Angels, Demons and Bloodsuckers

It started with Evan.

Long, long ago (the 70s), in a galaxy far, far away (New Jersey), Evan was my best friend. Together, we prepared and served gourmet plastic steaks in my Playskool kitchen.  We plotted against the Eager Beaver Diaper-Clad Toddler you read about in Mmm…Pie. We picked outfits together – Danskin hopscotch-motif top and pants? Strawberry-adorned sundress and matching bloomers? We acted out suburban dramas with Fisher-Price people.  Who would pick up the dry cleaning, Blue Marilyn or her good-for-nothing husband Bald Green Bob? OMFG – was that a WEEBLE with Purple Susan at The Silver Bucket the other night?! Did her two-inch boyfriend know?! Did she know that Weebles wobbled but didn’t fall down?!

Now, based on some of the aforementioned activities, it might cross your mind that Evan was gay. I can see why you’d think that, but he wasn’t. I’ll tell you what he was, though: entirely imaginary.

That didn’t stop me from becoming completely unable to think or talk about anything else – except maybe candy. And this drove Lew absolutely crazy – in fact, it drove him to homicide. One day, going 55 mph on the Parkway, he threw Evan out of the car, never to be “seen” or heard from again. Which I’m sure had noooo lasting traumatic effect on me.

RIP Evan.

Gone was the first of my many obsessions: a series of long-term fixations that I could not control.  From him I moved on to Ziggellette, a  small, soft doll so named because of her resemblance to Ziggy. Hailing from the Fluff ‘n’ Stuff at the Woodbridge Mall, Ziggellette had several mangy strands of mustard-colored yarn hair, a bulbous, three-dimensional nose and the words “LOVE ME” written across her red torso. She told silly jokes, sang sillier songs, and served as my alter-ego, often expressing the things I could not bear to. I took her everywhere.

Then came the fire.

Jan, Grandma Ethel and I were sitting around the kitchen table when we began to smell smoke. In a panic, Jan attempted to rush us out of the house, but I refused to leave the premises without Ziggellette. Racing down the hall to my room, I discovered the unfortunate source of the smoke.  It had been my sister’s turn to play “Hide Ziggellette,” and it appeared she’d chosen to put her in a lamp so that her oversized head hung out over the shade and her floppy derriere rested against the lit 100-watt bulb. The bulb had already burned a quarter-sized hole in Ziggellette’s nether regions, but I was sure she could still be saved. I raced back to the kitchen and threw her in the sink, where her bean-filled body let out a sad little sizzle. She was lost. Lew did come home a few days later with Ziggellette II, and I loved her like my own, but it was never quite the same.  (Side note — Ziggellette II stayed with me until Philly. There, she was either mauled by an unnamed Wheaten terrier or stolen … I have my suspicions but no DNA evidence. In any case, RIP Ziggellettes I and II.)

So, on to a new obsession: Charlie’s Angels. It isn’t hard to see how I, a short, picked-on and bucktoothed suburban Jew, would develop girl crushes on these ample-bosomed, totally glamorous and kick-ass women. What wonderful role models! What a realistic show! I hoped my boobs — I mean I — grew up to be just like them.

Thankfully, they were safe from my family’s tendency to kill the things I cared about, and this particular obsession ended bloodlessly when the channel 5 syndication line-up changed.

Enter Duran Duran (see 1984), possibly the most intense, mocked and long-running of my obsessions, followed by Conan O’Brien (see NBC Order and Team Conan), Pistol Pete Sampras (see Sleepless at the Service Line), and of course, Ollie (see Ollie’s CV).

It’s obvious that these obsessions have served as an escape for me, and/or provided me with something to focus on when there was nothing else.  They give me something relatively painless in which to lose myself.  I’m like a 12-year-old with a crush on that kid from Social Studies.

In some cases, it’s also pretty obvious why I choose – albeit subconsciously – a particular subject. But for the most part, I’ve never understood why this happens to me, or why one thing captivates me and another doesn’t. Why Ziggellette and not Potbelly Koala or LeMutt? Duran Duran and not The Police or U2? Pete Sampras and not Andre Agassi? And why does it suddenly overcome me for no apparent reason?

It has actually been quite some time since my mind went down the old road of obsession. And you might think that, as an engaged middle management woman on the wrong side of 35, I’d be mature enough to avoid that road going forward. You’d be wrong.

A few weeks ago, my future SIL Christine and I engaged in a book trade. I gave her Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Committed” and she gave me … wait for it … “Twilight” and its sequel, “New Moon.” I couldn’t have been surer that I had zero interest in the teen angst of a high school junior torn between a vampire and a morphing werewolf in Bumblefuck, Washington. It seems absurd even as I write those terms.

Christine had felt the same way, but assured me I would get hooked like the rest of the world.  I remained skeptical.

The next thing I knew, I was up every night until 2 a.m., unable to put down the story, Googling vampire legends, figuring out where Volterra was, and deciding whether or not I was on Team Edward or Team Jacob (tough call — and I also find Carlisle strangely attractive).

Vampy McVamperstein and frick on a bloodsucking, daylight-fearing stick!

Add “Olympic Coven” to the list.

Angels, Demons and Bloodsuckers

Booby Trapped

This post is dedicated to my newest mom friend, Lauren.

If I lived in a house, it would be toilet papered after this post. Since I do not, I fully expect to be lynched by a crowd of angry mothers who will run me down with their double-wide Bugaboo strollers on Broadway. Why? Because I am about to tell you something that you may very well condemn. Prepare to break up with me now. Here it comes. If and when I have a kid, he or she will be fed … brace yourselves … formula.

That’s right. I said it: the F word. FORMULA. Go ahead, call Social Services – I am not going to breastfeed my theoretical children. (And yes, now and for the foreseeable future, that is all they are.) I’ll wager that I’ve read more on the topic than any other non-moms out there. I get it, but I maintain my position. There will be no pumping. There will be no nipple confusion, nursing pads, clogged ducts, latching issues, lactation consultants or trips to stores with names like Tit for Tot, Nip It in the Bud, Mom’s Breast Friend, or Yes Siree, That’s My Booby. No, I do not want to try it. No, I am not going to change my mind, and no, I am not going to tell you why. I have my reasons and you shouldn’t care.

But, to quote my college roommate, you do care and that’s the sick part.

That’s also my point.

I am not arguing for or against breastfeeding and I am not here to discuss the pros and cons of either choice.  If you are a mother and you choose to breastfeed, great! If you are a mother and you can’t or choose not to breastfeed, that too should be great. But it isn’t. And I cannot understand, for the life of me, why so many people feel so strongly that what a mother feeds her baby — assuming it isn’t crack — is even remotely their beeswax. I know that when babies are involved, everyone has an opinion. But this topic in particular seems to be attached to an alarming level of militancy. The lacto-fascist movement (thanks for the term, Lew) has come to equate breastfeeding with good mothering – which is absurd. I assure you there are horrible, Joan Crawford-esque mothers who breastfed and loving, wonderful mothers who did not.  This should not be the defining factor.

Again, please understand, I am not anti-breastfeeding.  I just don’t think it’s for me, but that doesn’t mean it’s not for you. I’ve watched many a friend nurse and pump and wean, and I’ve supported them all.  What I’m against is the immense pressure to which women are subjected at a time when they’re already overwhelmed and vulnerable. I’m against bullying and the manipulative use of guilt. I’m against other people telling women what they “have to” do with their own bodies. I’m against lacto-fascism.

Neither I nor most of my friends were breastfed.  All of us have managed, miraculously, to remain rickets-free for almost 40 years.  But times change, and most of my friends did breastfeed their own children. A smaller number did not. Of those who couldn’t or chose not to for various reasons (also none of your beeswax), almost all were accosted at some point, forced to sit through the Spanish inquisition, and made to feel like total failures as human beings.

I just read a column written by a successful journalist who actually was breastfeeding, and pumping. At a Mommy & Me class, a few of the other mothers saw her give her child a bottle, assumed it contained formula, and cornered her for a vigilante lecture as if she had just put a lit cigarette in her infant’s mouth.

A sampling of things I’ve heard when I’ve mentioned that I myself have no plans to breastfeed any future offspring.

“Formula is for poor, uneducated people.” (Do I not have a master’s degree from an Ivy League university?)

“What do you mean you’re not going to?! You HAVE TO.” (Newsflash:  you don’t.)

“What is WRONG with you?” (A lot, but none of it has anything to do with my views on breastfeeding.)

And my personal favorite, “You shouldn’t have kids.” (Really? REALLY?!)

Regardless of how deeply you’re sure that “breast is best,” FORMULA IS NOT LETHAL.  The ingestion of formula by someone else’s baby does not in any way, shape or form affect your life or your child’s life.  In fact, if you didn’t know the difference, you’d never know the difference.  Whatever formula-related side effects you’re convinced exist are my problem, not yours. So honestly, lacto-fascists, WHY DO YOU CARE?

Booby Trapped