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Date archive for: October 2011

Thank-You Notes

Circumcision. Gay marriage. Immigration. There are a handful of subjects so controversial, so likely to propel people into disparate, dueling factions, that one dare not even broach them in mixed company.

They’re surefire feud igniters. They’re quarrel kindling.

Who knew thank-you notes were among them?

With the holidays approaching, I asked some friends what they think of thank-you notes — those customary expressions of gratitude scribbled, stamped, and sent by refined recipients of thoughtful gifts and generous gestures — and I was surprised to find people staunchly divided on the value of these mannerly missives.

Some insisted that thank-you notes are gracious, timeless, and classy. Others declared them outdated and meaningless. And the fight was on.

“I am dumbfounded at the numbers of people who think they don’t need to acknowledge a gift, or who think an email suffices,” said a woman who wouldn’t let her kids use any gift until they had written a thank-you note for it.

“Better to look someone in the eyeballs and say a sincere ‘thank you’ than to go through that paper-wasting ordeal,” argued another mom.

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Population Seriously Scary

There are few things that scare me in this world. Ghosts? Meh. Vampires? Yawn. Zombies? Bring it. But this Halloween, something truly terrifying will take place. On October 31, the world population is expected to hit 7 billion. Seven BILLION humans will walk, crawl, and limp across this Earth — many of them doing the “Thriller” dance, actually — before the night is over.

The planet’s population has nearly doubled in my own lifetime, and experts say it will reach 10 billion (for visual learners, that’s one zero zero zero zero zero zero zero zero zero zero) by century’s end.

When you read that, does your stomach knot? Does your chest tighten as you fight the urge to panic? I had that reaction yesterday in my bathroom. In the morning, I noticed an ant on the floor and barely took notice. A few hours later, three ants were circling the sink; I was concerned. By nightfall, a swarm of black specks was scurrying across the counter. Maybe 100 of them, maybe 1,000. I didn’t know where they had come from or why they were suddenly crowding my very personal space. But I freaked the flip out.

It’s too many, my mind shrieked. They’re after my stuff. It’s kill or be crawled on …. BLECHH! I howled for the man of the house to bring a bottle of blue Windex (has to be the blue kind) and stop the madness with a few well-aimed squirts.

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Gift Wrap This

I’m not what you’d call a natural salesman. Having never worked in retail, and rarely even hosted a yard sale, I’m uncomfortable pawning merch onto other people. My idea of a solid marketing pitch: “Hey … you don’t want one of these, do you?”

Yet in 15 combined years of my children’s schooling, I’ve hawked enough nearly useless junk to fill a 3rd-grade classroom. And not one of the tiny portable ones either: a huge classroom, like the kind we used to have before schools were penniless and begging for bucks.

Sucked into countless school fundraiser sales — whining and grumbling all the while — I’ve slung chocolates and coffee. I’ve moved magazines, pushed potted poinsettias, and hustled gift wrap. I’ve hit up friends, trapped neighbors, and pleaded with long-since-tapped-out family members to buy muffin tins and scented candles and macadamia nuts.

I’ve done it for two reasons: to funnel field-trip/assembly/art/lab money to our sickeningly cash-strapped schools, and so that PTA moms don’t mutter “slacker” when I skitter past them, hoping to avoid being tapped to work the clean-up shift at the scrapbooking booth. (I will write a check for \$100 right this instant if you promise never to make me scrape craft glue off of someone’s decorative scissors.)

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Spousal Grousing

Standing at the altar, everything looks easy. The groom is impeccably groomed, flashing his best manners, and, while he may very well be thinking about the game, his eyes are on you. A decade later, though — when the caterer’s gone, the finery is shelved, and you’re deep in the bog of intimate cohabitation — spousehood can begin to chafe. And grate. And rankle.

Even if you have the best husband in the solar system — in fact, you don’t, because I do — you might be surprised to discover that he has an infantile fear of ants, an unnerving fancy for circus posters, and an inability to smell rotting trash from two lousy paces.

The truth is you never really know someone ’til you’ve shared a toothbrush-holder with him. Since the day we said “I do,” I’ve learned countless surprising things about my husband. I always knew that he’d never intentionally hurt my feelings — but I didn’t know how often he’d do it unintentionally by failing to notice a haircut or ask me, “What did the doctor say?” And I could never have guessed that the attentive boyfriend who made an embarrassing fuss over my half-birthday would become the distracted husband who asks, “It’s Mother’s Day? Again?!”

From wifely gripes like these springs Santa Barbara author Jenna McCarthy’s new book, If It Was Easy, They’d Call the Whole Damn Thing a Honeymoon: Living With and Loving the TV-Addicted, Sex-Obsessed, Not-So-Handy Man You Married.

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