Archive for the 'friendship' Category

first Mother’s Day, a memorial post

This is for Peggy. And, of course, for Maggie. 

peggy

Maggie texted me that there was something she had to tell me. I texted back “what’s up?” she called and she said, “My mom died.” Her baby is three weeks old. There is a picture of her mom holding him, smiling up at the camera, new grandmother pride, and the baby is JUST born, his face still scrunched and peaceful. My mind doubles back, getting confused, folding time into new, impossible arrangements. She can’t die, I reason, because she looks too young in the photo. She can’t die, because she is a grandmother now, and because she is in perfect health. I think I see her jogging on the side of the road. See, that’s her! She’s just missing. It’ll be fine. She can’t be dead because it’s Maggie’s first Mother’s Day now.

“Mother’s Day was invented by Hallmark,” my brother Jake reminds me when he calls to wish me a happy one. “I mean, no offense, since you’re a mom now and stuff. But it’s kinda a bullshit holiday.” He’s laughing, he really doesn’t mean any offense.

“Mother’s Day is the best holiday ever,” I say, laughing too. “It’s the best thing Hallmark ever did! Everyone should thank their mom. Moms are a big deal.”

“Yeah, figures you’d think that now,” he says and we talk about a thing happening at grad school.

When Maggie and I were growing up together, two little homeschooled girls running around in the woods, always covered in dirt (“soil!” my mom reminds me), our mothers were in the background of the photos. We are front and center, in Revolutionary War costumes that we made for Jake’s colonial-themed birthday party that year that all we read about was the American Revolution. I had a crush on Ben, who was the tallest, oldest boy in the homeschooling group, and Ben had a crush on Maggie, who was always so pretty even though she never for one second cared about clothes back then. The drama of being ten and eleven and twelve played out in the local parks and at the skating rink, where we did endless turns around the yellowing ice every Friday late morning through early afternoon, when the homeschoolers reigned over empty community spaces. That our mothers were doing something radical and huge and daring and weird with our childhoods, with their adulthoods, was not considered. What was considered was that Matt hated having his green baseball cap stolen, so it was everyone else’s mission in life to steal it.

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Kate on May 14th 2014 in family, friendship, motherhood

stop analyzing your single friends

You have to find yourself to find love, goes the mantra. You have to love yourself enough to attract love into your life. You have to be already be complete before someone else can complete you (wait, what?).

A lot of the advice hurled at single people suggests that there is more work to be done. You have to solve your issues. You have to learn to be happy, all of the time, on your own.

Single women are constantly blamed: You’re giving off the wrong energy. You’re too desperate. You’re not open enough. You’re intimidating. Men are attracted to non-threatening, smiley women with big, friendly teeth and a successful career that isn’t successful enough to be intimidating. You have to be self-sufficient but not to the extent that it renders you unfeminine. And don’t text him so soon after the date! And don’t sleep with him right away, for f*@ks sake! Or, wait, maybe do. You don’t want to be weird and uptight about sex.

A happy, committed relationship is dangled like the yummy, carb-y prize at the end of a grueling marathon of personal improvement.

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(source)

My own journey to love was more like a lazy stroll down the block.

I am an online dating success story. “Just sign up and try it for a month!” my best friend urged.

I signed up. I jotted a quick profile, slapped up a lone, somewhat flattering photo and flung my single self out into the universe. Two weeks later, I went on a first date with a guy who sounded funny and smart in writing. He was even more than those things. I fell in love with him right away. We got engaged six months later. We’ve now been married for four years and I am still bowled over by his awesomeness. He lights up my days.

So of course, immediately after meeting him, I started preaching the gospel. “You have to sign up!” I told my single friends. “Just try it! You never know who you’ll meet!”

I talked quite a few of them into it. They went out hopefully on first dates. They reported back. Some duds. Some weirdos. And then some guys who seemed wonderful but suddenly disappeared after having sex. Nice guys who they didn’t “click” with. Gorgeous guys who seemed to be drifting, distracted. Cool, shaggy-haired photographer guys who texted “I might be free in an hr. wanna meet up?” and then canceled.

We analyzed and analyzed. I tried to be encouraging.

“Wait,” they started to say, “you met him after being on the site for how long?”

“Two weeks,” I said, but now it felt like bragging. So I began to say, “Maybe a couple months?” But soon even that sounded very quick, unrealistic.

A few of my friends found love online or elsewhere, but the majority of them are still dating. Or they’re not dating right now. They’re taking a break, because, enough already! But soon they’ll try again. Their stories are full of incredible, buoyant hope and, increasingly, creeping resignation and quiet despair.

More often now, they ask, “What is wrong with me?”

We try to figure it out sometimes.

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Kate on May 7th 2014 in friendship, relationships

the most gorgeous man in the world

When I was twelve, I was in this program that paired kids with elderly people who wanted company. Every week, I visited a woman I’ll call Mary in her overstuffed one-bedroom in a dimly lit facility circled by a sad narrow sidewalk. The whole place smelled like loneliness and mildew and I was depressed by it.

But Mary was upbeat and earnest and she always made me a grilled cheese on her George Foreman grill. We talked a lot about the virtues of that clever grill. The grilled cheese was always on potato bread with American cheese from her similarly yellowing refrigerator. I loved it.

Mary and I had some other things in common, besides appreciation of a good grilled cheese: we both loved Agatha Christie and romantic stories. Hers was the most romantic of all, she told me. Her third husband was the love of her life. He had been in the Navy and he had a sailboat- a real sailboat! And he was gorgeous. The most gorgeous man in the world. Like a movie star except better. Tan and tall and charming and with such a smile! It would make you faint.

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(source)

“Don’t you dare fall in love with me,” he’d warned her, when they first met, dancing. “I’m on borrowed time.”

They were in their fifties. He told her his doctor had only given him a handful of years to live, a decade if he was very lucky. The problem was his heart.

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Kate on January 22nd 2014 in beauty, friendship, life, relationships

26 and already pregnant

This is the full version of my piece about pregnancy that appeared here on Slate. I wanted to share the original, because I like the details, and Slate was nice enough to let me. 

When I found out I was pregnant, I didn’t really want to tell my friends. We’d talked about babies, over wine and second draft feature articles at a non-fiction writers’ group, and everyone agreed that if you’re smart, you wait until you’re thirty-five.

“There’s too much to do before then!” said one of the women, summarizing.

I was twenty-six when I got pregnant, which meant I’d jumped the gun by almost a decade.

In a lot of different parts of the country, having a baby in your mid twenties is not a big deal; According to a 2009 report from the CDC, the average age of first time mothers in Texas, Oklahoma, Utah and nine other states New Yorkers rarely visit was recently twenty-two to twenty-three. But the average age of first time moms here in New York was twenty-six, and twenty-seven in New Jersey, where I grew up. When you account for factors like advanced education, the numbers climb. The Pew Research Center notes that 71% of first time mothers over thirty-five are college educated. Since I arrived in NYC, I don’t think I’ve even met anyone who didn’t go to college.

But on my Babycenter.com Due Date Club app, people are constantly starting threads with titles like “aNy othr teen moms on here???” And they get plenty of sympathetic answers. In New York City I only know one other woman my age who has a baby. She’d gone to Harvard and worked on Wall Street, but, she once confided in me in low tones, “I always wanted to be a mom.”

(my eternal hero– Robin McKinley. God, can this woman write a fantasy novel. source)

I have not always wanted to be a mom. (If I’ve always wanted to be anything it’s a famous fantasy novelist – dorky, I know). More immediately, I’ve wanted to get a college scholarship and then get a high GPA and then get into an Ivy League grad school and then have a sparkling career in the big city. I’m not sure about how sparkling my big city career has been (a guess: not particularly), but I made the rest of my goals happen.

Until now, the conversations I’ve had with my friends about babies have sounded something like this:

Glamorous, perfectly made-up Mara: “My mom is a nurse. She says it’s a myth that women are less fertile in their mid-thirties.”

(We all nod sagely.)

Julie, who has just been promoted and is managing ten people and attending star-studded work parties: “I need to spend at least another five years on my career. And anyway, my boss hates pregnant women.”

Stephanie, who works at a tech start-up: “Five years, definitely. That’s the right amount of time. You have to live your own life first.”

Everyone else: “Yes!”

Me: silence

I had been married for a couple years when I decided to go off birth control. By then, I was in therapy to try to cope with my career-related anxiety. At my preconception appointment (this is a thing! Although I may be the only one who has ever taken advantage of it), the doctor congratulated me for being so proactive and told me to go off the pill three months before I was even thinking about trying to conceive, to get the hormones out of my system and allow my body time to readjust. So I did. And then I panicked. “I have to finish my book,” I told my therapist. “Maybe I should wait another year? Six months? I think I rushed into this. I’m not ready.”

But my body was. Two hours after that therapy session, I peed on a stick, telling myself that I was stupid for even taking a test this soon. It said “YES” in very straightforward digital letters. I was already pregnant.

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don’t ever tell me that my friends aren’t beautiful

Awhile ago, I was telling a close male friend about some friends I’d met at a new job in a new city. “They’re so cool and smart,” I happily informed him. “And they’re all really pretty!” I was in bragging mode. Everything about these new friends was great! I had found them! I was going to be OK after all!

“Let me see,” he said, and we went on Facebook, of course, where people have learned to search for truth.

He proceeded to dismiss each of my friends in turn. “Eh, she’s OK.” And “I don’t know … I wouldn’t call HER pretty”. And “Seriously?”.

I was hurt and offended.

“You’re prettier than this girl,” he was saying, and I got the sense that this was supposed to make me happy. As though he were giving me some kind of medal. Well, thank god, I’m prettier than my friend. Now I can sleep at night. I have officially won at life.

I was annoyed and upset, but I wasn’t very surprised. The practice of casually dismissing a woman’s entire appearance is sometimes a part of everyday conversation. Guys do it, girls do it. Guys I’ve dated have reassured me that I’m “prettier than my friends”, even though I hadn’t asked and found that observation awkward and most likely untrue. Is he automatically sizing up my friends’ attractiveness and ranking them in terms of it? Is he compiling a quick spreadsheet in his head? 

(a boob! no, the bell curve of all of our beauty….source)

Other women have mentioned their partners telling them the same thing. One of my friends told me exactly which of our mutual friends her boyfriend doesn’t think is attractive at all. Apparently, he “just doesn’t see what everyone thinks is so hot about her”.

You know what, come to think of it, I can even remember one of my friends, at 13 years old, mentioning her parents assurance that she was the prettiest of all her friends. That includes me, I thought immediately, and wondered sadly why her parents would say something like that about me. Had they ranked me? Was I very low on the list? It felt personal at the time.

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Kate on March 18th 2013 in beauty, friendship

the girl I wanted to be

This piece appeared originally on the Frisky, for my Mirror, Mirror column. I’ve been wanting to write it for a while.

She was really beautiful. She was the coolest girl ever. She always knew what to say, and she said it casually, like she barely had to think first. I wanted to be just like her. I was 13, she was 15, and she was perfect to me.

My parents were very supportive. They thought I was smart and pretty and capable. And that is so important, like the concrete they pour into the husk of the foundation of a house when it’s just planks and sticks in the dirt. But the shape of the building, the furniture inside—I think that comes from other girls. That’s how you learn how to be a girl, after all, from the other ones around you.

I learned later than most that I had to be thinner than I’d at first assumed. I mean, I didn’t have to have to, but it would probably be better. You know, for life. I learned later than most that my face was not as pretty as it should be, and that I should worry about that. I think somewhere along the line, most of us learn these lessons. For some of us, they feel like tattoos on our faces, and we see them every time we look in the mirror, and we can feel everyone else registering our flaws every time we interact. I was lucky, though, and one of the reasons was this girl.

(source)

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Kate on January 17th 2013 in beauty, friendship

being friends with a pixie girl

Sometimes I see girls walking together, and they’re inevitably wearing the exact same shoes. Sometimes they are wearing the same shoes and the same jackets. Sometimes they mix it up a little, like the jackets are all leather, but one is brown, one is black, and the other has both brown and black on it.

So many women seem to have friends who look just like them. They all have long, straight hair. They all have the same color skin and the same color lipstick. They are all teasing their one friend for being “so tiny!” because she is one inch shorter.

I nudge Bear as we’re walking. “Shoes.”

“What?”

“Shoes!” I make a quick, emphatic head bob in the right direction.

“Okay, shoes…”

A grunt, an eye point (you know, where you point with your eyes? That’s a real gesture, distinct from the ordinary “look”). They’ve almost gone by us. And then he sees.

“Ohh…They’re wearing the same shoes!”

(once I saw four girls on the subway, all wearing a version of this boot. source)

“Yes!” I hiss, too loud. “All girls wear the same shoes!”

“Weird.” He isn’t very interested.

“It IS weird!”

But it’s not weird, really. It’s normal.

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Kate on December 11th 2012 in beauty, being different, body, friendship