Sometimes we need to take a look at the signs we see every day. Are we missing the message?
Not since my youth have I had anyone resembling a sassy gay friend. In fact, I doubt I knew that the sharply-dressed-neatly-manicured-makeup-wearing-best-dancer-in-our-group guy was a sassy gay friend.
Sure, he was sassy. I liked the way he purred the word sass-ay. He was a friend. But did I realize he was gay? Probably not.
There was so much gender bender stuff going on in the ’80s, how was a girl supposed to keep straight who was gay, straight or on both sides of the coin? So many guys were wearing makeup, spraying their hair and wearing puffy shirts and tight pants. Some of the best dance clubs in town were inside gay bars. You’d think standing next to two guys locking lips would give me some insight. But how could I be sure they really were two guys? Sometimes it was two women who looked like men. Sometimes one was a man, the other a woman, and each looked like the opposite.
I’m fairly certain I was born without gaydar. It’s hereditary. My parents inadvertently subjected me to a weekend vacation at a gay resort. Not that there’s anything wrong with a vacation at a gay resort. It’s just that the other guests at the darling bed and breakfast on Cape Cod seemed a bit — puckered and clenched — by the idea that Clark Griswold and clan were sleeping on those 2,000 thread count sheets. I’m sure we threw the whole aesthetic out of whack.
I have one gay not-so-sassy acquaintance who has given me an earful about all sorts of things I’d never have the nerve to ask someone who is gay. So, that’s been helpful. But would he advise me on the right jeans to purchase? Would he declare my landscaping trailer park? Would he slap the knife out of my hand?
Where are you, Sassy Gay Friend?
… always a workaholic?
Is this true?
Until a little more than three years ago, I worked full-time outside the home. When I wasn’t working full-time, my schedule was a combination of full-time school and part-time work.
To those who work full-time it may seem like a dream to be home for three years. At first, I thought so, too. I allowed myself big blocks of time to get caught up on TV shows and movies, to nap when my baby napped, to go on long walks. We went away on long weekends and enjoyed life to the fullest.
Then, the guilt began creeping in. Most of it self-induced. I realized I didn’t exactly feel comfortable with an unstructured life. I needed deadlines and commitments to get things done. Somehow having every day of the week to go to the zoo or the park made it less special.
Now, I have filled almost every block of time in my week with something, whether it’s time for work (when it comes my way), volunteer commitments, working toward personal goals, and the ever-present house and yard work and child care. It’s like I dread an unplanned expanse of time.
When I worked full-time, I was famous for bringing my work home, taking on projects, staying late, and coming in on weekends. I suppose in the beginning it was designed to get ahead. In the end, it was a curse. It did not lead to promotions. It led to more work because I was known as the go-to person for this stuff.
It’s easy to blame all this on my upbringing. My mother and father always kept busy. They didn’t allow their children to wile away an afternoon. If you were home, you were upright and holding something with a handle: a broom, a rake or a paintbrush. If you were caught empty-handed, you were given a broom or a rake or a paintbrush.
In some regards, I’m glad they passed on to me this work ethic. (I wish I could pay it forward to my children. Direct requests are always a battle. teaching by example only seems to work with my preschooler.)
Yet, I wonder sometimes why I deny myself basic pampering and selfish “me” time. I’ve literally been at the salon or in a bookstore and felt the weight of guilt bear down on me so heavily I have the urge to flee.
Is there hope for me?
This post brought to you by the lovely Brenda and Flog YoBLogFriday. Click on over and enjoy:
PROMPTuesday No. 99 from San Diego Momma:
Judge me for being an anonymous blogger.
Judge you for caring.
Judgment of Divorce: Many years ago I stood in court in my best suit and heels and swore before a judge that I’d follow the word and letter of my divorce decree. That meant taking care of my child, contributing 50 percent to her care and keeping, and splitting physical custody down the middle. For anyone who’s had to do this, there is no middle in a seven-day week. Someone ends up with the short straw. For seven years, that was me.
Judge me for it.
I took the very great risk that forging a new life alone would be better in the end than staying in a toxic relationship. I was judged harshly. I lost friends. My ex-husband’s family shunned me for years and spread lies about me to anyone who would listen.
Judge me. Walk in my shoes. Then I’ll judge you.
As a single mother I walked a very narrow line. There were some things I just didn’t do for fear of losing my child.
I lived in fear of judgments. I dreaded decrees.
I didn’t drink. I worked two jobs at times to have more than enough money to keep us comfortable. I was careful who I had over my apartment. Although I did date, I was discreet. My dates never occurred during my parenting time. Only once did I hire a babysitter when I was a single mother.
Even though I’ve been remarried for almost 10 years, I am still a divorced parent. I cannot shake that. I have an ex-husband who may or may not want to take me down.
Having this blog is a risk. The only way it works is to keep myself anonymous.
When we moved to our neighborhood 10 years ago, many of the Old Guard were still around, including the couple across the street. They were God-fearing, country-loving, gun-toting Americans. They liked just about everyone, provided that they were white, heterosexual and didn’t talk with any kind of funny accent.
One real estate transaction at a time our inner-ring suburb has given over to a New Order — gay couples, artists and musicians, alternative lifestyle families, and what some would call the fringe element of society. Oh, there are normal families, too, but no one pays attention to them.
My first meeting with one of our Old Guard neighbors was when the woman of the house across the street hauled herself onto my porch, leaned on the doorbell and then craned her neck through the doorway to get a look-see inside while asking: “So, that guy that lived in your house, was he a queer or what?”
I told her that it was nice to meet her, what was her name by the way? I said I was sorry I must have overlooked the paperwork at the closing that addressed the former owner’s sexual identity.
“How much you pay for this place? You might as well tell me, I’m gonna look it up in the paper anyway.”
Clearly, we were off to a good start.
Over the next few years, the only time I heard from her (other than when she needed me to sign for a package or collect her mail) was when she had some juicy observation about the goings-on in my house.
“Those contractors you hired? They ain’t getting paid by the hour are they? ‘Cause they sit around a lot when you’re not home.” She whispered to me as we passed each other in the bread aisle at the local grocery store.
“Does your husband work? Seems like he’s home most days.” She said under her breath after a hasty grab-and- thanks for taking in her mail.
One day I told her I didn’t like the anti-gay slurs she was using around my daughter, who was in elementary school at the time. I’ll never know if calling her out on the trash talk or her declining health stopped her from ever speaking to me again, but that was the end of our odd little relationship. She died last year. The house now stands empty.
Since the big house has a large deck, a pool and a pool house, it attracts a lot of house hunters. But it also seems to spit them out as fast as it draws them in. I was curious about this. One morning last fall, I saw a woman I’d just met a few weeks earlier leaving the house after a walk-through. I called out her name and invited her over for coffee. Not only did she give me the details on the house (in need of major renovation) and the family (unwilling to negotiate a sale price), but she also unwittingly opened a Pandora’s Box.
My new friend has no idea her house hunting adventure released my inner spy. My new hobby is to watch each walk-through and open house I happen to catch. I look to see who’s interested. I make note of details. I time their visits. (The average time is five minutes before the house hunters flee.) I say it’s because I’d like a young family to move in.
The other day, as I stood in the shadows of our living room, I delivered a play-by-play to my husband:
“They’ve been in there for more than five minutes. They are either dead or they like it.”
“Oh my god. She touched, no, she stroked, the mailbox. I wonder if that’s a good sign? ”
“I think they are sisters. No, wait, I think they are partners.”
Naturally my husband is worried. We’ve been here 10 years. Are we now the Old Guard? Maybe my late neighbor’s spirit flew out of her body and lodged in mine while I was asleep.
Is it so bad that I keep binoculars in the kitchen? That my ears perk up at the sound of car doors slamming?
He issued a warning the other day when he fond me crouched behind the curtains, peering out at a young couple entering the house.
“If you start wearing muumuus and ordering from QVC, I may have to divorce you.”
Happy St. Patrick’s Day.
I almost forgot.
I’m a Mick by birth. I hope this doesn’t earn a black mark on my permanent record.
I remembered after I’d dressed this morning — in khaki and a multi-colored top that had only one trace of green in it — that I needed to wear green today. I rooted through my jewelry box until I found a rarely worn necklace with green beads. I added that and a green tank top to my ensemble and declared myself celebratory.
Irish is big around here. It’s big in a way that encourages drinking, spending money and acting crazy. We have a few annual parades organized by Irish cultural groups, but that is the extent of ethnic recognition.
As I ran my errands this morning, I noted the number of green-clad revelers wobbling along the pavement as they hopped from pub to pub. (I hope they gave their young livers notice that they would be working double-time today.)
As the descendant of Irish immigrant dairy farmers who settled on the flatlands along the Detroit River, I grew up proud of my roots. My father made a big deal out of March 17. If we didn’t make it to the annual parade, we at least had corned beef and cabbage for dinner. My mother baked several loaves of soda bread. We all wore green. My dad would drink too much beer and sing “Danny Boy.”
When I studied American history in college, I was shocked, devastated really, to learn that the Irish were not embraced upon their arrival in the United States. They were despised and treated poorly. It dulled some of the shine on my Irish pride. Since those days, aside from giving my oldest daughter an incredibly Irish name, I’ve not done much to embrace my Irish.
In fact, in the last decade, I’ve almost ignored the day altogether.
I confess: I don’t like corned beef and cabbage.
I don’t like Guinness.
I’m not a fan of “Riverdance.”
I don’t know all the words to “Danny Boy.”
I don’t even like shamrock shakes.
This is what happens when you decide to save money on a decorator and do it yourself.
First, you try to update your existing blog template and end up taking out a load-bearing wall. Oops.
Next, you decide to pack up and move to an apartment while the repairs are under way.
At the walk-through, you fall in love with scenic view, the simplicity of the layout, and the freedom and flexibility to upgrade and redecorate. So, in a moment of passion, you sign the lease.
On the big day, you slide the key into the lock, turn the knob and step into your new home and — it’s all wrong.
Somehow the great view was a trick. The mountain vista is really a pile of trash covered in moss. None of the outlets or appliances work. The doors stick. The landlord won’t return your calls.
You’ve invested money in custom paint, rugs and window treatments.
So, you have a dilemma: Don’t unpack, cut your losses and keep looking for a new home, or make the best of it, hire a professional to fix the problems.
I’ll be deciding in the next week whether to stay or go. Bear with me here.
On a related note, there is also some trouble with the phone lines in Blogville.
I’m unable to comment on some of my favorite blogs because the comment system locks me out.
In one case, I don’t know what the frick is wrong. I’ve upgraded my site, made adjustments, and so have they. Yet, my words are trapped in some comment limbo.
Some of it is my doing. I have three Google e-mails. So, if I comment using the Google/Blogger ID system, I’ll be identified either as MOM without the accompanying URL link to explain it is MomZombie and not the woman who gave birth to you, or MY REAL NAME (not an option and you still wouldn’t know it’s me), or a string of numbers that will make no sense to anyone outside my family.
For whatever reason, I cannot comment using the Open ID system or by selecting WordPress. There aren’t enough hours in the day to resolve these issues.
The best way for me to comment on a Blogger blog is to select the NAME/URL option, which many of you provide as an option. Thank you. Whether or not you want to adjust this for little ol’ me is up to you. But consider this: There may be others out there who love your blog, too, but cannot comment due to these restrictions. And you may not know it unless they take the time to send you an e-mail or a message through Twitter.
So, there it is. There are bugs in the walls. There are leaks in the pipes. Yet, in spite of all these inconveniences I keep blogging.
I must be crazy.
Green is good, right?
My daughter’s school is a Green School because it recycles and uses energy-efficient lightbulbs. My community is green because it collects our yard waste and gives it back to us as compost.
I am green. It’s not so good.
I’m a pot threatening to boil over with jealousy.
Jealous of my always-thin friends with their frequent flyer miles and their gifted children.
Jealous of my Facebook friends who post excessively about their good lives:
- Going to the spa today for a much-needed day of pampering.
- Look at the bling my hubby surprised me with — isn’t he cute?
- Sipping cocktails on the beach at sunset.
Jealousy or craving or desire or whatever label you want to slap on it. I have it and I don’t like it at all.
It gets so that it’s all I can focus on: Let’s see who else has what I don’t have.
Last year at this time we were preparing for a weeklong vacation in Arizona. We had a great week of playing, eating and drinking in a desert oasis. While we could barely afford the vacation, we agreed we needed it to get a break from the gloom, despair and stress of life in Detroit. We took two other small trips on the cheap last year just to recharge our batteries. The thing is, the gloom hasn’t lifted. The batteries are always running low on juice. The finances have not been fruitful and multiplied.
This year I am stressing out my husband and myself with my endless litany of wishes and desires:
Let’s take a vacation. Let’s just get away for a weekend. Let’s go out to dinner. Let’s get play tickets. Let’s plan a road trip this summer.
There is no vacation on the horizon. We have an idea of one we want to take but the reality is we don’t know if it is financially possible or responsible at this point. We are in deep waters paddling to stay afloat. We see the horizon over the high waves and we intend on keeping it in our sights.
So we soldier on, despite sore limbs, aching muscles and that damned unrelenting craving for the good life.
I try to soothe myself by saying: Maybe in my next life I’ll be rich and beautiful.
Then I think: Maybe in my next life I’ll be living in a Third World country — as a dung beetle.
I’ve always suffered from excess envy. My parents were frugal and penny-pinching. As an adult I’ve generally made enough money to get by but not enough to ever be indulgent. I had one good decade in which I could splurge and just get a taste of what the good life might be about.
When I agreed to quit my amazingly well-paying job with great benefits to become a stay-at-home mother, I clearly was under the influence of strong intoxicants.
Even though I know I did the right thing, “right” doesn’t always feel good on the inside. It doesn’t taste as sweet as “easy.”
I wish I could flush this excessive craving from my system. I do know I have many things for which to be thankful and I need to focus on that more than the many things I do not have. I know material things do not guarantee happiness. I know it. I know that my own personal peace and happiness have come from things that cannot be bought. They’ve come from months and months of practice and dedication. I know I don’t need all the things I crave. The craziest part of all? I know I would be even happier with less.
Why can’t I be happy for everyone for their great good fortune? Why must I simmer in my juices of anger and envy when someone else has something I do not?
This is my great challenge.
It’s an ash-colored morning, typical of late February in Michigan. I’m steering my car down the Interstate, dodging potholes and icy patches, heading into downtown Detroit. I’m on my way to a training session to be a literacy tutor. I should feel excited, inspired and enthusiastic. Instead, my soul is as dirt-flecked as the roadside snow. I need a sea change. I tap the CD player button on my dashboard and release the sweet notes of this ditty:
Hey little apple blossom
what seems to be the problem
all the ones you tell your troubles to
they don’t really care for you
Come and tell me what you’re thinking
cause just when the boat is sinking
a little light is blinking
and I will come and rescue you
Lots of girls walk around in tears
but that’s not for you
you’ve been looking all around for years
for someone to tell your troubles to
Come and sit with me and talk awhile
let me see your pretty little smile
put your troubles in a little pile
and I will sort them out for you
I’ll fall in love with you
I think I’ll marry you
–The White Stripes, “Apple Blossom,” De Stijl. 2000
This song parts clouds. It turns gray to blue. It radiates sunshine. It coaxes buds into bloom. It’s simple, sweet, perfect.
I twist the volume knob to loud. I hit replay two, three, four times. I belt out the lyrics.
If ever I had the guts to sing karaoke, this would be my song.
If the universe is sending a message, I’m listening.
Because it all comes down to having someone to tell your troubles to, someone to respond when your light is blinking. Even if that someone is yourself.
I want to be honest.
I want to keep it real.
I want balance.
I’ve always needed someone or something to tell my problems to: a diary, an imaginary friend, a best friend, a loving grandmother, a school counselor, a therapist, a lover, a neighbor, my husband, the cat, the Internet.
Creating my own blog was supposed to lift the heavy burden I’d dropped on friends and family and lovers and spouses. I can drop a heavy load. I’ve been told.
Secrets don’t always stay that way. Violators force open my diary’s delicate pages and ravage her secrets. Gossips spit out my stories in venomous bursts. Lovers bolt, taking their comforting arms and patience with them. Husbands grow bored with broken records. Loving grandmothers die and their ears go deaf, their mouths mute. Neighbors move. Therapists increase their rates. The Internet figures out who you are.
Why the need to spill?
If I knew the answer, you wouldn’t be here reading any of this, would you?
Thank god for the healing power of music. I leave you with this:
Since I wrote my post about my expanding waistline, NPR featured a story that explained the relationship between aging and weight gain. Here it is: You get older, you eat like always, you get fat. Put down the bagel and pick up a bar bell. Fat is bad.
A day after that, I heard this oddball story on the radio, which made me reconsider the bar bell theory, pull into a bagel joint and order a dozen plain with extra schmear. Fat is good.
The good news is my Lycra spandex blend pants fit. Another nice thing about Lyrcra spandex pants? Those schmear smears wipe right off. Life is good.