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Last week, I posed this question on Facebook and Twitter: Is it a compliment or an insult when someone says you have “pageant hair”?

The responses varied from “Who cares, I like your hair,” to something along the lines of “Um, 1986 called and it wants its hairstyle back.”

The surprising amount of conversation invoked by my question caused me to ponder my hairstyle, as if there aren’t more important things I could be doing with my time. For those of you who don’t know what is meant by “pageant hair,” it’s the big, meticulously-styled bouffant that takes time and a variety of tools to create. If you really wanted to do it right, you could go the distance to “helmet hair,” which is the look one gets after applying layers of Aqua Net hairspray so your hairstyle can be preserved for posterity, like a butterfly in a glass paperweight. I am sure I don’t have helmet hair…at least, not anymore. Don’t blame me, blame 1986! By the way, it works best if you let the Aqua Net dry between applications.

Fine. I insist on poufing my hair, but I really don’t have any choice. I don’t have the kind of effortless mane that some bitches – I mean, friends of mine – have. I am referring to the type of hair that can be washed and air-dried, so its proud possessor can simply shower and waltz out the door looking great. If I wash my hair and then do nothing to it – no blow-drying, no teasing, no curling, nothing – within twenty minutes I look like a drowned rat. I have the type of hair that needs round brushes, hot rollers, and various other instruments of torture to prevent it from sitting flat on my head. That is in large part the reason I toil, blow-drying my hair upside down even when it’s 80 degrees outside and doing so makes me a sweaty mess.

But the fact that my hair doesn’t air-dry well is not the entire story. In fact, it’s not even the main reason why I want my hair to be big. Much like my reason for wearing black clothes (not because I am cool or fashionable, but because I tend to spill food on myself frequently), my reason for having big hair might surprise you. It is the same reason I don’t wear ponytails, the reason I leave my hair long and loose and full.

My head is too small for my body.

There. I said it. My head is too small for my body.  And the only way to deal with it is to make my hair bigger and hope that its sheer volume will make me look in proportion overall.

Right now you are thinking one of two things: either “This woman is completely vain and neurotic,” or, “Don’t be silly, honey, your head is the perfect size” (Thanks Mom!). Either way, my response is the same:  I have third-party verification that, yes, my head is oddly small for my body. This confirmation came in the form of Thomas, a hair stylist at the Macy’s Salon in Menlo Park Mall in New Jersey, with whom I had the following conversation in 1998:

Thomas:  So, how do you like to wear your hair? (AUTHOR’S NOTE FOR THE MEN: This is a routine opening question whenever you go to see a new stylist.)

Me:  Well, I usually blow it out and put Velcro rollers in to make it fuller.

Thomas:  Really? But right now the straight and sleek look is so IN. And your hair texture is perfect for that.

Me:  Ummm….I don’t really like to wear it too flat. I like it on the bigger side.

Thomas:  But maybe we should try it…

Me:  No! My head is too small for that.

Thomas (incredulous):  What?! What does that mean?

Me:  Look at my head in relation to my body. It’s too small.

At this point, Thomas actually stops what he is doing, which was touching and fluffing my hair. He stares at me intently with one hand on his chin and one folded across his chest. To his credit, he makes the effort of surveying my head from a couple of different angles by circling me as I sit in his chair. After two or three minutes of this, he announces his findings.

Thomas:  OK, I see what’s going on here. From here to here (he points from my right ear across my face to my left ear) your head and face are actually somewhat narrow. But, from here to here (he points from the tip of my forehead to the back of my crown) your head is actually quite long.

There is a pause in the conversation while I process his remarks.

Me:   So…I think what you are telling me is that I look like the creature from the movie Alien?

Thomas:  Is that the one with Sigourney Weaver? I love her!

So there it is. My head is too small relative to my body. At least, it is when you look at me from the front.

There is one other possible response you could have to my issue with my small head. I am sure that at least one of you is thinking, “Well, maybe it isn’t that your head is too small. Maybe it’s that your body is too big. Maybe if you worked out a little more, or went on a diet, or did something to make your body smaller, everything would balance out.”

You know what I say to that? Suck it. If making my hair bigger means I get to eat ice cream or cheese fries when I feel like it, then give me some hot rollers and Aqua Net and call me Peg Bundy.

Bragging rights go to the first person who guesses the relevance of this entry’s title. This contest is brought to you by Mike Ingrassia.

My mother has been visiting once per week to “help” me in my efforts to juggle my business with my new role as a mother. My sarcasm is due to the fact that she and I both know these visits are actually about being able to spend time with my son, Max – not about making my life easier.  The truth of the matter is that my perpetual to-do list is always at least 20% longer after one of my mother’s visits. So if she assists me in knocking two things off my list but adds five onto it, is that helping?

There are a lot of ways in which my mom actually does make my life easier: she brings new clothes for Max to replace those he outgrew, she cleans the dirty dishes piled in the sink, and she attends to Max so I can work. In return for her kindness, I am subjected to an endless list of recommendations, suggestions, and improvements that should be made, all of which can be supported by articles she clipped from Good Housekeeping magazine or the Star-Ledger. Some of these contributions are useful and some are, in fact, critical. The issue is the magnitude; there is only so much a person can digest in terms of things he or she “should” be doing at a given moment.

If I get frustrated with my mother, then I feel guilty and unappreciative because I know she means well and she cares.  On the other hand, sometimes she crosses the line into the territory of being controlling. Over the last nine months, she and I have discussed – okay, argued about – how to balance her need to tell me all of these things with my need to be left alone. I’m happy to report that we finally seem to have a process, a coping mechanism if you will, that seems to work.

Every time my mother gives me a suggestion or direction that I don’t have the energy or desire to deal with, I simply restate it with the words “…your face.” For example, when she grabs me between client meetings to tell me that I should clean the baseboard heaters, my response is “Maybe you should clean your face.” Or when she asks me if we have debt, I simply ask “I don’t know, does your face have debt?” Depending on how stressed or irritated I am at the moment when my mother gives me the unsolicited advice, I might choose to replace the word “face” with the word “butt,” as in “Maybe you should clean your butt” or “Does your butt have debt?”

It’s completely immature, but it makes me snicker (yes, I laugh at my own jokes) and it confuses her long enough for me to escape back into my office. I am not sure how many more times I’ll be able to get away with this approach for deflecting my mom’s endless suggestions, but I will definitely milk it for all it’s worth.

I started my career as a teacher, and the first experience I had in a classroom was as a “student teacher.”  Student teaching is a practice where a college student (duh) studying to be a teacher (again, duh) goes into the classroom of a real teacher and gets to commandeer the class under the hosting teacher’s guidance.  Basically, it’s like teaching with training wheels.

While I can understand the logic and it seems to be a better alternative to just being thrown into a classroom on your own to test out everything you read in books about how kids learns, there are some aspects of the student teaching model that can make it challenging:

  • Because you are not the “real teacher”, there is a risk that the students will perceive you to be some form of substitute teacher.  In their malleable minds, this equates to not necessarily having to follow rules or not needing to do any work in your presence.
  • If there is a large age gap between you and the host teacher, there is a risk that the host teacher will treat you like a student and chastise you in front of the class when you make a mistake.  This does not further your attempts to gain the respect of the students. The last thing you want to hear from your host teacher is, “You’re so young, the students I taught 20 years ago are older than you!”
  • On the other end of the spectrum, there is a risk that the host teacher will let you run with it, and possibly even just disappear, leaving you in charge.  The danger here is that you might freak out without someone around to hold your hand.

The last scenario was the least problematic for me; my many years of waitressing experience taught me a couple of key survival techniques, such as how to stay calm when an irate customer is screaming at you (smile a tiny bit but not too much), and how to massage the truth, also known as lying, with absolutely no hesitation (“Yes, I did remember to tell the chef to use olive oil instead of butter on your veggies.”)   So it ended up being fortunate for me that, when I was a student teacher, my host teacher was very “hands off.”  I liked having some latitude to try things without worrying that, any time something went the least bit awry, the host teacher might jump in and take over.

However, as I walked in to the classroom for the first time, I had no idea what my student teaching situation would be.  Since it was my first day, I hadn’t met the host teacher, she hadn’t yet introduced me to the class, and I didn’t know a single student.  Therefore, walking in to find a teacher-less classroom was a bit awkward.  When you are the only adult in a room full of seventh graders, it’s hard to blend.  So here I was, just sort of standing out, wondering if I should do something or just wait for the teacher, who really should have been showing up any minute because the second bell had rung five minutes before.  As I was looking down the hall for any sign of the teacher, I heard a bit of a commotion behind me…

Ewwww!  A girl screeched.

I quickly turned around and saw a beautiful little boy standing in front of me.  He had blond hair, blue eyes, and long thick eyelashes.  Freckles were sprinkled all over his cheeks.  He was small for a seventh grader, and looked nine or ten instead of twelve years old.  It was a complete Cindy Lou Who moment, because his cuteness was almost disarming.

I looked down at him and said, “What’s going on?”

He replied, “I only asked her a question.”

“OK, what was the question?  Maybe I can help you.”

“What’s a clitoris?” he asks with a straight face.  Suddenly, the class fell silent.

Following is an account of what went through my head in the next few seconds.  I swear on my life that I did not embellish this.

Is he serious, or is he trying to upset me?  If I let him get me riled on Day One, it’s over – I will never regain control of this class.  I am sure he is testing me, trying to see what I am made of.  I can’t answer his question seriously.  But he is so cute – could such a cute boy be so evil?  Maybe if he used his smarts for good instead of…ok, off-topic, back to the issue at hand.  But what if he is serious?  If I act like he did something wrong by saying “clitoris,” as if a it is a bad thing, then somewhere down the line when he gets married his wife could end up miserable because he is afraid of her clitoris or something.  And then she gets stuck in a foreplay-less marriage and it’s all my fault!

After an instantaneous analysis of my two options (chastise him or answer the question), I decided to walk right down the middle:

“That is a really good question for your Health Teacher.”

He stood there for a second and then smiled and said, “OK, thanks,” and walked to his desk.  A few days later, as I got to know this student better, it became very clear to me that this was indeed a test and fortunately, I got a good grade.

And in the process, this experience taught me a new survival technique:  How to pass the buck. 

AUTHOR’S NOTE:  The first commenter to correctly explain the reference in the title of this blog wins.  What you win are bragging rights and the satisfied feeling that you know more useless information than everyone else who read this post.  Someday when I finish my book and I am on Oprah, I will give out better prizes, although I would argue that “bragging rights” are definitely worth something!

About thirteen years ago while I was working at Lucent Technologies, I went to a training class.  At that time, Lucent was a huge company and it wasn’t unusual to attend an internal class and not know a single person there.  At lunch, I joined another classmate I had just met, T. K. Srinivas, a man who happened to be Indian.  During the conversation, in my typical fashion, which is “intellectually curious plus outgoing minus any sense of boundaries,” I asked T.K. if he had had an arranged marriage.  He said he had, and of course my follow up question was even more intrusive:  What was it like to marry someone you had just met?

T.K. was kind enough to continue having lunch and chatting with me, despite the fact that I had just met him and was prying into his personal life.  As he answered my question, he said something very interesting, something upon which I still frequently reflect.  I am going to state it here and hope that I do his words justice…

In the Indian culture with respect to arranged marriages, people recognize that being married is a partnership, much like a business.  You come together because you have the same goals and the same values, and then you work to build a life and family with each other.  You focus on discovering all of the things that make your partner lovable, because everyone is lovable in so many ways.

I immediately saw the contrast between what T.K. described and what I had been living.  In my world, we date by a process of elimination.  We meet someone, get to know them, and, when we find something about them we don’t like, we end it and move on.  A few months prior to my conversation with T.K., I had actually broken up with someone because he said almost everything twice (No really, it was very annoying.  No really, it was very annoying).  But in fairness, it wasn’t just me.  What about Seinfeld?  Remember the woman he dumped because she ate her peas one at a time?  And there were many other examples of people I knew personally who broke up with a potential partner because he or she wasn’t “The One.”  In our culture, we hunt for a perfect person, a soul mate, someone with whom we will live Happily-Ever-After.  The search itself is the challenge – after all, you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find that Prince – but once that wonderful and amazing person has been located, all of the problems are solved and the rest is easy.  As Nipsey Russell would say, “Riiiight.”

It was like a light bulb went off in my head.  Of course!  We are all going about this the wrong way!  Focusing on our perfect match makes us miss how many wonderful people are out there.  More importantly, expecting a partner to be perfect likely leads to failed relationships and disappointment in the end, because no one can live up to such unrealistic expectations.  I started to notice examples of an approach to love and marriage that was generally backwards:  romantic comedies (which I rarely watch unless I am pre-menstrual or hung-over) which always end when the two people wind up together; and dating game shows, like The Bachelor or The Bachelorette, where someone searches for a person to pair off with and the resulting relationship is just a footnote in a future issue of US Magazine.  In both cases, the difficult search is the point and, once complete, the story is over.  But in reality, once you commit to someone is when the real work starts.  I realized that a myth had been perpetrated on our society and, to a large degree, I blamed the Brothers Grimm.

The implications for this learning are even broader than romantic relationships.  Imagine what would happen if you focused your attention on the lovable aspects of those with whom you have relationships, instead of what annoys you?  What if you didn’t notice your son’s socks on the floor but instead enjoyed how he always offers to help with the dishes?  What if you let an unsolicited opinion from your mother slide, but appreciated that she brings food for you every time she visits?  What if you spent less time caring that one of your employees always comes in at 9:05am and instead valued that he is self-directed and always completes his work before it’s due?  In other words, what if we stopped expecting people to be perfect because they are already perfect enough?

Maybe I am an idealist, and perhaps what I am describing is an unattainable utopia.  I know from my own experience that it is often easier said than done.  Even so, I believe it to be a worthwhile pursuit to focus my attention on the lovable qualities of the people around me, because everyone is lovable in so many ways.  Thanks T.K.!

While we’re on the subject of me embarrassing myself in front of people I admire….

In the summer of 1997, while I was working at Lucent Technologies, we hosted a conference for the industry analysts – a multi-day event for anyone who was writing about the technology or telecommunications industries.  During this conference, the leaders of Lucent addressed the analysts, following which the analysts would go back to their offices to write their opinions of Lucent and its future outlook, and ultimately investors would make decisions based on what the analysts wrote.   

At that time, Lucent was a huge company with over $28 billion in revenue and over 100,000 employees.  So I felt fortunate to be one of the people able to attend the session during which Henry Schacht, Lucent’s CEO at the time, addressed the group.  During his talk, Schacht posed a question to the group of analysts:  “What do you think is Lucent Technologies’ greatest asset?”

I sat and listened as people called out answers only to hear Henry Schacht say, “No.”  Suggestions were made, such as “Your technology!” or “Bell Labs!” (the R&D arm of the company, from which many amazing inventions have come) to which Schacht replied, “No.”   Wanting to get to the right answer, analysts started to be more strategic:  “Your customers!”  “Your global presence!”  “The breadth of your product portfolio!”  Again, “No” and “No” and “No.”  This went on for almost ten minutes, which is a really long time when people are trying to come up with the answer to a question.

Finally, as suggestions were called out with decreasing frequency, Schacht put all of us out of our misery.  “I’ll tell you what Lucent’s most important asset is,” he said, “our people.”  I wasn’t the only one in the room who hadn’t seen that coming.  As I listened to Schacht talk about the innovation and creative thinking, the customer focus and determination, and the teamwork and integrity of the employees of Lucent Technologies, I realized that I was beaming.  I agreed with him; in the few months that I had worked at the company I was continually impressed by my coworkers, how committed they were to our company’s success and how good they were at their jobs.

Most importantly, I was impressed with Henry Schacht for his recognition that the people of Lucent Technologies weren’t just critical to the business, they were the business.  All too often I had seen a corporate executive lose sight of the fact that his or her company was not made up of projects, technologies or buildings – but of people – people who will be successful, or not, based on how they are led.  But Henry Schacht knew better, and I instantly became his biggest fan.

A few months later, I was running a customer meeting in our corporate headquarters.   The meeting was being held in the Board Room on the legendary “fifth floor” of that building – the floor where all of the C-level executives lived.  Shortly before the customers arrived I realized I needed to see someone in the Public Relations department on the third floor, so I hustled to the elevator.  Who is standing there but…Henry Schacht!  There was a ding, a door opened, and before I knew it the two of us where in the elevator, together and alone.

What a great opportunity!  Here was someone who truly motivated me, who made me want to be a leader in our business.  Just the two of us, riding together, on our way down.  I could let him know that his presentation at the analysts’ conference was really inspiring.  Or I could say that I am so happy I came to work at Lucent because of the great things we were doing in the marketplace.  Or I could say that I would be sorry to see him go, since he had recently announced his departure. 

So many things were running through my head.  Which did I decide to go with?  None of them.  In a rare moment of speechlessness, I couldn’t think of anything to say.  I just looked at him and smiled and said nothing.  I am sure that even the smile was a little bit off and somewhat strange, because all the while I was smiling, the wheels in my head were frantically spinning trying to come up with something pithy and smart to say.  Please stop here and try to picture that…it was sort of a wide-eyed grimace.

Suddenly, there was a ding.  Mr. Schacht, ever the gentleman, held the door and said “After you.”  That was when I realized we had just ridden from the fifth floor to the first floor.  Whoops.  So I said, “Oh, thanks, but I have to go up to the third floor.”  I wish I could describe the look of confusion and mild fear on his face as he realized that I had just ridden all of the way down with him even though I wasn’t going to the first floor.

There you have it:  Jen Crews making a lasting impression as a CEO-stalker.  Great.  Just great.

The following shall forever be referred to as “The Deepak Chopra Incident”. 

As I wrote about in “My Backstory,” I went through a very difficult personal time and got through it by turning inward.  I spent a lot of time by myself, reading and reflecting and generally trying to make sense of how I ended up in the situation in which I found myself.  Even though I was in a lot of pain, it was a special time for me because it changed my life profoundly and for the better.

There were quite a few books that really helped me during the journey from personal crisis to rebirth, and the one that was especially meaningful to me was The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success.  In this book, Deepak Chopra presented me with a new way of understanding the universe and my perception of it, which caused me to reevaluate my life in every way and make some positive, necessary changes.

So, three years later, when I saw that Deepak Chopra would be doing a lecture and book signing through the Open Center in New York City, I was thrilled and excited to attend.  I signed up six months in advance when I first saw the promotions for the event.  Having recommended the book or even given it as a gift to many people, I also reached out to others who I thought would like to attend.   Through my suggestion, more than ten people registered for the event, including my now-husband and my parents.

A few days before the Big Night, I made a point of taking time to think about what I would say to Deepak Chopra if I had an opportunity.  So many things to talk with him about!  Knowing I would have a minute or two at the most, I needed to cull down the volume of thoughts and topics into something short that would impress upon him exactly how much his book, and he as a person, impacted me.  Should I tell him how many people to whom I had given his book?  Should I let him know that reading his book inspired me to move on from a marriage and abandon a career track, completely revamping my life in one fell swoop?  Should I explain that his words got me on a path to rediscover my personal creativity as a form of spirituality?  That I look at the world so differently now and I am a better person as a result?  Should I let him know he inspired me to write a book on leadership, and plant the seed so that he might write the introduction for it when it is finally completed?  Or, even better, maybe I could ask him to collaborate with me on it?  So many things!

Clearly, I had a challenge ahead of me.  There was no way I would be able to get an audience with Deepak Chopra.  In fact, as my father pointed out, it is possible that the books would have been signed in advance and handed out; after all, he must be a busy man and signing all of those books would take hours.  That was the worst case.  The best case was that I might be able to say hello to him while he signed my book.  Nonetheless, I hoped for the best and set about figuring out what to say to this man with whom I had developed an imaginary relationship in my head.

I utilized my sales training and developed an “elevator pitch.”  An elevator pitch is what you would say if you happened to run into a potential customer in an elevator and had only a few seconds to close a sale.  I honed my message carefully, trying to walk the balance between letting Deepak Chopra know how much he influenced me and sounding like a complete stalker.  After mulling it over for a few days, I felt I had developed the perfect thing to say and, as I sat on the train on my way to New York, I jotted the final version down in my journal.  Feeling satisfied and giddy with anticipation, I put my pen down, sat back and relaxed, enjoying the rest of the train ride with my friend.

When we got to New York City, we met our friends and family for dinner first.  I tried to exchange pleasantries but I couldn’t focus.  I wanted to get to the venue and get a good seat.  I was trying to relax and enjoy the meal, but I was getting stressed that we would end up too far in the back to see Deepak Chopra.  Dinner finally ended and we headed over.  We easily got in line and found seats near the front – enough for our entire group – and I started to feel blessed that things were falling into place.  This would be a very good night.  I couldn’t stop smiling.

This is probably a logical place to stop and make a brief mention of my relationship with my mother.  It’s complicated.  In a nutshell, my mom and I are very different personalities and in some ways polar opposites:  I am a tomboy and she is a girly-girl, I am a risk-taker and she likes for play it safe, I like my independence and she craves closeness, I spend Sundays watching football and she spends Sundays shopping.  We love each other, and we just have two very different ways of approaching things in life.

Back to the Big Night.  Deepak Chopra comes out to speak about his book, The Third Jesus (which is excellent, by the way).  His talk is amazing and I hang on every word.  He is funny, insightful, thought-provoking and inspirational.  He talks for longer than any of us expect and we all enjoy it thoroughly.  When he is finished, an announcement is made that Dr. Chopra will be signing books!  I look at my father, wide-eyed.  He is signing the books!  That means I can meet him!

I am in line to get my book signed, and my heart is pounding.  Everyone else in our group is making conversation while we wait, but I can’t participate because I am rehearsing what I had planned to say to him.  I watch the people who are ahead of me, and notice how much time they have with Deepak Chopra before they need to move on.  It doesn’t seem like they are being rushed, and I appreciate how patient he is and how willing to take his time with each person.  I am so looking forward to having my moment with Deepak Chopra that I can barely contain myself. 

Only a few people in front of me.  My heart quickens its pace.  Now only two people.  I am taking deep breaths and trying to stay calm, because I don’t want to miss my opportunity to make an impression on him.  One person ahead of me, and I can tell they are finishing up.  My turn!  It’s go time!

As I walk up, I am very focused, yet vaguely aware that my mother is right at my heels.  That’s alright, I think, she can hear what I have to say.  I move in front of the table where Deepak Chopra sits.  As he looks up at me, I hand him The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success and say:

“I was hoping you would sign this book for me as well.  I just have to tell you that this book had a tremendous impact on me.  It caused me to shift my perception in such a profound way that I ended up changing virtually every aspect of my life.”

He looked up at me and, before he could say a word, my mother said:

“And my book club loved it!”

I was shocked and appalled.  This book gave me the wisdom and strength to leave a toxic marriage!  This book caused me to abandon a high-powered job for a more fulfilling career!  This book allowed me to manifest a completely new life for myself!  Your book club loved it?!?  Are you kidding me?!? No offense, but there is really no comparison here!

Then, before Deepak Chopra could say a word, I said:

“Mom, it’s my turn!”

As soon as the words were out of my mouth I realized what I had done.  In one second, I went from being who I wanted to be – a woman on the path to enlightenment – and ended up back at square one – a girl arguing with her mother.  Great…just great.

Everything after that was a blur.  I don’t remember what Deepak Chopra said to me.  I do remember that he seemed mildly amused.   I remember feeling totally deflated that, while I had made an impression, it was not quite the impression I had intended to make.

So I ask you:  Am I enlightened?

Or maybe a better question is:  Is it possible to be enlightened while you are in the same room as your parents?

What would Deepak Chopra say?

Last night, I was desperately trying to get my son to go to bed at an appropriate time and he was not having it, so he was crying.  Of course, no one likes the sound of a crying baby; I have to assume that is a genetic thing wired into all of us so that we attend to the little ones.  Well, my guy was screaming as if someone were torturing him, to the point where he was hyperventilating, so I was stressed and pulling out all of the stops to soothe him.  I even resorted to singing lullabies – Lord knows why this kid actually stops crying when I sing, because most people start crying when I sing.  I have to assume that is also genetic.

But last night even my singing would only work for a second or two before the crying resumed and I would have to try again.  I have a limited lullaby repertoire, and I had to do quite a few repeat performances because this whole mess was going on for at least 45 minutes.  First, I tried “Mama’s Gonna Buy You a Mockingbird” (which I think is the name) because I just learned all of the words on a baby-related website – it’s shocking how much my life has changed.  Next, I tried “Amazing Grace” because my friend told me that she sings it to her son at bedtime and I thought that was really sweet.   Not only is my rendition nowhere near the quality of her beautiful take on the song (yes, Carey, I mean you), but I couldn’t remember the second verse so I just made it up.  On some level, it feels like a sin to make up the lyrics to a hymn.  I’m not talking about the same degree of sin as murder or mouthing off to your parents, but a sin nonetheless.

So after a couple of performances of those two songs I was almost tapped out – I told you my repertoire was limited.  Then I remembered the classic:  “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”  It’s soft, it’s pretty, and it’s about the night.  Excellent!  I sang my best possible version and…still no luck, the kid was screaming bloody murder.

After a couple more repeats of the aforementioned songs, I remembered “The Alphabet Song.”  OK, I don’t normally think of that as a lullaby but I was grasping for straws and it couldn’t hurt to throw in a bit of learning, right?  So I started singing it:  A, B, C, D, E …oh forget it, you know how it goes and if you don’t you have issues.  Anyway, sing it in your head right now, I’ll wait.

Now sing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”

Notice anything?

That’s right – it’s the same tune!  The music for “The Alphabet Song” is the same as the music for “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star!”

I felt totally and completely gypped.  All of these years I never noticed that those two songs used the same exact tune.  Now some of you are thinking, “Duh.”  And others are thinking, “I had the same experience when I sang those songs to my (child, niece, nephew, friend’s baby) – welcome to the club!”  Still others are thinking, “WHAT?!  I feel gypped too!”  I know.  I am not sure why it irritates me so much, it just does.  Neither of those songs are that long, so how hard is it to come up with a new tune?  For real.

Oh, it gets better.  So now I am annoyed and distracted and I still have a screaming baby.  I finally decided that I needed to take him downstairs after an hour of this because even though I am trying to set up a bedtime routine, Rome wasn’t built in a day and, besides, I need to know which song came first so I can determine who ripped off whom.  I know, I need to step up my parenting game but again, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

So I hand the child over to my husband so I can look up the origins of the songs and, assuming the Wikipedia entry for “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” is correct (always a good thing to consider), it gets worse:

  • Not only does “The Alphabet Song” share the tune with “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”, it is also used for “Baa Baa Black Sheep.”  I mean, come on.
  • The original melody was taken from a French song – so we’re back to the French, are we?
  • This is the best:  the French version of the song is about a girl recounting to her mother how she was seduced by man who beat her afterwards.  Now I am speechless.  And if you believe that I’m speechless, I have a bridge to sell you.

I was a little disturbed that a few lullabies could send me off on a rant, so I tried to accept what I cannot change:  that these three songs share one tune.  I suppose this is just another more step on my path to peace and serenity.  After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

This past weekend, I attended my eight-year business school reunion.  Yes, our class became so tight that we are resorting to non-round number reunions.  The program was a full-time MBA that we pursued on the weekends while we were working full-time during the week…for two years.  It was a lot to take on at once, and I am sure that one reason we all became so close was that the experience was similar to that of being in a foxhole together – we weren’t quite sure that we would survive and we needed to rely on each other to make it through.

Being at the reunion reminded me of an incident which I will now recant for you.  Believe it or not, this is the first of two posts about foul language.  Sorry, Dad.

A little more background…as I mentioned, our MBA program was more stressful than the regular kind because we were working full-time and going to school full-time.  It was manageable if either work or school was going smoothly while the other was busy, but at least twice a semester both work and school would blow up on me at once. 

When I am under pressure, my go-to stress reliever is cursing.  I don’t know why it makes me feel better to use profanity, it just does.  Maybe it’s because there is a component of anger in stress, and cursing is a way of expressing anger.  Maybe it’s just efficient, because throwing a couple F-bombs takes a lot less time than getting a massage or meditating.  Of course, I can’t just use any old expletive when I am stressed; only those with hard consonants do the trick.  Something like “F*CK” is much more effective and gratifying to relieve stress than something like “SH*T.”  Think about it.

One day, on a break between classes, I was lamenting the fact that I had an upcoming test for school and a serious customer issue at work within the same week.  I felt like I didn’t have time to handle either thing well, but that was par for the course.  So I am with two of my classmates who are also stressed, one of whom was from Paris, France, and we are talking about our situations.  You know what happens next.

I say, “I am going to fail this F*CK-ing test unless I can get this customer issue resolved in time to finish studying, goddammit.”

Then, recognizing that these two particular people were not entirely down with my chosen form of stress relief, I say,

“Oh, sorry, pardon my French.”

Following this statement I notice the completely horrified and offended look on my French classmate’s face.  Whoops.  I am sure many of you have heard that saying before, and some of you have said that saying before, but have you ever thought about what it actually means?  Essentially, it implies that French people are rude and use obscenities, and when you say something offensive you can try to pass it off as French.

Which was worse, using the offensive language or blaming it on my classmate’s entire society?

When I told this story to one of the program administrators at the reunion over a drink, and she laughed and said “Who cares?  He was anti-American anyway.”

Well, I wonder why?

Yesterday’s post made me think of something funny…

I wrote that I used to joke about starting to play the drums at 37;  I was a little self-conscious about it because every musician I met was in their 20s or early 30s and they had all been playing for years.  Mark, the owner of the music store where I bought my drums and took lessons is a ball-buster (which I love in people) and we used to joke a lot about my being old and about everything else.  In fact, I became good friends with both Mark and his wife, Christine, and I miss seeing them regularly since I moved out of Jersey City.

One day my drum teacher, Kevin, told me that my homework was to find someone to jam with, versus just playing along with music on my headphones as I had been doing.  He felt that was the next step in my developing as a drummer.  I was beside myself.  How would I find someone to jam with?  I didn’t even use the word “jam” in a sentence unless I was making a peanut butter sandwich, and anyway I would say “jelly”!   The only musicians that I knew were professionals and I was too much of a novice to jam with them.  Would I have to troll the streets for young musicians, schedule a jam session with them and then send them an Outlook meeting request?  That was my standard operating procedure at the time!  I was completely thrown for a loop.

Thinking he would be able to provide some guidance, I shared my concerns with Mark.  A week later when I came in for my lesson, Mark said to me, “Guess what?  I found someone for you to jam with.  She’s a bass player and she is at about the same level as you are so you two should be able to play and progress together.”

I was so happy.  “Thanks Mark!  That’s awesome!”

“Sure,” he replied, “just let me get permission from her dad because she’s fourteen.”  And then he laughed.

Ugh. 

The moral of the story is….you have to be able to laugh at yourself.  I still snicker when I think of that moment.

Have a good one!

About Me

The purpose of this blog is purely self-expression - being creative for the sake of being creative. It has evolved into a collection of non-fiction essays.

All of the anecdotes and incidents you read in this blog are completely true and not exaggerated, no matter how sad, pathetic or unbelievable they may seem.

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© Operation Peace and Serenity, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Operation Peace and Serenity with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.