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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