OK, so two things happened:
1. I kinda failed at that whole daily gratitude thing I meant to do for November. Interestingly, though, I actually felt quite a bit of it. And OK, if you take a hot-air-balloon look at my life, I certainly SHOULD feel it, but HOO-WEE, by the end of October (otherwise known as Sucktober, 2012), I was really feeling some cacophony in my Kum Ba Ya. However, once November began, seriously, y’all—it was like a magical page turned, and suddenly the sun came out again. Such a good mood, pretty much every damn day. Still, I was mired under mounds of freelance work I didn’t get done in October when I hated everyone, and so did not get time to post even one of the things for which I am grateful. Also,
2. An amazing girl who has her pointy finger right on the slightly-teary-ear-to-ear-goofball-grin trigger smack dab in the middle of my heart hit a very important, crotch-related milestone last week.
And nobody is thrilled.
She’s not excited. Her father is freaking out. Her grandma is sad. Her mother is OK, but was really hoping it wouldn’t happen for another year or two. Nobody is celebrating. Shouldn’t somebody celebrate?
I think so. I mean, this is BIG! Sure, it happens every day, and to every girl, but so what? Millions of people bring millions of babies into their families every day. Millions of couples get married every day. (Even more of them now that states are coming to their senses and letting love, rather than gender, determine nuptial suitability . . . LET LOVE RULE, MAN! OK, Lenny-Kravitz-scented PSA over, moving on . . . ) And hell, the fact is that many of those marriages won’t last, and some of those kids will grow up to be assholes (you know it’s true)—BUT DON’T WE CELEBRATE THOSE THINGS ANYWAY? Yes, because BIG CHANGES call for celebration!
So why is nobody making a big hoo-hah (pun kinda sorta intended) about THIS?1
And OK, I kinda get it. I mean, on the practical side, she can officially get pregnant now, which nobody wants to happen at this point, for various reasons (I mean, good LORD, she’s 11). And for another, this is big, face-slapping proof that our baby girl is growing up! And growing up for some reason makes people sad, or anxious, or cranky. And I’m not saying there’s not good reason for that, because there are some things about being a grownup that kinda suck (can you say DMV, boys and girls?).
But I for one am glad to be a grown-up. So in honor of my sweet girl, the holiday season (read: The 12 Days of Christmas), and 12-12-12, I give you:
12 GREAT THINGS ABOUT NOT BEING A KID ANYMORE
You get your own room.
Well. This is not entirely true, in many cases. A lot of people get their own rooms throughout childhood . . . and a good chunk of adults, myself included, don’t actually have their own rooms. But I’ve always thought that was weird. I mean, I began life sharing a room with two sisters (whom I’m sure found the whole arrangement far more annoying than I did, being 9 and 17 years old when I was born). Then one sister moved out, and I shared with the other. Then THAT sister moved out, and SWEET BLISS! MY OWN ROOM for, like, nine years (being a late, “surprise!” baby certainly had its perqs)! Then, when it came time for college, I backslid a little, and shared a dorm room my Freshman year, but by Sophomore year I was off-campus in my own apartment, and have pretty much had my own digs—or at least my own space—ever since. Then I got married, and . . . what? I’m not only back to sharing a room—I’m sharing a BED! How does that make sense? It’s like learning to drive a car, and then pedaling out the majority of your adulthood on a tricycle! However, at least I can say that sharing a room, and a bed, with Pretty Bad Dad (PBD) is a choice I’ve made for myself, and my “roommate” was not forced upon me by circumstances outside my control. So there’s the adult advantage.2
You get the jokes.
Again, perhaps not entirely true, because getting—ahem—THOSE kinds of jokes is dependent on many factors (namely, the level of both intellect and depravity in both you and the joke), but for the most part you at least know the terms for certain special anatomical features, and exactly how they operate.
The trouble—if you’re like me, anyway—is lack of a time machine (or a reliable memory) to take you and your new naughty-parts-educated bad self back to those moments when you DIDN’T get the joke, and all the other kids laughed at you, but NONE OF THEM WOULD EXPLAIN IT TO YOU (you now suspect that the reason none of them threw you a bone was because they didn’t get it, either), so you went home to ask your sister, who sputtered and struggled to keep her eyeballs firmly planted in her skull before sending you to ask your mom, who avoided eye contact altogether and promised to tell you when you were “older”.
And so now you’re older, and on the OTHER (read: geriatric) end of cluelessness3, and have forgotten all of those jokes you didn’t get as a kid (you also now suspect that your mom STILL wouldn’t explain them to you, even if you could remember them). But the bonus of being an adult is having enough wisdom to know that those jokes were as lame as the ones people tell you (or send to you and 47 other “close friends” via e-mail) today.
You get to pick the music.
This? This is huge. Now, don’t get me wrong: if I had not, as the baby-most member of a fair-sized family (two parents, four kids), been routinely deprived of the opportunity to choose the music, I would likely not know or appreciate the OMG of Stan Kenton, the WHAAAAAT? of Herbie Hancock, the pure YEAH, BABY of WAR, or the unmitigated GLO-REH of Earth, Wind, and Fire (y’all know I love my fellas). Maria would never have taken a letter in my life. I would be completely oblivious to the thin line between love and hate. My soul would be completely void of Makossa. But still, the moment when the tables turn and YOU are the one who gets to decide what the family will listen to in the car, or dance to in the living room? Pure gold.
And the moment when your preschooler climbs into the car and asks to hear Stevie Wonder? Flippin’ GOLD-HELMETED MAGIC MONKEYS DANCING IN THE SKY.
You can eat whatever the heck you want.
That’s right; you’re calling the shots, Baby! You don’t have to eat those green beans (or find clever ways to transport them to the toilet to be flushed after dinner, risking the possibility that your mom is going to find a stray bean smooshed inside your underpants when she does the laundry, and slap you into therapy). You don’t have to clean your plate to earn that chocolate cake! You eat WHAT you want, WHEN you want, by golly, and if that means pork rinds (which are practically bacon, right?) and candy corn (why would they call it corn if it didn’t at least have SOME health benefits?) for breakfast, who’s gonna stop you?
Well. Your digestive system might, actually, which is one of the reasons people curse adulthood: it has an uncanny knack for proving that your parents were right about a whole buncha stuff, and didn’t enforce certain rules SOLELY for the purpose of trampling on every bit of fun in the universe. But I digress. Point is, when you grow up, YOU have control over your own potential gastrointestinal distress! You own your bowels, Baby, and it’s nobody’s business how you run that show.
You can buy yourself things you want, even if it’s three days before Christmas.
You remember how it used to be, don’t you? In May, you could be out shopping with your mom, and find a small trinket you liked (a Snoopy eraser, say, or a key chain emblazoned with a sparkly Yorkshire Terrier drawing), and if you were lucky, and she hadn’t found any vegetables in your pants lately, she might buy it for you (or, if you were a kid who got an allowance, she might let you buy it for yourself)! Then suddenly, somewhere around November, the purchase of ANY fun thing was curtailed on the premise that “Santa might want to bring you that!”
Well, screw Santa. How was I supposed to count on a guy who misspelled my name every year? He checks his list TWICE, he spies on me in my sleep, he eats my damn cookies, and yet he still can’t get it together to realize that my first name begins with a C and not an S? Oh, I knew it wasn’t all his fault; mostly, I blamed my grandma. (I mean, Santa was an older guy, right, and my grandma was old, too, so I figured the two of them were probably pretty tight (they even had practically identical handwriting, so maybe they went to the same elementary school). And Grandma, who not only pronounced my name as if it began with an S, but also spelled it that way herself, was allowed to stay up later than I was on Christmas Eve, so she probably got a chance to chat him up when he arrived. Therefore every Christmas, as he was writing out his thank-you note to me for the milk and cookies I left him, he probably found it easier to just ask my grandma how to spell my name rather than check his list a THIRD time. Busy guy. I got it. And when Christmas morning came, he’d always managed to leave me at least one really good thing off my list (I mean, he could have gotten more than my NAME wrong, if ya know what I mean), so I was never a hater.) Nonetheless, I never fully trusted him. So you can see why it works better for me—as an adult—to just be able to buy what I want, WHEN I want it, and let Santa put his energy toward keeping other people’s lists straight. Also, the “Insta” part of Insta-Princess (hell, for that matter, the “Princess” part, too) might have something to do with a desire for instant gratification . . .
You can bring home strays . . . and keep them!
There’s really not much more that needs to be said about that, except that, like the concept of eating nothing but cotton candy and spray-cheese for dinner, keeping strays turns out to be another thing your parents were right about (says the gal with a stain on her bedroom carpet, left there a couple of weeks ago by a stray she brought home a decade ago—and no, I’m not talking about PBD). Still, everybody deserves the opportunity to dictate the occupants of his or her own household, and being a grown-up gets you there.
You get to boss other people around.
Actually, this is one I quite often forget, even as a mother. I once told a friend that I’m so accustomed to having been told what to do—to the most minute detail—my whole life (if you’ve met my mother, you totally understand4) that being bossed around actually makes me feel loved. Not bossed around in a “fix me a Turkey Pot Pie!” kinda way; more like in an unsolicited advice kind of way (unless, of course, you’re PBD, because sometimes when HE offers unsolicited advice in response to a dilemma I’m having, I want to poke him in the eye, because why can’t he just LISTEN and not try to SOLVE everything? . . . hey, I didn’t say it made sense).
You’d think that in turn, I would boss OTHER people around in order to SHOW love, but that’s not really how I roll. I mean, do you show love to the person who enjoys cooking big, elaborate gourmet meals by bringing a vat of Hamburger Helper to the table? No. You grab your fork, sit your ass down and EAT those truffle-oil-basted, pepper-crusted quail eggs with raspberry foam. Similar thing with people who like to tell you what to do—you don’t try to reciprocate, you just listen. And quite honestly, I am still semi-secretly convinced that I know less about everything than everyone else (partially because everyone else speaks with such authority). So the idea of telling people what to do—and having them LISTEN—is a pretty big thing for me. Hell, the idea that I DON’T HAVE TO DO WHAT OTHER PEOPLE SAY (and don’t even have to justify not doing it) is still kinda new for me (again, unless you’re PBD . . .), so as you can imagine, this adulthood thing is one big, heady ride for Mama!
You get to own pretty stuff.
At first, it’s enough of a thrill to invite that one-eyed, half-bald cat to stick around, have a meal, and mark your backpack. Soon thereafter, the mere fact that you keep a supply of real tissues (instead of wiping your nose with toilet paper) and have six matching plates and a fondue pot makes you feel grown-up. But when you really get there, it is so glorious, because you get the serious household bling, like silver chafing dishes and tiered serving platters and crystal champagne flutes and gorgeous sauce boats—lovely things you coveted for years, back when a box of Kleenex, a latte and a Real Simple magazine could put a serious dent in your budget. Or maybe you’re more into flat-screen TVs and sleek, pretty gadgets that begin with a lowercase i. The point is that when you grow up, stuff like this becomes part of your reality. Not to encourage materialism, but there’s something to be said for having a pretty life, and whatever that means to you, adulthood gives you the power to make it happen. Score.
You don’t get in trouble for coloring outside the lines.
Maybe this one doesn’t seem that important, because how often do you color these days, anyway, right? But as someone who has spent most of her life thinking she has to do what other people say, it can be really refreshing to let a little red crayon loose, y’know? Or give people green hair. It’s just a good reminder that we don’t always have to follow the rules, especially when they’re so arbitrary. The laws of traffic, sure. The rules of etiquette, absolutely (this from the gal who never sends thank-you notes on time). The tenets of basic human decency, RIGHT ON (says she who does not flush the toilet in the middle of the night—it harshes my sleepy-sleep buzz, man, and besides, with all that racket, how am I going to know if the Boogie Man is sneaking up?). But whatever rule that says you have to sleep with your head on the headboard end of the bed can go. The draconian axiom that says cowboy boots have no place under a formal gown? Who needs it? Whatever useless edict says a blog post should be succinct? Fuhgeddabout it!
People often express surprise that I, a Major (and partial Master) in English, like to cuss so much. But first of all, being an English major is not necessarily about loving words; mostly it’s about loving to take a piece of literature, pluck it apart bit by bit, get your pointiest finger all up in it and wrangle out the guts in slimy, quivering chunks. Second of all, because I (coincidentally) DO love words, I embrace damn near ALL of them (well, OK, I’m not crazy about spoon, and I can’t pronounce brewery to save my life, or spell terrific without help), and let’s face it; the naughty ones are some of the most expressive and, therefore, the most useful, in my opinion.
‘Course, having a kid has thrown a wrench into a good chunk of my lexicon. I can’t tell you how many times PBD has bored holes into my forehead with his, “LANGUAGE, Mommy!” look because in the process of speaking passionately about something, I bust out with an ill-advised word in front of our son. (One day, I was feeling particularly passionate (read: pissed) about something as we were driving in the car, and so when PBD warned me about my choice of words, I whipped my face his way, bore two of my OWN burn-holes into HIS head and, after a brief pause to consider the consequences (at which point I decided it would be far more harmful to my child’s psyche to have parents who don’t love each other, or who think boys shouldn’t take ballet, than it would to hear a bad word), spat, “SHIT FUCK ASS!” right into his face. The kid cracked the heck up.) Still, I believe cussing has its benefits. So YAY for growing into the privilege of doing it without risking a mouth full of soap.
Though it’s often billed as a corollary to cussing, I’d say drinking stands on its own merits, wouldn’t you? Also, while it tends to be undertaken with the most vigor before one becomes an actual grown-up, I am here to tell you that (responsible) drinking is, for me anyway, one of the most valuable privileges of adulthood. For one thing, by the time most of us are grown-up, we’ve done enough juvenile drinking to know—and adhere to—the threshold at which drinking causes us to part ways with our charm (and sometimes our pants)5. For another, how often could you have USED a (legal) drink when you were, say, 15 years old, and you thought the world was on the verge of collapse because your BFF was mad at you/you heard your crush made out with that girl Heather last weekend at the basketball game you missed because you had strep/you thought you might get a C on that Algebra quiz/you just found out you weren’t invited to Tina’s party/you farted trying to spike the ball on that slut Heather in gym class volleyball/etc.?
Ultimately, of course, nothing but years of shit und drang (see? Useful cussing!) can get you to that place of wisdom and peace wherein you realize the triviality of those kinds of incidents . . . but being able to kick back next to the fireplace with a glass of wine or two (as opposed to camping out in that guy Kyle’s basement hovel on a mildew-scented blanket with half a bottle of the Peach Schnapps his older brother kyped from a 7-11) would have helped, no? I mean, don’t we all get through some of our Heather debacles that way now?
So hooray for the ability to self-medicate with a little more dignity . . . and on the right side of the law!
You no longer have to wonder what you’re going to be like when you grow up.
That’s pretty cool, isn’t it? I mean, sure—maybe you never became a veterinarian (or, in my case, a stewardess) like you planned, but when you think about it, were your childhood dreams really about your occupation? Probably not. Most likely, your ultimate goal was simply to be awesome. Because awesome = happy, right?
But think about what constituted “awesome” when you were, like, ten years old. Awesome was having boobs. Or touching boobs. Or both. Awesome was being able to drive a car. Awesome was having really cool friends (though the definition of “cool” back then may have had more to do with Gloria Vanderbilt jeans than it does now). Awesome was being able to determine your own bedtime. Awesome was having people want to hang out with you. Awesome was owning a leather jacket. Awesome was having a really amazing skill (again, the definition of “amazing” was probably different then—I mean how much does it really matter NOW how many dill pickle slices you can fit into your mouth at once?). Awesome was feeling like you could make the world better by being in it.
So think about it: you’re pretty awesome, aren’t you?
As a bonus, maybe you’re even awesome in ways you hadn’t anticipated! Maybe you’re a good parent. Maybe you throw kick-ass parties. Maybe you’ve survived cancer. Maybe you have a knack for choosing the perfect gift. Maybe you get paid to do something your kid-self didn’t even know you could get paid FOR (get your mind outta there, I mean like drawing or making clothes for dogs) And see? YOU KNOW THAT NOW. You don’t have to wonder IF you’re going to be awesome when you grow up! You are so totally awesome! Perfect? Lawd, NO. But happiness never had anything to do with perfection. Happiness is all about making the best possible thing you can out of whatever circumstances you’re in. So by golly, when life gives you your first period, why not celebrate? It’s one more step on the road to AWESOME.
1. For the record, I made an effort to celebrate the news; I instantly began scouring the internet for some super-awesome commemorative gift I could send to my sweet girl that wouldn’t make the whole deal into a big maudlin mess.
Also for the record, my husband thought I was nuts. “A GIFT? For menstruation?” he said, and wondered aloud if HE should be thinking about giving our SON celebratory gifts for his first armpit hair, or his first hookup.
Dude. I would TOTALLY celebrate a first armpit hair. As for the hookup, I would be willing to celebrate that, too, but (a) PBD is convinced that no way is our son going to tell us about it (me, I’m still holding out hope that I will be such an incredibly cool mom that HE WILL TELL ME EVERYTHING . . . however, the jury’s still out on whether I really want to KNOW everything), and (b) how DOES one celebrate first booty? Does the partner get a gift, too? Would a gift certificate be appropriate? But I digress.
Anyway, as far as finding a good gift for my favorite girl, I sort of floundered. I mean, what—jewelry? I can just imagine THAT school bus conversation:
“Oh, is that a new necklace?”
“Yeah, it’s my menstruation gift.”
“Oh, so you wear it every time you . . .?”
“Dude, I am never wearing this necklace again.”
“Who sent you the roses?”
“Oh, I got them from InstaPrincess.”
“What’s the occasion?”
“The blooming of my womanhood.”
Ultimately, I went practical. Baby Girl (oops, I mean Baby Woman)’s mother told me that she’d had to fish around for a cosmetics bag to send supplies to school with the girl the next day, so I thought, “Oooooh, she needs a cute wristlet! It’s fun, fashionable, AND practical (a trifecta that’s hard to come by)!” So I scoured ebags.com until I found this cute, yet reasonably-priced, number. If I lived closer to her precious face, I would have taken her out for lots of chocolate things and to have our toes done. But as it was, I settled for the bag. I briefly considered adding a copy of Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. (because come on—SUCH a good book). . . but if I have ANY hope of fulfilling my “cool mom” dream, I gotta practice refraining from shit like that.
2. Another adult advantage, if you can afford it, is the ability to live in a home that allows for you to at least have your own office, which is one of my goals for 2013. It was actually my PLAN in 2005, when we moved into the house; we bought four bedrooms, which we thought would make for a bedroom, a guest room, and His and Hers offices . . . but my office ended up becoming a nursery (there is a specific hazard to room-sharing as an adult), and I didn’t want to give up having a guest room.
I’m over that now. Bring on the InstaPrincess Chamber!
3. Case in point: I think I accidentally wrote an obscene message in my four-year-old son’s homespun (read: pulled-outta-my-ass-because-I-didn’t-get-it-together-in-time-to-actually-BUY-him-an-) Advent calendar. I am old and woefully unfamiliar with the slang the kids are using these days! So in an effort to come up with clever, semi-poetic phrasing for the countdown to Christmas, I wrote, “15 DAYS UNTIL THE BIG WINTER WHAT-WHAT!” which, I am now given to believe (thanks to a few 20-somethings I know), means that on Christmas, my baby boy will be anally penetrated. (Am now refraining from making any bad jokes about “stocking stuffers.”)
4. Case in point: Here are some examples of things my mother dictated when I was a kid:
- The candidate for whom I would vote in the mock presidential election put on by my 4th grade class.
- How I would hold my hands during an elementary school Christmas performance. (The music teacher had told us—in an effort to prevent offputting kiddy body language as well as mitigate the possibility of pinched ears and pulled pigtails—that we could either clasp our hands in front of us, clasp them behind us, or hold them straight down at our sides while we sang. I WENT HOME AND ASKED MY MOTHER WHAT TO DO. And without a millisecond’s hesitation, she told me.)
- That I would take Russian, not Photography, as my elective for the semester. Oh, wait, that was COLLEGE . . . Senior year.
5. Caveat: for me, all bets on my ability to maintain any semblance of drinking decorum are off If I don’t eat. For instance, a few weekends ago, PBD and I were invited to a lovely evening gathering/baby shower for friends of ours, that took place at the home of one friend’s parents. On our way there, PBD (who’d spent most of the day on an extended bike ride) mentioned a new taco joint he’d tried earlier that day. Knowing that Mama loves Mexican food (and ALSO knowing how Mama likes to get her grub on), he said, “Try not to fill up on food at the party, and I’ll take you there afterwards!”
Despite an hors-d’oeuvre table laden with utter decadence (shrimp-filled phyllo things, guacamole, this amazing cheese that still invades my dreams, etc.), and also despite the fact that I hadn’t eaten all day, I refrained from filling up on food . . .
. . . and instead filled up on wine—which not only made me love EVERYONE (as it usually does), it actually made me feel up someone’s retirement-aged mother.
After a few minutes of polite, “How do you know the happy couple?” chit-chat, my eyes dropped to catch the lick-tastic red pants this gal was sporting. Red is my absolute favorite color.
“GIRRRL!” I slurred conspiratorially. “You are ROCKIN’ THOSE PANTS.”
“Thank you,” she smiled. Then, raising one knee as a visual (and, as far as I was concerned, hands-on) aid, she struggled to think of the type of fabric from which they were made. “They’re, um . . . they’re. . .”
Upon closer inspection, I saw that the pants were made of the most velvety fine-wale corduroy, and so interrupted her to:
a. exclaim, “They’re CORDUROY!” (with a gleeful gasp for emphasis), and
b. TOTALLY GROPE HER THIGH. WITH BOTH HANDS.
PBD got me outta there—and got some tamales into ME—pretty quickly after that. Luckily, another part of being a grown-up is having lived long enough to suffer far worse embarrassments, and to know that they all soon pass.