The Ugly, Stupid Truth About Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is supposed to be the day when our children and their fathers show us their appreciation for all we do. Except that (sorry for repeating an old cliche) motherhood is a thankless job. My children don’t have any idea how tiring, stressful, and isolating my job is, and why should they? They’re just kids. They have no frame of reference here. I can’t really expect my children to understand my struggles and give me the true thanks and appreciation I long to hear. Every once in a while my husband does acknowledge how difficult my job is, and I know he sees my weary face at the end of the day. But there is not any reasonable gesture within the normal realm of Mother’s Day pageantry that would carry the appropriate weight and magnitude to make me feel truly appreciated.

Bouquet

I mean, flowers? Seriously? To start, they are a huge waste of money, especially for something that is just going to die. In fact, they are already dying the minute you receive them. And most of the time they come in a bouquet, and that requires work. You have to find a vase, trim the stems, and dump in that stupid little packet of plant food so the flowers you killed will die a little more slowly. “Here, honey. I got you this beautiful bundle of death and a small project you don’t have the time or energy for. Happy Mother’s Day.”

Brunch

Oh, how ’bout brunch? Yeah, lets take two small children to a crowded restaurant where I will still be expected to breastfeed a squirming baby just inches from a hot cup off coffee and a plate of sticky pancakes, argue with my 4-year-old over eating just four more bites of flour and sugar before she can have desert, and endure the anxiety of wondering whether or not we are pissing off literally everyone around us. That sounds so relaxing!

Gift

Or maybe a gift? Yes, get me a gift I won’t use because I can barely wash my hair once a week, so forget switching out cute little handbags and putting on earrings. It will collect dust in my closet and silently remind me that I am a mere shell of my former self. Please, instead I’d love a housework tool disguised as a gift, like a new vacuum or bottle warmer. Men may complain about always getting a tie for Father’s Day, but Mother’s Day gift giving can fall into a similar rut. “Oh, thank you! I only have 5 just like this, and I really needed a 6th!” How thoughtful.

You know what I really want for Mother’s Day? Time and cooperation. I want the time and the freedom to reorganize our home that is slowly creeping away from a Pinterest board and toward an episode of Hoarders, so that I can function efficiently within it. I want to be able to start and finish a task without the looming fear of a baby that will wake at any moment. I want to be able to achieve something creative and exciting for myself, to be fulfilled by something that is solely my own.

I also want to be able to find things when I need them. I want to be able to say, “That spatula goes in this drawer,” and never again find it in a random cabinet in another room. I want to only say, “Put your shoes on,” one time for it to actually happen. Like any other good, well-meaning, but slightly disgruntled employee, I just want the barriers to doing my job well removed. At the end of the day, I just want to feel good at my job.

But does any of this mean that I don’t want to participate in the Mother’s Day tradition? Should my husband just ignore Mother’s Day altogether? Fuck no. I still want him to try. I still want to go to brunch because it’s an excuse to make myself look decent for once, and it might actually go well. Maybe the children will behave and I will actually finish my meal and my coffee while they’re still hot. Maybe afterward we’ll go frolic in a field of wildflowers and I’ll capture the perfect shot for my Instagram. It could happen.  I still want my husband to buy me a gift because maybe I’ll actually get a chance to use it — like when we go to brunch. Maybe he’ll come up with something different and thoughtful that truly shows how well he knows me. It could happen. Deep down I still want the Hallmark moment, even though my brain knows how faulty the logic of it all is.

Flower Girl

Who wouldn’t want to feel like this chick on Mother’s Day?

Do I feel like a total asshole for wanting my husband to take on the almost impossible task of not disappointing me on Mother’s Day? You betcha. I will stand before you and admit how hypocritical and irrational I am, but there it is. The ugly, stupid truth about Mother’s Day.

The Teal Pumpkin Project: No Pressure Man, But, Like, It Would Be Cool If You Did

The Teal Pumpkin Project: No Pressure Man, But, Like, It Would Be Cool If You Did

On my 30th birthday I got to go see Louis C.K. perform live with about 20 of my best friends from college. It was pretty sweet. At the end of his act, he did his now infamous “Of course… But maybe” bit about kids with nut allergies. We all laughed. I laughed. I felt ashamed, but I still laughed. Fast forward two years and that no good bitch karma caught up with me — my daughter was diagnosed with a peanut allergy.

After that, I did a 180. I went from feeling like a complete ban on peanuts at schools was overkill, to being so thankful it exists. While my daughter is well aware of her allergy, and will avoid anything she knows contains peanuts or peanut butter, she could easily mistake a peanut butter cookie for a sugar cookie and end up in a very scary situation. I know it sucks for everyone else. I get it. But it helps me feel much more at ease when I drop her off every morning. So I’m grateful to those who follow the rule, even if they do it begrudgingly.

I really hate being one of those moms – the allergy mom.

I really hate being one of those moms — the allergy mom. I have to bring it up at birthday parties, play dates, and restaurants. If you ask my husband, he’ll tell you that one of the most painful things for me to do is ask for special treatment. I don’t like asking for help, special favors, or to be made an exception. I hate to haggle. Just tell me the price, and I’ll pay it, because that’s fair to everyone. I know, I’m a wimp. So when I have to jump in as someone is handing my daughter a treat, “That doesn’t have peanuts, does it?!” I do a full body cringe and recoil shamefully. “Sorry,” I think to myself. “I’m not trying to be a pain.” But I do it because I have to. It’s a better alternative to spending 20 minutes begging her to take some Benadryl as a rash spreads across her cheeks, or even worse, having to stab her with her EpiPen.

I feel this way partly because allergy moms get such a bad wrap. Most of us are normal people, but then there are people like this asshat:

Allergy FlyerYou’ve probably seen this flyer already as it’s making its way across social media today. I can’t think of a worse way to get people on your side than to chastise them for giving out candy most people like and can eat. We took Biscuit trick-or-treating last year, and yeah, she got a few Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Snickers bars. But she also got plenty of Skittles, Starbursts, Hershey’s, and even a few small toys. When we got home, I said, “Ok, I need to go through your bag and remove all the best candy for my mommy stash stuff with peanuts in it.” You know what she said? “Yuck! I don’t like peanuts.” Devastated, she was not. She knows what peanuts do to her, so she’s totally cool with giving that stuff up. Whoever posted this flyer sounds like a narcissistic drama queen douche bag (pardon my French).

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This year, I heard about the Teal Pumpkin Project, and thought, “Hey, that’s cool!” We’re participating this year, and here’s how I did it: Step 1, I went to Target (enter at your own risk) and I bought a bunch of candy. I also bought a couple bags from the peanut and gluten-free section (yes, Target sells assorted allergen-free bags of non-gross candy in a very prominent and well-labeled section). Finally, I grabbed a bag of assorted mini Play-Dohs for kids that just can’t have candy at all. I also bought a pumpkin and a bottle of teal acrylic paint. Step 2, I painted the pumpkin teal (which was fun!) and placed it on my doorstep so the allergy parents know they can get some allergen-free stuff at my house. Pretty simple.

If you can grab some allergen-free candy or toys, that would be totally boss.

So here’s what I’ll ask: If you can grab some allergen-free candy or toys, that would be totally boss. it’s an easy way to show kindness to someone who has been deprived of the glory that is a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. Paint a pumpkin teal so we know where to find you. Or don’t. Maybe you just don’t have the time because, shit, you got a life of your own. That’s cool; we’ll knock on your door anyway.

Insurance Boss: Succulents

Succulents have somehow become the new, hip plant to have. So to no one’s surprise, the local Girl Scouts are selling succulents at today’s Forth of July festival. After hearing the announcement over the loudspeaker, Insurance Boss immediately quipped,

“I don’t know… I feel bad getting a succulent from a Girl Scout.”

I swear, he can make a dirty joke out of anything.

You’re Not Racist. You’re Just an Asshole.

You’re Not Racist. You’re Just an Asshole.

I’m going to go out on a long-ass limb here and do something crazy, possibly even stupid. I’m white, and I’m going to give my honest thoughts on how Americans deal with race (and gun control, and the minimum wage, and breastfeeding).

Three days a go, a 21-year-old white male attended a bible study in a church in Charleston, SC, and then shot and killed 9 innocent black men and women in attendance. Yesterday, my Facebook news feed was a self-righteous, indignant circle jerk of epic proportions. People are angrily pointing out the many injustices and inconsistencies in the way police, politicians, and talking heads are reacting to the shooting in Charleston. A particular 24 hour news network (whom I will not dignify by mentioning their name) has tried to paint this as an attack on religion instead of race, and people are pissed. The shooter was not physically harmed during his arrest, as compared to the many recent news stories of black suspects being injured or killed for much lesser crimes, and people are pissed. He is being called mentally ill, instead of a terrorist, and people are pissed.

I get it. You are a good person and therefore you are really pissed, and you want everyone one of your friends to know about it. You copied and pasted a snarky meme and posted it for all your friends to see. You caption it with, “#JustSayin”. You shared the obligatory John Stewart clip that comes out every time one of these things happens, and say, “He nails it every time.” Yep, he does. Or maybe you go so far as to post your thoughts on the situation with lots of generic demands for what the royal “we” should be doing. “We have to acknowledge that racism still exists in America. When are we gonna wake up?” (But you can’t go over Twitter’s 140 character limit that’s slowly deteriorating the intelligence of the human race.) You’re right. You’re so very right, and so very proud of your rightness.

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*Full disclosure: Everyone does this. I certainly have been, and will occasionally continue to be, one of these people.

I’m going to pause here and mention that one of my favorite movie lines is from the The Big Lebowski (shocker, I know). Walter and The Dude are arguing, and Walter asks, “Am I wrong?” The Dude responds with, “You’re not wrong, Walter. You’re just an asshole!” It’s such a fantastically universal concept. It applies to so many situations in life, and I feel the need to say it almost daily. The meaning is simple yet profound: Congratulations on being right. But where exactly does you being right get us? Being right isn’t necessarily helpful. Being right isn’t the goal.

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While all these angry, Facebook soapbox stomping people might be right, they’re not really doing anything to fix the problem. First of all, they are talking to a tiny, homogeneous audience. You think that because you repost some quick-hit, black and white statement where only your closest friends and acquaintances will see, you’re making a difference? Your 500 Facebook friends are literally the 500 people in the country most like you. Sure, you have a few friends with different skin colors and there’s that one guy from Oregon, but for the most part they all live in your extremely small and sheltered bubble. Even someone with as large an audience as John Stewart’s is still only preaching to the choir. Last time I counted, there were 319 million people in the United States. Only 1.3 million people watch the Daily show each week. (That’s 0.4% for those of you without a calculator handy.)

Do you think that little sociopathic turd with a bowl cut and a gun is one of them? Are his punk-ass, skinhead friends watching John Oliver every week, looking to expand their horizons? Fuck, no. They are sitting in one of thousands of dark, secluded, little pockets of hell that you and I never, ever reach because of the geographic, socio-economic, and cyber boundaries between us. These are the people you don’t even know exist. They are the “you don’t know what you don’t know” of people. But you’re still shocked when you’re reminded of their existence, and you think, “How can there be people who don’t think like me?!”

But more importantly, as right as the heroically indignant Facebookers all are, they are only right about the should. People love to get all hung up on the should. It’s so easy to stomp your feet and complain about how it’s not fair; how it should be. My boss should recognize the hard work I’m doing. My kids should listen when I tell them to clean their room. We should be able to all hold and hands and sing Kumbaya. Well, he doesn’t, and they don’t, and we can’t. Now what?

It should go without saying that in order to figure out the what, you have to figure out the difficult part, which is the whys. Oh, everyone thinks they know why. Within five minutes people were ranting and raving about what they think happened, and how we should have prevented it, and the whole world is going straight to hell. But the knee-jerk finger pointing and scrambling for political jabs that happens in the first 24 hours is not at all what I’m talking about.

If you want to talk about a complicated, controversial topic like this, and not sound like an idiot, you should keep a few things in mind:

We are trying to figure out the whys, not the why. So far I’ve heard the same three reasons given for what happened, and only one at a time. “He’s obviously deranged!” “His family taught him to be racist!” “He had easy access to that gun!” But anyone who responds to an incident like this with just one, straightforward explanation for why has essentially announced to the world, “I SPEAK BEFORE THINKING. I ACTUALLY HEARD THIS FROM SOMEONE ELSE, AND I’M JUST REPEATING IT, ‘CAUSE, YOU KNOW, IT SOUNDS GOOD TO ME.” Human beings are complicated creatures and there are multiple reasons for everything we do.

Take your boss, for example. He doesn’t give you the recognition you deserve. You work hard, and you still feel undervalued. It’s because your boss is an asshole, right? Or maybe it’s because his wife has cancer and he’s struggling to just get through day. Or because he has never managed people before and he hasn’t been given the feedback he needs. Or because all your coworkers work even harder than you do. Or because your boss has never had a good boss of his own to model good boss behavior. Or because he does know how hard you work, but he thinks you’re too cocky and he doesn’t want to make it worse. In reality, it’s probably some combination of these reasons or an infinite number of others, with each reason influencing your boss’s behavior more or less than the others. But it’s so much easier to just call him an asshole.

This shooting happened for many reasons, including the three above, plus a bunch more.

Everything exists on a spectrum. Resist the temptation to force everyone and everything into categories of either good or bad, black or white, up or down. That’s easy, and it’s lazy, and that is exactly what leads to the sweeping generalizations that got us into this mess. Entire groups of people don’t all possess the exact same characteristic to the exact same degree. I shouldn’t have to say that (there’s that should word), but I see people on both sides of an argument make the same mistake all the damn time, whether they’re talking about race or tax reform or cloth diapering.

The shooter told his victims that he had to do it because “[black people] rape our women.” Really? The 87-year-old woman at that bible study raped one of your women? Or did you hear about a black man who raped a white woman and just decide that all black people are rapists? There is also a difference between outright hatred so powerful that it drives a person to murder innocent people, and someone who occasionally makes unfair generalizations, but is aware of that tendency and makes a conscious effort to keep an open mind (watch this Louis C.K. clip for reference). But still, we flippantly call both of these things, and everything in between, “racist” without acknowledging the difference. Here, I’ll draw you a quick diagram with my badass PowerPoint skills:

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Be careful to avoid making these kinds of generalizations. Everyone does it sometimes (see Rainbow-Shitting Unicorn). But if you start a sentence with “white people” or “black people,” stop. You’re probably doing it wrong.

Shutting someone else down doesn’t mean you win. I saw this exchange yesterday:
A: *posts snarky one-liner meme she found on Tumblr*
B: “I don’t understand how you make that connection. Can you explain?”
A: “Well if you don’t understand it, then you’re part of the problem.”
Good job, A. You really showed him. He’s now completely converted over to your side.

You won’t figure it out, and that’s OK. “Say what?! No! We have to solve this. Right now. On Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr/Reddit.” One of the reasons we tend to oversimplify these issues is simply comfort. We can wrap our heads around one cause and we can feel confident about attacking a singular flaw in a whole group of people. We know what to do with that. Make x illegal. Raise awareness of y. Tell those assholes to stop doing z. But when we are forced to see just how complicated these issues are, we get very, very uncomfortable. We want every conversation to end with all our thoughts and feelings wrapped up in a pretty little package with a big red bow. So when we hear another perspective or argument that creates more questions than answers in our minds, we start to squirm. It’s called cognitive dissonance, and our brains don’t like it. So we block it out; we rationalize away those intrusive, inconvenient thoughts and stick with what feels safe.

This is probably the hardest thing to overcome. Fighting cognitive dissonance is such a subconscious act, it’s difficult to catch yourself doing it. But try going into a conversation knowing that you’re going to do it. Watch for it, wait for it. When someone says something that makes your pulse quicken and your palms get all nasty and clammy, it’s probably happening. Or maybe they are saying something so utterly stupid that you are about to fly into a hulkish rage. That’s possible, too. But figure out which it is before you also say something stupid.

I’m not saying that any of this is easy, or that I perfectly practice what I preach. Shit no, I don’t. But I try. This is the ideal I strive for. I try to remember the vast universe that lies outside my happy pocket of the world, and that there is so much I just don’t know. I do realize, for example, that this blog post probably won’t be seen by anyone outside my cozy little bubble. (But that’s because I haven’t done jack shit to expand my audience… or whatever.) But hopefully I’m doing my part by saying more than a little self-righteous indignation in 140 characters or less.

Does Anyone Want to See This?

Would you click on this article? Have you ever seen this? Would you scroll right past this?

Over the last year or two I’ve seen these kinds of photos and stories showing up in my newsfeed more and more frequently. At first I thought, “Wow, maybe this is becoming more mainstream and acceptable.” But it’s probably not. I probably see them because Facebook and Google consider me a prime target, and the more I click, the more likely I am to see others like it. Most likely, my perception of normalization being manipulated by (to misuse an extremely irritating buzzword) “big data”.

I’m curious. How many people have ever come across an article like this? Did you click on it? Why did you click or not click? If you did look, what did you think about it?

I have a theory that the only people interested are women who already look like this. I have a hard time imagining any of my flat-bellied, childless female friends having any interest. They probably think the same thing I did: “I won’t look like that after I have kids.” As for the guys, I imagine they’re response is something along the lines of, “I can’t fap to that!”

I know this makes my friends sound like a bunch of assholes. They are assholes. But I like them anyway, because I don’t think this is anything unique to just my group of friends. We’re all assholes in our own ways, about our own things. We’re all assholes about people and things we don’t understand.

You’ve been there. You think a certain movie is only for obsessive nerds. You think someone who says they’re depressed is lazy and just needs some exercise. You are disgusted by a body you see on the beach.

But then you watch that movie, and you actually like it. One day you find yourself unable to find the motivation to even shower, and wonder if you might be depressed. At some point later in life you look in the mirror, and suddenly realize you have that body.

It might not be you. It might be someone you love. But if you’re man (or woman) enough to admit the things you used to think, you feel like a real asshole.

The thing is, these pictures aren’t shared just for mothers. Yeah, it’s great that they can see other women who look like them. It always helps a little to know that you aren’t alone. But that’s not enough to give the average mother the courage to throw on a crop top and strut her stuff. Everyone else needs to see it, too. Everyone needs to get used to it and understand that this is actually very normal; it’s just always shamefully hidden away.

Don’t believe me? (“That’s not normal, right?”) There was a time when a woman was expected to completely hide her pregnancy. You never even saw baby bumps. There was a time when a gay man had to completely hide his sexual orientation. People thought homosexuality was a myth or some kind of bizarre cult. Have you ever seen Reefer Madness? People used to think that marijuana caused severe hillucinations and violence because they’d never seen it for themselves. And today, people think a woman with stretch marks and a saggy belly button is a fat-ass who needs to cover up and hit the gym.

So start working on reducing your asshole rating. Don’t skip over an article that you think isn’t meant for you. (“That Ebony article is only for black people.”) Don’t ignore causes you don’t have a personal connection to. (“I don’t know anyone with Autism, so I’m not going to walk.”) And don’t scroll past these pictures. (“Why would I look at a photo of a woman I can’t think about sexually?”)

And in case you were wondering, I’m certainly an asshole, and Karma’s a bitch. I know exactly how the young, flat-bellied me would have reacted. I would have looked at those pictures and thought, “Ugh! No one wants to see that!” But now, despite having reached my pre-pregnancy weight, despite my efforts to be the best mother I can be, and despite being what I consider to be way too young for old lady bathing suits, I’ll never wear a bikini again. Because I know the truth: No one wants to see that.

The Only Easy Thing About 3-Year-Olds

Have you ever played Hide and Seek with a 3-year old?

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It’s honestly the only thing about having a 3-year-old that is actually easy.

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In fact, you will probably have to remind them not to tell you where they are. As if that even matters.

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3-year-olds are actually a lot like cats. “I can’t see you, so you can’t see me.”

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I recommend this activity to anyone who’s had a hard day at work and just wants to feel smart for a change.

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Unfortunately, it won’t always be this adorably easy.

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Biscuit and the Black Guy

2014-10-20 08-51-35-510Since the day she was born I have dreaded Biscuit’s first “from the mouths of babes” moment. You know, when they repeat something they heard at home that was not intended for anyone else to hear. (“Mommy says Uncle Mike is a deadbeat.”) Or maybe they share a too personal piece of information. (“Daddy only likes the toilet paper with the lotion in it!”) I’ve been very cautious about what we say around her, and I frequently remind Insurance Boss that words like “douche bag” can be repeated after only a single introduction. So we were completely caught off guard when her first act of mortification was something she came up with all on her own.

Biscuit is a very social little girl and will talk to just about anyone, including the pizza delivery man. In fact, every time we order a pizza she runs to the door and comes up with something, no matter how insignificant, to tell her unsuspecting victim. Fortunately, they are usually good sports and respond with an encouraging, “Wow, that’s so cool!” So the other night when the doorbell rang, she came running right behind me. She stepped into the doorway, looked up at the delivery man, and excitedly exclaimed,

“I found a new show, see! It has the black guy!”

She was pointing at the TV screen where she had just turned on a game show for kids, who’s host was – you guessed it – a black guy. From this statement, it was obvious that the “black guy” was a major point of interest for her. It was a defining characteristic of the show and how she’d chosen to name it, since she hadn’t caught the show’s actual name. It sounded as if this “black guy” were a new, rare, fascinating species she had never encountered before.

The delivery man’s response was silent, open-mouthed, and wide-eyed. I froze, embarrassed and bewildered. I had never heard her refer to anyone that way. What I love about her pure, literal, 3-year-old view of the world is that people are just people. She sees things exactly as they are with no learned biases or nuances. I was certain that if I had pointed to any human being and said that person was “black”, she would have corrected me immediately and said their skin was brown or pink or even gray. So where the hell did this come from?

I could feel the blood rushing to my face, and I blurted out some mumbling, fumbling garbage like, “I don’t think she meant – that – like that – I…” In order to avoid making a big deal out of what she’d just said (at least not yet), I calmly looked down at Biscuit, assumed ignorance, and said, “The black guy? What do you mean? Show me.” Instead of pointing at the face of the host on the TV screen, she grabbed the Apple TV remote, hit the Menu button, and pointed at the show’s icon.

 

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There it was: a human figure that was, literally, black.