Thursday, July 27, 2017

Zoe vs. the Non-Canonical Miss Mary Mack

The other night when I picked Zoe up from camp, she said she was going to teach me a song called "Miss Mary Mack." I told her I knew that song and had myself sung it on the playground when I was a child.
So we started to sing it together. When we got to the part about the boys pulling down their pants, I thought, "Here's where things get awkward," but they didn't. And you probably know why. Because instead of Miss Mary Mack borrowing fifty cents from her mother to see "the boys pull down their pants," the real line was "see the elephants jump over a fence." Hmmm.
"Is that how they told you it goes?" I asked her. She looked at me like, how else would it go?

We went back to singing it her way, and when I got home I ran straight to the Source of All Knowledge, aka Google, and found out the song I'd sung as a child was wrong. The official, canonical, version across the Internets had elephants. I even asked a friend to see what she remembered, elephants or pants-dropping boys. Also elephants.
I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. I went to a Catholic grade school  in 1980s Queen and changing a playground song to include slightly scandalous body humor was of a piece with that.
Besides, there is no "canon" when it comes to childhood songs. As long as children sing in playgrounds their songs will vary according to time and place.
One thing I know for sure, though, is I now have to use the word "canon" or "canonical" in regard to these songs because someone on a website did, and since that's absurd, it's my favorite. "Goddammit, Martha, it's Diggy Diggy Diamond, STEP right in. Diggy Diggy Diamond, STEP right out. Not hop, not slide, not place your foot, STEP!---for it is canon!"
You're probably aware that the histories of many of these childhood songs are steeped in horror and violence. "London Bridge"---Anne Boleyn, "Ring Around the Rosy"---the plague. And then there are the ones rooted in racism (I'd point the finger at you, "Eeny Meeny Miney Mo," but you'd just think I was playing).
According to one source, "Miss Mary Mack" is a reference to a Civil War ironclad warship on the Union side called the Merrimack (black with silver rivets). And so elephants were a reference to Republican Northerners and the fence stood for the Mason-Dixon line. Certainly sounds plausible.
Still, I was curious if that was the whole story, and if Miss Mary Mack was also a person.
In my research I'd come across many images of a little girl dressed in black and realized another of my childhood misconceptions was that Miss Mary Mack was a widow, a widow who needed to borrow pocket change from her mother. I can't use the excuse of my 1980s Catholic school for this interpretation because I think it was solely mine.
In any case, having reached the limits of space-time and Google, I decided to do what anyone in my position would have done. Summon the spirit of Miss Mary Mack from another dimension.
The following encounter I describe is 100 percent true. (Give or take 100 percent.)(It's "take.")
That night I waited till late, after the Husband and Zoe were asleep, and then I went in the bathroom, closed the door, and locked it. Then, looking into the mirror, I recited: "Miss Mary Mack all dressed in black" three times. Then I spun around, also three times, and for good measure finished up with the Hokey Pokey.
Almost instantaneously a woman appeared in the mirror. She looked either like an old woman with a child's face or a child with an old woman's face. She was not in black but appeared to be wearing a floral muumuu.
"Miss Mary Mack?" I asked.
"I go by Ms. now," she replied. "And as you can see, I don't wear black anymore. And the silver buttons have been replaced with zippers and sometimes Velcro, cause who's got time for that?"
"Quacka dilly oh so what do you want?"
"Well, I wanted to know if you started off as a real person or a ship."
"Eeny, Meeny, lemon squeezey."
"That . . . doesn't make sense."
She shrugged, fluttering her muumuu. "Fudge, fudge, call a judge."
"Do you only speak in childhood rhymes?"
"Skidamarinka dinky dink, skidamarinka I don't. I also do stand-up. Here's one I heard from Little Bunny Foo Foo: What time is it when an elephant sits on a fence?"
I stared.
"Time to get a new fence!"
She disappeared from the mirror and I realized she was bent double in silent heaving laughter. Eventually she straightened and wiped her eyes.
"This isn't going like I thought it would," I said.
She pouted sarcastically, "Aw, poor thing wasn't expecting Mary, Mary, quite contrary?"
As I turned to go, she got the parting shot:
"Waddely achee waddeley achee, doodley don't let the door hit you on the way out."
Childhood songs, I had learned, were best left to childhood.

Zoe: 169; Universe: 0
If you enjoyed this post, you may like this one where I take on T. S. Eliot and the Urban Wasteland that is a playground in Brooklyn.

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, July 13, 2017

Zoe vs. The Day of (No) Judgment

Shame has gotten a bad reputation. Which has been good. Mostly. But maybe it's time for the pendulum to swing back the other way a bit. I'm not just saying that because of the Kardashians.
And before you get all finger-wagging at me and say, "You should be ashamed wanting to bring back shame," let me explain. I think there's a lot of shame that's a complete waste of time---self-inflicted or subsidized by the self-righteous---and should be dispensed with, mainly about things that can't be helped, like the body or mind a person was born with, or complicated choices in parenting (breast vs. bottle is my prime example), and I think calling out the judgmental people who want other people to carry shame over these things is good.
In fact, dispelling shame is in its heyday. A sign of this is how it's slipped over into comedy. Anyone who's ever scarfed down an entire chocolate cake in one sitting knows that they'll get a laugh if, after wiping the last crumb from their mouth, they say, "Don't judge me." And it's funny!
But now there's a "don't judge me" epidemic. I know this is true because Zoe's started saying it.
The other morning Zoe put her sneakers on backwards, and when I called her on it, she put up her hand and said, "Don't judge me."


Zoe is my bellwether for when something's wrong. She's my pint-size glitch in the matrix. So I thought about "don't judge me" and then applied Kant's Categorical Imperative, if it was in first grade. Basically the Categorical Imperative (first grade version) says: If you think you're right to do something, would you still think so if Zoe's entire first grade class did it too?
(My college philosophy professor just beat himself to death with a copy of Kant's Metaphysics of Morals just so he could have a grave to roll over in. Philosophy was not my subject. I preferred literature. I was always interested in why a character did what they did, not what they should've done. After all, if all the characters in a novel did what they should, you'd have a very boring story. Take that, Kant!)
Back to "don't judge me," the next generation's "whatever." Maybe Zoe got it from the older kids at her aftercare. Or maybe it's more recent, from the teenage counselors at her summer camp. But she's been saying it willy-nilly and out of context for a couple of weeks now.
Anything from dropping her Go-Gurt on the rug to tripping over a toy to turning on Paw Patrol, she'll tack on a "Don't judge me."
I find the whole thing especially amusing because I consider myself judgmental---how do I say this without sounding obnoxious? (Can't do it)---on a higher plane than most people. My judgment is better than your judgment. Try to judge me but I'm right.
Lately, I've noticed a misplaced "sensitivity" sweeping the internets and sometimes in real life where we give standing ovations to those who say, Look, I didn't judge today! High-five me!
Well, I can stand by no longer with my hands in either clap or high-five mode. I think people are suffering from a misunderstanding, but don't worry, I'm here to set everyone straight.
We've already covered the obvious wrong of judging people for things they can't help. And if "wrong" is unpersuasive, it's also cheap, classless, and lacks subtlety.
Where people can and, oftentimes, should be judged I classify into two areas:
1. Actions, especially when they affect other people.
2. If they don't read AND are proud of it. 
I've met a few people in my life who are proud non-readers. I was thinking of starting a crowdfunding page to make little hoods with zippers that I can slip over non-reader people's heads and then slowly zip them up up up so the world never has to look at their "I don't like to read" faces again. They probably don't even know what the serial comma is. Don't get me started.
Judgment is healthy. It's natural. It can be useful as a corrective for awful behavior. Humans are social beings, and what's more social than getting together and judging people like Adele and Matt Allen, who do shameless things like starting a gofundme so they can be "self-sufficient." Have you heard about them?
You may recall Ms. Allen as the woman who wrote about having a lotus birth, which is basically, well . . . you know how Ben Franklin said guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days? That, but with placentas.
I thought the post-natal placenta pal was the most disgusting thing ever. Until I wrote this.
Anyway, the Allens perfected irony by asking strangers to give them money so they could be self-sufficient. They want to buy some land in Costa Rica, take their offspring (I assume sans placentas), and live off the grid, though they still somehow plan to blog---perhaps by harnessing the energy caused by everyone on the planet rolling their eyes at the same time.
And don't tell me, Well, they have the right to ask, it doesn't mean you have to give them your money. Because we both know I'm not talking about stepping on rights or freedoms, I'm talking about the greatest right there is: the right to roll your eyes when confronted with idiocy. DO YOU HEAR THE "STAR-SPANGLED BANNER" IN YOUR HEAD YET? No? Maybe it's because I'm yelling.
Similarly, the new kid in the IT department has the right to wear a man-bun, but I reserve the right to shake my head and mutter, "That's a damn shame right there," when he walks by.
It's okay, he can't hear me. He's wearing headphones bigger than his head. And one time he wore a romper. But did I report him to HR? No!

When words fail, you can be sure taste failed first.

Because above all I'm charitable, live and let live, I say, until I have a bad ride on the subway and start nursing fantasies of becoming a dictator and ordering forced sterilizations for everyone on my train car.
When I say this, some people laugh and other people raise their eyebrows, and I'm not going to tell you which reaction is appropriate. And that's because I'm a short person with slow-twitch muscles who bruises easily, so my only defense mechanism is making people uneasy, unable to determine my exact level of crazy.
We all work with what we've got. Don't judge me. Or, hey, do what you want.

Zoe: 168; Universe: 0
If you enjoyed this post, you may like this other one where I tried to sound like I wasn't being judgmental but totally was. 

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, July 6, 2017

Zoe vs. It Takes Two to Make a Blog Go Right: A Blogiversary

When I started writing this blog four years ago, Zoe was just shy of three, and now she's a month away from turning seven. Naturally, she was unaware of my blog when I began it. As she grew, a dim awareness dawned, which soon settled into icy indifference. That trajectory is similar to how the world at large has reacted to my blog.
Like last year, today I'm doing a song parody to celebrate another year of toiling in obscurity, I mean, blogging. I chose notorious ear worm/song "It Takes Two" by Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock. I picked it because it does take two people to write these posts: me, your faithful observer and scribe, and Zoe, whose antics, somewhat exaggerated, are fodder for my stories.
I also chose "It Takes Two" because it's a song that's like most small children in that it hits that sweet spot between annoying and infectious.

"It's All True"-- A Parody
Right about now you are about to be possessed by the sounds of MC Mom Blogger and EZ-Z to the E

Hit it!

It's all true these blog posts I write
It's all true (okay maybe not quite)
It's all true these blog posts I write
It's all true (exaggerate I might)

Read it!

Mom's gonna blog right now
She's a mom who blogs to calm down
She's not even locally known
But she's known to be on her smartphone
She writes about me, and I'm infectious
Literally, folks, I mean contagious
When I ate a booger, mom called an Uber
To get far away from me is what would behoove her
But Grandmas love me, aunts adore me
I mean, even readers who never saw me
Like hearing all about me grow
The reason why? I'm cute, don't you know
So let's go, cause

It's all true these blog posts I write
It's all true (okay maybe not quite)
It's all true these blog posts I write
It's all true (exaggerate I might)

My name is Zoe, and I gotta long tale to tell
Listen up or I'm just gonna hafta yell
I've got a story
That I wanna share
You're on the toilet? So what, I don't care.
I'm number one, play Uno, don't stop
Play the game my way or I'll call a cop
Bold and blonde and I come correct
When Mom hears a noise why am I always the first suspect?
I'm a queen, and you can't catch me
Or with my icy magic, I'm gonna get free
Cause I'm Zoe, but call me Elsa
To my mom, my mouth is the freshest
So let's start, I don't kick that hard
Don't know why Mommy say she need a bodyguard
I must confess I seldom say yes
Play with Legos, win at chess, yes!

It's all true these blog posts I write
It's all true (okay maybe not quite)
It's all true these blog posts I write
It's all true (exaggerate I might)

The situation, that this blog is in
Four-year anniversary, my mom can pretend
That you'll share this post with a good friend
So read it and then you'll comprehend
Cause I'm a reader, my vocab superior
They say don't judge a book by its exterior
I never sit, and talking's something I never quit
I spin in circles, then I'm dizzy a little bit
Take off my clothes, then reach down and touch my toes
I get low then line my toys up in rows
Watch Minecraft how-tos on YouTube
I'm also a dragon cause this is Zoe's world
I'm on a mission, ya better just listen
Hear me growl and I'm all about hissin'!

It's all true these blog posts I write
It's all true (okay maybe not quite)
It's all true these blog posts I write
It's all true (don't wanna fight!)

I stand alone, unless I need someone
To take me to the bathroom, to do number one
I make friends as much as foes 
Cause I'm Zo-e, the one who chose
Games, that make Mommy weary
Stay near me, feel teary
Pout! That's what I'm about, shout no!
Don't turn the lights out.
I'm not tired, not even a bit, not nearly
I can stay up till all hours of the night or even midnight
Undirected. When I get my dinner, I reject it.
Get me a snack, lest I attack Mommy's back.
She typed this blog up, on a Mac.
If you want humor, let's go,
Click on the links, go for laughs I throw
Mom says I've got to go
You talkin' to me? Oh. No.
Cause I've got to pee again, even though it's past my bedtime
Says what I get away with, it's just a crime
But she lets me go, with a pretty please
Says it's better than having to use Febreze
Rock the blog with the help of Z
All day, I like to play
Mommy only writes the words that I say

It's all true these blog posts I write
It's all true (okay maybe not quite)
It's all true these blog posts I write
It's all true (exaggerate I might)

As I write right now,
When I count to three, I want you to go to bed
One, two---
Z: Get juice now? (It may take two for me to go to bed.)

But Did You Die? Setting the Parenting Bar Low, hilarious stories of parenting advice gone wrong, but occasionally right. Available now. In fact, if you just glance over to your right, you'll see it right there in the sidebar. See it? Reward yourself for your smartitudes: click it!

Zoe: 167; Universe: 0
If you enjoyed this post, you may like last's year blogiversary post: my parody of Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire."

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

Four more years! Four more years!
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