A message from the ghost of Mom-101.blogspot.com

Thanks for visiting! So good to see you here. The only thing is...I'm not actually here. Long gone from blogspot. This is actually Future Me talking to you back here from another dimension. Very Marty McFly.

But that's okay--you can come with me!

Kindly visit Mom-101.com and find fresh, fabulous new content and a purdy design. You can subscribe to my feed  at http://www.mom-101.com/feed

All new visitors get a free DeLorean DMC-12.*

*Legal disclaimer per FTC guidelines: Not really.


The Face Tainter

I survived sleep training and potty training mostly unscathed. I've gone through the terrible twos, and the more terrible threes. Twice.  But I am not sure I have yet experienced anything as daunting, in my short years of parenthood, as working the school carnival.

As the face painter.

For the record, it is even more stressful than Bouncy Castle Duty, although on the upside, you do not have to smell any feet.

I balked at the assignment--I have no artistic skills at all, you know. Not all creative people are all kinds of creative. Couldn't you have me sell cupcakes or something?

No, cupcakes was full. Next time I'm signing up earlier.

I liked Amy Flannagan's line on Twitter best: "They say I'm creative. I tell them I'll write tag lines on the kids' faces."

Kids. The other white meat.

And so there I was, promptly at at 12:30 on Saturday, trying to figure out how to combine some unraveling Q-tips, a set of paint brushes, a palate of paints, and a complete lack of talent into something resembling "face painting." It was like being handed some popsicle sticks, three staples and a jar of peanut butter and told to build a go-kart.

The first girls to arrive up at my station were mercifully easy on me--they wanted the backs of their hands painted, like tattoos. "A heart!" I suggested way too enthusiastically to one kindergartener. "Don't you want a pretty red heart on your hand?" Why yes, yes she did want a heart! A pretty red heart! And maybe a smaller, equally pretty red heart next to it? A "very cute baby heart?" as I put it.

I started to sweat less. I could totally do this job. Who needs talent when you have amazing sales skills? I could sell every kid on this playground a heart. Done!

Until I got to the kid who wanted a butterfly.

"Did you say a daisy? I bet you want a daisy on your cheek! It will be so pretty! Let's do a daisy!"

No, a butterfly. Or wait, make it two butterflies. One yellow with red and one red with yellow. This kid was not buying a daisy from me, not today and not ever. I gave in. A few shaky brush strokes later, the critters were complete: the world's first anorexic butterflies.

There's your creativity for you.

I held the small hand mirror to her face and she looked delighted. "You're a good artist!" she said.  I don't think her mother was thinking the same.

Over the next long (long) hour, my best customers were the ones who came to me on their own, parents nowhere in sight. In fact I avoided making eye contact with any person over about 4 feet tall, for fear they'd demand their three tickets back. (Hey Marjorie, I think we just paid $3 for a pink blob on my kid's cheek. Good thing this is a write-off.)

Children, as it turns out, are not discerning at all. Mostly, they are just happy to have someone draw something--anything--on their bodies. I got through a couple of fish with black smudges for eyes, a few more scrawny butterflies, and remarkably, one small panda for a third-grader. She called it cute. I beamed.

The entire time, I was having vivid flashbacks of my first job in high school: Hally and I were hired as cake decorators at Carvel. Mostly it was a matter of piping icing into cake borders or tracing lopsided turkeys or ballerinas onto sheet cakes with gel pens. For $3.16 an hour, the manager didn't seem too concerned with the highly mediocre quality of our work; until the one afternoon we spent a whole shift absorbed in giggles, painting punk rock faces on Deluxe Sundae Dinners with frosting and marascino cherry halves. We were scolded not for our ridiculous designs, but for using too many ingredients on a single cheap cake. (What? The almonds were the mohawk.) Pastry artistry is definitely not my calling. Although it was fun to dive into the giant vat of chocolate crunchies with a spoon.

Now, 25 years since, artistic skills haven't improved much, but at least the orders were easy to fill. Not one kid asking for a Spiderman face or a werewolf. Not one zebra or cheetah. Butterflies on cheeks ruled the day. I was feeling like I could actually get through this, dignity somewhat intact.

Then my worst fear materialized--the parents with the toddler.

Worse, they were parents with a toddler and a camera.

"Are you the artist?" the mother asked, eagerly handing me three pink tickets.

"Well, when you put it that way..." I said sheepishly, my voice trailing off. "Can we stick with something simple?"

I tried to convince the little boy to get a big star on his cheek. Or a lightning bolt. He was having none of it. I was about to suggest a vampire. How hard would it be to make two fangs? Or maybe he'd be okay with a bunch of red dots. He could have measles! Ack, maybe I should have prepped for this better?

"How about a cat?" the mother suggested, bless her. "I bet we can draw some whiskers. Or a bunny?  Do you want to be a bunny, sweetie?" The boy nodded enthusiastically.

One black nose and six thin, white, nearly straight lines later, he almost could pass for a bunny. Or you know, an otter. Either way.

I held up the mirror and watched his gorgeous eyes open even wider as a giant smile spread across his face. The father snapped more photos and I realized I would end up in some family's baby book, my artistry forever preserved in time.

Fortunately, the Dunk the Principal booth opened for business, drawing a big crowd and keeping my station light. My final customers were my own kids. Sage had the entire scenario mapped out all week; I was to say, what's your name little girl? and she would respond, I'M YOUR DAUGHTER! and we would all laugh. It went exactly as she had planned.

She even thought the pink heart on her cheek with the blue arrow through it was perfect. So perfect, Thalia asked for the very same one.


The Old Navy gay pride tees: It's not just publicity.

I still remember the argument. I stood in the front entrance of my mother's house, jacket still on, barely settled when my stepfather started in on me. We weren't nearly as close then--he was older, grumpy and closed-minded; I was young, brash and closed-minded. Two Virgos. What a surprise.

The accusation had to do with my profession of choice. Two years out of college, evidently working my way up the corporate ladder wasn't noble enough. Not like teaching. Not like clearing brush and chopping wood and working the land and eating fish you caught. Not like what he did. I think his line was "How do you sleep at night?"

"I sleep fine," I groused.

There was the assumption that if I wrote commercials for a living, I could not possibly be living my values. Or more accurately, I could not possibly have any values. 

(You know, ad people. We all just spend our days with our Gucci shoes up on mahogany conference room tables, wondering how to make people feel bad about themselves so they can buy things they don't need. Things that destroy the rain forest and kill baby seals. All at once. If we're lucky. )

It wasn't for another few years that he sat me down, pressed his thick hands firmly on my shoulders, and with teary eyes, whispered "I understand now. I'm sorry."

That was the week I won an award for a commercial I wrote. It was the first to depict a lesbian couple openly proclaiming their relationship.

(And yes, that's Julie Bowen in the ad. And yes, she's as cool as you think she is.)

Clutching the award, I remember floating through the crowd at the GLAAD Awards, while cast members and producers of Spin City and Mad About You and Ellen thanked me. It was wholly surreal. When they announced our name as the winners, in a slightly unorthodox move, our account director bounded to the stage to make the acceptance speech instead of me and my creative partner. It was the right thing to do. It may have been the highlight of my career at the time, but as an openly gay man, I got the distinct feeling that addressing that crowd was the highlight of his life.

I wondered how often he had to justify to his family and friends that he, too, could live his values through his profession.

At that awards dinner, I realized just how much one 15-second ad could mean to people. One 15-second ad that only ran on one network after 10:00 at night. Because in that ballroom, they knew. They knew that it wasn't just about advertising.

Now funny enough, a lot of  people not in advertising would conclude the opposite: That Mistic Beverages just wanted publicity.

That's some of the criticism I'm hearing now about the Old Navy Gay Pride tees that launched in 26 stores this week.

And it's making me crazy.

Let's for one moment discount the asshats who are saying bigotted or stupid things. Let's ignore the commenter who thinks that same-sex families are somehow furthering a political agenda by putting their kid in a t-shirt that declares he loves his two mommies. Or the person who said that "tolerance should be taught at home and not marketed." (Because uh...okay. That makes no sense.) There are always going to be intolerant people who, under the guise of religious dogma, ignorance, or personal discomfort, don't support love, dignity and the rights of same-sex couples. I'm never going to change their minds.

There are also those who don't feel comfortable with cause-related shirts on children in general or imposing their political values on their children. And I get that. Although I would argue that my lesbian friends don't see their family as a cause. And that an I love my mommies onesie is no more political than an I love my mommy and daddy onesie. (Although for some reason, the latter makes me want to gag a little bit more.)

Instead, I've been mostly surprised and annoyed by those who support the notion of gay pride, but are still giving Old Navy a hard time.

I see statements like "they just want to sell t-shirts" or "it's just a marketing hoax because it's only in 26 stores" (thanks for that link Jenna though it's now down) and I want to scream.

Let me say as someone in marketing: No. Old Navy doesn't just want to sell t-shirts.

If they did, they would stick with the vintage Disney tees. They'd sell tees with the Red Sox logo. They would sell tees with I SUPPORT AFRICA or I LOVE RECYCLING which I guarantee are "political agendas" that are more acceptable to more of America than LOVE PROUDLY/GAY PRIDE 2011.

Or you want a real marketing coup? Try vintage Mickey in a Red Sox cap saying I LOVE RECYCLING. Guaranteed best-seller.

I can tell you that when a huge company like The Gap Corporation makes a move like this, it is not without a lot of talking and thinking and hand-wringing and calls to shareholders. Our own clients faced plenty of internal pressure to pull the lesbian ad at one point. They even lost some distributors in...shall we say, less progressive states? They stood their ground and kept the ad on air. Not because "it will sell products." They do it because our clients had cajones of steel. They do it because it's in their corporate DNA.

Let's just say, as popular as pride shirts get, I'm eagerly awaiting the day that Wal-Mart sells them.

Still waiting.

Are the Old Navy tees a 100% altruistic move? Of course not. 10% of profits are going to the It Gets Better project which is awesome, and I bet it could be more. No doubt Old Navy could put them in 28 stores or 37 stores or 142 stores instead. While we're at it, I'm sure Old Navy could also have better operations. They could open all fair trade factories, and reward their sales clerks Ben and Jerry's style, and switch to solar power and do a hundred other things that would check off every corporate do-gooding box that would make me their #1 fan. But for now, on this one single issue, what I see is a huge company with a lot to lose over it, taking a stand anyway. A big stand.

And that is a very big start.

I am really hoping they are selling it in Brooklyn. My girls have always loved rainbows.

Update: The list of retailers is on the Old Navy Facebook page under the events tab. The Chelsea store tells me they should arrive by next Weds.


English Lit, Real Housewives Style

Last night I determined that the Real Housewives of New Jersey, is, in fact educational.

I learned the word Ingredientses.

Last season I was introduced to the new accepted plural of the word woman: womens. Also, as Cheryl reminded me on Twitter, last week we were schooled in the interchangeable application of delicatessen and delicacy. As in,  I know, I know... [Fois Gras] is a delicatessen in French.

(Ah, my favorite European country: French.)

Of course I realize that I should not be judging. If I had cameras pointed at me every second of every waking moment of every day, I would humiliate myself verbally to no end. Just last night, Sage exclaimed over her ravioli, "I cutted mines all by myself!"

I corrected her: "I cutted mine, sweetie."


Things I saw in Brooklyn this weekend


Take that, all you fancy Hamptons people.