Sunday, June 26, 2011

What not to say ...

I heard on the radio recently a list of things not to say to women. While some of them were appropriate, such as "Where did you get that idea, your mother?" the majority, I thought, were, well, more than likely written by men. Therefore, my first reaction was, I can do better than that. So in light of that, here's my list ...

When your wife asks you "How'd you like the new dish I made for dinner?" don't reply, "It was different." She'll take that to mean "horrible" and you'll be eating peanut butter and jelly from here to eternity.

When your wife asks, "How do I look?" don't reply with a "fine." Trust me, she'll interpret that as (A) you didn't look or (B) she looks bad, but you're afraid to tell her. Either way, she'll go change.

When it's Mother's Day --even if you don't have kids --never, ever tell your wife, "You're not my mother."

Speaking of mothers, never tell your wife, "That's not how Mama did it, made it, fixed it, etc." Just don't.

If your wife is sick, never tiptoe into the bedroom and tell her you have a problem, all of the forks are dirty. Just ask my mama.

Never ask your wife why she's not as (fill in the blank) as so-and-so's wife. No matter what the fill in the blank is.

Never ask your stay-at-home wife and mother of a toddler and infant what she's done all day. Trust me, she'll take it wrong, and you wouldn't believe her if she told you.

Never try to tell your wife that traveling for work is work. Believe me, no matter what section of town you have to stay in, it will sound like heaven to her.

Never criticize your wife's ironing.

Never ask, "What's the deal with all the clothes on the floor?" Chances are they are yours.

Never tell your wife she is being too sensitive, or you'll make her, yes, you guessed it, sensitive.

Never ask your wife if her purse is new. She'll immediately be defensive because we all know that question does not lead to a compliment.

Never ask your wife why she hasn't taken out the garbage.

Never ask your wife if she's bought a present for your mom yet.

When your wife comes home from having her hair done, never (A) say nothing or (B) ask what happened or (C) tell her it looks the same. "It looks good," is the only safe answer here, even if her hair is purple.

Never tell your wife she doesn't know what she is talking about, even if she doesn't know what she is talking about.

Never tell your wife she shouldn't feel a certain way. Just say you understand.

Never suggest going to Hooters for your anniversary, especially if she's just had a baby and the only clothes she can fit into are overalls. Trust me on this.

If she says she's going on a Girl's Night Out, never ask, "Again?" Tell her to have fun. You can thank me for it later.

And most of all, never accuse her of being interested in someone else. She loves you, even if you don't follow all of the above.

Speaking of which, if you do follow all of the above, she's going to wonder what you're up to. And when she does, don't tell her she's being unreasonable! Instead, just say, "I love you, too."

Monday, June 20, 2011

Les toilettes

There's a universal part of women and road trips, and you can probably guess what it is. Yes, it's, as the French say, les toilettes. I used to think they called it "Les salle des bains," until I asked for that a few times on my recent trip to France and learned that it meant, literally, "A place to take a bath." Big difference. Well, in most cases, that is ...

But back to the toilet issue. Women need them, and we need them often, and we need them to smell like roses. I don't know why God made us this way; he just did. As a child, I remember my dad hating to stop, as he put it, "every 15 minutes," though I'm sure it was more like 30 in reality.

My husband is pretty good about stopping, though inevitably he does it at some of the worst-looking places on the planet. I think it's a passive-aggressive way of discouraging me from asking, though I must admit I'm picky, and there have been times when we've pulled up and I've blatantly refused. After all, a girl has to have her standards.

This leads to some driving around, and, after a few tries, I'll find an acceptable place. When I return, he'll ask, "Well, how was it?" Though I realize he's joking, I always end up giving him a rating and some critique of the place. You know, areas they could improve upon and so forth.

After traveling to France, I realized that, as Dorothy says, "There's no place like home," especially when it comes to bathrooms. One thing we take for granted is -- clean or not -- in the U.S., they are bountiful. Trust me, there are more bathrooms in the stretch of road between here and Statesboro than there are in most of Paris.

Don't get me wrong, our tour of the country was incredible. We saw Notre Dame, Arc d' triomphe, the Louvre, the Mediterranean coast, Avignon, Arles, Monaco, and, of course, the Eiffel Tower, but the tricky part of our whirlwind trip, which included 12-16 hour days, was locating a decent powder room. I traveled with a group of women, and we soon bonded over this common issue. Believe me, when we asked each other "Well, how was it?" we meant it!

Soon, if we discovered a place, we'd quickly tell the others, and give them a few tips, as foreign toilettes are not like ours.

"You have to pay for this one," we'd say, or "Just FYI, this one has a male attendant inside the restroom," or "OK, they are in the back of the restaurant, but don't look to your right while you're waiting because the men's urinal has saloon-type doors," or "Save your receipt and use the code to get into this one, but there's no toilet seat (common in most of Paris, I learned)."

But perhaps the most bizarre bit of advice came in Les Baux, a wonderful, quaint place in the Provence area of France. My friend, Staci, and I went to use the bathrooms, which were unusually easy to locate. Fortunately, the rest of our group was there and were coming down the stairs when we arrived.

"There's a trick to this one," they said.

By this time, I'd been in the country four days and felt that I had seen everything, so I wasn't too worried.

"OK, what's that?"

"Well, you have to push the button to get in, and then once you get in, push the button, and the door will lock, the light will come on and the lid will lower."

"OK, I think I can handle that."

"But that's not the tricky part. The tricky part is that when you get out, once you close the door, it automatically locks and showers the place down."

Well, that was different, very different, but seemed relatively easy enough.

"OK, got it!" my friend and I said.

Off went our companions, and I ran up to push the red button. First of all, a red button never stands for anything good. Red equals panic and that was soon the case. I entered the first small silver stall and gave it a push. Immediately, the light went out, and I found myself standing in pitch-black darkness.

"Staci!" I cried and hurriedly opened it back up.

"Why don't I watch the kids, and you go first?" I asked like the good, considerate friend I am.

Staci, whom I learned remains calm through any situation, had no problem doing so.

She emerged with a smile on her face, and, as she exited, I grabbed the door, and quickly went in. It was seconds away from closing when she yelled, "Wait, Leigh! Don't let it close! If it shuts, it will shower on you!"

I stopped it in the nick of time. Flustered, I went out, closed it and heard the downpour of what sounded like Niagara Falls. Once it had finished its car wash-like cycle, I went back in and pushed the button. No problems there. When I tried to exit, however, I couldn't get the door open and soon found myself in an all-out panic: "STACI! STACI! STACI! I CAN'T GET OUT!"

"Push the red button!" she yelled.

I did and, of course, survived.

Now, nine days and approximately 40 bathrooms later, I'm home, and I'm grateful.

My husband should be, too, because something tells me when he stops at some roadside dump and asks, "Well, how was it?" my reply -- as long as my clothes are dry and my hair's not dripping wet -- will be, "Absolutely perfect."

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Hey, kids, watch this!

Ever notice how the older your kids get, the harder they are to impress?

When my kids were younger, they thought I was magic. I'd simply walk up to the automatic door of the grocery store, wave my hand and say, "Abracadabra!" and it would open. If I wanted money, I drove to the ATM, punched in a few numbers, and -- presto -- money for McDonald's would magically appear. In the kitchen, they were in awe of me. I could take a cup of flour, add a dash of food coloring and a pinch of cream of tartar, and -- wham -- playdough. And if they were thirsty, I'd sprinkle a little fairy dust into a jug, add water and sugar, and -- oh, yeah -- it's Kool-Aid time.

Sigh ... those were the wonder years.

Nowadays, I'm lucky if they even go to the grocery store with me (though I'd never thought I'd hear myself say that) and $10 from the ATM doesn't dazzle them much. In fact, it no longer buys us lunch. They haven't touched playdough, homemade or store bought, in years, and after their first sip of Coke, Kool-Aid was no longer their drink of choice. Somehow, between the ages of 6 and 13, I had lost my magic.

Today, my jokes aren't quite as funny (well, they are, but they won't admit it). My daughter can almost beat me in tennis, and my son has realized that I throw like a girl. My job makes them roll their eyes, and my cooking ... well, let's just say I raised them to know better than complain about that.

All this to say, when I see an opportunity to show off for them, it's carpe diem. We spent Memorial Day on the lake and such an opportunity presented itself in the form of water skis. I grew up skiing, though unbeknownst to them, I'm not really the best. I never learned to slalom, much less do the tricks my older cousins could. Mainly, I would just hang on, hold my breath and cross the wake occasionally until my legs gave out.

As an adult, not much has changed, except for the fact that my kids were watching. Forget the long haul, I quickly realized I was good for a short burst, so I might as well give it all that I had. I waved and crossed the wake repeatedly, hanging on by one hand, bounding over the waves and ignoring the water in my contact lenses. In the boat, I could see my kids excitedly waving and pointing.

As I neatly let go of the rope and slide into the water near the dock, the kids cheered and bragged. I stayed in the water to swim a little longer, which delighted them and prolonged the inevitable for me -- getting out. My legs were so tired from exertion, I knew they would quiver the minute I hit dry land. Eventually, they went up to the cabin, and I unceremoniously crawled out, feeling happy and satisfied that I had managed to impress them once again. I fell asleep not long after reaching the cabin.

The next day, I woke up and realized I could not move my lower half without agony. My back was killing me, and the kids were hungry. Determined not to complain, I limped over to the stove, and after standing for a while, I couldn't help but mumble about it being sore.

"What's it sore from?" my daughter asked.

"Skiing," I said, surprised she had to ask.

"Oh, yeah, I forgot you skied," she said and then let out a short laugh. It could have been misinterpreted, but I knew what it meant. My back may have been killing me, but I had regained just a little bit of magic that day, and to the parent of a teen and tween, it was worth it.

Now, if I can just use my magic wand to find the muscle relaxers.