Tuesday, February 15, 2011


I was wondering how Valentine’s was going to strike me this year, the first one I’ve been single for in something like 18 years. I know you’re not supposed to celebrate that stupid holiday in my town. Just like you’re not supposed to buy Taylor Swift CDs, but I’m not scared. I have nothing against love. And Valentine’s was fine. After a nice walk and a quick stop by the spa, it was even good.

Living with kids means you celebrate the holidays. That includes Groundhog Day and President’s Day weekend. You can try to do your own hippie, commie thing and skip them. But you know if you do it that way, your kids will always be looking at the normal-holiday kids with envy and probably get stuck on the mainstream, groupthink path for life.

The girls and I put up a few shiny Valentine's decorations around the apartment. We got their little lovenotes ready to pass out at school. And at CVS last week, Daisy led me to the Hallmark section, “This is a Bug ‘em. You fill it with treats and leave it on my pillow Valentine’s Day morning . . . or you could have it waiting for me with my breakfast.” Oh, can I now?

A supporter of retail therapy, I returned to the store on my own a couple days later to pick up a Bug ‘em.

Meaning two Bug ‘ems. Show ‘em you love ‘em with the Hallmark Bug ‘em. Guess how much? Ten bucks each. And they’re greedy little f@#$% s. Look at the tags. Whatever, Hallmark. The cashier laughed at me when she saw them on the counter. I know, I shouldn’t let my daughters watch commercials.

I wasn’t joking about the Taylor Swift CD. That was my next stop. The kids have been taking turns relaxing with music on a boombox in our bedroom. Daisy’s big on Taylor Swift, and I think seven year olds are absolutely Taylor’s demographic. I also got a Natasha Bedingfield for Violet and a Taj Mahal for them both to check out.

The guy who rung me up for the CDs has been sporting the Abe Lincoln beard for years; he’s one of those fixtures of downtown. He made a disapproving sound when he saw what I was buying but gave me props for Taj. Look, I never thought I’d be buying Taylor either, but my daughter likes her, and I’m OK with that.

He disdainfully explained that Taylor Swift was a model for Abercrombie and Fitch when she was discovered . . . her whole career is based on her looks. He gave me his recommendation for quality kid music: Emmylou Harris. I can see that. He said his nieces like Emmylou, but her voice is almost too much for them . . . it’s so dark and haunting. No, I need light and cheerful. So, why don’t you put that on my credit card – it’s the American way - and yes, I’ll take a bag, plastic if you have it. Then, I’m going to grab a latte across the street at Starbucks and pick up some McDonalds on the way home . . . I’m taking the long way because I have a full tank and might as well eat in the car. That reminds me . . . don’t you totally miss Styrofoam containers?

The kids were very excited when they saw their treat-filled ladybugs and CDs on Valentine’s morning. No regrets there. My ex invited us over for fondue in the evening. I hesitated before accepting. It’s just very soon, and the whole Valentine’s theme makes me a little skittish. However, I do think it’s important for our family to function as best we can under the circumstances. My mother’s advice recently was to look for opportunities to come together as a group. She told me that Larry David and his ex-wife have dinner with their kids once a week. Well, if Larry David’s doing it – and he never puts himself in unnecessarily awkward situations – I'm there.

The fondue night went well. My ex and I have plenty to talk about. We’re in contact regularly anyway. Leaving was brutal though. The kids were sorely disappointed we didn’t get back together right then and there, and they cried all the way home. This morning, Daisy told me she really respects her dad because he’s trying his hardest to get us back together. I keep reminding her she’s the kid, and all she needs to know is we’re still her parents, and we love her. But sometimes, when she talks like that, it makes me want to bang my head against the wall. It really does.

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