Monthly Archives: October 2012

moving

I get an itch when I stay in one place for too long. I always said I wouldn’t move my kids as much as I have moved, but I never hated it. I looked forward to it. After a year or two, I thought, we have been here for too long. But I recognize that maybe it wasn’t ideal. Maybe it is a good thing to have friends you have known since you were a child, to have a mutual record of ridiculous secrets and outlandish ambitions. One of my family members recently accused me of thinking I am a perfect parent. I know I am not. Since Benjamin was born, we have lived in one apartment and four different houses, one of which was foreclosed upon. That is exactly the opposite of what I had planned. I know that moving too many times is disruptive, particularly when you have two children who need routine more than most. That is not good parenting.

We just moved again this weekend. We painted the kids’ rooms their favorite colors and we set up their rooms first. We tried to keep a routine, and they didn’t switch schools or anything. Elliott protested a little more than usual, but it was nothing like three years ago, the last time we moved, when I had to unpack everything in 24 hours just to stop the screaming. The plan is to stay here for a few years, save up, and buy a house. And then never move again. At least not for a long, long time. Moving is hard.

Still, when I think about living in one place for a very long time, I admit that it makes me feel a little panicked and even claustrophobic. I know that it is best for the kids. I know that it is probably best for me. Earlier this year, Ryan and I participated in that mindfulness study that required us to regularly sit still for a very long time and listen to our own breathing. It was one of the most difficult things I have ever done, and one of the most beneficial. And I haven’t done it as much as I should since then.

My friend Michelle shared this Mark Strand poem with me last year, and all I could think was, YES.


Keeping Things Whole

In a field
I am the absence
of field.
This is
always the case.
Wherever I am
I am what is missing.
-
When I walk
I part the air
and always
the air moves in
to fill the spaces
where my body’s been.
-
We all have reasons
for moving.
I move
to keep things whole.
I can and will stay in one place, but I will never stop moving. I will just move within that space.
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This is How I flirt

I become inebriated enough to still hold a conversation. I don’t know how but somehow I involve myself into a conversation with A or some men. This is when I usually disappear from my group of friends because flirting scientists, like Cosmo, say men are intimidated by a large group of women. As they should be. My main goal is to emphasize but not directly say that “I am not like most girls” just like most girls say. Since we are all unique delicate flowers especially when slurring between stale breaths of beer.

I know I drive the conversation towards academics. I’m a degree-digger even though I have earned zero degrees myself. But this is important to me. It shows some level of commitment and dedication. Most importantly, it can be an indicative of how good or bad a conversation might turn out. However, I try to stay away from Math and Science majors. Of course, I must remember that that’s not always the case and I must remind myself that I am an overgrown loser beaming with potentially amazing conversation that smells like unique and delicate flowers. So I shouldn’t be a drunken snob.

I manage to be charming in my drunken and awkward openness. I strategically place the information about being a lady of the books. I will probably crack a joke about them buying me a drink and they will immediately respond with a just remembered “Oh, yea! What are you drinking?” But I quickly shy away from the offer insisting I was just joking. In return they insist that they know but would still like to buy me a drink. I politely keep saying no and assure them that “It’s ok. I can buy myself a drink” but in a totally cute way of course not all “feminist” like. But I really can’t afford to buy drinks. I work in retail where my hours fluctuate from 30 to 7 hours a week. Sometimes I can’t even afford to drive to work. But they insist because my humor somehow charmed them enough to keep this night going.

On my 4th maybe 5th drink, I don’t know what I’m talking about. I don’t even know the name of the person in front of me. I don’t really care what they have to say about X topic. I just have the biggest urge to get out of the crowd and make out.

Because I don’t really like the person in front of me, because I don’t really care to know them, because I just wanted a free drink to feel pretty, because I will never have daydreams about us, I am bold and in my girl-child voice I suggest we make out. This doesn’t happen often since I don’t go out much but once in a blue moon it happens. And when it happens, I make out under the cigarette smoke woven through the fluorescent lights of gaudy Vegas casinos or the dark driveways of unsuspecting American home owners.

And suddenly I’ll stop because the alcohol is simmering and the rouge of my flushed cheeks is returning to its original pale copper color. It simmers with each prolonged drunken swap of spit that isn’t fun anymore. And suddenly I feel cheap. And suddenly this person is a stranger again. I feel the spit of death and fear and that unbearable moment of clarity like the eye of a hurricane.

I am not like most girls, so why am I acting like it?

All I can do is hope that the suppressed erection inside the strangers pants doesn’t turn into anger. That he’ll walk me safely to my hotel room. That he’ll let me go back to my friends. I can hear my grandmother in my head, “Well, why the hell where you being a whore in the first place?!” I hear my mother asking me what was I doing? I think that I have learned nothing from growing up on obscenely dramatic Hispanic media. That if I end up dead, raped, beat or all three, it will inevitably be my fault since my attitude walks around thinking “that can’t happen to me.”

I go back safely, but death and fear permeate. All I want to do is hear the voice of any of the boys that never liked me and will never like me “like that.”

Because it’s comforting, because I am drunk and stupid, because it’s expected, because I’m a victim of rom-coms as much as I’d like to bury and kill that thought. Because all I know is the struggle to convince a man I am good enough for him. Because I will never be good enough to my father. And all I want to do is call a boy to feel human, to feel like I mean something, anything, if he picks up. And then my soul feels cheap. I prostituted my soul to build up a mans ego. We hang up and I am sober and empty.

A Good Man

My father taught me that a good man is, at all times, in possession of two things. He declared this frequently enough that it is the thing I think of most when I think of him. I can count on one hand the number of conversations we have had in our shared lifetime, and none of these lasted longer than three minutes. He never looked at a single piece of my schoolwork, didn’t attend my ballgames, or ever once take any of us out to eat. And yet, I clearly remember my father dictating precisely what a good man must possess.

These criteria are so akin to my view of him, I have never really questioned his rationale or asked myself how I would measure a good man. Perhaps I would privilege a good sense of direction, or a raucous laugh. Maybe, if we’re being literal, a bookshelf with more than 200 authors on it, a consistent paycheck, or a career in some sort of service to humankind. My list might prioritize practical intelligence, streetsmarts, good manners, or basic kindness. Come to think of it, a good man clearly ought to possess control over his emotions, so that he wouldn’t strike a woman or child out of fear or anger. I know on good authority that my father never privileged any of these.

My father says a good man always carries a pen and a timepiece. The pen is to write down appointments, and the watch is to make sure one gets there on time.

He begat three daughters, but it just now occurs to me that he never mentioned what a good woman should possess. I don’t think he even alluded to this concept. He has never complimented me on anything, never told me I am smart or pretty or nice to be around. I don’t know if he respects me, or even likes me, if I have ever behaved in ways consistent with his criteria for a good woman.

To be honest, I have no idea what a good woman should possess. I know that people prickle at women who are authoritative or domineering, that femininity is presumably receptive, rather than projective, that a good woman ostensibly reflects the light of her man. Yet Proverbs says a virtuous woman “girds her loins with strength, and strengthens her arms,“ that “she considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard,” to “give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.” My father called himself a man of God, but he never mentioned these scriptures to me. I know Christians who quote from Genesis, and many from Apostle Paul, but this homily from Solomon is virtually ignored.

I may never be a good woman in my father’s, or anyone else’s, book, but I know how to move in this world like a good man. I may or may not have my keys or a lipstick, but I always have a pen, and I am on time.

Michelle Bachmann is spooky.

The following is a brief piece I wrote for my Anthropology lab detailing my strong conviction that Michelle Bachmann is an otherworldly entity whose sole purpose for existing is to destroy the planet earth. I patched it together in about 20 minutes not knowing that I’d be forced to read it in front of the class. Many laughs were had.

Question: Why is Michelle Bachmann such an evil twit?

Hypothesis: Michelle Bachmann is an eldritch succubus set loose to destroy the earth and everything therein.

How would one test this hypothesis?

In order to answer this question, I need to deliver a necessary primer as to what constitutes a succubus. A succubus is typically defined as a (female) demon who seduces male subjects with dubious lies and engages in sexual activity with them in order to drain them of their life force and/or seed. Succubi are known for their bipolar temperament, and observing Michelle Bachmann’s behavior we see that:

  1. Michelle Bachmann is a compulsive liar
  2. Michelle Bachmann is a horribly unpleasant human being (?)
  3.  Michelle Bachmann drains the intelligence and/or gnostic aura from her followers, turning them into pitiful husks of their former selves- prone to fits of delusion and incapable of distinguishing fantasy from reality.
  4. Michelle Bachmann –perhaps in a less literal sense of the term- is fucking us all. Hard and fast. Without protection.

However…..

For the sake of fairness, I must point out that Michelle Bachmann fails to meet several criterion necessary for being deemed a succubus. For example, sources indicate that unlike a succubus, Michelle Bachmann hasn’t engaged in satisfying coitus since well before the Regan administration. This becomes clear when one develops the fortitude to stare into her icy, necrotic eyes for 15 minutes. Indeed, several independent scientific studies have confirmed that it’s acutely unlikely for someone who experiences frequent orgasms to have the eyes of a ghoulish baby-eater.

In addition, this hypothesis fails to account for female supporters of Michelle Bachmann, although current available data indicates that they pose a marginal threat since their husbands haven’t given them permission to vote, and they’ve got shit to clean anyhow.

Conclusion…..

Given the aforementioned considerations, it’s highly unlikely that Michelle Bachmann is a succubus. However, scientific investigation may later out her as a psychic vampire, an escaped wraith from the unquenchable fire, or an incarnation of the dark lord Cthulu, working in cahoots with Ann Coulter.

more than just fingernails

Elliott has long, dirty fingernails a lot of the time. I cut them no more than once per week, no matter what. When they get long and gross, it bothers me not just when I see them, but all throughout the day. I think about it when I wake up, at work, over dinner. It sounds like I’m exaggerating, but I am not. I used to judge people whose kids had long, dirty fingernails, and I guess I still do. So I know that some people see his nails and probably judge me. But cutting Elliott’s fingernails is one of the things I most hate to do in my life. Here is how it goes. I tell Elliott about 30 minutes in advance that it is time for the weekly trim. We read a social story that I wrote for him on PowerPoint on my laptop. The story is called “Elliott, It’s Time to Cut Your Fingernails!” The exclamation point tries (and fails) to instill a sense of lightheartedness. The story features photos of him, me, nail clippers. It gives strategies for relaxing during the process. Count to 10. Breathe. Sing a song. He loves the story. “Read it again, Mommy,” he says. So we do. Finally, I tell him the time has come and that when we are all finished, he will get a fruit snack or a lollipop. He seems prepared. He seems calm.

But as soon as I sit him in my lap and he catches the glint of the clippers, he begins twisting out of my arms. “I have to go potty! I want a treat! I don’t like it! No! I have to go potty! I want a treat! I want daddy!” and so forth. I have cut both of the boys’ nails since they were born, so it is just us two, and sometimes that makes me sad. I don’t want to be the one inflicting one of the worst routines in his life on him. He kicks me. He begins sobbing. He writhes and screams. I eventually wrap my legs around him and angle my body such that he cannot move his limbs. “Get me out! I can’t move!” he screams, and I feel abusive. My heart beats more quickly. As he trembles and cries, I try to block it out and do the work. I cut the nails, one by one. It is an excruciating, slow process. Sometimes it takes twenty minutes. The toenails are worse than the fingernails. When we finish, his face is smeared with snot and tears. I hug him deeply and whisper I am sorry and that I love him and he cries and heaves into my chest until eventually he calms down and begins breathing normally again. He doesn’t normally enjoy long hugs, but he has been traumatized, so this hug will sometimes last five minutes. Suddenly, he stands up as though nothing happened, the tears already disappearing from his eyes. He touches the wet splotches on his face with curiosity, seeming almost surprised to find them there. “Fruit snack?” he asks, and I give the tiny package to him. He devours the fruity globules as though nothing ever happened.

Last year, there was a period of several weeks when the preparation and the social stories and the treats all worked. No screaming. Minimal fidgeting. And then…it just started being awful again.

Elliott is doing so well. I have no business complaining. He’s doing great in school, he has friends, he plays well and gets along with his brother. His speech is improving rapidly. He is getting bigger and stronger. He is happy. He is confident. He is smart. He is funny. He is adorable as hell. When I am cutting his fingernails, though, that all fades away. Something is unmistakably wrong, and nothing I do seems to fix it. He is hurt and crying and trying to escape me. He screams for me to stop, stop, stop. In those moments, I am reminded, acutely, of what autism looks like. Here I am, it says. You cannot ignore me. The fingernails become more than just fingernails. Then we do it again the next week.

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best-case scenarios

My friend Lisa shared this today on Facebook: “You’ll meet the perfect person, who you love infinitely, and you even argue well, and you grow together, and then you get old together, and then she’s going to die. That’s the best-case scenario.” –Louis C.K.

Last night, Ryan and I were talking about time. I had read this Angelica Huston interview and she says that no one can tell you how quickly time passes. I know this is true. I also know it is cliche. But when I think about it too hard, it is still terrifying. It is just like no one can tell you how fucking tired you will be when you are caring for a newborn. They try to warn you and you think, yes, I know what tired is. I’m in graduate school and I work 3 jobs. But this kind of tired is in your bones, your skin. It permeates everything. I remember that I felt that way, but I can’t actually feel it anymore. And I can’t explain it to people who haven’t experienced it, either. I just know that when a person without children tells me he or she is tired, he or she does not know what they are talking about. Unless they are, like, a P.O.W. That kind of tired isn’t real to me now anymore, so I don’t know what I’m talking about either.

Anyway, we got to talking about how you have kids and you love them so fiercely it almost hurts and then as they get older, they move away from you physically and emotionally. They become independent; they are supposed to. You work their whole lives for them to become relatively happy, functioning, independent humans. That’s your job, and theirs. But it’s like someone scraping your heart out of your chest slowly, over time. I have done the math. In approximately 1 year, Ben won’t sit on my lap or let me carry him. In another year, no hand-holding in public. In another, no kissing and hug resistance. That’s what he should be doing. Again, that’s the best-case scenario. He could become a drug addict or get cancer or punch me in the face and then my heart would break more. He will be 8 on Friday. He will be 18 in 10 years. And 10 years isn’t anything at all.

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