Archive | April 2012

Motherhood and Mardi Gras: What’s the Difference?

I came across a funny mommy blogger (www.mondayswithmac.com) who asked for submissions that compare motherhood to traveling to foreign locales for an audience of would-be mothers and expectant mothers.  I have composed my postcard after giving some long, hard thought to which of my travel experiences most compare to my motherhood experiences. I thought about India or Venice or Vancouver or Ikea.  But you know what, I need look no further than the good old U.S. of A.  That’s where I have had a travel experience that most compares to what I experience in motherhood.

Ya’ll, I give you my postcard from Mardi Gras.

*   *   *

Dear Mother-To-Be,

Buckle up, Mama, you are in for the time of your life.  Motherhood is like Mardi Gras in four fundamental ways. It goes without saying that the hours are the same– roughly all night long and all day long.  The food is a little better at Mardi Gras and there’s a little more company (what with the parades and all), but overall, it’s uncanny how similar they are.

Without further ado, here’s the four ways motherhood is Mardi Gras without all the creole food.

1. The Breasts.  In motherhood, I found myself with my breasts exposed ALL. THE. TIME.  In front of my mother-in-law’s boyfriend, in front of my therapist, in front of the street crew fixing a parking structure downtown.  The only other time I exposed my breasts that much was during Mardi Gras, but all I got then were some chinzy beads.  In motherhood I at least get awe, respect, and nourishment for my little ones.  Those are pretty good souvenirs.

2. Smells. Let’s talk about smells.  You know how New Orleans, ground zero for Mardi Gras, is fantastical, colorful, and truly amazing (just like motherhood)? Well, if you haven’t noticed, New Orleans also smells funny– like sour beer and day-old hot dogs and beignets and coffee and dirty fraternity guys mixed with whiffs of majestic southern magnolia trees.  That’s how motherhood smells! Except instead of beer, it’s the sour milk that was all over my nursing bras and maternity clothes (because you still wear those after you have a baby, but no one tells you that) my sheets, my car, and my towels.  It’s possible I was an over-producer.

3.  Inhibitions.  During Mardi Gras, inhibitions are lowered (probably from all the beer and breasts) and people say and do things they never have before. It’s like a haze of “don’t ask, don’t tell” falls over the Mississippi Delta and everyone becomes someone else….at least for those days they linger in the Mardi Gras bubble.  Honey, that’s motherhood.  I found myself saying things I had never said before, like “Can someone please bring me a napkin because my nipple is cracked and bleeding?” Or, to dear husband, “If you wake me up one more time to feed that baby, I am going to move to New Zealand as soon as I get some sleep.”  I said lots of stupid sh*t at Mardi Gras, like “sure, I’d love you to walk me back to my hotel,” or “do you like my fake ID? (to a bouncer).” In motherhood, I also did things I had never done before, like riding the escalator (up and down) in Macy’s with my newborn daughter sobbing about how beautiful she was and how damn tired I was.  That’s not so really different from the time I was in New Orleans walking down the street sobbing because I met a street poet who spoke the most beautiful words of poetry to me at 4:00 a.m.

4. Hmmmm.  I know there were four things.  I forgot the fourth one.  See? See how much motherhood is like Mardi Gras? Don’t tell me you never forgot where your hotel was during Mardi Gras– I don’t believe you.  Once I forgot which hotel was mine, right after I lost my wallet and my shoes.  Do I remember what happened? No.  I was 20 years old and very absorbed in finding my way back to Pat O’Brien’s to see if that cute guy who was standing next to the bathroom was still there drinking that hurricane and talking to that skanky girl from Lake Ponchartrain.  That’s exactly the feeling I have in motherhood on a daily basis.  Where’s my wallet? I have no idea.  Are both the kids in the car? Not sure.  Are they strapped in properly? Couldn’t tell you.  Have I had lunch? Define “lunch.” Have I showered since the mid-term elections? Doubtful.  Have I talked to an adult in a while?  Does a 2-year-old child count as an adult for the purposes of this question?

So, yes, Motherhood.  It reminds me a lot of Mardi Gras, except there are babies instead of beads.  It’s the time of your life, but you may not remember it all. Hopefully, you will remember the good parts and take lots of pictures.  And unlike Mardi Gras’ dumber and uglier cousin, Las Vegas, what happens at Mardi Gras and in Motherhood does not have to stay there– you get to blog and blab all about it.  I can’t wait to hear.

Love,

Outlaw Mama

Mondays with Mac

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I Am Not Defensive About My Mini Van

Mini Van

Mini Van

It’s a good thing that I am not at all defensive about my mini-van. No matter how many people act like driving a mini-van is tantamount to having a lobotomy or being forced to wear capri sweat pants for the rest of their lives, I am not defensive.

Ah, sweet mini van.  It’s a status symbol too, you know.  Just like BMW or Jaguar or Mini Cooper, the mini-van is a powerful symbol that broadcasts connotations and truths about me as I make my way through the city streets.

It symbolizes that I am unafraid to wheel around town with the equivalent of 2 boxes of Cheerios, 187 Goldfish, and 8,000 raisins littered at my feet.  It lets the drivers in Chicago know that I am a force to be reckoned with because I have a forward-facing and a rear-facing car seat and I know how to install them both.

It symbolizes that I rely on my tight abs and my charming personality to have sex and not on my car. (I’m looking at you, BMW driver.)

It signifies that I have a big heart because I care more about my children’s safety than about my own personal image.  Thus, it is THE symbol of a Good Mother.

It symbolizes that I am down-to-earth and humble and unwilling to give into the siren song of an SUV just so I look less frumpy and less suburban. It’s also a sign that I am likely willing to fight rush-hour traffic with two toddlers while listening to the extended remix of “Wheels on the Bus” mashed up with “The Hokey Pokey.”

It’s a symbol that I am somehow in possession of two young children either by way of (1) adoption, (2) inheritance, or (3) my astonishingly fecund womb.

It’s a symbol that belongs to the cluster that includes the Ergo baby carrier, the Medela breast pump, and the Costco family membership.

While for some in may be the fatal nail in the coffin of cool, for me it’s a ride that let’s you know that I am probably sleep-deprived while trying to navigate traffic with one or two tantrums going on behind me, so steer clear because I tend to drift to the right.

 

Working Women, Bondage and Sexual Trauma– The Usual From A Mommy Blog

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to respond to the Newsweek article about the alleged proliferation of working women’s bondage fantasies, especially since I didn’t think I could add to Mammalingo’s insightful post.  I thought all week about Mammalingo’s analysis of Roiphe’s article, wherein Roiphe posits that the “current vogue for [sexual] domination” is happening precisely because we are in “a moment of time when women are ascendant in the workplace . . . 4 out of 10 women are outearning their husbands, [and] when the majority of women under 30 are having and supporting children on their own.”  In short, Roiphe says, at this moment, “in hard economic terms– women are less dependent or subjugated than before,” so therefore, “[w]e may then be especially drawn to . . .  semipornographic idea[s] of female submission at a moment in history when male dominance is shakier than it has ever been.”

I agree with Mammalingo’s analysis of Roiphe’s article:

“[I]t sounds like a flimsy thesis — based on a little hand-picked anecdotal evidence and the popularity of a single book [Fifty Shades of Gray] (that I wouldn’t mind reading if you’re done with your copy) —was just an excuse to run a photo of blindfolded supermodel. And what the hell does your sex life have to do with being a feminist?” – Mammalingo, posted April 22, 2012.

I want to join the conversation, not attack to Roiphe, but to question her use of the movie,  A Dangerous Method (2011).  Roiphe uses that movie as a “further signal of the current cultural interest in sexual domination,” because there are scenes where a young Carl Jung is spanking his patient as played by Keira Knightley.   But, it’s not an example that supports her thesis.  A Dangerous Method attributes its writing credits to John Kerr and Christopher Hampton.  Presumably, Kerr and Hampton are male.  The director? David Cronenberg. The score, cinematography, and editing were all done by men.  So how does this become fodder for a thesis about a woman’s desire for domination or abuse? It sure looks like it’s male desire being projected onto females.  After all, the movie was written and directed (and controlled) by men.

And, how about the commercial success of A Dangerous Method? The article says, “[e]very so often a book or a movie comes along that absorbs us and generates discussions about bondage and power,” and among Secretary (2003) and The Sexual Life of Catherine M. (2001), A Dangerous Method is listed as one such absorbing movie.

I saw it, but not because I can’t get enough spanking on the silver screen. I saw it because my therapist has a maddening practice (bordering on medical malpractice) of taking 2 weeks off around the holidays, and I missed him. So I went to see a movie about the birth of psychoanalysis. I can’t find anyone else (besides my therapist) who even saw the movie. In terms of critical success, it wasn’t exactly Titantic.  As of April 22, 2012, it grossed $5.7 million in the United States.  Compare that to the Hunger Games, which was released in March 2012 and has earned already $357,066,467.  It’s not clear at all that A Dangerous Mind is solid proof of how much those of us who work love rape sex.

Finally, I have one more thing to say on the topic, for which I have no proof, but I have utter conviction.  My theory is that any increase in women’s bondage fantasies, if it exists, is a direct result of sexual trauma.  Sexual fantasies are conflict-laden and a place where we work through trauma on a very deep level.   Therefore, sexual fantasies may spring from a vast reservoir of unprocessed trauma, including abuse, molestation and rape.  Might the working woman who allegedly wants to be dominated really be seeking to work through earlier trauma?  While the statistics vary, up to 28% of women report suffering sexual abuse in their histories.  My theory is that those same women who suffered abuse might have turned into highly successful working women who now are working through (enacting? reenacting?) sexual trauma through their sexual fantasies.

I can’t prove any of this until (1) I get my Ph.D in psychology, (2) get some grants, (3) take statistics, and (3) research for years.  Maybe someone already proved this.

I simply can’t imagine having the conversation about anyone’s rape fantasies without acknowledging sexual trauma, which is far more prevalent than anyone wants to contemplate.

I will refrain from reiterating that there is not a single gainfully employed woman I know who looks like the annoyed, vampy, run-way model on page 23 of the article.

This entry was posted on April 28, 2012. 8 Comments

Friday Fan Letter: The Victorian Edition

Is it just me or does CB look like Uma Thurman?

Dear Charlotte Bronte,

I know that everyone loves Jane Austen.  “Her wonderful heroines” blah blah blah.  For Goodness sakes, there are zombie books based on Austen’s novels, which proves that her work has been revered enough to be blasphemed by the latest fad in “youth” fiction.

But this fan letter is for you, Charlotte Bronte, who gave the world Jane Eyre, the “first heroine in fiction to know that she needs her own identity more than she needs marriage.” [fn 1.]  This is a heroine born into the world in 1847. How the hell did you do that? I have been reading biographical materials on your life– it’s splendid when you and your sisters are described as “lonely spinsters”– and I keep wondering how you did that, how you wrote Jane Eyre, living when you did (mid-1800s), where you did (the wilds of Yorkshire), and how you did (with your sisters and your drug-addicted brother).

I assigned myself a writing project born of inspiration from my love of Jane Eyre.  I am updatingJE, setting it in Chicago, and exploring the themes of love and power and identity.  Sounds great, right?  Actually, it’s devastatingly difficult to do.  I have 10,000 words, most of which I loathe in a vague sense, but I keep going.  I picture you at your desk, hiding from your sick brother (“Branwell was wont to say and do terrible things when he was drunk” [fn 2.]) and willing away jealousy and competitive feelings with your sisters (who are both writers and the sense of competition is my projection) and just writing your heart out.

Charlotte, know this: it’s not the book that comes from my efforts that is a tribute to you; it’s the efforts themselves.  Your book and your voice are singular and beloved.

All week long I have been itching to get my hands on that blasted Newsweek article about how the “working woman” wants to be dominated in the bedroom (more on that in a rant-post this evening).  I have refused to buy the magazine because I don’t want to give Newsweek my money.  I did, however, get a copy from a friend and after 2 paragraphs of the article explaining why my fantasies allegedly involve lots of spanking, I retreated back to Jane Eyre. which although more than 150 years old, rings truer to me than Katie Roiphe’s article.

I loveJane Eyreand had a moment in 2009 when I wanted to name Sadie after her.  Turns out, Sadie got the rebellious, feisty, anti-authoritarian spirit of Jane Eyre anyway.  “A rose by any other name…” Like Jane, Sadie is passionate, full of appetites, and somewhat untamed.  Some of Sadie’s passions may need more directing than Jane’s, since we don’t live on the moors. Sadie’s “passions” recall the spirit of Jane Eyre and, at the very least, give me a fine literary tradition to call upon when I am struggling with how to be patient with them.

I am a huge fan.  I have 3 more biographies to read about you this year; I can’t imagine how I could adore you and JE more.  I also promise never to put vampires or zombies in my Charlotte-Bronte-inspired stories.

Rest in peace,

Outlaw Mama

FN 1:Eric Jong in the Introduction (p. ix) to the Signet Classic edition (1997).

FN 2: FromThe Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronteby Syrie James (2009).

Paging Ms. Womack

If you have been to a graduation, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, baptism, or other similar rite of passage in the last decade, you are no doubt familiar with Lee Ann Womack’s I Hope You Dance, which is an apt anthem for any occasion whereby wishes are offered to a member of a younger generation.  It’s not a new sentiment, but Womack’s IHYD is a solid (if a little saccharine-y) version of a familiar trope.

I have prepared some additional lyrics for Ms. Womack, which sprang from my own deep desire for my children.  Yes, I want them to experience wonder and give faith a “fighting chance,” but I am greedy. I want more for them.

Having zero musical background, I am still working on details like chords and cadence, but here’s the gist of what I think Ms. Womack should add to IHYD:

  • I hope you are not the kind of d-bag that takes a treadmill right next to the only other person working out on the treadmills, especially when there are no fewer than 8 others open.  Give people space, children.
  • I hope you are not that person in your group of friends who hates to have your picture taken.  That person is so annoying.
  • I hope you get married and invite me to the ceremony (I’ll pay), but I hope you are not drunk during the ceremony because I am telling you right now, I will assume you are an alcoholic and march your ass to AA.  During your honeymoon.
  • I hope you know I am ok if you settle for the path of least resistance because it will be awkward to watch you struggle from my summer home in Cabo. Don’t ruin it for me with tragic struggles.
  • I hope you also know it’s ok with me if you fear mountains in the distance because lots of times mountains are home to creepy, “off the grid” types of people, who consolidate guns and want to kill officially elected representatives.

Click her to make Outlaw Mama’s version your ringtone.

I Hope You Dance

I Hope You Dance

Sesame Street or Sexy Street?

Is it just me or in this video from 1975, are Sesame Street actors Maria and David about to “do it”?

I came across this video because I let Sadie watch the iPad all night long when Jeff is out of town, when Sadie played it a few times while I was putting Simon to bed.  I finally sat down to watch it with her and, by God, it’s steamy.  I swear the side-burned David is about to jump Maria’s bones.  But for that loveable, furry cock-blocker Grover, those two would have definitely had sex.

Right?

I know it was the 1970s, but WTF?

Sweet Salvation

Man, I have a new lease on life now that I have accepted that early mornings are part of my life.  I popped out of bed at 5:59 AM when I heard Sadie– I was quick enough to intercept her before she stormed Simon’s room.  I was drunk with power and acceptance and it wasn’t even 6:00 AM.  I could already tell that letting go of sleep machinations was going to put some serious pep in my step.  I am almost certain that my new-found energy and vitality steered Sadie and me to an unexpected destination today that very well may have changed the course of our lives.  My first idea was for Sadie and I to spend some time together figuring out this whole Syria situation.  Then, I got a better idea.

Sadie and I spent 1.5 hours in the Salvation Army (hereinafter “SA”) today.  And every second was pure awesomeness.  It started out very prosaic: we dropped off some old clothes and books because I had a 30-minute period this Spring when I thought decluttering was the key to spiritual salvation.  (Turns out, it works better if you get those bulging bags out of your bedroom instead of tripping over them for 6 weeks.)  Rid of my 3 bags of clutter, I glanced at the two-story SA and thought that exact same thought that propelled lots of genius-y people to greatness: “Why not?”

The minute we walked in there, I sensed something in Sadie I haven’t seen before. She’s a born thrifter.

Mama's Lil Thrifter

Mama's Lil Thrifter (with Baby Hannah)

She was spotting treasures left and right, and may I just note that is not easy in a place packed with that much stuff.  We did great on the first floor looking at purses and hats.  I admit it: I wouldn’t let her touch anything.  She is also my child who is most likely to shove shit in her mouth so I had to keep my keen eagle-Mom eyes on her.

Then I saw it.  The crude black and white sign indicating that up one lowly flight of stairs one could wander through SA’s “bric a brac” section.  “Sadie, come on!”

Here’s how they should describe that section: “Heaven on Earth.”  We spent time among the books– we counted up to 15 copies of What To Expect When You Are Expecting. With the priciest books going for 1.99, I decided to indulge my book love with some treats for mama.  It’s almost as cheap as a library and just as dirty! Score.

Mama's cheap treats

Mama's cheap treats

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then, we found the toys.  Turns out Sadie has a sixth sense for finding treasure among junk.  She found a fully operational ATM machine toy. I wanted it so badly, but Sadie put the brakes on because it didn’t open.  (“But, Sadie! It talks! It lights up!”– “No, Mommy, put it down!”)  Sadie found a baby doll she wouldn’t let go of even to try out the Elmo scooter.  I figured we had plenty of time for her to lose interest and I could buy her something less…contaminated.  We wandered over to the toys, which, strangely, were located by the women’s plus-size under-garments.  It will be a while before I get some of those images out of my head.

Look what we got for Simon:

Gently Used Hoop

Gently Used Hoop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He’s going to flip his 15-month-old, 90th percentile head.  I can’t wait.  I swear I didn’t get it just to coerce him to say “Mommy.”  But hey, if it works, that’s a great use of my $7.00.

I couldn’t get out of there without the baby doll.  Before we ever got out of the toy section Sadie had named her Hannah.  I couldn’t very well let her leave without Hannah.  She has insisted on playing with Hannah for the rest of the morning, which means, no, I have not disinfected her in any way.  It’s disgusting; I am disgusting, but Sadie’s happy and I just console myself that it’s the same as when she goes to other people’s houses and plays with their stuff.  Right?

If you are detecting an air of superiority, you better f-ing believe it.  I can’t tell you how many times I have asked someone about their new wagon or playhouse or push toy only to be told that it was .50 cents, and it came from Craigslist.  I can’t do anything on Craigslist because it makes me want to rip out all of my internal organs: it’s too confusing, the merchandise I want is always in some suburb 50 miles away and there’s too many ads to comb through.  But tomorrow, when someone asks me where I got my basketball hoop, I will be such an ass about how I got it for $7.00 at SA.

Dinner At My House Last Night

5:00 PM CST

Jeff: What were you thinking for dinner?

Me: It’s all taken care of. I am marinating chicken; it’s the recipe I got from Erin last week.

Jeff: Delicious.

Me: So, we are having chicken, fresh cucumber and tomatoes, toasted pita, roasted asparagus and hummus.

Jeff: How did you make the hummus?

Me: Um. Make the hummus? I didn’t. I bought it with you at Stanley’s this weekend.

Jeff: Oh.

Me: <<<<<<picture fumes starting to rise from my head>>>>>>>>>>>

Me: Who makes hummus?  No one makes hummus; that’s why I bought it. I am not Israeli, you know. * (Admission: When we ate the delicious chicken at Erin’s, we did eat her homemade hummus.  She made it herself while hanging out with her 8-month old son and 2-year old daughter.) (Note to self: Get more slacker friends.)

Jeff: Making hummus is easy. I have done it a million times.

Me: Really? I have known you for 7 years; lived with you for about 4 and married to you for about 3.5 and I have never EVER tasted your “awesome hummus,” so you must have been really busy with your hummus-making right before I came onto the scene.

Jeff: I make great hummus, except for the time my favorite wooden spoon shattered when I was trying to crush sun-dried tomatoes into my hummus.  People said that batch was “chunky”.

Me: Yum.

*  *  *  *

6:00 PM CST

Sadie: I want a hot dog (from Costco).

Me: Sadie, we have a delicious feast waiting at home so we are not getting any food here at Costco.

Simon: Daddy! Daddy! Costco! Costco!  Antidisestablishmentarianism!

Jeff: Sadie, we are going to have Mommy’s chicken and some store-bought hummus.

[ASIDE: I am going to take a writing class for the specific and SOLE purpose of learning how to communicate to you, Dear Readers, the image of my head exploding combined with that awful screeching sound of a record needle scratching off a record so you will get the full import of Outlaw Mama's reaction to her Beloved Husband's treatment of the very hummus she bought in his presence.]

Me: Sadie, we can also nibble on the cold, steely, frigid air that will be circulating between Mommy and Daddy tonight if he makes one more comment about the hummus.

Jeff: And popsicles for dessert!

Me: It’s a good thing that the pavement told me to forgive yesterday.

* * *

Look at my perfect chicken, thanks to Erin, whom I forgive for her incorrigible over-achieving:

Perfectly seared chicken for a Middle Eastern feast

Delightful dinner

Delightful dinner with hummus on the right (foreground)

Morning Run; Guest Blogging

Sweet, Sweet Milwaukee Avenue @ Augusta

Sweet, Sweet Milwaukee Avenue @ Augusta

I love my morning run down Milwaukee Avenue before the rush hour traffic starts.  Every Monday, I follow the same intensely urban route to (group) therapy.  It’s one of my favorite times of the week (the run, not therapy).  I love feeling myself grow stronger every week (at running, not at therapy)– back in December, I was exhausted by the time I reached Chicago Avenue; now, I feel like I could sprint to Chicago Avenue from my house.

I have never been a nature girl.  Nature does not “speak” to me– I have tried listening to little birds chirping and mossy trees swaying to find answers to soul-deep questions.  I get nothing. Nada.  Maybe I get an occasional mosquito bite or a chigger (if I am romping around in Texas), but I don’t hear the whispers of nature singing the wisdom of ages.

I respond to tangible signs.  For example, if a graduate program fails to avail itself of my matriculation, I assume it wasn’t meant to be.  If a boyfriend moves away and doesn’t give me forwarding information, I will assume he has yet to consider me his “soul mate.”  If I find there is a Furla purse on sale in the exact color in which I need it, I will assume that the universe condones my consumerism and blesses the purchase.

This morning, I was thinking some unsettling thoughts and feeling less-than-my-charitable self, and I was noticing myself getting more and more tight (in my heart) as I ran.

Then, dear Nature lovers, I got myself a big, fat, capital S sign from the universe, suggesting a direction I might want to go.

Let Thoreau and his followers have their whippoorwills and their prairie grass. I will take the pavement any day. Yes, I almost got run over by the Milwaukee bus (and did ingest a near-toxic level of exhaust) to get this shot of inspiration to share with you, but I got it. Because I am a giver.

Outlaw Mama's Nature

Outlaw Mama's Nature

Message received, Asphalt; message received.

PS: If you find that you simply cannot get enough of my sagacious posts, come visit me this week at Vie Hebdomadaires (Daily Life), a cool project that features a different blogger every week.  This week: Outlaw Mama.  Come check it out!http://viehebdomadaires.wordpress.com/2012/04/23/new-views-and-embracing-limbo/