Friday, March 13, 2015

Bias in the 'Burbs

Yesterday, I took Ava and Bridget to the library for their toddler storytime. And because these storytimes get as packed as Kiss concerts for the three-and-under set, I showed up a little early with the girls in tow, ready and waiting in the eaves for the entertainment to begin. As Ava spastically ran circles around a terrified little boy who eyed her like she was the second-coming of Satan, I gazed around the mostly empty room at the other moms, bouncing children on knees and/or yelling at little Liam to stop trying to use the children's books as a potty.

And that's when I overhead a conversation between two moms near me, comparing storytimes.

". . . So that's why I like this storytime SO much better than the other one. Plus, we only live a half-mile away from this one," said Mom #1, playing with a cherubic bald baby girl wearing a hot pink hairbow the size of a basketball. 

"Oh, that's great," said Mom #2, cradling her (also) bald baby boy, this one wearing a blue t-shirt with some clever daddy's-favorite sports-related saying. "Where do you live?"

Mom #1 had clearly been waiting for this moment, probably ever since she finished unpacking her last box after her move into said house. "We live in Chappaqua Canyon*, but we're right on the border of Chappaqua Canyon and San Anselmo." She punctuated this last bit of importance with a quick flip of her perky ponytail and an air of rectitude, like she'd just won a Pulitzer. 

(* - All names of locations have been fictionalized to protect the innocent.)

Mom #2 smiled bleakly and nodded, because she (as I and every other mom in that library) knew that being a resident of San Anselmo means something. Living there means that you've made it. Though Chappaqua Canyon is a perfectly safe, tight-knit community of mostly suburban families where one or both parents works in San Francisco, house prices are much higher in San Anselmo, which is literally butted up against Chappaqua Canyon and is one train train stop closer to the city. J and I often can't even understand why they are two-separate towns since they are both so tiny and practically combine to make one. 

But none of that mattered yesterday. Sitting there in that library, waiting for the goddamn librarian to just start singing to these two-year-olds already, Mom #2 tried in vain to change the subject. But to no avail. The follow-up question was already coming, and there was nothing anyone -- including her -- could do to stop it. 

"Where do you live?" Mom #1 asked innocently. The tension was suddenly palpable, and the words resonated in slow-motion.

Mom #2 averted her gaze from her friend to the puddle of spit-up that had just landed on her leg thanks to her daddy's-favorite-rookie-of-the-year son.

"Oh we live on Oak Boulevard . . ." Mom #2 said quietly, hoping there was no followup. But of course there would be. Oak Boulevard is a pretty long thoroughfare, spanning three different cities. Saying you live on Oak Boulevard is like saying you live on Route 66. 

"Ok, then you're closer to the San Anselmo library than we are!" Mom #1 said eagerly. "You must be right on the border too."

"No, not really," Mom #2 said vacantly. 

"What do you live near then?" Mom #1 asked.

"We're near Eastwood High School," Mom #2 replied, knowing perfectly well what this meant. But Mom #1 had to just come out and say it for her. 

"Ohhh. You're on the border of Chappaqua Canyon and Jepson . . ." Mom #1 tried to say something nice, something uplifting, but nothing could be said after she threw around that border-of-San-Anselmo bit earlier, since border proximity mattered to her. Jepson is a high-crime, poverty stricken side of town where you lock your doors at night and avoid sending your kids to school, if you can help it. Which you can if you're Mom #2, since living on the border of Jepson doesn't really mean anything . . . you are only a mile or two away from the San freaking Anselmo border and you still technically live in Chappaqua Canyon, so who cares? 

Apparently, everyone cares.

The longer I'm living in this bizarre trifecta of neighboring towns, the more I'm learning about "what it means" to live closer to this border or that border. What it means to use this library over that library. What type of moms you meet in these kind of places, and what type of kids they raise. 

I know that very few would openly admit it, but I've run into more than my fair share of parents who avoid Jepson and its public facilities (like the library storytimes) because of the predominant hispanic population that reside there and frequent those venues, as if "those people" are going to somehow rub off on their children and destroy their futures as doctors and politicians. It's a bigoted, sad fact that racism still exists in this country, much less California, where everyone prides themselves on being hippy-dippy and accepting. But even in the 'burbs of what I'd consider a pretty progressive area, it's still there. Lingering within the confines of spring fling picnics and hushed mom-to-mom conversations over coffee and storytimes.

What blows my mind is that being affiliated with Jepson, even just living a stone's throw away from the "border" if you can even call it that since on any given day your normal errands take you across both communities, tags you as somehow lesser. (And let's be honest, the reasoning behind that is because Jepson's people are seen as lesser, mostly due to their ethnic and financial status.) Yet when hispanic nannies from Jepson show up at San Anselmo storytimes, toting blond-haired, blue-eyed tots, local moms don't seem to mind, since they're there in an official working capacity. Sometimes, this can even be overhead as a joke: "I was the only mom there that day, surrounded by a bunch of nannies." (Nannies sometimes perjoratively referenced as the Mexican variety.) These nannies clearly aren't good enough to mingle with in Jepson, but are good enough to raise your children. Yeah. That makes sense.

But this grossness extends past just the parents in this area. In the strip mall of a nearby affluent town, city leaders recently wanted to stop a Dollar Tree store from taking up residence in what had long been a vacant spot in the mall. Why? It was only said by a few brave commenters, but it was obvious: Allowing Dollar Tree to set up shop would bring Mexicans into the area, which is like 98% white, the remaining 2% being Asian. (One year later, the only customers that seem to frequent that Dollar Tree, which got the greenlight after a long dispute, are prehistorically old, retired white men looking for a cheap deal on shaving cream.)

But I digress. 

Going back to those two moms in the Chappaqua Canyon library yesterday, I had to just roll my eyes. If you live in Chappaqua Canyon, you live in Chappaqua Canyon. It doesn't matter how close you live to Beverly Hills . . .

I'm sorry Mom #1, but living near the San Anselmo border means NOTHING. It does not make you "one of those them" (them being those affluent housewives in Escalades and pearls) no matter how many times you repeat you live on the border. If you really need that kind of reassurance, then move to San Anselmo. (Oh wait, you can't afford it.) And can you and every other person who references Jepson as though it's the plague just stop already? It's embarrassing and offensive, and all you're doing is perpetuating this superiority complex in your poor basketball-sized-hairbow-wearing baby girl that's probably heard you say far worse with a smirk to your husband after your friends part ways for naptime.

What is this, a sequel to "The Help"? Well guess what: 1963 just called. They want their Hilly Holbrook back.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

My life at 38 weeks

I'm officially in Week 38 of my pregnancy, and I can honestly state that I'm ready to not be pregnant anymore . . . for now, at least. Everything was all sunshine and rainbows until Week 36, and that's when it happened. I no longer felt like the effervescent Pregnancy Unicorn my friends labeled me as, and more like a giant, waddling sloth vaguely resembling Ursula from The Little Mermaid. 

I feel huge. And what's worse, I'm always hungry. Which doesn't help when my two major cravings right now are Top Ramen and Thrifty Ice Cream from Rite Aid. One packet of Top Ramen isn't enough anymore; when I sit down to chow, I need at least two. Then I waddle over to my car to slither down the street to the nearest Rite Aid, where the ice cream counter guy now knows me by name as I order my (double) scoop of cookies 'n cream ice cream (if they're out of mint 'n chip).

To make matters worse, I looked in the mirror the other day and was startled at how old I looked. When did this happen?! The damn smile lines around my mouth are deeper than usual; the wrinkles around my eyes a bit more pronounced. So much for that fifty dollars I spent on BareMinerals Multi-Wrinkle Repair cream. Nothing seems able to stave away the imminent signs of age that have crept into my life. Couple that with the fact that I'm Frump Girl right now because I'm so huge that only, oh, three outfits fit me these days, and it's enough to make a girl cry . . . or stuff her face with Top Ramen. 

I'm very excited to meet Baby Girl #2, but maybe it's just the weight of our recent move that's gotten me a little down. We've been at our new house for exactly one week and nothing's unpacked yet thanks to Home Depot. Yes, my wrinkles, my frumpiness, my cravings -- they are all Home Depot's fault. They say our flooring won't be installed for another week from now, so until then, J and I haven't unpacked since we'll just have to repack and move it once the installation happens. Imagine pushing "pause" on your life for two weeks, winding through a maze of boxes whenever you need to go to the bathroom (which is often because you've got a full-term baby pushing down hard on your bladder now), and eating everything off paper Chinet plates. All with a toddler. 

What I really want right now is simple: To be skinny again, to own a pair of oversized blue Ray-Bay Aviators, and to be in Palm Springs drinking a bloody mary at Cheeky's. Is that really too much to ask?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Some big changes

The last two months have brought about some of the biggest changes of my life (well, barring the fact that George Clooney also just got married and will therefore relinquish the title of my back-up husband).

I don’t even know where to start since these past weeks have been a whirlwind of news, and it seems like each week brings even more into my life, but I can’t complain because it’s all completely wonderful. The kind of stuff that TLC specials are made of.

So here goes, in no particular order:

J and I are expecting our second baby(!!!). Just typing those words makes me feel old, but I’m coming to grips with that as well (yes, we are that couple who visits our local Country Waffles every weekend for the pancake breakfast special. Our booth is always flanked by the 75+ set, giving us a fascinating glimpse into where we’ll likely be fifty years from now . . . namely, sitting in the next booth over, happily gumming our breakfast waffles.)

ANYWAY, we’re having another girl, expected to make her big debut on November 1st. We’ve decided to name her Bridget (after one of my favorite icons, Brigitte Bardot), and unlike our first pregnancy with Ava, this time we have absolutely nothing prepared for her arrival.

It’s a common complaint I hear from parents with 2+ kids – that you’ve already got all the gear, so the prep work takes a backseat to just keeping up with your first. All I have to say is “testify!” Caring for a toddler while pregnant is no joke. Ava is definitely high energy – much higher energy than most kids, which is cool but also frightening when I need to run errands alone with her, and I end up having to waddle after her with my giant belly as she runs out the automatic doors of Marshall’s with unpaid merchandise in her little arms. (This just happened yesterday). When I finally catch up to her, it’s like dealing with a bipolar alcoholic who has no semblance of reason, and let’s just say I’ve gotten used to letting her do her meltdown thing on the sidewalk of some shopping center, as judgmental people wander by and wonder why I’m just standing there shaking my head with my arms crossed.

I assume they’ve never had two-year-olds.

Her Diana Ross diva moments aside, this has been a fun age with Ava since she’s starting to talk a lot more and wants to do the same things as me, like paint her fingernails, watch Dirty Dancing, and get sonograms of her belly during my baby checkups.

The second big piece of news is we’re buying a new house! Our current home is just too small, so we’re making like the Jefferson’s and movin’ on up to a bigger, better home near the “right” elementary school. The house needs a LOT of updating (think vibrant blue-tiled kitchen counters, old gold fixtures in the bathrooms, that nasty baseboard in the bathrooms made out of rubbery plastic in a flesh tone that you generally see in hospitals), so this will be a project home while we live there, but I’m looking forward to flipping the hell out of it and making it our home, and not the 1970’s time capsule it currently is.

Oh, and we’re moving in about two weeks . . . which means we’ll be bringing Bridget back to that home from the hospital three weeks after our move-in date. Crazy? Completely. I’ve been running around like a (pregnant) chicken with my head cut off the past three weeks doing two things: trying to pack up as fast as I can and finish the rewrites/edits on my book BECAUSE (and here’s my very big totally important news of all this last month):

I found a literary agent for my novel!!!!

She is a rock star agent who had amazing feedback and critiques on my manuscript after my submission. After speaking with her, I went back to the semi-drawing board with the latter half of my book and rewrote scenes, reordered the ones I wanted to keep, and deleted blocks that were unnecessary. I'm in no way married to my writing, and I don't take it personally when experienced people give me constructive feedback, so it really helped to have a discerning eye read what I thought was my fully polished draft, and give me advice on how to make it even better.

I’m closing in on my last edits for the book, and I (think . . . hope??) it’s even better than before. It's hard because I've reread my novel about 10+ times now, so it's getting a lot more difficult to edit, but I'm soldiering through and making a hard push to get as much editing as I can done before Bridget’s arrival in November. 

I have an author site up now that isn't completely finished, but it's getting there. Check it out at

On that note, I need to get back to editing . . . and packing.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

iThink iNeed an iPad

We're just going to pretend that I've posted semi-regularly since April, so let's start with what's plagued me the past two days (other than how in the hell J and I are going to retire comfortably by 40, which has also kept me up the last couple nights).

Should I buy an iPad?

First-world problems, for sure, but last Sunday J decided he needed an iPad "for work" (how convenient!) and so he somehow managed to steer me into the nearest Apple store after cheerfully baby clothes shopping with me at the adjacent Gap Kids. (I should have known something was up the way he picked out pink rompers and baby tights with such gusto.)

I've never liked Apple stores since they are as packed as the tight streets of Mumbai and usually smell like a mixture of sweaty palms, bad breath, and an un-showered Frenchman or two. But I reluctantly followed J in and tried to be all supportive and whatnot since he works hard and deserves a new toy every now and then, I suppose.

The problem was that as much as I didn't want to try out one of the display iPads, I did. Just like in those scientific temptation experiments when the children are left alone in a room full of marshmallows and told not to eat them. With my mouth full of marshmallows my fingers wandered across the greasy screen of the nearest display model and I began to believe I actually needed one. At first I fought the feeling with an air of superiority, smirking at the apps all these schmucks around me filled their little overpriced iPads with, but then the resonance of the apps began to sink in.

Though I'd tried out the iPads of friends and family, I always felt like they were wholly unnecessary if you already owned an iPhone (which I do) and a MacBook (which I do). The iPad, to me, was just another business tactic by Apple to have their fanbase by the cajones in a vice grip. How many conduits did one person need to send an email, watch cat videos on YouTube, or read about Lamar Odom's not so secret drug problem?

But all of that logic, all of that sense began to dissipate once I fiddled with the Living Earth app as J purchased his iPad from a sales associate. Once I tried it, I rationalized that I absolutely needed a satellite view of the globe in real time so I could check the weather reports and time in Buenos Aires and Dubai because, well, because I just did, okay?! And I needed this one fashion app so I could get blasted with the top 10 most popular shoes at any given time (because obviously I really need to find more streamlined ways to blow wads and wads of money). And on top of all else, I definitely needed this list-making app, you know, to keep track of all the shoes and clothes and extraneous things in my apps that I was about to spend our money on.

I left empty-handed, feeling bereft and lost. Only 15 minutes prior I'd been thoroughly convinced that iPads were for iDiots. And now here I was, pining after one like a fat kid looking for his last marshmallow. Who was the idiot now?

J reassured me that we'd get me one too if I really wanted one, and I did really want one. Especially once we got home and J pulled out his shiny new iPad and loaded it up with apps and pictures and basically everything cool that's ever been created and . . . well, here I was at the other end of the couch bitterly flipping through the news on my tired old iPhone 4, glaring at him out of the corner of my eye with a look of jealousy, resentment and disgust.

But then he passed the iPad over for me to try, and for some reason it wasn't as cool as it was in the store. Perhaps it was the grease of a thousand fingertips that had swiped that display model before mine, or perhaps it was that in-store aroma of sweat and unwashed computer programmers that clouded my mind like a hypnotic memory, but all of a sudden this iPad I was ready to drop 5 hunskies on didn't seem like the best financial decision. Yes, it's a pretty neat tool (I'll give you that), but is it 500 dollars worth of neat? Now I'm not so sure.

So I here I am, debating whether or not we should splurge and buy me one too. J reasons that it would be perfect to use on long plane flights when we jet to Europe and other distant lands, but I reminded him that the last time we flew to Europe was six years ago. Then he said it'd be perfect to throw in my handbag and use to write at coffeeshops. Which it would . . . if I was childless and back in my Carrie Bradshaw days when I could just prance on over to the nearest Starbucks, spend all day writing whatever I wanted, and my biggest concern was refilling my cafe au lait.

Let's be honest here. The iPad will mainly serve one of two functions. 1.) To entertain Ava with baby-friendly apps when she's on the precipice of a temper tantrum at Target, the grocery store, or any dining establishment that we are crazy enough to bring her to right now. And, 2.) Make it easier for me to read my celebrity gossip on the couch and/or toilet. Because, you know, holding the iPad versus balancing my MacBook on my lap (or God forbid, squinting at my iPhone screen) will allow for more optimum Brangelina reading.

I would attempt to use it for writing (with a mobile keyboard I'd also have to ante up the cash for), but my days of penning the next Great American Novel at Starbucks have fallen by the wayside these days. The precious hours I get to write (now edit, since I finished my book this summer), fall during whenever Ava decides to nap, and for those few hours where I get to be creative I would gladly write with quill and ink if I had to. An iPad would not increase my productivity.

The more I think about it, the more I don't need an iPad. I just want one. Because now J has one, so I must have one too, along with the better part of the Western world. Maybe it's a pack mentality thing. All the cool kids are doing it so why can't I?

Because I'm not cool anymore? I was once, but that was back when Freebird's wasn't yet a chain, everyone owned a clamshell cell phone and platform flip-flips were still in. Do I need an iPad to prove that I am still relevant? Probably. But for now I think I'll save that 500 dollars and read my Real Housewives news the old fashioned way: on my laptop.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

If life gives you limes, make margaritas

Over the last few years I've been told by several doctors that I have the blood pressure of Lance Armstrong.

I suppose this is a good thing since I don't currently, nor have I ever, taken steroids recreationally or otherwise. Perhaps it also means that I, too, can win the Tour de France, which would be amazing since being athletic has always been low on my list of priorities, somewhere between dusting my window blinds and putting new batteries in my dying remote.

What confuses me is that if I've got the blood pressure to theoretically win the Tour de France, then why can't I cope well whenever J messes up with household chores? You'd think I'd have the steely nerves of a two-time gold-medal winner when J forgets to clean the cat litter box (his job, not mine), take out the trash, put out the recycling or wash Ava's bottles. And regarding the latter, I get that my "job" (since I no longer hold a traditional one) is to take care of Ava, but there is an unsaid rule in our house that when we're both at home, it's all hands on deck when it comes to the baby.

But lately, I have been completely wigging out when something he's responsible for doing hasn't been done. I'm talking veins-pulsating-out-of-neck, eyes-seeing-red, practically-breathing-fire wigging out. He gets upset, which makes me more upset, we argue, and I go to bed pissed and misunderstood. And for what? Because he left a few empty water bottles on the kitchen counter before he called it a night? I really need to get a grip.

Keeping our house (or previously, our apartments) clean has never been our strong suit. We were both busy with other things, and while we didn't live in squalor, we were fine with the cluttered coffeetable, chaotic dining table, clothing on our bedroom floor and kitchen sink always half full of dirty dishes. It was just the way it was. We'd try and pick up as much as possible (i.e., once every couple weeks), but found we'd rather spend time doing other things together when we had free time, like grabbing a coffee and strolling around downtown, catching a movie, or curling up on the couch together to talk about our hopes and dreams. Also, it was disheartening when we could actually clean and two days later the place was right back to what it looked like before. Two Oscar Madisons do not a Felix Unger make.

With Ava's arrival, though, clutter suddenly seems to bother me. A lot. And as much as I want to blame J for our disorderly house, I know that I'm just as much at fault. I thought keeping an organized, clean house was hard before, but now with Ava it's like trying to keep our heads above water during a monsoon storm in Phuket.

We don't have the money to hire a housekeeper the way that my other mom friends do (mostly because we're trying to make 2013 the Year We Pay Off All Our Credit Card Debt), so it's up to us to stop being lazy and start picking up after ourselves. If not for us, then for Ava (and if not for Ava, then for our mental sanity). The problem is we're still that couple that thinks it's okay to leave a crumpled receipt here or a dirty dish there. After a few days of this, it gets out of control and we wonder how it happened.

When I'm not out running around or home writing slash playing with Ava, I've made an honest effort lately to make sure our dishes are washed, our dark hardwood floors are free of white cat hair (and white cat hair tumbleweeds) from Moneypenny, and that our laundry is kept in a somewhat manageable state and not spilling out the hamper like the Exxon Valdez oil spill spreading across our bedroom floor. While I may not be perfect about keeping organized, I feel that at least I'm trying.

So it really, really bothered me the other day when J left a dirty diaper on Ava's changing table instead of throwing it in the trash bag I'd placed just beneath the changing area. He does this often, and chalks it up to "forgetting" to throw it out. Ava had been crying all that morning, so when I walked into her nursery to get something and was greeted with the dirty pee-filled diaper wrapped up in a ball and left like a little Christmas present in plain sight on her table, I lost it. Went completely non-linear.

I was seething, and unfortunately, he was 20 minutes away in his high-rise office in San Francisco to fully feel my fury. So I whipped out my cell phone and texted with:

"THANK YOU for washing all the bottles this morning like you said you would, along with leaving a bag of dirty diapers near the front door and leaving your routine lone dirty diaper on her changing table even though the plastic bag was hanging RIGHT infront of you."

and then a followup text:

"You need to start taking care of your half of the bargain with her. I'm serious. You half-ass everything related to Ava."

I don't know what I meant by saying "I'm serious" as though making some sort of Dirty Harry-esque threat. But I sent the followup text because I truly feel like he does need to make more of a concerted effort to follow through with things. Lately it seems difficult for him to fully carry out simple tasks related to her, such as making sure all changing stuff is put away, tossing her dirty clothes in a hamper instead of leaving them in a pile on the floor, or storing away her bath stuff after we bathe her.

When he got home I'd (luckily) calmed down some, and it helped that he apologized and agrees that he needs to start pulling his weight more around the house.

"I didn't marry you to be your maid," I told him. And he agreed.

But at the same time, how angry can I really be at him since this is the way we used to be pre-baby? Both of us were and are guilty of letting things slide. I think that deep down (especially when I'm stressed out), it feels good to take it out on him by berating his lack of awareness when it comes to keeping house. But Ava doesn't change the fact that only seven months ago, this is the way we lived. How can he be expected to change so suddenly over night? I don't expect that of myself, so I shouldn't expect that of him, no matter how annoyed I am. It's like the pot calling the kettle black.

Part of the reason I say this is because I'm a proponent of picking your battles. Most things are not worth bickering about. Cleaning is one of them. I like to save bickering for important things like where should we stay the next time we go to Cabo, whether we should drive or take Bart to a baseball game, and why can't I buy that used Prada bag I saw at the consignment store even though it's still an obscene $800.

To me, bickering and nit-picking is the death knell of any relationship, and I don't want to spend the next 50 years of my life arguing about why J left a dirty diaper on the changing table. In his defense, he said he honestly forgot to throw it away (a reason -- note: I didn't use the word "excuse" -- that I find annoying, but okay, I get it, people forget things so I forgive and forget). Also, we will not be changing diapers 50 years from now (unless our marriage follows the plot line of Father of the Bride 2, which I hope it does not), so does it matter in the grand scheme of things? The answer is a big, baby-urine-filled, Pamper-Size 3-covered "no." In the words of Jimmy Buffett, "If life gives you limes, make margaritas."

When I feel myself getting non-linear over some trivial thing, I just remind myself of an uptight British mom in one of my playgroups. Let's call her Eleanor Rigby.

Eleanor has made it clear to all us moms from the very beginning that she hates her husband, loathes her two children, and swears that her marriage would have failed 10-fold after her first baby if she hadn't sought marriage counseling -- for her husband, not for her. Naturally. Eleanor is a self-professed nag who likes things the way she likes them, and is the type to regularly update her Facebook wall with statuses like how she wishes she could continue reading her magazine in the car outside her house because she can't bear to go inside and face her family. I should include that Eleanor has a full-time nanny, housekeeper and has one of her two children enrolled in pre-school, which allows her ample child-free-time to lunch, go shop and work out. Even with all this padding, Eleanor finds things to nag her husband about and subsequently "hate" (her words, not mine).

This, in my view, is the worst life ever. I feel sorry for her, I feel sorry for her kids and I sure as hell feel sorry for her poor husband. I never, ever want to be like Eleanor, and I honestly think that not choosing your battles is probably what kickstarts her kind of relationship. I am by no means a glass-is-half-full type of girl, no matter how much I want to ride a unicorn off into the sunset, but I'm not an extreme pessimist (a la Eleanor) either.

Perspective is key, especially when a baby is added to the mix and you find you and your husband's roles changing as your life together changes. These changes can be beautiful, or they can leave you reading magazines in your car and loathing the moment you walk through your door and greet your life as you know it. I want to believe they are the former.

So the forgotten diaper or empty water bottle might get the quiet, occasional eyeroll from me now, but I tell myself it's not worth inciting World War III over. I'll still gently remind J that he needs to do this or that, but in the end he's not perfect, just as I am not. I guess true love is about giving each other leeway to grow, no matter how long your garbage cans sit near the curb after trash day has come and gone.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Finding my balance

Well, the dust has finally settled on this whole baby thing. And I mean that in the best possible way. I think.

Ava's going to be seven months old this week, and I think I've finally gotten a grasp on how to be a mom. Or at least pretend to be one (because in all honesty, I look in the mirror and wonder who that 30-year-old is looking back at me. It's not me, I reason, since I'll forever feel 23). And I have to say I "think" I've gotten a grasp because I'm still not sure, seven months later, if I'm doing everything right. Perhaps there is no "right" in this parenting chapter of anyone's life. After all, what's right when your baby has poop blowouts out the backs of her diapers? Or you speak baby gibberish in public, sometimes even accidentally to other adults, or find yourself picking your baby's nose and not thinking twice about it. In the worlds of Bob Dylan, "It ain't me babe." Or is it?

I might not be doing everything right, but I've learned as I go, and I think I've edged into a rhythm with Ava that is not only manageable now, but fun. I'm not sure when the erratic chaos of being abruptly thrust into a new phase of life morphed into a gentle and manageable hum, but it happened. Kind of like going to sleep one night after weeks of stress and suffering, and waking up one morning as not only wholly embracing of that which you fought against, but actually loving it. That happened to me, and since then everything's gotten easier. Like I said, the dust has settled and now I feel like this baby thing has become an easy, steady whir. 

Of course it's not easy 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but compared to how it was in the beginning, I would say Ava's become a walk in the park. Her sleeping patterns still aren't perfect, and she still has her little crying temper tantrums every time she's put down for a nap (I've decided she looks like a cartoon baby turtle when she cries), but with every hardship she throws at me, I dig deep for patience I never knew I had, and I deal with it. Through this last seven months I've learned that I actually have more patience than I ever thought I was capable of -- a fact that not only impresses me, but frightens me as well.

Now that things have died down to a whir, I find myself getting more time to write and my book is slowly and steadily coming along. I plan to have it finished by this summer, and hopefully edited and out to literary agents by the end of the year. I'm having a lot of fun writing it, so I relish in the moments I do get to work on it. J's read pieces of it and suggested I post excerpts of it on this blog, which I may just do. I have faith in it, more than the other two books I wrote, so I'm hoping readers will like it as well.

Anyway, in this process of caring for Ava, I've chosen to also care for myself. I don't want to let myself go, or lose myself in her. She may be my full-time job now, but that doesn't mean that I don't count or that I come second. I love Ava more than anything, but I love myself just as much. I'm sure some moms would shoot me cold, hard looks for saying such a blasphemous thing, but that's how I feel and I don't understand why I should feel guilty for feeling that way. After all, I existed for 30 years before she was born. I'm just as important, even if I can't wear cute little ballerina slippers the way she does.

So I do my makeup every morning, pick out our cute outfits for the day, and always try to leave the house looking polished and put together. Not only do I do this for my happiness and emotional well-being, I also do it to serve as an example to Ava. She might be too young to understand these things now, but as she grows up I want her to see that there is an importance in taking care of yourself and your appearance. I don't want to be one of those moms that is "so devoted" to their babies they use it as an excuse to schlep around in pajamas and let themselves fall apart. There are so many articles online talking about a woman's looks versus her intellect, but why do we have to choose to nurture one or the other? Why can't we nurture both? I want Ava to see that her mother can be smart and beautiful, and I want her to understand that she can be both. It's not an either/or.

Oh and the weight thing I complained about earlier? I think I've gotten a pretty good handle on it (no thanks to that hula hoop, which has sadly joined the ranks of the ankle weights, dumbbells and myriad other home gym equipment currently collecting dust in our guest room/room of good fitness intentions). Just after New Year's I began religiously counting calories -- 1,200 a day -- and the pounds started to drop away. Not an easy feat when all I want is to eat three gallons of ice cream every weekend, but lately I've started dropping down to familiar sizes and even managed to fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans the other night! Though they were still a bit tight, I did get them buttoned and zipped up, so I count this as "fitting me." This small victory will surely be a high of my year. So far I've lost 10 pounds, and I have about five more left to lose. These last five are being extra stubborn and don't seem to care that I imagine I'm eating cheesecake every time I drink my sparkling water, but hopefully they'll be gone by summer.

Ava and I in Napa.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

No Thanx to Spanx

J and I went to an exclusive "Private Holiday Party" at Nordstroms last weekend that really just doubled as a way to liquor up customers and get them to spend more money. After my third glass of complimentary champagne, my trigger finger began to gingerly stroke my visa card and I knew exactly where our money had to be spent. Third Floor: Lingerie.

"I need this," I said, holding up a rose-gold-colored sausage sheath from the Spanx rack as though my life depended on it. Historically, J never thought I needed Spanx, but that night, the tides changed their course. Or maybe it was just the champagne talking.

"Okay, get whatever you like," he said benevolently, standing behind me with his glass in hand. Good husband. It seemed we had an unsaid understanding that this night was obviously all about me.

Since I'm a virgin when it comes to tummy shapers, I asked the sales lady about a particularly intriguing high-waisted "tummy tamer" and she recited the spiel that I'm sure all lingerie sales associates who shill Spanx are required to memorize. And it worked . . . until she told me she was wearing a pair. All of a sudden, I felt like I was at a cocktail party talking to someone who'd just gotten a giant piece of spinach stuck in their front teeth. I continued to listen to her espouse the merits of the Spanx she was wearing while I simultaneously tried my hardest to avoid looking directly at her body. See, I wanted a pair of Spanx so I could (somewhat poorly. . .okay, very poorly) resemble Adriana Lima. This sales girl, bless her heart, was far from Adriana Lima. Instead, with her short stature and full figure, she was more Delia Fisher from My So-Called Life -- you know, that girl that clearly missed the memo on the fact that Ricky Vasquez was gay after her brief stint with Brian Krakow. Yeah, this was a dead ringer for her. Or Natalie from The Facts of Life, depending on how dated you like your pop culture.

Anyhoo, I did best not to stare since let's face it: she was probably not the best poster child for the wonders of Spanx. But she was so nice that I not only bought my overpriced tummy shaper from her ($80, which I rationalized by comparing it to the cost of liposuction), I also bought a handful of overpriced panties from the nearest table. Just because.

When I got home that night, I was all eager beaver to try on my new Spanx. I'd heard so many great things about the product online and whispered over fitting room walls. Hell, Kim Kardashian was practically a spokesperson for the brand, as evidenced by all those terrible paparazzi shots of her dress accidentally hiked up over her thigh trimmers. Spanx was like the Bugatti of body sculpting. It had to work.

Well, after about 10 minutes of stuffing myself into the rose-gold sheathing by shimmying and hopping in place, I stood infront of my mirror, unable to breath yet victorious that I'd finally gotten the thing on. ....And my reflected image back was a huge disappointment. I didn't look sucked in at all. I mean, I guess I did a little, but I didn't pay eighty dollars for a little. I paid eighty dollars because this was supposed to be the miracle cure, but my reflection chided back at me that miracles do not come true. I was under the impression that I'd lose inches wearing Spanx, but all it did was smooth out my fat rolls. Big whoop. I didn't need my fat rolls smoothed out -- I needed them to disappear completely, Civil War corset-style, like Scarlett O'Hara's post-baby body in Gone With the Wind. Instead, I looked like a vacuum-packed tube of Pillsbury cinnamon rolls.

The first thing I wanted to do was peel them off and angrily tromp back to Nordstrom's to give Delia Fisher a piece of my mind. But a lack of oxygen made it hard to prioritize such a thing. Plus it wasn't Delia's fault that I was fat. I guess I was just mad at myself. I was so stupid to think that an undergarment would really be the cure for all my body problems. I'll admit, I'm notorious for spending more time going out of my way to find "easy" solutions to problems versus efficiently attacking my problems head on with the hard legwork generally involved. Translation: I can be lazy. It was clear I was going to need more than just Spanx. I was going to have to sweat these pounds off. Starvation, I've decided, will come after Christmas, when Trader Joe's Peppermint Joe Joe's are no longer offered on store shelves.

Since I have the attention span of a flea, I was going to need an exciting and "different" workout. After trolling online for answers, I came across an article that said Jenny McCarthy whittled away her mid-section after giving birth by hula hooping. (I'm sure she also ate one edamame bean per day, but such things need not be written.) So I googled "hula hooping after pregnancy" and quickly learned there was a whole subculture online around "hooping" (that's what they call it) that I didn't even know existed. These people call themselves "hoopers" and travel the world carrying collapsible hula hoops in their carry-ons, meeting up with one another to enter tournaments, attend classes or merely hoop together in various locales all over the globe. I'm not that interested in hula hooping other than to selfishly look fabulous in a bikini by next summer, but it was fascinating to discover this digital underworld through hooping message boards and websites.

So I decided to order a fitness hula hoop, a padded and weighted variation of the kind we had as kids. If it worked for Jenny McCarthy, then it would work for me.

Unfortunately, after some intense online shopping, it turned out the lowest priced hoop was offered through Gold's Gym and only sold at . . . Wal-Mart. I like to keep my trips to Wal-Mart to a bare minimum (read: usually once every decade), but this decade I'd already visited twice. Once, for a low-price, last-minute baby swing, and twice, for some Swiffer pad refills I picked up when visiting a nearby Home Depot. The hula hoop would constitute my third Wal-Mart visit of the decade. Since I was on a budget it seemed stupid not to choose the free "store pick-up" option for my purchase, as well as receive it faster this way, since shipping times looked like they could take up to two weeks. Clearly, two more weeks sans hula hoop now seemed unacceptable to me.

Once I got the message that my hula hoop was waiting to be picked up, I fumbled excitedly for about 10 minutes with a 20-lb baby carseat in hand hopped into my car and made my way over, eying the parking lot suspiciously as I pulled into my space. This was Wal-Mart, after all.

Once inside, a particularly haggard version of Hillary Clinton pointed me toward the back of the store. Let me say this: There is nothing more depressing than padding through the sticky aisles of Wal-Mart to get to the "special order" counter near the restrooms. Maybe it's the Eau de Urine in that general vicinity, or the self-actualizing fact that I now, by definition, "shopped" at this store.

Once back there, I pressed the "cashier" button to get some help since the area, with its flickering tube lights overhead and half-opened boxes strewn on the floor behind the counter, felt as abandoned as the opening scene in a zombie film. Then I waited. And waited (while silently praying that Ava would stay asleep in her stroller). After about 15 minutes of waiting, I felt like I had hit a new low as employees entered and exited the bathroom doors near me without so much as a second glance in my direction. That's right, let's all ignore the new mom. She's too fat to bother with anyway.

To fill time I marveled at a Midwestern company's lollipop display that had been set up by the empty register. I was impressed. Each lollipop was the size of my fist on a stick the size of my pinky. You know, if you're ever concerned that your lollipop might take less than 24 consistent hours to lick down. Seeing that my sole purpose in my third (and final!) trip to Wal-Mart for this decade was to pick up a piece of fitness equipment, I thought it best to stay out of the lollipop display.

Finally, after what felt like days standing there staring at over-sized lollipops in flavors like Bacon n' Caramel, an older store clerk with a gold front tooth came out through the back doors with part of her peanut-butter-and-jelly-sandwich from lunch still on the front of her shirt. I handed over my printout and she headed back to find my box.

"You know there's a slight problem with your purchase . . ." she said in all seriousness, returning with my package in her hands. The blood drained my face, and I suddenly wondered if God had a master plan to keep me fat forever.

"What's that?" I asked.

"You're going to have to test it out in the store!" she said, and burst out laughing.

Phew. This lady was only making a joke directly related to my love handles. Not funny.

"Maybe next time," I responded, and laughed along nervously. Between the concerningly large lollipops to my right and the Peter Lorre lookalike now standing in line behind me and laughing along with us, I just wanted to get the hell out of there.

Once home it took me a few days to get around to unpacking the ol' hula hoop. Maybe part of it was that I didn't want to admit I actually needed to hula hoop because not even Spanx could cut it for me anymore. Or maybe it was the commitment to the whole fitness thing that I was hesitant to undertake. (Me and sweating? We just don't mesh well). Whatever it was, I let the hula hoop fester for a while in our third bedroom that we use for such things as forgotten office stationery and tubes of unused wrapping paper. This room also serves as a graveyard for failed fitness attempts from our pasts, like small free weights, ab rollers and collapsible pull-up bars, all collecting dust. I promised myself my hula hoop would not join its predecessors in this gallery of good intentions.

The other day I finally got around to unpacking it. Since Ava has taken to staying awake throughout the entire day now, I laid her on her playmat so she could watch her crazy mother in action, clipped my iShuffle to my shoulder sleeve, and started hooping. I was a bit rusty at first, and looked more like a geriatric trying to dance the Lambada, but after a few minutes all those memories of hula hooping as a kid flooded back, and suddenly the hoop magically stayed up. It was kind of like remembering how to ride a bicycle all over again.

Ten minutes of hooping a day is all you need to "whittle your middle" down to a taut waist size, or so it says online. While ten minutes doesn't sound like a lot, I actually broke a little sweat since the hoop weighs the size of a small free weight. I definitely did not look like Jenny McCarthy after my first session (I even lifted my shirt and stood sideways in the mirror to inspect my still-non-existent abs), but Ava seemed delighted to watch the whole thing go down, so I was glad to burn some calories while simultaneously entertain her.

Still, I wonder if this whole hula hooping thing is going to give me the body I want. I keep looking at the calendar to count down to New Year's Eve. 12 more days, then I'm jumping on the calorie counting train. I'm not sure if I'm ready for the ride.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Moms and nightclubs: A bad mix

In an effort to be more of a hip mom (whatever that is), a couple weeks ago I agreed to go to a girl's night out with a couple moms from Mom Group #2 who were chomping at the bit for an evening of girl talk and booze. Little did I know that when you meet up for dinner and cocktails with other moms, it's not considered "girls night out." Instead, it's known as "moms night out," or MNO, which sounds horribly un-hip and therefore completely negates the whole point of the night...but pressing forward.

Leading up to the MNO, the moms were all excited and a chatter about the impending event. Texts and emails flew back and forth between our library storytimes: "Where should we make reservations?" "What are you going to wear?" "What if it rains, then what will you wear as a backup?" "How late do you think we should stay out?" "What drinks do you plan to order at dinner?" If I didn't know better I would have guessed they were caged Amish women on the precipice of tasting their first few hours of freedom during Rumspringa.

During all this heightened excitement, I felt rather blah. Blah because I knew I looked like crap and standing in front of my closet trying to figure out what to wear depresses me since I have to bypass 95% of what is currently hanging and take my pick from one of the last five hangers tucked at the end. Also blah because in all actuality I missed J and didn't look forward to leaving him for a night of drinks and dinner with other people. Maybe that sounds pathetic, but I don't care. He's my person and I like enjoying everything with him. In all honesty I would have preferred that he (and all the other husbands) come along, since I just don't see him that often and I get no real joy out of pretending I'm "free" for a night of sorority-esque fun. But my true feelings were beside the point, because watch out, world -- This was Mom's Night Out; no men allowed! The other moms seemed stoked to leave their husbands and babies behind for an evening, where they would have to worry about nothing more than the cocktail sitting in front of them. (Apparently I'm the only one that can achieve this even with a baby at my side. Bad mom.)

The night before MNO, one of the moms (let's call her Belinda) casually invited herself over to my house so we could go to the restaurant together (because God forbid one of us shows up early and has to wait for the others to show up. I guess that would just be too awkward.) "I'll just have my husband drop me off at your house, if that's okay," Belinda's email read. In a perfect world I would have said "no," thereby cementing my position as a bonafide curmudgeon. But in reality, what was I supposed to say? "Um, house is a pigsty and I wasn't expecting any guests till Thanksgiving, so just stick to the plan and meet me at the restaurant because I abhor cleaning, especially cleaning last-minute"? Yeah, I'm sure that would go over really well. By the next morning all the mothers in the tri-county area would hear about that one time I told a mom she wasn't allowed to come over to my house.

"Sure," I responded robotically. And for the next 12 hours or so I cleaned the hell out of my house to host Belinda for a ladies night out I didn't have my heart set on attending. After a full day of cleaning (I think I've reached Cinderella status now with my stupid mop), I squeezed into one of my killer "going out" outfits that didn't look particularly killer anymore on my post-baby body and waited, switching on Watch What Happens: Live! to kill some time. Belinda arrived part of the way through the episode, interrupting a fascinating argument between Joanna Krupa and Adriana De Moura about that one time Adriana punched Joanna in the face on national television. I tried to get Belinda to watch it with me, but she preferred to coo and play with Ava, so I reluctantly switched the TV off and followed suit.

J arrived shortly after, and once Belinda and I compared our shoe choices and I gave her the official house tour -- I didn't clean for nothing, God damn it -- I handed Ava to J, and we were off.

"I feel like I'm 23 again!" Belinda shrilled as we backed out of the driveway in my car and Too Short came on the radio. She paused, intrigued by my choice of radio station. "You listen to rap?" she asked

I know I'm about the WASP-iest person I know, but yes, I occasionally listen to rap. 

"That's awesome!" she said, and proceeded to do a seated dance in the passenger seat like Leslie Mann in the drunk driving scene of The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Maybe I was just tired or in a funk, but the last thing I felt like doing was busting a move with my seatbelt on. Nonetheless I laughed and let her fly her freak flag. After all, nothing about her struck me as someone who would enjoy rap, but then again, the same could probably be said about me.

An hour later we were just finishing dinner up with another mom, Mimi, that had joined us at the restaurant. Belinda and Mimi were on their way to getting tanked off a glass or two of red wine, but I was a good with my one gin martini since I had to drive home that night. Both moms had spent the large part of the hour gushing about how happy they were to be out at a real restaurant having real drinks, though both winced at the booze in my cocktail when I forced them to take a sip of it, so I assumed they were using the term "real drinks" loosely.

According to our original plan, we were supposed to just have dinner/drinks and then head home after, which I would have been more than happy to do. Instead, two hours later I found myself sitting in the VIP area of a terribly tacky nightclub, watching Belinda and Mimi drunkenly writhe across from one another on the dance floor while I staved off the cheesiest come-ons from a couple of Bacardi reps that could have doubled as Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson from Wedding Crashers.

How did we get here? Simple. The restaurant we started off our evening at had nothing chocolate on the dessert menu. Isn't this the way all good stories start?

I'm not picky about my processed sugars, but Belienda was. Naturally, she only wanted the one thing that wasn't on the menu: a chocolate dessert. So we paid our tab and strolled down the nearly empty street (this was a Thursday night in the suburbs, after all) to another restaurant that we knew would have something to satisfy her picky palate. After we were seated, the waitress asked what we we'd like and Mimi blurted out "a bottle of champagne." Um, what? Belinda, of course, asked for the chocolate-iest dessert they had for the three of us to share.

Of course when the bottle was popped at the table, I had to have a glass or two of champagne, or "bubbly," as Belinda and Mimi repeatedly referred to it as, making me feel like I was in some bad suburban parody of a Notorious B.I.G. video. During the course of our champagne and chocolate (the latter of which I mostly ate), Belinda cornered Mimi about whether or not she listened to rap, as though it was some rite of passage into the "cool" mom's club. Or something. I, for one, had pegged soft-spoken, doe-eyed Mimi as a classical music listener, but it turned out she was actually a huge George Michael fan. This didn't seem to impress Belinda, who began ticking off names of all rappers she loved, including 50 Cent.

Now I don't know why but sitting at a table listening to scrapbook-making, Subaru-driving housewives discuss 50 Cent like he's some tenuous lifeline to another time back when they were cool was utterly hilarious to me. Not knocking it at all, (I've found myself bringing up pop culture references lately that are so outdated they're just sad) but hearing other people do it out loud over a bottle of last-minute champagne just seemed...well, desperate. And made me felt older than I already felt before leaving my house that night.

So what came next? You guessed it. Belinda and Mimi were adamant about visiting a bar around the corner that had some Internet jukebox they kept talking about. Belinda, especially, was on a mission now to play "just one" 50 Cent song on said jukebox. When we got to the bar, Belinda and Mimi made a beeline to the jukebox against the far wall while I lingered near the bar, debating whether or not I should order something since we looked like idiots walking into a nearly empty establishment just to play a 50 Cent song. But I reminded myself I still needed to drive, so a drink was out for me.

"Are you guys going to order anything?" I asked, but they were too busy choosing 50 Cent's "Candy Shop" to hear me. When the synths came on for their song they shrieked in unison and proceeded to dance as seductively as two new moms could in a nearly empty bar with no drinks in hand. "Ooookay," was all I could think since the last time I did this was probably at 23. A booth full of young 20-something guys glanced over at our spectacle and looked highly uninterested, no matter how provocatively Belinda and Mimi danced. I felt like I was a mother out with her two teenagers and felt even older than I had just minutes earlier. The way this night was going I was going to feel of retirement age by the time I reached my car.

After the 50 Cent song was over (thank GOD) and Belinda was brutally rebuffed by the bouncer who picked out the next 40 songs on the jukebox, we left the bar and started to walk back to my car. But wait. We had to pass a nightclub on our way to the parking lot and naturally the two in my party really wanted to stop there "just for a little bit." Oh, joy.

At this point it was getting late, and I'd already told J I'd be home by then, but we dipped into the nightclub to see what it was all about. The moment we walked in the strobe lights and loud music dazzled Mimi and the 21-year-old version of herself officially surfaced. She grabbed both our arms and shrieked in a pitch I didn't know she was capable of. "This is real nightclub!!!!!" she screamed over the blasting music, her eyes wide with delight. Yes, it was a real clurb. This woman really needed to get out more.

Herein was where a gaggle of Bacardi reps surrounded us, offering us drinks and VIP seating and all that stuff that comes with being PR whores. It was no surprise that Belinda and Mimi were not going to drink anything with Bacardi in it; instead, they wanted bubbly. Shocking. This was somewhat embarrassing to me since these 40-something-year-old frat boys were shilling the Boco, but to my surprise, the Bacardi guys ordered us bubbly anyway. Once the girls got their champagne fixes, their flirty sides completely fell away and they commenced to totally ignoring the guys. After Belinda and Mimi ran off to the dance floor, their tummies full of champagne, I then had to listen to the guys incessantly ask me over bass-thumping music "if my friends were lesbians" since they didn't seem interested at all.

"No," I finally yelled over the loud music, "they're just married with kids." By the looks on their faces, you'd think I'd just told them that Belinda and Mimi were trannies.

After putting up with these guys continuing to call Belinda and Mimi gay, while simultaneously hitting on me, I was so fed up. I had a super hot husband who was laying in bed waiting for me to come home, not to mention the rest of that Watch What Happens: Live! episode that was left half-watched on my DVR. And here I was drinking bad champagne in a sweaty nightclub with a group of over-the-hill Bacardi losers that wreaked of alcohol and desperation. I was officially too old for this. I just wanted to go home.

I thanked the men and stood up, grabbing our purses off the seat near me. They protested that I stay since I was "so hot" and all, but the whole situation was thisclose to turning into some sad scene from a Judd Apatow movie. You know, the kind of revelatory scene near the end of his films where the main character has a life-changing epiphany about their new place in the world as an adult. Well, I already knew my place in the adult world and it was not here at this venue pretending I was still childless and single. So I grabbed Mimi and Belinda and left.

Hopefully I will never, ever return to that nightclub, or that type of night, again. Girl's Night Out failed to make me feel young and free -- all it did was make me feel old and pathetic.

MNO fail.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Finding friends as an adult

Every day of the last three weeks has been above par for me. I've had fun, met new people, got to spend some quality time with J over each weekend and have generally been so busy every weekday that I felt my life with Ava was finally finding a balance where she and I were both satisfied. Her, with the stimulation of being on the go and around sights, sounds, colors and people; me, with building friendships, (finally) finding some time to write, and getting things done in and outside of the home.

Then yesterday happened.

If we're going black and white here, it wasn't the most terrible day of my life, but it was definitely a lighter shade of gray. For someone who's tried to paint every day white, it was a downer to say the least.

It started off fine. I woke up before Ava and got myself makeup-ed and ready, excited to meet up with some moms from a mother's group I attend once a week. A few of us planned to meet earlier than the group to have coffee and hang out. Caffeine? Prospective friends I can commiserate with about this whole baby thing? Count me in. I looked forward to getting to know these girls a little better since our meetup group was so big that it was hard to get to know anyone on an individual basis.

So Ava and I went, and it wasn't bad per se, but it wasn't that great either. Maybe I just have high expectations for forging close friendships relatively fast with people, I don't know. But sitting there at the Starbucks in Target with our pow-wow of strollers, I tried in vain to jump into the conversation whenever I could, being my perky self and asking questions with a genuine interest because I do want to get to know these women. But part of the way through I started to realize that no one was really including me in their conversations and no one was asking me any questions -- were they not interested in getting to know me? -- so I watched as they spoke with one other and suddenly I felt excluded and very alone. The last time I felt this way was during my freshman year of high school, when I was one of the last picked for phys. ed. dodgeball (the stereotype exists for a reason). Since that fateful day in Mr. Warmerdam's sixth period P.E. class, I've grown prettier, more confident and a hell of a lot more cool. Or so I thought. But then at Target yesterday that familiar feeling resurfaced.

That feeling, then, made me painfully aware that I was sitting at a Target Starbucks. I always wondered what type of person would ever spend time at a Target Starbucks, usually seen looking dejected and alone with a a coffee and personal pan pizza from the adjoining food counter, and now I knew -- that person was me. The one who doesn't really fit in to her surroundings, but still tries like mad to because having a baby is isolating enough and she just wants to find some like-minded friends, God damn it.

And maybe that's the problem. Maybe I'm trying too hard to force all of this. I so want to have best friends going through what I'm going through that the process isn't happening as organically as a Candace Bushnell novel.

I belong to two mom groups, both of which herald mommy members that couldn't be more different. Let's call these Mommy Group A and Mommy Group B.

Mommy Group A is all career-driven, first-time moms who are eager to return to the professional lives they had before baby. They love their new babies but are happy to complain about breastfeeding, the lack of adult conversation in their new lives, and how they can't wait to go back to work so that baby rearing is no longer their sole function. They unanimously hate cooking, cleaning and anything domestic that has to do with being June Cleaver 2.0. I have this in common with them, but within the group I'm the only stay-at-home mom -- a fact that makes me look like an outsider.

Mommy Group B, on the other hand, is made up of all stay-at-home moms, so of course there's not much talk in this group of "going back to work," nor is there any desire to work ever again. Mommy Group B heralds Martha Stewart-type living, and members keep recipe books, enjoy cooking and crafting, and like playing house. In this group, one mom's idea of living on the edge is wearing a lavender cardigan. I can say for certain that I'm no Martha Stewart, nor do I have any desire to be. Still, the moms in both groups are pleasant and nice, there's no competition (at least I don't feel any) between women. That usual cattiness that comes from female groups (a la Real Housewives) doesn't exist in either.

So these are my two groups and while I may have some things in common with members of both (I hate cooking and cleaning, but I am a stay-at-home mom), I don't quite fit in with either. I feel like I'm somewhere in between, which makes some days better than others.

One day I'll think that I've made headway with a mom or two and the next day I'll feel like I'm right back at square one. What gives? The worst thing of all is that I feel like I'm back in grade school trying to find my group of friends, and all the same rules of the play yard still apply. It's like that scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding when Toula, as a young girl, sits alone at the next table over from the popular girls. She happily opens her lunchbox and before she can take a bite of her mousaka, which she tells the popular girls it is, they shriek "Moose Caca!!!" and laugh at how weird she is. All right, so maybe my situation isn't this dire, but to a degree the exclusion I feel sometimes feels like this.

I'm sure the moms I hung out with yesterday have no idea I'm feeling any of this. I smile and nod and politely enter the conversation here and there, but on the inside I'm thinking "Why can't I just find my people?" I don't want to always be politically correct or bond over breastfeeding stories. I just want to click with a few first-time moms around my age that don't feel the need to discuss babies (or baby-related things) 24/7. Maybe this is just my attempt to feel normal again, back before I had Ava. I did have an identity and life before her, and while she's a great addition, I don't want to pretend that part of me before her never existed.

But, to find mom friends, I feel myself pretending to be someone else. I'm suppressing that perky, hyper part of me to come off as more subdued and collected. I normally have an unusual giddiness about certain things, but lately I've felt like I've tamped down my outward enthusiasm so as not to come off as overbearing and "too much."

And I hate it. It's like I've become some boring, monotonous version of myself just to try and get in good with some of these moms. It's not me and I'm sick of it. I don't want to pretend anymore that I enjoy receiving copies of Good Housekeeping and Parenting Magazine from other moms. I live with a baby; I don't need to read about what it's like. And I hate Good Housekeeping -- do I really look like the type of girl that reads Good Housekeeping?  I loathe how ugly some baby essentials are, like vibrating chairs, swings and "play mats" and I hate how these things make my house look. I abhor breastfeeding, and yes, maybe I like having a bottle of wine or two with my husband after we put Ava to bed. Shoot me.

Why should I feel like any of this is weird or irresponsible to admit just because other moms have sworn off wine and caffeine entirely because of breastfeeding? No, I don't want your copy of Good Housekeeping, but I'll take your copy of Vogue if you have one. Oh wait, you don't. Because you're busy reading about how to properly bake your own croutons while I just want to live vicariously through Kate Moss in Paris.

That's what I need to find: Non-PC moms who see the humor in all this stuff we're supposed to "love" about motherhood. Moms who are honest about everything we're all going through. I dropped the "D" word (depression) a few days ago, and my entire group got quiet and said that none of them experienced any of that after having their bundles of joy. I call bullshit. Maybe they aren't ready to be honest with themselves, let alone me, but I find it highly unlikely that in a group of five moms, only one (me) has experienced any postpartum depression.

I've found that finding new mom friends is a lot like blind dating -- so why should I treat this any differently? Not every man is a perfect fit and neither is every mom. This isn't commentary on me or the choices I've made as a woman, it's simply an issue of compatibility. At 30, if I was thrust back into the dating scene, I wouldn't waste my time with every man, trying desperately to find someone who I'd work with. So why am I doing that now with these new friend candidates? I like some more than others, so instead of trying to make it work with all of them, I'm going to spend time getting to know the good ones while keeping an eye out for new, outside prospects.

Friday, November 2, 2012

My body after baby

Confession: Today I bought a dress that totally didn't fit me. Unfortunately, it's not that it was too big (an easy fix with a cinched belt); it was too small. And I knew this, but it didn't stop me from bypassing the dressing rooms, taking said dress up to the front register and purchasing it. That's right, I bought it. All in the name of cute minimalist color-blocking and an exposed zipper down the back.

Like an idiot I was all happy to get home and try on the damn dress so I could brag to everyone I knew about how at two months postpartum, I already fit into “those” kind of dresses – the kind with cinched waists, slim shoulders and tailored butts. You know, the skinny girl kind. Of course somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew full well I wouldn't fit into the thing. I still have 14 el bees of baby weight to lose (although I hide it very, very well) and once in a while I'll look at myself naked in the mirror and swear my ass has exploded to Kim Kardashian proportions. J insists this isn't the case but husbands can't always be trusted when their wife's weight is at issue. Anyway, irrational Crystal assured me that somehow it would fit, or at least I'd force it to fit. Well let's just say that if the dress were Cinderella's glass slipper it would be less like this:

And more like this:

It was much worse than a little snug. I felt like a sausage stuffed in to size zero casing. Curtains of armpit fat spilled out the arm holes. My thighs made the fabric across them pucker in a most unappealing fashion. And the waist. . .well, it looked like I'd slipped a small rubberband over my torso to use as some makeshift belt. This time last year this dress would have looked stunning on me, in fact it probably would have been loose on and I would have pretended I didn't love all the compliments I'd get for how great I looked in it. Now I looked like Jeana Keough from Real Housewives of Orange County, albeit with no Playboy Magazine past to attest to my former hotness.

Dejected, I tore the dress off and flung it over my shoulder into the baby's empty crib (I currently use Ava's nursery as my second closet). So, aside from collecting dust on its hanger, I guess this dress could serve one of two purposes:
  • It can serve as a reminder that I'm a fat cow now that I've had a baby. This can further remind me that not only has the baby sucked me dry of all energy (along with parts of my soul), she's also ruined my body in her wake. 
  • It can serve as a reminder that though I may be of fat cow status now, if I work hard at losing the weight I can one day fit into some version of this dress again.
Of those two purposes I think I'm better off attempting to be a little positive, so I'm going with option number 2. Like Stella, I need to get my groove back. The dress will now join my pre-pregnancy Hudson Jeans, Banana Republic little black dress and countless other garments that don't fit me to serve as overall motivation to get myself (and my butt) back into shape.

I'm not asking to look like a Victoria's Secret Angel, but I also don't want to keep going this way and wind up padding around my house in a leopard-print muumuu like Kirstie Alley with a bag of Cheetos. I want to feel good about my body again and not automatically hold a shirt or towel up over my midsection if J happens to walk in on me while I'm changing. I never used to be that girl who was insecure about her body. Before I was Samantha Jones about my body; now I'm Bridget Jones. Maybe it's karma for sunbathing topless once in my entire life because I wanted to know what all the fuss was about (turns out not much, other than sunburned boobs).

For a girl who hates working out I don't quite know what I'm going to do aside from count calories and starve myself back to skinny-ness...but that seems a bit unreasonable at the moment since I need every last ounce of my energy to make it through these days. Plus, the last time I counted calories -- 1,100 calories per day – I always felt like I was one step away from fainting like some character in a Jane Austen novel. Definitely not conducive to raising a baby.

I plan to keep walking and maybe I'll gradually cut my calories here and there. I suppose the occasional crunch wouldn't hurt either. I've been a good little witch and cut out my brownie batter habit a few weeks ago, so there's that. The next step is cutting out most of the junk food I eat (humongous sigh). I guess I'll have to say goodbye to Taco Bell, Panda Express, Red Vines licorice and basically anything else that comes packaged in a box, bag or jar. This is the best rule of thumb for a diet since anything packaged in one of these is generally high in sodium, preservatives and, well, all that stuff that tastes good. I once heard that the most healthy way to shop the grocery store was to cruise the perimeter, which makes sense. That's where all the produce, meats, dairy and freshly baked goods are. Everything else in the store's middle is just junk (no matter how good it tastes). So if it means I can get back into that dress and back into a better frame of mind about my body,  I'll make the sacrifice and shop the perimeter more.

After all, not only are there clothes in my closet waiting to hang out with me again, the holidays are just around the corner and that means. . . holiday dress season!!! (I type those exclamation points with heartfelt sarcasm.) Normally this time of year elicits quiet squeals from me since holiday dress shopping and wearing are some of my favorite things. This year, though, I'm meeting it with equal parts skepticism and remorse. No matter how much I cut calories there's no way in a healthy hell I'd ever be able to drop 14 pounds by Christmas. It's a crap situation all around. Nevertheless, I've got three events in December already lined up that I need to at least try and look good at:

1.) A white elephant Christmas party one of my new mom friends is throwing for a group of us mothers. Obviously a cocktail dress would be too dressy for this occasion, but I still need to be the hottest mother there. Naturally.

2.) J's office holiday party. It's being held at a steakhouse in downtown SF (fancy, fancy) and is a great excuse to rock a stunning cocktail dress. Lucky me? Again, I need to be the hottest wife there. It's a gold standard I constantly strive for.

3.) My cousin's wedding. It's going to be a black-tie, evening shindig, so a TKO dress is in order. I'm thinking something in a jewel tone that doesn't highlight the thin layer of fat I now carry around on my back. Not a big deal if I'm not the hottest person at this party since half my extended family are Persian Kardashian-lookalikes that make me look super vanilla in comparison.
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