Monday, July 29, 2013

On the Possibility of Reinvention

I was watching a sitcom which featured women my age so it must have been Cougartown.  I'm pretty sure that's the only show on TV where women are allowed to be in their 40s.  Plus it's funny.  Don't judge me.  One character said to another something about how once you're in your forties the possibility of reinvention has passed.  By our 40s, we are the people we're going to be.

I assume frequent truth from television sitcoms. I believe that if I'd tried a little harder I could have a fabulous career doing something weird and creative while still drawing a salary substantial enough that I would never wear the same outfit twice.  Like, I don't know... a wristwatch designer or someone who makes wall sconces by hand.  I could also eat whatever I wanted all the time while still wearing my new daily outfit in a size 2.

I wonder if knowing that this is ridiculous makes it more or less ridiculous... if I lived in a sitcom, I would make my living by writing pithy musings like this down.  And make bank.

Alright, this is nonsense. But what about the reinvention part?  Am I really done?  Fully cooked?

I used to go to bed every Sunday night convinced that the following Monday I would begin a process by which I would shortly weigh 20 pounds less.  I don't do that on Sunday nights anymore.  I do it every night.  If I could reinvent myself, I'm not sure if I would reinvent myself into someone disciplined enough to lose 20 pounds or someone who embraces her size 12 body with flair and style.

Maybe I could just reinvent myself into someone with style.

I also wonder if I could become a person who puts things away.  I'm endlessly determined to be organized. But I always stick the scissors into whichever drawer is handiest. For some reason there's a hammer under my bed.

Could I be more chill behind the wheel?  More focused at work?  Better with money?  More socially responsible?

I'm probably fully cooked.  I probably am who I am and will spend the second half of my life as I am now: messy, chubby, glaring at you from my car because, goddammit, you're driving too slow.  But, maybe with age comes acceptance.  And wisdom.

I'm pretty sure I'll wake up tomorrow no longer believing that Great Truth comes in a sitcom.

Unless that sitcom is Parks and Recreation.

Monday, July 22, 2013

A Note on Bad Language

I am led to believe that in the world of weekly bloggers (a world I aspire to), some people actually write drafts and proofread and stuff.  I, on the other hand, spend the week sitting in traffic and thinking of stuff that I plan on blogging about eventually.  In my head each thought exists fully formed, grammatically correct, cogent and steeped in wisdom.

Which is why I put it down here in the first place.  Writing this stuff down makes me realize how ridiculous these stuck-in-traffic notions often are.  Or how brilliant.  Generally the former.  Let's see how my theories about language stand up....

Those of you who know me, know that I am prone to the swears.  I think it's just silly to say "shoot" when you mean "shit";  "fudge" when you mean "fuck."  Words have meanings.  There is a qualitative difference between "what the heck" and "what the hell."  The one I say is the one I mean.

On the other hand, polite people (and I really do strive to be one) temper their language based on their audience.  I would not, for example, kick off a girl scout meeting with, "Would you little shits zip it?"  If I get pulled over for speeding, I'm not going to say "Oh what the fuck, officer." Although, it is true that in both circumstances I'm probably thinking it...

And that brings me to Laney.  Laney lives with me. I am with her all the time. Our filters have been exhausted.  We are who we are, warts and all.  I no longer even try to watch my language in front of her.  She used to complain, but then I'd tell her that there are some privileges commensurate with adulthood and while I can drive a car, drink coke for breakfast and say "fuck",  she can put both her feet behind her head, eat four pounds of pasta a day without gaining weight, and her skin is always like buttah.  It was fucking fair, in a word (or two).

And then Laney finished fourth grade and the two of us sort of mutually decided she'd be allowed to swear in front of me.  She says "shit" and "hell," but steers clear of the mother-of-them-all. Don gives her less profanity latitude.  She's had to figure out what she can say in front of me and what she can say in front of Don.  She knows she can't say any of it in front of other adults and shouldn't say them in front of other kids (oh, who are we kidding...) .

We haven't even tried to formulate rules about it.  I've told her that so long as I feel like she's respecting me, she can use whatever words she wants to express herself.  Don just tells her when he doesn't like the way she's talking.  It's tricky for her.  But I still think it's a good lesson.  There's no rule book teaching us how to talk to people.  We have to figure it out as we go along.  And Laney's learning that within the confines of her own home.

Or I'm completely screwing her up.

Either she'll end up crippled by anxiety whenever she has to talk to someone she doesn't know or she'll dazzle at cocktail parties,  the most keenly articulate gal in the room.  One or the other....

Friday, July 19, 2013

Been Chewing on This Thing All Week

Flashback to 1991 or so...

I had this job as a waitress at the Rogers Park Leona's, and one night I got off around midnight and started the four block walk home.  As I was walking, this guy in a car turned down the street I was on, slowed down and started following me.  It's late, right?  I'm alone and there's a dude in a car creeping along behind me. There weren't cell phones back then.  I was truly on my own.  So, heart racing, I started to weigh my options - should I stay on the street where it was well lit but closer to the car or should I go to the sidewalk where it's dark and there are alleys and shrubs to be pushed in?  Should I run? Should I scream?  I pulled my pepper spray from my purse.

After some time of this (it felt like forever but it was probably only a minute or two) he pulled up alongside me and I whirled around, pointed my pepper spray at him and said something like, "What the fuck do you want?!?!"   I may have even sounded tough but I was shaking and I was so so so scared.

Turns out the dude was wondering if I was walking to a car because he was looking for parking spot and it is possible I scared him near as much as he scared me.

My guess is there's not a woman reading this who can't call up exactly the feelings I felt then.  Women are trained to be scared.  Rape is around every corner.  And, the kicker of it is, if the guy had been a rapist and hadn't been a guy just trying to get out of his car and get home, I would have been asked why I was walking home.  Just what the hell did I expect to happen?

Which brings me to the maddening, senseless, depressing, enraging and exhausting reactions to the Trayvon Martin murder (yeah, I said murder); with the most senseless, fatuous and willfully ignorant being why didn't this 17 year old kid, stalked and scared,  just surrender himself to an unknown, armed stranger.  

This reaction comes, I am convinced, from people completely unfucking unfamiliar with how scary it is to be followed like that.

Look, I don't mean to conflate my experience as a young white women with what black men have to put up with.  I would not change places -  mostly because I do not know you walk around with those things - so awkwardly placed and cumbersome (just lightening it up a little, folks).   I try very hard to be aware of my privilege and do not mean to say that what happened to Trayvon Martin would have happened to me.  It would in no way have.

Still, it is abundantly clear that there are some people free to move about as they see fit, accosted neither by suspicion or fear, and that freedom is not afforded to the rest of us.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Aw, Hell No

The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked. His wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else but to be cast into the fire.

This weekend Don, Laney and I went to Home Depot. Twenty minutes in, it was only the lack of a licensed attorney and a notary public that kept Don and me from divorcing and Laney from suing for minor emancipation. Those of you ensconced in families are familiar with trips to Home Depot like this. Young lovers walking past us delayed planned marriage proposals. Biological clocks all around ticked much more quietly.

But we got out. And a bit later, when we all liked each other once again, I thought "That was hell, man."

At which point I took one of the big mental leaps that most people keep to themselves but I like to make public, because, why the hell not?  


Laney is familiar with the term, but she's not familiar with the concept. And for a second I was more grateful for that than the grateful realization that, horrible trips to Home Depot aside, I did still love my husband and daughter.

Hell tortured me as a child so much so that still, despite my deep commitment to rational atheism, my certainty in the absurdity of the supernatural (except in fiction - I do love a good ghost story), I am still wont to sit up in the dead of night terrified by perdition's flames.  

And, you guys, I didn't go to a hellfire and brimstone church! I went to a socially conscious church. A church for hippies. A church with a second collection that went to help pay the bills of the poor folks who lived in the neighborhood not for opulent Catholic swag. The church I went to was run down and raggedy, handed out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to the poor at lunch. They called it "Reconciliation" not "Confession." They eschewed the angry god and embraced the loving one.

But still, hell was out there. Hell is impossible to avoid when you grow up Catholic. Once in school (a far less liberal Catholic environment than church) the priest got mad at us antsy kids anticipating a snow day by telling us "You all better enjoy that snow! Where you're going, you won't see much!"

I was eight.

Hell. What toxic bullshit. What hateful nonsense. And how impossible to avoid if you're coming up Catholic.

I am, in a large part, fond of my Catholic upbringing. I like the shared history, the ritual passed down through countless generations, I liked a lot of the Jesus stories. But that hell stuff... hell no.

I know I can't protect my girl from all the bugbears out there, from all the things that go bump in the night. But I am damned if I'l put her under the authority of anyone who tries to scare her into submission.