Hello, Kittens, and welcome back to the salon. I’m glad you made it, because we have serious matters to discuss. I’ll be as brief as I feel like.
It is an unfortunate fact of Western Civilization that small groups of people left to their own devices will tend to form committees. And when small-group intentions are good, the results are almost always bad.
(Yes, I know what Margaret Mead said. Please be quiet.)
Committees go to work on ideas like viruses in a Petri dish: they surround it, study it, then kill it, having appropriated just enough of its DNA to disarm the defense systems of the next good idea they meet. The idea’s entrails are then written up and published in a newsletter.
Why must this committee formation happen, when groups could just as readily form a religious cult, a chorus or a circus act? Alas: committees are formed, resolutions are taken up and pretty soon, just when you thought it might be safe to sit down amongst friends and have a cup of coffee—perhaps even a muffin—you are grabbed around the ankle by a Strategic Plan and dragged, screaming, into service.
And that’s why, when the monthly PTO meeting at Brioche’s school rolls around, Rhapsody is always indisposed. Under a mountain of work. Fighting off a highly contagious strain of strep throat. Down with the cramps.
It’s not that I, or other committee-phobes don’t see the value of civic projects, or even that we don’t want to help, but we’re shade plants of the social world, and all that cheer and industry from you non-morose types is like too much afternoon sun on our tender leaves.
Are you exasperated by my attitude? If you think I’m hard to take as a blogging actress, you’ve got it easy, my friend. I could be your wife. I could be your mother. You just think about that for a moment, while I pour you a whiskey sour in these special holiday tumblers I’ve dusted off for today’s gathering.
And before we go on, please initial that you have read this Vital Disclaimer: Although I am a rabid volunteer elsewhere, I have not yet actually attended a PTO meeting at Brioche’s school. This post (like most of my life) is based on supposition and hearsay. Also: I am a blogging celebrity—not a real person. So if this post hurts your feelings and you think Rhapsody is talking about you, please consider two things:
- Confronting me will require you to admit that you are being teased by an avatar—a gorgeous, chimerical demon made of pixels and stardust. How does that help your cause?
- Sarcastic. Bitter. Acid-tongued. You keep using these words but I do not think they mean what you think they mean. Instead of arguing with me, why not try sword fighting as a way to relax?
Now, then. Shall we do as they do at Town Meeting and get this bitch over with?
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Your edition of “Fodor’s Guide to Community Meetings” may not include a full explication of terms commonly deployed at PTO meetings, so before you go (if you must) we recommend you print this Rhapsody in Cool glossary for easy reference.
Term of Art: “I’d like to raise an issue.”
Translation: “I have said this a dozen times before and was ignored/placated/told to read the handout/asked to leave, but I’d like to raise it again, because my ego requires me to maintain the belief that you simply do not understand me yet and will, through ceaseless repetition, be brought around to my way of seeing. Even when I am alone at home, I keep my hand tentatively raised so I can raise this issue at a moment’s notice.”
Term of Art: “Participation is optional.”
Translation: “Only the most self-absorbed assholes among you will fail to chip in for this activity, but please choose what’s best for you. We value diversity here and ethics are not for everyone!”
Term of Art: “Differentiated learning.”
Translation: The meaning of this term will vary between dialects of one school district and another, but in the high country it means “customized learning spaces where my precocious child does not have to mingle, educationally speaking, with your dumber off-spring.” It is often appended with words like “tiers,” “math team try-outs” and “early admissions process.”
Term of Art: “I think we’ve reached consensus.”
Translation: “While everyone can see that Barbara is still holding her hand at half-mast to raise her issue again, it’s 9:30 for God’s sake and no one else supports the purchase of a used mini-van just for ferrying the Chemistry Club to their all-state event. If a couple of you will just nod at her sympathetically, we can all go home.”
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On a sweeter note, I love my daughter’s school and I will happily tramp in and out of the building, doing semi-useful errands until she begs me to stop.
Brioche attends the Dagwood Elementary School, which is in a nice neighborhood, though not quite as nice as the neighborhood surrounding the nearby Brickles Elementary School. Brickles is among the top public schools in the state as ranked by real estate agents whose children attend private academies.
A robust and long-standing rivalry exists between Brickles and Dagwood, of which only the Dagwood side is aware. Brickles families were perplexed by Dagwood’s fundraising campaign, “Brickles is my safety school, bitches!” but with our campaign earnings, plus bake sale proceeds, we were able to buy a hockey rink, swimming pool and private faculty jet for Dagwood.
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I can tell by some of the asthmatic breathing in the salon that we’ve had enough of this chat. Why don’t you each bite into one of my 80-proof Holiday Bourbon Balls I made from Garden & Gun magazine and calm down?
I don’t want to upset anyone, and I certainly don’t want you to conclude, as I have, that PTO meetings are like those “chicken pox parties” where otherwise well-meaning friends ask you to infect yourself with their germs. Not at all!
You can be part of a PTO meeting and enrich your child’s educational experience through communal efforts. It’s all in how you handle yourself—how you and your compatriots enter the room and take charge of it, through body language.
I’ll let Gene and Richard demonstrate:
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Before we go, I have a little holiday gift for each of you—a tear-out pamphlet on an important public health issue for women. I believe this is quite pertinent to our discussions above and may help you during some of the family and neighborhood gatherings you have to attend (yes—you do) in the coming weeks.
The epidemic, of course, is Bitch Face.
Bitch Face occurs when a woman forgets that her face is not merely the location where she stores her eyes, nose and mouth but is also a serving bowl of free cheer for the general public to scoop a handful of as they pass by. Like M&M’s!
If you forget your face’s responsibility to others and let your smile muscles relax into something completely normal to you, but frowny-seeming to fellow commuters, then that is Bitch Face, and I’m probably doing it right now.
Well, guess what? I didn’t bake you a cake either. Find your own cheer, sunshine.
Oh, now, I’m not as grouchy as all that. I’m not!! It’s just that I am cautious about smiles. I grew up where many people did missionary work and a smile meant only as “Fine weather isn’t it?” could be easily misconstrued as, “Please engage me in conversation about the afterlife! I want to talk!”
You see, I’m not a bitch—I’m an atheist. There’s a difference.
Which seems like as good a place as any to wish you all goodnight and Happy Holidays. We might be back with a more properly mistletoed post like last year’s, or we might not. I’ve got a lot of on-line shopping to do first.
Please know that each time I thrill to receive free shipping through Amazon Prime, I am thinking of you and in some vague way connecting that spirit of goodwill to our friendship, and all the happy times we’ve spent here at Rhapsody in Cool this year.
We truly do love these visits in the salon with you, dear ones.
P.S. This post is for Rhapsody’s mom, Electra, who is at a meeting somewhere, right now, and probably annoyed.