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.

Before We Continue…

I’ve got to apologize, at this point, I think, as I’m beginning to realize that most of these posts during this season of Reverb are going to revolve around the fact that I’ve had a baby. And I guess, apologize isn’t really even what I mean. More than that, I mean to acknowledge the fact that there has been a decided change in my trajectory and convictions.

It’s no secret that I never wanted children. More than that, I was incredibly vocal about that decision, and vehement in my answers whenever (rudely) asked when I planned to have children or why I didn’t plan to at all or didn’t I think the Old Man and I had been married long enough to start already. In general, the world at large has very specific ideas about how one should live a life and what milestones should be involved in that life. I openly flouted those stereotypes and took no small pleasure in the confused looks I received as a result.

There’s a Cool Kids’ Club, you see, when it comes to being over 30 and childless by choice. The members feel a little superior to their peers with children and the secret handshake is conveyed through Facebook posts which not-so-subtly demonstrate their status with pictures bulleting the use of discretionary income or group shots taken in distinctly adult situations with fancy dresses and booze on a Wednesday evenings. The Childless By Design are a bit smug and (not) secretly think themselves more sophisticated. They are elitests, tripping the light fantastic through life, gleefully sans responsibility.

I know this, because I was one. I was a member of this club whose only requirements were maintenance of a child-free status and the unspoken air of superiority of having no wrought iron anchor to keep me from saying yes to last minute invitations or road trips or drinking binges and no reason not to punctuate my speech with the Eff Word.

But change of heart came knocking and change my heart did, and knocked up I became.

No sooner had I made this announcement, than I was unceremoniously booted out the door of The Cool Kids’ Club of The Childless By Design. The change was immediate. With no regard for the fact that this decision had not come easily or quickly to me, friends and still members of TCKCOTCBD asked pointed and tactless questions and made many the sarcastic and cutting remarks. “Did your birth control stop working?” “Great, another Mommy Blogger.” “What the fuck were you thinking?” “I’m so disappointed.” “Another one bites the dust.” “Break out the Mom jeans!”

Plainly, it sucked, and I internalized it all. I limited the number of blog posts I wrote and stopped participating in online discussions with certain people. I found myself cut off from a community that I’d identified with for so long that it had become a part of my identity. It took a long time to come to terms with the fact that I was no longer welcome by people with whom I’d for so long shared a camaraderie.

But as I sit here and reflect, I see that though I’ve experienced a life-changing event, and though I took a hairpin turn, I am still much the same person I was. So I’m kind of pissed off.

No, my birth control did not stop working. I made this decision consciously and waited until I was certain to move forward. I own this choice just as much as I previously owned my decision to NOT have children.

Yes, I will be a Mommy and a Blogger, a motherfucking Mommy Blogger. I will continue to write about my experiences and apply my lens to them. More of those experiences will have to do with my kid, sure, but what makes you think they’ll be any less moving/funny/sarcastic than when I recounted the Twat Fatwa? And further, FUCK YOU for diminishing my experience and treating me as if I’d somehow lost all brain cells and were no longer as smart or as worth your time or reader space.

As for what I was thinking? I wasn’t so much thinking as dreaming of the huge blue eyes and tiny hands that I now have the absolute joy to look into and hold. I was imagining impromtu tea parties and hooky days spent at the zoo or the Macy’s One-Day Sale. I was indulging in fantasies of inappropriate questions asked at top volumes in quiet waiting rooms and I was considering the voices and accents I’d use while reading Pippi Longstocking and Harry Potter out loud to a rapt audience all my own. I was musing on the possibilities of wonder in little eyes and indulging big imagination.

Believe me, friend, the disappointment you’re feeling is nothing compared to my own at your reaction

Not So Shabby

REVERB 14, Day Three; Loving What IS. What Can You Love About Where You Are Now?

 

I’ve had the good fortune, over the past few months, to reconnect with an old friend–like, knew me in junior high, pre-braces, pre-contacts, pre-developing into a person, old—via email. Of course, it was Facebook that facilitated the initial contact, and through a series of messages, which ultimately became letter-like emails, we’ve managed to fill in the spaces of the intervening years for each other and catch up in a leisurely way that I’ve found quite a bit of joy in.

We knew each other and were close during those awkward tween and teen years, so the rhythm that we fell into was quite natural when it came to discussing this place we’ve found ourselves in now, namely, our mid-thirties; a space that in those early years, would have been considered ancient, and purportedly, completely GROWN UP.

As I was replying to one of her responses, I was drawn to admit something that I’d begun mulling over in April, when I turned 35, and that is, I’m kind of okay with where I am.

Weird, right?

I mean, if you’ve been following this blog at all, or know me in any capacity, this year’s Reverb is going to startle you–because this year turned almost everything that I know/knew about myself on its head. Sometime, over the past two-ish years, there was a shift in my thinking. My life, up until this point has been kind of defined by my maniacal search for my own space, every day spent wishing and hoping for something better, for fulfillment, for worth…for a definition of myself and my accomplishments that was worthy of the span of time spent and the potential owned.  I pined incessantly and lamented exhaustively; I was supposed to be SO MUCH MORE. There was supposed to be more money made, more professional accomplishment, more travel, more indulgence in lust for life. Everything was supposed to be BIGGER than it was.

And then, that roar for more and better and grander quieted. I’m not sure when it happened, but I do know, that as I took stock at the marker for my 35th year, I realized, I’m kind of all right…and it stopped me in my tracks. I was unemployed, pregnant, and friendless in a new city. I mean, you look at that picture from the outside, and it’s like Welfare City from an emotional standpoint. It’s literally every life nightmare from my past come to fruition. I was bombarded with messages from friends: “How are you DOING?” “Are you OKAY?” “What are you doing to COPE?”

And yeah, there were for sure moments of despair. The Old Man was traveling every week and I was pretty much alone, sending out resumé after resumé and being rejected interview after interview because, well, no one wants to hire the pregnant chick. There was morning sickness keeping me from the outdoors and then days on end of grey, drizzly rain. Friends were busy working, or, by virtue of time zones, sleeping when I was awake and in most need of a chat. But, in the end, I was doing okay. My life of lament had sort of prepared me for this. Three times before I’d started over in new cities. Three times before I’d changed professional trajectory. Three times before I’d made friends in unlikely places. The prospect of doing it again wasn’t so daunting this time.

And yeah, then there was the little issue of MY issue…the little seed and egg who would become and is now the Littlest Yawps. The biggest and most unbelieveable change of all. And this is where I am writing from now. I am someone’s Mom. Each day I am navigating this space that, years ago, would have been inconceivable. I am turning all past convention on its head. And what’s more? I am enjoying it. I am reveling in this space and taking the time to fold it around me in a way that I’ve never done before. I am working with a calm and assurance that I never believed myself capable of.

Maybe it’s the hormones. I don’t know. But what I do know, is that I have my little job which has the potential to grow for me in the years to come, and I have my little family which HAS grown for me in countless ways, and I have a new store of patience and peace that is as calming as it is surprising. No, I haven’t turned into some Zenmaster Jen floating through life with all the answers. I still have moments of panic and despair. But for the most part, I CAN love where I am right now because for the first time ever, I’m taking it day by day, and living it the way it’s supposed to be lived, up close. I’m squeezing these moments for all that they can give me; it’s really pretty lovely

*sigh

REVERB 14: DAY TWO: When Did You Feel Beautiful This Year? Why?

 

It’s no secret that I’ve made an art form of self-loathing. My thighs have never been thin enough, my arms never defined enough. My hair too thin and an ugly combination of neither wavy nor straight. My nose is too big and my teeth are crooked and when I smile, my face looks fat and my chin doubles. I am too short, and, while I don’t mind being small-chested, the tits I DO have are oddly shaped and displeasing. With age, my left eye has begun to cross inward, and so, I must hide my one good feature, my eyes, behind coke bottle glasses. This list goes on and on, and though I’ve made significant strides against negative self-talk, I’d be lying to you if I said that there wasn’t some sort of narrative similar to this constantly playing in the background, even if the volume is low.

I had to get pregnant DESPITE these things. I had to BE pregnant while constantly battling them. The effort that it took for me to grow a child healthfully, while growing bigger everyday, watching my cheeks and face get plumper, and my ass get bigger, to see my skin stretch and my belly button disappear, was a graduate class in how to accept myself As-Is.

I was not a cute pregnant girl. There was no glow. I didn’t get curves in the right places, and I wasn’t able to maintain any shape besides round. Every day, I gave myself a pep talk. I reminded myself that I needed to keep this hatred in check. That I needed to silence it, for I was having a girl, and her needs were and would continue to be primary. I needed to learn to love this body of mine because she would soon be looking at me as an example of how to love oneself.

I kept waiting for it to be easier. Waiting to see the beautiful Almost-Mom in the mirror. Waited to hear truth in the words when passerby told me that pregnancy looked good on me. Waited to feel the goddess within.

I am still waiting, five months after The Girl’s birth. Still hoping that this miraculous change will happen. Hoping that I could be that girl whom motherhood transforms; to be that girl whose beauty shines through .

In all of the moments of the past year, there has been only one in which I’ve felt pretty, and it is so telling. It was the moment when I looked at my girl’s face, and saw a small glimpse of myself along with the rest which is made up almost entirely of her father.

In that small moment, I laughed to myself and then, ultimately, startled. It wasn’t her smile that was mine, or her eyes. It was her knit brow; not crying, but definitely not convinced. In her face was skepticism and consternation, and I fear, that before I’ve even begun to rear her, that the ONE thing she’s inherited is the one I’d like to change in myself.

And so, there I was, par for the course, finding beauty in the wreckage.

 

Bitchy Resting Face

Bitchy Resting Face

Mayhaps

Reverb 14: Day One: What Can You Say Right Now With Certainty?

“…There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, And drinking largely sobers us again.”

-Pope; An Essay on Criticism

What I know with certainty is that I am certain about nothing at all. This year, I turned 35, changed cities again and did my part to repopulate the earth. The first two were inevitable, the third? Not so much.

I can tell you that my 21-year-old self would neither approve of this state of affairs nor be able to fully believe that she was being fed a line of truth regarding this new baby; this being who has become proof positive over and over that nothing said with certitude can be held to interminably. In fact, the very idea of having children was so foreign to me, that even my 30-year-old self would have balked at this now matter of fact.

Certainty is for the young and new. It is for the intrepid spirits who, without experience of windfall or abasement, plow forward with heads clear of doubt or even a Plan B. It is a way of living; overshadowing and complete. Its town is peopled by conviction and sticky guns and it is deaf to your gentle words of wisdom and advice. Certainty is a loudspeaker with no volume control.

Once, I was certain of many things, but the passage of time has softened my edges and sandblasted my very form into something quite different and almost unrecognizable save my caustic tongue and obsessive search for an authentic experience. Down to my most fiercely held confidence, I have said goodbye, one by one, to the things that at one time or another, I KNEW with verity.

Certainty is not my pathway anymore. It has been replaced by an openness that I’m quite happy to let in. instead of shouting my truth loudly, I have begun to listen to the truths of others, and to let in the idea that just like the Pierian Spring, we would do well to drink largely and long for the most clear view of what is and what can be.