Kids, being naturally curious creatures, are always full of questions. It is, after all, how they learn about the world around them. Having spent a lot of time with my friends’ children, I was used to the barrage of inquiries like “Why is the sky blue?” “Do dogs like ice cream?” “What is chicken made of?”
Granted, most of the kids I’ve been around are under the age of 5.
Boyfriend’s daughters are both pre-teens, which initially lead me to expect questions about tampons and kissing boys. Those, I thought, would be the more sophisticated questions. But I somehow forgot that they didn’t grow up in an era of Saturday morning cartoons. Their friends’ brains have been marinating in the Internet for the past decade and they all talk to each other on their tablets and phones and text messages.
So the questions are a little more than I prepared for. To make matters worse, they know I work in health care and want to ask me medical questions. . . all the time. These are not “Where do babies come from?” or ”Will I ever grow boobs?” questions either.
Their questions include:
Amanda, what is abortion?
Amanda, what is gender reassignment surgery?
Amanda, will I grow hair on my face when I’m old? (Which lead to a deeper conversation about testosterone imbalances in women.)
And the very random: Amanda, why did Hitler put Jewish people in consternation camps?
There was one night when they wanted to know about anorexia, their curiosity piqued from a very special episode of some crappy teen drama about gymnastics. I went over the downfalls of starvation, starting with bad skin and hair loss and ending with massive organ failure.
Perhaps I go into too much detail, but it never seems to bother them. One afternoon, as I was explaining the side effects of a vitamin A overdose, one of them looked at me, not the slightest bit disturbed and said, ”Oh, ok. Can I have a pool party for my birthday?”
Lesson learned: Whatever the question, the answer is always less important than birthday plans. Or One Direction. Apparently that’s a band. They’re always more important. This week.
A few weeks ago, my parents went to visit my 92-year-old grandfather. He is not doing terribly well, primarily because he is 92, but also because he lives with a nagging carbuncle that he married 30-some years ago. More anecdotal evidence of the burden of “settling” with someone who’s not right for you. You’re stuck with them when you’re old.
My parents thought it would be nice to set up my grandfather with a Skype account during their trip so he could meet–as he so delightfully calls him–“my person,” and boyfriend’s daughters.
“He seemed more interested in them than anything else,” my mother claimed. “He fell asleep in the middle of our other conversations.”
For the past 10 years, my grandfather has been begging me to spontaneously reproduce so, when he’s dead, he can claim to have had great grandchildren. (Who he’s going to tell this to after his demise, I’m not quite clear on.) Most of my conversations with him during my mid/late 20s were filled with reminders about my lack of offspring. And a lot of questions about my sexual orientation. And one very disturbing conversation about “knowing how to please a man.”
When I turned 30, he told me that my eggs were probably dried up, and I had better start looking into in vitro treatments. That was exactly the commentary on my age that I wanted to hear on my birthday.
Now that I live with boyfriend and my impending stepchildren, I thought he might like to make the claim that he has great grandchildren, even if they aren’t biological. So I called to see if Grandpa would be up for some video chatting to meet his future-step-great-grandchildren.
Me: Hi Grandpa, how are you
Grandpa: When are you getting married?
Me: I’m not sure. Soon I guess.
Grandpa: Put your person on the phone. He’ll know.
Me: Ummmm. . .
Grandpa: You’re not getting any younger.
Me: I’m fully aware.
Grandpa: What do you want?
Me: I thought you might like to get on Skype so you can meet ‘my person’ and the girls?
Me: Oh, ok.
Grandpa: Doing things takes a long time when you’re old.
Me: Aren’t you sitting in front of your computer right now?
Me: Is it on?
Grandpa: Yes, but it takes too long to do stuff.
Me: But you can just click the icon.
Grandpa: No. . . Last I heard, you were living with that gentleman?
Me (now realizing that he’s drunk): Yes, we still live together.
Grandpa: Far be it from me to tell you how to live your life. But you should get married. Then you know he’s serious about you.
Grandpa: I have to go. I’m old.
Me: Well good talking to you grandpa. I hope you’re feeling . . . (click of him hanging up)
I developed my first celebrity crush when I was just 4 years old. It happened when my parents took me to see Return of the Jedi. I had been to the movies before, but this was different. This was EPIC and in no way would involve a cartoon skunk. And I remember this outing because this is when I first fell in love.
About halfway through the film, I declared to my mother that I wanted to marry Han Solo and keep Chewbacca as a pet. I wanted him to take me to live with the Ewoks and smuggle things for me. I wasn’t even sure what a smuggler was, but I had a feeling he was good at it. Han Solo was good at everything! Even then I could appreciate a man with skills.
As a teenager, my tremendous crush on Harrison Ford continued. I saw all of his movies, even the crappy one where he was shot in the head. And he was also Indiana Jones.
I even read articles about how he saved people in his helicopter. Every time I learned something new about him, it confirmed that Harrison Ford was perfect and should come over and barbecue in my backyard.
So when I was 23 and found out I working at an event that the love of my fantasy life would be attending, I was more than a little excited. He was going to be at an awards ceremony that my company was hosting. I spent days preparing for the opportunity just to see him in person. I wondered if I would be close enough to smell him, and if I was, would he smell like wookies and archaeological relics.
The day of the event, I was all nerves. I calmly did my job passing out programs and registering people. During the ceremony, my coworkers and I had a table at the back of the room where we were served dinner. It was technically the same food that everyone else got, but it seemed like they were a little rushed when it came to the steak, as mine was still bleeding and looked vaguely like it had been dragged behind a car.
After dinner, the CEO of my company, knowing about my absolute adoration asked if I wanted to meet Harrison Ford. This is the closest in my life I’ve ever come to screaming “OMG!” in an octave above a dog whistle.
I walked over. There he was. His hair was grey and fluffier than I thought it would be. Calista Flockart sat next to him, chewing on her hair. And then he turned around looking just like Han Solo, were Han Solo in his 50′s and wearing an Armani suit. I walked forward, and . . . oh shit.
Whether it was the excitement or the bad steak, I don’t think I’ll ever really know. I literally had 5 seconds to decide if I wanted to be the girl that vomited on Han Solo.
I turned and ran for the closest trashcan. I’m sure he never even saw me, I moved so quickly to get away. And I never got the chance to actually meet him.
The opportunity to shake hands with an icon of nerf herdery will probably never come again. However, boyfriend is prepared for what would happen should Han Solo show up at my door with the Millenium Falcon parked outside and an offer to take me to Hoth for a ski trip.
Lesson learned: No matter how much you prepare, there’s always the possibility of puke.
Grandpa: So are you settling in well in your new situation?
Me: Yes, we really like the new place.
Grandpa: Well, I never tell anyone how to live their lives. And now a days anything goes, but I don’t tell people what to do.
Me: Uh huh.
Grandpa: So are you going to make it legal?
Me: Do you mean get married? Yes, we plan to.
Grandpa: I lived with a lot of women before and I was never serious about them unless I married them.
Me: I . . .uh. . .what?
Grandpa: So you’re serious then?
Grandpa: Good, good. I’m glad you’re settling down. You know, back in my day, you would have been called a spinster or an old maid.
Me: Good thing it’s not the 17th century anymore.
Grandpa: So give my regards to your person.
Me: You mean my boyfriend?
Grandpa: Yes, him. Goodbye. (click)
Even though I’m no longer single, my abhorrence of romantic comedies hasn’t abated. Their formulaic absurdity grates on my nerves. I honestly don’t care how many bridesmaids dresses Katherine Heigl has had to wear. And did I see that she was in a movie as a bounty hunter? Now there is realism.
It’s not that I can’t lose myself in the fantasy world of movies, but if they are going to be that far fetched, then at least make it so they are actually humorous. How many times has your date been interrupted by a montage of the two of you doing playful things together like learning to dance or tripping in a field and falling down together while laughing? (Falling on each other by the way, hurts. That’s how you break a hip.)
I suppose it’s because real romance is only romantic if you’re in the moment and it’s pretty mundane to an outsider. For example, the other day I was brushing my teeth and wandering around the bedroom. I have an electric toothbrush and a complete inability to stand over the sink while I brush my teeth, I need to wander. I don’t know why.
It was then that I noticed a moderately-sized spider on the bedroom door. Seeing this little home invader filled me with dread. I hate spiders and I’m constantly being bitten by them. I don’t try to spare their lives by putting them outside. They could come back in! They break into my house, they die. Or they get batted around by my cat for 20 minutes and then they die.
So I stood there, toothbrush in mouth, afraid to speak because I might spray toothpaste everywhere, hooting and pointing at the door like an idiot.
At this moment, boyfriend steps out of the shower to see this spectacle of oral hygiene combined with distress and without a word, kills the spider and flushes it for me.
And that, my friends, is romance.
Lesson learned: It’s the little things that make life romantic. It is not Katherine Heigl.
Yes kids, for the past few weeks I have continued to dabble at being a parental-type figure for boyfriend’s two daughters. I feel like I should have to take some sort of test before being allowed to do this. Like a driving test. And then the DMV should send me another crappy looking ID card that says I have a provisional parenting license and need to be supervised. Only in this photo I’ll be wearing my reading glasses and looking like I have some semblance of authority.
Alas, there’s no studying for this. Just trial and error. And more error.
And as yet another example of my domestic blunders and why I should have to obtain a license, I give you: Amanda almost blows up the apartment.
The other night, older daughter failed to completely turn the dial on our stove after making mac ‘n cheese. I smelled gas and then I gently told her to make sure she checks for that before walking away from the kitchen.
Simple, right? I taught her how to not burn down the house. Wisdom imparted. I SAVED our lives and showed myself to be a role model for fire safety.
Two days later, I cleaned up some kitty litter with a cordless hand vacuum, which was running short on power. I plugged it into the charger. Soon, the entire apartment smelled like burning plastic. Boyfriend and I spent the next half hour sniffing our appliances in search of the smell. We were about the leave the house when he looks down and there is the hand vacuum . . . melting!
I had grabbed the wrong adapter with a significantly higher voltage and melted the hand vacuum. In my defense, the chargers looked identical and when I plugged in the vacuum, it just showed that it was charging. The power switch actually melted into place and the top of the vacuum turned to lava and caved in on itself. Had I left with boyfriend to go run errands, we’d have a pile of rubble topped with fire roasted cats. (And most likely some angry neighbors.)
I had failed at demonstrating how to prevent electrical fires and the importance of proper voltage. I also think I may have given us brain damage from breathing in the fumes of slow-cooked vacuum cleaner.
Lesson learned: I am not a role model for fire safety.
It’s a well-known fact that I love animals. I love pets so much that I am totally willing to shank Sarah McLachlan for her horrific kitty snuff commercials. (Hearing her sing anything now causes me to practically have a seizure out of fear that I’ll have to see a deoculated puppy.)
Unfortunately, my schedule doesn’t really make me a good dog owner, so my beloved little pup lived with my parents and visited me on weekends. Her passing away last year meant that for the first time since 1987, I was without a pet of any sort. This would not abide. I needed something fluffy to feed and hug until it bit me.
So I told my friends that I wanted to get a cat. A cat would be perfect. I would no longer live alone. I wouldn’t have to take it for walks. And cats seem to gravitate toward me like I’m Kitty Jesus. Who wouldn’t be happy for me to fulfill my dream of giving a loving home to rescued pet?
This is when I got the “cat lady” remarks. People actually started to tell me that I would never find a man if I got a cat. Apparently, everyone is taking lessons from my grandpa on tact.
A) What does one have to do with the other? The cat would not be going on dates with me, unless of course, I met a man who was into that. Still, seems impractical to take a cat carrier into a restaurant.
B) Why are people so f*cking rude?
Throwing caution to the wind, I rescued a very young cat. And since I have no real experience with cats, I treated her like a dog who poops in a box, which is pretty much how she acts. (Ok, a dog that likes to stand on the headboard and stare down creepily at me while I sleep.)
Just one month after getting my cat, I met boyfriend. Who also has a cat. And now we live together. With our cats. And a ban on all ASPCA commercials.
Lesson learned: You put love out there, even for an animal in need, you get love back.
Six months ago I was living the cat lady dream. Depressingly single. My roommate had four legs and pooped in a box. I didn’t have to wear pants in my kitchen, or anywhere else in my house for that matter.
I was also dating guys who were in to anime bondage films and had no concept of U.S. history.
It seemed a carefree yet utterly lonely existence. Plus I had a fear of slipping and falling in the shower, dying and having no one find my body for two weeks.
Then I met my boyfriend and everything turned upside down. Yes kids, it turns out I’m not dead inside. Just like a lame romantic comedy, I fell in love. And we’ve had more chaos, stress and tragedy in our relationship than most people have in five years. But it served to bring us closer together, so we decided to cohabitate. Not only do I live with my boyfriend, I live with his two pre-teen daughters and his cat. That’s right. Two girls, two female cats, and me.
Boyfriend is severely outnumbered.
And I became instant parental-type figure. Hmmm, only problem is, I have no idea what I’m doing.
Case in point: younger daughter asked me to help her with her math homework. This would be my first test of parental-like involvement in the everyday. I could do this. I could be a step mom!
There’s just one problem: while I understand math concepts quite well, I have dyscalculia, which is dyslexia for numbers. I invert numbers all the time. You can tell me that the price of something is $4.99 and I’ll give you $10 thinking it’s $9.49. So tackling 4th grade math seemed more than a little frightening.
I stared at her homework. We talked and I started equating the math to her love of makeup and viola! She started to get it.
Go team Amanda! Excellent almost-step mom work! This is going to be great.
Ten minutes later, boyfriend walks in the room and looks over our shoulders.
“Um, Amanda, you do know that these aren’t all addition, right? The symbol in the equation kinda matters.”
Right. I had just helped her with her homework. And now she had to redo half of it because apparently I don’t just invert numbers, I completely misread equations. So much for understanding math concepts. This is why I write for a living.
Lesson learned: Helping with homework is never as easy as it appears.
A few days ago, a friend of mine told me about his adventures at a certain dating site’s in-person mixer event. It sounded awkward, annoying and over-priced. He ended the evening by himself at the bar, which sounded like most of the single’s “mixers” that I’ve attended in the past. It also reminded me of an especially weird event from several years ago.
I was invited to what was comically called a “Lock and Key Party.” Before you take this to mean that I was venturing into the world of 70’s-style swingers, the party actually involved taking a brief personality questionnaire, which was then put into a computer. After a few minutes, you were given a small “key,” which looked like a USB drive with a button on it. Throughout the party, you had to put your key next to someone else’s and click the buttons simultaneously. Based on your questionnaire answers, the keys would light up green or red to indicate if you were compatible.
It sounds cooler than it was.
My key blinked red for every person at the party, except for the female friend that I had dragged with me. All red lights led to guys walking away from me, which was depressing when most of them looked like they lived in their mother’s basement and were opposed to hand hygiene. I was beginning to think I was incompatible with everyone.
At the time, I was writing a series of clinical articles for a nursing magazine about an increase in STDs among teen girls. Not really ideal work to be in before venturing out into the dating world. I began to think maybe it was better to incompatible than to risk a communicable disease.
As the evening wound down, I found myself cranky and moderately intoxicated. Finally, the only decent looking guy in the place made his way over to me. We clicked our keys and were astonishingly a match. Was I going to actually meet someone at this atrocity of a party?
I asked his name, which he gave to me followed with, “Yeah, I’m married, but I work for the company and wanted to see how this thing worked.”
Um, then where is your wedding ring? And why do you have a key if you are just observing?
“What’s your name? What do you do?” he asked.
“My name is Amanda. I write about syphilis.”
Lesson learned: Forced single mingling is just that, forced.
I’ve received many a disgruntled email lately about my lack of blogging. Unfortunately for my readers, my boyfriend provides no blog fodder. He seems to operate within the parameters of normal human interaction. No urinating on me, no anime porn, no dressing up like Thurston Howell. I know, it’s disappointing for everyone except for me . . . and apparently grandpa.
Due to hearing loss, grandpa rarely calls me. When he does, he always provides some rare insights into the mind of a 92-year-old man. And the most delightful part of this conversation: boyfriend was standing next to me when he called.
Grandpa: You have something to tell me.
Me: Hi Grandpa. How are you?
Grandpa: You have something to tell me.
Grandpa: You have someone you are interested in.
Me: You mean my boyfriend? Yes, I find him interesting.
Grandpa: Does he make money?
Me: Yes, he is employed.
Grandpa: Has he proposed yet.
Me: Ah, no.
Grandpa: You should propose then. You’re not getting any younger.