Category Archives: Politics

Too cool for preschool

There are a lot of private decisions you make as a parent that you hope and pray never become public, else it makes you look like a bad parent. Like, say, letting them wear the same clothes three days in a row. Or giving them crackers and jelly beans for dinner because you can’t handle one more tantrum. Or letting them watch that third “Sesame Street” episode so you can finish emailing your editor and fold the clean laundry that has been sitting on the rocking chair for four days straight.

And then there are the decisions you make that make you wonder if maybe you truly are a bad parent.

Like, say, for instance, do I really need to send my child to preschool?

I know. I know! I can’t believe I just typed that either. I’m currently hunched over my keyboard, my whole body tense, waiting for the inevitable knock on the door from Child Protective Services.

But let me type just one more sentence before you throw the handcuffs on me…

I Googled local preschool prices.

Can you put the handcuffs away now? If you say yes, then I know you have at one point Googled local preschool prices. If you say no, do me a favor and Google local preschool prices. I’ll give you a moment…

…I know, right!? Unbelieveable.

And for the majority of you who are going along with my gag but not actually Googling anything, let me share with you what I discovered. Because I actually did research. Like a grown up. And like most research (bacon and alcohol are bad for you!), the results were depressing.

According to a 2016 study by the Economic Policy Institute, the costs of full-time childcare for a 4-year-old was higher than the cost for in-state college tuition in 23 states. Including my current state of residence, Massachusetts, which was one of the most expensive. On average, to send my precious little hellion to preschool will cost $12,781 per year.

But I could save over $2,000 if I just sent him straight to college.

And while Riker is exceptionally talented at Apple Juice Pong, I’m pretty sure they expect you to be able to wipe your own butt at college (weird fraternity pledge rituals notwithstanding).

Ever since he turned three, this issue has been keeping me up at night. What kind of monster denies their child a good education? Regardless of how much it costs? Who needs two arms AND two legs when your offspring’s very future is on the line?

Which is why I was so relieved when I started complaining to my very smart and very well-educated friend about my preschool dilemma and she responded that although they’re keeping it very quiet, she and her husband decided not to send her kid to preschool.

“You can do that!? Can I do that? Is that allowed?” I practically yelled back.

She laughed but it does feel like preschool is an unofficial requirement at this point. I have nightmares where I start teaching my son how to write his name and preschool teachers in bright sweaters kick down my door and rip the crayon from his chubby little hands.

“Literacy is only for actual students! Go watch more garbage TV, tiny peasant!” they scream at him before covering him with frowny face stickers.

And the very fact she said they are “keeping it quiet” kind of proves my point.  

But I didn’t go to preschool. And I turned out fine, she types while sipping wine through a straw and binge-watching the entire “Dawson’s Creek” series for the 45th time.

And yes, I know there is a long laundry list of benefits from preschool. I majored in education in addition to journalism so I quite literally read the book on it. But I also know that $12,000 isn’t just a “hardship” for us at this particular moment in our economic reality. It’s impossible.

So, I’ve spent the last five months weighing our options. We could always try part-time preschool perhaps, or maybe hunt down a discount early education center, like BoBo’s Preschool Kidz Barn or something.

I could try teaching him myself, but will my efforts, along with library story-time and playing on a soccer team and random play dates at the park and playground, be enough for what he needs to learn both academically and socially? On the other hand, if we do scrape enough money together to send him to a decent preschool, is it worth it if we can no longer afford family trips to museums and the occasional dinner out to a restaurant and airplane tickets to visit our families?

I could go back to work full-time instead of freelance writing, which doesn’t pay much currently. But then we’d have to send his younger sister to a daycare too, effectively doubling our childcare costs. Or maybe my husband could get a second part-time job, just temporarily, to cover the costs. Although, as mentioned above, we don’t have family close by and it’s already hard enough to take care of the kids on my own with the long-ish hours he already works. Not to mention, I need the nights and weekends to do my writing and oh my god, WHY DO THEY MAKE IT SO HARD IN THIS COUNTRY TO RAISE A FAMILY!?

And that, ultimately, is the crux of the issue. Families all over this country are having similar dilemmas, these either/or situations, because there is no longer enough money to go around. Technically we’re considered middle class, but thanks to things like student loan debt and years upon years of stagnant wages and the ever faster rising cost of living, we still struggle. We still rent (and pay way too much for rent but who can afford a down payment on a house?). We own one ancient car. All our furniture is from 2002. We have a savings account but no college fund for either kid. We have health insurance but no retirement plan. Enough discretionary income for the occasional pizza but not enough for a real vacation.

And our financial issues are pretty benign in the long run. Other families are having to make decisions between much-needed medication and decent food. Or getting further in debt to move out of their crappy neighborhood to one with a decent school district and parks not littered with needles. Or finding a third job but then never seeing their kids.

It seems our family, just like so many other American families these days, can no longer afford the American dream.

I suppose I should end this with a joke since I’m a humor writer by trade, but after re-reading what I just wrote, none of this seems very funny anymore.

 

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Why I went to the Women’s March

I’ve been trying to write this godforsaken article for hours now. So much of my social media feed is cluttered with people demanding to know why women across this country felt the need to protest and, as someone who participated, I felt it was my duty to explain. To respond. To…ugh…get a dialogue going.

I started a bunch of sentences. About how we’re fighting for equal pay. For the right to paid maternity and paternity leave. For reasonable access to affordable healthcare. For the right not to have our genitalia grabbed by strangers. For equality for everyone. On and on and on.

There were so many reasons. But I was getting increasingly frustrated the more I tried to justify why I decided to exercise my American right to peacefully protest. And it took me awhile (clearly) but I think I finally figured out why I was having so much trouble.

I don’t care anymore. I don’t care if you don’t “get it.”

I spent the day surrounded by a sea of people who did. And they spilled out into the streets to make themselves heard. They wanted their government, who works for them, for all of us, to know how a huge chunk of us felt about the direction we were headed as a nation. And it was beautiful and life-affirming and gave me hope and made me realize that this nation is already great and there are huge swaths of us fighting to make it even better.

But most importantly, it made me realize that the burden of explaining why we did this didn’t have to fall on my shoulders. Because if the sight of hundreds of thousands of women, men and children all uniting for equal rights bothers you, maybe you need to examine why it bothers you. If the idea of a level playing field bothers you, then perhaps you should examine why it bothers you.

Because if you don’t get why women’s rights are human rights, I can’t make you understand. Nor can I make you feel how oppressive it is to hear a lifetime’s worth of negative comments about how you look, your weight, your wrinkles, your clothes, your makeup, your attitude, your competence, your drive, your passion, your sexuality.

If you see nothing wrong with blaming a rape victim for being raped rather than blaming the rapist, I can’t make you see how wrong and cruel that is.

If you don’t think it’s appalling that a country as wealthy and advanced as America has one of the worst maternal mortality rates in the world, I can’t make you be appalled.

If you don’t think it’s criminal that we pass laws that punish children for having poor parents, I can’t make you see how reprehensible that is.

If you can’t possibly fathom why a minority or a gay person or an immigrant or a young girl would be scared for their safety, I can’t make you try to imagine what it’s like to be them.

I can’t make you care about other people in this country. I can’t make you understand that just because you have it good and I have it good in this country doesn’t mean that everyone else does. These are all things you need to try to understand for yourself. Because clearly a huge portion of our population already understands these things.

We will not go backward in this great nation of ours that I personally happen to love. Not without a fight. If you understand nothing else, understand that. The 1950’s, the 1980’s, the 1800’s…whatever time period you thought America was great and are trying to get back to, was only great for a small minority.

But I, and millions of other Americans who marched Saturday, want it great for all.

And if you don’t understand that, that’s on you.

 

 

Another annoying post defending Thanksgiving

Guys, I love analogies. I love analogies like how bad writers love a good cheap gimmick. Which is why I want to begin this particular column about my love of Thanksgiving with the following cheap gimmicky analogy:

Congratulations, everyone. We have all turned Thanksgiving into the classic middle child of the major holidays.

See, at one time Thanksgiving was a pretty big deal in America. But now, jammed in-between the ever-growing juggernauts of Halloween and Christmas, it always gets overlooked. And sure, just like so many other middle children, it’s maybe not as fun as Halloween or as exciting as Christmas, but it’s still a good, solid holiday.

Now, Halloween obviously plays the role of the oldest child, not so much for any particular trait per se, but because it comes first in the calendar year and I really need this analogy to work. Although, if I really stretch it, Halloween could be like your high-achieving cheerleader daughter who suddenly goes through a goth phase and dyes her hair purple and only wears black and starts getting C’s because she’s focused on writing her death poetry. And also she starts getting drunk, like really drunk, while wearing sexy Harry Potter uniforms.

And Christmas is clearly the beloved youngest child, who can do no wrong and no one ever tells it no, which is why it has turned into a spoiled brat that sucks up all of Mommy and Daddy’s time and money.

Poor Thanksgiving. The quiet peacemaker. It’s just trying to get the whole family together at the table for nothing other than good food and good, but strained, conversation that is desperately trying to avoid bringing up politics. Would you like more mashed potatoes, it quietly but excitedly asks. Or maybe some of the turkey that took 18 hours to prep and cook? Or any of these other eleven side dishes?

Except, no one hears it. Because there’s Christmas, screaming in its highchair for more attention and throwing poinsettias at everyone, while Halloween mopes and snacks on the giant bowl of leftover candy that is mostly just yellow Starbursts and generic Tootsie Rolls at this point. Thanksgiving just wanted one day that is focused on them but no, because not only is Christmas making a scene but Christmas also had to bring over its rowdy, juvenile delinquent friend, Black Friday. And now everything is chaos and everyone is at the store because Black Friday conned them into thinking that getting into fistfights over cheap flats screens and environmentally irresponsible Keurigs was a great idea.

And so poor Thanksgiving just sits there alone at the table, sullenly eating a turkey leg and drinking wine straight from the bottle (which they will replace because Thanksgiving is a polite, responsible holiday…as long as no one brings up politics).

Well, I, for one, refuse to let Thanksgiving drink that wine alone. One, because I have never turned down a glass of wine in my life. And two, this holiday is worthy of our love and attention.

I love Thanksgiving. LOVE it. I loved it as a kid when the women of my family would shoo me out of the kitchen while they mysteriously made magic happen. And I love it now as an adult when I’m the one in the kitchen mysteriously making moderate-to-severe knife cuts and a whole symphony of curse words happen (and somehow, magically, edible food).

Everyone gets all dressed up but goes absolutely nowhere, just looking hella fancy while hanging out in the kitchen. There’s no stress to look skinny in a sexist costume or pressure to find the perfect gift for a husband who thinks “whatever, you know what I like” is an acceptable answer to the question “what do you want for Christmas this year?”

The only goal for the whole freaking day is just to devour food that has been bathed in almost illegal amounts of butter. To drink wine and watch a parade and talk about the weather with your uncle for an uncomfortable 12 minutes because it’s a topic least likely to bring up politics.

There’s no pressure to have a good time, even, or to make it a magical day for children. It just is what it is. The only thing you’re required to do is give a list of things you’re thankful for and even then you can lie because, I mean, who’s going to know?

So, guys, I think we all should apologize to Thanksgiving for our benign neglect of it. It truly deserves better. A prominent place on the fridge to hang its construction paper turkey hand art.

Christmas will just have to learn some patience. *ducks as another poinsettia is thrown at her head*

Clogging the toilet bowl of equality

What fools we are, us women. Prancing around with our right to vote and our equal rights amendment as though they mean something. Thinking we can have our cake and eat it too (and if we eat it standing up in the kitchen it doesn’t have any calories).

Well, I have news for you, America. As much as we say the women’s movement has helped us come a long way, baby, we have been deceived. Like teenagers who get overly excited when a celebrity retweets them, we have been fooled into thinking we matter.

Think I’m crazy? Well, let me just give you an example of how far we haven’t come.

There is a segregated place that women are forced to go to almost on a daily basis that is so perverse, so medieval, so inhumane, it makes one think we haven’t moved forward one iota from the Dark Ages.

Naturally, the place I’m talking about is the women’s public restroom.

Yes, even though we finally have trendy T-shirts featuring Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s face, the fact that we are still forced to use these, dare I say, “facilities,” is outrageous. I mean, we can make someone with Julia Child’s voice a star and yet we can’t come up with a better bathroom system than the current one we have?

If you have never entered into a women’s public restroom (re: you’re a man who didn’t have the nerve as a kid to take the dare from your friends), let me enlighten you.

You’ll first recognize a women’s public restroom by the line outside of it. A line that swoops and curves around in a fashion that should never be seen outside of an amusement park (and only then in cases where it’s a ride that’s going to make you vomit in the fun way). Slowly and painfully do you watch the women in this line zombie shuffle…and shuffle…and shuffle…and shuffle…pausing to let a tumbleweed amble by…and shuffle, until finally they reach the door, where they wait in another line inside the restroom (since there are only two stalls to make way for the gigantic, unnecessary couch in the corner).

Mind you, this whole time their bladders are aching with the fire of a thousand menstrual cramps.

After what seems like a Bugs Bunny cartoon passing of time (the sun went up, sunk down, the moon rose, the sun came back up, back down, the moon rose…) they finally reach the stall door. And here is where the fun part begins.

Whoever was the first woman to decide it would be much more sanitary to “hover” over the toilet seat rather than making actual cheek-to-seat contact should be made to wear diapers and banned from all toilets. As for those of you that continue to “hover,” I’m going to let you in on a little secret.

Contrary to myths circulating fourth grade classrooms the world over, you can’t get cooties from a toilet seat and there is no such thing as a South American poisonous spider that hides under the lids and bites your lady business when you sit down. So sit your happy little ass down. Because you know what happens when you hover? You sprinkle when you tinkle. And you never, ever, clean it up. Which, of course, forces the next woman to hover, and the next, and the next…

BECAUSE NO ONE WANTS TO CLEAN UP YOUR PEE, YOU DISGUSTING HEATHEN!

And then, of course, there are the women who think they need to use a wad of toilet paper roughly the size of a basketball to clean their vaginas when they are done. This, in turn, causes the toilet to clog and also causes a shortage of toilet paper. Which forces the woman in the one lone stall that still has toilet paper to ration it out amongst her brethren, which merely slows down the entire operation and makes the bitter writer at the end of the line seriously weigh the pros and cons of getting a “urinating in public” ticket.

But wait, what’s it like on the other side then, you ask? Well, according to my husband, who for purposes of anonymity I will only identify here by the code name Ryan Hugene Huddle, men have rules of etiquette when it comes to public restrooms.

“When you first walk in and there is already someone at the urinal, you take the farthest one away from them. You always want at least one urinal between you and the other guys. If it’s not very crowded, you can even wait until someone finishes so as to avoid the ‘right next to each other’ urinal action.”

“But what if it’s really crowded?” I asked.

“Well, you can’t avoid peeing beside each other forever. Sometimes you just have to do it. But, honestly, when it comes down to it, we’ll just pee right there in the street.”

And there it is. Ladies, it’s sad but true what this says about our era. We may have burned our bras and went overseas to fight in wars, but when it comes down to it, we still can’t pee in the street…at least, not very discreetly what with our comically large, bowling-ball-sized wad of toilet paper and all.

Will Paul Ryan be the first Gen-Xer in the White House?

So earlier today I tweeted this:

“Paul Ryan is a member of Gen X. All my flannel shirts now feel tainted.”

Now, depending on your political views, this is either SUPER funny or vaguely offensive (but still kinda a little bit funny *fingers crossed*).

But regardless of whether you think Ryan is the answer America has been waiting for or is, in fact, the anti-Christ (if you, like, believed in that kind of stuff, which you DON’T, but if you did…), the one thing I think we can all agree on is that Paul Ryan is not the kind of dude we associate with that apathetic flannel-and-grunge drenched era in time.

Now, that’s not to say Gen-Xers can’t be Republicans or super conservative. But Ryan just seems…hmm…how to put this…like someone who has never, EVER watched MTV. Or even knows what it is. And who was possibly born already wearing a suit and tie.

Now, technically, I’m not ACTUALLY a member of Gen X if you go by this definition from a Time magazine article:

“Sandwiched between 80 million baby boomers and 78 million millennials, Generation X — roughly defined as anyone born between 1965 and 1980 — has just 46 million members…”

I was born one year too late, which means I’m Generation Y (although I’m still trying to figure out if that makes me a Millennial or not). But since I was around at the tail end of the era AND I married a legit Gen Xer who resembles Kurt Cobain in certain lights and whenever he doesn’t shower, I feel qualified to speak out, apathetically of course, on this issue.

So, if there is a chance the first Gen-Xer will be voted into the White House as VP this fall, I’d like to take some time to offer some alternative, much better suited candidates:

Winona Ryder: Who better to sit around and do nothing unless the president dies than the It Girl from the 90’s herself? Not to mention the star of THE iconic slacker Gen X movie, “Reality Bites.” In addition to giving our country some much needed “cool” points, she could also easily solve the national debt problem via a scam involving her daddy’s gas card.

Blossom: Yes, I know she has an actual real, human person name. But I can’t spell it and even when I try to Google it, I butcher it so badly that there are literally no “did you mean this?” suggestions. And let’s face it, we all still refer to her as Blossom. She is a beloved Gen X icon, so much so that we don’t even blame her for all those horrific photos our parents have of us wearing those stupid flower hats with the upturned rim. Plus, she has like a wicked smart person degree from a wicked smart person university or something.

Kevin Smith: This would be awesome for two reasons:

1. May 4 would FINALLY become a federal holiday (Star Wars Day…look it up, dweebs)

2. People besides your grandparents would actually start watching CSPAN in the hopes he’d do one of those epic Q&A sessions he’s become legendary for.

Dave Grohl: He was in Nirvana AND Foo Fighters. If you think he needs any other qualifications besides that, GET. OFF. MY. WEBSITE.

Jared Leto: He could end wars just by leaning on a locker during foreign policy meetings.

John Cusack: And if he’s not available, Joan Cusack…I guess.

Ice Cube: Anything to stop him from making any more crappy kid-friendly movies. You were in “Boyz N the Hood” and “Friday,” man. Have some self-respect.

Daria: Because if corporations are now people, then cartoons can now be vice president.

Wil Wheaton: The Republicans would securely capture the Nerd vote and judging by his work on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Eureka,” he could totes solve the energy crisis problem within a week.

Molly Ringwald: She could entertain foreign dignitaries with that whole lipstick/boob move.

Marilyn Manson: Why the hell not? He’s known for his creepy-ass eyes too.