This is more a proof-of-life post than anything else; my wife is out of town for the next few days so I’m on solo Daddy duty, and today was a long and ridiculous day at work featuring virtually no sales of furniture in exchange for money but well more than a nine-hour allocation of nonsense.

And then I got home and had to clean up dog poop, which always improves one’s day, as you can no doubt well imagine.

The goal for tomorrow is to get through it without smacking anyone.  We’ll see how I do.

In which I contain multitudes


I have always been very ambivalent about Santa Claus.  Hell, as a non-Christian I’m ambivalent enough about Christmas, so the idea that I’m compounding celebrating a holiday that’s supposed to be about the birth of a divine being who I don’t believe in with lying to my kid about a white dude who drops presents down the chimney just hasn’t ever sat well with me.  I don’t like lying to my son– and yes, I think telling your kids about Santa is lying to them, unless you also want to explain why Santa seems to like wealthy white kids more than everybody else.  But I’m not so opposed to the idea of Santa Claus that I’m stomping on it, so to speak.  The position my wife and I have evolved over the years is that we simply don’t talk about Santa.  My mom can tell the boy whatever she likes; he can absorb whatever messages about Santa he wants from the wider culture.  Hell, I’ll even read A Visit from St. Nicholas to him on Christmas Eve if he wants, like my parents used to do with me.  I let him read Captain Underpants and don’t make a big stink about him not being real; why should Santa be any different?  My policy has simply been to neither confirm nor deny, and I don’t write “from Santa” on presents that we bought him– the “from” tag on all his presents is just left blank.  He hasn’t seemed to notice that Santa seems to think he lives at his Grandma’s house.  And we’ve never done the “go to the mall and sit on Santa’s lap” thing either.  Which, honestly, as I’m typing this, I gotta admit I regret just a little bit.

So last week he told my wife that one of the kids in his class was telling everyone that Santa wasn’t real.  My wife, caught by surprise, fell back on our usual “What do you think?” shtick and eventually he dropped it, or so we thought.  This morning, as we were getting in the car to go to school, he ambushed me with the same question, and seemed frustrated that I reacted the same way.  He is 6, and in kindergarten, just so you can properly contextualize this if you’d like.

And then he said something that really caught me by surprise, which was that he thought that this other kid was “ruining Christmas” and “taking all the fun out of everything” by telling the other kids that Santa wasn’t real.  I pushed back on this as gently as I could– if Santa wasn’t real, does that mean that the tree and the lights and the presents and the cookies and the family stuff weren’t fun anymore?  Surely the fat white guy isn’t the most important part, right?  He didn’t answer, but I could see him thinking about it.

And then my reaction surprised me, because I found myself more than a little bit pissed at this kid, and by extension this kid’s parents.  I think the family in question is at least nominally Muslim, as I’m pretty sure they’re ethnically Pakistani, but at any rate they’re from that area (the boy may or may not have been born here; I’m certain the parents weren’t) and while in general they’ve struck me as more or less secular people they’re definitely from an area where Christianity isn’t the majority religion.  So, okay, your kid got raised with no Santa.  You told him the truth.  Cool.  But maybe you go ahead and make sure your kid knows that showing everyone else the light isn’t so much the way to go?  My son is friends with this kid, and he’s visibly upset with him for, again, “ruining Christmas.”  And if my son decides that the boy is right about that, then I’m going to have a talk with him about not screwing the shit up for the other kids.

And I gotta admit, I’m thisclose to dropping an email to either my kid’s teacher or this other family (our school makes sure everyone has everyone else’s emails) and in the most polite way I can manage to phrase it suggesting that they tell this other kid to knock it off.

That’s probably in utter contradiction to everything in the first couple of paragraphs.  Do I care?  I dunno.  I care enough that I wrote this to try and hash it out in my head, and I probably need to be talked out of contacting any of the other adults involved– which, again, I promise I’d do politely.

“Eventually ruining Christmas for him was my job, dammit” is not the most persuasive line of argument, after all.

Blech.  Parenting is stupid.

On my lawn, and your need to get off it


Last week– seven to ten days ago, if I’m being precise– a sweet elderly lady and what I can only assume was her grandson came into the store.  Grandma spent some time looking around and purchased a single barstool from me.  She was unusually happy about it, proclaiming it “perfect” for her needs.  Her grandson, who was perhaps seventeen, did not say a single word during the entire time I was observing the two of them.  In fact, he did not look up from his gaming device– a Game Boy Advance SP, I’m pretty sure, despite that system’s advanced age– a single time.  He, in fact, shuffled a few feet behind her the entire time she was in the store, neither speaking, looking around, or interacting with anything.  It was as if she had some sort of robot following her and not a human being.  She never spoke to him either.  He wouldn’t have heard her, I assume, as he also had big, beefy headphones on, which were attached to the system.

She came back yesterday to pick up her barstool, and this time had both her grandson and (again, I’m assuming) her daughter with her.  Her grandson this time stared at his phone the entire time he was in the store, interacting with neither his mom nor his grandmother, and again he had his headphones on.

I went back and got her barstool out of the warehouse and brought it to the front of the store.  “Want me to carry that out for you?” I asked, assuming that she would say no and that the grandson– or, at the very least, the daughter– would carry the stool rather than the elderly lady.  She said she didn’t need me to and I had her sign her paperwork and then watched in no small amount of shock as the old lady picked up the barstool and left the store, her worthless progeny trailing along behind her.  One of my warehouse guys was standing next to me at the time.

“I asked her if she wanted to carry it,” I said.  “You heard me say that, right?  I didn’t imagine it?”

“Yeah,” he said.  “I kinda wanna smack that kid.”

“Maybe he’s autistic,” I said, and then wondered what the hell is going on that this kid being severely autistic– because I know plenty of kids with autism for whom “carry shit for your grandma” is still an ingrained behavior, so it’s got to be way down on the spectrum– is the best of the available outcomes.

A few minutes later, I had reason to get something from my car.  And then helped the old lady put the barstool into the trunk of her car, as her daughter and grandson sat in the vehicle and waited for her to be done.

I don’t really have strong feelings about screen time, but I feel like I should have strong feelings about screen time, if that makes any sense.  After dinner tonight I asked my wife if she had any recollection of what she might have been doing just after dinner when she was six.  Her father would likely be watching TV, she decided, and she’d either be watching with him or playing, and her mom would be watching the dishes.  So let’s call that one and a half people staring at a device.  When I asked the question, she and I were still sitting at the dining table fiddling with our phones, and the boy was in the living room watching some godawful YouTube video where someone opens packages of something.  If I hadn’t been staring at my phone, I’d likely have either had a book in my hand or the laptop I’m typing on right now in front of me.  Or, since I’ve decided that the ridiculously named Horizon Zero Dawn isn’t violent enough to hide it from my son, maybe playing that.

We have all sorts of evenings where each of us is staring at his or her own device– well, the one the boy uses is mine, but you get the idea– or where we’re all watching the TV.  That’s not what bugs me.  What bugs me is that I really can’t think of what the hell else we might be doing.

On delayed gratification

My college hair was glorious.

My girlfriend in high school thought I would look better with longer hair, so I started growing it out during my senior year and basically never stopped.  By my senior year of college my hair was mid-back length and, amazingly, wavy as fuck— I was a Jewish Studies major among a couple other things and there was a running joke that I could easily pass for an orthodox Jew if I just tucked a couple of ringlets in front of my ears and put on a properly conservative hat.

I spent a good chunk of the summer after graduation on an archaeological dig in Israel, and decided just before leaving for the trip that heading out to dig in the desert with an extra fifteen pounds of hair on my head was not what I wanted to do.  So I went to a barber and had him trim me down to a “normal” haircut, which lasted about another year until I shaved my head for the first time and I’ve basically been doing that ever since.

But yeah.  That first haircut.  The first thing I had him do was pull my hair into a ponytail and then cut the ponytail off in one fell swoop.  I then, for no good reason other than that I thought it would be funny, mailed the ponytail to my mother, who had spent years occasionally politely hinting that perhaps my hair was a bit too long.

This backfired when my mother received a bundle of my hair in the mail and, despite the handwriting on the envelope being mine, immediately concluded that I had been kidnapped, and, this being pre-cellphone by a few years, wasn’t able to quickly get ahold of me to confirm that I was actually still alive and putting up with Samson joke after Samson joke after Samson joke from all of my fucking Religious Studies-ass friends.

She still has the ponytail.  This happened in 1998.

When I got home from work last night, there was a large envelope in the mail addressed to me.  I thought the handwriting on the envelope was my mom’s, but it was dark outside– we are well into the part of the year where I’m working from cain’t see in the morning to cain’t see at night– and the envelope didn’t appear to have anything in it, and I had just seen my mother the night before and she hadn’t mentioned mailing me anything, so what the fuck is going on here?

I generally open my mail in the garage going into the house, since the recycling bin is right there and I can trash all the junk mail before going inside.  Ten seconds later I was laughing so loud that my wife heard me from inside the house.

This may be a good time to point out that Mom’s going through a course of chemotherapy at the moment.  Don’t panic; she’s gonna be fine.  But this is what was in the envelope:


That, my friends, is the final punchline to a twenty-year-old joke.

Nicely played, Mom.