Bag Lady

I'm so fancy!

I’m so fancy!

For Christmas, my mother-in-law gave me a very sassy-chic new purse.  Check it out – ain’t it snazzy?!   This morning on my way out the door , I saw the super shiny brand-new purse perched atop the mountainous pile of Christmas-and-holiday-travel-related items that we haven’t touched since we returned home a few days ago.  I decided to grab it and do the purse switch-a-roo once I got to work.

When I got to my office, I started about unloading my old (now seemingly super lame purse) in preparation for assembling the contents into my new, totally-awesome purse.  I assumed there would be a few bits of trash and a couple of nonsensical items (usually put there by my sweet, maniac baby-girl), but I pride myself on keeping  a pret-ty tidy purse.  For years, I’ve carried small purses (relative to the hobo tote/tent type bags that many women seem to lug around, anyway), filled with only those items that I’ve deemed necessary and useful in my day-to-day purse-involved doings.

Ermahgerd.  How wrong I’d been!  There was so much crap in there.  It was like the clown car of purses.  I kept pulling more and more random, ridiculous objects from its depths.  I mean, not everything in there was puzzling, but so many things really, truly were.  I kept saying to myself (aloud, of course, so soon I had a small audience huddled in my office door, watching the magic unfold), “What the…?  Why is this…?  How did…?”

Here’s what I found inside my purse, along with photo evidence to corroborate my story:

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

–  2 tickets to an upcoming burlesque show (side note:  I need to tell Shawn we’re   going to a burlesque show.)

–  1 gift card receipt.  Oopsie.  I guess I should I have included that with the gift card gift.

–  1 instruction manual for a Flutterby flying fairy thingy (Thanks, Lu.)

–  1 set of house/member card keys (Can’t be without my Spec’s card, after all.)

–  1 set of 2 car keys (mine and Shawn’s)

–  1 flash drive (THERE it is!)

–  2 packets Taco Bell Fire Sauce (which I used at lunch to spice up what would have otherwise been a very bland microwave burrito)

–  1 check that I need to remember to deposit (but that I will promptly forget about for an undisclosed number of days/weeks)

–  1 travel size hand sanitizer

–  1 snowman ornament (Thanks, Lu.)

–  1 set of fingernail clippers (that are made specifically for babies, but which I prefer because they limit the amount of damage I can do to myself with them)

–  1 container of temporary denture adhesive putty, complete with tiny applicator spatula (which, if you know about my recent/never-ending dental drama, you are not at all suprised to find in my purse)

Poor, tattered soldier of antiquated funds-exchange

Poor, tattered soldier of antiquated funds-exchange

–  1 checkbook, which I use exclusively to pay Lu’s fancy-schmancy school tuition.  Because apparently a fancy-schmancy school were each 5 year old child has access to the coolest Macbook I’ve ever seen can’t manage a payment plan from this century.  Also, the check book looks as if its been through war (or, more likely, that I dumped an entire barrel-sized soda into my purse, with the checkbook absorbing a bulk of the liquid).  I mean, just look at the thing.

–  1 comb (because I gots to look goooood)

–  1 tide pen (because I’m very bad at maintaing looking gooood)

–  1 tube hydrocortisone anti-itch cream (No, I don’t have cooties.  But I am allergic to PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING IN LIFE EXCEPT DOG DANDER AND CORN, WHICH IS GOOD BECAUSE I LIKE DOGS AND CORN PRODUCT IS IN EVERYTHING.  So, I get itchy sometimes.  All the time.)

–  1 vial sterile gel eye drops.  (Sometimes, the itchy allergy-ness takes over even my eyes, and saline gel drops help soothe the poor lil buggers.  They also make my vision very blurry, so their usefulness in my purse – which I take with me out and about when I might possibly need to be able to see- is limited.  I’ve decided to remove them from my purse for this reason.)

–  1 inhaler.  Allergies.  Allergen-induced respiratory “attacks.”  You get the idea.

–  3 tubes (Tubes? Are they called tubes?  Sticks?  I don’t know.) of lip balm, 2 of which will not be loaded into the new purse.  Nobody needs 3 whatever-the-container-is-calleds of lip balm.

–  1 watch band link.  Trashcan!  (Oh God, what if I gain a ton of weight, and my wrists balloon in size, and I need that link?   Wait… I don’t even know from which watch the link came.  Do I even own a watch?  I certainly don’t wear a watch.  Trashcan!)

–  1 bobby pin

–  1 mini container of bubbles.  Trashcan!  (But first, I blew bubbles in my office.  It was a lovely pick-me-upper!)

–  1 jingle bell necklace still balled up in its tiny plastic packaging.  Trashcan!

Hi there!  Here's my face on this pen!

Hi there! Here’s my face on this pen!

–  1 ballpoint pen with my face on it.  Funny story about this pen.  I did not order or commission the making of this pen with my face and all of my private practice info on it.  I found it randomly when touring schools for Lu and promptly removed it from public circulation.  It’s now my favorite pen ever, and I might die when it runs out of ink.

–  2 tampons.  Self-explanatory, I hope.

–  1 packet of ketchup.  Ketchup!  This is INSANE!  I hate ketchup.  Not, like, I don’t particularly care for it.  I hate it.  The smell makes my stomach turn and the thought of it somehow coming in contact with my skin or food I plan to eat makes my skin crawl.  I cannot begin to fathom how a packet of ketchup ended up in my purse.  My only thoughts are that either my brother or my firstborn child Austin had something to do with it.  They are both evil (apparently) and love to freak me out by coming near me with ketchup or jelly.  OMG.  Don’t even get me started on jelly.  TRASHCAN!  (Followed by heebie-jeebie shuddering and excessive hand-santizing.)

–  1 cell phone (not pictured because I used it to take the pictures included in this post.  You’ll just have to trust me that it was in there.)

–  1 wallet

– 1 bottle of ibuprofen

–  1 loose ibuprofen pill (that I dry-swallowed rather than putting it back in the container.  I didn’t want to contaminate the other pills with the icky one.  So I contaminated myself with a dose so low that it was essentially useless.  But what was I supposed to do?  Throw it away?  That just seems wasteful.)

–  1 opened, half-eaten, half-melted bar of fancy chocolate that I had started eating 2 weeks prior, but then stuck in my purse for later and had forgotten about.  (Not pictured because I ate it as soon as I found it.  Obviously.  I’m like a scavenger.)

–  MISSING:  1 unopened tube of sparkly red icing gel.  I found the icing inexplicably in my purse the week prior while fishing for my sunglasses.  I had (and still have) absolutely no idea whence the icing came or how/why it ended up in my purse.  I was completely puzzled, so clearly, I dropped it back in my purse and planned to solve the mystery later.  But then I forgot about it until I was pulling ridiculous items out of my purse, fully expecting the icing to be among the mix.  But no icing.  Bizarre-o.  (I suspect Lu on both accounts.)

What this list of craziness that I pulled from my own purse tells me (other than the fact that I should stop both putting food items in my purse AND eating food items that I find in my purse) is that I’m nowhere near as together as I pretend to be.  On the surface of my purse (even the old, now-lame purse), one might think, “Oh, that’s a nice purse.  And it’s so clean and well-kept.  No contents over-spilling the top or straining the straps under their considerable weight.  The owner of that purse must have her shiz together.”

The reality, though, is that the purse (and its owner) are nothing more than a well-controlled mess.  Beneath the tidy surface (of the purse and the person) is a rollicking, rolling storm of absurdity and chaos.  What’s important about that is this:  That’s what we all are.  A mess that we’ve done our best to pull together.  Some days we do a better job than others.  And that’s okay.

So, you know, what’s in your purse?







BFNF: Best Friends NOT Forever

It always strikes me as funny when I hear full-grown adults refer to someone as their “best friend.”  It strikes me as such a juvenile (and also counterintuitively competitive) concept – as if each of us has that one friend who is, like, totally waaaay better than all of our other friends and that we will retain that one best friend throughout eternity.  I always find myself thinking, “I don’t need to rank my friends, thankyouverymuch.  And why be so exclusive?  There are probably lots of amazing people who could love, appreciate, and support me.”  Throughout my life, I’ve been fortunate to have a number of really wonderful, super close friends.  I shudder think about having to choose just one of them to entitle “best.”

But then again, I know people who have a best friend, and the title truly seems to fit.  My husband Shawn, for example, has a best friend named Jeremy.  They’ve known each other since they were kids, they’ve kept real-and-actual, meaningful contact for, like, 30 years, and they’re still going strong.  They confide in one another, they support each other (even when maybe they shouldn’t, winky face), and dammit, they love each other.  Unconditionally.  Not because they’re related, and they have to, but because they chose each other, and they want to.  Beautiful, right?!

Now, to be fair to Shawn and Jeremy (also, sorry for blowing your super-macho, dudely street cred, guys), I don’t know that they would ever describe each other as “best friends.”  I’ve never heard Shawn say, “My best friend Jeremy blah-blah-blah…”  Rather, he says simply, “My friend Jeremy blah-blah-blah,” and you can just feel the “best” implied in there.  The spirit of unconditional love, support, and connectedness is palpable when Shawn talks about Jeremy.  I know, totally beautiful, right?!

So I suppose it’s not so much the concept of a best friend that strikes me as silly as it is the nomenclature.  As juvenile as I consider the term “best friend” to be, even I have the sense that I have one.  Or that I had one.  And so then I have one.  Confused?  Yeah, me too.  Let me try to explain.

As is often the case, I consider my “best friend” to be a childhood friend.  We’ll call her “Karen” (name changed to protect the innocent).  We met is 6th grade, and before long, we were inseparable, so much so that people often transposed the letters of our first names and didn’t stop to correct themselves.  We were pretty much a package deal, one in the same.  Taren-and-Kara.  Karen-and-Tara.  Same difference.

So many of my memories from 6th-12th grade have Karen smack-dab in the middle of them.  There is no thinking about my adolescence without thinking of Karen.  We were partners in crime (as much as overachieving, do-gooder kids can be criminals, anyway).  We loved each other fiercely (and publicly – we often walked around with one hand in the other’s back pocket.  Weird, I know.), and we supported each other unquestioningly.  It was a powerful thing to know that no matter what, she had my back.

Now, as nostalgia is known to do, we often look back at our histories through rose-colored glasses.  Although eveything I’ve said about my friendship with Karen is true, it wasn’t a friendship without shadowy spots.  We had our share of drama.  Boy drama (She did call dibs, after all).  Girl drama (Was I her best best friend, or was the-other-she?).  Drama drama (I still can’t believe we so passive-aggressively-but-definitely-leaning-more-toward-aggressive-aggressively called other people out on their stuff.  Who did we think we were?!  Sometimes I think Tina Fey modeled Mean Girls after us.).  Adolescense is a time of push-and-pull.   Everything is conflicted, overwrought, and emotionally-laden.  So too was our friendship.  What was never in question, though, was our love for one another.

I so loved Karen (drama and all) that in 8th grade, I penned a song about our friendship.  And then I sang it to her.  For the record, I can’t sing.  Karen didn’t care.  She loved me, so she loved the song, and she loved me singing the song.  We often sang the song together.  It went a little something like this:

“You are my best friend.  A friend til the end.  And though it’s been tough, we always seem to mend.  And I love you.  I’ll be here through and through.  And so together, we’ll get through forever as best friends.  Oooo, Oooo.”

Where’s my Grammy, amirite?!  Not only did we sing that song when we were young enough that our sappiness could be forgiven, we’ve sung it as adults.  On a number of occasions.  Sometimes publicly (if karaoke counts as public, which I think it does).  When I penned those totally-for-awesome lyrics at the wisened age of 13, I meant every word.  When we sang them throughout high school, I meant them.  When we tortured our friends and family in adulthood by singing them, I meant them.  Even if the lyrics are lame, it’s a beautiful sentiment, right?

When we went off to different colleges, Karen and I grew apart considerably.  I am notoriously and admittedly bad at phone calls (weird for someone who has so many words to say, I know), and given that it was the early 2000s, phone calls were still the primary method of contact.  We didn’t completely lose touch, though.  We’d hang out over holidays and summers.  She came to visit me, and I went to visit her at school a few times.  When I signed the lease on my very-first-ever apartment, she drove to Georgetown, and we had a sleepover on my apartment floor to celebrate.  I didn’t even have electricity yet, not to mention furniture.  It that’s not a good friend, I don’t know what is.

While in college, I realized – holy crap! – I’m a full-blown, loud-and-obnoxious, super proud feminist.  Karen, to say the least, is not.  I tried convincing her once that although she didn’t realize it (much as I had not realized it myself), she actually really is a feminist.  She told me adamantly that no, she absolutely is not a feminist.  It was tough for me to wrap my head around.  Karen is one of the smartest, strongest, strongest-minded, most dogged people I know.  And (much like me,) she’s incapable of not getting her way – of standing up and asserting her principles.  So, you know, she must be a feminist.  After many years and much reminding on her part, I finally came to terms with the fact that we simply don’t see eye to eye on this one.  Even though I really want her to agree with me, I have genuinely accepted that she doesn’t.  And I love her.  Not, “I love her anway.”  Not, “I love her in spite of this flaw of hers.”  Just, “I love her.”

Feminism is not at all the only to-the-core-value-set about which Karen and I disagree.  We disagree about parenting.  We disagree about marriage, relationships, and sexuality.  We disagree about religiosity.  (Side note:  I’d argue that we don’t, in actuality, disagree about our faith.  I’d argue that we believe in the same God.  I know after a number of loooong, really tortured conversations, though, that she disagrees with me about that.  Thus, we disagree about religiosity.)  For heaven’s sake, we disagree about whether or not Chelsea Handler is a comedic genius (She is, for the record.).

We disagree about lots of things, it turns out.  Things we didn’t know that we disagreed about when we came to be besties all those years ago.  Things that (surprisingly, when you think about it) didn’t impact the forming or living of our friendship in those first 10-or-so years.  We rolled along, blissfully ignorant of how very, fundamentally different our worldviews are. (Another side note:  I’d argue that the root of our differences in each and every area does, in fact, come down to our differences with regard to feminism, but that’s a post for another day.)

And here’s the thing:  Now, armed with the knowledge that – wowzers! – it’s almost like we come from different planets, I love Karen.  I wholeheartedly disagree with her ideas about gender roles and marriage, for example, and (not but) I love her and support her in her expression of those beliefs.  I hope that she experiences happiness and fulfillment in them.  Not like, “Oh, well, you know, if that‘s how she chooses to live, I hope it makes her happy.”  Like, “I genuinely and sincerely want her to be happy.”  Whether you believe it or not, there’s no judgment in that statement.  No, “Bless her heart; she’s blinded to all that she’s missing.  I sure hope she thinks she’s happy.”  Truly, I wish her happiness and fulfillment.  Period.  No conditions or contingencies.  No fine print.  Just love and good will.  Plain and simple.

This may be suprising (especially for those of you who know me well), but I don’t feel the need to tell Karen that I disagree with her about any of these things or to rehash our arguments and rebuttals.   We’ve established our disparate perspectives.  Moving on.  Or, I suppose.  I wish that we could move on.  That’s where things sort of fall apart.

Over the past few years, Karen and I have seen each other a handful of times, usually at a girls’ dinner with another childhood friend.  During those dinners, we laugh, we catch up, we get right back into the comfortable swing of our old friendship.  It’s not that we don’t disagree on things or that the divergence of our paths doesn’t make itself apparent.  But even in light of those things, we genuinely enjoy each other’s company.  We realize that even though our lives have marched on in different directions and that we’re happy in each of our directions, we’ve missed one another.  We hope to get together again soon.

We leave those dinners and return to our respective lives.  I invite (or evite, techinically) Karen to some social gathering that I’m hosting.  Sometimes it’s one of my maniac children’s birthday parties, and sometimes it’s a grown-up affair.  Really, whatever event I’m hosting, I enthusiastically invite Karen.  To be honest, though, before I enthusiastically invite her, I torture myself over it.  Here’s a sneak-peek of the argument I have inside my head:

Don’t invite her.  She won’t come.  She doesn’t want to be a part of your actual life these days.  She’s made that much clear.  No, invite her.  What’s it hurt?  So she says no?  At least you tried.  You know you’d like to share your life with her – for her to be an actual part of itSo just invite her, and see what happens.  What will happen is that she’ll decline.  And then you’ll be all feelings-hurty even though you knew in the first place that she’d decline.  Don’t torture yourself like that.  Don’t invite her.  Yeah, well. What if she DID come?  I don’t want to risk missing the opportunity.  Well, I guess if you invite her, it puts the onus on her to decline and break your weakling little heart.  So, yeah, sure.  Invite her.  Dummy.  Ok, send.  Fingers crossed!

Every single time, Karen either never responds at all or clicks “no” on the evite.  And every single time, it stings like a mother-trucker.  Every single time, I tell myself, “Never again.  I’m not putting myself through this torture ever again.”  Every single time, I end up inviting her to the next thing.  Glutton for self-imposed punishment, I suppose.

Other than the once or twice yearly girls’ dinner, Karen and I have no contact with one another.  Well, unless you count Facebook.  Which I DO!  Being Facebook friends allows me to keep a bird’s eye view of Karen’s life.  To see pictures of her beautiful and quickly-growing boys.  To learn updates on when and where her family has gone for vacation.  Stuff like that.  Because I am an active Facebooker, I imagine Karen gets more than her fill of my constant mundane updates and feisty rants about this, that, or the other.  Any time I’d thumb past a Karen post, I’d fill a twinge of bitter among the sweet lie I was telling myself, the lie being, “Yeah.  We’re totally still connected.  Best friends forever!”

Then one day a few weeks ago, the taste turned full on bitter.  I was reading through my Facebook newsfeed while at a stop light (because OMG.  HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO OCCUPY MY MIND FOR 2 IDLE MINUTES?!!) when I came across a news story about a bunch of high school students who’d been caught cheating in their honors classes by posting photos of their final exams to a private Facebook page.  The story immediately reminded me of my own group of rag-tag smarty-pants friends when we were in high school.

It was Sophomore year, and we were all taking Pre-AP American History with Mr. Sofa (name changed to protect the innocent).  As is typically the case with Pre-AP courses, the class was pretty labor intensive and rigorous.  But, like I said, we were a bunch of smarty-pants, so we were totally cut out to master challenging material.  No probs.  And not only were we smart, we were savvy.  At some point, we realized that our quizzes were exactly the same as the quizzes from the year before.  Mr. Sofa hadn’t changed anything about the quizzes.  Obviously, we tracked down a Junior who had taken the course and saved all her quizzes.  We asked her for them, and she happily obliged, handing over all her notes, quizzes, and graded exams from the year prior.  Later we realized – holy crap! – the exams were also exactly the same.  We were in full-on cheat mode.

We selected a handful (like 10, a big handful) of peers, and let them in on our little secret.  We sat around memorizing quizzes and tests, each agreeing to on-purpose miss a few items here and there so we didn’t call attention to our little scheme.  Instead of a study group, we had a cheating group, and we were THRILLED about it.  Things rolled along smoothly for a surprisingly long time before Mr. Sofa caught on.  What had happened was that on one of the quizzes (which were short-answer, not multiple-choice), the beneficent Junior who had so generously given us all her goods had answered a question incorrectly, and Mr. Sofa had mistakenly marked the answer correct.  So, the members of our devious little gang promptly answered that question incorrect in the exact same way.  Bingo.  Caught wrong-answered, we were.

What I remember about being called in and called out by Mr. Sofa is one of my favorite memories from high school.  Odd, I know.  I would have expected to panic upon getting caught, but I did not.  Or rather, we did not – Karen and I.  While our peers were shaking in their Doc Martins and quietly admitting their guilt and accepting their punishment, Karen and I took a different route.  We stood up, we stepped forward, we clenched our fists and lifted our chins, and we blamed Mr. Sofa.  That’s right.  We blamed the teacher.  We didn’t discuss this first.  We just acted, right in step with one another, totally in sync.

“Yes.  We cheated,” said Karen, “But you already knew that.  And we’ll accept our punishment.  But…”  This is where I chimed in, “But we want to be clear about who’s at fault here.  It’s not us.  It’s you.”  Mr. Sofa’s demeanor shifted from appalled and angry to simply puzzled.  He sat back onto the edge of his desk and remained quiet, and so Karen continued.  “You kept the quizzes and exams exactly the same as last year’s.  We’re smart kids.  Did you think we wouldn’t figure that out?” she asked.  “Being that we’re smart kids, we did exactly what any smart kids would do,” I said, “We used the information to our greatest benefit.  Don’t doubt that we’re all – every single one of us – plenty smart enough to learn and master this material the old fashioned way.  And we’re also smart enough to cut corners if given the chance.  So that’s what we did.”  To really drive the point home, Karen added, “If you’re too lazy to change your material between years, you can’t act all shocked and offended when we’re lazy enough to take advantage of that.”

Oddly, I can’t remember exactly how he responded or what our punishment was.  I think maybe there wasn’t a punishment.  I think maybe we completely befuddled him, and he just wanted to be done with us.  Or maybe there was some big and awful punishment that I’ve since blocked from my memory.  Who knows?

So when I saw the news story about the cheating high schoolers, I planned to post it to Facebook and tag Karen and the others who were in our cheating group.  When I went to tag Karen, her name didn’t pop up.  So I tried again.  “Weird,” I thought.  Karen has been known to periodically delete her Facebook page, as she gets fed up with social media and junk.  I assumed that’s what had happened.  So I exited out of my post and went to the Facebook search bar.  I typed her name.  There she was, with a bunch of mutual friends, including many  members of my own family.  “Add Friend,” it said next to her tiny little profile picture.  Add friend?  Add friend?!

That meant that she had unfriended (isn’t is bizarre that “unfriended” is now somehow a meaningful word in the English language?) me.  She had purposefully and knowingly unfriended me, but she had remained friends with my family members.  My feelers were totally hurted.  And as a result, I burst into tears where I sat in the HEB parking lot.

As I tried to sort through those hurt feelers, it occurred to me that more than being saddened or offended by the unfriending itself, I was saddened and offended by the fact that she didn’t say goodbye.  All those years of friendship, all those memories, and – poof! – just like that, unfriended without a goodbye.  I couldn’t believe she could just close the door on our friendship so easily.

I wish I could say that I had been like, “Pffff.  Screw her, then.  Ain’t no skin off my back.  Tra la la!”  But I wasn’t.  I was… devastated.  I just paused lengthily before typing the word “devastated.”  It seems so dramatic.  But the truth is that I was devestated.  In some ways, I still am devastated.  As I’ve said repeatedly here, despite our differences and our growing apart, I love Karen.  Always will.  What she thinks about me matters to me, and if you know me at all, you know I care very little about what a very, very few people think about me.  I care a whole lot, though, about what Karen thinks.  Or rather, not so much what she thinks about me, but how she feels toward me.  An unannounced unfriending (and thus a cutting of all ties of our remaining friendship) indicates to me that, at best, she feels nothing or is totally indifferent toward me, and at worst, that she feels yuckiness toward me.  BUM-MER.

So, you know, there was obviously more crying – the hiccupy, snotty kind – along with a frantic sense of, “How do I handle this.  What do I DO?!”  When I would later say this part to Shawn, he interrupted, asking, “Why do you need to do anything?  She unfriended you.  What is there to do?  Seems like she made herself clear.”  That line of thinking had occurred to me, for sure, but me not doing anything is about as likely and sensical as hippos ballet dancing through my living room.

After a bit, I determined that I would email Karen.  I would tell her I realized she had unfriended me.  And then I would say some other things.  I hadn’t yet figured out those other things, but I knew they’d come.  I didn’t want to over think it.  Here’s what I said to her in that email:

“Subject:  Closure?

So I went to tag you and some other people in a FB post about some silly high school memory, and I realized you had unfriended me.  I can’t say that I’m particularly surprised. I mean, even not talking in a really long time, I know you and know you’re not shy about cleaning out your literal and figurative friend list. Plus, we haven’t talked in forever. So, like I said, I’m not surprised.

What I am surprised by is how quickly and sharply my stomach dropped. Even though we’ve very clearly grown far, far apart, and even though I can accept that, I still consider you a part of my life. Of my history and so many great memories. I guess a sudden (to me anyway), unannounced (to me anyway) defriending feels like a blow to that.

Each time I’ve invited you to various gatherings, I’ve assumed you’d decline, and still, each time, it stung more than a little. I suppose I held FB as my last, tenuous link to you, and it seems I valued that more than even I understood.  Anyway, all that is to say that I’m bummed that you’ve decided to sever that last link. I respect and accept your decision to do so, but, man, it saddens me.

FB or not, real life or not, whether the feeling is mutual or not, I’ll always love you, [Karen], and I’ll always cherish the friendship that we had. Because you were such an important person to me, I couldn’t shrug this off without at least telling you that and – I guess – saying goodbye.

I truly wish you the best in life, and I’ll always remember you fondly (even if bittersweetly).

Love you always,
Tara Lynn”

When I sent that email, I truly expected that Karen wouldn’t respond.  I mean, she might have blocked my email address, although that seemed a little over-the-top.  Because I know her, I know that when Karen decides something, she does not second-guess herself.  Much like me, when she goes, she goes with gusto.  So I didn’t expect a response.  As far as I was concerned, that email was the period after “The End” after the story of our friendship.  Period.

After hitting send, I attempted to mop my face up and proceed on into HEB and do some grocery shopping like a nice, normal human being.  What I did instead was (poorly) mop my face up and proceed on into HEB and did some grocery shopping while intermittently choking on sobs and involuntarily snorting and sniffling like an insane maniac.  I didn’t like the attention I was calling to myself, but I simply could not maintain composure.  While standing in the check out line and continuing to cry, I decided I should come up with a plan should someone be brave/crazy enough to inquire as to my well being.

“Excuse me?  Ma’am?  Is everything… alright?  Are you… okay?” I imagined someone saying tentatively.  After considering many, many options, I decided that I would respond, “I just lost someone very important to me,” because it’s true, and it conveys the weightiness of the loss.  “Oh, dear,” the kindly stranger would reply, “I’m so sorry.  My sympathies.”  I would then close my eyes – one fat tear rolling down my cheek and holding tightly to my jawline – and nod slowly to communicate my appreciation for his/her concern.

Back to reality:  No one spoke to the snorting, sobbing banshee woman.  People averted eye contact and cleared the aisle to let me pass.  When I got back to my car and loaded all the groceries in, I looked at myself in the rearview mirror.  Oof.  Not pretty.  When I got to Lu’s school to pick her up, she said, “What happened to your face, Mommy?  Did somebody punched you, or did you just sleep really hard?”  She didn’t bat an eye when I said, “Both.”

When he got home later that night, I told Shawn about it all, and his response can be summarized as, “I’m sorry, love.  I know she’s important to you.  That sucks, and because I never met Karen to know otherwise, and because she has hurt you, I think she sucks, too.”  Actually, that’s not really a summary of his response.  That is his whole response.  He’s got the gift of brevity, something I do not possess.  My discussion of his response is longer than his response itself.  Sheesh…  Anyway, it was exactly what I needed.

I also text my mom and told her about it that night.  Her response can be summarized as, “WHAAAAT?!?!  Ughhhh!  I cannot believe her!  That’s awful.  I’m so sorry!  How could she?!?!  What kind of friend…?!  You don’t need her anyway.  You have SO MANY people who love you!  I love you, and you’re wonderful and amazing and beautiful and compassionate and incredible and giving and generous and awesome!”  That IS a summary, as Mom’s actual response was more lengthy, but you get the idea.  Very Mom-like and supportive.  It was exactly what I needed, as well.

I cried and moped some more, and with each passing hour, I came more and more to terms with the end of my friendship with Karen.  I still hated it, but seeing as I couldn’t do anything about it, I decided I’d have to get used to it.  Then, the following day, I received an email from Karen.  It read:

“I’m sorry but you have misunderstood. I am not trying to delete you as a friend. I’m sorry for not responding to Evites. Often we are unable to attend your events but honestly when I am available I don’t really want to go.  Not sure if this makes sense or is right but I would much rather visit with just you than you and people I don’t know. We don’t ever get out,especially not with out children.

Anyway, Facebook… Most of the time I want to quit it altogether and because people say things and push ideas on people that they often wouldn’t face to face with a person, I unfollow several people. So honestly, you and I are very different and I don’t always enjoy your posts so I unfollowed you for awhile but I have no self control and I would check your page.

Sorry if this looks like I don’t want to be your friend. Not true. When we have had girls dinner I enjoy our time. I enjoy the memories we have. I would enjoy having more girl dinners. Not sure how else to explain it. Sorry for the confusion. I hope you are doing well. Maybe we can get together soon.”

The lawyery (read: pain in the ass) part of me has a retort and a rebuttal and a smart-ass comeback for every single word of Karen’s email.  I’m annoyed that she starts with “I’m sorry but…”  In my work – particularly with couples – I teach folks that any apology starting with “I’m sorry but…” isn’t an apology; it’s an excuse or an accusation veiled as apology.  An apology is simply, “I’m sorry.”  Or maybe “I’m sorry for [whatever I did that I should be and am in fact sorry for].”  I’m irritated that she didn’t even address the email to me or sign off as herself.  I’m sorry, but (heh) if the content of an email or the recipient of an email is important to me, I take the time to address the person specifically and sign my name at the bottom.  But whatevs.  And so many other things that irk me about the content of Karen’s response.

So, on the first and second and twelfth read, Karen’s email did nothing more than piss me off.  Except…  And this is a biggie.  Except that she responded at all.  Like I said, I hadn’t expected her to do so, so, you know, doesn’t it mean something that she responded at all?  And plus.  And plus, she said she doesn’t not want to be my friend.  I mean, she didn’t say that she does want to be my friend, but she doesn’t not want to.  Eh, eh?  And then.  And then, she said that maybe we can get together soon.  Right?  Right?

I know, I’m a mess.  From an intelligent, rational perspective, Karen’s response says – basically – 1. I don’t want to hang out with you if it involves anyone who is currently important in your life.  2. I’m maybe making a judgey statement about you sometimes having social events that don’t revolve around your children?  3. I don’t like anything you post on Facebook, so I unfollowed you.  4. I keep going back to your Facebook page anyway, and what I find there is so repulsive to me that I feel the need to cut off all Facebook contact altogether.  5. Despite all that stuff I just said that sounds very much like I don’t want to be your friend, it’s not true that I don’t want to be your friend.  6. I don’t hate you when we very, very rarely get together for dinner with no one from your current life, and perhaps we could do that again sometime in the not specific, unnamed future.

So, on the one hand, Karen’s response says – essentially – the following:  “Given that I have no desire or intention to be a part of your current life and have in fact severed all ties to such, I actually don’t want to be your friend, after all” (at least not based on any definition of friendship that seems remotely acceptable).  BUT… On the other hand (as Shawn surprisingly pointed out to me), her response says – essentially – the following:  “Look, I can’t do a full, full-on friendship with you like we previously had.  There’s just too much of a divide between where we each stand now.  Still, I want to remain in some sort of very casual, occasional contact to reminisce about the good ol’ days with people from the good ol’ days.  Cool?”

When Shawn pointed that possibility out to me, I was, all, “Right!  Exactly!  I mean, what IS that mess?!  It’s not any sort of friendship at all.  How insulting!”  But Shawn interrupted my tirade (ok, it was more of a titty-baby tantrum) to say, “No, Tara Lynn.  Slow down.  Is it possible that that particular type of relationship could represent a friendship?  Not the one you had in the past.  Because so much has changed.  But some kind of friendship, anyway? Something that doesn’t include entirely closing that door or cutting those ties?  Something in the middle between BESTFRIENDS! and not-friends-at-all-with-no-contact-whatsoever?  Something that’s not all or none?  If Karen is, in fact, so important to you – and I think that she is – wouldn’t the kind of relationship she’s proposing be better than no relationship at all?”

Ugh.  He had a point.  I hate-and-love when he does that.  Slows my roll and reorients me.  It’s infuriating-and-righting.  He also said some junk about how me saying a bunch of stuff to her “just to be straight up with her” is really just about me needing to let my ego front and center.  What use is being right in this situation?  Blah blah blah.   Also, full disclosure, this very post is the stand-in for saying lots of things to Karen herself.  So, um, say hi to my ego, y’all!

Likely due to the impressive amount of stubborn in me, I didn’t submit to Shawn’s right-ness right away.  I had to let it stew a few days, and in the mean time, I harassed other friends for their take on my situation.  Let me just say, my friends are lovely, patient, giving people, and I love them.  They listened to me, talked through various interpretations of Karen’s stance, and considered various courses of action that I might take in response.  In the end, Shawn-and-Friends agreed on a number of things.  First, that I am a lovable person with whom anyone in their right mind would want to be friends (did I mention how wonderful my people are?!), and second, that they are sorry that I’m feelings-hurty and that they wished I was not in such a feelings-hurty situation.  The other thing that Shawn-and-Friends ultimately agreed on was how I  might respond to Karen’s “Let’s be friends-ish, sorta-kinda-sometimes” suggestion.  Specifically, they agreed that a sort-kinda-sometimes friendship-ish with someone I love dearly and don’t actually want to lose altogether is far more ideal than a never-not-ever friendship-at-all.

My good friend whose name starts with a “Me” and ends with a “gan” said at the end of our very long conversation about Karen, “Look, is it shitty that she feels that way?  That she only wants you around in a nostalgic, frozen-in-time sort of way?  That she doesn’t want to know and love you-right-now-and-in-the-future?  Yes, I think it’s shitty.  Super shitty.  But at least she’s up front about it.  She can’t or won’t be a part of your life – which is a completely lovely life – right now.  And she’s said so.  She’s clear about her boundaries.  If only a small percentage of people could do that – could know and be clear about their boundaries – our lives and jobs would be so much easier.  So, you know, go to dinner with her once a year.  Reminisce.  Then come hang out with the people who are in your life right now and who are happy to be there.”  See?  Such lovely humans, my friends are.

After all the wrestling with myself and torturing my friends and loved ones, I’ve finally decided what to do about Karen.  Here’s the email I just now sent her:


Sounds good.  Have a happy new year.


I can hardly believe it myself, but I’m totally at peace with my response, and I plan to do just as my friend “Me” followed by “gan” suggested.  Should the occasion arise, I will go to dinner with Karen, I will reminisce and have a genuinely lovely time, and then I will come home to my wonderfully full cache of folks who love me and accept me and support me yesterday-today-tomorrow.

I mentioned somewhere waaaaaay back near the beginning of this post that I had a best friend once, back when the title “best friend” was developmentally appropriate, and we remained “best friends” or “best friends-ish” for an impressively long time.  I’m glad for that.  And, still, we haven’t been anything close to best friends for quite a very long time.  We’re no longer anything close to best friends, nor will we ever be again.  And while it’s certainly sad, I’m truly okay with that, too.

Published in: on December 29, 2014 at 7:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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For Christ’s Sake, It’s Xmas

So, check this out… I can genuinely, sincerely say that I respect other people’s religious or spiritual beliefs, regardless of what those beliefs are.  If a person does not identify as Christian and does not celebrate Xmas with a “Jesus is the reason for the season” attitude, I’m genuinely cool with that.  What I’m not cool with is folks (obnoxiously, loudly) ranting about “the war on Christmas” or – more broadly – “the war on Christians.”

Speaking of “Xmas,” I kindly-yet-firmly request that opponents of the abbreviation calm the frick down.  For realsies.  I can see it and hear it now – the outrage, the shaking of fists and gnashing of teeth.  “She’s taking Christ out of Christmas!  Heathen, pagan, satanist, she be!  Why does she hate tiny baby Jesus?!  Dirty liberal, she is!  Feminist beast!  It’s people like her who are on the front lines of the War on Christmas!  ‘Murica!”


I urge you to calm down not just because I think it’s generally in everyone’s best interest, but also because – um – you’re wrong.  You’re wrong about “Xmas” representing a de-Christ-ifying of Christmas.  You.are.wrong.  Not wrong like, “Oh, I disagree with your beliefs about Jesus being the reason for season.”  Wrong like, “Your conclusion is incorrect because you are ignorant of actual, verifiable facts.”  Wrong like, “Wow.  You feel really strongly about this.  You’re gonna be super embarrassed when you find out how wrong you are.”

Allow me to share aforementioned actual, verifiable facts:

“Xmas” is unequivocally NOT “taking Christ out of Christmas.”  The “X” in “Xmas” refers to the greek letter “chi” (which in greek, looks like an X).  The greek work for “Christ,” , begins with “X,” and as such, greek folks began using “X” to refer to Christ thousands of years ago.  Essentially, the use of “X” to mean “Christ” has been around basically as long as Christ himself.

During the 16th century, people started using “Xmas” to refer to Christmas with full knowledge that the “X” was one-and-the-same with “Christ.”  This is not new, people.  It’s not the Obama’s fault, or the liberal media’s  fault, or the Muslims’ fault, or the feminists’ fault, or – even – the devil’s fault.  In fact, considering that “Xmas” IS NOT a denigration of Christ, Christmas, or Christianity or in any way negative whatsoever, it’s no one’s “fault” at all.

Let’s review what this fantastical, actually and verifiably true information means:

1.  “Xmas” is, in actuality, keeping Christ right there, smack dab at the start of Christmas.

2. A person writing “Xmas” is absolutely-not, not-even-a-little-bit waging a war on Christmas, Christians, tiny baby Jesus, Notorious G.O.D., America (??), or (especially) you-and-your-faith personally.  If anything, they’re just being more time-efficient.  Write “Christmas” about a billion times.  Then write “Xmas.”  I guarantee that you’ll be like, “Whoa.  ‘Xmas’ is so much shorter and quicker!  I shall now write ‘Xmas!'”

3.  The fact that the contention over “Xmas” exists at all simply demonstrates that over the last few hundred years, people have gotten frighteningly more ignorant, indignant, and self-righteous.  The great thing about ignorance, though, is that once we’ve been presented with actual and verifiable information, we don’t have to continue on, ignorant as ever.  Instead, we can be all like, “Well!  Is my face red or what?!  I did not know that information.  My bad.  Now that I do, though, I will stop acting ignorantly.  Because I am no longer ignorant of the actual and verifiable information.  Hooray!”

“But wait!” you might be thinking.  “I WILL NOT write Xmas because Christ is so importantly important to my observance of the holiday that I MUST write his name in full, lest I forget the reason for the season!”  First of all, please refer again to point 1. above, and secondly, if Christ is so importantly important to you, it’s poppycock to think that you’d just {POOF!} forget all about him the moment you stopped writing out his full name.  Trust me; I regularly write “Bey” instead of “Beyonce,” and never once have I forgotten the immensity of her immense awesomeness.

“But wait!” you might be thinking.  “I WILL NOT write Xmas because I insist on reminding others – particularly heathen, pagan nonbelievers – that Jesus is the reason for season.  How else will they know?!”  Um, they know.  Everyone knows.  Hark! The herald angel.  Virgin Mary.  Journey to Bethlehem.  Labor and delivery in a manger overseen by a bunch of livestock and three complete strangers who brought presents.  Son of God, light of world, Lord and Savior.  They know.  No need to remind them.

“But wait!” you might be thinking.  “I WILL NOT write Xmas because I want to take the opportunity to witness to and (fingers crossed!) convert heathen, pagan nonbelievers to Christianity.”  Not gonna happen.  You writing “Christmas” instead of “Xmas” is not going to convert anyone.  That’s just silly.

“But wait!” you might be thinking.  “I WILL NOT write Xmas because what if someone is ignorant of the actual and verifiable facts about the origin and meaning of Xmas?  What if they think I’m taking Christ out of Christmas?  What if they think I don’t know the reason for the season?”  Well, if they’re anything like most people, they’ll (loudly and obnoxiously) rant about those things, and you (with actual, verifiable facts to reference) can take the opportunity to inform the rabble-rousers about the origin and meaning of Xmas.  Or you can ignore them.  Either way.

If I’ve accurately predicted all of your “But wait!” rebuttals (and even if I missed some), and you still don’t want to get on board with writing “Xmas,” that’s totally cool.  You can write or not write whatever you want, and it doesn’t impact me at all, not even a little bit.  Even though I disagree wholeheartedly with your opposition to writing Xmas, I can acknowledge and accept that your different-ideas-from-mine don’t matter in any real, meaningful way to me whatsoever.  I can proceed right along with my life.  Tra-la-la!

If next time you see “Xmas,” your blood still boils, and you feel the urge to (loudly and obnoxiously) rant and rabble-rouse about Christ-‘Murica-Baby Jesus and the reason for the season, consider this… Another person writing “Xmas” doesn’t impact you at all, not even a little bit.  It doesn’t matter in any real, meaningful way to you whatsoever. You can proceed with your Christ-tastic Christmas and the rest of your life.  Tra-la-la!

So, you know, Merry Xmas.


Published in: on December 12, 2014 at 4:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

Plan C? When Church & State Collide

In a tight contest, the Supreme Court ruled today that private corporations can refuse to cover certain forms of contraceptives on the grounds that the companies find the contraceptives to be “morally repugnant” according to the companies’ religious beliefs.  Check out a newsie-time rundown here.

So, particular contraceptives are against a company’s religious beliefs.  Wait, can companies even have religious beliefs?  I mean, they’re companies, not Sunday School goers who, like, eat and sleep and poop and stuff.  But whatever, I guess.  The specific companies-with-religious-beliefs in question are Hobby Lobby (but I looooooove all their crafty junk!), which also owns a Christian bookstore, and a Mennonite woodworking company.

The specific no-go contraceptives include Plan B, commonly referred to as “the morning after pill.”  According to the suit, the companies hold religious objections to abortions, and as such, (and I quote, because this is too ridiculous for me to make up) “according to the their religious beliefs” (emphasis added), the precluded contraceptive methods are abortive in nature.  Thus, by covering these methods of contraception in their health care benefits for employees, the company is effectively performing abortions.

So, okay.  Hold on.  I’m a reasonably intelligent adult (Have I told you lately how I have a PhD? Well, I do!), but I’m having a hard time wrapping my wittle bwain around this concept. So, a company (which apparently is capable of believing in things) says that based on their specific religious beliefs (as opposed to some OTHER company’s religious beliefs), these particular birth control methods are doomed to h-e-double hockey sticks.  I have so many objections to this.  I’ll get to them; don’t worry.

First, though, it’s only fair that I outline the rest of the ruling.  Private companies don’t  have to cover the four specific contraceptives outlined in the suit if the company holds a religious objection to them.  That doesn’t mean companies can say, “Sorry, Slutty McHoochieMama.  No baby-killing-pills for you.  You’ll just have to keep those thighs clenched until you’re good and ready to get barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen where you belong!  You’re welcome, and God bless you!!”  They can, however, say, “Sorry, Mizzzzz McHoochieMama.  We shan’t pay for these specific baby-killing-pills.  You can still get other baby-killing-pills (which, for some inexplicable reason, this company takes no religious offense to).  Oh, and we’ll pray for you and your wayward sexin’ ways!!”

No bigs, right?  I mean regular birth control pills are SUPER cheap, right?  Sometimes even FREE! Awww, but nah.  Run of the mill oral contraceptives are cheap or free when a woman has health insurance that covers them.  So, if companies were to get all uppity and decide ALL birth control pills are abominable baby-killing-machines and take moral offense to them, women would have to pay full sticker price for them.  Although I don’t know much a month’s supply (A whole month?!  What kind of floozy am I?!) of birth control is (because I have health insurance that makes them FREEEEEE!), I would venture a guess that – PRESTO! – proactive, informed decisions about sexual and reproductive health would be far less accessible and affordable to womankind.

But have no fear.  The ruling states that should a private company deny coverage of baby-killing-pills and a woman be unable to foot the bill herself, THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT WILL PAY FOR THEM!!  Never mind the cluster such-and-such that I envision the process of applying for the Obama to spot women their birth control.  We’re really gonna rubber stamp the government PAYING for things?  I just can’t believe that Americans are okay with this set up – particularly the subset of Americans who agree with this supreme court ruling.  I mean, that money’s gotta come from somewhere.

Along the same lines, I’m entirely flabbergasted by the remarkable (non)logic around issues such as this one from the ultraconservative religious right (which I can’t imagine includes that many people, but DAMN!, are they loud and obnoxiously effective at getting their way!).  My understanding (and full disclosure, I know basically nothing about politics) is that conservatives who often happen to be staunch-ish Christians ARE NOT fans of big government.   They, like, don’t want to government to pay for a bunch of junk because, ultimately, WE pay for it.  The taxpayers.  Paying for stuff for probably-maybe-not-taxpayers.  Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Except they’re okay with the government paying for baby-killing-pills?  I can’t even.

In the larger women’s health debate, there’s been lots of discussion about whether insurance or the government (or anyone, for that matter) should pay for any form of birth control.  We can’t have women making autonomous decisions about their bodies or their futures, after all.  If women knew what was good for them, they’d keep it in their pants anyway.  The problem with such an argument is that if we restrict women and girls’ (that’s right, I said it) access to safe, affordable, effective birth control (especially among lower SES, uneducated populations), we shouldn’t be surprised if we end up with a bunch of babies that otherwise wouldn’t exist.  Who does the religious right think is going to pay for those tiny-angels-from-God?  They are. Them there holier-than-thou taxpayers.

So we can either pay a smidgen on the front end (the vagina-end, to be clear) in the form of contraception, or pay a shadoobie-ton in lifetime costs of caring for slews of love-children on the back end.  Apparently, we’ve chosen the back end.

But wait.  The real problem, really, is all the sinful, slutty sex women are constantly having, right?  If only we could get a grip on our libidos, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.  Way to go, hussies.  If we choose to make the sexy time, I suppose we choose babies.  So many babies.  That’s just what this planet needs.  More people.

I know what you’re thinking.  There are literally tons of contraceptive options available to us hoes – er, women – if we insist on slutting it up.  There are condoms.  Who doesn’t love condoms?!  I know guys do.  Then there’s the pull-out method (a personal favorite of mine). That one pretty much always works.  Let’s not forget doing it the butt.  No babies that way!!  And there’s dry humping.  Because nothing says “I love you” like a pubic mound rubbed raw by blue jeans!  So many options, ladies.  If all else fails, I’m sure our partners will be so glad we ditched icky old birth control pills for good old abstinence!

But let’s get serious, folks.  My most basic objection to the supreme court ruling is that it limits women’s autonomy in their sexual and reproductive decision-making and takes the full and unrestricted choice for how, when, and whether women reproduce out of their own hands and places it firmly in… their boss’s.  That’d be a fun staff meeting.  “Listen up, folks.  Charlene filled out a request to have safe, protected sex with that guy she met at the dog park last month.  I don’t know, I’m thinking that offends this company’s righteous religious belief that dog park dudes are dirty hippies, so if a woman is going to do sex with one, she should at least sanctify it by having his baby and converting him to the Holy Church of We’re Better Than You.  Board of Directors, let’s take a vote.  All in favor of Charlene’s request for baby-killing-pills, say, ‘Ay, papi.’ All opposed, say, ‘Boo, you whore.’  That settles it.  Charlene, no birth control for you.  You can boink him if you want.  But you’ll suffer eternal damnation – your choice.  Okay!  Moving on.  The quarterly report is due…”

My second objection to the ruling is OMG… SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE.  A most basic tenet of this grand country is that government is for government and church is for church.  Period.  The ruling completely muddles the two and opens the door for companies positing religious objections to all sorts of things.  It may not stop at contraceptives.  A company could oppose and deny vaccines, mental health care (oh no, they betta not!), or any specific medical intervention it so chooses. A number of Christian/neo-Christian sects are morally opposed to blood transfusion.  Could individual private companies prohibit that, too?  I don’t see why not. From where I’m sitting, the current ruling sure looks a lot like legal precedent to me. Good heavens, the slippery slope is frightening.

The ruling also begs the question about which religion, specifically, are we talking.  It’s all well and good when Protestant Christians wanna run the show, but what happens when a Muslim-run company wants to start dropping the Islamic hammer.  I have a feeling the religious right might have reservations about that.  So now the courts are going to be put in the precarious position of determining which religious beliefs are legitimate in the eyes of the law.  Call me dim-witted, but isn’t that precisely the kind of religion-driven shenanigans our forefathers fled the motherland to escape?

As part of American citizens’ constitutional rights, employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees or prospective employees on the basis of the employee’s religious affiliation.  Based on this ruling, though, one could argue that private employers now have the green light to discriminate against employees on the basis of the company’s religious affiliation by limiting employees’ access to medically-vetted health care options.  Further, it could be argued that the company would be discriminating against the employee for NOT sharing the same religious beliefs as the company, which is essentially the same thing as directly discriminating against the employee based on the employee’s religious affiliation.  I understand that my use of “discrimination” here is fairly generous, but you get my point.  The company would be, like, saying “Yo.  Baby-killing-pills are against our religious beliefs even if they’re not against yours.  Too bad, so sad!  My religion wins!  No baby-killing for you on my dime!”

Like I said, I think it’s a slippery slope, and I don’t like it.  Finally, call me an angry feminist, but I’m pret-ty sure that if the ruling limited old, fat white guys’ access to viagra (and thus humping shockingly younger women for pay for up to four hours at a time), we’d be hearing a lot more uproar.  From dudes.  Old, fat white ones who can’t get laid without viagra.  And a substantial amount of cash.  Those guys are the ones with the power.  And the viagra.

A Tisket, A Tasket. Eggs from My Basket.

Among my many, varied life experiences, I’ve had the pleasure of donating my eggs. You know, eggs, as in “ova,” an is “from the ovaries.”  Once they leave the comfort of my ovaries, the eggies temporarily reside in a petri dish in a lab somewhere, being fertilized by top-of-the-line spermies.  The now-fertilized eggies hang out for a while, and then the viable ones are separated from the non-viable ones.  Of the viable eggies, a handful are selected and implanted in the waiting uterus of a confidential mommy-to-be.  The remainder of the viable eggies can be frozen by the recipient for later use, donated to another confidential mommy-to-be, or destroyed – all at the recipient’s choosing.  Fingers crossed, at least one (but possibly more) of the implanted eggies take up residence in the mommy-to-be’s womb.  Approximately 9 months later, voila!  Time for a birthday party!

So far, I’ve donated three times, and I’m slated for a fourth donation within the next few months.  The entire process is entirely confidential and mediated by an independent agency, so I never know any information about the donors.  I do, however, know that my donations have resulted in successful pregnancies (and thus real-and-actual new human life!), and if that’s not the super-coolest thing ever, I don’t know what is.  If it hasn’t happened already, right about now is probably the time that your mind is flooded with questions about the process, about a person’s decision-making process in becoming a donor, about the recipient’s decision-making process in deciding to use and choosing a donor, and (don’t lie) about the money.  Although referred to as “egg donation,” donors are compensated for their time and trouble (of which there is plenty) throughout the process.  To be clear, like the commitments required of the donor, the compensation is considerable, but it’s by no means easy money.  Not at all, in fact.

The first question that most curious folks ask is, “Isn’t it, like, really bizarre to know that there could be who-knows-how-many children out there from your eggs? That you could run into them on the street?” Sure. I guess so. But it’s bizarre in the most amazing sense. I mean, that medical science can achieve such a feat is both bizarre and amazing.  And wonderful and joyous.

People ask, “But don’t you wonder about those kids? How they’re doing? I mean they’re your kids.” My answer is one that I suppose only the type of person who would donate her eggs can understand.

Sure, I wonder. And I hope those kids are happy and healthy and beautiful and smart and inspired. But they’re NOT my kids. My kids clamber and clang upstairs looooong after they’re supposed to be asleep.  My kids smell precisely and intoxicatingly just like themselves when I nuzzle kisses into their necks.  My kids know me inside and out – flaws and all – without even knowing that they know me that way, and they love me with a force and constancy rivaled only by the way I love them back.  My kids are mine.  And they are happy and healthy and beautiful and smart and inspired.


The children born from my donated eggies are not mine.  They belong to their parents.  Their parents are the people who wanted desperately to have them, who scoured the profiles of endless donors until they found the most perfect one, and who made a commitment to love them and raise them regardless of DNA or traditional definitions of “family.”  I’m just a kindly lady who’s fortunate to be sufficiently physically and psychologically sturdy and to have a surplus of healthy eggies.  I’m just a stranger who’s decided to share the immeasurable blessing of the “my” of having children with someone else.

There are many more questions that people ask.  So much so that I’m used to people asking about the process involved during the time leading up to and throughout donation, but I get far fewer questions about the potential future implications of donating, specifically the implications for the my own physical and psychological well-being in the short- and long-term.

The only person who’s ever asked long-term what-ifs for me (as opposed to for the children conceived or for humankind in general) is my future mother-in-law.  Coming from her, “Will you still be able to have more of your own children down the road…you know, if you decided that you wanted more children?” seemed like a completely reasonable question that’s relevant to her as the hypothetical grandmother of any hypothetical children I might someday decide to have.  It also seemed completely reasonable that she was not entirely satisfied with my shrugging-off response of, “Probably so.  I don’t know.  I mean, I don’t think doctors even really know that.  Besides, my eggs are strictly for charitable purposes at this point.”

As it turns out, I’m not the only egg donor who’s not being asked questions about my own well-being following donation.  The Today Show recently did a segment on health care professionals’ and advocates’ concerns about the dearth of information regarding the short- and long-term health and psychological consequences of egg donation for donors themselves.  Check out the story here.

It got me thinking.  I suppose it might be beneficial to know how egg donation might impact me 5, 10, 35 years down the road.  I’m not concerned about it enough to not donate again, but at the very least, I’m curious.  Because the data doesn’t currently exist, it’s not likely that such information will be available to me while I’m still within the donor age-range.  But that doesn’t mean that such data-gathering is irrelevant to me.  In fact, I could be the data.  I could provide the information that allows researchers to draw conclusions about the short- and long-term effects of egg donation on donors.  I could be the data that helps future prospective donors decide (or decide not, perhaps) to take the donation plunge.

My gut tells me that the answer to the question, “What bad things does egg donation do to donors in the immediate and down the road?” is probably a resounding, “Nothing much, actually,” but it’s still an important question to ask.  An equally important – no, a more important –  question not asked in the Today Show piece is, “What good things does egg donation do to donors in the immediate and down the road?”  I can think of tons.

If researchers or the general public want to know the effects of donation on egg donors, they should ask us. My own experience as a donor has taught me that the process is certainly a harrowing one with numerous risks. But it’s also a SUPER rewarding one (and not simply because of the compensation – easy money it’s NOT, remember?). Somebody write a grant to fund a study, and contact donors. Considering the other things we’ve voluntarily signed up for, I imagine most donors would gladly participate in such a study. Poke us, prod us, ask us a bunch of weird, really personal questions. It wouldn’t be anything we aren’t used to.

Balls-to-the-Wall Bummed

Disappointment is a bummer.  It’s not just that it’s a “negative” or “difficult” emotion; it’s that it’s a super complex emotion.  Subsumed within disappointment is sadness, anger, confusion, frustration, embarrassment, hopelessness, and even more shades-of-gray yuckiness.  I’m currently feeling uber disappointed, and I don’t like it.  The precise “why” of my disappointment isn’t important.  This post isn’t about me and what happened to disappoint me.  Rather, this post is about the suck-butt experience of being disappointed.

Here’s all you need to know about why I’m disappointed.  I had been looking forward (and pretty much counting on) a particular to occurrence to… well… occur.  I had limited control over the occurrence occurring despite the fact that the occurrence occurring (or not) would directly and heavily impact me.   The occurrence didn’t occur, and now I’m totes disappointed.   And that’s pretty much how all disappointment happens.  We expect some something, and when the something doesn’t play out as we expected, BAM!  Disappointment.  Like a ton of bricks.

Within the dank depths of disappointment, I’m contending with all those yucky emotions I mentioned earlier.  I’m sad because I really wanted the occurrence to occur.  Like, I was preemptively soooo excited about the impending occurrence of the occurrence.  I had spent soooo much time daydreaming about how life (seriously, my whole life) would be different and better once the occurrence occurred.  So, now I’m sad.  I’m sad that the occurrence didn’t occur, and I’m also sad because now I’m faced with life-as-I-know-it (which I had decided was totally lame when I was all hopped up on hope and expectation for the occurrence to occur).

I’m angry because the only reason I considered the impending occurrence of the occurrence to be a done deal was because I had been directly told that it was a done deal.  I’m angry at the people who told me so, I’m angry that they didn’t follow through, and I’m angry that they didn’t apologize for – oopsie! – totally misleading me.  I’m also angry at myself for getting all wrapped up in other people’s promises and my own hope and excitement about the future.  On top of that, I’m angry at the liars-liars-pants-on-fire for putting me in the position of being angry at myself for believing them to be honest and upstanding human beings.

I’m confused because I don’t know why the misleaders would mislead me so.  I’m confused about why they didn’t inform me at the first sign of oh-no-this-isn’t-going-as-promised, instead of keeping me in limbo and running me through the wait-wait-and-wait-some-more ringer, and I’m confused about what to do next.  Because I had planned on the occurrence occurring, I have no back up plan.   Or rather, my back up plan is to carry on with life as usual. which now seems all lame and unacceptable.  I’m a bossy-pants go-getter, and the idea of being patient and content until the universe drops something awesome in my lap is foreign and confusing to me.  Which makes me sad.  And angry.

I’m frustrated because (as I mentioned), patience is not a virtue that I possess, and after spinning my wheels for what felt like 37 forevers, I made no headway and must either accept life-as-I-know-it or go back to the drawing board for a new plan.  I’m also frustrated because my style is to be upfront about my feelings toward others – good or bad.  So, I would like to have a little sit-down with the misleaders and tell them precisely how their behavior was inconsiderate and unacceptable.  Except I have no control over or access to the misleaders now that the occurrence won’t be occurring.  So I feel all jagged and pent-up angsty.

I’m embarrassed because I was so totally and completing counting on the occurrence occurring.  What a sucker I am.  Except that I’m not.  I know I wasn’t duped because I’m daft.  I was duped because I was blatantly misled.  But still, I feel embarrassed.  Because I was so sold on the guaranteed nature of the occurrence and so absolutely stoked about it, I shared it with a number of people.  I said things like, “So here’s the situation.  And they said it’s basically a done deal.  So now I’m just waiting for official word.”   Talk about a red face.  Thankfully, I know the people with whom I shared my exciting news will understand that the non-occurrence of the occurrence has nothing to do with me.  Still, embarrassed.  So embarrassed.  Which makes me sad.  And angry.  And frustrated.

I’m feeling hopeless that all the things I was looking forward to about the occurrence might be available elsewhere, that I’ll be stuck with lame-o life-as-I-know-it for eternity.  Thankfully, I know those feelings will fade fairly quickly – probably because of aforementioned bossy-pants go-getting.  Still, as it stands, I’m feeling hopeless, and it’s no fun.

My understanding of disappointment is that my own experience of it is pretty much par for the course for my fellow humankind.  The specifics of my disappointment-inducing situation may differ from others’, but the core pieces are pretty universal.  It may be that I’m fortunate in that my situation has a clear culprit.  Someone (or a couple of someones, actually) inarguably said and did things that caused me to be disappointed.  Those cases that are not so clear cut – where there’s no one to blame – likely lead to an even murkier, more tortuous brand of disappointment.

So what to do?  Count my blessings?  Sure.  I know objectively that life-as-I-know it is actually pretty rad.  But, see, I want it to be radder, and at this point in my disappointment-process, it feels invalidating to ignore the suckiness of the situation in favor of the rainbows and unicorns.  What’s the solution?  I don’t know.  And frankly, I don’t want a solution at this point.  Sooner-rather-than-later, I’ll go balls-to-the-wall into problem-solving mode.  But right now?  No thanks.  I’d rather wallow (albeit briefly) in this funk.  I find it hard to believe that we can ever “get over” any particular adversity without first fully and genuinely experiencing all the mucky yuckiness that goes with it.  Once I’ve done that, I’ll gladly (and hopefully effectively) get on with getting on.  I could be wrong, you guys, but I think I may be, like, part Buddhist.  🙂

Published in: on September 17, 2013 at 9:38 pm  Comments (1)  
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Life is Good

So, as we tippy-toe – or cartwheel, depending on your style – into the New Year, it seems to be in our nature and our cultural mindset to reflect and to aspire.  We reflect on our past: on events of the past year, on decisions we made, on (in an often disconcerting manner) who we’ve been.  And then we aspire.  We aspire to do better, to be better.  People make resolutions, and although we often resolve to make superficial improvements to ourselves (to lose weight, to obtain some fancy material possession, to get laid), some people resolve to make improvements on a deeper level.  To be better people, whatever particular form that may take.   And good for us.  My training in Counseling Psychology has embedded deep within me the belief that every individual is capable of continuous growth and betterment.  That although people inevitably make mistakes and encounter problems, they are generally capable of learning from their mistakes and solving their problems.  That’s not to say that it’s simple.  Life is always more muddy and complicated than we manage to make it appear on paper.  But everyone is capable of achieving positive change, and everyone should be empowered to do so.  There’s no better time, I guess, than the New Year.

I’ve been surprised (although I don’t really know why) by how many people I know who’ve expressed a general sense of “Good Riddance” with regard to the past year.  The common theme seems to be that the past year sucked balls, so the fresh start embodied by the New Year is more than welcomed.  I’m tempted to wonder what – ON EARTH – has being going on in all those people’s lives that they would be so ready to wash their hands of the past year.  But then, the specifics don’t really matter, and frankly, the gritty details of others’ lives aren’t any of my business.  What matters is that people seem to see the New Year as an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and aspire for something greater in their lives.  Amen, and more power to them.  Despite my surprise at the sheer number of metaphoric middle-fingers to the past year, I completely get it.  In soooo many ways, the past year was a total bummer for me, too.  Before the past year, I never knew that life could be so hard, that my heart could break so completely and repeatedly, that people (people I cared for and respected) could be so damn mean and so utterly spiteful, or that fierce-and-feisty-me could be so thoroughly terrified of life, of the world, and of the people in it.

Thankfully (seriously, THANK YOU), even as the terror of the past year swirled around me, threatening to smother me, I understood that what I was experiencing (although real and legitimate) wasn’t all she wrote.  There’s always more to life than what appears to be.  Even as I was thrashing around, I understood that life is good, the world is good, and most importantly, people are good.  Don’t get me wrong, I had more than a few moments when I was convinced that I might not come out on the other side.  But I was blessed to have some fabulous people to remind me of those key truths:  Life is good.  The world is good.  People are good.  And in reminding me, those amazing, wonderful people continuously showed me that at the end of all the ickiness, I would be okay.  Even more powerful, they showed me that even as a stood mired in the muck, I was, in fact, already okay.  Along with those three immutable (if oft overlooked) truths, my okay-ness had never – and would never  – change.

I’m not the only – or the first – person to learn the abiding goodness of the world or the enduring worth of keeping on keeping on.  John Mayer knows it, too, and he says so in his song, “The Heart of Life.”  My favorite verse of the song says, “You know, it’s nothing new.  Bad news never had good timing.  But then, the circle of your friends will defend the silver lining.”  I started the previous paragraph with a parenthetical thank you, and now seems an appropriate time to make what was implied explicit.  The circle of my friends who spent the past year defending my silver lining know who they are.  They neither require nor desire accolade or public recognition.  That doesn’t mean, though, that they don’t deserve just that.  Thank you to my unfailingly supportive family and to Sara, Wes, Maria, Shawnie, John, Megan, Emily, and Diane.  Thank you for getting me through the hands-down roughest year of my life and for never letting me forget that life is good, the world is good, and people (you people, specifically) are good.

Those readers who know me well (or hell, even those who’ve perused even one of my other posts) might be a bit taken aback to hear me make such rose-colored-glasses kind of statements regarding hard stuff.  I’m not typically a glass-half-full  kind of gal.  I find validation and empowerment in acknowledging life’s hard knocks where I see them.  But neither am I gloom-and-doom.  If you’ve paid close attention, my historical acknowledgement of what-sucks-when-it-sucks isn’t followed by pity parties or waving of little white flags.  Quite the contrary, in fact.  What usually follows is a snapping of the elastic of my grown-person drawers around my hips and a deep breath.  Then I get on with things.  It’s not that there’s no use in crying over spilled milk; rather, there’s no use in crying over spilled milk for long.  Sooner than later, you gotta clean up the damn mess and ensure that next time, the cup has a lid on it.

So, as I set forth into the New Year, I too bid good riddance to the past year and embark on new adventures.  Making New Year’s resolutions isn’t really my thing, but I damn well plan to make the most of this year and the ones to come.  The past year taught me that without good people defending your silver lining, life is a much harder row to hoe.  And really, that’s what life and the world is all about anyway.  People and our relationships with them.  Obviously, that includes those people closest to us, our defenders.  But it also includes people and the world in general.  As the New Year begins to unfold before me, I’m setting out to be a better person-with-whom-to-share-a-relationship, which (I imagine) is much easier said than done.  I imagine doing so will involve some heavy soul-searching (at which I’ve basically become a pro) and new understandings and actions of trust, empathy, gratitude, and forgiveness.  The journey will likely be a long one, much longer than this year, and I’m sure I’ll blunder along the way.  But I’ll also grow and evolve.  And that’s just plain nifty.  Also, I’m sure I’ll discover the meaning of life while I’m at it.  Don’t worry; I’ll keep you posted.

Tiger Stripes, My Stretch Mark Streaked @$$…

Okay, so the following picture has been plaguing my Facebook news feed like some sort of vile reoccurring blemish.  If you haven’t yet been assaulted with this nonsense, here it is…

While I sort of appreciate the chutzpah behind the message, most of what I feel when I see this ridiculous picture is, “Oh,  PUH-LEASE.”  At the precise moment that thought crosses my mind, my eyes begin to roll involuntarily, and my initial reaction of mild irritation morphs into something much more sinister.  That’s when the outrage sets in – at the idiot(s) who created this image and its asinine message in the first place, at the women who see this image and either pretend to feel empowered or are too vapid to know any better, and finally, at the women reposting the image on Facebook like wildfire, thus flooding my news feed and further irritating little ol’ me.  If this is not your first visit to my blog, you’ll not be surprised that I’m all fiery and judgmental about yet another thing most people wouldn’t bat a pretty little eyelash at.  If this is your first visit, well hey there!  Nice to meet you.  I’m Tara, and I’m 70%  high-and-mighty and 30% holier-than-thou.  It’s who I am.  It’s what I do.

So, anyway.  I’m outraged by the picture for a couple of reasons.  First of all, NOBODY looooooves her stretch marks.  Let’s be real; they’re hideous, and they deserve every ounce of hatred they receive.  The fact that our stretch marks exist because we managed to create, cultivate, carry, and coax forth a human life (with a little help, to be fair) does nothing to change their fundamental hideousness.  To pretend otherwise is just preposterous.  It’s that kind of non-logic that women occasionally (and foolishly, I might add) employ that gives men juuuuuust enough confirmatory evidence to continue accusing us of being simple, silly souls.  Come on, ladies, we’re better than that.  Do we love our babies?  Absolutely.  Would we endure stretch marks 10 times over if that were the only way to ensure us our babies in the first place?  Without hesitation.  Do we proudly display our disgusting stretch marks like shiny badges of honor for all the world to see?  Hell to the no.  We cover that mess up.  Because it’s disgusting.  And hideous.  And no one wants to see it.  Including us.

Before I launch headlong into my second point, please reacquaint yourself with the image above.  Study it carefully.  Anything stand out to you?  How about the overall smooth, taught appearance of the disembodied belly?  How about the lack of any trace of love handle or weird-and-squishy-fat-dimple?  How about the absence of the entirely offensive and utterly avoidable post-baby-lower-belly paunch?  That looks like the belly of a super model.  Are those stretch marks even real?  Or are they photopshopped in?  Wrap your brain around THAT.  My point is that the typical mother does not possess a belly like the one in the photo.  Are there women out there that do manage to “get their body back” after baby and rock that kind of belly?  Sure.  But they’re few and far between.  And they’re certainly not the every-mom.

Given my obnoxious insistence on spewing my totally Judgy McJudgerson rants all over the interwebs, I figured it was about time to put my money where my mouth is.  This time, instead of just yelling, “Liar, liar. Pants on fire!” at the top of my lungs, I’m going to yell, “Liar, liar!” and then prove it to you.  The typical mother – like moi, por ejemplo (that’s right I just threw French AND Spanish into my otherwise English post. I’m hardcore like that) – does not sport that kind of midsection.  Here’s a belly of a typical mom…

This is me, in all my two-kids-later glory.  No sucking in (which sadly, I actually lack the core strength to do even remotely effectively).  No standing up really super straight to compensate for my inability to suck it in.  Just the real deal, folks.  Notice the undeniably and more than slightly nauseating not-tautness of my belly region.  To paraphrase my original Black grandfather, Mr. Cosby, I’ve got more jiggle than a JELLO jiggler.  Very soft and cushy.  In a revolting kind of way.  If you look closely (and if you do, do so at your own risk), you can see weird, random, and absolutely vomitous dimples and ripples in my squishy, jiggly skin.  Check out the definition of my six-pack.  Nahhh, I’m just kidding.  My abs have been completely transformed into a pudgy yet surprisingly loose and flabby layer of winter-friendly blubber.  And then there’s the pooch.  That pooch is the reason that Mom Jeans exist.  The natural place for jeans to lay is now consumed by the pooch, causing an unsightly muffin-top when actual-hips-hitting pants are worn.  Apparently, Moms across the globe just threw up their hands and decided the only solution is to wear jeans so high that the pooch is entirely contained within the pants themselves.  I’m not saying Mom Jeans are okay (because they’re not).  I’m just saying I get it.

 If that didn’t drive my point home, this image certainly should.  This is me sitting.  Just regular sitting.  Not the awkwardly leaning back kind of sitting that we all engage in poolside in a pathetic and futile attempt to trick people into thinking we’re not total fatties.  Give it up, girls.  We’re not fooling anyone.  Again, you can observe the doughy, ripply, sickening nature of my post-kids belly.  Notice how the pooch now has a gag-inducing overhang to it.  If you’re a brave, brave soul (or a complete masochist), look really, really closely a couple of inches below my bra.  You’ll notice that there is a faint red line spanning the width of my body.  That’s the line left over from my three (count em, three) fat rolls that appear when I slouch or hunch forward.  Nice, right?

I feel like I can’t move forward without acknowledging that, yes, those are oversized sweatpants I’ve had since middle school that I’ve rolled down to give you the best view of my barf-ish belly.  Even better, those are absolutely terrible, baggy granny panties doing a little peep show there.  In fact – funny story – I bought those panties when I was HUUUUUGE pregnant with Austin.  Austin is almost 6 years old, and I’m clearly not currently ginormously pregnant. Yet, the granny panties remain.  If you wanna get really real up in this biznatch, take a minute to ogle my boobs.  And then commence with pitying me.  Feel free to send your condolences.  Feel freer to send monetary donations toward new, not-depressing boobs.

Neither of my pictures even REMOTELY resembles the initial image that is supposed to make me feel better about my mommy body.  I’m sorry, but after looking at that image, I feel markedly WORSE about myself.  I bet I’m not alone in that.  And here’s the kicker… As crappy as my body image is, I recognize that I’m not fat.  In fact, I’m not really typical in terms of body type/weight.  I’m a size 4.  The average American woman wears a size 14.  So if my size 4 post-baby belly looks like that disgusting mess up there, I’m guessing that most other moms aren’t dealing with much better.

If you’re a keen reader, you’ll have noticed that the original, infuriating image and the beginning of my rant involved stretch marks.  I didn’t point out stretch marks in my belly pics.  I didn’t forget.  I don’t have stretchmarks on my belly.  And still my midsection is no picnic.  Let me be clear.  I’m not stretch mark free.  I’m literally striped with stretchmarks.  To prove it, though, I’d have to take nakee shots of my butt and boobs.  And as much as I generally hate people, nobody deserves that kind of cruel and unusual punishment.

My point in all this was not simply to humiliate myself or obliterate the chances of any human being ever finding me remotely acceptable to lay eyes on ever again.  My point is that messages like the one communicated by the original image are not empowering.  They’re stupid and inaccurate, first of all.  But more importantly, they function to reinforce the entirely unreasonable and unhealthy tendency for women to take cues about how we should feel about our bodies (and by direct extension, our worth as human beings) from others.  From the media.  From society.  From dirtbag men (Simmer down, boys.  Not all of you are dirtbags.  Just most 😉 ).    If you look at your stretch marks (or your cellulite, or your scrawny yet inexplicably wiggly calves) and hate them, then that’s your perogative.  And it says nothing – and I mean NOTHING – about your worth or value as woman or a person.  Just between us, I’m still working on that last part myself…

Not a Stepford Mom

I’m a mother.  I know it’s totally cliche, but that is a huge part of my identity and my day-to-day doings.  Trust me, I’m not always thrilled about it, either.  I’m the kind of broad who doesn’t want to be defined by things.  Not by my profession. Or my taste in music (I swear I have no idea what kind of music I like.  Seriously.  Apparently Pandora has it figured out though.).  Or the color of Starburst I most prefer (Yellow. Duh.).  Or by motherhood.  I don’t want to be defined by aspects of my life so thoroughly that in planning my wedding, I absolutely shirked that whole “unity candle” business.  You know, the thing where the bride and groom’s parents each light a candle representing their children’s individual identities, and at some point in the ceremony, the bride and groom take their individual candles and light a single, bigger candle, representing their new, shared identity, after which they blow out their own individual candles.  They blow them out.  Their own identities.  Poof.  Just like that.  No more individuality.  Clearly, I was having none of that nonsense.  Sure, marriage would change me, but not completely.  Not if I had anything to say about it.  As silly as it may seem, my heels-dug-in stance on the unity candle is one of my proudest moments.  I will stubbornly stick to my guns on just about any topic.  Most of them don’t matter… at all.  The unity candle was different though.  It was important to me to keep my candle burning.  And I’m glad I did.

So instead of being defined, I prefer to define myself. That’s part of my heel-digging-in tendencies.  Who cares if something is tradition?  Not me.  Who cares if some stance is out of line with something I’m supposed to care about?  Not me.  Who cares if I’m being a total hypocrite in one way or another thirty-three?  Yep, you guessed it.  Not me.  All that convention-be-damned is me defining myself.  And as boastful as I feel about that, I’m also not retarded.  I understand that the defining that I do is much less than the defining that is done for me.  In many ways, my profession does define me.  It says I’m oriented toward the welfare of others and am a curious, critical thinker, for example.  The fact that my music tastes are neatly captured by “acousticy guitar with smooth male vocals – Kanye – old school soul – dark and twisted British chicks  – super dirty Rhianna (but not radio friendly Rhianna) – folksy punk lesbians – drop your panties John Legend” defines me.  I’m pretty sure it says that I may, in fact, be schizophrenic.  More than anything else, motherhood defines me.  It says sooooo much about me.  Like it or not, it’s an inextricable part of who I am.  You can’t grow a person, love and protect that person, and not be defined by that experience.

Most basically, motherhood defines that I’m not the center of my own world.  That’s huge, people.  I’m fairly self-centered and selfish.  And as soon as I realized that Austin was an adorable bundle of cells incubating inside my uterus, though, I ceased to be the most important person in my life.  Add Gracie to the mix, and I’m barely a blip on my own radar.  Most of my survival (Because let’s be real, that’s all I can manage.  Sorry self-care.  I ain’t got time for ya.) is directly related to my babies’ survival.

You know how when you fly, the flight attendant gives that whole spiel about parents putting their oxygen masks on first.  I remember being, like, 3 years old and sitting next to my dad on a flight to San Diego when I first heard that spiel.  I was APPALLED.  I’m sorry, did that lady in the ridiculous navy skirt suit just say that my dad should take care of himself before he takes care of me?!  I was certain I heard her wrong.  I was also concerned for my safety.  My dad is not the most reliable person on the planet Earth, and I felt it was very important that he pay keen attention to the “how to make sure your daughter doesn’t die in case of an emergency” speech.  It’s not like he had any parental intuition to fall back on.  I panicked, looking up wide-eyed at my dad.  He smiled stupidly down at me and pointed out the window to the runway.  “Oh great,” I thought, “He’s not listening.  He’s looking out the window like an idiot.  I’m doomed.”  Thankfully, the plane did not go down that day because I felt certain that I would have suffocated to death while my dad puffed mightily on his oxygen mask and stared over my ringlet-covered head out the window at all the pretty clouds.

I also remember a later flight with my dad – this time I was about 8 – when I heard the same spiel about the oxygen mask.  This time, I understood.  The adults have to hook themselves up with a hit of oxygen so that they can ensure that the children get the oxygen they need to not die.  My self-care – hell, my life – consists basically of a few oxygen mask moments.  I eat, but I don’t worry about what or how much.  If I’m sick, I’ll go to the doctor and get meds, but only because without my health, I’m pretty useless at making sure my kids are taken care of.  If I have had a hard day at work and need to unwind, I’ll  have a plastic kiddie cup of cheap wine with my leftover-pickins-from-the-kids’-plates dinner.  But only because that cheap wine might keep me from ruining the whole “kids not dying” thing by my own hand.  On that flight when I suddenly understood the oxygen mask concept, I still wasn’t sure if my dad could be trusted to ensure my not-dying, so I made certain that I paid extra careful attention to ensure that I could apply the mask and make my way toward the nearest exit efficiently.  If there’s one thing a less-than-reliable parent can teach you, it’s that you better be fully capable of locating your own flotation device if necessary.  Oh, and how to order a pizza for yourself at 10:00 in the morning.

So, okay, I’m a mother, and that defines me.  It’s cliche because it’s true.  And I know there are plenty of confessional books and blogs out there written by moms who are willing to tell it like it is, so I know I’m not about to stumble upon something revolutionary here.  But here goes… I’m not perfect.  As a mother.  And you know what?  I don’t feel bad about that.  At all.  What will follow is a list (like a frickin’ never-ending scroll) of imperfect mothering.  To be clear, I’m not apologizing.  I’m shouting those imperfections from the rooftop.  I’m proud to be an imperfect mom.  Seriously.

I feed my kids crap.  Not actual crap.  What kind of mother do you think I am?  I feed them the kind of crap that all those hippy-dippy, celebrity, and hipster moms spend what feels like eternities harping on as terrible, soul-squashing food choices for children.  I feed them processed, boxed, microwaveable delicacies like mac & cheese, spaghetti-o’s, frozen pizza, and frozen chicken nuggets.  Oh sure, I throw in salad and fresh fruit… most of the time.  Add PB&Js to that list, and – no kidding – that pretty much encompasses my kids’ entire diets.  Why would I do such an inexcusable thing?  For several reasons, actually.

First, my commute to and from work is bat-crap crazy.  By the time we stumble in the door in the evening, I’ve spent nearly 3 hours driving, and it’s  usually precisely dinner time the moment we make it home.  So I don’t have the time or energy to make them a “healthful” (Seriously, it’s “healthy.”  Stop saying “healthful.”  It makes people want to punch you.) home-cooked meal. I do, however, have time to microwave some Easy Mac and throw together a salad.  Could I muster the whatever-good-mother-quality-I’m-obviously-lacking to make a Rachael Ray worthy meal?  Sure.  I might even be able to do it in 30 minutes.  But I DON’T WANT TO.  I’m tired, and the kids are hungry.  In fact, it seems cruel to think about making them wait 30 or 40 minutes for something that would impress all the Stepford moms when I can whip out a PB&J in about 2 minutes.

Second, the kids LOVE the crap I feed them.  There’s a friggin’ dance party in the kitchen each night over what I’m “cooking” for them.  They love it, and they eat it.  Would they love a home-cooked meal?  Gracie might. But Gracie eats random food she finds on the ground in public places, so I’m not sure she’s the greatest judge.  Austin, frankly, would prefer pizza to anything I slave over.  Why fight that battle?  Because I should care about their health and well-being, you say?  Puh-lease.  They’re strong, healthy kids.  Really.  Their pediatrician will back me up on that.  Red dye number whatever is not going to kill them, and that’s good enough for me.

My kids can attest that I’m like the toy Nazi.  I understand who the Nazis were and the atrocities they committed.  And I’m knowingly comparing myself to them.  I hate the kids’ toys.  I don’t always hate them, though.  I hate them when they’re strewn all over the house.  Which is constantly.  So… I hate them.  We have a rule in the house.  If a toy remains in the kitchen/breakfast area after one warning, it finds a new home in the trashcan. Just yesterday, I filled a trashbag with several of Gracie’s toys that I was tired of picking up from all the places her toys shouldn’t be.  I have a gentler rule for rooms other than the kitchen, and repeatedly throughout any day, you can catching me growling, “If that piece of crap plastic thing does not find its way back to its properly organized bin, I will put it in the keep-away, and you’ll have to earn it back.”  Those rules generally work for getting Austin to pick up his junk, but he needs the constant reminders (okay, they’re legit threats) to make it happen.  Gracie, on the other, could give two craps about me throwing out her toys.  I could set them on fire in front of her, and she’d probably shrug and walk away.  That’s because Gracie isn’t interested in toys; she interested in sharp objects, making messes, and dangerous risk-taking behaviors such as unsafely climbing and jumping.

Why am I so terrible about their toys?  Because I hate the toys, and I am evil.  I thought we had covered that.  The kids have an insane amount of toys, even after I’ve gone on one of my rampages with a trash bag in hand.  And they play with maybe 5% of them.  Austin has been playing with the same 10 small stuffed animals for years now.  I refuse to allow my home and my sanity to be completely overtaken by plastic junk that my kids barely even realize that they own.  I’ve taken my hatred of the kids’ toys to an impressive level. For their birthdays, we get them a few gifts.  Family gives them gifts.  At their parties, though, NO GIFTS ALLOWED.  On the party invitations, we note that we will not be accepting gifts; instead guests are invited to donate cash money to a preschool for poor kids that I used to work for.  All the parents fawn over how admirable it is that we’re teaching the kids to help others, blah, blah, blah.  And, sure, that’s great.  But what’s even greater is that we don’t end up with 37 $15 pieces of crap from Target or Walmart that the kids will forget about in exactly 2 and half days.  And I’m not insulting the other parents’ gift choices.  I’m guilty of the same $15 crap at other kids’ parties.  I’ve just found a win-win way to stop the madness at my house.

I don’t teach my kids stuff.  By that, I mean I don’t sit down and “work with” them on academic skills.  I don’t drill them about colors or shapes or chemical reactions.  And not because I’m lazy. I mean, I am lazy.  But that’s not why I don’t make us all crazy and miserable trying to “make sure they’re ready for school” or whatever barf-o reason those other mommies are grating on about.  Here’s why.  In the long run, it won’t matter.  At all.  Do you think Einstein’s mommy tortured him with flashcards?  No.   She let him run around with pants on his head pretending to be a long-haired giant.  When Austin was about 2 1/2, that very activity was his favorite thing to do. For hours at a time.  He started reading all on his own, and midway through kindergarten, he’s reading at the-end-of-first-grade level or something like that.  He’s doing fantabulous in school because he’s intelligent.  He was born that way.  Could he improve?  I’m sure he could.  At some point, will I have to step up and help him do so?  Absolutely, but all signs point to that time not being now.  Will Gracie teach herself to read without my “working with” her?  Who knows, but I feel certain she will enter kindergarten having taught herself how to get out of a pinch by batting her eyelashes, to jump start a car, and to survive in the wild.  And that’s no small feat.

Relatedly, I don’t feel the need to enroll my kids in fifteen trillion “enriching” activities.  Know what’s enriching to a two year old?  Running naked through the backyard, chasing the dog with the water hose.  Austin plays a couple of sports throughout the year and does VBS in the summer, and I think we’re all good on activities.  Next year, I’ll enroll Gracie in gymnastics or archery or something  suited to her natural talent for and interest in mass destruction.  I’m not interested in overscheduling my kids in activities and giving them an ulcer by second grade because I think as it is, life is pretty enriching.  Plus, I hate shuffling them from this thing and that, pretending to play nice with all the Stepford moms. As they get older and express actual interest in various activities, I’ll be more willing to suck it up and go activities-crazy.  Until then, we’ll stick to as few scheduled activities as humanly possibly.

A friend of mine from grad school recently asked me what I knew about something called “attachment parenting.”  She thought I might know for a couple of reasons.  First, I’m a parent.  She’s not.  The odds were better for me than for her.  Second, my area of research in grad school was attachment.  I published an article dealing with and wrote my dissertation on attachment.  I’ll spare  you all the high-falutin academic mumbo-jumbo and just say this… Attachment is the bond an infant makes with his primary caregiver(s), and it shapes the way the infant comes to approach the world and interact with others as he grows, as well as how he views himself.  One’s attachment to parents predicts the later attachments one makes to romantic partners, as well as lots of other nifty things.  Basically, a “secure attachment” to a primary caregiver in infancy bodes well for the individual throughout the lifespan.  So anyway, she asked me what I knew about “attachment parenting,” and this was my response (true story), “I don’t know, but it sounds gay.”

Since then, I’ve done a little digging, and this is what I know about attachment parenting.  The concept was originated by Dr. Sears.  He’s, like, famous and stuff.  It’s based on the tenets of attachment theory and developmental psychology.  Right up my alley, yes?   Nooooooo!  My initial reaction was correct.  Attachment parenting is, in fact, gay.  I understand that using the word “gay” to mean “lame” is politically incorrect and pejorative.  And I mean it that way.  I don’t mean “gay” in the homosexual sense.  I mean it in the pop-cultural, “that is totally mockable” sense.  I don’t mean that gay individuals are mockable. Judge me, scold me, for that if you wish, but you’ll be wasting your time.  I think I’ve also used the term “retarded” in the post, so obviously, I’m a lost cause.  Cut your losses and move on.

Attachment parenting seems to take everything that’s good and legit about attachment theory and knowledge of children’s development and turn it into hippy hogwash.  The people who practice attachment parenting are the same ones that either dropped dead from shock or huffily navigated away from this post immediately after reading that I knowingly and willfully feed my kids spaghetti-0’s.  So we don’t need to worry about offending them. Basically, parents who practice attachment parenting are literally attached to their kids for, like, at least a couple of years.  Breastfeeding is pretty much law, and as I understand it, you have to keep doing it until the kid graduates from homeopathic med-school.  Co-sleeping is required.  This is where your child sleeps in the bed with you EVERY NIGHT, thus ruining any chance your EVER having a good night’s sleep, of making any new babies, and of maintaining any type of connection to your spouse outside of the existence of the child.  I think the idea is that if you’re, like, always right there, loving and (as I see it) physically and emotionally smothering your child, she will come to see herself as a worthy and lovable person, and she will experience the world world as a safe, exciting place to be explored and mastered.

Actually, most of that (about feeling worthy and the world being safe) is pretty much straight from attachment theory.  And there’s literally A TON of research validating that attachment theory is the real deal.  I think that’s where people get hooked.  Attachment theory is legitimate, so attachment parenting must be legitimate, too.  The problem is that according to attachment theory (and the ton of research validating it), secure attachments are created by primary caregivers who are warm and responsive their their infants needs WITHOUT BEING CLINGY, OVERPROTECTIVE, OR OVERBEARING.  In fact, the research clearly indicates that those qualities pretty much guarantee that the infant forms an insecure attachment to the caregiver, which results in feeling as if the world is not safe or masterable.  And we end up with whiny, sniveling little wusses.

No thanks, attachment parenting.  No thanks.  As an after-the-fact disclaimer, I’m obviously not an expert in attachment parenting, so if you’re interested in finding out actual facts about it, there’s a bunch of websites, and I bet you could find a gaggle of hipster stay-at-home moms at the park who could tell you all about it.  They’ll be the ones with 4 year olds swaddled in a sling breastfeeding.  And if you’re a ridiculous individual who practices attachment parenting, feel free to comment and elucidate.  But be prepared for it to go in one in and out the other.  My mind is made up; attachment parenting is gay.  I can, after all, pretty confidently assert that I AM an expert in attachment theory and research, and I know what attachment parenting is isn’t what attachment theory is about, and that the research on actual attachment parenting is not impressive or stellar.  You should pretty much be embarrassed of yourself right now, attachment parenters.

That little rant may have felt like a tangent from my imperfect mother confessional.  It wasn’t.  That’s how my mind works.  So many mothers work so hard to do all the right things for their kids.  No, that’s not accurate.  We ALL work so hard to do all the right things for our kids.  But there are some moms who go to lengths that are just unnecessary.  And for gains that I feel confident are marginal at best.  In fact, I often wonder if we do our kids (or at least our relationships with them) inadvertent harm by trying so hard.  When we’re trying so hard to make them the healthiest (or “most healthful,” if you’re obnoxious), smartest, most “well-rounded” kids possible, we expect to see some pay off there.  As hard as it is to remember sometimes, it is not our kids’ responsibility to meet our ridiculous expectations.  So maybe we should just ease up a bit.  Let them eat oreos.  Resist the urge to correct them when they say they “breaked” a crayon.  Don’t take Sonia up on the invitation for the play date with her twins, MycKynzie & Koltyn (Seriously, people.  Just spell the names right.  Why do you want to torture your kids with that kind of nonsense for their entire lives?) and instead let them watch 2 straight hours of Mickey Mouse Club House (It’s Mickey, after all, not Marilyn Manson) in their underwear.

I know I’m not a perfect mom. I’m not trying to be.  I’ve got enough pressure.  I don’t need to deal with that imminent failure, as well.  And all my imperfections… they aren’t doing my kids any harm.  Are the going to be top tier at everything they do?  Probably not.  Is that because I didn’t pay 400% more for the organic grapes?  Probably not.  Or because I threw away some toys they forgot they had anyway?  Nope.  Or because I accidentally called Austin a “moron” the other day when I meant to say “maniac?”  Nope.  My kids know I love them and will protect them and care for them until the end of all time.  The next time we’re on a plane together, they’ll have no doubt that I will use the oxygen mask on myself first before making sure that they don’t die.  And at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.


Published in: on January 9, 2012 at 11:57 pm  Comments (6)  
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A Benevolent Bully: Recess Nazi

Family is a funny thing.  There are these people who we’re genetically connected to, and we’re supposed to be loyal to and supportive of and wonderful toward them under all circumstances, no exceptions.  Simply and precisely because we’re family.  That’s sort of an unspoken rule.  It never actually happens that way, but that’s the expectation.  In reality, we’re definitely loyal (mostly), we’re typically supportive (unless we think they’re being stupid or obnoxious), and we usually manage to behave wonderfully toward them (well, to their faces, anyway).  And that’s on a good day.  Factor in sibling rivalry and other general effed-up-ness that almost always goes hand in hand with family, and it can be a real circus.  And usually not the fun kind.

But for most of us, family isn’t limited to people with whom we share genetic material.  In adulthood, most of us drink the kool-aid and decide to marry, thus inheriting a whole new branch of the family tree:  in-laws.  It’s funny to me that we call them in-laws.  It’s like we feel the need to announce to world in no uncertain terms that we’re not ACTUALLY related to these people, nor would we claim them if not required to by law.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love my in-laws.  All of them.  They’re fantastic people, and actually, I would claim each and every one of them as my own in a heartbeat.  In fact, I genuinely and truly feel honored to call them family.  For most of us, family also includes step-family.  Stepmoms, stepsisters, step-second-cousins-twice-removed.  In-laws and step-people, they’re clearly family, but they didn’t get that way by sharing DNA with us.  They got that way because somebody (if it is wasn’t us personally) chose to make them family.

And then there are those people who are like family.  “Dude, you’re like a brother to me.”  We all have a handful (or more, if we’re lucky) of those people.  These are the typically the coolest and most fun of all our family-people, so cool and fun that we go out of our way to make them family for no particular reason at all.  Just because we want to.  And these people, these like family folks, they’re often more loyal, supportive, and wonderful than our actual family.  Why?  When they have no evolutionary or moral obligation to us?  Because they’re awesome, that’s why.  Which is why we choose to make them like family in the first place.  For at least a good percentage of you reading this post, I can name one like family member that you and I share.  Seriously.  As soon as you read this person’s name, you’re gonna be like, “Oh.  Yeah.  Totally.”  Ready?  Here goes… JLove.  One of the coolest, most fun, most awesomely generous and loyal humans to ever walk the face of the earth.  If you’re reading this, and you don’t know JLove, truly, I’m sorry.  Maybe someday soon you’ll be fortunate enough to cross paths with him.  For now, I’m lucky to call JLove my like family.

And here’s the thing about family:  Once you’re in, you’re in.  Whether it’s genetics, marriage, or childhood pinky swears that bind us, family is in it for the long haul.  Which is fantastic.  Except for when it’s not.  Sometimes, it would be nice to call a time-out from family.  To get a break from being forced to be subjected to a family member’s company and the subsequent fall-out.  We’ve all been there.  And, whether we like to admit it or not, we’ve all been on both the giving and receiving ends of the “sometimes family is a suckhole” experience.  Even me.  Oh, I’ve dished it out.

If, for some inexplicable reason, you doubt my capability for causing my family misery, I can prove it to you.  Sure, you could ask my parents.  I have surely caused them plenty of grief.  You could ask my little brother or sister.  If fact, you should.  There are some excellent stories there.  You could ask my husband.  Ask him on a Sunday when he’s trying to watch football in the midst of my honey-do nagging, and I have no doubt he’d convince you of my nerve-working nature.  For good measure, I’m sure my mother-in-law (or more insistently, my grandmother-in-law) would confirm Kyle’s saintly ways for putting up with me.  You could sure as shiz ask my children.  After returning from two days away from me, I asked Austin if he had missed his mama.  His response?  “No… Oops.  I mean, yes.  I missed you, Mommy.”

You could ask all of those people.  You should ask all of those people.  But not today.  Not to start.  To start, you should ask my stepsister.  I thought long and hard about whether I should include her first name in this post.  After thorough consideration, I decided there would be no harm in calling her by her true name.  First, most of you reading this know her personally.  You know her name.  Calling her something else would be silly and pointless.  For those of you who don’t know her first name, learning it will not magically allow you to decipher her full name, address, or social security number.  Finally, it’s not like anything that will follow will embarrass her.  If anything, I’m the one who should be embarrased.  I’m not embarrassed, but I realize that I should be.

I met my stepsister Beth on the first day of kindergarten when we realized we share a dad.  Yes, that marked the beginning of my Jerry Springer inspired childhood.  We became fast friends, and we spent A LOT of time together.  We didn’t live together, but we were in the same classes and shared the same circle of friends.  From that first day in kindergarten, I commenced tormenting her, and I didn’t stop until I went off to college.  Actually, maybe I never stopped.  I’m not always the greatest judge of friendly behavior.  In any case, I’ve certainly slowed my roll in the last several years.

I didn’t mean to torment Beth growing up, but torment her I did.  Relentlessly.  Highly successfully.  It’s a wonder she still speaks to me.  And maybe you could argue that my tormenting was just innocent sibling rivalry, but you’d be wrong.  It’s not that I enjoyed causing Beth misery; rather, I felt both justified and obligated to teach her important life lessons.  Never mind that we were kids, that I was actually a few months younger than her, and that I had no business teaching her anything.  I thought that somebody needed to look out for her, and unfortunately for her, I decided that somebody should be me.

Case in point:  In elementary school, Beth’s mom dressed her like an idiot.  I feel pretty confident that she would back me up on that.  It wasn’t Beth’s fault that her mom’s idea of appropriate attire for a 4th grader on a typical Tuesday was a table-cloth-esque floral print dress with a lacy sailor collar, sheer control top panty hose, and sensible flats.  It wasn’t her fault, but she sure suffered the consequences.  First, kids made fun of her.  Nothing made-for-TV-movie worthy, but mean-spirited heckling nonetheless.  Most of the girls were nice enough, but the stupid twerp boys (even the generally friendly ones) tended to revel in pointing out the inarguable absurdity of Beth’s everyday attire.  There’s no excuse for forcing a 9 year old to wear panty hose to school in the blazing Texas heat.  Had I known about CPS at the time, I’m pretty sure I would have reported Beth’s mom for abuse, neglect, and whatever other accusations were made available to me.  Seriously… White pointy toe dress flats on PE day?  If that’s not abusive, I don’t know what is.

To make matters worse, Beth was a terrible klutz.  Every day at recess, without fail, Beth would fall down.  On her knees.  Every day.  And every day, she’d rip her ridiculous panty hose and scrape up her knees.  She’d scuff her stupid, developmentally- and context-inappropriate church shoes.  And then she’d cry.  Not about her bloody knees.  But about her torn hose and scraped shoes.  Her mom was going to kill her.  She was going to get grounded, or at the least, griped at.  As much as I hated to admit it, I recognized that I was powerless in forcing Beth’s mom to see the error in her style-challenged ways.  I knew Beth would be forced to go on dressing like every day was school picture day.

So I set my sights where I could more realistically affect change.  I might not be able to keep Beth from dressing like a Sunday school reject, but I could keep her from spending half of the school day fretting over the fact that she ruined yet another pair of Leggs.  My plan?  To forbid her from any sort of running, romping, or scampering at recess.  Yes, I said forbid.  When I commit to something, I commit 100%.  Kickball?  Nope.  Take a seat, Beth.  Hopscotch? You can be the square-drawer, but you may not engage in any hopping.  Jump rope?  Oh hell no.  Walking around chatting?  Maybe, but only if you stay in the grass on nice flat ground.  Skipping?  Girl, please…

I’m not sure that I ever outlined for Beth my noble intentions in treating her like a retarded prisoner of war.  And I’m not sure that she ever really questioned my authority over her (obviously, I had brainwashed her or utterly wore her out much earlier in our lives).  She seemed to have resigned herself to the fact that, whether she liked it or not, I was the boss of her.  While she didn’t question my authority, she did question the reasoning behind my forbidding basically every fun-and-fancy-free activity available to her.  My response was typically something along the lines of, “So you don’t fall down, idiot.”

It never occurred to me that my efforts might be more appreciated had I told her that it broke my shriveled black heart to see her fret and worry about getting in trouble with her mother for things that were entirely her mother’s fault in the first place.  I wanted to protect her from the pain of falling down, the ridicule of kids inevitably laughing and poking fun when she did fall, and the scorn of her mother’s harsh words about the stupid panty hose.  I remained the Recess Nazi until we went to middle school, and I only quit then for two reasons:  we no longer had recess, and Beth’s mom finally let her pick out her own clothes.  No more panty hose for that girl.

To be clear, though, just because I gave up recess as a source of torment doesn’t mean I stopped tormenting Beth altogether.  Quite the opposite, actually.  I think middle school is when I really started to lay it on thick.  And the general tone of it all became less philanthropic and more purely mean on my part.  I’ve got no excuse for my not nice behavior toward Beth, other than that I’m not a nice person.  But we covered that already.

Once, Beth and I lied to her mom and said we were going on a bike ride.  Actually, that part wasn’t a lie.  We did ride our bikes, but we left out our intended destination.  Had we announced to Beth’s mom that we were going to ride to Checkers to get some french fries, we would have been doubly punished.  First, we would have been forbidden from going and thus the denied crispy, salty deliciousness that we so craved.  Second, we would have been forced to listen to Beth’s mom scold her about her “weight” and insist starting a preemptive diet immediately.  That would have obviously been more unpleasant for Beth than for me, but I still hoped to avoid it if at all possible.  As a side note, Beth’s “weight” was not an issue.  There was an issue, but it didn’t involve weight, and it didn’t belong to Beth.  Needless to say, we simply called out that we were going bike riding and would be back before dark, and we high-tailed it out of there.

Our destination was not a quick jaunt away.  Rather, it was a good  couple of miles away, across a number of busy streets, and under one highway.  Not a convenient or particularly safe trip for a couple a teenage girls.  But seriously, the fries were worth it.  We made it to Checkers, got the fries, and immediately headed back toward our neck of the woods.  Checkers was in a relatively seedy area, and we were not looking for a side of sexual assault to go along with our fries.  About halfway through the ride back, Beth dropped the bag of fries, and they skittered across the side of the road.

Suffice it to say, I was not pleased.  Every last fry was on the ground.  No crispy, salty goodness for me. Once again, Beth’s clumsiness was to blame, and I was not going to let her off the hook.  She needed to pay for what she had done.  Obviously, that meant that she needed to eat several of the fries (not all of them.  I’m not a complete monster) directly off the ground.  Oh, she protested, but I was having none of that.  She was going to eat some of those fries.  When she pleaded, “But Tara, they’re dirty,” I responded coldly, “Well, God made dirt, and dirt don’t hurt.”  Terrible, I know.  And that’s not the worst of it.

I went from treating Beth like someone who needed to be managed (“Don’t sit there, dummy; it’s wet.” or “Hey bookworm, no one wants to hear how many AR points you have.”) to shamelessly treating her like an indentured servant.  I spent mornings and afternoons in middle school at Beth’s house.  As soon as I waltzed in the door in the morning, I would wedge her out from in front of the bathroom mirror.  “Move,” I would demand as I proceeded to complete my very sophisticated 7th grade primping procedures.  The entire time, I barked orders at her that were reminiscent of a brain surgeon in the operating room.  “Curling iron,” I would say flatly as Beth rushed to unfurl the thing from her own head to place it in front of me.  “Hairspray… Clear mascara.”  Yes, I said clear mascara.  None of that garish black gunk for me.  I was 12, after all.  What kind of floozy do you think I was?

Occasionally, I’d break from my clinical item-demanding to squawk various other orders at Beth.  “Ew!  Go change the radio station… Now!  I hate this song.  Seriously, Beth.  You know that.”  The vast majority of the time, Beth unquestioningly met my demands and followed my orders.  Occasionally, though, she’d get fed up and throw some (well-deserved) attitude my way.  “Change it yourself,” she might snap, “I’m not your slave.”  This did not sit well with me.  But like any effective superior understands, you can’t let your subordinates see when they’ve got you riled.  My typical response to Beth’s rare testing of my limits was to repeat what she had just said to me verbatim in a deep, slightly moronic and highly immature voice.  I’d then switch back to my normal voice and roll my eyes as I said calmly, “Just do it, Beth.”

One afternoon after school, we were sitting in Beth’s room listening to a Reba McEntire cassette on her boombox.  Actually, that’s not true.  A Reba McEntire cassette was involved, but we were not merely listening to it.  We were singing along and recording ourselves as we did so.  After much debate, I ceded Reba’s part in “Does He Love You” to Beth, while I took Linda Carter’s part.  I couldn’t argue that Beth’s voice was slightly more appealing than my own, and thus, she deserved Reba’s part fair and square. (For the record, Beth has an amazing voice.  I, on the other hand, have the singing voice of a demented cat in heat.).

After a borderline amazing rendition of the song, I suddenly had the hankering for a snackie. “I’m hungry,” I moaned.  “Ok… Go get something,” Beth responded.  “Psshhh, you go,” I quipped.  “Um, you’re the hungry one,” she attempted to reason.  I was having none of it.  My voice took a particular tone (if you’ve ever been bossed by me – and let’s face it, you all have – you know the tone I’m talking about).  “Heh.  I’m your guest, Beth.  You have to wait on me.  It’s, like, the rule,” I said as I plopped myself onto her sunflower comforter.  She rolled her eyes and countered, “You come here everyday.  You’re walking around in your underwear.  You’re NOT a guest.  Get your own food.”

We went on like that for a few more minutes before Beth finally caved, “Fine. I’ll get you a snack.  Anything to shut you up.”  That’s generally how it works.  If you’re met with resistance, just keep at it until you’ve exhausted the other party, and they give in.  Every whiny preschooler knows that.  Beth headed for her bedroom door, “What do you want?  Chips?”  I scoffed, “Chips?  Seriously?  Beth.  I’m starving.  No.  I do not want chips.  I want a melty bagel sandwich.”  She whipped around, “Uh, that is NOT a snack, Tara.  That’s a meal.  I have to toast things and microwave things.  It takes like 10 minutes to make.  No way.  I’ll get you some chips or something, but if you want a bagel sandwich, you can put some pants on and make it yourself.”

Beth had some pretty good points.  Sound logic and good reasoning.  All things with which I wasn’t the least bit concerned.  It was clear to me that Beth had forgotten her place, and I’d have to remind her of it.  Minions need to be dealt with firmly, after all.  “Excuse me?  You already agreed to get me a snack, so you can’t go back on your word now.  What are you, a liar? You know what?  It’s not up for discussion.  Quit whining, and get in there and make me a melty bagel sandwich.  Go.”  Beth stood, blinking at me.  “Oh, and I want the oniony bagel, not the plain one.  You screwed it up last time,” I added.

I watched as Beth clenched her fists and thought I saw her eye twitch spastically.  Before I could find out for certain, she lost it.  She yelled.  No, she screamed at me.  She told me I was a terrible and awful brat, that she didn’t deserve to be treated that way, and that she didn’t have to take my crap.  I almost started to agree with her and feel guilty, but I thought better of it.  “Actually, Beth, you’re right.  You don’t have to take my crap.  You don’t have to follow my orders.  But here’s the thing:  you do.  Without fail.  You’re gullible and weak and vulnerable.  Do I take advantage of that?  Absolutely.  Who’s fault is that?  Not mine.  Nope.  It’s your fault, Beth.  If you don’t want to be treated like a doormat, then don’t.  Me and my melty bagel sandwich are the least of your worries.  Think of what kind of crap other people are gonna throw at you.”

Beth slumped in a heap onto her daybed beside me.  “You’re right,” she sighed.  We sat in silence together for a moment before I grinned and said, “So, how about that sandwich…”  To my absolute lack-of-surprise, she got up, went to the kitchen, and made the best melty bagel sandwich I’d ever eaten.  She even remembered the oniony bagel.

Published in: on December 21, 2011 at 11:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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