the wound

A reader alerted me to the fact that it’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week right now (thank you, Addison!). Please click the link and learn more.

I was about to publish a different post, and mention NEDAweek in a note at the bottom. And then that didn’t feel right, so I wrote this. I didn’t have a lot of time. My mom is watching Eden in the other room. I hope you’ll forgive any mistakes or general hurrying. But I wanted to say:

This is a serious, serious issue. It erupts on the infected site of the wound girls and women have sustained from a world that enforces the flat, cold idea that our worth is based primarily on the way our bodies look. It festers. It takes different, complicated forms. The definitions can seem unhelpful and nebulous. Sometimes it doesn’t seem that bad. Sometimes you don’t even know about it. Sometimes it doesn’t have anything to do with being skinny. Sometimes it results in death.

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Kate on February 26th 2014 in beauty, body, food, weight

what happens when you aren’t a piano prodigy

You have to understand, my dad is a brilliant pianist. He could always play, from the time he was a little kid. For no reason that anyone could explain or understand, he could sit down and make music. He never learned to read music, but if he heard something, he could play it right back, so when he finally took lessons from a local teacher, he fooled her for months. “Can you just play it for me so I can hear how it should sound?” he’d ask when she gave him a new assignment. She’d play the piece through, and he’d instantly memorize it. Later, he’d pretend to be studying the notes on the page. She was furious when she discovered his trick, or so the story goes.

When he grew up, my dad bought a grand piano and then was too poor to fix his car for a whole winter. My parents were barely in their twenties, proud of their tiny square house, running their own tiny business out of the basement, and there was this sleek, giant Yamaha grand filling the whole living room. Almost a decade before I was born, that piano was my dad’s baby.

When I was a baby, he sat me on his lap while he played, my hands on his hands.

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(I don’t have a photo of that, but here I am as a baby, with my hair looking much like a wig, playing)

And of course, when I was old enough, he taught me some pieces, and eventually signed me up for lessons. He still couldn’t read music very well, but he wanted me to learn, so I was sent to a piano school that specialized in early classical training. The word “pedagogy” floated around in the halls.

I don’t know where my ferocious competitiveness came from. It’s been there for as long as I can remember, an engine too big for my body, eternally revving. It wasn’t enough to just play—I wanted to be the best.

I dreaded the finger exercises. I was bored by the endless arpeggios. The flick of the thumb under the third finger going up the scale—the movement had to be perfectly smooth, subtle, the arrangement of the hand needed to stay even. I wanted to play Rachmaninoff, with the crashing depths of the low register. Lush, chocolate-y Brahms. I wanted to play cascading Debussy, with the blur of rich sound, and Chopin, of course, with the delicate right hand trilling up at the very top while the left hand ran darkly around the bass. I wanted pounding drama and thunder and thrill. I wanted to close out the annual recital with a show-stopper. I was jealous of the kid who got to do it, while I was still playing in the middle of the pack. I was also terrified of performing.

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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.

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(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 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

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.

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(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