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Emma McLaughlin

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My Buffer: In Memoriam

Posted: 05/21/2012 10:11 am

My writing partner, Nicki, and I became obsessed with a monologist who performs unscripted shows equipped with nothing more than scribbled bullet points and a glass of water. We wrote him a fan letter and found ourselves sharing lunch and eventually a friendship. "How?" I asked over a leisurely meal, back when we had leisurely meals. "How do you weave such coherent, perfect stories in real time without skipping a beat?" He informed us that he had what he termed a buffer. Meaning he was mentally a number of minutes ahead of himself.

I totally got it. I lived in the buffer. Raised by an academic and artist, no action was taken in our family that hadn't previously been played out in every conceivable direction. My husband, understandably thrown by my endless rehearsal of approaches, learned early on to interrupt. "Wait," he'd ask. "Is this a real conversation, or are we in the dressing room right now?" I was a girl who tried on every word.

And then I became a mom. Between writing the next chapter, remembering to get toilet paper into the house, keeping my toddler from playing in my elderly dog's freshest carpet stain, piecing together vague memories of nursery rhymes that end up as Sinatra's greatest hits, and getting deodorant on (under both arms), something had to go. It turned out to be my buffer.

The more Mommy blogs going nuclear over playground etiquette I read and birthday parties of glazed adults munching cupcakes like demoralized zombies I attend, I realize this is what my friends who conceived before me meant by, "You just won't care." This is also why mothers can cut a bitch faster than an 8th grade Queen Bee.

How's this going to sound? How's it going to make her feel? Do I even believe or mean it?
We are no longer trying it on.

And justifiably so. We're over tired, over tasked, and, for the most part, ignored by our target audience. "Let's get our pants on. Pants on. No, not the water. Let's not -- oops! We spilled all over mommy. Okay! Let's get pants on so mommy can change. Mommy's cold. Please let's get pants on, one foot. We need to stand up for our pants -- " The expectation of being heard has gone the way of last call and, for the sake of our sanity, we've tuned ourselves right out. No question it would make for a less harrowing exchange if I weren't finding out with you what I really think about French mothers.

Mostly I miss it at work. With my in-laws. And after being introduced. If I could buy it back for one day it would be the Thanksgiving we're hosting at my house. As a rule, I try to steer clear of opinions pertaining to your parenting. I assume you're doing the best you can and God bless.

The unbeatable upside is that I don't have the bandwidth to ruminate on the buffer-less crap flying my way. That and when I do get to sleep I do so like a rock -- a rock that can be woken to change, get water please, and sing more Sinatra -- the moment I'm summoned through the monitor by someone else who's also buffer-free.

 
 
 
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