There goes the small boy

April 15, 2015 § 4 Comments

About six months ago, the unthinkable happened. Relatively abruptly, the husband and I hit the “city wall.” We knew it would never happen to us. We loved the city. We would never leave the city. Living in the city defined us. We hate suburbs. We hate remote-ness. We hate peace and quiet.

Turns out, we hate child care induced poverty, cooped-up toddler tantrums, and April to November street cleaning more. We both woke up one day and it was as though a strange peace had settled upon our existence. We danced around it a little, at first. “So, um, I, eh… I was thinking… Well, nevermind.” Then it came out. We couldn’t do it. It takes a single salary of almost $50,000 a year to cover daycare costs in the city. Couple that with an even bigger haul on the rent and a salary of almost $100,000 a year was being eaten between childcare and rent alone. Worse, we were starting to outgrow our space. Small signs were appearing– temporary stacks of things were becoming permanent piles of “there’s not a place for it” or “I’ll call the storage people.” But more space meant more money. A lot more money.

New restaurants would open, bars would pop up, but we weren’t seeing them. At best, a Saturday stroll to a park or sandwich spot would give us the opportunity to walk by and talk about what it must be like. And we had babysitters; plenty of times, but when you have to make an executive decision about your one free Saturday night, you find yourself defaulting to what you know, what you’re sure won’t fail you. (And you’re tired and look old and haggard. And you no longer wait for anything. Not a table, not a spot on the dance floor.)

What seemed to be the real trouble was two fold. First, we didn’t know where to go. We felt like a family without a country. West of the city wasn’t right, nor was south. Truthfully, we’d never been anywhere else, really. Bigger than our inability to know where to move was the incredibly emotional experience of admitting that it was happening. Our identities were so tied to the city that everything felt like an asterisk-ridden compromise. One Saturday we decided to drive up north to visit Salem. My interest in the city was fueled ludicrously by the most ridiculous reasoning: a former client and his wife lived there. And they were cool. And they stayed cool. And they did cool things. And I was okay being like them. Especially if it looked like I couldnt keep being me.

So we went. We drove the 45 minutes to the seaside town of Salem, parked our Prius, unloaded our child, and stood there. I don’t know what we expected to happen, but nothing did. We had no idea where we were or where people went in Salem, so we just started walking. As we passed coffee shops, restaurants, and stores, optimistic (if not incredibly stupid) exclamations of “it’s just like the city!” or “they carry the kombucha I like!” began to emerge. We took the small boy to see a big ship. He ran in a wide open park by the ocean. His thin wisps of hair becoming wind blown and his nose red. He walked down the sidewalk and pointed at other kids and dogs. He laughed when a restaurant owner made faces at him through the window. We were fucked. Charmed doesn’t even begin to describe it.

We got back in the car a few hours later, knowing we’d be back soon, armed with our meager savings, ready to buy a real, grownup house. Driving back into the city was strange. On the one hand, we were both aware of the distance. It pained us to know that our new lives would be shrouded in commutes and schedules. As we hit every godforsaken pothole along 1A we willed one another not to say anything. For his part, Author looked out the window. He’d point occasionally at a sign or person or let out a squeal as we fell into another pothole. Maybe if he would have screamed all the way, the whole thing would have turned out differently. But he didn’t. Worn out from having his pants charmed off, he half dozed and mindlessly grazed on bits of food he’d hidden in the crevices of his carseat.

The short version is that we bought a condo and moved. Like most of these stories, it’s riddled with mortgage drama and near divorce, massive disagreements about Big Things and small things. But in the end, we became homeowners. The husband’s commute to work actually improved. Rather than walk to a train to take a bus and deal with weather and inconsistent schedules, he can now hop on the commuter rail. Four stops and he’s in the city. For me, life became dramatically different. My usual 8 AM wake up became 6 AM. Frantic showering, waking, feeding, dressing, and getting out the door is followed by a daycare drop off and an hour and a half of source-less traffic. Work now becomes an exercise in efficiency because when the clock strikes four, I’m out the door. Back on the road. And it repeats. Five days a week.

I’ve been flooded with observations and realizations over the last few months. I’m by no means getting old, but I am getting older. I can see the subtle changes in my wardrobe, choice of footwear, and tone of my skin. Though I am envious of those who are thinner, better put together, and more youthful, I find it harder and harder to muster the energy to give it much more than that. When I find myself driving Estelle (the Prius) around on errands, clad in a flowy top and skinny pants, my flat loafers giving away my over-thirty, motherhood status, I realize that all those years I spent saying I’d never become this or that or another thing was because I assumed those people had changed. They’d given up or given in. It never occurred to me that they’d finally gotten some perspective or found peace. Life is a lesson in living.

The boy has switched to a small in-home daycare. It’s quirky and imperfect and he loves it. They play outside all day. When it’s raining, they suit them up in their rain gear. When it’s snowing they bundle them. At his previous daycare, he spent four months staring out a window, never going for a walk. Never playing in the snow.

When I pick him up, he beams, running towards me with open arms, squealing and covered in dirt. He speaks absolute nonsense in great detail, pointing for emphasis and understanding. We pile in the car and he eats his snack, not letting the food get in the way of his senseless story telling. On Fridays we go for frozen yogurt. There’s a place to park and the college students who are there let him take bites out of their bowls and laugh at how seriously he takes spoons (“poons”). It’s a ten minute drive to our house. Sometimes we go upstairs and have some dinner, other days it’s straight to the park. “Pups” will eventually make his way through the park on his way home from the train station. The boy has a sixth sense for Pups’ presence, like a hound. He’ll stop look up, and repeat his open-armed running from daycare. We go home together.

The park is approximately 5 houses down from us. Our street is one way, so the boy can amble along, jumping in puddles and picking up sticks, while we keep an eye out. Cars rarely come down, but when they do, they smile and wave. They slow to a stop to let A make his way across the pavement. He usually waves and says “bye.” Even if “hello” would be more appropriate. He doesn’t know “hello.” Everything is “bye.” There are dogs, neighbors, and some strange sense of mutual understanding that I can’t quite describe. The boy isn’t just mine. In just a few weeks time, he belongs to the neighborhood. He’s the little boy who lives next door. They man down the street knows how much he loves balls. The lacrosse team that practices in the park knows to save him a tennis ball. The girls soccer team plans to take a few minutes out of practice to let him “shoot” some goals. They laugh and pass him around.

It’s not all idyllic and perfect, but it’s not the sad compromise I believed it would be my whole life. Strangely, I feel myself “coming to terms” with the idea that it can be easy to be happy. It’s okay to like the wine selection at the Bunghole. It’s okay to find out you’re not all that fancy, after all. It’s okay to park your Prius in your driveway and unload your Whole Foods grocery bags in your comfy mom shoes.

I still wear leopard underwear. I do my hair and put on make up. I haven’t given up. I think this is what it’s like to give yourself a break. To realize that sometimes the extra 30 minutes of perfecting doesn’t give you a 30% boost in happiness. There’s a point of diminishing returns on perfection and I’m learning that I can have a lot more with a lot less. I’m not going to ever live in a $6 million brownstone in the city; it’s time to move on. (Let’s be honest, I’m not ever going to live in a $1 million brownstone in the city.)

When I walk out of my new version of that brownstone in the city, past the house with the creepy number of dollhouses in the window, across the nicely painted crosswalk, and through the wrought iron gates of the Salem Common I’m already beginning to jog slightly to keep up with the increasing pace of the small boy. When the park comes into view, he strains against my metered pace. He runs ahead, sometimes disappearing into a playscape for a few seconds before emerging on the other side. He laughs wildly at his own liberating abandonment and makes a dash for the stairs to the slide, eager to get to the top, eager for the view, eager to slide down the other side.

In some ways I am eager for the same: eager to get to the top, eager for the view, eager to slide down to the other side. But in truth I only have one bittersweet thought after that small boy, throwing himself headlong into the crowd and chaos.

“There he goes.”

The Victoria’s Secret Catalog Arrived…

January 23, 2015 § 1 Comment

I don’t harbor any ill will towards Victoria’s Secret, mostly because I systematically ignore 93% of the store when I go in. Maybe it’s a hangover from high school, but I do love the thrill of buying 6 pair of undies for $25 and getting to pick out different, completely slutty but still strangely adorable patterns that are vaguely seasonably appropriate. A time or two I’ve even picked up a normal looking bra without memory foam or a mattress pad in the cup and purchased it. All in all, I’d say Victoria’s Secret is what you make it. If you stand in the PINK section, you will start to feel old and soft. But that is your own fault. You are standing in a section of clothing devoted to 18 year old girls and their pretend workouts. Do you remember pretend workouts? Those were the best. A few laps around the gym, a couple of minutes on a treadmill, water from the bubbler, and then a steam shower. And you weighed 100lbs. You are not that girl anymore. It’s someone else’s turn. Now get out of the PINK section before you accidentally buy a pair of pants that says PINK on them and you think that’s okay. (You see, PINK is not a sports team. Neither is PINK a well-engineered athletic performance brand. They do not invest in endurance testing for optimum performance. They invest in creating work out gear for fake workouts. And yoga classes that don’t take place. Ever.)

Due to my occasional undie binge, I am on the Victoria’s Secret mailing list. I don’t think I’ve ever opened the catalog; it usually goes directly into the trash, but when I got it this week, I needed something to distract my child. So, like any good mom, I picked the VS catalog as light reading material. He was captivated. When we got back into the apartment, he was distracted by some Cheerios he’d spilled on the floor that morning and wanted to eat, and immediately dropped the catalog, where it landed open on an image that caught my eye:

wet undies

Now, before you think I was all bent out of shape that my 17-month-old saw this image, stop. I couldn’t have cared less. I was more surprised because, believe it or not, I own those undies. Yes, I bought them before I had a baby, and admittedly they look a touch different on my rear, but none-the-less it was enough to get me to pick up the catalog. That’s when I noticed she was all wet. Cue the internal monologue of an obviously-not-twenty-something-woman:

Well why on earth is she all wet? It’s not a bathing suit. Ugh. that’s going to give her the itchiest vagina. I hope she took them off before they started to dry. Those undies don’t breathe well at all. 

I was really baffled by the impracticality of getting wet in those undies. I actually did get wet in a pair of those undies once and can speak from experience– they do not breathe. I continued to flip through the VS catalog, applying the same ideology to the catalog as I do the store: ignore, ignore, ignore. But I did come across a few things that I could not ignore. Not because they were photos of unrealistic bodies in insanely stupid under garments (who the FUCK can wear a neon green bra? What kind of clothes are you wearing over it? Because nothing in my closet would cover a green bra.), but because someone in design legitimately failed.

Here a few of the Victoria’s Secret Fails:

crazy straps

For centuries, women have worked to conceal our bra straps. We even have bras with no straps at all. So what is this? The only scenario in which I could imagine this bra being made would be when 7 MIT engineers got in a room and tried to think of a way to keep some 700lb woman’s boobs from laying on her stomach. We’re simply going to have to add an around the neck hoisting strap, Chang. Yes, Jong, I think you’re right. It won’t look good, but it will be effective. 

back fat

Oh, is your regular bathing suit not offering enough opportunities for unsightly back fat? GOOD NEWS. Victoria’s Secret has this amazing new suit with micro straps that will provide just enough pressure to make your back look like Play-Doh. They best part will be when your soft, plush back has tan lines that make it look like it is rippled. Like a Ruffle. If you have a bestie who suffers from the same problem but has a flatter stomach, there is a two piece. Thank GOD. 

shocking

What work out is she going to? Boxing with My Little Ponies? Not jogging, obviously, because everyone knows you have to wear a sports bra to do that. I guess maybe she is just as shocked as we are. They just told her that PINK isn’t a high performance athletic brand and her self of identity has just been called into question. It’s okay, Mindy. Do you need a paper bag to breathe into? 

confusing shirt

Trying this on in the dressing room will be the first and last time you EVER figure out which hole is for the head. Despite the obvious fact that this shirt has no purpose in the universe, it’s the clothing equivalent of one of those metal puzzles where you are suppose to try to separate the rings, but instead you don’t. BECAUSE YOU HAVE NO FUCKING IDEA HOW TO DO IT.

peeping tom

This is actually a really sweet little nightie thing and if I were five five and ninety pounds I would buy one. Too bad the caption “Everyone loves the unexpected” is coupled with a photo that could only have been taken by a predator hiding in your own home while you relax in your nightie. So as much as I fancy myself someone who loves “the unexpected,” I’m going to have to pass on potentially being raped and murdered in my own home by a guy hiding behind my palm tree with a scope lens. Thanks though!

One Year of Awesome Advice.

September 24, 2014 § 3 Comments

One of my very favorite, most beloved friends once said to me, “the worst thing about having kids is that it magnifies every single bad personality trait you have.” Back when she said it, I laughed and nodded. Now I think she deserves a MacArthur Grant.

The small boy turned one last month. We threw him one of those disgustingly adorable parties where every detail deserved some kind of slit-your-wrists Pinterest award. The theme was “Holy Duck Aut is One!” and the festivities had approximately zero to do with celebrating his arrival at the ripe old age of one. He didn’t do shit. We were celebrating the achievement that is making it through the first year of raising a human. We celebrated in the park with duck cupcakes and a huge vat of Cheerios filled with toys, finger sandwiches with no crusts, PB+J pinwheels, and the most obnoxious, handmade, hooded towel party favors that I did just so that all the other moms would feel really, really bad about themselves. Eventually he is going to make me throw him a Disney themed party with gross paper products from iParty and and favors that single-handedly keep China from developing a middle class, but for now he is unable to form sentences and therefore every action is considered consent. Duck themed picnic in the park? “Hells yeah, Mups!” he replied, “let’s do that shit!”

Pretty much all of our friends are already biting the proverbial bullet and getting knocked up with their second. I understand their reasons, they want two. Eventually. Like down the line. Like when “it’s all said and done” they want two offspring. So even though going through it all again so soon makes them tear up, they are doing it now. Getting it over with, if you will. Needless to say, the hubs and I are not there yet. More accurately, we’re not entirely sure what we want now, never mind what we are going to want eventually.

If I had to think of some things that I’d rather do than be pregnant again, they would fall somewhere between being Anne Frank’s sister and an overnight guest at Bin Laden’s in May of 2011. I don’t even really remember hating pregnancy that much– like the physical act of carrying a child around– what I hated was being pregnant. I hated being the consideration at every event, the pregnant gal at the office, the one who needed to be offered water and brought ice cream under threat of death. I hated hoisting myself and looking cute “for a pregnant girl.” I hated the weird sounds and smells and cravings, and I really hated thinking that everyone who saw me couldn’t help think of my vagina– even though it was probably just for a second. (There’s just something weird about pregnancy and the thought of vaginas. You see a pregnant woman and there’s always that fleeting thought, the flash of VAGINA!, and then before you can wrap your mind around what the context is, the thought is gone. I walked the streets of New York imagining the hundreds of people I passed by silently screaming, “VAGINA!”)

What I REALLY hated, was being a “new mom.” Good Christ. Every woman, sister, mother, grandmother, nurse, nun, and librarian has some advice for you. Well intentioned though everyone was, I still wanted them dead. “Cherish every moment!” “Never wake a sleeping baby!” “Sleep them facing the rising moon.” “Rub your nipples counter clockwise to stimulate milk flow.” “Eat the heart of a gecko to grow his brain big!” “Sleep train them early!” “Potty train from birth.” Endless streams of advice from random people on the street. It’s like the Sixth Sense, except no one is dead and everyone is loud and won’t shut up. To make matters worse, if I never have a second, we are locked in this unspoken purgatory of indeterminable new momness. See a woman with three kids and you assume she knows what’s up. See a woman with one…

But enough of that. The simple version is that while it’s possible that maybe one day a second Beaulieu baby will grace this Earth, the popular opinion is that we are one and done. We baked our person and now we settle in and see how we did. And he’s how we’ve done so far.

Our child is bald. Not quite Mr. Clean bald, but definitely a Benjamin Button meets Andy Kauffman playing a bookie in Boogie Nights bald. Humidity reveals soft tendrils of baby mullet in the back, while the top makes a slow and pitiful creep towards establishing a hairline.

I only dropped him on the floor once. And there wasn’t so much as a threat of CSS intervention.

He has excelled at growing teeth (10 so far!), as well as chipping them. We don’t know when. We don’t know how. But we’re poised for one of the most awkward kindergarten photos ever. Bald, big, shit-eating grin, chipped front teeth.

He’s either a genius or a sociopath. Only time will tell.

He’s the kind of cute that makes you worried for his future. Like the kid in Jerry Maguire. As a mother, I don’t want to have to tell him he peaked at one and now America thinks he’s awkward, but I’d rather have the tough talk and avoid having him end up on Perez Hilton looking like Haley Joel Osment.

He seems confident in his gender, but firmly unsubstantiated in his sexuality. We remain unbiased and optimistic about his options. (Kids loves him a necklace, though. Like Liza.)

If there is a recall on the lacquer on his crib railing, he’s going to end up with cancer. Because he ate pretty much the whole thing.

He’s built exactly like every woman in the developed world wishes she was: tall and malnourished looking, but completely healthy.

The list of his achievements in the first twelve months is short, but included the usual sitting up, crawling, shitting his pants, going on an airplane, and standing up on surfaces high enough to give him brain damage, but not kill him. As for us, we’ve learned a thing or two about The Art of Parenting. Starting with the unabashed reality that there is zero art to parenting. Parenting, for us, has been 365 days strung together with well-intended meals, insanity inducing bouts of sitting on the floor “playing,” and waking up panicked at least 4 days a week that we fucked up and killed him.

A friend recently asked me what our “must haves” were for a baby registry. We had it all. We had the gidgets and gadgets and heaters and warmers and cuddlers and cradlers– all of it. And yet, we couldn’t come up with anything. You need a car seat, it’s the law. Otherwise, a boob and some diapers. That was pretty much it. We started out strong, firm, right, and noble. In the end, we decided that sterilizing was for bitches, fancy stuff breaks, and nice stuff gets shit on. We learned that what you really need is a blood vow with your spouse that you will constantly remember “this too shall pass” and that snapping isn’t always personal.

We definitely learned how selfish we were. And how much we liked to sleep. We learned that we should have gone to more bars and restaurants when he was tiny and started saving for college before we met. We found at that “looking like a parent” isn’t really a choice so much as a natural progression from caring about how your look reflects you to knowing where the meaning in your life comes from. We learned that there is nothing in the whole world so sad as the sound of a tiny cough and nothing in the world so annoying as a child in a car after 45 minutes. We’ve learned to hate stuffed animals and loathe those who bring them to our home. We’ve learned that we don’t always agree with our friends’ parenting styles but it doesn’t mean we have to stop hanging out. We’ve learned that stress can make you say and do things that will both horrify and delight you. We’ve learned that no matter how much you want to wake them up to kiss them, you shouldn’t. Only idiots do that.

We learned some scary stuff, like how little we know about life. And how little our parents know. We’ve learned to worry about the future, but also realize that there’s nothing we can do about it.

We’ve learned the hard and sad ways that not every baby makes it to being a kid. We’ve learned that we are so fucking lucky that he has a sharp mind and a light heart. We’ve learned that baby toys take over and they hurt like a mother fucker when you step on them. We’ve learned to buy the good humidifier and the good white noise machine. We learned that babies can’t “blow” their noses, so you better be ready to suck snot.

We’ve learned good stuff, bad stuff, sad stuff, surprising stuff. We’ve learned that we have so much more to learn.

But most of all, more than anything, we’ve learned to never, ever bathe a child after dinner if they haven’t pooped that day. They will shit in the tub.

The Weight of Expectation. Or “The Worst Thing About Me.”

September 10, 2014 § 7 Comments

So here’s how the last few months have gone down: I took a full time job that was a COMPLETE FAIL, which started me into a tailspin of ohfuckwhatamidoingwithmylife, my child started day care and hates it so much he’s practicing his first sentence, “go to hell,” my sister-in-law smacked her head and nearly paralyzed herself, I’ve gotten into a complicated emotional kerfluffle with my father and his wife, I drunkenly told my older brother off, and my younger brother lost his best friend in a car accident. Now none of these things happened TO me. They were all things that either happened by the course of nature, the actions of others, or I played a direct hand in making a mess of them. I’m not crying victim. I am simply setting the stage for what has been a very involved and emotionally fraught period of self identification, searching, and smoking menthols on a park bench like a crazy person. 

My husband is sticking around because of the “for better or worse” clause, though he has made no secret of the fact that if I don’t get my shit together soon, he’s going to go find a nice Christian girl to settle down with. (He dated a Mormon once. I know he secretly fantasizes about those prudish, God-fearing types.) The baby pretends like he doesn’t know I’m a hot mess, but I can see it in his eyes. He knows that if I don’t get things figured out soon I will bring shame to our house and he will not be able to go to daycare without the burden of my failures. His meals, though mostly still up to snuff, have occasionally included portions of more pedestrian items and he has shown his dissatisfaction by lobbing them at my face or methodically dropping them onto the floor. 

I’m well medicated, so I can’t blame all of this on my psychiatrist, though I’d like to. It’s even baffled my mother, who feels like the first question one should always ask when feeling an emotion is, “am I on enough medication.” Yes. I am. This situation is not about meds or situational depression, it’s about something much worse. It’s about LIFE. 

I start most days with a list of consulting work that needs to be tended to and a checklist that includes things like “laundry” “kitchen” and “figure out what you want to do with your life.” For the most part, I treat them the same. I spend a few minutes sorting colors, a few minutes emptying the dishwasher, and a few minutes sitting on the couch wondering if I can come up with something exciting to do with my life. Something that makes me feel like I’m not just existing, working, and drinking rose and watching Bones on HuluPLUS. I don’t want a job. I want an all consuming, integrated personal and professional existence that makes me fell stimulated and involved and a little bit important. I don’t know why that’s so hard. 

Carol is my therapist and she’s pretty much the only good thing going for my mental health these days. I have no idea how fucked up Carol’s own children are, but in my imaginings they are the most well adjusted, happy people in the world. They have to be. Carol spits nuggets of pure gold and has the kind of perspective that makes me feel disproportionately well adjusted and reasonable when I leave her office. I sit down a hot mess and leave a real human being— with perspective. 

This week, I plopped myself down on the couch and told Carol to prepare for tears and not to comment on whether I smelled like cigarettes because I didn’t want to talk about it. She laughed and told me she wouldn’t hold her breath for tears, but was thrilled that she’d just bought a new box of Kleenex. (She nudged it at me, as much so I’d know it was there as to show me the really unattractive pattern adorning the box.) I proceeded to outline my case for the midlife crisis I was convinced I was going through and bemoan every detail of my existence. 

(Sidenote: it’s very important to me that Carol know both sides of the things that I tell her so that she can try to provide me with more objective feedback in how I’ve mishandled (aka fucked up) a situation. This often results in elaborate recreations of situations, including live readings of text and email threads, Facebook interactions, and phone conversations. It could be mistaken as a one-man show.) 

After I’d finished explaining why I didn’t have to will to go on, Carol sad something completely unexpected. 

“Sounds like life to me.” 

In the back of my mind, I already knew, really knew, what she was saying. I’d said it to myself. But hearing Carol say it so simply made me a little… deflated. If this is life, what does that mean for me? I told her I couldn’t imagine an existence with so many unknowns, so many unanswered questions, so many things I couldn’t control or understand. 

“You need to better understand your expectations, where they come from, and why they matter. Then you need to learn to let them go.” 

I’m going to give you a few moments to reread that, take it in, and then we will continue. 

….. 

…. 

… 

.. 

Though I’ve never really been able to understand how to actualize the feedback, it’s not the first time I’ve heard it. How does a person lower their expectations? Isn’t an expectation a natural and immutable thing? Isn’t that why it’s called an expectation? I countered with a similar argument to Carol. 

“You’re angry and frustrated with other people because they haven’t met your expectations of them. Regardless of whether they’ve met their own expectations of themselves.” 

So I thought about it. (Re: obsessed about it.) And I’m pretty sure that somewhere in that logic flow is the key to enlightenment. (Someone find me a fucking Bohdi tree STAT.) High or low, I enter into every situation with an expectation not only of the outcome, but of the people involved, their roles, their places, and their actions. When those expectations aren’t met, it crushes me. And then I need answers. I become obsessed with getting those answers. Why did you do it this way? Why didn’t you think to do it that way?

Not only do I judge others by these expectations, I define them. Friends I’ve known for years will never be able to reinvent themselves in my mind because of my expectations of their reactions, feelings, and opinions. Christmas will forever be an emotional shit show because of my expectations. I expect everyone to play the role in the manner I have outlined in my own mind. And if they aren’t going to, they better be prepared to exceed my expectations. Otherwise… 

Theoretically, it’s a goldmine. If I were able to understand these expectations and adjust them, I’d probably be better liked, less stressed, more productive, more accommodating, thinner, happier, have thicker hair, better nails. God knows what. But in reality it’s something else entirely. It’s a terrible character flaw. I mean, seriously, who wants to be friends with that chick? Oh, right. NO ONE. 

So what’s the moral lesson here? Absolutely nothing. There’s atonement to be had in recognizing that some failures were a failure of expectation, not a failure of competency. But there’s no atonement in realizing that you’ve hurt people because you judged and found them wanting based on a system of measurement they didn’t even know existed. There’s also no easy way to begin lowering your expectations of yourself. There’s not a simple method for saying, “it’s okay to not achieve that because you set unrealistic expectations for yourself.” Because unrealistic or not, they were expectations. And they are there. Looming. 

And every morning when you wake up you have to sit on the couch during the time allotted for “figuring out what to do with your life” and try to figure out what your expectations should be when all you ever knew before was that they needed to be high. 

 

 

The African American from Jamaica who loves Kool-Aid

August 26, 2014 § 1 Comment

There is some serious shit happening in Ferguson. The serious shit isn’t really about this one black kid named Michael Brown being shot by this one white police officer named Darren Wilson. Truthfully, the serious shit isn’t even about a black kid being shot by a white police officer, or a kid being shot by a police officer, or, to be really truthful, anyone being shot. The shit in Ferguson is about racism and generation after generation of lip service to an ideology about racial equality that is nothing more than that: lip service. It’s about the difference between telling your child that the handicapped kid is just as worthy as they are and them believing it. Ferguson is the conclusion to a very long, very political experiment about whether you can force equality through legislation instead of education. 

Ferguson is also about white people like me, white people who are “totally not racist.” 

So you had a black friend in college, eh? Or maybe you had a black nanny or house keeper and y’all were totally tight and you loved her like a mother. You work with a guy who is black, right? I bet you’ve been to lunch and drinks once or twice. And you’d totally sleep with Taye Diggs or Zoe Saldana. Hell, even Djimon Hounsou gets your blood racing. Wait, fuck that. YOU VOTED FOR OBAMA. You’re a naturalized lover of the entire African American community. 

Except the part where calling someone African American references them being black by way of the continent of Africa, a general reference to American ties to slavery. Technically there is a ground zero ethnicity argument to be made, but it’s listed right next to “We’re all brothers from Adam” below the part about the Seven Dwarves. African American is a continental classification. Forget their country. Salma Hayek just became North American. Ryan Reynolds too. It’s not wrong, *technically* but it’s not exactly hitting the nail on the head. 

But putting aside for a moment the “totally not racist” white person’s inability to say the word “black,” or the underlying ignorance that fuels our nomenclature, or the fact that no one calls me European American hundreds of years after my ancestors left the continent (which, was actually the country of England….), TNR white people are actually a huge part of the problem. 

I read a great article on Quartz recently about racism, education, white people, black people, Ferguson– the entire cornucopia of buzzwords du jour was there. What struck me was how deeply my subconscious “me” vs. “them” feelings ran. Despite my “totally not racist” attitude towards the black community, I realized that I saw the entire Ferguson thing as another ignorant small town display of racism. Thank God I live in the city. Thank God I don’t have to worry about that shit here. Maybe I’ll go sit on a bench in Harvard Square and feel good about the number of white-looking African American kids I see roaming the Harvard campus! Yeah for me and my “totally not racist!” self! 

But then I had time to think about. (Because, as you may recall, I have taken temporary leave of my employment responsibilities.) I have this small boy, you know the one, and I am constantly thinking of the million and one things I don’t want to fuck up about him. It’s bad enough that he is showing unprovoked signs of being a sociopath, I don’t need him to be a homophobic racists too. But what does that mean that I have to do differently over the next 20, 30, 40 years? What does that mean the country has to do? 

Sometimes people of my generation celebrate the openness of the world we feel like we’ve helped to create for the next folks. We’ve fought for gay marriage and now my son can marry a boy and register at Bloomingdale’s and live happily ever after! THE END! But let’s take “the gay thing” and play it out like we did the “African American thing.” The constants are pretty much dead on. In addition to being “totally not racist,” I am also in the “totally love the gays” camp. 

So now what? Totally loving the gays is enough, right? Ehh… Nope. I don’t think it is. And that’s the problem. If thirty years from now I continue to introduce Author to men (or women) as gay, I’m putting a subconscious qualifier on my introduction and my feelings. As long as I tell a story and say “this black guy” when I would never say “this white guy,’ I am creating a division between people. If I refer to “the handicapped girl” instead of the “redhead” or “the girl who played the mouse in the Christmas pageant” I am subconsciously teaching my son to identify and objective people by attribution. A little by little he separates himself from them. If he is black, then I am white. If she is handicapped, then I am normal. And when he is asked to pick a team on the playground, he’s going to see that if he wants people “like him” he better choose white kids and normal kids. (Though to be fair, he’d have to be mature beyond his years to pick the handicapped kid to be on his kickball team, so I’ll let that one pass.) 

The Civil Rights movement (for blacks) marked an incredible advancement in theoretical social equality, but it didn’t mark an authentic chance in sentiment across the vast majority of “totally not racist” white people. We’ve continued to pledge our sincere devotion to anything that promises to eradicates racism, but we haven’t done the simplest things. We haven’t made an effort to confide in a black man or woman what we’re curious about, what fears we have, what we want to know. We’ve left questions unanswered and assumed that our differences are too great and our heritages too far apart. So while we are “totally not racist” we’ve created a divide so deep that we do nothing more than wave from a pedestal and feel intellectual outrage at a white cop shooting a black teen. 

And truthfully, I bet Darren Wilson was “totally not racist” until he confused his misunderstanding of the clothing, the walk, and the lingo of the unarmed African American kid with that of a thug. A dangerous gang banger. 

And he shot him. And it proved he was a racist. 

 

unapologetic

April 7, 2014 § 3 Comments

I started this blog in 2007. Back then, it was little more than a blip in the blogosphere that represented– at least to me– a promise to myself that no matter how terrible things got (re: working in commercial real estate), I would keep writing. Through a combination of luck, perseverance, and some talent I’ve been able to spend most of my professional life in the creative services: writing and creating in some capacity. 

When I no longer needed this blog for that purpose, it became something else entirely. Over the years it has shifted and changed to accommodate my life and what I need from the blog. (I hardly ever go back and read old posts; they truly make me cringe.) About two years ago the blog finally became something I was deeply proud of. No longer a ranting humor blog, it had finally turned a corner to become the thoughtful, unapologetic exploration of my life, emotions, feelings, and expectations. It’s been said of me that I lack a filter, but the truth is actually quite the opposite. My seeming lack of filter is my filter. I seek to engage myself– and those around me– in a constant conversation about what is true and what has value. I do not create content for shock value. I put myself out there in hopes that someone, somewhere will connect with what I am saying and think a little bit harder about how they feel. For some people it’s refreshing, for others, unfortunately, it’s offensive. 

So what’s this about? Ugh. Right. 

These are my truths; my thoughts and feelings about what it’s like to navigate life. Choices are a bitch: they elevate and advance us, but they also preclude us from so many things. My point in my post last week about the worthiness of parenting was not to vilify my tiny human, but to help others understand what a deeply challenging role parenting is, as well as what it means to choose the role of a parent over that of so many other available roles. I love my tiny human. I love him very, very dearly, but I cannot– and will not– say that his appearance into my life hasn’t thrown me into a tailspin of contemplation and questioning. 

Author is loved. If I didn’t love him, I wouldn’t hook myself up to a goddamn milking machine every day for eight months, or roast tiny game hens and puree them up like poor people pate. I wouldn’t spend every last dollar I make on his nanny or cry myself to sleep over whether I can give him the future he deserves. He is loved not only by me, but by his “pups” and his Gami and his Mimi and Panda and Grand Bear, and all the other friends and relative with whom he Facetimes every week. 

But like I said before, he can be a teeny tiny fucker. And if that’s too much to hear, you’ve come to the wrong place. 

 

I have Klout. Seriously.

January 4, 2014 § 3 Comments

It’s only a matter of time before I leave you all for something bigger, better, brighter. For years I’ve toiled away on this blog, exposing my deepest insecurities and most intimate thoughts– for what? Your fleeting admiration? A few comments? The occasional like? It’s not a life I’m cut out for living. But getting free shit? That’s a life I was born for.

That’s right. I got a free thermometer. Braun sent it to me because I am so mather facking good at this whole mothering thing. I’m an influencer. (That means that right now I am infiltrating your brain and making you do things without even knowing it.) No, really. As it turns out, no one cares about me. All I ever needed to do to become popular on the internet was have a baby. If I’d gotten knocked up at 16, I probably could have skipped college, gotten in early on the Facebook thing and had a best seller by the time I could legally buy cigarettes. Wish I would have known. Stupid education.

But I didn’t. And it looks like it may not matter because even with that useless college degree, I got a free thermometer. The beauty of my free thermometer is two fold. First, if you’ve ever had to take a baby’s temperature, or stuck anything in your own asshole, you know that it’s not fun or easy. (At least not all the time.) As it turns out, as much as I adore the in-ear thermometer, baby don’t dig. My new, free, thermometer works by swiping it across your forehead. I have no idea how well it works on my child, but the two or three hundred times I’ve taken my own temperature, it’s been downright blissful. Plus when I thought I was dying, the hubs seemed to be able to swipe it across my forehead with similar ease. The second thing about my free thermometer (besides that it was FREE and incredibly validating) is that it’s a gateway thermometer. This is going to be my new life. Today it’s a free thermometer, tomorrow, who knows.

I have some ideas.

As many of you may not know, I have a very big birthday coming up. It’s divisible by ten and three. As someone with so much influence and savvy, it makes perfect sense that brands would be clamoring to send me the top items on my list. For free.

Why? I will tell you why. The publicity. The access to impressional folks such as yourself. I’m going to build a birthday empire. (DO YOU HEAR ME, BRANDS? WHEN YOU SEND ME FREE THINGS I WILL PEDAL THEM! I AM SHAMELESS! I WILL SAY WHATEVER YOU WANT!) Do you see what I’ve done for Braun? Do you see how many fractions of a thermometer I’ve sold?

So here’s the list.

All-Clad: You wonderful, wonderful stainless steel people. I need a 12 quart stainless pot. It’s a black-eyed pea emergency. If I have to make New Year’s peas in that shit hole pot for another year, I won’t need luck, I’ll need a good lawyer. You send me the pot and you’ll get access to all these people. And I’ll post my black-eyed peas with some hash tags. Sound like a plan?

Wusthof: I don’t usually do well appealing to Eastern Europeans. Something about my humor not translating. But let’s cross the bridge of friendship and hug overlooking Free Shit Lake. I need some good knives. Not a whole set, but a few good ones. I could have gone to Henkel, but I came to you. Because I know you want in on this. Danke.

Whole Foods: Truthfully, I’m a little offended that you haven’t reached out to me. I’m from your hometown. We went to high school together. I am loyal. I never complain about you. I don’t care where you source your fruits from. Yay Colombia! Yipee Peru! I think that a few well-placed gift cards could really boost your brand. And by well placed I mean in my palm. (Not to be confused with palm oil. Bad. Unless you stock products that use it. In which case we will overlook a few dead orangutans.)

Amazon: I have no idea what you plan on doing with all those newspapers, but while you’re figuring that out, why don’t you boost your online sales by throwing this gal some gift cards? I’m Prime. (Like actually, I am a Prime member.) I’m a mom. I’m hip. YOU CANNOT GO WRONG WITH THIS INVESTMENT. I will blog all about the things I am going to buy. And then when I buy them… I will post PHOTOS. You read that right. PHOTOS.

Design Within Reach: You are not within reach and we both know it, but you are within reach of the dozens of people who read this blog and with a simple gift of a Herman Miller Eames Lounger (black with cherry), you could boost your sales by a staggeringly insignificant amount. AND you’d be my friend. And I promise to start every blog post in 2014 with, “as I sit here in my Eames lounger from DWR…” 

Let’s start there. I’m not saying I’m not open to other brands, but I don’t want to open the floodgates too quickly. There’s enough of my 30th birthday to go around.

Happy Birthday, me. And thank you in advance, All-Clad, Wusthof, Amazon, Whole Foods, and Design Within Reach. Gems, all of you.

(In all seriousness, though, I’d like to thank @Klout and @KloutPerks and the good folks at Braun (@BraunTherms) for the free thermometer. It really is a nifty little gadget that I do recommend– whether you’re a baby or have a baby.)

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