A Word on Bad Bitches and Basic Boys

It’s New Years Eve, again. I remember being eleven years old and standing out in our driveway at midnight looking for the fireworks over the mountain with the neighbor kids. It was 1993. The neighbor was drunk and kept harassing the chubby kid from down the street by saying, “Yeah you’re a real card fat boy.”

In the morning I’ll wake up thirty-five years old. It will be 2017. A misogynist racist will be sworn into office nineteen days later. We all seem to be a little sad, a little angry, a little dismayed about 2016. We’re personifying the fuck out of the year. We’re begging it not to take anymore of our beloved celebrities. We’re calling it out on being a dumpster fire. We’re raging and crying and laughing all at once.

My 2016 wasn’t a dumpster fire.

My personal year, the year in which I turned thirty-five and wore a bikini for the first time, it wasn’t all bad. In fact, at times it was the happiest I’ve been in my entire life. It was however, tumultuous at times to put it politely, because as you know this is the internet. I’ll just say that self discovery is exhilarating the same way chasing a tornado seems exciting. A lot of garbage will get thrown about in the process.

In order to really tell you about my 2016 I have to tell you about my girl, my friend. A kind of friendship I didn’t know could still exist in adulthood.

To My Boo,

Do you remember a year ago when we went to the gym but we didn’t work out? We ate chocolate muffins in the café and talked with friends. We wore dirty snow boots and heavy coats, our hair greasy, our babies still in diapers. We went home to husbands who didn’t help enough. And then one day we booked plane tickets to a beach, we made protein shakes, put in endless hours at the gym. We dropped weight, grew our hair long, got our nails done, put on make-up. We bought bikinis. We boarded a plane for paradise. We joked that we could never come back again, not the same way we were before. “You know we can never come back from this, right?” we said to each other laughing on the beach.

We didn’t.

We returned home different. We were awake. We weren’t going to participate in the self sacrificing slow death march that is so often the result of womanhood.

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For you, the universe cleared a path. She did it suddenly, violently as if cutting through the brush with a machete. She turned around, looked you straight in the eyes and motioned for you to leave.

You stood up and left.

I hope that in those moments when you’ve looked back over your shoulder, questioning if you’re headed the right direction, it’s me you see assuring you that you are. Well, me and your Mama, and the countless other women who have walked that same path. Everything in your life was merely a detour, a traffic delay on the road you’re now speeding down.

As for the destination? It’s better than Maui. I promise, I know this.

It’s so damn beautiful.

I want to tell you that I see you, and you see me. There have been many times this past year when you were the only one who could really see me. There have been moments alone together when my soul has been naked. Laughing on the Lanai drunk under the Maui moonlight. Late nights talking at your kitchen table stone cold sober with an Excel spreadsheet trying to figure shit out; other times laughing hysterically as the kids raid the pantry. Moments in the weight room where we find our rhythm alternating sets silently while listening to our own music.  I feel a love and acceptance that is rare in friendship.

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God damn, I hope you feel it too.

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I’ve discovered there’s a world of women. I have always existed within it, reveled in it, but this year I’ve felt it stronger than any other year in my life. There’s a sisterhood among us that men will always be threatened by. A way about us they will never understand. Even when in love, even with our husbands, they never fully get it. Strong men roll their eyes at women like us, weak ones grow resentful and scared.

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As I enter my thirty-sixth year I refuse to allow space for the fear of weak men, not anymore. They want to suppress us, tame us, dim our lights. They want to tell us to watch our language, stay quiet, get off the dance floor, stay inside more. They want to be president. They want to own our bodies and manipulate our own inner monologue. Whether through the use of force, abusive language or even the passing of laws, I refuse to play along and my sisters won’t either. If you are threatened by us, you are not man enough for us.

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I’m done apologizing for who I am, and you should be too. I won’t tolerate anyone telling me to tone it down. I want nothing to do with people who gasp when I mutter “mother fucker” under my breath, with people who use their God as a platform for judgment. I have no time for their definition of morals, marriage and motherhood. I care nothing for the world’s expectations of my heteronormative gender performance. I have no time for how they think I should perform my role as a woman, mother, person in their thirties. As a close friend of mine often says, “Get the fuck outta here with that shit.”

Repeat after me: I can be an excellent mother and still be a seriously bad bitch.

So, get the fuck outta here with that shit, or come at me bro.

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Because we’re ready for you.

 

 

And Then I was Gone Again . . .

Too often we craft a narrative for our own lives. We convince ourselves it’s true. We take stock and look around at the world. Perhaps we tell ourselves that our own discontent is self absorbed, a First World problem.

But look at all you have they say. Blessed. They like to throw that word around, blessed.

There are tiny moments in which I see my good fortune. In the early morning light, golden, streaming in behind her blonde hair, all ethereal. Her baby breath in my face as she whispers, “Here Mama, you cuddle with my blankie.” She strokes my arm and crawls under the covers. My lips find the top of her head and I kiss her hair, soft as silk. I run my hands over her little warm body and rub her cold naked legs. “Stay under the covers and warm up,” I whisper back to her. She does. I try and memorize this moment. I know she’ll only lay silent next to me for a few moments. I wish we could stay like this all day.

She is perfection at three.

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The last nine months I have been lost in the woods. I have avoided, burned bridges, failed to maintain friendships. When a mother of small children decides to take care of herself, like really take care of herself, well, some things will suffer. I hadn’t realized that I’d barely kept contact with my own mother, until I flew alone to see her and she choked back tears while she asked me to just “Keep in contact.”

I hadn’t realized.

I sat in my son’s room the other night and listened as he explained in great detail the Lego world he’s endlessly crafting. I looked around and for the first time saw that he really is a boy now. His artwork hung everywhere, his Legos arranged meticulously. His creations positioned painstakingly with Scotch tape, miles of Scotch tape. I listen, really listen to him for the first time in too long. I wonder when I missed it, the transition. Where have I been?

I’ve been here but not really here.

I hadn’t realized.

I’ve been here, pouring the morning cereal and barking orders, packing lunches and loading backpacks, filing homework, getting into my workout clothes while I yell, “Put on your shoes! We’re leaving in fifteen minutes.”

“Ten minutes!”

“Five minutes!”

“Get in the car. NOW! Your sister’s already in the car!”

“But Moooooooom!” He whines refusing to leave whatever project he’s currently working on in his room.

The tiny voice in my head mutters, “Stop calling me that.”

And then I am gone.

Off on a plane, again. Other mothers I know see pictures of me on a beach and comment, “Another girls’ trip?”

It is not a girls’ trip.

I sit on my mother’s patio and drink coffee. We debate the election in circles. We try to make a game plan. I watch she and her husband bicker in an adorable fashion. I tease them mercilessly about being old retired people. I envy them. We all laugh. They drive me to lunch in their old Subaru.

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We eat Cuban food. Walk the beach. Run errands. Commiserate some more.

At night after they’ve gone to bed I stand at the mirror in their guest bathroom. I brush my teeth. I stare at myself in silence. The weight of it all finally hits me.

Hard.

I push back. I shake my head side to side in denial. “No,” the little voice whispers, “put your arms down and let it in.” Grief comes up behind me and wraps her arms around my middle. “What if I’m just going to have to live with this?” I ask her.

She doesn’t answer.

Days later I sit alone in a fancy hotel room in Clearwater. I watch the sunrise over the white sand beach. If you squint, it looks like snow.

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“How’s your day?” a friend texts.

“Awful.”

“Call me.”

I call.

I sob into the phone unable to speak. They listen.

“Are you writing? You need to do the damn thing! Get down to the beach. Have you been in the water yet? Get in the water!”

“I have. I was. I had to go back to the room….” my voice broken.

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I spend the next twelve hours in that room. I never turn on the TV. I cry until the front of my shirt is wet. I write. I talk to friends. One friend makes me laugh until my belly hurts. The kind words of another make me cry even harder. I hang up the phone and feel surrounded by their love. I cry more. I lay on the bed and stare out the window as the sun slowly dips behind the ocean, families in silhouette playing on the beach. I open a bottle of cheap drugstore wine. I sit in the chair and start drinking on an empty stomach as the room grows dark. I order room service and eat a $30 cheese plate with my $8 wine. I finish the wine and leave the rest of the cheese out in the hallway.

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I crawl into bed without brushing my teeth and pass out, exhausted, spent.

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Done.

The next day I drive to the airport. On the bridge while stuck in traffic the biggest dragonfly I’ve ever seen keeps pace with my car. She stays right outside my window.

For miles and miles.

She guides me home.

The Winter of My Discontent: What I’ve Been Up To

You ever feel like you’re just gliding through?

Everything’s going smoothly. And so I ask myself, “Wait, is it going too smoothly?” And my self replies, “Oh no, we’re not doing that shit. That fatalistic shit’s too good so shit’s going to go bad nonsense. You’re too old for that.” So I just relax and cruise through with my currently healthy kids and husband who’s home more during the slow season.

And dammit if he’s not really helpful when he’s not tired from working seventy hour weeks. He’s playing board games with the kids and having them help make homemade pasta. He’s researching Lego pirate ships online. He’s making waffles from scratch after dinner. He’s forcing everyone to go sledding. I’m arguing that it’s too cold, that there’s not enough snow. I end up having a fantastic time.

After the kids are in bed I have a glass of wine. Later in the dark I reach across the bed and stroke his winter beard and say, “I love you. Thank you for being such a good Daddy.”

In the slow pace of winter I feel like I’m not doing enough. I’ve gained weight. I’ve been letting the kids watch more TV than usual. I started out feeding them only organic food and now McDonald’s has worked its way into their vocabulary.

I remind myself it’s December.

After the holidays we’ll get our shit together, or rather, I’ll get my shit together, I tell myself.

My brother comes to dinner and asks, “So what have you been up to?”

My mind goes blank.

I know I’ve been doing things, all the things. Preschool drop off, mixing pureed spinach into the boxed macaroni so I feel less guilty, I’m at the gym, I’m at Target again, I’m drinking Starbucks in my minivan, I’m eating far too much hard salami and cheese, I’m cursing how the dirt from the car rubs onto my pants, I’m changing Lids into her leo at ballet, I’m shuttling Oz to gymnastics on Saturday, how is it Saturday again already? I’m hating winter, I’m doing the scary yell while the kids whine, I’m realizing it’s 3:30 and I have no idea what to feed anyone for dinner, I’m feeling bloated and useless, I’m realizing my two-year-old has learned the F word, I’m screwing around on my phone while the kitchen sits filthy.

But this is not the answer to “What have you been up to?” So I just say, “I don’t know really. The usual stuff.”

I’m wishing I had my own income. My husband sits there with his sexy beard and his mad sledding skills with his pockets full of money. But it’s his money. He is unconsciously smug in his financial contentment. Technically his money is “ours” but I want my own. I want to feel that contentment again. I wonder how the power balance would shift if I won the Pulitzer. I wonder how J.K. Rowling feels sitting high atop her game. I wish he was a little scared by my hot body, by my ability to support myself, but he’s not because I don’t have either of those things. If I complain about anything or want to “check-in” on our marriage he obliges me by listening and replies, “Hey, things are great. We’re good. The business is doing great. The kids are gorgeous.”

“Damn it, they really are gorgeous, right?” I’ll reply.

Conversation over. Mentioning how cute our kids are will end pretty much any argument or discussion. Check and mate.

Well played sir, well played.

But I do this. Every few months I feel the need to check-in. He does not have this same desire. I’ve come to realize it’s not the marriage that makes me antsy. It’s me. It’s my utter lack of direction outside of the kids. The clock, it ticks. Soon the little one will be in preschool and I’m expected to do something with my time, once I have time again.

Oh, and I feel old as fuck. Have I mentioned that? I know dropping weight would make me feel younger. I lost seventy-five pounds in a year once. I’d be lying to you if I said it didn’t feel amazing. I was swift like a fucking ninja. Running and jumping over shit just because I could.

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Like a fucking mountain ninja.

I could sit here and tell you I care about that, about how I look, about being like a ninja. And I do, but in my mind there’s part of me that will always be the old lady doling out advice to young pretty little things. This has always been my personality. It’s easier to drink wine in front of the TV, it’s easier to be invisible to all the white boys who don’t know what to do with all that ass.

[I don’t do vapid.]

It’s always been easier.

Easier to spend his money and convince myself that it’s ours because marriage says so, because the law says so, because I’m the mother of his children dammit!

But I want my own shit. This is the problem with staying home. Perhaps my goal for 2016 should be to get paid to write, or finally decide what to go to grad school for.

Oh yeah, and lose some weight. You know, because America hates fat women and empty resolutions are fun.

So the next time someone asks what I’ve been up to I’m going to say, “You know, just fuckin’ hustlin.”

But you’ll know what I mean…