Bless Me, Father . . . I’m a Flippin’ Mess.

OK, so first some housekeeping details—well, one, really: my beloved SkipFitz has undergone yet another identity transformation (when I met him, he was a heartbroken country singer with a hook for a hand; from there, he became a British schoolboy with unusually bushy eyebrows, and then a cafeteria lady with questionable morals; after that, I lost track). Henceforth (or until he morphs again), he shall be known as Pretty Bad Dad (or PBD, for short). You should read him. He rocks.

Second, (and speaking of dads), another little piece of inspiration (for me, anyway, and perhaps for you) from the interwebs:

http://www.danoah.com/2010/09/disease-called-perfection.html

Yeah, I’m a little late to the party (and Single Dad Laughing is not, of course as foxy as PBD), but I thought it was a pretty good piece, and I was inspired by his challenge to combat Perfection by confessing one’s IMperfection, because I do love me a good confession. And children, I have lots. For example:

  •  I sometimes fantasize about my husband’s (highly-insured) death, which would allow me to have my way with his office. No, not his office mate—his office. In our house. It’s the best room in the whole joint; it’s huge (the same square footage as the two-car garage that sits directly below it) with a cathedral ceiling, window seats, and a stained-glass window at one end. Oh, sure, he’s offered to *share* it with me, but who wants to share? I want the whole thing to myself. Badly enough to kill my spouse? Absolutely not. Bad enough to fantasize about him succumbing (quickly) to a terminal, yet painless, disease? Hell, yeah.

 

  •  Even when a person is a total jerk who hates everyone and treats them like crap, I am still secretly happy when that person likes me. I try to pretend that I have somehow unlocked the secret vulnerability behind this person’s ass-hattery and that perhaps s/he sees a level of acceptance and love in me that allows for the dissolution of his or her Shield of Mean. But in reality, sometimes people are just plain assholes, and it doesn’t matter why they’re not picking on me. They still suck. I’m just not ballsy enough to tell them where to get off and walk away1.

 

  •  On a similar note, I frequently experience a rather assholish level of schadenfreude.

 

  •  Also similarly, I sometimes throw people under the bus. It’s not usually pre-meditated, but in a fight-or-flight moment, Honey, I will put tire tracks on your head. And then feel guilty and tell you I did it, like that fixes anything.

Whew! I feel better already. And worse. I kind of suck, don’t I? I have people coming over this weekend; I hope they still show after they read this.

Because it gets worse. I did a pretty crappy thing back in my youth (read: mid-20s), and I still feel bad about it.

Her name was Marguerite, and she was the stuff of nightmares. Nightmares and movies where people split up and venture alone into the basement at night to figure out what that sound was. She was pure, unadulterated evil. And the ridiculous thing was that I knew that she was horrid—and yet I let her move in with me anyway, because my friend Lisa cried.

Lisa was staring straight into the face of her lifelong dream to become an architect. She’d been accepted into an elite architecture program in New York and, beckoned by both big city and Beaux Arts Ball, she was ready to leave Atlanta behind and begin her Life. There was just one problem; she couldn’t take Marguerite to New York . . . and nobody else wanted that thing. Too many of her friends had consoled her through previous rounds of tears—days when she’d sob, “my cat hates me,” and regale us with tales of midnight Marguerite attacks, brandishing fresh scratch marks from the battle. (She employed the strategy typically recommended for bear attacks to avoid outright altercations with the beast: she’d play dead. Sometimes, she said, this resulted in an uneasy peace, wherein Marguerite would curl around the top of Lisa’s head and sleep, and Lisa dared not stir—even as she felt fleas disembarking from the cat onto her own scalp—for fear of retaliation.)

And yes. Despite all of this, I actually agreed to take the cat. Lisa painstakingly hand wrote two pages of instructions for the care and feeding of Marguerite, and left me with ample bedding, toys, litter and food to get us through our first month together. It turned out, however, that what I needed was Kevlar, because my relationship with Marguerite was, predictably, volatile; each day when I arrived home from work, the dance of enmity would begin. The cat would come flying towards the door, hissing and clawing at my legs. My part of this complicated choreography involved a grand jeté over the cat and into my apartment, simultaneous with an in-air slam of the front door, and culminating in a bedroom landing and subsequent slam of the bedroom door, behind which I’d stay safely sequestered until morning (thank God for attached bathrooms).

I took to keeping food in my nightstand; human sustenance so that I could survive the long evenings trapped in my bedroom, and kitty kibble because I’d discovered I could buy myself time to get out the door for work, or to the kitchen and back with perishables, by flinging food across the hardwood floors to the far corner of the living room as a temporary distraction. Needless to say, household visitors became an impossibility; a close friend and her boyfriend arrived in town, and although I had a pull-out sofa in the living room, I felt as though I had no place for them to sleep, because sleeping in the living room was tantamount to trussing up in a meat bikini and diving into a vat of tigers.

Even my sister, official Cat Lover Extraordinaire for ten years running, hated Marguerite’s ass.

When Christmas arrived that year, I gratefully hopped a plane to my parents’ cat-free abode, leaving my then-boyfriend (a long-haired, underwear-free, semi-dirty, ex-military quasi-hippy who rode his bike everywhere and wore clothing he’d acquired from other people’s garbage, including a single pastel-flowered ankle sock for which he never found a match . . . but I digress) to watch over my apartment, and Marguerite.

I have no idea what happened.

All I know is that when I came back, Marguerite was officially an outdoor cat. As it turned out, though, she seemed to love it; I still kept food for her, and every once in awhile (maybe twice a week or so), she’d stop in for a bite, sticking around perhaps long enough to weave affectionately through my legs, or jump onto the bathroom counter for a head-butty nuzzle as I . . . well . . . did things that you do sitting down in the bathroom. After an initial adjustment to her new loving demeanor (during which I waited, half-flinching, for the potential discovery that the whole thing was a ruse on Marguerite’s part to gain my trust so that she would be granted uninhibited access to my unprotected eyeballs), I grew accustomed to our new relationship. It was . . . nice (not least because this pretty much alleviated litter box duty . . . I just said duty).

Then one evening, after a neighborhood transformer blew, the majority of residents in my apartment complex were driven out into the courtyard to compare notes on what activities had suddenly been curtailed by the big boom and subsequent darkness. That’s how I met Chad.

Chad was an upstairs neighbor, whom I’d seen and greeted on numerous occasions, but I never actually had a conversation with him  until the Night of the Blown Transformer, when Marguerite showed up to the impromptu darkness party. “Marguerite!” I exclaimed, crouching down to pet her. Chad spoke up.

“Is that YOUR cat?” he asked, in a tone that was somehow friendly and accusatory at once (similar to the tone parents use when trying to get a toddler to confess to drinking his own bathwater), a combination of both good cop and bad.

“Sort of,” I replied, already feeling like I should have rehearsed a good cover story. I explained the situation.

“Well, you should know,” replied Chad, still accusatory but somehow more softly so, “that she waits for me when I come home. She races me to my door and claws at my ankles and tries to squeeze past me when I’m trying to get into my apartment. If I manage to get inside without her, she meows outside my door until I let her in and give her food.”

Before I could react, other neighbors spoke up. One had taken to keeping hot dogs in stock for when Marguerite came around demanding food. Another said that Marguerite had a kitty cohort with whom she roamed around the complex, taunting indoor cats through screen doors.

Hm. Seemed that Marguerite’s newfound affection for me had less to do with happiness in her newfound freedom than it had to do with having a slew of fresh torture targets. I felt guilty. So I carried Marguerite in my arms back into my darkened apartment that night, and once again attempted to make a go of shacking up with her.

This time, she wasn’t so much EVIL as she was . . . miserable. She meowed forlornly at the door day and night, stopping only to eat, drink, and then puke or poop forlornly at the door. Eventually, I took pity on both of us and let her back outside (resolving to treat my neighbors to homemade cookies more often), thus resuming our previous pattern of occasional visits.

But enough of that. You get the picture, and you’re still waiting for the bad thing, right?

Well, here goes: I left her.

I mean packed up a moving truck and hauled my cookies five states away. I mean left her with (figurative) tire tracks across her head. I mean “Marguerite WHO?”

My grandfather had passed away roughly a month previous, leaving behind both my Nana and a family awash with concern about how Nana would fare living alone. Mind you, she was perfectly capable of taking care of both herself and her business, but there was still widespread chagrin about the fact that she would be in the house by herself. Having minimal career obligations (read: a waitress job—which I loved—but still, a waitress job), AND having recently had my little heart smashed to pulpy chunks by Little Hippy Flower Footy (I know, right? TOTALLY thought I was going to be the one to break up with HIM, so imagine my surprise to be not only the dumpee, but the genuinely heartbroken dumpee, in this situation), I volunteered to move back home to Kansas and be Nana’s roommate (which was a blast, by the way, but that’s a whole other story).

But Nana didn’t want a cat. And nobody wanted this cat. So during the handful of weeks I’d allotted to gather my things and say goodbye to some amazing friends before donning my ruby slippers and clicking my heels, I made some feeble attempts to find a home for Marguerite, but ultimately I think I’d made up my mind about the futility of the endeavor before I even started. When moving day came, then, I hopped in that U-Haul and left her licking herself in my bathroom sink. I didn’t look back.

I like to think that maybe she found some kinship with the apartment maintenance man, from whom I also fled that day2, and that the two of them lived as companions for many years.

In reality, she probably choked on a hot dog and died alone, wondering what ever happened to me, and what she did to deserve getting left behind like that.

And although I have always been much more of a dog person, I kind of don’t really like cats much at all now. I’m sure a psychiatrist would say that they make me uncomfortable because each cat encounter carves the memory of Marguerite and my abandonment of her deeper into my psyche.

I don’t know that I’d disagree with that.

But I still have no desire to have a pet cat. They try to make you look at their anuses all the time. That’s not charming, with or without cat abandonment guilt.

 

FOOTNOTES

1. For the record, neither can I walk away from nice people. Case in point: last night, I went to the grocery store to pick up a couple of pounds of cod for tonight’s dinner. The friendly lady behind the counter asked how I planned to cook it. I told her about the (broiled cod) recipe I’d found, and her face registered polite disapproval (like when your friend gushes about a new love interest who sounds like kind of a butt nugget, but you don’t dare say anything, so you force your eyebrows and cheeks upwards into a facial expression you only sort of hope doesn’t look like the fake enthusiasm that it is). So with my own fake enthusiasm, I asked how she cooked cod, and she said she liked to fry it. I told her I certainly loved the taste of fried fish, but not the work and time involved in making it, at which point she gave me step-by step instructions, assuring me that it didn’t take more than a few minutes, really . . . She recommended (and pointed out) a particular kind of pre-made batter she likes to use and, not knowing how else to escape the situation, I bought it. So. Yeah. Apparently I’m only a badass when people text in the movies.

2. Please note that I was not fleeing the maintenance man because I left the apartment trashed; rather, I’d gotten myself into a “fish-batter” situation with him, too, only there was no way I was buying it, so in this case, I basically grabbed my shopping cart and ran.

He was a friendly guy, so he and I had exchanged pleasantries on several occasions when I saw him around the complex. However, we were not close, by any means, so imagine how odd it was when he saw me loading up my U-Haul in front of my apartment and, upon learning that I was moving away, BEGGED TO GO WITH ME.

To Kansas.

I tried to laugh it off. “NOBODY wants to move to Kansas,” I (only half-) joked.

“Any place is better than here,” he declared somewhat desperately.

“I don’t even know you,” I said, trying to come off as a LITTLE more serious, but still emitting bursts of nervous laughter. “I could wind up chopped into pieces and stuffed into a beer cooler.”

He swore he’d NEVER do that. “You might end up MARRIED,” he said a little too sincerely, “but you wouldn’t end up hurt, I promise.”

(Holy shit.)

Finally, I became a little desperate myself. “I don’t have room in the truck for your stuff,” I tried.

“I don’t care about any of it,” he said. “I have everything I need on me right now.”

(Shit shit shit.)

My saving grace turned out to be one thing he didn’t have: money.

All he needed, he said, was to pick up one last paycheck from the apartment office. He’d head up there RIGHT NOW. “Don’t leave!” he called behind him as he began to jog up the hill towards the office, “I’ll be back in just a few minutes!”

You think I didn’t burn rubber outta there? Strangely, I have no guilt about that—and I do still like maintenance men, in general (though I still have no desire to have one as a pet).

I’m Mad As Hell, and I’m Not Going to Take It Anymore!

OK, not really. But a friend posted a link to an article called “Disappearing Mothers” on her Facebook page yesterday, and wanted to know how other parents felt about it. I posted a comment in reply, but found myself going back repeatedly to either edit what I’d said, or add more to what I’d said (thank you, Facebook ‘Edit’ feature!). At that point it occurred to me that clearly I have some feelings about this issue. And what better place for feelings than a blog with a regular readership of three? So here is a link to the article:

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/0bf95f3c-f234-11e1-bba3-00144feabdc0.html#axzz265rpdZPH

And here are my feelings about it—let’s break the article down bit by bit, shall we?

If, from beyond the grave, Betty Friedan were to review the Facebook habits of the over-30 set, I am afraid she would be very disappointed in us. By this I mean specifically the trend of women using photographs of their children instead of themselves as the main picture on their Facebook profiles. You click on a friend’s name and what comes into focus is not a photograph of her face, but a sleeping blond four-year-old, or a sun-hatted toddler running on the beach. Here, harmlessly embedded in one of our favourite methods of procrastination, is a potent symbol for the new century. Where have all of these women gone? What, some earnest future historian may very well ask, do all of these babies on our Facebook pages say about “the construction of women’s identity” at this particular moment in time?

My guess is that this hypothetical future historian will likely think just as much about “the construction of men’s identity,” at least if s/he encounters both my and SkipFitz’s Facebook pages, because my husband is just as likely, if not more so, to substitute our son’s face for his in his FB profile photo. Now, don’t get me wrong; I can certainly see the value of using my own photo on my Facebook page, rather than one of my child, for practical reasons (how else is my 7th-grade boyfriend going to know it’s me when he looks up my profile?) but I hardly think it’s crucial to the maintenance of a healthy identity. What about someone who uses a photo of his or her cat/favorite painting/favorite photo of Alfred Hitchcock? Is that just as bad? Does it imply that one identifies oneself as Alfred Hitchcock (or worse . . . a cat)?

Many of these women work. Many of them are in book clubs. Many of them are involved in causes, or have interests that take them out of the house. But this is how they choose to represent themselves.

Why is a book club, job, or stint as President of the Tax the Churches League a better representation of a woman’s identity than her relationship with her child (a person who in some cases shot straight out of her cooch)—arguably a bigger part of her everyday life than most other things?  I agree that a parent (of any gender) should have various interests in addition to his or her children, but ultimately, I don’t see any single one of them serving as a better or more worthy representation of a person.

The choice may seem trivial, but the whole idea behind Facebook is to create a social persona, an image of who you are projected into hundreds of bedrooms and cafés and offices across the country. Why would that image be of someone else, however closely bound they are to your life, genetically and otherwise? The choice seems to constitute a retreat to an older form of identity, to a time when fresh-scrubbed Vassar girls were losing their minds amidst vacuum cleaners and sandboxes. Which is not to say that I don’t understand the temptation to put a photograph of your beautiful child on Facebook, because I do. After all, it frees you of the burden of looking halfway decent for a picture, and of the whole excruciating business of being yourself. Your three-year-old likes being in front of the camera. But still.

OK, seriously? It’s Facebook. Yes, you’re creating a social persona, and the choices you make (the status updates you write, the links you share, the photos you post) all serve primarily to define that persona for your audience of “Friends”—but does anybody for a second think that a profile photo is the sum total of who a person is? Do we really lack such imagination that we can’t handle this one little piece of a person’s Facebook identity being anything aside from a literal rendering of that person’s actual face?

These Facebook photos signal a larger and more ominous self-effacement, a narrowing of worlds. Think of a dinner party you just attended, and your friend, who wrote her senior thesis in college on Proust, who used to stay out drinking till five in the morning in her twenties, a brilliant and accomplished woman.

Think about how throughout the entire dinner party, from olives to chocolate mousse, she talks about nothing but her kids. You waited, and because you love this woman, you want her to talk … about … what? A book? A movie? Something in the news? True, her talk about her children is very detailed, very impressive in the rigour and analytical depth and verve she brings to the subject; she could, you couldn’t help but think, be writing an entire dissertation on the precise effect of a certain teacher’s pedagogical style on her four-year-old. But still.

How does drinking until 5 a.m. constitute “brilliant” and “accomplished”? The Proust part, sure; but what if that same friend spent the same dinner party talking about nothing but Proust? She’d likely come across as a pedantic schmuck who was still clinging to her college laurels, even though they’d grown dry and crusty and carried the faint scent of mildew. Although I agree that talking for an entire evening about one’s child(ren) is in poor taste, I’d argue that talking exclusively about any one thing during a dinner party makes you pretty bad company, and that “a narrowing of worlds” can happen with regard to any singular focus. My thing is that whatever you’re talking about should be engaging for both you and your interlocutor. If it is, you’re golden, no matter what the topic.

You notice that at another, livelier corner of the table the men are not talking about models of strollers. This could in fact be an Austen or Trollope novel, where the men have retired to a different room to drink brandy and talk about news and politics. You turn back to the conversation and the woman is talking about what she packs for lunch for her child. Are we all sometimes that woman? A little kid-talk is fine, of course, but wasn’t there a time when we were interested, also, in something else?

Huh. Looks like I’m attending the wrong parties, then, because when Skip and I get together with our friends (with kids), join our hands and step into our own version of an Austen novel (because I do agree that once we’ve all left the dinner table, the conversational circles that form do tend to be gender-based—but I ain’t nobody’s Trollope), the fellas are just as likely to be talking about the kids. Sometimes moreso, in fact: often after the party’s over and Skip and I are having our post-party debrief, he has gleaned much more information about our friends’ kids from the Dad Discussion than I have from the Meetin’ in the Ladies’ Room. So I think there are some unfair and untrue assumptions being made, here—either that, or this gal needs some new friends . . .

The mystery here is that the woman with the baby on her Facebook page has surely read The Feminine Mystique, or The Second Sex, or The Beauty Myth, or the websites DoubleX or Jezebel. She is no stranger to the smart talk of whatever wave of feminism we are on, and yet this style of effacement, this voluntary loss of self, comes naturally to her. Here is my pretty family, she seems to be saying, I don’t matter any more.

Or maybe she’s saying, “Dude. Is my family the shizz-nit or WHAT? I mean, LOOK AT THEM. I did this bizness, yo.  I friggin’ ROCK.”  (And I’m sorry, reading that paragraph just makes me think of Terri Gar as Sandy in the movie Tootsie: “I don’t care about I love you! I read The Second Sex! I read The Cinderella Complex! I’m responsible for my own orgasms!”)

I have a friend whose daughter for a very long time wore squeaky sneakers. These sneakers emitted what was to adult ears an unbelievably annoying squeak with every single step she took. I asked my friend once why she put up with the sneakers, and she said, “Because she likes them!” Imagine being in this new generation, discovering with every joyous squeak of your sneakers that Galileo was wrong: the sun is not the centre of the universe, you are!

Our parents, I can’t help thinking, would never have tolerated the squeaky sneakers, or conversations revolving entirely around children. They loved us as much and as ardently as we love our children, but they had their own lives, as I remember it, and we played around the margins. They did not plan weekend days solely around children’s concerts and art lessons and piano lessons and birthday parties.

Why, many of us wonder, don’t our children play on their own? Why do they lack the inner resources that we seem to remember, dimly, from our own childhoods? The answer seems clear: because, with all good intentions, we have over-devoted ourselves to our children’s education and entertainment and general formation. Because we have chipped away at the idea of independent adult life, of letting children dream up a place for themselves, in their rooms, on the carpets, in our gardens, on their own.

OK, here I totally agree; not that I’m not guilty of placing my gorgeous boy on a pedestal every once in awhile, and it’s true that SkipFitz and I attend a damn lotta birthday parties, play dates, and activities designed to be fun for our child. (I mean, he is part of our family, after all; he gets a vote. Our votes trump his, sure, but we do consider him (as we do each other) when we make decisions about how to spend our time.) We are also, however, the parents who teach our son to say, “Excuse me, please” if we’re talking to each other or to other people and he wishes to interrupt. (We’re also trying to teach him that he should only interrupt if it’s important, but “important” is a tough notion for a 4-year-old to grasp, so quite often, his “Excuse me, please” is followed—after confirmation that yes, it IS important—by “I just saw a muscle car!” or “How do you make cotton candy?”) We’re the parents who are teaching him to be polite and considerate of others in restaurants, movie theatres, and bookstores (which even some adults haven’t learned, as we all know). Are we perfect parents? Not by any means, and quite often we make the wrong damn call. But we do try our best to raise a child who realizes that neither his immediate world, nor the world at large, revolves around him. And by the way, those playdates? Quite frankly, they’re not really about my kid at all. They’re pretty much all about me. And wine.

Facebook, of course, traffics in exhibitionism: it is a way of presenting your life, at least those sides of it you cherry-pick for the outside world, for show. One’s children are an important achievement, and arguably one’s most important achievement, but that doesn’t mean that they are who you are. It could, of course, be argued that the vanity of a younger generation, with their status postings on what kind of tea they are drinking, represents a worse or more sinister kind of narcissism. But this particular form of narcissism, these cherubs trotted out to create a picture of self, is to me more disturbing for the truth it tells. The subliminal equation is clear: I am my children.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Sometimes a photo of one’s child simply means “I think my kid is pretty cute.”

Facebook was pioneered for a younger generation, of course. It lends itself naturally to strangers who run into each other at parties and flirtations struck up in bars. Part of what is disturbing about this substitution is how clearly and deliberately it subverts that purpose: this generation leaches itself of sexuality by putting the innocent face of a child in the place of an attractive mother. It telegraphs a discomfort with even a minimal level of vanity. Like wearing sneakers every day or forgetting to cut your hair, it is a way of being dowdy and invisible, and it mirrors a certain mummy culture in which it’s almost a point of pride how little remains of the healthy, worldly, engaged and preening self.

OK, I have all kinds of problems here. I may as well itemize:

  1. Um, is it really so bad to subvert the purpose of Facebook—especially if said purpose (purportedly) revolves around flirting in bars?
  2. Though my husband, who has seen some of my most cherished underwear, might argue that my sole goal in life is to leach myself of sexuality, I’m not sure that’s even possible for a person to do without straight-up removing his or her genitals. Furthermore, I disagree with the notion that using a photo of one’s child on FB is a “clear and deliberate” subversion of sexuality. First of all, let us not forget that sex is one of the main ways to make children. The mere fact of having a child, in many cases, basically means you put out. Even if your child was conceived via IVF, turkey baster, people you’ve never even met, or some other means (and as tempting as it is, let’s not bring Todd Akin into this discussion), it’s probably fair to say that you have put out at some point, or at the very least that you don’t hate the idea. This whole argument smells weirdly of the whole Madonna/Whore dichotomy, like sexuality and children are mutually exclusive. (Obvious disclaimer: NO WAY IN HELL am I advocating the integration of the two in the manner of Jerry Sandusky—but I would still say that sex and children are related concepts.) And besides—even if a woman DOES choose to “leach herself of sexuality” by way of her Facebook profile picture (whether by posting a photo of her child, or of herself clad in fencing gear, a Richard Nixon Halloween costume, or my favorite underwear)—so what? Is the author implying that open displays of sexuality and vanity are the only means by which a woman can/should express herself?
  3. As far as “putting the innocent face of a child in the place of an attractive mother” . . . Well. Show of hands: who here thinks ALL mothers are attractive? Beauty is absolutely in the eye of the beholder (can I get a witness?), so I’d venture to say that nearly everyone is attractive to SOMEONE (as it should be). But if you honestly think that being (a) a mother, and/or (b) a woman automatically makes a person attractive in any sort of general sense, you must not watch much reality TV (which is also as it should be, but still, you should really get out more).
  4. I just can’t get comfortable with what the author seems to be implying with this whole paragraph, which is that a woman is somehow less of a woman, or is failing to adequately express herself as a woman, if she fails to wear cute shoes (as opposed to “sneakers every day”), make regular visits to the hairdresser, and get herself all preened up.  (For the record, I’ve been known to go years without a haircut, and while I wouldn’t advise it, I resent the idea that I’m less “hot” (which apparently equals “less female”) because of it. Also, I don’t wear makeup. I know, right? I’m practically John Holmes swingin’ it up in here. Watch out lest I spin around too quickly.) I realize (or I think, anyway) that what she’s getting at here is that you should think you’re  beautiful enough to use your own picture on your FB page—not a photo of your child. But I’m here to tell you that I think I’m a total hot tamale (hel-LO-oh, does the name InstaPrincess tell you NOTHING?)—and any “failure” of mine to use my own face on my page does not diminish or negate that fact, but rather is merely an indication that I’ve lucked upon a photo of my (equally beautiful) child that I really, really like and want to share. As soon as someone takes another awesome photo of me that I feel trumps the kid photo, I’ll update.

What if Facebook pages are only the beginning? What if passports and driver’s licences are next? What if suddenly the faces of a generation were to disappear, and in their places were beaming toddlers? Who will mourn these vanished ladies, and when will Betty Friedan rest in peace?

Weren’t Betty and her cohorts fighting for women to have more freedom? Including, one might suppose, the freedom to express themselves however they might choose? Would it really help Ms. Friedan rest more peacefully knowing that women are being told that their only choice for proper self-expression is to set their sneakers ablaze, shove their “girls” into push-up bras, and smile for the webcam? The irony burns.

EPILOGUE

Now. Here is why you can take what I’m saying with a grain of salt:

  1. You can pretty much take anything with a grain of salt. In fact, you should probably take most things with a grain of salt, except then you’d get all bloated and unattractive which, if you’re a woman, might cause you to grow a penis, depending on what shoes you’re wearing.
  2. Confession: I did not plan to have children. Liked (some of) the ones other people had, but did not want them for myself. When I realized, based on the prophetic powers of my urine combined with a small plastic stick, that I was going to have a kid, I knew that I was going to want to talk about it obsessively—because that’s what I do when something (big or small) happens to me. So I started a club. Not officially, of course—there are no dues or secret handshakes—but I just started inviting other people who had recently become parents to bring their kids to my house and hang out with me. In order to seem less transparently needy and desperate, I called them play dates (and sometimes even came up with a cute theme or activity for the kids, like a bug hunt or a backyard movie) but seeing as I started hosting them before any of the kids in question could move or even see more than a foot ahead, let’s be real: they were (and are) all about finding an appropriate audience for my endless blather about parenthood—and happily offering full reciprocation (and booze!) in return. Yes, I work outside the home. Yes, I read books. Yes, I enjoy running, reading, yoga, and pretending to be Sheila E. But dammit, sometimes I just wanted to talk about my nipples and the things I found in my son’s diaper (and know that I wasn’t alone in my horror over what happens when you feed a toddler too many blueberries)—or, lately, the hilarious things he says* and the sheer insanity that ensues when you’re trying to choose a good day care facility. Doing this makes it possible for me to engage socially at other times with people who don’t want to hear ALLLLL about my kid. But for the record, I could conceivably be one of those dinner-party boors.
  3. I do have a particular aversion to the idea that certain interests/topics of conversation somehow trump others when it comes to Living a Life Worthwhile. And it’s a hill on which I’ve been dying for quite some time. When I was in my late 20s, I spent every Friday night at my mom’s house; we ate bad food, watched worse TV, and chatted about whatever random topics struck us as worthy of discussion. Inevitably, the end of the week would roll around;  one or another of my friends would invite me somewhere on a Friday night and, upon being turned down, give me a hard time about it, insisting that I should be out LIVING! Discussing literature over wine! Checking out this or that new band! Doing tequila shots and grinding up against my girlfriends on the dance floor! Etc.! LIVING!  Etc.! Not lying around in my PJs with my mom! But . . . why? Why is a drunken argument about Infinite Jest or getting my butt rubbed by a tipsy “WOO-girl” while Sir Mix-a-Lot booms at a deafening volume somehow better “living” than spending time with someone I love? I have never understood that. So my feelings on this particular issue may be somewhat biased, owing to years of self-defense against those who judge me for how I choose to spend my free time.
  4. Confession #2: I would love to be a SAHM. Well, OK, not a stay-at-home MOM, exactly, because dude, my kid is four. People talk about the Terrible Twos, but honestly, I feel like the amount of time I’m able to tolerate unlimited exposure to him is inversely proportional to his age (a trend I’m sure will reverse at some point, but so far I feel like I was a much more patient Baby Mama than I am as the mother of the 4-and-a-half year-old Endless Inquisitor With Attitude that he’s become). So ideally, I’d get to take him to preschool about three days a week, and spend that precious time writing, cooking, and cleaning. That’s right; I LOVE TO COOK AND CLEAN. In fact, recently SkipFitz was considering applying for a (pretty lucrative) job that would have taken him out of town three whole days a week; and while I was initially hesitant about the whole situation (contrary to what he believes, I do like having him around most of the time), it didn’t take long for the fantasies to kick in about quitting my job and spending my days organizing our pantry, vacuuming closets, shining my husband’s dress shoes (oh, yes—I make a mean bootblack, Baby) and planning and preparing five-star meals for his weekends at home. And OK—maybe spending a couple of summer afternoons a week at the pool with the boy . . .  but I digress.) The point is that one could perceive me and my love affair with Mr. Clean as about the most anti-feminist sentiment there is. I still maintain that feminism is simply about women being able to choose—their lifestyles, their careers, their healthcare options, what they do for fun, their shoes, and for God’s sake, their Facebook profile photos—for themselves. But your mileage may vary.

And, in the words of Forrest Gump, that’s all I have to say about that.

*Last weekend, the boy, his father, and I spent the day at a local amusement park. This was the boy’s first visit wherein he was tall enough to eschew the super-duper-slow-moving kiddie rides and enjoy some of the more intermediate rides (with an adult). After he and his father exited a ride most frequently known as the Octopus, I asked him if it had been fun; he informed me (LOUDLY) that it had “made all the air come out of [his] penis.” I’ve been looking for a way to work that into this blog, because come on; that is poetry, right there.

Downward Dog? I DON’T THINK SO.

So. I’m supposed to be returning from a trip to Colorado right about now. It started out as a week-long road trip for SkipFitz and me . . . then turned into a family road trip (with a 4-year-old who HATES the highway—thus taking “Are we there yet?” to a whole new level of DEAR GOD MAKE IT STOP) . . . and at (quite literally) the eleventh hour, we decided not to do it, for several reasons. On the Friday night before our departure, I arrived home from work, to be greeted by the stench of dog poo. Seemed our elder dog had once again (for the third inexplicable time that week) pooped in her crate (and SkipFitz comes home for lunch every day, so it’s not even like she has to hold it for an entire work day, so really, it’s just pissiness on her part . . . or, er, poopiness, I guess . . .). But still, what the heck was going to happen when we were out of town and our sweet neighbor-kid was coming over to take care of her, as he’d agreed to do? We couldn’t ask him to be her damn orderly every day!

And I was already cranky, because after WEEKS of struggle with a painful, infected tooth that turned her into Rocky Dennis for an entire weekend, my 82-year-old mother had called me earlier in the day to say that she was finally going to go to the dentist, and would probably have to have the tooth pulled, and was not going to do it (a) alone, or (b) without copious anesthesia, so I was going to have to drive to her house (an hour and a half away) and go with her, and WHEN was I going on my trip, again . . . ?

Suffice it to say that a whole bunch of issues came crashing down on our heads that evening, and we ended up, mostly for the sake of MY sanity (thank you, sweet husband) deciding to turn our Colorado week into a STAY-cation. It’s actually been fun! We made that night Fright Night: we put spooky decorations (including a skull candelabra) on the mantle, lit candles, and watched The Haunting (and then wound up sleeping with our kid—who did, in fact, find the film quite haunting—wedged between us). Saturday (a day of rain), we made cookies, divvied them up into baggies, and delivered surprise chocolate chip goodness to seven of our neighbors. Sunday we went to the Irish Fest. Monday we had some buddies big and small over for a playdate and grilling. Tuesday we went bowling. Wednesday we had a picnic lunch, and then went to a movie (more on that later).  Thursday I returned back to work, in order to save paid time off for my mom’s upcoming dental adventure. But overall, I found it a lovely and relaxing time.

And what better way to relax than with a little yoga? Our road trip abandonment provided me the opportunity to start taking advantage of my sparkly new Bikram yoga Groupon, which was originally going to have to wait until our return from Colorado.

I have done hot yoga at several studios in town and, though each studio does it a little differently, I have always enjoyed it tremendously. In fact, when I first started, I extolled the virtues of hot yoga to anyone who’d listen, and tried (never successfully) to figure out how I could manage to do it the recommended 3-4 times a week, what with a full-time job and a family.

My super-awesome massage therapist, Julia (who is probably reading this and thinking I’m acting awfully posh and possessive for someone who ends up canceling every other appointment I make with her—and since I only make appointments, like, twice a year to begin with, she probably couldn’t pick me out of a line up . . . unless maybe it was a line up of people lying prone on cushioned tables) was concerned. “I’ve been to hot yoga classes where they push a little too hard,” she said. Examples she gave included instructors telling students they should be looking at the wall behind them during the “backbend” part of half moon, or telling them that if something didn’t hurt, they weren’t trying hard enough.

And. Well. I thought she had gone plumb crazy. Which I was willing to tolerate, mind you, because when you find a massage therapist with her kind of magical talent (seriously, the woman’s a bona fide miracle worker), she could spend every Wednesday afternoon scooting around the perimeter of her upstairs bedroom, gnawing on the bed and ripping down the wallpaper to free the woman trapped inside it (all the while complaining about its cloying “yellow smell”)—and by golly, you roll with it. Still, I was curious: what kind of seedy, scary-clown yoga underworld had she experienced in which yoga teachers did not spend 100% of class time alternately praising students for sharing their beautiful spirits with the class, and encouraging them to be ever so gentle with their bodies?

Well. Now I know.

I arrived at the Bikram studio 15 minutes early, as instructed, for “orientation”—which consisted of the day’s bubbly, smiley, bright-eyed instructor introducing herself and asking a few questions of me. Had I been to Bikram before? “No,” I answered, “but I’ve done hot yoga.” She boingily (if you could meet her, you’d completely accept that as a real word) informed me that Bikram was going to be a little bit of a new experience for me, so my only goals for the session were to “stay in the room and breathe. That’s it! Just stay in the room and breathe!” (Grinny Grinny Boing Boing.)

“Whuuuuuuuuuutevs,” I thought. I was no neophyte when it came to sweatin’ to the OM-ies. And I’ve always been a fan of research (unless I have my eye on a highly impractical but stunningly beautiful used car, a disclaimer I’m adding only to avoid my husband’s ruefully raised brow), so I knew what to expect. I knew it would be more challenging than the hot yoga I’d done before in some ways (a 105-degree room with 40% humidity, as opposed to a 90-some degree room with a draft coming under the door; a structured sequence of poses, as opposed to the instructor’s whim; an hour-and-a-half long class, as opposed to an hour)—but I was ready. The only thing she told me that I didn’t already know was that unlike other yoga teachers, she would not be doing the postures with us, but rather talking us through them from the front of the room—so as a newbie, I should find a spot on the back row, in order to watch and learn correct form from others in the class. That, and that I should leave my hand towel (which I’d brought along with a beach towel, thinking that 105 degrees might call for both) in the locker room, because I wasn’t going to need it. “Huh. Interesting,” I thought, making my way to the locker room, as Bubbles chirped out behind me: “Just stay in the room and breathe!”

When I entered the studio, everyone seemed (a) kinda naked (women in sports bras and tiny shorts, men in just the tiny shorts), and (b) really focused on finding some elusive spiritual “center”: some stretched; some lay in savasana; still others sat upright with closed eyes, breathing deeply and (apparently) meditating. But aside from the audible breathing of the Bod Squad, the hum of the heaters and the hissing of the humidifiers, the room was utterly silent.

After a few minutes, the instructor entered the room. Everyone instantly jumped to attention as Bubbles, following a brief greeting, instantly morphed into Cujo (from the lesser-known prequel, Cujo Goes to Vietnam).

Y’all.

That woman became a straight-up drill sergeant. She yelled at us! She clapped her hands at us! She told us several times that we should be pushing “BEYOND THE LIMITS OF [OUR] FLEXIBILITY,” that we SHOULD be feeling pain, SHOULD be feeling dizziness, SHOULD be feeling nausea—that meant we were doing it right! When I was forced by a wave of nausea (accompanied by a Flashdance-inspired hallucination) to drop out of camel pose and come down on all fours for a few seconds, she assured me (LOUDLY!) that the more I came to class, the more I’d learn to work through those feelings and stay with the posture. The woman next to me, a redhead whose face had flushed such a deep red that her freckles were beginning to look like glow-in-the-dark stars, tried to leave the room, and was told to stay  and sit down on her mat until she felt like she could join us again. Fearing for that poor gal’s life, I gazed out the studio window and tried desperately to blink a morse code message to the couple returning to their car from the Subway next door. Knowing NO morse code, however, I probably actually communicated something like, “I’ve got potatoes in my chest, and both radios are in the sun, so it’s all out for the trees!” No wonder they slammed their doors and drove off.

And for the record, I now know why I was told to leave my hand towel in the locker room: we were not allowed to wipe away our sweat. “It’s just a distraction!” we were told. “Resist the urge!” Actually, we were told to resist several urges, particularly during the mountain pose phases between postures: no fidgeting; no scratching; no adjusting clothing (and, speaking as one of the folks in the back row, let me tell you—ADJUSTMENTS WERE NEEDED, particularly following some of those forward bends). No punching the instructor.

But I did it. I stayed in the room. I breathed. I did most of the postures as well as I usually do (I am nobody’s king dancer, but I can hold an eagle pose with the (maybe third- or fourth-) best of them. I did not wipe my sweat, even as my own personal Niagara Falls tumbled straight into my eyes. I did not fidget. I did not scratch. I did not die.

And I went back.

Twice so far—two days after my inaugural experience, and again (at 6 a.m.!) the day after that.

Interestingly, the instructors have gotten progressively nicer (and for the record, Bubbles did return to her normal, boingy self after class, complimented me on a job well done, and led the class in a round of applause for me and the redhead, who was also a first-timer). I’ve had a different instructor each time; first Bubbles, then another woman (who kept to the anti-fidget rules and the “BEYOND THE LIMITS” stuff, but spoke more softly, and encouraged us to have fun with our practice), and then a man (who did not clap at us at all, and actually made us laugh a couple of times).

So I think I’m going to keep it up—at least until my Groupon expires in two months. For one thing, every time I walk out of there, I weigh at least three pounds less than I did going in! Water weight, I know, but do you think that stops me from running home and trying on my old Seven jeans after each class? (So far, I wouldn’t call them comfortable, by any means, but the hope is alive.)  For another, I’m determined to get my money’s worth out of that Groupon. And best of all, Bikram has made me kinda badASS.

Case in point: Wednesday, on my last day of staycation, the husband, boy, and I went as a family to see ParaNorman. And for those of you who’ve never been in a movie theatre with my husband, just know that people texting in the movies is a HUGE pet peeve of his. We’re talking special circle of Hell (with hordes of thumb-devouring fruit flies, nose-hair-plucking crabs, and running commentary by Joan Rivers). And for good reason; I mean, it’s distracting, you’re supposed to be watching the movie, and seriously, it is NOT THAT HARD to put the dang phone on vibrate and keep it in your pocket or purse. Not to mention that even the most Podunk theatres have gotten with the times and begun to include admonitions against texting during the film along with the ages-old gabbing/crying baby shtick. Trouble is that there is inevitably one schmuck in every movie who is either illiterate or apparently exempt from movie theatre rules. But I digress.

When we walked in, we had the WHOLE. ENTIRE.THEATRE. to ourselves. GLORY! We let our little dude choose where to sit, and so settled into the center seats in the very back row to enjoy our private screening . . .

. . . which only remained private until about five minutes before the start of the show, when a family came in that we just knew would be trouble. You know how you just know, sometimes? And we were right; I am convinced that not one of them saw more than 40 minutes of the movie, because they were constantly getting up (either individually or in groups of two) and leaving the theatre, only to come back a few minutes later for someone else to have a turn. A small child ran up and down the entire flight of stairs stretching from the front of the theatre to the back, chased by a man who made an occasional half-ass attempt to cajole him back to their seats (meanwhile, MY small child sat dutifully in his seat watching the movie, having never been allowed out of it during a movie, except to use the restroom accompanied by me or his father). All of this, we ignored with gritted teeth.

But then.

Then the texting started.

As usual, my husband leaned forward in his seat and called out his typical imperative: “Turn your phone off, please.”

Still, the little square of light shone brightly, wavering slightly with the pressure of texting thumbs.

My husband repeated: “Turn your phone off.”

This little light of mine, came the silent reply of our fellow movie patron as s/he kept texting, I’m gonna let it shine.

Usually, during these exchanges, I sit silently, hoping (against hope, in most cases) that the offender shows some consideration for his/her fellow moviegoers and abandons the text obsession. Because anyone who knows me knows that I generally avoid confrontation like the stupid buzzing fly trapped in your car on the highway studiously avoids every single one of the four wide-open windows AND the open  sunroof, while still managing to fly straight into your ear every eight seconds. But on this particular day, Mama’s three days of Bikram survival kicked in, and I went all Don’t F@#$%CK With The Babysitter on everybody, issuing forth a thunderous command from the depths of my being:

 

 

 

 

My husband and son turned to look at me as if they’d never really seen me before, like they were just now discovering that I was not, in fact, the wife and mommy who’d accompanied them to the show, but had suddenly POOFed into a chupacabra wearing bright orange lipstick and a crown made out of gold-dusted Band-Aids.

I like to think that I sounded somewhat like [WARNING: NOT SAFE FOR WORK] Sigourney Weaver telling an alien queen where to get off, or Demi Moore telling a commanding officer to perform on her an act which until recently still constituted sodomy in several U.S. states (even though she lacked the proper, er, “equipment” to enforce the request).

My husband says I sounded more shrill, but definitely loud; “kinda like a witch’s cackle,” he added helpfully.

But I’ll be darned if Dorothy didn’t surrender.

For awhile, anyway; the phone reappeared about 20 minutes later, and eventually, my husband was forced to walk down to the offender’s row and state, politely and quietly, that we’d speak to someone about having the family ejected from the theatre if the disrespectful refusal to follow stated movie guidelines continued.

But still. BadASS, right? ME, right? I was even prepared for the post-movie confrontation—but my husband says that never actually happens.

Dang. I had a coupla zingers ready for the occasion.

But I don’ t think they’ll go to waste; after a couple more months of this Bikram thing, I’ll be ready to take on the world! Those people who park in the “New/Expecting Parent” parking spaces when they’re not pregnant or carting around an infant? They’re MINE. People who don’t return their shopping carts to the corral? Send them over here. People who throw cigarettes out the car window? They will know a fresh hell the likes of which they have never seen. And don’t even get me started on people who speed on past when the little schoolbus stop sign comes flinging out.

Bring them on. I am ready.

Namaste.

 

 

For Mike, Biter of Butts and Bestower of Boogie.

Yeah.  So the whole “Three (or More) Faces of Insta-Princess” was an OK idea in theory, but so far the execution sucks, wouldn’t you agree?  For that reason, I’m taking a little hiatus from that project and making this post in honor of my long-ago friend Mike.

What?

No, he’s not dead.  He just disappeared for a long, long time, and has recently reappeared thanks to the miracle that is Facebook which, as we all know, gives us a gift as close to a time machine as we may ever get.

So journey with me on my own time machine, y’all, back to a time when I was a spry young thing.  I was just out of college.  I was skinny (Lord, so skinny).  And broke.  And braless (and, for that matter, boobless).  And all sorts of other things that go along with being young and carefree.  I used to stay up all night long and toast the sunrise with a Red Stripe.  I used to wear boys’ jeans from the thrift store.  I used to eat giant hamburgers slathered with mayo, melted cheddar and bleu cheese, and then slurp up every last fry without guilt.  I used to smoke.  I used to kiss all of my friends on the lips (except for Mike– his standard greeting was to sneak up behind you and bite you on the butt; I was always a little bit flattered that he managed to find mine). 

And I used to dance.  Oh, children, Mama used to dance!

Damn near every Tuesday night that the good Lord sent,  I could be found in a little place called the Star Bar for its Funk Night, shaking my . . . er . . . little-boy-booty and singing silent praises to the Tuesday night DJ, Romeo Cologne, for his fine, fine taste in music. 

And Mike was the best dance partner ever.  All he needed was a little “Love Rollercoaster” and that man was a bona fide boogie machine.  Ahh, I remember it like it was yesterday.

Then one day, family duty called my little-boy-booty back to Topeka, Kansas, where I spent the better part of a year with no boogie.  Of course I wrote to Mike to lament my funkless fate, and in response he wrote for me a little disco ditty to get me through the dark times, a ditty I’ve kept for all these years.  (And if you know me and my rabid propensity to purge the artifacts of my life, you know what a miracle it is that I’ve managed to hold on to Mike’s  letter for . . . holy crap . . . 15 years now.)

So without further ado, I will now keep today’s Facebook promise to my old friend Mike, and publish his song in all of its funk-filled glory:

My Baby’s Stuck in Kansas

I can’t boogie
I can’t boogie
I can’t boogie (high falsetto) NO MO!
Just can’t shake my groove thang (high falsetto) ON THE FLO!
When my baby’s stuck in Kansas,
my booty’s stuck in park
Since she can’t dance in Kansas
I don’t disco after dark
Don’t point my car to Star Bar
I ain’t dancin’ on my owns
With my baby stuck in Kansas
I got a Cleopatra Jones
I’m talkin’ (high falsetto) COLD TURKEY!
Not (high falsetto) JIVE TURKEY!

(Needless to say, Mike’s songwriting skills far surpass my own.)

From my disco-deprived year in Topeka, I moved even further away from my life o’ funk, to San Francisco for grad school.  But I never forgot Mike or, more importantly, The Boogie.  Both of ’em still possess a little bitty chunk of my soul.  The chunk now resides in a body that goes to bed at 9:30 and wears bigger lady pants than I’m willing to admit (which gives the term “booty shaking” a whole new meaning), but it’s there.  It’s a full-on funk chunk, and it’s memories of Mike and his disco ditties that keep it alive.

Thanks, Man.

The Three (or More) Faces of Insta-Princess, Part II

First of all, since this blog was born at Thanksgiving three years ago, let me take a moment to acknowledge the one that just passed. As usual, it was lovely and stuffed with grace, and we again avoided any near-death experiences, even despite the fact that my Mother-in-Law sat next to my precious baby boy at the Thanksgiving table and FED HIM BUTTER WITH A SPOON.

Basically all the boy ate for Thanksgiving dinner was butter and sweet potatoes. But he managed to live through the torture to his tiny little arteries, and continues to be one of the most perfect things I’ve ever encountered.

Now on to the continuing story of my own IMperfections:

***WARNING: TMI BEGINS HERE.***

OK, so we’ve discussed the beginnings of my lifestyle fabrications. Let’s move on to early adolescence, shall we? While early adolescence for most people is probably rife with falsehoods and pretense, I chose a particularly challenging pretense to try to uphold—or rather, it was chosen for me.

The Adolescent Deception: I am so cool I’m exempt from bodily functions.

Again, this deception was more the result of opportunity than cunning. When I was around the age of 14, my younger cousin (whom I’ll call Joey for identity-concealing reasons that will become clear later), who was roughly half my age, commented (in that wonderful forthright and openly curious way that cool kids have, because he was a very cool kid) that he’d never heard me fart.

Before I go on, let me just say in my own defense that I was 14 years old, people—at that age, you’re not mature enough to deal with certain bodily functions in that practical, all-part-of-being-human way that adults (well, most of them, anyway) do, so you usually go in one direction or the other: you look for any and every opportunity to flaunt your functions in everyone’s face and laugh about it, or you deny their existence altogether.

I’m sure you can guess which direction I chose.

It wasn’t really deliberate—it’s just that I was so mortified by the idea of discussing anything that came out of my ass with a 6-year-old, I responded only with stunned and idiotic silence, thus unintentionally encouraging him to draw his own conclusion: the Insta-Princess simply did not ever pass gas.

It could be true, right?

So I decided to roll with that. And it worked, for awhile, until Joey started sharing with other people the fact that his cousin Insta-Princess did not ever pass gas, at which point I was outed by an adult family friend, who insisted that of course I did—everyone did, or else we’d all get very sick!

Traitor.

But still—it was her word against the solid evidence of my silence and odorlessness (at least in Joey’s presence), so I still managed to hold on to my ultra-cool, body-functionless persona until the following summer . . .

As we all know, girls around the age of 15 are just beginning to have one particular very special bodily function that only applies to the female population, and I was no exception. And tho’ I wasn’t all Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret about the situation (crying and thanking God when IT finally arrived), I was certainly OK with the situation, considering that the alternative was to be a teenage girl who DID NOT have IT yet, and never mind the medical freakiness that could have gone along with that—the REAL trauma would have been trying to fake my way through sleepover conversations about it with other girls! I mean, my divorced-parents deception aside, I’m not known for being a good liar, so I can just see my 15-year-old self trying to get by on what scant info I’d gleaned from my two older sisters, which consisted primarily of three key facts:

1. Nothing related to menstruation should ever, EVER be discussed, alluded to, or even hinted at within 300 feet of anyone who has a penis.
2. Teeny tiny 1970s track shorts and gigantic 1970s maxi pads are not a good combination (though both were probably invented by people with penises).
3. When you have cramps, you’re allowed to cry about any damn thing you want.

But I digress. The point is that although I accepted my feminine fate, I certainly counted it among the bodily functions that should be kept secret from (most of) the masses.

And then.

Remember Joey? Ever-so-smart and inquisitive little boy cousin? Well. Joey had an older sister. An older sister who, though still younger than I am, was close enough in age to me to be somewhat more aware of Things Private and Girly.

Which is why I don’t buy for a second that that beeyotch (let’s call her Jezebel, shall we?) didn’t know exactly what she was doing on that fateful summer evening when, as we all relaxed in our grandparents’ family room with Grams AND GRAMPS (please refer to Fact #1 above so that you can truly appreciate the magnitude of this next bit), she slyly left the room and returned a moment later, breathless with excitement as she reported to EVERYONE that there was “something BLOODY in the bathroom trash!”

Now before you even ask, OF COURSE I DID. Of course I wrapped it, sufficiently I thought, in toilet paper before depositing it into the trash.

Apparently my mummification of the damn thing didn’t take.

And poor Grams. Her mind was quick, so it only took a second for her to surmise what exactly was going on. It took a lot longer, however, for her to get to her feet to try to remedy the situation, by which time Joey had launched himself off the sofa and flown halfway to the loo as if powered by jet fuel. She called fiercely after him to come back, using her best threat, reserved only for truly spectacular offenses: “I’LL SLAP YOU TO SLEEP!”

So bless her. She tried. Which is more than I was doing, frozen as I was in adolescent horror and disbelief (which, as we all know, is far more intense and deadly than regular horror and disbelief) at the scene that was unfolding before me as a result of Jezebel’s betrayal.

But, alas, her efforts were in vain.  Next thing we knew, Joey came strolling back into the room (in which sat, as you may recall, MY GRANDFATHER), holding my used tampon—WHICH HE HAD FULLY UNWRAPPED—between his bare fingers like a cigar, and casually declared, “It doesn’t SMELL like blood—it smells like mascara.”

Go ahead. Throw up a little if you want. I’ll wait.

Honestly, I don’t even remember what happened after that. I think I passed out from sheer mortification.

At any rate, when I came to (with a fresh and burning hatred for Jezebel that lasted well into my 20s), I gave up on keeping my normal bodily functions a secret. I mean, what could possibly be worse than my grandfather (my GRANDFATHER, people!) knowing I had a period? Hell, I might as well go ahead and start audibly farting at job interviews and having diarrhea in white pants on first dates! It was all lost now.

So I gave up on that deception, and moved on to more deliberate deceits, which I shall have to tell you about later, because Season 1 of Mad Men beckons . . . .

The Three (or More) Faces of Insta-Princess, Part I

OK. I do not intend for this blog to be all about unemployment. For one thing, it’s boring; I mean, aside from what I said about it in my last entry, there’s really not enough material here to entertain anyone. And for another, I’m certainly hoping that it won’t last, so eventually I’d have to come up with a new topic anyway.

One more thing I’ll say about it, however, is that it allows me to be privy to much more gossip than I was when I was still employed. Strictly a time issue, I’m sure; now that I’ve got the time to listen, folks have got the dirt to share. However, as much as I like a little scuttlebutt, I have to say that it’s just a reminder about the rampant deception that people create about their lives on the internet. Oh, hell, I do it, too, either by omission of certain details in a story (like how my unemployed endeavor to cook dinner every day for my family resulted last week in the explosion of a 9 x 13 glass baking dish that sent bits of glass tinkle-plinking all over the first level of my home, requiring a full hour of cleanup, despite which my husband found chunks of blue glass in his shoe the next day), or by slight manipulation of facts in order to create a better story (the truth is, that Scotch Egg I got at the Ren Fest is probably completely innocent of causing the horrible illness I suffered later that night, but come on—near death from a Scotch Egg is such a better story than a mere virus).

So I know that the internet is no court-o-law as far as the truth is concerned, but that doesn’t stop me from being surprised when I learn from other people about a person’s crappy marriage or pot-head kid or career failures or near-psychosis, when his or her blog or Facebook page is full of nothin’ but glowing reviews of his or her spouse, offspring, work, or life in general. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t expect everyone to air a bunch of dirty laundry all over the web every day, but I still forget how convenient the internet is for creating an entirely different picture of your life. Which is perhaps a little ironic, since for most of my life I have been the champion of trying to concoct the public image of a life or personality that I haven’t actually had.

And this is where the examples start.

The Childhood Deception: I am a child of divorced parents.

Yep. I seriously pretended that my parents were divorced when they weren’t. I was a weird kid. And I had so many classmates whose parents were divorced that, even though most of those kids hated the fact that the parents with whom they’d begun their lives were no longer together, I still wanted to be one of those kids. Every year, as soon as the school directory was published, I’d scuttle it home and pore through it to see which kids had divorced parents, which was made obvious in the directory, because the kids of divorced parents usually had “last name issues” that were revealed in the booklet. So if your parents were still married, your entry would look something like this:

Student: John Dough
Address/Phone: 1234 Main Street / 555-4321
Parents: Robert and Mary

BO-O-O-O-ORING, right? But if your parents were divorced, you got something like this:

Student: Jimmy Dough
Address/Phone: 1234 Main Street / 555-4321
Parents: Patricia Biscuit / Stanley Dough (555-6789)

. . . or this, if your custodial parent (who was usually the mom at that time, it being the ‘70s and all) had remarried:

Student: Jane Dough
Address/Phone: 1234 Main Street / 555-4321
Parents: Steven and Sandra Muffin

Oh, yeah. All of your business was out in the street like that, for everyone to see and—if everyone = Little Insta-Princess—for everyone to envy. Really, the kids I envied most were the ones whose parent(s) had remarried, because those were the kids who got to call adults in their lives by FIRST NAMES (which I was NOT allowed to do in any circumstance). How cool was THAT?

Me: Hey, Jane, what did you get for your birthday?

Uber-cool, disaffected Jane: Oh, my mom and Steve got me a bike, and then my dad and Diane took me to the circus.

(See? SO cool. Plus, DOUBLE PRESENTS for every occasion! Who wouldn’t love THAT? Having parents who’d been married for over 20 years, on the other hand, was SO gauche! So old-fashioned! So . . . so . . . woefully un-hip!)

So in my pathetic attempt to join the leagues of the rebellious, embittered step-kids, I totally disowned my poor, sweet father.

It wasn’t some sort of pre-meditated plan; like my songwriting skills, my cunning is kinda lacking. But when I stumbled upon the opportunity to make everyone think that my dad was actually my stepdad, I jumped on it.

See, my father and I were awfully good pals, and used to play a charming game in which he was my butler/chauffeur/servant. (Ahem. In case you were wondering why I’m known as Insta-Princess … ) And it was, as I mentioned, the ‘70s—the height of the Love Boat era. I never missed an episode. So in one episode, a rich woman took a Love Boat cruise with her butler, whose name was Bertram.

Well.

I thought Bertram was a simply divine name for a butler (/chauffeur/servant), and so started calling my dad Bertram. Of course, the Love Boat lady and HER Bertram wound up in a romantic relationship, which was either too gross for me to contemplate (so I didn’t), or went straight over my head because I was too focused on the sheer perfection of Bertram as a butler name. But I digress.

The point is, I started calling my father Bertram, and he thought the whole Bertram thing was sorta cute, so he went along with it, not knowing that one day I would use it against him. But somewhere around my 5th grade year, the moment came. Bertram had given me a really groovy pen of some sort, that squirted water, or changed colors, or morphed into a hippo in a tutu or something—who remembers? At any rate, one day I brought the pen to school, at which point one of the girls in my class eyed it covetously and asked where I’d gotten it. Without thinking, I replied, “Bertram gave it to me.”

“Who’s Bertram?” she asked, and that was when the pathetic wannabe light bulb went on over my head.

“My dad,” I sighed, which was certainly not a lie per se, but I did my damnedest to say it with that special tone of step-kid ennui, hoping that my simple two-syllable truth would also manage to convey a “my-mom-insists-that-I-acknowledge-him-as-my-father-but-I-am-in-no-way-related-to-that-annoying-bastard” message.

It worked.

Why, I’m not sure, because you’d think that other kids would, as I did, check the directory, which would have kicked my jig straight up. Turns out, however, that OTHER KIDS WERE APPARENTLY NOT TOTAL NUTBALLS LIKE ME, so nobody ever knew or, at any rate, never called me on it. And so I was part of “the club,” at least for awhile and among the kids who never actually came to my house or interacted in any way with my family. And that was when I discovered that the club really wasn’t that much fun. Who wanted to walk around every day resenting someone with whom you actually had to live?

My charade pretty much ended a couple of years later, anyway, when I graduated from Elementary School and headed to Middle School, where I had bigger issues than the tragic fact that my parents were still married. The Middle School period is, I think, a tragedy in itself. Don’t you? But I digress again.

I did continue to call my father Bertram for the rest of his life (he passed away when I was in my mid-20s), but more out of habit and affection than anything else. I also succeeded in pulling an unintentional fast one on the friends I made in High School and beyond, because although those people (who called him Bertram as well) knew that he was my actual father, they thought that his name really was Bertram. Only upon reading his obituary did they discover the truth.

As to the truth about my intentional “Divorce” deception of years past, I did confess it to my mother a few years ago. She thought it was pretty funny.

Anyway, here’s where Part I of my Multiple Personality Confession comes to an end; I’m spending today with my baby boy (who is home from day care with a little bug), in hopes that he will not one day try to disown ME. Stay tuned . . . .

Required Skills: Must have Lord-and-Savior Certification, five years experience walking on water and managing disciples, and be an expert at healing the blind and at Microsoft Excel. Salary: Barely enough to feed your goldfish. Better to mine that sucker for caviar and try to sell THAT for a living.

Hey, Y’all!  I’m back, and since things have been doing that thing that they do (you know, happening), of course I have news.  The biggest news of late is that I am unemployed.

Yep.

Exactly 3 weeks ago I sat down in a tiny office with my manager, an HR representative, and a complimentary pack of Kleenex and bottle of water, to be told that my company was downsizing and there would no longer be a place for me within it.

All in all, it ain’t been so bad (but talk to me in a few months, when my severance runs out).  I’m in good company (a lot of fantastic people also got let go), I have had wonderful support, and  I’ve already got a little daily routine worked out:

 Wake up at 6:45.

Coffee and online job searching from 7:00-8:00.

Baby (well, OK, more like toddler-going-on-adolescent boy) wake-up time sometime around 7:45-8:00.

Day-care drop-off from 8:15-8:30

(Note: Latter two agenda items are subject to time change if I elect to walk the baby the 3-mile round trip to day care instead of driving him.)

Shower between 8:30 and 9:00

More job-hunting, more coffee, breakfast and lunch and Facebook putzing all scrunched between 9:00 and 1:00

And then, as a reward for sending off at least 2-3 job applications per morning, I spend each afternoon cleaning.

Yes, cleaning.  As a reward.  I’m a little odd that way.  In fact, I also have a weekly cleaning schedule, but because (a) in the three weeks since I’ve been laid off, I have yet to actually adhere to the schedule, and (b) I’d like for people to keep reading this blog, I’ll spare you the details.

Anyway, where was I?  Oh, yes.  Jobless.  So I guess this is what they call a turning point, when you look deep within yourself, take stock of your life, and move forward with some kind of greater knowledge about something.

Huh.

Well, then.

THINGS I’VE LEARNED SO FAR FROM BEING UNEMPLOYED:

1.  Aside from the whole concern about finances, I like staying at home. 

I could totally be a housewife.  Pathetic, I know, but the satisfaction I get out of cleaning and preparing dinner for my little family is pretty yummy for me.  Of course, part of what affords me the opportunity to DO all of that cleaning and cooking is the fact that I am not a Stay-at-Home MOM; the kid still goes to day care, at least for now, so that he can keep his place, and so that I can have time to devote to my job hunt.  If he were around all the time, I wouldn’t get anything done at all, except maybe brushing a hell of a lot of teeth, because he is really into tooth-brushing right now, and if he had his way we’d do it once every 20 minutes or so.

2.  I apparently made an insane amount of money considering my skill level.

Seriously, man—I feel like so many jobs that are out there require what in my opinion are incredibly impressive skills, yet pay about half of what I’ve been making for my remedial ones; hence the title of this blog post.  Haven’t quite figured out what I’m going to do about that, but I have, unfortunately, discovered that:

3.  Songwriting is not a viable career path for me.

I suppose I’ve known for awhile that I don’t have much ingenuity when it comes to songwriting; usually I just make up alternate lyrics to existing tunes, and tend to have a limited selection at that– recurring tunes in my made-up-lyrics repertoire include the refrain from “Jungle Fever”, the tune from the “My Buddy” commercial jingle, and the chorus of “Everybody Wants To Be a Cat” from The Aristocats.  Some tunes just lend themselves to a variety of alternate lyrics, y’know?

And of course, having a baby has made it worse: the tune to the “Woy yoy yoy, woy yoy-yoy yoy” part of Bob Marley’s “Buffalo Soldier” has been repurposed for such lyrical gems as “Stinky Little Feet,” and “Change the Baby’s Pants” (which mostly consist of a twice-repeated refrain, followed by a line about how the topic of the song is either loved by all or known by all—as in, “everybody loves the baby’s stinky little feet,” or “everybody knows you’ve got to change the baby’s pants”).

Now, sometimes, I do dream up new tunes in my sleep, and for the 8-10 seconds that I still remember the tune after I’ve woken up, I convince myself that I’m damn good – that I could really make a go of it as a songwriter.

Today, though.  Today, I have come to see the light, during my “reward” cleaning time, part of which I spent, er . . . I believe the euphemism is “picking up after” our three dogs.  During that time, I succeeded in making up THEEE crappiest (pun entirely intended) song of all time, complete with original tune AND lyrics.  I did not go as far as to dignify the song with an actual title, but let’s just say that I spent the better part of an hour this afternoon belting out a little ditty I like to call, “I’ve Got a Turd With Your Name On It” . . . and leave it at that.

So there goes that dream.  Lesson learned.  And now on to . . .

THINGS I AM TRYING REALLY HARD NOT TO DO NOW THAT I’M UNEMPLOYED:

1.  Wear pajamas all day. 

This one really isn’t too hard so far; the most challenging part, really, is that so many of my clothes also function quite well as pajamas, so I have been forced to draw some line of distinction.  To that end, I have enacted what I like to call the Crate and Barrel Standard:  If I’d wear it to Crate and Barrel, it counts as “getting dressed”.  As to how I chose Crate and Barrel as the metric for this particular edict, I’m not sure.  I guess I was just looking for something somewhere between Wal-Mart and Neiman-Marcus on the decency-worthiness scale.  And that automatically ruled out anyplace with a pharmacy, because haven’t we all gone to the pharmacy looking a little skanky at some point in our lives?  So I thought a halfway-decent specialty store, but one with cheap enough stuff that you don’t feel compelled to wear every single pearl you own into the store just to prove to the salespeople that you can afford something there.  Hence the Crate and Barrel Standard was born, which essentially means that red velour Juicy Couture stretch pants are totally allowable during the day, but perpetually wrinkled red cotton Gap pajama pants that feature a pattern of dogs wearing scarves?  Not so much.

2.  Eat all day long.

This one is a little harder, since I have set up a little “home office” for myself in our dining room, which is RIGHT NEXT TO THE KITCHEN.  Where there is ice cream.  And bananas.  And LIFE cereal.  And leftover rosemary-roasted potatoes (and it’s admirable to eat leftovers, right?).  And all kinds of stuff you can smear with peanut butter.  So here’s where the whole idea of making dinner every day comes in handy, see, because if I know there’s going to be, say, pot roast tonight, then I’ll hold off on inhaling everything within a 20-foot radius during the day, with the idea that my yummy, gravy-coated reward will come at dinner time.

Then by dinnertime, I’m so hungry that I stuff myself silly, and then I spend the rest of the evening hating myself. 

Then I have ice cream.

3.  Re-live my 8-hour high school phone-talking marathons.

This one is actually the hardest one, because during my life thus far as a working mother, I have basically ignored practically everyone with whom I do not share a residence or within whom I did not once reside.  And even some of THOSE people got short shrift every once in awhile.  So I’ve spent the last year and a half feeling really guilty about being a really bad friend to a whole lotta people.  Sure, there’s Facebook, which sort of allows you to both let people know you’re alive, and acknowledge the living-breathing status of others in roughly 60 words or less, but it’s not really the same as TALKING, is it?  So now that a whole lotta people (who apparently forgive me for being a bad friend ) are calling to see how I’m doing, it’s incredibly easy to fritter away a whole day just . . . talking.  I suppose I could argue that it counts as “networking”, but if the person already knows, loves, and wants to help you, AND if you’re talking about things like cellulite, potty training and your failed attempts at songwriting, does it really . . . ?    

THINGS I’M ESCHEWING WITHOUT MUCH EFFORT:

1.  Deodorant.

I know.  You’d think that this one would fall under the Crate and Barrel Standard, wouldn’t you?  But quite frankly, my relationship with deodorant has always been characterized by some ambivalence.  I get those painful armpit lumps, and the icky buildup makes it hard to shave . . . I guess this is one area of my life where I’m OK letting the stinky little adolescent hippy boy who lives inside my soul have a small victory (but I draw the line at rolling in patchouli in lieu of a bath).  And I gotta let myself off the hook on SOMETHING, right, or where’s the fun in being unemployed?   One other discovery that has resulted from my unemployment, however, is the irony of the fact that really, it would have been much easier to go without deodorant when I was actually WORKING.  I visited my old office last week, to bring birthday goodies to a friend still employed there, and was caught completely off guard by the number of ex-coworkers who suddenly felt the need to HUG me and my stink-proud self.  I’m sure more than one of them walked away thinking, “Phew-WEE, I think I know why they let HER go . . . “

2.  Daytime television.

Ever since we had a kid, we’ve been trying to avoid gratuitous TV watching, but I always sort of thought that, given the chance, I’d fall off the wagon like a meth addict behind a pharmacy counter.  Turns out I haven’t.  Of course, the fear of running out of money before I find a job is a definite impetus to stay away from the remote, but DUDE.  So is daytime television.  I swear, if I hear one more crabby judge yell, “What were you THINKING?” at a hair-gel-encrusted plaintiff (whose angry ex-girlfriend ran over his dog on a bicycle and then refused to pay the vet bill), I will try meth my damn self.

3.  Bitterness.

I had a great job.  Now I don’t.  It kinda sucks.  But really, what is there to do but keep on keepin’ on?  (For the record, I know that “I’ve Got a Turd With Your Name On It” certainly SOUNDS like it denotes some sort of vengeance plan against my former employer, but I assure you, it ain’t the case—the song is just not that good.)  Don’t get me wrong—I’m not some Pollyanna-wannabe who thinks that there’s a ray of sunshine to be found behind every cloud (for example, I find absolutely no good in people causing pain to puppies).  In this case, however, I genuinely do not see the point of wasting energy on any ill will toward anyone, especially since I really don’t feel any, so why manufacture it?  As one friend put it, how often do you get the gift of a few months off with pay to get your shit together?  So here I am, holding in my hands the gift of time and opportunity, and ready to open up this box.  Wish me luck!

It all started with how we roll.

Well, actually it started with how we apparently get stood up, because the story began Saturday morning, when a friend of ours, with whom we’d planned to attend the Renaissance Festival, totally flaked on us apparently disappeared from the planet (ahem – you know who you are).  (Yeah, so um, Mr. Flaky Dude?  Don’t be, like, dead or in traction or anything, because then I’ll feel all guilty for talkin’ about you like this.)

But, see, SkipFitz and I HAVE to attend the Ren Fest.  It has become a Tradition of Our Love (much like manacles and various foul odors; but those are stories for another time).  The first year that we dated, he drove the 80-some miles from his city all the way to my city to pick me up and take me to the Ren Fest (which was 60-some miles back towards his city), and then bought for me a sparkly crown of stars to wear at the Fest. A couple of years ago, he pushed me into the mud at the Ren Fest and then bought for me the Scotch Egg that would, later that night, result in gastrointestinal distress (some of which I also wore) that made Linda Blair’s Exorcist performance seem like the starring role in a kindergarten class production of Little Mary Sunshine. 

So yeah.  The manifestation of said love has undergone a few transformations.

But the tradition stands.  We ALWAYS go.  So what, we wondered, were we to do about having been stood up for Saturday’s Renaissance Extravaganza?  Should we go by ourselves, to keep tradition alive, or should we wait and see if we heard from Flaky McFlakerson our missing friend?  (Dude, PLEASE still be alive and healthy!)

Ultimately, we decided to do both; we’d skip the Ren Fest on Saturday, to give our flaky-ass probably really busy friend a chance to get with the program  (Dude, seriously– you’re alright, aren’t you?) and maybe attend with us on Sunday.  After a brief Saturday morning run to pick up my new prescription glasses (and an equally brief return to the optometrist’s office when, approximately 7.8 minutes after arriving back home with my new specs, I broke the summa bitches), I insisted that we HAD to do SOMETHING, because it was an absolutely gorgeous day!  So we opted to pack up the babe in the car and spend some time in a quaint little shopping area about 20 minutes north of us, where Skip could get a haircut (which embodies another tradition, since this is the barbershop to which he’s gone for haircuts since he was a kid), and where I could get cheese.

Oh, yeah, Baby.

CHEEEEEEEEEEEEESE.

You see, in the same shopping area is this little shop that sells a gazillion super-licky varieties of cheese; I am only stopped from consuming the store’s entire inventory at one sitting by the fact that I do not have a bajillion dollars (well, by that and the fear that if I ate all that cheese, I’d never poo again).  But on Saturday I did have about fifty bucks, so with that SkipFitz and I purchased four chunks of cheese in a variety of flavors (one of them was goat cheese flavored with honey . . . how, I wonder, did they get that goat to swallow a buncha bees? . . . but such is the magic of cheese).  After that and the aforementioned haircut,  we wandered back towards the car, eager to head home, dig into the cheese, and commence the constipation.  En route we passed the outdoor dining area of a cute little French joint.  Just as I opened my mouth to ask Skip if he’d ever eaten there, a strange (as in heretofore unknown to us, not as in weird) voice called out:  “Hey– you have the same stroller we do!”

We turned to see a smiling couple sitting, with their baby in the stroller beside them and nearly empty plates before them, at one of the tables of the French joint.  And almost as if it had simply been waiting for that cue, my mouth opened completely of its own accord and blurted out, “OK, so does your stroller have the wonky front wheel?” 

(It’s a jogging stroller, see, so it’s got three wheels instead of four; only the one wheel in front sometimes wobbles and makes the whole stroller vibrate, and you’re forced to pop wheelie after wheelie in an attempt to get it to restabilize.  It’s a pain in the butt, really.)

“YES!” came the reply, and then we were off and running– or chatting, rather, as easily as if we’d known each other for 20 years.  They were in town from a nearby smaller, farm-y town, in order to satiate their yen for a little urban living.  They’d recently relocated to the Midwest from Houston.  Their baby, a girl, was about three weeks older than Auggy.  The dad worked at a university.  The mom was a stay-at-home mom with previous experience in TV production.  But perhaps most importantly of all . . .

 . . . they were looking for a good sushi place.

So we recommended our favorite local sushi joint which, I may as well confess now in hopes that nobody notices this little tidbit in the midst of such a fascinating story, we love so much that we chose to skip that recent Earth, Wind & Fire concert for which we had tickets, in order to have dinner there.

They seemed pleased with our recommendation, and invited us to join them for dinner.  We did that thing that couples do, which was to evade the question and say our goodbyes to the nice couple, then walk away and consult each other in private about the invitation we’d both pretended not to hear (because neither of us was willing to be the Bad Spouse who consented for both of us to a social event that one of us did not want to attend).  When we found that we both actually DID want to join them for dinner, we concocted some lame and transparent excuse to return to their table and accept the invitation.

(Of course, by the time we returned to the table, our new Mom friend had run off to change the baby’s diaper, so our new Dad friend was forced to demur until HE could check with HER, in order to avoid being the Bad Spouse.  So we walked away again, leaving our cell number; about 10 minutes’ worth of phone tag later, we had a (double triple) date.)

Which means that I have officially become One Of Those People, the ones who make friends with other people based merely on a common biological experience, i.e., a baby. 

I always hated those people.

In fact, I was only able, with clear conscience, to befriend my friend Cat after we swore a blood-oath that we would, like, TOTALLY have been friends BEFORE we had babies, if we’d ever, y’know, actually had a conversation with each other back then.  (I think there was also a clause in the oath that requires us to seek each other out and become friends if we ever both happen to travel back in time.)  But, see?  By NOT having actually spoken to each other when we were both normal, non-Mommy people, Cat and I spared ourselves all that insignificant introductory chit-chat, and moved straight into deep, intimate discussions about nipple soreness and poo.  And good or bad, these are apparently the kinds of conversations that foster friendships for me now.

So here I am, one swirl deeper into the Parenthood Potty, having broken yet another of my sacred parenthood covenants: Thou Shalt Not Succumb To Mommy-Bonding.  But what the hell, I’m too exhausted these days to actually put effort into being a scintillating conversationalist with a fascinating life (or hell, even to put effort into being well-groomed and free of unidentifiable crust)– so if I can make cool new friends based merely on my choice of stroller, Honey, watch me roll.

You can’t shake me, the way I feel today

Oh, yeah, Baby.

Earth.

Wind.

And Fire.

Coming here to see me tonight.

OK, in reality they have no idea who I am.  But by the time I was five years old, I knew the names of all nine of them (in the 1975 lineup; now I think there are maybe three of these guys left in the band):

Maurice White, Verdine White, Fred White, Philip Bailey, Ralph Johnson, Al McKay, Johnny Graham, Andrew Woolfolk . . .

. . . and Mr. Larry Dunn on piannah — give ’em SOME!

(Y’all “down-deep” EW&F fans (among the three people who read this blog) will get that last little tidbit (and more that shall probably come henceforth), but if you don’t, no worries; just Keep Your Head to the Sky . . . oh, I’m on a roll now . . . )

When I was in Kindergarten, I requested an Earth Wind and Fire album (Gratitude) for my birthday. 

And I got it.

And I took it for Show and Tell.

And I asked the teacher to play Reasons for the class.

Which she did . . .

 . . . for approximately 20 seconds, before curtly zipping the needle from the record and asking me to take my seat so that the next kid (who probably brought something dumb, like one of those freaky stuffed monkeys with the rubber face, hands, and white sneakers) could share.

Well.  She obviously was not feelin’ the Philip Bailey vibe.   She clearly had no insight into [her] inner self, hammercy! 

*Sigh* . . . That’s the Way of the World, I guess.

Alas, poor Philip (who, I’m sure, was the ONLY reason for Miss Crum’s tragic curtailment of his signature song; she simply was not pickin’ up the love my man Phil was layin’ down). 

So maligned, so misunderstood (and, quite possibly, so overshadowed by Maurice White’s manly man-parts) . . .  so reviled by macho-man chauvinists like my father, who felt he did a disservice to his gender with his lovely high falsetto.  But we the initiated, we the Yearnin’ Learnin’ , have never let our love for Philip die, even during Sun Goddess when he and the other EW&F fellas weren’t even singing real words (but still moved us in our souls) . . . even during the tragic Easy Lover era!

Oh, Philip.  Come back to us tonight.  Sing a Song. Tell the story, mornin’ glory, all about the Serpentine Fire.  Give us a Happy Feelin’.  Give us deliv’rance from the fruits of EE-VAL.  Write a song of love, my baby, write a song of love.  We are your faithful followers.  We are the other kind that has been in search of you.  We await you. 

Please wear sequins.

Love,

InstaPrincess

I’m BAAAA-aaaaaaaack . . .

And tell you what, I’m just going to pretend that this blog had readers who’ve been wondering where I’ve been.

No, I did not die during the last . . . holy cow . . . damn near two years. So where, you ask, have I been? What have I been doing? Well, let’s see . . .

I had another Thanksgiving, which was again lovely and yummy and full of grace. It was a smaller gathering, this time, and the day brought no near-death experiences for any of our dogs. But then again, we avoided any chocolate contributions to the feast, just in case.

Let’s see, what else . . .

Oh, yeah. I had a baby.

For those of you who are now trying desperately to jiggle out of your head what you’re sure is a hallucination brought on by repercussions from your college years (I’m not here to judge, but come on—you know what I’m talkin’ about), let me repeat:

I HAD A BABY.

A tiny human being came caterwauling out of my hoo-hoo. Well, OK, that’s not entirely accurate, because that summabitch was not exactly TINY; he weighed TEN POUNDS (my OB/GYN predicted a 7-8 lb. baby—LIE! LIE! LIE!) and emerged, as they say, “sunny side up”. Luckily I had no idea, going in, how anything was supposed to work, so I didn’t know that a gigantic, face-up baby was, in the most clinical of medical terms, a “HOLY CRAP!” kinda deal. So I just did what I was told, and pushed the sucker on out.

But more on that later. Right now, those of you who know me AT ALL (even to the extent of only having had a single conversation with me in the checkout line at a 7-11 during a moment of tampon desperation) are sitting there screaming, “OK, HELLO! Slow your roll, Sister! Who are you and what have you done with the Insta-Princess? Because no way was the Insta-Princess I know EVAH going to issue forth fruit from her loins!”

And indeed, you’d be right about that. I wasn’t. Until the day I peed on a stick and stood, crammed side by side with my husband in our tiny first-floor powder room, staring at a small purple line on said stick and trying (due primarily to the danger of conking my head on the toilet and causing a permanent scar through one of my freshly waxed eyebrows) not to pass out.

So exactly a week prior to my 38th birthday, at 4:50 p.m., I became the mama of a gigantic and stunningly hilarious baby boy by the name of August.

AND IT’S AWESOME. Seriously. Who knew I’d love motherhood so much? Not to sound all “Kum Ba Ya”, but for me so many of the clichés turned out to be true: I did fall in love with him at first gooey sight; I was amazed at the latent mama capabilities that came springing forth in me (hell, the capability to live with sleep deprivation alone is a small miracle – again, if you know me . . . ); and I am amazed at how quickly the time is flying. He’s already six months old – going on 76 years:

And heck, I’m even amazed that I’ve managed to love this boy as much as I do despite my gag-inducing aversion to saliva.

I’m still working full-time, as is SkipFitz, and Auggy is cared for during the day by my mom.

And OK. I know (I KNOW!) how lucky I am to have a daycare provider who (a) works for free, and (b) actually LOVES my kid. I know how lucky I am to live close enough to my mother for her to be involved in my kid’s life. I know that if I lived far away from her, I’d be sad not to have her around.

However.

As it stands, she’s a LIVE-IN nanny; she stays at our house (in our guest room) during the week, and goes home (a little over an hour away) on the weekends.

And I am here to tell you people that nothing, short of a bona fide time machine, can transport you back to Middle School faster or more thoroughly than living with your mother.

Case in point: Last week I had TWO Middle School Moments in a single day. The first came when my mother deemed it too cold outside for me to wear sandals to work. As I stood there arguing over my sartorial decisions for the day, the 38-year-old in me was thinking, “When is the last time I had to argue with somebody over what I wanted to wear out of the damn house?”, while the 13-year-old in me was thinking, “Uh! Ma! Gawd! Mom! You are, like, SUCH a total spaz! Bag your FACE!”

Or something like that.

But guess who won out? Yup. My inner 13-year-old drug my outer 38-year-old off to put on sneakers as soon as my mother threw down her argumental trump card: “YOUR HEAD IS HARD!”

Yup. She wins every time with that one.

The second Middle School Moment of that day came when I left work early to take my baby to a Dr. appointment. It was a Friday afternoon, which meant that when I arrived home to pick up the baby and take him to get stabbed in his big, fat, juicy thighs, my mom would leave our house and head back to Topeka . . .

. . . and this was the moment on which I counted in order to execute the tiny act of rebellion with which I would once again claim the kingdom: I changed my baby out of the (UGLY!) outfit my mother had selected for him to wear to the doctor (what he wears to the doctor is Very Important to Grandma). I knew what she’d planned to put on him for the appointment because she’d laid it out the previous evening and, knowing that it was an outfit I hated and never planned for him to wear, declared that he NEEDED to wear it (a) because it had long sleeves and pants, and the weather was cold (too cold, if you recall, for a 38-year-old woman to wear sandals), and (b) in order for him to “get some wear out of it” before he outgrew it. Rather than risk another Valley Girl moment, I schemed instead to change his outfit after she’d left for the weekend, and before we left for the doctor. As soon as that moment arrived, off came the gingham stretch pants and matching onesie, and on went his Pink Floyd t-shirt and jean shorts. Then I snuck some Aziza eye shadow and Bonne Bell lip gloss into his diaper bag, and put it on him in the bathroom of the doctor’s office.

Oh, yeah, Baby.  That’s just the kind of badass I am.

And don’t even get me started on what it’s like having someone point out every. single. thing you’re doing wrong in raising your child every. single. day. Suffice it to say that Auggy has a grandma who loves him very, very much, and is very, very . . . INVOLVED in his life, and very, very concerned about his well-being. And that’s a good thing, right?

At any rate, she’s signed on for a year of nanny-ship, and we’re halfway through it already. Wish me luck, y’all, in making it through another six months . . . .

LYLAS,
The Insta-Princess

P.S. Longer Letter Later