Saturday, January 29, 2011

Slaves to the Lifestyle


            Last week I slagged my neighbor’s marriages, so now I’ll turn a little closer to home, because I don’t cast stones I’m not willing to drop on my own feet.  Tis true, my marriage isn’t perfect.  No-duh, you say?  Yeah, I know, duh, what marriage is perfect?  Though you’d be surprised what liars people can be when commenting on the bliss level of their marriage. 
            Here are some truths:  After 2 kids and 15 years, the sex is infrequent. I’m a huge nag and he’s an asshole.   I get yelled at for not cleaning on the housekeeper’s off-week and I, in turn, ignore him.  I spend too much money.  Work stresses him out and he takes it home.  He thinks I’m not strict enough with the kids.  I think he’s too much of dick about all the little normal kid crap they pull.   But aside from that things are basically good.  He’s a great dad.  He doesn’t belittle my hard work as a stay at home mom and he never forgets that I gave up my career to do it.  I never feel like it’s not equally our money even though I don’t bring home a paycheck.  He’s tall, smart, funny, has a full head of hair and I’m still attracted to him.  I make him laugh all the time and even though I’m not in the same condition in which he found me, he’s a good sport about it.  We are generally happy, except for the quarterly blow-outs which blow-over in about a week’s time.  These are the benefits of a love match.  But the biggest problem since moving to Happy Valley seems to be the financial pressure. 
The Husband and I have found ourselves slaves to high expectations of a lifestyle neither of us particularly wanted….at first.  The trappings of Happy Valley sneak up and before you know it, you are keeping score.  We know people with better, newer, faster cars and more frequent trips to Hawaii, and houses in Deer Valley, and children in fancy private schools and that’s all well and good….as long as we have a nice car, go to Hawaii at least once a year, we ski over 20 days a year in Mammoth, and have our kids in the best public school district.   New economy or not, we don’t want to fall too far behind fabulousness.  I can’t honestly tell you why we care, but we do.  Before we moved here, we were perfectly happy without any of this, but now we feed off it.
            This may be where my personal psychosis plays a part, for I grew up in the Happy Valley of the next county over and it sucked only having one pair of Jordache jeans.   Hearing all the kids talking about their summers in Europe or their horse or their brand new <insert name of now obsolete electronic gadget that will just date me here> was a cruel form of Reagan-era torture.   I know now that that this is a game in which no one can win.  There will always be someone else with way cooler shit.  But the 6th grader in me is fiercely competitive, if not for herself, for my kids (who, by the way, own several pairs True Religion jeans among all the other “right” brands).  And inevitably that means we have to spend more and The Husband has to make more.   Then he’s stressed out.  Then he takes it out on me.  We worry.  We fight.  We resolve to not do that because things are actually okay.  Time passes.  Rinse. Repeat.  
            Yeah, it’s stupid.  And I’m not trying to get anyone to feel sorry for me, because there’s nothing to feel sorry about.  I’m just saying.  

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

For love or money?

            When I first met The Husband he was working at a record store.  He didn’t own a suit, drove a beat up VW Fox, and “green fees” only referred to what he paid his pot dealer.  We slept on futons, we had roommates, and we were happy.  Young & in love didn't leave a lot of time for upward mobility, but we didn’t expect much anyway.  Even if someone offered us our own house in the suburbs, we wouldn’t have taken it.  I don’t know what I thought was worse: the idea of being a grown-up or not living in walking distance of a bar. 
            Eventually, perhaps miraculously, things changed.  I won’t lie and say that everyone grows up, because if you’ve seen those sad aging-hipsters, you know that’s not true.   But upon moving to Happy Valley, I did believe that even though all the little boxes on the hillside looked the same, inside there would be juicy stories.  No one is born a bottle-blond, SUV-driving soccer-mom, right?   I have been lucky enough to find some of my neighbors who admit to a past of dead-end low-paying jobs and brash tales of youthful sluttiness.  And many will rat out their now-important husbands of similar behavior.  “Oh my God, Bill is so boring now, but he used to be a coke whore.”  Or, “David has skeleton eagle tattooed on his back from his Hesher days."  I live for this. And in turn hang onto these women tightly because even if they have turned blonde, bland & banal, they had a past and, we all know, it only takes 2.5 shots of tequila to bring the it out.    But midway through a Tio Leo's happy hour, you can see the fear of revealing too much in our eyes.  Anything too scandalous can scar the social opportunities for our kids and we know it.   If, let’s say, Jessica told me she turned the odd trick while on tour with the Dead, I’d still invite her to parties, but I’m not going to let my kids have a play date with hers. And if she told me she was Born Again, she'd be equally cut off.  There is so many ways loose lips can sink social ships. 
            The concept that was completely foreign to me was that some of the other mommies would have pasts free of skanky exes, fixer-upper starter homes in the quasi-gentrified part of town, crazy roommates, and arrest records.   These are the scary Stepford Bitches.  They have no relatable past.  They attended college and then shot straight to suburban stardom.   Okay, well maybe one or two of them taught 2nd grade for a couple of years before meeting Mr. “High Six Figures” Right.  They zeroed in on strictly successful men and married straight into 5 bedroom, 3 bath Barbie Dream Homes (which in a couple cases was their shitty starter home).   Does this make them bad people?  No. Not this alone. 
Let me give you two real-life examples of the fast track to Happy Valley.  Tina’s boyfriend, a doctor she met at work, moved her into a condo in Happy Valley because it was conveniently (arrogantly?) just down the hill from where he & his family lived.  Eventually he left his wife and married Tina.   My other example is Evelyn who is married to a pock-marked troll fourteen years her senior.  She’s personable and he can’t string a sentence together, but he owned the company where she was working.  From the stories she’s told (thank you Moscato) he essentially sexually harassed her, but also let her drive his Porshe when her Honda broke down...and she she had a lot of student loans.   
            If there is a MILF married to a much older or unattractive man, then it’s a given that we won’t share a back story.   This isn’t to say that I don’t like my friends who are clearly trophy wives.   Some of them are really nice.  Like Sandy, for example.  Her Crypt Keeper husband is an asshole and she is under constant pressure to look good (no one has ever seen her eat a carb, EVER!), but she’s so nice, funny, and upbeat.  If it doesn’t bother her, why should it bother me?  And Jamie never bitches about being married  to a scarily hairy man who wears an ill-fitting Speedo at the PAC and picks his nose in public.  However, she is a psychologist and I strongly believe people only go into the psycho-sciences to try to fix their own issues. Girlfriend has her own crazies, it’s clear.   
            I feel bad feeling bad for these women.  I know that no everyone can marry a hot (or even once-hot) guy and that sometimes unfortunate looking men have really great personalities. I also know money plays into this somehow and that frankly that creeps me out.  But when they have nicer houses than mine and nicer cars and they take their kids to Hawaii every Christmas and Europe every summer, how sorry should I feel?  Looks fade.  Love can go terribly, terribly wrong.  Still makes me feel all gross though.
            I’ve intentionally left out the dynamic in the two lawyer couples or the two doctor couples.  I just don’t get them.  They also, obviously don’t get me either. as I  have very few working mom friends, but that’s another discussion for another day.  The whole working mom vs. stay-at-home mom debate is passive-aggressively vicious around here.   Not as big as the White moms vs. Asian moms issue, but…  All in good time.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Hate people, love gatherings: Part 2

Now why would a busy mom squeeze herself into a cocktail dress and platform heels to go to a party with people who are not her friends?  My husband asks me this question every time we get invited to one of these things.  He's probably much smarter than I because he won't go to functions fraught with awkward conversations and false sincerity.


Four years ago, when I got my first gala invitation, I wanted to go because it looked like fun.  Any party is a good party, right?   Then I realized that most of these big events are kind of lame-o same-o.  There is nothing less-fab than a hotel ballroom full of geriatric philanthropic types.  Imagine a bad prom or wedding where no one dances.  Though a silent auction table draws out my fierce competive nature and a good gift bags still excites me, many these events are more a have-to than a want-to.  Guilt is powerful.   Either I need to support the charity or I need to network or I need to go for my friend on the Board, etc.   The vicious circle of you support me, I support you can be an exhausting time-suck.

But don't get me wrong, this was a fun one.   And I went, not out of guilt, but out of love and support for people who do amazing work.  This is the answer to why I made the effort and went.  Though perhaps to explain why I'd even question the effort,  I should give you a sketch of a couple people I knew would be there:

I'll begin with The Techstocks.  I actually genuinely like Mrs. Techstock.   She has a homey Great Plains quality about her that I can’t dis (as much as I’ve tried).   Well, okay, yes, it bothers me that even with millions in her bank account & my referral of personal shopper, she can’t let go of her Gap khakis and cotton-blend blouses.  To her credit, she wasn’t the worst dressed of the night and I’ve never seen her in one of those godawful older lady pant suits, but slapping on some make-up wouldn't have hurt her cause.   As for Mr. Techstock...not even a complete Carson Kressley make-over could help that man. Frankly, he makes me break out in hives.  You would think that being faintly creepy, short and balding would demand a little bit of personality, but nooooooo, not when you have money.   He’s one of those richly & early retired jag-offs who has traded his fortune for friends.  There he was waddling around in a turdish brown suit, getting his ass kissed by the people he paid for with his patronage.  I know the arts are badly in need of funding, but it's just sad for everyone involved.  It all makes me so uncomfortable that I tend to avoid him all together.   Though let me rephrase,  I don’t need to avoid him.   You can’t avoid someone who is trying to avoid you.   Standing about 6 to 7" (depending on the shoes) taller than him and not responding to his assumed charm, he now oozes with fear at the sight of me.   I have watched him literally pivot-turn and scamper away when we’ve made eye-contact.  Such a thing happened the other night, which is a shame since I was only one drink away from being cordial.

Next, I give you, Mr. Van der Ego whom I once worked for a very long time ago.  He’s pompous and vain and thinks way too highly of his talent.   He also tends to believe he's about 20 years younger and 30 lbs lighter.  This isn’t to say that I don’t like him.  Unlike his BFF (Best Funded Friend) Mr. Techstock, Van der Ego has charm to burn.  He's also entertaining, but not as entertaining as he thinks he is.  My main beef with him is that even when we were essentially equals and I helped him out of a jam, he insists on treating me like an underling.  This makes it nearly impossible for me to cheer him on, even when he deserves it.  But of course, we are both marvelously fake and fabulous when we do come face to face.   

And lastly, I shall vent about Peter Kleinhole, a vile old queen who fancies himself a critic.  The most unfair & infuriating thing about Kleinhole is that he is universally despised, yet because he is a vicious little blogger with an old-money fag-hag-of-a-certain-age, he's always on the guest list.  Two quick stories… 1) As the gala chairman for a charity, he hired his own production company for the fundraiser.  Quelle suprise...he personally made money, while the charity lost money.  2) He was given a press pass to a gala, but was very upset that his boyfriend would have to pay.  He caused a lot of grief for everyone involved, but in the end showed up to eat and drink gratis. Bloated & well-fed he rolled home to bitterly blog about how much he thought his free night out on a charities' dime sucked.  And he's just as ugly on the outside as he is on the inside.  I cringe to even look at him.  Unfortunately,  I ran into him twice during the span of the evening.  The first time I saw him, he had a scarf wrapped around his neck and was pointing to it and whispering “Can’t talk," to anyone he made eye-contact with.  And then later, I see him in a suit & tie (costume change?) when he jumped in front of me and clipped my drink with his shoulder as he passed.  There was not an “excuse me,” no, "I’m sorry” (Oh, he was TOTALLY talking again, btw).  He just stomped past.  Perhaps not the most mature or classy thing I’ve ever done, but I said, “Asshole!” in a clear audible voice.  He heard me and he turned around, looking through me.  Then he took a second, furrowed his brow and moved on.  I hope my drink stained his suit. 

Am I mean?  Technically, I could be meaner.  I held back.  I didn't mention Mrs. Vineyard or Miss Model/Actress/Dancer/Whatever.  Of course, maybe talking about the lovely people I enjoyed meeting would balance this out.  There were many of them.   But writing about the darling lady I met by the Truffle Mac & Cheese station who told me about her grandkids isn't as interesting.  Though had I brought my camera, this whole entry would be a pictorial & praise-fest about how the adorable Gay Marrieds who wore their suits better than Jon Hamm were the most smoking hot thing in La Jolla that night.  Alas I should start using my phone's camera more.  This bitchy bitch is signing off.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Hate people, love gatherings: Part 1




Just got home from a party where I was all dressed up and treated like an adult.  From time to time I get invited to these events & I always have a blast.  I catch up with the people I like, cozy up to the bartenders, then spend the rest of the night eye rolling, avoiding, and wishing I were home and off my heels.  I probably make it sounds horrible, but it can be.  What’s that line from Clerks?  I hate people, but I love gatherings. Isn’t it ironic?
This particular gathering was beautifully set in a museum and the appetizers were both of my favorite kinds: passed and at stations.  It was a cash bar, but the liquor was top shelf with no long lines (the benefit of cash bars).   Between the art and the poor wardrobe choices there was always something interesting to gander at.  Not all of it yummy eye candy though.  I will never understand women in their 50’s and their pantsuits femmed up with multi-layered necklaces.  I don’t expect a Hervé Léger strapless bandage dress and some 5” Alexander McQueen bondage boots, but I think there is a happy medium of cocktail party chic.   If you aren’t a power lesbian, I respectfully ask that you rethink your party wear.  The biggest fashion crime of the night, however, was a woman in her early-40’s married to an older gentleman (old enough to be a former life-time achievement award winner - you do the math) in a short sleeved denim shirt dress.  Some people come directly from work, others from the rodeo.  WTF?
But it’s always a weird mix with an Arts crowd.  Along side the incredibly dapper &/or eccentric gay men, artists & art-type hangers-on there is also a smattering of society and donors (the former has the obvious face work and the latter have the dates with the obvious boob work), and press (they are the ones double-fisting the free food).  I was there as a donor, but truth be told, I was more inclined to hob nob with the marketing girls who lined the back wall.  
            We’ll take a little look-see at whom I was keen to avoid tomorrow in Part 2, because after all this is a school night.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Fat Ass


            I saw a fat ass today.  I’m not talking a well-shaped Latina ass.  I’m not talking a little junk in the trunk.  This was not curvy.  It was no bubbly Oakland booty   I’m talking a really fat ass.  Huge.  And I can’t remember if I’ve ever seen one in this neighborhood before.  I was shocked.  I thought about it the whole drive home.  I asked my friends about it.  I asked The Husband.  The consensus: no one can remember the last time they saw saw an unruly large ass in the neighborhood (unless this was a personality issue).
This isn’t to say that every one in Happy Valley is skinny, but no one seems to be gawk-at sized.  You don’t see obese.  People, regardless of dress-size, are athletic.  They make an attempt to be fit.   It’s what we do here.  It’s all we do here.  We don’t let ourselves go completely because our only real tangible connection to one another seems to be that we are all superficial.   This may be the reason why or perhaps a result of The Club being the hub of the Habitrail. (The Club = the spendy neighborhood gym.  The Habitrail = the route everyone drives in an average day: Home to school to The Club to Ralph’s to The Other Strip Mall to The Park/Beach to Home, etc).  I never really noticed this before, but this is what keeps Happy Valley society moving.  I think for a lot of us working out or playing tennis or going to spin classes or doing yoga right after the kids get dropped off is all we have.   For many, this is our job.  There are some obvious trophy wives in the mix, sure, but I happen to know that even standard wives have this pressure on them to keep the effort up.  I feel like my sense of feminism has been set back decades as I contemplate this.  Nothing is free.   Image is the cost to live in the nice home and drive a nice car without actually earning the money for it in an outside the home job, apparently.  Okay, I don’t think I necessarily really believe that, but that’s how it seems on the surface.    
            So, I ask: Where in Happy Valley are these big-assed mommas hiding?  Are they just not a part of the social strata? And if so, why not?  Are they not accepted?  Is there some sort of Covenant that I don’t know about?  It’s amazing what you don’t realize is missing until you see it.   Come out & play.  And I hope I see you again, not only because it makes me feel better about my own physique, but because it gives this neighborhood some character.  

Monday, January 3, 2011

My resolution from September.

January means little to me.  I just don't run on the regular calendar anymore.  I haven't since the girls started school.  I'm an August to July kind of girl.  Sure, there was that window between graduating from college and having school-aged kids that I actually believed in a clean slate come January, but that was fleeting -- and quite honestly, I was too hung over the first week of January to ever start my resolutions (which were quickly abandoned at the onset of Mardi Gras anyway....only to be given up again for Lent & then easily aborted on the premise that I'm really not all that Catholic).

The end of summer always seems to motivate me though. Something about sunburned shoulders and sand all over the laundry room floor begs for declarations of getting my shit together once the kids go back to school.   But post Labor Day I'm too giddy with the possibility of mid-morning naps and uninterrupted crap TV watching to make any drastic changes.   This year I was thought I'd actually make a smaller change.  I was supposed to start a blog because there were too many things being snarked in a whisper at the back of the PTA meeting instead of being broadcasted to the masses.  I've always preferred an audience, otherwise why bother, right?  And really, there is just too much general screwiness in the life of Happy Valley mom to not write about it.  I'm finally getting to that new year's resolution, 4 months late.  But I'm here.  I'm writing.  Stay tuned.