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The Teenagers’ Guide to Pitching Plans to Your Parents

Published December 7, 2016 by April Fox

I love technology.

I mean most of the time, except when it eats my articles and I’m going OMIGOD I’M ON A DEADLINE YOU PIECE OF MECHANICAL GARBAGE HOW COULD YOU EAT MY WORK I HAVE BILLS TO PAY but yeah, most of the time it’s cool, especially when it comes to texting.

I get that I’m old and I’m supposed to hate these newfangled phones that have everyone preoccupied 23.5 hours a day, but if there’s something that can keep me from having to have actual talking conversations with people, I’m all about it. It also streamlines communication, even with people I enjoy talking to, such as my kids.

Texting would be the ideal method for things like making plans while I’m at work and the kids are at school, or for asking quick questions… if it was used to actually share information, which is something my kid seems to have problems with.

Before I go any further, let me say that I have awesome kids. The best, really. Baby girl is in high school now, and she goes where she’s supposed to when she’s supposed to, does reasonably well in school (freshman year sucks), and as far as I know, hasn’t done any of the things I did at that age, that should have gotten me arrested or killed. But. This texting thing. Oy.

Now I am not complaining about how much she talks, because I love our conversations and I love that she shares her life with me, but this is what she sounds like when she comes home from school (with names changed to protect the innocent):

“Oh my god mom. Petunia is so stupid. We were in class and she said that Jim Bob liked Louise but everyone knows he likes Francine and Louise is gay so it doesn’t even matter, but Petunia just likes to start drama with everyone, and so then she was talking and Mr. B was like, “Baby girl, sit down and do your work,” and I was like, “fool, I wasn’t even talking,” I mean I didn’t really say that, but why is he telling me to be quiet and not even saying anything to Petunia? So then I went to English and Mrs. K was like, “Did you do your homework,” and I was like, “Yessssss,” which is stupid because I read that book in like fourth grade and oh my god, it’s so dumb, like why do I have to read it again? And then at lunch Braden took my apple and gave it to Stephanie, and she gave it back, but it was right before we had to go back to class so I didn’t even get to eat it, so now I’m starving. Do we have any pudding? When did you buy Cheetos? What are we having for dinner? I’m going to make some chocolate milk. When are we getting a Christmas tree?”

My point is, she is not afraid of sharing details.

So today she texts me from school, and it’s a very typical exchange, and it always starts like this:

“Can I go to this place with this person?”

Usually I know the place and the person, and it would probably be fine to iron out the details later, but there are two things about that:

One, I am not always available to drive her places and pick her up, and once in a while we actually do things as a family, and I like to make sure our plans don’t conflict.

And two, I know she’s not me but she’s a kid, and as soon as you say yes without knowing the details, you’re in for a world of trouble. For example, had I asked my mom when I was a teenager, “Can I go to the Motley Crue concert next month?” and she said yes without any further information, I would have been halfway to LA in a van with 15 dudes with tattoos and fake leather pants bought out of the back of Metal Edge magazine, on a pay phone going, “But Mommmmmm you said I could go!” So yeah. I need details.

So here’s how it goes:

Can I go to the mall with Louise?

When, and how are you getting there?

Tuesday. Her mom can maybe take us.

Tuesday what time? How would you get home?

Around 4. Could you pick me up?

Maybe. Would you ride the bus home with Louise after school, or what?

No. You need to drive me to Louise’s house.

What time?

Three.

You get out of school at three.

Oh. Three-thirty.

Would I need to pick you up from the mall or from Louise’s house?

I don’t know. 

Can you find out? Louise’s house is 10 minutes away. The mall is 45. 

OK. So can I go?

I don’t even know where or when to pick you up.

Oh. Seven. 

Where?

I don’t know. Could you get me at Petunia’s?

See what I mean? Here’s how the conversation should start:

Can you please take me to Louise’s house around 330 on Tuesday so we can go to the mall, and then pick me up at her house at 7?

That’s an effective pitch. It gives me all the pertinent information up front, and it gives me a lot less time to think about the fact that she hasn’t cleaned her room in six months, and the last time she went to the mall with Louise she got mad because Louise hid in the photo booth with Braden for half an hour while baby girl was stuck in Spencer’s looking at plastic vomit by herself, until she ran into Francine and they went to eat at the food court, where they stayed until she texted me to be picked up… and you can imagine how that went.

 

 

New Book, “Chicken Soup for the Fuck You,” is here. 

Published August 19, 2016 by April Fox

My new book, Chicken Soup for the Fuck You: Inspirations, Observations, and Character Assassinations is now available in print and Kindle format via Amazon

Here’s a little about the book: 

“Chicken Soup for the Fuck You” is spit straight from the hyperactive brain of a lifelong oddball who has, to put it simply, seen some shit. In the process of finding her voice after a decade and a half of quiet, April Fox puts a wry spin on politics, religion, and the weird and wonderful aspects of everyday life, including parenting a herd of eclectic children. In between, there are periods of darkness, and those are reflected here too.

In short, “Chicken Soup for the Fuck You” is a feel-good book for people who hate feel-good books.

April’s work has been described as “Intoxicating… Awesome, inspiring, and resonating all the way.”
“…a huge dose of reality.”

“Enigmatic and thought-provoking, but still touching.”

“…filthy.”



Chicken Soup for the Fuck You is a collection of essays (some previously published here) in line with Jon Stewart’s Naked Pictures of Famous People, interspersed with brief one-liners and a few lines of verse. It runs the gamut from Barbie’s role model status to evangelist Pat Robertson’s readiness to come out of the closet to why kids with autism don’t make the best survey subjects sometimes. One early reader said he was laughing on one page, raging on the next, and on the verge of tears with the one after that; another, before reading, hoped the book came with “a piece of the author’s brain.” Chicken Soup for the Fuck You is exactly that: a slice of my brain, stuffed inside a paperback cover and served straight to you, ready to be enjoyed. 

Have A Very Goopy Christmas, Take Two 

Published December 20, 2015 by April Fox

I posted yesterday about my new blog, Math Makes Me Poop, but apparently I was still suffering from Almost-Christmas-Break Teacher Brain and the link I tried to post didn’t actually work. So let’s try this again: here’s a post from the new blog. I hope you like it. 

Have a Very Goopy Christmas  | Math Makes Me Poop

https://mathmakesmepoop.wordpress.com/2015/12/19/have-a-very-goopy-christmas/

Kids are Weird, Man. 

Published December 19, 2015 by April Fox

Edit: Now with a real, live, working link to the new blog! Sorry about that. 

Some of you might know that when I’m not writing, I’m teaching. This year, I’m working with a brilliant, hilarious, adorable kid I call Little G, and I’ve created a new blog to chronicle some of our adventures. We do a lot of out-of-the-box learning and I’ll be sharing posts about that, along with the things that don’t always go as planned-like you’ll see in the post linked here. 

The blog is geared toward people who are teaching, parenting, or otherwise care for small kids, especially those with some learning, sensory, or social differences. It’s still my voice though, and even if you’re one of those people who turns the hose on kids that wander onto your lawn, you might like it. 

Have a Very Goopy Christmas  | Math Makes Me Poop 

Asheville’s Helpmate Hosts a Vigil to Help End Domestic Violence

Published September 28, 2015 by April Fox

A portion of the royalties from my latest book, Spine, will be used to benefit Helpmate, a local non-profit organization that helps women and their children who are in, escaping, and recovering from domestic violence situations. 
There’s a popular myth that women stay because they love their abusers and think they’ll change. That is certainly true in some cases, but in many, the things that keep women there are far less romantic: fear, threats, financial limitations, a belief that there are no other options. Helpmate works to educate women and the general public about ways to escape dangerous situations, and provides direct links to resources that help ensure the physical and emotional safety of people affected by domestic violence. 
I’m asking my friends and family to please help spread awareness about Helpmate’s annual domestic violence vigil, this Thursday October 1, in downtown Asheville. Please feel free to copy and paste this message along with your post. 
Thank you, loves. 
  

The Always “Like A Girl” Commercial Tackles Gender Stereotypes

Published June 30, 2014 by April Fox

Feminine hygiene products aren’t usually known for being empowering. They serve a purpose, sure, and those of us of the womanly persuasion are certainly grateful that they exist in their modern form, but they’re not exactly thought provoking, beyond “Hmmm, is today going to be a Super day or an Ultra day?” This commercial from Always, though, is a little different. It does make you think. And it might just give a little bit of power back to young women who’ve forgotten what it really means to be a girl.

This video doesn’t really have much to do with tampons or pads. Rather, it shows us a kind of sociological exercise: actors are told to perform certain actions “like a girl,” and the results are a little disheartening. Many of the actors perform the actions in exaggerated, stereotypical ways: weakly flinging a hand when asked to throw like a girl, jogging in place with arms and legs flailing haphazardly when asked to run like a girl. Even the young women actors behaved this way in the first segment. Although they are girls themselves, they acted out these normal everyday activities in ways that made them look like caricatures, exaggerated for comic effect.

The younger actors, who appear to be pre-teens, interpreted the instructions differently. One young girl appears as only a flash of color across the screen as she shows what it is to run like a girl. Another, asked to kick like a girl, jabs her leg fiercely and confidently into the air. They are doing things “like a girl,” the way they do them every day.

Somewhere along the way, it looks like doing things “like a girl” comes to mean doing them weakly and ineffectively. This isn’t going to be the case with all girls, of course. My older daughter, a former soccer star, is a petite young lady who likes wearing pretty sundresses and painting her nails. I’m fairly certain that if you asked her to kick like a girl, you’d be in danger of having your head knocked off your shoulders by a well-placed size seven sandal.

Still, I worry about this with Baby Girl– not so much that she’ll see the way she does things as wrong because she’s a girl, but that she’ll change the way she does them in order to appear more “like a girl.” It goes both ways, sometimes. Right now she’s proud of her strong, muscular legs. She’s a dancer, and it shows. When she plays sports with her brothers, she plays hard. But she’s almost 13, and I worry that she’ll start falling prey to the idea that in order to be more “like a girl” she’ll have to downplay her physical strength, start to dislike her athletic build, create a version of herself that fits the popular idea of woman as the weaker sex. I don’t want her to forget that she is beautiful with her strong legs and mind and shoulders, and then create a new, flimsier version of herself. She is absolutely gorgeous, and her strength and skill are part of what makes her beautiful. Her confidence in her ability radiates. I don’t want her to ever lose that.

I’m probably the least athletic person on the planet. I can’t catch a ball, I’m totally uncoordinated, and when I run, I’m sure I look like the sloppy, disjointed characters portrayed in this video. But that doesn’t mean that I do those things like a girl, it means I do them like a person with absolutely no coordination. It means my strength is somewhere else–just where, I’m still trying to figure out. We need to make sure our girls know that it’s okay to be physically strong, and reassure our boys that not being athletically inclined doesn’t mean that they’re “girly.” We have to make sure that we acknowledge our children’s strengths and weakness without defining them in terms of gender.

With all of the body-shaming that goes on these days–from both sides, skinny and fat–and social media having a greater influence in young women’s lives, we need more messages like this one. It’s okay to be a girl, and to do things “like a girl.” And what that means is just to be the best you can be, no matter what you’re doing.

Barbie: Taking Our Daughters to the Dark Side, One Pink Stiletto Step at a Time

Published February 19, 2014 by April Fox

When I was a kid, playing with Barbie was a given. Little girls played Barbie, little boys played G.I. Joe, and once you all hit about twelve, your moms quit allowing you to play with both of them together because dammit, Barbie’s not a hooker.

But maybe she is.

I’ve heard a surprising number of mothers say they won’t let their daughters play with Barbie because she’s a bad influence and promotes an unrealistic ideal of beauty to young girls. Okay, first of all, your average girl of Barbie-playing age thinks the height of beauty is bright turquoise eyeshadow, a sparkly tank top that looks like it came off the rack at Discount Drag, your grandmother’s old Easter bonnet and a pair of Dora the Explorer slippers. I’m pretty sure Barbie’s color-coordinated outfits are an improvement.

She has long, blonde hair, blue eyes, and a figure that looks like she got her chest stuck in an industrial vacuum for about four years. Yeah, the boobs are a bit much. I admit, after six kids I look at Barbie lying there all perky after, what, fifty-some years? and when my kid isn’t looking, I slam those pointy little plastic suckers in the kitchen drawer a few times, just for spite. But really? Come on. Kids are surrounded by women of all shapes, sizes, colors… do you really think your daughter is going to grow up with a complex because she doesn’t resemble a hunk of plastic? Nobody raises a fuss because they think their kids are going to grow up depressed because they don’t have giant, misshapen heads like Dora. I have four boys and not one of them has ever screamed from the bathroom, aghast because they’re not eunuchs like all those plastic action figures they play with.

The fact is, some women do have lovely figures and long, shiny hair. It doesn’t mean they’re bad people or less worthy of your respect than anyone else. It’s unacceptable to look down on someone because they’re not conventionally attractive, or they’re overweight, or learning delayed. People do it, but it’s not considered something you do in polite company. So why is it okay to belittle the worth of this poor plastic lady? Yes, I’m anthropomorphizing the doll, because-to use a phrase common in the age group that likes to play with her-you started it. When you say your child can’t play with Barbie because she promotes an unrealistic ideal of beauty, you’re telling her that that is what’s considered attractive, and she might as well give it up.

Beauty vs. the Brain

One of the big arguments I hear is “I want to raise my daughter to know that beauty doesn’t matter, and brains do,” or some minor variation thereof. The thing is, I have two girls that happen to have copious amounts of both qualities, and I’m quite sure mine aren’t the only ones. Now, what are you going to say? Are you going to pretend my girls are the only ones with good looks and smarts? Or are you going to–wait for it–tell me that all parents feel that way about their kids? Maybe even get a little defensive and tell me your kids are bright and beautiful too?

Of course they are. They all are. So rather than telling your daughter she has to be one or the other, why not reinforce that not only will she be both, she already is? I don’t mean you should streak her hair and stick her in miniskirts when she’s five. I’m not saying teach her that she has to look like all the little tarts on the teen soap operas. I’m saying let her cultivate her own beauty along with her brains, and appreciate them both. And in doing that, you have to learn to appreciate your own. If you complain constantly about your post-kid belly or your frizzy hair and then turn on Barbie and accuse her of being a fake plastic tramp, you’re the one teaching your child that there’s a narrow definition of beauty-not the doll. Rather than pointing out how unrealistic Barbie’s perfect shiny hair is, point out how pretty it is when the sunlight catches your daughter’s curls on the playground. Quit slamming Barbie’s poor exaggerated breasts in the drawer and take a minute to think about what yours have seen you through.

When she does well on a test, praise her. When she puts on a new dress, tell her she looks pretty. When she scores a goal in her soccer game, be the loudest voice on the sidelines. Celebrate all of her gifts, not just the ones that aren’t obvious at first glance. Allow her to decide who she is-don’t limit her with your own insecurity.

About that Bad Influence Thing

Okay, so Barbie is a bad influence because she’s hot. Let’s look at the reality of this, shall we? First, she’s plastic. Seriously. Not plastic as in manufactured pop star, but actual plastic, injection molded chemical compounds or whatever the heck she’s made out of. It’s not like she’s whispering in your kid’s ear at night, telling her to pray to the goddess Britney Spears and eat nothing but honeydew melon.

As far as her lifestyle, she lives in a nice house (several, if you’ve kept up with the upgrades over the years) and drives a cute little convertible. She takes her sweet fluffy pets with her on vacation in her RV. Yeah, she went through that kind of tacky “Barbie and the Rockers” phase back in the 80’s, but come on, she’s not even fully jointed; it’s not like she could gyrate or anything. And to top all that off, she was with the same guy for her entire life, and if you’ve ever taken Ken’s pants off, you know there wasn’t any hanky-panky going on.

It’s not like she just sat around eating plastic bon-bons, either. Barbie may be a hottie, but she’s no slacker. She’s been a veterinarian, a teacher, a pediatrician and a businesswoman, among other things. If anything, Barbie is the ultimate feminist symbol: she’s gorgeous, wealthy, takes care of herself, has more degrees than South Florida on an August afternoon, and hangs out with a guy who’s been emasculated. Have you seen those stilettos she wears? Man-killers if I ever saw any, am I right? This isn’t some soft little bimbo teaching our girls to pucker up and have dinner on the table when the man walks through the door; this is a renaissance woman, evolving with the times and showing generations of little girls that they can be anything they imagine they can.

*I first wrote this for Yahoo! several years ago. I feel compelled to point that out, so they don’t come along and try to sue me for reprinting my own work or something.

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