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

losing my hair

My hair is falling out. A fine, sad network twines across the pillow in the morning. I am forever plucking strands from the corner of the baby’s mouth.

I pull at it, run my fingers through it, checking them compulsively afterward for the telltale evidence. It’s always there, sometimes eight strands at a time, weaving together, blowing away.

I stand in front of the bathroom mirror in the evening, tugging my hair to this side and then the other side, exposing the horror of my widening part. My hair can part anywhere now, given even half a chance. It falls open obscenely.

Losing my hair feels like losing my confidence. I hide under a hat. I try to surreptitiously check my reflection in case it’s ended up even more embarrassing than when I left the house earlier. I am thinking about it while having coffee with a friend. Is she looking at my hair? Is she feeling a little sorry for me?

Bear says I’m being ridiculous, I look exactly the same. My hair is beautiful.

patch

Beautiful is a gross exaggeration, I say. Gross is a better word.

He gets frustrated. Come on, stop it, you’re being vain. It doesn’t matter.

Wait, I say. This is not vanity. I swear.

Actually, I’ve been trending towards fine. I mean, I just wrote this piece, about feeling sexy. And before that I wrote this piece, about not caring about the way I look anymore. So yes, that just happened. I realize I’m sort of contradicting myself now. I tried not to write this piece for that reason, but I’m writing it anyway, because life is contradictory. Also, my hair wasn’t falling out then.

My thinning hair yanks me back into a tightening awareness of my reflection, and I resent it for that, too.

It reminds me of losing my hair other times. This isn’t the first time.

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Kate on December 18th 2013 in beauty, body, hair, motherhood

the one thing you think gives your life meaning

I sang at a bar mitzvah recently. The boy was very nervous, but he did well, and it was all the more victorious after because he’d been so nervous. Everyone was cheering for him. When he finished his Torah reading the whole congregation let out a collective sigh, half laugh, of relief and support. He was pleased, but he wasn’t thrilled. Towards the end of the service, he leaned over and whispered to me, “I was really hoping my friend would come, but I don’t see her.”

There was a certain girl.

He’d mentioned her at the beginning too, assuring me that she’d be there to witness his passage into Jewish adulthood. But hours later, after the bulk of the Hebrew had been chanted, she was still missing. “I’m a little disheartened,” he told me, during the mourners kaddish. “I don’t see her here.” I didn’t know what to say. “I’m sorry,” I said. “But you’re doing an amazing job.”

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(it’s really hard to read Torah. source)

Sometimes you are doing fine but the one thing you most want to happen doesn’t happen so it doesn’t feel like enough. It doesn’t feel finished.

There have been a bunch of pieces recently, and since I became an adult, about my generation and whether or not we are spoiled and entitled and obnoxious or just totally screwed. Or maybe we’re delightfully free-spirited? I remember when Yahoo started publishing those lists of college majors that would result in homelessness and starvation. My major tended to be on those lists, or wasn’t even important enough to make them.

Next came the articles about how it didn’t matter what our majors were—we were never going to catch up.

Then there were the articles about how we were never going to catch up but instead we were going to sit around complaining about how we deserved to be famous and stuff. Because we had inflated egos and we’d all been given a trophy and now we all thought we all should win.

Now they’re saying we’re all looking for meaning.

I don’t know. I think it’s really hard to describe a whole generation, because of all the individuals in it. Because of all the legitimately different situations.

But here’s me:

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Kate on December 11th 2013 in being sad, fear, motherhood, work, writing

woman gets hit by truck, dies

My friend Yvonne swore that she had an orgasm when she smelled caviar for the first time. I didn’t believe her, but I loved her stories. She had fly-away hair and big necklaces and her vivid lipstick had always gotten on her teeth because her mouth was always in motion. She was glamorous.

I don’t know what made me look at the local paper on my parents’ table when I was over there the other day, but I saw the headline  “woman hit by truck, dies.”

“It’s terrible,” my parents had been saying, “A woman died crossing the street—just down the road, you know, by the light.”

“That’s terrible,” I said.

I kept reading the article, and I kind of had a feeling. But maybe I’m just imagining the feeling retroactively.

mac-neon-orange-lipstick1

(source)

When I was fifteen, I joined a writing group at the local arts’ center. Everyone else was over fifty. When you’re homeschooled you do lots of stuff with people over fifty, because they’re also around during the day. Yvonne was immediately one of my favorites. We used to “get tea.” That meant we sat around talking forever in a coffee shop. She’d worked at one of those homes for disabled kids, back when they just locked them all up together and left them screaming in their own excrement. It broke her heart. It hardened her. She said it taught her what the world was secretly like, but she was also a poet. She was divorced, but she’d been married to a man who loved music more than anyone else loved music. All he wanted to do was go to the symphony. She liked to watch him loving music. He was the best listener.

I didn’t understand her poetry. It was fluid and random and dexterous. I was writing a fantasy novel about a young queen who is not allowed to fall in love but she does anyway. I had lots of descriptions of the gowns she wore. Yvonne was in her sixties. She threw her head back and laughed. She said, “Don’t knit your brows like that, you’ll get a crease.” She was tall and graceful. I never put my shoulders back because I was embarrassed about my big nose so I was trying to hide in my hair, even though I was also cocky in plenty of ways.

I can’t believe she got hit by a truck when she was crossing the road and she died. Minutes from the house where I grew up. Meeting a friend. For tea?

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Kate on December 3rd 2013 in being sad, family, fear

I am sexier as a mom

Thanks to a reader named Vicky (from this comment section) for inspiring this post:

I figured that after I had a baby my body would be like a soldier after war, with the proud, annoying battle scars that have a good story but don’t dress up well. A few things went differently than expected:

1)   I had a real baby, which is sort of impossible to imagine beforehand and sort of trumps everything else

2)   I didn’t stop caring about the way I looked (this isn’t a story with a moral or something), but I was really busy caring a lot about other things

3)   I looked surprisingly great

nonplus

(me, looking great, of course)

No one ever talks about how you might feel sexy and beautiful after you have a baby. They talk a lot about how you might feel shitty and floppy and bad and you might have to work really hard to look good again and your belly might never ever be the same and the goal should be for everything to be the same as it was because that was so much better. It’s stressful, being pregnant and being yelled at by all of the headlines about your future “YOU NEED TO START THINKING NOW ABOUT HOW BAD YOU WILL LOOK THEN!”

I was prepared. I went in chin up, determined not to care. I was going to focus on my baby, damnit. I was going to have my priorities stacked correctly, color coded, baby blinking red on the top. “Attention! Attention! You have created a human life! Instead of checking out your ass in the mirror, you should make sure your child stays alive!”

You’ll have to read my book for the (whole) birth story (I promise, it’s dramatic), but afterward, there I was, somehow still myself, somehow epically changed, clutching the counter and staring into my own eyes in the bathroom mirror. I was a horrible mess. Puffy and ghost white and trembling, with limp, sweaty hair and a ferociousness rising off me like fire. The details of my appearance seemed irrelevant—it was the brute power and triumph shining through me that counted. I didn’t look beautiful, I looked awesome.

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Kate on November 22nd 2013 in beauty, body, motherhood

stuff people do on TV but not in life (part 2)

First, if you haven’t bought my book yet, you can get it through here. It’s also available through Amazon UK (which apparently works in Australia) and Australia’s iBooks. You might think you don’t really feel like reading a book about pregnancy. You might be right. But even if you’re right, it’s only like $4 and buying it is basically like saying, “I think you deserve to make at least a couple bucks for doing all this writing all the time.” (And by “all this writing all the time” I’m definitely not referring to this post.) I would really appreciate it. So much. Please?

There. Jewish mom guilt trip. Now that I’m a Jewish mom.

Now, because I had so much fun coming up with my first list of stuff people do on TV/movies but not in real life, I wanted to do another. I’ve been keeping this list on my phone as I sit around endlessly nursing and watching (mostly bad) TV.  It will be immediately clear from this list that I tend to watch violent shows about spies.

On TV but not in (my, possibly most other people’s) life*:

Anyone trying to destroy the world starts with LA

Which is maybe because the most important CIA, NSA, and some other black-ops super secret government agencies have their most important operations centers there

Every day, everyone is eating pancakes or waffles for breakfast. Golden, fluffy, perfectly circular pancakes in a towering stack. Golden, fluffy, giant waffles with fresh berries (prewashed?), and even whipped cream. The kitchen is clean, anyway. There is no leftover batter speckling the side of a Tupperware container with a mismatched lid. And the whisk and the spatula are already washed and put away by the time the children come down for breakfast

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(“children! Breakfast! Just a boring old stack of perfect buttermilk pancakes!” source)

Tough, hardened, smirking people often say “be my guest, pull that trigger” when someone’s pointing a gun at their head. They are always willing to bet that the person with the gun will definitely not, just this one time, pull the trigger

Kids get constantly shoved into lockers, especially when they are new in school. “Hey, new kid, you suck because you’re new!” BAM!

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Kate on November 13th 2013 in life