Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Privacy Clause

I knew I should have read the fine print when I signed up for motherhood. I glossed over the "Lack of Privacy" section of the contract because I read it immediately following a gynecological exam where the only nod at modesty was in the form of a 2x2 piece of tissue paper that I think was supposed to cover my left elbow. Thus, worrying about privacy seemed pretty meaningless after I'd just been hanging out with my feet in the stirrups.

But seriously, Michael is 4 now, which means I WOULD JUST LIKE 5 MEASLY MINUTES TO USE THE BATHROOM BY MYSELF! Whew, sorry, was that me yelling?

We've had a dozen conversations in the past week about privacy and modesty, highlighting basics such as the fact that it isn't polite to barge in on someone who is in any degree of undress. For some reason he has taken this as some sort of quest to bring down the bathroom door. Man the battle stations! Mom is using the potty!

"Michael, I need my privacy while I use the toilet. Please stop banging on the door!"

"But mom, I need to be in there!"

"No you don't! Go away and I'll be out in a few minutes!"

"But I need to be with you!"

"Go find something else to do for a few minutes."

He tests the lock.

"I'll just stand right here and wait for you!" he says.

Ten little toes appear beneath the door.

"Are you done yet, Mom?"

"No, go away!"

"Because you need your privacy?"

"Yes, because I need my privacy."

"I don't know what privacy means, Mom."

You and Julian Assange.

"Are you pooping or peeing, Mom?"

Should I confess I'm holed up in the bathroom reading snatches of Harry Potter 7? Hmm, nope.

Now where is that candy bar I stashed under the sink?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Notice of Violation

Mr. Michael Overly
2nd Bedroom on the Left
House on the Corner

Dear Sir,

It has come to our attention that, in the course of your current illness, there have been several egregious violations of the Nose Wiping Act of 2006. Article 1, Section 1 of this law states that all fluids contained in a person's nasal cavity shall be disposed of properly, following sanitation practices as prescribed in Section 2 of this law; these practices include, but are not limited to, use of proper sanitation facilities and products contained in one's household. For a list of appropriate products to use when blowing one's nose, please review Addendum 2.1, a copy of which has been included with this letter for your convenience.

Below you will find a list of your most recent violations:

Your sister's hair
Your mother's bedspread
Your mother's arm
A dishtowel
Your blanket
The couch
The carpet in the living room

While the current law does not expressly prohibit blowing one's nose and eating it, it is generally expected that individuals will avoid practices considered socially unacceptable or disgusting.

As this is your first Official Notice of Violation, action will not be taken against you at this time; however, you are expected to appear before your Household Magistrate for a refresher course in proper nose wiping procedures.

Your cooperation is appreciated.


Hugh S. Tissue
Department of Sanitation

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

It's the Most Offensive Time of the Year

Imagine, for a moment, that you are wandering down the streets of India during the annual Hindu celebration of Diwali. In a spirit of good will and neighborliness, someone says to you, "Diwali Greetings!" or "Best wishes to you on Diwali!" What would you say in response?

Would you say, "I don't celebrate Diwali."? Of course you wouldn't, because you are a decent, polite person. You would probably say "Thank you!" You might even add, "You, too!", because that's what decent people do - they respond to pleasantries with pleasantries. Decent people do not take offense at the well-wishes of strangers, regardless of religious differences.

I guess this is why I felt a little annoyed when I read an advice-column question from a Jewish woman looking for help on how to respond to the constant barrage of Christmas cheer. "I'm tired of people wishing me a Merry Christmas," she wrote. "How should Jews respond...?"

A rabbi answered:

"My advice is to be polite, but persistent, in telling people that you do not celebrate Christmas. When Jews and other non-Christians acquiesce to "Merry Christmas" greetings with responses like, "You, too," or just nervous smiles, we only perpetuate the idea that Christmas is for everyone... What do you say when well-wishers wish you a 'merry Christmas'? My answer is, 'Thank you, but I don't celebrate Christmas. Let me wish you the best on your holiday.'"

My question is, why do we feel it necessary to explain our holiday observances to a grocery store cashier or a Salvation Army volunteer who is simply hoping to collect coins for the homeless? If you have a friendship with someone, by all means, tell them you don't celebrate Christmas. But a random person who is doing nothing more than offering a friendly greeting? For heaven's sake, just say, "Thank you!" and continue on your way! It isn't "perpetuating the idea that Christmas is for everyone". It's perpetuating the idea that politeness is for everyone.

And another thing; for the sake of consistency, let's pretend we are back in India during the celebration of Diwali. If, as an American Christian, you saw holiday displays in the Town Square commemorating the Festival of Lights, would you be offended? Of course not! Hinduism is a majority religion in India! Wouldn't you find it odd if all religious expression had been stifled out of the public square?

Likewise, why is it such a big deal to have a Nativity Scene on government property? According to one poll, 93% of Americans celebrate Christmas (even though only about 80% of those interviewed identified themselves as Christians). A Nativity Scene on government property is not an endorsement of Christianity - it's a recognition of the fact that 90% of Americans celebrate Christmas. If 90% of Americans celebrated National Gum Drop Day (It's January 15th!), wouldn't it be logical for gum drop houses to appear on government lawns?

When I was working at an engineering firm a few years back, a handful of my coworkers were practicing Muslims. Every year, with a big grin and well-wishes for everyone, one of these Muslim coworkers would bring in a huge cake to mark the end of Ramadan.

Did I say, "Thank you, but I don't observe Ramadan."? No way! I said, "Thank you so much! Pass the cake!"

And every year, this Muslim coworker was right there enjoying himself at the office Christmas party.

So, to this Jewish woman who was looking for advice, I would say, stop getting miffed when someone wishes you "Merry Christmas" and start appreciating politeness.

After all, it's just a piece of cake.