Two beers and an untold number of cookies

When I met my husband 12 years ago, I was a wee thing. A child. I’d had a string of completely insignificant relationships with random boys, but I was always just “one of those girls.” I didn’t really date. Partially my mother scarred me for life, implying that I would become knocked up and poor if I ever let a boy see my boobs, and partially I just never really liked it. I felt painfully awkward going on first, second, third, fourth– all dates. (I once insisted in sleeping in all of my clothes at a guys house. Like in his bed, in jeans, with my socks on. I turn crimson every time I think about it. Girls, listen up, sex is not that big of a deal. Don’t be a whore, but for Christ’s sake, please don’t shack up in a guys bedroom in all of your clothes and disappear through the fire escape after he’s asleep. You can’t recover from that. He’ll never call.)

When I met the husband, it was instantly different. I didn’t want to date him, I wanted to be his other half. I wanted to skip over all the awkward dating (we did), the boobie gazing (we didn’t), and arrive at the comfortable, compatible, for always stuff. I’d found my person. BOOM. Let’s move on.

Part of our courtship was fueled by an newly awakened desire to take care of another person. I wanted to make him happy. It was like a tortured, romantic fulfilling of Maslow’s hierarchy. I wanted to feed him, shelter him, clothe him. I wanted him to be happy and carefree and I would do all sorts of very loving, very out of character things to ensure those things were true. The biggest thing I did was cook.

I cooked things out of cookbooks. There were courses and sauces. I made dinner almost every night. After I was 21, there was wine. We got into a rhythm. I was the dinner maker, the grocery shopper, the planner. And that was that.

But here’s the thing… As it turns out, I really don’t like dinner. I don’t like making dinner. I think, more accurately, I don’t like to have any responsibilities after 6pm. Having a child was a real kick in the dick in this area. They need all sorts of things at all hours of the day and night. So Aut kind of puts me at my quota. By the time I commute home after a full day of work, orient myself in my house, and put all my shit away, I basically want to do the ABSOLUTE minimum between that moment and when I get into bed. Even if that means eating questionable cottage cheese over the sink and calling it dinner. My priorities are different now than they were over a decade ago.

When the husband is gone or busy, I get almost giddy. I think about the complete zero dinner I’m going to have and I’m set free. Calorically, it’s also a boon. If I don’t have to waste calories on proteins and health carbs (eye roll), I can use them all on a bottle of wine or sixteen pieces of chocolate. I can also just eat three spoonfuls of almond butter and go read for the rest of the night. Fuck. Yeah.

The bigger challenge is that I’ve started to feel anger towards dinner. Dinner mocks me and steals my time. When the husband says something like, “so, what do you think we should eat this week,” I get a little rage-y.

NOTHING. I want to eat NOTHING. I want to open the fridge and fine random treasures and eat them indiscriminately over six hours. A piece of cheese. A few nuts. A bite of something that’s been in the fridge since… who knows. I don’t want to be tied to a single, well balanced plate, for GOD SAKE. As for that child of ours, he can take a page out of American Childhood and have a bowl of cereal and some disappointment.

But that’s not how grownups apparently act. We have to meal plan. We have to shop. We have to prep things. We have to eat dinner. We have to feed our children. Ugh.

This is actually the number one thing I fantasize about when I think about my impending mental breakdown and my move to a ramshackle cottage on the outskirts of Reno. Sure, I’ll be living in squalor and painted as one of those disgusting women who left her child out of selfishness, but I will eat the shit out of nothing every. single. night. I’ll probably never go to the grocery store again. It will be magical. In it’s own sad way.

But this is actually a story about marriage. About how the precedents we set (even subconsciously) at the beginning of our relationships start to define our roles and our interactions. And even though nothing is set in stone, it’s hard work to accept the ways you’ve changed, harder still to accept the ways in which your partner has changed, and even harder still to break these cycles and find new normals. My husband doesn’t (by any stretch of the imagination) expect me to cook dinner, but the scheduling, rituals, and ingrained habits that have to change if I decide to write dinner out of my life are bigger than not cooking any more. There would have to be a shift in responsibility, a reallocating of duties and expectations. And that is really difficult to do in a marriage.

And dinner is a small thing. When I think back at the girl I was then and the boy he was, our paradigms were defined by such narrow experience of the world. Our belief systems have changed, our goals have changed, and at every step we’ve had to reassess, acknowledge, and make decisions about our relationship and our dynamic. It’s hard work. Necessary, but hard.

Twelve years ago, dinner was my language. In all the years since, I’ve found new ways to show my husband that I want to take care of him. (Or maybe I haven’t. You’d have to ask him. I could have also just become one of those drag wives.) And his languages have changed too. Frankly, he used to agree with me a lot more. But we make a choice, like all married couples, to keep trying to translate these languages into insights about where we are in life, what we need, and where we are floundering. Sometimes we figure it out. Sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we eat dinner. And sometimes we don’t. And like all things, it’s a compromise.

Some nights it’s a big kid meal, and other nights it’s two beers and an untold number of cookies.

 

 

Note: our child gets fed. So calm down.

 

 

 

The Political Post

I was genuinely taken aback at my own response to Hillary’s official nomination last night. I haven’t been a Hillary supporter up until now. I threw myself behind Barack in the 2008 contest and behind Sanders during this nomination cycle. I’ve said since the beginning that she wasn’t the candidate I wanted, but she was absolutely the candidate I’d vote for if it came to that. So no #BernieorBust here. And maybe it’s because I was so focused on the task at hand–the singular goal of having my candidate secure the nomination– that I wasn’t focused on the historical significance of Hillary, a woman, securing the nomination. But there I was at Del Frisco’s, in a bar surrounded by white men drinking scotch, when the screen flashed the official announcement. She had done it. She had done it.

I held the hands of my dining companion (also a woman) and we stopped. We stopped drinking and talking, stopped hearing, stopped everything, and we took a moment to do the most appropriate thing. We wept. Because no matter what you believe about Hillary, no matter who you’re voting for, if you have a daughter, mother, granddaughter, or sister, you owed it to them to recognize what that meant. It was one less “never. ” And while those nevers are slowly being removed from our vocabulary, they still exist. They still silently affect our ability to truly believe in what is possible.

When she did it, she guaranteed that my 3-year-old son will add a new, female face to the fabric of history. When she did it, she gave my peers the confidence to push for more and better today and every day after today. When she did it, she also proved that men are aligned in this fight. That women are not doing it alone. Because women alone did not secure her nomination– we ALL did. For every man who pays us less, every institution that labels us less qualified, there are men who call bullshit. Men like my husband, my father, my grandfather. Those men are our army. Because of those hes, we have a she.

But there are months between now and November and a political shit storm is brewing. And there are many who are not with her. Many who espouse that she is a criminal, unqualified, and ill suited. On our own side, there are those who believe a vote for their conscience will prove their point. A vote for Trump will “show us.” Here is what I have to say to that.

Wars end in treaties. In compromises. With hope that change will continue to take hold. To walk away from something because you did not get everything is what got us into this mess. The road is long, it stretches on long after my lifetime or yours. The progress of the Sanders movement has fast forwarded our national dialogue in unimaginable ways. We were not shouting into a well. Our voices were heard. Our issues got more play, more time, more consideration in the last year than the last 10. We narrowly missed the nomination. There were dark forces, but dark forces are not new to politics. We cannot take our ball and go home. That is defeat. We were not defeated. We were victorious. We will continue to be victorious, if we remain.

What is at stake in the short- and long-term is bigger than today. It’s bigger than holding our ground, clinging to every principle. I am no traitor to this cause, but I am a pragmatist. The Supreme Court of the United States has the power to uphold or deny some of the most groundbreaking changes to social justice in the history of our country. A democratic/liberal majority bench is imperative to our stronghold on minority and gay rights. My conscience cannot nominate SCOTUS. She can.

The devastating effects of a diminishing middle class is evident. It’s causing unrest, division, and hate among neighbors. Access to education, reproductive autonomy, and living wages is imperative. We cannot further #blacklivesmatter without these three things. We cannot change the black American narrative if we do not continue to lay down in front of the train that threatened to undo all that we have managed to eek out these last eight years. My conscience cannot keep Planned Parenthood alive. She can.

We have to fight terror, not hope. Fear cannot be our military strategy. Do I believe we need to reassess our approach to relations in the Middle East? Yes. Do I think we need to push our allies to play a more active, cooperative role in ending ISIS? Yes. Do we need to end this reign of terror? Yes. Do I believe in spending more money, more time, more energy in building a military at the expense of the basic opportunities of the very citizens they protect? No. I do not. I also do not believe in walls. You cannot keep hate out with a wall. More hate comes to us through the internet than the borders. This is a global society. The last country to build a wall was Germany. I took us nearly thirty years to tear it down. My conscience cannot execute that foreign policy. She can.

Call her a criminal and I’ll show you 100 men who have done worse and served our country. Call her a liar and I’ll show you 100 men who have told bigger lies and become lauded in our history. But you cannot call her a bigot. You cannot call her racist. You cannot call her a misogynist. Because she isn’t. And that makes all the difference.

I was with him.

But now…. I’m with her.

What hope remains.

I hear you. I hear you saying that following the rules is the answer. I hear you saying that more guns are the answer. I hear you saying that black lives aren’t the issue. I hear you saying you want to build a wall. I hear you saying you want less color, less gay, less diversity. I hear you saying that the world you want is one of defensiveness, Darwinism, and solitude. I hear you saying that the America you’re voting for, pushing for, and hoping for is one where I take my kids to the movies with a gun, feel cautious and uncertain around black men, withdraw in fear from Muslims, and choose inalienable rights and freedoms over joy, hope, and peace. I hear you. I do not understand, I do not agree, but I hear you.

And I know you hear me. You hear me saying that no amount of rule breaking justifies any of this. You hear me saying that I don’t want more guns. You hear me saying that black lives are the issue. You hear me saying that I want more color, more gay, and more diversity. You hear me saying that the world I want is one of compassion, inclusion, empathy, and community. You hear me say that the America I’m voting for, pushing for, and hoping for is one where I take my kids to the movies with popcorn, feel camaraderie with black men, recognize the terror that my Muslim neighbors endure, and choose and adaptation, evolution, and compromise over militance, blind liberty, and stagnation. You hear me. You do not understand, you do not agree, but you hear me.

And this is our fundamental problem. We hear, but we do not agree. We want a different version of America. We are pulling mercilessly, tirelessly in different directions. We speak our truths to like-minded individuals, we commiserate with those who believe our side of the story, agree with our vision of America. Even in our rare agreements with our decided “foes,” we are quickly becoming enemies. Our frustrations and fears are slowly getting the better of us. These disagreements have leaked off of the pages of newspapers and Facebook feeds and seeped into our relationships. They have poisoned friendships, caused comrades to sling silent insults at one another. Our political differences, our social beliefs have divided us so far that we argue over the relative value of human life. We barter humanity like goods at market. We play God. We have created a theater out of our existence. Our original differences are unrecognizable. They are shrouded in rhetoric, defensive remarks, convenient facts.

You call me liberal. You find me soft, unrealistic, and absurd. But I cannot even call you conservative. Because you, who I am talking to, you are not conservative. You are hard, unrealistic, and disassociated.

But what happens next? Will our shouts and screams slowly quiet? Will our rage and frustration slowly change to indifference? Will our indifference slowly choke us? Will we become so tired of holding our ground that we become our congress, arguing to fill space and time until nothingness becomes the goal? What happens to a nation when progress stopped? When equality is not longer at the  the agenda? What happens if we take a step back and realize that we have irreconcilable differences?

Do we wage war on ourselves? Is that not what we are already doing?

I hear you say you will not compromise. And frankly, I will not either. I cannot agree to compromise any longer. I signed up for Rosa’s dream, King’s dream, Milk’s dream, Anthony’s dream. I signed up for the dream that was born of a desire for ongoing progress, equality, justice, and change. I signed up for the dream that suffered the consequences of a nation built on fear of one oppressor while ignoring the presence of hundreds. Our nation is not oppressed, but our citizens are. Citizens who did not have a seat on the Continental Congress. Citizens who were needed for their contributions, but not their voice.

And I am lost and angry and sad. How many times can we knock at the door before we give up? Or do we give up? Do we walk away or do we fight? Because to fight we need hope.

And what hope remains?

Show me that hope remains.

 

 

 

 

I’m working out, y’all.

*If you give zero fucks about learning about these damn Kayla Itsines guides, or you are in peak physical condition, this post will likely not entertain you. 

So I’ve been obnoxiously posting pictures to Instagram that chronicle my completed #bbg workouts. You’re welcome for that. (At least I’m not selling <insert thing people are selling all over my fucking Facebook feed>.) But here’s the thing…

Fitness people are crazy supportive of one another. I mean, I get it. They’re all hopped up on endorphins and being thin and strong and can’t help but love the shit out of one another, but it’s still a surprise. You post a picture of the human life you created and six people “like” it and one person comments. You post a picture of your fat, sweaty self after doing a terrible 28 minute workout and 26239 people come out of the woodwork to tell you what a badass you are. It’s motivating.  And, frankly, I need it.

I haven’t reported much on the weight loss journey since my ohholyfuckiamsofat post from last summer, but the journey does continue. Through various means I managed to knock about 17lbs off. No small feat, but also kind of a drop in the fat kid bucket. I’m out of Kirstie Alley territory, but I’m certainly not ordering new bikinis. (Let’s be honest, I’ll never be ordering new bikinis.)

It was actually back when I first reported about my Stage Five Fatitude that a friend mentioned Kayla Itsines and the #bbg (Bikini Body Guides). I dutifully paid my $60 or whatever and downloaded the workouts. I even read through them a couple of times while watching TV or making dinner. They certainly LOOKED effective, but I couldn’t speak to that directly, as I never actually DID any of them.

When the Sweat with Kayla app came out and I was offered another opportunity to do the exact same work outs I already paid for, but for additional money, I was like, “yes! sign me up!” I did the 7 day free trial, which didn’t deter me nearly as much as I imagined, and then started paying my $19.99/month. Because why not pay $20 a month to jump around like an asshole in your bedroom?

Here’s what you need to know, in no particular order:

  • There are three resistance workouts, three cardio, and two recovery a week. (Though that’s kind of a lie because the app has me repeat one workout a week.) Resistance workouts are broken up into Abs & Arms (single workout), Legs, and Full Body. In order:
    • Arms & Abs are the most manageable for me. I generally don’t feel like vomiting, I have some success, and feel appropriately tired after.
    • Full Body is the second most challenging, namely because there are always burpees, which are what Satan does when he wakes up in the morning.
    • Legs. Last time I did legs I went downstairs to get water after and fell down the stairs. So there you have it.
  • I am horribly and offensively out of shape. My physical appearance, as poor as it may be, is actually making it appear that I am MORE in shape that I am. It takes me approximately 11 seconds to get out of breath.
  • Even though paying for something you already paid for sounds like a really dumb idea, the PDF version of the workouts can’t force me to work out like the app can. The app basically says “you have to do this today” and then turns on a timer and I have no choice. The PDF was more like my friend who said she’d jog with me, but actually meant she’d smoke pot and each cheesy curls on the couch.
  • Because the workouts are by week and are the same across the program, you can “work out with your friends” (i.e. do a work out in EST and then text your friend in the PST about how terrible it is before she even wakes up).
  • There’s a nutrition guide that people really love, but that I basically ignore. Clearly this woman doesn’t live in New England. She eats kiwis and mangoes. Most New Englanders don’t even know those two words. But it seems to be a reasonable diet plan focused on nutrients and not calories.
  • You need minimal “gear.” I already had some weights, which are needed, and it appears that a medicine ball is in my future. (But you can also get creative… fill a milk jug with nails or something.)
  • Oh and a jump rope. Which may also mean a box of Depends…
  • Each work out is two circuits. You do the first circuit as many times as you can in seven minutes and then do the same with circuit two. And then repeat. All in it’s 28 (7×4) minutes of working out. It’s up to you to modify or slow your pace so you don’t die.
  • If at any point you feel angry and sad, you can hop on my friend Kayla’s Instagram account and look at all the people who are doing these workouts and look like fit little wood nymphs. (Including moms who look WRECKED in their before pictures. Which is double motivation.)
  • Overall the app is a mediocre user experience, but it performs its main function well: shows you the workout and times you.

The real reason I seem to be enduring these terrible workouts is because they make me feel really good. In less than two weeks I feel stronger and I think I look better. As bad as any one workout gets, it’s only seven minutes and then I can do something else. And while there have been times I’ve cursed everything in my presence, I didn’t quit. I kept going, just trying to make it to the buzzer. (There’s actually a buzzer on the app. It’s very exciting.) Plus it’s only 28 minutes. You can’t excuse yourself from 28 minutes. (Well you can. But then you’re just being lazy.)

It’s bad, but it’s not so bad. And I’m doing it. Which is more than I can say about anything else. Like I said, there’s a 7 day free trial on the app, so you can always give it a spin and decide whether it’s your cup of tea. If you do, be sure you tell me so I can bitch with you via text.

My kid was a nightmare. And other true stories.

Happy 4th. (Yesterday.) I was on social media channels a few times. I saw a bunch of adorable kids in gingham and stripes watching parades and looking American and perfect.

My kid was awful. Just terrible. He made a three-day-weekend seem like a prison sentence. By Saturday afternoon things were fragile. Sunday evening my marriage was starting to fray. And when we finally reached Monday night, everyone had to retreat to their respective corners so there was no bloodshed. It is a wonder to behold how a single 37 inch person can fuck things up so thoroughly.

The good news (if that’s how we want to categorize it) is that this appears to be age associated and completely predictable. Late two/early threes are notorious for their shittiness. Unfortunately, no amount of warning can adequately prepare you for the psychological and emotional damage that a toddler can exact over a three-day-weekend.

What I struggle with the most is actually how much I struggle. I’m 32 years old. I am a fully grown human being. I have pretty well developed coping skills. I’m good with conflict resolution. I have sound logic and reasoning skills. And my toddler gives ZERO fucks. If my husband and I had a dollar for every time the phrase “walk away. just walk away.” was uttered in our house, we could both retire. And yet for all our chanting walkawaywalkawaywalkawaywalkawaywalkawaywalkaway we can’t actually walk away. We’re locked in some intellectual death match with a tot. I’ve experience more logical and redemptive communication with cats.

And the stubbornness. Oh sweet lord the stubbornness. This is why people of the olden days resorted to physical acts of violence. Because it takes an incredibly well controlled and evolved human being to get to the brink of sanity and not be overcome with the urge to exert physical force over a lesser being. And I’m not even talking about beatings. Even just a well placed flick. Because when your child tells you for the 2736974120382039 time that they WILL NOT CLEAN UP their blocks and you’ve wasted 682 minutes of your day asking, and you’ve taken away everything you thought they held dear, and you’ve reasoned, begged, yelled, threatened and there are still mother fucking blocks all over the floor… your ability to keep your shit together is questionable. Worse than that, when you’ve sacrificed your plans, your desires, your activities in order to do the activity that should most appeal to your child and then they act like a domestic terrorist, you begin to question the very meaning of life.

We’re currently in the stage whereby all perceived offenses are of equal weight in his eyes. Not having the right color juice is as egregious an offense as refusing to allow him to play in the hose or trying to give him away. (Just listing the kinds of things that brought our weekend to its proverbial knees is giving me PTSD.) There’s usually a light whimper, followed by the introduction of a baby voice, which then becomes a fake machine gun cry, that then devolves into a full on melt down. (And then usually one of us walking swiftly out of a public place while our child confirms to single people within earshot that they are the superior species.) The single most terrifying thing about three year olds is that the truest and quickest way to incite a meltdown is to give them EXACTLY what they want. What? What is this you say? Yes. Exactly. Give them exactly what they want and they will most certainly meltdown. Because they hate you.

For example. Aut has been totally into bike riding recently. (We got one of those bike seats that you get when you have a child under 4 and you no longer care about how uncool your life is.) Generally speaking, he loves riding around on the back of the bike, going fun places, seeing new things. So we planned on an awesome bike ride on Monday. We were going to bike up to Marblehead and stare through the gates of yacht clubs at rich people. We told him… and he melted down. He didn’t want to bike ride. Turns out, he’d found a long-forgotten set of paints in his cubby and all he wanted to do in the whole world was paint. (Painting is a cruel invention by people who hate parents.) After much hmming and hawing, we consented. He could paint outside. In his underwear.

We went outside. It was beautiful out. We set up a drop cloth, staple gunned a canvas to the fence, got out the paints and brushes, slathered sunscreen on him. And feeling like THE BEST PARENTS IN THE WHOLE WORLD we set him loose on his artistic endeavors. Which lasted about 14 seconds.

The sun is too sunny and it’s on my head. We got him a baseball cap.

I need something different for my eyes. (Because THE BRIM OF THE HAT WAS NOT SUFFICIENT.) We got him his sunglasses.

I’m thirsty. We made him hold out but eventually realized this was not the one to nail him on when it was 90 degrees outside. Got him water.

I need different paints. Go fuck yourself.

I want to paint on the fence. Not on your life.

I need to wipe my hands. Shouldn’t have stuck both hands in the paint.

I want to do yoga with Mups. No, you’re painting.

I want to cut all my fingers off in the air conditioner compressor. Nope. [wailing]

I don’t like painting. Well, too bad. We got this all set up. You’re gonna paint. [more wailing]

I need a snack. We just had breakfast. You’re fine. [repeated slower and screaming I. NEED. A. SNACK.]

The sun is too hot. Sorry, we’ll talk to the solar system about that.

I need Buzz Lightyear. Buzz is napping upstairs. [whimpering, but surprisingly no wailing]

I really want to stick my entire hand into the A/C compressor. Ask me again and I’ll probably let you.

I need to go into the basement to get something. No you don’t. [full-on, mind blowing meltdown]

I want to go for a bike ride. You’re dead to me.

I don’t want to exaggerate, so I’ll say this was all within the span of about 11 minutes. Conservatively I’d say six tantrums and one meltdown in 11 minutes. Because we were doing exactly what he begged us to let him do.

And like I said, the very worst part is how ill prepared we are to cope. It’s impossible to ignore, but equally as impossible to correct. Stupidly I allow myself to imagine these scenarios whereby we’re doing these things happily and peacefully as a family. The hubs is drinking coffee on the porch, I’m doing yoga on the driveway, Aut is painting like the gifted painter we will joyfully discover he is. But it’s never anything like that. It’s screaming and whining and trying not to lose our shit at how unbelievably insufferable he can make 15 minutes in the sunshine. And then the guilt when he says something like “why do you always yell?” And I feel so terrible but I also want to be like “why do you always try to make me insane?” But I know he’s 3 and he doesn’t know why he does it. He just does. And my job as his mother is to cope. And get through it.

And I don’t want to wish his life away. I don’t want him to grow up too fast. And inevitably there’s some gray haired woman (as there was this weekend) who says “enjoy every moment” at exactly the wrong time. And I get it. I know she’s wistful and hindsight is rosey. But these moments are not enjoyable. They’re trying and terrible. They make you question yourself. They push you to dark places where you have to look hard at yourself. And that’s an unexpectedly difficult part of parenting– seeing yourself through your child’s eyes. Because every now and then, you won’t like the person you see. But this too shall pass. And tantrums about paints and Buzz Lightyear will be replaced by heartbreak and humiliation and things that will make us long for the days that the absence of Buzz was the most meltdown-worth part of the day.

But for now, we cope. We parent. We continue onward. Knowing they won’t be 3 forever… for better or worse.

Author Paints
A brief moment of happiness and reprieve. 

 

 

And today. And boobs.

I’m having a hard time today. I’m having a hard time coping with the grief that I feel for so many people I don’t know. I’m having a hard time building bridges instead of walls. I’m having a hard time focusing on being happy and present, when my mind wants to wander to a black hole filled with fear and anxiety. I want to go home from work. I want to pick up my child early. I want to eat something fluffy and cheesy for dinner. I want to put a lot of hard shit on pause for a while.

I know a lot of people are feeling that.

But I can’t. Not today. Because the grief has to be grieved. And the hard conversations have to be had. We have to get through this, not over this. All of this. Not just the acute stuff, but the big stuff. We have to keep talking and debating and saying honest things to one another so we can make progress. And it’s tiring. It’s always so tiring. I know. Because I’m married. And that’s all you do when you’re married. Have hard conversations and fight the urge to give up. Because giving up is so easy now and so fucking hard later. (And because I don’t want to die alone. So…)

We have to keep going.

And while I can’t make that easier or better, I can distract you for a while by talking about boobs. My boobs.

My boobs are terrible. My boobs were sacrificed on the alter of over-achieving parenting. After two merciless weeks (because pro-breastfeeding people can be BRUTAL; don’t argue) of attempting to get Aut to latch, it became abundantly clear that he wasn’t gonna. His mouth and my nipple were a failed arranged marriage. The kidney transplant that wasn’t going to take. He did not want my boob. (Which, merciless breastfeeding people were also cruel about. So fuck you, again.) Because organic, imported from Germany formula was going to poison my child, give him autism, stunt his mental development, and keep him from getting into college, I only had one choice. I had to pump. I had to hook my titties up to a pump four times a day for 9.5 months. I pumped first thing in the morning. I pumped in the only bathroom in my entire building (which happened to be unisex), while evil bitches knocked ceaselessly and told me it was “unfair” that I was using the bathroom to pump. I pumped when I got home from work and before bed. Sometimes I would accidentally oversleep and wake up in a soggy pile of bed linens. I pumped on airplanes and in shopping malls. I pumped in parks and in my car. I pumped and pumped and pumped.

And when you pump, you squeeze. You treat your breasts like misbehaving Plah Doh. You squish them and poke at them. You live in a constant state of fear about not getting all the milk out and ending up with clogged ducts. (Been there. Spent 5 days in the hospital. And kept pumping.) You manhandle them in ways that young boys dream about.  You shake them and mash them to make sure every, single drop of that delicious, liquid gold makes its way out.

And while you’re breastfeeding, your tits look fantastic. If you’ve ever forgotten, go to a children’s swimming lesson. You can tell the infant moms from the toddler moms by tits alone. The infant moms have perky, swollen boobs that have a strange mix of utility and sex. The toddler moms look like they dropped their tits into their bathing suits and then lost them. Poof. Gone. While you’re breast feeding, there is all sorts of blood flow and tissue and milk working in glorious symphony to make you look like a porn star. It’s amazing.

What you don’t know is that they will deflate. You’ll wean your little angel, and for a few weeks you’ll be like “SWEET! No more milk, but my breasts are amazing still and everyone was wrong. I’m going to end up with incredible post-baby boobs!” And you’ll be naive and wrong. And premature.

Within about 6 months the sag appears. The “life” that your boobs had begins to die. They take on a new relationship with your belly. Rather than resting-on or grazing your belly occasionally, they flop upon it. With a harrumph. For me, the worst part was the stretch marks. The incredible 40 EE breasts that I developed while pregnant and breastfeeding (I am not fucking with you– 40 EE– A, B, C, D, E, EE) had stretched and pulled the skin of my boobs to the point of no return. All that squeezing and kneading and mashing while pumping only made it worse. I had ruined boobs. I had… sad sacks.

And body shaming doesn’t really affect me. What affects me is when people talk about celebrating my sad, wounded boobs. I do not want to celebrate them. I want to mourn them. And then have them lifted, tucked, pumped, and injected.

But for now, they just sort of sit there in my bra. Like little puddles of forgotten pudding in a flavor no one likes (except your husband, because he’d eat spoiled pudding in shit flavor if it meant he could have pudding whenever he wanted). Every now and then I take them out and look at them, give them a pep talk, and then watch them retreat. They’ve given up. Which I understand. I don’t blame them.

 

 

What I’ve learned from my thoughtful, pro-gun, Republican friends

Passions are boiling right now. It’s impossible to go on Facebook without a full-frontal assault of opinions, petitions, and arguments. There is plenty of idiocy– on both sides– and plenty of people using passion and desire as a valid argument, also on both sides. The problem is that passion doesn’t solve anything. Arguing two sides of the same issue with logic (or otherwise) that only appeals to those who agree with you is pointless. Unless we can start discussing ideologies, rather than issues, we aren’t going to make headway. It simply won’t happen. Law, lobbies, and logic won’t allow it.

I have a unique view of the unfolding debate. I’m a Texas-born, New Englander. I’m a well documented liberal. I even drove a Prius for a while. But I have a deep roots in a part of the country that doesn’t give two shits about my East Coast diplomacy. On a range of issues from education to agriculture, guns, and business, what is seen as “obvious” and “common sense” here on the right coast, is seen as absurd and elitist when I head south. And before you crinkle your nose and get haughty, it has nothing to do with stupidity. I rarely engage in conversations with idiots. There are two legitimate sides of these arguments. For every issue I take a stand on, I later find I didn’t see the full picture. I didn’t do my due diligence of walking in someone else’s shoes. Regardless of whether my mind is changed, my understanding and perspective are broadened.

That said, I’ve developed a unique ability to understand another opinion deeply without agreeing with it. What frustrates me the most about watching my fellow liberal friends “argue” is that they aren’t arguing the right thing. In fact, they shouldn’t be arguing at all. Two mules with different, stubborn views are just two asses. The issue is not that my pro-gun friends aren’t seeing the issue clearly, or I’m not being clear enough in my articulation of the problem. The issue is that they do not agree. Like two divorced parents in a custody battle. They disagree. And they only way they will ever get anywhere is when they stop making it about themselves and find a common ground… like, I don’t know… their children?

But it’s important for those in favor of gun control to understand a few very key points. As a fellow liberal, I hope you’ll listen and understand so that when you engage in these conversations, you can do so without the blind passions that keep us from moving forward.

  1. Understand guns. The debate that is boiling about the AR-15, including the term “assault rifle” is quickly becoming a red herring. The AR-15 is not a hunting rifle. It’s a people killing rifle. But it’s not an automatic weapon, meaning you have to pull the trigger each time you fire. There are modifications that can be made, but they are illegal. It does carry a magazine, meaning the shooter doesn’t have to load the gun between shots. But it’s not an automatic weapon.(Which are already banned.) If you want gun control, you need to be articulate about the kinds of guns you’re talking about. You also need to recognize that saying “that one is bad” doesn’t help anyone. The military grade weapons that are being used synonymously with the AR-15 are different guns and there are “gun control” measures in place for acquiring those– sometimes heavy ones. Banning the AR-15 is like banning mayo. Miracle Whip is still out there. Focus on the type of gun, not the gun itself.
  2. Know the meaning and the intent of the 2nd amendment. Our founding fathers were fleeing a tyrannical government and wanted to ensure that the citizens of our country never faced the same. They were ensuring our ability to protect ourselves and our families. It was smart. Imperfect, and blind to the future, but fundamentally smart. Yes, those were muskets. But muskets were also what the tyranny was armed with. And that’s how this argument becomes circular really fast. If the question is “how armed?” then ask that question. But arguing against the 2nd amendment in its entirety is fruitless.
  3. Understand the phrase “the answer is more guns.” It took me the very longest to come to terms with this one, namely because I disagree the most vehemently. But that’s exactly why it’s important to understand it. To confident, legal gun owners, Pulse would have ended very differently if the shooter was met with an armed populace. Because they would have stopped it. People still would have died. But the evil would have been stopped earlier. Many of these people have military, police, or hunting experience. These are individuals with more experience and familiarity with… well… killing. From that perspective, it’s easier to fathom the act of protecting oneself. For most of us, the idea of packing heat at Salsa night is absurd. Or at a movie theater. Or a restaurant. To those who know, and love, guns– legally– they serve a very specific purpose. Responding that those who believe this are “dumb” or “uneducated” is childish. It also makes it even harder to have a real conversation. Disagreeing doesn’t make someone dumb. (Though believe me. I’ve heard plenty of really dumb arguments.)
  4. Read up on your gun control. Just do. Because not knowing makes it easier to undermine you. There are loopholes and bad, bad plans, but know what exists. Read about your state and understand how the process works.
  5. Be realistic. The largest mass shooting in US history wasn’t Orlando. It was the slaughter of the Lakota indians at the Massacre at Wounded Knee. And it happened under the pretense of disarmament. Since we didn’t recognize American indians as citizens until decades later, it “technically” doesn’t count. But it does count. And it’s a massacre that pro-gun folks know very, very well. When you say things like “disarming for the greater good,” you’re essentially reading from a transcript of that massacre. And history has a way of repeating itself.

I don’t have the answer to this problem. Not even close. I’m frustrated by the lack of transparency, momentum, and action on all sides. But I know that as a nation and a people, we will get no where arguing. We also won’t get anywhere with unfounded, passionate debate. If we want to affect change, we have to be smart, empathetic, and articulate. And, as every good lawyer’s daughter knows, that starts with knowing the other side as well as you know your own.

** I fully expect to be updating this as my friends berate me… 🙂

 

 

The Saddest Anger

Let’s put aside gun control and Islamic extremists for a second. I’m not going to talk about those things because right now I don’t care about them. Right now I care about people. Human beings. Not policies or all the shit we cannot fucking agree on to save (literally) our lives. I want to talk about people.

I am not a lesbian. (At least not actively. But don’t completely count me out.) I am a heterosexual woman in a heterosexual relationship with a heterosexual man. And you know what? It doesn’t fucking matter. It doesn’t matter that it wasn’t 50 heterosexuals who were shot on Saturday. Because it was 50 people. 50 human beings. Each one of those people was the center of a small galaxy. They have mothers and brothers and fathers and partners and jobs. They were alive and that put them on an equal playing field with me and everyone else.

I overheard a woman at the Y talking about the shooting. That’s how I found out. I heard “shooting” and “Orlando” and immediately Googled it to find out what she was talking about. I was stunned. I was hurt. I felt physical pain– a tightening of my face and chest that made it hard to breathe. A vibrant, happy place filled with men and women seeking solidarity and joy amongst friends and comrades became a slaughter house. And then I was flooded with the names and faces of my gay friends, people I consider as close as family, closer than my blood siblings. Zach. Matt. Matt. Matt. (So many gay Matts…) Marc. Ana Maria. Dylan. Abby. Phillip. Tim. Brian. Brad. Mark. David. Frank. Lizz. Erin. Jason. Carly. Seana. And on and on. I thought of their children, so many of whom go to school with my son. I imagined their lives and their loved ones and the unbearable, unfathomable pain that would rip through my tiny corner of the world if even one of them was a victim of this kind of violence. Then I imagined it happening to 50 them at once. Because maybe they went to the same birthday celebration. Or had marked Latin Night in their calendars months before.

And then I imagined our children. Sitting at the Y, watching little kids cannonball into the water, I imagined their futures. I imagined many of them being brave enough to come out. Brave enough to face cruelty and uncertainty for the hope of a truer, happier existence. I imagined my own tiny son. Because he too may be gay. He too may one day go dance Salsa on a Saturday night with his friends. I tried to fathom the grief of those parents, friends, and families. And I couldn’t. Because that pain is too big. That pain is impossible to comprehend.

And I still won’t talk about policy. I won’t talk about guns or Islamic extremists. I won’t talk about the mental health crisis eating its way through our society. I won’t talk about the homophobia, the racism, the shaming, or the bigotry. Because I shouldn’t have to. Because this is about people. And that should be enough. Whatever the root, whatever the cause, we should be united on every front to find a solution. We have to come to a common understanding about the value of human life. Above hate, above extremism, even above fucking gorillas.

Every human life is worth preserving. Every child deserves a chance. Hate is not a cancer. Hate is a choice. No disagreement should end with with a bullet. No difference should result in a massacre. There is no tyranny greater than our own apathy, our indifference to the lives and struggles of our neighbors. Peace is not easy. Love is not without its obstacles. But no individual party, person, or policy, can dictate the outcome. We cannot continue to do nothing because it will not do everything.

We have created this world. We have allowed these deaths. We have enabled these causes.

And it’s time to do something about it.

Real life shit: Underwear

I paid $320 for a concert ticket to a sold out Beyonce stadium show tonight. Face value. There’s a 30% chance I am going to be standing in the rain. There’s a 100% chance of hair-ruining humidity. There’s a 150% chance that I’ve spend the last 15 hours being an 80-year-old woman about this entire thing.

Let’s rewind. Ten years ago (hell, five years ago) a very different gal would be going to this concert. I’d spend the whole morning rocking out to Beyonce. I’d probably take off the day from work, go buy a new, slightly skanky outfit, and start drinking at noon. Beyonce concert day would be a national holiday. Instead, I spend the last four days googling parking, weather maps, rain policies, and how the fuck you do your hair if you have to go to work and then go to a Bey show and you have thin, frizzy hair and it’s probably going to rain.

This morning, I spent over an hour mulling over my footwear– not because I wanted to find the sexiest, most Bey-worthy pair, but because I wanted to make sure that my footwear was comfortable and cute, but not so cute that a deluge of rain was going to make me sad and ruin my shoes. (Landed on Tom’s. I’m 100% certain Beyonce does not endorse Tom’s.) I meticulously packed a bag with a towel (in case I’m wet and get cold in the car), a change of footwear (flip flops, obviously), a change of clothes, a toothbrush (in case I get stranded somewhere south of Boston and have to sleep), my Kindle (because, traffic), two bottles of Fever Tree Ginger Beer and a child’s Thermos of Tito’s. I set two alarms to remember the tickets, took out a budgeted amount of cash from the ATM, and texted everyone going with me the purse policy at the stadium.

In the last few years, I have become the most uncool person I know. And we’re not even to the worst part.

Underwear.

About the time I gave up trying to find anything concert-worthy in my Birkenstock-laden, flowy-mom-top stuffed, sad sack of a closet, I realized that I needed to put on the right pair of underwear. Because at this stage of my life, underwear and make or break pretty much anything.

For many, many years I exclusively wore lycra blended, slightly sexy, lacy hipster undies. They were permanently half way up my ass, but I hardly noticed. My ass was so tight and shapely that a little lace in my crack didn’t affect my day. I looked so cute shimmying out of my jeans that I wouldn’t have cared if I had a front and back wedgie. When I got pregnant, I learned the hard, sweaty way that you should never, ever have anything that is not 100% cotton near your vagina in the summer. Domestic terrorism was a smaller threat than my summer-crotch in synthetic fabrics. Lesson learned.

As I got older (and heavier), I started to dip my toe in fuller coverage undies. Having your entire ass covered (especially when it’s a little squishy), is a mother fucking revelation. The amount of brain power that I was subconsciously wasting trying to ignore my half wedgie was staggering. Not to mention, once your ass is not 25, getting a wedgie out is not a simple tug. It’s a full on dig. You have to search for your underwear between your cheeks. You absolutely cannot attempt to get your panties out in a hallway because your hand can get lost and before you know it, people are streaming out of a meeting and there you are fisting yourself.

Once my whole ass was covered, I started playing around with higher waistlines. Suddenly underwear went from “the thing that keeps me from humping my pants” to a tool. Depending on how high you’re willing to go, your undies can serve a purpose. They can tuck and suck and shape. More importantly, they can give you a little hug and tell you you’re good enough.

Which is exactly what I need my undies to do today. I need them to tuck in my tummy, lift me up, and smooth out the lumps so that my DvF mom top looks like it fits. I need them to hug me during the concert and make me feel safe and confident when it starts raining and I immediately wish I was at home in my bed watching new episodes of Orphan Black onDemand. So while my 22-year-old self would have been delighted in some lacy, scant panties and a pair of fuck me heels, my 32-year-old self disagrees. I found an amazing pair of spandex and cotton miracle undies with a high waist and firm grip. And they’re black, so sexy by default. (Because duh.) I did hold up a pair of black Hankie Pankies, though, and smiled at how cute and useless they are.

With my undies on, my bag packed, and my hair styled in a low bun with $26 worth of anti-frizz product in it, I left my house an hour late for work today. As I was walking out the door, toting a toddler, trying to find my keys, and wondering how much battery was left on my Kindle, I felt pretty good. At the last minute, I reached in the door to grab Aut’s vitamins and I knocked something on the floor. It was a bottle of Xanax.

I went ahead and threw that in my bag. Because who am I to ignore a sign from God?

 

 

 

Find the happy, goddammit.

I went to spin yesterday. I hate spinning. There is not a moment– from the time I start pedaling until the last stretch on that godforsaken bike– that I am not miserable and angry. It’s just one of those things. I’ve tried the FlyWheels and the SoulCycles, the local places, and the classes at fancy gyms and shitty gyms. It’s not a class issue, it’s a sitting on a bike issue. It uses all the parts of my body that I try to keep still. I hate it so much. Just talking about it makes me more hateful. But I go. (Occasionally.) I went yesterday.

For a couple of weeks now, maybe bleeding into months, I’ve been… unsettled. I’ve been impatient and frustrated. I feel angry and constricted by simple things. I’m easily overwhelmed and anxious. I’ve gone from taking a Xanax once a month to taking one just to get into the car and make the drive to work. Traffic makes me insane. I keep thinking I need to do something, but I don’t know what. Maybe my medication needs to be looked at, maybe the weather needs to start behaving, maybe I need to change my diet– I’ve gone through all the possibilities in my head, and I keep coming back to the same thing. This is life. This is what it’s like (for me) to be 32, a mother, a full-time employee, a wife, a person who recently really hates cooking dinner. The older I get, the more knowledge I have and instead of being set free by all the knowledge, I’m crippled by it. I know too much about savings and retirement, interest rates, education, natural disasters (NEVER MOVING TO OREGON), job security, the vague possibility that my child will be killed by 100,000,000 random and statistically insignificant incidences. I spend so much time trying to look breezy and carefree when what I want to do is crawl in bed and eat Cinnamon Toast Crunch out of the box. (Because THAT is a fucking life plan.)

Don’t even get me started on getting old. I see the writing on the wall. Our society does not care about old people. We are scared and burdened by old people. Unless you have a private– fully paid for– private island or a couple million dollars in the bank, good luck getting old. I could stay in bed for six weeks just obsessing about how terrible it is going to be to be 65-years-old and still working full time because there is no way I can ever retire. EVER. (Cue screaming.) I could depend on my son to care for me in my old age, except for two things. 1. I don’t believe in burdening your children with your winter years 2. There’s just no guarantee I’m going to want to spend my last good years in the basement of my son’s house. What if he lives in a hovel and I hate his wife? (Or husband.)

But what now? How do you take a deep breath, close your eyes, and tell all your knowledge-based anxiety to fuck off? How do you live in the moment and not allow the creeping weight of death and responsibility to give you a panic attack in the shower? Being present is so fucking hard. It’s scary. But it’s also the only thing there actually is. Aut is only 2.75. He is not 3 or 7 or 35. He is only 2.75. And that will pass, but it will pass as quickly and as slowly as everything else. Because time only has one pace. Time is a bitch, but she’s fair. Almost to a fault.

So we’re back at spin. I forgot my shoes and there was a sub and because I’ve turned into an anxious time bomb, those things were enough to put me into a tailspin. The teacher was talking about beach bodies and pedaling so we can eat whatever we want and I’m getting angrier and angrier. I’m anxious and angry and annoyed and my shoes are wrong and this woman will not stop talking about bikini bodies, which is so far from my reality that I want to throw my $4 Starbucks bottled water at her face. But I keep pedaling. And I try to “find the happy.” (I’m actually on my bike, my body vibrating because the music is SO LOUD, and saying aloud “find the happy, Caroline. Find the fucking happy.”) And then it hit a boiling point. I looked at the clock and it wasn’t even halfway through class. I was going to die and explode and I hadn’t even made it halfway through class.

I slowed my pedaling and took a deep breath and asked myself (again, outloud), “what, Caroline? What is the big problem?” And the tiny voice in my head was sad and scared and she said “I don’t know. That’s the problem. I don’t know.” And then I started to cry. And cry. And cry.

I pedaled and cried and pedaled and cried. I climbed the hills and cried a little harder (because it was both self pity crying and just general crying). I cried because I felt so relieved and so silly and so annoyed and free. And then class ended.

If this story were about a different person, I’d be like “and then I walked outside and the sun was shining and I took a deep breath and felt completely renewed.” But it’s not. And when I walked outside it was raining and the barista at Starbucks fucked up my tea. So there was that reality. (Which I realize is nothing like, say, a third world or Syrian refugee reality.)

Here’s what did happen, though. I went to spin. And I finished. And I cried. And then I drove home and I started dinner. (I even cared enough to text a friend about how to cook my fish properly.) I still wanted to go to bed at 8PM, but I didn’t. (I waited until like 10:30.) I got out of my own way and my own head for a few hours and tried to enjoy myself. I made an effort. It wasn’t an overwhelming success, but, like spin class, it was an effort. Which is a start.

And nothing can begin that was never begun. Or something to that effect.