I didn’t think I would, but I kinda miss Friends on Netflix. I don’t have cable so I don’t see it on the umpteenth random daily showings on network TV. When I’m at my parents’ house and get control of the remote and see it, I stop, sit, watch. I know it had some moments that might be problematic now, and it’s cool to diss things that were and are very popular, but whatever, I find it soothing and the writing is so very clever, in my opinion.
Some of my favorite episodes are “The One Where No One’s Ready,” “The One With The Embryos,” “The One With All The Wedding Dresses,” and “The One Where Everybody Finds Out” Also, I have fond memories of watching all the episodes in order on DVD with my kids (when they were old enough). Imagine watching it with people who had never seen it and didn’t know what was going to happen next! The “WE WERE ON A BREAK!,” Smelly Cat, the gasp heard around the world when Monica and Chandler got together and when Ross said the wrong name at his wedding! My son lost his shit during the Unagi episode, so much so that one of his sisters wrote about it in a college essay describing a memorable family experience.
Speaking about my boy, and I have said it before, he is in many ways, like Chandler Bing.
Here comes the list:
1. He lives in the big city with one roommate.
2. When he dances, if you can call it that, there seems to be a lot of flailing about.
3. Everybody thinks he’s gay.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that . . .
Seinfeld, Season 4, Episode 17 “The Outing”
The stereotype about a neatly dressed, slim man survives!
4. He carries a backpack to work with nothing in it.
Chandler: “You know I forgot the combination to this about a year ago? I just carry it around.” The One With The Hypnosis Tape. Season 3, Epsisode 18.
5. He’s the neat one.
My son told me he just throws his roommate’s stuff out when it clutters the kitchen.
6. He does use humor and sarcasm as a defense mechanism.
Poor Chandler had social, emotional, and commitment issues caused by his parents’ divorce at age 9. Surely this isn’t the reason why my son has developed a kind of sick and sarcastic sense of humor and has never had a serious girlfriend! Couldn’t be. My boy was 8 and half — “Totally different!” (She said, firmly footed in the land of denial.)
“Oh, it’s awkward.”
7. And here’s the big one:
No one really understands what his job is.
We do know it has to do with computers and numbers, just like Chandler. And he works in an office, like Chandler. But . . .
8. And my favorite: His mother is a best selling novelist.
Okay, so that one isn’t true — yet. But a girl can dream . . .
Just Me With . . . My boy — Chandler Muriel Bing, or Miss Chanandler Bong if you receive his TV Guide — or if you’re nasty (vintage Janet Jackson reference).
I guess he gets it honest because I’m a little like Chandler Bing as well.
On every home makeover show, every real estate show, they talk about how everyone loves the open floor plan. It’s the new black. Homeowners are forever busting through walls to open the kitchen to the family room and eliminating the dining room altogether.
There are two main reasons why the open floor plan is so so popular:
1. It is great for entertaining. People always end up in the kitchen anyway, right? This allows the cook to be in the kitchen puttering around and interact with guests.
2. It is great for parents of young children. It allows the parent to be in the kitchen and still keep an eye on the little ones in the family room. No more baby in a playpen or high chair in the kitchen while you make dinner.
Do you see the theme?
“STAY IN THE KITCHEN!“
The open floor plan negates any reason to actually leave the kitchen.
But there is a third reason: knocking out walls creates space, or at least an illusion of space within the same square footage.
When you think about it, the open floor plan has been common in apartments for years. Walk into an apartment and you can see everything except the bedroom. It was supposed to be a move up for an apartment dweller to buy a house and actually have separate rooms. This new open floor plan trend has essentially turned high-end palace homes into nothing but super-sized apartments, with a second floor.
For those of you who don’t have the open floor plan, before you take out all the walls in your house, and before you feel badly because you have a wall that you can’t take down, consider this:
1. Your children won’t be toddlers forever.
Children tend to grow. And there will come a time where you don’t want to and don’t have to watch every move they make.
2. Yes, you can see your toddlers, but your toddlers can see you, too.
My husband and I used to go into the laundry room to shove a snack into our faces so that the babies wouldn’t see and start wailing for some. Sometimes, I’d drop down behind the island like I’d heard sudden gunfire in order to have a cookie.
3. You can see your school-age, tween and teen kids, but they can see you, too.
With an open floor plan, you can forget coming down to sneak a snack over the counter in your jammies late at night, or reading the paper at the kitchen counter/table in the morning before your shower. There’s nothing like hearing, “Hi. Mrs. Peterson!” when you’re bra-less in a vintage tee and boxers drinking coffee in your kitchen. And if you dare talk on the phone while cooking or cleaning, you will be shushed by someone — or perhaps worse, a child will be listening in on every word. And it is a truism, a simple fact of life, that as kids grow, parents spend a fair amount of time hiding from them. The open floor plan is antithetical to the natural course of child-rearing in this respect.
4. Your kitchen must always be spotless . . .
There’s no door to close. When unexpected guests pop in — yours or your children’s — and you haven’t unloaded and reloaded your dishwasher — everyone can see it. Suddenly you’re a slob. The rest of your house could be spotless, but under these floor plans, no one ever sees the rest of your house.
5. Your family (TV) room includes a kitchen– a noisy, smelly kitchen.
Imagine sitting down in a darkened room, ready to watch a great emotional or talky movie and — oh hello, there’s your kid or spouse or whatever, in the kitchen, talking on the phone, repeatedly opening the fridge, making bacon, arguing with someone. Go ahead and click pause, because you can’t hear whatever George Clooney is saying, not that you need to . . . . but I digress. Your quiet moment has been ruined.
6. Children’s Programming/Teen programming/Sports/News — Anything you don’t want to watch at any given time.
Your little kid is watching Dora. Again, and again, and again. You can’t get away from it. iCarly? I get it, but I’ve had enough. People are enjoying the big game, snacking, yelling at the screen, having a good old time. You are wiping the counter after having loaded the dishwasher and setting out food for them. Worse, you can’t even mutter to yourself or roll your eyes at the unfairness of it all, because you are on display.
Essentially, the open floor plan allows you to be in the kitchen and watch — other people watch TV. Humph.
7. “Oh my gosh I dropped the chicken!”
In a perfect world, no one would know. Open floor plan? Well, it’ll be tweeted in minutes.
8. When entertaining, sometimes you need a minute.
Your mother-in-law is driving you crazy, your boss is bored, your husband/wife is saying something he/she shouldn’t, you need yet another drink, you just said something really, really stupid. With an open floor plan, THERE’S NO PLACE TO GO!!! I love all the classic TV shows where people could say, “Can I see you in the kitchen” or “I’m going to check on the food,” followed quickly by, “I’ll help you.” (This is all code for “We need to talk.” ) With an open floor plan I guess you have to hide in the bathroom, and that’s just plain icky.
One big room is fine, it can even be intimate when you are alone or coupled up. But once there are people of different ages, interests and responsibilities, well let’s just say that all this open living can be downright oppressive.
I speak from experience.
I knocked out a kitchen wall in my old house and built a family room addition. Instead of looking out my kitchen window and seeing trees, I created a view of my family room. I had young children at the time. I fell for the “I can be in the kitchen and see the kids” trap. Well, the children grew, the husband left, and I downsized to a much smaller fixer-upper home.
When it was time to do the kitchen, the contractor asked,
“You gonna knock out this wall?”
I said, “No. I want my wall. I need my wall.”
Truth is, I need some division in my life.
Sometimes I watch a little TV or listen to music while cleaning or cooking. Sometimes I sit at the kitchen table on my laptop or the phone while my kids are in the family room watching something that literally makes me ill. I’ve even been known to channel my inner Beyoncé and dance to my heart’s content in my kitchen. With my wall intact, I can be unseen but close by, and still opt in or out of the children’s entertainment at will.
It’s the little things . . . Sometimes a wall is a good little thing.
Just Me With . . . a divided floor plan and a bit of, well — if not sanity — at least a bit of privacy.
How to Get Rid of That Hoarder’s Smell
I was a couple of weeks shy of eighteen, we’d been dating for two years. He had recently become my first, I was not his. I loved him. He loved me. One of the things I loved about being with him was the fact that I could be myself. Ididn’t have to prove anything or act a certain way. I didn’t have to try to fit in or be a certain type of girl. He gave me something– not school related — to do. In hindsight, what he provided me was a way to escape those awkward teen years of discovering myself, making choices and mistakes, finding my own way, being proud of who I was and who I wasn’t, making new friends, and learning how to be social. He had already made some decisions about life, had some bad experiences and had strong opinions about almost everything. He was an old soul. I was not. It ate me up.
He was completely against drinking (which is not a bad thing for someone underage, but he would not even go to parties where others might be drinking, even if they were hiding it.) I respected him for that. I supported him in that. He had had a rough upbringing. His mother had a bad reputation, his brother was the local drug dealer, other family members, including siblings and his mother’s boyfriends had addictions, and teen pregnancies were the norm in his family. So having been brought up in the underbelly of suburban drug and alcohol addiction, he swore never the touch the stuff and forbade me to get near it. Forbade. In his family, he was the one good child. He wanted to stay that way. He was painfully shy unless involved in a sport, so he wasn’t one for hanging out. He didn’t want to travel because he didn’t see the need, and was uncomfortable out of our town. He hated the beach, sand; he hated crowds. He was also very possessive and jealous, so he kept me close and would become angry if he felt threatened.
But he was very cute, tall, slim with haunting light eyes.Teachers loved him, though he was not academically oriented or talented. I think, like me, they saw a polite guy who, despite his family, seemed to be a good kid. He was charming that way. People wanted to help him. People wanted to forgive any shortcomings. He had a smile that could and did charm everyone — that is, when he did smile. Most of the time, unless people were looking, he appeared sullen, angry. Some folks were a little scared of him. (Years later a friend described him like this: He’s the kind of guy where when he walks into a room, the temperature drops ten degrees.)
Me? Well, I was an achiever, academically, musically and athletically, but socially I had struggled, been a victim of past bullying. I was a book smart girl from a good (if not wealthy) family; my parents were teachers. My siblings were in college, they had gotten away from our suffocating suburb. I was lonely. I wanted to have fun but I was basically the stereotypical “good girl” from a stable family. I would never want to do anything that would embarrass my family, and my girlfriends weren’t drinkers or party girls either. Still, we liked to go to parties and dances and just have some sober fun. Before I started dating him, I had had only one short relationship with a boy. Nothing to speak of. No broken hearts. I don’t think we ever even went anywhere together. My hymen was still intact.
At my tender teen age, I thought I’d never have a boyfriend. I just wasn’t seen as girlfriend material in my circles. At the time, I truly thought he was my only and best chance at having any attention from a boy, at least any attention from a boy who was respectful to me. He was what I needed.
Miraculously, once I started dating him, the bullying stopped as well as the false rumors about me. (Somehow, I had gained the reputation of being a slut according to popular, misinformed opinion, even though I was a virgin.) But with him, I had support. No one wanted to mess with his girlfriend.
I see now I was co-dependent. But then? I was in love.
I didn’t know. I had nothing to compare him to and no one to talk to about it. My girlfriends weren’t dating, they didn’t know any better than me. My siblings were gone. After having been treated so badly by other kids, I thought this was right. In a way, it did save me. (The reasons for the bullying primarily have to do with race, and are just too much to get into now.) I never told my parents about how I had been treated at school. I should have. An early, huge regret, one of many to come.
He and I were inseparable, but completely antisocial. We rarely went anywhere with or around other people. He didn’t want to be around people. Usually we went to movies or hung out at his or my house. He met me at my locker every morning. We met between classes. (We never had classes together, I was in the college prep courses, he was not). We were such a cute, dysfunctional couple. Both tall, and we even looked a bit alike.
One night, there was a Friday night basketball game, as usual. He was a star player, I was a cheerleader. (I know, gag me, and this did not mean I was popular). We never went to the parties afterward, though, if there were any. But this night, for some reason, he decided he wanted to go to a party. I don’t know why. I never knew why. He usually was against such behavior. He told me to go home, I wasn’t allowed to go with him. Obediently, I went home. Telling me what I was allowed or not allowed to do was normal for us.
I didn’t see him for the rest of the weekend, which sometimes happened since neither one of us had a car, and in addition to my studies I had a part-time job.
The following Monday, he did not come to my locker. When I found him, he seemed distant. He wouldn’t make eye contact all day. I knew something was wrong. I knew something was different. Paranoid, and suddenly needing reassurance, I asked him,
“Don’t you love me anymore?”
“I don’t know,” he replied.
My very being shook to the core, I felt as though I died a bit. My knees buckled.
In another cruel twist of fact, it was Valentine’s Day, the day we celebrated as our anniversary.
I was still reeling from his answer when he added that — he wanted to see other people!
Then he finally looked me in the eyes. He said, “I don’t want you to, though.”
“Okay,” I said.
I know, I know. In my head the voices still scream No! But I was already under his thumb, caught completely caught off guard. He had unilaterally changed all the rules without any warning. I was still freaked out just because he went to a party! And now this? I had given myself to him in every way possible, and now, it wasn’t enough, or it didn’t matter, or — I didn’t know what was happening!
For about two weeks, heartbroken, devastated, and confused, I nevertheless continued to allow him to meet me at my locker, walk me in the halls, kiss me hello and goodbye. I was still his girlfriend (property). But there were more goodbyes than hellos, and I saw him flirting with other girls, one in particular. He didn’t hide it.
He had a swagger about him. I felt small.
Since we’d been dating for two years, we were quite an item. But kids talked. Through the high school rumor mill I found out later that during the party he attended a girl I knew had flirted with him. Well, she grabbed his crotch, is what I heard. That must have been enough to turn the tide, to make him take the next step after control and isolation, to further humiliate me, his girlfriend of two years — but still keep me at his beck and call. He acted as though this was completely normal. And I allowed it. It was the beginning of a hurtful and unhealthy pattern of accommodation I have struggled with ever since.
One day, a friend of his and fellow basketball player who was in one of my classes said to me, unprovoked,
“I don’t know how you put up with it.”
I think I visibly shuddered. I was trying to operate under the illogical belief that no one knew what was really going on or at least wouldn’t acknowledge it in front of me.
The nice boy continued, “I mean, given his family and all it’s amazing he’s turned out as good as he has, but still — he shouldn’t be doing this to you.”
Hearing that from another boy, a boy who was a old friend of his but who didn’t know me that well, got to me. Then, I did some thinking. I had more time on my hands, after all. Throughout this whole thing I kept coming back to the fact that I loved him. I kept telling myself, “But I love him.” But then I asked myself, is being in love supposed to feel like this? Because this doesn’t feel good. This isn’t fun.
Love shouldn’t feel like this.
The next day I was not at my locker when he arrived to meet me.
He had to find me. When he did, I told him I wasn’t going to do this anymore.
When an abused woman hits back, it’s useless unless she kills or runs. Hitting back and standing there just sets her up for another beat down. Mine was coming.
I cannot remember what he said exactly, I do know that he was angry, that he demanded to know why I wasn’t at my designated place. He also told me he did, in fact, love me. I think I may have blocked most of the rest of it out, because it was so contrary to my sense of self-preservation. I’ve beat myself up for years because of it.
Bottom line: He got me back.
He said he wasn’t going to see other girls. We were monogamous again. (Well, he was monogamous again, I had never been free.) I didn’t date anyone else in high school.
He was still my boyfriend when I went to college.
Years later, I married him.
Months ago, our divorce became final. He has since remarried.
Interestingly, I heard later that the girl who had felt him up at the party told him she couldn’t actually date him because her family would not accept her dating a black boy. His would-be conquest wasn’t having it – or him. Whatever. His coming back to me had nothing to do with me — except that he wanted to keep me — unto him, under him.
When I started to pull away, he pulled me back — and he was stronger.
With him I had traded one kind of bullying for another, really.
But something broke inside me then, not because of how he treated me, but because I allowed it —- and I think — just now, I’m trying to get it fixed.
Just Me With . . . a love story?
P.S. Why all the Twilight pics? I have a hard time with the series because of my romantic history. A high school girl who does not fit in should have a chance to experience life outside of high school before changing her DNA for a boy. Bella is so sad and tortured and Edward makes her feel better, but I want her to go to college, get a job, move to a place where she chooses, and have fun, make friends, have boyfriends and ex-boyfriends, without all the danger and without having to forsake her belief system, family, and biological options before she’s had a chance to even develop them.
It’s okay not to have a boyfriend in high school. It really is. And it’s okay to break up with your first love.
For a story on what it was like to still have this boyfriend when I went away to college, see The Night I Became Cinderella.
And for how I feel about him now? I Don’t Love Him.
A good six years ago I wrote about being invited to a party with a plus one but being strongly encouraged to come alone. See You Don’t Have To Bring A Date, Come Alone! Come Alone! COME ALONE! The party has become an almost annual thing and I have gone a few times. Always invited with a plus one, always attending alone. See I Went To A Dinner Party Alone
This year was no expection.
I fleetingly considered asking a male acquaintance to come with me, but that may have meant more than I wanted it to and I figured, this is what I do and it is what I have been encouraged — emboldened to do.
I boldly go where no man has gone before — meaning to a public event with me.
So I went. Did my thing, walked in unaccompanied and alone. I confidently approached strangers standing in clumps and joined their conversations. Like a boss. Well, like a politician, more accurately.
The hostess greeted me, the same woman who repeatedly lauded my decision to go alone back in the day. “Come alone!” She’d exclaimed. “No pressure to bring a date I would have to entertain,” she’d reasoned. “I used to do it all the time when I was single,” she’d shared.
But not this time.
This time she hit me with,
“One of these days you are gonna have a date!”
“I want you to come with somebody next time!”
To which I awkwardly, jokingly, painfully responded,
“Oh yes, next year for sure.”
You get the drift.
Apparently coming alone was brave and practical and cool back then. But now? Six years later? Now it’s just getting ridiculous.
Enough is enough.
Adding awkwardness to awkward, when it came time to take our seats for dinner, the hostess loudly pointed out the three tables that had seating for nine, rather than eight or ten like the others. “You can sit here, or there, or, let me see, there.” You know, the ODD numbered tables, for the odd men (or ladies) out. There must have been two other singles there, though I never found them.
I settled at a nine top table, with four other couples I did not know.
Four couples, and me. But this ain’t my first rodeo; I’ve gone to a wedding alone.
Also, I was the only other person of color there, except for the housekeeper who was Hispanic and anyway, she brought her husband. Come to think of it, there was a slightly accented slightly brownish man in one of the clumps of people I invaded. But he blended, and, you know, he had a wife.
I felt as though I did not blend quite as well, though I may have been a touch paranoid.
Also, knowing the family and talking with some of the guests, their net worth was likely substantial. I’d guess that during cocktails they probably earned more in interest than I make all year.
Conspicuous as I felt, everyone was friendly and it was a pleasant evening. I have known the hostess for years and I truly admire her. Though she doesn’t have to think about money (or lack thereof) and is happily married, she has weathered personal challenges that others have literally not survived. To see her smiling and laughing is a gift. I’m happy to have been included in the event, and appreciative of the option to bring a Plus One.
But dang it even if I have to rent one, I will bring a man next year. I will be conspicuously coupled, if only for the night. I will casually drift to a table with even numbered place settings. I will introduce my date by name (if I can remember it) and gently caress his arm. I will ask him to fetch me a drink. I will allow our photo to be taken together and — wait for it — posted on Facebook.
As God as my witness, I’ll never be dateless again. Not to this party.
Just Me With … out a Plus One for this particular event since 2013.
I have written a lot of posts about going out alone. Huh. There are more coming, because I have some thoughts about it . . .
Do I have two heads? Well some people look at me like I do when they find out we only have one bathroom. It happens often.
After the gasps, they usually follow with this comment:
“I don’t know how you did it.”
Which actually means:
“Wow. That sucks. Your life sucks and I am so happy I don’t have to deal with your horrid living situation because I know I couldn’t survive that.”
I’m usually polite but in my head I’m rolling my eyes.
Well, for those lacking the ability to comprehend how a family can possibly live with only one bathroom, THIS is how we do it:
- Before taking a shower, ask if anyone needs to use the bathroom.
- Modified shotgun rules apply. You don’t have to be within site of the toilet to call it, but you should be in site of the house. For example, when returning home and pulling into the parking spot, that is when calling it is permitted. But not an hour before. C’mon now.
- In cases of urgent need, give up your legally obtained, valid place in line. That’s just the right thing to do.
- Understand that washing and elimination are the two main activites that must be done in the bathroom. Other activities — drying, brushing or combing out, flat ironing, curling, or braiding one’s hair and also applying makeup can, should, and will be done elsewhere.
- If you are engaging in non-bathroom essential activities see Rules 3 and 4 above, and step aside (um, Get Out!).
- Again, in case of urgent need, be willing to share. There have been times when one girl is in the shower and the other is on the “pot.” (That’s what my mother calls it.)
- Become a nighttime shower person. That whole — bath time before bed — doesn’t have to stop at puberty. In fact, it can quite relaxing.
My son has always been a resourceful young chap, and he is, you know, a boy. His anatomy is conducive to certain alternative elimination arrangements. Much more so than me and his sisters.
I only found out about this recently. I promise. Like in the last couple of years. The girls were fussing over some bathroom violation and the boy just laughed, shrugged, turned to me and said,
“I don’t have this problem. I have my own bathroom.”
“Say what?” I asked.
When I began to breathe again and my head stopped spinning it was confirmed that years ago my boy child had, at times, peed out his window.
I can’t imagine this was truly necessary. Or that it happened often. In fact I can’t imagine it at all. It must be a boy thing, given, again, the anatomy. Talk about male privilege . . . heh heh heh
I did not condone this activity. I didn’t even know about it.
To be fair, you should know that the adjacent house on his window side was an abandoned foreclosure. So he didn’t pee at anyone’s home. Notably, that house has since been flipped and though it’s a twin and smaller than our’s it is now worth much more. Likely because they added a BATHROOM! . . . but I digress . . .
Anyway, my point is that, yes, a family can live with only one bathroom. It is not the end of the world. It does not make them freaks. Ask New Yorkers, San Franciscans, people outside of the United States, your parents or grandparents, or those tiny house folks. It builds character, patience, law and order, teaches people to be considerate of others and yes, at times, requires resourcefulness.
Do you hear me HGTV? We haven’t bravely “survived” living with one bathroom, as if it were akin to living under a bridge or in a circus tent.
It’s really not that big a deal.
Just Me With . . . just one bathroom in my house. And one boy — with one window in his room.
What is it with this house and urine placement?
I’ve blamed HGTV before . . .
Sooo when last we talked I suggested that my failure to acknowledge the fruit of my loins was going to be a problem. See, What Have I Done? The problem was that I had recently broken one of my rules — that is — I promised myself that I would never directly deny that I had children. Well I kind of did that, and I did it in front of someone who knew better.
But I have to go back a year and a half to explain.
Although when I began this experiment and this job I was with a large group of lawyers, we were later broken up into small groups and sent to different places. I worked closely with the people in my room, but rarely talked to people at other locations –until the holiday party.
I went to the party alone because that’s what I do. Once there, the only people I recognized were a couple of women from my project who worked in different locations.
But it was a party. There was alcohol. Things happen. You understand.
So I’m making small talk with virtual strangers. These were two younger child free women. They were nice. One was drunk. I’d had maybe a half a drink. My half a drink on meds is like three for a normal person. So I felt suddenly close to these women. They were my new work party best friends.
Twin talk began because one of the women, let’s call her Cheryl, brought her twin brother. I was way too talkative and knowlegable about twin stuff. And apparently alcohol is Goddamn truth serum delivered by the morality police, and I felt sooo bad for not revealing the source of my expertise. I confessed.
“I feel like I’m lying to you guys. I have to tell you. I have kids, twins. Two sets plus a singleton.”
And then the whole story came out. I begged my new work party best friends not to tell anyone about my — experiment. They promised.
This was the Christmas before last. Almost a year and a half ago. Fun fact: The drunk one has since had a baby of her own. But God love ’em they kept my secret – easy, though, because we didn’t work in the same room.
Then we were all relocated. I found myself sharing space with a new set of attorneys, including Cheryl, the twin. The one who knew.
That was fifteen months ago. People have come and gone since then. Currently in this space it’s me, Cheryl, another woman I’ll call Sophie, and two guys. One of the guys has never mentioned a wife, girlfriend or children. Let’s call him Bill. The other is married and has one daughter who is, reportedly — repeatedly reportedly — a certified genius. Yeah, he’s that guy. We’ll call him Ross.
Ross explained to the room that he feels comfortable bragging about his daughter at work because NO ONE ELSE HERE HAS CHILDREN. Consequently, he reasoned, we can’t get jealous or feel bad because our kids do not and can not possibly measure up. Then he stood and asked the room,
“Wait, no one here has kids, right?”
Sophie is a talker. We know all about her life. No kids.
The other guy, Bill, said nothing.
I opened my mouth briefly and closed it.
In that moment my silence felt dangerously close to denying my kids — and Cheryl knew it. She murmured, “Well, not little kids.”
Guilt showed up and took a seat.
I must endure Ross brag brag bragging about his academic superstar daughter to us childless folks. Side note, child free folks don’t want to hear that shit either, not all the time. Well, except Cheryl. She encourages him. She’s in that holy trinity love bubble of just got engaged, planning a destination wedding and can’t wait to have babies!
Bless her heart.
But I have condemned myself to silence while Ross talks as if he is the only person to ever have had a child, a golden child.
Listening to Ross actually confirmed my decision. It is possible to talk about kids too much. Parents of high achieving teens are much worse than parents of adorable babies in my opinion. There are awards involved.
It is important (to me) to note that my original observation that started all this, that the guys do not talk about their kids as much as the women, still holds true. Ross doesn’t talk about her in meetings. And when he leaves early because of her he only says, “Well that’s it for me today,” as opposed to “Oh I’m on carpool duty this week because soccer started and I have to pick up the snack etc.” You know, Facebook detail. Ross shares no day to day kid stuff, he merely announces her many, many awards.
Plus, what’s the harm in my nondisclosure? It’s not like I’m dating any of these people. I have been enjoying being me without reference to kids or my ex-husband. I won’t ask Cheryl to lie, though. I figured I’d just continue to opt out of kid talk. I’ll just play it cool boy, real cool …
But Sophie . . . Sophie was NOT at the Christmas party.
Today, Sophie was talking about some estate law issues and asked me if I had siblings with young children. Then she casually added,
“Well, you have kids.”
“Wait! What? How do you know that? Who told you that? WHO TOLD YOU????? GODDAMMIT WOMAN, WHO TOLD YOU???!!”
But I didn’t say that.
But I didn’t say that either.
I didn’t say anything. Sophie went on to discuss something else. The guys weren’t around.
I tweeted about it because I was like what the F— ??
I never ever told Sophie about my kids. It must have been Cheryl.
Then when Cheryl left for the day, she said, “Happy Mother’s Day” to me, albeit a little under her breath.
Happy MOTHER’S Day???????
I’m not entirely sure I formed any actual words in response.
Happy MOTHER’S Day?
Twice in one day. Two different people acknowledged my motherhood. Out loud.
Soooo there ya go. Cheryl must have told Sophie, the talker, and Sophie let it slip. I’m sure Cheryl was just being nice by wishing me Happy Mother’s Day. It’s just that Ross was there and it freaked me out. Thank God for earbuds. He missed it.
I don’t think either of the guys know. That’s all I have to hang on to. But Sophie, as I said, is a talker. My days are numbered.
Just Me With . . . children.
This is so silly, I know. But you must understand. First, the number of kids I have, coupled with the twin thing and my slender physique tends to be a big deal and dominate the discussion. And second, I married my high school sweetheart (and that, as you may have read, did not end well). I never got a chance to be single with no kids. Never. It’s certainly not the same now because I’m of a certain age (something else I never acknowledge) but it’s the closest I can get.
So when I leave my former hoarders house to go to work, I’m just a single girl on the train.
It started as an experiment.
And everybody experiments, right?
It was just a little thing, you know, so I can hang with the cool kids. But now I fear it’s gotten out of hand.
It was last year. You see, I’d started a new job, a new assignment, along with about 80 to 100 other people. We were in a huge conference room, seated randomly at round tables. Some people knew each other from other projects, but most, like me, were amongst strangers.
We were a room full of attorneys in professional attire. The women outnumbered the men, slightly, as I noted when I conducted the unofficial scan of the room. This isn’t necessarily a function of progress. These assignments are, shall we say — upward mobility challenged? The ages in the room spanned from about 25 to maybe 65 years old. There was a respectable sprinkling of people of color, mostly women of color, but it was a predominately white crowd. None of this is particularly important, except I want you to experience the look and feel of the room, so maybe you can understand how I got all caught up.
I uttered the normal hellos, introductions, and Have you done this work before? –yadda yadda yadda– but then, as I often do –and I think it’s the writer in me — I shut up, watched, and listened.
Before and after our training sessions, and during every break, many of my new colleagues talked about about babies, toddlers, school aged kids, teens applying to colleges, school schedules, dance classes, sporting events, husbands, meal planning, diets, vacations, grown kids, daughters’ weddings, sons who just got engaged, etc. You know, personal stuff, family talk.
But most of this talk was by the women. Even the childfree women asked the other women about their kids.
My male brethren? Not so much.They were largely quiet, or spoke of the commute and past work experience.
Considering the age range of the group — these dudes were in prime dad years. All years are prime dad years for men, but I digress . . . .
And, I couldn’t help but notice the golden glint of a fair share of wedding rings on these men. Alas, in my single state the hunt for wedding rings (or lack thereof) is a commonplace activity for me, but I digress, again . . . . My point is, it stands to reason and probability and you know, math, that many of these men must have had wives and kids — that they just weren’t talking about.
And me? Having had all the kids I could have jumped right into the mom talk. But I wondered, what would it be like to be one of the guys? I’d still love the fruit of my loins, I’d still be ridiculously proud of them, but I knew — or perhaps I wanted to prove — that I was capable of making small talk that’s not about them.
Just like the guys.
Now, let the record reflect that I’m content with my gender, and I’m not one of those women who hate other women or moms, and I’m not trying to be a guy, I just wanted to be like them. Just for a minute. And to be honest, be like myself, the archived self I was before I had all the babies, two at a time, before the nasty divorce, crippling depression, and crushing debt, before the struggle to maintain normalcy for the kids while the mom was decidedly not all right. I wanted to conjure up the time where, in similar professional situations, I managed to talk the talk without all the baby talk.
Admittedly, having been through all the stuff I’ve been through — peruse old posts if you are not familiar– I just wanted to get away from it. You know, for a minute. Because discussing the kids always leads to questions about the ex. Always. It also leads to comments about my shape (and weight), and to my tutorial on fertility and heredity.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with talking about family at work. Nothing at all. But I couldn’t help but notice the gender divide and I thought . . . I’m gonna jump to the other side.
For a minute.
So, I opted out. I told myself that I would never deny the existence of my offspring, but I would make a conscious effort not to voluntarily talk about them, unless or until I felt like it.
For a minute.
But that was well OVER A YEAR AGO!
During this time I have worked side by side with both men and women, gotten to know them, like (some of) them, bonded with many of them, laughed and bitched with most of them. But I haven’t mentioned to them that I have almost half a dozen children, those young adult humans that I grew in my body, birthed and raised. And no ex-husband either. Nothing. Just me (ironically).
Like a fucking psychopath.
And now I’m in too deep.
What have I done? What kind of mother doesn’t talk about her children? — for over a year?
Just Me With . . . no children — to speak of, anyway. Are you kidding me?
There were a couple of times when I kinda broke my rules, which I’ll talk about later, because now — it’s a problem.
And I guess at some point I should report on the results of my experiment — how it felt.
To be continued . . .
Full closure: My kids are, in fact, AWESOME. The younger ones are still in college, happy and healthy, my oldest kid graduated from college, got a full-time job in his field, an apartment, and a roommate. They are crushing it. And by extension, so am I.
And, if I can be completely superficial for a moment, they are freaking gorgeous, objectively, like people stop and stare. I don’t post pictures of them. Just take my word for it.
Now. I accept the fact that I could be over sensitive. I admit that I can get hung up on semantics at times, and I understand people mean well. So I’m going to dial it back a bit and not correct people when they say the following to me:
How’s it feel to have an empty nest?
But right here and now I’m going to explain why that question makes my skin crawl.
You see, to me the concept of empty next is like this: A couple creates a home in order to raise their family there. And they do raise their family there, together. Nothing’s perfect. Everybody has issues and ups and downs but for the most part things went according to plan. The Empty Nest Syndrome is a term that describes a sadness and emptiness parents feel when their kids move out.
That is not my situation.
This was never a nest.
If you’ve read some of my other posts you know that when I acquired this home it was basically a hoarders’ house. And I bought it because I could not afford to stay in my other nicer home in a friendlier neighborhood because of divorce. From the get-go it wasn’t me happily building a nest for my baby chicks.
We were in survival mode. I built this home for the purpose of fleeing it.
It was never a nest. What I have here is a foxhole. Yeah. Think about it. We left what would have been the nest and were set off to war conditions — divorce. We dug a hole and survived. Made do with whatever rations and provisions we could find. My little soldiers were sent out for small battles (various life functions) and came back to the foxhole. And now? They finally made it out long enough to have somewhere else to lay their heads (A dorm can be a lot like a barracks — also temporary housing — but safe).
During these past years in our foxhole I have lived one step ahead of bill collectors while my career took a big hit. The only thing about the foxhole that makes me sad is that I still owe money on it and have not built enough equity to flee. I weep because I need a new heater and a sump pump.
I feel like a sergeant screaming — Go Go Go Go! Whilst I hunker down and try to figure out which bill gets paid next.
I know we are blessed to have had a roof over our heads. We have had some happy memories here.
Soldiers will tell you of good old war stories and lifelong friendships –But they don’t want to go back to the front lines!
The kids and I have funny stories. Remember when we didn’t have a toilet? Good times, good times.
Also, I’m a divorced, custodial parent. This is the kids’ only home and all their stuff has always been here, but they did visit their father. This ain’t my first time alone in my house surrounded by reminders of the children while they are somewhere else. I have already felt that pain and emptiness. Been there. Done that. Over it.
For the record, most people have it backwards. Back then people assumed I was happily enjoying a “break” from my kids when they visited their father. No, that separation was gut wrenching, because they were just kids, I missed them, they missed activities, and none of us had any choice in the matter.
Now people assume that because the kids aren’t home with me full-time, I must be sad. No, this separation means I did my job, and the kids are somewhere they chose to be.
Empty nest? No. It’s completely different for me.
Now I just need to plan my escape.
Just Me With . . . a college graduate and four college students, a mortgage, and various other forms of growing mountainous debt, water in my basement, a heater and water heater on their last legs. And no one to combine income or share expenses with.
P.S. I promise to dial it back when people ask about the empty nest, though. I really do.
Let me set the scene.
Well even before the scene, a little background. Things are a little tight at home. So I’ve been looking for some side work. Don’t worry, it’s legal. I mean literally — legal side work. A little per diem. It’s a thing. And, it is necessary, because submitting applications into the great black hole of the Internet hasn’t been working out for me.
Internet job search, if you aren’t familiar — that’s when, in response to an advertised position for which you are qualified, you put the digital best version of yourself out there — you enter information about your past, your hopes and dreams, your goals, your abilities, your salary requirements and references — you put it all out there. Raw.
You click “Submit.”
But if you listen carefully you can hear it, the whoosh as your qualifications are flushed down the Internet toilet . . . “because in space, no one can hear you scream . . .”
But I digress, and I turned to Craigslist and answered an ad.
Admittedly, I had reason to be skeptical. The ad was barebones. No details, at all, not even the crappy stock language about working in a fast paced professional environment blah blah blah. The ad was only clear about one thing: The pay was not high. (Huh, what does that mean?) But as I said, things are as tight as a Kardashian dress so I replied anyway and attached my resume. (Accidental rhyme)
Lo and behold — a response!
However, no information.The email said that “they” have “someone” in my area the next day and asked if I could be at a local diner at 1:30. You know how when anyone says “long story short” they have already gone on for far too long? Well, long story short, I said I would be there. After not getting a confirmation of the meeting, or any details at all — like the name of the business, who I’m meeting with, his or her contact information or even their gender, I finally received a weak apology via email, “Sorry, I was in a meeting” and “Someone will be there a little after 2:00pm.” I replied, confirming I would be there at 2:05pm.
I went to the diner, dressed nicely and actually with some makeup on. It wasn’t a busy part of the day so as soon as I walked in the manager offered to seat me. I replied, “Well I’m meeting someone,” and looked around like I was looking for him —or her. The manager asked, “Do you see them?”
“No.” (But how would I know?)
So I sat at a booth facing the door. The waitstaff must have been just really bored because the server pounced on me,
“Can I get you something?”
“Not yet, I’m waiting for someone.” So . . . she brought me two menus.
The second time she asked me if I wanted something I ordered coffee.
The waitress brought the coffee and two glasses of water, because, well, I had said, repeatedly,
“I was meeting someone.” (Who? Who was I meeting? I didn’t know.)
Now, if you’ve read some of my other blog posts you know I often go out alone. Always have. Not a big deal. But the two water glasses — they threw me. Those glasses were evidence that I was not really eating alone. I was expecting someone. And that someone was not there.
Then — hope! A professional looking man with a briefcase came in alone and sat in the booth next to me and opened his laptop.
I asked him, “Are you here to meet someone for an interview?”
“No, I’m not.” He looked at me and shook his head. I can’t be sure, but the threesome in the booth next to him looked fleetingly in my direction.
I crawled under the table and assumed the fetal position. Well, I wanted to.
I had no computer. No reading material. Just my phone. But that was useless.You see I was never given a phone number of the person I was to meet or of the business, for that matter. I had no one to call or text to say, “Um — are you still coming?”
I finished my coffee. I told myself I would wait a half hour, which was way too long. No one emailed me.
The attentive waitress asked, again, “Are you ready to order?” To which I replied, as I was fishing for cash to pay for my coffee,“No . . . I think I’m just going to go.” The waitress said, “Okay,” but didn’t look particularly surprised. I left the money on the table, got up, and quickly walked out. I must have looked upset, because I was. I was murmuring inaudibly . . . Shady ass Craiglist lawyers wasting my time . . . I don’t have to stand for this shit, I’m out . . .
And then I realized– to the restaurant staff and patrons it would appear that I was some unfortunate woman on a date who just got stood up! Like I was rejected in my quest for love instead of just rejected in my search for some extra money.
I wanted to go back in and scream . . .
IT WAS NOT A DATE!!!!!!!
But, that would invite more pity.
And that would be a shame.
And there was already enough shame going around.
Just Me With . . . . one coffee, two menus, two water glasses, no food, no money.
Alone posts. Wait, why are there so many?
Pissed: Parking and Dining Alone Fun fact. This was the same diner.
I once had a music teacher, a professional concert musician, who told me that her doctor was concerned that she didn’t work out, that he thought she needed some kind of physical, aerobic, activity.
Her response was, “Have you seen me play?”
“You should. You should see me perform.”
He did, and promptly retracted his statement that she was not active enough. After seeing the fervor with which she played the most complicated, extended, and beautiful music, witnessing the amount of control she exhibited to transition from flashy virtuosity causing her to angrily rise from her bench, to quiet, sweetly melodic passages Continue reading →