Category Archives: Writing

I’m wearing these yoga pants ironically

It’s no secret that when you become a mom, you go through a bit of an identity crisis. It can be hard to remember who you were when it feels like who you are now is someone who spends all of her time cleaning up mystery stains. Is that poop or chocolate? Apple juice or pee? I used to be on a first name basis with the mayor and win journalism awards. Cottage cheese or vomit?

Which is why these days I always dread the moment when someone asks me “so, what do you do?”

And they always ask it. Always. Because we are Americans and as Americans we need to immediately know what you do with your life so we can then determine how harshly to judge you.

God bless the U.S.A.

I didn’t always hate this quirk of American society. I proudly declared “journalist” for a long time. I worked hard to become a journalist. I loved being a journalist. It was a badge I wore with honor.

But the waters muddied a bit when my husband and I moved to Boston. Unable to get a full-time job in my field, I started working from home, writing a regular column for a handful of different newspapers and websites. I’d also occasionally take on a freelance writing project. So, I told people I was a “freelance writer.” But since that wasn’t as clear-cut as “journalist,” I’d have to describe what that entailed and watch as people’s eyes slowly glassed over because they were just being polite and oh, is that Susan over there? I should go say hello. Nice talking to you, Amy, was it?

And then we had kids and the waters got downright murky. Because now my main job was keeping those two suicidal lunatics alive while trying to squeeze in some writing time on the weekends.

“But I’m still a writer!” I’d practically scream at people, less they be confused as to my real identity. Sure, “technically” I stayed home and “raised” my children, but that didn’t make me, you know, a “mom.” It’s more like a hobby, really. I’m wearing these yoga pants ironically!

It took me awhile, but I finally realized why this stressed me out so much. The current language we have for women without a clear-cut “job” is awful. Take the word “housewife.” I hate that word. I didn’t marry my house. I mean, that thing is filthy. Even if it proposed, I’d politely decline and then hand it a broom and whisper “I think you know why.” (And “homemaker” is even worse. Especially if you have kids. Because when you have kids, you aren’t “making” a “home” so much as you are trying to prevent said kids from burning it down to the ground).

I also loathe the term “stay-at-home mom.” I don’t stay at home. No mom does. We’re constantly lugging those adorable damn kids everywhere. And yet, no one refers to us as Playground-Library-Gas Station-Coffeeshop-Liquor Store moms.

Alas, these are the terms we are stuck with if we are the ones primarily taking care of the domestic side of life (and fellas, I haven’t forgotten about you; “househusband” and “stay-at-home dad,” even when used tongue-in-cheek, is equally inaccurate and ridiculous).

Can you imagine if we referred to everyone by their most common location and their role in the family? Oh hey, let me introduce you to my other half, Ryan. He’s an office husband.

Or, hey, nice to see you, Sheryl, I’d like you to meet my bar grandpa.

This is Lila, my stay-at-the-yoga-studio sister-in-law.

My crackhouse cousin had a rough upbringing, what with being raised by my prison uncle and my motel aunt.

Why yes, I have two teenagers, a couch son and a Burger King parking lot daughter.

You get the picture.

Why do we still use these terms? Even “working mom” is a bit of a misnomer. No one calls my husband a “working dad.” He’s a graphic designer. Who happens to have kids.

And I wouldn’t even care about how inaccurate the current words are that we use to describe women who deal in the domestic arts, except for the fact that they have a faint whiff of negativity surrounding them. Housewives are considered vapid or desperate or gold diggers. Stay-at-home moms are boring or unambitious or lazy. Homemakers are busy wearing gingham dresses and churning butter in the corner of the kitchen.

So, it’s time we start changing these outdated and, quite frankly, unfair titles. I haven’t come up with the new terms just yet (what with spending all my time sniffing mystery stains and all) but maybe something like “I parent full-time” or “I’m a professional mom” or “I’m my toddler’s juice bitch.”

Or maybe all of us ladies can take a page from the Tyrion Lannister playbook and when people ask us what we do, we coolly respond “I drink, and I know things.”

Because that one is 100 percent accurate.

 

Advertisements

Why I went to the Women’s March

I’ve been trying to write this godforsaken article for hours now. So much of my social media feed is cluttered with people demanding to know why women across this country felt the need to protest and, as someone who participated, I felt it was my duty to explain. To respond. To…ugh…get a dialogue going.

I started a bunch of sentences. About how we’re fighting for equal pay. For the right to paid maternity and paternity leave. For reasonable access to affordable healthcare. For the right not to have our genitalia grabbed by strangers. For equality for everyone. On and on and on.

There were so many reasons. But I was getting increasingly frustrated the more I tried to justify why I decided to exercise my American right to peacefully protest. And it took me awhile (clearly) but I think I finally figured out why I was having so much trouble.

I don’t care anymore. I don’t care if you don’t “get it.”

I spent the day surrounded by a sea of people who did. And they spilled out into the streets to make themselves heard. They wanted their government, who works for them, for all of us, to know how a huge chunk of us felt about the direction we were headed as a nation. And it was beautiful and life-affirming and gave me hope and made me realize that this nation is already great and there are huge swaths of us fighting to make it even better.

But most importantly, it made me realize that the burden of explaining why we did this didn’t have to fall on my shoulders. Because if the sight of hundreds of thousands of women, men and children all uniting for equal rights bothers you, maybe you need to examine why it bothers you. If the idea of a level playing field bothers you, then perhaps you should examine why it bothers you.

Because if you don’t get why women’s rights are human rights, I can’t make you understand. Nor can I make you feel how oppressive it is to hear a lifetime’s worth of negative comments about how you look, your weight, your wrinkles, your clothes, your makeup, your attitude, your competence, your drive, your passion, your sexuality.

If you see nothing wrong with blaming a rape victim for being raped rather than blaming the rapist, I can’t make you see how wrong and cruel that is.

If you don’t think it’s appalling that a country as wealthy and advanced as America has one of the worst maternal mortality rates in the world, I can’t make you be appalled.

If you don’t think it’s criminal that we pass laws that punish children for having poor parents, I can’t make you see how reprehensible that is.

If you can’t possibly fathom why a minority or a gay person or an immigrant or a young girl would be scared for their safety, I can’t make you try to imagine what it’s like to be them.

I can’t make you care about other people in this country. I can’t make you understand that just because you have it good and I have it good in this country doesn’t mean that everyone else does. These are all things you need to try to understand for yourself. Because clearly a huge portion of our population already understands these things.

We will not go backward in this great nation of ours that I personally happen to love. Not without a fight. If you understand nothing else, understand that. The 1950’s, the 1980’s, the 1800’s…whatever time period you thought America was great and are trying to get back to, was only great for a small minority.

But I, and millions of other Americans who marched Saturday, want it great for all.

And if you don’t understand that, that’s on you.

 

 

Read this. Or not. I don’t really care.

As I sit here with my laptop, a million years pregnant, looking like Violet Beauregarde from Willy Wonka (only rounder and more obnoxious), I can’t help but wonder “what the hell am I doing?”

Not meaning the pregnancy, of course. It’s much too late for that regret. She’s big enough to qualify for social security at this point.

No, I mean this is likely my last post for awhile. One, because I could give birth any day now (although considering my previous birthing record, by “any day now” I mean “two weeks past forever”). And after I do I’m going to take a small break from writing so I can concentrate on the important things, like cuddling with my new baby and finding new places in my house where I can hide so I can sob over my destroyed nipples in private.

Two, my brain has been slowly dissolving in a vat of bubbling hormones for months now, making anything more complicated than dipping deep-fried Cheetos stuffed with mac n’ cheese into tartar sauce damn near impossible.

So, I want to at least try to pull myself together and make this last one a good one. You know, funny but sweet. Perhaps even a bit profound.

And you’d think finding a topic would be easy considering I’m now too big to do anything other than recline on the couch and moan, leaving me plenty of time to worry unnecessarily about things I have absolutely no control over.

The thing is, though, at this stage, I don’t care about anything other than getting this THING out of me.

Sorry. That’s not very maternal. I mean, getting this adorable THING out of me.

Right friggin’ now.

For example, I was going to write about my catch-22 fears of trying to give birth after having a C-section while also simultaneously being afraid of having a second C-section. But then I realized I just…(sigh)…I just don’t care. She can come out any way she wants. She can burrow out my uterus “Shawshank Redemption” style and make her grand entrance via my mouth if she wants. Just as long as she is outside my body and I can finally roll over in bed without the help of a crowbar, a crane and a decent-sized construction crew.

After scraping that idea, I managed to croak out a few sentences about my concerns regarding my first-born. Will I have enough time for him after she’s born? Will he still love me as much as he does now when I’m constantly distracted by his newborn sister? Am I properly mourning the end of the “just me and him” era?

But…again…I don’t really care. I’m tired and hot and can’t get off the couch without assistance. Any issues that stem from this period in my toddler son’s life can be dealt with later (likely via his memoir in which I am referred to as his “momster”).

Being pregnant in the summer, I also tossed around a paragraph or two about my FOMO, or “fear of missing out.” Scrolling through social media, I am inundated with images of friends and family and that bartender I met eight years ago doing fun summery things at lakes and in rivers and on the ocean. They’re going to ballgames and amusement parks and beer gardens. They are having the time of their Instagram-filtered lives and here I sit on the couch with nothing but a bucket of chicken and six fans pointed directly at my face.

But, if I’m being honest, leaving the house is pretty much the last thing I want to do. My house has everything a pregnant lady could possibly want or need (specifically, Netflix, a bed and a good-looking husband who leaves me the hell alone unless it is to fetch me more cheese to eat in bed). I’ll enjoy those stupid fireflies and bonfires and blah, blah, other unforgettable summer memories, blah, next year.

Because again, I don’t care. About anything. Except surviving these last few weeks.

OK, that’s not entirely true. I do slightly care about not murdering anyone until this baby comes out. But that’s only because I will not fair well in prison and not necessarily because I care about stupid crap like the sanctity of life and morals right now.

So, I apologize for wasting your time, dear readers. I hope you can forgive me and I promise to come back with fresh material and a whole new cheery outlook on life (or whatever).

But if you can’t, it’s cool.

I just…(sigh)…don’t care.

My dad is in the cheese business

There I was. Just minding my own business. Looking like a hungover Cruella de Vil with my gallon-sized black coffee and my big dark sunglasses and my resting bitch face. Sitting at an outdoor table quietly attempting to write a beautiful and heartfelt rant on why I thought Blake Lively was the devil.

When suddenly, the three of them plopped down at the next table. A blur of bobbing, shiny ponytails and leggings.

And with a shudder of horror, I realized Yoga in the Park had just let out and my personal space was being invaded by the Millennial Yoga Girls.

generation1

Never one much for movement if not strictly necessary, I decided to hold my ground and keep typing away, wracking my brain to come up with synonyms for the phrase “just the worst” to describe ‘ol Blakey Poo. But professional scribe though I am (with the tiny, tiny paycheck to prove it), I couldn’t help but be distracted by their conversation.

“Like, I’m not impressed, you know?”

“Yeah, like, she would say ‘get on all fours’ and then tell us to sit up and I was, like, wait, what?”

“Yeah, she was obviously a new instructor. Like, watching YouTube yoga videos doesn’t make you a professional, Jessslyn.”

“Oh my god, that’s so funny.”

I was getting ready to get up and leave before my brain committed suicide when I overheard the one with the shiniest, most bobbing-est ponytail say “My dad is in the cheese business.”

A unique enough sentence in its own right, sure. But it was the fact that she trailed off after saying it. And just left it at that. Like her dad being in the cheese business was self-explanatory.

Granted, I missed the beginning of the conversation. But what conversation topic can be reasonably concluded by the statement “my dad is in the cheese business”? It was like that old Lewis Black joke about “if it wasn’t for my horse, I wouldn’t have spent that year in college.” Her sentence just kept rattling around in my brain.

So, I reluctantly decided to stay and eavesdrop. For, you know, professional reasons. Who knew? There might be a comedic goldmine here to exploit. At the very least, I figured, I could live tweet their conversation since they pretty much spoke in audible tweets anyway and maybe get a few retweets by people who are even older and even more bitter than I am that the world around them is changing without their consent.

“Yeah, I just spent, like, half my paycheck buying a bunch of [unpronounceable hipster food].”

“Oh, did you get it at Whole Foods?”

“Yeah. I mean, you know me. I like to buy local whenever possible but, like, Whole Foods is Whole Foods…you know?”

“Oh yeah.”

“Oh my god, you guys are so funny.”

My fingers were practically smoking across the keyboard. I knew it was wrong. You shouldn’t make fun of the young folk just because you’re old now and grew up in a different generation. But I just couldn’t help myself.

“It’s like I told him, ‘Joshua, you can’t, like, wash those jeans. When they get dirty, you put them in the freezer to kill the bacteria.’ Everyone knows that.”

“Ew. He washes his jeans? What year is this? 2009?”

“Oh my god, that’s so funny.”

During a lull in the conversation, when they were all taking the mandatory post-yoga, pre-coconut water refresher selfie, I Googled “annoying Millennials” to help pad whatever snarky blog/column/essay these notes would turn into when I read something that stopped me in my tracks. According to the Pew Research Center, the Millennials are considered anyone born after 1980.

Which meant…

No…

It couldn’t be…

But it was…

I was one of them.

But, but, but…

I’ve spent my whole life associating myself with Generation X. To this day I still love to rock purple lipstick and would slap my own mother if it meant I could get my hands on a bottle of old-school Chanel Vamp nail polish. I worship Nirvana and David Foster Wallace. Winona Ryder in “Reality Bites” is my spirit animal. Hell, I still consider the word “slacker” a compliment.

And now those bastards at the Pew Research Center have made me one of the oldest millennials instead of one of the youngest Gen-Xers. And no one wants to be the oldest of their generation. Because now instead of having the excuse “I was born in a different time, kid,” I’m just the pathetic, out-of-touch grandma that gets Grindr and Tinder confused.

generation2

My whole sense of self has been shaken. If I’m not a Gen-Xer, then just what the hell am I? Besides the woman now frantically texting all her younger friends “What is Snapchat? And how is it different from Instagram?”

But worst of all is the realization that I’ve been cut off from my own people all these years while I was busy shopping for second-hand flannel shirts. I know nothing about us, other than the snarky columns I’ve read from bitter legitimate Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers.

Guess I’ll just have to face it. I am a woman with one foot in each generation. Rendering me essentially generationless.

Still, having never been one to back down from adversity, I plan to embrace my new Millennial status with gusto.

Now, does anyone know where I can buy coconut water and if it pairs well with copious amounts of vodka?

Voted Most Likely to Write an Awkward Blog

Dear fellow high school classmates,

‘Sup?

Or…I don’t know.

Greetings!

Or however the hell we’re supposed to address each other now that we’re all in our 30s. Hi? Hello? Salutations my brothers-and sisters-in-arms in the war known as the Public Education System?

You’ll all be glad to know, as per your multiple requests in my yearbook, that I did, in fact, stay cool but didn’t freeze. I also had a great summer, I tried my best never to change and yes, Hank, my boobs finally did come in. I’m also happy to report that although I am one of the laziest people alive (I once ate spaghetti while lying down), I did make fairly good on my promise to stay in touch with you, thanks to technology invented by people who graduated a mere three years behind us.

reunion1

Yes, courtesy of Facebook, we all get a daily peek into each other’s lives, sharing photos of our kids (holy crap, we have KIDS) and keeping up to date on everybody’s career (holy crap, we have CAREERS, with bank accounts and everything…possibly even retirement accounts for those of us who don’t feel the need to eat spaghetti lying down). In fact, it’s pretty much eliminated the need for reunions (especially if you’re shot-gunning beers while scrolling through Facebook).

Which brings me to the rather uncomfortable reason why I’m writing this. Now, I don’t want to alarm anyone but it’s…hmm…how do I put this delicately? This year marks 15 years since we graduated and WE ARE ALL OLD AND PRACTICALLY DEAD ALREADY.

reunion3

I don’t know if any kind of reunion is being planned (although if I was supposed to help plan it and accidentally forgot because I have a toddler who has turned my brain to mush, don’t worry, I totally sent out the invitations…they probably, most definitely, I’m almost 99 percent sure got lost in the mail). But just in case we all aren’t able to get together, I figured I’d take this opportunity to ask you guys a few questions I’ve been wondering about. Questions that I really only feel comfortable asking you since we all grew up together and all remember each other before we had to do disgusting grown-up stuff like pluck random black hairs from our cheek and groan involuntarily while getting up from the couch.

For instance, do you ever stare obsessively at your face in the mirror after a shower and look for new evidence of wrinkles with the same ferocity you used to look for pimples?

No? Yeah, me either.

But do you ever get a weird bruise on your hip that mysteriously appears one day and won’t go away and you’ve pretty much convinced yourself that it’s cancer? Or the plague? Or gout (which used to be a funny word until you realized you might have it)?

No? Really? Well, me neither. I was just asking for a friend. A much OLDER friend.

Have you ever turn on the radio and realized you didn’t know any of the songs and why do they all sound so whiny and like they’re singing through a fan and is it necessary to use the word “baby” that often and oh my god, we’ve turned into our parents.

Anyone else find it weird Paul Rudd isn’t aging?

Have you ever not insignificantly injured your neck just by falling asleep on your lumpy couch? I mean, I haven’t obviously, cause that’s only something that happens to old people, but I was just curious if YOU guys knew anything about that. Which you don’t, of course. Because we’re all the same age. And that age is young. Very, very young.

Anyone else find it weird that they can’t remember where they left their keys, or their phone, or their child (oh, just the one time, calm down) but can still remember all the lyrics to Warren G’s “Regulate?”

No? Just me? Hmm. Well, at least all you skirts still know what’s up with 213.

reunion4

Ever hear a news story about stupid teens getting caught doing something stupid and think to yourself, “well, we were never like that,” only to remember that we were totally just like that, only slightly better because we never got caught?

Yeah. Me either. And if my son ever asks, you better tell him that or I will FIND you.

But let me ask you this: Have you ever tried fitting back into your high school jeans, lying down on the bed to try and zip them up and then jumping up in victory only to pass out immediately because it cut off all your blood circulation and then waking up in the emergency room where some doctor is surgically removing the jeans off your legs?

No? Haha! Yeah, no, me either. I was just kidding. That would be CRAZY. And sad. Very, very sad.

Anyhoo, it was great catching up with all of you. And, if I may, I’d like to leave you all on this note…

reunion2

P.S. Happy retirement, Mr. Boeke!

I’m happy…and it’s just the worst

Writer’s block.

Block o’ the writer.

Le bloc de scribe.

Blockity block block.

Block is a funny word.

Block.

Block.

Block.

And the word has lost all meaning to me.

Block. It doesn’t even sound like a real word. Blockblockblockblockblockblock.

I want cheese.

I don’t know if you can tell or not, but I’ve been having a touch of the writer’s block lately. So please forgive me for my introduction. I once had an English professor tell me that the only cure for writer’s block was to just start writing, even if it didn’t make sense, and eventually the words would start flowing.

And he was right. They are now, indeed, flowing. Right up shit creek. Sans paddles.

A point. I should have a point. Yes, because that is what writing is for, to get to “the” point. Unless it’s poetry. Or a thinly-veiled autobiographical novel by a 25-year-old post-grad student who writes on a typewriter because it’s more “authentic.”

The point is, I’m happy. And that is, obviously, the problem.

See, happy people generally don’t become writers. Not that they can’t or that there aren’t currently happy people writing. Or even that an otherwise miserable writer can’t be happy from time to time. But there is a reason the majority of the best ones end up in the gutter dying of tuberculous and alcoholism and cousin-marrying diseases.

Let’s put it this way, our most optimistic motto comes from Ernest Hemingway and goes “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

writers1

A lot of writing comes from dark places. Even if you fancy yourself a humor writer, such as a certain someone I know that is totally me. In fact, I’d even be willing to throw out the theory that funny writing often comes from some of the darkest places of all. I got ten bucks that says Dave Barry, Erma Bombeck and Mark Twain all sacrificed baby goats and then drank a gallon of whiskey before putting pen to paper.

And while in general I think I’m a fairly content and optimistic person, there was always some deep down angst I could draw from before in my writing, no matter how great my life was going. Daddy issues. An eating disorder. Betrayals by former boyfriends. Financial instability. The premature cancelation of “Firefly.” That one time I had to go to the grocery store the day before Thanksgiving.

Not that I really wrote about those particular things (the grocery store incident notwithstanding…that one was a three-parter). I just used my former bitterness and sadness to help me laugh at the world. In fact, that’s why I wanted to become a humor writer in the first place. The world is significantly less scary if you can make fun of it.

However, I am currently living through what will be my good ‘ol days. And I am lucky enough to realize this as I’m going through it. Which is amazing.

But as a writer, it’s kryptonite. No one wants to read about other people’s happy lives. We want to read about how messed up other people’s lives are so we feel better about our own messed up lives. We weren’t forced kicking and screaming to read “Anna Karenina” in high school because she ends up happily married with a half dozen adorable, cherubic babies running happily through her skirts. No! We were forced to read it so we could all go “well, at least my life ain’t as screwed up as that chick’s.”

It’s like my stupid, adorable, perfect husband and my stupid, adorable, perfect son and our stupid, adorable, perfect life together has shot a ray of pure friggin’ sunshine and rainbows into my very own heart of darkness. How do you make fun of your life and have sentences dripping with snark when you wake up every morning like bloody freaking Snow White, singing as you get dressed and feeling absolutely no desire to throw your hot coffee on the bird singing outside your window?

I’m happy, dammit.

I guess the only thing to do now is just sit back and enjoy it like the happy and mature person I apparently am now. (But all while secretly counting down the days until my baby hits the Terrible Twos and I’ll be miserable again).

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go think of some trivial subject that I can pick a fight with my husband over so I have a topic for next week.

writers2 writers3 writers4

New year, new blog title

Say hello to Chick Writes Stuff.*

Don’t worry. Nothing else will change. The web address is still aprillbrandon.com. The writing will be the same. And believe you me, my art skills have NOT improved (if anything, they’ve regressed).

I’ve just never really liked the original title (which I thought of four years ago after taking a Tylenol PM and drinking a vodka and cranberry).

*Thanks go out to my good friend Nick for the suggestion.