Tuesday, January 16, 2001

The granny defense

        My friend Jan is a new grandmother. A new first-time grandmother. So I have been trying to show her the ropes.

        You need a much bigger purse, I explained to her after our first post-blessed-event meeting. The only thing you can fit in that dinky little thing you carry is photographs. What about video tapes? And it wouldn't hurt to keep a VCR in your car for emergencies. Some people pretend they don't have one, but everybody has a television. You can call their bluff.

        In fact, you probably should invest in a nice duffle bag. You'll want to keep a blanket with you at all times. Her parents will never have her dressed to suit you. Don't say anything. Just give them a look and cover her up. A roomy duffle is a good idea for later, too. It will keep the cookie crumbs out of your purse, and you can carry a supply of Binkies or Bobbies or Nooks or whatever her parents call her pacifier.

        Because she'll have one. Yes, I know. Thumbs were perfectly fine for our kids, but times have changed. They don't sterilize everything either. It'll drive you nuts, but you can run her toys through the dishwasher when they're not looking.

A really bad hair day

        New parents have very rigid ideas. Do not, under any circumstances, sneak out and have your granddaughter baptized if they are dragging their feet. And never, ever cut her hair. Even her bangs. I'm telling you, the daughter of another friend of mine didn't speak to her for a year. And she still is allowed only supervised visits with her granddaughter.

        These, however, are minor caveats. I haven't gotten to the best part, which is that except for your own children, the world will treat you with kid gloves.

        Remember Sylvia Staton? Well, maybe not. She was better known as the meter-feeding granny, convicted of obstructing official business after a dust-up with a cop in 1996. But we knew her motives were pure. She was, after all, a grandmother.

        Being a card-carrying grandmother myself, I do not immediately picture a little old lady with her hair in a bun, wearing an apron and a dab of vanilla behind her ears. I picture me. And I am painfully aware that I do not bake cookies or lead a blameless life. I am not wise. Sometimes I have a big mouth.

        Now, the downside is that being identified as a grandmother also is code for low expectations. There's a sense of wonderment if you manage to put one foot after another and, say, finish a marathon. Or run a corporation.

The granny disguise

        On The Mole, the new TV game show that pits contestants against a secret double-agent in their midst, one of the players asks, “What better Mole than your favorite, neighborhood grandmother?” Never mind that the woman is Kate Pahls, who served in the Peace Corps and started her own construction company in Cincinnati. Forget that she's a mountain climber who makes her living as a real estate investor.

        Listen, I told Jan, you can use this. Now is the time to cut loose. Go through the express lane at Kroger with 13 items. Buy retail. Get the tattoo you've always wanted. Have multiple ear piercings. Play paintball. Cut in line.

        Everybody will think it's cute. Or at least forgive you. Don't let them get a look at your Palm Pilot or your Tae Bo T-shirt. Just dab a little vanilla behind your ears and keep an apron in your duffle bag.

        E-mail Laura at lpulfer@enquirer.com or call (513) 768-8393.


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