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Category: The Mundane Life

Sitting on the Laps of Mad Men

IMG_1956Recently, during the midday lunch rush, I found myself sitting on a strange man’s lap, drinking an old fashioned, while smoking a cigarette. With a scratchy sizzle, I crushed the tip of my Lucky Strike into an ashtray. In that moment I realized: I don’t have affairs, I don’t smoke. I don’t drink old fashioneds. What is going on?

I stood up, gingerly smoothing the pleats of my ankle-length skirt. I checked the bounce in my curls and walked back home. My heels clicked up the front stairs and I went over to our rotary phone. I dialed my husband’s number and confessed, “I think I’ve been watching too much Mad Men.”


It’s hard for me to acknowledge that I am so easily influenced. I’m newly shocked each time I find myself disappointed that the latest laundry detergent leaves my clothes just as dingy as they were before. Why do I keep believing in “New and Improved Stain-Fighting Power”?

When I was a kid, my parents (knowing my easily persuaded personality and probably holding each other in fear) would annoyingly recite the phrase to me, “Garbage in, Garbage out.”   Swayed by all voices but theirs, I never listened to them. (Sheesh, these people have never been kids before.)

For added humiliation they would sometimes sing “Garbage in, Garbage out” to the famous* Petra song “Computer Brains

Computer brains, put garbage in

Computer brains, get garbage out


As if singing Christian rock would help.

But even if I tried to listen to them, I didn’t really understand their point. How does not eating out of a trashcan relate to my desire to watch endless reruns of Married with Children? Plus, what does “Garbage Out” mean? You’ll poop garbage? Isn’t that basically what already happens?

computerBetween Petra’s “Computer Brains” mixed with my limited exposure to 80’s pop culture, the only thing I was getting out of the phrase “Garbage In, Garbage Out” was an image of the Garbage Pail Kid, Valarie Vomit gagging over an IBM 5150 personal computer.

It’s not until our thirties that most of us begin to admit to ourselves that the people, images, and ideas that we surround ourselves with have an influence over who we are. And unfortunately, this is right around the time that our kids start wanting to kill fluffy bunnies on video games and watch TV shows with plot lines centered around flatulence.

Just like our parents before us, our new understanding leads us down the fool’s path of desiring to spread our knowledge to the younger generation. Which in turn leads us to the idea of speaking to kids on their level.

And the next thing we know, we are sitting at the computer researching the name of the coolest, spiritually ambiguous, non-twerkable song on choosing good influences.

While our children roll their eyes at us in humiliation.

* to white, suburban, Christian kids in 1986

Woman’s Death Caused by Spice of Life




On Thursday a woman was found crushed to death under a stack of manila file folders. Officials reported that though they were written in a myriad of different colored glitter-gel inks, all the folders were each mysteriously labeled with the same two words: Variety Ideas.




My frustration started in the middle of my oldest child’s kindergarten year. A memo came home from school regarding his daily reading homework. The letter stated: Do something new this week, add some variety, get creative with your child’s homework!

I held the piece of paper in my hand, looking down upon it, feeling its taunt, like it had just cocked its dog ear at me and threatened a paper cut.  It challenged me to push my creative juices further: Diorama! Build a rocket! Start a non-for-profit!

“More variety,” I grumbled between clenched teeth and then slumped into a chair, the air sucked out of my will. I considered all of the other parts of my life that were begging for more variety: my hair, my workout routine[i], my clothes, my diet, my husband’s sex life.

Though I am disinclined to dwell too long on the fantastical life I could create if only I added some variety to it, I suspect that it would require me to spend long nights sitting at a table piled with file folders begging to be filled with extraordinary ideas. My hair would be rolled in curlers, and I would be practicing complex yoga positions, while copying recipes from the classic cookbook, “365 meals from the Kama Sutra.” (Tuesday night’s dinner: Elephant mounting Dog with Aromatic Saffron Rice)

But do I really need more variety?

Whenever I’m trying to discern whether a new life obligation is important or not, I ask myself this question: What Caveman Do? (or WCD QUESTION MARK for short.)

It works best if it is said in a grunting voice like a caveman, which unfortunately when I do it, sounds more like Tonto. (If you don’t know who that is, look him up in Wikipedia. I can’t tell you who he is because to do so may be considered extremely racist. Not sure where the line is with racism. Is mentioning the name of an old TV character, now considered a horrific depiction of racist stereotyping, going too far? Don’t know and not touching it with a 10 foot teepee pole.)

I believe WCD? is a research tool first developed for use by evolutionary anthropologists[ii]  to discern the legitimacy and importance of human behavior, which from a Darwinian perspective would be to question whether a behavior contributes to the survival of the species. WCD? is useful in countless life situations.

I used this saying when Oprah magazine said it was healthier to first microwave meat and then grill it in tin foil, rather than grill it directly over the flame. (Grunting) What Caveman Do?  Definitely cook over fire without tin foil.

I used it when people tried to scare me into thinking that having my baby outside of the hospital was putting my baby’s life at risk. WCD?: Hospital births started to become popular in 1915[iii], and yet somehow the human race survived for 249,902 years prior to that. So, not true.

Or, when I wondered if skinny jeans could be worn by people over 17 years of age and/or under 107lbs. WCD?: Animal hide unsafe tight around the ankle.

And from the 10 minutes or so that I focused (with bias) on whether it was necessary to be pushed (with guilt) into adding variety to my life, I quickly hypothesized that caveman would have surely died if he was off trudging around the Pleistocene looking for a new fruit, rather than eating whatever food was readily available.

Then it dawned on me that variety is a first world luxury that we should be grateful that we have and it should, by no means, ever be regarded as anything but that. It was considered the spice of life because throughout most of history it was such a rare privilege.

Variety should be desired. It should be a treat. It should be savored and anticipated. And, it should never be a forced requirement for a healthy life, diet, education or workout.

And if you think it is the key to a good sex life, then, well, maybe a polygamous relationship is for you.

(Click here to read “Polygamy Ain’t Lookin’ so Bad” )

[i] (lies. Does not exist)

[ii] In my imagination

[iii] I do not think coincidentally, there was a 41 percent increase in infant mortality between 1915 and 1929.