Notes From The Road.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/nicholas_t/2789113344/in/photolist-5fsWe7-diugKp-o6qxW-ehDioj-8YPQQ4-9QPp9-6Mdx3F-4Mxiuu-4mAQff-cadkCj-cT5RAY-4xSKzt-5LDsRZ-64W8kL-7TYWbb-9LE1CS-nGwmYu-7dTyrL-mWzQjZ-bYfPzS-djCqm-f1Eu12-89ytzh-qeKBw8-avAjXu-fW3cSS-FNWa4-g6K4Z-5APGkK-5fzZ5b-ao19br-5HMTxE-4hJkMi-ef8Fhz-fxZTv-7hMxyh-ddSJg-8XLpCR-4oLyv5-5GsUpX-dd9GfR-mGnJWn-8tsqTm-81JA6w-aqtYNJ-k3D94x-fcbKFp-7RTdXx-4r96YV-y994Y
Flickr user Nicholas A. Tonelll

Today I drove 40 miles south, then a few hours later I drove back. I saw at least ten cars pulled over, but only got a look at four of the drivers. Two black; two white. I wish I could say I believed there’s a chance the six drivers I didn’t see were white.

Christians, if you’re going to drive like assholes, maybe don’t have those WWJD bumper stickers or icthyses placed prominently on the rear end of your car which I will undoubtedly see as you cut me off.

Brokeass white people with Romney Ryan stickers left over from ’12, one of these days I really will rear end one of you. Know how I know your asses are broke? You drive Jeeps and Ford Escapes from ’89 that almost look lacy for all the rust. Your cars make more noise than semis, and not cos you installed a muffler enhancer. And at least half of you drive around shirtless.

Anybody reading this have any experience with 4th graders and pickup lines? Asking for a friend.

Thinking about law school and getting a PhD with equal lather lately. Anybody know the starting salary for a social justice lawyer? HAHAHA.

Sometimes, I eat onions then I smell really bad.

Nobody in my family loves the Green Ralph Lauren cologne the way I do. Anybody who wears that wanna follow me around so I can inhale deeply your delicious odor like a sweaty perv?

My student’s incomplete is due on Monday. I will turn in his grade on Friday. Don’t know why I feel so anxious about whether or not he will actually turn in his incomplete. Maybe it’s related to the fact that I haven’t been brave enough to view my scores on rate my professor dot com.

Finally, I’m 34. It’d be really unfair if I were really perimenopausal. If, in fact, I am, I am looking for a gynecological surgeon for some pro bono work on my uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. You may keep them for study. Say you found them in a dumpster. I don’t care.

Follow Me Down the Rabbit Hole

from Flickr user Smath.
from Flickr user Smath.

This morning, I got knocked on the chest by equal parts nostalgia, outrage, and WTFship. It was the sort of morning where spending an hour on Facebook made me feel like a more informed citizen and reminded me how big the world is. Sometimes, facebook is good like that.

First, let’s talk two icons from my childhood/pre-early teen years: Monica Lewinsky writes about her affair with Clinton + Rob Lowe’s moving essay about sending his older son off to college.

Two sentences from the tiny amount that’s available from the Lewinsky piece without subscribing to Vanity Fair really got my feminist hackles up. 1) Lewinsky saying she regrets it, but that it was consensual. Fine, fine. BUT WHY DOES SHE HAVE TO SAY IT?? If it were a male intern + a female president, we’d be way angry at the female president and talking about what a stud the intern was. I don’t remember a single person saying “shame on President Clinton.” I remember lots and lots of people slut shaming a very young female intern. 2) Lewinsky says she heard Mrs. Clinton blamed herself for the affair because she was “being emotionally distant.” Women blaming themselves for the bad behavior of men (and men blaming women for the bad behavior of men) is a huge part of the reason I need feminism. <– Rage, Nostalgia, WTF?

The Lowe essay? I wept. Just read it. <— WTF. And a little bit of nostalgia.

And then, THIS BULLSHIT. A whiny white boy from Princeton “checking” his privilege. This is thematically relevant because I was young + dumb and clueless (even if I was intellectually apt, as he clearly is) like this kid around the same time Lewinsky + Lowe were pretty omnipresent in the news/entertainment/network TV world. I also would’ve once pulled a stunt such as this: misunderstanding the entire point + then using my stunning awareness of multiple meanings of words to take “check your privilege” to mean “examine the history of your privilege, then act like an indignant asshole” I am sure I also participated in slut shaming Lewinsky at the time. I am ashamed. <— WTF + nostalgia over being young and stupid once, too.

And then the lovely open letter followup from a saner, more reasonable, less Fox-News-Informed voice. <— relief.

And this video, while clever and entertaining, filled me with rage. Ignore the year-ago date and spend 1.5 minutes of your time. I watched it with Child leaning over my shoulder, and she asked me “what is that all about?” While I was explaining it to her, saying it out loud with words that I made with my vocal cords and tongue and teeth, I got so. Friggin. Angry. <— WTF.

Anybody else refreshingly enraged by Facebook rabbit holes recently?

Sometimes, Writing Takes Breaks and Makes Zombies

This only took about 12 hours!
This only took about 12 hours!

I was going to post something amusing today about literary submission + rejection and how it is similar to the worst parts about applying to college and online dating. Next week, I promise. I’m going to write a lot this semester about imposter syndrome, rejection, and the harsher realities of the writing life so that people don’t keep getting all doe-eyed and excited when I say I’m a writer. Also, maybe to stave off some of the retired would-be novelists…

But then I finished this little guy last night, and I decided it would be better to talk about him. Unnamed Zombie Rockstar, crafted about six months late for my darling Child. (It was supposed to be a gift for her July 30 birthday.)

First, I got this book over the summer. What it lacks in creative title, it more than makes up for in fun, mostly easy knitted Zombie projects. It’s called Knit Your Own Zombie. It’s by Fiona Goble. She lives in England, and SHE’S ALSO ON WORDPRESS. Lookee!

But let’s rewind. Last year at this time, I was living with a dear, sick friend. Her name was Judy. I helped her take care of herself and her house in her last days. It was a privilege and an honor to have shared that time, even though it was the second hardest thing I’ve ever done and I’m still not over it. She was a Knitter Extraordinaire. She knew how to do all the stitches, including Entrelac. And she needle felted. That’s a real textiles geek squee thing right there. She was among the most creative and intelligent people I’ve known. I miss her.

I learned to knit when I was in high school, but hadn’t really done a lot of it beyond a few years back when I knitted about a dozen hats for people for Xmas.

It’s peaceful. Some peace was called for over these past three or so weeks.

I was taking a break. A well-deserved one after the kinetic and vocational fury of the recently ended semester. Some time to think and breathe and plan for what’s next. There are revisions and a big paper and a new manuscript in the works.

And whenever I knit, I feel connected to Judy. I remember he sagacity: “Just trust the pattern. Suspend your disbelief!”

Which is good advice, and applicable to my life now, as it moves forward on a path that finds me mostly happy, content, and successful. And I’m living the dream. But I still have difficulty accepting it. I am waiting for things to derail, for a shoe (or two) to drop, when it really looks like things might just go well for a while.

Which is a good segue into imposter syndrome and some of the lesser joys of being a writer. Stay tuned.

But for now, tell me what you like to do when you need a break.

Disappointing the Christian Republicans, It Hurts: 1997 – present

The last bit of this reads like I’m a PhD.  I’m not. I have a BA in English.  In the larger piece, that is clear before you get here.

Hanging out with some friends this weekend, we were talking about our parents and how it’s easy to say, “I don’t care what they think,” but that we never mean it. On some level, no matter how grown up and independent and smart and knowledgeable we become, we  will always crave our parents’ approval.  I am no exception, but I guess I don’t want their approval enough to engage in things I think are barmy.  Onward.

From Flickr User BuckDaddy
From Flickr User BuckDaddy

There are two classifications that are deeply important to my parents. The first is Christian, and if you can claim that one, you get a pass on everything else, even if you do not also espouse the second, Republican.  It helps if you are the Rush Limbaugh sort of Republican, because like a lot of my peers with Jon Stewart, My parents’ only source of news and analysis is Rush. They use terms like “feminazi” and “Slick Willy” without irony. I stopped paying attention, but I shudder to think what that lunatic is saying about Obama beyond “produce your birth certificate, Towel Head!”

When I told my father that I didn’t think I believed in God anymore, he wrung his little hands and said, “Where did we go wrong?”

I have attended a couple of holiday church services with them since leaving home, and each time I do, my poor dad gets this watery-eyed hope on his face that breaks my fucking heart. It is so important to him. I want to rub his back and say, “Dad, I love you, but this is not the answer for me. Don’t worry. In my own religious absolutism, my soul is just fine.” I also want to shake him and say, “If all this supernatural shit you believe about God is true, isn’t it reasonable to expect that god can be anything to anyone? How can you presume to understand anything about God?”

My father used to be my guide in all intellectual pursuits. To his credit, he gave me the sense of what it means to engage in critical thinking. He was just not expecting that to backfire on him. He was expecting me to continue to inoculate myself in his traditions and rhetorics and do the correct kind of critical thinking.  He cautioned me as I announced that I’d be starting college not to let those “liberal idiots” in academia turn me into one of them.

I can’t be sure, but I think he got the following from Rush, which he repeats with glee whenever anybody mentions educated people’s opinions.  BS PhD = Bullshit, Pile higher and deeper.

And so it is that I am a massive disappointment to my parents.

I Buy My Parents Underwear For Christmas: 1998

Kelley took loads of pictures of my family. Here’s one of my parents, probably around the time I bought them underwear for Xmas.

Picture by Kelley Stevens. My cute parents.
Picture by Kelley Stevens. My cute parents.

I am in the Point Mall because I am in the school chorus and we are having a holiday concert there. This is a strange place, I think, to have a concert, but we go early enough to shop. I go into a boutique shop full of expensive, ugly, decorative things, and spend one of my hours for shopping rearranging words on a metal display in vague, surrealist streams, as is my present style. I have a drawerful of poems at home with streams of unpunctuated lines like, “…and the window in my mind is growing teeth…”

I get a brilliant idea. Are you ready for a nonsequitur?

I will buy my parents matching leopard print nightwear for Christmas. I am, after all, their oldest child, and I have never been grossed out by the idea that my parents have sex. I have walked in on them more times than I care to count. I want my parents to do it. I do not want my parents to get a divorce, and as far as I can tell, the only real perk of marriage is sex.

The rest of it looks like a dreadful strain: cleaning, washing stuff, taking sick kids to waiting rooms full of other sick kids so then everybody in the house gets sick, and doing it all while your husband works 80 hours a week? My parents should be encouraged in the realm of carnal pleasures. I know about the birds and bees, and have since I was five. My brother was three. The whole business is the forbidden fruit, the exquisite privilege of adulthood, and when God sends my mate, a reward for being good. It does not even occur to me that there is something a bit demented about living vicariously through my parents in this way.

Mom’s is easy. I pop into the Vickie’s Secret, and after a moment, I locate the perfect nightie. It is short, strappy, and leopard print sateen. I spend my own money, which I have earned being a hostess at a restaurant.

Dad’s proves to be more difficult. I begin a frantic tour in pursuit of gaudy men’s undewear. I start with the obvious choice, Spencer’s. My older, worldlier friends have told me about this store, and I am titillated. Spencer’s is full of mysterious and sinful things that get my heart going pitter pat and my belly dropping and churning. I can’t look away, even though I know I should. Is that a plastic penis? In a box? Oh my.

A week later, I find a pair of silk leopard print boxers in Kmart in Carlisle. I am relieved, for the force of my gift will be lessened considerably if there is only pervy nightwear for my mom.

The Seriousness of Coloring

from Flickr user apdk

Child turned 7 and became a whole new person with a sophisticated set of social know-how, a dazzling sense of humor, and the attitude of a 13-year-old girl.

So, before getting in my face and saying, aggressively, “Mommy, I want to go with Lydia!” in this clenched-teeth voice that was legitimately almost frightening, we had this conversation:

“Mommy, I think I know who’s going to win the coloring contest.”

“Oh yeah? Who?”

“Guess.”

“You?”

“Nuh-uh,” shaking her head with earnestness, “but it’s not going to be Connor, either.”

“Oh?”

“Yes.”

“Then who?”

Her voice got low and conspiratorial, “MaKenzie.”

Then she snapped out if it and said, “Anyways, I just think she’s going to win.”

Friendships

Every other day it’s, “I don’t wanna be friends with Monique anymore.  She’s mean.”

and “I want to be friends with Monique, I forgive her.”

Or out of the blue, she’ll look at me with big, dewey eyes and say, “Mommy, I just really miss BombBomb and JuJuBee.” (man I wish we really had friends who named their kids BombBomb and JuJuBee).

I remember changing my mind about who my friends were, but not till middle school.

Sudden Tastes

Child wouldn’t be conned into having a “chapter book” read to her little by little for anything.  But suddenly she’s thrilled to receive Bunnicula a little at a time (and I’m thrilled to read it).

She asked me to buy her a coloring book this morning.  This is a child who has had dozens of coloring books purchased for her by every breathing person in her life, and has never a single time agreed to color with me.  Just now, she is coloring the second picture of the day, including a love note to grandma and pop pop.

Yesterday, she changed her list of favorite colors from (no joke, I just confirmed with her) pink purple red orange yellow blue black white, to pink purple black white. This new list is lightly revised from two days ago when it was “I’m thinking about changing my favorite colors to pink black white.”

All this to say that interacting with a seven-year-old is often like interacting with a bipolar cartoon character.

 

Open Letter to Women Who Do Not Want Children.

From Flickr user Xinem

Dear Woman,

There is nothing wrong with you. You are self-aware and strong and wise. You are making the right choice. You are the only one who should make that choice.

Sex is fun. It is all right to still want to have sex, even if you don’t want to have children. This does not make you a slut, harlot, brazen, whore, or any other. It makes you a mammal.

If, in the course of having sex and fun, you get pregnant, you have some options. You will know what to choose. You must listen to yourself, regardless of what others say.

Only you will have the right answer. Trust your gut, not your head. Do not trust the billboards that you’ve never noticed, the ones that say, “Pregnant? Need Help? Call Catholic Family Charities.” Those people do not have help. They have guilt-inducing dogma and rhetoric.

It is all right to get your tubes tied. If a doctor tells you he won’t, go to another doctor.

It is also all right to change your mind. If you change your mind post tubal, there are other ways to become a mother.

Maybe you know this, it has informed your choice: Children are devastatingly difficult. When you’re a mother, you reinvent yourself. You become Somebody’s Mom. You become the arbiter of another person’s physical, emotional, and mental health. It is the hardest thing, and not everybody should do it.

It’s all right to hate the people a little who shake their heads at you and tsk and say inane shit like, “You’ll change your mind. Being a mother is beautiful.”

It’s all right to not be friends with people who act like you’re some kind of retard because you don’t have kids and don’t want them. The ones who say, “Only a mother can understand.”

It’s all right to cling to your youth, your beautiful, unstretched body. It’s all right not to want to want to be pregnant. It’s all right not to want stretch marks and tits that sag and to be a pod. It’s all right to want tattoos on your torso more than you want babies. This does not make you vain and selfish. This means you have plans.

It is good to have plans. It is all right if your plans do not include children.

If you like to be alone, you’re not strange or a cat lady, a witch, or some kind of progressive weirdo. You’re a person who likes to be alone.

If you want to be married or coupled for the long term, it is all right not to want to have kids, just be sure to pick a partner who also does not want to have kids, and for similar reasons to yours.

Sisters, I am a mother, and I love my child. But I am a mother who is a woman who never wanted kids.

I sometimes say that I’m a little glad that I became a mother in the way I did. That I wouldn’t have made time for it.

But many, many more times, even though my kid is surpassingly cool and funny, and even though I love her more than I love breathing, even though motherhood agrees with me on the whole; I feel good about acknowledging that I’m really sad that I didn’t follow my gut and give my baby up for adoption.

She would have a better life.

I would’ve gotten over it.

Love,
A Mother Who Never Wanted Kids.