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Saturday, September 24, 2005

wanna be sedated

Comfy chaotic teen sex

Finally free of the Olsen/Peddy shenanigans.

Quel relief, although I still have to pick up a garish poster for my Wall of Shame. I shall have the porter's child purloin me one during his nocturnal prowlings.

This left me free to keep my appointment at the Eagle Harbor book emporium for Blakey et co's discussion of happily busy teen seduction and how to achieve work-life balance and embrace imperfection.

Wriggling out of my business dinner was easier than expected, so off I trundled with a half hour to spare to sit and read the books before my fellow audience assembled. For a topic like this, Bainbridge is more than capable of rolling out the big guns.

Nancy Blakey was the big pull of the evening and has received killer publicity in the Review (keyword in 'nancy') with an extract of what, as far as I could see, was the only bit I needed to read. Of course, one was really there in case the hussey daughter turned up and we could grill her for *her* side of the story.

The subtitle to Sedated is '30 Writers on Parenting Teenagers' and I was beginning to wish la Principessa Buskina  had come along, not just as proof of my own purple heart badge of courage bona fides , but to ward off the nods and smiles of approval from the swelling throng as they spotted my reading.

Bainbridge is particularly good at this kind of gathering but you have to be ready with your 'committed' expression and make all sorts of 'acknowledging' signs and sounds to ones fellow other enlightened types. Of course, a lone bloke with the Blakey book and a daughtered-out expression is a sitting duck so I kept my head down and enjoyed the other chapters.

It really is a very distinguished collection - Quindlen, Glick, Joyce Maynard, Erdrich, Dave Barry - and an absolutely corker of a 'Teenage Owner's Manual' by W. Bruce Cameron that more than justifies the paltry $16 price.

Also good is Nina Gaby on "The Thong Question" and I'll have great fun enlisting its aid when I raise the subject with Her Spitfieriness. Most reference sources I quote in our "discussions" are so middle-aged and off-beam that all I get is rolled eyes and long-suffering nods. I suspect that skilled citing of the Gaby will produce narrow-eyed glares of "Not fair" and yelps of indignation as if I'd peeked in her diary. (Actually, I don't think she has a diary.

Whereas her elder sister poured her goodness and sensitivity into journals, this one reserves her genius for texting, I-Messaging and mall Life.

In fact, I *know* there isn't a diary because it would have been left carelessly around, its 3-lined soul-searching entry open for all to see: "Got this diary I have to write stuff in. Don't know what I'm supposed to say. Phone. BBL." And that would be it.

7:20 pm and still thin audience. I cannot resist looking around for anyone I know which of course lands me in eye-contact with 'together' looking types who bob sensibly coiffed heads and exchange secretive smiles. Too many notebooks in evidence, clearly harpie fellow blogistas. Also, clusters of sharp-chinned soccer-mom types, exchanging sotto voce sensible banter, eyes blazing with good works and unwavering intentions for their young.

I decide I am sitting too near the front and make to leave when a distractingly carolyn harvey attractive lady arrives and also starts to settle near the front. I am completely distracted and am staring when she looks up and gives me a demure smile that kicks the whole evening into a major key. I wonder how I'll get away with feigning interest in the speakers if I'm constantly sneaking sideways glances at this exquisite creature. She saves me further pondering by choosing a chair *right* to the front. She is one of the speakers.

In fact, Carolyn Harvey is done no justice here by my fotos, nor can mere prose convey what a tremendously likeable and articulate double-act she makes with the equally lively Beth Herrild. C Harvey

From the get-go, I understood *exactly* what they're advocating in Comfortable Chaos, choosing a life that suits oneself and letting a little guilt-free chaos reign. And I know exactly who they mean by those brow-moppers who totter around, vying with each other for title of Most Overwhelmed.

Make "Happily busy" your new watchword - go forth and spread the Harvey-Herrild gospel.

Both ladies - total charmers, Beth Herrild neither of them from the ranks of those terrifyingly organized busy-bodies who then put it all into writing to cower the rest of us.


Indeed, the distracting Mrs Harvey turns out to be a former Human Resources suprema (for Boeing, to boot) which is a jolt to my prejudices against all the HR dolts who've blighted my life over the years and in whom I've glimpsed neither humaneness nor resourcefulness.

Lord knows what I would have done with a Carolyn H on the staff: read HR manuals, I suppose, and come up with "issues" I could take to her and sit gazing in rapt admiration across her spotless desk.

Anyway, tonight I'm gazing from the front row and thoroughly enjoying the Carolyn-Beth duet as they joke and defer to each and share the good lines and generally talk a lot of sense.c and b

Lovely tho' the authors are, the book isn't really for me, a man incapable of taking on anything overwhelming or requiring the slightest effort. First sign of overload or untidiness and I simply perform a swift volte face  and make for the pub where they know how to keep a man's life simple and focused on the next round.

But there are a number of excellent ice-breaker bonding trick I've already introduced round the Busker hearth, such as 'Bummers and Braggarts' and 'Two Truths and a Lie' - stuff that went wrong countered by stuff that went right, and the truth/lie game is self-explained. Bags of fun.

nancy blakeyThen the act we've all been waiting for, Nancy Blakey, and she has, indeed, brought her daughter.

I instantly recognize Mrs Blakey from having noticed her around town - as who could not, with her striking good looks and regal carriage?.

Of all the distinguished entries, I'd found the 'Sex Education' of her first-born the least easy to 'relate' to in terms of either vocabulary or emotion. Entirely a repressed Brit thing, and I must find some skilled person - a daughter, perhaps - to translate.

Even the Review extract had me debating the purchase of the book, including as it did the grim revelation that the pal who tipped mother Blakey off to the idea that 16-yr-old Jenna just might be having it off is "one hip and happening mama".

And I'm *still* not convinced by the words she used when breaking the news to her splendidly phlegmatic husband.

Even the scene setting:

"I felt the inner gate that edits thoughts before they issue from my mouth bust open and swing wildly on its hinges. I howled, I screamed. I wept." Then there's a bit about about primal storm spewing.

She runs sobbing from the room, slamming all doors, but when she reaches calmly shaving hubby, her primal stormy unhinged spewing is surprisingly clinical and controlled, as in "Greg, Jenna is sexually active."

One expects slightly more barnyard language.

Anyway, as I say, all was forgiven by the appearance of the brazen young thing herself, a totally captivating young lady of poise and humor who explained that, having been busted by the Review piece and any remaining reputation in tatters, she decided there was nothing to lose but to back mama on her promo appearance.

ms blakeyGood thing, too, because she carried the night with her dazzling smile and odd mouthy lisp - probably the current fashion on the West Coast but no matter: the clever thing is off to Oxford (gadzooks) from where she'll return with a 'prawper' accent sufficient to drive mama into the throes of the next lucrative tome.

I particularly liked the way Jenna played foil for her hip 'n' happening mom - even teasing her over the importance placed on the magic age of 18 before indulging in you-know-what.

Ms Blakey has a shrewd head on her shoulders - rather an appealing one, in fact - and deftly fielded questions from the audience, including one probe into whether the two of them had ever discussed whether she actually *enjoyed* the dread act that had sent mom into such banshee mode. (They had not. Boo hiss, tease).

Something that caught my attention was Nancy's half mockery of herself as a lecturer who, presumably, is meant to be immune to spewing and ranting at news of daughter making the two-backed beast.

I see no contradiction: those are *exactly* the type whose emotional quiver so often lacks the necessary flights *and* who react worst to such situations.


A propos of nowt, this brings to mind my own *un*-repressed colonial teens in Hong Kong where it seemed to be conventional wisdom among European parents that American mothers were the bane of laddish advances on their demure offsprings' virtue.

This was because they were believed to read all the right books and - most terrifying of all - were not afraid to engage young persons in conversation, a trait deemed to be terrifying to brutish would-be seducers.

Quite the opposite, I found.

Once one latched onto certain key tricks, des mères Americaines were push-overs.

  • As Nancy rightly points out, the very un-British practice of eye contact.
  • Standing for ones elders. Nay, standing for the daughter .
  • Shaking hands, of course, and discreet "Mr." and "Mrs"-ing.
  • Oh, and car etiquette. Vital. Holding the sportscar door open for the girl once one had finally dispensed with boring formalities and could finally speed away to the groping and tussling.
    • "I mean, c'mahn, Marjorie - he actually held the door open for Debs. What's the worst a guy like that's gonna get up to?"
  • Give detail: What are our plans? Well, first we need to fill up with petrol. It's really not fair driving around on Dad's dollar. Then I thought we'd look in on the Mardens and take some lunch off them at the barbecue. After that, check out the action on Big Wave Bay. The Macgregors have their boat anchored there and we might get in some water-skiing."

Far more threatening was a certain breed of British mother lioness whose only reading was 'Tatler' and 'Country Life' and who hadn't the faintest idea or interest in wasting breath on the young.

"Tell me, Christopher, why do I feel justified in not trusting you with my Penelope?"

"MuMMEE! How can you say that? When he's right here ... oh, Mu-u-m."

"I can see that, darling. That's why I bring it up. I'm sorry, but I just don't. Oh, perfectly proper round *us*, of course - only natural - your father was exactly the same around Gramps and Gan-Gan - but I just don't think he's the *sort* I want sniffing around my daughter right now."

(Helpless wringing of hands by Penny)

"I'm sorry, Mrs Parsons ...."

"Of course, you're not. Nothing of the sort. So what are we going to do about it?"

And so forth. Unbeatable tactic.

So where was I? Ah yes ... as with the gentle-eyed unchaotic Carolyna, my camera fails to capture the grace of Blakey fille.

On a more serious point, Jenna had the hugely sensible advantage of being actively involved in safe sex tutorials, handing out condoms, working with all the right organizations. Which led to the best point of the evening, that the female side of the bargain has most to lose in these encounters:

  • They can get pregnant, whereas the neanderthal seducer is off sowing his seed willy-nilly elsewhere.
  • Infection can lead to long-term disaster, even to infertility.

    And a point I myself wanted to raise - but was inhibited by the scribblers either side, not to mention gazing admiringly on La Parker's immaculately form-fitting suède-y jacket:

    How much do *boys* these days know or care about safe sex? I've tried asking my own brood but all I get is flapping of be-ringed paws and beseeching looks at their mother.

    As far as I can tell, it's down to the girls to be sure they're toting effective contraceptive measures.

    In truth, had I met someone as approachable and clued-up as Jenna Blakey back in my ill-informed 18s, I hope I'd've dumped any short-term plans of seduction - not easy; she's a babe - in favor of investing in a long and informative chat over a hot cuppa during which she could have brought me up to speed on everything I needed to know about sex but couldn't ask elsewhere.

    Euukk - a rambling account. The evening wasn't for me but I'm not sure why not because both books are essential reading ... can't win 'em all, I guess.

    Despite the relaxed air of the speakers - and yes, there were other men there and yes they piped up with totally forgettable questions - I never felt wholly comfortable or satisfied, and surprised myself by shambling off with neither book signed.

    From Teenager Owner's Daughter:

    FEEDING YOUR TEENAGE DAUGHTER: "Your teenage daughter requires regular meals which must be purchased for her at restaurants because she detests everything *you* eat because it is, like, so disgusting ...

    Either order take-out food or just give her the money, preferably both. If you order pizza, never answer the doorbell because the delivery boy might see you and omigod he is so hot.

    Yes, your daughter's idea of an attractive man is the pizza boy

    OTHER MAINTENANCE: Teenage daughters require one of two levels of maintanance: 'High' and 'Ultra High.' Your daughter is 'Ultra High.'

    This means that whatever you do won't be enough and whatever you try won't work".

    And oodles more of ultra-high wit and good sense observations.


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