An Open Letter To My Recent Dance Partners

Dear 7th grade boys who had to dance with me at cotillion last week,

I had no idea that, for the first time in cotillion history, there would be a shortage of girls at the dance.

I tried valiantly to spare you the trauma of dancing with me, cheerfully recruiting other chaperones to be stand ins for the absent 13-year-old girls. But then the lady with the microphone declared an “all hands on deck” dancing emergency. I had no choice but to obey — she scared me.

I know the other moms were wearing dresses and heels, but since I thought I’d be sitting behind the registration table all night, I went with sensible shoes, black pants and a jacket. If you were into fashion, you might have recognized that it was a seriously kickass Rag and Bone jacket that I scored at the Nordstrom anniversary sale, but I’m sure you just felt like you were box stepping with Hillary Clinton. Sorry about that.

I’m also sorry for the sweaty palms (mine) and the stepped on toes (yours). I never took cotillion in middle school and I’ve had the same dance partner for 24 years. Plus, he’s a lot taller than you are.

I also want to take this opportunity to ask one kid in particular to forgive me for shouting, “nailed it!” and offering a high five after we successfully navigated a tricky move. I thought it would be funny and break the tension. Your bright red face let me know I misjudged the moment.

Despite the weirdness, all of you were good-natured and so darn cute. I’ve never seen a more earnest one-two-cha-cha-cha in my life.

You survived. And not only did you survive, I hope you learned something from our missteps: everyone is still carrying around a small part of their 13-year-old selves with them, no matter their age.

During your teenage years, you begin to realize that your parents don’t know everything. I’d like to add to that idea. Your parents also probably still have an insecurity or two as well as a desire to feel accepted and liked, just like when they were in 7th grade.

These feelings are universal. Adults might be better at hiding them behind the emotional armor that builds up after many years, but our soft middles are still there, both literally and metaphorically.

I’m not trying to bum you out. A lot of it gets easier as you get older. Eventually you find a tribe of friends who love you for exactly who you are. There’s less posturing, more acceptance. You find your rhythm and begin to lead confidently.

The journey, however, is a long one. You’ll inevitably face embarrassing moments but you’ll survive, and maybe even laugh about them someday. Just remember to go easy on yourself and everyone else you meet along the way, because we’re all doing this awkward waltz together.

Thanks for the dance,
~Mrs D

Ho Ho Huh?

IMG_8346So Starbucks has found itself in the middle of a brouhaha (more like a brew-ha-ha, amirite?) over its austere red ombre cups for the holidays. Internet outrage abounds. Not only are some people offended by the lack of vaguely Christmas-y doodles on the new cups, but other people are offended by the fact that people are offended.

And even though I think this news has run its course, Donald Trump — arbiter of all that is rational and compassionate – is weighing in, so I can’t let it go. Trump suggested boycotting Starbucks. Good luck with that. He also promised that if elected, everyone will be saying “Merry Christmas” again. Which begs the question that I shout at the TV to Trump and all other politicians again and again: how exactly are you going to do that?

Ok, here’s the thing. If today is one of the 364 days of the year that is not your birthday, I won’t walk up to you and say happy birthday. Similarly, if you don’t celebrate Christmas, I won’t wish you a Merry Christmas. If I don’t know you well enough to have insight as to what you celebrate in December but want to wish you well nonetheless, I’m going with happy holidays. That just seems to make sense, right?

Starbucks chose a simple red cup to acknowledge the upcoming holidays. This should not impact anyone’s holidays. I think the bigger question needs to be why are corporations so deeply involved in our families’ celebrations in the first place?

Just as I don’t need a pumpkin spice latte to let me know it’s fall, I don’t need a decorated cup to let me know the holidays are coming. Nor do I need Lexus suggesting that a luxury sedan wrapped in a big red bow is a reasonable gift this time of year. Instead of worrying about whether or not companies use the word “Christmas,” why don’t we push back against their efforts to whip us all into a gift buying frenzy in the first place?

We consistently say the holidays aren’t about the gifts, they’re about people – family, friends and those in need. Therefore, the most important thing to be spending this season is time. Time with people we love. Time helping others. Time cultivating gratitude. This isn’t news. We all know this. I’ve even written about it before (although in a much more profane way) in this post.

But it takes blinders, earplugs and an iron will not to succumb to the message in the media. I’m glad Starbucks’ cupgate happened in early November so I have a head start in thinking about what’s truly important this season and how my family will celebrate. I simply want time with them. Maybe even at a Starbucks, sipping hot chocolate out of a plain red cup.

Happy holidays, may you spend wisely this year.

I’m an ASH

My name is Jennifer and I’m an ASH: awkward social hugger.

I’m guessing a few of you out there are ASHes too. We’re pretty good at spotting each other in a crowd, often giving poorly timed high fives and age-inappropriate fist bumps; our own little band of outsiders avoiding hugs in an overly touchy world.

Don’t get me wrong. I love hugs. But you need to fall into one of two general categories before I give up the goods. Either 1) I gave birth to you, am married to you or we’re somehow related, or 2) you’re a close friend who is celebrating something wonderful, mourning something awful or is departing somewhere far-flung.

In most other instances, I’m pretty sure “hi” or “bye” coupled with a casual wave will suffice. And yet, people insist on squeezing me, uncomfortably mushing our squishy parts together and stepping on my toes. I can’t tell you how many enthusiastic folks I’ve accidentally punched in the stomach by offering a handshake at the exact moment they’re coming in for a bear hug. Total ASH move.

As I see it, I have two choices. I can continue avoiding hugs by using barely plausible excuses such as, “better keep your distance, I think I’m coming down with something,” or I can learn to embrace the embrace.

The best way out is always through, says sage Robert Frost. So this month, instead of hanging back and debating if I’m in a situation that warrants a hug, I’m just going for it. Every single time. Like I’m notorious hugger Richard Simmons working the crowd at a Sweatin’ to the Oldies convention. Side note: will someone please buy me this for Christmas?

But I’m only devoting the month of November to operation ASH-no-more. We’ll see how it goes and then re-evaluate. That gives you 26 days to come at me, arms outstretched. I might cringe, but I’ll be ready for you.