Thursday, October 13, 2011

Q-Tip Madness!

I thought I would do something different for this blog post. I belong to a terrific writing group called The Writing Mamas, based just north of San Francisco. We have hosted a number of sold-out, fund-raising events called The Mama Monologues, and we have been lucky enough to have some New York Times best-selling, talented and funny authors guesting:

Anne Lamott (Operating Instructions, Bird by Bird, Grace, Eventually)
Ayelet Waldman (Bad Mother, Love and other Impossible Pursuits, Red Rook Road)
Jacquelyn Mitchard (The Deep End of the Ocean, The Most Wanted, Cage of Stars)
Kelly Corrigan (The Middle Place, Lifted)

At the Kelly Corrigan event, about ten of the Writing Mamas performed alongside her and we were all videoed (which made it even more nerve-wracking!). Here is my four minute clip, entitled:

"I Can't Hear You!"

If you would like to read it instead, here is the transcript:

When I moved my two kids from England to live in America because I was getting married, I had no idea that a simple, innocent ear-bud (otherwise known in these parts as a Q-tip) would take on such massive importance, but also teach me a very powerful lesson.

My husband-to-be also had two kids and so, with teenage hormones on the rampage, we all squished awkwardly into my husband’s existing ranch-style house.

I had always thought of myself as a kind, loving, thoughtful person. A bit bossy at times, sure, but what mother isn’t? I had high hopes of being the best step-mother ever!

I was sorely mistaken.

My teenage step-daughter was hostile from the moment we stepped foot on Californian soil and I had no idea how to handle her. Hating the fact that I usurped her position as ‘Woman of the house’ she rebelled in a number of ways.

She went from being the only person in the house to do any washing up to the only person in the house who didn’t! The enormous sink was constantly full of dirty dishes lying unwashed for days, with left-over food hardening like concrete.

The bathroom was equally disgusting with grimy bits of hair blocking the sink, flimsy g-strings lying on the floor and tampons all over the place. But for me, the ear-buds lying amongst the debris were the worst. There’s just something repulsive about a used Q-tip that turns my stomach, with that nasty, sticky glob of earwax glistening on the end – eww, horrible.

Unfortunately, the ear-buds didn’t just end up on the bathroom floor, but all over the house. To be fair, they were mostly used for make-up rather than earwax removal, but I would find them dotted along the hallway, buried in sofas, even lying on the dining room table when we were about to eat. It was like a red rag to a bull. As soon as I saw one I would get irritated, as if they were left lying around deliberately to annoy me.

So, I became the nag to end all nags, constantly harping on about all the mess. Someone once told me that the definition of insanity is saying the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Obviously, I was completely mad!

I tried to remember back when I was a teenager and I can still picture my own revolting bedroom, with clothes piled so high that furniture went missing for weeks on end. Cleanliness and tidiness were the last things on my mind. I also remember disliking my step-parents for no apparent reason, so why on earth did I think it would be any different now that I was the step-parent!

However, my step-daughter is much braver and, let’s face it, ruder than I was at her age and tells it like she sees it. She recently rebelled against a punishment and, after an initial horrifying outburst of verbal abuse, is refusing to speak to me for two years!

Hold on, I can hear you saying, what’s so bad about that?

Well, the insanity of it was brought home to me the other morning when she stomped into my bedroom and talked over my head, as if I wasn’t there, demanding that my husband pass her some of my ear-buds. With barely a glance in my direction, completely oblivious to my silent look of indignation, he handed over my secret stash of Q-tips and off she went with a self-satisfied smile on her face.

I wanted to kill her, I confided in my friend later. In fact, I wanted to kill them both! How dare they just take my things without even asking me! Is nothing sacred? I considered banning the use of ear-buds altogether. Yes, that’s it! An ear-bud free zone! Surely there were countries where they didn’t even have this double-ended cotton wool disaster. As I imagined a utopian world free of all these repellent ear cleaning swabs, I took a deep breath and wondered if I being just a tad over-emotional. Was I, perhaps, letting a stupid ear-bud upset me a bit too much?

My very wise friend took this break in my tirade to gently ask me if I knew what Q-TIP stood for.

“No”, I replied. “I have no idea, what does it stand for?”

“Quit Taking It Personally!”

Well, that make me laugh and I realized she was right. Good grief, things could be much worse. I would rise about it and behave like a grown-up. Feeling a lot calmer, I walked into the kitchen to tackle the mountainous washing up, only to look in horror at, you’ve guessed it, yet another soiled ear-bud floating in the sink!


  1. Eeeew on the ear-buds. Sounds like you have your hands full! I sympathise.

    Would have loved to have seen Anne Lamott, I loved the Bird by Bird book. She is so honest and humorous.

  2. Thanks Cheryl. Anne Lamott is really funny in person too. Bird by Bird was the first book I read of hers and perfect for me as I was just starting to write my memoir.