the smell of my desperation has become a stench

An ode to Linda

So my mom calls yesterday, and immediately I set a timer to see if maybe this time we can set a record. Because my mother does not like to talk on the phone, and on average has said goodbye within twenty seconds. That is not an exaggeration. Twenty seconds. A phone call with my mother sounds like the guy who is auctioning off a cow, except that guy is coherent and my mother? A bit more like someone is beating a cat with a banjo.

I say that with all the love in my heart, Mom. You know how much I love banjos.

Like, I’ll talk to my brother Ranger, and he’ll mention that he had a phone call with my mom, and when I ask him how long he’ll go, A MINUTE FORTY-FIVE, BITCHES!

Jon doesn’t understand why my mom cannot stay on the phone, thinks that she has some sort of emotional aversion to the whole situation, and many times will say that conversations with her on the phone sound exactly like this: if I don’t hang up now someone might die, goodbye.

Remember that movie about the bus that had to keep moving or it would explode? Twist that around and turn it on its head and there you have my mom’s relationship to the telephone. The longer she talks, the more likely the world will end. I think I just armchair diagnosed her with something and saved her a ten dollar copay. THAT’S BETTER THAN A COUPON FOR CONDENSED MILK, MOM.

I tease her because I love her, she knows that, although I do expect a phone call in about ten minutes, one that lasts about fourteen seconds wherein I am labeled a turd.

Anyway, she calls to tell me that she has a story she thinks I will totally identify with, because she and I are the same person, and oops, I forgot to tell you. I have the exact same relationship with the phone. Sort of. I mean, I can have long conversations, but usually I’m all about WHAT? WHAT DO YOU WANT? SERIOUSLY? GET TO THE POINT, I HAVE MUCH PAJAMA-WEARING IN-THE-BED BLOGGING TO DO.

So it turns out that she and my stepfather are participating in a program at church where they are reading ten pages a day out of The Book of Mormon, and since my mother is The Most Competitive Person On The Planet, she is making sure that she is ahead of my stepfather. Meaning, she secretly snuck into his copy of the book to see how far along he was, and when she saw that he was within two pages of where she was, she ran right to her copy and read thirty more pages. And she was all, HA! THIRTY PAGES AHEAD! See if you can catch up to that, SLOW READER.

Now, there are too many layers of ridiculousness to this that I can’t even count that high, starting with Mom, there is no prize at the end of this contest. You know that, right? And here you are cheating which is totally against the Word of Wisdom, or isn’t it one of the ten commandments? WHATEVER. It’s a sin no matter how you look at it MINUS A HUNDRED POINTS FOR YOU.

Except — and this is the reason the word except was invented — I totally wanted to high five her right there, right as we passed the one minute fifty-two second mark of our conversation. SUCK IT, RANGER.

Because sometimes when Jon and I are working out on treadmills next to each other at the gym and I look over and see that he is burning more calories than I am? I will increase the incline by ten and up the speed to HEART ATTACK just so that when we’re done my calorie count is at least one point higher than his. Otherwise I can’t go on living.

So you see? These neuroses. NOT MY FAULT.

  • Daddy Scratches

    2009/11/17 at 1:00 pm

    I can’t think of anything that my wife and I compete with each other about (unless you count that time each of us thought the other was picking our son up from school as a “competition” … you know, kind of like a contest to see which of us is the suckiest parent). Which isn’t to say we’re much too healthy for such foolishness; PLENTY of neuroses to go around over here.

    (PS: Love being able to edit comments now … because, oy vey with the typos already …)

    (PPS: Sort of down with your mom about the whole phone thing … albeit not to the extent that the fate of the world depends on it.)

  • Kim

    2009/11/17 at 12:33 pm

    First! (you can come drive over me with your car for doing that). I detest the phone too – I thought it was a weird thing until I realized it’s a common phobia. Wooo!

  • christinelaine1

    2009/11/17 at 12:34 pm

    hahaha, your mom sounds like mine (about the phone) except my mom will have 25 second conversations with me 5 times a day, because she always forgets what she’s going to say and has to keep calling back! adult ADD at its finest.

  • Midnight

    2009/11/17 at 12:34 pm

    In my family, it’s my dad. We joke that his conversations end with “take it easy, click.” I find that the older I get, the less I like to be on the phone, although I haven’t resorted to just abruptly hanging up on people after telling them to take it easy. Well, at least not yet.

  • Penelope

    2009/11/17 at 12:34 pm

    Haha. That made me laugh because I always check treadmill rates of those beside me and make sure I am the fastest. So silly, but so true.

  • vonfengler

    2009/11/17 at 12:36 pm

    L-O-V-E the competitiveness. We are much the same way in our family – My cousin and I use to rollerblade from Redondo Beach to Manhattan – only because we were soo competitive we would end up in – oh I don’t know SANTA BARBARA before one of us would turn to the other and say “Sooo you wana head back now…” My beloved cannot understand the competitive gene at all (he comes from a LAZY gene pool). Conversation in my family inevitably starts with “Well oh yeah – I ….” insert pissing match here…

  • jessilee

    2009/11/17 at 12:37 pm

    haha I’ve got a similar competitive streak. I’ve been known to do things just to win. My poor husband puts up with it but some days I can tell he’d just like to WIN.

  • jessiCat

    2009/11/17 at 12:40 pm

    So glad to know that I’m not the only phone hater. Seriously. I hate its guts. My friends all get mad at me, and I tell all those bitches to just TEXT ME already! I will text all day. BUT, please don’t call me unless someone is really injured, or dead. Because other than those 2 things, talking on the phone is just not something I want to do after work. Bleh. On my Facebook (or MySpace….or whatever other thing I waste time on) the caption under my picture read “If the phone doesn’t ring, it’s me”. SO TRUE! 🙂

  • Milla

    2009/11/17 at 12:46 pm

    first! oh wait, i’m not. i’ll get you next time, other commenters!

  • A.T.s_mama

    2009/11/17 at 12:49 pm

    I would prefer to slowly remove my fingernails one by one than talk on the phone for any length of time. I must be the only person on the planet who doesn’t own a cell phone.

  • reenie

    2009/11/17 at 12:49 pm

    he won’t say so but my husband and i are fiercely competitive. . .especially when it comes to exercise. if he sneaks out of bed in the morning to go running without me, i am beyond myself. my eyeballs = daggers. so, not only do i feel compelled to run twice as far later in the day, i will also place salami underneath the insoles of his sneakers.

  • TropicalPopsicle

    2009/11/17 at 1:06 pm

    Bless you all for hating to talk on the phone and showing me I’m not the only one. I call my phone my Google or my texter because I only use it for the internet and texing. My father in law has even taken up texting so we can talk because he knows he’ll have a better conversation that way.

  • Barstool Babe

    2009/11/17 at 1:09 pm

    I still get scared when my Mom calls because long distance phone calls when I was growing up always meant somebody was in the hospital or died. The weekly letter to Grandma was the way to keep up on what was happening in the family. Dad doesn’t even call his children, we call him. If we’re lucky, he may last a couple of seconds before he passes the phone off to Mom.

  • WebSavyMom

    2009/11/17 at 1:14 pm

    –>My parents have 500 minutes on their cell phone every month plus we’re in the same network so calling me is Free. You’d think it was still costing $4.95 a minute when my mother calls. It’s hard to hear her over the cash register going off in the background of how much this call is costing her.

  • Kim Hosey - AZ Writer

    2009/11/17 at 1:20 pm

    Gah, I kind of wish my mom was like yours in phone-call etiquette. I love her to pieces, but I HATE talking on the phone. To anyone. And when it is (finally) time to say our goodbyes, we have to do the “Yeah well, time to go…” warm-up goodbyes at least a dozen times. Argh.

    I like phone calls with my brother. Me: “You coming to X location?” Him: “Yup. What time?” Me: “6:30.” Him: “K. See you then.” [Hang up.]

    I kind of fail at socializing as a whole.

  • simpliSAHM

    2009/11/17 at 1:24 pm

    Neuroses ~ Mothers ~ ’nuff said.

  • MinivanSoapbox

    2009/11/17 at 1:25 pm

    So, my mom and I are swimming in her backyard pool…Which is obviously, lovely. And we start to tread water while talking about the finer things in life…makeup, sex, booze, etc. After a while we notice that A LOT of time has passed, and my Dad has started timing us. So, now IT’S ON. My mother? She looks me square in the eyes – All 60 years of her and says “I’ll Die Before I Let You Win”. Yea…I know where I get it too.

  • tullisjen

    2009/11/17 at 1:29 pm

    Gotta love your mom! Loving the neuroses!

  • micahmaranda

    2009/11/17 at 1:34 pm

    Ummm, regarding the “Platter” pic, is that seriously all the candy you have left from Halloween? For some reason, in a neighborhood full of kids, we had like 4 trick or treaters. And one of them was a cracked out lady in her (at least) 50s who I’m pretty sure was just trying to raise her blood sugar so she could comedown peacefully without dying. And I’m all like, Dude, Reece’s are the best when you’re crashing, TRUST ME. Point? Not one.

  • kristanhoffman

    2009/11/17 at 1:45 pm

    There’s nothing worse than realizing you ARE your mother. Oh wait, yes there is: when your MOTHER realizes you are her, and she throws it in your face.

    I can’t wait to do that to my kid.

  • kristanhoffman

    2009/11/17 at 1:46 pm

    PS: Your spam filter is really creeping me out today. I mean, “Paul disrobes”? Seriously?


  • Laurel

    2009/11/17 at 2:00 pm

    One night my boyfriend made me promise, in all seriousness, that I would not become like my mother. I don’t even blame him, but I’ve got forty-two years of programming working against me.


  • Louise

    2009/11/17 at 2:01 pm

    Ok, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the name Ranger! Too bad I am refusing to have any more kids…

  • Svaha

    2009/11/17 at 2:03 pm

    *This is totally not me wondering why Leta is the way she is (or at least the way you say she is)*

  • TexasKatie

    2009/11/17 at 2:04 pm

    My dad does that on the phone. He always sounds so angry – as if the phone itself is pissing him off. I think the longest I ever was on the phone with him was like 10 minutes, and that was almost uncomfortable for ME. I am just not used to talking to the guy.

  • Tammy at The Butterfly Mind

    2009/11/17 at 2:04 pm

    I’m not a competitive person so if I’d been on the treadmill, I would slow down rather than speed up. Just lazy, I guess. 🙂

  • Edwin Allen

    2009/11/17 at 2:27 pm

    I cannot deal with talking on the phone. Something about the whole disembodied voice thing just throws me all off my game.
    Sometimes I get this crazy anxious fear about answering phones, like somehow if I answer this phone my person will suddenly spin off through some warped dimension of space-time and out into space where there’s no atmosphere, and then my head’ll pop like a zit, and my headless body will be just floating around there with the phone still clutched in my hand and somebody on the other end shouting: “Hello, is anybody there?”

    So, I’m with your mom. Two minutes, way too long.

  • Ms. Pants

    2009/11/17 at 2:05 pm

    Dude, your mom is just trying to be the validictorian of the Book of Mormon.

    So see? You really did learn it by watching her!!

  • Rebecca Siewert

    2009/11/17 at 2:09 pm

    Ha ha love it. My dad is the same way, he hates the phone. I will have to time him next time we talk.

  • kcbelles

    2009/11/17 at 2:13 pm

    We are our mother’s daughters! Not so much when we were younger, but the older I get, the more I notice how much alike we are (which, in itself, is a bit scary). Although, now she loves the phone (used to hate it as I do); I think because we don’t live so close anymore so I only get to see her about once a month. So it’s a connection thing with her, although, ironically, I have to call her. She won’t call me (why don’t you call more often?) – she’s gotta have a little of that jewish mother in her with the inflicting of the guilt!

  • kajomo

    2009/11/17 at 2:12 pm

    I will trade your “20 second conversation mother” for a sister in law who MUST have at least a 2 hour conversation about nothing every week or small children will die. I hate the phone, say want you want so I can get back to reality tv.

  • KatieMama

    2009/11/17 at 2:21 pm

    I WISH my mom would only talk for a minute or less! My Dad is the 20 second type, he just assumes I’m calling to talk to Mom so he hands the phone off after the “How are you?” “Good.” “OK, here’s your mom.” My mom has the bad habit of repeating what she told me just days before, and I think she does it to fill air.

  • The Prima Momma

    2009/11/17 at 2:28 pm

    Count your blessings! My mother-in-law looooves to talk on the phone.

    We literally put her on speaker phone and just go about our business. She doesn’t even notice if we’re there or not. The kids will wander by and cock their heads at the phone, then look at us like, “Does the woman never stop? Seriously.”

    When she calls we always pick up – because not answering means having to listen to a 10 minute message!

  • chickky311

    2009/11/17 at 2:33 pm

    My fiance seems to have the same aversion to the phone as your Mom! In fact its a regular thing when we are on the phone that he asks me “What else? Are you done? Is that it?” And then I say something like “Why do I always feel like I have to have an outline written out to have a conversation with you?” He can’t just TALK. I love to just TALK and he doesn’t understand that. He wants to get down to business and then get off the phone as quickly as possible. Glad to hear that I’m not alone!

  • mommica

    2009/11/17 at 2:35 pm

    My mom hates to talk on the phone too. But she is afraid she’ll hurt someone’s feelings if she is the one who ends the conversation. So instead of rushing the person on the other end, or even saying “sorry, the house is on fire, gotta go,” she’ll sit there listening to someone blab on for hours, making faces of agony, and flailing her arms about in a manner that screams “PLEASE! HELP! ME!” These are my childhood memories. NICE.

  • naysway

    2009/11/17 at 2:42 pm

    I just had to call my mother and read this to her (also the source of my neuroses).

  • LeashWeCanDo

    2009/11/17 at 2:48 pm

    Aw. My Grams had the same relationship with the phone. She just recently passed. I called her way too much, I imagine, but I know when I didn’t call she wondered why. Even though she would say “well, I don’t know nothin’ else” 1-5 sentences in, which is her prelude to goodbye. My grandpa talked for hours on the phone, every single day. His prelude to goodbye was “well, we’ll be seein ya.” And if it were interrupted, he’d have to start it over again. “well, we’ll be… yep… ok, well, we’ll be seein’… what’s that? *chuckle* well, we’ll be seein’ ya.”

    Oh. I love telephone quirkiness. Funny. The things that stick in my mind.

  • jacksawesomemomma

    2009/11/17 at 2:55 pm

    Bwahahaha! This totally made. My. Day. Totally. The amount of neuroses I have inherited from my crazy family make my head spin sometime, not to mention my competitive streak I have with everyone on this planet about everything on it, so this post makes me feel less alone in my crazyness. The next time I take off when the light goes from red to green like I’m speed racer and smile with smug satisfaction because my kick-ass turbo beat out some poor sucker’s neon, I’ll think of your one minute fifty-two second victory over your brother and smile a little bit more:).

  • K.a.t.h.e.r.i.n.e.

    2009/11/17 at 3:06 pm

    I’ll trade you. My mom can’t spend less than 45 minutes on the phone. Our average conversation easily lasts AN HOUR AND A HALF. I have to plan my day around conversations with her.

  • ChickWhitt

    2009/11/17 at 3:42 pm

    I love that I am not the only one who makes fun of their mother for something ridiculous and then does the same ridiculous thing two seconds later.

    It’s different when I do it, I don’t know how, but it is.

    I feel bad for my poor husband for having to marry my mother…

  • Bush Babe

    2009/11/17 at 3:50 pm

    I’m with Katherine (with the full stops). My darling Mother is UNABLE to have a short phone conversation (unless someone is ACTUALLY dying). Drives me nuts. Especially when I pepper the conversation with “Mum, I’ve really gotta go… somethings happening with the kids…call you back later, OK”.

    It’s like: If you think you are getting OFF the phone from me in UNDER ten minutes, you’ve another think coming, Missy!

    Competitiveness makes me smile – my family are equally well-adjusted.

  • ckat22

    2009/11/17 at 3:57 pm

    have i told you lately that i love you? this was a much needed an appreciated post. and that one part? where you say, “Anyway, she calls to tell me that she has a story she thinks I will totally identify with, because she and I are the same person” resonates with me like a finely plucked banjo.

    also, my mom just called to tell me that dr. oz says i will get brain cancer if i don’t get a landline and stop using my cellphone, that he says there is such a thing as too much chapstick (liar) and she did all that in 14.2 seconds.

    just sayin’

  • vestal123

    2009/11/17 at 4:00 pm

    Interesting read. If you have time check out my blog please.

  • junipertree

    2009/11/17 at 4:03 pm

    Whenever my SO and I discuss IQ, it is a given that mine is +1 of whatever his IQ score is. End of discussion!

  • MeMyselfandMommy

    2009/11/17 at 4:04 pm

    I have similar issues. Not with all things, but there are certain things in life that I MUST win at.

    I also hate, Hate, HATE the phone. Text me, email me, show up at my front door, just please, oh please, don’t make me talk on the phone. And, if I have to MAKE the phone call myself, forget.

  • aniapetunia

    2009/11/17 at 4:08 pm

    You don’t know how lucky you are. I *have* to call my mom every day, because, well, she’s almighty and I must bow down. It’s a daily ritual where she repeats stories from yesteryear, and how she was wronged at this company and that company, then explains how I am clearly not taking care of my kids as good as I should be, because regardless of the H1N1 vaccine shortage, I should drive my kids to a neighboring state, because that’s what she would have done. If I can get off the phone after 30 minutes, it’s a great day.

    Then, let’s say she has to get in touch with me, and I, God Forbid, don’t answer. “This is not right, Ania! I should be able to get a hold of you WHENEVER I want to! Why are you avoiding me?!!”

    …and my husband wonders how I managed to stay somewhat sane all these years. It’s a mystery, Scooby!

  • amie

    2009/11/17 at 4:11 pm

    Heather, count your blessings! My mom can take a half hour on the phone just to tell me she went grocery shopping because, of course, she has to tell me EVERY item she got at the store, how long the line was, if she saw any cute kids, and what she plans to make for dinner. I am with your mom. I HATE talking on the phone for any length of time.

  • Jennyville

    2009/11/17 at 4:14 pm

    I’m happy to talk on the phone for any given amount of time but you better be ready to hang up when it’s time to go because with me it’s alrighttalktoyoulaterbyeCLICK.

  • CreatureofHabit

    2009/11/17 at 4:19 pm

    I have that same phone aversion, I loathe it. What is it about? You’re lucky you can relate to your Mom… Mine can tell me in excruciating detail what she saw on her walk. And my sister! Oh boy- she can sit on the phone jabbering away to me about crown molding while simultaneously having a conversation with her three children in the background, and me? I just put it on speakerphone and go about my business (the only reason I don’t hang up is what if she actually asked me something and I wasn’t there? Then I’d feel bad…). The best part is, when I hang up and my husband asks, ‘how’s she doing’, I have no idea.

  • sarah_o

    2009/11/17 at 5:00 pm

    Okay, I just have to ask: HOW, with siblings with totally unique names like September and Ranger, did you end up with such an extremely normal and common name like Heather?? It makes me laugh every time I read a mention of one of your siblings!

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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