My husband, Matthew, could not wait to go to work one morning. The caterwauling, shouts, and war whoops — typical tribal noises of his children — were too much for him. When asked what he wanted to take for breakfast, he replied curtly, “Just give me whatever, so I can get out the door.”
Another day I was the one who couldn’t hack it, couldn’t look the demands of the day in the face. By afternoon I had hurled a hamburger patty on the floor and demanded to know why I had to put up with so much drama. There was yelling, grabbing, crying, fights over blackberries. Blackberries! I eventually retrieved the hamburger, safe in its Ziploc bag, to prepare for my calm child, Ana.
You see, I’ll tell you a secret. God gives every large family that one child, the dependable, even-tempered one, to guard their parents’ sanity. Because he knows; oh, he knows.
As I was recounting my day to my husband that evening, detailing an argument-at-the-swimming-pool scene, the blackberries-and-hamburger incident, a hokey-pokey tragedy of immense proportion, a dog-tried-to-eat-hamster debacle, and a Danny-slap-Ella-in-the-face mockery, I began to giggle, hands pressed into my glasses, releasing the day’s stress with God’s natural remedy.
“It’s bad. It’s…just…sooo bad,” I gasped.
By golly, you have to have a sense of humor in this business or you won’t survive. You’ll crack, and be the one that flew over the cuckoo’s nest. I can’t count the number of times my husband has been in a serious stare-off with one of the kids, boring his displeasure into their craniums, and I’ve had to hide my face and snicker into my arm. Or the many, many times when the level of bad behavior in this house was so ludicrous, so incredibly high that a volcano of naughtiness could have erupted and flooded the neighborhood, and I’ve stood in the middle of my home in a fit of unbelieving laughter. Or that one time when knock-knock jokes started at the dinner table, and the kids all joined in, the go-to punch line of the evening being “apple-lapple-orange juice.” and I burst out in real fits when Matthew cried out at last, “No more knock-knock jokes!” Danny turned to him, sweet as pie, and said, “Papa? Ding-dong.”
My husband thinks the craziness is too much, gets fed up, has to take a break, retreat and plan new tactical maneuvers.
The poor man called one day at lunchtime as I was cleaning a stream of juice off my dining room wall. While I was talking and cleaning, Danny just happened to push his leg through the slats of a dining room chair. His siblings and I attempted to maneuver his leg down or back or any possible way to gently pull it free. With every failed attempt, Danny’s panic and wails of woe escalated, and my cajoling voice increased in pitch. I finally cried into the phone, “I’m going to have to call the Fire Department!”
My brain had momentarily died from an overload of steadily increasing aggravation. When it finally hyperventilated back to life, I grabbed Vaseline and had my son’s leg released in a moment. When I got back on the line, Matthew could barely speak to me; he was so disgusted by the mayhem. I cried, “What are you talking about? This is every day. This is life! That boy has got his elbow stuck in that chair at least a dozen times this week!”
I start singing at my kids when things get too bad, when I start seeing the cuckoo’s nest on the horizon. I sing my frustration, my disappointment, my conditions for peace, my orders to be obeyed right now. Most of my songs are operatic songs of acute lamentation, more tragic than any aria.
The kids know what it means when Mama sings. Not being a qualified opera singer, I don’t care about form or pitch, and it hurts the ears; they’ll do anything to make it stop. Even behave. Even do what I asked them to do 15 minutes ago.
Sometimes it’s so bad around here — so noisy, so theatrical, so tantrum and spat-invested — that I worry about the neighbors and their uninformed opinions. I wish I had a megaphone that I could wedge out a bathroom window to alert them to the situation:
“We’re alright…we’re allriiiight! Listen. Danny — the golden-haired angel — is pitching a ferocious fit in time-out. Howling should die down in about, oh, 20 minutes. I am not beating him, really, though I’m sorely tempted! There’s also a minor scuffle between the older kids. No serious bleeding yet, though! The one keening like an old witch is me, trying to keep them all from leaping off the furniture. But don’t worry! No need to call an ambulance, the police or fire department at this time. Uh…please stand by for further notifications, though. And thank you for your cooperation and your wonderful suspension of judgment!”
School will end soon, and I’ll hear from my kids’ teachers what I hear every year, applied like balm to my soul. It goes something like this:
“Berto/Ana/Ella was such a joy to have in our classroom! He/she was so helpful and respectful. So well-behaved! I knew I never had to worry about him/her. Thank you for all you do to raise such wonderful kids!”
I’ll just nod, grin and say, “That’s so great to hear. You know, I just keep at them, the little…uh, angels. They’re like sugar on marshmallows, you know what I mean? But you can’t let them get away with a thing. Not a blasted thing, the…uh, sweeties. It’s a battle, a constant battle, but so darn rewarding, huh? Yes?”
And I’ll walk away with a skip in my weary step and a twinkle in my eye above the permanent dark circles, resting proudly in the knowledge that they behave beautifully for other people.
And I’ll pray that knowledge gets me through the summer.
— Hillary Ibarra
Hillary Ibarra has had several humor pieces published on Aiming Low and humorwriters.org. She is a mother of four who dreams of playing the banjo, living in Jane Austen’s childhood home and writing for more than spam artists and fifty loyal readers but can’t seem to find them in the laundry. She is the mysterious blogger at No Pens, Pencils, Knives or Scissors. In her spare time she likes to threaten to sell her children to the zoo, and their little dog, too.
(Lowell Christensen’s essay won first place in the annual Robert Benchley Society Humor Writing Competition. He placed third the previous year. Reposted by permission of the author.)
Our son David has attention deficit disorder (ADD). We know this because his teacher Mrs. Franklin hinted at the possibility. She said he has trouble sitting still and staying focused, so she has to keep him in during recess to finish his assignments. She gave us a brochure about how we can help at home. It’s weird that no one had ADD when I went to school. I just made some really nice chocolate chip cookies. I’d like to share some ideas that can help with ADD. They taste better when you use real butter. I also use homemade vanilla. You can order vanilla beans online and then soak them in rum for a few months, and it makes rich, flavorful vanilla to add to cookies. Rum is made from sugar cane, which grows in the Caribbean. Remember when Jack Sparrow and Elizabeth are stranded on the island, and Elizabeth sets the rum on fire? That’s a great scene. My favorite subject in school was always recess. I kept telling that to Mrs. Franklin. I like to use milk chocolate chips in cookies instead of semisweet. It says we need to make a plan to help our son set aside a specific time to do his homework. We made a plan. I think it’s in the billiards room. My brother Vaughn is coming to visit tomorrow. He’s a computer scientist like me. I also like rum raisin ice cream, although recently I’ve been enjoying toffee. They make mint toffee in England, and it’s worth the plane fare over just to get some. There’s a little candy store on Bloomsbury Way near the British Museum where I get the stuff. It’s wonderful! I can’t find the plan. Maybe I left it in the Mercedes. My son finished his homework, and I’m supposed to make sure he gets it into his backpack so he can turn it in tomorrow if he remembers. The cat is making weird sounds. The teacher says we need to set up a reward system for when he remembers. According to the Journal of Wildlife Management, cats are the urban coyotes’ most common meal, making up 42 percent of their diet. So why do we have a Journal of Wildlife Management if we can’t manage wildlife sufficiently to prevent Puff from going poof like this? It says we should use memory cards, dice or dominoes to make numbers fun. I tried that, but David would rather show me some tricks using Fibonacci numbers or work on computer code. Kids need to take breaks every 10 or 20 minutes unless they’re too absorbed in writing code. The cats being eaten are in Tucson. If you’re a coyote living in the wilderness far away from Tucson (and chances are that you’re not), the law of supply and demand tells you that cat is a luxury you will seldom enjoy without paying a premium. I hope this helps. I need a break now.
— Lowell T. Christensen
Lowell T. Christensen is the author of The One-Minute Zillionaire — Achieve Wealth, Fame, and Success in an Instant, Give or Take a Hundred Years. He has kept himself busily occupied as a writer, engineer, rocket scientist, musician, backhoe operator, outdoorsman, chef, rancher and international traveler. His previous books include Coping with Texas and Other Staggering Feets and Beginning Farming and What Makes a Sheep Tick, and he has written magazine articles that feature presidential elections through the theme of Shakespearean plays. He also writes articles for his local newspaper about public education, cheesy television shows, Scout camp misadventures and the county library’s resemblance to a dead rhinoceros. With a degree in chemical engineering, he has worked for DuPont and the University of California.
1. Pretend you’re not crazy.
My interview took place on the third floor. When I walked in, I immediately looked for the stairs because I have this “fear of entrapment” thing. (Different than claustrophobia, I learned from my friend Lance when I told him about the time I tried to pry open some elevator doors with my fingernails after being “stuck” for about 12 seconds.) The place I had my interview wasn’t a large building, so I was perplexed when I couldn’t find the staircase. I decided to ask one of the ground floor people.
Me: Hi, where are the stairs?
Lady: Hmmm, I don’t know. Joe, do you know where the stairs are?
Me (Incredulous): What are you guys going to do in an earthquake?
Joe: I never go on the other floors.
Lady to a man behind me: Aaron, do you know where the stairs are?
Me: Hey, are you the Aaron I’m meeting at eleven?
Aaron (Looking scared of the crazy person who was asking everyone what they would do in an earthquake): Yes.
I should have just sucked it up and taken the elevator in the first place. Which leads me to my second tip.
2. Your interview starts the second you enter the building.
That was one awkward elevator ride with Aaron. I should have had my game face on the moment I entered the building. Plus, I didn’t get to do my Wonder Woman pose in the stairwell. (See the TED Talk on this subject.)
3. Pretend you like yourself.
Aaron and Abby interviewed me. At least let’s pretend those are their names. And let’s pretend they worked for a local radio station.
Aaron: And your creative writing skills?
Me: I think they’re good.
Abby (Trying to help me out): Your resume says you’ve won two writing contests?
Me: Oh. Yeah.
Really. I said, “Oh. Yeah.” And then nothing else. Did I even want this job? Also, when they asked what I knew about their station I said, “Not much.” NOT MUCH?! I had read every word on their website, and I know more about stations in general than 99 percent of the population. Do I hate myself?! Well, yes, but this was the day to pretend otherwise!
4. Pretend you like other people.
“What’s your biggest pet peeve about other people?” They asked.
“PEOPLE WHO SOUND 100 PERCENT SURE ABOUT SOMETHING, AND THEN YOU FIND OUT THEY WERE WRONG! WHY CAN’T THEY JUST SAY “I’M NOT SURE BUT I THINK…”
Great time to come alive. After all my short, hesitant answers, this is what I sound passionate about? I could have at least told them that it’s only third on my pet peeve list, after gory commercials during family friendly TV shows, and leaf blowers.
On the way out, I found the stairs. I took them down and came out an ugly little door not in the lobby, but outside. I tried to open it again, out of curiosity. It was locked. Only for emergencies, I guess.
I didn’t get the job. My only hope now is that this story can benefit others. Hide your phobias, pretend to like yourself and others, and be ready to meet your interviewer on the first floor. I’m not going to lie. It was kind of my dream job. But at least I won’t have to take an elevator every day.
— Marie Millard
Marie Millard is the author of the young adult novella Anaheim Tales. She belongs to Redwood Writers, the largest branch of the California Writers Club, and she blogs at wereyoualwaysthisfunny.wordpress.com.
I do windows. Unfortunately, I do them every couple of years, which gives the windows plenty of time to get dirty, and even then it is clear that I don’t do them very well because I have always considered the job a pane in the glass.
This year, I let a professional end my losing streak, which was, of course, in each window.
Enter (through the front door, not a window) David Wright, owner of Mr. Wright’s Window Cleaning of Centerport, N.Y.
Not to be confused with the New York Mets slugger of the same name (“He doesn’t do windows as well as I do, but I can’t hit a baseball as well as he can”), Wright was a lawyer, a financial analyst and a monk before devoting his life to letting the sunshine into the lives of others by cleaning their windows.
“I want to make people happy,” Wright said. “And a lot of people are happy when their windows are clean.”
I knew I would be happy if my windows were clean because it also would give happiness to my wife, Sue, who had been after me for the past two years to use Windex and a roll of paper towels, not to mention a little elbow grease, to clean the windows.
“Elbow grease is a prime source of smudges and streaks,” I told her.
Sue wasn’t buying it, which is why I ended up buying a reasonably priced cleaning package (10 windows for $49) so she could finally meet Mr. Wright.
“I’m David,” he said, introducing himself to Sue. “I’m here to clean your windows.”
Sue swooned. “Thank you,” she replied. “They could use it.”
Wright started on the outside, where he told me that his wife, Joanne, likes the way he does the windows at their house but wishes he would do them more often.
“I’m working seven days a week,” he said, adding that he started the business last year and will be joined next year by his son Collier, a U.S. Army Ranger who is serving in Iraq. “So I don’t have the time to do our windows too often.”
“That excuse isn’t going to work for me,” I said.
“You’ll have to think of another one,” Wright said as he used a water-fed pole with a nylon brush to clean the outside of the windows in the living, dining and family rooms.
“Nylon?” I said. “Theoretically, I could clean windows with my wife’s stockings.”
“Theoretically,” Wright responded, “it wouldn’t be a good idea.”
What would be a good idea, he added, is to use resin instead of soap. “I’m using it now,” he said. “It’s much more effective.”
As he worked, Wright, who is 53, told me that he started out as a lawyer (“If you go to the bathroom, bring work with you so you can bill your clients”), then got into financial services before giving up all his material possessions and spending time in a monastery, where he decided he wanted to make people happy for a living.
“I am doing my second-favorite thing,” he said, referring to cleaning windows, which allows him to meditate while he works.
“What’s your favorite thing?” I inquired.
“I’d like to be a professional poker player,” Wright said. “But my wife doesn’t think it’s a safe bet.”
When we moved inside, Wright said that customers always kid him about having the same name as the Mets star. “They’ll say, ‘When you finish with my windows, are you going to Citi Field?’ Maybe I should give them my autograph,” said Wright, who cleaned the windows with a long razor blade encased in a scraper. He also used a squeegee and a scrubber made of lamb’s wool and AstroTurf.
“And I use Dawn,” he said.
“Who’s she?” I asked.
“The person you can get to clean your windows,” said Wright, though he really meant the dishwashing liquid. “Don’t tell your wife, but most windows are dirtier on the inside than they are on the outside.”
I didn’t tell Sue, who was nonetheless amazed when Wright was finished.
“Wow!” she squealed. “These windows have never been so clean.”
“The trick,” Wright said, “is to keep them that way.”
“I’ll do my part,” I said. “In two years, I’ll give you another call.”
— Jerry Zezima
Jerry Zezima, who served on the faculty at the 2010 EBWW, writes a humor column for the Stamford Advocate that is nationally syndicated through the McClatchy-Tribune News Service and regularly appears in the Huffington Post. He’s written two books, Leave it to Boomer and The Empty Nest Chronicles. He has won five humor-writing awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and was named EBWW’s Humor Writer of the Month twice. He is currently president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.
To the west, a formerly sleepy supermarket underwent a total makeover that included an expanded liquor department. As every schoolboy knows, in order to celebrate an upgrade from Bud Light in suitcase packages to snooty microbrews and wine prices that start at $12 a bottle, it is essential that one hire a harpist.
I’m not talking about a blues harpist, like Little Walter Jacobs. I mean a classical harpist like — well, actually, I can’t name one.
With the delicate pluckings of a classical harpist in the background, it is possible to charge a $3 per bottle premium over prices your customers could find a mile or so down the road, at the liquor store where they display the stuff in the original cardboard boxes. It’s so much more civilized with Pachelbel’s Canon playing while you shop.
At the other end of town, the natural food store decided to add a mime to — well, to add whatever touch of high culture it is that having a mime around supplies. An element of whimsy? A note of Francophilia? A sense of life’s absurdity? I can honestly say that, after extensive consideration of the question, I just don’t know.
The natural food store is noteworthy for its counter-intuitive hyper-restrictive policy on accepting recyclable bottles and cans. You would think that a natural food store would be at the forefront — nay the barricades — of the battle to save the earth by paying customers a nickel to turn in their soft drink containers.
You would be wrong. From the automated machines outside that say “Non-participating container” when you try to feed them a raspberry-seltzer bottle you bought inside the store, to the manual redemption option inside, which requires interaction with a human being who would rather be writing the Great American Novel or at least a chapbook of sestinas, the place appears to take the position that recycling is a plot masterminded by a vast, right-wing conspiracy, which they are resisting on moral grounds. Like Lillian Hellman refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee.
Which brings me to the mime. He was standing there, going through his routines — trapped in a box, fighting a gale-force hurricane, etc. — as I rounded the corner looking for the granola. There was no one else around to help me. I don’t shop there that often, but my wife insisted that I get Sunday night dinner there, instead of at the pathetically unenlightened, nitrate/nitrite-laden place where I like to shop, because of the lack of harpists and mimes in their aisles.
So I asked the guy, “Can you tell me where the granola is?” He gave me that startled fawn look that mimes adopt when they hear an imaginary sound.
“Cereal?” I asked, going for the generic term if I couldn’t get through to him with the specific.
If it had been me beneath that whiteface, I would have just said “Aisle 3.″ But would that have been as aesthetically pleasing as pretending to eat imaginary cereal from an imaginary bowl? You’re right — not as good.
Anyway, I suffered through the whole routine, including imaginary milk and imaginary spoon. Bottom line, after he was done, he pointed to his left and held up three fingers. Thanks, you dingbat.
And so, if you want to end your weekend on a low note, I have a suggestion. Go shopping at some place that’s trying to position itself as the shopping option of choice for upscale folks who prefer their chicken free-range, and their coffee free-trade.
And ask a mime.
— Con Chapman
Con Chapman is a Boston-area writer whose works include The Year of the Gerbil, a history of the 1978 Yankees-Red Sox pennant race, 10 published plays and two novels, Making Partner and CannaCorn (Joshua Tree Publishing). His articles and humor have appeared in magazines and newspapers including The Atlantic Monthly, The Boston Globe and The Christian Science Monitor.
I was looking through some old flash drives today and found this pitch letter I wrote to an editor of some magazine way back in February 2009. I figured I’d share it in honor of everybody who has ever wanted to poke out their eyes from living like a Hobbit in a small Manhattan apartment (or anywhere else in the world).
I adore my boyfriend but lately I want to stick a pencil in his retina. Not just because he leaves his size 12 shoes in our size-10 hallway but more because I have nowhere else to put them. We live in an almost 400-square foot apartment in mid-town Manhattan. I’ve pared my belongings down to a sock, a toothbrush and a fork. He chose his X-Box over his winter coat. Our bed lives in the wall. We keep our rollerblades in the kitchen cupboard — there was a pebble in my Frito Lay bag the other day. It was the same day I made him stand in the hallway for 20 minutes because his onion breath was giving me heartburn. We’re very close. Literally.
Ikea provides millions of solutions for fitting shoes and hair products into spaces where the only hope for privacy is sticking your head out the window — but can we find room for a healthy, loving relationship? Like so many young couples struggling to survive through these tough economic times and living in the City that Never Sleeps, you can’t help but worry if your relationship is getting just as squashed as your favorite Louis Vuitton. I’ve got an expert ready to sit with me and give her best advice on how to make relationships work in even the smallest spaces.
Like Sinatra once belted so optimistically, “if we can make it here, we can make it anywhere.” He must have lived in a loft. Alone.
Here are a couple of things you may be wondering after reading that:
1. My “boyfriend” is now my husband. (Can you believe we actually got married after that? Love really is dumb.)
2. I have no idea who I was referring to when I said I have an “expert ready to sit with me.” I’m sure I was planning on using that high-pitched voice I save for solicitors.
3. Who is Kim? No clue. But I know she never called. Maybe she was afraid I would stick my pencil in her retina.
4. Yes, we live in a bigger place now. But we also have a baby so I had to say goodbye to my sock, toothbrush and fork and hello to a whole bunch of baby crap I’m still not sure how to use.
5. Yes! We really did get married after that! I know. He can’t believe it either.
— Diana Davis
Diana Davis is a writer who started as a baker who didn’t bake, a dental assistant to the dental assistant and a shoe saleswoman who gagged around feet. Since then, she’s written all kinds of stuff for all kinds of companies in all kinds of offices. She’s even written newspaper ads for car dealers (some of her best work has probably lined your birdcage). If you woke up one day covered in baby poop with one shaved leg, knee-deep in your husband’s dirty drawers and thought, “Wow, that must have been one hell of a roofie,” then her blog, The Spew, just might be for you. She’s been featured on BonBon Break, BluntMOMS and HumorOutcasts. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter and living in Jersey (stop judging).
(This piece originally appeared on absrdcomedy.com. Reposted by permission of author Paul Lander.)
1. Hey, Facebook, stop asking if I’m ‘friends’ with Beyoncé, Salma Hayak and Jennifer Lawrence. If I was, you think I’d spend this much time here?
2. Hey, Facebook, stop putting up the ads that people can search for anyone’s arrest records. I’m not saying this for me, but for a friend.
3. Hey, Facebook, every time you make an unnecessary change, the terrorists win.
4. Hey, Facebook, stop with the Metamucil ads. It’s not the kind of getting my sh** together that I need.
5. Hey, Facebook, stop showing the 15-minute retirement plan ad post. For most of us, that’s the amount of time we’ll actually get to be in retirement.
6. Hey, Facebook, that guy in the Medic Alert sponsored post has fallen and he can’t get up… Do something!
7. Hey, Facebook, thanks for thinking I might be friends with Martin Scorsese, but I believe those of us who know him call him Marty…
8. Hey, Facebook, stop showing the ad to learn Spanish like that’ll give me a shot with the Hot Latina in ad. Her pointing and laughing at me is the same in any language.
9. Hey, Facebook, thanks for the ‘Introducing the Limited Edition, Asteroid Dusted, William Shatner Timepiece by Egard Watch’ post. Yeah, I’m sure it’s a fine quality timepiece, ‘cuz Shatner would never whore himself for money.
10. Hey, Facebook, thanks for post ‘suffer from Schizophrenia? Earn up to $4,850.’ I bet people who also have multiple personality disorder can earn two to three times that.
11. Hey, Facebook, thanks for the post to become a ‘Substance Abuse Counselor.’ If you were so smart, you’d know today I needed a counselor to help me find substances to abuse.
12. Hey, Facebook, who does someone have to poke around here to get some customer service?
— Paul Lander
Paul Lander is not sure which he is proudest of — winning the Nobel Peace Prize or sending Sudanese peace activist, Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim, to accept it on his behalf, bringing to light the plight of central Africa’s indigenous people. In his non-daydreaming hours, Paul has worked as a writer and/or producer for shows on ABC, NBC, Showtime, The Disney Channel, ABC Family, VH1, LOGO and Lifetime. In addition, he’s written standup material that’s been performed on “Leno,” “Letterman,” “Conan” and “Last Comic Standing.” His humor pieces have appeared in McSweeney‘s, The New Yorker, Santa Fe Writers Project Journal, Humor Times, The Higgs Weldon and Hobo Pancake. He was named the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop’s “Humor Writer of the Month” in April 2015.
It’s a great “field trip” to teach children about their roots, and it may be cathartic for you as well. I have six kids and decided to show each of them the apartment or house where they spent their childhood days. We were able to recapture a lot of nostalgia, get good photos, and even release some emotional baggage from visiting our environments of yesteryear. So would you dare go back?? I say yes!
8 tips on implementing this unusual endeavor
1. Mystery and adventure: Approach this in an impromptu fashion. Don’t tell children in advance where you’re going and why. It could lead to disappointment if the new owners aren’t home, or worse, uncooperative. The house could be torn down or surrounded with one of those charming huge termite tents. I made the mistake of enticing my 6-year-old son with viewing his old bedroom and when the new owners refused, he pounded on the door shouting, “Let me in or I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house down.”
2. Be reassuring! When you ring the bell of your old home, remember everything is familiar to you, but you’re complete strangers to the people answering the door! Set the new owner’s mind at ease that you’re not a realtor or a magazine solicitor. Say something like, “Oh look, Darling, there’s the same threshold you carried me over after our wedding, you tiger!” Be prepared for them to mentally calculate how much you weigh and scrutinize the size of your husband’s arms. Also, upon departing, resist the urge to place an “Open House” sign on their lawn.
3. Offer evidence. Say something very specific that will prove you really lived there. In the case of the home where I was pregnant with twins, we had written a little term of endearment on the floor tile where my water broke. “Little Fishies Started Here!” When I marched the current residents over to the exact spot to show them this cute piece of trivia, they had constructed an aquarium on top of it. Hmmm. I shudder to think what they would’ve built had we scrawled, “Conception took place here.”
4. Stay a short time. You’re not arriving with your wedding china and recreating a family dinner. Ten minutes is the maximum you should stay if they’re willing to give you a brief tour.
5. Don’t be nosy. It’s not a good idea to ask if your neighbor across the street ever got that much-needed nose job. And for goodness sake, don’t critique their decorating skills. The last thing they’ll want to hear is that you can’t believe they put their bed against the same wall you used to keep the diaper pail.
6. No bad news. Try not to walk through their kitchen reminiscing about the time little Sarah choked on a chicken bone. Or confess your dog peed all over the stairs. One time I was thrown out because I took a little creative license (from the “Poltergeist” movie) and announced the home was built on top of old Indian burial grounds. Sheesh. No sense of humor.
7. Don’t get emotional. If you’re prone to sentimentality when you look through old photos or watch home movies, prepare yourself in advance. I learned the hard way when we visited the home my beloved architect father designed for us. I burst into tears as soon as I saw the lovely stained glass windows in my bedroom had been replaced with bricks, the pink walls were painted gray and my white shag carpeting turned into concrete. The only thing missing was a hole in the ground for a toilet and it could’ve been Cellblock 9.
8. Leave on a high note. Thank them profusely for their hospitality and give them a joyful parting tidbit like, “We hope you’ll have many happy occasions here just like our Christmas family reunions!” Clamp your hand over your kid’s mouth if he starts to say things like “Yeah, and Santa Clause NEVER delivers the good toys that need assembly to this house. And the tooth fairy always leaves “IOU” notes under the pillow!” Simply say, “Gee, it’s wonderful how nicely all the blood stains came out of the carpeting!” and whisk your brood back to your new home.
— Stephanie D. Lewis
Stephanie D. Lewis regularly contributes to Huffington Post as well as pens a humor blog, “Once Upon Your Prime” where she tries to “Live Happily Ever Laughter.” She also writes an ongoing “Female Fun” column for North County Woman Magazine called Razzle, Dazzle & Frazzle and was named one of 2014 Voices of the Year by BlogHer. Her 2008 book, Lullabies & Alibis, is the tale of marriage, motherhood, mistakes and madness. As a single mother of six, she knows a lot about the madness. She’s supervised potty training and driver’s training simultaneously. Too many accidents. A live-in housekeeper? Nah, she’ll take a live-in psychotherapist.