Hot Stupid Foreign Nannies

It started like this:

My 13-year-old daughter walked into a room where I was reading and my husband was opening a bottle of wine (which she would tell you is what we’re always doing, except when we’re working or yelling at her) and said, "You remember when I went to Karl and Julia’s when I was in third grade and their nanny let us slide down that huge dirt hill all afternoon and you got really mad because it was so dirty and dangerous?"

"Yes," I said, without raising my head.

"And you remember how you said she was stupid because we could have gotten trapped under the falling dirt and suffocated?"

"Yes." This time I looked up at my daughter who is powerful and beautiful and full of metal: braces and piercings and rings.

"She was from Iceland, right? The nanny?"

"Yes." I was waiting for the point, which is almost always your best bet with a teenager. Assuming can be a minefield.

"So, I don’t get it. What’s the deal with that?" She was looking perturbed, squinching up her nose.

"What?" I asked.

"Hot stupid foreign nannies. That’s what all men want: a hot, stupid, foreign nanny. Why is that?"

I turned to my husband — poor guy — who was coming with the wine. "That’s what you want?" I said.

"What?" He hadn’t been listening. He’d probably been pondering string theory or thinking about our taxes. Some ridiculous thing like that.

"A hot stupid foreign nanny. All men want them. You’re a man. So by the transitive property. . . ." (He’s a mathematician, so I’ll often throw in some irrelevant proof and use it incorrectly, though he’s usually kind enough not to point this out.)

"Women, too, Mom," my daughter broke in. "Now be fair. Older women just want hot, stupid, Brazilian pool boys."

"But we don’t even have a pool," I said.

"What was the question?" my husband asked, putting on his glasses as if this might help.

"Never mind," the teenager said, rolling her eyes. "I’m going to bed."

Which is too bad, because she brought up an important point. What is the deal with hot, stupid, foreign nannies and the men who love them? Also, what’s the deal with George Bush, whom I heard on the radio just the other day, talking about how we’re not in a recession — it’s a "slowdown" — when about a third of the people I know have lost their jobs, which feels pretty damn recessed to me?

About that recession (sorry, "slowdown"), why is it that some of the restaurants and bars and coffeehouses I visit are like tombs, echoing and about to shut down for lack of human traffic, while others are booming — same as always, it seems — filled to bursting by people waving money who can’t wait to get in? It seems strange, but there are few places in the middle, only those on the verge of bankruptcy and those where a spontaneous late-planner still cannot get in.

What’s the deal with Earl Grey Tea, which is full of overpowering, flowery bergamot, but ubiquitous? Why is the social service system hemorrhaging while we spend millions on a Middle Eastern war? How come we keep driving so much no matter how high the price of gas? And why aren’t more people excited (and thankful) that the writer’s union is back to work?

Most important, what possessed anyone to bottle the swill called Old Moon Zinfandel? Granted, it was inexpensive — I bought it myself, for $6 — but a lot of good wines are these days. There are decent $5 Chiantis and passable $7 Bordeaux. This Zin, on the other hand, is vile stuff.

It was just after my daughter departed that my husband handed me a glass. I took a sip and then another, because I couldn’t believe anything called "wine" could possibly taste so bad. It was not just flat, but sinister, containing a dead, clayey flavor I imagined turned my tongue a grayish-brown.

So horrible was this wine, just those two swallows left me sickened for the rest of the night. I was up late, drinking lemon water, trying to get the stench out of my mouth and pondering the problem of Stupid Hot Foreign Nannies. The question, of course: What to tell the beautiful girl when she awakened. Because when you’re 13 — and when you’re 41, it seems — the world just makes no sense.