Thursday, 18 July 2019

Parenting Doesn’t Spell Truth by Naomi Elana Zener




My phone vibrated angrily.

“WHERE ARE YOU? I’M SO CONSTIPATED AND IT’S YOUR FATHER’S FAULT. KISS MY GRANDBABIES BEFORE YOU DROP THEM OFF AT SCHOOL. AND, DON’T FORGET TO DO YOUR KEGELS! HUSBANDS DON’T LIKE IT LOOSE DOWN THERE. SEE YOU SOON! XOXO”

My fucking mother and her fucking morning texts! I though. I ground my teeth. 

“Stop yelling at me!” I texted back.

“I’M NOT YELLING. IT’S THE PHONE!”

My mother always claimed she wasn’t yelling. She liked to claim she simply didn’t understand how to unlock the caps lock feature on her keyboard. She loved to say it was her Luddite brain causing the confusion. The truth was that being tech unsavvy was simply a front. She was always yelling at everyone. For my mother, yelling was her way of emphasizing her point.

My mother had two volumes: silent and screaming. The louder she was, regardless of whether she was right or wrong, the less likely anyone would disagree. My dear, sweet, five foot tall mother, Boston daughter Judy Steinwitz, was capable of raising the decibel level to such a degree that Putin’s dog would hear her from his house in Russia.

I clenched my inner lady parts as instructed—heaven forbid my mother let me forget that I had a baby six months ago and that my vagina was wide enough to drive a Mack truck through it—as I drove to my mother’s house for our thrice weekly personal training sessions at her in-home gym, Judy’s version of a push present for having had a child. Every week, I left my sweet six-month old baby boy at home with a sitter—he who gifted me with an extra fifty pounds of cellulite from housing him in my body for forty weeks—so I could sweat it out with my oldie, Judy.

When I arrived, I saw our trainer, Boomer’s, signature neon orange and lime green advertisement on wheels sitting in her driveway. Boomer was a former NFL farm team five hundredth draft pick who, when his professional football dreams failed to materialize, decided to take his steroid-assisted physique and reinvent himself as a personal trainer. I entered the basement, which had been renovated into a state of the art gym, and gave Judy and Boomer a nod hello.  Judy continued to run on her treadmill, careful not to screw up her pacing. She was preoccupied with looking at her reflection in the mirrored walls to ensure the incline setting was sufficiently helping her ass to defy gravity.

“Hi Boomer. I’m on the elliptical today?”

“Yes ma’am. You’re running late, so you’re going to owe me an extra ten minutes of running.”

I nodded sheepishly. Boomer was a stickler for punctuality. Show up late, and your date with whichever form of cardio punishment that awaited you was extended so that you couldn’t sit down the next day. Asshole!

“SO, WHY ARE YOU SO LATE?” Judy shouted overtop the blaring AC/DC. Boomer liked to make us work out to classic seventies rock. He’d head bang along with the booming bass while spotting us during our workouts. Perfect music to accompany his ‘roid rage, I thought to myself.

“Delia.” Delia was my newly minted toddler, a two-year-old hellion in baby Uggs. “She flushed my sports bra down the toilet. It took me twenty minutes to unclog the toilet and find another one to wear.”

“I’m glad you did…” my mother offered breathlessly.

“I know, plumbers cost a fortune,” I interrupted.

“No, I meant the bra. After two kids, your breasts hang down so low you don’t need to be working out in the wrong brassiere. I’ve spent enough on these personal training lessons to fix your belly and ass. I’m not buying you a boob job,” she heaved, turning purple.  The casual observer may be frightened by Judy’s complexion, fearing she was mere moments away from falling victim to a massive coronary episode. But, to those in the know, her eggplant hue simply meant she was hitting her target heart rate. She was still capable of berating me.

“I explained to Delia that toilets are for poop and pee only. I did my best not to raise my voice, but she laughed at me. Then, she defied me. After I fished out the fucking bra, she stuck her My Little Pony into the toilet. She said he wanted to go swimming. I deal with crap like this fifteen times a day. I don’t have a two year old. I have a tyrant. Maybe I’m not cut out for parenting.”

My mother stopped running.

“No one is cut out for parenting. We just do it and fuck up our kids along the way.”

“You seemed to get me to do what you wanted. For instance, you got me to brush my teeth. How’d you do it?”

“What do you say to Delia to get her to brush her teeth?”

“Judy, did I give you permission to stop? Push that tush!” Boomer shouted. He was her vocal match made in heaven. My mother complied. He was the only person she listened to.

“I tell her that she will get cavities if she doesn’t brush them. I explained that meant that…”

“You tell her this: Delia, honey, if you don’t brush your teeth, they’ll turn brown. And, do you know what is brown? Shit. And, if your teeth look like shit, your mouth will smell like shit, too. And, no one will want to play with you. You do that and she’ll brush her teeth. Kids want playmates. Mark my words, she’ll listen.”

“That’s horrifying. I’m not speaking to her like that. It’s bordering on abuse. And, it’s a lie!”

“Honey, parenting doesn’t spell truth. You want your kids to do what you want, sometimes you’ve got to lie so well that you’d pass a lie detector test. You need to believe the lies you tell them so that they will. Kids are built to be both bullshit artists and detectors.”

“What if Delia doesn’t care if her mouth smells like shit?”

“You tell her she’ll never get another cupcake again. Only her brother will.”

“You’re telling me to add another level of complexity to the already burdened sibling rivalry that exists between them?”

“What do you think I did with you and your sister? I’m telling you, you can’t spell parenting without lies,” my mother laughed.

“Ladies, time for crunches.”  We moved to the floor and lay down. Boomer put on some techno beats to help us keep pace with the two thousand crunches he expected us to complete in a continuous five-minute stretch sans respite.

“If all else fails, and she still refuses to brush her teeth, then you tell her she’ll end up going to the dentist every day to get a needle to put her to sleep so she can have her teeth brushed.”

“Holy shit, ma, you’re evil. I can’t do that.”

“Do you brush your teeth? Every day twice a day?”

“Yeah.”

“Do you think you do that because you believed in the importance of oral hygiene from a nubile age? Or, do you think you do it because I told you that if you didn’t, I’d have your dentist remove your teeth, which meant you’d never eat another cookie again, until you learned to brush your teeth yourself?”

My mouth fell agape. I had no memory of this. I probably blocked it out in order to survive. No wonder I hate going to the dentist.

“And, it doesn’t stop with teeth. Your kid refuses to sleep? You tell her that if she doesn’t nap or go to bed at night, she won’t grow and will always be wearing baby clothes. Fails to listen when you tell her to clean up? You say the toy fairies will come when she’s asleep and make them pinch her in her sleep for failing to put them away. Get my point?”

I mulled over her words. “You’re advocating bullying my own child like you bullied me.”

My mother’s self-satisfied, smug grin spoke volumes. “I got you to brush your teeth, though, didn’t I?”

“Is that the point? Get your kid to do what you want no matter how much damage it causes?”

“Oh, screw you and your sanctimonious high horse. Fear is a great motivator for kids.”

The music suddenly stopped. Judy continued to furiously crunch away without a lapse in her momentum.

“Excuse me, ladies. Normally, I don’t say much of anything during our sessions in regards to your mother-daughter chats. But, if you follow Judy’s advice, I’ll tell you what parenting does spell: guilt, with a capital G,” Boomer advised. “I don’t think you’re giving your daughter good advice.”

Judy sat up and looked at us blankly.

“Parenting has a letter ‘g’ at the end, but it’s not for ‘guilt.’ It’s for ‘get it done.’ That’s how you spell parenting,” my mother retorted. “And, that’s how you get abs like mine. So, put the music back on and start crunching. Fifty pounds don’t lose themselves, do they honey?”

“Well, there’s also a ‘t’ in ‘parenting.’ And, do you know what it stands for? Therapy.”



© 2019. Naomi Elana Zener. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, 14 June 2019

If Only Teething Was An Excuse by Naomi Elana Zener



In the era of articles and videos turning the tables on groups of individuals whose behaviour would otherwise not be accepted if their acts or statements were made by others—if adults behaved like toddlers, if Black people said the things that white people say, dudes greeting dudes as though they were catcalling women—as a parent, I’ve often wondered about what would happen if adults blamed our behaviour on teething. Yes, that’s right, teething: the time-limited, excruciating, sleep-depriving, demonic personality shift inducing, paranormal experience every baby and toddler goes through, when they treat the world and everyone in it like their own personal punching bag and gets away with it. These babies and toddlers don’t hold down jobs, pay bills, interact with society in a meaningful way, maintain interpersonal social relationships with friends, family, or neighbours, yet they get this amazing get-out-jail free card that enables their awful behaviour during a time in their life when they don’t need it. I think the time has come to look at what would happen if adults pulled the teething card out when things just don’t go their way.

Work

The phone ringg three times before anyone answers.

“Hello?” says a man’s voice.

“Hi, Mr. Smith. It’s Shirley,” she advises her voice muffled. “I’m not coming into to work today.”

“Are you ill? Mr. Smith asks.

“I have a runny nose, watery eyes, the runs, and possibly a mild fever. I’m teething. It’s those damn eye teeth breaking through and they’re throwing off my entire system. I just don’t know when I’ll get any relief, but until they’ve broken through, I’m not coming into work.”

“I completely understand,” Mr. Smith advises. “My son just got an F on his Algebra exam. Those fucking two-year old molars just screwed his chances of getting into Harvard. Have you tried Camelia or wearing an amber necklace? We’re hoping it helps our boy. I know how bad teething can be, so take as much time off with pay as you need. Your job will be waiting for you when you get back.”

Parenting

Sally waits impatiently in the kitchen. The stove isn’t on. Coffee isn’t brewing. Lunch isn’t packed.

“Mom, where are you?” Sally screeches. “The bus is gonna be here any minute, and I need to eat.”

Sally gets no reply. She glances at the clock on the stove. 7:52a.m. Her father was already en route to work and her brother was at his early morning volleyball practice. At seven years old, she is too young to scramble her own eggs. Sally storms up the stairs to confront her mother, whom she expects to find in the shower, but is shocked when she spies her lying in bed. Snoring. Drooling.

“Mom, wake up!” Sally shoves her mother, hard. Her mother doesn’t stir. She climbs on the bed, and copies a pile-driving move her brother taught her the night before when they were watching a WWF wrestling program together. This catches her mother’s attention.

“Waahh zaa faa?” her mother wails.

“Mom, you have to wake up and make me breakfast and lunch. I’m gonna be late for school.”

“Make it yourshelf. Leave mommy alone. I’m teeving.”

“You’re what?”

“I’m teeving. I haven’t slept in sheven days. I’m cranky and tired. Go away!”

“Do you mean you broke a tooth?”

“No. I’m getting one. Now, go and make your own damn breakfasht.”

“But, you told me I’m too young to use the stove.”

“Not today you aren’t.”

Sally pauses and thinks about all her mother has done for her over the years. She harkens back to her teething days, recalling the agony she felt when her infant gums swelled with pain.

“I’m sorry mom. I’ll be a good girl and make my own food. Can I get you anything? How about a martini?”


Sex with Spouse

Husband, dressed only in boxers that give his belly a muffin top, turns over to seductively caress Wife’s shoulder, signaling that he’s in the mood for love. He rolls Wife over to see her holding two ice packs to her cheeks.

“Not tonight dear, I’m teething,” Wife advises.

“You’re teething again?” Husband whines. “That’s like the fourth week in a row.”

“Stop whining like a little baby. I’m the one in pain.”

“Well, my dick is in pain from not gettin’ any. So, we’re even.”

“Really? We’re even? Do you have a sharp, bone like object breaking through your bone and piercing your skin?”


Husband flops onto his back.

“You’re right dear, we should wait until your teething period is over. I think you should ice your face. Can I rub your back to help you feel better?”


Blowing Off Plans

Cathy calls her friend, Daniel, wondering why he’s not already at the restaurant for their date. She’s let the phone ring fifteen times. Finally, on the sixteenth ring, he picks up.

“Hello?”

“Daniel, where are you? Please tell me you’re on your way to the here.”

“Sorry. I just can’t make it out tonight. I’m off solids until this tooth comes in. I hope you understand.”

“You’re what?”

“I lost my appetite. I just can’t eat a thing. And, I really don’t want to sit and watch you eat.”

“You could’ve told me that this morning when we spoke.”

“I didn’t feel that badly then. Teething is unpredictable. You should know that. You have a kid.”

“You’re right. I should  know better. I am a single mom after all. Could I come by and bring you a bottle of wine with a straw to help ease your pain?”

“Aw, that’s sweet of you, but I think I’m going to take some liquid Tylenol and go to bed.”

“Ok, well feel better. And, call me when your teeth breaks.”


Stealing a Parking Spot

“Hey asshole! Didn’t you see me sitting there with my right turn signal on?” a man yells out to the driver of the car who just stole his parking spot. “It’s fucking Christmas time and I’ve been circling this mall for an hour looking for a spot.”

“Sorry man, but you snooze you lose,” the other driver advised, as he tips his hat to him walking past the man’s car.

“You better watch yourself or I’m gonna unleash a whole lotta road rage on you.”

The thieving driver charges on foot towards the driver side of the man’s car.

“You don’t want to try me man. I’m teething and there’s no knowing what I’m capable of. You wanna test me, punk?”

The driver retreats from the window.

“Hey, sorry man. I didn’t realize you were cutting a tooth. We’ve all been there. Feel better. I’m sure I’ll find another spot in an hour or two.”

Do you see the magic in being able to castigate a whole host of adult bad behaviour on teething? I think it’s high time that we reclaim this justification from our babes-in-arms for teething problems are not just for toddlers anymore. Who’s with me?



© 2019. Naomi Elana Zener. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, 10 May 2019

RAT RACE by Naomi Elana Zener


"Where will you send your kid to school?" I'm asked at point blank range.
Confused silence the response, being pregnant this question was strange.
The man continued to press, advising I've disadvantaged my unborn child,
Educational choices must be made when eggs in ovaries are running wild.
"I'll take my chances," I replied suppressing the laughter of my fetus.
"Public school is free," I said,"it turns out doctors, even some named Cletus!"
Subliminal humour flew over the man's half-bald cuckoo’s nest,
In which his private school-educated brain was clearly at rest.
The parent, first of many, I've met who turn parenting into competitive sport,
Cross-examined me, scrutinized my choices as if I was a witness in court.
Leaving no stone unturned, each inquiry made in a judgmental fashion,
With each answer criticized, self-esteem like the DOW, diminished daily by a fraction.
Once baby arrived 'Gladiators: The Parenting Edition' throttled into full force,
Should baby and parent lag behind, then you've bet on the wrong horse.
Developmental milestones is where tiger parents would first pounce,
Heaven forbid your child is delayed, your faith in him you'd have to renounce.
Of course your paediatrician tells you each baby is different, don't worry, don't fret,
But, of your child only your doctor is genuinely accepting than the parents you've met.
And should your child not crawl, walk, talk and teethe preternaturally,
Then ensure clothes bought transform junior into one in vogue baby.
The park is not a playground, rather it is a fashion battle field.
Chances of success depend heavily on the brand of weapon you wield.
"Cute outfit," a mother remarked smugly looking at your kid up and down,
A no-name generic dress she is saddled in, your smile fades to a frown.
Reminding yourself baby's not on a red carpet or step and repeat,
Nonetheless, you hang your head in shame, returning home in defeat.
Compensating for another loss in the Darwinian competition,
You buy a second stroller, an overpriced celebrity-endorsed edition.
Customary greeting of neighbours replaced with an envy-laced question,
Instead of hello, "how many strollers do you have?" is the demanded confession.
No matter the number of music or sign language classes in which your baby is enrolled,
If not the most expensive or popular, your hand at this poker game you should fold.
Good luck if baby potty training has not commenced before turning one,
The embarrassment you'll face is worse than a red face from the sun.
"But you're forcing your child to sit in feces and urine!" the holier-than-thou exclaim,
A 'poo-pants pigpen' moniker will be your baby's newfound fame.
First birthday party, the parenting pageant's dreaded next round,
Each grander than the next, bar mitzvah scaled monstrosities abound.
Replete with live entertainment, french service, table centerpiece decor,
The days of cake, balloons, 'happy birthday' song are no more.
Upon safely reaching base camp, baby healthy and year one now behind you,
Mount Everest awaits, seventeen more years of this nonsense, you turn blue.
How to get through it all without tears, humiliation or falling to last place?
Finding a community of non-type A parents is now the chase.
Avoiding helicopters is easy, your kid is the trick,
Get out of plans easily, the card played is baby is sick.
Children are not accessories, for that we have BMW, Louis, Prada and Rochas,
Neither are they extensions of vanity or ego, to think otherwise lacks gravitas.
Raising kids does not have to be a sanctimonious rat race,
March to the beat of your own drummer, set a new pace.
But, if in the jet set urban developed jungle you wish to reside.
Find a good shrink and accept this reality, for from it you cannot hide.

(c) 2019. Naomi Elana Zener. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, 5 April 2019

Less Screen Time Means More Sexy Time by Naomi Elana Zener



“Are we ready to have a great session today?” Dr. Spencer asked the group, as he entered the room.

Five couples sat in folding chairs arranged in a circle formation in Dr. Spencer’s office. The husbands and wives fiddled with their hands, each person equally uneasy about being at a group couples counseling session—especially one that was so intergenerational.

The Victorian McSweedley couple, dressed in their Sunday best, the missus sporting a lace trim collar up to the scruff of her jawline, her neck adorned with an intricately carved oversized ivory cameo in her likeness, and the husband bedecked in a three-piece tweed suit and tie.

Next to them sat the Platocrates-era team, wearing matching togas, noses in air, barely acknowledging anyone else’s presence in the room, annoyed that their seats weren’t elevated on pedestals above the fray.

Across the room were Mr. and Mrs. Grunt, him in a Sabre-tooth tiger loincloth, her in a Wooly Mammoth one shouldered A-line number, both which were hanging off of their bodies due to the strict Paleo diet they followed.

In his letterman’s jacket from his high school football hero days, and in her hoop poodle skirt with a matching sweater set, sat the nifty fifties Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, both remaining politely silent with their hands folded in their respective laps, careful not to touch each other.

Rounding out the group were the Schwartzes, victims of the modern age dressed in matching hipster distressed indigo denim jeans imported from Japan, untucked  Lumberjack flannel shirts, Blundstones, and sporting his-and-hers matching tattooed wedding bands. Neither made eye contact with anyone in the room let alone each other, as their respective gazes were transfixed firmly on their dated iPhone 6+ screens, being held in one hand, as they each sipped artisanal water from mason jars held in the other.

Each of the couples were there for the same reason: sexy time in their respective marriages had steadily declined due to advent of emerging technology available to each of them.

“So, who wants to start?” Dr. Spencer asked of no one in particular.

No one uttered a word. Dr. Spencer pleaded non-verbally with his eyes, begging for one of the couples to kick things off so he wouldn’t have to engage the Socratic method to get at the root of their respective sexless marriages. Finally, a sound was heard in the room—well, more of a groan.

“Yes, Mrs. Grunt?”

“Cave draw-draw. Man no boom,” Mrs. Grunt advised. Mrs. Grunt inserted her left index finger into a circular formation she made with her right hand, and then waved her husband’s club in the air.

“You mean you don’t have sex?” Dr. Spencer prodded, inserting his fingers into each other. He was doing his best to make his rudimentary penetrative finger gestures seem less obscene to illustrate the meaning of the word.

“Uh,” Mrs. Grunt sighed. Mr. Grunt hung his head in shame. Mrs. Grunt stood abruptly from her seat, went over to Dr. Spencer’s wall, and mocked drew all over it. Then, she pointed at her husband.

“So, he draws non stop, leaving no time for you?” Dr. Spencer queried.

“Cave bad,” Mrs. Grunt advised. “Fire bad, too. Burn balls.”

Mr. Grunt, growing agitated, began to thump on his chest, demonstrating that he was still a red-blooded male. Mrs. Grunt laughed.

“Mr. Grunt, your wife is trying to tell you that she wants you to, to…” Dr. Spencer stopped himself—surmising from his patient’s look of confusion that he didn’t understand his words—and copied Mrs. Grunt’s gesture to illustrate his point. Then, he walked over to the wall, and wagged his finger to indicate that the cave wall drawings had to stop. “Understand? Draw bad. Boom good. And, no boom near fire. Fire bad for boom.”

Mr. Grunt nodded his head and grabbed his club from his wife’s hand.
He stood up, walked over to the wall where Dr. Spencer was standing, and smashed his club into it before Dr. Spencer could stop him.

“Cave bad,” Mr. Grunt repeated. Mrs. Grunt clapped her hands, as Dr. Spencer shook his head, mentally calculating how many holes Mr. Grunt had put into his wall since he’d started therapy. Dr. Spencer made a mental note to call building maintenance after the session ended.

“So, how about the Platocrates? Ready to share?” Dr. Spencer asked. “This time without philosophizing.”

“How O ye forget, deceived by the force of my husband’s eloquence, the great speaker he be, our problem rests alone in the bathhouse the men of Athens visit with frequency,” Mrs. Platocrates whined, shifting awkwardly in her toga as she tried to cross her legs demurely. Mr. Plutocrates stood to pace the room.

“So, he’s still going there on a regular basis?” Dr. Spencer asked.

“I am a great speaker, the force of truth flows through my lips, yet I’ve not spoken the truth to you. But, you shall hear the whole truth from me.  First, I must reply to my accuser, my wife. I must beg of you to grant me favour.” Mr. Plutocrates begged.

“I grant ye nothing. You’ve shamed me. Shamed the house of Plutocrates.”

“The origin of these accusations, that there is something strange I have been doing, is unfair.  I will endeavor to explain why I have such an evil fame. It is because my wife is closed-minded to the boundaries of an open marriage,” Mr. Plutocrates explained.

“As I wisened from hearing the insightful words from our fellow friends in the last session, you are as they in this room say, a bullshit artist,” Mrs. Plutocrates spat. “If Alexander the Great chooses to have sex in the bathhouses, means not that you engage as he does. Bathhouses have murdered marital sexual relations. Tis no different than the distraction of cave walls, which hath killed the Grunts’ marriage!”

“I’d like to visit a bathhouse!” Mrs. McSweedley screamed. All eyes peered at her, for it was unusual for the couples to address each other during these sessions, due to their inhibition to discuss sex publicly. “My apologies if I spoke out of turn.”

“No, no, you’re on to something,” Dr. Spencer offered. “Mrs. Plutocrates, are there bathhouses for women?”

“For certain there are. Women must bathe, too. Or else, we are no more than common pigs,” Mrs. Plutocrates advised. “But, for not they are used for sex.”

“Maybe they should be,” Mr. McSweedley suggested. “Sorry, if that was too forward of me.”

“The woman lies! She chooses not to engage in coitus, but the opportunity for it exists,” Mr. Plutocrates philosophized.  “Perhaps my wife is better suited to live in the McSweedley’s prudish era. Mr. McSweedley, how about a wife-exchange?”


Mrs. McSweedley gave Mr. Plutocrates a sly wink.  So, too, did Mr. McSweedley. Three-way?, he mouthed in Mr. Plutocrates direction.


“Mrs. Plutocrates, are you having sexual relations in the bathhouse?” Dr. Spencer asked.

She shook her head no.

“Now, don’t you think you’re being unfair? What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. The bathhouse is the emerging technology of your era, just like the smartphone is to the twenty-first century. You have to find a way to make it help your marital sex life instead of letting it ruin it.”

Again, Mrs. Plutocrates shook her head no. The couple was at an impasse, neither willing to bend to the other’s philosophical will.

Unequipped with the necessary language skills, and frankly bored,  the Grunts preoccupied themselves with picking nits out of each other’s hair, while the group session continued around them. No one seemed to take note of his or her behaviour.

“Since you both refuse to listen to my reason, perhaps the answer is to be found in the wisdom of the God of Delphi. Would a mixed sex bathhouse work for you both, where you can engage in sex with each other and with whomever you please, so long as nothing is done behind each other’s back?” Dr. Spencer suggested.

The couple was intrigued by Dr. Spencer’s idea, and noting the other’s seeming openness to the idea, they softened toward each other.

“So, if I’m to understand you clearly, we can do whatever we want with anyone we want, as long as we are both doing it at the same bathhouse?” Mr. Plutocrates asked.

“Exactly!” Dr. Spencer boomed. “What happens in the bathhouse, stays in the bathhouse.”

The Plutocrates smiled.  Consensus had been reached.

“So, who’s next?” Dr. Spencer asked. “Mrs. McSweedley, you were quite vocal before, maybe you can tell everyone how the emerging technologies of your era have affected your sex life.”

“We fuck like rabbits,” Mrs. McSweedley advised. “Nothing keeps us from coitus.”  Mr. McSweedley cleared his throat, nodding in agreement with his wife’s revelation.

The McSweedleys candour drew blank stares. Normalized to their prim attire, prudish remarks, and constant flow of apologies if ever they spoke too loudly or out of turn, no one in the room expected them to divulge much information, so their confession was more than the other couples’ ears were prepared to digest.

“Um,” Dr. Spencer stammered, unsure of what to say.

“There are several emerging technologies, which we are enjoying immensely are the advent of travel of rail and sea, and electric telegraph messaging,” Mr. McSweedley advised. “We send each other sexual messages by telegraph all of the time.”

“We’ve even had sexual relations on a train,” Mrs. McSweedley added.

“Then, what is the problem?” Dr. Spencer asked.

“We’ve got our first boat trip coming up. We are heading across the Atlantic on a steamship, but we worry that the Missus’ motion sickness will put a damper on our enthusiasm for testing out rocking the boat, if you know what I mean, ol’chap,” Mr. McSweedley winked at Dr. Spencer. “Coitus interuptus.”

“Or, coitus not-at-all-tus,” Mrs. McSweedley whispered. “I’d be mortified if I vomited on my husband with each of his penetrative thrusts inside of me.”

“Do you have Dramamine?” Mrs. Schwartz asked in her thick Yonkers accent. “I take it on all of our cruises, and when my hubby sexts me that he wants to do it, I pop a pill, and then he pops me.”

“What is this Dramamine, of which you speak?” Mrs. McSweedley asked.

“I don’t think it’s been invented yet for you, unfortunately,” Dr. Spencer advised, as he Googled his online drug compendium manual to see when the medication was invented.

“What is sexting?” Mr. McSweedley asked.

“Honey, you’re doing it already, only with paper,” Mrs. Schwartz advised. “Your people were the innovators of sexting,” Mr. Schwartz advised.

“It’s sending sexual messages over phones instead of by telegraph,” Mr. Schwartz advised. The Schwartzes resumed playing with their phones, as they’d done since the group therapy session had begun.

“You can even send pictures,” Mrs. Schwartz added.

“Nope, sorry. You’re a few hundred years too early for Dramamine,” Dr. Spencer advised, looking up from his computer. Mrs. McSweedley became teary-eyed. She feared the three week long boat trip would be powered less by steam and the vessel’s motor, and more by their pent up sexual frustration due to the abstinence forced upon them.

“Fear not my sweet, sexual dynamo. Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” Mr. McSweedley said.

“If the motion of the ocean interferes with knocking boots, why not just have sex mirroring the roll of the waves?” Dr. Spencer asked.

“By George, I think he’s got it!” Mr. McSweedley explained. “Thank you so much for sharing your brilliant wisdom.” Mr. McSweedley jumped out of his chair and rushed over to the good doctor. He grabbed his hand, shaking it profusely. Mrs. McSweedley stood slowly, and gathered the couples’ belongings.

“My dear, I think it behooves us to practice what the good doctor has preached. Let us away to our home, so we may practice having sex in the bathtub, “ Mrs. McSweedley instructed. Like a good Pavlovian puppy, Mr. McSweedley pranced over to his wife’s side, and the two skipped out of Dr. Spencer’s office.

“We are making great breakthroughs today. Since you both shared some wise words with the McSweedleys, do you want to go next?” Dr. Spencer asked the Schwartzes to no reply. Their faces were buried in their iPhones. “Ok, since the Schwartzes are otherwise preoccupied, Beavers you’re up.”

“Television is certainly a big problem. All of these new shows keep us from engaging in sex,” Mr. Beaver advised. “And, TV dinners don’t help matters.”

“My husband can blame the idiot box all he wants, but that’s not the reason he’s not looking at or tinkering with my box,” Mrs. Beaver retorted.

“Darling, such language,” Mr. Beaver gasped.

“Cut the crap, Marvin. You’ve said fouler things when you throw a gutter ball during your bowling championships. I wish your mind was in the gutter as often as your bowling balls are.”

“What do you perceive the problem to be?” Dr. Spencer asked Mrs. Beaver. “If the new television technology isn’t the root of the problem, what is?”

“TV is a big problem, but thanks to the advent of separate beds, and Marvin living in black and white, the only thing that’s being left to Beaver is whatever June Cleaver makes her family for dinner,” Mrs. Beaver complained.  “My beaver is getting nothing. Zip. Nada.”

Marvin Beaver’s cheeks flushed deep crimson.

“Maybe you should try to push the beds together,” Dr. Spencer offered.

“But, we got separate beds to help my sciatica,” Mr. Beaver whined.

“Keep playing the sciatica card, and we’re getting separated,” Mrs. Beaver shot back.

“What I’m hearing is that you’re not tending to your wife’s needs. Time to turn off the TV and share that twin bed of hers. Close quarters will rekindle the flame that once burned brightly,” Dr. Spencer advised.

“If I’ve got to turn off the TV, what about them?” Mr. Beaver spat back, accusatorily pointing his finger at the Schwartzes. “Shouldn’t they have to spend less time on their calculators turned into phones?”

“It is true that studies have shown that less screen time results in more sexual time between partners,” Dr. Spencer advised. “Clearly, the form of screen, whether a smartphone, the interior of a cave wall, or a TV set can cause problems. But, really any emerging technology, from Ancient Grecian bathhouses to Victorian, um, er—well, it seems despite their prudish exterior, the Victorians love sex and don’t let anything get in their way from having it—can have a detrimental effect on said sexual relations.”

The Schwartzes didn’t look up from their phones—each watching new shows from Netflix and Amazon, respectively, on mute so as not to be disrespectful to the others—nonplussed by the other couples’ sexual problems. They figured that since they sexted each other, which led to sex at least once a week—pretty good for a decade long marriage with kids—that was good enough for them. Mr. Grunt, a highly sensitive man, who responded to Mr. Beaver’s increasingly agitated body language at being told to get rid of his TV and play with his wife’s beaver, saw him waving his finger in Mr. Schwartz’s phone’s direction.   Being fairly non-verbal, he couldn’t understand what Mr. Beaver was babbling about, or what Mr. Schwartz was saying, but upon seeing Mr. Schwartz protect his iPhone 6+ while Mr. Beaver waved at Dr. Spencer’s wall, he clued into the fact that something was bad about the device in Mr. Schwartz’s hand—very bad indeed.

“Argh!” Mr. Grunt bellowed, as he stood up commandingly from his chair. He waved his club in the air. A shared look of terror and panic spread across everyone else’s faces, with the exception of Mrs. Grunt, who recognized his actions as those she oft witnessed as part of his ‘boom’ foreplay. Without warning, Mr. Grunt charged Mr. Schwartz. He swung his club at the iPhone 6+, which promptly flew into the air. Multiple cracking sounds were heard, the least of which were those coming from Mr. Schwartz’s hand, in which metacarpal and phalanges bones broke on impact with Mr. Grunt’s club. The iPhone 6+ fell to the floor, shattering on impact. So much for having a shatterproof screen. The silent tension in the room was palpable.

“Boom. Boom,” Mr. Grunt advised Mr. Schwartz, pointing his club at Mrs. Schwartz, directing her husband to perform his husbandly duties.

“You owe me a fucking new iPhone 6+,” Mr. Schwartz screeched at the caveman. Mrs. Schwartz did her best to try to muffle her guffaws, but couldn’t contain her snorting.

“What’s he going to pay you with?” Mrs. Schwartz chortled.  Dr. Spencer, the Plutocrates, and Beavers were howling with laughter. “He make you fire. You give fire to Apple for new phone?”

“Fuck fire. He can have you. I’ll take your phone. Where you’re going you won’t need one.”

“Oh, don’t be such a spoil sport. Hell, maybe don’t replace the phone and try having sex with your wife directly instead of through the mobile device,” Dr. Spencer advised. “Mr. Grunt did you a favour. The 6+ is such a piece of crap, anyway—it bends. Time for a new phone anyway – the Apple X is out. “

© 2019. Naomi Elana Zener. All Rights Reserved.