Thursday, October 30, 2008

The $150,000 wardrobe makeover

Some women fantasize about a hot night with Patrick Dempsey, some women's fantasies involve pool boys or german shepherds, but give me a $150,000 shopping spree any day! In case you're from another planet, that was the amount spent by the GOP on Sarah Palin's wardrobe makeover. (In case that sounds extravagant, remember, it did include accessories as well as a couple of outfits for her family members.) (Which still sounds extravagant to someone like me, whose idea of a splurge is buying something at Old Navy that wasn't on sale . . . ) People on both sides of the political spectrum can argue about 'shopping-gate' til they're blue (or red, depending on party affiliation) - everyone does it, it's a travesty, she needed clothes for different climates, it sends a bad message in a recession, they're donating all the clothes to charity, it's hypocritical to claim to be a WalMart hockey mom when you're wearing Valentino and Manolo Blahniks - but for me the real issue is envy. I would love someone to take me to any store and spend $150,000 on me (hell, I'd be happy with $150!)

The scale of this spree does raise the idea of diminishing returns. It's like wine - I can taste the difference between a bottle of two buck chuck and a $10 bottle, but once you start going from $10 to $100 a bottle, I can't really tell much difference. Likewise, my similarly uneducated fashion palate can tell the difference between a $10 Jaclyn-Smith-For-KMart dress and a $100 dress from Nordstrom, but I don't see a lot of difference between the Nordstrom outfit and the designer one, except that the designer outfits are often weirder-looking. Moms like me are expert bargain hunters out of necessity; the GOP could have hired me or my friends to do the wardrobe makeover for considerably less money and still have Palin looking camera ready. (I just spent $150 at Target and got myself a nice looking sweater set, a purse, 4 pairs of pants for my younger son, 2 dress shirts for my older son, a sweatshirt for my husband, and some groceries!)

I have plenty of other reasons to be incensed about Palin beyond the superficial clothing issue, but at least her shopping spree has given me a great new fantasy. Now, when my husband and I are trying to squeeze in a quickie before the kids get up in the morning and I have 2 minutes to get myself in the mood or lose the opportunity, I'll just think about a GOP strategist taking me to Neiman Marcus, and I'm set!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Life Balance (yeah right!)

I'm on temporary furlough from suburban mom hell - just spent an hour scrubbing the pot I used to assemble tonight's tuna noodle casserole and trying to get the kitchen a bit less disgusting, juggling phone calls, and trying to keep two boys from killing each other ("Mom, he's making noise and I can't concentrate on my world history report!" "But I have to practice my drum solo!" "Moron!" "Butthead!" "I'm telling!") As I was removing the skin on my hands with the Brillo pad, I was reminded of a singer friend of mine (with no kids) who travels frequently, and who often bemoans the lack of balance in her work-centered life. God, I'd love to have that problem!

Actually, being a mom does give you automatic balance of a sort: No matter how much work I have to do, kids require regular meals, clean laundry, refereeing, groceries, reassurance, love (without public physical affection past the age of 9), permission slips signed, checks written (way too frequently), and on and on . . . Frankly, there are times I'd love to get too absorbed by my work, but hell, there are times I'd love to be a 5'11" supermodel dating George Clooney. But I also appreciate the variety of demands on my time, and in a perverse way I enjoy my insane, multitasking life. I feel a twinge of pity for my child-free friends - what do they find to do all day?

I recently talked to an empty-nester I know, who mentioned being bored - it's the first time I'd heard that word used by anyone over the age of 15, and it was like reading a National Geographic article about the traditions of a strange aboriginal culture. Any mom who would describe herself as bored should be sentenced to some serious punishment - like spending an hour at my house scrubbing tuna casserole dishes and refereeing between my kids!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Now everyone's broke - yippee!

In the midst of all this financial crisis doom & gloom, I feel strangely cheerful and a bit like the title character Annie, who advises the residents of Hooverville to look on the bright side - “So you don’t have any money? You don’t have to pay any income tax!” It’s actually fun to realize how much better off I am than those suffering hedge fund managers and investment bankers who have lost millions and had to cancel orders for private planes.
I was broke BEFORE the economic crisis, so it didn’t really affect me, and I don’t have any investments to lose value; frankly, the only change I’ve noticed lately is that gas is under $4 a gallon again, which makes me less nauseous every time I have to fill up my minivan (which I couldn’t afford to replace with a Prius even before the market fell).
Then there are the suddenly budget-conscious parents dealing with teens whining, “What do you mean, we can’t afford to buy eight new outfits at Abercrombie?” We’ve never been able to shop anywhere but Target or Old Navy, so my sons aren’t experiencing any sense of loss and are considerably happier than their more well-off classmates. (Plus my boys think wearing designer label logos is ridiculous - why should they pay to be human billboards?)
Marriages are collapsing as couples deal with financial stress for the first time. Fortunately, my husband & I were broke when we got married, so we already knew how to cope with budget worries and spending limits. (I’m a songwriter, he’s a singer studying to be a rehab counselor, so as you can see we married each other for our money. . . . )
Homeowners are panicking as their mortgages balloon, and housing prices fall below the ridiculously inflated prices to only somewhat inflated prices. For those of us who are renters, it just means our landlords can’t afford to sell the house, so we have a little more peace of mind.
Of course, I’m sure the crisis will affect me someday, perhaps in higher food costs or reduced freelance opportunities. But the biggest negative result I’ve noticed is that suddenly there are all these hedge fund managers in designer clothes wandering around Target . . .

Let gay couples have a chance for lousy marriages too!

California is often called the ‘granola state’ (the land of flakes and nuts), but we’re also ahead of the game on many social issues, from motion pictures to medicinal marijuana use to allowing right turns on red lights. That’s why I’m so dismayed that we have a proposition on the ballot to eliminate gay marriage - honestly, aren’t we a bit more progressive than Massachusetts? Or Canada?
I frankly don’t understand how allowing Andy & Bob to stay married hurts my heterosexual marriage or makes it less sacred. Frankly, the issue of gay marriage is responsible for my being married in the first place - I was a single mom with a commitment-phobic boyfriend, who loved giving me the ‘what difference does a piece of paper make’ speech. I pointed out how much our many gay friends had spent to get a fraction of the legal protections we could get for a single trip to City Hall, and he willingly took on marriage (and two stepsons!)
As for the sanctity of the marital relationship, male/female couples have done more than enough to destroy it (in the Spears family alone!) My remaining faith in traditional marriage was obliterated once Madonna & Guy Ritchie announced their divorce - I really thought they’d last (at least it was longer than her marriage to Sean Penn, but that's not saying much). Our divorce rate is quite high, and one look at the tabloids is enough to wonder if gay couples can do a bit better . . .
If marriage really is just about procreation, I guess that means that couples not planning on having kids (or too old to procreate) shouldn’t be allowed to marry either - which would’ve cut me out. (I was 45 when I remarried, and as much as I admire older moms, there’s no WAY I was going back to diapers until I need them myself!)
And with the current fiscal crisis, gay marriage would provide the economic stimulus we need - what a boon for wedding venues, florists, musicians, religious facilities, caterers, gift registries, and, down the road, divorce lawyers! California’s economy is already in the dumps - invalidating gay marriage would hurt tourism (as long as the rest of the country lags behind us).
Finally, do we really want California to follow the rest of the country? Come on, people, we’re better than that. No offense to the other 49 states, but face it, we've led the way on every issue from drive-through banking to right turn on red. We have to defend our reputation as the real mavericks!

Friday, October 10, 2008

New To YouTube

It's not hard for me to feel behind-the-times, what with two sons (12 and 15), a computer I don't understand, and technological innovations coming at us at record speeds. But nothing has confused me more than internet-based social networking, sites like Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc. On top of not really understanding how to use them, I find myself wondering how people have time to do anything else, they seem to be spending so much of their lives creating, maintaining, and updating their pages and commenting on everyone else's. So their updates tend to be self-referential - you can look on a Facebook page and learn "I'm currently updating my Facebook page". I'd rather sleep . . . .

Every now and then, one of my boys will show me what he thinks is a hysterical YouTube video (which usually involves inappropriate humor or some random guy dancing like an idiot). I don't usually get the jokes, but I am bewildered, and somewhat weirdly impressed, by the effort that goes into these works of - not creativity, but at least self-expression. I never thought I'd join the throng, but a combination of events, what my woo-woo friends call synchronicity, got me on board. 1) With my hair up and my glasses on, people keep telling me I look like a certain formerly-anonymous-yet-suddenly-universally-famous-Alaskan-governor. 2) Watching said governor's performance in the VP debate had me fuming, and itching to do something. 3) My 12-year-old came home from helping a neighbor clean out a garage,having been rewarded with the head from an old life-sized moose costume. When weird events like these coincide, there is no alternative but to write, film and post a youTube song parody about Sarah Palin. So I did.

Now I've used YouTube before, in an attempt at self-promotion, posting demo videos and clips from my live shows. And it's been helpful, in that I can email potential clients a link to the clips, rather than having to send DVD demos at eight bucks a pop plus postage. But those videos couldn't compete with 'weird guy dancing' or 'frat boys throwing up', so I was getting used to, oh, 15-30 hits for each. However, the Palin video must have hit a nerve, because as of this moment (6:30 p.m., PST, Friday) I'm up to 1,117 hits, and it just keeps spreading. Total strangers are emailing me saying they liked it, and suggesting places to post it.

This may all blow over soon, or it might lead to being discovered somehow and becoming an overnight success after 28 years, who knows. But in the meantime, it's fun to play with (I learned you can post text on videos, in cartoon-like balloons!), and now I'm giving those crazy dancing frat boys a run for their money. If nothing else, I finally found something to do with the stupid moosehead - and I'm much less angry about Palin now that I'm reaping some rewards and having so much fun!