Archive for the 'motherhood' 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

the bed-sharing weirdos and other dangerous people like me

A friend shared the article on Facebook. It was about me, and how I’m irresponsible and dangerous and possibly a smidge un-American. How I make bad choices. Isn’t it crazy, how someone could be as crazy as me? A bunch of people agreed, in the comments underneath. Under the article itself, back on its host site, a fierce, self-important debate raged. “Anyone who acts like this is an idiot and should have their citizenship taken away. We don’t need people like you in this country,” announced “ArmyMom” from North Carolina.

“If you met me, you might not think that,” I wanted to say. I always want to say that and I never do.

It wasn’t the first time an article like that has been written and shared. And of course they’re not really about me, individually (although this has actually happened once or twice, too! But usually on someone’s blog, not, like, in New York Mag). They’re about people like me. Weird people who do weird things. A representative from the League of Normal People has to come along and write a chastising explanation about why we are bad.

Sometimes it leans towards tough love: “I know you think you’re doing yourself a favor now, but you’ve got another big, loud, smack-in-the-ass think coming REAL SOON, honey.”

Sometimes it’s sneering: “What is WRONG with these people? Do they have any contact with reality? Um, hello. Reality is over here, weirdos, with the normal people. Get over yourselves and maybe we’ll consider one day sharing our cold, hard, real-American pizza with you.”

Sometimes it’s scientific: “Recent Conclusive Statistics show that your weird behavior is more likely than our normal behavior to result in death and lower SAT scores and also bad breath.”

Sometimes it’s defensive: “APPARENTLY, according to the weirdos, we’re SUPPOSED to do this crazy thing…And I felt pressure from the weirdos to think about my life differently. But then I decided not to, because that was too hard and weird, so I’m doing the normal thing but I’m mad at the weirdos for even suggesting that there is another way to do it!”

I am amazed by the volume of articles in this last category. I see them everywhere. People proudly defending their right to do the totally expected, ordinary thing against the imagined onslaught of opinionated weirdness.

But where are all the opinionated weirdos? I wonder. I glance around hopefully. Anyone? Hello? Where are the influential, popularizing weirdos who are marching at the front lines, waving their banners and demanding that everyone follow suit?

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(source)

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Things I want to change by the time Eden notices

(This is not at all a comprehensive list. It’s just the first stuff that came to my mind. And my mind is all over the place.)

I want more movies and TV shows to have female protagonists even when they aren’t about “girly stuff.”

I want the way coolness works to stop being about not being sensitive. Sensitivity and vulnerability are healthy, crucial aspects of being a fully operating person. Without them, we miss out on the things that make poetry timeless and life rich. Making fun of ourselves and other people is not necessarily a bad thing, but there needs to be plenty of room for caring automatically and whole-heartedly and even just a little about stuff, too. Or maybe we can just all care less about being cool?

I want it to be a lot harder to find gross photos on the internet. I feel like we should all be able to google without running into graphically documented surgical procedures and abused animals and car crashes and unusual, dramatic skin conditions.

I would also appreciate it if there weren’t so very many photos of sexy mostly/totally naked women online and everywhere else. And if those women didn’t all look so particularly similar that it feels easy to assume that there must only be one good way to be a mostly/naked woman.

I want there to be more swimsuit options. Why do they all demand that I pay a lot of attention to what my pubic hair is doing? Mandatory bikini waxing is ridiculous. If we can’t get over the fact that adult women have pubic hair, let’s at least wear swim trunks.

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(googling for “bikini” resulted, predictably, in a million examples of the last topic, too. maybe I just wanted to see the bathing suit? maybe? source)

I want porn to actually be varied. I keep reading about how it is. Whenever someone writes an article about porn, they’re always like “you can find any crazy thing out there! If there’s a fantasy, there’s a video of it on the internet!” But the reality is that most of the readily accessible porn is endless repetition of the same themes, and popular among those themes is total female submission and, often, humiliation. Yes, some women like to be humiliated, but that’s not the point. We need a lot more versions of female sexuality, and it’d be much better if they popped up, too, upon a casual googling.

I want girls to be able to run around and study and make friends and play and goof off and think and look in the mirror without having to prioritize their appearances. Being embodied is about a lot of stuff, not just the way we look. I want girls to enjoy their bodies without having to think first about whether or not other people find them attractive.

I want this for women, too, but it starts with girls.

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i am twenty-eight

Katy Perry was singing “You’re hot then you’re cold! You’re yes then you’re no!” on the radio and Bear and I were driving towards the mountains on our fourth date. “I like your sunglasses,” he said, and when I glanced at his profile, it was adorably boyish. He was blushing faintly and his little smile was the helpless kind, where you can’t not smile. Everything is too good to not smile. I didn’t know anything about him except that he felt completely right and I felt completely right with him. I started singing along with Katy Perry, even though it was the first time I’d heard the song. He joined in.

We were yes! We were not even a little bit no.

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I was twenty-three.

I had never made a reservation at a restaurant because I’d never, as an adult, gone to one nice enough to need a reservation.

Bear was twenty-five. That seemed well into the totally grown-up range. He’d made a reservation for our first date, even though the restaurant was not in fact very nice, and I was impressed with the casual way he gave his last name, like he was used to eating out. Eating out impressed me (I either made all of my own meals or got a slice of pizza somewhere). Taking a cab impressed me (they did that on TV but everyone I knew exclusively rode the subway). Wearing ragged New Balance sneakers paired with Cargo pants did not impress me, but I thought it was cute that he didn’t own any jeans because he thought they were too fashion-y.

“I’ll buy you jeans,” I said, indulgently. I felt lavish, magnanimous. “You’ll like them.”

I was pretty sure I could blow this guy’s mind—worldly table reserving and all.

*

A few days ago, we were driving on the highway in Florida, headed back to the airport from Bear’s aunt and uncle’s home, where his ninety-five year old grandmother lives, too. We finally made it down there, for the weekend, so that Eden could meet her.

Eden hates the car so much. “Babies love the car!” people say, speaking of the accomplished babies of legend whose parents are always fresh-faced and proud.

Eden started to cry the second her butt hit the car seat. And now she cries “Mama! Mama! MAMAMA!!” lifting her chubby little arms in an anguished plea for help. It’s a little bit heartbreaking.

We were running late, naturally, and there was no time to pull over and comfort her. Nothing short of freedom works.

“ABCDEFG! HIJK, LMNOP!” we sang at the top of our lungs. “THE ITSY BITSY SPIDER!! WENT UP THE WATER SPOUT!”

“MAMAMAMAMAMA!!!” she wailed.

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“I can’t do this,” said Bear, his face crumpling.

“Stay focused!” I said. “Keep driving!”

She cried for forty minutes. I was hunched forward. Bear’s face had gone tight.

“So,” I said, looking at his profile. “We made a baby!”

He didn’t respond.

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Kate on March 26th 2014 in family, life, motherhood, uplifting

what do women do all day?

“What do you do all day?” asked someone who reads this blog. Shouldn’t I post more often, since I must have so much time? And then later, in a follow-up comment, this reader wondered why I hadn’t published that book I’ve mentioned working on. What have I been doing instead?

There it was: the question. The moment I’d been dreading.

When I had Eden, I chose to work part time and spend the rest of my time with her. I am extraordinarily fortunate to have this option. It feels a little like a dirty secret.

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(yes, this is part of what I do all day)

I am embarrassed, sometimes, that I haven’t gone further in my career by now. I would prefer to have succeeded in ways so obvious and succinct that they would fit on a nametag. I would like to have fulfilled the potential that feminism and social change and modernity have given me. That my mother gave me. That my father believed I had just the same as my brothers.

I know the SAHM rhetoric—this is important work, too. Women’s work doesn’t always pay. You are doing something essential. You are doing the work of shaping an entire person! But it doesn’t stick to me, it slides right off. I feel like I’m cheating on my ambitious self with this new role. And yet I’m actively choosing it. I am unable, somehow, to not spend this time with my daughter, knowing I have the chance. I am unable to believe that work is everything, even as I’m unable to believe that motherhood is everything. I flounder somewhere in the middle, in a gray area where balance and confusion circle each other with territorial defensiveness.

I stared at the question on my phone while nursing the baby. I could practically feel my milk turning sour. I thought about how to answer as I tried for forty minutes to convince Eden that, no, really, she should have a nap. Finally, she was asleep, and I hadn’t eaten yet that day because there hadn’t been time, but under the microscope of the question, I felt abruptly like I was doing nothing.

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Kate on March 19th 2014 in feminism, life, motherhood, new york, work, writing

window with light pouring out of it

My baby daughter Eden doesn’t know what she looks like.

“It’s your arch-nemesis, Eden number two!” Bear informs her ominously from the mirror, where they are hanging out, looking at their reflection. “Do you think she recognizes herself?” he asks me over his shoulder.

“Nah,” I say. “Not yet, I don’t think.”

She recognizes me—I’m the one with the milk boobs and the toothy grin all for her. I’m pretty sure she can smell me and thinks I smell right.

She recognizes Bear—he’s the one with the red beard and the fun nose for grabbing. The big, sturdy chest.

But right now she is a window with light pouring out of it and she’s the inside, opening up, and she’s a camera, taking millions of pictures of everything. Her body is for touching the world. It’s all tools for experiencing and learning. She makes expressions to try out different muscles in her face, to move her jaw around in order to practice chewing. She looks like a bewildered frog. She pops her stubby legs up and grabs her feet triumphantly and lets out a carefree fart. She looks like a cheerful, farting bug. Who cares how she looks? She’s all about how it feels.

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It’s weird to think that I started out like this, too. That we all do. A brilliant jumble of sensors sensing excitedly all at once.

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Kate on February 5th 2014 in beauty, body, motherhood, perfection

sexy naked women absolutely everywhere

Bear opened his new headphones. “Check it out!” he said happily, gesturing at them.

I peered into the box. There were the headphones (I don’t know much about headphones), and directly below them was a glossy photo of a naked woman, wearing the same headphones.

He followed my gaze. “Is she totally naked?” he said, only a little surprised.

“Yup,” I said.

“Is that a nipple?”

“No, but almost.”

“Phew,” he said, grinning. “Wouldn’t want to see a nipple or anything.”

“Awesome,” I said.

“Now I REALLY want to wear these,” he said, teasing me. “Naked ladies LOVE these headphones.”

“Yeah, yeah,” I said. “But seriously? I mean, seriously?”

“Seriously,” he said.

headphones-icon

(source)

*

We got off the subway, Eden on Bear in the frontpack, on our way to buy a little plastic plate and a little plastic spoon and maybe even a sippy cup for the first time. It was the weekend, life was good, the city was muddy and cheerful and the cold felt like the right complement to hot chocolate and wool. I glanced up, waiting to cross the street, and there, covering the side of a building, was a butt.

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Kate on January 29th 2014 in beauty, body, fear, feminism, motherhood, new york