Archive for the 'new york' Category

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.

photo (14)

(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

man beaten in the street on a beautiful day

A woman was attacked by four boys a few blocks away from where I walk every day with my baby. She was hit on the back of the head, for fun, I guess, and she is OK. Except that I wonder if she is really OK, because how could she ever feel safe again? It was the middle of the day. She was walking her dog. What did the dog do, when it happened, I kept wondering. Did they try to hurt the dog, too?

I read a report from Mother Jones about how sippy cups are giving kids cancer. How BPA free plastic is maybe even worse than whatever BPA itself is. Which is like, shit, do I have to start learning how to carve wood or throw pottery or something in order to raise a healthy child? There’s already the whole thing about hormones in meat and chemicals in everything else we eat and toxic flame retardants in all of the foam that’s in everything we ever sit on and parabens and just the plain old fumes coming off the highway right outside our building. You don’t want to get paranoid, you want to be practical. But you want to be wary and aware, I think. You want to be alert.

And then a few days ago I saw a man stomp on another man’s face in the street. It sometimes feels like such a dangerous world, I wonder how I keep blithely going outside, and here I am flinging a child into it.

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(Bear carrying Eden earlier that day)

It was a beautiful day. Flirtatiously warm, thrillingly close to the border of spring. We decided to walk all the way down the east side of Manhattan, from Madison Square Park, across the Brooklyn Bridge. Why not? We switched off with Eden in the carrier, and she was on me when it happened. We hadn’t gotten very far. At the corner of 15th St and 1st Ave, a man shoved another man down, and the second man rolled into the dirt of one of those half-hearted planters near the curb.

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Kate on March 12th 2014 in family, fear, life, new york

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

the Jews in Williamsburg

Rode the backway through Williamsburg to meet R for lunch, and it was bleak and raining and there were no non-Jews for about 15 blocks. No trees, either, except for a few helpless scraggles. It felt like entering a different time, an older world.

The boys, preparing for Shabbat, were all carrying the same tallis bag. They can’t carry umbrellas, though, on the Sabbath, so their hats were wrapped in plastic bags. The girls went with their heads bare. A pregnant woman in the long, traditional black stood at the door of yet another rusty, tired apartment building, staring out into the grim street scene. It must be so safe, though, because I saw a girl who must’ve been only nine or something, pushing a baby in a carriage, alone. Probably not going far. No one seems to be going far—it is a universe in ten blocks, a cosmos in fifteen.

TB 110-B Black

(source)

A building had a plaque by a door that read “ladies’ entrance.” Some signs were in Hebrew. It struck me that I am living right next door to this community. I am within walking distance, though I never walk that way. I am Jewish. I am a married mother, too. My life looks nothing like this.

I sat in the car and stared and wondered what it is like to be a girl here, so close to my home. What is it like to be a woman? To be anyone?

“There are a lot of cities in this city,” Bear said, later, when I mentioned this. He said that NYC is a compilation of all of these little, insular communities. Ours is one, too. It’s strange to think about.

The parents in my neighborhood are always talking about preschools—which are prestigious, which are better, have I signed Eden up yet, for the wait list for the more exclusive wait list for this one down the street? It’s important because of the matriculation rate to Harvard. It’s important to have put her on the path to Harvard, now, at six months. It sounds like a joke, but it actually isn’t. I think I am supposed to have planned for her whole life, already. Or at least through twenty-two or so.

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mom dating

I am getting dressed for a date.

I have exactly one minute, because Eden is already crying. I put on my favorite silver hoop earrings, my most flattering jeans. I give my hair a last, desperate fluff with both hands, glaring at my reflection. I am nervous. I tell myself I shouldn’t be nervous. This isn’t a big deal. Let’s just see if we hit it off. If we don’t hit it off, there are plenty of others. There will be other chances.

We’re meeting at a coffee shop. I push the stroller like I’m on a mission, only sweating a little. I’m there exactly on time. I glance around, trying to look nonchalant. “Don’t cry, baby, don’t cry,” I beg in a frantic whisper as Eden opens her mouth to complain. “You’re okay! You’re okay!” I check my phone for a text. Nothing.

sith lord baby

And then there she is! My new mom date.

She’s wearing a cute vest over her tailored shirt. She’s wearing jeans and boots, like me. That’s a good sign. Maybe. I’m not sure what’s a good sign. Her baby is in a sling. My stroller feels suddenly too bulky. She looks so streamlined. We do an awkward hug around the stroller handle and her politely sleeping baby. Eden begins to wail.

“I’m going to grab a coffee,” she says.

“Yeah,” I say, smiling, wondering why I can’t think of anything more clever to say. My heart is pounding.

Before I had a baby, it never occurred to me that being a new mom can sometimes feel like learning how to date all over again.

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Kate on January 8th 2014 in motherhood, new york

the smartest guy at college

I started out as a music major, and once I cried in a practice room, sitting next to a chipped old grand piano, because everything felt wrong.

I was dating a French horn player and all of his friends were brass players too (they were really very nice but I never fit in) and all of my classes were about music, except that somehow they were boring and difficult at the same time. The other sopranos were better than me and also harder, somehow, and the one who made herself throw up in the dorm bathroom was the most popular.

I signed up for one academic class. Religion and Psychology. Professor Jones, a commanding man with exactly the right amount of facial hair to be distinguished-looking, and a low, thoughtful voice made for oratory. I sat towards the back, but soon I was raising my hand a lot, because I wanted to talk about everything. And the other students in the class wanted to talk, too. There was a really smart girl who sat in the front, a little to my left, and took notes in the neatest handwriting. There was a lumbering guy with a baseball cap who sometimes debated with her. And then there was the smartest guy at college.

glasses

(source)

That’s what I called him in my head. He had a lilting accent I couldn’t identify because I wasn’t worldly enough. It made me want to be more worldly. He had very black, thick hair that did a sort of sweep because it was long enough to and because it had natural style. He had glasses that looked almost decorative, because I thought glasses were really cool. He had read everything. He could quote everything. He didn’t even sound like a jerk about it. Well, maybe he sounded like a tiny bit of a jerk, but I didn’t mind. I thought he sounded fascinated and, by immediate extension, fascinating.

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Kate on December 31st 2013 in fear, life, new york, relationships, uplifting

bleeding time

I am still bleeding, by the way. It’s been almost eight weeks. I definitely didn’t think I had this much blood in there.

I know everyone was wondering, that’s why I’m mentioning it.

No, I’m mentioning it because I just read this really good piece about postpartum care, and how the U.S. is shitty about it. In attitude and in practice. Not a huge shock, really. When are these articles ever like, “U.S. fantastic in treatment of new mothers! Surpasses all other countries in respect for women and their vaginas!”

So the article was pointing out that in a lot of cultures, everyone expects women to take a couple months to heal. Other people, usually women, help out around the house a lot, and the new mother just focuses on breastfeeding and lounges around and eats and stuff. Maybe takes bubble baths. Possibly gets her nails done.

I’m using words like “just” and “lounges” because I am an American, and I’m deeply steeped in this keep-it-going culture, and I can’t apparently manage to describe recovering from birth and caring from a newborn in terms that make it sound like a big enough deal on its own to fill two whole months.

“Wait,” my descriptions imply, “So, like, she’s not also running a business? So, she must be working from home at least…Maybe developing some sort of app? Plotting her next novel? PLEASE tell me she’s at least cooking dinner and running errands and working out? ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME? Well, what the hell is she even doing then??”

Because I kind of feel that way, secretly, even though I have basically done nothing in addition to caring for my baby for the last two months.

In the piece, one woman mentions that women are literally still bleeding, long after they’re expected to “bounce back” and reclaim their old lives and be totally self-sufficient. Our bodies haven’t finished healing, and we’re supposed to look and act as though nothing even happened here, it’s all good. It’s all just the same as it was.

Secretly, I’ve been the slightest bit ashamed of all the help I’ve needed.

laundry-basket

(source)

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Kate on September 11th 2013 in body, life, motherhood, new york