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.

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.

Drawn and Quartered: Why I Quit Being a Working Mom

Drawn and QuarteredI considered naming my blog Drawn and Quartered, because that’s how I would describe being a working mom – like each of my limbs were being pulled in a different direction in one of the most brutal forms of execution ever devised (I have a penchant for the hyperbolic). I loved my daughter. I loved my husband. I loved my job. And I was failing all of them.

OK, I wasn’t actually failing any of them, but I felt like they were all getting my B level effort. My daughter was in day care for 10 hours a day, 5 days a week. I did the math in my head all the time. After subtracting sleeping, commuting, and time spent at work, I was spending less time with my family than I was with my coworkers and clients, some of whom were certifiable. When I was at work, I was thinking about my family. “We need to get serious about potty training. There is so much laundry to do. I need to cook more. We aren’t eating healthy enough.” When I was at home, I was thinking about work. “I need to find a way to get in to work earlier in the morning. I need to do more outside of my client work. I need to show that I deserve the promotion I was just given. More is expected of me now. Am I being judged for leaving the cocktail hour to see my daughter before she goes to bed?” B level effort – there was so much more to be done.

I don’t like getting Bs, especially when I know I’m capable of more. During one semester of undergrad, I accepted a C in Biology so I could focus on getting an A in Calculus. It was better to relieve myself of the obligation to Biology, (who the hell needs to memorize the Krebs Cycle anyway?), and get my A in Calculus, than to work myself into a stress-induced coma only to walk away with two Bs.

So in March of this year, I quit my job. Not like a Jerry Maguire “Who’s comin’ with me?!” kind of quit, but more of a teary, “I’m so sorry!” kind of quit. It was so much harder to cut my employer loose than my thick-German-accented, jerk of a Biology professor. I really did cry, which made me feel embarrassed, unprofessional, and stereotypically feminine. I tried so hard to hold it in. I started off diplomatic and matter of fact. But my boss was so incredibly understanding, proud even, that I couldn’t help it. He told me that he thought what I was doing was brave. BRAVE?! That thought had never occurred to me.

I assumed that what I was doing was selfish and weak. Here I am, after generations of women have had to fight for the right to have a career, I’m throwing it away. I’m choosing to stay at home and care for my family. I’m choosing to spend my time on my own terms, and maybe even a little bit on myself. How dare I? How dare I put the full financial burden on my husband? How dare I abandon my employer, who praised me, promoted me, and needed more from me? How dare I waste the MBA I’d just spent two years to get? So what if I’m stressed? Isn’t everyone? Is B-level effort really so bad? Everyone else can do it, why can’t I?

But it’s not like one day I just threw my hands up and said, “I give up.” It was an extremely difficult decision. I spent months worrying about the repercussions. Despite my husband’s pushing me toward it, I worried that he would resent me for quitting. I worried that my friends and family would come to see me as a lazy housewife, lying on the couch all day eating bonbons. I worried that I would get bored. Grocery shopping, wiping up spilled milk, and watching 3-year-olds on the playground didn’t sound nearly as challenging and exciting as management consulting (granted, that depends on who you ask!). “What if no one will hire me once I decide to go back to work? What if I don’t live up to my own expectations? What if I’m not as good at all this as I want to be? What if I change my mind???”

In the end, this is what I wanted to do. The guilt was consuming me, and I needed it to stop. This is what I needed to do to be happy, now. I suppose I could have spent another decade of my life forcing myself to be OK with B-level effort, but so far I haven’t been successful. (If anyone has been successful changing a long ingrained, potentially inherited personality trait, please let me know!) I’d rather look back on my life and know that I always did what I needed to do in order to be happy at that moment, instead of making decisions that I hoped I’d be happy with in the future.

I still struggle with those fears. But overall, I am happier. I am a better mother. I am a better wife. And some day, when I’m read, I’ll be a better – whatever I wanna be when I grow up. I trusted my gut. I suppose that making the decision that makes me happy, in spite of all the fears I had, is brave.

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I braveheart. I am.

A Totally Basic Guide to Halloween

Halloween is no joke. It’s go big or go home. I put hours and hours into piecing together my costume every year. That’s the fun part. If you are one of the people who just buys a costume every year, you are missing the point. However, if you insist on being completely lame, I’ve created a quick, handy guide just for you. Feel free to print it, laminate it, and tuck it just inside your Uggs (because your legging don’t have any pockets, duh!).

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All basic costumes are not created equal; some are basic-er than others. Here are a few of the worst offenders:

“Classics” (a.k.a. Generics)

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Here’s a test: If you are telling someone about your costume, and you say, “I’m going to be a ________,” you’ve probably picked something basic. A firefighter. An astronaut. A nurse. A pirate. A bore.

These costumes are particularly painful to see because with just a couple of small tweaks they could easily be used as the foundation for a specific, original costume. Don’t just be a criminal – add a name tag and a wig and be Piper Chapman from Orange is the New Black. Don’t just be a priest – cary a pan of ziti and be Father Intintola from The Sopranos. Don’t just be a rockstar – tie one arm behind your back and be Rick Allen.

90% Sex / 10% Costume

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I’m going to go out on a limb here (but honestly, not a very long limb) and say that sexy costumes are not inherently a bad thing. Do women use Halloween as an excuse to dress a little (or a lot) sluttier than they normally would? Absolutely. Is that a crime? No, not really. I mean, I get it. Everyone wants to be hot sometimes. Everyone wants to know that if they wanted to they could reveal all they’ve got, and they’d get a positive response. Halloween is one night a year to get that validation, and then go back to life as usual. So go for it. Wear a tight bodysuit and a push-up bra.

But don’t forget to have a brain, too. There are way, way, way too many costumes that are far more about the sex, and not enough about the costume. They don’t even remotely resemble what they’re supposed to be. That’s not a peacock. It’s a peacock themed cocktail dress. You’re a panda, huh? I didn’t know pandas shaved that much of their body. Oh, you’re a bag of Skittles? It’s been a while since I’ve had some, but I don’t remember them having tits and ass. Wait, let me guess: You’re a unicorn! It was the white thigh-highs that gave it away. Unicorns always wear thigh-highs.

Hey, you know what’s better than a hot chick? A hot chick with brains and a sense of humor. So put in a little effort and come up with something that shows off who you are and what you’ve got.

Humor in a Bag

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I think there is a male version of the “sexy ______” costume, though fortunately less prevalent. You can find them in the Humor section at Spirit. If you are completely void of original humor, but you want people to think you’re “the funny guy,” you can pick one of these. They usually involve a pun and/or a reference to genitalia. Also, farts.

Ears and a Tail Do Not a Costume Make

Ears and a Tail“I’m a cat!”

“I’m a devil!”

“I’m a bunny!”

“I’m a fox!”

No. You are just YOU in a tight dress.

“But I even drew on whiskers!”

No. Just no.

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Last Year’s Jokes

Last Years JokesBe careful with topical humor. If it was really funny last year, it will be super lame this year. So don’t even think about it. However, if you really want to plan ahead, you can buy it now and hang onto it for a decade. When you pull that thing out of nowhere in 10 years it will be HILARIOUS.

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In fact, it has been scientifically proven that the funniness of social and political references follows this basic pattern:

Topical Costumes

So go forth and dress up. Make the most of the best holiday of the year.

#Neverforget… What?

Yesterday was September 11th, again, and Facebook, Twitter, Instachat, Snapder, Tindagram, and every other publisher of unfiltered, self-serving drivel was filled with people instructing everyone else to #neverforget. But for the life of me I don’t know what the hell they mean by that, and I’d bet most of them don’t know either. My guess is that most people posting a pic of the lights in lower Manhattan with a #neverforget caption are just checking the box of a perceived social obligation. “OOH! I should post a pic of my first pumpkin spice latte of the year! [Sees the date on iPhone home screen] Oh, shit. It’s September 11th. Ok, I’ll make a 9/11 post real quick so I don’t look like an asshole. Then the latte.”

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Never forget… What exactly? Why should we never forget? Is never forgetting different from always remembering? Is nothing sacred? Do you have to use that horrendous hash tag?

When I see the words “Never Forget” on the back of a massive pickup truck, I assume that it means, “Never forget the dirty [insert slur involving towels, camels, and/or sand here] who did this. We gonna make ‘em pay! [spits into dip cup]” Do some people literally mean, “Hey, don’t forget! I know you almost completely forgot that that happened, and you wouldn’t have remembered if I hadn’t reminded you.” Excuse me, but what the fuck?! I’m insulted that you think I actually need to be reminded. No one is going to just forget. “Oh, yeah! That World Trade Center thingy. Didn’t a bunch of people die or something?” No. Not gonna happen.

The only other thing I can think of is that it is somehow related to grief and guilt. I’ve learned a lot about grief lately. Not my own; I’ve been fortunate enough to not have lost anyone very close to me. But I’ve been working my way through Nate Bennett’s new book, Shannon’s Gift, and I’ve watched the first season of HBO’s The Leftovers (both of which I would highly recommend). Shannon’s Gift is a very raw, intimate window into Bennett’s grief and recovery after suddenly losing his wife. The Leftovers takes place three years after 2% of the world’s population suddenly vanishes, and it focuses on the people of a small Long Island town who are all grieving in their own ways.

A theme that shows up in both Shannon’s Gift and The Leftovers (which is based on a book of the same name) is the internal conflict of never forgetting and always remembering. It goes something like this: You are miserable because of your loss, but you want to be happy. The one you lost would want you to be happy, so you feel guilty for not being happy. But as soon as you do feel happy, you also feel guilty because happiness looks and feels like forgetting. You don’t want to forget, out of respect for the one you lost, and because there was so much good to remember about them. So now you’re feeling guilty and miserable again. It’s a shitty cycle to be stuck in.

Is that what we’re doing? Are we circling back around? Is it like hanging garlic on our door to keep the guilt away? “Never forget. Don’t move on completely. Continue to feel some amount of pain. You’re not allowed to not feel some pain. I haven’t forgotten. I’m not a bad person. I still hurt. I have to.” What about the people who actually lost someone in the attacks? Not a second cousin or a coworker, but a spouse or a child – someone who truly left a gaping hole in their heart. They aren’t free to grieve in their own way. The entire country is grieving for them. And I don’t mean “for them” to mean that we are empathetic. I mean the country is literally grieving for them – taking their place and forcing the grief to take a certain manifestation. Some people like to grieve in private. Some people want to take that date of the year back and be able to enjoy it. Some people may think the date itself holds no real significance; it’s just an arbitrary marking of time. But we say, “Nope. You will grieve on September 11th every year. We will hold ceremonies that we expect you to attend. We will remind you to never forget, because if you do forget, you are a bad person. We can’t let that guilt fully escape you.”

The only way to avoid it is to stay inside with everything turned off. In The Leftovers, a cult called The Guilty Remnant forms. The group’s entire purpose is to not let anyone forget about “The Great Departure.” They essentially torture people with heart-wrenching reminders, not just of the event as a whole, but also of each individual’s loss. They punish themselves as well by abandoning their families and possessions. They wear all white and chain smoke “to proclaim [their] faith.” As I saw the #neverforget hash tags popping up in my news feed, I couldn’t help but picture the author staring at the computer screen in all white, with a cigarette hanging out of their mouth.

leftovers

Not only do we tell these poor people to never forget, we make them relive it. Radio and TV stations love to replay their coverage minute by minute, exactly as it happened on that day. How massively fucked up is that?! If you received a phone call one day to tell you that your wife was dead, would you want to hear a recording of that phone call over and over again? What if you had to avoid radio and TV every year on that day because they were all broadcasting that phone call? It’s a sick kind of torture for these people, but we don’t even think about that. We just like to watch the train wreck over and over again.

I know that people have good intentions when they talk about 9/11. I don’t think anyone is maliciously trying to hurt people. But when you type the words “never forget”, I challenge you to think about what exactly it is you want everyone, and yourself, to remember. Be bold and say whatever it is you really mean. If there’s some lesson to be learned, say it. But don’t just throw out an obligatory, vapid phrase that isn’t even a complete thought. Never forget… What?

The Bubble Struggle Is Real

Bubbles are the greatest thing to ever happen to a 2-year-old… As long as she can do it herself, which she can’t. And because she can’t, bubbles are the most evil invention known to man.

When a child sees bubbles, even if she’s seen them ten thousand times, all other things in life lose their meaning. Slides and swings are abandoned. Temper tantrums are forgotten. Fruit snacks are cast aside like boiled brussel sprouts. Bubbles are fun. Bubbles are magical. Bubbles are a huge pain in my ass.

When your kid starts showing interest in bubbles, you naively go buy a simple, small bottle with a traditional bubble wand. You picture yourself blowing bubbles while your little one runs and giggles with pure, sugary delight. But the reality is that as soon as you open that bottle and pull the wand out, your toddler will shout, “I wanna do iiiiiiiittt!!!!” She’ll grab for the wand, pouring half the bottle of bubble liquid in your lap. Congratulations. Your pants are wet and soapy and your kid has quickly elevated from Level 1: Calm to Level 2: Agitation. You think, “Ok, I’ll let her try. She blew out her birthday candle. She can do this.”

You hand her the wand, and she immediately sticks it in her mouth. Now she’s spitting, wiping her tongue, and crying, all at a Level 3: Distress. You try several times to show her how to do it, but she either can’t blow hard enough or insists on holding the wand at forehead level. Either way, not a single bubble is produced. She’s approaching Level 4: Hissy Fit and you’ve had enough. So you take a risk and tell her, “Let mommy blow some bubbles and you can pop them!” This suggestion sends her into full-on, red alert Level 5: Seething Tantrum, and as she flails on the floor, kicking your shins, the remaining bubble liquid seeps stickily into the space between your toes.

My kids like bubbles

After you’ve recovered from this incident, you get the brilliant idea that what you need is a battery powered bubble blower. You start with something small and hand-held but it only works for five minutes before crapping out. Those first five minutes are glorious and gratifying. But they aren’t worth the disappointment and tears you’ll have to quell. For anyone who hasn’t been through this yet, I will save you from the long, arduous discovery process: there is not a single battery powered bubble blower in existence that will actually function properly for any significant period of time. If there was, every single parent would own one. They’d be handed out at the hospital as part of your take-home kit along with diapers, wipes, and your trial pack of formula.

I recently reached a point where I was completely ready to give up on bubbles. And then I found the Melissa & Doug Sunny Patch Bella Butterfly Bubble Blower. (Christ, that’s a long name.) It has a mouth piece on it so there can be no mistake about where to blow. (That’s what she said.) And BISCUIT CAN DO IT!!! Halle-fucking-lujah, she can do it!

As it turns out, the damn thing is also a pathetic attempt at a musical instrument. It makes a horrific whistling sound that is just one octave below a dog whistle.

But at least she’s happy.