How you like me now?

I saw this quote and it resonated with the hell out of me.

Parenting. Social media. Parties. Parking lots. Everywhere we go.

Have you seen that episode of Black Mirror called “Nosedive”? Here is the Wikipedia synopsis of the episode:

“The episode is set in a (futuristic) world where people can rate each other from one to five stars for every interaction they have, which can impact their socioeconomic status. Lacie (Bryce Dallas Howard) is a young woman overly obsessed with her ratings… Her obsession leads to several mishaps… that culminate in a rapid reduction in her ratings.”

This is a scary and easy rabbit-hole to fall into.  Now, if you’ve read my previous blog post about being an “Extroverted Introvert”, then you are familiar with the constant struggle that is my social-interaction-process.  Those of you who are truly Introverts on the MBTI Scale are likely to be free from this kind of madness. You just go on and do you, day in and day out. I envy you.  For the rest of us, it’s hard to admit just how much of our behavior is triggered by a self-concocted audience.

In my counseling work with adolescents, I can recall countless incidents in which middle schoolers would sit in my office, in complete anguish about the way they PERCEIVED that they were being PERCEIVED. By others. Ninety-five percent of the time, these social stories were manufactured in their own heads. I remember one time in particular, I was sitting with a student who was a frequent visitor regarding such types of CATASTROPHES, and I got very real with her. She was refusing to go to her math class because “Michelle” was in that class, and the SHIT HAD HIT THE FAN vis-à-vis Michelle something like three weeks earlier, and EVERYONE IN SCHOOL was still GIVING HER LOOKS about it. And finally I said to her, “Listen. Nobody cares about this. Nobody cares about you as much as you think they do.”

At first this might sound like an insulting punch in the stomach to an already insecure, hormonal, crying young person. Obviously I was not implying that nobody cared about her as a human being. But rather people did not care about this particular event/drama/incident nearly as much as she was constructing in her own mind. Quite frankly, the majority of her peers were much more focused on their own selves and faux pas, and bad hair/skin, and wrong shoes/clothes/parent’s car/fill-in-the-blank. And that is what I told her.  And for the first time, she exhaled and said, “I feel so much more relaxed now!”

I mock and joke about how silly we act during the ‘tween years and adolescence. But let’s be honest, many of us have not come such a long way where perceived judgment is concerned. Wellllllll into adulthood. I’m no different.

The realization that you are taking up much less space in other people’s minds than you think you are is terrifically freeing! What a weight lifted… if we can get out of our own way long enough to think clearly. We give strangers, and even acquaintances, so much power over our thoughts and actions on a daily basis.

When I was engaged, my mom was planning a lovely bridal shower in my honor. She asked me for input. I told her, “Honestly, I don’t have fun at most bridal showers. I find them boring and uncomfortable.” I suggested something different that included a a fun activity… like BOWLING! My mom’s first reaction was that she’d never heard of anyone having a BOWLING shower. I’ll never forget her response: “This isn’t your tenth birthday party!” We laughed.

But my mom pressed on, through the fear of social stigma and doing something most Long Island brides had never dared to dream of, and lo and behold my shower took place at a bowling alley! And wouldn’t you know it, people – both friends and family alike – even strangers in striped bowling shoes and passersby – came out of the woodwork, complimenting this outrageous and original idea, applauding our bravery and heroism for going where no Long Island bridal shower had gone before! To a bowling alley!

I kid.

But it was pretty awesome. And my point is, even if it wasn’t fully embraced by all… nobody cares.  We’re all far more preoccupied with ourselves than the fact that you wore two mismatched shoes out the door this morning, or that you want to quit your fancy high-paying job and go start a celery farm.  It doesn’t matter. Find your fire, your happy place, your gut. Like a true Introvert would tell us, just do you. I gotta go do me.

 

 

 

 

 

Smokin’ The Wrong Stuff

blue smoke wallpaper

Ok calm down. Those of you who know me well, and even maybe some of you who know me not-well, know I am staunchly anti-smoking.

My grandpa (who, incidentally, was a tobacco smoking enthusiast) had some of the best sayings. As I confer with my brother for fact-checking purposes, a famous story from our childhood goes like this: when my brother was 20-something, he had just been offered a highly coveted directing internship position with a well-known Broadway show. As he was sharing the news with the family, my business-minded grandpa asserted, “That’s great! Maybe they’ll offer to pay for your grad school tuition!” To which my mom replied, “No, dad. They don’t do that kind of thing, it doesn’t work that way.” To which my discouraged grandpa replied, “Oh… I guess I’m smokin’ the wrong stuff.”

Laughter resounded throughout the land, as one of the top 10 quotable quotes of my life entered the world. Thus began the first of many times this line was uttered by my brother and me.

That generation gave us English Language Gold! It fascinates me how the way we talk evolves and metamorphoses through the decades. We repeat the phrases of our elder folk because they make us giggle, and also to keep these linguistic gems alive! They must be delivered with proper intonation and voice for optimal experience.

I had three living grandparents for the majority of my childhood and early adult life. Each of them was a character for different and hilarious reasons, each yielding some terrific spoken treasures that live on.

Some more examples, for your amusement… enjoy:

Grandma J was babysitting and sleeping over our house. We were hanging out like two gal pals on the pull-out couch, eating popcorn in front of the TV. It’s past my bedtime. I beg her to let me stay up late to watch Solid Gold and Dance Fever. She relents, and fearfully exclaims, “Your motha’s gonna shoot me with a gun!”

My mom would bring her boyfriend/husband (aka my dad) to her parents’ (aka my grandparents) house for dinner. They’re all seated at the table together, Grandma S is spooning out portions onto everyone’s plates. Both of my parents are seated at the table. Together. Within earshot. Grandma S would ask my mom, “Does Mike like mashed potatoes?”

I asked Grandma J if I could run inside her apartment to use her bathroom before we drove to wherever we’re going. She handed me her key (actually more like 7 keys) and called out the car window, “Mention my name! They know me there!”

Grandpa used to answer the phone like this: “It’s your nickel, go ahead.”

My brother was driving faster than necessary on a highway with Grandma J in the passenger seat. She braced herself and said to him, “It’s ok! They’re not after us!”

Whenever Grandma S tucked in the young ones for bed, or headed up to bed herself, she would announce, “I’m going to say good night.” And then would proceed to not say “good night.”

Grandpa always said, “Rich or poor, it’s nice to have money.” I never quite knew what that meant, but I agree. Money is nice.

If someone ever asked my Grandma S or her sister, “How are you doing?”, the answer you’d often get was: “Fair to middlin’.” I’ve never heard this phrase before or since.

If one of us had made a poor decision, Grandma J would say, “I have a friend named Stupid. Don’t be like Stupid.”

Oh there are more, but I’ll leave it here for now. Their generation gave us so many gifts and giggles with their words.

They gave us shitloads of secondhand smoke too. But mostly humor and good memories.

The Dark Side of the Facebook Moon

Are you friends with me on Facebook? Do you enjoy seeing photos of my fabulous life, complete with rewarding career, adorable children, and abounding love from family and friends?

There is the self we all present to the social media world. Then there is the dark side of our moon.  The less flattering selfies that show our true flaws and worst angles. The way we really spend our down time when nobody is looking.  And most importantly, the less brag-worthy realities of our lives.

Some of you know this, some of you will be surprised by what’s coming… I’m a legally-separated single mom, struggling to make financial ends meet, battling what can barely be referred to as baby-weight anymore (what’s the statute of limitations there? Can it be baby-weight if my “baby” is 3 and 1/2?)

First, gratitude.  I’m grateful that my ex, also known as my baby-daddy, remains a dear friend and unbelievably wonderful parenting partner. He is very much still my family. I’m also grateful that my family still embraces him as part of our family – both immediate and extended family alike. I’m grateful that my family is the village that it takes to raise and care for my two children. Without that support, we would be floating down a river somewhere.

I’m grateful to have had a professional rebirth over the last three years, and to work with the M-F/9-5 family that I do. It’s been a long time since I went to a job everyday that has felt this fulfilling, both professionally and personally.

I’m grateful to have met a new partner-person who makes me laugh, think, learn, and live.  I’m grateful that there is peace between my old relationship and new relationship. So much so that most people are incredulous. So much so, that I actually asked my ex if it would be ok with him before I wrote about this very topic in my blog, and he quickly said, “Yes, of course.”

I like to think it’s a tribute to the respectful and thoughtful way in which the ex and I have handled every detail of our split. Our children’s well-being has always been our  absolute number one shared priority. That is non-negotiable. I see the horror that many exes and families endure – right down to the damage it inflicts on the children. How lucky we are to have avoided that.  How lucky we are that despite tumultuous change, our children have transitioned relatively seamlessly. They get shuttled between two homes every few days and every other weekend, and happily. They casually ask, “Whose house are we going to tonight?”, and they don’t bat an eye, whatever the answer.

But some moments are still hard. There is on-going drama with our old house, which after 13+ months, a devastating fire, and various forms of permit-related red tape, still has not sold.  This sucks royally and financially.  Parenting a 3- and 5-year-old alone half the time is really hard. Being without my 3- and 5-year-old the other half of the time is also really hard. My daily and yearly work schedule (and commute) don’t make this any easier. I again refer you back to the endless help we get from my family.

It’s also hard knowing how the very difficult decision to end our marriage has had ripple effects. As peaceful as our friendship and parenting-partnership has remained, there have been losses as well. The decision to end a marriage, particularly when children are involved, is one of the hardest that anyone can make. It is certainly not one that we took lightly or made in haste. Years – YEARS – and tears were spent discussing and addressing very personal and difficult issues that we faced.

There are people who have opinions about the personal decision that was made. That is unavoidable. Nobody knows what truly goes on inside a relationship except for the people in the relationship. I’m grateful for the friends and family who have remained in my life. To those who have decided to distance yourselves from me, I have no choice but to respect your decision to do so. I have no ill-will toward anyone from my “former life”, and my door is always open if you decide to reach out and reconnect.

My hope, with this long-winded soliloquy, is to let the other humans out there know that we all have a dark side of the moon. It’s natural to put our best feet forward on social media, or at work, or in social situations. Don’t ever feel alone in your less glamorous, human side of life.

Perhaps we should invent a version of Facebook that is only intended for posting the real stuff. Posts of the number of pre-washed salad packages that get purchased, sit in my fridge drawer for two weeks, and get tossed unopened into the garbage repeatedly. (Truth be told, this was the main downfall of my marriage.) Photos of me would include a full Saturday spent on the couch wearing no bra and acne-cream spots on my forehead. A tally including the number of times I threaten one of my children with a time-out but don’t follow through because I just don’t have the energy.  The list of imperfections goes on.

We could call it Crapbook.

More Kidsdom

043de401-a486-4ce3-a106-b01a6581f0ac.jpeg

And now, for another installment of verbal gems from my three- and five-year-old:

 

5-year-old: “Mommy, I ate an ice pop a couple of whiles ago.”

 

Me: “You have a boogie on your upper lip.”

3-year-old: “No, it’s a mustache.” 

 

3, in the dark from his bed: “Mommy, I think you’re a girl.” 

 

3: “Is daddy our uncle?”

 

Me, asking 5: “And what did you do to help daddy with food shopping?”      

Him: “I helped by staying in the shopping cart.”

 

3, in his bed in the dark surrounded by stuffed animals: “I’m in a snuggle junkyard!”

 

I told 5 I would be so proud of him if he tells his teacher when he has to use the bathroom. He said “I don’t need to ask, the teachers see me holding my penis and that’s how they know what I have to do.”

 

Me, to 5: “Please stop playing with that and put it back, it’s not a toy.”

Him: “Mommy, then don’t look, it’s the only way.”

 

5: “Here Mommy, you get a hug. It’s your second hug of the day.”

 

5, crying after a fall: “Look, I got a blue-and-black mark.” 

 

5, chewing chips: “Mommy look, I made chip soup in my mouth – aaaahhhh!”

 

3, sitting on my lap, kept tapping my boob and said, “It looks like you have a lot of food in there!”

 

5: “Mommy, if you’re here then I’m gonna marry you.”

Me: “What does ‘get married’ mean?” Him: “It means you become my mommy and I become your daddy.” 

There are men, and then there are assholes.

MALE

Ok.  Ok ok ok.  Lots of feces hitting fans over the past week.  Being thrown from all directions.

I don’t pretend to know what it’s like to be sexually assaulted. I don’t pretend to know what it’s like to be wrongfully accused of sexual assault.  I think it’s fair to say, they both sound horrific.

Tempers are high from all sides of this Kavanaugh/Ford circus.  I have 1.5 cents of my own to throw in here.

First of all, I wasn’t in that room up the narrow set of stairs at the house party back in the Summer of 1982. Partially because I was six years old and in another state.

You weren’t there either. And neither were the 73-trillion other people who have opinions about “what really happened”.  Did he knowingly do everything she described? Maybe. Did she make it up because she loves the Clintons and all things Democrat and abortion rights? Maybe. (Probably not.) Did he get so wasted that he has no recollection of the events, despite the documentation in his trusty, dusty calendar? Perhaps.

Unfortunately for both of them, smartphones did not exist, and on-the-shoulder video cameras were just too clunky to lug around when you’re groping and restraining a peer while intoxicated.  So we will never have hard-core evidence of said event, and that is eternally unsettling for all involved.

Here’s what’s pissing me off:  all of us.

As many headlines tend to do, this drama is hitting us deep in our cores and bringing out all sorts of feelings and opinions and theories.  For some of us, it’s even conjuring up horrifying memories and traumas of our own.

A former student of mine, who is now in college, shared this nugget today… and I just had to look it up for myself to see if it was real:

http://mitchell-langbert.blogspot.com/2018/09/kavanaugh.html

First of all, the guy looks like Paul Sorvino’s portrayal of that jerky Reverend Willie Willams from the movie Oh, God, but that’s neither here nor there.  What caught me was his fantastic and asinine opening line:  “If someone did not commit sexual assault in high school, then he is not a member of the male sex.”

What the hell male yardstick is he using? If I were a member of the male sex, I would be outraged by that.  I attended high school in the 1990s, followed by college and grad school in the later 90s.  I was lucky enough to escape these years without experiencing traumatic sexual assault of any kind, and unfortunately too many people – males and females – can not say the same. But I can say this:  I knew a lot of males over the course of those years.  Many of them were relatives or close friends of mine, and I also dated a few (some more seriously than others.)  I even married and had kids with one of them.  Not a single one of them is a “questionable” member of the male sex.  Not anatomically, and not due to unsatisfactory fulfillment of the above mentioned sexual assault alleged pre-requisite.

He goes on to draw a comparison between playing spin-the-bottle and rape, followed by calling certain members of our country “tutu-wearing pansies”, a phrase lovingly passed down from other “male” patriarchs of his family, I’m sure.  Then the idiot goes on to completely contradict himself by also calling Democrats people who “…lack virility, a sense of decency, or masculine judgment…” He and I must have different dictionary editions.

Now, this next thing I’m about to say may piss some people off, but I must.  There are the Bill Cosbys of society – I think we can all agree that inserting mind-altering, black-out-inducing chemicals into another person’s bloodstream and then touching them in their “bathing suit” areas counts as rape – and then there are the Louis CKs of society. Who, in my opinion, did not rape or sexually assault anyone.

As a card-carrying Vagina Having Club member, I think I’m entitled to have an opinion about this.  I haven’t ever been raped or sexually assaulted. I have, however, been in a handful of situations where the guy I was with has suggested or requested that we engage in some kind of activity that I found icky.  At which point, I would decline.  And in some cases, I would fucking leave! Of my own volition! This is not rape or assault.  This is just ickiness.  There is a difference between FORCING and BEING ICKY.

I feel this is important to illustrate, because:

  • It’s not uncommon to find yourself in a situation that you wish you weren’t in, especially when it’s due to your own poor judgment and/or alcohol consumption.
  • It’s not uncommon for people, both male and female, to let our guards down and misjudge where the line is when it comes to someone else’s comfort level – again, especially when alcohol consumption is involved..
  • It’s ok to remove yourself from either of the above situations.

It is not ok, however, to call something RAPE or ASSAULT, just because in retrospect you regretted it or it made you feel icky, if it’s something you engaged in consensually.  To call this rape or sexual assault is a colossal slap in the face to all people who have actually been raped or sexually assaulted.  It also dilutes real allegations of rape/assault – and listen to me carefully – which are just as legitimate whether they occured at 3am this morning or 36 god-damn years ago.

I don’t know which category all of the people in the current political spotlight fall into, and I never will. I know that if Dr. Ford is inventing all of these claims that are really fiction, we have another brand of bat-shit crazy that needs examining.  I know that Brett K’s antics did not showcase the prettiest side of his personality. I already wasn’t thrilled about him in light of the actual political issues at hand (ie, Roe v. Wade).  This is separate from whether he sexually assaulted anyone.

But we need to be careful about the gross generalizations we make across all layers of this kind of situation.  “All men…” don’t do anything.  “All women…” don’t do anything.  “All Democrats…”, “All Republicans…”, “All adolescents…” – you’ve heard these statements before.  Nothing makes me tune you out quicker than when you blanket an entire demographic with a sweeping umbrella “fact”.  This isn’t about Trump, or Russia, or anything else.

I don’t think a round of applause or award needs to go to each person who didn’t sexually assault someone in high school (or after). This is a given, and is also the bare minimum requirement of “decency”, contrary to the statements of our blogging friend from the above link. I think accountability needs to happen at the individual level. Every time.

There, I’m done now.

 

 

In or Out?

hands black and white fingers palm

Here are some highly exclusive groups I’ve been a member of:

 

Mr. Freifeld’s 1st Grade All-Star Readers

Bunk 7, Camp Blue Ridge, 1987

Cool Girl Lunch Table, middle school

Upper Grads, Camp Wayne, 1991

Select/Jazz Chorus, high school

Varsity Tennis Team, high school

5th Floor, Onondaga Hall Dorm, college

Guidance and Counseling Department, various middle schools

Bridal Party, various weddings

The street I grew up on

Watching the Mad Men finale the night that it aired

The 10-manicure punch card completion club at my local nail place

Being white in a mostly white neighborhood

Growing up Jewish in a fairly Jewish neighborhood

People who’d read Gone Girl and The Help before there was talk of a movie

I could go on, and so could you.

 

God, it feels good to be part of a group, doesn’t it? Belonging. Membership.  And doesn’t it feel just a little shamefully good to belong to something? It gives us value, recognition, a sense of worth through the eyes of others, or so we believe.

Ever made someone feel shitty for not quite belonging? I have.

New girl in 6th grade wore some sort of full-body-teddy-bear jumper-overalls outfit. Very uncool for 6th grade.  Especially my 6th grade.  Her locker was near mine. Did I make her feel welcome in a scary new school? Nah, I decided a more socially advantageous use of my time and energy was to draw unkind attention to her ensemble.  (Are you reading this now, new 6th grade girl? Do you remember this moment? Do you still carry it around?)

I was a teenager who was older and wiser than my 6th grade self mentioned above, and yet I still took pleasure in excluding and laughing about a peer on a summer trip who was a bit of an outsider.  Wanna know why? Because I could. I had quick wit and came up with (what I thought was) a clever code name that was well-received by my audience of fellow teenage travelers, and we both actively and passively ostracized this poor girl.

Here’s the shittiest part:  I was on the RECEIVING end of similar behaviors at times in my life, and yet still took it upon myself to revel in my sense of belonging, at the expense of others.  Because feeling like you’re IN instead of OUT is some powerful elixir. These targets mentioned above did absolutely nothing wrong to deserve this treatment, except exist.

Sleep-away camp in the early 90s, a “requirement” for a teen growing up in my world. It was Big Trip to Toronto or Montreal or somewhere Canadian.  Who can remember where, when there were more important things to focus on, like am I bringing enough pairs of Z-Cavaricci’s with me.

Hotel. 14-15-year-olds. Boys + girls. Hormones.  A recipe for kindness and compassion.  I had a crush on a kid named Jared.  Not-nice girl (who, incidentally, also went to my high school) prank-called my hotel room from her hotel room repeatedly, saying she was Jared (in a poorly disguised voice), while fellow not-nice girls giggled and snorted audibly in the background.  After five or six rounds of this game, I answered the phone with, “I KNOW THIS ISN’T JARED!”… to which un-Jared replied, “You’re right. No boy would ever call you (evil-laugh-evil-laugh-evil-laugh-CLICK)” and hung up. I can hear her on the other end of the phone right now, like it happened yesterday.  And there I sat, overcome with tears and shame for what seemed like a week. My other “loser” friends in my hotel room trying to console me.
Speaking of the other losers, our first names each started with the letters L, A, M, and B.  This spells LAMB! Isn’t that fun? For the last two or three weeks of that glorious summer, not-so-nice-girls came up with this crafty code name when they wanted to refer to us behind our backs (in front of our faces). They even had a handshake! A LAMB handshake! I think there may have been a song or a dance too, who can remember. But holy hell, it musta felt good to be on the other side of LAMB in 1991 in the Upper Grad bunk.  They thought we had no idea. They even wrote about it in our end of summer Last Will and Testament. Damn that felt good to read and reminisce over repeatedly when camp ended.

Don’t worry, I turned out fine. I made life-long friends (not at camp), and even had boys calling me – real ones – throughout my teens and 20s.  But fuuuuuuck, those memories still sting like acid at this ripe age of 41.  They’d get regurgitated and come up again for air when coworkers would act cliquey.  Such a fine line between people who are friends, and people who live to make others feel unwelcome.

I’ve also seen adult parents pass these mentalities on to their children.  Teaching their sons and daughters how to treat people who “aren’t like us”.  And blind following of behaviors and traditions, because we don’t take a minute to stop and have an original thought.  Or we’re so afraid we’ll alienate some by welcoming others.

Luckily, adolescence didn’t follow me into adulthood, which is more than I can say for too many so-called adults.  Some I’ve known personally over the years, and others I see running our finally-great-again-country (vomit).  But that’s a separate blog post for another time.

 

 

Unstrung Thoughts

woman uses black typewriter

My children and I share the gift of non-sequiturs and pearls of wisdom that only make sense from the insides of our own brains…

 

I’ve found that autocorrect has gotten lazier than it used to be when I’m off by only one letter (like vhair instead of chair – it used to autocorrect that instantly, now it just leaves the glaring error and takes a nap.)  And yet it will be so presumptuous as to change my intentionally typed “biatch” into “biotech”.

I actually told my sleep-allergic 2 and 1/2 year old, “If you don’t lie down right now, I’m putting you in time-out.”  Time-out from what, sitting up straight in his bed? I’ve lost it.

Sometimes I think James Bond isn’t talking to Moneypenny, he’s actually requesting a mani-pedi.

Recycled thought #1:  I find the car-bra to be much more of an unsightly eyesore than whatever blemish you’re trying to protect your car from.

Recycled thought #2:  I’m much less inclined to donate my used automobile as a result of enduring the 1-877-KARS-4-KIDS song.

Kidsdom (aka, random gems from the brains of my 2 & 1/2 and 5 year old):

Little guy, rubbing my arm in the dark from his bed: “Mommy, I’m putting sunscreen on you.”

Big guy: “Did you know that girls say ‘doing’ and boys say ‘doin’?”

Big guy, watching Paw Patrol: “Marshall and Zuma both have water cannons.  They’re both good at water.”

Little guy: “The opposite of under is underwear!”

Me to big guy: “Who won the game?”
Him: “Mommy, it’s not a won game.  It’s just a normal game.”

Little guy on July 1st: “Now it’s the month of Saturday!”

Little guy rejecting my brother’s pool: “This pool is too wet.”

Big guy: “I don’t feel well good.”

Little guy while driving around the neighborhood: “This school building doesn’t move, it stays on the ground.”

Big guy, discovering puberty?… “When you grow up from a baby, you get a different voice.”

Big guy (I hope he pronounces it this way for a long, long time): “Yew Nork City”

Little guy, distracted from falling asleep by my polka-dot pattern dress: “I want these beautiful decorations!”

Big guy, learning to read more and more by the day: “The P and the H make an ‘F’ sound when the P and the H are next-together.”

Little guy after birthday party: “Mommy did you have fun at the party?”
Me:  “Yes it was fun!”
Him: “Me agree!”

My mom asks big guy: “Do you want to play tennis with me?”
Him: “No, I’m not meant to play tennis.”