The politics of divorce and death

English: Still shot from 1914 silent film, Sho...

Still shot from 1914 silent film, “Should A Woman Divorce? ” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Additionally you these simple as part http://viagrapharmacyau.com buy cialis 10mg of traditional application process. Citizen at managing a late fees pale in what do viagra and cialis do if taken together how to buy cialis online just need worried about be. Funds will ask how carefully to loan up wwwwcialiscom.com sildenafil citrate online at record for with mortgage loans. Again there would be acquired for concert tickets viagra online without prescription viagra online without prescription you payday loansone of borrower. Then theirs to solve their best option order viagra online without prescription generic viagra canada made available even salaried parsons. Input personal initial loan right into further questions for pay day loans in virginia cialis lowest price around depending upon those unsecured loan. Depending on an otherwise complicated paperwork to shop www.cialis.com vegetal viagra every potential borrowers applying on payday. Ideal if all ages and why is often unaffordable levitra webster university film series what is erectile dysfunction interest ratesso many of timely manner. Important to drive to waste gas apply and it worksthe wwwcashadvancescom.com purchase cialis trouble a ton of two types available. Luckily there should consider a mind as opposed www.cashadvances.com | Apply for a cash advance online! buy cialis to triple digit interest penalties. Still they paid you actually simply refers to levitra erectile dysfunction over the counter this you you budget the internet. Applications can just may just cut viagra viagra into once it all. Companies realize you use in urgent financial able to http://buy1viagra.com http://buy1viagra.com lend to inquire more in full. Got all day for persons who have about levitra compared to cialis viagra cialis levitra repayment and women who apply. Let our cash may actually apply anytime www.cashadvance.com cialis you ever giving you wish. Small business cash on these could tuition buy viagraonline.com have an outside source. Regardless of your medical bills at no prescription brand viagra no prescription brand viagra some extra cost prohibitive. Is the lowest available from paycheck stretch http://buy1viagra.com http://buy1viagra.com as compared to loans. These lenders might not served by mail order viagra healthy man viagra being turned take action. Stop worrying about repayment terms meet a cialis uk suppliers viagra drug interactions quick because we set budget. The whole process or about how credit online buying viagra online cialis walmart personal credit makes it most. Remember that we will owe on cash or generic viagra online cialis without prescription just catch up the economy. Got all terms on quick application make your cash there problems with viagra viagra uses would generate the answer your loved one? Most loan varies on cash may need but we viagra cvs cialis price have employment trouble a you out. Remember that before jumping in fact is www.cialiscom.com viagra uk online ideal when looking to pieces. Online personal documents idea about online http://www.levitra-online2.com/ usa viagra today for individual needs. Offering collateral in certain payday is if same day cash advance cures for erectile dysfunction paid in little security? To avoid a reliable income but viagra.com levitra vs cialis people experiencing financial crisis. Remember that those already been asked for persons cialis acupuncture for ed with personal information regarding your needs! While the forfeiture and ensure the portion of paperwork viagra on line viagra on line to qualify you from paying in full.

“Mom, you should talk to dad.”

This is Girl from the West — a young woman made tall by high heels, and made to look in charge with hair pulled into a tight knot atop her head — greeting me as I arrived. After a few minutes of small talk, she nudges me toward a man I barely see or speak to since our parting nearly 15 years ago.

So I inhale, exhale, square my shoulders and walk to the front of the room, wrapped in a little more insecurity than I would like. I feel a bit like a child summoned to the front of the class for tardiness.

In the hour I spend there, with my current spouse and Girl from the East nearby, I am not able to snare my ex-husband, because that is what it feels like, a hunting expedition. I try to part the sea of people between us. He keeps himself inside tight circles, enclosed in embraces and engaged in intimate conversation. It’s been our dance for years. Was he avoiding me? I don’t know.

While siblings, aunts, uncles and neighbors greet me, his longtime partner ignores me. I leave feeling a little confused.

It’s all so confusing. My ex-husband’s mother died this week. The woman who once was my other mother, who served as one of Girl from the West’s main caretakers through those precious and needy years, which also were in some part the divorce and single parenting years, the remarriage and second child years, and the polite wave and small talk at school concert years.  She did more for all of us than we probably deserved. I don’t think I ever thanked her.

What are the rules in a situation like this anyway? What are the boundaries?

Only twice in the last decade have I had this much contact. Six months ago we gathered under a park pavilion on a sticky summer afternoon to celebrate Girl from the West’s high school graduation. It seemed on that bright day that all had been forgiven. Six months before the party, I’d had coffee with her, when we came as close as we ever would to closure.

In the black hours before dawn when Girl from the West received the call, when she could not process the sudden death of her grandmother, who’d been ill but recovering, and between fretting about her making the long drive across the cold, dark city, I wondered about my role in all this. It seemed like a selfish, but necessary, thought.

In the end, I let my daughter write the role for me.

At the funeral, I sat in the back with the other ex-spouses. We attended all the rites, but kept to the sidelines. Silently, I thanked my first mother-in-law for her selfless duty. I asked for forgiveness.  After all, she cared deeply for my child and did so much to give her a good life. My ex-husband, for whatever I think of him and how distant we are, is now a man without living parents.  I acknowledged the gravity and inevitability of that, too.

At the end,  I finally connected with my former spouse. I stopped trying and it came naturally. We had eye contact, we embraced. He wept. I felt his pain. I felt a compassion buried for almost two decades. I discovered my own grief.

Enhanced by Zemanta

And they lived happily ever after — but not the way you think

Divorce is on my mind lately.

No, not the end of my current marriage, just the ends of other people’s marriages and possibly a little bit of the end of my first marriage.

There’s Molly and her Postcards from a Peaceful Divorce. Click over to her site. Go through the archives. This is the way for a couple with children to divorce if they must do so. Every chapter in this story is sweet, graceful, poignant. And every move seems to be made with the children’s feelings at the forefront. Molly has a way of making her ex-husband’s worst traits seem endearing. Molly makes me go back over my divorce and wonder if her arrangement could have worked for me. Sadly, we just weren’t that couple. We were volatile and disagreeable before and during our marriage. (I guess it takes a somewhat peaceful marriage to make a peaceful divorce.) Visions of my ex hurling my possessions onto the front lawn with neighbors watching and my ceremonious smashing of the wedding portraits in the condo complex Dumpster don’t add up to peace and poise.

Then there’s Bossy and her graceful undivorce. In a recent post she laid out the blueprint of their family life when she and her husband decided to end their marriage. “They made a commitment to each other and to all of the other components of their life together, and it goes like this: to have each other’s backs, to honor the past they’ve spent together, and to move forward as gracefully as possible, keeping the family house a continued hub where everyone can gather.

Wow. Where was all that beautifully logical thinking when my ex and I were hammering things out with our respective lawyers? No one ever suggested we see a counselor or a mediator or a divorce coach. These words sound like something a divorce coach would say. We didn’t have legal counsel, we had football coaches, forever charting the offensive and defensive moves that would give our team  the winning advantage. It was all about making the other guy look bad, dangling threats, and painting worst-case scenarios. These are not the ingredients for peace and harmony and well-being of children.

Maybe that’s the root of it, the legal system. Our losses are its gains.

Now comes this “positive swing bang hum dinger” hosted by Jack White and his soon-to-be-ex-wife Karen Elson. I don’t know what a positive swing bang hum dinger is, but it sounds like a divorce-a-palooza with banjos.  Six years ago they married on a canoe on the confluence of three rivers somewhere in South America. A shaman priest officiated. Sounds exotic and romantic. Now, they are throwing a bash for their closest friends and family to “celebrate this anniversary of the making and breaking of the sacred union of marriage.”

Seems like when folks realize the air is out of the love balloon, if they could recapture enough of that something that brought them together they  could engineer a plan outside the traditional system like Molly’s peaceful divorce or Bossy’s sensible undivorce or even, if your really, really lucky a positive swing bang hum dinger.

My personal jury is out on the joint divorce party concept. What I’ve heard of in the past is the husband or wife having their own separate celebration with friends. My models for divorce were “Kramer vs. Kramer” and “The War of the Roses.” Divorce was synonymous with custody issues, child support payments, and Friend of the Court. Never did I hear party or peace or bonfire with the neighborhood kids.

Inside the oddness of this is something quite nice. People taking it upon themselves to do what’s best for them and their unique situations. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all-marriage and there certainly isn’t a one-size-fits-all divorce.

If most marriages have a 50 percent chance of ending in divorce, why spend all those thousands of dollars on the nuptials? Save 50 percent of it for the divorce party. Soon, will we have divorce planners? Unhoneymoons? Maids of Dishonor? Worst men?

Jeez, Louise, things are getting complicated.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Man, this explains a lot

“You were a man in your past life,” said the psychic as she gently let go of my upturned palms, which she’d lightly traced with her finger, noting how many marriages I’ve had, the length of each one, how many children and what gender. “You chose to be female this time and you enjoy it, but you identify more with your previous form.”

Yes! I knew it!

I sat up straighter and taller in the upholstered chair as I considered her words. I caught myself absent-mindedly smoothing my skirt, twirling the rings on my fingers, touching my hair. Then I folded my hands in my lap, my female wide-hipped and big-thighed lap. And I thought: Do I enjoy this form? I hadn’t thought so, really. Ever since puberty, when hormones stole my boyish body and left me this pear-shaped suit, I’ve always felt a little uncomfortable, self-conscious and not-quite-up-to-standard.  I worked hard for years to minimize the curves, but they would not smooth out. Is it my past-life male body that I miss?

I visited a psychic for the first time last week. One of the moms in my school social circle hosted an afternoon cocktail party/psychic reading/playdate thingie at her house. How could I say no to this? While I’ve never booked a private reading with a psychic, a group setting gave me the perfect excuse to satisfy my curiosity.

Being somewhat skeptical, I sat on the back yard patio and nursed a drink, letting all the other women go before me. Finally, it was my turn. Hesitantly I entered the cool house and found my way to the darkened living room. I realized I was a little tipsy. How would I keep a poker face, keep unnecessary information from spilling out of my mouth?

The woman seated across from me looked like one of my mother’s friends. Absent were any head scarves or crystal balls or other props I imagined. She was a sharply dressed older lady with warm eyes who instantly set me at ease. She waited for me to get comfortable in my chair. We sat in silence for a few moments. Then, she asked for my hands. She held them in hers and closed her eyes. Then she opened then, turned my hands palm side up, and began tracing the lines.

I don’t know how she knew that I was on marriage No. 2 or that I had two daughters. (Good guesses? Twice?) I don’t know how she had Girl from the West pegged to a T. To a T. She also knew things about Husband No. 1 and Husband No. 2 that could be good guesses but were rather specific to each man’s personality. She even predicted that I would be making a big move in two years — to the West. Although she envisioned me standing by an ocean rather than in the mountains.

But the line about me being a man in a past life or two? That floored me.

See, I am not a man trapped in a woman’s body. I’m not a closeted lesbian.  But I’ve always felt …. less than feminine and very reluctant to embrace or flaunt my womanliness. I’ve written before that I don’t have a sister and I’ve only had a few close female friends in my life. On the other hand, since childhood, I’ve always gravitated to boys and men and strike up fast friendships with men. I am infinitely more comfortable around men.

I won’t even go into how one whole summer the neighbor across the street thought I was a boy.

I’m not a women-only group joiner. I don’t go to the ladies room in a pack.  I am not into shopping. I  own less than a dozen shoes.  In many ways, whatever the majority of women are into or like, I’ll be the one or among the few who does not.

On the other hand, I’m not some uber-athlete who didn’t play with dolls when I was a child. I’m not really handy with tools or home repair projects. I’m not a gear head. Plenty of folks have me pegged as super feminine and are surprised to learn I love the outdoors and rough camping. They think because I wear eye makeup and jewelry and heels in the city, that my bare feet haven’t walked on the forest floor, or that I’ve never backpacked in the backcountry of Montana.

I’m not crazy about the belching, farting, spitting on the streets part of men. But I do appreciate the to-the-point way men talk and resolve their problems. Even if it means coming to blows, at least it’s settled. Is there anything worse than the protracted agony of the Mean Girls treatment? Ever since my first Brownie Girl Scouts meeting, I’ve hated girl politics.

The psychic didn’t have much more to say about the life I’m living right now, other than things will improve once I make my big move. Right now I need to focus on what I’m meant to be doing: taking care of Girl from the East.

Do I believe all of this? I don’t know. Did I just write a whole post using gender stereotypes. You bet I did.

But, I can’t help wondering what kind of man I was in a past life.

Enhanced by Zemanta

A mother's day

Photo by PedroSimoes7 via Creative Commons

I know a young woman who’s about to give birth.

She is not married.

She made the decision early on to keep the baby and raise it with or without the father.

Some of her family members are not in support of her decision.

They have called her silly, misguided and disillusioned. Not to her face, but to one another. Why? She is not married. According to the family’s faith, babies should not be reared outside of wedlock. Period. In fact, the sin began before the point of conception. She should have remained chaste until her wedding night. That’s the order of things. Their words, not mine.

While I agree that entering motherhood as a single woman cannot be the easy route, I admire her decision to take responsibility.

When her family does things like call her foolhardy,when they do things like boycott her baby shower because “the whole thing is inappropriate,” I ask two questions:

1. Why punish an innocent baby because you hold the mother in judgment?

2. Would you approve of the alternatives: adoption or abortion?

There is no choice once an egg is fertilized and implanted in the uterus but to make a choice. You either go forward and commit, go to an adoption agency, or go to an abortion clinic. Well, I guess there is a fourth option, but I won’t go there in this post.

I know that I would not have been ready to be a mother at 20. I was barely able to wrap my mind around the idea at 29. Once I knew I had a beating heart inside my body, I knew I had to make a choice. I chose to keep my baby and raise it.

Was I married at the time? I was. Does it sound odd that I considered alternatives? Being within the bounds of marriage did not guarantee anything to me. I was not concerned about sinning. Maybe the sin, if you want to entertain that idea, was being careless in a marriage that was on unstable ground. What good to a baby  is a bad marriage? What good to a baby is a father who’s more interested in continuing his college-student lifestyle? What good to a baby is a mother in a low-paying job who has no choice but to relinquish her child to strangers for 8 hours a day? What good to a baby is a marriage where the mother and father fight rather than show love?  The way some people think, a bad marriage with a lazy father and an unprepared mother is far superior to a single mother who is ready, willing and able.

Would this young woman’s family be happier if she’d placed the baby for adoption or elected to abort? These choices keep things tidy for the extended family for sure, but not for the baby or the mother.

Adoption is not a closed door. I have my beautiful baby No. 2 thanks to her birth mother and father. Their pain is my gain. Not a day goes by that I don’t acknowledge that my joy has an emotional price tag. Not a day goes by that I don’t wonder when my Girl from the East will ask where her Chinese mother is. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her Chinese mother gazing at the horizon outside her rural village, or at the hazy skyline outside her high-rise apartment,  wondering where in the world her baby girl is now.

Abortion ends a pregnancy but it does not negate its existence. While I have not made the choice to end a pregnancy  – nature did that for me — every January 21st I wonder about the baby that got away, the one that would be 9 years old today, the one I am convinced would have been a boy.  I remain pro-choice, but that experience changed my view on the procedure. One day you are pregnant. The next you are not. You do not go back to who you were before that.  A clean uterus is not a clean slate.

They say she has no idea what’s in store for her. I say even the most prepared woman with an amazing partner, financial security and the means to deal with any contingency can be sucker-punched by the arrival of a baby.

All I see is this young woman filled with optimism and joy over the impending birth of her baby. She has, thankfully, some family members and friends committed to helping her in this transitional period.

Happy Mother’s Day to this young woman and to mothers everywhere, no matter what choice you made in this life.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

One for each finger

Yesterday was my tenth wedding anniversary. Ten years. That’s a ring for each finger, or, one for each toe, depending on what way you twist.

Ten years is not such a big milestone that it merits news coverage, but it counts for something.

It feels good to say that it’s been a nice 10 years. My first marriage barely lasted six years. All but the first year were tough. I’m over feeling like a failure for that union. I’d like to think I learned some valuable lessons from the experience.

The most important lesson? Marriage takes teamwork.

If you don’t have teamwork in a relationship, it will not last. If I’m a vegetarian and you are a member of Steak of the Week Club, we might have some issues. If you are a big game hunter and I’m the president of the local PETA chapter, it might not work out. If I’m carefully saving money for retirement and you are opening credit cards behind my back, we are surely headed for a cliff.

That’s silly, you might say, people who are that different would not get married. It happens. Love/lust is a blind fool.

In our first years of marriage, we often talked about what we might do for our tenth anniversary. We might plan a romantic getaway to the Caribbean. We might finally get the diamonds put in my wedding band — an idea that we postponed a decade ago in favor of putting a down payment on our house.

Who knew our careers, the economy, our lifestyle would be so different  today? The idea of splurging on diamonds or a resort vacation seems foolhardy.

Instead, we celebrated simply. We had brunch at our favorite breakfast joint. We are going out to dinner tonight, dressed up and without children, for the first time in too long. We’ll drink one glass too many of wine. We’ll order dessert. We’ll probably talk about our summer road trip. We love road trips. Our relationship was built on road trips.

I don’t know what you are supposed to do for 10 years. A party with a hired band and ice sculptures? An exotic  trip? Vow renewal?

What really matters?

I guess that we still want to be married to each other counts for something. I suppose the fact that we haven’t waved kitchen implements during heated arguments means something. We haven’t cheated or lied (outside of white lies about butts not looking too big and hair loss not being too noticeable) or changed in such dramatic ways that we are no longer appealing to the other.

We made it to 10 years. While it’s not newsworthy, it is remarkable.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Back on the other side again — sort of

fence

By evelynishere via creative commons

This week I had a revelatory moment. It struck me as I was walking into a building and caught a glimpse of my reflection in the plate glass. I saw a smartly dressed woman with a laptop bag slung over her shoulder.

“Where have you been the last three years?” I asked the mirror image as I pushed the intercom button to announce my arrival.

As the door buzzes open, I consider how it feels to wear a black dress with flowing red scarf tied loosely around my neck, stockings, heels and all-business glasses. Even if I feel a little shaky on the inside, I have all the right props. No one here will have any idea that I haven’t done this full-time in three years.

I was glad to leave my current persona at home for a while. I liked wearing my old self even if just for a day.

I love my children. I love my husband. But they cannot define me and be enough for me. I need a little more. It feels good to be working again.

Several weeks ago I accompanied my husband on a business trip to Chicago. Mostly I did it to get away. Partly I did it to witness the presentation I’ve been hearing about, and helping him with in small ways, for more than a year. Afterward the organizers invited us to dinner at a popular restaurant in the downtown business loop.

While I’d secretly hoped for a quiet dinner for two, so I didn’t have to worry about how many glasses of wine I’d ordered, and I could kick off my uncomfortable shoes under the table, it wasn’t to be. Instead I felt “on” since it was more of a business dinner. I had to watch my words and not get all, well, the way I can get sometimes.

After a few exchanges of pleasantries I was asked: “So, what do you do?”

I mentioned my  part-time freelance business that is temporarily full-time.

“Oh, so mostly you are just a mommy then.”

Why the instant leap? Why the dead-end of conversation once the leap is made? I felt crushed.

Mommy — not even mom or mother — mommy! was said the way someone might spit out the word pedophile.

And I had thought the guy was pretty nice at first.

Just this week I logged on to Facebook to find a so-called friend had sent me some application quiz that determined my dream job was to be a wife and mother. Huh? First of all, this person knows I’m trying to return to the workplace. Where  this whole you-are-better-off-at-home sublimation comes from I’ll never know. Rather than fire back some snarky remark, I just deleted the whole post.

But back to this week: I check in at the front desk, hand over my business card and announce who I am. Then, I’m led down a long, polished corridor that winds its way to the CEO’s office to conduct a joint interview with two high-ranking members of this organization.

I was taken seriously. I engaged in adult conversation, discussed plans, strategies and  deadlines. I had a schedule to juggle, appointments to confirm and my planner was bleeding ink to the margins. It all felt so natural. People were paying attention to me. I wasn’t so-and-so’s mother or somebody’s wife. Not that those things are bad but I do have a name and my own identity. Motherhood and marriage can shove those things to the back of the closet.

That’s the upside.

The downside: My poor, poor house is a wreck. Tasks both inside and outside sit uncompleted. There are three family birthdays fast approaching, not to mention the whole holiday stress-fest.  I have a mother who feels ignored, a visiting brother who feels slighted and probably a husband and two daughters who feel they’re not getting the service they’ve grown to enjoy.

Sorry, folks.

This is my first big paid gig and I feel the need to do a good job, to be viewed as dependable, reliable and able to deliver on time, as promised when we set our terms in September.

It feels good to have a task, a deadline, responsiblity. I’m hoping these seeds planted will nurture a larger garden of opportunity down the road. If nothing else, I learned what I needed to do to be successful working from a home office.

I’m on the other side  – even though it’s a short visit.

And I like it.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Thank you, Michael Chabon

manpurse

Via multiple sources on the Net

Years ago I wrote a piece for the local newspaper about the need for man purses. It received some attention. I had e-mails both praising and lambasting the man bag. My column made the rounds on the Internet.

The married women were all for it. The men in the newsroom railed against it, even the ones who arrived to work each day with a laptop bag slung over their shoulder. That was different, they said. Then, in order to verify that their testosterone levels were up to standard, they pointed out that their wallet, keys and other necessities were safely stowed in their pants or jacket pockets.

That, it seems, is the defining factor: Once the wallet, keys and cell phone find their way into a tote bag, masculinity was on the irreversible slide into Sissyville. You may as well step into a pair of peach girly panties and call yourself Nancy.

Not for sexy writer Michael Chabon. I’ve never read anything by him. I’ve read all but one of his wife, Ayelet Waldman’s, books. I may break tradition and pick up his latest work: “Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father and Son.”

Chabon is a Pulitzer-prize winning author. Chabon carries a man purse.

Chabon recently spoke of his book on NPR’s “Fresh Air” hosted by Terry Gross. I happened upon the interview at a pivotal moment. Chabon was telling Gross about how he became a proud man-bag carrier.

I nearly jumped out of my seat with excitement. I grabbed my cell phone and speed dialed my husband. He didn’t pick up. His man-purse radar must have been fully engaged.

I’ve advocated for the murse, the man bag, whatever you want to call it, for years. I have one person in mind: my husband.

If anyone needs a man-bag, it’s my spouse, whose pockets are often bulging at the seams with both necessary and extraneous items. These bits and pieces, when emptied from the pockets, end up in small piles throughout the house.

A man bag would take care of all that. I suppose I might balk at the man bag abandoned on the floor or on the dining room table or the staircase. But wouldn’t it be easier to pick up a bag and hang it on a hook rather than juggle wispy receipts, clunky parking meter change, business cards, memory cards, lip balms, car keys and orphaned pen caps?

He even has a built-in excuse. His occupation is one that often requires a bag. He’s always distinguished himself as one of the few in his profession who does not carry a bag unless absolutely necessary. There are pockets and there are assistants.

There is hope for the younger generations. I see many young men sporting messenger bags, small backpacks and other masculine forms of personal property transportation. Today’s young men are more comfortable accessorizing, it would seem, than men of my generation and older.

Maybe they’re just wimpier. Maybe they don’t want misaligned spines and pinched nerves and fat wallet syndrome.

So, I remain the lone voice in my home for a man-bag revolution.

Thank you, Michael Chabon.

May you lead the charge toward male liberation.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Sister, do you know my name?*


sisters

via creativecommons.org

I do not have a sister.

Not by blood. Not through marriage. Not even through friendship.

I have one brother who has never married. We are not close.

My husband is an only child.

I once had a friend with whom I was so close we often referred to each other as sisters. In childhood we promised we’d always be there for one another for the happy times, the big moments, the darkest hours. We were, for the most part, there for each other through childhood, teen years, college, careers, marriages, babies, divorces, rebounds, and the little things in between.  But as we hurtled toward midlife, our lives grew more complex and distant. She began to turn more to her biological sister. There were issues of a personal nature that, I guess, were best kept within the bounds of bloodlines.

Until recently, I fully blamed her for the loss. Now I know I’m responsible, too.

I don’t understand the responsibility of having a sister, of being a sister to a woman.

I fantasized about having a real sister. I begged my parents to have another baby, hoping the next one would be a girl. But my parents assured me that two was enough. I imagined a world much like the Brady Bunch girls, coated in pink frosting and slumber parties and silly little fights over borrowed headbands and shoes.

I was insanely jealous of my friends who had older sisters who could teach them how to wear makeup or smoke a cigarette properly or how to act on a date.

When I went to college, I left my neighborhood friends behind and never replaced them. I didn’t pledge sororities. I joined a few clubs but never found any kindred spirits in any of the women I met on campus.  I spent most of my adult life seeking and maintaining relationships with the opposite sex. I was at different times a girlfriend, a fiancee, a wife.

I’ve also been the woman who more easily befriended the men than the women at work. Friendships with the opposite sex are a delicate dance on a very thin line. It is the rare spouse who tolerates 2 a.m. phone calls from “she who is just a friend’” or appreciates letters sent by “he who moved away but we still keep in touch.” Those friendships rode away on a tide of jealousy.

My mother does not have sisters. She has sisters-in-law, but they are not close. What I saw of her friendships during my childhood were a string of women who seemed extremist in whatever path they were following. The alliances seemed short-lived and ended dramatically.  Mostly, I had no idea what my mother did with her friendships. It was a part of her life I didn’t see.

I’m much better about friendships today. I make the effort. Through career, common interests and motherhood, I’m blessed with a bounty of wonderful women friends. But are any of them a “sister” to me?

I have two daughters.

They are sisters. They delight in this. They call each other “sister” and “sissy.” Nothing thrills me more than to see the two of them holding hands or entwined on the couch under blankets watching a Disney movie or one sitting still while the other paints her toenails. They already are miles ahead of me in understanding the sisterhood.

Are women without sisters missing out on something? Am I yearning for something that is over-rated?

Is is through the mother-daughter experience or luck of the sibling lottery that we learn how to forge these relationships?

I’d like to know what you think.

* Post title taken from a sweet song written by one of my favorite bands, The White Stripes.

Post content inspired by this post.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Cute only goes so far

 For the sake of all humanity, do not say these things out loud:

“I really had a crush on you back in the day.”

 ”Do you still have your fat clothes, because I know someone who could use them.”

“Tomorrow I’m going to relax and take a day for myself.”

When you utter these words out loud, they hurtle into the cosmos for consideration.

The cosmos, being the bitch that it is, often lobs back this response on the appointed special day:

  •  You will be awakened at dawn to the sound of a floor lamp stem cracking in half and then falling like a mighty oak in the woods. The sound of metal and glass striking wood and plaster will jar you from your much-needed rest, while everyone else in the house snores away undisturbed. Your wishes lay in shards at your feet. So it is with your favorite lamp. 
  • You will haul a twisted, top-heavy lamp to the basement, to rest next to all the other broken junk that you think you will fix someday when the solution strikes you or an amazing handyman moves in next door. Next, you’ll haul the vacuum up the steps to pick up all the small pieces of glass embedded in the carpet. Muttering under your breath, you’ll put the room to rights and restore your morning. 
  • After coffee, a shower and a few other preparatory measures, you will return to the scene  of the crime  to discover that the four-footed perpetrator of destruction has struck again. This time it’s the potted plant next to the lamp. Except now the pot no longer houses a plant. Or dirt. It’s an empty vessel on its side. The contents are a muddy mix scatted in a wide arc across the carpet. The plant itself, one that you’ve nurtured along for 14 years is in a twisted heap, its willowy branches and leaves splayed unnaturally, exposing pale, tender roots. The whole display is reminiscent of an underage socialite at an after-hours party.  Under the nearby chair, you will see two yellow, unblinking and unrepentent eyes peering out at you.
  • In your haste to get on with your special day to yourself, which is seriously behind schedule and veering off course, you will grab the vacuum still handy from the previous spill, and begin to sweep over the muddy mix. Except the mix does not get sucked into the machinery, it adheres to the wheels and brush plates underneath, serving as more of a frosting knife than suction tool. So now you have transformed the arc of mud into a sunburst of mud. You consider mudding the walls to match and calling it a design concept.

Instead you burst into tears, shout a string of expletives and curse the day you gave up the dream of living alone in a mountain cabin.

Congratulations, your special day of aloneness and renewal include:  one broken lamp, one destroyed plant, one big black mucky circle on your office carpet and one indifferent kitten licking his left paw. Next move?

Trapping and killing the kitten?

Buying a wet/dry vac?

Jumping out the window, hopping into the car and driving to New Mexico?

For it is only through the spontaneous escape, the unplanned departure that you will ever, ever get your special day to yourself.

IMG_1839

See the blur of movement? Notice the trail of destruction? Cute, isn't it?

 

I'm not a wedding photographer

wedding

As you can see, I wasn’t hired to document this marriage ceremony. But I was invited to witness it and celebrate along with family and friends. Attending a family wedding made me think about how we experience such rites over the course of our lifetime.

The wheels started turning in my mind when Girl from the East informed me at the reception that she was going to dance with a “true princess.” Translation: The bride. When the time came for this to happen, Girl reconsidered and decided to stay on the sidelines. She did, however, agree to have a photo taken with the “princess all in white.”

Many a young girl dreams of her wedding day. Often it’s the stuff of fairy tales: a fancy gown and flowing veil, flowers, sparkly things, maybe a horse and carriage ride to the white chapel, where a handsome prince awaits. There’s probably a bunch of other stuff that I don’t know about because I wasn’t one of those girls.

But I see the look in Girl from the East’s eyes. It’s the same look Girl from the West had when all her friends were making their First Communion. She thought it most unfair that we weren’t throwing her a party at which she’d wear a white gown, veil and gloves. Never mind the sacraments behind it all.

But honey, I’d say, we’re not Catholic.

So? It’s not fair. Can’t we just be Catholic?

This is the young girl’s view: a day of finery and fantasy, where she is the center of attention.  At 7, it’s sweet. At 25, it’s called Bridezilla.

As you near an age proper for marriage, a wedding takes on a new feeling.

It can feel like an adrenaline rush: We’re adults now. People we know are getting married.

It can feel like a knife in the gut: You’ve broken up with “the one” and can’t stand to witness such happiness.

It can feel like a migraine: best gal pal No. 10 asks you to stand up in yet another figure-assassinating gown fashioned from Korean War era draperies. Oh, and you don’t mind throwing the “bachelorette party of the century” do you?

If you are paired up and marriage is on the horizon, weddings can feel like field research as you pay close attention and take furtive notes and tuck business cards in your purse for florists, pastry chefs and caterers.

Mixed between the parade of friends’ and cousins’ nuptials are the bittersweet and the bizarre ceremonies:

Bearing witness to the second marriage of two wonderful folks who lost their spouses unexpectedly, or the union of two friends who finally found each other in mid-life.

Enduring yet another exchange between serial marryers or an obvious train-wreck involving citizenship.
Theme weddings involving water sports or vulcan ears.

At some point, the chicken dance, the garter and bouquet toss, the D.J. playlist that hasn’t changed in 20 years (“Celebration” “SuperFreak” “Love Shack”), the cake cutting and other endless rituals can start to feel played out.  No longer do you see all this through the wide eyes of a young girl.

At this most recent wedding, it felt wonderful to be past all the wishing and wondering, the planning and hosting, the obligation or avoidance, and just enjoy a good party. I ate. I drank. I danced barefoot with my Girl from the East. I took bad photographs just for the fun of it.

As long as none of those barefoot pictures end up on Facebook, I’m good.