“Change is Hard, I should know.”

Today, all I can muster is a song.  A horribly sentimental, juvenile, self-pitying, ridiculous sort of song.  But it’s great.  And everybody likes to start a Friday with a nice little ditty about requited/unrequited love, right?

This trend of titling posts with quotations is one of which I’m becoming rather fond.

Enjoy this track, “Change is Hard” from She & Him Volume 1.  Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward.  They had a cover of Bust.  Which is a terrific magazine.  I hope that in the future, opportunistic 20-year-old men who say they want to get to know their gendered enemy will read Bust instead of Cosmo.

But it is the future, right?

Advice About Love for Artists or Anybody.

From Flickr User qthomasbower.

1.  Always worry about your choices, for your wide mind and readiness for new experience can lead you to crummy places with crummy people.

2.  Choose lovers who are also artists.  If you marry, marry a pragmatist.  If you divorce, remarry an artist.

3.  Avoid the tiger and the rat.

4.  Trust yourself.  Do not take society’s portrayal of you as flaky or too weird to heart.  If it smells like danger, then it is.  If it smells delicious, it might be.

5.  Accept that you look at the world differently than not-artists, this means that you will have to be flexible in arguments.

6.  Some people can’t handle being with an artist.  No matter how nice you are, this will not change.  It will not always be immediately obvious.

7.  Sometimes, even if it makes total sense and seems like it will work, it won’t.  And other times, if it seems like it won’t work, it will.  On this, trust your guts and your heart.

8.  If you share a domicile, keep a place to work that has a door to close.  Unless your partner is also an artist and you are involved in her process, do not involve her in yours.  Do not ask for or trust her opinion of your work.  She can’t be objective, and doing so is a recipe for resentment, and opens the temptation to make the relationship serve your work.

8 a. Keep your work separate from your relationship.  If you create work about your partner, tell her, show her, and give her editorial authority.  If she is uncomfortable, you must not use that material.

9.  If your partner is the rare sort who can be objective about your work, do not ask for her opinion unless it won’t hurt your feelings if she says she does not like it.  You do not get to ask then be hurt when she answers truthfully.

10.  People love to be with artists because artists make stuff for their partners.  Do that.  It is nice and inexpensive.

11.  Make sure your partner is all right with the financial weirdness of making a living as an artist, if that is how you do it.

12.  Artists are especially possessed of a compulsion to introspect and self-criticize.  Make sure your partner does not mistake this for exclusion, conspiracy, or malignant narcissism.  It may help to talk her through your thought process.

13.  It is wonderful to have the artist’s sensibility, to be able to see the world differently.  People who can’t will want you to do it their way.  People are especially prescriptive about love.  Enjoy your artist’s purview for the gift it is, and don’t listen to them.

Spring 2012 Rocks, Notes On Family, Weddins, Hijinks, and Love.

Child with Mustache

So far, this has been a pretty righteous spring.

In the picture, Child is wearing a Groucho Marx Mustache that was originally purcahsed for my team, THIMP (or The Hammer is my Penis, thanks Dr. Horrible) at Quizzo Cup 5.

You might remember my wildly self-indulgent post about an unfortunate end to a friendship.  The bad news is that the frienship is still over.  The good news is that the Quizzo Cup event went off with both of us there, without a hitch, and with a minimum of weirdness.

We didn’t win the cup or the costume competition, but we had a blast and tons of beer and deep fried food and pizza.  Good times.

Today is Easter, the celebration across religious disciplines of rebirth and fertility.  Or Zombie Jesus Day.  Whatever.  It’s not important to me for religious reasons, but I have always enjoyed coloring eggs & chocolate.

Child and I are hanging out in Connecticut for a good part of this week with her biological second (or something) cousins on that mystery side of the family.  The older cousins are aware of the relationship, but I have not explained it to Child.  She does not yet really get the cousins thing, and has accepted that they’re related without questioning or upset. The biological connection is kind of convoluted. But this is a great precedent, and these kids are pretty terrific.

Here’s an adorable image of the sister cousins enjoying some co-snuggied, co-pillow-petted fun:

Child and her Some Kind of Cousin.

Child is enjoying her first Easter without my religious family, and Sunggie Cousin made her an excellent, clue-laden egg hunt.  This is much more fun than loads of toys, but we are long on candy (again).

Yesterday, we went to a wedding.  Cousins’ mom got re-married, and invited us to join the festivities.  She used to be married to biological father’s uncle.  That was not good.  There were loads of problems with that union.  But her new man is a gem, and the wedding was a small, unpretentious affair at which we met loads of really lovely people and had some pretty good food.

I get super emotional at weddings.  I cry for joy for the happy couple, and for the terrific energy we expend as humans to make our love known, and for the possibility that the love won’t last.  I also cry, less flatteringly, out of mourning for my own failure to understand the value of the marriage paradigm.  I pity myself for not wanting it.

Today, I’m making wedding-leftover soup.

The hotel pans of wedding food leftovers made the trek back with us yesterday, and totally beshitted the trunk of my car with chicken sauce and chicken fat stink.  Eww.

So this morning, Child and I scrubbed the trunk and backseat of the car, and hosed down the trunk lining carpet.  The backseat was long overdue.  To quote my dear dad, “They call them crumb crunchers for a reason.”

Then, Snuggie Cousin, Child and I dyed eggs and Rugby Cousin is watching something on his in-room TV.  Rugby cousin is a giant, intense, teenage boy.  The last time I regularly spent time with him, he was ten and a less giant, intense, kid.  It’s so cool to see how he’s kind of grown into himself.  He has Asperger’s, and I think that accounts for a lot of his intensity.

And I’m reflecting this morning on family and how comfortable I find it to have a flexible definition thereof.  And how lucky I am to have made such lovely friend-family members in my little life.

It is probably a luxury I can’t afford not to recognize, since Child’s family is at least nontraditional and at most stubbornly odd, given Fella’s and my fairly aggressive plan not to get hitched.

I am reminded today that love is much more important than the names we give our relationships.  I am happy to be me, and grateful for the surpassing generosity of the human spirit.

Stories I Wrote: Vernacular

When I wrote this, I remember specifically that I was experimenting with fully imagining myself as someone else.  This is a difficult thing, and doing it can be a hazard of writing fiction.

I recall that this protagonist was kind of a mashup my best friend’s girlfriend, and one of my other friends, and myself.  She was kind of the best–or what I thought were the best at the time–parts of all of us.  And sassier than any of us can be in real life.

I am kind of embarrassed by this story now, because it seems salacious.  But I’m sharing it today because I’m thinking about how my process is kind of re-evolving as I re-immerse myself in it.  And It’s going faster this time.  And this time, at this stage–this talking through somebody else’s mouth stage–I’m getting better stuff.  Fun stuff.  Stuff that’ll be a joy for you to read in a few weeks.  Stuff that I’ll feel good about sending out into the world.  Stuff that has Bocce in it, and potential to grow into a novel.

Vernacular

We’re inBoston now.  At a seedy little shit-hole club called Vernacular.  They think they’re so clever, they spell beer beah, and bar bah.  They serve yards with “Bahstan Yahd” etched in the glass at the top.  Some wasted Bostonian frat boys were sucking down yards a while ago, until they got kicked out because they tried to start shit with me.  I just screamed and demanded the manager.  I don’t take shit.  I’m with the band.  I sit here, palm my can of Pabst Blue Ribbon, and sip it between verses.  I don’t like the way these skinny girls to my right are looking at Todd.  They’re all giddy and they think they can take these guys home after the show, because it’s a tiny venue.  They think that “Major Tit” (my boyfriend’s band — I know, stupid name, right?) is going to hang out in the crowd after and get loaded with the locals, like we’re on a tour bus.  We’re not.  We’re riding in this full size Dodge van with the back two seats taken out, and all the equipment, dirty pillows, dirty boy smell, suffocating my four little pink duffle bags.  We take turns driving.  I fucking booked their tour, and we have to get toVermonttonight because we have motel reservations.  I shoot Thing 1 and Thing 2 a look, and the trashy looking one closer to me nudges her sidekick and gives her a look like, “What’s her problem?”  I know that shit, though.  I do.  I used to be half of one of those duos, ‘til Todd and I got together, and Monica, my best friend, had to bite it.

I take out a cigarette and light it.  I have only two left.  I remember there was a convenience store on the same block as this stupid club.  A fucking excuse not to listen to this bullshit anymore.  They’re in the middle of this song, “She’s In Me.”  I know all the words, and I mouth along with them out of habit, but they’re shit, so I’ll spare you.  All you need to know is they’re mostly about me.  I wonder what those bitches over there would say if they knew I was this band’s fucking muse.  Todd writes all the songs.  Well, except for the one the drummer wrote called “It’s Alright with Me.”  The drummer’s the coolest one of the four of them.  He’s kind of quiet, and usually doesn’t say much during their Your Mom Fests.  Plus he has kickass hair.  It’s corkscrew curly, and comes complete with enviable eyelashes like so much DNA injustice.  I don’t know any girls with eyelashes or hair like that.  If I ever saw one, I would punch her.  But on him, it is okay, because he’s unassuming, and I’m still a lot cuter than he is.  His girlfriend, Stacy, was gonna come on tour with us, but she had to back out last minute.  And it sucks, because her parents have a conversion van they were gonna let us use.

They finish “She’s In Me,” and I slide out of my chair, shoot Todd an I want you look, and wink.  He nods, and I go out.  I look goddamn adorable today.  I’m wearing three-inch-square-heeled knee-boots from Hot Topic, and a black mini skirt.  A fitted black lace top, and lace-patterned stockings.  It’s June, so it’s comfortable outside when its dark.  There’s a breeze.  I light my next-to-last cig under Vernacular’s awning, and walk like don’t fuck with me, I am hot shit and I know it.  I don’t want anymore frat boy trouble.  I get to the store, and cigs are almost seven dollars.  Fuck that.  I order them, flash the seventeen-year-old clerk when he puts them on the counter, and pull a grab n’ go.  He’s too stupefied by my perfect tits to move much until I am safely back in Vernacular, nonchalantly packing them on the back of my left hand.

Todd is doing the introduction part.  I hate this shit.  I should have waited and gone for cigarettes during this.  He sounds like such a radio-DJ-reject.  He’s trying to be all smooth, and fumbling with the words, and saying extremely unoriginal things, “We’re Major Tit from Annapolis.  Uh, we gotta mailing list.  We got CDs for sale, four bucks.  I wanna’ thank Poppa Smurf and your mom.”  They go right into their heaviest number, “You’re a Shit Head, but I Love You” before the rotten fruit can fly.  I told Todd that he was trying to be Billie Joe from Green Day the first time he played that song for me.  He always acts like I haven’t said anything when I comment on their music.  He’s such a sexist.  Honestly, if I didn’t believe in this guy, I’d split right now.  It’s not like the band’s that great, but he’s dedicated, and he tries really hard.  Their shit’s about as good as the stuff on the rock stations.   And they’re all hot in their own ways, so I figure, by the time I’m twenty-three, they’ll be signed.  I’m twenty-one now.  Todd will be rich, and famous, and if he dumps me, I can sue him because I acted as their manager before they got a real one.  I have documents and everything.  My own fucking letterhead.

They’re done playing, and Todd is next to me in this booth that goes the length of the wall.  There’s a round table in front of us, and Thing 1 and Thing 2 look at me like, oh, we see how it is, and avert their cat eyes.  Todd’s got his arm around me and is cupping my right tit.  I want to sock him and say, “Not ‘tilVermont, ass.”  Instead I shoulder him off me and look away as I take his cig and drag on it.  I think of this one time, right after we got together.  He missed my birthday party, even though he promised he’d come, and so I took home this Kosovian.  His name was Vladmir or something, I don’t honestly remember, and I didn’t say it because I didn’t really know how to pronounce it.  He had a lumpy cock.  Not cancer-lumpy, fat-deposit lumpy.  He kept saying, “Suck my deek.”  I asked him why, because I hate giving blow jobs, and wasn’t so excited about his thick, misshapen wang in my mouth.  I would honestly rather just fuck.  I don’t know how some girls get off on that shit.  It’s like eating a hotdog popsicle that leaves especially aggressive sugar-film in the back of my throat.  Vladmir kept talking about me sucking his dick, he said, “Because I like eet.”  I said, “Well I don’t,” but he was tenacious, so I finally gave in.  I made him wear a condom, but it was his, and it must have had spermicide on it because it was bitter as hell.  I got to feeling sick during from whatever chemical I was eating, plus it gave me cotton-mouth, and before I could finish him off, I had to run to the bathroom and puke.  He was sweaty as hell, but he wouldn’t kiss me, so as punishment, I just lay there, with a burning throat, and let him fuck himself in me.  I was pissed.  Sometimes that shit is exciting, though, but this Don Juan lasted all of twenty seconds, and so it was disappointment all around.  Anyway, later that night, after I sent Mr. Kosovo home, and Todd was blowing up my cell phone, leaving apologetic messages, I showed up at his house.  Shoved him all the way to his room, and fucked him with Vladmir’s stink all over me.  He must not have noticed, or been so glad I came back, that he didn’t say anything.

The other three guys get a pitcher of beer, and join us at my perch.  They talk about the set, and about how cool it is to play shows at bars because of the cheap beer.  I want to ask them how come they don’t thank me for hooking all this glory up for them, but they’re oblivious.  It’s a lost cause, and Todd thanks me often enough.  Usually, after we have sex, he lays with his sweaty head in my armpit, and talks to the ceiling about how lucky he is to have me, and how I make him happier than anyone, and how he’s glad I go to their shows, and all this other sappy shit that I usually fall asleep during, but I recognize that it’s good of him to say.  I just don’t like listening to his bleeding heart.  I wish he were one of those stoic rock-band boys who pour all their sensitive artist shit into their songs, and not into their girlfriends’ eardrums.

Anyway, at least he’s hot.  And at least I booked us two rooms at the motel tonight.  The other three in one room, and Todd and I in the other.  It will be nice to have some solitude.  I want to take a fucking bath.  And I better get some solitude because my ass paid for the motel.  The guys saved up enough to rent the van, and for most of the gas money from their stupid jobs.  They get paid a little bit at some shows, and we all drink free or cheap, but I work full time, and had to use my vacation time to come along.  I don’t think they know that I paid for the motel.

Todd says he loves me.  I think he’s lying.  Not because he doesn’t believe he loves me, but because he doesn’t know what love is.  I know what love is, and this sure as shit isn’t it.  This is warm up.  After Todd makes me well-dressed and “in” with the rock-industry types, I’ll get a real rock star.  This is practical.  He has his head way up his own ass, he pays lip-service to the concept of love, but he loves his guitar, and his stupid bandmates, not me.

The bartender is yelling for everybody to get out, and the guys go load the equipment.  I stand by the front door and smoke.  My ears ring, and the chaos of the bar-exodus is like a buzz, not a ruckus.  I go to the van when I hear the back doors slam, and we get back on I-95.  It’s the bassist’s turn to drive, and I leave him on his own to look for the exit that will take us west to the motel inVermont.  I write down the name and the phone number of the Motel, in case he gets lost.  I give him my cell phone, and the print-out from Mapquest, too.  I pass out, and I expect that I’ll wake up to the ignition switching off.

It is cold, and I am shivering.  My legs goosebump under my stockings, and I jerk alert.  The van is vacant, and we are not in a motel parking lot.  I feel disoriented, and forget my hairstyle, shove my hand in my hair.  It pulls and I wince.  I fumble with the door handle, and slide more than step out of the van.  I rearrange my skirt, and look around me.  We are pulled off the side of a highway.  I walk around to the back of the van, and the guys are there smoking.

“Pull over for a smoke break?” I ask.

“Nah, man,” Todd says, “we’re lost.”

“Fucking shit.  What time is it?”  I say.

“’Round 4.”

How lost are we?”

“Pretty damn lost.  This is New Hampshire.”  He points, and I look at the exit sign just ahead.  It says, “PortsmouthNew Hampshire.”  Fuck it all.  None of the assholes thought to look at the map when they got off the directions from Mapquest.  I seethe and am this close to throwing an absolute tantrum.  Instead, I get back in the van and fish a blanket out of the back.  I start to doze, and the guys are rapping on the windows, saying, “Aren’t you going to help us?”  I pretend to be asleep.  They got us into this, they can get us out.  They’re guys.  They should know how to read a map.

I wake up in the motel parking lot.  The guys are unloading their crap, and I go to see about keys, etc.  It is6 a.m., the sun is rising.  This is fucking bullshit.  I breeze by them without a word, toss the drummer the key to their room, and hightail it to mine.  I let myself in, unlock the door so Todd can get in, and go to the bathroom.  I start up the tub, dump half the bottle of no-brand motel shampoo in for bubble bath, and get naked.  Good water pressure, excellent.  By the time I’m done peeing, the tub is halfway full, and I slide in.  The muscles in my back loosen.  I fart.  I hear Todd come in the room and he shuffles around for the light switch.  I hear his bag thunk onto the floor and the TV switch on.  He knocks on the bathroom door and asks to come in and take a leak.  I shut off the water and shout, “Okay!”

He always takes down his jeans to pee, and this time his underwear, too, because he knows I like his ass.  He yells at me about not helping them get unlost.  I clench my fists under the water and shriek about how fucking ungrateful and whiny he is for at least twenty minutes, until the phone rings, and it’s the motel office telling us to quiet down or they’ll call the cops.  I am in the tub all this time, and even my ass cheeks are starting to prune.  Todd is holding vigil at the open door to the bathroom, and I want to throw things at him, he is so fucking frustrating.  His goddamn arrogant mood, his self-righteous sense of entitlement to everything I have to offer is infuriating.  I tell him to go to bed, and mean it.  He does not budge.  He is in silent protest, I guess.  I slosh out of the tub and leave as much bubbles on me as I can.  I tiptoe up behind Todd, spread bubbles up and down his arms, bear hug him so his clothes are soaked and hoist myself up on him, straddle his lower back and piss on him.  He shrieks, spins around, and throws me off.  He yells and dances around like a grizzly bear.  I am giddy, simply hysterical.  I am on the floor, naked, red-in-the-face, laughing.  He peels his clothes off, and throws himself into my grayish, gassy tub water.  I laugh harder.  He’s calling me a fucking bitch, and he is genuinely pissed, but I can’t stop laughing.  I get on the commode to finish the peeing job I started on Todd, and then dip my ass in the tub water to rinse it off.  He grabs my ass, pinches it hard so my eyes water, and arms me around the throat, pulls me back against him and snags my ear with his eye teeth.  Not a love bite, but it turns me on.

I whip around, sit on his knees in the water, clench his torso with my knees and grab his dick.  “We have twelve hours ‘til your show.  Whaddaya wanna do?”  I ask.  He stands up, grabs my left upper arm so hard I know I’ll have a bruise, and drags me to the stiff bed.  We have angry, hard sex.  We hump and our pelvic bones beat together.  I’ve got both hands on his ass cheeks.  It’s automatic, easy.  For a moment, I can see us outside of myself.  I am floating in the air, just watching.  I smile.  He’s got one hand on my tit, and the middle finger of his other hand on my clit.  He’s rubbing it raw, and I know it’ll feel like sandpaper in my pants tomorrow.  I love day-long reminders of violent coitus.  We are both pooped:  all fucked out.

I get an oversized t-shirt and slide into it.  It sticks to the smear of cum on my belly.  I get back in bed and lie with my back to Todd.  He does this thing he’s never done before: gets close without touching, slides his hand up my shirt and curls it over my shoulder.  Just leaves it there.  It is not sexual.  He just wants to be near, I guess.  I brace myself for whatever love-babble will ensue, but nothing.  Just his breath on my neck.  Just his beautiful body so close that even though we are not touching, I feel him all around me.

I roll toward the bed’s edge, and Todd whimpers.  His grasp on my shoulder tightens.  I can’t stay.

“I have to pee,” I lie.

“Mmmh,” his breath pushes through his nose and he lets go.

I stand for a moment by the bed and look at Todd’s hair string itself out across the pillow.  The tip of his nose bends upward.  I get my purse and the key.  Open the door gently, close it quietly.  I need a cigarette.  I need a manicure.

Tips for Successful Internet Dating part 1: The Profile

Do you want your online lovelife to look like this?

I am currently in a love relationship that started online.  It is the best love relationship in my life to date, but I spent a lot of time meeting dweebs and getting humbled and disappointed before this one.

Being a person who expresses herself most ably in writing, online dating has always appealed to me.  I dabbled prior to Child’s arrival, but had no real need for the work of web dating, since I was young and funny and reasonably attractive.

Single parents who don’t have a ton of help and are reasonably responsible, are relegated almost singly to the world of online dating.

From Child’s birth to when I moved to Williamsport (approx 4.75 years), the number of adult-only, away-from-home interactions I had were about 1/100 of all the similar errands in the 5 years prior.

I hate first dates, they are almost always disasters, so when I was free to go alone, I did not want to waste the precious time on a man.  This is not to say I never did, certainly, but the occasions were rare.

Before I commence with tip-giving, I should posit that these tips are for people who are serious about online dating, not trolls amateur pornographers.

  1. Your Online Dating Profile is NOT your resume.  Therefore, don’t embellish.  Don’t turn an acne-pitted face with rosatia into “smooth, ivory skin.”  This is simply not true, and there is almost always–even if it is small–the chance that you’ll meet the person reading your profile.  If you tell lies that are obvious and then have the gall to meet the person you’ve lied to, you’re saying, “I’m a stupid douche who thinks you’re stupid too.”  You  can’t assume trust, and you have to work twice as hard to earn it in text.  Besides which, people who seek mates online (people who are more than sex partners) are implicitly willing to love the person despite her body.
  2. Be funny or interesting. Online dating profiles can be a little stuffier than first dates, since we’re assuming a slightly longer attention span with fewer distractions and no ability to read social cues, but listing every single thing you’re interested, and detailing the superiority of your knowledge on the topic (and consequently your human pomp) is a sure way to get people to navigate away from your profile.  Be succinct, but not drab or negative.  Don’t say, “I hate online dating profiles.  I also hate men with back hair, and I hate kitty cats and children and anybody who reads George R.R. Martin.”  Say, “I prefer Chaucer readers to Cat owners, and even more than that I like people who are daunted as I am by filling out this profile.”
  3. Be true to yourself, or Dealbreakers Right Up Front.  As much as the object of online dating is mating, you have to be pretty self-aware to find a rewarding love situation online.  Before you sit down with OKCupid and start hammering away at the keyboard, sit down with yourself and ask some questions:   What are my deal breakers?    What is my goal in online dating?  Am I willing to invest a lot of time before the nookie?  Am I comfortable meeting strangers in public?  Knowing deal breakers in advance is essential to online dating success.  If you won’t date someone who’s blond or who has children, be very up front with that information.  And behave accordingly.  If someone who blabbers on about their wee crumb crunchers in his profile sends you a message, ignore it or delete it.  Do not engage, because if you do, that person will assume that you’re not as put off by children as your profile suggests and they will start to create a you that does not exist in their minds.
  4. Do not expect to get if you are unwilling to give. You must give as much information about yourself as you receive.  Invariably, the person you’re writing to will be reading between the lines of what you write, so being honest and clear and offering up bits of your innermost self is highly important, and–unless the person with whom you will correspond is cripplingly self deluded and/or a psychopath–your openness will spur theirs.
  5. Do not expect it to be easy.  An online dating profile is really a pile of effort.  You must spend a lot of time thinking about things you like and love and who you are and what kinds of things you want in a partner before you even get to the actual online dating part.  In my experience, it’s worth the effort, because even the dates that aren’t good are great stories.

Next time, Online Dating Sites, a non-comprehensive list.

Stories I wrote: Mistaken

I’ll be posting short stories on Wednesdays in 2012.  One of the things I want to change this year is that I will consistently call myself a writer and behave as such.  Fiction writers write stories, so I’ll be doing more of that.  You, blog readers, are my accountability partners.  Hopefully you’ll like these stories.

I was looking through my hard drive, finding things to delete as I yearn for a 2012 fresh start.  The first 6-8 will be stories from my undergraduate thesis, so they are all 6-8 years old.

This one is called “Mistaken.”   I was reading a lot of Lorrie Moore when I wrote it.

My favorite anecdote about this piece is that when Chuck Kinder (famously, the guy on whom Michael Douglas’s character was based in the movie Wonder Boys, which was first a book by Michael Chabon of the same name) called me to welcome me into the MFA program at Pitt (which I did not finish), he said, “I just love those second-person sex stories.”  So there’s your spoiler.  This is a second-person sex story.

Mistaken

It is Halloween.  You are both drunk on pumpkin beer and tequila.  His huge hands are like warm wash cloths on your hips and you sit up with him inside, rocking, rocking.  You feel him begin to shudder under you, and know you can come too.  And you do.  Then the sensation you will deny for weeks: beyond the threshold of plausible deniability and then some.  A flutter deeper under your organs than any cramp, any ovulation.  It spreads out across your limbs like a thousand spiders parade along each vein.  You smile.  Your hand settles involuntarily on the sticky skin below your navel and you start.  He is beside you, so you can’t say, “Shit.”  You can’t say, “Oh my god.”  You shove your hand under his butt and pretend to be invulnerable.  You roll over and kiss the skin beneath his armpit hair.  It is the softest, best-smelling skin in the world.  He sighs and fingers your hair.  He pulls you close in his safe, safe arms.

You can feel it. Feel it like nobody ever told you you would, like nothing in a text book.  A freeze dried marshmallow floats in the hot cocoa of your womb.  You suck, frantic, at your Camel Wide and you wish for any reality but this one.

You go back to your town, away from him.  Think about how uncomplicated is a synonym for non-monogamy.  Regret the conversation before the first time.

“What do you say we go back to your place, smoke a joint, get naked and see what happens,” he said.

“On one condition,” you said. “You won’t go back to New Hampshire and try to make me your long distance girlfriend.”

“Uncomplicated: good,” he said, and you got turned on by his caveman diction.

It’s the day you get back from visiting your parents for Thanksgiving.  You are at Wal-Mart with your roommate.  She picks up the pink boxes, you favor the blue.  You think blue is a more sensible color in general.  You trust blue.  You do not trust pink.  You wonder why pregnancy tests come in boxes the colors of babies.  You think they should be black.  You think Sam’s Choice is a bad choice.  You wonder how it’s possible that Sam’s costs $3.41, and the least costly brand above that is $9.93.  You settle on a middle-of-the-road brand.  It comes in a blue box.  You would prefer it have a blue strip, too, but its strip is pink.  You start to think about gender issues and tell yourself to shut up.

You remember how you got feisty about the condom.  How he didn’t want to wear one.  How that time you broke four before one finally made half-time.  How you wish you could parade these instructional leaflets and plastic pieces and incomprehensible pink-or-blue-lines to his bathroom.  Make him see, make him participate.  But the truth is you’ve done it to yourself.  The truth is you’re scared to death. The truth is you’ve known him for two months, spent twelve hours with him, and the only thing you know about him is that he is a sweet, energetic boy with a beautiful penis.  And that you’re not sure if this pull in your gut when you think of him is because you love him or because you’re pretty sure you’re carrying his child.

You think about not smoking on the way home.  But you roll down the window and drag deep.  Deep and long.  You’re still officially ignorant.  Ignorance is bliss.  You finish it in two blocks and light another.  Your roommate bites at the tips of her fingers.  She reaches over and touches your arm.  Says, “It’ll be okay.  No matter what, okay?  I’m here for you.”  You blink away the sting in your nose and smile with half your mouth.  A patronizing smile you’ve only seen on mothers before.  You squeeze her fingers and say, “Thanks.”

You pee in a plastic cup you have from your last STD test at Planned Parenthood.  The instructions say pee in a cup or on the test stick.  You think the cup is safer.  You think about how you catch things.  You catch ideas in journals.  You catch sentiment in e-mail.  You caught bugs in jars when you were small.  Then you think about how catching things makes them elusive.  How bugs are elusive.  How colds are elusive.  How it seems that this is less elusive than you hoped.

Your roommate holds the test for three minutes.  She makes you leave the bathroom.  You feel like throwing up.  You boil water for tea.  You think about decaf, how what’s happening in the bathroom will change what you think about decaf.  You think about what you will do, imagine tiny limbs spiraling down the toilet.  Think about pro-lifers’ picket signs with their graphic masses of clotty, discarded fetus.  Abortion’s what you always said you’d do.  But you feel it.  You know it’s there.  It’s changed the way you think.  You can smell everything.  It is your job to protect it.

“What’s it say?”  you yell through the bathroom door.

“Come in here.  I can’t tell.”

You see two pink lines: one much darker than the other.  You ask her which appeared first.

“The darker one.  The instructions say the lighter one’s supposed to show up first, to prove it’s working.  But that dark one came first and fast.  The lighter one just came.”

“Well, there are two visible lines.  I think that means positive,” you say.  Sigh.  Sit on the side of the tub.

“Are you going to tell him?”

“Yeah.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Dunno.”

Without warning or sense, you want monogamy.  You don’t want to ask.  You don’t want to hear him say, “You’re a great girl, but…” like others before him.  And you laugh because it is so ridiculous.  You are somebody’s mom.  You feel assertive and tired.  You understand why you’re supposed to have a husband for this.  And you, you can only blame yourself.

You try to concentrate on finals, and you don’t do any Christmas shopping.  You write your papers, but they end up being illogical and bad.  You turn them in anyway.  You pretend you’re strong and go home to your mom.  Your Pollyanna mom.

You say, “I have some bad news.”

“What?” she says.

“You’re going to be mad.”

“I won’t know that until you tell me, now will I?”

You pause a moment, look for better words.  “I’m pregnant.”

She gets a look that twists her face like a Picasso: some amalgam of horror, joy, anger, love.  It is an impossible look.  You think about how someday you’ll know how to make looks like that.  Because your child will hurt you as much as you hurt your mom.

“How did this happen?”  she asks.

“Well, usually this happens when people have sex.”  You know it’s hard for her, but you suspect she’ll highjack this and make herself a martyr somehow.  It is her pattern.

“I know that.  Who were you having sex with?”  Your mother and father both assume you are a virgin.  They think this because you never talk about a boyfriend.  You never talk about a boyfriend because you never have one.  Because you like to skip all the squishy stuff and just do it.  You know the last names of less than half the men you’ve slept with.

“The mailman.”

“So I guess marriage is out of the question, then?”

“Yes.”

She starts to cry and you are helpless.  You don’t want to hug her because she is angry.  You don’t want to cry in front of her.  She doesn’t want to hug you.  She sputters through her tears, “Your father will not handle this well.  I think I should tell him.”

You leave the room.

But your father does handle it well.  He comes to you while you are looking through sheet music at the piano.  He scoops you up like you are a little girl again.  He hugs you a long time.  He rubs your back in slow, solid circles.  You cry, wail.  Like you did when you were scared of cows as a child.  You pull away from him and say, “Thanks, dad.”  His eyes are wet, too.  You have soiled his t-shirt.  You paw at it and blubber.  He says, “Don’t worry, I was gonna take a shower anyway.”  Later, he will ask you a lot of questions about your sex life.  He will wonder how many partners you have had.  He will ask you about birth control and STDs.  He will seem a little too curious.  But you will be relieved to hear him say, “Honey, you’re twenty-four.  I would be worried if you weren’t having sex.”

You have lunch with your mom and let her take you baby shopping.  She is happy.  Then you go back to college.  You make appointments to see doctors.  You cry at one Kenny Loggins song and all Johnny Cash songs.  You only want to eat Peanut Butter ‘n Jelly and Ramen.  You do your school work rambunctiously.

Finally, you call him.  You say, “I have something to tell you.  It is important.”

He says, “What?”

“I bet you could guess if you thought real hard.”

He says, “Well, I think I know.”

What do you think you know?”  You feel like a cheater because you are making him say it even though you can’t.

“You’re pregnant?”

“Yes.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Keep it.”

“Shit.  What have I done to you?”

“You didn’t do anything to me.  I was there, too.  You didn’t do this by yourself.”  You have repeated this line over and over.  Your parents want you to be a victim, to blame.  You tell them there is no blame to hang.  You were using two forms of birth control.  Sometimes things like this just happen.

“Is there anything I can do?” he asks.

You wish you could blame him, be hurt, hang up.  You wish you knew something, anything.  It gets clear to you that you know nothing.  “Decide what you will do.  Tell me I’m pretty.”

“You know you’re pretty.  Shut up.”

“Thank you.”

“Wow.  This hurts.”

“Yeah.” You say, “It does,”

“I don’t think I can talk about this right now,” he says, lets out a nervous giggle.  You are relieved that he does not yell.  That he did not hang up.  “Can I call you tomorrow?”

“Of course,” you say.  You doubt he will.

But he does call.  He calls and you are surprised.  You are elated.  You are an excited terrier.  You want to jump through the phone and lick his face.  And you want to talk.  But he does not want to talk about what you want to talk about.  He wants to wax-questionable-taste about poor films and poorer books.  He wants to talk to you about his job.  He wants to pretend that you have been friends for a long time.  And you let him, you let him because you should: because you want to.

So you talk.  About nothing.  You listen.  About less.  He tells you about all the beer he’s been drinking, and you are jealous.  He tells you about his stupid roommates and their stupid animals that they don’t take care of.  You tell him about school, though he acts disinterested.  You visit him.  You think maybe he will want to talk about this thing, this big thing in your body, if he can see you.  But it is worse.  You understand, for the first time, the expression “there’s an elephant in the room.”

You identify in yourself a need to talk, you realize talking is how you survive.  But you also need sex.  So you decide that you will use this visit productively, and you notice – though you try not to analyze too much – how he is more violent with you.  How he leaves the kind of bruises you like, and you try to draw only the obvious conclusion.  But it sticks there like foreshadowing, and you think about how your life has become literature.

So you decide that you must talk.  You decide that if he is not ready to talk, he doesn’t have to, but you are, and you need to.  And you do.  You do because waiting for him to be ready makes you feel helpless.  You call him and talk.  You write him long, insecure e-mails.  When he talks, he talks in as few syllables as possible, and always seems to agree.  He sometimes answers your e-mails, in courteous, respectful sentences.  Short ones.  You feel more secure, and you bring up nuances.

“What will happen when the baby’s five?” you ask.

“I will visit on his birthday,” he says, and you know that you’ve been doing all this talking, and he has not been listening.  He’s been blatantly ignoring you.  And you brace yourself for the emotional tsunami that is about to strike.

You feel yourself begin to cry, and you say, “I gotta go.”

He asks, “Is everything all right?”

You say, “I just gotta go.  I’ll call you tomorrow.”

And you do.  And he does not answer his phone.  He doesn’t answer the next or the next day.  When he finally answers, he has to go right away.  “Bill’s coming over.  Bringing beer.  I have to go.”

You hang up the phone.  You cry.  You write more e-mails, though you know he hasn’t been reading them.  When you ask him why he never writes back, he says, “I’m busy.”  When you ask him if he’s reading the e-mails, he says, “Of course.”  You tell him you won’t send them if he’s not reading them.  That you have to talk about it, but you will only talk on the phone or visit more if he doesn’t read the e-mails.  He insists that he does read them.  So you insist to yourself that he has no reason to lie.  That you will continue to write them, and you will consider this a misunderstanding.

But he does not get any better at talking, or answering e-mails, and you are beginning to show.  His reluctance to talk confuses you, confounds you, renders you speechless.  You realize that it was never okay, that he was never ready to talk.  That his silence will not get any better if you continue to indulge it.  It may not get better if you don’t indulge it, but at least you will know where you stand.  And so you drive to his house.  You appear, unannounced, on a Friday night.  And he hugs you, holds you, pushes your hair behind your ears.  He wonders why it looks like you’ve been crying, and you begin to think that he is an idiot.

And so you tell him that you have not come for sex, that you are completely prepared to make the three-hour-drive back tonight, and that he must talk to you about this.  That this is big and hard, and you understand that.  And you assume, since he hasn’t said otherwise, that whatever fears he has are okay.  That they are probably your fears, too.

But the truth is, he erupts.  He blames you.  He tells you you should have had an abortion.  He asks you why you didn’t, why you had to put him through this.  He tells you that he has rights.  That he has the right to keep you close to him, because you have mentioned grad school out west.  That he does not have to send you child support if it means he has to go on welfare.  And you can barely see.  You can barely breathe.  You can barely stand up.  You ask him why he didn’t say any of this sooner.  He doesn’t hear you.  He keeps ranting about his rights.

You interject with an “I statement,” something you learned about in a junior-high health text book.  It doesn’t matter what it is, because he screams, “Stop saying I!  I wish you’d stop saying I!  This isn’t about you anymore.  You have a kid!”  And you crumple.  You crumple inside, outside, you realize that he is a lost cause.  That he has been storing all this up.  That he has been stringing you along.  That you have no idea why he would or how he could do that.  You realize the boys in your grammar class are more sensitive to your pregnancy than he is.

The water in your eye sockets has broken.  You will not stop crying for weeks.  For now, though, you turn around while he is mid-scream.  You say “Goodbye.”  You are not sure he has heard you.  You don’t care.  You remember how you have been asking him to talk, and squash your protestant guilt.  You regret your hesitancy to blame.  You will not hear from him for months.

You stop at a late-night drive-thru McDonald’s and get three large orders of fries.  You get a huge coke.  You drive seven hours to your parents’ house.  It is 5 in the morning when you get there.  Your dad is awake and getting ready for work.  He is surprised to see you.  Your eyes are swollen and the front of your shirt has two large wet spots.

Your dad says, “Please move home, honey.  Move home and stay until this is all over.”

You hug him.  Later, you ask your mom what your dad meant by “until this is all over.”  You’re sure he doesn’t think parenthood is finite.  Your mom says, “I think he meant until your kid is eighteen and can move out.”  You laugh.  She laughs.

Xmas Decompression, Depression, and Showing Off

 

These are my holiday gifts.

I’ve been dying to post pictures of them.

I want you all to know how creative and crafty I am.

I got the pattern for these guys over at Crafty is Cool, which I discovered from trolling Ravelry.com, which is a knitting/crocheting site.

This morning, I woke up with a premonition that Child was dead.

She was really so lovely at the holidays.  She was good and sweet and all things that are important for small children to be in order to win the favor of Jolly Old St. Nick.

But when I thought she was dead, I was full of sadness and panic for a moment, a much shorter moment than is reasonable.  Then I was filled with wistfulness for returning to my pre-child life, and I felt relieved and free.  I also briefly considered the delicious excusability of substance abuse and general fuck-uppery.

Then I went into her room and felt her chest for breath.  It was there and I was more glad than disappointed.  So that’s something, right?

I’m blaming this pile of angst on the massive, emotional build up that Xmas as a parent (especially a broke one) embodies, that is invariably anticlimactic.  I’ve written before about some of my mixed feelings about being a mom, and you all know about my mixed feelings about Xmas.  And please don’t take this to mean that I’m homicidal toward my kid, or that I regret or resent her.  But man oh.  I think I need to put some more pictures of monsters. Monsters are happy.

Dr. Zoidberg & Lena

I let Child watch Futurama, whenever she wants.  She does not get the jokes she shouldn’t get, and I find it to be a more entertaining cartoon than Fanboy and Chum Chum.  She thought these were hilarious.

So did their giftees, my good friends B and T.  I know these aren’t exactly proportional, and I worried for a moment that B&T would think I was making some kind of judgment about their human proportions.  I was not.

Everyone was a little more interested in these little gifts than I expected them to be.

I talked Fella into going to my parents for overnight.  It was lovely.

We got to hang out with my sister and her brand new fiance. They are getting hitched up this summer.  Below is  a picture of them and Child in Baltimore.

And now, I am feeling emptied out and tired and wishing that I could’ve worked through Xmas.

Sister, Child, Fiance in Baltimore

And I am hoping that you have better feelings about Xmas.  More like these ones I was having a few weeks ago.

I have conflicting feelings about marriage, too.  I am not married, nor do I aspire to be.  When I was young, I imagined my life alone in an urban apartment, taking a succession of monogamous lovers.

I am happy for my sister.  I like her fiance.  I think they are both fabulous humans and they will make lean, gorgeous babies.  But I am worried about them making babies.  Not because I think they are incapable, in fact, I believe my sister to be gifted with natural child rearing abilities (like my mom); but because I am traumatized by making babies.  And because, selfishly, I am worried about watching people I love become parents in healthy, rewarding, mature, socially appropriate ways.  And because my baby sister making a baby–even if she does it in 7 years–will mean something about the evolution of family that will force me to face my parents’ mortality, mine, and my own inadequacy, by which I am daunted.

My dad showed me a passage in a book Fella got him for Xmas that indicated that he believes that I am eschewing my spiritual journey.  That he thinks I am godless and hopeless.  Maybe you think that, too, now.

I am not.  But I do think that religion (not spirituality), is more limiting than people believe it to be. And I personally view it as a coping mechanism more than as a helpful set of mores by which to live.

So that’s it, fair blog readers.  I am not warmed and filled by this season.

I am warmed and filled by the so far, only positive response I’ve had about my nonprofit, Billtown Blue Lit.  By the indie book store agreeing to let us set up at First Friday, and by the way in which the project and my hard work will enrich my community.  I am affirmed by doing good work, not by religious rhetoric, gift-giving/receiving, or by motherhood.

Does this make me empty or capitalist or lacking perspective?  I don’t think so.  It makes me honest to myself, and willing to accept responsibility for figuring out how to be a useful, good, human, even though I’ve made choices that have ended in things I don’t always know how to manage.