Sunday, January 20, 2008

I Never Wanted to Be a Star: Part 1

So. I was on television last week.

It was like this: I was on the children’s info desk at work last Wednesday, and the phone rang, and I answered it cause that's my job, and it was this guy asking for my sort-of-boss, but she was in the program room leading a story time, so I asked if I could try to answer his question, and he said actually he was calling on behalf of this local morning news show about having her come in the next morning to talk about this contest she’s running that has to do with teens and books.

I took his number and ran into the program room at the story time snack break to tell her, and she looked all panicked and pointed at me and said, “You! You do it!” and after some more back-and-forth, that’s what happened.

I meant to tell more people before I went on, but 1) I was at work and on the desk until 9:00 that night, and 2) I had to gather up some books to show and tell on the air, and in a genre about which I only have the barest level of surface knowledge, so even though the desk was quiet I was kept busy scurrying around and scanning back covers, and 3) it was local television with no streaming website so no one outside the Vancouver area could see it anyway, and 4) I was beset with a steadily increasing level of panic that OMIGOD I’M GOING TO HAVE TO TALK ABOUT SOMETHING ON LIVE TELEVISION and over the course of the evening became convinced that I was about to make a total and utter fool of myself, so it seemed somewhat self-destructive to actually ADVERTISE that eventuality.

Thursday morning I got up at 6ish, and left in the dark of early morning with my box o’ books and my contest fliers and my change of shirt just in case the one I was wearing wasn’t right, and my punk sock puppet that I made for practice for the teen program I’m doing next month (long story, another time), just in case I got a chance to show it off, and set off for the TV studio on the edge of downtown. And I even managed to avoid most of the worst early rush-hour traffic and to only make one wrong turn, and showed up only ten minutes late. (I figured that wasn’t a big deal and that they’d told me a time much earlier than when I’d actually go on, which was in fact the case.)

And after I’d found parking and put money in the meter, I schlepped my box o’ books around the corner to the front door and eep! The show! It was happening right in the lobby of the building! They hadn’t told me that. So I walked right past the hosts on the other side of the plate glass, and through the door and up to the reception desk very quietly, and checked in very quietly trying not to rustle my coat, and sat down in the lobby chairs waiting for someone to usher me to the green room, and then I got thirsty and noticed the water cooler over by the reception desk and tiptoed up to get some water and GLUG GLUG GLUG went the cooler right when they were running a tape of James Earl Jones’s voice.


Tomorrow: The Green Room, Which Is Not Green

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Signs of Almost-7.5

Or: Tweendom Approacheth...but slowly.

Sign #1: Imperfect Mastery of Contemporary Youth Idiom

Scene: Out the Door to School

The Mermaid Girl: Are we walking, or driving?

Me: I figured we'd walk; we have the time, and it's not raining.

MG: Walking! I am so DOWN with that.

Me: [inwardly]: *Down with that! Hee, hee! How cute is that!* [out loud]: Well, okay, then, let's go!

MG: *scowls* No, I mean the OTHER KIND of down. I am DOWN with walking. Walking is the WORST.

Me: Oh. Right. Got it.

Sign #2: Incorporation of New Self-Image Into Fantasy Play

Scene: Dinner

The Mermaid Girl *hops adorably from kitchen counter to table, hands curved bunny-like in front of her chest.*

Me: Aw. Are you being a bunny?

MG *fiercely*: Yes. But I'm a BIG. STRONG. HAIRY bunny. Not a baby bunny.

Me: Oh. Right. Got it.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Eleven Ways of Looking At Entitlement

(Dratted insomnia! I did lie in bed like a good girl and try to sleep. I did. But I give up; I'll let the computer have its evil siren-like way.)

So: Thoughts About Entitlement: a Sort-of Chronology, With Curious Slippage Between Past and Present Tense Voice Throughout, And No Real Conclusion

1. On the first night of Chanukah, the Mermaid Girl has a fit about the present the Renaissance Woman wrapped up and labeled for all three of us to open: a new mini-stereo, better than the old one we'd brought up here with us. On opening it, MG collapses into tears and goes into a sobbing, furious tirade about how that present wasn't for her, it was for us, and this was the worst thing EVER. We figure she was probably expecting a television. We agree that someone's getting a little too entitled. We cancel presents for the second night of Chanukah, after which celebrations return to their normal schedule.

2. I read this post and think: but on the other hand, entitlement can be a good thing if/when it keeps you from accepting crappy and humiliating treatment.

3. After writing this post and discovering that Canada has no state religion after all, I continue pondering the whole question of entitlement throughout December. Specifically, my curious lack of indignation about the universal Christmas assumption here in Canada. I figured it out, I thought: I grew up (as I've written before) in a NYC-area suburb where religious celebrations, even "secularized" versions of Christmas, were kept strictly out of the schools. And in the States, I feel entitled to that experience for my child in the public schools, and entitled to have my religion/ethnic identity/non-Christmas-celebrating self recognized as an adult. Basically, in Seattle, much of the month of December was a continual irritation to me as a result of the gap between my sense of entitlement and the reality around me. My colleagues (at a Jewish workplace) who grew up in the Midwest and in Seattle weren't nearly as pissed-off; they mainly accepted that that's how things are. It's not that they cared any less about being Jewish; they just had different assumptions.

4. But the more I thought about the whole Church/State thing, and the more Santa-tastic MG's school became, the more I got all pissed off again, just like in the old country. Frankly, by the time they closed for winter break, the main reason I wasn't saying anything was because I didn't even know where to start: with the Christmas trees in the classrooms? The angels and santas on the windows? The Christmas sensory essay all the kids in MG's class wrote in their journals? The ornament she painted and brought home, wrapped up carefully as a present to RW and me, was beautiful, and it had a treasured place on the tree RW put up, but every time I looked at it there I felt conflicted.

5. On the other hand, when I read "The Loudest Voice" aloud this year--it's RW's and my annual tradition every December 23rd to read this wonderful Grace Paley story about a Jewish immigrant kid, circa 1920's, who gets a lead part in her school's Nativity play--I understood for the first time why the narrator says, of the Christian teachers and the Jewish children, respectively, "They weren't embarrassed, and we weren't ashamed," and why the families don't have the same uniformly horrified response that I imagine, say, the parents of my childhood town would have had in a similar situation. Christmas was American. Even more than being Christian, it was an American ritual, and here they were--somewhat bemused, but mostly game-- in America. I felt a bit like that here, as a new immigrant in a new land, experiencing a Canadian Christmas for the first time. Hey, cool! It's a Canadian thing! And here I am, in Canada! Like my friend L., who's writing about her experience in Mexico this year, when I thought about it as a cultural experience I could just let it wash over me, and not get all worked up about it.

6. But not always. I found myself complaining about the ornament thing to someone we know here in Canada, and ranting about how it was exclusionary and left out kids who didn't celebrate Christmas, and she looked at me like I was slightly batty and said kindly, "But, elswhere, MG *does* celebrate Christmas." Which is true. And also totally missed the point.

7. But also, for the first time this year, I sort of got what people keep saying when they're like, "Oh, it's not really Christian, it's just a happy fun thing", maybe because there are so evidently so many non-Christians who participate. (Mostly not Jewish, either, though.) I think in Canada even more than the States, even people who aren't Christian just join into the Christmas thing for the heck of it. I mean, hey, it is an official federal holiday and all (in the states, too, I know, but I just never thought about it that way there. Go figure.) There essentially are two Christmases, and most people celebrate the secular one, and get confused when you tell them it's against your religion.

8. Does this mean I'm being brainwashed? Becoming more tolerant? Being culturally sensitive in what is in fact a new culture? Just worn out? I truly don't know. So I keep flipping back and forth between righteous irritation and vaguely cheery holiday-spirit bemusement. I never know which one is going to come up on top.

9. I didn't mean for this to all be about Christmas, honest. I've seen a bunch of posts in the past couple of weeks--mostly not Christmas-related, or at least not related to the Jewish "December dilemma"--where people were struggling with others' feelings of entitlement, or their own unmet ones. Posts like this and this and this. And I kept meaning to post about them in one Grand Unifying Theory about the whole thing. Which, well, you know how that goes.

10. Or maybe entitlement isn't the word I should have been using all along? Maybe, expectations. Or rights. Or some other word I can't even think of because it's too late at night. I usually try to stay away from semantic hair-splitting, but for some reason this is nagging at me.

11. Once she realized that we weren't going to throw the old stereo away, MG calmed down and we had a nice time for the rest of Chanukah. So that was good.