It may not be one of my finest moments, but it was one of my proudest. By this time, so many years later, which, to be honest, feels even longer than it is, it really doesn’t matter. The woman in question is probably dead and unless she cried out about the experience on her deathbed, which I find unlikely, never gave what happened a passing thought after that day. On the afternoon of the Fourth of July there are many more things to be concerned with, and as I assume she was a wife, a mother, a grandmother, I’m sure she had other things of greater importance than rude young men with fantastic spiky rockstaresque hair.
In my defence, I was having a rough year. I’m not sure I am removed enough from it, even now, to maturely write about the circumstances of that year. Suffice it to say, I would not be where I am now if things had turned out differently. In much the same way that an earthquake in 1812 caused the Mississippi River to flow backwards, the events of the better part of 2006 could have disrupted the course of my life. I survived that year reasonably in tact due, in no small part, to good friends and a buttload of Jameson.
I was having a rough year. Tack onto that the fact that my friends mostly worked a nine-to-five schedule with weekends off and a plethora of floating (paid) holidays, a luxury that I, working in retail, still cannot grasp the concept of.
It was the Fourth of July, and unlike my friends, who had gotten out of work at five the previous day with the promise of a day off, I mostly likely had to work… and then be back bright and early on the fourth. Now, I don’t remember, but given that July 4th, 2006 was a Tuesday, I’m willing to bet a couple of those douchebags took Monday off as well. This would have pissed me off.
So I went to work, weighed down with the knowledge that all my friends are having fun without me. At least it was in the days before we were beholden to Facebook status updates for proof of our unique existences (which is actually what spawned my sudden desire to tell this story—thank Vic for asking for the backstory) and I wasn’t reminded via staged yet spontaneous in-the-moment photos what I was missing.
I probably went to work hungover as shit. No, I’m trying to be honest here, I probably went to work drunk from the night (morning) before. I told you, it was a rough year. So by the time I got out of work I needed to procure three things: beer (to go with my whiskey), pizza, and solitude. The first two were easily accomplished with a brief stop at Tops on my way home, and third, as cranky hermit luck would have it, had taken care of itself. My friends were all going down to South Buffalo where in true drunk Irish fashion, residents promised to blow a ton of shit up in the middle of the street.
I don’t know if I was ever excited about fireworks as a child, probably only so much as a typical little kid is, I suppose. I remember sparklers and those popper things you threw at each other’s feet. I don’t remember much about fireworks as a child other then fragments of sitting on the grass at Riverside Park, and to be honest, I could just be thinking of the time I went there with my high school girlfriend. As an adult, or the nearest approximation of one I’ve managed so far, I don’t recall an affinity for fireworks shows.
As my friend and her family no longer live in South Buffalo and the chance to witness this epic fireworks display my friends still talk about today, I do regret hiding away from them. I wish I had taken hold of the events of my life rather then brood and allow the events to build swaying drunken walls around me I’m still trying to tear down. Sadly, I’ve only recently realized I’m capable of doing so. Instead, I’ll have to enjoy the stories I hear from that other life that occurred that night, and hope I have enough sense to learn from my mistakes.
And so I went home to drink heavily and play the Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, which to this day I still have not beaten. But first, a stop at Tops for frozen pizza and a case of High Life, neither of which would survive the night.
I tell this story as though I were the victim and the old lady the aggressor, but really, Us Weekly and poor timing is to blame. Goddamn their flashy covers and utter lack of substance or passable writing! The real victim here is that old lady, taken in by the promise of secrets about Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes… or maybe it was Johnny Depp… you know what? It doesn’t matter who was on the cover. The feature articles could have been written by throwing a handful of magnetic poetry letters at your fridge. I imagine the employees of these magazines to be the girls from middle school who always had a Mad-Libs book with them on bus rides. Insert celebrity name, insert adverb, insert noun. That’s your article on how “Halle Berry shamelessly exposed a hippopotamus tea party last Orange” gets on the cover of In Touch. Orange was supposed to be a day of the week. The author of that article has a little trouble with those still.
But there she was, little cart and all, that fucking old lady reading her Us Weekly while standing at the edge of the 10 Items or less line.
Have I mentioned it was mid afternoon on the Fourth of July? With day drunk poor party planners scrambling around and clogging up lines with carts of food they just realized they needed? Have I mentioned I had only a case of beer and a frozen (that was thawing as all this occurred)? Can you imagine the sigh of relief that collectively escape the Jews who glimpsed the Promised Land after wandering the desert for forty years? The noise I made when I saw the ’10 Items or Less’ line with only two people in it was better.
Except for Old Lady Us Weekly who had parked her empty cart across the entrance to this cash-line so she could take a moment out of her, clearly, oh so busy freakin’ day to catch up on the latest made up news of Tom Cruise or Captain Jack or Aaron Spelling’s ugly son.
I waited. I waited as along as one should in this situation. I clearly wanted to get into this line. I needed to get into this line. I had just spent eight hours dealing with people when I was in no condition, physically or psychologically to be anywhere near people, and then what did I do? I went to a supermarket. On a holiday. I waited as long as one could in this situation.
She looked up. She glanced up from her magazine.
“Excuse me,” I said again, nodding so sweetly, so innocently at the line behind her.
She rolled her eyes and with what may have been one of those upper lip curls of disgust, pushed her cart out of the way.
I moved forward victoriously, a smile in her direction, and perhaps inward a bit too for my winning the right of way I did in fact deserve.
And then , with all the snotty snootiness of a spoiled high school girl Old Lady US Weekly says, “And you’re welcome.”
Under normal circumstances, I may actually have said ‘thank you’ before being prompted. But that would have been a sign of weakness, a sign that I was in the wrong for simply asking her to move when she was absolutely and without a doubt in the way. I apologize when something is not my fault, and I say thank you when I have given something up. It’s a major character flaw that’s been lost to the idea of politeness that few believe in anymore. No one understands what it actually means to be polite and so we overcompensate with apologizes when we, in fact, deserve them and thank you’s when we should be compensated by others with a simply thanks for our patience, or kindness, selflessness , a smile or offer of help.
She had to say that.
So I slammed my case of High Life on the conveyor, turned back to her and said clearly and with great feeling, “Yeah, well fuck off,” and turned around.
How did she react to this? I have no idea. I reacted by paying for my pizza and beer and leaving, and then going home to drink half a bottle of Jameson and wallow in the fact that the video game character Link, with his pointy ears and magical sword, was more of man then I’d been up until that point.
That lady? I don’t know what happened to her. How she may have told that story later, with her as the victim, just as I’m telling you mine in the same way. She may have been the sweetest old lady and my reaction made her finally snap, after years of taking shit from other people. Maybe that was the last straw and she ended up driving her car into a restaurant in Amherst in revenge for my vicious attack on her decency, since old people were doing that pretty frequently for a while. Not necessary for that reason, I don’t know why they were driving into buildings so much. I swear, she was the only old lady I yelled at, that shit was not my fault.
No, she probably forgot about it. She probably didn’t even hear it. Or didn’t care. Whatever. Life can suck sometimes. You let all the garbage pile up like I did, you try to keep it all to yourself because you’re scared or embarrassed or whatever else you claim to justify being afraid to ask for help, eventually it’ll find a way out. And it’ll find a way out in any number of ways, some productive, some aggressive, some destructive to yourself or others. And sometimes, you just need to tell someone to fuck off, even if it’s not the person that deserves it.
Like I said, it wasn’t my finest moment…
And just for the record, you can’t even read the word fuck on the cover.
But that’s not important. No, the contents overshadow the cover and clearly Adam Mansbach must have been striking his own children while writing the book—how else could he have constructed such abusive and Satan-fueled verse?
This isn’t abuse. This is frustration.
Whatever, Anna Smackers—I don’t have kids so I don’t understand—that’s what you said isn’t it? I couldn’t possibly get the point of why you were so upset, you said. Well I don’t think you quite got the point. Do you realize this book is filed under humor? That it’s intended for adults?
And it’s not as if the guy in the story is actually screaming those lines at the child, we’re coming back to that point. Did you miss that? You’re claiming it’s a depiction of verbal abuse, but it isn’t verbal at all.
It must be difficult to be you, Anna, to have such perfect children that you never have to discipline or raise your voice to them. No doubt without the burden of disciplining your kids in any way, must free up a lot of time for you. That must explain how you can visit me so much.
You’re not really allowed to discipline your kids anymore are you? You raise your voice and get accused to verbally abusing them, you spank them and Child Services is knocking on your door because you’re physically abusing them. I think a spanking every once in a while might do some good. How many times growing up did one my parents threaten me with a spanking? And do you know why? Because I was being a little shit, that’s why.
I’m not condoning child abuse—physical, verbal or psychological. Don’t read this wrong and claim I’m saying you should punch a kid in the face when they get out of line. I don’t think so at all.
But getting spanked when I was out of control and past the point of hearing my parent’s verbal admonishments? Got my attention. You don’t want to get spanked when you’re a little kid, you certainly don’t want to get spanked in public—and let’s face it, when you got threatened with a spanking nine times out of ten you were fucking around in the middle of a department store at the mall. You don’t want to get spanked again though; you remember it hurt and was embarrassing, its not something you want to happen repeat.
Of course there are those parents who skip entirely over the verbal portion of attempting to keep their kid in line and begin with the spanking, which is just furious, repeated poorly aimed bottom swatting. They were excessive, took it too far and ruined it for everyone.
Everyone seems to overlook the psychological aspect of parenting; verbal and physical are the real attention grabbers. From what I’ve seen parenting is like being at war—war with really tiny enemies who are always hungry but never want to eat what you offer them.
How many times have you seen a kid throwing a tantrum or not following their parents, and that parent is at their wit’s end? All that parent wants to do is leave the grocery store. Its late, they have to start dinner and that friggin kid has been picking up everything; can I have this, can I have that, why not, of course I’ll eat it, why can’t I have it?
What usually happens? Well first the parent lies to them and claims they’ll buy it for them next time. Then what?
“Fine, you don’t want to leave? Well I’m leaving, see you later.”
And they walk away.
I enjoy watching this because at first the kid doesn’t believe them. They call that parent’s bluff. But then the parent walks away, heads for the door or around the corner.
And then that kid freaks the fuck out.
There’s usually a panic-stricken scream before that kid tears-ass to catch up, tears running down their adorable pudgy little kid faces.
This is acceptable though. Well, at least for now. Complete psychological warfare on toddlers. You just threatened them with abandonment.
Where’s the outcry about that? Instead you’re up in arms because a parent read to their child at bedtime, but was frustrated when three hours later the kid was still up engaging in their own form of warfare.
But it’s OK to threaten your child with leaving them to fend for themselves in the middle of the grocery store because they stopped to check out the Bubble Yum selection.
Go the Fuck to Sleep isn’t about the verbal abuse of children but, rather, the internal monologue that everyone has, not just parents. Yes, specifically this is the frustration of parents with their children, but more then that it reminds us that steady complaining of children with parents, employee with boss and vice versa, coworkers and friends with one another. You’re thinking it all the time.
Our conversational filters stop us—some of us, at least—from saying most of these things. Telling your boss to fuck off, calling your coworker an idiot, spitting in a customer’s food; this book represents the things we don’t say, the things we don’t do.
Mansbach, said it himself, “A lot of these frustrations are not permissible to talk about. We’re not completely honest because we don’t want to be bad parents.”
It’s like admitting you don’t get a joke. Doesn’t happen, you just laugh along with everyone else. So no one admits that their kids are really in charge when it comes to bedtime, instead they keep swapping stories with their other child-bearing friends about how perfect their little angels are.
You can’t admit you don’t know how to put your kids to bed, you can’t admit you just spent three hours reading them half a dozen stories because they refused to lay still, or close their eyes or stay in bed. You can’t admit that they’re in control.
Maureen O’Connor’s all-too short bit for the Gawker is great, and the comments are even better. She addresses David Arrendondo’s suggestion that to properly understand how offensive Go the Fuck to Sleep is one should should instead consider if it was written about Jews, blacks, Muslims or Latinos.
Personally I think one should be more insulted that out of the four Arrendondo mentions, blacks doesn’t get capitalized, that seems racist. Just saying.
O’Connor is absolutely right in her assertion that, “Swapping ‘Jew’ into random sentences about children doesn’t mean the aforementioned sentence is offensive. It means that one does not speak to a Jewish adult the way one speaks to a child.”
Can you think about how disturbing it would be if Mansbach had written a book about how to read a Jew to sleep at night? I prefer the product as we have it now, even if it does incite (one person) riots in my store.