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Posts Tagged ‘Social Ineptitude’

I DID IT. Based on your supportive comments and gentle nudges toward action, I talked to my neighbor about her lovely lunch invitation.  First, I resolved to talk to her about it. Next, I cobbled together a script from several commenters’ suggestions, and I practiced it in the car and in the shower. Then, I waited for the Right Opportunity.

Carla provided me with a very nice segue – she was playing with the neighbor’s dog, and I needed her to come home to eat lunch. So I walked next door to fetch her. The neighbor came out and said hello, and I told her the reason for my appearance. Then I made my little speech: “Speaking of lunch, I was thinking about your kind invitation that we have lunch together, and I was so delighted by the offer that I said yes without thinking, but the truth is, Carla and I have so many silly food restrictions between us it’s not really worth getting into, and I was wondering if we could do something a little simpler, like afternoon tea or lemonade?” When I practiced it, I was Breezy and Casual and I had a little self-deprecating laugh in there, plus I also had a line about how of COURSE we wanted to spend time with her… and I also wanted to offer to bring homemade cookies or something… but it all came out in a rush and I forgot some of it. Oh well. At least I got out the important part which was LUNCH WILL NOT GO WELL.

Her immediate reaction was, “Oh no, sometimes I give Carla food when she comes over!” and so I had to reassure her that I didn’t mean allergies, but rather that Carla is the pickiest person on the planet. (Deftly trying to put the bulk of the blame on Carla’s food restrictions rather than my own.) Here is where Carla chimed in and informed our neighbor that I HATE tomatoes. So I am clearly not blameless. 

Once I had assured her she wasn’t doing something egregious by feeding my child cherries and red peppers, she seemed to relax a bit. She asked if something like tea and biscuits would be fine and I said that would be lovely and we discussed possible dates (though didn’t settle on anything specific). I am… so relieved. THANK YOU for helping me figure out the right way to handle this sticky situation. 

Now I can turn my Food Frets toward camp. 

Carla is attending a new camp this summer, and they don’t offer meals. So we will be packing a lunch. This is fine

Now that she is nearly NINE (which is nearly TEN, omg), I am looking forward to forcing encouraging Carla to make her own lunch (with supervision). We discussed some potential ideas for lunches, and her Ideal Lunch is a Lunchable. She only eats the ham Lunchable, and she only eats the ham, the cookies, and the crackers. She refuses to eat the cheese. If I pack her slices of other cheese – specifically cheddar that I have cut for her – she will eat that. 

So I was banking on sending her with Lunchables each day, and that if Lunchables become unavailable (again), or if she gets sick of them, we can pack a bagel and cream cheese with some pepperoni.

To round out her lunch, I would add other things she eats, like pickles and grapes and berries and grape tomatoes and red peppers and sugar snap peas. 

So I felt pretty good about our options. 

Then we got a note from camp that said NO PORK PRODUCTS. 

AHHHHHHHHH 

What now???

I suppose what we have to do is revert to PBJ. The camp is not a nut-free campus, so peanut butter is an option. Carla also enjoys eats sun butter, so she (and I) can make sandwiches every day. Carla eats sun butter sandwiches at school all year long, so I know she WILL eat them. But the last time I tried to make her one, she complained because my sandwiches weren’t the SAME as the ones at school. 

Weary sigh. 

I suppose I can just send her with the equivalent of Snack Dinner, but for lunch. But I am just not sure what the protein situation will be in that case. Snack Dinner usually has pepperoni or a couple of chicken nuggets or two.

I wonder if she would eat cold chicken nuggets (hork)? 

The reason that I am fretting about this is two-fold.

The first fold is that the camp really made a Big Deal about ensuring that we sent a LOT of food with our kids to camp. They emphasized that we should send MORE than we think – like, enough food for a week rather than a day. The kids work so hard and are so active, they are ravenous when they get to lunchtime. So I want to a) comply with the rules and b) make sure my particular kid is getting enough sustenance. 

The second fold is that Carla already eats next to nothing for lunch. I assume she eats something at school each day, although her reports are sporadic and often sound like, “Oh yeah, I ate a hamburger bun and a slice of American cheese.” So I am already facing an uphill climb when it comes to getting her to eat. I want to stack all the odds in my favor by ensuring her lunches are full of things she LIKES, not just things she tolerates. 

Well. I am not really asking for ideas, because I feel like it will be an exercise in frustration. (You, reasonably: “Send her with some chickpeas! Or beans! Or hummus! Or tuna salad! Or turkey! Or a protein drink!” and I will cringe at you while shaking my head because she will not touch ANY of that, and the list is endless.) (I am going to buy some turkey pepperoni and see if Carla will deign to try it.) I am just whining. New camp, new frets. 

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I have always dreamed extremely vivid – and usually super violent – dreams. But it’s been a long while since I’ve remembered any. 

This past week, I’ve had two that stuck with me after the fact. 

In one, I dreamed I was in an enclosure hiding from bears. The bears WERE going to attack, and if anyone wasn’t in the enclosure, they WOULD be mauled. There were other people who kept coming into my enclosure, but no one seemed to grasp the fact that BEARS CAN OPEN DOORS, and so they were leaving all the doors unlocked, so I had to keep going around and around to all the doors, locking them and shooting meaningful, grim looks to my fellow enclosees, none of whom seemed capable of grasping the fact that MAULING WAS IMMINENT. There were a LOT of doors, and the enclosure kept expanding. At one point, I went outside into a fenced-in area. The fences had barbed wire on top of them, but they were all only about two feet tall so that a really determined bear could simply step over them. 

I think we can all deduce what particular anxiety THAT dream is about.

The other dream is less memorable, and less perilous. But no less upsetting, for me. In the dream, I dropped Carla off at someone’s house for a playdate, and the mother invited me in to join everyone for a snack. The snack was bananas (which I do not eat), but Carla hissed at me, “You have to be polite.” So I ate a piece of a banana. And the host cut off another slice of banana, so I ate that too. And another. And another. Even though I haven’t eaten a banana since… preschool? I can still feel that mushy, sickly sweetness in my mouth. 

This dream, too, has a direct source. Our lovely neighbor has invited me and Carla over for lunch. The date is still pending, but oh my goodness I wish I could get out of it! 

Eating at other people’s homes has always been a HUGE source of anxiety for me. While I do eat a large variety of foods, I have a lot of super picky aversions. It’s not as easy as saying, “Oh, I have an allergy to X” and then the host just doesn’t cook with X. The list is so long I could not even hope to cover it all.

I remember, as a kid, DREADING going over to other people’s houses to eat. Just absolutely finding it awful. I have a vivid memory of sitting at a friend’s dining table with her whole family as they ate what was, I’m sure, a perfectly lovely meal, and I was just choked with anxiety because I did not want to eat any of it. And I tried to eat things here and there – the bread, maybe – and my friend’s mother was scolding me to clean my plate. It was awful. I don’t think I ever ate at that friend’s house again. In fact, unless someone was clearly and definitely serving pizza or tacos, I don’t think I ever ate at ANYONE’s house again.

I will never do the ”clean your plate” thing to Carla and I will never force one of her friends in my care to eat something she doesn’t want to. But that’s children. I am a grown adult. I should be able to go to someone’s house and eat the food. And yet. It is very anxiety producing, because I am equally afraid that a) I will have to eat something I dislike or b) I will offend the host by rejecting something I do not want to eat. 

I would say that my husband and I only rarely eat at other people’s houses. We have two sets of friends with whom we dine occasionally, and I feel like they are close enough friends that I can say, “No, I don’t eat lamb” when they ask, in advance of the dinner, if we eat lamb chops. (I say it regretfully, and embarrassedly, but with great relief.) But with the vast majority of people, you just show up! And eat the food they serve! I remember going to a new friend’s house and they served an absolutely beautiful meal of which the main course was chicken parmesan. Each breast was just smothered in tomatoes, which is probably my Number One Most Reviled Food. I cannot eat tomatoes; I have tried. I think I tried to be surreptitious in how I scraped them off the chicken, and then I helped wash the dishes, and I am SO hopeful that the host didn’t notice. (I am guessing the host noticed; I would notice. I would then, as host, fret that the food was bad or that I’d made something unpalatable to one of the guests.) Another time, we went to a friend’s house and she served chili with chunks of tomatoes in it. I ate around the tomatoes, but it’s so hard to do that in an unnoticeable way, and yet I cannot eat the tomatoes. I WISH I COULD. If I had access to a genie, and could only make selfish and self-serving wishes, I am pretty sure “make it so I love tomatoes” would be one of them.  

All this talk about tomatoes is making me queasy.

Along the same lines: Carla eats nothing. She is FAR more picky than I am and has not developed the techniques I have honed over the years for eating things she doesn’t like but can stand, or taking (as my mother-in-law calls it) a no-thank-you portion of something she doesn’t want, or trying something that doesn’t look appealing, or swiftly moving an item to her husband’s plate for him to eat instead.  

So now, this lovely, wonderful woman has extended this lovely invitation… to two people who eat NOTHING… and I not only have to somehow overcome my own anxieties about eating but also model good guest behavior to my child. Ugh ugh ugh. (What if she serves egg salad, a food I do not think I could force myself to eat??? Or some kind of lunch meat??? Or almost any normal lunch food????????)

Is there any way, after I have already said, “Oh that sounds lovely” to the neighbor, to now go back and say something like, “Carla and I have a bunch of really fussy food aversions – would it be possible to come have a glass of lemonade instead?” Is there any way?????? There isn’t, is there. I can almost picture her face falling as we reject her LOVELY invitation. Which is almost – but not quite – as bad as facing the Unknown Food. 

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I don’t know how to categorize the subject of this post. Maybe it is Things People Say Without Thinking? Or Things You Should and Shouldn’t Say? We Live in a Society? Interactions with People You Know But Not Well Enough to Know the Right Thing to Say?

Also, keep in mind that it’s possible the two halves of this topic are not as connected in real life as they are in my brain. 

Recently, I’ve been communicating with a couple of women about a volunteer project. Up until yesterday, we’d only spoken via email or phone or text, never in person. But we got together for coffee to hammer out the details of something that was cumbersome over the phone. 

One of the women arrived a little bit late, and when she came in, the other woman and I introduced ourselves. The late woman said, cheerily, and with no rancor, “Oh! It’s so funny! I thought YOU would be taller [this to our companion] and YOU would be shorter [this to me]!”

It was an innocuous enough comment, although it struck me as relatable (I tend to think everyone is my age/height until I meet them in person – seriously, everyone reading this right now is 41 and 5’6” unless you have expressly stated otherwise) but also a slightly odd thing to say out loud. 

(It also made me wonder, in what way am I giving off a short vibe, and what would a “short vibe” consist of, anyway?)

It reminded me of a very similar experience I had nearly twenty years ago. I was working remotely and had never met any of the people I interacted with daily. And there was no Zoom back then, and I don’t even know if iPhones had been invented (I am ancient), so I had no idea what anyone looked like and they had no idea what I looked like either. 

When I flew out to the home office, I got to meet everyone in person. And one of the women I worked with said to me, “Wow, you look so different from how I pictured you. I thought you would be fat and ugly.”

I mean. WHAT. Who says that, a), and secondforth why, WHY would you say that to anyone? 

Fat, fine – maybe I talked a lot about food (unsurprising) or maybe I had a jolly persona, I don’t know, whatever. People come in all different sizes, and I know fat people and skinny people and medium people and their sizes don’t have any particular value for me. But juxtaposing it with “ugly” makes it clear that, to this person, “fat” was a negative rather than a neutral attribute. 

And, okay, giving off a “short vibe” or a “blond vibe” or a “nerdy vibe” or a “freckly vibe” is puzzling… but giving off a “fat, ugly” vibe just seems clearly negative, right? What the hell does that MEAN, and why do I need to KNOW THAT?

Anyway, I was 25 or whatever and I laughed about it and moved on – the colleague was someone with whom I worked very well for many years, and she either didn’t know how rude her comment was or meant it to cause pain but didn’t get any reaction. But I have remembered it, and puzzled over it once in awhile. 

I think, a lot of times, we feel like we SHOULD say something, but aren’t quite sure WHAT to say, and so we end up putting our foot in it. 

Personally, I think the old tried and true, “It’s so nice to finally meet you!” is plenty, but I can fully understand how someone might want to be more specific/original. Plus, if I met you in person and you were 21 and 6’3”, I just might be surprised enough that I would blurt out something bizarre. 

This brings me to the topic that * I * feel is related, but may not actually be related. Maybe third cousins twice removed.

It is also about Things You Should Say When Saying Something Is Required. More specifically, what do you say to someone when societal rules require you to comment on a situation but don’t know how the recipient feels about the situation?

Here are some examples: 

Example 1: A coworker’s parent has died, and you know about the death, and know the coworker well enough that it would be rude/noticeable NOT to say something, but you don’t know the coworker well enough to know what their relationship was like with the parent. So many people have such fraught relationships with their parents, and death can bring up complicated feelings already, whether the relationship was happy or strained.

“I’m so sorry for your loss” is the standard statement when someone has died, and maybe it’s fine in this instance, even if this particular parent’s death may not feel like a loss to this particular child. “May your parent’s memory be a blessing” is more geared toward the mourner, and therefore might not be appropriate if the relationship between child and parent wasn’t a happy one. “May your parent rest in peace” might be a good neutral statement that doesn’t convey the expectation that all parent/child relationships are full of love and respect. Maybe “I’m so sorry.” is all you need in this instance. It’s short, it’s simple. It covers a wide range of possibilities. 

Example 2: A parent you see regularly but aren’t close to is pregnant. You happen to know this parent is pregnant. You also happen to know, from a mutual acquaintance, that the pregnancy was unplanned and that there are issues in the marriage (infidelity, serious illness, abuse) or in the pregnant person’s life (job insecurity, desire to be done having children, illness) or with the pregnancy itself (known complication or disease) that mean the pregnancy might not be happy or desirable. But if you don’t know the parent well enough to KNOW these things yourself, how do you acknowledge the news?

“Congratulations!” is simple, but implies happiness. “You look wonderful” might be okay. I… can’t think of any neutral statements about pregnancy that don’t imply either “babies are wonderful and you should be happy about this one!” or “OMG I heard that you don’t want this kid, what a crap situation.” 

Example 3: Someone you know, but not well, is getting a divorce. You have no idea if this is a happy relief for the couple or a devastating sadness. 

If this was truly someone I didn’t know, I might just not say anything at all. And yet… it’s a major life change, and it might feel weird to say nothing. But I would want to say the right thing! 

I’m guessing that people in ALL of these situations and more get ALL SORTS of comments, and that they just learn to grit their teeth and get through the ones that are totally off base. But I can imagine that each new comment could cause additional pain for a person going through an already painful experience. It would be nice to be able to just be neutral, at least at first. And then, once the person says, “Oh! I’m actually quite glad my stepmother died – she was locking me in the attic every day and making me scrub the castle floor and refused to pay for an exterminator!” you can say, “Well, good riddance!” or “May she meet the appropriate judgment in the hereafter” or whatever. 

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My hands are still shaking from a horrendously embarrassing experience, so I am trying to distract myself with some fun and fluff. 

Oh, you want to share in my humiliation first? Okay. 

I texted the owner of The Kitten to see if Carla could come visit him (“him” meaning the kitten; the owner is a woman). I had recently put her number in my phone, at Carla’s request. She’d (the kitten owner, not Carla) texted me so I would have her number, and I’d added her to my contacts. I tend to add people to my phone as “FirstName LastName,” and then never include any other identifying details… and you are well aware that I have a terrible memory… so there are multiple people in my phone who are now complete mysteries to me. One of these days I should really go through my phone and delete those people. 

I clicked on the kitten owner’s name – noting briefly that there was no prior text from her; I must have deleted it – and texted her: Hi, this is Carla’s mom. Is there a good time for Carla to come visit The Kitten?

A few minutes later I got back a series of question marks. 

As you may have intuited from my expert foreshadowing, I texted THE WRONG PERSON. Apparently, I have two people with the same first name in my phone. A fact which I have long since forgotten. The one whose name popped up when I started the text was the wrong one. 

And I have NO IDEA WHO SHE IS. 

Is this an old work contact? Is this someone for whom I’ve done freelance work? Is she a fellow parent from Carla’s school? Is she a board member I’ve interviewed for a writing project? Is she someone I went to grad school with? Is she a friend of a friend I’d connected with at some point? Is she some sort of service provider I have employed at some point? ZERO IDEA. 

I typed back, So sorry! I must have the wrong number!

But what I REALLY should have typed back was, So sorry! I must have typed the wrong FirstName!

Because if she is in my phone, there is a real likelihood that we know each other, and have interacted via phone before. Which means that there is a real possibility that she is sitting there wondering a) why I am contacting her about a kitten she doesn’t know and b) why I am pretending it was a wrong number and c) why I haven’t asked her how her work/family/life is. 

But I have no idea who this person is, or why she is a contact in my phone. I even googled her and I swear I have never seen her before in my life. But she was in my phone. So we must have known each other at some point! 

All I can do is hope that this person has as terrible a memory as I do, and has long since removed me from her phone, and isn’t feeling hurt/miffed/weirded out by my faux pas. 

LET’S MOVE ON TO LESS HORRIFYING TOPICS.

I have some questions for you. 

Weigh In #1: What food do you hate, but wish you didn’t? While I am a very choosy eater, I don’t feel particularly bad about it most of the time. I eat enough of a variety of foods that I’m pretty confident I can go to any restaurant or any friend’s house and find something to eat. I’ve never once thought, “I wish I enjoyed lamb. Or beets.” But there are a few foods I hate that I really wish I didn’t. 

Tomatoes. I hate tomatoes so very, very much. But they are one of those wildly ubiquitous foods that show up all the time, in places expected and not. (I cannot tell you how frequently I have encountered tomatoes on a Caesar salad, when they have no place in a Caesar salad.) Life would be so much easier and more pleasant if I just liked tomatoes! Or could at least tolerate them! Even friends who kindly ask about food preferences before they invite us over sometimes have tomatoes in their offerings, and I am just so very weary of being that picky person who doesn’t like tomatoes. 

Oatmeal. I cannot bring myself to enjoy oatmeal. Outside of oatmeal cookies, which are the sole exception. But lots of people genuinely enjoy oatmeal, and it seems like such a hearty, healthful food. I really wish I liked it. 

Eggs. Outside of scrambled eggs – which, even then, I only like a specific way – I avidly dislike eggs in ALL FORMS. But they are versatile and easy and full of protein. I want to like them. 

Weigh In #2: What is the best seat on an airplane? I prefer the window, myself. I like being tucked in next to the wall, I like being able to look out during turbulence to reassure myself that we are not in fact falling out of the sky, I like being able to lean my head against a solid surface. But when I fly with my family, my husband is the one who gets the window (although sometimes he swaps with Carla) and I get the aisle. I do not care for the aisle, because it puts me in close proximity to people, and those people tend to be very oblivious to the boundary between their space in the aisle and my space in my actual seat. The only benefit to the aisle seat is easy access to bathroom breaks. But then again, you have to be the one to pop up and down while the middle- or window-seater squeezes past you to the bathroom. I still remember the time I flew and a woman in front of me refused to swap seats with her row-mate’s spouse, because the spouse was in a window seat. “I have a bum leg, and I prefer the aisle so I can stretch out my leg,” she said. But… you aren’t supposed to stretch your leg into the aisle, right??!?! Isn’t that a tripping hazard? Isn’t that begging for a new leg injury when the drinks cart slams into your shin? 

Weigh In #3: What is your worst time-wasting habit? I am already terrible about spending too much time on social media. But more recently, I have found new depths to my time wasting online, which is that I have gotten sucked into watching gender reveals on Instagram. There is literally nothing beneficial about this habit – except that I derive occasional joy from the rare parent that shows true, unbridled joy at the result. Okay, and usually only if that unbridled joy is coming from the male parent, and in response to a pink result. These videos are fascinating, though. There are a bunch that feature the same bearded guy, who must run some sort of company that offers and records these sorts of reveals. There are a bunch where the timing is off. There are a bunch where the couple have other children, some of whom seem very disaffected by the whole event. 

The worst – and most fascinating – ones are the ones where one parent is CLEARLY disappointed by the result. I am not faulting someone for being disappointed: when I was pregnant, I was SURE I was having a boy, and I pictured a tiny blond copy of my husband. I got very attached to this fantasy. When we found out that Carla was a girl, I was disappointed. I hope you know that not a single cell of my body is disappointed NOW, now that Carla is a real wonderful human and it has become clear to me that everything I love about her is completely unrelated to her sex. But I get the disappointment. What I find perplexing is recording that disappointment and then posting it for the world to see. Perplexing and fascinating.  

Anyway. That is how I have been wasting far too many minutes of my one wild and precious life lately. I blame spring break. 

Now it’s your turn. Please weigh in. 

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Carla had a playdate this past snow day with a friend. “Just be warned,” Friend’s mom texted me, “We haven’t shoveled the driveway!” Neither had I, and the snow had fallen fast and furious the night before, so I could definitely relate. 

I plugged Friend’s address into my navigator and drove there, very, very slowly. I’d been to Friend’s house once before, and as we got close, I noticed Friend’s dad outside shoveling the driveway, all bundled up against the cold. I felt a little panicky – like maybe he was doing it on my behalf? But I’d texted Friend’s Mom that it was no big deal, I could pause on the street and send Carla to fetch Friend from the house. 

But no. He had completely shoveled the driveway. As I pulled up, he turned away from the street, getting out of the way so I could drive up the driveway to the house. 

He turned and looked at me as I pulled up. His hat was pulled down so low, and his gaiter was pulled up so high, all you could see was a narrow band of flesh around his eyes. I couldn’t tell if he was smiling, and instantly fretted that he was annoyed he’d had to interrupt his work day to  clear the driveway for me. 

I rolled down my window. The snow and cold swirled in, fogging my glasses. “Hi! How are you?”

“Good. How are you?”

“Great! You did a great job on the driveway!” Why did I say that? He didn’t need my praise. I just felt awkward that I was the cause of the shoveling. Although, probably not everything is about me, and maybe he needed some exercise/a break from work/to shovel the driveway anyway.

He wasn’t making any moves toward the house, so I figured his wife hadn’t told him we were coming to pick up his daughter. Maybe he didn’t recognize me; I’d put on a mask because we were going to have Friend in the car with us. I pulled down my mask and smiled at him.

Still nothing. Several long seconds of nothing.

“Well, we’re just here to pick up Friend!” 

That’s when he told me, in a very amused voice, that Friend lives next door. 

“Haha!” I giggled in semi-hysteria, the blowing snow melting instantly on my shame-fired cheeks. “You are so bundled up, I couldn’t tell you weren’t Friend’s dad!”

I backed down the driveway. Carla was APPALLED. “That wasn’t Friend’s HOUSE, Mommy!” she said in a low, horrorstruck voice. 

“Haha!” I said. “I know! Whoops! No harm done!”

Except that as I backed into the street, there was Friend’s dad, at the bottom of the very next driveway, holding a shovel and trying valiantly not to laugh at me. 

So I think you and I both need a good dose of kitten, today. Don’t you agree?

Carla, as you know, likes to make friends with the neighbors for the sole purpose of getting access to their pets. 

Apparently – and if I’ve told you this story before, I apologize; I did search through my blog but couldn’t find it, which, alas, doesn’t mean it isn’t there – Carla had spotted one neighbor’s kitten through the neighbor’s glass door several months ago, and had asked the neighbor about it. I swear I’ve told you this: I spent an excruciating half hour in this neighbor’s foyer once, because she’d invited Carla to come play with the kitten and I’d never met her before and that sounded pretty murdery. 

She is NOT a murderer, she is a lovely woman. And she had a short work trip that would take her out of town overnight. So she asked Carla to cat sit the kitten. 

I mean. Carla almost passed out from joy. This is her goal, you know. To be a pet sitter. 

When it came time to pet sit, Carla lost a little bit of her nerve. She had all her instructions and a key and a code to the garage. But she was a little anxious about doing it alone, so she asked me to come with her. I had been planning to walk her to the neighbor’s house anyway – our street is positively choked with snow, and all the plows have made the sidewalks inaccessible and backing out of driveways very treacherous. So I didn’t want her to walk down the street by herself. 

But then I went in – and stood respectfully in the entryway – while Carla fed and watered the kitten and played with him.

He is SO CUTE. So. Cute. And he was a little bit lonely, so he came right over to me and let me give him lots of scritches. 

He purred. A LOT. And he was extremely playful, which was cause for endless delight on Carla’s part (and mine, too). 

I wish I had more photos for you. But kittens are (un)surprisingly difficult to photograph, much in the way that eight-and-a-half-year-old future pet sitters are difficult to capture being still.

I have still not recovered from the Mistaken House Incident, but the kitten helps soothe the inflamed psyche. 

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I have been having a hard* time getting into the Christmas Spirit, this year. We finally put up our tree this weekend, did some wrapping. Maybe that will help? I have been applying Christmas music – but sparingly, more of a gently waft of spirit in my general direction without further vexing the inner grump. I haven’t done any holiday baking at all – nothing for Hanukkah, nothing at all so far for Christmas. I am letting that slide because even thinking about it drives me further toward the grinch side of the spectrum. But maybe a nice batch of cranberry crumble bars would do a body good. I painted my nails in holiday colors, but they look like perhaps Carla did it. When she was three. With her left hand. My efforts leave a lot to be desired, it seems.

Well. Either the spirit will come or it won’t. 

In the meantime, I have been steeped in self-loathing. I have had three (3) Super Awkward Social Encounters this past week alone, and I cannot stop thinking about any of them, and cannot stop berating myself for being a mere simulacrum of a human person, and not even a passable simulacrum at that, and cannot stop feeling like I should really never leave the house, and yet also I have two/possibly three social encounters planned for this week and am having to do Deep Breathing and Soothing Talk-Downs to prevent myself from canceling. (They involve Carla, otherwise I might give in.) 

Encounter 1: Carla made personalized bookmarks for most members of her family. (Somehow we forgot two people, and I feel TERRIBLE about that, but I already shipped their gifts so I told Carla that she can make the bookmarks over her winter break from school and hand deliver them to the left-out family members when we see them this spring.) We took the first two to a local office supply store that rhymes with a group of syrup-providing trees to be laminated. And the lovely staff person who did the laminating refused to charge us for it. 

We were properly grateful, I think, and mentally I figured that we would make it up somehow by coming back and laminating the rest of the group. Maybe two bookmarks isn’t worth a whole lot in terms of time or laminating supplies. But the rest of them, I reasoned, would require more, and we would insist up front on paying. 

You know where this is leading, surely. The same staff person was there when we went back, and not only did she remember us but she asked cheerfully if we were back to laminate more bookmarks. And I said yes, and as she handed us the final product, I asked her what we owed her and she said, “No, I can’t charge that little girl for this.” 

Well, A. The little girl in question was not paying. And B, I wanted to pay, so I insisted a little and she insisted back and then walked back behind the counter to help another person in the growing line. 

When we got home, I called the store and asked for her name, assuring the person who answered the phone that I wanted to let her manager know that we’d received special service. And I called the number I found online and went through a tiny bit of rigamarole to talk to someone in customer service so I could leave a compliment. Here is where I assure you that I never told anyone that she’d given us something for free. As kind as it was, and as much as it endeared me to her, I think that her employer might frown upon it. I simply gushed about how kind she was, and how she treated my daughter’s art project with respect and reverence, and how she was prompt and efficient and friendly. 

But I have been WORRYING about the whole thing ever since. First, that I accepted this service for free – not once but TWICE. I mean, I shouldn’t have gone back there, right? Did she think, when she saw us again, that we assumed we’d get another freebie?

And what if her colleague told her that someone called and asked for her name, and now she is worrying that I tattled to her corporate office about giving us something for free? What if she pre-emptively owned up to it and got into trouble? What if I totally ruined a very nice gesture that she made the first time and have soured her on doing anything nice ever again?

Encounter 2: Carla, as you know, makes the rounds of our neighborhood to see everyone’s dogs. Well, unbeknownst to me, she had been chatting with one neighbor about her cat, who sometimes sits in front of the glass door and looks out upon his domain and stranger children riding their bikes in search of his enemy. So Carla came back to me the other day, breathless with excitement: the neighbor had invited her inside to see the cat! It had to be inside, because the cat was an indoor cat. Could she go inside?

I mean, you KNOW that mind goes instantly to murderers. So I accompanied Carla to the neighbor’s house and then stood Extremely Awkwardly in her front hall while Carla played with the cat. 

The neighbor was very gracious and lovely, but OMG. It was the absolute EPITOME of discomfort, because I felt that a) I had invited myself into her home, even though she nicely asked me to come in when I walked Carla over and b) I needed to make pleasant small talk, enough to allay some of the discomfort but also confirm to myself that she wasn’t a murderer. The thing is that I am terrible at small talk, and so there were long stretches of silence where we could both FEEL me evaluating her for murdery tendencies and where her desire for me to leave was EMANATING off of her. I got Carla out of there as quickly as possible, but she didn’t want to leave, and there was that thing — SURELY other parents deal with this dilemma? — wherein she was Acutely Aware that I was in nice mom mode, and I was incredibly reluctant to use a Mean Mom voice, and I wasn’t going to go deeper into the neighbor’s home to physically remove my child, which is of course nowhere near as easy as it was when she was two or three, so I had to wheedle and exercise patience much longer than any of us wanted.

It was horrific. 

And then, because I have never met this woman before – or, at least, I have no memory of meeting her before – I asked how long she’s lived on our street… and she’s lived here longer than I have, and I have lived her for A DECADE. So I felt awkward for being so antisocial and unaware of my surroundings in addition to feeling awkward about standing just inside her door.

She is never going to talk to Carla again, so reluctant will she be at the prospect of having me join them. And poor Carla is going to ask and ask and ask about the cat and it will be my fault that she is catless, both at home (I am allergic) and with our neighbor. Ugh ugh ugh.

Encounter 3: Carla and I went to an after-school event put on by several moms, and they mentioned something and (I apologize for being vague) I responded in a way that was both blunt and also kind of passive aggressive. It was not a well-thought out response: it just flumped out of my mouth and onto the floor without thought or plan, and I could have been much more tactful about what I said, and also – the thing that really burns my muffins – is that I didn’t even MEAN to be passive aggressive. I was simply surprised that a thing I had thought wasn’t happening was in fact going to happen, and I expressed my surprise in a way that sounded like I thought it was A Very Bad Idea Indeed, when really I do not. 

But the thing is, I said it the way I said it, and I said it in front of other parents who were not part of the immediate conversation, which of course makes everything worse. Once I had collected Carla, and come home, and sat down in silence for a few minutes, I was able to gather my thoughts and I emailed the organizers and apologized and spelled out my actual intention and apologized again. They were very nice and I think they understood and were fine with it. But of course I feel like an ASS. And then to put a nice juicy cherry on top of the whipped cream pile of my blunder, one of the other parents sent out an email to everyone who attended, praising the organizers and taking the position completely opposite to what I had. So not only was I an absolute jerk of a human, but people took note of my jerkery, and needed to Take A Stand against it – which is a kind, compassionate response! I am not faulting this person for publicly backing the organizers! – and it all just makes me feel awful. 

WHY must I be the way that I am. HOW have I so completely forgotten how to have normal interactions with other humans. WHAT can I do to be less awkward, aside from holing up in my house and never communicating with people beyond my immediate family. WHEN will I figure it out, because it seems to be getting FAR WORSE with time rather than getting better. WHERE can I move because that seems like the best and only solution.

Well. I can’t say that spelling it all out has made anything better. But I’m hoping that, at the very least, these encounters will stop playing over and over in my masochistic brain. 


* Listen, I know that it sounds so petty and dumb to be complaining about something so small when there is so much going on in our country and around the world that is Really and Actually Devastating. Please know that I am in no way trying to put my own tiny, lucky complaints up against anyone else’s. I am just blogging on my blog, about trivial and meaningless things, as I do. I think most people who stop here know that, and possibly – like I do – enjoy reading about the everyday ups and downs of people’s lives, and find it comforting and even a respite from The News, but I have been scrolling endless photos of neighborhoods and city centers flattened by this weekend’s tornadoes and I feel like I need to occasionally acknowledge that I fully understand my “worries” are nothing in the grand scheme.

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I don’t have any new shortages to report, although Lunchables, which seemed to recover briefly, are once again non-existent and frozen pancakes remain highly elusive. But I had to rush here immediately to alert you that iceberg lettuce at my grocery store is currently selling for $3.50. That’s U.S. dollars. THREE DOLLARS FIFTY CENTS. Iceberg lettuce

I am well aware that prices of many items are creeping ever upward, but this seems like a GIANT LEAP. Usually, a head of iceberg lettuce is somewhere between $0.99 and $1.50. So the increase feels rather dramatic. 

It wasn’t even a particularly large head of lettuce, either. Smaller than usual. 

I find it so curious that the label says “2 for $7” instead of “$3.50 apiece.” Does 2 for $7 sound BETTER? Because it doesn’t sound better to ME. When did ICEBERG LETTUCE become such a hot commodity?!?!

Well. The other types of lettuce seem to be holding steady at their normal egregious pricing, so I’ll just forego my beloved iceberg for something more nutritious and less delightfully crunchy, like romaine. 

I was so gobsmacked that I mentioned the price increase to the checker. He commiserated and said that the shock waves of the pandemic were causing very strange cracks in the system. Even though I haven’t noticed a big difference in staffing – I see the regular staff members I’ve come to know over the past decade – he said they are really struggling with understaffing issues. 

He was the only checker open – which didn’t strike me as too strange; it was eight in the morning after all. But there was a guy behind me with two items to my full cart, so I let him go ahead of me. Then a woman got in line behind me, also with two items. What was I to do in that situation? Let her go ahead of me, too? It would have taken five seconds but then what if the next person showed up and only had two items? Or five items? I told myself that I had done the nice thing, letting the one person jump ahead of me in line, and that I didn’t have to do it again. But she had SEEN him go ahead of me, and I didn’t want her to think I was a jerk. So I told her I thought that the customer service desk would check her out, since she had so few items. She thanked me and headed off to buy her muffin and juice at the customer service desk. 

The whole interaction was super awkward already, but then it became doubly so when I realized she was my old hairdresser. 

I swear to you that I blogged about breaking up with this hairdresser, but I rummaged around in my archives a bit and couldn’t find the post, so you will get a small recap: I went to this hairdresser for several years and liked her. But then she started outsourcing things to others so she could work on other clients. Not just the shampooing. But like… “Oh, I’m going to send you over to Dean to do your color while I cut this other person’s hair.” Or… “Kelly’s going to trim your ends and then I’ll be back to do your color.” I did not care for this. First, it was a salon that charges more based on your stylist’s level of expertise, so I felt a little miffed that I was paying for HER level but getting half of my hair done by Dean or Kelly, and who knows WHAT level they were… plus, I wanted to see HER because a hairdresser/hair-haver relationship is very intimate and based largely on trust. So after this happened a few times, I went elsewhere for my haircare needs. 

It’s so AWKWARD, though, to dump a service provider. I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine having an end-of-relationship conversation with a hairdresser. “It’s not you, it’s me” sounds even more insincere when it’s directed at your stylist, right? So I just… ghosted her. (I did the same to the next hairdresser, too, which is even MORE awkward because she remains my husband’s hairdresser.) (Then my next hairdresser ghosted me, but that was because she didn’t return to work after the pandemic and who can blame her.) I have seen the old hairdresser out in the wild a couple of times, but on those occasions I spotted her from a distance and I think I was able to slip away before she saw me. Or if she saw me, it was as I walked speedily away, head down, eyes averted. Yes, I am very mature.  

But this was the first time I have seen her face to face. Not only that, but I SPOKE to her. I was wearing a mask and glasses, and I am several years older by now. Sure, I remember her name and her daughter’s name, and the type of books she likes to read, but I was one of many clients that she’s had over the years. So I’m hoping she didn’t recognize or remember me. 

There’s nothing to be DONE about this very small, very fleetingly awkward interaction. Even if she did recognize me. Even if she did think, “Wow, there’s that person who ghosted me half a decade ago.” Even if she reacted with anger or hurt feelings. I can’t change any of it. It will likely be years before I run into her again in public. And yet I AM STILL THINKING ABOUT IT, and may continue to do so for hours/days, twirling and twirling the interaction around itself, trying to reshape it or make it less awkward by perseverating on it. Why is being a human so rife with these little inescapable twinges and pains? 

Let us now change subjects abruptly to meal planning.

I went to the grocery store with one meal in mind, and while I was there I came up with several possibilities. So now I have a full fridge and a nice list of dinners to make for my family this week.

Dinners for the Week of November 15 to November 22

WAIT A SECOND IS THANKSGIVING NEXT WEEK WHAT HAPPENED TO THE TIME WHERE HAS IT GONE?

  • Fire Fry: We haven’t had this in a long while, and I am craving crunchy veggies in a fiery sauce. My husband made me promise to drastically reduce the amount of spices I add to the yogurt though. He is no fun at all. 
  • Chicken Paprikas: Another meal we haven’t had in far too long. And I have a bunch of cooked, shredded rotisserie chicken in the freezer just waiting to be added to a rich, creamy, potato laced sauce and poured over noodles. 
  • Asian Chicken Salad: I think my husband will appreciate this meal, as it is neither tacos nor chicken/zucchini stir fry, both of which he is tired of. I will probably make some teriyaki dressing as well since I don’t care for the peanut dressing listed in the recipe.
  • Chicken/Zucchini Stir Fry: Oh yes, I love this stir fry. It’s so easy and so tasty and all the zucchini makes me feel so virtuous. And despite my husband feeling like we have it all the time, we do NOT and it has been many weeks since we’ve eaten it and it is time once again. 
  • Thai Red Chicken Curry: Am I in a stir fry mood or what? 
  • Red Wine Braised Short Ribs with Polenta: Why yes, this has been a recurring bullet on my dinner posts since October 25. I STILL have not made this meal, but the short ribs are in the freezer waiting to be immersed in red wine until they collapse in drunken ecstasy and the polenta is very calmly waiting on the shelf and I have a nice package of inexpensive-compared-to-iceberg-lettuce romaine waiting in the crisper, so perhaps THIS is the week it will all come together.

What are you eating this week, the last week before THANKSGIVING, which is somehow nearly upon us?

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I am sitting in a dark house, staring out at a brooding sky and wind-tossed trees. It is deliciously quiet right now. Thanks to your powerful not-Covid thoughts, Carla is Covid negative and back at school. Hooray!

We were very productive yesterday: in addition to going to the doctor, I did four loads of laundry – INCLUDING folding – and have a last load waiting for me to put it in the washer (I have been trying to see a load through from hamper to folding before I start a new load; reduces the pile up). We also cleaned out Carla’s desk, which had an entire trash bag’s worth of junk in it, and we listened to Project Hail Mary (which I listened to based on Jaida’s excellent recommendation and loved so much that I explained it to Carla, and my enthusiasm made her want to listen to it also), and we watched a very long video of someone who gives makeovers to OMG dolls. Carla subsequently added “liquid latex” and “heat gun” to her list of must-have crafting items. It was nice to have a little extra time with my kid, but she has another day off coming up and I am very glad she is back at school.

After I dropped Carla off, I went to the grocery store and spent all our savings on food. I have not been noticing a huge number of shortages… things seem to have leveled off, a bit. (Although at Costco this weekend, there was no Kirkland-brand toilet paper, and both toilet paper and paper towels were one-per-customer.) Plenty of staples – beans, pasta, flour, sugar, pepperoni. Even Lunchables are available again. A thing that I do find concerning is that Target now has “only X left” on pretty much anything I try to order online. This is true whether I choose “pick-up” or “shipping” as my delivery option. It could simply be marketers playing to the scarcity strategy, but whatever it is, it definitely cues my panic response.

You know a thing that I find unnecessarily anxiety-provoking? When someone can’t hear what you’re saying. The checker at the grocery store had a hard time hearing me, and was really frustrated-acting about it. Which I get! It must be frustrating, to not hear someone! And I am sure that she has to deal with this same situation multiple times per day, what with people wearing masks, and her being stuck behind a plexiglass shield and all. But she did that thing where she shook her head and closed her eyes in an “I am counting to ten” kind of way, and, her tone said “this is entirely YOUR fault” and I felt helpless and defensive and equally frustrated that I couldn’t make myself heard and ugh. I just hate that. Makes me feel shaky and tearful when it should be a simple exchange of, “Oh, sorry! I will speak up!” and “Thank you! That’s better!” instead of disgusted dismissive shrugging like I am purposefully being a jerk.

She also seemed mad at me that I asked her to re-scan my apples. I bought Jonagold apples because a) I can’t remember the last time I ate a Jonagold apple, and cannot remember how they taste and b) because they looked so beautiful and shiny and red. I purposely avoided the Honeycrisp apples because a) they were $0.50 per pound more expensive and b) also looked pale and bloated. So I pointed out that they had rung up as the wrong apple – which she had me repeat twice – and then she said in an angry way, “Well, they come up as Honeycrisp when I type in the number on the tag.” Which. Okay. Either some Honeycrisp apples migrated into the Jonagold section or the tag was incorrect or the computer was reading them incorrectly or she typed the number into the computer incorrectly or I blacked out in the apple section and got Honeycrisp instead of Jonagold… I don’t know, but it didn’t seem to me that I had been BLAMING her for doing something WRONG when that is clearly how it came across. She is never as friendly as some of the checkers, but she sure drank some curdled milk this morning or something.

A package of M&Ms classic mix (M&Ms, peanut M&Ms, and peanut butter M&Ms all in a single bag) caught my eye at the checkout, but I neglected to act on my impulse and buy it. I wavered because I don’t really like plain M&Ms. But I am regretting my inaction now.

We got the bill for the exterminator, and it was MUCH higher than indicated in our previous infuriating and elliptical conversation. And I can’t decide whether I need to simply pay it and find a new exterminator service or if I should email him back and request an explanation. And I KNOW that prices are rising and costs are increasing, so there could be a reasonable explanation for the discrepancy. But I want to KNOW. I don’t want to just pay whatever he says the price is, willy nilly. We got a nice letter from our snowplow service saying – in advance – that they had a lot of increased costs and so our bill would go up, and I really appreciate that kind of up-front transparency. We will gladly pay the increase. Part of me wants to email the exterminator, just to see what he says. Although I am afraid he will then call me.

My root canal takes place next week. My husband took the day off from work and will drive me to and from the appointment and presumably ensure I don’t die afterward. I am not looking forward to it. But it will be nice to no longer have severe pain in my jaw. (Although I have heard plenty of stories about root canals not “taking” and needing to be repeated. Arrrrggghhhhh.)

This past Sunday, because Carla wasn’t going to school the following day, the three of us watched Cruella, with Emmas Stone and Thompson. There were some men in it, too, but the Emmas were the real stars. It was a decent movie, although it made Cruella a little too sympathetic, and I still am not quite sure I can make the narrative jump to her wanting to skin and wear a bunch of a Dalmatians as a coat. Also, the whole nature-vs-nurture theme of the movie could have done with a little more thinking through, but I suppose what do you want from a children’s storybook villain origin story. Carla was quite taken with her and has resumed speaking with a semi-British accent.

This is a bit of a delicate topic, maybe. But… do you shave your face? I had not done any sort of facial hair removal until a couple of months ago, aside from an occasional plucking of a stray eyebrow hair, or pulling out the hair that insists on sprouting witchily from the mole on my chin. But now I am completely obsessed with these Tinkle razors. I think I have used these enough times now to be able to recommend them with confidence. A little back story: an acquaintance mentioned these to me over the summer, and said she’d gotten a couple extra and she would give them to me. Note that she did not ask if I wanted them. Then the next couple of times we ran into each other, she’d slap her thigh and say, “Oh darn, I forgot to bring them for you!” As you might imagine, after each of these exchanges, I would spend long minutes with my face pressed up against the mirror, trying to determine whether my peach fuzz had graduated into full on facial shrubbery. Surely, my furry outer layer was so evident that this person felt COMPELLED to get me to take action. So when she finally pressed a couple into my hands, I was ready to give them a try. I had never tried any sort of facial hair removal options before because my mother had always given me stern and strenuous warnings about how the hair would grow back thicker and darker than before. A mother’s admonitions are a hard thing to get past, even when one is in her fifth decade of life. So far, I have not noticed this to be the case with the Tinkle razors. There is a period during which the face feels a teeny bit rougher than normal, but then the hair goes back to its normal downy state, and I haven’t noticed any change in color whatsoever. Anyway, these are very easy to use and I LOVE THEM and I am not going back and if you are looking for a facial hair solution I recommend you give these a go.

What are we supposed to be watching on TV these days? My husband and I watched Midnight Mass (interesting and thoughtful concept; Hamish Linklater; too many long-winded monologues) and Squid Game (VERY stressful but impossible to stop once we started) and are of course watching the latest season of Great British Baking Show. But we need something new. I want to watch that murder comedy with Selena Gomez (Only Murders in the Building) and my husband wants to watch Succession and neither of us is particularly excited about the other’s choice. What have you watched recently and loved?

I looked up the person who does the OMG doll makeovers and she apparently makes somewhere around $14,000 a month.

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Thank you, first of all, for your kind words; my mother-in-law made it through surgery with flying colors and we will know more about next steps soon. 

Are you up for talking about the pandemic a bit? Cases are rising and school is back in session and, while it never went away, not by a long shot, the topic of COVID is much more front-and-center in my brain space lately.

The other day, when I was posting about our weekend activities, I had a moment of panic: we are doing TOO MUCH. We are still in a pandemic, and we are acting as though we are not!

I talked it through with my husband and we both looked at each other with fearful eyes, but ultimately agreed that this is where we are. We are still wearing masks in public spaces. We are still limiting our interactions with other people – outdoors, mainly people we know and believe to be handling COVID the way we are. We are still saying no to things that seem “unsafe.”

And yet. We are doing SO MUCH.

Our lives are nowhere near the same as they once were. But we are doing so much more than last year. I don’t know if this is the right way to do things. I don’t think we are being completely devil-may-care about the whole thing, but I do recognize that we are expanding our bubble. No – we no longer have “a bubble.” And that’s a little unsteadying. Part of me thinks we should keep as tight a lid on things as we ever did, considering Carla is still unvaccinated. But the other part of me believes that COVID is now a part of our lives, going forward, forevermore. And while I feel like we are still being prudent, I also feel like we are trying to find a way to live our lives in this new way. 

Ugh. I hate it when people say “we’re just trying to live our lives” or “we’re just learning how to live with COVID.” Because that so often is accompanied by behaviors that I find appalling. And maybe you find my increased activities appalling! And maybe they are! Heavy, bewildered sigh.

And UGH. It is so hard. Because there is no One Right Way, and I know that I am being less stringent than some (who have good, valid reasons to be stringent!) and more stringent than others (who are probably feeling some less-restrictive version of my own “we are trying to find a way to live our lives”!). So if you read my posts with distaste, please know that I hear you, and I’m sorry if I am disappointing you, and I have felt that way in the past and in the current time and I really have no idea what the “right” thing is. 

Not exposing other people, of course, is at the top of the list. And Carla goes to school, so I feel anxious right there about the potential of infecting others. But also… when we hang out with other kids, they already go to her school. And I know that many of her classmates (not to mention many, many of the students who are in her grade, or other grades at the same school) are nowhere near as careful as we are. But that doesn’t mean we should be incautious! Argggggghhhh! Circles of pandemic worrying! 

Anyway, I thought I would post about Where We Are in the Pandemic Currently, considering I used to post pandemic-related things more frequently, and it’s been awhile. Here’s what I’ve got for you. 

My Target is looking very bare these days. An acquaintance mentioned that toilet paper is going to be in short supply again, and I haven’t bought any toilet paper for myself (mainly because I have a Costco toilet paper in the guest room closet, purchased last fall when toilet paper seemed more abundant but I was less confident about the duration of said abundance). But I have noticed occasional rolling shortages. The big one, for me, was when my grocery store was out of my preferred brand of sriracha  for three weeks in a row… and then my target was also out of it… and then when I mentioned it casually to a stocker at my grocery store, he shrugged and said, “Yeah, we keep ordering it and it keeps not coming.” So I did order a BUNCH of sriracha and now I am well-stocked and of course my grocery store now has plenty of sriracha on the shelves. That is a desert island food for me; I use sriracha the way most people use salt; I could certainly live without it if I HAD TO, but I prefer not to thankyouverymuch.

Speaking of shortages: my grocery store was COMPLETELY OUT of boneless skinless chicken breast. Boneless skinless chicken anything, in fact. As BSCB is a staple of my family’s diet, I was quite miffed by this turn of events. 

* * *

This past July, Carla and I flew on an airplane (four airplanes, to be technical) to visit my parents. As I am sure you understand, my husband and I made the decision to risk putting our unvaccinated child on an airplane after much discussion and weighing of various risks. My husband did not join us; one reason was work and another reason was that HE is not ready to get on an airplane yet, so I think you will understand also that I was Very Jumpy about traveling. 

Our plan for the air travel was this: Double mask on the plane and in the airport. Stay away from crowds if at all possible in the airport. Eat and drink only FAR away from other people. Eat and drink as little as possible on the plane. 

(Our plan for being with my parents: No eating in restaurants, no crowds. Very simple to stick with because they live in the literal middle of nowhere.)

We did okay, I think. We didn’t really eat anything on the way THERE; the flight times worked out that we ate breakfast before we left, and then ate a very early dinner when we arrived. Carla is a champion traveler and a champion masker. And the airport in which we had a layover had an outdoor space! So we spent our time between flights outside. Still masked, because there were a decent number of people out there, but we technically could have removed our masks and been okay, which made it feel better.

On the way HOME, our departure airport also had an outdoor space. We had arrived two hours early, as recommended, but it is a small airport and we have TSA pre-check, so we got through security in about five minutes. So we sat outside for ninety minutes, enjoying a mostly-empty space (it was raining lightly, which kept other people indoors), and eating some snacks. 

But once it got close to time to board, we went inside. And. Sigh. Even though masks are REQUIRED, so many people were either wearing them below their chins or just not wearing them at all. 

There was a college football team on our flight. And SO MANY OF THEM just didn’t wear a mask. 

When you are flying, the flight attendants have added a little “Masks are required by the FAA” spiel to their pre-flight commentary. On the flight with the college football team, the flight attendant looked especially stern as she recited the rules – “you must wear a mask over your nose and mouth” – but STILL I could see at least one footballer sitting there mask free. And OF COURSE I don’t know his life; maybe he has a legit reason to be going without a mask. But I meanly wondered whether he is just aware that he is an enormous, intimidating football beast of a man and is pretty sure no one is going to press him to do anything he doesn’t want to. Harrumph. 

(My coping thought was that, of ALL people, a college football team must SURELY be vaccinated.) 

We did not pay for first class seats, so I sat in the middle seat on all flights while Carla got the window. I felt this gave her at least a LITTLE separation from all the germy strangers. On our very last (three-hour) flight, the woman next to me was… not exactly mask-averse, but certainly mask-relaxed. She knew the person in the middle seat in the row in front of us, and would occasionally chat at him, pulling her mask down to do so. She ordered a drink and snacks when the flight attendants came around and did not pull her mask up in between bites/sips (which is what I did, and instructed Carla to do – although she ate a few Hi-Chew and that was it). And then she pulled out a snack pack she’d brought. And then just didn’t put her mask on at all. 

I fretted and fretted and wrote and revised a million little scripts in my head, trying to come up with the perfect, friendly, non-judgmental way to ask her to put her mask back on AS REQUIRED BY LAW. Before I could say anything, she asked me if I could turn on her overhead light for her and that was my chance! So I said, trying to smile brightly behind my masks, “Would you mind putting your mask back on? My daughter isn’t vaccinated.” It was not the perfectly scripted and breezily-stated request I wanted to make, but we do what we can with the tools we have, and my tools are anxiety and blurting. Thankfully, she did so without comment and I turned on her light and she kept her mask on for the rest of the flight. 

* * *

A good friend and his spouse got COVID, even though they are both vaccinated. Fortunately, they recovered quickly and fully. We know that the vaccine is not 100% effective; what we are aiming for is to keep people out of the hospital/alive, not to eradicate COVID completely. And yet it is still scary. 

* * *

Some friends recently invited us for dinner. The parents are fully vaccinated, but the kids are not (they are Carla’s age). Before visiting, my husband and I fretted over how to address mask-wearing. We finally settled on saying something like, “We have been having all the kids wear masks when Carla has playdates, but the grownups have been going mask free” when we  responded with our delighted, “yes, we’d love to see you.” But then they replied, “Oh, our kids are terrible at wearing masks… we can try to force them to keep one on while you’re here if you prefer…” My husband wanted me to respond that yes, we DO prefer. But ugh. I felt really squicky about that because 1) they had invited us to THEIR house, and it feels really weird to demand that people do something new/different in their own house and 2) if their kids aren’t used to wearing masks, would they even be able to do so effectively? and 3) UGGGGHHHHHHH. The whole thing is SO AWKWARD. 

We ended up making Carla wear a mask in their house, and then encouraging all of the kids to play outdoors. Everything worked out okay. But it all felt So Fraught. 

* * *

Carla and I had doctor’s and dentist’s appointments a few weeks ago. One doctor’s office has, in big letters on the door, a sign saying, “MASKS REQUIRED” and then below that in medium letters, “Because we are a healthcare facility, the CDC guidance says everyone should wear a mask regardless of vaccination status.” 

Carla and I opened that door, went into the waiting room, and stopped… because two patients were sitting there without masks on at all. Both facing the door into the exam rooms which also featured the same sign.

We waited in the hall. And then when the doctor asked if Carla wanted to wait for me in the waiting room, I said, “My daughter is unvaccinated. Is there someplace she can sit where she doesn’t have to be around other people?” and the doctor said of course and let Carla sit inside the exam suite. She cringed when I asked and said, “We have all these signs!” But of course if you don’t enforce the rules, the people who don’t want to follow them AREN’T GOING TO, see above Re: college football player.

When I had to return to this same doctor’s office last week, another person was maskless in the waiting room. This time, I said something passive aggressive – like, “Oh, I’ll just wait outside while people aren’t wearing masks” – and when I was called back for my appointment, the unmasked person had put a mask on.

* * *

Carla’s school is requiring masks of ALL people in her school this coming year. I am so relieved. Even though most (though, as we discovered during the same announcement, not all) of the teachers and staff are vaccinated, I just feel better knowing that everyone is wearing masks. (Some parents complained that vaccinated teachers/staff have to wear masks around our unvaccinated children. To which I give a long, weary sigh.)

The class sizes are larger than they were last year (Carla’s grade had a maximum of ten kids in each classroom last year, for instance, and two of those kids were remote), but they are as large as they were originally. They are enforcing three-foot distancing. Kids eat in classrooms as they did last year, behind three-sided shields. There are cohorts, and the scheduling of non-core classes (language, PE, music, art) has been rearranged to limit “mixing” of those cohorts. We know from last year that if we need to go remote (please please please no), we can do so fairly easily. And everyone is wearing masks.

I am very, very, very grateful that we chose to send Carla to this particular school and that we have the ability to continue to send her there, and I am very, very, very aware of what a privilege it is to do so.

* * *

A dear friend – one who was one of the two families we got together with regularly last year – has invited us to a special birthday event… and my husband and I want to decline, because it is so far removed from our particular comfort zone. (Which, as I have said, is much expanded from last year!) But this event involves multiple people together in a vehicle, and multiple people together inside a restaurant, and we are just not comfortable. It is especially hard/weird because our families were so aligned last year on COVID protocols… and now somehow we are not. It is so hard to say no in this instance and blame it on COVID! I think they will understand, because they are wonderful people, but I also think their feelings will be hurt. ARRRGGGGHHHH.

* * *

think I am seeing an uptick in mask-wearing in public spaces. When the mask mandate in my state expired earlier this year, I was often the only person wearing a mask at the grocery store. (I went mask-free for about three stores, and then immediately went back to wearing a mask in public spaces.) Now, the number of masked customers is MUCH higher. Which is a relief. 

* * *

A person who lives in a very COVID-relaxed state invited us to visit. When we declined, this person reacted in a way that made me think they were very put out by our response. 

In almost the same breath, this person – not a medical expert in any way – advised that we not vaccinate Carla. Sigh of exhaustion. 

* * *

As you are, I’m sure, I am so very tired of dealing with all this. 

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