Just when I thought I would never run out of reasons to celebrate the Midwestern "way of life," my number one source of
cheap wine inspiration - not counting weather - announces that she and her houseful of prairie-bred children are packing up and moving to the Deep South.
This is funny for all kinds of reasons, not least of which is the way her aversion to shiny things and affection for commie social causes will play in the South.
But for those of us left behind, the departure of the woman we call "Mary" will leave the Midwestern suburbs a hellish shell of the hellish shell they already were.
This is a woman who serves liquor at her kid's lemonade stand, styles herself after Napolean Dynamite and will do things on a dare that make your college sorority hijinks seem like an afternoon with the Junior League of Peoria.
You can't really ask more from a school board member than that.
Midwestern Mint Julep
4 ounces of Kentucky bourbon
2 ounces of mint-infused simple syrup, from which mint leaves have been strained
Pour over crushed ice, garnish with parsley because you used all the mint to make the syrup and sprinkle with glitter. Drink in Mary's backyard until the new owners tell you to leave.
from the Something About Mary archives: Some people claim that there's a woman to blame, Trash talk from a woman in an apron, Your cardigan says "Merry Christmas" but your pedicure says "ho, ho, ho"
Forecasts in Chicago can be very confusing to newcomers. But after you have lived through a few Chicago winters, they start to make even less sense.
This year for example, we have been told to expect "extreme cold." Which is easily confused with "bitter cold." Or sometimes referred to as "very, very cold." Which is virtually indistinguishable from "really very fucking cold," regardless of what the old-timers say.
No matter how you try to dress it up in scienc-y words, the experience is not something that can really be captured by meteorology. Once you can no longer feel your face or your hands or see your car, the actual snowfall and/or temperature are meaningless.
Not that there aren't subtle differences from year to year.
Our first Chicago winter was so cold and snowy we had to move all of our dinner parties indoors. Where it was still too cold, but less snowy.
But the winter after that we didn't have to move a single party. We had completely lost our will to entertain.
There are years where you spend the entire winter dreaming of Miami. These are known as "Miami winters" until the point at which your capacity for irony has frozen over.
"Bitter" cold is when Miami winter dreams mutate into dark fantasies in which the entire southeast coast of Florida is submerged beneath shark-infested waters as the result of global warming. Now who's living in paradise?
The momentary pleasure spawned by these thoughts is known as schadenfroze.
One winter it was too cold for hot chocolate, though this was hushed up and rebranded by the tourism shills, who called it "Frappuccino Winter."
Last winter included one storm so severe that salons called women to have their highlights and bikini waxes touched up. This is known as an "Extreme Beauty Winter."
This year, according to the professionals at Accuweather, will be known as the winter "Chicago Residents Will Want to Move Away," which distinguishes it not at all.
Sure, we're better drivers. Especially when going forward. We didn't need some insurance industry study to tell us that!
And yes, it turns out that we are just as funny as you are, possibly better with money, probably make better world leaders, and may offer a better return on investment in the corporate suite. (Man Down: Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt That Women Are Better Cops, Drivers, Gamblers, Spies, World Leaders, Beer Tasters, Hedge Fund Managers and Just About Everything Else, by Dan Abrams)
We also smell good and aren't afraid to ask for directions, but that doesn't mean we wouldn't be lost without you. It just means we wouldn't be lost as often.
But that is hardly reason to conclude that men are becoming obsolete.
What would even be the point of being better if there were no men around to make us seem better by being worse?
You complete us.
Besides, we depend on you for
everything! so many things!! some really important things.
So before you go putting any stock into the latest bit of scholarship describing the "end of men," ask yourselves: Will a vibrator get out of bed in the middle of the night to check out a scary noise? It will not. That technology is still years away!
Will our girlfriends show up with red wine and naked Daniel Craig movies when we are suffering from PMS and you are being an asshole? Of course they will. But that's still a two-man minimum, right there, not even acccounting for help with operating the remote control.
Call me sexist, but I don't think there is a woman alive who could convincingly fill the role of naked Daniel Craig. Meryl Streep, possibly, but I don't think you'd get more than an academic argument about putting that one in the "men are better" column.
And I don't care how far we've come, baby; you will never get me to admit that a woman is just as capable as a man when it comes to unclogging toilets.
Ditto for spider killing, grocery carrying, chest hair growing, floorboard painting and anything involving shovels. And while I don't have any hard numbers to back this up, I'm convinced men make superior superheroes, look better in tuxedos and make razor stubble sexy. I have never met the woman who can pull that off.
There's a reason the mint julep never really caught on in the Midwest.
Even before the bourbon kicks in at my Real Housewives of the Confederacy party, the conversation has already taken a turn for the deep south.
I'm not going to repeat them here. Let's just say the concept of "Midwestern modesty" died hard.
Also the ice never really melts in Chicago, so you end up with what is essentially a glass of bourbon with a little mint and sugar in it. Or what is known in the Midwest as a "weak drink."
The evening is organized as a going-away party/intervention for the woman known as "Mary," who is moving to Atlanta in a few weeks with all the wrong shoes.
Mary interprets my instructions to come dressed as an icon of Southern womanhood as an opportunity to dress as Napolean Dynamite. She never misses the chance to wear her "sweet moon boots" in public. Which are only a little stranger than the shoes she wears on any other occasion.
Still, it is only about five minutes before she is swearing like Scarlett O'Fucking Hara and we know that Real Housewives of Atlanta has its next diva.
Also, that no one will ever try to make a reality show based on Housewives of the Midwest. Because once you have heard the story about the breastfeeding mother, the boy and the hotdog, you are never, ever going to turn on the televsion again.
"I think I am going to like the South," Mary says, discovering an affection for Kentucky bourbon that had apparently lain dormant throughout a lifetime of Midwestern winter drinking.
"Oh sugar," I tell her, "the South is going to love you."
Photos: (Right) The face of the New South. (Below) The Fulton County PTA president; Real Housewives of the Midwest, footwear; Napolean Dynamite dance of awesomeness.
Date night at the Chicago International Film Festival
Degree of Difficulty: Impossible
Wine pairing: Palinka, the Hungarian fruit brandy drunk in small quantities to momentarily stave off the bitter, monotonous routine of your daily existence.
Summary: I think this trailer pretty much sums up the feeling of the entire
date film, a 146-minute mood piece in in which two unnamed characters eat potatoes, struggle to open and close doors against the wind and live out their lives in isolation and hardship in a barren landscape not unlike parts of the Midwest.
Not even my watermelon costume could set the mood after that, which I say in complete tribute to the filmmaker, who managed to make each minute of his characters' lives so unredeemably miserable that the minute before seems like good times, not unlike living with teenagers.
I am helping my neighbor pack up her garage when I come aross the watermelon costume, which practically screams "date night." My neighbor tries to get me to take a vintage silk kimono instead, but where, exactly, is the imagination in that?
Call me an overachiever, but that is setting the bar pretty low. Anyone can set the mood in a 50-year-old kimono that has been sitting in somebody's garage for a year. Plus, it belonged to her grandmother and that is like catnip to the married man.
"Kimonos are for amateurs," I tell her. "This piece of handcrafted produce, on the other hand, requires some serious game." She responds with some watermelon-themed dirty talk that makes me rethink my assumptions about Midwestern PTA mommies. Also fruit salad.
The more I think about it, the fruit-themed role-playing seems almost too easy. But paired with the bleak Hungarian film about a dead horse and a German philosopher I have chosen for tonight's entertainment, the degree of difficulty may be just about
Photo: The possibilities are seedless.
from the date night archives: The Secret is Pretending to Care
Don’t care who did it
Don’t care what’s wrong
Mommy’s right in the middle
Of a cool new song
I’m an iPod mommy and I’m singing along
Don’t care who did it, don’t care what’s wrong
Did he call you a name? Is she touching your stuff?
Tell someone who cares because I’ve had enough
I’ve got the Snow Patrol in my ear
Mommy’s close by but she’s not really here
She’s been taken away- it's like Prozac in sound
She’s with Foo Fighters now; there’s no family around
Daddy looks up from his plasma t.v.
To suggest I am lacking in mom ability
The house is a mess, the kids haven’t been fed
At least that’s what I think he said
I’m an iPod Mommy
I keep my family on mute
With the volume this loud
They can seem almost cute
So solve your own problems
And pour your own juice
Mommy’s with Tory Amos now
What’s Daddy’s excuse?
I can see their lips moving
But it’s Cold Play I hear
Not now, mommy’s grooving
So run along dear
I’ve got enough decibels to cover all but the worst
I can’t hear what she did or that he did it first
I’m with the Rejects, I’m completely serene
Until I see blood I will not intervene
poetry and parenting by S. Kamikaze
© 2011 P.M. Dunnigan/Suburban Kamikaze
Mr. Kamikaze thinks I am punishing him when I come to bed in my new winter pajamas just because I like to remind him how much more naked I would be if I were still living in the Greater Miami area, where the air smells like Key limes and coconut year round.
It's true I have, on occasion, worn a piece of lingerie over my snow pants to make a point. But this year I believe I have found the perfect compromise. Cozy and crazy sexy.
I won't lie to you. My first reaction, when I saw that the U.S. Supreme Court history and the doorstopper of Constitutional interpretation had been pulled down from the shelves, was a little surge of maternal pride.
I was pretty sure the teenagers were using them as drink coasters. Or possibly dinner plates. And while I don't approve 100 percent of using books for this purpose, it's the kind of thing that would represent real progress in our house.
"Finally," I thought. "They're making an effort."
But, as it turns out, the eighth-grader has been using them to prepare for her role in the upcoming middle school production of Charley's Aunt, in which she plays a proper young English lady at Oxford in 1890.
In the late 19th century, apparently, young women wore legal tomes as hats. While watching television on the couch.