I had a birthday recently. I’ve always disliked birthdays, since my teen years. My parents always made my birthday special as a child, not with lavish parties and gifts, but with special birthday dinners, cake and small gifts, except for the year I got a new piano. That was the best day ever, but I digress . . .
The bad birthdays started in my teen years when came down with Scarlet Fever on my birthday. I know it sounds very Victorian, but I assure you I’m not that old.
In later years my boyfriend (later husband, now ex-husband) forgot my birthday completely, more than once. I’ve never had the party with the girlfriends kind of birthdays either, for a lot a reasons, beyond the scope of this post. And then there was the first birthday right after the wedding, the separation and some bad ones since then.
This year I decided to pretty much ignore my birthday. I couldn’t really do anything because it coincided with one of my kid’s big events . . . so I just let it go.
But the people who have come in and out of my life over the years, many of whom I have written about here, remembered.
1. My best friend and her husband stopped by with a musical card (hours of fun), a little cake, and a big gift card for me. They didn’t stay very long, but I appreciated the thought and the gifts more than they know.
See my tribute to her on “To My Best Friend on Mother’s Day”
2. One of my married male friends sent me a text, hoping he got the date right. (He didn’t, but that didn’t matter.) He wished me well and told me I don’t look my age. This guy has done things for me like shown up with an air conditioner and installed it when my house was making us melt and he repaired a pane of glass after my daughter decided to play ball in the family room. And most importantly, he checks in on me just to see how I’m doing.
He’s one of the men I was thinking of in “Friends Without Benefits — Married Men.”
3. My Admirer sent me a Happy Birthday text, and when I thanked him for remembering he replied, “You are a smart and beautiful woman whose inner beauty radiates so brightly. I won’t forget you.”
It made me smile. I haven’t seen or talked to this man in years.
4. An old friend, who defies any type of categorization, wished me Happy Birthday via voice mail; I was at my kid’s event and couldn’t answer my phone. I saved the message.
I’ve referenced him in, “We Thought You Were Dead, Mommy.”
5. I even got a birthday text from my Stalker. I did not respond.
It feels good to be remembered, thought of.
Well, the Stalker text is a little disconcerting, but still . . .
Just Me With . . . people.
And even though I’m all grown up, my parents called and sang to me (a family tradition) and my Mom gave me a card with money in it.
. . . and the quirky child gave me a card and a CD.
I admit, I’ve been a bit obsessed with footwear lately, and not in a good way.
I’ve researched Chinese foot binding, have had a running commentary in my head about women’s fashion and how across cultures and continents women’s fashion has served to decrease our mobility. I’ve been thinking that even despite recent “equality” and participation in sports we expect each other to be “bad-ass” with the constraints of clothing that limit or alter our movement. In the old days we weren’t supposed to do anything but now we’re supposed to do everything — in heels.
Raising children has got me thinking as well. I’ve seen them all take their first toddler steps, learn to run, to play, and to compete in sports, but I realize that soon, though my boy will continue in this path, my girls will likely do the same tasks as my son — while standing on their toes. When they are older and allowed to, they may choose to re-learn how to walk in heels that are getting ridiculously high. I acknowledge that men’s ties and jackets, especially in Summer, are uncomfortable, but they usually don’t cause actual pain like some women’s fashions can. And even if men are hot and bothered, they can still walk and stand — even in grass or sand. (Rhyme unintended.)
When writer, director, producer and actress Lena Dunham won her Golden Globe, she literally hobbled up to the stage, needing help like an elderly lady. This woman is taking Hollywood by storm, but on her big night, she was unsteady. Hugh Jackman, on the other hand, had the flu — but he could walk.
The thing is, Lena’s shoes didn’t even show, yet she chose to wear what, six-inch designer heels? See Fashionista.com. The fascination we have (and I’m not completely immune) with shoes is beyond the scope of this post, especially since, as I’ve said, I’m obsessed . . . but let me offer a true shoe story.
The night before the Golden Globes I attended a fundraising event. It was a dressy affair. As a volunteer organizer, I knew I’d be on my feet the whole evening. I also knew that parking was a problem and I’d likely have to walk blocks across a college campus to get to the affair’s location. So, I made a bold decision.
I did not wear dress shoes.
Instead, my shoes were clog like, the kind normally worn with jeans. Still honoring “cocktail attire” I wore dress black pants and a sequined top. Since, however, the pants were dressy they were longer than they needed to be (I’m assuming to compensate for the heels that women usually wear). My feet and my comfortable shoes were practically covered. And if my shoes did peek out, since they, too, were black they did not make a statement. No bows, no ribbons, no sequins, no sparkles, no spikes, no red bottoms, no color — no — nothing — on the shoes.
I deliberately chose not to call attention to my feet.
Are you thinking I went the old lady route? Are you gasping in horror? Are you laughing at my fashion faux-pas?
Well, I was no old lady. Au contraire, I was — sexy. I brought the attention north, you see. My top was the statement. It had spaghetti straps and silver sequined triangles draped over the breasts which accentuated “the girls” and my shoulders quite nicely. The blouse had a slightly see-through bodice with a sequined edge going all the way around the bottom hem. I’d just had my hair highlighted and wore it out with in waves of loose curls. I wore full makeup, including great lipstick/gloss and left my eye-glasses at home. Shiny earrings hung from the lobes but I left the neck naked — again to accentuate “the girls.”
A funny thing happened. I was complimented more than I had been in — in — I can’t even remember. Men and women told me I was “beautiful,” “elegant,” “lovely” . . . repeatedly. (Quite nice for my ego.) Drinks were flowing at this event and I received a few slightly inappropriate compliments and appraisals from married men. Since this was a fundraiser for high-schoolers they were there to perform and serve the adults. It bears mentioning that I even got a direct compliment from a 16-year-old girl along with looks of approval from her brethren — me, somebody’s mother! I told my son how his teacher, an attractive, recently divorced man who barely acknowledges me normally, stopped me to tell me (repeatedly) how beautiful I looked. After a moment of silence my son’s response was, “I’m sick of you.” Ha! — high praise for a mom in teen boy world.
All this, and it had nothing to do with the shoes.
Except that, because my feet did not hurt, I felt good. I danced and I didn’t have to take my shoes off to do so. And even though I was on my feet for six hours, I still felt good. You see, when you feel good, it’s easier to look good — sexy. I didn’t need the Barbie feet. I didn’t need the clack, clack, clack of the stilettos. (And yes, I own some.) But without them I could confidently cross the room without worrying about slipping, falling or hurting. I could even do stairs, all while being “elegant.” It was liberating, yet I still felt very, very feminine.
By all reports and stolen glances I must have looked damned good . . .
And it wasn’t the shoes. (Or was it?)
Just Me With . . . a true, shoe story.
For a fictional shoe story, see my Dressed for Success at The Indie Chicks.
For an earlier decision to call attention to the girls, see The Summer of Cleavage.
If Lena Dunham had worn sneakers under that long dress (and had it hemmed accordingly), we wouldn’t have been the wiser and she could have taken the stage under her own considerable, impressive power.
Oh well, enough about her shoes. It ain’t about the shoes all the time. Congratulations Lena Dunham, Best Actress in a Comedy Series! Much respect.
I have a theory. Some tasks will take as much or as little time as you put aside to do them. I apply this theory to two things: packing for a move and Holiday shopping.
Packing for a Move
The Early Packer:
If a person is planning a move, he or she can start packing six months before. When the move date arrives, packing will be almost complete, boxes will be labeled and stacked and moving will commence. You’ll get out on the date you are supposed to, you’ll move in on the date you’re allowed to.
The Last Minute Move:
Dealing with the same move out date, a person can start three weeks, 2 weeks or days before and the move will be the same. You’ll get out, you’ll get in. It might not be as pretty, might add serious stress, but if you have to get out by a certain date, you have to get out by a certain date. Stuff will get thrown on a truck, in your car, in the trash, on the curb, but you’ll be out. And when you arrive at the new digs you get to open boxes and bags and see what you actually brought with you.
In either scenario, there are always things that you simply cannot pack too early — the everyday items you need to function. Consequently, some last-minute packing is inevitable. Yes, plan and organize. Throw stuff out so you have less to pack and move, but don’t force a six month packing plan, unless you actually enjoy packing and want to pack for six months. If not, it’ll get done, because it has to. You won’t have the luxury of making agonizing decisions about what to keep, what to move. You won’t live with boxes before you move and after you move. You won’t have time to purchase endless containers and organizing materials. You’ll probably have a lot less to organize and you may take less crap with you. Of course, you may also discover that you threw a bunch of trash into a box and moved it, but you will have still moved.
The Early Shopper:
We all know someone who gets all their shopping done by Thanksgiving and they seem so smug and relaxed. Often, we see or hear of that same person shopping in December, catching a sale, exchanging one gift for another for a better deal or because the recipient bought it for him/herself before Christmas. My point is that starting early doesn’t necessarily mean you are done.
Starting early does mean you’ll likely shop longer. If you start in August, you will shop from August to December 24th. Even if you think you’re finished, there will be a sale, or you’ll find something perfect for someone or you’ll remember someone you should buy a gift for, or you’ll shop for yourself, etc. So you’ll still be shopping one way or another until December 24th. It that’s your thing, go for it. But the retail establishments know that the sooner you start, the more you buy, this is why Black Friday sales now start before Thanksgiving and stores open at midnight. Cha-Ching!!
The “Last Minute” Shopper:
If you start the second week of December, it’ll still be done by December 24th. It has to, so why stretch it out? Sales and mark downs? Guess what, except for the ridiculous black Friday sale items you may have trouble finding and may not need, the “Holiday” sales go on right up to and often after Christmas day. If you are indeed looking for that perfect gift that you think may be gone if you wait too long? Well go buy it, but don’t spend six months shopping for it, unless that’s your thing.
Christmas will come, whether you are ready or not.
So why spend months spending?
Why not just get what you got?
Am I preaching procrastination?
Maybe. I’ll get back to you later, heh heh heh. I’m not a procrastinator by nature on other things. I was never the type of student to pull an all-nighter, I believe in daily preparedness. However, I don’t want to pack for six months the next time I move or travel. I don’t want to shop for six months.
It’s not so much as waiting until the last minute; rather, it’s choosing the best time to start and establishing a limited time frame in which to accomplish the tasks at hand. (That sounds better, no?)
This is where I think all those Hoarders and Clean House type shows have it together. They give people three days to get it all done. What do you think would happen if you gave those people six months to clean their houses? The clean up crew would come back every day for six months waiting for the home owner to decide whether the plastic flowers she received as a gift in 1981 have a place in her home. No, sometimes things just have to get done. Make a decision. Done.
Starting early isn’t always the answer.
I probably won’t begin Christmas shopping until December 1st. In the meantime I can do some preliminary planning, make lists, budget, and I’ll figure out the last day I can order something online for it to arrive on time without paying extra shipping.
Then I will shop. No, I will buy. I won’t have the luxury to shop. I’m traveling for Christmas so I’ll have to be finished by December 21st anyway. It’s like a move out date.
It’ll get done. It has to.
I’m okay with that.
Just Me With . . . a strategy deeply rooted in procrastination and efficiency.
Caveat: Do not apply this theory to academics or work or personal life. It could result in — bad things.
Phew! I actually started this in 2011 but I got busy with the holidays and never finished. Ha!
Other holiday related posts:
Blowing Off the Holidays — Just say no.
Keeping It Simple At Christmas — People don’t always need the bells and whistles.
The Annual Christmas Party — At Least I Wasn’t Insulted This Year — Unfortunate comment.
All I Want for Christmas is My Kids — Splitting the babies after divorce.
A Good Neighbor, An Accidental Friend, and a Christmas Surprise — You never know the impact people have on each other.
Craigslist Angels — One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure — Giving Away Christmas Decorations Can Be A Very Good Thing.
My First Grown Up Thanksgiving — Kind Of — Thanksgiving at my house, without my kids.
You know those posts, reviews, rants or raves about a topic the author knows nothing about?
Well, this is one of them.
Actually this is only inspired by something I know nothing about, “Fifty shades of Grey.”
I haven’t read it, all I know is what I happen to see written or said about it in passing. I know that it’s very popular it’s been critiqued for it’s literary value or lack thereof. Reportedly, it is very sexually explicit . . . and adventurous? Is that right?
Whatever. I haven’t read it only because it doesn’t interest me — not my cup or tea right now.
My problem, however, is that I’ve heard it described as “Mommy Porn.”
“Mommy” Porn? Seriously?
I take offense. People need to stop inserting the word Mommy in front of an otherwise serious, established or even, dare I say, “respected” genre in an attempt to diminish or qualify its meaning. In other words, don’t use the word “Mommy” if the topic has nothing to do with mothering!
Porn is Porn. I don’t know if Fifty Shades is actually Porn. But I know it’s not “Mommy Porn.”
What does “Mommy Porn” even mean? Does it mean that mothers are aroused, as opposed to women who don’t have children? (Because, guess what, not all women have children — shhhhh!!!!)
Whether or not Porn is enjoyed by “Mommies” as opposed to “Women” is a distinction without meaning. I’m no porn historian, but I think that I can confidently say that historically, mainstream porn was directed toward heterosexual men — largely pictures of naked ladies or depictions of male conquests. Then someone figured out that women might enjoy porn more or differently with some tweaking (heh heh heh). Hence, the birth of erotica or “Porn for Her” — Porn that is engineered specifically for the arousal of women or hetero or lesbian couples — i.e. for WOMEN! Does it matter whether the women have given birth? Uh, no.
I can live with identifying pornography created for a particular gender or sexual preference when it’s descriptive — i.e. gay porn which features gay sex meant to arouse gay people. Duh.
But what is Mommy Porn? Mommies having sex with each other with their babies in the next room?
I don’t think that’s what’s they mean.
Is Fifty Shades of Grey referred to as “Mommy Porn” because it’s sold in Target?
Because it has no pictures? By the way, I was in Target yesterday and paged through it. No naked men. hmmph
Do the people who use the phrase “Mommy Porn” believe that there is a genre of work that appeals only to the prurient interests of women who have given birth? Is a mother’s sexual appetite or fantasy different from a woman who has not had a child? Well, that’s just stupid. Hence my rant.
Yes, yes, I know, I’m being too literal. It just irks me.
If there was a true thing as “Mommy Porn” — something that turns only mothers on, wouldn’t it be something that gave, especially a mother of a newborn, maybe six hours of uninterrupted sleep? Now wouldn’t that be a turn on?
Or for the mother of older children — having a day where her children don’t ask for or expect a damn thing from her all while doing whatever she said without so much as an eye roll? hmmmm oooohh ahhhhhh
“And the child left the room silently, robotically picking up the toys strewn about the floor, and quietly closed the door behind him. Hearing the screen door downstairs slam shut she knew she was left alone, and was expected to do . . . nothing. The child knew, instinctively, that “Mommy” needed to be alone. She was left to lay in her bed, taking in the smell of the freshly laundered linen. Her eyes strayed to the clock. No, she had nothing to do, no reason to get out of bed, yet she wondered if her package would arrive today. Would the UPS man need a cold drink or a place to rest between deliveries? The last time he came had been unplanned, unexpected . . . unbelievable . . . ”
. . . but I digress . . .
What was I saying?
Oh yeah. I don’t know what the “Mommy Porn” people mean; I think they just mean that it’s sexually explicit material that “real” women — who they think would not enjoy “real” porn — read.
Once again, “I call bullsh*t.”
No one knows what’s on our computers, phones, or in our underwear drawers or our shoe boxes. We don’t have to go to Target for the real deal. And guess what, given how our minds work, we can concoct full fledged porn scenarios in our minds while grocery shopping — without assistance from a book, magazine, DVD or battery operated device.
So please don’t call Fifty Shades of Grey “Mommy Porn.” It’s an insult to Porn and Mommies. It’s a book about sex. And even acknowledging that it’s largely women who are eating these books up, so be it. If it turns women on, their reproductive history has nothing to do with it.
Don’t even get me started on Mommy Blogs or Mommy Wars.
Just stop it . . . Daddy.
Just Me With . . . a little attitude. Next I’ll discuss the timely and important topic of using bears to sell toilet paper.
I was living in the suburbs and working in the city. Consequently, I lived and died by the train schedule. Each day I drove to the train station, parked, and caught a train to another world. The trains ran rather regularly and had express routes during “rush” hours, but after the commuter trains stopped there was often an hour wait between the trains which made — every — stop. If I missed the last express train, I would be very, very late for work.
On this particular day, I had trouble finding a parking space.
“Damn,” I thought, as I drove around the lot. “I cannot miss this train. I can’t.”
I was working at a law firm where they proudly told new associates the story of how the founding partner died at his desk. This was something to aspire to, according to them — so long as our time sheets were in order (Ha ha — and by that I mean, not funny at all . . . but I digress . . . ).
Needless to say, strolling in late was, well, frowned upon.
Finally, I found a semi-legal parking space and ran down to the tracks just as my train pulled in. But I was “running” in dress clothes and carrying a briefcase. It wasn’t pretty — or effective, especially since the train pulls in on the opposite side of the parking lot and I had to run down the stairs, cross under the tracks, and run back up the stairs to actually board my train.
I didn’t make it.
As I climbed the steps on the other side I witnessed my train pulling away.
The next train, which was not an express and therefore would take the full 43 minutes to get to the city, would not come for another 50 minutes.
Sure, I could drive into town and pay an arm and a leg and my first-born to park, but I would still be late for work. I cursed myself and the world — Damn, damn, damn. I hoped the partners wouldn’t see me coming in late. I should have left earlier. I had no one to blame but myself.
I wished with all my heart that I’d made that train. I ached to have caught that train. But all I was left to do was just stand there — all alone — watching my train pull away. I was left there like the last dog at a shelter.
I think I even whispered out loud, “Come baaaack” before I hung my head in defeat.
(I hope you can feel the tragedy of it all. I was having a very bad day.)
But then, I looked up again.
The train . . .
The train . . . was . . . coming . . . back!
I thought I’d lost my mind. I did the cartoon character rubbing my eyes with my fists thing. I looked around to see if anyone else could see this, because it was surreal. But I was alone. Everyone else had actually caught the train — which was slowly, but deliberately, coming back.
Had I willed this to happen? (Was it like in that first Harry Potter when Harry makes the glass around the snake cage vanish, yet is totally oblivious of his powers?)
Was I being Punked? (Where were the cameras? Ashton?)
Things like this just don’t happen. Not in real life. Not in Suburbia. Not to me.
But sure enough, the train pulled back into the station.
Tentatively, I stepped up to the now open door.
“Can I get on?” I asked the conductor, sheepishly.
“Yeah,” he answered. I must have looked spooked because he volunteered that there was some sort of switching problem.
But you couldn’t tell me that I hadn’t brought that train back out of the sheer force of my will — or it was divine intervention — because almost as soon as I embarked, the train started again, and took me into the city, express style.
I smiled the entire trip.
It was a commuting miracle. A miracle, I say.
So, when I’m feeling a little blue, sometimes I think of the miracles in my life. And it’s not always the obvious or the big stuff — like births and graduations and crap. Sometimes, I think about the day the train came back . . . just for me.
Just Me With . . . a commuting miracle.
I bought a new vacuum cleaner over the weekend. The heavy-duty big fancy one I’d had at “The Marital Home” never worked as well as I’d liked and it was a mess to empty. I tried to sell it at a garage sale and ended up just giving it away. In my down-sizing frenzy for my small home, I bought a little stick , cordless, bag-less number that only worked a short while before dying in a corner, unloved, unused.
I’m embarrassed to say I’ve been sweeping my area rugs.
But I broke down and went to the store to get a vacuum cleaner this weekend because that’s how I roll. Don’t be jealous, it was one of my more exciting outings lately, but I digress . . .
Once I arrived at the store I felt visually assaulted by the displays of the bright yellow Dyson vacuums. You know, the state of the art industrially designed models that cost between $300 and $700. They are different from other vacuum cleaners because they have that fancy ball thingy — and maybe something new with the motor? I don’t know, but I bet they work like a dream. They should for that amount of money.
I will never buy a Dyson, however. And it’s not because of the price (though I could/would not pay that much for a vacuum cleaner at this point in my life).
No, it’s because of the commercial, the first commercial that introduced the product and that has always just pissed me off. I’m not going to link it here because it still irks me. If you know what I’m talking about you’ll know what I’m talking about.
The commercial features James Dyson himself with his gorgeous English accent, which to us Americans automatically makes him smart. Well, according to the advertisement, Sir Dyson’s wife had asked him to vacuum. Dutifully, he took out their vacuum cleaner —- but he didn’t vacuum. No, he examined the device and decided that it had serious design flaws. So instead of vacuuming, he took their vacuum cleaner apart, analyzed it and eventually designed a prototype for a new vacuum cleaner to which he gave his name — the Dyson.
The rest is history.
Now, the wife’s perspective. Though I’m sure she’s reaping the benefits of the Dyson vacuum cleaner’s wild success, I think that on that day, in that moment, she just wanted her husband to vacuum the freaking rug. That’s all. Just vacuum. No analysis necessary. No deconstruction, no prototypes. Just vacuum the freaking floor!!!!!
Imagine her surprise when she walked into the room and instead of finding a clean floor she found her husband — on the floor — surrounded by vacuum cleaner parts, dust and debris. Anyone who has ever tried to take apart a vacuum cleaner knows that it makes a bloody mess. (Note the English vernacular? Yes?)
All that woman wanted was for her husband to vacuum the carpet. It’s a simple request. But instead, he likely retired to the garage to begin to build his prototype for the best freaking vacuum cleaner ever invented, because what men and women — and his wife — had been using for ages was woefully insufficient, malformed, mis-designed, inconvenient and just not up to par.
But for all of his superior, nay, grand design plans which revolutionized carpet maintenance as we know it, Dyson did not vacuum the freaking floor when his wife asked him to!!! Instead, he picked that moment to take their vacuum cleaner apart.
And we’re supposed to buy his Rolls Royce of vacuum cleaners?
What a pile of bollocks!
I say to Sir Dyson, I know you are brilliant, but:
Just freaking vacuum the floor. Then, after you are done, design your fancy, superior, super-expensive, ball-having, yellow vacuum cleaner.
That’s all Dame Dyson wanted. I don’t think she was asking for too much.
Just Me With . . . a Dirt Devil.
Of course Mrs. Dyson can probably afford a golden vacuum cleaner and a maid and butler to do all of her floors, but it’s the principle of the thing for me.
Yeah, I know, Father’s Day is over. But here’s a story about my Daddy.
When I was little my dad was a teacher, but at a residential school for delinquent youth. This meant that in addition to his classes he had to work night shifts at the school. When I was in kindergarten he worked from 1 to 9 pm. My mom was teaching during the day while my older sisters were in school. So it was Just Me With . . . my Daddy in the mornings before I went to afternoon kindergarten and he went to work.
One day my dad was fixing my lunch, which meant he was heating up a can of soup. He’d put the soup on the stove and went outside. My dad is not the kind of guy who sits still for very long. I think he was working in the yard or something.
But he forgot about the soup.
My five-year-old self saw the soup boiling over and ran outside,
Of course he didn’t come right away. But I persisted and screamed,
“Daddy, Daddy, come QUICK!”
I’d made him listen to me. He ran inside, turned the burner off and the crisis was averted. The house did not burn down. All was right with the world. I had saved the day.
He was so proud of me for making him listen. He was so pleased in fact that he took me out to the toy store and let me pick out a Teddy Bear.
Now, we were not a wealthy family. We got presents for Christmas and birthdays, I’m guessing picked out by my mom, and our parents provided us with what we needed, but “just because” presents were few and far between. Plus . . . I’m just going to say it, my Dad is, well, . . . frugal (the voices in my head are screaming CHEAP!!!!!). My Dad buying a gift for me when it was not a national holiday was a big deal. Even at five I knew that.
Most importantly, my Daddy made me feel like I saved the day. He was impressed with his baby girl and let everyone know it. It might not sound like much, but it must have meant a lot to him. He has retold this story countless times over the years. And to hear my Dad tell this story, mimicking my little girl voice — “Daddy, Daddy, Come Quick!!!” — is just the sweetest thing ever! Notably, he usually leaves out the part about buying me a Teddy Bear.
I had made him listen, and he made me feel important — and a little bit like a superhero.
That Teddy Bear was one of my most precious toys, she stayed with me for years to come. I credit my Dad with instilling in me the feeling that I matter in this world and that I can make a difference. It’s the little things.
And bonus, my older (evil) sisters were sooooo jealous that I got a present. Heh heh heh
Just Me With . . . a Dad who made me feel like I have the ability to save the world! [insert Superhero music]
I think I’m done. I’m done agreeing with the generalized small talk and factually inaccurate praise of the mere suggestion of the presence of my Ex-husband in our children’s lives — like he’s some kind of magic man.
People who know, know better.
An ex-neighbor dropped by yesterday. I hadn’t seen her in over a year. We don’t have much in common and she does not read people well. She’s had four husbands, yet when my husband up left me and the children and I was visibly devastated, dehydrated and malnourished, she went on and on about how we should stay together and that maybe there’s hope.
“I wish I’d tried harder. Don’t give up. Maybe he’ll come back. I hope you can work it out.”
That’s what she said to me. She said this to me, though she knew that my husband had, suddenly, cruelly, left me. Now that I’m thinking back, it is quite possible that this woman is a nut job.
She was one of the people I avoided back then. Some people say the wrong things. They can’t help it, they won’t change.
Yesterday, she dropped by unannounced to invite me to her mother’s memorial service. She arrived just as the kids were preparing to go on a dinner visit with their dad. Like before, she went on and on about how that’s so good that he sees them, that –the alternative in her mind — total abandonment — is so bad, and told me a story about how her daughter-in-law’s absentee father showed up on her wedding day and practically ruined it. So she reasoned that my situation is so much better. blah blah blah
I don’t recall asking her opinion at all.
I did not enjoy our one-sided conversation. There are always stories of the most horrendous parents, male and female, but if you set the bar at those folks, hey, everybody looks good. I have one good father and know many more. The fatherhood bar is high in my world, or actually, it’s where it needs to be, but I digress . . . Not only did this woman irk me, but she went on and on while there was a child within earshot. I wonder how it makes kids feel to hear an adult praise their father for merely seeing them? Completely clueless, the ex-neighbor didn’t notice when I tried to change the subject by talking about the children themselves, their accomplishments. I was being polite. Perhaps too polite.
“Bitch, you don’t know my life.” Is what I wanted to say.
I’m sorry folks, I don’t usually talk like that, but sometimes people piss me off.
In fact, I’m a polite sort –to a fault, really, I can make small talk and seem to agree to the most ridiculous statements for the sake of decent society. But sometimes, it seems, this gives a pass and an exaggerated sense of importance to people who don’t deserve it, as well as an acceptance of past, current and likely future bad behavior. And sometimes, it just makes me mad.
As we sat in my tiny living room, on a house on a busy street, in the neighborhood of “The Help” that I had to work my butt off to get the Hoarders smell out of , it seems that no matter what transpired and how well the children have adapted to and excelled in a difficult situation, the most important thing for her to discuss was the seemingly magical appearance of their father.
I call bullsh*t.
So now, instead of nodding politely, I’m going to try to opt out of the small talk that makes me blinding mad. I think it’s better that way, don’t you?
And before I get the “What about the kids?” speech, I’m talking about conversations between grown folks. Children are not invited.
From now on every time some random acquaintance inquires about the time my kids spend with their dad and says,
“Oh that’s good, he still sees them.“
My new response will be,
“Yeah, I hear there’s gonna be a parade.“
And then I will launch on full-out campaign, an attack, if you will, describing the awesomeness of my children in excruciating detail. And I will note that my elderly parents, even at their advanced age, rarely miss a concert and get to many sporting events each season — because they enjoy it and they are so proud . . . and the kids are . . . wait for it . . . AWESOME!
And then I will turn and leave, because, you know, I’ve got things to do. I will not talk about or allow discussion of the perceived importance of the (magical) father’s (mythical) encouragement of said real accomplishments by these awesome kids. His is not my banner to wave, or shoot at. As I said, I’ve got other things to do.
My point is this: It is presumptuous to make sweeping statements about the perceived importance of an absent party, without any knowledge of or inquiries into the actual situation, and expect me, the one clearly in the trenches, to agree.
And frankly, it’s rude.
Just Me With . . . good manners.
The general public’s persistent blanket praise of fathers who may neither be good men nor good fathers is a disservice to men who are both. It’s a disservice to the mothers who are doing the best they can with or without (or in spite of) the existence of “the father.” It’s a disservice to the brothers, cousins, friends, sisters, uncles, aunts, neighbors, teachers, grandparents and whole loads of people who provide support and encouragement and love even though they have no parental ties nor court ordered obligation to do so. It’s a disservice to the kids, the children who should expect parents to do for them, without kudos.
So I’m opting out.
I have other things to do.
For other misinformed comments, see: Weekends Off .
For other misplaced praise, see: The Unspoken Pain of Sharing Celebrations