’ subtleties. I guess people that make eye contact naturally just know when it is and is not appropriate to start and stop so as I said, I’m working on it. When she’s talking to me, clearly I should be looking her in the eye. But when she is counting out my change, where do I look then? Do I cast my eyes where her eyes will be when she is done and have my eyes wait for her. Do I bend down and look in her eyes (obviously not), do I pretend to be looking elsewhere during this time then bring my gaze back when she hands me my $2.32? That is a timing thing and I guess will just come with practice. I’ve heard of these corporate executives that have these life coach people that basically practice skills like interviewing people, firing people, talking in meetings, presenting, etc. that give them advice on how to act in public and private situations. Maybe I need one of these people or perhaps just a psychiatrist. I have seen personal progress though. The other day at Panera, the woman diverted her eyes from me first, I saw that as a win.

Distance and environment are also two areas that affect proper and socially acceptable eye contact. I went on a walk the other morning and of course was working on my eye contact. I was on a nature path where I encountered my first fellow human. She was walking two dogs and you could just tell she was a happy, cheery lady and I raised my head high, made eye contact and gave a booming “Good morning!” She returned as enthusiastically and all was well in the world. What a nice human-human interaction. I continued walking, now on the street, and the sanitation truck turned a corner in front of me and started coming my way. I gazed up at the man who indeed did make eye contact back and I am almost positive he hurled a derogatory term for an effeminate man in Spanish at me with a condescending laugh. Another human-human interaction. Not so positive. Perhaps you don’t look at sanitation workers or maybe because he was whizzing by he didn’t care or maybe he didn’t think I knew any Spanish or maybe he was just an asshole. Either way, I guess it’s all part of the game. I take my son out on a lot of walks in the woods. As a general rule, I try to say hello to people I pass (now with special attention to eye contact.) Some people say hi back, others don’t, that’s just the way it is. I impart to my son that we always take the high road and say hello regardless of how many people don’t respond. I would not tell him this regarding passing garbage men so maybe that’s a good yardstick.

The last humanoid I encountered on my walk kind of put this all into perspective. I was almost home from my walk and a woman came marching up a side street perpendicular to my path. She was walking 3 enormous strong dogs and really had her hands full. I was kind of tired at this point and perhaps was subconsciously reeling from my Spanish insult so I kind of gave half-hearted eye contact and smile at this woman crossing my path. She gave me a half dirty look and pulled her dogs that were trying to sniff at me in the opposite direction of me. As she was crossing the street she addressed her dogs and said these words to them: “Look forward and only pay attention to yourself.” She was saying this to the dogs as much as she was saying it to me (in my mind anyhow). I reflected on these words on my way home. This interaction actually just made me smile. It made me smile because, yeah, that’s how I was brought up to think. Just mind your own business. Other people are at worst danger, at best, annoying. Just go about your day and get done what you need to get done. And here I was consciously trying to put myself out in this way even with a small gesture and was greeted 2 out of 3 times with some form of aggression. But does that mean I should stop? Be discouraged? Let the aggressors rule my behavior? Hell no it shouldn’t. Of course, I have a-ways to go in learning the conventions of an eye contact life that may have prevented some of these aggressors form responding the way they did, but I will continue to work on it and teach my son, probably unconsciously, how to behave in this way. So if you see a weirdo giving you the side-eye at Denny’s, it may be some schmo like me or perhaps he is a guy wearing a rubber diaper and you should indeed look forward pay attention to yourself.

Musings of a working mom

I am the wife to a stay-at-home Dad. That means not only do I have mom guilt, I have wife guilt. That’s double guilt, and it’s a lot and it results in me just thinking about them both all day long. The whole situation leaves me with a lot of questions that will never get answered.

I wonder what the living room is going to look like when I get home.

Why is this sticky?

Damn this meeting’s running late. Do you think they’ll notice if I just leave?

Why are there 12 plastic golf balls under the radiator?

How many “doctor’s appointments” have we had this past month? I’m tired and need to sleep in.

How many times has my “train been late” this past month? I’m tired and need to sleep in.

Tamara’s in from Philly for the day! I wonder if she can meet me at 7:45am, lunch from 12:15 to 12:28 (I have a 12:30), or a drink at 5:20 to 5:45. Really want to see her, but can’t miss bath time.

When did this rubber ducky get in my purse?

What are they eating for lunch? What am I eating for lunch? Wait, it’s 4:00, should I just skip lunch?

Did I actually tell my husband to turn the slow cooker on? Do I need to tell him to turn things on?

There’s a lot of playing cards around – I see one under the bed, sticking out of a desk drawer… is my two year old learning to play poker?

Are they thinking about me? Are they talking about me?

Does my husband think of me as me when I’m not there? Or just thinking about mommy not being there?

I wonder if anyone can see the Mickey Mouse racecar tattoo through my tights.

Smells Like Home

The lights? Impossibly bright.  The music? Blaring pop that’s vaguely familiar, and just a little too upbeat.  The smell? Cloyingly sweet, headache inducing.  The atmosphere? Chaotic and crowded.  How does it all make me feel? Like I just arrived at home.

No, it’s not the house I grew up in, though besides the loud, off-brand pop music, it’s not too far off.  It’s Bath and Body Works, the suburban mall staple that sells soap, candles and no less than 50 different types of lotion.

I worked at Bath and Body Works for about 3 years in high-school, and was even transferred to a Boston area store when I went away to college.  In real-person, normaltown time, that’s like a decade.  I don’t think I ever liked a job more.  It was my first real experience with work, and also with dealing with women outside of my family and school.  It was the first time I was seen as an adult and an employee which was a big growing experience.  I also got to hang at the mall until like 10pm and got a 40% discount on all things Cucumber Melon, so I obviously loved it.

I remember filling out an application and talking to the manager Wendy, who was probably 21 but seemed so mature and cool.  She had curly, blonde hair, wore a white denim jacket, and had a boyfriend Bobby who she was always fighting with.  When she called me to let me know I got the job, I was ecstatic.  It was my favorite store and I loved it, and Wendy loved 16 year old me and life was great.  I loved wearing the red and white checked apron.  I loved when the new schedule came out. I loved the managers prepping us for new fragrance launches and being genuinely excited to open and unpack the boxes when they arrived.  I wanted to tell everyone about the new Sweet Sugarplum Winterberry Blisstastic line that just arrived for Christmas.  I was so happy to work there and to shop there.  I loved talking to the customers.  I loved to work at the register and see what people picked out.  I loved getting pay checks but loved buying things with my discount even more.

Today, on a particularly dreary day in New York City,  which is where I work now in an office because I’m a relatively normal person, I’m walking back from lunch with my friend.  Everything just feels kind of blah.  It’s a Wednesday, it’s Fall, but not pretty Fall, work is boring and I just want to hang with my husband and son. I want a cupcake but don’t want to eat a cupcake because what 36 year old mom who still needs to lose a couple pounds of baby weight goes around eating cupcakes in the middle of the work day like some kind of reckless maniac? And then I see the logo.  There’s a Bath and Body Works here.  And for the first time in years, I walk inside.

Bath and Body Works has many creative ways to sell fragrances with pumpkin in them (Heavenly Pumpkin Latte! Sweet Pumpkin Sugar Cookie! Pumpkin Pecan Fantasy!) none of which smells like real pumpkin, which actually smells vaguely of vomit.  The fact that this all still exists is unbelievably reassuring.  In a world literally gone mad, ladies are still out on their lunch hour clamoring for the buy 2 get 1 free fall scented soaps.  And everything seems just as it should be.  I’m happy and comforted because though all the scents have different names, at the end of the day, Snowflakes in Cashmere is just Brown Sugar and Fig in new packaging, and though I can’t find Sun-Ripened Raspberry, I know I will as long as I keep sniffing around.

And I wonder why I don’t shop here all the time.  Why don’t I just walk in and smell all the candles and test all the body butters?  Well, it’s obviously only something a total creepy weirdo would do, but also I don’t have that much disposable income, and even if I did, how many shower gels does one person need?  Plus, burning candles are really bad for 2 year olds.  I will tell you this – all the ladies in my life are getting huge bags of Bath and Body Works for Christmas.  I just hope they still make the Sweet Sugarplum Winterberry Blisstastic.

I truly am a failure

A short list of things I’ve failed miserably at:

Selling something on eBay.   Seriously, how are what appears to be a million individuals doing this?  I thought it was a decent light and the “buy it now price” was really good. I’d buy it… if I wasn’t already selling it.

Poaching an egg.   No one can do this at home.  No one.

Facial contouring with make-up.   I did try and follow the YouTube tutorial, but to be fair, my heart wasn’t in it.  I kept thinking about how crazy the Kardashians actually must look in person.  And then I went into a Google rabbit hole. Look up “celeb make-up up close” – it’s nuts

French braiding my hair.   Via a YouTube tutorial.   Again, not sure I blame YouTube. Maybe I’m just bad at hair? Though I wasn’t ready to give up on a cute new style.

French twisting my hair.  (aka a chignon if you’re feeling a little fancy).   Now I do blame YouTube.  And I’m definitely bad at hair. And I’m abandoning all hope of a cute style.

Getting upgraded to first class.   The internet claims this is easy. No one cared it was my honeymoon.  Or I was pregnant.  Or my husband is 6’4.

Finding anything interesting on Facebook in the last 3-4 years.   It’s just not there.

Finding anything I want to “create” on Pinterest ever.   Come on now with these boards.  No one does this.  Okay, maybe crazy brides.  But no one else.

Making it past the 2nd “meal” on a juice cleanse.

Making it past the 2nd day on a low carb diet.   Giving up carbs made me hate food and therefore hate life.

Making one new friend in my suburban neighborhood.   My next door neighbor who is most likely a hoarder who hasn’t mowed her lawn possibly ever does not count.  We’ve only really interacted when she banged on our door begging us to sign a petition against snow plows.  And that is not a true friendship.

Why have I failed at these things? The first 10 are obvious.  They are impossible for anyone who can’t dedicate literally their entire life to them.

The last one, the friendship – the jury’s still out, it’s a mystery.

Stay tuned…

My Marriage is Screwed. Or Will Last Forever and Ever.

The internet is a dangerous place for the average, slightly off-balanced 36 year old woman.  In an age where you can find absolutely any bit of information, stat or study on just about anything and everything, there’s a high probability you’re going to stumble upon something you don’t want to read. A few things have happened in the last decade or so; first off, everyone’s an expert, and these “experts” all have a platform.  (It’s super easy and pretty cheap to get a blog, and being anyone will read anything you put out on the internet – trust me).  Everyone is hungry for their information since we can’t be bored anymore and need to drive ourselves mad with overanalyzing facts.  Secondly, scientists or universities or whatever other faceless, nameless entity is behind these big research studies have simply run out of things to research. They are just making up findings now.  And I’m not sure what to believe.

Take stories about the science behind love and relationships I’ve read lately.  These are some real things I’ve read on website that brand themselves as fairly legitimate:

If you have more than a 45 minute commute, you’re 40% more likely to get a divorce.  7% of the working population in the US has a commute of more than an hour.  I am one of those idiots.  My marriage is statistically doomed, and I need to move immediately.

Couples who go to bed together at the same time everyday are 60% more likely to stay married than couples who do not.  My husband and I go to bed at the same time 95% of the time.  Back in the black!

Then there’s this gem of confusion: Gay couples have happier and longer lasting marriages than straight couples.  There’s nothing I can even do with this information, I can’t make us gay (or can I…?) Doomed, once again.

My advice is – don’t read any of this stuff. We are all searching for answers.  And your computer will happily provide them for you.  And if you search long enough, you’ll find the answers that you want to hear.  (And ones you don’t, but who cares about those. Keep searching!)

It’s like going to a psychic – some piece of information that they tell is bound to be right if they talk long enough or if you wait around.  Stuff is going to happen. Both paying intuitive strangers to map out your life decisions, and trusting your marriage to advice found on the internet are both equally dangerous propositions.  One is much cheaper, but the danger is equal.

On a few occasions, my mother has talked about a class she took in college called, “How To Lie With Statistics.”  I’ve never believed this course existed or that she took such a course, but I do believe this – taking a bit of fact and twisting it for weird and nefarious purposes is quite easy.

So, living in this age of being able to find out anything, my advice is don’t find out anything.  Because it’s all probably a lie anyway.

LIES.

Everyone you know is a big fat liar. Other moms are the worst. Your own mom is probably a liar.

These are not just social media lies. These are big, fat, real life to your face lies.

These are some of the biggest ones that I’ve been tricked into believing.

People live in clean houses.

No one’s house is clean. It’s impossible. Unless you have a live in housekeeper who’s really on their game, or are my friend Eunice. She’s in PR and her husband is an attorney and they both spend a gazillion hours in their offices and have no kids, so their place might be clean. Except they live in New York City, so probably not. Told you.

People successfully do things themselves.

DIY is a big fat lie, and while I mostly blame the internet, I also largely blame HGTV and Home Depot. We tried to plant and grow grass ourselves. There are countless blog post and books on the subject. I assure you, it’s impossible. Gardening is next to impossible. I take that back – it’s possible to maintain a garden after you pay a pro thousands of dollars to create one for you and then you just weed, water and fertilize a bit. No one has ever built anything good themselves. No tile project or pergola or dog house a lay person builds is actually of quality. These, dear readers, are lies.

Kids will eat food that is remotely healthy.

Pediatrician’s probably have lied to me about so many things, but lies about food are the worst. I believe it’s my main job to keep my kid alive and healthy. Yeah, I’ve made him try broccoli probably 50 times. And carrots. And apples. And string beans. He’s not “just getting used to it”. He will not learn to like it. He knows what he likes. And that’s chips, tortillas, cookies, ice cream, and French fries.

Normal adults can do meaningful things after a full day of work.

Is anyone doing anything after eating dinner and putting the kids to bed?

Who is living their best life, experiencing the world on a Tuesday? Oh, people that don’t have jobs.

Jeans are comfortable.

Bold faced lie told to me by fashion magazines, style bloggers, every single store in every single mall, and by that annoying pulled together friend of a friend who you run into on a Sunday and they look amazing and they don’t look like they are wearing makeup but are and who is wearing an amazing sweater and trendy sneakers and perfectly tailored jeans and when you say “you look so cute” they respond by acting confused and saying “these are my Sunday comfy jeans!!!” She’s just the biggest liar of them all.

Proof you have zero control of your life.

Because you don’t.

You can describe exactly how you want your haircut, but you’re not a hairdresser, so it will never, ever translate.  And those pictures look nothing like your hair to begin with, so that helps no one.  How you’re describing the perfect seamless layers are meaningless.

The weather.

75% of the store will be on sale.  The shoes you like will not be on sale.  And people say you love shopping, and you don’t.  You can’t stand it. You want to save money, but you also want to get something you won’t totally hate.  You buy the expensive, non-sale shoes of course because you want to stop totally wasting your life.

Voting doesn’t seem to make sense or work.

You get (sneak) out of work early, and then the train is 20 minutes late.

You get up at 6:00am, exercise, bring your own lunch, keep skim milk in the fridge and use it, actually eat carrot sticks, all before you enter a 90 minute meeting about something you don’t care about or understand.  And then, someone walks in with literally dozens of warm baked cookies, from a place that you’ve been dying to try but can’t justify spending $5.00 on a cookie.