Thursday, May 21, 2015

Zoe vs. the Dear Daughter Letter

It's the end of the school year so every time you look up people are graduating all over the place. College, high school, grammar school. And even Pre-K.

. . . and destroy.

Zoe will be graduating preschool in about a month, and since everyone keeps telling me time goes by so fast, I figured I'd start on my Dear Daughter/High School Graduate letter now. 
Only a little bit different.

Dear Daughter/Future Supreme Commander of the Known Universe:

It seems like only yesterday you were an evil mastermind in training. And now you’re ready to head off on your own, your plans for world domination to be put into effect. 

This will be the last time I will offer you advice, unless you see fit to visit me from whatever island you choose as your base of operations, where you will erect your impregnable fortress, gather your minions, and build your army of killer robots.

So, before you set off on your flying monkey, I have some words of advice for you.

Don’t hide your genius.

Well, maybe just the evil part. You do have to get along in the world before you crush it in your steely fist. 

As a corollary, never pretend to be less than you are. Unless you’re lulling people into a false sense of security.

Don’t compare yourself to other evil geniuses. It’s a waste of time and energy, both of which you’ll need to come out on top. Ally yourself with them temporarily, and then stab them in the back before they can do the same to you.

Read. A lot. Learn the rules. So that you can then break them with impunity. Study Shakespeare. Model yourself after Iago before it all went south. Learn from his mistakes!

Become a student of history. Find weaknesses and exploit them. I know you know how to do this. Remember, I raised you.

Don’t get married until your career is firmly established. And when you do, make sure your partner not only shares your dreams for ultimate power but will be satisfied playing second fiddle. World domination is not a team sport.

Be your alterego. Embrace it. Have a theme and a logo. Get business cards made up. But when you do, make the initial print run small in case there’s a mistake. Have the printer fix the mistake before you slowly roast them over hot coals and give them a bad review on Yelp. That’s just good business sense.

Don’t take selfies with duckface. You’ll be embarrassed later, and no one takes an evil mastermind seriously if a Google search turns up embarrassing photos. 

In fact, you should probably avoid photographic evidence of your whereabouts altogether. (A reasonable precaution when your plans necessarily involve pissing off the entire global population.)

On the other hand, you should hire a PR consultant. It’s important to learn the art of spin, and while the hoi polloi is distracted by your good works, you’ll be pulling strings behind the scenes to topple world governments.

Onto wardrobe. When you grind the plebes under your heels make sure they’re attached to comfortable shoes. You don’t want to turn an ankle while you’re grinding. That would be embarrassing. (See duckface discussion above.)

Exception: stilettos. Nothing says power like stilettos. However, if you do plan to wear them, start practicing now. I remember a certain four-year-old at her preschool graduation threatening a level of destruction that would make the prom in Carrie look like a Teddy Bear picnic, but her plans were foiled when she tripped in sandals that were on the wrong feet. You don’t want to spend your first few weeks of utter supremacy laid up in bed.

Get in the habit of wearing gloves. They’re stylish, you won’t leave prints, and if you slowly peel them off one finger at a time you’ll intimidate the weak-minded into coughing up useful information about themselves or others. Pay attention to gossip.

As for color, wear red with some black. Or black with some red. These are power colors.

Learn a few magic tricks. Sleight of hand will serve you well.

Don’t collect anything weird. Enemies will use that against you. For instance, by driving up the price of a Shawn Cassidy lunchbox on eBay (bastards!).

Speaking of enemies, remember that superheroes are all alike. They may differ slightly in origin story—alien, bug bite, radiological mishap or what have you---but at heart they are just people (or aliens) in great shape. And that shape is square.

Bide your time when you want revenge. Plan delicately and don’t leave evidence. Divert attention. If anyone cottons on, discredit them. With photos. (Again, see duckface.)

Lie if you can get away with it. If you can’t, tell the truth but mix in some disinformation.

Don’t get so busy bending others to your will that you forget to enjoy yourself. After all, it’s the little things, like the tears and lamentations of the vanquished, that make life sweet.

Ignore warranties for purchases under $500. They’re never worth it.

Don’t eat the hot dogs sold in movie theaters. Trust me.

And most of all, I hope you dance. On the broken bodies of your enemies.

Don’t forget me,

P.S. Burn this letter.

Zoe: 93, Universe: 0

For more of Zoe's hijinks, follow me on Facebook and on Twitter at @zoevsuniverse
I need a win here, people. 
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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Zoe vs. Kanye West, Ph.D.

This week Kanye West, self-reported messiah, received an honorary doctorate from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. That ripping sound you hear is everyone in the world who has an advanced degree tearing up their diplomas.
When I covered the Kardashians, I did not include Kanye West because he told me he deserved his own post and to do otherwise would dilute his magnificence.
So here we are.
I can't really comment on his music. It's not for me, and I'm not someone who can even speak intelligently about the music I do like. However, one thing I'm unable to countenance is a "proud nonreader of books" receiving any degree from a school of higher learning.
I just don't get the appeal of Kanye, no matter how many times he tells me I should. Of course, that in itself could be the problem, considering my preference for the low-key and the subtle. Kanye's brand is self-aggrandizement, along with transparent posturing and self-indulgent tantrums. The other day I saw a meme where he was smiling until he noticed the cameras. Like flipping a light switch, he went full-on Grumpy Cat. He has that in common with Zoe.

Grumpy Cat was robbed, y'all.

In fact (shocker if you didn't see this coming), there are striking similarities between Yeezus and four-year-olds. Except for the fact that mine likes to read.
1. A huge ego
"I'm the genius voice of this generation." (Yeezus)
"I'm the best jumper." (Zoe)
"I'm a superhero princess who can do magic." (Kanye, ha, no, I mean Zoe)
"Listen to me sing even though I can't sing but, admit it, you like to hear it anyway." (Zoe, and dammit, she's got me there)

2. Watch me!
Kanye craves attention even when (especially when?) he's sitting off to the side sulking. If Kanye West sulks in the woods but there's no photo on Instagram is he really fronting?
Zoe is the same way sans autotune.
Watch this! Daddy, look! Mommy, listen! Excuse me, I need to talk!
She's also given to epic sulks that require an audience in order to reach the sublime.

3. Inappropriate talking
Kanye, like a four-year-old, doesn't know when to sit down and shut up. Especially if someone else is getting attention. Someone like Beck or Taylor Swift.  Then he's got to interrupt with the truth of his own awesomeness. Or Beyonce's.
Similarly, when Mommy and Daddy talk to each other, Zoe can't abide it. She needs our attention right at that moment. She's got a tale to tell. Yes, it has made-up words, but the point is to keep right on talking till she hits on a real one.
Is Mommy on the phone? Not. Even. That's her cue to start climbing me and frame my face with her sticky hands to make sure I have no peripheral vision to distract me from her story about a boy named Donder who has a big butt but he fell on it and it was funny, but also sad, but mostly funny. Donder.

4. Stunning illogic
In his acceptance speech at the School of the Art Institute, Kanye said, "This honor is going to make your lives easier. Two reasons: You don't have to defend me as much and I'm going to make all of our lives easier." The world may be his canvas but ain't no numbers there.
The other night Zoe said, regarding a boy in her class: "He's always never not sharing." Sounds like they're already covering paradoxes in preschool.

Gwyneth, the third member of the Unholy Trinity,
along with Karl and Kanye, wasn't there that day.

The similarities are endless, much like Zoe's one-sided conversations. So in honor of absolutely nothing, I'm rewriting Kanye's "Gold Digger." I give you "Big Gabber."

"Big Gabber"
She talks my ear off, when I need to pee
She's a verbose child, we can agree
She a constant gabber, sunup to sundown
And she gabs all over me

(Stop talking, please!)
Now I ain't sayin she a big gabber (when I want to pee)
But she's keepin up her endless chatter (stop talking, please)
Now I ain't sayin she a big gabber (when I want peace)
But she's keepin up her endless chatter
Slow down girl c'mon slow down (Get off of me)
Get down girl c'mon get down (I cannot breathe)
Slow down girl c'mon slow down (Get off of me)
Get down girl c'mon get down (I cannot breathe)

Cutie the bomb
Since the time she was born
With a My Little Pony
Under her underarm
She said I like to play with rocks
I'm feeling too warm
Can I take off my socks?
Eat your chicken parm, it won't do any harm
No, I'm looking for Rainbow Dash
Have you seen her?
No, not Twilight Sparkle, Fluttershy
No, not Apple Blossom, Pinkie Pie
Mama gotta find all they bad ass. That's show biz!
Ok, I do my best wading through all this other paraphernalia
Find 'em riding in monster trucks with Cinder-alia.
Too busy talking to eat the dinner I laid
Promise her candy, little chatterbox gotta get paid
You know why?
I need to explain?
Little girl be causin my ears pain
Hey, Mommy, I'm Blaze and you be Crusher
I don't care what none of y'all say I still love her

(Stop talking, please!)
Now I ain't sayin she a big gabber (when I want to pee)
But she's keepin up her endless chatter (stop talking, please)
Now I ain't sayin she a big gabber (when I want peace)
But she's keepin up her endless chatter
Slow down girl c'mon slow down (Get off of me)
Get down girl c'mon get down (I cannot breathe)
Slow down girl c'mon slow down (Get off of me)
Get down girl c'mon get down (I cannot breathe)

18 years, 18 years
Talking since she's born, got her for 18 years
All the time talking brings me to my knees
Morning to nighttime, please stop talking, please
You hear her gabbing away any given Monday
Story she spinnin takes you through the following Sunday
To get a break you'd spend all your money
And shorty already telling you what to do with your money
She walkin' around lookin' like Elsa with your money
Should've got Louis Vuitton earplugs for your money money money
If you ain't no punk holla: We want silence
It's something that you need or you weep
Cause when it's bedtime she's never ready for sleep.
18 years, 18 years
18 years of gabbing but you know I wouldn't leave her for no other little white girl

Just Zoe being Zoe (drops mic)

Zoe: 92; Universe: Kanye

For more of Zoe's hijinks, follow me on Facebook and on Twitter at @zoevsuniverse
I need a win here, people. 
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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Zoe vs. Nancy Drew

Last week was the 85th anniversary of the publication of the first Nancy Drew book. When I was a kid, I wished that I could be Nancy Drew. She was smart and pretty, relatively free from parental constraints, and she solved mysteries. What could be better?
Fast-forward thirty years and I’m now married and the mother of one little girl while Nancy Drew remains forever eighteen years old (and 100 pounds). But that doesn’t mean I can’t still learn from her.
Here are:

10 Lessons from Nancy Drew That Apply to Motherhood

1. Always break for lunch. Unless you want the people you’re responsible for to get cranky. Low blood sugar leads to sloppy thinking and sore feelings.
No need to get fancy. Though Nancy could certainly throw together an award-winning Bento box, she plays to her audience, and they want sandwiches. Crusts optional.

Whatever this was Timmy had shoved
up his nose, Nancy decided some
mysteries were best left unsolved.

2. Be prepared. Bring the extra sweater. Make sure there are batteries in the flashlight (and in the toys that light up). And opt for the sensible pumps; you’ll be on your feet a lot.

3. Anticipate calamity. Be ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice. The sound that roused you from slumber. The glass on the edge of the coffee table. You never know what accident is about to unfold before your eyes or behind your back.

4. Ask for help. Surround yourself with chums not bums.

5. Even if you don’t know what you’re doing, pretend that you do. You may not be good at everything (like a certain girl detective) but your charges believe you to be the smartest, most put-together human who can solve any mystery from "Why are we here?" to "Whose foot is this?"

6. Look for clues. Investigate. Don’t let fear stop you. No matter what stench greets you when you walk into their room, face up to it. That smell’s not going away until you deal with it.

7. Trust your intuition. Silence can sometimes cloak nefarious doings. Peer around corners so your quarry doesn’t notice you spying on them. Once they see you, they will stop what they are doing and you’ll never get to the bottom of what was making that suspicious noise.

8. Persevere. Sometimes you won’t be taken seriously, you may be doubted, but you must press on anyway no matter what others may say, even supposed authority figures, be they police chiefs, elderly churchgoers, or sanctimommies.
Remember: There is no perfect crime. A perpetrator will most likely drop something in their rush to evade justice.

9. Project outward calm. Keep those tears on the inside. Daily you will be faced with a person who believes they’re running the show, but you know better. Make sure they do.

10. Don’t forget to have fun. You are the pilot of your own destiny and a model for others. A little honey goes a long way.
Just not too much. High blood sugar is as dangerous as low blood sugar. Strike that balance. After all, it’s what Nancy Drew would do.

Zoe: 91; Universe: 0

For more of Zoe's hijinks, follow me on Facebook and on Twitter at @zoevsuniverse
I need a win here, people. 
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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Zoe vs. Standardized Testing

If your first thought when you see the abbreviation G&T is "gifted & talented" and not "gin & tonic," then you are the parent of a school-age child. (The latter, however, will always come in a close second.)
Zoe starts kindergarten in September, and in January she took a test to see if she was eligible for the Gifted & Talented Program. What's that you say? Not every PS (precious snowflake) is G&T? If only grandmothers were in charge. Then there'd be no question. Alas, the NYC Department of Education has no grandchildren.
Considering Zoe is only four and a half, I had to wonder if it was really possible to measure her talent. Or maybe the test just measures the small child's ability to sit still and follow directions. Maybe that's an indication of giftedness.
I'm no expert. However, I do plan to read just enough about early childhood education to be irritating to her teachers. Similar to the tack I take when I go to the doctor and inform him of the latest headlines kicking around the Interwebs. All professionals love amateur opinions! That sour face is just masking their respect for you!

The Gifted and the Damned

In any case, as Zoe is in constant motion---I have the blurry pictures to prove it---we figured it was a 50/50 chance whether she'd actually sit still long enough to take the exam.
The weekend before the test, I downloaded a practice version and sat down with her to get her comfortable with the types of questions they'd ask. The test was divided into two sections: nonverbal and verbal.
The first hurdle was having her understand what a test was. She didn't understand the concept of multiple choice and thought the answer to each question should be "1" no matter what. I asked her why and she said, "Because one is first." Can't argue with that logic. 
Eventually she caught on, and she did pretty well, even if I had to bribe her with juice so she'd finish. 
On test day, we took her to the school where the testing was to take place. The husband and I had to remain in the auditorium while she was escorted to a classroom. So there'd be no way for us to know how she really did.
Aside from asking her, that is. . . .
Okay, just came back from laughing.
Anyway, we did ask her, but all she said was: "Teacher let me walk around the room." Hmmm. Did she answer any of the questions at all? we wondered. Or did she just go exploring?

Good try, children, and now let's throw your art project in
the fire so no one has to look upon it with their naked eyes.

Last week we got our answer. We opened the envelope, read the results, and both the husband and I burst out laughing.
The upshot: Zoe was not eligible for the G&T program. Children have to score above the 90th percentile (compared to kids their age) in order to get accepted. Zoe was at the 83rd.
What made us laugh was the breakdown:
For the nonverbal part, she was, impressively, in the 98th percentile. But the second part, the verbal, she bombed: 43rd percentile. Kids for whom English was their second language probably did better.
Though I've always endeavored to keep our relationship professional, I have come to know Zoe pretty well over the past four-and-a-half years---more if you count the time she gestated inside me for 42 weeks---and I know there's no way she would've scored that low unless she just didn't answer the questions, probably preferring to hunt for toys. Or maybe she suspected the proctor was holding out on her and decided to wait for a bribe in the form of juice or candy. She's trained me well, after all.
I'm left to conclude that if the G&T test had measured craftiness, stubbornness, and all-around willfulness, Zoe would've aced it. In those areas she's ahead of the curve.
Zoe: 90; Universe: 0 

For more of Zoe's hijinks, follow me on Facebook and on Twitter at @zoevsuniverse
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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Zoe vs. Three Disney Princesses

A couple of weeks ago my mother and I went with Zoe to the Three Disney Princesses Show at Madison Square Garden. The three princesses were Snow White, Cinderella, and Belle from Beauty and the Beast.
With my degree in Advanced Curmudgeon, I was a little wary, prepared for a nightmare of capade proportions. As I expected, we had to swim through a sea of mini Cinderellas, Snow Whites, and Belles, as well as a few Rapunzels and Sofias the First. (Zoe was dressed as Queen Elsa because she had to be sure she outranked everybody.)

Perpetrators of the Great Tulle Massacre of 2013.

Navigating the crowd of princesses, you had to be careful not to run up against any of the stalls selling light-up toys or princess dolls. If you hit them head-on, you'd surely hemorrhage money and sink your bank account.
I expected Zoe to want Everything, but she fell under the spell of a glittering plastic horse a la Cinderella's carriage, and so sixteen dollars later she was satisfied. 
Next was the concession stand, where the only size popcorn available had the dimensions of a shirt box. Odd because you'd think they'd need the boxes for all the shirts they were taking off parents' backs (drum roll, cymbal crash).
Finally we found our seats, and Zoe played happily with her horse, which she'd christened Star, till the show started.
I have to admit, Disney knows how to put on a show. The costumes were perfect. There was the right level of scares for little kids. And the sound effects were well done.
Zoe had been familiar with the stories of Snow White and Cinderella, but not Beauty and the Beast. So afterwards I had to explain that although Gaston was good looking, it did not mean he was a good guy, even though that had been true regarding the nameless princes from Cinderella and Snow White
So Zoe loved it, and I was glad she'd loved it, but something was bothering me. I had known all the stories, of course, so maybe it was something about their juxtaposition, or the quick progression from one to the other, but overall the show left me in an odd mood.
Like the one that hits me once a month.
You know what I'm talking about? Every month it begins with a vague unease, but it quickly escalates into a high level of annoyance that can only be by assuaged by banging out a Sociology 101 term paper. Right? Glad I'm not alone in this, ladies!

What if I want a bicycle, Gloria Steinem?

It turns out the Disney Three Princesses show provides quite the micro history lesson in feminism. From Snow White in 1937 to Cinderella in 1950 to Beauty and the Beast in 1991, we've come a long way, Bambi.

Snow White
Debuting in 1937, Snow White the movie features the ultimate passive victim. Snow doesn't have much ambition besides waiting for a prince, who may or may not arrive within some ill-defined timeframe. Meanwhile, she lives to scrub floors and whistles a happy tune while doing so.
Career goal: She's already a princess. Other than that her goal is to stay alive and marry a prince. It is assumed he'll be good-looking and virtuous because those two things always go together.

At least, she hates to clean. This makes her "relatable." She can make her own clothes (crafty!). And she has some self-direction. Unfortunately it surfaces only when she asserts her right to attend a party. Girls just want to have fun, y'all. For this fifties gal, marriage is a ticket out of a miserable home life.
Career goal: Princess. Failing that, dressmaker with a sideline in pest control through vocalizing.

An active participant in her own life and in her fate. Loves to read---mostly romances (don't judge!). Motivated by self-sacrifice and compassion. Unmotivated by a pretty face. Smart and self-actualized, which doesn't mean she can't, on occasion, enjoy a spin around the dance floor with the bad boy who's cleaned up his act. 
Career goal: Librarian, political activist, or investigative reporter.

I'm sure I can change him.
More women should try that.

In the end though, they are all just princesses, not queens, like Elsa. And like Queen Elsa, Zoe rules a kingdom (or thinks she does), has magic powers (or thinks she does), and her emotional outbursts cause untold damage. She is truly the female royal for the new millennium.
Career goal: Evil Mastermind or Savior of the Universe, depending on one's point of view.

Zoe: 89; Universe: 0

For more of Zoe's hijinks, follow me on Facebook and on Twitter at @zoevsuniverse
I need a win here, people. 

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