I am something of a Renaissance woman. That is to say, I work full-time, am successfully raising two exemplary short people, and still find time to have an active social life. While these are all good things individually, combined they leave me more exhausted than Rosie O'Donnell bending over to tie her shoes. I know they say you can't "have it all", but to that I call bullshit. Here in the good ol' U.S. of Type-A we can have anything we want if we work hard enough! Except, in my case, a working knowledge of basic math.
This wasn't always the case with me. I was fine with math until the alphabet got all up in that business, at which point my brain hit the wall harder than Amanda Bynes trying to find the toilet at the Viper Room. I do believe that the knowledge is in there somewhere, and I believe that if I can find a neural pathway that hasn't been damaged by years of reality TV and Turning Leaf Chardonnay, I CAN learn math.*
*Of course, I also believe that dogs walk on their hind legs when we aren't around and that Nathan Fillion secretly reads my blog.
Unfortunately for me, my number "smarts" are not yet at a workable level. And of greater misfortune, my short people now have math assignments with X's and Y's and squiggly arrows that make me more confused than Jessica Simpson on "Celebrity Jeopardy". So, they come home each day, red-cheeked and ambitious, pull their binders from their backpacks and ask the age-old question, "Mommy, can you help me with my homework?"*
*SPOILER ALERT: The answer is "no".
Don't get me wrong, I'm all about supporting education and that our children are our future, and shit like that; but at the end of the day, when I think about something hard I want to slam down on my kitchen table and do until I'm satisfied, algebra ain't it. Last night the boys and I sat down with their assignments and after fifteen minutes of squinting, muttering, and more eyebrow raising than Spock watching a "Girls Gone Wild" video, I admitted defeat.
"Should we call Poppo?" my son J. asked.
"Yes!" I cried. "Wait. . .no. I don't want your grandpa to know that his hard earned money paid my tuition so I could drink wine coolers at the Theta Chi house."
"What about Brandon?" J. mused.
I snorted. "Dude, his knowledge of math makes me look like freaking Good Will Hunting. Try again."
J. tilted his head in thought, then beamed. "I know! We can call Coulson!"
I shook my head solemnly. "Good idea, Sweetie, but we just aren't at the stage of our relationship where I'm ready for Coulson to know that I'm functionally retarded."
J. threw his hands in the air in frustration. "Well, then what am I supposed to do?" he whined. "YOU'RE no help!"
He had a valid point. When it comes to math, I am no help. If you need someone to write an essay, memorize historical facts, or analyze statistical data, I'm your gal. And even though my grasp of science is shakier than an IKEA bookshelf, I can still fake it like a whore when the rent is due. But math? No. Just. . .no. But part of that, I believe, is that I tend to stumble through life like a drunken blind man, navigating obstacles as they arise and trying to maintain appearances and as such, I am a master at the art of bullshit. And sadly, bullshit has no place in math. In math, everything is black and white and even though Cady Herron astutely avows that "the limit does not exist" there are hard fast rules and finite limits in math.*
*You have to speak fluent "Mean Girls" to hang with me. Oh! And on Wednesdays? We wear pink.
The bottom line is: math makes the rules. If educational subjects were like high school, then math would be the nerd getting bullied by English and P.E., only to come back with an AK-47 and open fire on Social Studies and Chemistry behind the bleachers. You may knock it down but it will ultimately come back to kick your ass. So, thus emboldened, I took J.'s math book in hand and gave it another go. And once again, the information was about as well-received as Paula Deen at the Apollo Theater and I found myself feeling a little like this:
"Sorry, Kid." I sighed, handing the book back to my son. "But, hey! Education isn't everything! There's no shame in being a carny; the circus life is a grand and venerable profession."
Of course, J., being my son, refused to budge and continued drilling me like he was EXXON and I was an Alaskan oil field.
"Seriously, Mommy?" he finally sighed. "I'm eleven. . .you're, like, what? Fifty? And you have a Master's Degree!"
"But not in math!" I cried defensively.*
*And for the record, I am only 43. . .smarmy little bastard.
J. raised his eyebrows and stared me down. "Mommy, just because your degree is in Special Education does not mean you can act like you have a learning disability."*
"J. look at this!" I argued, pointing at the math problem in question. "It has X's, and Y's, and. . .and. . .more zeroes than San Diego ComiCon! I can't WORK with this!"
With a disappointed shake of his blond head, J. took back his book and started walking out of the room.
"I'm calling Poppo!" he called over his shoulder. "Which fraternity did you say you were drinking wine coolers at?"
COST OF UNDERGRADUATE DEGREE: $20,000
COST OF GRADUATE DEGREE: $17,000
REALIZING YOU AREN'T SMARTER THAN A FIFTH GRADER: Priceless