Sunday, March 24, 2013

I Won't Give Up

My son’s asleep in his bed and my husband is working in the basement.  I’m alone in our bedroom.  I hear the cold air and wintry mix slap against the side of the house.  The tree limbs outside look like long arms that are just short of reaching inside our windows as they try every once and while with a tap, tap.  The outside air even smells cold; like heavy snow.  It’s the end of March and the cold weather has overstayed its welcome but in no time, the landscape will turn from barren and lifeless, still and white, the color of nothing--to something else, something alive.  I inhale a deep breath of artificially warm air and it brings me comfort for what awaits; that cold will turn into warmth, gray skies into sunshine and the snow will stop.  It always stops.  The color green will rise up in sprouts all around us, like it always does, as life springs into abundance; a surge of beauty everywhere.  We will step on with our bare toes the freshly grown grass, and then we’ll cut it down and eventually take it for granted.  We’ll awake to the first charming then suddenly intruding songs from the trees.  We’ll feel all at once, as Dylan Thomas wrote, the “force that through the green fuse drives the flower” in our blood, growing in our bellies, until we ourselves burst with color and life so new that it alters our world and everything around us.  I exhale with a sigh, a long awaited sign of hope that is echoed by the universe and I say out loud “thank you.” 

I’m pregnant. 

Now excuse me while I throw up.

I’m going to get very personal, again.  I’ll start by answering a question someone recently asked me.  Did I plan this?  Heck yes I planned this.  It’s been a stressful several months.  Let me quickly explain that after my mom’s knee surgery she suffered some pretty bad anxiety attacks that were brought on by her imbalanced chemical reaction to pain and trauma.  She took medicine, felt guilty about it, tried to take herself off of it, had to go on more medicine because of it, and the doctors couldn’t find the right balance to set her straight.  A couple of months ago while my poor mother was in the hospital suffering from what was eventually diagnosed as a nervous breakdown, I had a revelation.  No matter how much I tried to help her, I couldn’t fix her.  No matter how much I sacrificed for her, it wouldn’t change this.  No matter how much you hurt for and with someone, it won’t fix their problems.  Don't get me wrong.  It's okay to help someone that you love as much as you can.  But there comes a time when you have to let go and accept the fact that some situations can't be helped by you.  I watched my mom, the woman who always comforted me when I was in need, relentlessly pace the floor of the hospital while begging me to explain why all of this was happening to her.  I couldn’t.  I felt for her, but I couldn’t do anything about it.  An unreasonable fear had consumed her and all I could do was watch.  Suddenly my own problems came into focus and I had another revelation.  I wanted certain things in my own life and I had been putting off doing anything about it.  I felt like my life was passing me by.  Walking to my car later that night, I got so mad.  I resented fear.  I had had enough of it.  It was ruining our lives.  It hit me like a bolt of lightning; I wasn’t going to wait any longer.  There was something I wanted that was within my control and I had to do something about it.  I wanted a baby.  I know that seems like a giant leap in logic, but, stick with me.  As the Queen of A-ha moments Miss Oprah Winfrey herself would say in one of her pedantic speeches, “Beloved, if you want something, you have got to make it happen.”  So, sick mother or no, I was going to have a baby.  Responsibilities or not, I was going to have a baby.  Stress, heartache, fear…I wasn’t going to pace the metaphorical floor of my life any longer.  I was going to have another damn baby.

So I gave my husband fair warning and told him “get ready,” because I wasn’t going to give up until I was impregnated.  I’m talking protein shakes and energy shots, sit ups and squats, yoga and Sting…you get the idea.  I was ready.  Once I get an idea in my head can’t nobody stop me.  So we tried.  I mean, we tried.  In completely barbaric terms and for your adult ears only:  you know the Olympics?  Yeah.  It was kind of like that.  But with sex. Oh, come on.  I’m married, in love with my husband, and talking about God’s beautiful gift of procreation here, so suck it up.  Just shake your head and say, “Oh, that Carrie” like you’ve done almost every time you’ve read this blog.  

It didn’t take long.  I still can hardly believe it.  And of course, in answering another question someone asked me, yes, I’m a little scared.  You can’t go through a miscarriage without being hyper sensitive the next time you’re pregnant.  This is a warning to those of you who’ve had a miscarriage.  It’s scary the next time.  You’ll put some unneeded stress on you and your baby because if you’re like me, every time you go to the bathroom you pray you don’t find blood.  But trust me, you’ll get over it.  You will, like me, surrender the whole thing to God.  You’ll sleep at night.  You’ll thank Him again and again and you’ll see the beauty and peace in a situation that brings up painful memories. You’ll be encouraged by a solid group of compassionate friends.  You’ll be scared, but you’ll be okay.  I was scared that maybe I shouldn’t be writing this, announcing this pregnancy so early.  But you know what?  Forget fear.  It will not dictate how I act.  My mother is home and on the road to recovery and by the grace of God learning how to function through the fear again.  So am I.  Something huge is going on in my life and when something huge happens to me, I write about it.  I can’t be afraid that if it ends I’ll be embarrassed, or ashamed, or right back where I started.  No.  Not this time.  You’re with me no matter what, right? 

So what’s next?  What I hope will happen is that I’ll be happy, and fat, and moody, and fat, and uncomfortable, tired, and fat.  I’ll revisit my old maternity clothes and buy new ones, because that’s one of the BEST things about being pregnant.  Say it with me, “stretchy pants.”  I’ll make my husband repaint the blue nursery (because I’m crossing my fingers for a girl) and eventually accept that I can’t control those kinds of things, or anything for that matter, and I’ll be happy with whatever God gives me.  And selfishly, I’ll ask for prayer, because I believe in it.  I’ll ask for strength to endure whatever will happen over the next nine months and strength for the next time I get knocked down, which hopefully won’t be anytime soon.  But if I do get knocked down, I’ll ask to be stubborn enough to get up and try, try again.  Right now, as I type this, I’m looking down at my belly wondering what’s going on in there.  Once again, because I can’t help it, I’m making plans.  I’m falling in love again.  I’m singing a sweet little song to my sweet little nub,
“…Even if the skies get rough/I’m giving you all my love/I’m still looking up…” 

I’m still looking up.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

And I Feel Fine

Today after having an echo-cardiogram and while being fitted for a heart monitor that I’ll have to wear on my body for the next month, my nurse said to me, “Today is 12/12/12.  Do you think anything bad is going to happen?”  I looked down at the wires hanging off of my chest and the blinking light on the cell phone-sized monitor.  "Are you kidding me?" I thought, but just shrugged it off.   A little sensitivity and perspective is all I’m asking for, people.

I guess I can’t blame her for being distracted by the hype that the world is ending instead of being cognizant of how my world is being shaken up right now.  I blame the Mayans.  The Mayans predicted the end of the world but they couldn't predict drought or the Spanish Invasion of the Yucatan Peninsula, both of which are theorized to have led to their own civilization’s demise.  I don't give the Mayans the credit that others believe they deserve because I know they aren't the only ones who’ve come up with these doomsday theories.  It probably started long before them, and it’s been continuing ever since.  Today of all days, well, conspiracy theorists are jumping on the cliff-headed bandwagon and everyone from fringe scientists to Christian "prophets" are predicting a "major global shift" before the end of 2012.  You too?  Well throw your hat into the ring because apparently it doesn't take any credentials or scientific fact to come up with a doomsday theory.  I know, I’ve heard them all and have been living with the effects of them my entire life.

It started as far back as I can remember.  Like any kid who grew up in a Pentecostal church I was deathly afraid of the penultimate act in the book of Revelations, The Rapture of the church.  When I was a small child, we watched a terrible b-grade movie on the subject in the basement of our church called "Thief In The Night."  I cannot tell you the psychological damage it caused me.  Parents, don’t do this to your children.  Even if you believe the rapture is soon approaching, please believe that your young children are going to go up with you.  The Jesus I believe in doesn’t deny young children, so there's no need to show them this traumatizing propaganda and instill in them a fear so crippling that it will haunt them for the rest of their natural lives.  I used to creep into my parent's bedroom at night just to make sure they were still there, you know, in case the prayers of repentance of a six year old girl went unanswered.  Now that I've gotten older and have had an opportunity to actually read and reflect on the book of Revelations, I have to confess, I'm as confused by it today as I was back then.  The book of Revelations is the biggest head scratcher in all the books of the Bible, with Song of Solomon taking a close second.

A few years after I finally convinced myself that I wouldn’t miss the rapture and I stopped freaking out every time I came home from school to an empty house, I saw another movie, “The Day After.”  We watched this in school.  It was the story of nuclear war between the United States and Russia.  I laugh now, remembering that Steve Gutenberg was the star of the movie, so how scary could it have really been?  But in the early 80’s we were sure that we were as close to nuclear war as we’d ever been.  I saw that “Doomsday Clock” on every news story, and ever since I can remember it’s been at five minutes to midnight.  Scientists came up with this clock.  Actual scientists.  I know this because that is what my third grade teacher said.  “Scientists predict that the world will end.” 

Then in 1990, when I was in the seventh grade, some guy named Iben Browning predicted a major earthquake on the New Madrid fault line in Missouri.  He said it would be an earthquake unparalleled in its devastation.  Some guy predicted this earthquake.  I Googled him recently and one site said that he was a “scientific generalist.”  What does that even mean?  Despite his lack of credentials and the fact that it's impossible to predict earthquakes, the people of Missouri lost their minds.  I saw earthquake preparation boxes on sale at every major department store.  All of my friends’ parents had begun hoarding canned goods and bottled water in their basements (but mine didn’t, of course.)  We had earthquake drills once a week in school.  I was twelve and my sister had just died, so imagine yet another fear filled year, expecting at any given moment that I and those I loved would be wiped off the face of the earth. 

And of course, there was my last year in college when mankind was on the brink of the new millennium but couldn’t enjoy it because of theY2K scare.  Most of you remember that ridiculousness.  I spent New Year’s Eve that year at a church lock-in.  Just in case.  And though none of the Y2K fantasies actually came true, reality hit one year later when two huge jets crashed into the twin towers.  Ever since then, our terrorism threat level is high and everyone is always supposed to be on “red alert.”   I can’t open mail, drink water from the tap, or go to a parade without a slight, nagging thought in the back of my mind, wondering if this is the last thing I’ll ever do. 

No wonder I have freaking heart palpitations.

Needless to say, I cannot remember a time growing up when the news media and those around me didn’t believe in the impending doom of the human race.  No matter what the reason, scientific or spiritual, it seems that “apocalypse fever” spreads faster than the plague.  The doomsday prepping industry is seeing a surge in sales of emergency supplies, generators, bunkers.  I've read "The Road" and the "Left Behind" series.  I don't want to be here after an apocalypse. I don't want to be a survivor. I’d rather die and go be with Jesus.

The funny thing is, nothing that is supposed to happen in the future is scarier to me right now than these heart palpitations that I've been having at night, which are more likely to kill me than a meteor or a nuclear weapon.  I’ve laid in bed at night while having them and thought, well, I guess I’m going to die.  I wonder who would show up at my funeral.  I wonder if my husband would remarry.  I wonder if my son will grow up healthy and normal without me.  Terrible thoughts.  And then I pray and confess everything to God, again. I think, there’s so much I haven’t done, so much I need to do and say and so many people I still have to forgive.  I have to give birth to another baby, someday.  Don’t judge me.  I’m sure when presented with a scary situation you’ve thought of exactly the same kind of things and made some lists of your own.  Maybe you’re doing it now, wondering if in a few weeks it will all be over as you stand and watch everything burn as Sam and Frodo did at “the end of all things.”  Being afraid to die has brought me to my own theory, why people buy into all of this end of the world stuff.  I believe John Donne was right, no man is an island.  It’s easier to accept that the world will end than to accept that your individual days are numbered.  The thought occurred to me while watching Toy Story 3.  Towards the end of the movie it looks like the heroes are going to be incinerated and as the toys plummet towards a fiery furnace, they all accept their fates and join hands.  Because they know what everybody knows:  nobody wants to die alone.  Even Sam and Frodo had each other.

This is pretty heavy stuff and I’m not being flip when I say to myself and to you, cheer up.  Most likely these heart palpitations I’m having are hormonal changes from being overweight and stressed out.  The world is probably not going to end on December 21st.  And the same Bible that told me that Jesus is coming also reminded me that no one knows when.  So don’t be afraid.  If it all ends tomorrow, which it won’t, but if it does, I’m satisfied knowing that it meant something.  I’m thankful I was given the opportunity to live and love and have a son.  If nobody gets the opportunity to read this, I’m glad I wrote it.  I for one don’t think God or the Universe is out to get us.  I think we live and then we die.  It’s the way of things.  In the words of my dearly departed 102 year old grandma, “I’m going to live until I die.”   And now, as I face a future that is just as uncertain now as it was when I was six years old, I can take a deep breath and without fear say the same thing. I’m going to live until I die.  And you should too.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Everything Counts

There is a new trend on Facebook and I’m happy to report, it doesn’t piss me off and it’s one that I actually quite enjoy.  I’m sure you’ve noticed that during the month of November our friends have taken it upon themselves to post every day what they are most thankful for in their lives.  For example, today is the 16th of November, so upon logging onto my home page I saw a lot of posts that looked like this: “Day 16: Today I am thankful for my parents, whose love and support have always been just what I needed to succeed in life.” 

I am not cynical.  I’ve never been the type of person who hates something just because everyone else loves it.  (50 Shades of Grey being the exception.)  I know people who’ve refused to join Facebook just because everyone else is doing it, or refuse to like a certain mainstream band because of its popularity.  I think that’s beyond smug.  I mean, get over yourself.  You are not as cool as you think you are.  Because when I see these status updates from the people that I know and love systematically listing what they’re thankful for, I have to confess, I get a gooey buttery feeling inside of my heart.  I know some of the cynics are over it already and think that it’s just another jump-on-the-bandwagon maudlin display of gratitude, but I like it.  I’ll take it over your political rants and pictures of food any day of the week.  I like knowing that I’m not the only person who feels so tremendously blessed and who over-sentimentalizes the people and things others take for granted.  And yes, I realize we are supposed to be thankful every day of the year and not just during the month of November.  But let’s be honest, if that were the case, we wouldn’t need a National Holiday to remind us to be grateful.  Americans, it is called “Thanksgiving” for a reason.  It stopped being about celebrating the autumn harvest and conquering the New World years ago when we finally got politically correct and took the injustices suffered by Native Americans seriously.  Try explaining to your four year old why we celebrate Thanksgiving while leaving out the weird, un-PC details of the first pilgrim/Indian dinner (because according to every historian it didn’t happen that way) and instead try to justify this brain fart of a holiday using a Sunday school type of lesson.  I said to my son, “It’s a day set aside to tell God how thankful we are for everything.  And, our family comes together to eat dinner.”  This explanation confused him slightly, since we do that very thing practically every night.  We don’t take saying “thank you” lightly in our household.  If you’re going to be anything, be thankful.  It’s a beautiful thing. 

Not that long ago a woman complimented me on my Coach purse.  She said, “It must be nice.”  I said, “It is,” knowing fully well what she was implying.  That in today’s economy it must be nice to be so frivolous and shallow as to not only afford but have the audacity to purchase a two hundred dollar bag.  I deduced from her tone of voice that she had already made certain assumptions about my priorities.  I could’ve set her straight.  I could’ve told her that I bought the purse at an outlet mall in Branson on a trip with my husband.  And I guess I could’ve told her that he bought the purse for me because we were eating lunch at an A&W and I told him a story from my childhood that almost made him cry.  I wasn’t fishing for a purse with my story.  I wasn’t even fishing for sympathy.  (And I’m not fishing for it now, if that’s what you’re thinking.)  The story goes, when I was about eight or nine years old, my mother and sister and I went on a church trip to Elephant Rock, a park in Missouri with, you guessed it, really big rocks.  On the way back, the bus load of church goers stopped at an A&W restaurant.  Everyone got off the bus.  Everyone except my mother and sister and I.  I remember crying and begging my mother to go inside so I could have just one root beer.  I had never seen the inside of an A&W restaurant and I thought it must be some sort of kid heaven; foot long hot dogs and fountains of root beer and frosty mugs.  Even at eight years old, I understood exactly why we didn’t go inside the restaurant.  We were poor.  My mom had no money to spend on frivolous stuff like root beer floats.  When you’re a kid, you don’t see the big picture because your life is surrounded by the small things.  Toys, candy, root beer…that’s the world you live in, not understanding things like electricity, mortgage payments, gas.  I know I added more fuel to the embarrassment of my mother but at the time, I couldn’t help it.  I cried.  I cried for what seemed like forever while all the people were inside eating and drinking, and I cried all the way home after the loaded bus took off and the A&W sign got smaller and smaller.  Even at eight years old, I understood what feeling “left out” meant.  I understood what feeling “less than” meant.  I didn’t understand priorities, or pride.  But my mother did.  Because I imagine that out of an entire bus load of Christians that someone probably volunteered to pay for our sodas.  But my mom understood what was important, and though at the time I felt like the victim of this story, I know it’s really my mom who wouldn’t take up the offer, she who suffered more than I ever had. 

Don’t misunderstand my story.  I’m not trying to glamorize being poor.  I’m not saying that it’s given me any more depth of character or entitlement than someone who was raised privileged or even middle class.  While I was growing up I would’ve given anything to be just like my friends.  You know exactly what I’m talking about.  Because I don’t care who you are or what your economical background is; you have a “thing.”  A thing that at some point in your life has made you feel “less than” or “left out.”  Maybe your parents gave you everything you wanted when you were a kid but never paid any attention to you.  Or maybe you’ve been beautiful your whole life but never felt valued for anything else.  Or maybe you have a disability, or a birth defect, or a social disorder, or have been the victim of something awful.  Heck, I could go on and on but you get what I’m saying.  Trust me, I know a ton of people who’ve had it much worse than I have. In fact, I am friends with some of those people on Facebook and they’ve decided that this month, as cheesy as it might seem, they are going to focus on what it is they are thankful for and not what they’re sad about.  Like I said, it’s a beautiful thing.

The lady who judged me so quickly for having a pricey bag didn’t know that just a few days ago as I was driving home from a play date I thanked God that I was able to take my son to Panera Bread Company afterwards with all the mommies and their kids.  It may seem like a small thing, based on who you are, but to me, it means something.  You know why now.  I’m thankful for the big things and the small things, and everything in between.  This girl knows the value of a Coach purse and the value of a root beer.  More importantly, I know the value of a good mother, for whom I'd do anything and give everything, who didn’t have the choices that I do now.  I don’t take those choices for granted.  I don’t feel like that little girl on the bus, I am that little girl on the bus.  Only now I can afford to go inside. 

So, yeah, I’m thankful…

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Wicked Game

Remember the good old days of soap operas when Dr. So and So's evil twin brother would come into town and trick his wife into falling in love with him?  Or when the rumored bad boy with a scar and patch over his eye would be accused of a crime he didn’t commit and turn out to have a heart of gold?  Or the woman in a coma would wake up years later to find that her sister and her husband had a baby together, thus becoming an aunt to her own stepson? Those were scandalous and titillating stories of their day and provided the necessary escape that housewives needed in their unromantic lives.  But then in the 80's, like everything else, soap operas got super tacky. Something dark and twisted happened to those story lines.  At least one character on every soap was raped.  Worse, those same rapists eventually won over the women they had violated, changed their ways, and fell in love with them.  If you think I'm making this up, Google it.  Or just ask your mom, who could probably tell you all about it. You'll see that almost every soap opera on television has had a rape story line at some point and nine out of ten times the rapist and his victim fell in love.  Which begs the question, ladies, what the heck is wrong with us? 

My theory is that soap opera writers foreshadowed the whole “Rihanna and Chris Brown”  love story with the "try to fix the guy who loves you so much he hurts you" story lines, and in doing so crossed the line from scandalous fun to seriously disturbing taboo. 

Fast forward to 2012, the year of Fifty Shades of Grey

No, it's not about rape, but it is pretty messed up.  It has as many delusions as a soap opera, as much depth as a thirteen year old’s diary, and more, um, "relations" than Cinemax at midnight.  And yes, I've read it.  Which begs the question, Carrie, what the heck is wrong with you?

Save your judgment, friends.  I've judged myself for this.  I’m not proud.  But these are my blah confessions, blah blah.  I'm not ashamed at the moral repercussions of having read such a naughty book. That’s between me and God.  I'm embarrassed because I majored in Literature.  I should know better.  I'm embarrassed that I read a book that uses the phrase “My inner goddess” and I can't believe I'm admitting it to the whole world.  This book is terrible.  I don't just mean its contents, I mean, it's terribly written.  The first person narrative is what I imagine Miley Cyrus's internal monologue must be like: "He's so hot," "Holy cow," "Did I mention this is so hot?"  I'm smarter than this book and yet I along with what, sixteen million people?, ran out and bought all of them.  And do you know why I did?  It’s not because I’m a pervert.  It’s because I'm a stinker.  I read a very self-righteous article written by a woman who so indignantly said that she would never read Fifty Shades of Grey because it was pornography, it would dishonor her husband, and because it wasn’t the “Christian” thing to do.  She looked down on any woman, married or single, who read the book.  That’s all it took for me.  I thought, what's all the fuss about?  Nobody's going to tell me what I can and can't read.  I’m an adult, I make those choices. In the words of that librarian chick from the awful movie The Mummy, “It’s just a book.  No harm ever came from reading a book.”

Ugh. I hate agreeing with the holier than thou.  But yep, it’s porn for women.  And unless you've been living in a cave in Pakistan off the electrical grid, you've seen it on just about every talk show and on the nightly news.  My contribution is just one of thousands of blogs, critiques and essays written on it.  You can’t escape the panels discussing the supposed pros and cons of this book.  And not just women are talking about it.  Some men have said it's been great for their marriages.  Some men say that the unrealistic expectations of the book have made their wives dissatisfied.  I have to credit EL James for finally accomplishing with men what the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition did for women; creating an impossible standard.  I’d also like to credit her for revealing to the world what women have known for years, in the words of a friend, “women won’t watch porn but they’ll sure read the heck out of it.”  Move over the tame-by-comparison Jackie Collins, there’s something meatier.  EL James’ books have found their way into our daily vocabulary and have contributed to this decade’s zeitgeist.  Everyone from my mother to Michelle Obama knows about this book.  I don’t think EL James is a marketing genius, I think she got lucky.  Real lucky.

But more than that, I think she’s just another writer messing with our heads.

I’d like to point out all of the ways this book contributes to the delusions of women who grew up watching fairy tales and now project the image of Prince Charming onto a fictional, screwed up man with a stupid name like Christian Grey.  I’m sure you’re smart enough to already know all of them, but, humor me.  I have to have something to write about.  Those of you mature enough to have read the book and rolled your eyes at it, as I did (but continued to read it anyway) will agree with me.  Those of you who haven’t read the book, well, I’ve lost you already, haven’t I?  Those of you who’ve read the book and let it seep into the dark recesses of your brain and…gulp…don’t be too offended, but heed my warning. 

#1: The Broken Man.  You are not Ms. Fix It.  The fantasy is, he’s screwed up and he needs a virginal hottie to be a better man.  I get it.  She will fix him because besides having lady parts, she has the ability to exorcise the demons of his past.  She is just that sweet and that desirable.  Why are broken men hot?  We need to stop this.  Ladies, I’m going to shout at you: STOP THIS.  A guy who likes to hurt women, manipulate them and dominate them is a big bag of hot mess that you should run away from, not fantasize about.  Ok, on terms we can relate to, a guy who has never been able to commit, or a guy who cheats, or a guy whose previous relationship messed him up is not the guy for you.  In real life, screwed up guys don’t want women to fix them.  And bad boys aren’t cool.  They’re bad.  Seriously, don't buy it.  You’re not special enough to fix a messed up man.  You’re not going to be the magic one that makes him change his mind about marriage, or kids, or whatever.  He needs to fix himself.  Preach.

#2: The Alpha Male.  Could the heroine in this book be more annoying?  She’s so...weak.  Right?  She rolls her eyes and bites her lip and pouts and cries, a lot.  This man likes to dominate and control her, no, he needs to dominate her.  I’m sorry, I just threw up in my mouth a little.  He gets territorial and jealous and he doesn't even like her friends.  Since when did that become sexy?  Last time I checked, women can vote and run for President.  The last thing we need right now is another weak female lead character. She’s no Elizabeth Bennett, to be sure.

#3: The Obsession. Stalkers aren't sexy.  They’re weird.  Guys don’t need you that much.  If a guy needs you too much, take it from me, it can get pretty scary.  I dated a guy once who actually showed up at my work after I broke up with him to show me his MRI results and pointed to what could or couldn't have been a brain tumor.  I was pretty sure it wasn't even his brain I was looking at.  But yeah, he thought if he could get me to feel sorry for him then I’d forgive him for being a crazy nut-job stalker.  “Every Breath You Take” takes on a whole different meaning when you've actually been cornered at work, church, and at home by a guy you just can’t shake.  Oh, and a guy who gets information about you through any other source than what comes out of your mouth is not to be trusted. 

#4: The Rich Man. The one percent are notorious for being self-obsessed.  Who really wants to date a CEO anyway?  These are the guys who spent their bail out money on corporate spa retreats.  Jerks. Rich guys aren't going to spend all their money on you.  They’re rich for a reason.  In today’s economy you’re lucky to have a man with a job.  No rich man sits at his desk emailing and texting his girlfriend all day anyway.  Presents are fun, don’t get me wrong.  But fantasizing about a rich man is as much a waste of time as cleaning up your kids’ toys.  (I had to tie in being a stay at home mom somewhere in this one.) 

#5: The Bump and Grind.  I’m not even going to talk about the, um, "relations" in this book because 1.) I have my limits and don’t want to risk losing some of my readers and 2.) We’re familiar enough with the book to know the hokey pokey (i.e. that’s what it’s all about) and 3.) It’s so unbelievable that it’s laughable.  I mean, come on.  As far as the rough stuff goes, I’ll just say this: it wasn't nearly as disturbing as this one episode of “Taboo” on the National Geographic Channel that featured something called “puppy play.”  DON’T GOOGLE IT.  I mean that.  Don’t make me shout at you again. 

#6: Ok, Fine. I've made a mix cd for every guy I have ever dated.  I've made them for my husband.  I've made them for friends and relatives and you know how many I've gotten in return?  None.  Zip.  Nada.  Nobody’s going to buy an iPad for you and download a meaningful playlist onto it.  But dang, even I have to admit, she nailed it.  Out of all the “fantasies” in these books: helicopters, handcuffs, penthouses…this one is the only one where I said to myself, “Well, that would be kind of nice.”

If I've left any out, by all means, I’d love to hear your contributions.

In the meantime, let me offer you an alternative to the absurd story lines offered in these books, one that I've learned to appreciate more than the tie-me-up, tie-me-down fantasies about a severely damaged man.  For two weeks now my mother has been recuperating from a knee replacement surgery.  She’s had high fevers, tremors, blood clots, fever blisters, nausea, you name it--and I've had to act as interpreter and speak on her behalf to nurses and doctors, requiring me to be at the hospital day and night with her. And do you know what I came home to the other night?  My husband and son cuddled in bed together. As my husband sang him to sleep, I crept into the room and as soon as he saw me, my son jumped out of the bed and threw his arms around me and kissed me goodnight.  Later, my husband and I were in bed talking and laughing and I had the mother of all mood swings and began crying on his shoulder about how worried I was for my mom and how stressed I was with the responsibility. Then I put my head on his chest and listened to his heart.  Precious reality, with all its ups and downs, is where I rest my head at night.  He’s not rich or damaged and he’s not obsessed with me.  And no, he’s never made me a mix tape.  (But I’m waiting, patiently.)  He’s my husband.  He’s there for me.  He takes care of my son and loves him with all his heart and soul.  He works hard everyday for his family.  I trust him.  Sorry, Christian Grey, but you ain’t got nothin’ on my man. 

Besides, who needs perverse fantasies when I have a hot bath, a Reese’s peanut butter cup, and a Jane Austen book waiting for me?  18th century British social hierarchies and manners?  Now that’s hot.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Beginning and The End

So…where were we?

Yesterday began as every other day.  I woke up, fixed my husband’s lunch, poured a bowl of Cheerios for my son, cracked open a few hard boiled eggs for myself and logged in to Facebook.  Don’t shake your head at me.  You know you do it first thing in the morning, too.  “Facebook with coffee” is the new “morning paper with coffee” to us lazy Millenials.  Some of us would have never known that Whitney Houston had died or that Albert Pujols transferred to Los Angeles had it not been posted everywhere on Facebook.  I had to know what had happened to all of my “friends” since nine o’clock the night before, when I last checked.  My brain was flooded with random information, pictures of babies and food, political rants and hard opinions, as my husband kissed me goodbye and I waved him out the door.  A few minutes later, coming out of my stupor, I suddenly realized that I had forgotten to get the mail over the weekend.  I’m very busy, you know.  I literally sprinted out to the mailbox because I hate going outside when I’m not wearing a bra.  The chances of someone noticing that I’m not wearing a bra under my jammies from inches away much less twenty feet away are slim to none, but still. Blame my mother for my modesty.  (And my small chest.)  I hurried back into the house with handfuls of the usual junk mail, ads, credit card applications, what not, but then, something else.  A big box marked “ENFAMIL.”  Two free containers of the formula were wrapped inside of a cardboard box that read “good timing” on one side and “mark the milestones” on the other.  My stomach dropped.  It’s not the first of these types of “gifts” I’ve received in the past week.  The first was a Carter’s catalog along with a number of coupons and advertisements for newborn paraphernalia. The second, a set of leak guard pads and a trial tube of barrier cream to use while breast-feeding.  And now this.  I wonder if the next gift I receive in the mail will be a lemon, you know, so I can squeeze its tart juice into my almost-healed-but-now-slashed-wide-open wound.  It appears that I was put on some kind of mailing list last December, back when there was nothing but comfort and joy.  These lists miraculously get the good news, but unfortunately, not the bad. 

I admitted to a friend of mine the other day that I have a problem.  Hello.  My name is Carrie, and I like to know how things end.  It’s good to get that off my chest.  It’s why a few chapters into any book I skip ahead and read the last ten pages before continuing reading.  I look up online the spoilers to movies.  I reassure my friends that no, you won’t ruin (fill in the blank with the name of any movie) for me.  I actually wanted to know that Bruce Willis was really a ghost, that Harry Potter survived, and that Julia Roberts was ultimately rejected for Cameron Diaz and didn’t get to marry her best friend.  (Still by far THE WORST ENDING in the history of chick flicks.)  My rationale is this, why bother wasting time getting your hopes up if the ending doesn’t pay off?  My heart longs for resolution, in all things, not just in movies and books.  In life too.  About five years ago I had a falling out with a good friend and I still can’t let it go.  I need closure, or something, to know that the journey was worth it.  I’d like to know that it all meant something.  I still fantasize about a tearful reunion, things going back to the way they were before, as cheesy and unlikely as that sounds.  But I digress.  Don’t get me wrong, the journey, or what I call, “the middle stuff” is great, but I am and always have been a “Where is this all going?” kind of girl.  I’m not saying a good ending has to be a happy ending either.  My poetry professor put it this way, “A poem isn’t sufficient unless it resolves itself, definitively and as quietly as the sound of a box clicking shut.”  But I’m a sucker.  I like the sound of a box clicking shut as much as the next guy, but I admit, I do like a good, happy ending every once in a while.

I’m saying all of this because I have a story to tell.  It’s one that I have been wrestling with myself over whether or not to tell you for a good nine months.  I want to do this topic justice.  I have to say it right because the story I’m going to tell you is not only mine, but could quite possibly be yours, or your sister’s, or your friend’s or mother’s story. Women who, like me, have felt a loss that only someone who’s had something this precious in the first place can understand.  

My beginning was early last December, when I called my husband upstairs from working on the basement to come look at the plus sign on a stick that I had just peed on.  We cried, laughed, kissed, and said a lot of thank you Gods.  I figured I was about six weeks along then; the baby barely the size of a bean.

The middle stuff happened so fast that I can barely call it stuff.  I told a couple of friends about the news and how great I felt.  They said they thought as much, that I was glowing, and they were so happy for me.  I was so happy for me too.  I bought a couple of maternity shirts out of sheer excitement, unknowingly submitting my name for those insufferable mailing lists.  We bought a t-shirt and an ornament that said “Big Brother” for our son and stupidly, stupidly, gave him the ornament to hang on the tree.  We told my husband’s family the good news the night we all went over to his mother’s house to wrap presents.  We were saving telling my family for Christmas Eve, going to let our son announce the news by wearing his t-shirt.  We were in a delirium of merriment and once again, it didn’t occur to me at all that I still wasn’t sick.  Shoot, I even thought, I’ll have two more if they are all like this.

I would like to tell you that I’m now the proud mother of a newborn baby and that all the newborn stuff in the mail is being put to good use.  That I didn’t have to sit through friends’ baby showers feeling jealous of those big round bellies full of life and promise; healthy women about to have healthy babies.  That holding someone else’s newborn baby in the hospital just a few months ago wasn’t the most difficult and gut wrenching thing I’ve ever done and that I didn’t go home and cry myself to sleep afterwards. 

But I can’t.  No, my story ended violently on Christmas morning as my husband watched me in the bathroom, bleeding into the toilet, hunched over, convulsing and crying with every passing clot.  Later that day in the ER there was more blood but no heartbeat.  And just like that, I wasn’t pregnant anymore.  In writer’s terms, there’s not much falling action after something like that happens.  Just a lot of internal monologues, external dialogues with God, and a week of more bleeding followed by a week of diarrhea.  I could use words like “empty” “despair” and “failure” but I’ll save you from that.  You know enough of the gross details by now to know that the end was the end, so there’s no need for an epilogue.

Nine weeks doesn’t seem that far along but you and I both know, the minute you find out you’re pregnant, that’s it isn’t it?  You’re a mommy.  I talked to my bean, I sang to her, I just knew she was a she.  I wanted her so, so badly.  Since my miscarriage, I’ve had a close friend and a relative who both went through the exact same thing.  And as much as I tried to console them, tried to empathize with and encourage them, I can’t lie.  I myself am still having a hard time feeling closure in all of this.  I appear to be “over it” because that’s what people expect.  Our fast paced society and even some of our friends don’t allow us to grieve for very long.  I know that sounds cold, but it’s true.  They look down on you if you don’t quickly recover, as if there’s something wrong with your faith or your sanity or your outlook on life.  But I say, give yourself the time you need.  Screw everyone else.  I mean, maybe there shouldn’t even be closure to situations like this; maybe these types of things are always open ended.  These aren’t your normal stories, not your normal endings.  Maybe I didn’t lose a child in the conventional sense, the way my mother did when my sister died.  I can’t even compare the two.  But I lost something.  The hope of a child.  My baby was lost somewhere in the middle, and had probably been gone for a while, maybe even as soon as it began, I just didn’t know it.  I never imagined it could have ended that way.

Almost nine months have passed. Thank God, I did have a certain amount of peace after it happened, the kind of peace I know only God can give. I felt like at the time, I was given a choice: to fall into a pit of depression or to climb my way back to normality.  I climbed, tooth and nail.  But I have to admit that sometimes, I don’t know how else to put it except--my heart still feels it.  That tiny, bean shaped hole that will always be there.  And despite having that initial peace, I now have to come to terms with the fact that I also have a lot of fear.  I know that doesn’t make sense.  If this has ever happened to you then you know that it’s entirely possible to have a certain measure of peace about past events but to also face your future with some fear.  Who wouldn’t be afraid?  Everyone, and I mean everyone, wants me to be pregnant again.  I want it too.  But I’m really, really scared.  I have heard stories about women having multiple miscarriages and then finally having a baby.  I don’t want to be one of them.  If I get pregnant, I know firsthand that there’s two ways it can turn out.  Sometimes I still think, if this is the way it ends, I don’t know if I even want to start the journey.  And sometimes I look at my beautiful, blue eyed boy and think, but it can end this way too.  Which really isn’t an ending at all.

If I’ve said this to you once, I’ve said it a million times.  I’m working on it.  I think.  I’m honestly trying to prepare myself for anything, but then, how do you do that?  Right after it happened, a good friend of mine told me that she dealt with her miscarriage by taking all of the things they bought for the baby and putting it in a box, to always have a reminder that this baby had a life, this baby mattered and still does.  I loved the idea.  I started to make a box of my own, with a bib and the t-shirt that we bought for my son.  Last night I went back to the box and put the formula in it.  When I closed up the box, I thought about what my poetry professor said.  A box clicking shut.  A quiet ending.  But you know, not really.

Because my story, like all the best stories, goes on…

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Oops, I Did It Again

It was one year ago today that I uploaded a very personal essay I had written in the throes of the most stressful time of my life (thus far) onto something called "Blogger" and hoped that someone out there would read it, identify with it, and then offer some validation in the form of feedback.  In other words, millennial technological naval gazing at its finest.  You know the story.  I was stressed.  I was sad.  I had lost some people close to me and I had watched others suffer.  I was taking on what I thought was too much responsibility for someone my age.  I was pretty angry.  I was insecure; trying to be the best mother I could be while trying to be the best daughter I could be while trying to be the best wife and woman and person I could be.  I wanted to cry, but I had to laugh too.  I wanted someone to laugh with me.  When I failed, I wanted someone to say that she failed too.  And when I was alone, I wanted someone to say, “No, you’re not alone.”  Hence, the mommy blog.

I’ve been asked, “What’s the point of writing a blog, much less a mommy blog?  Who cares what you have to say anyway?  Why would people read your blog?”  I’ve asked myself those questions too.  You may not care at all what I have to say.  You may be the one who asked me those questions.  After laboring over those questions for a year, I have an answer. 

Because I said so.

I’m kidding.  The truth is, I don’t know, dang.  I don’t know what the point was of writing my experience and putting it on the “internet” for “everyone to see.”  I don’t know if anyone cares about what I have to say.  I admit, the blog has taken a back seat to some other things going on in my life and I haven’t kept up with it as much as I should.  I’m sure you’ve all been hanging on the edge of your seats hungry with anticipation, anxiously awaiting any word on my son’s nose picking, winky touching, letter writing, poop leaking, gas passing (oops, that was me), binky loving, song singing, fit throwing phases.  Well, haven’t you?  I don’t even pretend that you do.  I’m not that na├»ve.

I will say this; I have a lot of fun when I write.  And what little feedback I do get from other moms satisfies a very specific longing in my scatterbrained, insecure mind.   You don’t have to agree with me or do what I do in order for this to work.  We just have to be there for each other.  That’s how that works.

Not that long ago over coffee I told a friend of mine, who asked how my son was doing, that I am officially the mother of a pre-schooler.  I talked about my son for another thirty seconds before I somehow managed to make the conversation all about me.  I told my friend that I’m completely intimidated, once again, by the seemingly perfect supermoms at his school.  My rambling was an echo to what I said almost a year ago when my son was in pre-preschool (and yes, once again, that is a real thing).  It went something like, “They drive shiny mini-vans or giant SUV’s that they must surely take through the car wash at least once a week.  They wear tight yoga pants, as if all they do for the two hours their children are in school is work out.  They have perfect ponytails and no fly aways.  And get this, they flooded my inbox with ideas and assignments a month and a half before the classroom’s Halloween party, the party for which I had to volunteer when the teacher cornered me.  I volunteered to bring goodie bags, which was a huge mistake. Because now I feel all this pressure since one of the supermoms already brought goodie bags for her daughter’s birthday and I swear Martha Stewart made them…”  I continued on with other examples of why I thought these moms had it all together and why, once again, I felt like I would never fit in to this suburban Stepford mommy culture, all because so and so’s mommy made cute birthday goodie bags.  My friend stopped me, “You think they are supermoms but you make this judgment call after seeing them a total of what, not even five minutes a week?”  I said, “But you don’t know what these women look like.  You don’t see them.  You didn’t see those goodie bags.”  My friend said, “Don’t you think they could be thinking the same thing about you?”  I laughed at that.  “Trust me, nobody thinks that about me.”  Right?  Then my mind flashed back to a conversation I had just a few days earlier with another mommy friend from church who told me she thought I didn’t like her when we first met.  “Me?” I said defensively.   She told me how she thought I was “one of those moms” who only wanted to be friends with perfect moms.  “Me?” I said again in disbelief.  I laughed at that misconception and said, “That was before you knew me, right?”  I then admitted to her that I didn’t like to eat around her because she is in very good shape and I thought she might be judgmental of my food options. We agreed that too often our own insecurities block us from seeing the truth about others sometimes and, flash forward.  I told my friend that night over coffee that “You’re right,” which is really hard for me to do.  I see these women for about a minute twice a week.  I never thought I was a judgmental person but I…me?...yes, even I judge people. 

Shut up.  You know you do it too.

I am trying to raise a son who will respect and appreciate differences, not be frightened by them.  And yet here I was, intimidated and judgmental over what, a goodie bag?  Who does that?  Better yet, what has my life been reduced to?  What did I think, that the kids would line up the goodie bags and do some sort of American Idol panel judging of them?  “Katie’s mommy really made the bags her own.”   “Buddy’s mommy tried her best but overall the bags were a little pitchy, dawg.”  “Junior’s mommy should choose a different dream.”  My son doesn’t even wait until we’re in the car to tear into his goodie bag when he gets one and the contents of the bag last about two seconds before he’s gobbled them up, or stepped on them, or lost them.  So if it’s not the kids I’m worried about, who then?  Ah, the supermoms.  I don’t want to come in last place when I am judged in the great Mommy Beauty Pageant.  Of course, that’s all in my head.  There is no pageant and even if there was, there are no impartial judges.  The expectations we have of ourselves far exceed anyone else’s expectations of us.  It’s stupid. 

In all likelihood, so and so’s mommy put together those goodie bags to show how much she loves her daughter and how special her birthday is to her, not to make the other moms in the class (i.e. me)  feel bad.  That must be her way of doing things, just like I have my own way of doing things.  Not better.  Not worse.  Just different.  I post videos of my son saying his ABCs backwards on my Facebook page, not because I am trying to make other moms feel bad, but because, and let’s be honest, it’s difficult for even grown ups to do.  Seriously though, it’s because no one loves my son like I do.  I am his mommy and I am proud of him.  Plus, and I’ve said this before, he is a genius.  I don’t know if I can take the credit for his brains.  It’s best to just give mad props to God for that.

It’s easy to judge people when you are not walking in their shoes.  Just last night I watched a show on T.V. about a “working mom.”  She and her husband enrolled in a new age baby class to learn the proper “peek-a-boo” technique (it was actually a pretty hilarious show) and her biggest nemesis in the class was a, gasp, stay at home mom who of course was portrayed as super judgmental and superior to the working mom.  I’ve seen this before, in another show, and in a popular movie that was just released.  Is this what people think of me?  That because I am a stay at home mom I think my parenting is superior to others?  They don’t know me.  They don’t know how insecure I really am and how goodie bags cause me anxiety.  They’ve never read my blog.  If they did they’d know I will simultaneously defend my decision to stay home and support their decision to work.  In the words of my dear husband, “I’m doing the best I can.” And I have every reason to believe that you are too.

Once again I have to say that I think if women didn’t compete so much with each other and just learned how to support one another we’d be so much better off, myself included.  I have to always remind myself that it’s not a competition; I’m not going to come in last place and there is no first place.  Insecurity holds us back and stops us from getting close to other women, women that could support us and lift us up if we’d only let them.  We’re not “The Real Housewives of Fill in the Blank.”  We’re real.  I’m reminded of a friend of mine who is literally one of the prettiest women I know.  Looking at her you’d never guess that she struggles with anything, much less with what the rest of us do, insecurity, self acceptance, parenting.  Before I got to know her, I actually thought that there was probably no reason as to why she would want to be my friend.  Now I’m glad that I overcame that initial intimidation and because of it, I think we are both benefiting from knowing and supporting each other.  It just goes to show, you have to go deeper.  You can’t look at someone and figure them out right away, especially other women.  Chances are you will have more in common than you think.

…Which brings me to the big day of the Halloween party.  I was ready to prove that I was just as super as all those other supermoms.  I even wrote every child’s name on the foam pumpkin that was attached to each bag.  I had curled all the ribbon that was left after tying perfect little bows on the bags after stuffing them full of play dough and bubbles, stickers and suckers and peanut free (I learned my lesson) candy.  As I walked in with the box of my most carefully packaged, kick-ass (if I do say so myself) goodie bags, an unusually tall blonde mom stopped me and asked me to carry in some balloons, which I gladly did, and she was very grateful.  She was wearing a witch’s hat and to my surprise, was prepared enough to bring hats for all of the moms to wear, which she thought “would be fun.”  With our hats on and "The Monster Mash" playing, we all decorated the room and set up the crafts for the party and eagerly anticipated the return of the kids from outside.  And for the first time, I actually talked to some supermoms and found out that most of them loved parties, had great senses of humor and were not so different from me after all.  The blonde Amazonian supermom even complained about having to spend extra money on balloons because the dollar store doesn’t sell helium anymore.  “Yes, I know!” I said, shocked that someone who looked like her shopped at the dollar store.  I later found out she was the very same so and so’s mom and the designer of those trendy little birthday goodie bags.  And she was very nice.  I left that party super impressed, but this time I was impressed with myself.  Yes, I can still learn lessons, even in my thirties.  It was fun to wear the witch’s hat.  It was a great party.  Supermoms are a myth.  We’re all just moms.  We can support each other.  We can learn from each other.  Look, mom, I’m growing.

The contents of my son's goodie bag are still rolling around in the floor of my car.

A year ago I ended my first blog entry screaming at the top of my lungs, wondering if anyone was out there, if anyone was listening.  Now that I’ve calmed down I know that, yes, you’re out there.  Thankfully, I’m a little less stressed now, a little less angry and sad, and only a little insecure (around party time).  I’m still in the middle of this very crowded landscape of mommy blogs but I’m not screaming anymore.  I’ve found that I don’t have to scream at all to be heard.  I just have to follow the very first rule my mother ever taught me.  Be yourself.

Thanks for listening.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Boys Don't Cry

In a future blog, I will make sure to list in alphabetical order all of the things I hate about the McDonald’s Play Land.  For the sake of argument and time, I will just proceed with my story.

A couple of weeks ago my mother-in-law took all of the grandkids to McDonald’s for lunch and I tagged along.  With five kids in tow we of course had to sit at the table right next to the Play Land.  It smelled like feet, as most play areas do, and was full of bacteria.  Feet-stink mixed in with chicken-nugget-stink made the place almost unbearable.  My mother in law, ever vigilant and detail oriented, spent half the time pointing out all the kids who weren’t wearing socks and how the sign clearly states that ALL KIDS MUST WEAR SOCKS.  She also noticed the neglectful mother/grandmother at the table behind us who was letting her son/grandson (we couldn’t tell which) run amuck inside the tunnels and terrorize the rest of the children.  My son was way too excited to eat and barely touched his Happy Meal.  As soon as I said the word “go” he sped off and up the stairs and into those dreaded tunnels above us.  On my list, “T” will be for tunnels, because I hate those things.  I can’t see what’s going on or what tunnel my son is about to come out of.  I understand they need to economize space but why do they put the tunnels above our heads?  I can’t move my wide hips up the steps that lead to the tunnels much less fit through the tunnels themselves, you know, if I would have to find my son in the event of a freak out.  Play Land was probably designed by a mother who couldn’t stand her children and wanted to lose them for a couple of hours while she ate twenty cheeseburgers in peace.  Listen to me, if you have a child below the age limit on the Play Land Rules, don’t send him up.  It’s like a roach motel for toddlers, “Kids go up, but they never come down.”  When my son was smaller it was like a game of Marco Polo to get him to find his way back to me.  On this particular day we had backup.  Four of his older cousins were up there with him, so for once I wasn’t too terribly worried about him getting stuck, or lost, or falling out of a hole in the ceiling.  I knew that they would keep an eye out on him and lead him back to safety should he lose his way.  I love that about family. 

Just as I started to relax about my son being in the Play Land maze, all hell broke loose.  You have to understand that as my son gets older, his control freak tendencies (which he inherited from, well, I won’t name names but it starts with “d” and ends with an “addy”) are surfacing more and more every day.  He does this thing now where he just sort of sits at the entry ways to tunnels or slides.  He does it at the park, at the mall, and anywhere there is a distinct “in” or “out.”  I think he likes to pretend that he’s the gatekeeper of a portal to the other worlds, or perhaps a bouncer at a trendy nightclub.  Only the cool kids can enter.  While it entertains him it can be very frustrating to other little kids who just want to crawl through the dang tunnels or go down the slide.  And that’s exactly what happened that afternoon.  Some little boy wanted to pass through a tunnel that my son was blocking and instead of being polite about it he screamed right in my son’s face.  This was the same little boy whose mom/grandma was ignoring him and reading a magazine--as he screamed in my son’s face.  Not to be outdone, my son screamed right back.  They screamed back and forth for a minute until I thought some punches might be thrown.  As I perched on the edge of my seat, ready to grease myself up and wiggle through the tunnels to my son, the other little boy finally gave up and came down the steps.  My son followed.  I gently reminded him that he needs to move out of the way and to not block the tunnels.  It wasn’t the perfect moment to gently remind him of anything.  I could see that both the screaming match and my admonishment had hurt his feelings.  My son is a lot like me, he can’t get into an argument without crying.  I hate that about myself.  Every time I fight I always have to cry.  I feel too much.  Sensing that his feelings were hurt, I asked my son to come to me as I held out my arms.  “I’m not cryin’,” he said, as he turned red and stuck out his bottom lip.  His face looked like it would crack if you blew on it.  “I’m not crying!” he screamed at me.  As I neared him and tried to calm him down and comfort him, he said it again, “Mama I’m NOT CRYING!”  And shortly thereafter, he started crying uncontrollably as I scooped him up and carried his flailing limbs out of McDonalds.

I don’t get boys.  There was a time when my son would hold his arms up to me anytime he was barely hurt so that I could comfort him and hold him.  That time has passed.  Now when he’s hurt, physically or emotionally, anger always follows.  He throws a fit of anger and then follows it up with “I’m not crying,” which is my indicator that he wants to cry so badly that one wrong look will send him over the edge.  I want to know where this machismo comes from.  It certainly wasn’t me.  Who taught my son that crying is unacceptable and where is that person so I can pound on him a little bit?  To be fair, I don’t think anyone taught him to be like this.  He’s a boy.  Of course, I’m finding out every day there are more differences between boys and girls besides the obvious one. Boys like to act like nothing hurts them.  Girls get hurt if you cross your eyes at them.  Boys don’t like to cry; girls make it their nightly entertainment (see: slumber parties for sixth grade girls.) 

I know all about girls, having been one myself now for thirty-three years.  We cry.  Ok, I cry.  Over everything.  Now that I have a child I have to confess that I have cried and probably would cry again at the following things: Oprah’s last show, the youtube video of the lion hugging its former owner, Folgers commercials at Christmas, John Wayne movies, the montage of neglected pets with those Willie Nelson/Sarah McLachlin songs playing in the background, the Coke polar bears, mother’s day cards, father/daughter dances at weddings, mother/son dances at weddings, the moment on Full House when the music starts playing, driving past my old house, homeless people, and against my better judgment, while listening to country music.  I cry a lot.  It doesn’t take much to hurt my feelings either.  You’d think by now, having been through so much, that I would have toughened up, but my skin’s as thin as an Olsen twin.  My husband is constantly telling me that I need to stop letting people hurt my feelings.  I don’t ask to get hurt.  Let’s be honest, people suck.  I’ve been made fun of.  I’ve been rejected.  I’ve been ignored, laughed at, given dirty looks and insulted and I’ve cried almost every time it’s happened.  I laugh it off sometimes but when I’m alone, yeah, I cry.  I’m a girl and I’m sensitive.  As much as I try to toughen up, it’s just the way I am.  I’m easily wounded and I cry but in the end I survive.  It’s kind of my thing.

But boys?  I still don’t get them.  I sleep with one and I’m raising one, but I’m still learning about them.  If you think there’s not much to them, you’re not paying attention.  My son teaches me more than I will ever teach him.

REM said it, everybody hurts.  I’m fascinated though at how differently we all react to it.  Right now my son reacts to being hurt with anger, followed quickly by hysteria.  With me, obviously, it’s crying.  Some people lash out at anyone in their path when they’re hurt and some push away the people they care about most.  What’s the healthy reaction?  God only knows.  No, I don’t want my son to be a sissy cry baby, but I want him to feel like he can still be a man and cry when he’s hurt.  I don’t want him to have to convince me and himself that he’s “not cryin” when I know that’s exactly what he wants to do.  He’s only three years old for crying out loud, pardon the expression.  I want him to let it out now at Play Land so that later in life he’s not some tattooed, tobacco chewing tough guy who starts bar fights.  Because you know it’s just a few short steps between McDonald’s and the neighborhood tavern. 

I know.  I counted.