The Nasty Bits

I woke up this morning and the news about Anthony Bourdain was the first thing I saw. I won’t say that it ruined my day, (because with kids, everything moves too fast to be able to dwell for too long) but it did affect me more profoundly than I was prepared for. I felt and thought two things equally and immediately:

1. “Wow, I never met this guy, why am I so sad?? and

2. I’m not surprised at all.

I’ve been busy all day, but Bourdain’s decision to end his life has been running in the background for its entirety. And I’m not alone. About half the people I came into contact with today expressed that they were feeling out of sorts…that their connection to him through his shows or books seemed to go beyond just guilty pleasure consumption or pipedreams. His choice of work, of craft, touched something visceral in these people (and me) and his decision felt personal and almost beyond belief.

For me, it was the same with Robin Williams. I don’t know him. I never met him, but his exit from the world was so abrupt & untimely, and his connection with the world so intimate as to elicit real tears.

Why? Why am I so sad about this? They weren’t people in my life. I knew neither personally, and yet, I felt connected to them in more than just a guilty pleasure, pop culture kind of way ( Hello RHOBH!!). Connected in a way that impelled me to immediately start reaching out to the people in my life to take their pulse.

What’s the draw? Where’s the difference? Why with these two is the darkness so relevant and painful?

I think that part of what strikes me with them is that they seemed to have tapped into things that were uniquely human: food and laughter. Things that bring humans together, that bind us, that get us through the dark times.

I don’t think that you can touch on those things in a way that resonates so clearly with such a large number of people unless you are intimately familiar with the darkness from which each protects us. Both of these guys connected with a large audience by tapping into the connective tissue that binds is all. One of them made us laugh through our tears and the other shared countless meals and stories of the world; each in his own way shining a light on those things that we have in common. The things that we use to cope. The stuff that gets us by.

And so it’s painful to hear that someone who made us say so strongly, so many times, “Yes! ME TOO!” could not himself see the connections that he made his life’s work to point out to others.

How could someone who sat down to so many meals with so many friends, someone who, week in and week out brought different versions of Home to each of our media screens, have felt so alone as to end it all for himself? How could a man who lived to make others smile through tears be so profoundly sad as to not feel any of the joy and light he radiated onto others?

I wish that only for a moment, I could have held their hands in those final moments, and let them feel for a second the warmth that they’d given the world. Because maybe, if they just could have felt that for a second, it could have cut through the pain, through the imbalance, through the dark, through the impossibility and given just enough flicker of strength for one more try.

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#dontbeshittyhumans

So this morning, someone was mean to me.

She was mean in the way people are mean to those in their lives who don’t rate…the baristas, the clerks, those ATTENDING.

Mean in the way someone is when they demand satisfaction, but refuse to allow speech from the other party.

Mean because she’d been inconvenienced, and meaner still when I would not yield.

Because I was acting for my job, I held my tongue on a tight leash. Tighter than you’d anticipate. Tight to the point that not only had my fight-or-flight response been triggered, but my anxiety as well, for being unable to effectively and justly defend myself.

It affected me all morning. It continues to affect me now.

It doesn’t sit well with me to be in a position where I cannot tell someone clearly that they’re being an asshole when so perfect an opportunity arises. It sticks in my craw and it shuts me down. I fritz out, and there I am, dumb; for when I hold back my own hostile words, there’s only enough brainspace for the holding, nothing left for the release of a measured reply.

All morning I wondered at how someone could be so openly rancid, so rude, so truculent, to the people in their life doing them a service.

It’s a big reminder to me…I’m prone to a scowl. Prone to annoyance. Prone to a hot temper. It’s a compass check: Lend people some grace. Give them a break. Smile. Because this bitch ruined my day. Her scowl, her disgust, I felt all of it. She spiked my anxiety. Hijacked my mood. (And of course, I let her, but that’s for another therapy session). Her lack of simple courtesy harshed my fucking mellow, man.

And so I’m going to work a little harder myself. At patience. At a smile to those I see everyday and especially those I may see only once. See if I can’t offset someone else’s black cloud.

You affect those around you, kids. Do you want to ruin someone’s day, or instead maybe be the reason they go a whole day without crying?

Doggone It

You guys. YOU GUYS. I am….I don’t even know what I am now.

For a little under a year we’ve been searching to rescue another dog after losing Matilda. I’ve filled out so many applications that I now have a final draft file for every question I’ve been asked. Out of the 30 or so applications I’ve submitted, I’ve been seriously interested in about 10 dogs.

Of those 10, 4 checked all our boxes.

Our universal experience with rescues has been one of difficulty, choking red tape and Cirque du Soleil-style hoops. We’ve been denied because we have children under 10. Because we live in an apartment. Because we don’t own at least 2 other dogs. Because we live an hour away. Because we wouldn’t allow regular visitation to the family that gave a dog up in the first place. Because we wouldn’t agree to using a vet more than an hour from our home. Dogs have been foster fails. They’ve been given to friends over other serious and well-fit applicants.

This process has been a lesson in the absurd. It’s been heartbreaking. It’s been maddening. The Old Man has been uncharacteristically hot-headed about it, but still, I maintained the course. The right dog will find me, the right dog will find me, the right dog will find me. I kept jumping. Kept applying. Kept managing my expectations.

This weekend, we had an appointment to meet another dog. I’d found him on petfinder and followed all the contact rules of the posting rescue. I didn’t get my hopes up.

At the beginning of each contact, I make sure to outline exactly what I’m looking for and what our family is like. I’ve got it down to a science and a couple of short paragraphs. In general, this is enough to make sure that the dog ticks our boxes and we tick the rescue’s. It keeps us from wasting time on dogs who aren’t okay with cats or who have resource guarding behavior et al.

The woman didn’t respond right away. When she did, two days later after my second attempt at contact, she didn’t answer any of my questions, but she also didn’t mention that we failed any of her criteria (which weren’t listed anywhere). I did my best to ask again without seeming needy or annoying. This is a fine line in the PNW. No one here (personally or professionally) gets straight to the point, and it’s been a constant battle for me to reign myself in….we all know I love specificity and clarity.

She responded again with a couple of half-answers and asked if we’d like to meet on Saturday. I accepted quickly and made sure to mention how interested we were.

All week, I’ve talked myself down from the ledge. I’ve fought building excitement. I’ve attempted to maintain a cautious optimism. I contacted her to confirm our appointment. She confirmed it.

Five minutes ago, I received this email:

“Jennifer,

I wanted to let you know Pluto did get adopted today.”

Kids, if it weren’t naptime and I weren’t lying underneath a sleeping baby, I would have fucking screamed. It was all I could do to maintain a civil tone in my response.

Once again, with no communication, we’re back to goddamned Square One.

This whole process is so fucking frustrating, and the lack of communication from EVERY FUCKING ORGANIZATION is ludicrous. I wanted to tear through cyberspace and slap this woman. I STILL want to slap her, but with so few rescues who will even speak to us because we’ve got kids, it’s a bridge I can’t afford to burn.

Is it too much to ask for an explanation? For a timely response? Too much of a request to not be led on? I mean, Jesus, rescues, look at what you’re wearing. You went through the process to become a 501(c)(3) and it’s too big a burden to send a thorough email?

Fuck all of them, today. They do good work. They save so many animals. But I hope they all stub their toes en route to the bathroom tonight in the dark.

Check please.

Now, at this very moment, I am attempting to get The Littlest to sleep without nursing. That will make yesterday at 1pm our very last session. I was going to post this as a Facebook status update, but then I realized that I was having some feelings about it…so here I am.

  1. Right now, at the top, in a pretty thick layer, I’m relieved. This has been a pretty long journey. I nursed both the Littler and The Littlest to 15 and a little beyond 16 months respectively. That’s a collective 2.5 years of clutching hands and gaping mouths and NEEEEEED. The Littlest is my last, and I’ve seen and anticipated this finish line for some time. I’m ready for my body back.
  2. I’m mournful. No more tiny hands or soft gulping sounds. No more milk-drunk faces. No more sweet, quiet moments, skin-to-skin, eye-to-eye. Oxytocin is legit, kids, and breastfeeding is a mainline.
  3. I’m thankful. There are so many ways for breastfeeding to be difficult, arduous, pained…unsuccessful. I am lucky to have had gentle seas for both girls. From first latch to last, our time nursing passed without discernible hardship. The bonding that this afforded me is something that I am so grateful for.

  4. I’m proud. This shit is beautiful. It is enveloped in a hormonal haze. It’s got gauzy, soft edges and it lowers a heart rate better than dogs. But it is a COMMITTMENT. Both my girls were exclusively breastfed. No bottles, food on demand until each started solids at 8 months. It’s hard. You can’t have weekends away. Not even overnights, really. So yeah, I’m feeling a little bit like I just finished a marathon.

Now if I can just make it to school-age….

A Light Went Out

We met over a game of Boggle which is what served as our elementary schools’ “Gifted & Talented” program; the name showing its age in its derision of those who WEREN’T…

Funny how the wording seems so ancient now as time passed and culture changed, and what ended up being so precociously gifted was the fucking cancer.

For years we walked together to this AP English class or that typing seminar, cursing the upstate NY weather and sharing mixtapes and those foul Goetzes caramel creams.

Unlike so many, you remained constant in my life; didn’t get too cool, didn’t kiss the boys I liked (ha!) just to prove you could, didn’t lord your ability to reason over those of our “less fortunate” peers, never gave up your identity to high school politics.

You were YOU, and I could be ME, and no joke was too juvenile for the field trip bus.

Flash forward years and you handed me my dog, then a puppy. Forward again and “just throw them together, they’ll figure it out” you said when I couldn’t figure out how to introduce that dog and our new rescue kitten; your humor a nod to real life, wry and gimmick-free.

The friends I’ve kept from those early days are few, despite the pressure of Facebook to connect with People I May Know. Their number is pointedly small, and the loss of you from their ranks noticeable and raw.

I will miss you, and I will tell our jokes to my children who will roll their eyes, but (with any luck) will someday understand what it’s like to have an oasis in the chaos of young adulthood.

Goodbye, my friend, rest well.

In Defense of The Saturn

In a short period of time, it became necessary to replace both cars in our family.

First to go was The Saturn.

I was deeply sad to see it go, but, apparently, none of my friends were.

This one is for the haters.

After graduating from college, I did a few, responsible, adult-y things. I consolidated my school loans, I got a full time job and I bought a car.

It was 2002. I’d just bid ‘adieu’ to The Rustang–which had carried me through all university adventures and holds a dear space on my heart–and I wanted a car that I could drive without fear. A car that didn’t have me constantly asking: “What smells like it’s burning this time?” With my Dad as my Wingman, I visited RL Smith Auto Sales in Rensselaer, NY.

Mr Smith purchased cars at auction and ran a small lot. He had a son and some grandkids and he was honest. By the end of the afternoon, I’d acquired both a 3 year old Saturn compact–midnight blue–and my very first car loan.

It had power nothing and a manual transmission. It was the nicest car I’d owned, following a string of FSBO hoopties. Low miles, a shine still to its paint, and a jaunty zip.

AND EVERYONE LAUGHED AT IT.

My closest friends snickered because even their rusty, 4th generation Hondas had power windows. “It’s made of plastic!!” shrieked a friend who paid a mortgage-sized bill on her brand new Montero every month. “It’s so tiny!” said the backseat full of people who had no other way to get around. “You still HAVE that thing???” gawped EVERYONE IN MY LIFE at least once over the course of our relationships.

No one gave that car any respect, and it ticks me off.

It died at the side of the road in 2016, nearly 15 years after I’d purchased it. In that time, I replaced only 1 clutch, 2 sets of brakes, a rear door lock mechanism and a side mirror. IN TOTAL.

The Saturn explored the entirety of NY and pretty much the rest of New England. It got sandy in Hampton Bays and it bumped down dirt trails in the Adirondacks. It made a few visits to Niagara Falls and it crossed the entire country in 3.5 days stopping only for gas and Mount Rushmore. It got me to and from work and was my constant companion as I explored Seattle one parking lot at a time. Not content to know only a single coast, The Saturn moved on to explore the PNW…rugby games, hiking trips, long weekends at the beach, another move to another city and wine country.

All this, to say, I loved that car, and it served me well. It is undeserving the condescension and snooty snubbing it’s received these long years. So here’s a big middle finger to all the naysayers; The Saturn was awesome, and you all were lucky to have ridden in it.

Rescue me

You guys. I am stressed out and sad. Stressed out and sad in that way that runs like a reel in the back of your head and keeps you from sleeping. In the way that sits in the bottom of your stomach and leaves a metallic, hungover taste in the back of your mouth. The way that ‘helpless’ feels when a situation is out of your hands and entirely depends on the whims of a stranger.

There is a dog that we’ve applied to adopt; the perfect dog, I might dare say. He’s a dog that “checks our boxes” such as that goes, but more than that, FEELS to me like the perfect guy. But the rescue, as is its right, does not look like it’s going to give our application any consideration.

For about 8 months now, I’ve scoured the internet, looking for the dog to fill our lives in the space that Matilda left behind. Adoption is the only avenue I am considering. I’m willing to pay a foster fee to a rescue, but absolutely not to a breeder. But the process, here in the PNW, borders very nearly on absurd.

To be fair, there are a number of considerations that narrow our field. I don’t want another dog-aggressive dog; 10+ years of that was difficult with Miss M and I’m not up for that challenge again. We have a cat now, and children, and though both are respectful of dogs (the children and the cat), we need a dog who has patience with them as well. We live in an apartment, so exercise will be of the family play, leashed walk and dog park variety…we need a dog with energy, but maybe not that agility dog energy.

We want a snuggler, a couch-companion, a road-trip buddy. This dog will share our space, all of it, even the bed. We want a family member more than just a pet.

Up until now, I have responded to all dog posts that look promising. I’ve asked myriad questions and I’ve accepted being turned away for one small reason or another over and over again in the belief that THE dog is out there. I’ve labored at maintaining a zen mindset about it to offset the disappointment at one near-miss after another, choosing to live in a space that says “The Perfect Dog Will Find Me”.

I’ve been truthful on all applications. There are many ways to lie to get around the process. I know lots of good people who have done so and have ended up with beautiful dogs for their families…but I’ve refused to do the same. Because the perfect dog will find me.

We walked away from a gorgeous pointer mix not long ago because she just didn’t feel quite perfect. And I didn’t look back. Because the perfect dog will find me.

And about 3 weeks ago, I was grateful to all the other rescues for being as annoyingly strict as they were. I was glad to have said “no way” to ridiculous dog visitation clauses. In debt to the rescue rep who questioned how I could afford a dog if “[you] can’t even afford [your] own home?” Happy to be turned away for having children, for not having a fenced yard, for not living in state, for not living in state even though that state was a 40 minute drive away, for not being willing to adopt certain breeds even though the dog we were interested in was not that breed. I was happy because a dog popped up at a local rescue that immediately felt like HOME.

With every update the rescue posted, this guy got more perfect. Every new picture melted my heart. I waited for the other shoe, the. “Oh man, I guess I’ll keep looking” deal-breaker. It didn’t come. The opposite happened. It was like our lifestyle and needs wrote a want-ad and this guy was created to reply to it.

I counted the days until he was ready for adoption. I put in my application within hours. I supplied references. We went to meet him at an adoption event. Being able to pet him and look into his eyes and cuddle him did nothing for opposition research. He is perfect and walking away was torturous.

But our application went in on Tuesday and we’ve heard nothing. All subsequent phone calls have gone unreturned. Follow up emails have been ignored. FB messages unanswered.

The writing is on the wall. This is the dog rescue equivalent of He’s Just Not That Into You.

And thus, the system that I, for a split second, lauded (Because The Perfect Dog Will Find Me), I am now cursing because it is breaking my heart.

Every new post about this dog that says Ready For Adoption!! makes me want to scream “MEEEEEE!!!! Meeee!!!!! Look at my application!!!!! PLEASE PICK MY HOME!!!!!”

I spent last night dreaming of hugging this dog. Loving this dog. Welcoming this dog.

And even though I am holding on to a glimmer of hope (she was busy, it was a big weekend, all the other applicants are self-avowed puppy-murderers), in my mind, I know we aren’t going to hear from the rescue.

It’s an awful feeling. An awful, awful feeling.

January

This morning I spent two hours in my own home, alone, no kids. For the first time in 3+ years. I had to. I have a time-sensitive task that needs completing. A deadline. I’d needed to start over at a critical point and my cushion disappeared.

So I sat here, in the girls’ room, with a window open and a playlist that came up when I queried ‘Cello’, and I actively concentrated for an hour and a half.

I was astounded at how difficult it has become for me to maintain focus…to just sit quietly with a task that requires a manner of timekeeping and counting. I barely held it together. I joke about the Swiss cheese brain with other mom-types, but I’ll be honest with you: That shit is REAL and it is not even remotely funny, and we all know it. I’m a space cadet and you’re a space cadet, and so is she, and we’re all secretly terrified that our children are ACTUALLY sending us to the loony bin.

My attention span is non-existent. I’ve gotten sidetracked writing these 100 or so words like 5 times. I can’t zero in. Outside activity throws me off. I can’t have a conversation if the radio is on and a child is speaking in the background. I’m harried. Scattered. Fuzzy. Brain dead. Unchallenged. Untested. Gathering dust.

So this year, I think, is going to be a year of rebuilding focus and regaining the ability to drown out the unnecessary and not just turn off when presented with multiple stimuli. In 2018, I want to be sharper and more focused. I want to clean up around the edges and in the corners. I want to get back to fighting weight. Mentally as well as physically. I want to find something to occupy me, to push me, to require effort and skill of me.

If given two hours, I want to get to the point where I can make use of all of it without distraction. With fewer nerves and less sense of a clock ticking down.

Coming Out Of The Dark

So it’s been a minute, Dear Reader, and honestly, it might be another minute before I return.  Or maybe it won’t.  I don’t know.  I can’t make any promises.  We’ll see, et al.

Pertinent information:

-I’ve had another baby.  (That’s it though, no more surprise babies; I head now toward menopause, my womb crumbling and ashy from neglect….) At some point, for posterity I guess, I will tell my birth story, but for now all you need to know is that that baby came out of my vagina UNMEDICATED save for a dose of fentanyl administered 10 minutes before the head of said baby emerged into the open air.  I fucking did it the way I wanted.

-Hereinafter, the Littlest Yawps as you know her, will be referred to as Littler Yawps.  Unless I come up with something better.  Because if I kept referring to her as the LittlEST, it would no longer be true, and I don’t subscribe to #alternativefacts.  The Littlest Yawps moniker passes now to the actual littlest.

-I’ve gotten older.  I’m like, peak white suburban mom right now.  In fact, just telling you that made me crave Starbucks and come to a definitive decision on the color I’m painting my next repurposed piece of furniture….#notironic

What i really came here for, though is to tell you about this cool thing that happened to me this morning.

Lately, as the spring is on its way and I spend more and more time outside with my babies (because 12 hours a day INside with a toddler is like, Guantanamo level shit), I’m realizing that I had a bit of the baby blues.  The cherry blossom tree outside my front door blooms by the end of March every year, and while, after its flowers drop to the sidewalk, there will be a couple more weeks of rain and cold, its always this jolt for me out of SAD.  Here Comes The Sun and all that.

Anyway, this thing happened, and it was such a human moment, and so perfect, that I’m still a little stunned.

I turned 38 a few days ago, and some annoying, mundane, life shit happened (can I just live in a world where cars work fine for as long as you need them?) that led to some positive and definitive Game Plans.  A combination of looking forward (2 years until 40!) and looking back (What happened to 30?!) after a winter spent cocooning and figuring out how to keep two small humans alive on Red Hots and no sleep has somehow equalled a feeling of purpose and hope for the year ahead.  I mean, it might just be a manic phase, but let’s be honest, I’m not complaining.

So for a little bit, my mood’s been okay and I’ve generally been looking forward to things (depression checklist item eliminated) and I’ve been trying to parent positively.  I grade myself everyday (with humor, but also truthfully) with an A being a day with no raised voices, significant time spent outside and away from screens, good naps and lots of hugs. I’m currently a B- student but we’ve just begun the semester and I’ve hired tutors.  I’m in the trenches right now, for sure, but I’m actively working on it.

Tuesday is gymnastics day.  Barring torrential rain, I strap the Littlest Yawps to my chest (she doesn’t like it as much as her sister did) and tie the Littler into the stroller and we make the short trek to the strip mall behind my complex.  There we enter a martial arts studio where for the next 45 minutes, someone else is in charge of tiring out my nigh-on three year old.  Today, I had to stop at the post office to send out some care packages.  Now remember when I told you that I have become the person equivalent of a Frappucino in yoga pants?  Well, I have the stroller that matches.  It’s a 3-wheel model made for running behind and offroad conditions.  Now, I 100% don’t run with it, and if it ever sees a hiking trail, I’ll be doing something wrong when it comes to teaching my kids about nature, but you get the general picture.  It’s like, one step behind having a matching minivan with Trolls playing on the video monitors installed in the headrests.

It handles pretty well, but today, I was having decided trouble getting it in and out of the doorways to the PO.  The Littler Yawps is chatting happily away, The Littlest is screeching greetings and protests (sometimes I can’t tell the difference) and I’m trying to pack and address a box, when I look down and discover that the goddamned front tire on the stroller is flat.  Which renders it inoperable.  I’m going to have to drop my kid off at gymnastics, walk all the way home, get the bicycle pump and return to the stroller to inflate.  Not the end of the world, but a pain in the ass.

Now, any other time, this could have torpedoed my day.  It doesn’t take much, the majority of the time, but, as I’ve mentioned above, PMA is my jam for the moment, so I laugh, and shake my head and say “Dang It.”  My toddler then looks up at me and, amid her customary machine-gun barrage of questions, asks: “Momma, what happened?  What happened, Momma?”, instead of rolling my eyes in frustration at the situation, I tell her “A minor setback, kid” and fill her in on the plan and then continue answering her other insane questions with humor and enthusiasm (Who is that?  What is she wearing?  Where does Kelsey live?  Is she Juliet’s mom?  Did Branch save Poppy?  Momma, did the Bergen get me? Dad went to Target.  Why do you have to fill the tire?  You’re going to walk?  Why?  It’s like a bicycle?  Is it broken?  Can I have a cake pop?) (I’m telling you, GUANTANAMO)

Struggling my flat-tired BMX stroller out the door, I take a breath to answer more questions, and, I hear: “Um, hello?  I think I can help you with that?”  I look up to see a gentleman walking toward me from a heating and cooling truck with a battery-powered air pump in his hands.  The implausibility of the whole scene begins making itself known at this point.  “I was in the post office” he says “and I heard what happened and I thought you handled it like a pro” and he gets down on the ground and, while complimenting my oldest on her pink galoshes (HER FAVORITE), he fills the damned tire.

I mean, WHAT??  What are the odds I get a flat tire?  That I get a flat tire on a positive day.  That I get a flat tire on a positive day and happen to be in the same space as a person who happens to carry with him the same tool that I would need to retrieve through considerable effort?  I’m telling you, it was a little bit of magic.

The guy was so nice, and so gracious as I stood there in a dumbfounded struggle with words.  He just filled the tire, exuded an air of “Oh hey, no big deal”, and returned to his truck to go about his day.  It was this amazing, human moment that kind of galvanized the feeling I’ve had over the past week.  And the other kind of beautiful thing about it is that I didn’t get his name.  My effusive thanks and reaction at that moment are what are going to have to suffice, my thanks and this little post commemorating the moment.

 

 

Surprise, Cockbag!

REVERB 14, Day 6: Biting Back. We All occasionally find ourselves having to deal with an incredibly unpleasant individual. Think back to such a situation: if the gloves were off, how would you REALLY have liked to have dealt with them?

 

Getting pregnant was something that I never anticipated doing. I was so vehement, in fact, about NOT having children, that more than one close friend texted with condolences, rather than congratulations when I DID decide to take the plunge. (“Oh, Jen! Oh!. You’ll see, sometimes accidents can be the greatest blessings…..”) But that’s not what I’m here to address. Those cats were just reacting genuinely to being blindsided. I only mention that to give you a clear idea of just how sure I was in my decision to move forward. This was a choice born of a complete about-face; months and months of thought went into it. My options were weighed and measured and then weighed and measured again for YEARS before the needle settled at “Let’s Do It.”

By the time I chucked the birth control for good, I was more than reasonably sure I’d considered every con. I was prepared for the sleepless nights and the labor pains. The Old Man and I had discussed in very clear terms what types of parents we wanted to be. I read the blogs and the books and the websites. I’d mentally picked over my friends with kids, and kept a checklist of both good ideas and shit that I would/will never do EVER. If you know me, you know I’m speaking the truth when I tell you, I WAS PREPARED. Even looking back, I’m hard-pressed to find something to point out that was worse, or, more accurately, more difficult than I’d considered.

What I WASN’T ready for, what no one mentioned, is the degree to which I became public property once round with child. The millisecond that my news was no longer secret, my inbox exploded with advice. “You’re going to want to….” “Say goodbye to sleep….” “You’re not going to taste that wine are you?” “I can’t believe you’re still working out….” “Has anyone talked to you about the dangers of vaccinations yet?” “When I was pregnant with little Timmy, I would have NEVER done xxxx….” No topic was off-limits or too private. People lost all boundaries. The judgement was swift and complete. EVERYONE had an opinion, and the more clearly I stated that I wasn’t interested, the more loudly they all spoke, because, well, I just wasn’t experienced and they, of course, KNEW BETTER.

I handled all of that pretty well. I learned quickly that there was no being tactful. People needed to be told clearly, and firmly that their advice was not wanted, and I managed to navigate that space without losing friends or offending anyone too terribly much (unless you WERE offended and kept quiet about it…in which case, I’m sorry that your feelings were hurt, but, you WERE overstepping).

What I didn’t handle well were the multitudes of strangers who felt that my body as a pregnant woman, was something that they could feel free to touch without permission. Somewhere, someone made up a wive’s tale that it is good luck to rub a pregnant woman’s belly, and, as such, you should do that, even if it’s someone you’ve never met before. In total, I would estimate that I was groped by no fewer than fifteen separate times by people I’d never met before; people who would approach me in a store, or in a parking lot, and, with nary a word, lay their hands upon my ample stomach.

It was horrifying. For about the first six times, I was aghast and responded by almost shouting, “Get your fucking hands off of me.” This was never the response that these strangers were expecting, and many told me that there was no reason for me to be so rude. I would expound on the inanity of that logic, but I’m sure you get it. It took me by surprise every time, and through my disgust and mortification, I couldn’t come up with anything better.

I was discussing this with a friend over messenger one night, when she made a suggestion that I would seize upon and run with for the remaining duration of my pregnancy. And so, this prompt turns into, not What Would You Have Rather Done, but How I Put The Best Idea Into Practice.

The Scene: Checkout line number 7, Safeway

The Players: My Very Pregnant Self and Middle-Aged Male Stranger

My Very Pregnant Self: (minding my own business, quietly waiting in line to pay for a cartload of groceries)

Middle-Aged Male Stranger: (creeping up to the side of MVPS, leaning in VERY CLOSE and exclaiming, while placing both of his dirty, hairy, strangery hands on my stomach): OH! You’re pregnant! Do you mind if I touch you?? (already touching)

MVPS: (without saying a word, I look MAMS in the eyes and lay my right hand gently but firmly on the front of his pants where his genitals are located)

MAMS: (eyes POP! open, hands recoil in shock, jumps back two feet and stares at me in disbelief, confusion)

MVPS: (Innocently) “Oh, I’m sorry, are we not doing that thing where we as strangers touch each other inappropriately without permission?”

MAMS: (gets the point, apologizes and fumbles away)

 

 

With thanks to Leslie and apologies for using her material. It was just too good not too, and served me well for many months.