Tiny Velociraptors

Aut bit the shit out of the husband yesterday. Not like a precious 2-year-old love bite, but a full on, Hannibal Lector bite. On the tit. Through two layers of clothing. Flesh was affected. It was an ugly scene.

Biting does crazy things to people. It’s not like tickling or foot touching. No one likes to be bitten (sexual exploits aside; no judgments). If you want to watch a nice person turn like a junkyard dog, bite them. I once bit this guy at a gay bar. One minute we were drinking cheap Pinot Grigio and dancing to Cher videos and the next I was being escorted to the exit while a Nathan Lane-esque fat man was held back by two waif-like Twinks wearing eye shadow. It seemed fun and playful at the time. He disagreed.

Biting hurts. Even fleshy gay men. Lesson learned.

Biting is also a game ender– and that’s why it’s so tough to get biters to stop biting. Whomever finally caves and bites the shit out of the other person wins. Kid at daycare steal your truck? Bite him. It’s swift corporal punishment and it achieves everything that could otherwise take years of trust and relationship building. Want to be feared? Bite. (Full grown men are afraid of being bitten by three-year-old girls. They’re like lock-jawed, unpredictable piranhas.)  Some bitchy six-year-old block the slide? Bite her. She loses control of her faculties, slides down the slide, and TADA! it’s your turn.

But here’s what tiny biters don’t fully understand. When you’re on the receiving end of a bite, there is ZERO reaction predictability. Which means that if you bite a 34-year-old man on the tit, there is no guarantee that he will not “accidentally” throw your tiny body across the room with the strength of ten men. He doesn’t want to paralyze you for life in his fit of rage, but he’s in the middle of a post-bite seizure. He’s unpredictable, essentially blacked out. The most primal human instincts kick in when your brain realizes you’re being bitten. I’m no scientist, but I’m certain there is science to support my theory that the fight or flight instinct that governs biting actually can’t–in the moment– decipher whether it’s shark, bear, or tiny human. Jaw clamps, adrenaline kicks in, and bitee immediately starts poking at eyeballs and using stupid strength to survive. It’s only in the aftermath, when you’re toddler is laying slack jawed on the carpet, that you realize your mistake.

Oh fuck. You’re not a bear. 

And then there’s the parenting part. The part of you that knows you need to breathe, walk away, and then calmly reapproach the bear to teach a lesson about pain and biting. But what you want to do is rip your shirt open to reveal your tender and bleeding tit and make him understand on a deep and mature level what a irreversible human wrong he has committed. Your parenting brain is like heistwoheistwoheistwo and your human brain is like I don’t fucking care if he’s six months old. MY TIT IS BLEEDING. OFF WITH HIS HEAD. 

But what really kicks you in the dick is when your reaction to being bitten is so severe, like in the case of the husband and the bleeding tit, that your child falls into an uncontrollable and hysterical fit.  As if, for the first time, he realizes his father is not a human at all, but a North Korean dictator. And then, whilst clutching your tender, eviscerated breast you have to console the child.

And at some level, that’s kind of what parenting is. Having your tits ruined and then apologizing.

 

We are going to try something new.

This October marks 10 years of the Half Truth. For many of you, this birthday is meaningless. (Understandably.) For me, it’s maybe, sort of, kind of the most significant birthday/anniversary in my life. Ten years of blogging might be one of the biggest commitments I’ve ever kept in my whole life. With the exception of my husband and my love affair with mayonnaise.

When I started this blog, I was 22 years old and had graduated college with one of the top five least meaningful degrees available to a college student. After waiting for my phone to ring with an insane job offer–doing what, I had no idea, but it was going to be amazing and come with a HUGE paycheck– and eventually realizing the phone was not going to ring, I went to a staffing firm. Heather Harold (real name) was a tall, tanned, thin woman in her late thirties who told me, on no uncertain terms, that I lacked even the most basic professional skills and it would be a miracle if she could get me a job as an entry level secretary. And she felt she was letting me down easy. I wanted to be indignant, but she had a point.

I was married that September and returned to Boston from a whirlwind Napa wedding and Tahoe honeymoon to a tiny, air conditionless North End apartment, and a letter from my dad with my final rent check. With few-to-no-options, I called Heather Harold back and told her to do some Anne Sullivan shit. I needed a job. In 2006, title inflation was just starting to sweep the country. After lying on a typing test and inflating some filing experience from my father’s law firm the summer I was 14, I managed to land a temp job as a Corporate Services Manager at a corporate real estate firm. To clarify, I managed nothing and I didn’t even work for a corporate services department. Essentially I ordered office supplies and made sure the printers had paper. I was terrible at it and spent most of my days trying to get people to like me enough to 1. do my job for me 2. give me a leg to stand on when they inevitably tried to fire me.

And that’s how the blog started. I just needed something to do while sitting at a computer for 8 hours a day. I wasn’t a writer– in many ways I’m still not a writer– but it was, and is, the only thing that could save me. When no one else could make me laugh, I could make myself laugh. (A weird and not entirely enviable talent, but I do sometimes think I’m funny.) When I looked around at what a miserable failure my life seemed to be, there was comfort in knowing that 221 people I didn’t know were reading my words. The first time my blog got 500 views on a post, I drank an entire bottle of Cakebread at a Hillstone and nearly blacked out. It was silly. It still is silly. But it really did mean something to me. It meant that no matter how terrible my job was, how little I was contributing to the world, I still had my words. And 221 people who saw them.

And in a lot of ways the blog did change everything. When I didn’t have a resume to prove myself, I had the blog. When people didn’t know whether to trust that I could tell a story, I had the blog. It was the most unorthodox means for landing any civilized job, but it worked. If it weren’t for the blog, I’d probably still be lying about how much tabloid sized paper is in tray 6 of the Brother printer on the 14th floor.

And through it all, the blog itself has remained fairly insignificant. My commitment to it waxes and wanes, my confidence in sharing my stories and experiences here does the same. I worry that my becoming a mom has turn people off, or my boring suburban life has left me with nothing insightful to share. But my deep down desire hasn’t changed at all–I want to be a writer. It’s the only thing I’ve ever truly thought to be proud of. I’ve been a lot of things, a strategist, copywriter, creative director, content person, brand guru, and those things are wonderful (and pay well…) but I want to be a writer. And it turns out that there’s only one way to become a writer.

You have to write.

People constantly make suggestions to me… You should write a sitcom! Oh my god, you should be writing a book. Have you ever thought about a screenplay? Have you tried standup? But at the core of all of those things is material. Real stories about my boring, suburban life.

So I am going to try something new. Rather than think and stew and marinate on topics, I am going to try to just…share. I’m going to tell you weird stories about the husband falling asleep in the car on the ride to work and how I want to murder him by dropping tablets of rat poison in his open mouth (just kidding! sort of.) and stories about A putting on a suit and tie over his jammies and walking into the kitchen and asking me to dance.

And you may find that many of these stories are super fucking boring, but I have to write them down. Because they’re all I have.

And I’m going to be a fucking writer.

 

 

 

Successfully Failing at Motherhood

A few years ago I wrote a post called “But what’s it really like to have a baby?” It ended up getting picked up by the Huffington Post (front page) and for 24 hours I was the most equally lauded and hated woman on the planet. Mothers and childless women from across our great country gathered their spatulas and absurdly limited legal knowledge and campaigned (anonymously, online) to have my child removed from me. Why? Because I just didn’t think being a mom was the super greatest time ever. In equal contrast were the others– the mothers and childless women who were relieved to hear a version of the truth that, in some small measure, mirrored their own feelings. The feeling that children, while chock full of charm and adorable (sometimes), are also a full contact, full time sport. There’s no beginning and end to parenting. It’s not just a sacrifice of your vagina and lower abdomen (which becomes a sideshow), but your actual life.

In those two years, my baby has become a toddler. And frankly, my feelings about motherhood haven’t changed much. In the same way that I love cake and hate baking, I love my child, but I really don’t love motherhood. And as hard as it is for some people to reconcile this, or even accept it, I don’t really feel much guilt about it. My journey now has been about how to balance the choice to have a child and catapult myself into a role that neither comes naturally to me, nor gives me much satisfaction, and maintain my sanity as a human being who craves a life less consumed by the unending demands of motherhood.

For many, there’s a simple, vilifying argument. “You chose to have children. Your selfishness is disgusting.”  To those people, I say “fuck you.” If you truly believe that our society pays even the slightest of lip service to the reality of motherhood in a modern age, you are naive. We’re still taking a page out of a book that has men bringing home all the bacon, women who were groomed from a young age to become mothers and accept the role that was offered, and zero social media pressure or scrutiny. In a day in age where maternity leave is a luxury, leaving early to pick up a child from daycare causes both personal and professional duress, and the choice between children and a career is only possible if your career affords you incredible flexibility or cash, the “reality” of motherhood has been rewritten, but never published. (For example, on top of childcare, which can run about $1600/month [down from $2400 in Boston], I pay nearly $800/month to have someone pick up my child from daycare because I simply cannot leave work early enough to fetch him. I get home between 7:00/7:30 and begin the one hour sprint through bath, dinner, books, and bed.)

I was chatting with my mother on the phone the other day, relaying the plight of the modern mother– the guilt and balance and dissatisfaction. Thinking she’d have some insight (she did have THREE children), she replied, “I don’t really understand that. I was just so happy.”

Welp, there you have it. Thanks, Mother.

But then I got to thinking about it. When she comes to visit, she relishes all the stuff that makes me want to poke my eyes out. She’s on all fours, pretending she’s a pony, coloring Elsa, watching Mickey Mouse. She thinks letting him pick out ridiculous, mismatched outfits is hilarious and cute. (No. Just no.) She can build Lego towers and knock them down for HOURS. I approach Legos with a mind for building something elaborate. A color-coordinated palace with symmetry and functional exits. To A, that’s sacrilege. We build it high and then we knock it to the ground. Then we repeat that… for the rest of the week. I don’t want to be sitting there thinking about being anywhere else, but that’s what happens.

I hate that on weekends, I look forward to time to recharge, relax, and get things organized, and instead we are held captive by the whims of a 37 inch person. Rain strikes fear into the core of my being. I want to eat at a restaurant, but I’m gripped with anxiety about whether it will be a fun and worthwhile meal or an ill-fated nightmare that leaves me feeling like I wasted $100 and 2 hours of my day. Keep them indoors and they bottle up so much energy you will live to regret your decision for days. Take them outside and they’re hot, cold, hungry, wish you brought the bike and not the scooter, need to pee, don’t like the way the sun is shining, think the slide is too green, the other kids are looking at them, or want to be pushed on the swing. For the rest of the day.

And I fucking hate “mommy friends.” I don’t mean my friends who are mommies. I mean people in the world who are supposed to be my friends because we both have kids. What the fuck kind of sense does that make? I don’t like you, your husband, your politics, or your approach to life, but since we both have children born in 2013, let’s hang out and have some wine. I’D RATHER DO ANYTHING ELSE.

And mostly I hate that I’m always fighting with my husband about nothing. We aren’t even fighting with each other, we’re fighting with the invisible blob that is parenthood. The intangible piece of shit that is blameless and evasive, so you have to yell at your physical spouse. Because obviously the husband deserves to take the entire blame for the fact that I’m wound like a top because my child thinks it’s absurd that we don’t kick people in the tits, I haven’t been able to eat lunch without a chopstick flying at my face since 2013, every dollar we make is assigned to childcare, college funds, savings, mortgage and alcohol, and every time my kid finishes a bag of ANYTHING, he flings the crumbs around the backseat of the car. (WHATTHEFUCKISWRONGWITHYOU?! JUSTPUTTHEBAGDOWNLIKEACIVILIZEDGENTLEMAN!)

I miss energy and free time. I miss the gym. I miss extra cash flow. I miss investing in stupid shit like absurdly expensive sushi and shoes. Because as terrible as that sounds to other people, I love both of those things.

But the very, very worst part is that I know I will miss this. Because as much as I don’t love motherhood, I love him. I love his tiny face and his absurd lexicon. I love watching him learn things and his enthusiasm about damn near everything. I love that he thinks we are the absolutely greatest. (Though frankly he far prefers my husband to me. I’m sure you’re shocked.) I love that he wakes up first thing in the morning and asks if today is the day we get to spend the whole day together (weekends). I even love that he tells his entire swimming class that his Mups’ boobies are falling out of her bathing suit. (They weren’t.)

I know that there will come a time when motherhood does become me. At some point, some age, the winds will shift and motherhood will too. What my child needs and wants will be something I can offer. The sacrifices will become less physical and more emotional. And I’m sure that hindsight, that bastard, will be 20/20. I’ll laugh at what seems like petty, long-ago misery and cry as he walks across a stage or down an aisle.

This idea that we as humans are expected to sacrifice our lives for the lives of others isn’t sustainable. I want for “motherhood” to be a parallel journey to the bigger one that I am on, the journey of life. I don’t want to feel that choosing to have a child means choosing to jump track from continuing to become the person I should be to dedicating everything I have to someone else’s journey. I want to set him up. I want to help him find his path, but I want to stay on mine too. I don’t want to be consumed by motherhood. I just want to be a woman whose journey includes a child.

And I think that should be okay.

 

What two years feels like.

The passage of time isn’t remarkable just because you have kids. Regular, child-less folk are on the big time-passage journey too, only they don’t have to compulsively (and obnoxiously) post milestone photos on Facebook to remind us all that we’re getting older. But when you do have kids, time means something… different. It doesn’t mean something better or deeper, but different. It’s consistently profound. There is a constant reminder— second by second– that time is marching forward. As a parent, you have a front row seat to one of the most incredible time lapse videos of all time. And it blows your fucking mind. And makes you feel so tiny, so helpful, and, sometimes, so sad.

Having a puppy isn’t so different in theory, only the visible toll and mark of time is condensed in a way that makes the emotion of it easier to grasp. Imagine having a 16 week old puppy for a year. And then a 20 week puppy for a year. All that puppy goodness stretched out for an incredible amount of time. You exist in the puppydom so long that when it finally moves on, you have to sit down and mourn. You have to pack up all those puppy toys and puppy foods and say goodbye to that puppy. It wasn’t a few months of puppy, it was YEARS. (Are you really thinking about how profound it would be to have a puppy for a year? Go Google something stupid cute like a baby retriever and imagine having that for a year. GO! But then come back, obviously.) But when it’s a tiny human, there are so many more layers. Heart swelling, soul crushing layers.

Today is Aut’s second birthday. The small boy, the one who baked in my belly during a bombing and came into this world silently, is two. Two is so tiny. Two is so big. Two is not enough cupcakes. Two is too many vaginal diseases. Two seconds are useless. Two words are devastating. Two is complicated and transitional and frustrating and hilarious. And that’s just for me.

Last week he suddenly looked big. My first reaction was to panic that he was losing his cute. I scrutinized him for a few minutes and then decided that he was still cute, but definitely taller. Less baby, more opinion and sinew. He’s starting to understand words as more than indicators. They have meaning and gravity and tone. He knows when he’s done something terribly evil and then makes a choice to apologize or laugh like a menacing sociopath. He feels scared when something isn’t right and he feels real feels when we are careless with our words or ambivalent to his deep, soulful need to hear the.same.fucking.book every night before he sleeps. But he’s also just two. He is insignificant in so many ways to the world. He doesn’t produce letters or numbers. In most third world countries he’s not even old enough to contribute to the child labor force. He thinks the most important thing in the world is throwing rocks in the beach and the most devastating is finding out Fi and Katie aren’t coming over. He thinks the big boy potty is a chair for reading books in the bathroom. He has no idea what hunger is. He doesn’t know what loss is. He hasn’t even been here for 1,000 days.

But then there’s me. I know what two years is; I’ve experienced two years on the bright side and the dark side. I know, logically, that time passes at the same rate no matter how happy or sad you are, but it’s an argument that holds no weight in times of either. Two years ago I was rolling on a ball at Brigham and Women’s Hospital willing this baby boy to get the lead out and join us. At that moment I couldn’t see past the baby. The puppy. I couldn’t see past being a new parent. I didn’t see a reality on the other side of being a mom for the first time. If I knew then what I know now, here’s what I would know….

Babies are the beginning of people and while that makes a nice quote, what it really means is something so heavy and burdening that if any of us took the time to really think about it, we’d realize what an incredible honor and responsibility that is.

Two years of anything can give you the kind of perspective that makes you ashamed you ever opened your mouth to say something rude on a broad range of topics. Like Birkenstocks.

Time will march slowing and quickly forward and somedays it will grip you with so much happy that you think the world is perfect. Hold on to that.

Most of the things that matter don’t matter at all. And you won’t ever be able to keep that perspective, but you have to keep reminding yourself. Potato chips can be good for you. Watching Frozen can be educational. Bedtime isn’t immovable. Tiny human beings need to be tended to day-to-day and moment-to-moment. Sometimes that means kale, sometimes that means ice cream and popcorn for dinner.

Be as hard on yourself as you think your child should be on himself. You’re someone’s child too, you know.

You’re going to be fatter than you ever thought possible. (Maybe I’m glad I didn’t know that then, honestly.)

Saying “fuck” in front of your child may not be appropriate, and might make your mother insane, but it’s not the worst thing a parent has ever done to a child.

No amount of Xanax will ever lessen the full-body anxiety of watching your child try to make friends. It’s a physical, all over kind of pain.

Two years is such a long time when they are screaming, but such a short amount of time when they are telling you about their day.

You’re going to lose sight of what you thought mattered and then you’re going to realize it maybe didn’t matter. And then you’re going to become indignant. And then you’re going to mourn. And then you’re going to rally. And that cycles over and over.

Everything is finite and that is so comforting and so scary.

Becoming a parent is terrible, but it opens you up to a 4th dimension. It’s not a better path, it’s not a preferable path, but it’s a totally different one. It’s immersive and total. It sets you on a different track than the one you started on. And there are always times you want back on the other. You watch a train pass you going faster and looking fancier and you will always take a moment to wish you were on that train, but you’re not. And there are people looking out of that train window at you too.

****

This morning on my way to work I was behind a car with a bumper sticker that said, “Today someone is happy with less than what you have.”

Two year’s feels like training for the next two. And the two after that. Two years feels like a beautiful, fucked up, anxiety-ridden, laugher-filled, angst-y trial period for trying to understand what matters to me and how to balance what matters with what’s necessary. Like dishes. And exercise.

Two year’s didn’t fly by. It plodded along at a metered pace. Somedays I wanted to last forever, some days I wanted to start drinking at noon. (And some days I did.)

Two years feels like a good start to feeling happy with exactly what I have.

The ones you know.

I’ve had a tough time blogging recently for a few reasons. “Lack of inspiration” is the blanket term, but it’s actually more complicated than that. When social tensions spike, I find myself with so many thoughts– many of which haven’t been vetted by my brain. It may surprise you to know what a complicated filter I actually do have, it’s just not the traditional filter. The point is that I want to speak, but I often find it’s just to say “HUSH UP! QUIT BEING SO STUPID!” But that’s neither helpful nor entertaining.

Moreover, while I actually love to write serious things, they seriously dent my readership. Like a lot. Folks get a little, “what the fuck? Where’s my laugh?” and then I’m all, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’ll be funny next time, I swear!” But they don’t come back. And then I feel like I’ve lost someone because I really just wanted to rant on about racism and republicans and the chronic bullshit that’s inundating me every second. And what’s the fun in that? Nothing, apparently.

I also hate that all I have to talk about is mom stuff. Lame.

But recently I’ve seen so many “mom blog” pieces being passed around. Touching letters about a son with autism or a daughter with a skin condition. A kid who can’t eat anything but cotton candy and dryer sheets, or a little guy who’s different and both parent and child feel alone, sad, and overwhelmed. Like any human, I am touched by the stories of these people with serious hardship, but I also can’t help but feel like the desire to explain our own unique situations only deepens the gap between us. ADD, ADHD, Autism– these are very real and very tough things for parents, but at the end of the day it amounts to unceasing reminders that “my kid is different.” I fight the urge to remind many of my friends that if they didn’t keep reminding me, I’d likely forget and move on. In a good way.

Sometimes I lie on the bed naked and lament about all the parts of me that are depressing. I wiggle and jiggle and point at pockets of horrifying and shameless dimples. It enrages my husband. He recently told me that anything negative that’s ever occurred to him has been because I’ve insisted on pointing it out. To him, I’m a big delicious bowl of naked. It’s not exactly severe spectrum disorder, but there are some parallels. Sometimes we have to go out into the world as we are and just see what happens. Maybe we’ll be surprised.

I have a younger brother with one of the most obvious, obnoxious, and socially crippling syndromes around. You think your kid brother drove you nuts? I can hear a pen clicking six offices over and drive myself to insanity over it, and I was given a little brother who chirped, barked obscenities, and threw up the Nazi salute every second of every day. He blinks, he stutters, he trips, hops, yells, barks, and makes the stranges facial tics– and I stopped noticing about 20 years ago.

When I was in middle school, Oprah or Maury or someone else with a couple of couches and a microphone did a show on “freaks.” Four kids with Tourette’s were paraded on stage with their parents. Their parents then proceeded to speak for the kids, explaining to the audience (and the world) how their children would never be able to do the things every other kid could do: no movie nights, no school dances, no organized sports. They couldn’t take them to the grocery store or the mall. They worried their children would never find love or happiness.

My brother and I were both watching. The creeping sense of dread that came over me was too late. I realized that until that moment, we’d never really treated Charlie like a kid with a disability. (I don’t actually know if he knew it was….) As a family (and not because we had our shit together, or even a long-term plan), we simply held him to the same standard as we held ourselves. (Albeit low.) Tourette’s was never a reason for anything to be a non-starter.

He didn’t quit baseball because of Tourette’s. He quit because he’s a pansy and it was too hot outside.

He didn’t quit playing the bass because of Tourette’s. He still plays. We just told him he had to get a real job.

He didn’t quit archery because of Tourette’s. We just asked he not do it around… anyone.

He didn’t stop going to movies because of Tourette’s. He told people to shut the fuck up.

He didn’t shy away from social interaction because of Tourette’s. He made friends on the basis of his humor and alcoholism.

He didn’t avoid romance because of Tourette’s. He’s just not very good looking. (I kid. I kid.)

He didn’t quit law school because of Tourette’s. He bitched about it, took a few victory laps, and then passed the bar. To the surprise of even himself.

And while my parents did fight a lot of battles on his behalf, ultimately we all knew it was up to Charlie to fight the war. The greatest misfortune of being a kid with a disability is often not the disability; it’s cultivating the emotional and intellectual strength to be yourself and recognize that people are staring, people are judging, people are wondering, and simply not care.

I have stood at the ready many times over the years, waiting for someone to cast a stare I didn’t like or say something to him I could beat them for. But in all my years, I’ve never once had to pick a fight. There either wasn’t a fight to pick or Charlie was quicker to say, “get over it. I have Tourette’s.”

I realize that his battle is not my own. I realize (believe me) that the desire to clear a wide and painless path for your child is fierce, but I also know from my own experiences that we have to encourage them to accept themselves, not qualify themselves. Our children believe they are who we say they are and if we tell them they are disabled and different, they will believe it.

Aut could have Tourette’s. It’s too early to know, but we do watch him for signs. Do I think about how his life would be different? Of course. But I think more about how to cultivate in him a sense of pride and acceptance in himself no matter what he does or doesn’t have. After all, even if he doesn’t have Tourette’s, he’s got the Beaulieu legs and the Minton hairline. And those will take confidence to overcome.

And there are exceptions. But I encourage all parents to think long and hard about what you (we) do because we are scared of what other parents or kids will think and what we do because it’s actually best for the child. Bring your autistic kid to the birthday party. Bring your son with cerebral palsy to the pool. Kids will never stop staring, but your kid deserves a swim on a hot day. And they damn sure deserve cake and ice cream.

i accept

Villa Feraria October 2008 020

I personally don’t know a single person without body issues. Except the hubs. I don’t know if it’s the circle of friends I have, the socioeconomics of my circles, race, ethicity–what. I don’t know. But everyone I know, except my husband, has body issues.

I was once watching a reality show on MTV where a group of very, very large girls went to summer “camp”. “Camp” was of course fat camp, thus the show, and I sat on my couch for a full, riveting hour watching as these girls spent an entire summer losing 16lbs in hopes that their parents would love them a little more when they picked them up. What I started to realize during the show was that these ginormous teens were not entirely different from my friends, the affliction was just different. Amongst them was a smattering of girls breeching (no pun intended) 300lbs, and one or two safely within the 290s, thusly making them the “skinnies” in the group– an aspirational leadership team who had graduated to tankinis, rather than the usual t-shirt over the one piece.

I watched these 293lb “skinnies” give eating advice to each of their friends, tell them about the best way to get a guy to notice them, show them the latest fashions– be the outright envy of their friends. The friends who, to the rest of the world, were no different. From my couch those three lbs made no difference. They were all at fat camp.

My point is that I think we probably gravitate towards people who are like us because–no matter how individual we are– we want to be individuals with other people. In my experience, true individuals are like swamp monsters. There is proof of them, but no one can ever seem to actually capture one. This may be because true individuals get very, very lonely and end up taking their own individual lives. Sad, but not so far fetched. Being an individual requires a unique blend of ego, confidence, lack of self awareness, and emotional vapidity that is hard to attain. I don’t say that to be rude, but because I believe that not caring what people think is a cold and isolating place, and to live in that place means shutting people out. When you love someone, you care what they think. It just happens.

Anyway, to continue my story (which I understand isn’t really even a story)… body issues. I’m not stupid, and I do see that there is a very, very good chance that somehow the cosmos aligned to bring me together with my body doubting brethren. It’s not as if I interviewed my friends, checking to make sure they were self conscious about their bodies, or put an ad on Craigslist for people who have food issues… we just found each other. It was likely a moment; one afternoon in early friendship a dessert menu probably arrived. I looked at the new friend across from me, reading her eyes. Did she have self discipline? Was she going to order dessert? Was she going to ask for water with lemon? Or was she like me? Hoping, praying to an higher power that our companionship would lead to dessert? And with small phrases like “molten chocolate” or “bananas foster” the first step towards understanding was made.

The story doesn’t end there, though. The true test of our fondness would come later. Would I receive a delayed text message bemoaning our decision? Would my new friend go through the motions of feeling guilty about our decision? Like magic, I would. And the next step, the crucial one, was made. Next thing you know I have a whole group of friends with questionable decision-making skills, a propensity for overindulging, and a consciousness for what the human form should look like. Body issues. Yay!

The problem is that as I grow older, I also grow tired of jealousy, competition, and most of all body issues. I do not want to be in competition with anyone, but rather learn from everyone. Take something from their lives and apply it to my own, but only if it works for me. I want to be a woman who relishes the joys and achievements of my friends and does not take them as an opportunity to identify how I have failed. I want to be encouraged and inspired by those acts. I also want to stop doing the naked mirror dance, agonizing over the parts of me that do not conform to some idea I have in my head. One that I am not even sure would make me happy.

I think this means I want… happiness.

So here’s the big question, the one that far greater men and women than myself have dared answer: what the hell is happiness and how do you achieve it?

I don’t have any clue, but here is what I do know: I am going to figure it out. I am going to rid myself of the bad, search desperately for the good, and try really, really hard to see what it is that so many people are so damn… happy…. about.

So here, based on an email from my good friend and gym BFF Nicole, is my beginning. On the road to happiness, these are the things I accept:

I accept that my parents got divorced and there is nothing that can be done about it.

I accept that I am not a morning person.

I accept that most people are morning people.

I accept that there are a lot of really annoying people in this world, but they are not out to get me.

I accept children.

I accept that I miss my dad, but that those choices have been made. I can be hurt, or I can rely on my friend Hailey to always hand me a cocktail and give me a solid hour to cry and say mean things…

I accept that I’m not an individual in the way that so many people are. My tattoo doesn’t make me a hipster, and my hair doesn’t make me a debutante. My apartment doesn’t make me a yuppie, and my shoes don’t make me a prep. I am better than an individual. I’m a chameleon.

I accept that I get sad.

I accept love.

I accept that I’m not a friendly person.

I also accept that the road to happiness may force me to be a touch friendlier, and I’ll do my best.

I accept that my apartment, though not big enough for dinner parties or house guests, is perfect. It’s my home. It’s where I’ll find Stuart and the hubs.

I accept that there are adventures in my future.

I accept that heartache is a journey to someplace I don’t even know exists.

I accept that with enough practice, enlightenment is possible.

I accept that I was not built for a bikini.

I accept other people’s opinions, but do not hold them so close as to allow them to make me question myself.

I accept that this body is not the one in magazines and on TV. But this body can run ten miles. This body is capable of one of the most beautiful Urdhva Dhanurasanas in the Metro Boston area. This body has done the very best that it possibly can.

I accept that happiness isn’t about being happy, but about setting an intention to be happy. Intention is half the battle.

I accept that life does not mean to make things difficult, it just happens.

I accept that humiliation does not exist. Humiliation is simply an inability to laugh about what we have attempted, but not perfected.

I accept that people do not like me.

I accept.

I accept.

I accept.

no, no. don’t touch mommy’s vadge.

If I sat here for twenty or thirty seconds, I imagine that I could come up with one to two million reasons why people shouldn’t have children. I understand however, that for a lot of people, there isn’t a hell of a lot else going on and so, without foresight to the Popsicle-sucking, hair pulling, little monsters that they have an 76% chance of becoming, they decide to procreate. Unfair? Possibly. But I have never, ever been with a child that I was sorry to have to give back after ten or fifteen minutes. (I take that back. There was a baby that I really enjoyed last summer. But then I found out he was developmentally challenged… not a dream baby.)

However, I fully expect to have loin fruits of my own, so it’s fruitless for me to think too much about it. Then I just get scared and imagine stapling my fallopian tubes with a red Streamline. Without telling the hubs, obviously.

Anyway, what brings me to this point is that there are two ways to find your stance on parenthood: babysitting and cat owning. Exposing yourself to the mortifying reality of other people’s children is enough to make any kind hearted soul decide that babies are for crack whores and foster parents. And owning a cat shows you that you are powerless. No matter what.

When I was sixteen, I lived in a very affluent neighborhood. It was a cash cow for short-term, high profit babysitting gigs. In certain parts of the continental US (uh hem… Texas) it’s popular to hire a babysitter to watch your children even when you’re home. I’m not talking about a nanny, but a young teenage girl who has just enough energy that she can put up with your childrens’ post- school, pre-bedtime bullshit so you can have some Franzia on the porch with the girls.

When I did this for the first time I thought it was a little bit awkward. It defies the law of babysitting that says you make a deal with the kids that they can do whatever the fuck they want while their parents are gone, but that have to be in bed by the time we see the lights in the driveway. And you’ll pay them $1. (To children, there is something awe inspiring about a $1. As though no one ever told them that next to the penny, it’s the most useless piece of currency in the world. It is, quite literally, just change.) Needless to say, after a while I learned that alcoholism and on-site babysitting are a recipe for tons of cash. Keep the kids away from Mommy and she will reward you handsomely.

And then there are the traditional babysitting gigs. Arrive at 6. Wear jeans, Merrill’s, and a pastel Polo button down, and say super cheery shit like “I can’t wait!” “Oh! Can we read before they go to bed?”

On one such occasion, a neighbor was walking down the street when she noticed me getting out of my car. In the Sahara, it would have been considered a predatory move. Said neighbor clearly sized me up, determined my age, pedigree, and credentials, and immediately asked me if I babysat. I returned the favor by assuming that her haggardly, Jewish facade was code for desperate and hoarding money. So I said yes.

As it turns out, said neighbor had not had a babysitter since the birth of her child SEVEN YEARS BEFORE. For seven years, she and her husband carted the child around like a duffle bag. I later learned that the child had never really left his mother’s side. At school he was having all sorts of problems with attachment disorder. Super. Can I please babysit?!?

We agreed to have a trial run. I’d let them go see a PG-13 movie for the first time in 10 years and if the house hadnt burned down, they could then go to dinner. Baby(sitter) steps.

After they had written a light dissertation on food preferences, allergies, likes, dislikes, emergency numbers, time tables, maps, and presented it to me, they started a melodramatic farewell sequence which culminated in said child’s face being smashed between the mohair-clad breasts of his mother while she murmured about his angelic face… as though it was a sight she wouldnt be seeing again in a few hours.

No sooner had they walked out the door when the child begin a meticulous debrief of the operational minutia of his house. There was the candy drawer. I could have one piece, but no more, because he wanted to have enough to last through the next week and if I ate more than that he wouldnt be able to. Then there was the playroom, littered with the kind of toys that future a-sexuals play with. I wasnt to play with ANY of them, especially the talking Darth Vader doll, unless we were playing a game and he instructed me to do so. All righty, kiddo. Got it.

After the tour was over, child took me down stairs to watch TV. I settled on the couch and waited for child to take a seat in the beanbag on the floor. Instead child decided to sit on the couch. And then he scooted over, nestled his face between my (16-year-old-non-existent) breasts. And then he cupped them firmly in each hand.

what. the. fuck.

No child, I told him. We don’t touch girls that that. Rather than being embarrassed about it, he became deviant, almost frantic. He was laughing manically and tearing at my shirt. “BOOBIES!” he yelled out.

The rest of the evening I played hide and go-away-you’ll-never-find-me-im-hiding-in-the-pantry and tried to avoid facing child head on. I decided we weren’t going to bathe that night, because the thought of what having him naked could mean for me was too much to think about. I kept thinking that some skillful editing of a handful of footage from a Nanny cam and I’d be bending over for Bertha for 20 to life.

When child’s parents returned home they were completely unfazed by my accusations. Apparently it was totally normal and healthy for a child of his age to take interest in the female form. Why on earth would they discourage that? I could only imagine that they were lucky that child was a boy, because little girls can’t exactly hide behind the healthy interest line when they’re walking around cupping their mansitters balls and yelling PENIS!!

iCaroline learned that unless you can guarantee your child isnt a Grade A molester, you should put off procreating.

Moving on.

Fast forward ten years and I have no children, but I am a married cat owner. After the loss of Milo (who was, as you know, a shinning example of why everyone should own a cat), we procured Stuart. (AKA Fuckface.) Stuart is, among other things, a total disappointment, and it’s sometimes hard to think of reasons why we shouldnt kill him. Just this week our fire alarm went off (for the building). As tenants were frantically running around, trying to find out if we were all going to burn alive, Corey and I calmly made our way downstairs. When we got to the atrium, our neighbors were huddled together, looking for answers. Two of our neighbors had their cats in carriers, one was even clutching her cat to her chest, soothing it. “Where is Stuart?? We need to go back!!” All the neighbors stared at us…

Stuart was staying in the apartment. He’s resourceful. He’ll be fine.

If you saw Stuart you’d never be able to understand where these intense emotions come from. He is cute as pie, soft like a dead bunny, and when he wants to he will be your BFF. Other times he makes it his mission to destroy your idyllic home environment and completely strip you of your humility.

The other day I was trying to get in the house, get my stuff down, coat off, door open, mail on the table– all before I tinkled on myself. I was doing a little hallway dance as I tried to get my gloves off. Fortunately I made it. I slid into the bathroom, pushed the door and sat down. No sooner was a singing the praises of relief when Stuart pushes the door open. Eh. Who cares right? Let him come in. He is probably just wanting to play on the bathtub, which is his favorite pasttime.

No, what Stuart wanted to do was pop his head up between my legs, fascinated by the action taking place, and paw at my most private parts. Are you fucking kidding me? Sitting there I find myself saying outloud “No, No, Stuart!! Don’t touch mommy’s vadge.” And I was taken back to my 16-year-old self, pulling the drooling face of a seven year old child out from between my less-than-heaving breasts.

The Beaulieus are not looking to have children any time soon.