Saturday, May 21, 2011

Tina Fey - Change of Life Baby

Today, on this very day, I had the rare opportunity to be without children under the age of 25 so I decided to read a book, carefully selected as a last minute impulse buy at Sam's Club.  Can you still technically call it an impulse buy when you've wanted to read it since the day it was released? I am a huge fan of Ms. Fey on so many levels, it's like one of those old fashioned high rise department stores where each area is on a different floor.

First Floor - Feminist issues relating to women in the workplace, working mom's, i.e., guilt. Or breastfeeding vs. formula, i.e., guilt squared.  Which sounds an awful lot like quilt squared but in this case it is important to note the difference.

Second Floor - Normal girl raised with real world values becomes success. She had a kick ass dad she obviously adored but with a healthy dose of fear.  I didn't have that.  My dad was kick ass with an unhealthy dose of fear and an addiction or two to back up the crazy ass shit he did.  Nonetheless, I am trying to act like a girl raised with real world values who becomes a success.

Third Floor - Brilliant writer - enough said. I originally wrote "nough said", but that didn't sound like something Tina would write so I edited it or dare I say Feydited it.  Being a brilliant writer is all I ever wanted to be, or as Oprah puts it, my "ultimate truth".

Fourth Floor - Wife, mother, honest and real. Tough shit - the doubt; always and forever - it simply does not die.  Am I doing the right thing or do I need to save for therapy instead of college?

Fifth Floor - Aging. I am just a skosh older than Tina.  With all honesty, maybe it's more like a tad older.  But I am certainly in the ballpark, sitting right behind home plate. Her references to having a baby at 40, formerly known as "a change of life baby" resonated with me.  I clearly remember my mom and dad talking about the next door neighbors who had a "change of life" baby.  Born 10 years after the elder two, they scoffed at the very idea of it.  I distinctly remember thinking this was a change of life for the worse, which was implied by the mere tone in which it was delivered.  I had the unexpected pleasure of recently connecting with the elder cheerleader daughter via Facebook.  She who had so patiently and graciously tried to unsuccessfully mentor me into cheerleading. To make it perfectly clear, her lack of success had nothing to do with her skills as a cheerleader or as a mentor but more in part because those fucking tryouts were rigged and Deanna Jimboy got in just because she had cool older brothers who were sleeping with the judges and fucking Brenda Gizzi could do back hand spring like her hands were literally HAND SPRINGS.  I was clearly out of my league.

Sixth Floor - Men.  She invades and conquers the planet, Testosterune.  She blazes a path through the world of comedy with a quirky, unconventional style that allowes her to sneak under their highly evolved border patrol, electronic fences, battery of TV remotes and fart gas.  She emerges out of it alive, and fully functioning with actual reconnaissance of how they pee in cups and jars because they are too lazy to walk to the men's room. Early in my career, I recall asking some of the more 'seasoned' women in my office why the men disappear for 45 minutes to an hour each day with a newspaper tucked beneath their arms.  I later dared to go into a men's room in my building, after hours, for proof. Color me repulsed when I discovered they actually had reading bins in there where they would place their used, if not slightly soiled Wall Street Journal or The Daily Oklahoman for example.

I don't need to travel up any further in this particular department store for I've been sold.  I came away knowing I'm not the only woman who dared to have a baby after the age of forty (going a step above, I had twins).  I'm not the only woman to scratch and claw my way through a man's world yet as hard as I've fought, she still found a way to teach me a lesson.  I am all riled up to the point of facing her Sesame Street challenge.  Do I figure out a way to go over, under or through these obstacles placed in front of me?

She pierced through my shroud of guilt for not being able to successfully breastfeed after so much effort, expectation and did I mention effort?  She made it okay for me to dismiss those that shamed me for not trying harder.  All I have to do is think of her aptly named Bret Michael's move (read the book) to know I did everything I could possibly do and then some.

Finally, she left me feeling as if "everything would be fine", no matter what happens with the rest of my life.  Which made me remember that all the cheerleaders who were selected in the 7th grade ended up pregnant by Senior year.  Not that I'm judging, God forbid, because my life hasn't exactly been by the rule book, the good book or otherwise but I just wanted to point that out, you know, how happy I am about Brenda's springy hands and Deanna's sexy as hell brothers.

As this is a website dedicated to the female gender's words, read the damn book.  If not for any other reason than to arm yourself with the perennial, "I don't care if you like it" philosophy. It's called Bossypants.  Don't let the cover put you off.

And you, Tina Fey, Greek Goddess of Baby Poop, conveyor of classically, funny shit shall live with or without a great deal of anxiety.  Tina, I loved you, even before I knew you existed. Rock on, you pear-shaped, overrated troll, for the rest of us apple-shaped overrated ogres will follow you knowing our journey will be made easier as ogres are not required to think of clever riddles.

My childhood neighbor's change of life baby went on to become a successful doctor, noted for changing the lives of countless patients. I suspect Tina Fey will be resonating with me in the weeks and months to come as I strive to be a brilliant writer and a guilt-free mom.  Whether I have to go under, over or through, I wonder....which one of these things is not like the other, which one of these things just doesn't belong. And that is the essence of the book.

They both do.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Faking It

I cannot fake it, ask my husband. When I’ve tried, it’s just a mess and everyone’s feelings are hurt. I have this thing about emotional authenticity. I can repress painful feelings and I can keep my mouth shut when I know that just because I feel something doesn’t mean I need to say something. But I cannot say something that I do not feel.

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

Ugh, it’s a sentence fragment, not even a sentence and it still provokes anxiety for me.

It is better now that I get a Mother’s Day full of breakfast and backrubs and clay handprints and macaroni necklaces and glittery picture frames and acrostic renderings of the word mother. It is better now that I have small, grape jelly scented hands thrusting presents in my face. It is better now that I get to lavish love and sexual favors on my deserving husband on Father’s Day.

But it is still complicated by those other two people.

They were not good parents. That doesn’t mean I don’t love them but if parenting were The Amazing Race, or Survivor, Dancing with the Stars or even The Apprentice(insert your own terrible reality show here), they would have been voted off before anyone really knew who they were. They were so young and their own parents did not prepare them for the important job of parenting. They succeeded in creating a child but the nurturing kind of stuff, the protecting, the safety, the love, not so much.

Still, my dad paid child support, $400 a month until I was out of college. That was four more years then he was legally required to. He sent me cards on my birthday. He told me he had so much guilt and regret about the past. I spent a good year in therapy and I have made peace with my feelings about him. I send him a card on Father’s Day. I don’t mind, I feel like I want to at this point but it is hard finding the right sentiment to capture the complicated feelings I have toward him. You were always there for me Dad. No, that’s not true. You taught me so much. Nope. You mean the world to me. Still not right. I have surrendered the past and accept you the way you are. I love you but am relatively indifferent to you being in my life. I hope your other family does something nice for you. Thank you for not expecting me to visit. There, that’s better.

As you probably have garnered from my recent extreme navel gazing posts regarding my mutter, we are going through a rough spot. I would like to say this is recent but really it is just the culmination of many years and me finally unable to manage it or handle it anymore. I am hopeful that someday I will feel for her more like I feel about my father, loving but benevolently detached. I am not there yet. It is the hope of that someday that I even sent her a card this year. We are not speaking but she is still the woman, no, the child that pushed me from her body.

I stood in the card aisle like an idiot for nearly twenty minutes trying to find a sentiment that was authentic but benign. I realized quickly that cards with flourishy writing were not the ticket. They held too many sentiments and platitudes, none of them fitting. Even the humor cards were off-target and I’m not feeling the funny at this moment. Can’t they have at least one card stripped of all that other stuff?

In my head I imagine what a my ideal card rack would contain:

Happy Mother’s Day, you are my mother.

I know you did your best.

Social services never came to visit, that counts for something!

Your dysfunction helped me develop humor as a self-defense mechanism and it’s great at cocktail parties!

The crazier you are the better my memoir!

Thanks to the medication, I forgive you!

Thank you for the opportunity for painful, personal growth.

Mother, your the reason my self-help library is expanding at record speed.

As days go by, I realize how lucky I am…. That you are not here to ruin it for me.

You are the anvils atop my wings.

Mom, without you, I never would have met my therapist.

I am the luckiest unplanned pregnancy ever.

Thank you for not getting an abortion.

I’m so miserable without you…It’s almost like you are still here.

M manipulative

O oppressive

M matron