Tuesday, October 14, 2008

there are worse things i could do

I am reading this charming, thin thing recommended by Sister Rye called The Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches. And in a blissful pocket of free time last night, it was just the book, my dog, my cat, some candles, a salad, a tall drink of water, and me.

We were a perfectly perfect set, when as I lie on the couch, I spied with my little eye one junior chocotankgirl named Stelladog staring at me. Not pawing, not whining, not fidgeting, not fussing, not shoving, just silently, patiently, and stolidly stare stare staring. Well I couldn't ignore that.

But I was not about to stop reading. We reached something of an impasse in our relationship right there, didn't we, dear reader? And I immediately thought of you because you are always so instrumental in helping me sort out my fascinating personal dilemmas. (You're such a good listener!)

After all, I am not one to neglect. Stella had had her walk, her training, her playtime with the two neighbor dogs Patch and Preston, who are both enamored with her, of course--who isn't? She'd been lavished with love, in other words. Heck, she'd even had a bath. I'd given her a toy. Fresh water. Peanut butter goodies. I was Mom of the Year, and Mom of the Year was going to read her book, dag blast it.

But the mutt-minded among you know that patient pup behavior needs to be rewarded if it is to continue (lest dogs get it in their heads to move onto obnoxious pawing or insipid whining tactics), so I just decided to read aloud to her. And she stood there. And eventually, she snuggled down at my feet. She was listening. I was reading. Two-for-one, my friends. I was as happy as an Angelina with her global baker's dozen. In fact, happier. With this kind of arrangement, I wondered, who even needs children?

But that "who needs children?" smuggery got me thinking. Maybe this marks the official crossing of the line, that moment that my childless friends and I recognize so well among the now-parental friends. It divides along one line: kid-free on the sane side, the now-parentals on the unthinkably generous side of selflessness. You know this trend. I venture you've seen it yourself.

It starts when the bliss-glossed parents begin to get that sleepless, cracked-out look to them, like they're half here and half-jacked on a lucid dream they've roped you into. They show up at the office or worse your house and carry around the wee alien, subtly prompting you for useless comments--my best is usually something like "Oh, look at his feet! They're so small!" This befuddled commentary is the gamey effort among the kidless to congratulate disinterestedly, to grin and bear the crying bundle until we can revert to previous discourse, perhaps discussing the effing awesomeness of our PS3 victories or the effing awfulness of the trillion dollar liability we now call our federal government, all the while intersplicing the talks with our archival knowledge of this "amazing" Oregon Shiraz being shared in unquantifiable excesses of enablement.

Parents, bless them one and all, then move into the era of narrative exposition, only fomented by technologies like Twitter or Myspace or Facebook, through which they can exclaim things like, "Marcie can't believe she drives a minivan!" or "Blake is psyched that little Merv has learned to wield baby's first nine-iron!" And so it goes that our Plimptons become Spocks, that the once-convivial raconteurs become babygated themselves, able only to expound on Junior's "hilarious" exposure of his privates on the school playground, the "adorable" kitten sounds he makes when the neighborhood stray walks by, or that "promising" profundity he dropped on you when you were talking about lightbulbs and energy conservation.

Alas, I trace back through the blogs of friends who've had kids and note with regret the changed tide--that deep, dark, and moon-dragged current of love that somehow sucks every single parent from the boat of cultural currency into the deep, narcotic abandon of parental rapture. I don't condemn it. It's charming. And understandable. And selfless. And admirable. And sure, parts of me (small, crushable, impetuous, fleeting psychological parts) envy the sense of purpose it must instill.

But I'm not here to riff on the outward appeal of family, however dangerously I skate that rink. No, no. Or am I? For you see, as megalomaniacal as I am, and I'm nothing if not that, I do have glinting moments of self-awareness, sudden recognitions of the screechy err of my own egotastic idiocy. And so here we have it. I think I owe an apology for my own analog to this cocktail-party offspring-adulation habit.

Because let's be honest. It's okay. You can tell me. You don't really care about my dog, do you? You don't really think she's all that cute. Nice coat, sure. Funny eyes. Impressive proof of motherhood on her part. And ooh, look at her little dog feet! They're so small! Yes, yes. A good dog. With much promise and a sweet-as-pineapple soul. Fine downstay. Wow, she can high-five. Awww, she listened to you read a book. Again, with feeling: wow!

But really, your praise is as obligatory as mine. You are, for example, not nearly as beguiled as I am by this "Bark Obama" photo taken by a friend on a message board I visit daily. It is tribal. I am on one side of a line, you the other. I understand.

Likewise, you do not delight in the prospect of my teaching my dog to do handstands just like BAD RAP's about-to-be-adopted Neuman Marcus.

I offer you a deep, heaving, moon-dragged sigh. What use should I make of this startling revelation? How dare you not admire the way the sun shines in my dog's eyes!

Will I post less about my dog? Maybe. Will I write more about what I said I would--books and film, food, exploits? Yes, cross my heart. But it also says dingoes up there. And if I'm going to read stories to dogs, I don't see why I can't write stories about dogs. There will always be more--and less--interesting stories to be told. And I'm realizing at a certain point, the audience will either love it or leave it and dag blast it, before I'm dead, I'ma tell the stories I want to tell.