Three Men And A Lady

Vacation Three.

I know, right? Another trip? Seriously, Jyl, how many trips are you going on this year….?

No, I get it, we were just gone a month ago for a week to Georgia. Then the kids went off to California while Rich and I had a quickie (stahp) in West Virginia. And now, North Myrtle Beach… home to our family sand blast each year for as many years as I can remember. I’m 99% sure my parents were coming here before us kids were even a blip and, save a few skipped summers, the tradition has continued – no end in sight. Rich and I were actually talking this very week about eventually finding our own ‘touchdown’ spot – hopefully an oceanfront rental – that our kids and grandkids would always just ‘know’ to show up at during this third week in August. But for this year – we were back at Briarcliffe with my parents, brother, and his wife. The two three main differences were that Zoe was not with us as she is presumably still at VCU (crickets) and that we brought along a friend of Zack’s. The third difference was a bit of a health hiccup for my mom – and yes, that is the understatement of the year, but it’s a story for another day. I will say, I felt like a bit of a fraud on social media but at least I totally get it now when people call it Fakebook.

But, yes, third trip in a month – but nothing else planned until November. I refuse to show up at the pearly gates of heaven (should I be invited) with any PTO leftover. And in this new world of ‘It’s a Work-From-Home Life,’ it seems that each time a boss sings Make sure you’re taking breaks, don’t burn out! what they really mean is Skip lunch, log on early, your family can fend for themselves! The further in we get, the more un-okay-ness I feel with taking time away from my desk. Which is why I then make it a point to do it anyway. And you should as well. I’ll even write you a note if needed. Wait until corporate America finds out that most of our kids will be schooling right at home with us – they’re going to love the breaks in our day for math questions. Who’s going to tell the CEO’s?!

I told Rich in passing at some point this week that I really do notice being the only girl in the room now. We had a nice, equal combo of estrogen and testosterone for years and years when the pack consisted of Rich, myself, Zoe and Zack. Rich laughed at this – wondering who the heck I was referring to as Zoe is not in any way, shape or form ‘girly.’ I’m not even sure how to explain it – other than there’s been a huge increase in burping and farting with no warning or apologies. Hello? Zoe was not our primary source for manners, so why did her leaving give the house a pass on stepping away from the table to blow some butt wind or saying excuse me after a vocal display of gas?

The truth is, together, we had a nice male vs female balance. What Rich and Zack strive for in competitive eating, Zoe and I would counter with conversation between bites. Now, I’ve got to be more cognizant of the rate at which the boys empty their plates and in case I might want to get in there for seconds. I often get chastised for moving too slow on shared items. My gawd, woman, get your salsa on the chip and move on!! Yeah, I’m just over here trying not to drip red sauce down my front…bring it down…no one likes tomato in their cleavage. Is there a deadline on this meal? Are their zombies coming for our leftovers?

I also can’t figure the correlation of the increased maleness to the increased sounds that are being made while eating. Although it may relate to Zoe’s departure being tougher on Rich than I which equals more emotional snacking which means more crunch foods such as pretzels or popcorn or is he juggling bolts between his teeth?!? I know I’m annoying, really – along with an aversion to the Irish Spring taste of cilantro, I am also quite sound sensitive to chewing. It’s ridiculous. It’s annoying to me, too – not just to those I’m gently trying to silence by staring holes through their soul. Zoe was very much aware of this low snapping point and often tapped her brother out when he’d moved in for a third round of ‘how loud can I eat this ice?’ Which is progress – I used to leap across the table the second a cube his his tongue. Without her second-hand-sensitivity, I’ve improved my ability to hide by AirPods beneath my hair while the gents go rogue.

Because I live on the edge (of what, I’m not sure), or because I didn’t think ahead, I added a third set of kiwis to our vacation. The assumption was that Zack would be a bit off this vacation missing his sister and that Rich and I might want some adult time – so we invited a great kid and fellow fourteen year old. I haven’t decided what kind of trophies I’ll be passing out to the moms of only boys – but it will be large and topped with a wine bottle. Though I suspect years of living as the only female in their homes has given them some sort of sensory-blindness – a warning to this rookie would have been nice. Fourteen year old boys plus inconsistent deodorant and showering practices plus bike riding and swimming and mini-golf and odd meals and a husband in his glory of male bonding…and, well, appreciation and empathy are high at the moment.

I don’t blame the smell entirely on the teen set, mind you. I spent 32 nights last week listening to a cacophony of farting, led by my husband’s conducting ass. I’m started to believe that the three of them wrote out instrumental melody goals at breakfast, then spent the day eating agreed upon combinations of gummy bears, onion rings, and ice cream to produce The Song of the Sphincter as I was trying to drift off to sleep with Q-tips stuck up my nose. And I absolutely don’t blame the smell on the guest child. I’m just not sure if I should be proud or mortified at the fumes my kid let out, but I am shocked we weren’t evacuated. Our beds were at opposite ends of the rental – yet more than once I thought a runaway elephant had dropped its bowels directly outside my bedroom window, only to hear Zack giggle-apologizing two rooms away. I miss the days when the ratio of smelly people to not smelly people was 50/50 and not 75/25 or the times when nightly showers evoked a barely there scent of Irish Spring and a much stronger whatever-flavor-Zoe-or-I were using that day. Now it’s straight up Irish Spring. Or is that cilantro? I guess I should just praise the stars that the showers did pick up in frequency.

And that other smell? That came from the shoes. I’m a flip-flop girl and therefore immune to foot scents. Mostly. Occasionally, I will forget myself and throw on some sneakers sans socks and create some sort of skin to sole reaction that has been mistaken for a person tracking a dead body through the house. And by ‘occasionally’, I mean – that happened once days after I’d moved in with Rich. He entered our bedroom in horror trying to find whatever had died – to which I shyly whispered, “It might be my shoes…” Never saw them again. This week, I had six sweaty socked feet surrounding me each night. As the sneakers found their way to various corners and the caked on socks were peeled off, I’d nonchalantly put my Covid mask back on. I gained a thorough understanding of what those scented sneaker balls are for – though I was confused as to why they were so much bigger than the nostrils I was trying to shove them up.

It wasn’t so bad. I actually really enjoyed having a more male environment. A little bit fraternity, a little bit ‘they’re still young enough to be sweet to me.’ I’ve often been asked why, at my age, I smirk so often at butt jokes or blurt out ‘that’s what she said’ without thinking. Rich himself has hinted that I lean much more to the male side of life – that Zack (at 14) and I often seem to drift around at the same mental age (it’s a COMPLIMENT, right?!?). Don’t get me wrong – I’m as girly as they come – I love shopping, pedicures, red wine, mascara, flowers and being called ‘pretty’ as often as possible. But I also understand that farting actually IS funny, that boys think of dirty things 473 times a day and that just because someone says something a bit off, doesn’t mean you have to drum up a grudge to hang onto for months. I’m 150% sure my husband is laughing at one of those claims. So, no, I am not the most sensitive person in the house, nor have I ever been. But, left as the only female in a crowd, I have definitely noticed an increase in my feminine tendencies.

Which hasn’t been terrible as I’ve also noticed an increase in the masculine take-care-of-things tendencies around me. With his sister off to school, Zack has shifted that Zoe-time to Rich-time, spending more time chatting with Dad about books and wars and science words that I don’t understand. The addition of Zack’s buddy to the mix meant a chance for even bigger conversations – so much fun to listen to these two (imho) highly intelligent teens banter back and forth with Rich while his eyes twinkle with pride. It’s fine that I was hiding behind a People magazine while hoping not to be asked to weigh in. Right? Right? They were busy figuring out where the state of politics in 2021 would land, what the best weapon of the Vietnam war was, and picking out matching online school pajama bottoms – somebody had to keep track of Katie Perry’s birthing plan, whether Kanye was going to be alright and knock out the “What’s the Difference?” stumper between two pictures.

We all have our things.

I just think I might like mine with a little more chatter about nail polish and a little less about the size of one’s poops.

Which, apparently, are very impressive.

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