Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Name, The Boy, The Wit

When the Matron was not yet Matronly but not quite a Young Miss, she discovered (after one night of birth control Russian Roulette) that she was pregnant.

She and John decided to name their firstborn after the street on which they lived: Stryker Avenue.

Boy or girl, John swore. The Matron secretly knew any daughter would be a Scarlett but she went along.

When the Matron had her first ultrasound, she bit her lip through the technician's recitation: "The baby is perfect! The liver, terrific! The heart? Great. Your baby is perfect!"

"You want to know the gender right? Your baby is a boy."

And the Matron burst into tears. She felt HORRIBLE and ungrateful and knew she had won the lottery, perfect baby and all, but she could not comprehend a son.

Of course, now she can't imagine not having sons!

To wit?

Yesterday, the Matron and Stryker (11) had this exchange:

Matron: "Why are you incapable of putting away simple things, like socks and cereal bowls?"

Stryker: "Poor genetic material?"

She's certain he's going to write stand-up one day.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Swim Suit Season

The Matron is amazing. Watch while she sums up her entire 278 page dissertation in a single blog post (okay, that statement is mildly unsettling).

To prove her eventual point, she must ask you some questions: "What is anorexia, who are the primary sufferers and what are the contributing factors?"

Big round of applause! You know every single answer!

But there's no other equivalent mental illness in which the entire culture is so well-versed. Could you answer the same for alcoholism? Schizophrenia? Borderline Personality Disorder?

Of course not.

The Matron's main point was that American culture requires cement-solid definitions of 'disease' when it comes to female eating. Why? Because if medicine --and the beauty industry, fashion, athletics--can say "this" (anorexia) is disease, everything else is 'normal,' sort of by default.

Focusing our attention on one type of body and despair, allows us to forget the rest. All of us 'normal' eaters.

The Matron wonders what 'normal' eating is in a world where the female body is the primary vehicle for sales, of all sort, and sexism not only endures, but is institutionalized to the point of acceptance. Consider Hustler or Playboy or even the current Democratic presidential campaign (remember when someone yelled "iron my shirt" at Hillary? What if that was "shine my shoes" at Barack?) as one tiny examples.

How many men do you know that tend to their bodies with female precision: calories? glycemic index? past the lips, forever on the hips? do these pants make me look thinner? can't eat a brownie because I didn't jog today OR okay, I get to TREAT myself because I did the treadmill.

The Matron considered these issues today while listening to psychologically sound mothers discuss their daughters bodies. The entire conversation was all about the girls' happiness: isn't it hard being the chubby one? Poor Greta! She feels fat next to all her other friends.
There was talk about tummies, thighs and who was 'rounding out' and who remaining beanpole thin. The Matron was a participant in this conversation, mind you, not an innocent bystander. But she noted -- as the women discussed the burgeoning female bodies -- that this type of conversation happens from time to time regarding the daughters, but not the sons.

Once Scarlett asked the Matron why some people were fat and others were skinny and how to stay in Category Number Two.

The Matron said: "Eat until your tummy feels full and make mostly healthy choices."

Now, the "healthy choices" part annoys the Matron. In his new book, In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan posits that 90% of what we call food, isn't. Most of what sits on the American shelf--from Ramen noodles to Trix to Hamburger Helper -- are chemicals masquerading as food. He keeps a perfect-looking 5 year old Twinkie at his side as example: real food rots.

Now consider the alluring, appealing Matronly nails that top this post. See the slight yellow lining? The stain? That would be from the Matron's preferred chemical pleasure -- Old Dutch Cheese Popcorn!

The Matron ate that popcorn TEN DAYS ago.

She has showered. Bathed. Soaked those nails. Yet the yellow lining remains, much like Kool-Aid can ruin a rug.

Did you know that fast food chains add 'scent' to their food? Yes! There's burger smell and chicken, added because the real aroma is long gone.

This is the brave new world our children are living in - the daughters? They better be thin. Yes, we are still singing that song! The beauty standard remains (often, pretending to be all about health when really, we are still talking beauty) at the same time the food 'standard' has been all but obliterated.

Today, this entire situation, annoyed the Matron.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

That Damn Dog

The Matron spent the past two hours searching the neighborhood for Satan's Familiar.

Finally, she tossed in the towel and headed for the van so she could travel greater distances in her daily (at least) search for that damn dog.

Guess what? The man who is unable to move this, forgot Satan's Familiar in the van. Where he languished for nearly five hours!

Yes, now the Matron can search for the dog even when he's not missing. He IS magic, able to suck up all her time and spirit that way.

Now that the Matron's previous post has established her as an utterly unreliable narrator, you may not believe the terrible truth: as she was typing this, she heard Satan's Familiar barking and barking and barking -- from about four blocks away.


But she bought a crate. The problem is that it's hard to see his evil little self in there, all huddling and whimpering. That dog has the Matron on a very special leash.


Yesterday's now deleted blog post taught the Matron a lesson.

You see, the post bothered the Matron, even as she wrote it. She took one tiny slice of her 20 week experience at a certain Dance Studio dipped her toe in Hyperbole and developed tunnel vision.

While she was writing, the fact that the 'neighbor' to whom she referred was not actually just a neighbor but a dear trusted friend whose disciplined, talented and smart daughter has spent well over one decade at that studio--well, those facts caused her some discomfort.

You already know what's coming. Because you are smarter than the Matron.

She also knew -- while she poked fun at the place and people--that she was side-stepping all the considerable good things about the studio. On purpose. She persisted, in pursuit of the under-30 minute daily post.

That post hurt her dear friend --and the whole family--deeply.

Here's the dicey part. There is no "Minnesota Matron." She's a third-person construct. Non-existing. And then there's me (hi! This is Mary talking!).

Generally, the Matron -- who is far more imperious (and confident) than her real life counterpart---manages to juggle the delicacies of creative nonfiction. For her, creative nonfiction means when necessary, she takes the truth and readjusts it for the sake of the story.

But yesterday she forgot that friendship--and the real life feelings of people she cares for--trumps the sake of the story.

She's grateful that the friend is smarter and more generous of spirit than she is and forgives her (but not without a well-earned upbraiding!). Although this was far less dramatic than getting dooced, the Matron prefers not to experience such discomfort again.

And, to make the day entirely humbling, The Children's Theater called to say that her daughter is not Madeline material.

Rats. The Matron needs strangers to deconstruct. Because she is going to treat her friends better.

Monday, May 19, 2008

My Dream Of You

This is the title of one of the Matron's all time favorite books. You will weep and roar.

The jaw-dropping life-inspiring woman who wrote this book (an older, unlikely, unfit and unhappy woman) Nuala O'Faolain died this week. She gave a heart-stopping interview few weeks ago, a radio interview in which she wept and ranted about her fate-- cancer, a few weeks, certain death.

She said this:

"WelI I am sick, but I am trying to say goodbye. So much has happened and it seems such a waste of creation that with each death all that knowledge dies.

I think there's a wonderful rule of life that means that we do not consider our own mortality. I know we seem to, and remember, 'man thou art but dust', but I don't believe we do. I believe there is an absolute difference between knowing that you are likely to die, let's say within the next year, and not knowing when you are going to die -- an absolute difference."

Carol Shields, another of the Matron's favorite writers, died of cancer in 2003. The Matron remembers a shattering interview, in which the terminal Shields laughed about how she initially took comfort in her Pulitzer Prize. This, she thought, would grant her some degree of immortality, cheat death.

Then she went through the entire list of Pulitzer Prize winners and realized how very few she knew - how anonymous, how spent, how sand-like even the 'famous' were. She barely knew any of them. They were dust to her.

Read the transcript of O'Faolain's interview. Read her books, Are You Somebody and My Dream of You. Really. The Matron is smart that way -- you will be forever changed.

And when you're tempted to watch Lost instead of working on the novel, the poems, the art, remember this haunting line from a New York Times book review. The writer was reviewing the singular, slight volume of poetry a writer produced before she died of cancer at age 40 --a blazing talent with barely any work to her name.

So here are the lines the Matron tries to remember each morning:

"What will you do with your one wild and precious life?" Mary Oliver.

"Skip the party and write the poems" Can't remember from the Times Book Review.

My Dream of You is a perfect title. The dream's the ticket.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Post Wherein Two Key Questions Are Answered

This would be the same counter, a few days later.

The kitchen counter, again. Notice the recurring theme?

A few more days pass. Peek behind that coffee pot!

And time continues to tick on.

That vase? The Matron thinks it has been sitting on the kitchen counter since approximately April 28th. That vase is steadfast! Enduring! Reassuring, almost. The Matron is 100% confident in its continued existence in just that very space. In a world of change and dangerous weather, a woman can take comfort in that kind of consistency. And yes, this vase confirms the Matron's understanding that she--and she alone-- has the magical power to move objects from where someone sets them down, to where they belong.

The two key questions: When will that vase suddenly be mysteriously transported to its place in the cupboard?

Is her husband still reading her blog?

Stay tuned . . .