Saturday, July 28, 2012

Extremely F-ing Curious

I’ve seen all sorts at the library.

People needing travel books to plan expensive vacations to exotic parts unknown.

People wanting craft books because they’re stumped for bridal shower favor ideas and think they have enough time to make three dozen imitation Faberge eggs by hand.

People learning foreign languages, starting their own businesses, or copying recipes out of gourmet cook books that use ingredients you can’t buy at the neighborhood grocery store.

Every day is a movie montage of fascinating people leading fascinating lives.

But the only one I was jealous of was fictional.


“I just can’t shake the feeling that his life is infinitely more interesting than mine,” I told my husband one dull night, as we cuddled on the couch browsing Netflix. Our days consisted entirely of go to work, come home, do nothing. “Just look at everything he’s done! The zoo, the aquarium, the chocolate factory… I think he’s even been to space.”

Matt, scrolling through the new releases, didn’t even bat an eye. “Of course his life is more interesting,” he said. “He’s freaking Curious. Dude gets around.”

“You’re not supposed to agree with me!” I said, pushing him. “You’re supposed to tell me I’m interesting too!”

“No way! That monkey is the ultimate adventurer. Just like Samuel L. Jackson is the ultimate Bad Ass. You have Samuel F-ing Jackson and Curious F-ing George.”

It took a beat for that to sink in. “You did not just say that,” I said.

“Yeah, I really did,” Matt said, queuing up an episode of Top Gear.

“You…” I sputtered. “You’re a bad man.”

“FYI,” Matt added, “that’s his middle name from now on. Curious F-ing George.”


He was right: every time I saw one of those picture books at the library, my rebellious hindbrain inserted George’s new middle name, making him seem even more awesome. Curious F-ing George at the beach. Curious F-ing George in a parade. Curious F-ing George at a costume party.

I seethed. How is it right for a monkey to have such interesting adventures? How is that fair?

Then it dawned on me: It’s not like he’s had any special training. He’s a freaking monkey! If the man in the yellow hat had left him in the jungle, he’d be just like all the other monkeys.

I needed to leave the jungle!


Not long after that, a patron came to the library talking about her children’s Irish dance classes. “That sounds so cool!” I said.

“You should come!” she said. “The studio is down the street from here, tucked behind that bank in the strip mall.”

“Oh, sure,” I said, but I didn’t mean it. Me, dancing? And maybe later we’ll all go elephant wrangling and hunt for snarks.

“Wait a minute…” I thought. “Can George dance?” I consulted the internet.

Turns out he can.

I googled the dance studio and checked the times for beginner lessons.


Later, another patron made an offhand remark about her guitar students.

“I have a guitar,” I said casually.

“Is that so?” she said.

“I’d be the very best kind of student: the kind who never practices and never improves but who keeps paying for lessons anyway.”

“Are you free on Wednesdays?”


My evenings became busy. I said yes to everything: parties with coworkers, classes and workshops, new and unusual foods. The hardest part was convincing myself not to drive straight home after work and vegetate in front of the TV. My guiding principal was “WWCFGD?” and so far I hadn’t seen a single book about George staying home and doing nothing.

“I’m thinking of belly dance classes,” I told Matt one day.

“Okay,” he said.

“They would take up my Saturdays for a few months.”

“Okay,” he said.

“It’s going to cost $100.”

“Are you waiting for me to protest sexy dance classes?”

“Just so we’re clear then.”


For Christmas, Matt took me to a museum exhibit where I got to dissect a squid. For my birthday, his parents signed us all up for a beginner glass blowing class. For Valentine’s Day, Matt rented me a machine gun and we practiced on zombie targets, followed by a perfectly normal romantic dinner.

I started to feel better about my life. George has been to zoo, you say? So what? I’ve done that. George has gone camping? I’ve done that too. George has been in a hot air balloon? I’ll get to that eventually. George and I are no longer in competition: we’re kindred spirits now.


After I gave my friends an Irish dance demonstration, my friend Randi said, “You have the coolest hobbies. My hobbies are, like, taking a bath instead of a shower." 

I laughed. “That's a cool hobby, too!”

"No really," she told me. "I’m routinely inspired by you, and I routinely do nothing about it.”

"It's not hard," I said. "All I do is leave the house."

Seriously, a monkey could do it.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Parenting Advice from Alex

“I ran into your mom at the mall last weekend,” my best friend told me on the phone. Sarah lives in the small town where we both went to college, about an hour outside of the city where I grew up and where my parents still live. “She was excited to see the baby.”

“Oh, good grief,” I said. “Did she do the thing?” I could see it in my mind’s eye: my mother gushing over Sarah’s newborn second child, wondering aloud in front of God and everybody if I was ever going to give her grandchildren.

“Yup,” said Sarah.

I winced.

“But you would have laughed,” Sarah went on. “She suggested that maybe I should visit you more often and then you might feel more comfortable with the idea of having kids.”

I did laugh at that.

Sure, Mom. Let me tell you some of the things my friends have taught me about parenting…


As I visited the zoo with Sarah and her husband Alex, a child in the gift shop was having A Very Bad Day.

Alex smiled. “It used to bother me,” he said. “Before I had kids, screaming children were like nails on a chalkboard.”

“And now it doesn’t bother you?” I asked over the noise.

“It’s more than that. Now, actually, it’s a relief. Because, yes, it’s a child screaming, but – and this is the important part – it’s NOT MINE.”

Sarah nodded agreement. In the nearby stroller, their daughter smiled up at me happily. Elsewhere in the shop, the unhappy child continued to scream at unknown horrors, as if she’d leaped off a building and hadn’t hit bottom yet. Her mother continued to shop as if nothing was happening.

“So what do you do when it is your child?” I asked.

“Drink,” said Alex.

Such pearls of wisdom are beyond all price.


Not long before their second child was born, they drove out to spend the weekend with us. That first morning, Matt and Alex kept young Cassie entertained while I cooked waffles and Sarah slept in.

“I might go to the store later,” I said. “Is there anything you and Sarah would like?”

“Juice,” said Alex.

“No worries,” I said, checking the fridge. “There’s still half a carton in here.”

“You’ll need more,” Alex said with a shrug. “Kids drink a lot of juice.”

“I thought Sarah wasn’t big on giving her all the sugar and stuff?”

“You’ve got to look at the big picture,” Alex said. “There are powers beyond your understanding, two equal yet opposing forces locked in an endless battle as old as time itself.”

“Is this like the Force?” said Matt. “Are we talking about the Light Side and the Dark Side?”

“Sort of,” said Alex, “except these two forces are Juice and Cheese.”

“I’m not listening,” I said.

“You have to maintain a delicate balance between them,” Alex went on. “Too much of one or the other-”

“I’m waking Sarah up right now.”

Obviously, my mind is not yet prepared for such arcane knowledge.


While we were in town for the Renaissance Fair, we stayed with Alex and Sarah overnight. Sunday morning, Sarah stayed home with the girls while Alex rode with us to the Fair. On the way, I noted some of the things around town that had changed since Matt and I moved away after college.

“The casino seems awful crowded for an early Sunday morning. Is it always like that?” I asked.

“Not really,” said Alex. “They must be having some kind of event.”

“Is it nice there?” I asked.

“I couldn’t say. I don’t often make it to the casino. It’s hard to get in with kids.”

I laughed. “I’m sure you could take them with you and if anyone confronted you about it, say, ‘I’m looking for their mother.’”

Matt sighed at me. “You’re horrible,” he said.

Alex, however, loved this idea: “I do that sort of thing all the time! Whenever I’m picking up Sarah from work, if the girls aren’t behaving, I like to say, ‘I bet you never treat your REAL dad this way!’ and watch people’s reactions.”

Matt looked at him wide-eyed. “How do people react to that?”

“Most of them laugh. They all know I’m Sarah’s husband by now.” He chuckled to himself then went on, “It’s really fun in restaurants, when they misbehave, to say, ‘If you keep this up, you’ll never see your real parents again.’”

After a moment of stunned silence, Matt responded with a simple “Wow.”

“Yeah, FYI: management doesn’t appreciate it when you do that,” Alex said.

Truly, I am in the presence of a master.