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Faithful husband, soccer dad, basset owner, and former cowboy
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  • Friday, January 30, 2004


    Fortunately the children didn't go all Lord of the Flies while Mummy was locked outside

    Well it's Friday and that means that we turn to America's Worst Mother™ to see what's cooking with her and her children: Mowgli, Selma, Chignon, and Crinoline-Jean.

    Call Child Protective Services, Meghan has locked herself out of the house and left the children inside with the gas stove on:

    Ten minutes ago, I was conscientiously trundling bags of newspapers and glass bottles out to the sidewalk for recycling. Nine minutes ago, I was rattling a front door that had uncharacteristically locked itself behind me. Eight minutes ago, my nose and extremities began to freeze. On possibly the coldest day in Washington, ever, I am trapped outside, while inside the house there is a banana-wielding two-year old wearing a tutu. There's also a pot of beef simmering on the gas stove. I do not know which will be the more combustible, if I don't get in soon.

    Unfortunately for Meghan, feral daughter Chignon is unfamiliar with the concept of doorknobs and locks meaning Mummy has to talk her down:

    "Phone, Mummy!" I wonder what she thinks I'm doing out here.

    "I know, sweetheart," I shout soothingly. "Say, Phoebe, can you let Mummy in? Can you open the door?" Even as I say it I realize the impossibility. Not only did our doorbell fatally fry itself months ago, but also lately the knob mechanism has been sticking. Strong men have to struggle violently to get out of the house.

    "Darling, try to open the door. Just try. Okay?"

    A small hand reaches out, and with ridiculously simple "click," the front door opens. Evidently it, like Excalibur, prefers the gentle touch.

    As we can see, the house is still in horrible disrepair, probably because Meghan spends most of her time on the phone (see last week) gossiping about the neighbors, including another Mother who is scandalously 1960's modern:

    "She" is the Capable Mother, an impressive figure at our children's school who arrived last year and immediately set about massing an army of followers. In addition to trouncing other women in the giving of coffee mornings (ahem), the Capable Mother started an afterschool song-and-dance group that has the subversive feel of a cult. She distributes junk-food snacks and plays music that other parents abominate. She puts elementary-school girls in sexy stockings, and urges her charges to gasp with Bob-Fosse-esque satisfaction when they've completed a move. I am told that thong underwear plays a small role in an upcoming production.

    Gasp! Because if there is one thing parents should "abominate" more than the sultry jungle rythyms of Fosse-esque music, it's the dreaded "thong". But Meghan is on the case helping out equally flummoxed mothers who just don't know what to do with this saucy trollop of a mom who is turning their precious little darlings into common whores:

    "Listen," I say firmly, opening my invisible vial of spine-straightener. Having bottled the genie of erotic jazz dance in our previous school, I am utterly unafraid of seeming ungroovy when it comes to putting children in fishnets. The Capable Mother is what happens when good people do nothing. She is the human equivalent of Nintendo.

    "Tell your daughter the main reason mothers exist is to protect children. Tell her you wouldn't be doing your job if you paid for her to spend two hours a week under the influence of someone who makes such Dubious Moral Judgments."

    "Dubious morals ? ?" the other mother falters, "I mean, I don't like the club, but I'm not sure I'd go so far as to call ? "

    "Well, of course," I concede, spooling back a bit from my scary Day of Reckoning tone, "Then you could say, oh, it's not a nice atmosphere, or "How vulgar!" ? we both laugh ? "Or it's not 'appropriate.'"

    "Dubious moral judgments," the mother says wonderingly, her spine audibly straighter. "You know, I might try that. It does sound persuasive."

    Meghan, of course, has no fear of being labeled "ungroovy" which is only natural in someone who actually uses the term: ungroovy. On the other hand, "dubious morals'" and "vulgar" are terms that are quite "hip" and "cool" and some might even say "with it".

    Meanwhile, while Meghan gabs on the phone about "Capable Mother":

    We hang up. My sous-chef climbs up on the kitchen counter, and I lift the lid off the fragrant beef. It's one of those absurdly simple Italian concoctions that is meant to yield a succulent, melting, gorgeous hunk of mouth-feel after a lengthy bout of slow cooking. I check my watch: Only five minutes to go, better give it one last stir ?

    " - clonk," goes the wooden spoon. I prod the meat, and look incredulously at my watch. After two hours burbling quietly on the stove, my magnificent, enormous portion of "marbled" beef has turned...to stone.

    Oh, sweet irony.....


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