A Post for Mom

My mom made the best Hamburger Helper. She used to buy the the Beef Pasta flavor, the one with the giant egg noodles. I remember her preparing this decidedly mundane dinner in the most exotic way -- in the wok. My parents received a wok as a wedding gift and I think my mom considered it the greatest culinary invention. She was also really great at oatmeal. For breakfast, she'd prepare the old fashioned oats on the stove and toast an entire loaf of white bread. Then she'd sit my brother and I down at the table, each in front of a steaming bowl of mush. In the center of the table she'd place a towering stack of white bread toast and plenty of cinnamon and sugar, the better to flavor our bland oatmeal. From there it was a free for all. To this day I can't eat oatmeal without plenty of white bread toast to sop up the mushy dregs.

My mom was a great babysitter. During the summers of my childhood, she often babysat a handful of neighborhood kids, in addition to my brother and I. (Although, is it really babysitting when it's your own kids...?) She was always searching for activities to occupy our time until the pool opened at noon. One particularly creative morning she decided to clear out the kitchen cupboards, eradicating any canned goods past their expiration dates or deemed unworthy of gracing our kitchen table. The morning was fruitful, as she found buried at the back of the cupboard a can of Campbell's Nacho Cheese Soup (which, ew, really does exist), and a can of pickled beets. In a stroke of motherly genius, she donated these two items to my game of "house". And because every good mother wants their child to have the tools to succeed, she also offered up a can opener. WHY? The world may never know. But man, oh man, were we glad she did. That day the Yokom girls and I created the culinary delight known as Beet Cheese Surprise. Lacking bowls or cups, we dumped the contents right on the pavement, using sticks to stir up the lumpy mass. When my mom discovered our masterpiece, she checked the clock, announced the pool to be open, and sent us on our way. She must have felt somewhat responsible for the unpalatable mess as I'm pretty sure she hosed that shit down and never spoke of it again.

My mom was a fantastic cheerleader. As a precocious first grader, I had the dubious honor of receiving an award for excellent spelling. I say dubious because first grade spelling is not really all that difficult. Either that, or I was matriculating with a class full of morons. Anyway. I was set to receive this award at an all-school assembly, which also happened to fall on "crazy clothes day". My mom, not wanting me to miss an opportunity to express my individuality, enthusiastically applauded my decision to wear long johns covered in tin foil topped with an antenna headband. Crazy, right?! The school administration thought otherwise and ordered my mom to bring a change of clothes, post haste, which she also did enthusiastically.

My mom was a great storyteller. At night, after tucking my brother and me in, she'd pull out the chapter book and read until I drifted off. Most of the books are a jumbled mass of lost memory floating in my brain, but the night my mom finished Charlotte's Web made an indelible mark on me. Mom's voice was calm and soothing as she read of Charlotte's imminent demise and Wilbur's panic and dismay. Like every other night, my mom closed the book, checked once more on my brother, and went off to bed herself. But that night I lay weeping, sad for Charlotte's death, sad for all that Wilbur had lost, confused at why anyone had to die. I snuck out of bed and tiptoed to my parent's room, looking for answers. I crawled in next to my mom and sobbed, "WHY DID CHARLOTTE HAVE TO DIE?" My mom, ever the compassionate woman, replied, "Because all things die." Her answer was so succinct, so honest and true. She hugged me close and let me cry until I couldn't cry anymore.

My mom was never the soccer mom. She never carpooled the neighborhood kids or baked elaborate birthday cakes or volunteered as art mom or joined the PTO. She never scheduled her life around my brother and I. What she gave was time, and sometimes her time was precious. My mom gave of herself in a way that fostered a deep and lasting relationship, and we have weathered some storms. She has always been my loudest cheerleader and a seemingly bottomless well of support. I don't always say it and sometimes I'm quite terrible at showing it, but mom, I really do think you're the greatest. And you still whip up a wicked Hamburger Helper.

Happy Mother's Day.


Born This Way

A few years back a young, talented pop star emerged and captured the attention of, well, everyone. Everyone but me, that is. I loathed this woman. She sang about dancing and paparazzi and poker and telephones. She dressed like a fool. Nothing she did or said appeared to contain any real substance -- it was all for shown. And I hated it. I hated her hoof heels and meat dresses and her "Born This Way" anthems. Everything about her was contrived and fake. To me she was a walking punch line. Why couldn't she just be REAL, I moaned.

Then, by chance, I caught an interview with the loathsome star on 60 Minutes. And I fell in love with Lady Gaga.

I have always been unapologetically in lurve with pop culture. I read fashion and gossip blogs obsessively. I consume pop culture like some people consume food. But I don't fucking care. It fills an entertainment void AND does double duty as trivia fodder. When Unsuspecting Fred Meyer Clerk challenges me to a pop culture duel, look out, because OF COURSE I know Joe Pesci released an album in the 60's, thankyouverymuch.


Throughout the course of the interview, Lady Gaga was asked about her music, her fashion forays, her songwriting. Conspicuously missing from the interview was anything personal -- nothing about her love life, family, home. ZIP. ZILCH. NADA. And I realized (somewhat naively, I suppose), that Lady Gaga was a construct. Of course she was. She served as a buffer, or, more accurately, a cop conducting traffic. Every time she arrived in an egg, or eschewed pants in public, she was directing my attention to her persona, making sure I never looked behind the curtain for the wizard. The meat dress was merely guiding me in Lady Gaga's desired direction, while Stefani Germanotta was free to carry on as a somewhat normal member of society. Lady Gaga wasn't a fraud, she was a GENIUS. What better way to keep the public's prying eyes from your most intimate and private moments than to create a male alter ego named Joe Calderone?! Fucking brilliant.

Now back to my pop culture consumption. Like any bad habit, I consume(d) all that salty, delicious pop culture mindlessly, never caring for what was said or who was saying it. (Expect Britney. Man, that was hard to watch.) And while I clicked and clicked, always wanting more and more, I was completely oblivious to the fact that I, too, was being observed. Like every good twenty-something, I Facebooked, I blogged, I tweeted. Every piece of myself I put into the universe was really me offering myself up for judgement. But was I?

Every piece I put into the universe was calculated. Every piece was pointed, thought-out, crafted. Every post, tweet, and status update gave the universe fodder, but rarely did I provide a piece of myself. Save for a handful of very raw blog posts (and one "shitty" post), I have worked hard to cultivate my own (online) persona -- one of a fun-loving, outgoing, happy-go-lucky young woman. That part of me really does exist, to be sure, but it is not all of me. Not by any means. By creating this persona, though, I have been able to avoid pointed questions about my faith, my family, my love life -- all things I consider personal and decidedly NOT up for discussion.

Which leads me here. Because I offer up little of myself in initial meetings, I am invariably wary of people who say they "LOVE!" me upon first meeting. Or second meeting. Or only in certain contexts. Or because I post funny shit on the internet. I take my time getting to know people, and conversely, take my time letting people get to know me. It's rare (read: NEVER) that I let anyone know all the things initially. As a matter of fact, I feel very UNcomfortable when people know too much. Occasionally someone comes along who forces me to be socially intimate before I'm ready, shoving Stefani Germanotta behind the curtain, and thrusting Lady Gaga onto the stage. 


I inevitably become the caricature you think I am. This makes me bitter and resentful, both because I am not a caricature and because I don't like to be forced into anything. 

The very unfortunate flip side to this coin is that I am also very suspect of those who offer themselves up for consumption, seemingly without regard for privacy or mystery or self-respect. I do not understand those individuals who share willy-nilly the most intimate pieces of themselves. I do not understand how one's faith, family, or love life could be offered up as fodder for prying eyes. I do not understand why sharing (with complete or near strangers) is caring. 

But Mindy, this is at total odds with your pop culture obsession! How do you reconcile perusing gossip blogs with your seemingly unending need for personal privacy?!

I don't know. I'ma go read some Dlisted and get back to you.