Category Archives: Women

Finding my tribe

I thought it was like riding a bike. Or shotgunning a beer. That it was a skill, once mastered, couldn’t be forgotten. But then, at the age of 36 and a mom of two young children, I realized I had forgotten how to make friends.

I mean, I have friends. Of course I have friends. Lots of them. In fact, according to Facebook, I have over 1,400 friends. So, yeah, I’m doing just fine, thankyouverymuch.

Except, thanks to our semi-nomadic life, these friends live in Ohio. And Texas. And Colorado. And Oregon. And dozens of other places.

I also managed to snag a few wonderful local friends right here in Boston before I got pregnant for the first time and turned into a permanent swamp witch. Except they are younger, or older, and childless, or their kids are grown. And also I keep forgetting to contact these wonderful local friends to hang out in real life because all my time and brain power is now spent cutting up fruit my kids are BEGGING for, and then cleaning the mess from all that cut-up fruit that they did NOT eat but felt needed to be spread all throughout the house.

I’m also on friendly terms with our downstairs neighbors. Whenever we see each other. Which is roughly twice a year.

It’s not like I can’t talk to people. I’m not what you would describe as shy. I can strike up an awkward conversation with the best of them. And on really good hair days, I can even score a hot mom’s digits.

But after that I’m pretty much useless. What’s the next step? Text them? I guess. But underneath their name I usually put something like “Chick from playground” or “Blonde Lorelai Gilmore” because I never actually listen when I ask someone their name. And if by some miracle I do remember their name, I forget how to write a text like a normal human.

“Hello. Maybe sometime henceforth we could, whenever is convenient for you, of course, together our offspring get for a coffee. Or a beer. Or nine beers. Not that I’m an alcoholic or anything. LOL. OK. Well. You have neat eyebrows. *random gif of Chris Pratt from Jurassic Park.*”

It also doesn’t help that I am awful at first impressions. Just awful. The reasons for which I’ve narrowed to the following three things.

One, I have a major case of Resting Bitch Face. Some people look wistful when they daydream. I look like I want to murder you and your entire family and then will strangle your pet in front of your lifeless corpses. Two, whenever I do smile, I smile weird because I hate my teeth, which really only adds to the illusion that I’m probably a secret serial killer. And three, when I’m nervous (like, say, when I’m meeting new people for the first time) I always think of the perfect thing to say roughly three minutes after I should have said it (which you would think would stop me from saying it, but no, no it doesn’t).

So now, without the crutch of school or a regular 9-to-5 job where people are forced into close proximity to me on a regular basis (and thus are eventually able to see through all these quirks to my much more endearing quirks) I found myself struggling to make friends with other parents.  

For a long time I told myself I didn’t need friends. It’s 2018, man. We, as a society, are beyond friends. That’s why memes and Netflix and mermaid blankets and boxed wine with straws were invented.

Coping mechanism, you know?

But you do. You really do need friends. At every age. And every stage.  

I’d see these groups of parent-friends talking and laughing at places like the library and the park. Just go up and talk to them, I’d tell myself. You’re a grown-up. This isn’t like third grade. They won’t make fun of you because you’re wearing the wrong color scrunchie. But then my oldest would start yelling “MOMOMOMOM!” and I’d realize my youngest was running straight toward traffic and the moment passed and we’d head home. Friendless.

Secretly though, I was always hoping one of these groups would take pity on me and adopt me. It was a fantasy I often had while staring off into space (and looking like I wanted to murder you). That they would see me sitting there by myself and just swoop in and take me under their collective wing and say “let’s go get a beer, or nine, and by the way, you have neat eyebrows.”

You can imagine my surprise, then, when one did.

It was a chilly spring afternoon. A group of them descended on the playground. I’d seen most of them around the neighborhood from time to time. Made small talk with some of them over the years. Which is how this encounter started. But then, just like that, they let me in. Within 20 minutes, they had added me to their Facebook Messenger group. Within 45, I’d been invited to their weekend barbecue.

And that’s all it took. I had found my tribe.

And it’s made all the difference.

My kids now have neighborhood kids to hang out with. My husband has other husbands to stand over cooking meat and say meat cooking things about. And I…well, I can finally smile my real smile, forgetting how much I hate my smile for awhile.

Loneliness is a real epidemic. As adults we don’t like to talk about this. For too many of us it conjures up too many horrific childhood memories of bullies and not fitting in and birthday parties where you were terrified no one would show up.

But we should talk about it. And address it. Because not everyone is as lucky as I am and has a circle of friends that reaches in, deus ex machina, and saves you from your loneliness. And tells you, in big ways and small, that you are great, just the way you are. And will agree that yes, your kids are being total buttheads today.

Everyone deserves to have people in their life like that.

So, here’s to hoping you have found your tribe to help you get through the long days and short years of parenthood. And if you haven’t yet, hang in there. It will happen. And if it doesn’t, approach that lonely mom sitting all by herself and start the tribe yourself.

 

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Insomnia is the new black

You know a fun time to start thinking every thought in the entire world? From 2-5 a.m. Although 9:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. is also fantastic. Or, on really special occasions, both of those time frames in the same night.

How many baby wipes do we have left?

What’s the date? When are taxes due?

I forgot to clip the dog’s toenails again. Poor baby. He’s practically walking on stilts.

How can Anna Faris possibly have moved on from Chris Pratt already?

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Just laying there in bed. All snuggled up. All quiet and calm. While your brain races around like its been soaking in a solution of bath salts and Red Bull.

I don’t care what my husband says. I’m still pretty sure I could outrun a bear.

I should sign up for another 5K. See if Emily wants to run with me.

Man, when is the last time I talked to Emily? It’s been…months. She probably thinks I’m an awful human being.

Oh good, now I’m going to painstakingly analyze every female relationship I’ve ever had one by one to search for signs of just how awful and selfish I am.

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This isn’t the first time I’ve suffered from insomnia. It’s happened periodically for months at a time throughout my life. Even as a kid I dealt with it. But this current bout is particularly cruel since both my kids are now sleeping consistently through the night. So, of course, now that I finally can, I can’t.

Insomnia. Is that a good column idea? Probably not.

What was the name of that mom I met on the playground again? Sounded something like Blippy? Or maybe it was Karen? Ugh. Why can’t everyone in the world just wear name tags?

Stop thinking about that comment on Facebook. Stop thinking about that comment on Facebook. Stop thinking about that comment on Facebook.

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The bags under my eyes are so heavy I have to pay an extra baggage fee every time I fly in an airplane. I’m having trouble finishing my sentences because my brain is on auto-pilot. In fact, my 4-year-old has gotten really good at finishing my thoughts for me.

Me: Honey, please finish your…um…

Riker: Food?

Me: Yes. Thank you. And then put your plate into the…thing…the place…

Riker: Kitchen?

If I fall asleep RIGHT NOW, I can still get a solid three hours. Sigh. Breathe. Relax…

Where did that giant mystery bruise on my thigh come from? I wonder if, when you die, along with learning all the mysteries of the universe, you also get a montage of all the times you got a mystery bruise and what actually caused them.

Speaking of montages, how do I stop this memory that just arose unbidden of that time I got really drunk when I was 29 and made an ass out of myself?

It sucks being bad at a necessary biological function. I don’t want sleeping pills. I want to be able to hear if my children need me in the middle of the night. And life isn’t worth living if I have to give up coffee. So right now I’m just trying to ride it out. Clinging to the hope that the insomnia will end on its own soon.

I know I don’t have to pee now but I probably will in roughly 17 minutes so maybe I should just get up and go now.

I should really change all my passwords again. Except I don’t know any of my current passwords.

I’m going to die before I watch all the shows I want to and before reading all the books in the world. That’s so DEPRESSING.

Maybe insomnia is a good column idea.

Chris Pratt should marry Aubrey Plaza in real life. That would show Anna.

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I now dread going to bed. I know the only thing that awaits me is tossing and turning. Racing thoughts. Irrational anger at the quiet snoring of both my husband and my dog.

And then there’s the whole pretending to be a functioning human being the next day.

But I guess it could be worse. It could be…um…the…

Uh…you know…

Hey, Riker! Come over here…

I’m telling my mom on you.

I like to think I’m a mature person. Mature-ish at the very least. Especially since I became a mother. Because when the world hands you a screaming, leaking lump of fragile human clay and expects you to keep it alive for 18 years, you grow up a bit in spite of yourself.

I can now even say the word Uranus without giggling.

Usually.

But let me tell you, the first time I heard my own mom scold my misbehaving kids, telling them they better behave and listen to their mother or else, I gloated. Oh, I gloated so hard.

(Internally, of course. I am mature-ish, afterall.)

But you could not have wiped that Cheshire Cat grin off my face with a jackhammer.

“Oh yeah,” I thought to myself. “Memaw just put the smack down on you. Who’s a stupid poopy-head now, tiny humans?”

I’m not necessarily proud of this. But then again, I’m not necessarily ashamed.

It can be lonely at the top of the family hierarchy. Heavy is the head that wears the crown made of macaroni your offspring made you at day camp. And nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to disciplining.

Now that my kids are 4 and 20-months-old, respectively, my days have devolved into one long verbal parade of “no.” Oh look, there’s the “Knock It Off” float. And the “Please Stop” marching band. And the “Don’t Do That Again” men in the funny hats riding the tiny cars.

And, perhaps my personal favorite, the “And That’s Why We Don’t Stick Our Hands In The Toilet” cheerleaders.

It’s exhausting. Especially because you have to constantly be vigilant about disciplining. And correcting. And punishing. One tiny little inconsistency and BOOM. The whole wobbly stack of cards your authority rests on comes crumbling down.  

Because small children are relentless. And merciless. And love nothing more than finding a loophole in your disciplining and squeezing their squirmy little tooshies through it.

So, when someone else with familial authority steps in and disciplines your children while simultaneously giving credence to your own parental authority, it feels like one of those deus ex machina moments in a book or a movie, where the hand of God comes down and fixes everything.

At least for the next 15 minutes.

This is particularly a big deal for me since both my mom and my husband’s mom live far away. Which can make it feel like my husband and I are ruling on a remote island that is constantly under threat of a coup from the restless peasants. Just last week they were screaming “LET US EAT CAKE!” while trying to bang down our bedroom door as we huddled under the blankets, clinging to each other.

But when either one of our moms comes to visit, oh…oh, it’s like watching Cleopatra riding into the city with her giant army of weaponized cookies and stickers, ready to take over and restore order.

Because grandparents, and especially grandmothers, enjoy a different sort of authority. Parents, by necessity, usually end up becoming dictators. Otherwise chaos reigns. But grandparents are more like benevolent royalty. Since they are a degree removed from the children, (unlike us dictators who are forced to live side by side with them), Grandma and Pop-pop can show up, shower them with jewels and snickerdoodles, and earn their obedience without any bloodshed.

And it just so happens that my mom is in town this week for a visit. Which is why I am out in a coffee shop right now writing this, disastrously mixing up my political and historical metaphors in peace, instead of strolling the hallways of the gulag that was formerly my house.

What’s going on inside my house right now? I have no idea. And better yet, I don’t care. Because a divine parental authority even more ancient than mine has taken over.

And for this week I say, hell, let ‘em eat cake.

 

To Whom It May Concern (yes, you)

I didn’t want it to have to come to this. No one ever does. Love means never having to hire a lawyer. Or at least it should.

But, alas, here we are. It is indeed regrettable but unfortunately necessary at this point.

And so, it is with a heavy heart that I must inform you, dear children, that you are in violation of our prenatal agreement.

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Actually, you’ve both been in violation of various parts of it for quite some time now. Remember Section 1, Subsection C, Paragraph 2? Thou shall not give the mother stretch marks?

(Note: I don’t really know much legal jargon so I just mixed in a bunch of Biblical vocabulary to make it sound more official. Also I was getting high on cheeseburgers every day during the drafting of the original document so I can’t really be held responsible for my state of mind at the time).

Well, I do have stretch marks. Lots of them. My hips look like they’ve been mauled by a cranky tiger.

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But since you both kept up your end of the Principal Birth Accord and came out healthy and with the appropriate amount of digits, I’m willing to waive the Stretch Mark Clause. Especially in light of the fact that you have both remained healthy and have kept all the aforementioned digits in excellent condition. (Although I do feel it pertinent to remind you at this juncture that Section 5, Paragraph 6 forbids those digits from coming within three inches of the nasal area).

However, I need you both to immediately cease and desist with any and all public tantrums. A fetus is able to hear inside the womb starting at around 16 weeks, so I know you heard me when I said “you are never allowed to flop on the floor, kicking and screaming, while occupying space on public property.” This is what’s known as a verbal agreement, kids. Which is legally binding.

Probably.

Which means that last week, when the two of you threw a simultaneous tantrum inside the grocery store because you both got the exact same number of stickers from the cashier, which made Defendant No. 1 mad because, and I quote, “I wanted more stickers than her,” and made Defendant No. 2 mad because, and I quote “MORE ‘DICKERS, MOMMA,” you were in violation of Section 8, Subsection K, Paragraph 2, AND Paragraph 7 (the latter of which specifies that any and all tantrums may not be about something ridiculous and/or dumb).

And did you or did you not kick my bladder in acquiescence when I asked you to agree that thou shalt never complain about what I cooked for dinner? Let me refresh your memory: You both did. Hard. In fact, one of you agreed so heartily that I peed myself a little.

And yet, almost every meal that is not composed of just a giant bowl of ketchup is met with a resounding chorus of whining and various other dramatic theatrics. Meaning you are in violation of Section 10, Paragraph 37, also known as the “Shut Up And Eat It” stipulation.

And I think we can all agree that last night’s flagrant disregard of Section 17, Paragraph 1, commonly referred to as the “No Pooping in the Tub” restriction, was highly regrettable and caused no small amount of distress, both mentally and physically, for all involved.    

As is noted in great detail in Section 26, Subsection F, Paragraph 3 through 119 of the Prenatal Agreement, I love you both very much. Which is why, despite these unpleasant legal matters, I am still willing to act as your Maternal Unit with the priviso that you reread and reacquaint yourself with the particularities of Section 45, also known as the “Knock It Off” contingency, and Section 48, also known as the “So Help Me” eventuality.

Cordially Yours,

Momma

 

Back off, fellas, I’m taken

I am a crappy wife. I mean, I’d hate being married to me. I’m a remote hog and an unabashed blanket stealer and I have to let you know in great detail EVERY SINGLE FEELING I AM FEELING AT THE EXACT MOMENT I AM FEELING IT.

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And then there’s my temper. My lethargic attitude regarding shaving. My severe allergy to replacing toilet paper rolls.

I don’t even know what the man likes on his pizza. I just always order what I want and expect him to eat it.

And yeah, sure, I have my good qualities, I suppose. I’d never cheat. Or be abusive. Or make my husband eat kale.

I’m not a monster.

But still. Take his recent birthday. I did nothing to prepare. NOTHING. Literally ordered his gift the day before. While telling him, “hey, I’m ordering your gift now.” Followed by, “it’ll be here in a week and a half” because I couldn’t even spring for two-day shipping.

There was no party. No fun outing planned. And while I did manage to interrupt my busy schedule of standing in front of the fridge eating all the good restaurant leftovers so that I could make him a birthday cake, he is technically the one who went out into the sub-zero temperatures to buy all the ingredients.

I even forgot to have the kids make him an adorable homemade card. And, thanks to the combination of guilt and laziness (which, when you get down to it, are pretty much the building blocks of my entire personality), I went so far as contemplating on deceptively forging one in their names.

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Even worse is that I didn’t because my laziness is almost always stronger than my guilt.

Yeah.

I’m awful.

And what makes it all the more infuriating is that he doesn’t seem to care that I’m a crappy, awful wife. He never complains or whines. He never asks “did you finish all the wine last night?” or “are you re-watching ‘Twin Peaks’ AGAIN?” And he always gives me an enthusiastic round of applause when I announce dramatically and triumphantly that I finally, FINALLY did shave my legs.

He’s like a living, breathing example of “love is patient, love is kind.” Meanwhile, I am the living, breathing example of if Lorelai Gilmore had a love child with a bottle of vodka and then that love child was raised by blanket-stealing wolves.

It’s almost like the man accepts me for who I am.

I mean, who does that?

And thus we come to the entire point of this column. Happy birthday, baby. You are a saint. Married to human garbage (albeit human garbage that loves you deeply). And this is your real gift, posted on the Internet, for all to see.

A gift, mind you, which you can pull up at any time and force me to re-read whenever we get into a fight and I start yelling about just how lucky you are to have me.

Stop. You’re missing Christmas.

I can’t believe Thanksgiving is over and Christmas is right around the corner. Seems like it was only Halloween yesterday. Oh, but how I love this time of year. Everything is just better, just shinier, this time of year. Cozied up in pajamas under a blanket, drinking a mug of something hot, watching holiday specials. Happy sigh. It all begins now.

Although…I really should have started buying presents already. Like, in July. I always tell myself I’ll start early, buy a few every month, but I never do. Christmas falls on the same day every year and yet I never learn. How many paychecks until Christmas? One, two…Only that many?! Crap. I should check the bank account. Start making the dreaded “People To Buy For” list. So many people. Why do I like so many people? Why does my chest feel so tight?

Nope. Stop. Just stop. You’re missing it. You’re missing all the good parts. It’s Christmas! Stop stressing. You’ll figure it out.

Of course I will. You’re right. I always do. Oh, and don’t forget, it is finally seasonably appropriate to drink eggnog again. And to drink all your daily allotted calories in one single festive coffee drink. Whipped cream? You bet your sweet barista ass I want whip cream. Load me up. Calories don’t count in December.

Ugh. Look at this line though. Every store, every restaurant, every coffee place. They’re a nightmare during the holidays. And nobody’s smiling. Why is no one smiling? It’s Christmas, you jerks. It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year and yet all these people out here acting like feral animals. Yes, lady, I see you trying to oh-so-nonchalantly butt in front of me in line. It’s people. The public. Without them, Christmas would be perfect. WHY HASN’T THIS LINE MOVED!?

No. Stop. What is wrong with you? You are quite literally acting like the very people you were just complaining about. Now slap a smile on your face and remember it’s Christmas! You love Christmas!

I do. I really do. This year will be so fun too. The kids are at that perfect age where everything is magical again. The lights, the candy canes, making snowmen. And Christmas morning! Are you kidding me? They’re going to lose it. I can’t wait to see his face when he opens his Darth Vader and her face when she sees that cardboard box that she’d much rather play with than whatever toy actually came in it. I’ll even let them have cookies for breakfast. ‘Tis the season, after all!

I do worry though that maybe we bought them too many gifts. Spoiled them. He’s not even four yet and she’s only 18 months. Do they really need that many material things? Are we creating monsters that will throw a tantrum in a few years because we got them the wrong iPhone? No, no. I tend to be a bit dramatic about these things. In fact, now that I think about it, we didn’t actually buy them that much. Oh god, what if we didn’t buy them enough? What if Christmas morning is a big disappointment!?

Seriously? You’re the worst. And, again, you’re missing everything while internally debating ridiculous things. Now sit your ass down and have some cocoa and cookies with your delightful children, you weirdly indecisive Grinch.

Yes, yes, you’re right. I should just relax. Christmas is always magical if you just step back and get out of its way. I mean, take a look at our house. All lit up. It’s beautiful. I’m going to have some eggnog and just sit here and look at the lights.

Ah. Now this is what contentment feels like.

Too bad the house will feel so empty and cold when we have to take all these decorations down. Is it possible to be depressed about Christmas being over before it’s even really started? Is there a name for that? The preemptive blues? Well, at least Preemptive Blues will make a great band name if I ever get out of this funk and start learning to play guitar. Be the opening act for the band January Sucks.  

And January IS going to suck. I’ll have to actually start doing all the things I’ve been putting off until “after the holidays.” No more whipped cream on my 2,000 calorie coffee. Just an endless string of months filled with awful weather and getting my life together and nothing else.

UGH. STOP. You’re like an emo Krampus. Ruining Christmas for everyone with your whining. YOU ARE MISSING IT. Right now. It’s happening right now. So knock it off and have some more eggnog and wrap some presents and make out with your husband while wearing a Santa hat and ENJOY THESE MOMENTS IN THE MOMENT, YOU HOLLY JOLLY IDIOT.

You know, you’re so right. I will have some more noggen. Whoops. Eggnog. Because yesh, Christmas can be stressfun stressful but only iffen you let it. But I will sat here and have more egnoog (in fact, may as weel polish off this bottle) and be IN THE MOOMENT. Like Buddha. Lick a festive drunk Buddha. Buddha on a shelf. Ha! Ha! Man, this noggen is dellious delishush dalishus damn good. Maw have overdoon it though. Ah, butt (heh) it’s Chrisstmas.

Fa la la la la…hiccup…la la la la

 

Death (doesn’t) become her

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately.

Oh, sorry. That might be a bit too heavy of a sentence right off the bat. This is meant to be a “humor” column, after all. Let me start over.

Good morning! How are you? I’m fantastic. My toddler had a meltdown inside a store and I dropped a meatball on my baby’s face. But Starbucks is now selling their Peppermint Mocha Latte again so it all evened out.

Also, I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately. Not any particular death. Just in general. Like, what does it all mean? Is there an afterlife? Will the mortician doing the makeup on my dead face get my eyeliner right?

But mostly, I’ve been obsessing about how I definitely do not want to die. Like, ever.

You might think that something like that should go without saying, but then you are likely a well-adjusted person with a 401K and someone who didn’t spend the first 35 years of their life thinking okra was some kind of seafood.

Not that I ever wished for death (the Great Flu Vomitpalooza of 2015, which occurred right after the Great Chinese Buffet Overindulgence Shamefest of 2015, notwithstanding). I fully enjoy breathing and all that comes with it. It’s just that in past I was always fairly laid back regarding mortality.

This was especially true when I was young, because when you’re young, you are invincible. Death is merely theoretical. Like, yeah, everyone dies. Of course. I never will but sure, yeah, I get it. Everyone dies.

Except me.

Then I got older and started having to adult full-time. And while I now truly understood that, yes, I too will die someday, I was still somewhat ambivalent at this point because paying taxes and dating are just the worst. I didn’t want to die, per se. But, hey, if it meant not having to awkwardly break up with Craig via text and would end this epic hangover from hell, I wouldn’t, you know, rage against the dying of the light or anything.

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But then I had kids. And those adorable little jerks changed everything because the millisecond after looking into their tiny screaming faces for the very first time, I knew that I absolutely had to live forever. FOREVER. I can never, ever, ever, ever leave them. EVER. I’ve often heard people say “my children are my reason for living.” Well, my children are the reason I can no longer die.

EVER.

Seriously, the thought of leaving them reduces me to heaving sobs and the ugliest of ugly cries. I have so much more to teach them! So much more to show them! At least 80 more Thanksgiving dinners with them where I ruin the day with another Star Wars vs. Star Trek argument!

And then there are the million more days I need with them because they are simply the best human beings to have ever existed.   

Because that’s the thing about having kids. Even with the exhaustion and the fears and the tantrums and the mysterious smells emanating from under the couch, my kids make my life more. More colorful. More fun. More beautiful.

Every holiday is magical again. A walk through the woods is full of gnomes and fairies again. And love is back to its purest, simplest form again.

It’s life in Technicolor.

And there is no way I’m missing out on a single minute.

So, currently my plan is to live to 114, where I will be raising my great-grandchildren because my granddaughter June is a complete hot mess because she was too spoiled by her grandmother. And by then, when I finally do kick the bucket, the technology will exist to link up my consciousness with a computer, turning me into an awesome old lady robot who says completely inappropriate things in a cool robot voice.

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Or better yet, I will become a vampire. And when my children die, I will spend the rest of my immortality just chilling at their grave sites and going trick-or-treating with my great-great-great grandchildren and eating all the descendants of the people who bullied me when I was in elementary school.

Because the alternative is no longer acceptable. I simply cannot ever leave my kids.

I’m not just going to rage against the dying of the light.

I’m going to punch it in the throat and knee it in the balls.