Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Mom Static

Do you have Mom static? I'm pretty sure that most mothers get this as part of the whole motherhood package, but I've seen plenty of non-parents suffering from it as well. It's the censorious reaction in you that pops out when you notice something that is not quite right, something -- or someone -- that should be corrected. It is not an attractive thing.

Last Sunday, we took our three teenagers to Edinburgh to hear Modest Mouse, an indie folk rock group. Even before they took our tickets at the door, my Mom static started getting in the way.

"Who's smoking?" I said in a stage whisper as we stood in line outside, freezing cold. The wind kept delivering the offender's smoke to my eyes and nose, making my Mom alarm go off.

My daughters hate cigarette smoke themselves, but being half British, they're not crazy about scenes. So they pretended not to notice the smoke, even when the wind blew it right into their faces. In fact, the wind was making us all miserable, especially my youngest daughter, who was shivering, her arms wrapped around her shoulders. Suddenly I realized that she'd taken off her coat. That all she had on was a pair of tight jeans and a flimsy, sleeveless cotton top with a plunging neckline. My Mom static kicked right in.

"Where's your coat?" I snapped, rubbing my hands over her arms.

"Mom!" she hissed, "This is a rock concert!"

She had put her coat into her sister's capacious bag, which was gaping open. I tried to suppress it, but my Mom static sounded off again.

"Anybody could put their hands into your bag with it open like that," I said almost despite myself. "For pity's sake, do up the snaps, how lazy are you?"

My eldest daughter gave me her famous raised eyebrow. "Dude, there's nothing in there to steal."

"Your mobile phone?" All we need around here is another lost mobile phone.

The eyebrow went up again. "In my pocket."

As we walked into the theatre, my Mom static was suddenly overwhelmed by my sense of being at a rock concert. I didn't go to many of these when I was young, so they still have a special allure all their own. For one brief, fleeting moment, I was with people my age and we were all roughly 19. I was a fetching young thing in a green halter top with zebras on it and a pair of low-hipped bell bottom trousers. And then I realized that almost everybody was 19, but I was one of those staid, mainstream people of a certain age, barely even on the radar anymore. My husband and I might have been invisible as our daughters almost shrieked and ran towards the stage.

As soon as the music started, my Mom static kicked in so hard I could barely stand it. I could barely stand the music either: it was too loud. When Modest Mouse came on, they were over-the-top too loud. They are a great band and I love the songs they play, but the excessive sound made it impossible for my ears to enjoy (or even process) the music. I was miserable because the theatre was packed and I could not make my way down to the stage to urge my daughters to plug their ears with the pieces of Kleenex I had balled up and used to plug mine. Besides, I was pretty sure that if I did show up proffering Kleenex and looking anxious in a motherly way, they might not speak to me for a week. Not that I'd be able to hear them if they did.

The music was great. I know this because I've heard it before and since, on our own modest sound system. In Edinburgh, I might as well have been down at the airport, listening to planes taking off. In the middle of one of the numbers, my Mom static went off again, full blast when one of the drummers lit up a cigarette. I could clearly see him smoking, and so could everyone else. I felt like jumping up and screaming. Did he realize what he was doing? Smoking in front of all those young, impressionable people who could see how cool he was? What kind of a role model was he? It was all that I could do not to rush right down to the stage and snatch the cigarette from his hand.

When it was over and we were all shuffling out of the theatre, my Mom static interfered again. I tried to smother it, but it pushed me over the brink. "Look at all this trash on the floor! Look at all these plastic cups! Who's going to clean all of this up?"

My husband shrugged. "Well, at least you don't have to."

"But somebody does!" I almost shouted. "Look how much beer they've spilled -- that'll stink this place up for the next month!"

We had joined my daughters by this time. "Come on, Mom -- be fair. Can you see waste bins around anywhere?" my eldest asked.

"So you put your trash in your own bag and you take it back to your own house and throw it away!"

A pale, nose-studded youth whose trousers seemed to be falling off his hips slowly turned around to look at me. I struggled not to ask him if he'd dropped his trash on the floor.

My girls sighed and shook their heads. If they ever have Mom static themselves, I know they'll forgive me.

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22 comments:

Kim Ayres said...

I'd have paid good money to see you storm up on stage and snatch the cigarette out of the mouth of the drummer :)

debra said...

Wherein I try to sit on my hands and bite my tongue :-)

Carole said...

Don't get to feeling like when they get out on their own your mom static will disappear. It doesn't. I try biting my tongue now since they are all in their 30's and I am mostly successful but sometimes the mom static bursts forth on it's own.

Great post. I also agreee with Kim. The image of you and the drummer in a bit of cig-a-war is very entertaining.

Mary Witzl said...

Kim -- He was young, but he was a fairly skinny guy, I'm pretty sure I could have taken him. Plus, I'd have had the shock element working for me.

Debra -- There's just so far you can bite your tongue though, right? And your hands get numb if you sit on them too long.

Carole -- When our eldest daughter was four months old, I asked our pediatrician when it got easier. He had toddlers and teenagers and he always looked exhausted, and he looked me straight in the eye and said, "You're in this for life." And he was right. Wish I'd talked to him a year earlier, though I doubt I'd have listened.

Charles Gramlich said...

LOL. I thought this was quite hilarious. But I don't have mom static.

Bish Denham said...

LOL. Yep every once in a while, even though I don't have kids, my Mom Static rears it's ugly head.

As for the band, just look at all the early pics of the Beatles and Stones and Bob Dylan all of them had cigs hanging out of their mouths, dripping from their fingers. It just aint going away.

Robert the Skeptic said...

I find it disheartening to see celebrities smoking - and conveying that "value" to impressionable peers. It's not like in our day when the cigarette companies lied to us about the effects of smoking. Now everyone knows!

Or do they? So many young people smoking today. Ok, so the long=term consequences are too far for them to project, but the STINK. Who wants to be around that stink?!

Robin said...

Oh, my! I can't stop giggling. I love the "Kleenex in the ears" idea. I so wish you had given some to your daughters.

I definitely have Mom static. I always want to tell kids to cut their bangs, pull up their pants, and stop mumbling.

Vijaya said...

Now why is it that men don't have Dad-statics? This is why next month, my husband is taking my son to a concert ... and I am staying home with my daughter. Just the thought of being with 5,000 people with Lord knows what decibel levels is enough to give me a migraine.

Mary Witzl said...

Charles -- Lucky you. Your wife and son must lead a charmed life! Unless your wife has Mom static, that is.

Bish -- Good for you for admitting this. I know very well that you don't have to be a mother to have Mom static, I was just being polite.

Not long ago, I found a stack of old Life magazines from the fifties. I couldn't get over how EVERYBODY had a cigarette dangling from their lips. And there were big one-page ads about how Camels were the cigarettes most recommended by doctors -- seriously. So to quote Virginia Slims out of context, we've come a long way. I just wish I could get Modest Mouse to stop smoking.

Robert -- It bothers me no end too. People seem to think that smoking is very retro, one of those unhealthy things to do that is just bad enough to look cool. But even if I could get past the health risk to myself and others (which I couldn't), the stink would stop me every time. The problem is, once you get hooked, you can't smell the stink. Or much of anything else either: smoking is the olfactory equivalent of listening to music that's too loud. At least you get your sense of smell back after you stop smoking.

Robin -- I'm a terrible mumbler myself, and I need to stand up straight -- maybe we could trade Mom static? :o)

Kleenex in your ears works better than nothing. I used to carry silicone ear plugs with me all the time, but even I accept that that is almost TOO nerdy.

Vijaya -- Good for your husband, taking the kids to the concert! 5,000 people crammed together with top decibels sounds like a great way to develop a migraine.

Dad static rarely kicks in because Mom static is generally more than enough. I think if there is no Mom static, then Dad static will naturally evolve, just as people who have no hands develop prehensile skills with their feet.

Miss Footloose said...

I am in awe of you going to that concert at all! I stay away from any kind of mass-gathering because it makes me feel like a sheep, one who cannot escape.

And the noise! It is said that a large percentage of young kids already have lost a significant portion of their hearing because of the loud music they contantly listen to.

My Mom-static goes off around loud music. Trash, well, only in the west where it's a real disgrace because people know better.

Again, youi were so brave going to that concert with a bunch of kids!

Mary Witzl said...

Miss Footloose -- Me too: that's why I hardly ever went when I was a teenager (but I also stayed away because I had little money and there was no way my parents would have gone with me even if by some miracle they'd agreed to fork out.)

I keep telling my kids and any of their friends that will listen to me that they ought to go into hearing aid engineering if they want to make money. In ten or twenty years, nobody their age is going to have any hearing left at all if they go to concerts like that. Kids nowadays have the technology to blow their hearing right out of their heads, and they're going for it big time. All I can do is sigh and offer my Kleenex ear plugs.

AnneB said...

I am in awe of your bravery at going to the concert, period! What a mom!

Medeia Sharif said...

I'm not a mom, but I still experience static--too many pet peeves.

adrienne said...

Oh, boy, that gives new meaning to the term static cling...it's so hard to let go of that kind of control.
I had to laugh at your comments about the trash - that one also drives me up the wall!

Kappa no He said...

I'm so glad you gave a name to it. I'm giving you a great big hug now. I nodded my head through your entire post. And I give you points for not licking your thumb to wipe something off a daughter's cheek. I so would have.

I always make my family wear earplugs to concerts. It cuts out all the highs and actually (I swear by it) you hear the music better. I'm going to Google the bank now. ^^

Falak said...

I think I suffer from Mom Static too..... Either that or my brother thought it would be amusing to point at me and laugh after he read this post. I guess that's what you get for being finicky about cleanliness and noise levels.... sigh....

Anne Spollen said...

Lol, yes, being a Mom is like being female or short or funny - you sort of can't ever NOT be that.

When I was helping my son move into his dorm yesterday, I looked at his roommate and said, not too patiently, "Is that your wet towel on the floor?" He picked it up.

It's sort of like having a disorder -

Mary Witzl said...

AnneB -- It was no hardship -- we really do like Modest Mouse. But if you ever want to feel ridiculously old, just go to a rock concert and you will. In two seconds, I went from being a 17-year-old in bell bottoms to a staid matron carrying antiseptic hand wash and band aids in her bag.

Medeia -- When you become a Mom, you could well go straight into constant static mode, so be forewarned!

Adrienne -- I really hate littering too! There was a wonderful commercial on one of the channels we got in North Cyprus (I think it was from Kuwait TV) about a littering family tossing their trash about all day, then going home, opening the door, and finding all of it waiting for them in their living room. Every time we saw it, it cheered me up.

Kappa -- I LOVE it that you can get your family to wear earplugs to rock concerts! I'm the only one who does this in our family. I really worry that one day I'll also be the only one who isn't cupping her ear and saying "What?"

When I wipe stuff off the kids' faces, I always let them spit on my handkerchief first. Sometimes I'm tempted to just cut out the middleman and spit on it myself, but they'd go ballistic. They don't realize how lucky they are.

Falak -- You poor thing: when you become a mother, this will only get worse! But someone has to be nitpicking about cleanliness and noise levels or think what a filthy, noisy world we'd live in.

AnneS -- Good for you, getting that kid to pick up his towel. Did your son do the "Oh Mooom" cringing thing? Mine would have.

The other day, a friend who is visiting us accompanied me to another friend's house, where we discovered her 15-year-old boy at home, in his pajamas, perfectly healthy. He was clearly skiving off school, and when I waved goodbye, I said, "You go to school tomorrow, hear?" My friend was aghast, but what else could I have said?

Charlie said...

I don't have children or Mom Static, but I do suffer from Old Grump Static. I echo Medeia: too many pet peeves **Grump, Grump**

Chris Eldin said...

ahahahahahah!
Sometimes I try to make it (my own static) stop, but just can't.
:-)

Marian Perera said...

This seems an appropriate moment for one of my favorite Red Dwarf quotes:

CAT : Think of all the wonderful, glorious things about having children!

LISTER : Like what?

CAT : Like when they grow up and leave home.