Best of C+S 2013: The Only Child Club

It’s December 26, and many of you have just celebrated Christmas with all of your siblings. Or maybe – like Traci – you’re an only child. Don’t let the non-onlies get you down — there are some serious life lessons to glean from the only child life.

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Life Lessons From an Only Child

(originally posted March 29)

Being an only child has taught me a lot of things throughout my life, mostly that there a lot of assumptions people make if they know you’re an only child. But I’m here to break the stereotypes and tell you the truth about being the only kid in the family. I would like to reiterate that I’m not speaking on behalf of the Only Children of America coalition (not a real thing), but I’d say this is pretty accurate.

1) We’re very independent

Sisters are doin’ it for themselves. Or brothers, whatever. In sixth grade, I had dance lessons that started at 4pm, which was before my parents got out of work. So on the days I had dance, I would take the bus home, be by myself for about an hour or so, then my friend’s mom would pick me up and we’d go to class. I mean I was 11 years old, but at the same time, there was no one else around to make sure I wasn’t like, lighting anything on fire. But I was given the responsibility of having keys to the house, knowing how to turn off the alarm system, make food if need be. If something went wrong, I had to figure it out and fix it myself. If anything, this is what has stuck with me the most. I’ve never really relied on anyone to do anything for me, because I know I can (usually) do it myself.

2) We’re okay with being alone

Ok, that sentence isn’t supposed to be read with the same kind of depression you read it with. But along the same notion of being independent, so does time in solitary (again, not meant to be weird and prison-y). After my parents trusted me with being at home by myself, it wasn’t necessary for them to have anyone look after me. So if they went out, I was by myself in the house. I would like to add that I didn’t really have friends or family members that lived nearby, so again, I was just used to being alone. Without a sibling, I was used to doing stuff by myself, which is still true to this day, mainly because it’s all I know. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I hate being around people. I mean for the most part that’s true because I hate people (my years working retail is to thank for that complex). But I mean only children usually tend to gravitate towards extended family or in my case, my friends, to hang out with all the time. So just as much as we like being alone, we like being around people. But we also need our personal space at the same time. Yeah, we’re crazy.

3) We can do weird shit

My friend Caitlin and I call this the ‘Only Child Syndrome’, because we end up doing random weird things that we don’t realize we’re A) doing in the first place or B) is even weird at all. I don’t even really know how to explain this besides doing like odd little movements or noises or giving strange looks… No one was around to call us out on being weird, so that explains why we’re still weird now. I also tend to talk to myself a lot – like out loud. I assume kids with siblings would usually have a brother or sister to at least be around when you’re saying something, and it’s not as weird as talking outloud and knowing no one ever hears you.

4) We don’t actually like being only children

Okay, I may be speaking for myself here, but I honestly don’t really like being an only child. Like I said, I didn’t have any family members – cousins, etc. living near me growing up. They were/are all in the Philippines, and some here in LA. But what’s weird is that my dad is one of 9 kids. I have a bunch of cousins and second cousins, some of whom I don’t even know. But they all grew up together and I was the American kid. When we go back to the Philippines, I always feel like the odd man out, not only because of the language barrier and cultural differences, but because they all have the advantage of hanging out with each other, while I had my parents and me, myself and I. I’m just saying it would have been much easier to have a sibling when going back to the Phil. Also, I could never blame anything I did wrong on a sibling, or bitch about my parents to someone who would really understand.

5) We’re not all spoiled

So this is obviously the most common only child stereotype. All my friends who are only children are not spoiled by any means. Well, in the sense that they don’t want everything in the world and expect their parents to buy it for them. Many people believe that we’re naturally born brats who expect to be doted on all the time, but that’s far from the case. In fact, I know some people like that who do have siblings, and it’s embarrassing. But like, I’ve never expected my parents to get me everything I’ve ever wanted. I will say that they have done the thing where if I’ll mention my DVD player is broken, they’ll call me back 2 days later and say we found a blu-ray player, and bought it for you, you can pick it up at Best Buy sort of thing (that’s a true story). We don’t act spoiled, but once in a while, we’ll get spoiled.

Thanksgiving Foods That Say “Screw It” So You Don’t Have To

Every Thanksgiving has one: the participant who just doesn’t care. If you’re thinking “I don’t know, I haven’t really cared enough to notice who that would be,” then it’s you, buddy. It’s you. It’s hard to have a dismissive attitude toward a holiday that’s based around gratitude and food, but these folks manage.  Asked to bring a dish to pass, they’ll bring, at worst, a literal empty dish, and at best, one of the following items.

Obviously if you’re bringing one of these because you were asked to, because it’s your tradition, or because of financial or dietary reasons, I’d never judge you. But if that isn’t the case, please realize that nobody is picturing you traipsing through the supermarket squealing “Oh, goody! I’ll bring the canned cranberry sauce – what a treat!” We picture you tossing the jar into a basket on the way to dinner, with a shrug and a resigned “Eh, screw it.” And if you don’t literally say “eh, screw it,” these foods will do it for you:

Can-Shaped Cranberry Sauce

If you’re supposed to bring the cranberry sauce, and you serve a can-shaped loaf of congealed cran-slop, it better be a joke. Like, maybe your friend group thinks it’s funny when food takes the shape of its packaging, or maybe your family always made fun of  your grandma’s canned cranberry sauce – which presumably she brought because she was drunk or hated all of you. Okay. Fine.

But really, if you have been trusted with cranberry sauce, don’t turn it into a joke dish unless you know everyone’s on board — because seriously, can-shaped cran-sauce is the gag gift of Thanksgiving. If everyone’s bringing silly dishes, go for it! It’ll be like a jokey Yankee Swap but with foods instead of dollar-store items. Think hard, though: do you really want the person in charge of meat to bring Spam? Because that’s where things are headed when you serve canned cran.

Instant Mashed Potatoes

In college, the dining hall publicly posted comments and complaints. Despite our youthful desire to send in some sort of filthy comment, my friend ended up writing a wholly serious question: “What with the instants?”

Again, I ask to you: what with the instants? At their most basic, mashed potatoes are as easy as it gets: boil, add some kind of dairy or dairy-equivalent, mash. There’s really no need for instants, which by the way look like soap flakes. I think they probably taste like soap flakes too – but I can’t be sure, because I don’t know any little boys from the 1920s who got soap in their mouths because they sassed their parents.

Burned Canned Crescent Rolls

If Thanksgiving Dinner is high school, the turkey is the homecoming queen or head jock, the stuffing is the cool indie kid who knows all the good music but doesn’t play the popularity game, and the rolls are that kid who you see in the yearbook Senior year and say “wait… does he go here?” It’s no surprise that a lot of us don’t bother with homemade rolls, or even ones from a good bakery.

Rolls are clearly a low-tier Thanksgiving food, and usually Pillsbury’s will do just fine. But if your job was to handle the rolls, and all you can produce is burned crescent rolls, you really didn’t try hard. I think that about 3/5 of food-related arguments on Thanksgiving include the phrase “ALL you had to do was the ROLLS.” Another 1/5 will contain the related complaint: “We gave you ONE thing. ONE.” The other 1/5 are usually weird family stuff that you should probably deal with.

Spaghetti

No no no no. There was I guess a “campaign” a while ago to make spaghetti carbonara the official Thanksgiving food. Yeah. That’s about as much of a campaign as when the Yippies ran a pig for presidential office in the 60s. Not gonna happen. I think pasta is fine on Thanksgiving – as a vegetarian, it gives me a nice main dish. But you know, don’t we have enough carbs? As long as some dumb-dumb didn’t burn the rolls?

What it comes down to is, if there’s going to be pasta it should at least require a reasonable amount of effort. My grandma used to make lasagna every year. Lasagna is fine. Stuffed shells are fine. Spaghetti is NOT fine unless someone brought a toddler who’s going through a spaghetti-only phase or something.

Frozen Corn, Defrosted

A lot of people feel like you’re supposed to serve some kind of a “vegetable” on Thanksgiving. Me, I like my dinner to be a food version of trash fiction: 50 Shades Of Brown. Even these vegetable folks usually pay lip service to the whole well-rounded diet thing by defrosting a pack of  frozen corn. I suppose defrosting the corn yourself isn’t quite as bad as handing your host a bag of frozen corn and asking them to do it, so there’s that. To make it more like the first Thanksgiving, you can call the corn “maize” and steal it from your neighbors.

Green Been Casserole

Let’s be clear. This dish says “screw it” to complicated recipes. It says “screw it” to health. It says “screw it” to pretension. However, it says a resounding “hell yes!” to deliciousness. Yeah, we all know you didn’t have to slave over the green been casserole – but we all love you for your lack of effort. Of course, I’m talking about the kind made of frozen beans, canned soup, and freeze-dried “onions” (“astronaut onions,” if you will). By far the best – and dare I say, an essential – lazy Thanksgiving dish. This dish is why someday I’ll finally get that “sodium 4ever” tattoo, or maybe a salt shaker inside of a heart, and just hope that I’m never in a situation where I want to be buried in a Jewish cemetery. I’d forego that for this dish.

Puberty Education & You (Or: Hey, Where’s That Belt Supposed To Go?)

The past few weeks, a video of an adorable preteen distributing tampons at sleepaway camp has been making the internet rounds. It’s..um… cuter than it sounds. Here:

This got me thinking of the educational materials my generation and before grew up on. Kids these days don’t know how good they have it:

The Pancake Video

This isn’t available online, but it is carved into my brain tissue forevermore. The year was 1996. Alanis Morisette was on the radio, and half of the heads in America were sporting “The Rachel.” It was a simpler time, until… until the permission slip came home informing our parents that the girls would be watching “the video” in school. You know. THAT video.

Unlike the other 9-year-old girls, I didn’t have to go through the embarrassing show of presenting my mom with the permission slip – because my mom was the fourth grade science teacher. Yes, my mom was going to teach all of my friends about “becoming a woman.” More accurately, my mom was going to teach half of my friends about becoming a woman, because the boys got to play outside during all this. I could hear the carefree sounds of childhood out the window as the boys organized a kickball game, and my fourth grade social world crumbled around me. So you see, there’s no way I could forget this freaking video.

The premise is this: a diverse group of tweenage girls is having a campout in someone’s backyard. One of the girls gets her period, because if these videos teach you one thing, it’s that this shit always happens on some kind of a campout. So the girls trudge in, and the helpful Generic 90s Mom decides to teach them about what is happening to this child. Apparently their school didn’t have fine videos like this one, nor did it have That One Girl On The Bus Who Knows All This Stuff.

Anyway, you know what a bunch of pubescent girls need in the morning, as much as anatomical advice? BREAKFAST! Lucky for them – nay, lucky for US – Generic 90s Mom is a multi-tasker. She mixed up some batter, fired up the griddle, and got to work on some falopian tube pancakes. It was like those awesome Mickey pancakes you get at Disney, except actually horrifying and with the syrup probably representing uterine lining. You know at least one of those girls grew up to be one of those wackos who eats her placenta, and this Breakfast From Epcot Hell is why.

When the video ended, my mom fielded questions. Just what every tween wants — her mom talking about her Blue Water Time in front of all of her classmates. Still, at least she didn’t make a menarche-themed breakfast to illustrate the point.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret

Either we weren’t paying attention to that video in fourth grade, or we were too busy being traumatized to actually take in any of the information, but in fifth grade this book started making the rounds and it’s like it was totally new information. I blame Judy Blume for my entire generation being like “wait… I thought there was supposed to be some kind of belt?” Either way, I learned more from this book than any of those school vids.

No, Just Kidding, This Is Really Epcot Hell

If you were educated in the old school, maybe you got this instead of the pancake video. For a Disney vid, it really needs more talking animals.

The Most ’50s Thing You’ll Ever See, Ever


This is probably what my mom watched in school, presuming Catholic schools in the 50s didn’t just tell you that it was the devil giving you a papercut or something. Jeez… is THIS why she named me Molly? Of course this bitch is named Molly.

Sample Dialogue: “Peggy, I can’t go swimming, you know I’ve got the curse!”

By the by, these 40s and 50s vids are reallll concerned about you possibly catching a cold, which evidently does something to your uterus. Freezes it?

Here, This Flapper Gets Most Of It Right

Image links to the full brochure.

Image links to the full brochure.

And THIS is what my grandmothers probably got in school, in the pre-video age. The pamphlet suggests leaving this, one of those damn belts, and maybe some money for later therapy on your kid’s pillow when you know she’ll be alone. It’s like the Ding Dong Ditch version of parenting. Drop the sanitary belt and run!

Just Watch The Supercut


Supercuts: not just for disappointing but economical haircuts anymore.

So Your Mom’s On Facebook

Here’s a generational marker I never thought would make me feel old: I remember when Facebook first started. In the 2004-2005 school year, I was a Freshman in college and my school was one of the early adopters* of Facebook (or “the Facebook” as we called it at the time). When you met someone at a party, they’d ask if you were “on the Facebook.” After working with a kid on a group project, you’d go back to your dorm and discover that you’d been “poked.” Facebook was like a whole world populated solely by college kids.** It was like Lord of The Flies that way. You couldn’t get on there without an .edu address, and it was a parent-free zone.

Unless you’ve been Rip van Winkle-ing*** since 2005, you know what’s happened since. Like all things that have lost their youth culture cache, Facebook has been taken over by moms. If it hasn’t happened yet, it’s coming soon — the friend request from your mother. It’s bad. My mom is on Facebook, and she is the worst because she takes everything she reads very seriously and literally. A few months ago, she said to me “I didn’t know your cousin ‘Derek’ was gay!”.

“He’s not gay, mom. He has a girlfriend.” I know having a girlfriend isn’t the sine qua non of straightness, but I also have really solid gaydar.

“No. He’s gay. His status is “I am a homosexual.”

Oh, brother. Here we go. My cousin is that particular kind of dude-bro who has friends who sneak into his Facebook account and write homophobic stuff because they think it’s hilarious. By the by, his mom and sister are both lesbians.

“Mom. Nobody says “homosexual” except for Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh. That was Derek’s friends.”

Cut to two weeks later. “Derek is DEFINTELY gay. Look at his status now!”

I looked. His status was now “I like dick.” I considered explaining to her that nobody, gay or straight, would write that, but figured it was a losing battle.

There are a few ways to prevent scenarios like this:

Ignore Friend Request
This is the cleanest option, and works best with tech-clueless moms. You can tell her that the request didn’t go through, or assume that she’ll never know how to figure out if you’ve confirmed. If your mom is the type to nag a lot, is okay with computers, or will read a large-scale rejection into this, then I’d skip the ignore option.

Heightened Privacy Settings
Make a list of people you want to restrict, then make a “custom” post setting so that nothing is seen by people on those lists. If you have a bunch of gossip-mongers in your family, this might have to go beyond your mom. There are some things that I wouldn’t mind, say, my aunt seeing, but I know she’d bring it up to my mom, so I play it safe and hide it from all of them. That includes posts from this blog. One of my favorite gems of writing advice comes from Anne Lamott, who suggested you “write as if your parents are dead.” I find that “write as if your parents don’t use social networking” works almost as well.

Cleansing Your Past
A lot of us have stopped using Facebook in earnest. With full-time jobs and professional degrees on the line, we aren’t posting photos of us “totally wasted!” at 2am on a Saturday. We’re in bed by then anyway. However, if your mom is nosy enough, then she might reach into the way-back years. A while ago I took a trip down Facebook memory lane, and apparently I was kind of trashy and skanky in college. You might want to clean up your past a little. Just think of it as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Internet Record.

Sanitizing the Future
If you really don’t want to block your mom, then every time you write something you have to realize that your mom is going to see it – and, as I discussed above, is probably going to read a whole lot into it. It’s okay to write “Sooo tired!”. It’s not okay to write “I haven’t been this tired since I took a 24-hour bus ride to Florida, went to a sketchy karaoke bar, then stayed at the apartment of these iffy Southern frat boys who just said they were taking us out for grits then wouldn’t take us to our hotel.” This is a new life, and in this new life, your mom is on Facebook and that never happened.****

Continuing as you Were
Maybe you aren’t one of those people who has stopped really using Facebook. Maybe you’re also not one of those people whose life has turned staid and orderly after college. Maybe in that case, you’ll just say screw it, accept your mom’s friend request, and carry on posting as you were. You’re probably smarter than all of us, actually. While the rest of us are covertly restricting our photo albums or writing vague, cheerful statuses, you can just let it all hang out. Actually, if you do this right, you might repulse your mom so much that she will disavow of Facebook altogether.

I suggest you start with posting “I like dick.”

* My college got Facebook early because it was “the Harvard of the SUNY system,” which I guess is almost a compliment. Or almost an insult. Not sure which.
** Another thing that’s like a whole world populated solely by college kids: College.
*** Rip van Winklevossing?
****Only thing worse than spending 24 hours on a bus: spending 24 hours on a bus, then ending up in Florida.

Life Lessons From an Only Child

Being an only child has taught me a lot of things throughout my life, mostly that there a lot of assumptions people make if they know you’re an only child. But I’m here to break the stereotypes and tell you the truth about being the only kid in the family. I would like to reiterate that I’m not speaking on behalf of the Only Children of America coalition (not a real thing), but I’d say this is pretty accurate.

1) We’re very independent

Sisters are doin’ it for themselves. Or brothers, whatever. In sixth grade, I had dance lessons that started at 4pm, which was before my parents got out of work. So on the days I had dance, I would take the bus home, be by myself for about an hour or so, then my friend’s mom would pick me up and we’d go to class. I mean I was 11 years old, but at the same time, there was no one else around to make sure I wasn’t like, lighting anything on fire. But I was given the responsibility of having keys to the house, knowing how to turn off the alarm system, make food if need be. If something went wrong, I had to figure it out and fix it myself. If anything, this is what has stuck with me the most. I’ve never really relied on anyone to do anything for me, because I know I can (usually) do it myself.

2) We’re okay with being alone

Ok, that sentence isn’t supposed to be read with the same kind of depression you read it with. But along the same notion of being independent, so does time in solitary (again, not meant to be weird and prison-y). After my parents trusted me with being at home by myself, it wasn’t necessary for them to have anyone look after me. So if they went out, I was by myself in the house. I would like to add that I didn’t really have friends or family members that lived nearby, so again, I was just used to being alone. Without a sibling, I was used to doing stuff by myself, which is still true to this day, mainly because it’s all I know. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I hate being around people. I mean for the most part that’s true because I hate people (my years working retail is to thank for that complex). But I mean only children usually tend to gravitate towards extended family or in my case, my friends, to hang out with all the time. So just as much as we like being alone, we like being around people. But we also need our personal space at the same time. Yeah, we’re crazy.

3) We can do weird shit

My friend Caitlin and I call this the ‘Only Child Syndrome’, because we end up doing random weird things that we don’t realize we’re A) doing in the first place or B) is even weird at all. I don’t even really know how to explain this besides doing like odd little movements or noises or giving strange looks… No one was around to call us out on being weird, so that explains why we’re still weird now. I also tend to talk to myself a lot – like out loud. I assume kids with siblings would usually have a brother or sister to at least be around when you’re saying something, and it’s not as weird as talking outloud and knowing no one ever hears you.

4) We don’t actually like being only children

Okay, I may be speaking for myself here, but I honestly don’t really like being an only child. Like I said, I didn’t have any family members – cousins, etc. living near me growing up. They were/are all in the Philippines, and some here in LA. But what’s weird is that my dad is one of 9 kids. I have a bunch of cousins and second cousins, some of whom I don’t even know. But they all grew up together and I was the American kid. When we go back to the Philippines, I always feel like the odd man out, not only because of the language barrier and cultural differences, but because they all have the advantage of hanging out with each other, while I had my parents and me, myself and I. I’m just saying it would have been much easier to have a sibling when going back to the Phil. Also, I could never blame anything I did wrong on a sibling, or bitch about my parents to someone who would really understand.

5) We’re not all spoiled

So this is obviously the most common only child stereotype. All my friends who are only children are not spoiled by any means. Well, in the sense that they don’t want everything in the world and expect their parents to buy it for them. Many people believe that we’re naturally born brats who expect to be doted on all the time, but that’s far from the case. In fact I know some people like that who do have siblings, and it’s embarrassing. But like, I’ve never expected my parents to get me everything I’ve ever wanted. I will say that they have done the thing where if I’ll mention my DVD player is broken, they’ll call me back 2 days later and say we found a blu-ray player, and bought it for you, you can pick it up at Best Buy sort of thing (that’s a true story). We don’t act spoiled, but once in a while, we’ll get spoiled.